Lily Max Illustrations by the incredibly talented Guy Fisher
(This story first appeared on my publisher's Luncheon Sausage Books site. Fashionable books at well-sliced prices.)
I’ve always being a good keeper of secrets. But I’d been itching to tell this one for 11 days. ‘Lily Max: Satin, Scissors, Frock’ has won an award! It’s been selected in the ‘2016 Storylines Notable Book Awards’, under Junior Fiction.
“Storylines - Children’s Literature Foundation of New Zealand’s Notable Books, are selected by an expert panel from the Storylines community. The panel includes children’s and YA librarians, authors, illustrators, teachers and academics; several members have served as judges for the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Award (and under its previous sponsor AIM) and the LIANZA Book Awards.”
Up to ten books are selected for each category and I feel very humbled to have my name beside some of the greats in kiwi children’s literature - Kate de Goldi, Joy Cowley, Barbara Else and Stacy Gregg. Plus cool new writer friends Sue Copsey and Suzanne Main.
As with most Awards, the winners know well before the news is made public. But its deliverance to me was masked in subterfuge. Only days before I’d asked, Luncheon Sausage Books publisher Steve Braunias, if we’d actually entered. ‘I think so,’ came his reply, ‘but you could always check.’ At the same time I received an invitation to be part of the Storylines Family days in Dunedin and Christchurch in August of this year. I did ask. And we had entered. I knew the winners were about to be announced and as there are only two children’s book awards in New Zealand you don’t want to miss out. A week later when Steve said, ‘A letter had been sent to my home, had I received it?’ My optimistic debut author’s mind started working overtime … Could the letter and the invitation to Storylines be related?
I was away from home at the time. Up in Auckland actually, after scoring tickets to the prince of funk himself – Prince. I texted my daughter. No letter. Odd. I set off visiting bookshops. Most receive authors with welcoming faces and enthusiastic bookish chat, but some are confused and not entirely sure you’re of the same species.
I managed 7 in one day. I’m still pretty good at negotiating myself around the city of sails even after living in the south island for 23 years. I was an advertising assistant at DDB Needham in the 80s. However, I had to google map myself from Remuera to Mt Eden. It was a hot day, my sandals had started to rub, Bfm was playing raucous guitar. I nearly swiped the boot off an XJS parallel parking on Mt Eden Road. The rental car company had given me a Ford that looked like a tractor and drove like one. Luckily I stopped and lent over to the passenger window and spied the Jaguar’s low slung bum, corrected and parked. I’ve always prided myself on my parallels. The bookshop was small and stuffed with books. I signed the one copy they had, the assistant was kind but the owner was out.
I walked over to the green grocer on the corner and bought a punnet of raspberries, and one of organic blueberries which tasted as old as the Iovely Chinese lady who served me. She was all of 4 foot and wore a green checked smock. Age had dragged her head forward, you could not see her face it hung perpendicular to the central wooden counter. She did the addition in her head and spoke with a brilliant kiwi accent. I walked on to the dairy and bought a Kapiti Mango sorbet ice block, the pretty Indian lady owner tried to sell me a Lotto ticket. ‘It’s 7 million this week’ she said. I liked Mt Eden; its brown cone stared down at me. I had two blisters. Back in the car I google-mapped the way up. I’d drive to the top, eat my ice block and look over the city. Catch the breeze. I don’t think I’ve ever been up Mt Eden. My iPhone said estimated journey time: 20 minutes. I didn’t believe it, but I headed for the city. Thirty seconds on I drove passed the entrance. Sometimes it pays to use your eyes and follow your instincts when you want to try something new.
I visited one more book store that day. There was a thick pile of Lily Max’s facing out. ‘We love meeting authors,’ said the manager. Book 2 bounced in the back of my mind again, sales have been steady, in fact we have around 200 copies left at the warehouse.
By the time I got home to Queenstown, any optimistic imaginings of the missing letter had dulled. Way way too unlikely. It was most probably a summons or some such that had got caught up in the infuriating rural delivery system of the greater Wakatipu. We are not on Rural Delivery. Our street number is actually a Rapid number (the number of metres your house is from a main road should you need emergency services). There must be a humungous bag of mail somewhere of letters addressed to our home. NZ Post will only deliver to our PO Box. We pay for that. Her majesty’s mail is not safe, even if you add a return address.
It was a l o n g weekend of imaginings. On Monday when I was still letter-less Steve finally confessed. I could think of nothing to say but ‘Holy Crapppppppppppppppppppppppppp.’ I was so overcome.
I now feel truly buoyed to tackle Lily Max book 2. A huge thank you to the judges at Storylines for selecting me. And to my publisher, Steve for believing I could write a good book. As a debut author with a debut character her reception has been more than I could ever have hoped for.
I bumped into a friend in the Post Office funnily enough yesterday, she said her daughter had been copying out segments of ‘Lily Max: Satin, Scissors, Frock’ for a school project that morning. ‘I had to change some of it, Mum,’ she’d said. Made me laugh. A midget editor.
When I finally get my letter I’ll Blue-tac it beside my Tainui wall planner and her reviews. That is, if there’s any space left in my tiny office, now wallpapered in an attractive colour-way called ‘Book 2 In a Brainstorm’…
Thanks. Thanks a lot!
ps. I still have not received my letter. But one day soon I will. A copy is being mailed to my PO Box!
pps. You'll find more of Guy Fisher's stunning Lily Max illustrations in my book. 103 in total.His name should really be on the cover.