Hi there …
Shadytree Book’s Creative Coach …
The Heat is On
It’s January and we’re having a heat wave where we live. How about you?
“Help me. I’m melting!”
Sounds a bit like something someone once said in the book, Wizard of Oz, although I’d hate to think I’m anything like that character. You do know who I am talking about, don’t you?
As I write this, I’m guessing that most Australian school children are still on holidays and the thought of returning to school (no way, we’ve only just finished Christmas) probably hasn’t even crossed a lot of their minds yet.
But, I have a sneaking suspicion that there will be some very organised mums and dads, not to mention teachers, with this inkling uppermost in their minds. Now is the time when the last part of the holidays get spent shopping for last minute school supplies, shoes, uniforms and stationery.
Come on, let’s face it … it’s hard to give up our well earned summer holidays, but like the saying goes,
All good things must come to an end.
The First of Firsts
Now is the time to begin planning, if you haven’t already done so. I’m pretty certain there will be a percentage of children who will be just a tad excited as the first day back at school sneaks up on us. A bunch of wonders will be floating around in many heads, like: I wonder who will be in my class? I wonder who my new teacher will be? I wonder what Janey or Joe did over the holidays? I wonder what Charlie got for Christmas? I wonder where the Blakes’ went for their holidays?
For some, there will be many firsts, including: First day at school, First school bag, First male teacher, First female teacher, First lunch box, First tuckshop order, First best friend, First trip to the library and First excursion. The list is endless.
I too am having some firsts, just like most years, and I am getting a little excited as well. I’m excited because for the first time ever I am launching into my new business venture of helping children reach their potential.
When we decided to move to the Sunshine Coast area three years ago, I didn’t resign from my part time teaching role as a Specialist Primary Extension Teacher, teaching creative writing to the college’s gifted and talented students. Instead, I decided to commute the two and a half hour drive (in both directions) because I loved the work I did, and I knew I would miss my gorgeous students. However, after two years spent driving five hours a day, I realised it was proving to be a bit of a challenge, and so I reluctantly decided to resign.
Do you see the photo of breaking dawn at the top of this page? It was one of many dawns I witnessed on my way to work along the Bruce Highway.
Again, I refer to the quote above, and it rang true for me that indeed, all good things do come to an end, but that has to happen so we can start new projects and grow within ourselves.
During my first year of resignation in 2016, I brainstormed and came up with the seed of an idea.
“With every deed you are sowing a seed, though the harvest you may not see.”
Ella Wheeler Wilcox (American poet and writer 1850–1919)
Rarely short of ideas, I began to nut out a plan and grew my idea of somehow continuing my work with children here on the Sunshine Coast.
“Can you keep a secret?” She asks with a finger on her lips. “I’d like to share a secret with you.”
As well as finding a way to share my passion and love of children, books, and writing I decided to grow a budding dream of mine to try to become published.
Why? You might ask.
Well, I’ve always loved to write and dabble in arty things, but have never really thought too much about getting published. However, last year on the 29th April, I met my very first little grandson and I instantly fell in love with him. His name is Euwing. Suddenly I decided I wanted to write Picture Books because I felt like I had some stories inside me that I wanted to, not only tell him, but to present them to him in a beaut way like a Picture Book. Then I thought, well, if that turned out, maybe I could get the stories published and share them with other children too?
So last year, I began learning about how to write Picture Books and I have to tell you, they are really very tricky and I’m really surprised at just how tricky they really are!
I love a challenge and I love to learn as much as I can about everything to do with books. I’m not sure I will ever get a picture book published, but I think it is worth trying, and the best part of it is, I am getting to meet many other lovely aspiring authors and people striving to do what I am doing. Since moving to the Sunshine Coast I have met many people who love books and creative writing, as well as a many talented illustrators. I feel like I’m living my dream.
Guess what? I have another secret… I did something else for the first time last year, too!
I wrote my very first novel! I did it! It’s for grown ups and it is set in the outback of Australia. It is in its first draft stage of over 100,000 words (now that’s a pretty big number) and I still have a lot of work to do, but I was very happy to write, the end.
See the photo of my manuscript and all the notes that went with it? Well, that is only just some of them. I filled up many notebooks with all my planning and plotting and it’s not over yet.
Seeds to Sow so Roots will Grow
I have been a dedicated teacher for many years now. I’ve taught hundreds of children over the past 30 years and I just love it when some of them come to find me and say a big “thank you” for helping them; for making a difference in their lives or inspiring them; some even tracking me down on Facebook. I’ve even been blessed to have taught a number of writing students all through their primary years. Some of these students have made the effort, when they’ve seen me on playground duty, to come and thank me for being an inspiration, or to share with me their dreams to become authors. Having children come out of their way to share their hopes and dreams or simply to talk books and writing, gives me such a buzz. Of course, not everyone wants to write books, but improving and mastering their reading and writing is one way to help themselves achieve any number of goals they desire. If a parent entrusts their precious child to me, then I feel privileged and, I honour their trust by attending wholeheartedly to endeavouring to make a difference in their child’s life.
The idea for Shadytree Books was born after compiling a long list of things I wanted to achieve while living in this beautiful part of the world. Shadytree Books will work hard for me to achieve my goals. The seeds are small in the beginning, but as they are watered and tended to, they will push down their roots, shoot and grow into a magnificent metaphorical tree where many children and adults can take shelter under and enjoy reading books, creating art and wonderful stories.
And this is where we can work together. Shadytree Books offers a number of services that you might find useful, including:
Children’s Creative Writing Workshops – where small groups of children with similar abilities discover the key elements to writing creatively, learn to grow in self confidence, interact and share their ideas and writing with peers. Poetry memorisation skills are offered, along with opportunities to recite and entertain amongst the group. Children learn the skills of critical and deeper thinking, how to question in a way to gain greater depth of understanding and how to receive and offer constructive criticism in a conscious and reflective way. In these workshops children are guided to be sensitive and appreciative of others’ work and we endeavour to establish a small and caring stable (community) of young writing creatives. The workshops incorporate the use of both indoor, and outdoor natural settings. Shadytree Books is situated on two and a half acres of beautiful gardens and natural bush where children can let their imaginations run free and use their surroundings to help inspire their story ideas.
Children’s Artistic Workshops – where small groups of children with similar abilities experiment with a variety of materials and mixed mediums to explore and create, verbalise and grow in self discovery and self confidence. These art workshops provide the perfect opportunity for like-minded children to interact and share their ideas and projects with peers. Students will have opportunities to create indoors or outdoors, weather dependent.
Tutoring for Literacy & Language for Prep to Year 6 students. For further details, please refer to our dedicated page, and the flyer at the end of this post.
Life Skills in the Classroom & Beyond – helping Primary students with time management and coping strategies.
Homeschooling Solutions for Prep to Year 6 students for creative writing activities, or more formal structured writing including: conventions, style, & poetry. Contact Deb to find out more details or to discuss your requirements.
Competition preparation – small group workshops designed to guide students in the process of entering and formatting artistic pieces for short story and poetry writing competitions.
Proofreading Services – Deb is a qualified proofreader and has helped a number of writers polish their work in readiness for publication.
Here is our first flyer for the year. Please feel free to download and pass along to anyone you feel might be interested.
Author: Debbie Smith
Debbie Smith is the author of a number of children’s short stories, poetry, picture books texts and is currently working on her first MG (middle-grade) novel, Hampton Common. She also writes for adults and has written the first draft of her adult outback novel, Lanolin on the Boards. Her debut children’s picture book, If You Meet an Elephant, is COMING SOON in 2019. Read about it here.
Debbie is the Founder and Creative Director of Shadytree Books. She tutors students in the Language Arts and Literacy areas, coordinates and runs Children’s Creative Writing and Art workshops for Shadytree Books’ StoryArts Holiday Program.
Debbie lives on the gorgeous Sunshine Coast near the lovely beaches of Noosa and it’s rich Hinterland life with her husband and gorgeous Cavoodle, Oscar. When Debbie takes time away from writing, she can be found at the farm riding her daughter’s Lippizaner horse, Obie, and handling and ground training her yearling Appaloosa foal, Joey.