Why I wrote All I Want for Christmas is Rain

I was recently asked to put together some words on why I wrote All I Want for Christmas is Rain (published 2016 by New Frontier and illustrated by Megan Forward) – I thought I would share it here:

“New Frontier (my publisher for my second book, Fearless with Dad), asked me to write a Christmas book. My instant reaction was, ‘I don’t want to write a book about Santa, presents and commercialism’. Around the time that I was asked to write a Christmas book, there was a lot in the news about the drought affecting Australian farmers, and particularly Queensland farmers. My professional work at that time also exposed me to issues regarding farmers and the drought. So, the drought was on my mind. The themes of the book were starting to fall into place: drought, farmers, non-commercialism. My first two books had featured male characters and so it was time for me to feature a female character: Jane (which conveniently rhymes with ‘rain’). I wanted the central character in this book to be a girl because, of course, women are farmers. Another theme had fallen into place – feminism. And finally, I wanted the book to be quintessentially Australian, but not in a stereotypical cultural-cringe way; I wanted this book to resonate with Australian farmers. And so I had my themes.

I decided quite quickly that I wanted a female character who lived on a drought stricken farm to use her Santa visit to ask him for rain – this is, essentially, what the book is about. I liked the selflessness of this act – I liked the idea of a child not caring about presents on Christmas morning, but instead understanding that the one thing her family needs more than anything is rain. And I wanted to challenge myself and write the book in rhyme (a first for me). The first draft of the book was written very quickly – in a night. The book as it is now is not that much different to my first draft. Fortunately for me, my publisher New Frontier loved the manuscript and they wanted to publish it. Megan Forward was chosen as the illustrator and I was very excited by this choice when I looked at her portfolio of work. One thing that I was adamant about during the project was that the book had to look ‘right’ or it would fail. The illustrations needed to be beautiful, genuine and full of heart – not ‘Aussie’ in that Expo ‘88 way. In preparation for the visuals of the book, my family and I did a farm stay at Prestbury Farm, in the Felton Valley near Toowoomba. Although this property or area is not in drought, it was still great to be able to take photos of an actual working cattle farm. I met with Megan and took her these photos. We discussed the aesthetics of the book for about 2 hours and it was a very useful and productive meeting. I am forever grateful to my publisher New Frontier for allowing me such unfettered access to Megan. Megan also did her own research and visited a property that was actually in drought, and these images formed her work on the illustrations. The illustrations move me every time I look at them – Megan did a spectacular job. I was incredibly shocked when I learned that All I Want for Christmas is Rain had been shortlisted for Early Childhood Book of the Year by the Children’s Book Council of Australia. I am still in shock!

I am very proud of this book and I have received feedback on the book that has moved me to tears – that feedback has meant more to me than anything else. The book is dedicated to Australian farmers and it thanks them for feeding Australia. I have always had massive respect for Australian farmers and all the challenges they face – this book is my thank you to them. More than anything, I hope that the book resonates with farmers and that it has made them smile. If I achieved that, then my job is done!”

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Book Week 2017 and the CBCA Book of the Year Awards are coming!

Australian Book Week is coming – the best time of the year! Book Week 2017 is 19 – 26 August… and you know what that means! It’s time to dust off that sewing machine and heat up that glue gun and get your craft on! It is Book Week costume time and time is ticking (mental note: I need to help my son make his costume…). Here is a great list from Families Magazine to get some inspo for the ‘Escape to Everywhere’ theme. I love this theme – it reminds me of the Reading Rainbow theme song from the 1980s, especially the ‘I can go anywhere / I can be anything’ part. I absolutely loved that show!

I am so excited for the Book Week bookings that I have coming up: two at the Kenmore District Kindergarten and one at John Paul College. I am also doing sessions at the Ipswich Story Festival. I can’t wait to meet lots of book-loving kids, teachers and librarians and talk about books and writing and escaping to everywhere in books!

Remember during Book Week to thank your school librarian – in my experience, school librarians really make this a special week for kids. I love librarians!

I am also very excited to be attending the CBCA Book of the Year Awards in Hobart on 18 August 2017. I am so honoured to have been shortlisted. Congratulations and best wishes to all short listed authors and illustrators. I hope to meet lots of authors and illustrators in Hobart.

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CBCA Early Childhood Book of the Year 2017 – Short List: All I Want for Christmas is Rain

I am truly honoured and over-the-moon happy that All I Want for Christmas is Rain is on the Children’s Book Council of Australia Early Childhood Book of the Year 2017 Short List. I am so proud of this book and, in a way, it is my thank you to Australia for my life here. Australia is my adopted home and I love it. It is, of course, written for all of the people who live on the land who have experienced drought. I have been very humbled and moved by the feedback I have received. The book is dedicated to the farmers of Australia and I want to thank you again for feeding Australia.

Thank you to Megan Forward for her perfect illustrations; they absolutely exceeded my expectations. From the very beginning, I knew that if the illustrations didn’t look right, the book would fail – I am so fortunate to have been able to work with Megan on this book because her illustrations completely hit the mark. Thank you to New Frontier - I love working with you! Thank you for supporting Australian authors and illustrators and for publishing the most beautiful children’s picture books available today.

I am so happy to have been short listed – it is an amazing feeling! Thank you to the CBCA for your recognition of this story.

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‘All I Want for Christmas is Rain’ – a CBCA 2017 Notable Book!

I was thrilled to learn that ‘All I Want for Christmas is Rain’, illustrated by Megan Forward and published by New Frontier Publishing, is a 2017 Children’s Book Council of Australia 2017 Notable Book in the Early Childhood category.

I was in some very talented company and I am truly humbled by this. I am very proud of the book.

Thank you Children’s Book Council of Australia – this means a lot to me.

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‘Romancing the Stars’ – 23 February 2017

I had a great time at the Book Links (Qld) ‘Romancing the Stars’ event on 23 February 2017. It was great to see so much local writing and illustrating talent. It was also wonderful to catch up with the fabulous Megan Forward (my illustrator for ‘All I Want for Christmas is Rain’). And I was thrilled to meet Amanda Francey - an illustrator whose work I really admire (and who I would love to work with one day!).

Thanks to Book Links (Qld) for inviting me – I had a great night! I would recommend the event for anyone interested in children’s literature.

megan and I

Megan and I

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More wonderful feedback on ‘All I Want for Christmas is Rain’

Today I received this wonderful feedback from a colleague from my last office on my new book All I Want for Christmas is Rain. It meant so much to me to think that my book helped someone relive memories of their childhood and family. I may have gotten a wee bit emotional. It is feedback like this that makes me so proud of this book. Part of me feels like this is a little bit of a thank you to Australia for giving me such a great life since I moved here in 2000 (from Canada). Thank you!

‘Hi Cori! How are you? Congratulations on your latest book! We were at our library recently and Madeline found it in the new release section so we’ve been enjoying it at home. After we returned it I went hunting for it but our local book shop had sold out. Then I saw my mum today who told me how excited she was to find the most beautiful Christmas story for our kids and my sisters twins. She said she was so excited when she saw it as it reminded her of her dad who grew up on a drought affected farm in the Malley, Victoria and he would tell us as a boy he only ever wanted rain from Santa . So I asked mum if it was your book and turns out she bought the last 4 copies from the store. She says to say she loved it and it brought back memories of her dad and her own childhood on farms. And it reminded her of an Australian movie we liked as kids called Bushfire Moon. Mum was thrilled I knew you as she wanted to pass on her congratulations and thanks for such a beautiful book (as do I). We also regularly enjoy your other books too. Madeline always pulls out Fearless with Dad any time Tim returns from a long work trip and has him read it over and over for days.’

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Lovely feedback on All I Want for Christmas is Rain

A lovely lady emailed me this feedback on All I Want for Christmas is Rain yesterday and it really made my day. I was so hoping that my book would make it out to where it was needed – to the drought affected farmers and their kids. And, at least in some small way, it is! This is great and it just makes me so happy. I really hope that the kids (and their parents) that receive it like it – that is the real test! Would love to hear more feedback.

“Hi Cori, I just wanted to tell you how wonderful I think your book is. We have been fundraising for farmers suffering from the drought and I am sending out your book in my most recent care pack for the kids for Christmas. I am working with a group of people called Rural Assist. We introduced a cookbook initially and then later a calendar to help raise the money. So far we have raised almost $40,000 which we have used towards paying down farmers debt by helping pay for feed bills, power bills or sometimes just a new pair of boots. Where ever there is a need, we chip in and do what we can. I have only just discovered your beautiful book and found it at a little cafe in Dayboro but I have looked into stockists already to purchase more copies as the need arises. I can’t wait for the feedback on it as I am sure that it will be a most loved and cherished book by the children that we support who will certainly relate to it. Have a lovely evening.Here is hoping that it is a good omen and they have rain soon. Thank you for directing some much needed focus back on our farmers. Have a lovely Christmas x”

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Good Times! indeed: The Monkees concert – Brisbane 2 December 2016 – QPAC

Okay, so this is a site about my picture books and other things related to kid’s picture books but I am stepping out of that realm for this post. One week ago I went to the Monkees concert in Brisbane. I bought the front row ticket at the pre-sale ages ago. I was so stoked to get a front row ticket – I didn’t care how much it cost. I also didn’t care that no one wanted to go with me or that people teased me about going. There were all the predictable age-related taunts regarding the band AND audience (to which I replied ‘I don’t care what you say, I am going to be with my people’). Fortunately, I don’t care about what people think of me and so I proudly purchased my solo ticket and waited (I’m also an only child and am cool with my own company). But in the meantime, I had the new Monkees album, Good Times!, to keep me going (along with all the other albums). And gosh is it a great album – my favourite album of the last 20 years, easily. It makes me happy and it warms my heart. For me, Good Times! is like a beautiful handmade quilt – it is complex, warm, rich and soulful. It is full of spirit. It is comforting. I love it. My 6 year old son loves it too, which makes me love it even more. We sing along to it together. I also bought the BluRay box set of the TV show – oh man it looks great (so much better than I remember from my old VCR cassettes…remember those?).

Anyway, eventually the year slipped away and the concert night arrived. It had been a big day – I had been at a pub all day for my office Christmas party (I am always a stayer – I stayed as long as I could before I had to go to the concert). I hopped in an Uber and crossed a very busy Friday night Brisbane. The first thing I noticed at QPAC was the demographic – there were kids and older people and everyone in between. Everyone looked super happy.

Speaking of happiness – and stepping away from the concert for a moment – the Monkees represent this to me. I am 37 so I wasn’t around for the first wave of Monkeemania but I did watch them (and tape them meticulously on VCR cassettes) when I was a kid and as a teenager I remained devoted to them. I loved the music, the characters, the aesthetic and the comedy in the Monkees TV show. I was raised by hippies and I tend to live in the past. It has actually been a lifelong dream of mine to see the Monkees live but, for one reason or another, it just never happened. Until 2 December 2016.

I took my seat – front row, extreme right – right near Peter Tork’s keyboard and a big stack of speakers. I was amused to see that the person sitting next to me was younger than me, probably by about 15 years! Take that haters! The concert started a little after 8:00pm with the Monkees theme song and opening credits playing on the big screen at the back of the stage. And then Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork took to the stage (Davy Jones passed away in 2012 and Papa Nez doesn’t tour anymore) and my dream was coming true! Here were my two favourite Monkees right in front of me singing ‘Listen to the Band’. I was in pure heaven.

And the hits just rolled on. Peter and Micky sang, played their respective instruments, bantered, joked, sauntered and had the whole audience captivated. Here’s the thing: I have been to a LOT of concerts in my 37 years. This was hands down the best. Let’s remember how the Monkees were formed and that 2016 is their 50th anniversary. Just think about those two things for a minute. Over the past week I have been wondering why? Why was this the best concert I have been to? Why have I been thinking about it so fondly for the past week. Well, to start with there was just something magical about it. It was bursting at the seams with heart, soul and that special something that is hard to express in words. That certain something. Micky and Peter (and their fabulous band) were so generous with their hearts and spirits … of course, it wasn’t a free concert and people expect to be entertained but this was more than that. There was a generosity of spirit (both from the Monkees, their band AND the audience) that I have never witnessed at any concert before. It is pretty ironic to me that a band that was formed for a TV show 50 years ago managed to put on a concert that was so full of genuine musicianship, spirit and camaraderie – it quite simply could not be faked.

At one point Peter talked about how their feelings were hurt when people were saying (years ago) that they weren’t ‘real’ musicians. I can understand why they were upset. Micky and Peter are both so talented on their respective instruments and Micky’s voice is so darn good. These guys are obviously in great shape.

Song highlights? Randy Scouse Git, Goin Down (FAB U LOUS), Oh My My (seriously good), D.W. Washburn, Daydream Believer (sigh…), I’m a Believer (danced to that one), Me & Magdalena, You Bring the Summer, Auntie Grizelda (Peter rocks) … oh and all the rest.They played 30 songs and each was fabulous – they played the hits and I could sing along to each song. Thank you for that. When Look Out, Here Comes Tomorrow came on, I thought ‘I don’t want this to end…I don’t want tomorrow to come!’. I marvelled at Micky and Peter up there in front of me displaying better showmanship and stage presence than performers half their age or younger. There was no precious behaviour either – want to take photos? No problem. Snap away. The multi media aspect of the show (with clips from the show and videos featuring Davy) being shown during the show added to the experience in a very tasteful way.

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At one point I turned around and looked at the whole audience (remember I was front row). The smiles and warm-hearted faces of all the people of all ages were so beautiful. These were my people.

This was the perfect concert. And I was at it. As the concert ended (with me dancing to I’m a Believer) I was speechless. Wow. What a night. This review in the Australian was spot on.

2016 has been, in a lot of ways, a pretty dark, crappy year. The US election saddened and shocked me to my very core (remember: I am Canadian). Plus two of my idols died: Prince and David Bowie. Plus all the other stress and messes going on around the world. On a personal and professional level, 2016 was very rewarding though and alongside the good parts of 2016 I had Good Times! to celebrate with. And I was able to close out 2016 on a huge high having seen two guys who I have loved since I was a kid. And for 2.5 hours on Friday night at QPAC no one had any dark thoughts, there was no sadness, there was no stress, there was no negativity – there was just a whole lotta love, peace and happiness. What a gift.

I even contemplated taking my son (who was a bit miffed that I didn’t take him) and husband to the Gold Coast show next Friday but, you know, being an author and public servant is… well… not super lucrative. But I will always have my memory from Friday night and I will cherish it forever.

So, thank you to you Peter and Micky (and Mike and Davy). You have given me a lot of happiness throughout the years and I am so glad to have been able to finally see you live. I know I witnessed something unique and special last Friday night in Brisbane. I desperately hope that you tour Australia again; I hope I get to have that feeling again.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the Good Times. You guys rock.

Peace and love, Cori Brooke xo

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All I Want for Christmas is Rain

I can’t believe it is already December! Where did 2016 go? With a hot Australian Christmas just around the corner (it is already hot!), my new book All I Want for Christmas is Rain is on topic! I have been getting some fabulous feedback on my book, which is so lovely. I am really proud of this book. The brief from my publisher New Frontier was to write a Christmas book. My mission was clear: I wanted to write a book that was educational, very Australian and not about the commercial side of Christmas. I also wanted to touch Australian farmers because I have so much respect for them. And so the manuscript for All I Want for Christmas is Rain was born. New Frontier loved it and, lucky for me, they chose the fabulous Megan Forward to illustrate it for me.

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And it has been getting some great press…

Read an article by the Rural Weekly about my new book here.

Megan Daley from Children’s Book Daily reviewed my book on Sarah Howells’ ABC show on 29 November 2016. You can listen to the audio here. My book is discussed first. I cried listening to this review – it meant so much to me. Thank you to Megan Daley for the review.

If you would like to find out how to get a copy of my book, contact me by email: cori@coribrooke.com.au

If you have read All I Want for Christmas is Rain and have feedback, please get in touch with me via Twitter, Facebook or email.

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All I Want For Christmas is Rain is out now! Let it rain!

It is hard to believe it is already November! And with November brings the release of my third book, All I Want For Christmas is Rain. You can buy it in hard cover now from New Frontier. You can watch a video of Megan and I talking about the book here.

Here I am with my advance copy – Megan’s illustrations really hit the mark and I hope that all Australians love this book. Australia is my adopted country and this book is my thank you to Australia. I am very proud of this book – I hope you love it. Thank you to New Frontier for publishing this book, to Megan Forward for her beautiful perfect illustrations and to those people that helped make this happen with photographs of cattle properties.

I wish you all a very happy, wet and rainy Christmas! xo Cori

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