I finally got the chance to visit The Mad Hatters Bookshop, which opened in May, on the shores of Manly in Brisbane.
A bookshop opening at a time where more bookshops seem to be closing than is already thrilling, but I was delighted when I walked through the doors and saw how charming it looked.
The Mad Hatters has that quaint romantic bookshop feel but in a modern jacket, at any stage you feel a young Hugh Grant could be stepping through the doors. The books are beautifully displayed, original artwork is exhibited on the walls and in the children’s section there is a gorgeous mural that has been created by Ann-Marie Finn and Angela Grzegrzolka.
The team behind the bookshop and Dragon Tales Publishing are the dynamic Kaylene Hobson and Ann-Marie Finn. The good friends are a great match, Kaylene has a background in finance and is a children’s writer and Ann-Marie is an artist and professional illustrator.
It is no wonder that there is a big focus on children’s books as Kaylene and Ann-Marie exclusively publish children's books. Like the books they publish there is a strong attention to detail and the design of the shop.
Adjoining the bookshop is a dedicated space where the Mad Hatters run regular creative workshops for children, often by guest artists and writers. It is also a great space where children can work on a drawing while parents have time to browse.
Next door is a coffee shop with a beautiful view of Manly harbour. What better place to enjoy your new books!
My picture book, Oliver’s Grumbles, published by Dragon Tales Publishing and illustrated by Giuseppe Poli will launch at the Mad Hatters in October this year. I couldn’t think of a better place.
Read on for an interview with The Mad Hatters owner, Kaylene Hobson.
A bookshop and a publishing company, obviously you have a great love of (children’s) literature, is this a dream come true?
In many ways yes. It is of course a lot of hard work but why not work doing something that you love?
I couldn't agree more. How did you decide on the name of the shop?
We knew we wanted a wonderland for the children's section, and between it being the 150th Anniversary of Alice in Wonderland and people telling us we were mad for opening a book shop - the name sort of chose itself.
Setting up and running a bookshop and a publishing company while both having a young family sounds like a juggling act. Were there many difficulties to overcome in getting the shop up and running?
Definitely. In addition to the obvious challenges, Ann-Marie and I both have autistic children so managing family and work is often very hard. Part of why we have done this is for the kids. This way, we can work for ourselves and have more flexibility for our families. We had the help of some amazing people in the community with everything from painting to promotion, we couldn't have done it without them.
What makes The Mad Hatters Bookshop unique?
We wanted somewhere that was welcoming and special but we also wanted people to feel that visiting the store was an experience in itself, a book can transport you to another world and we wanted our shop to do that too. We want people to be able to take home a piece of the magic that we are trying to create here.
Where can people find out more about the creative workshops?
By calling in, or phoning - 07 3393 5130. We also post information to Facebook - and are currently working on our website. www.themadhattersbookshop.com.au
What is your vision for the shop, what other plans have you got in store?
We have quite a number of books coming out via Dragon Tales Publishing so we have lots of events planned. We also hope to complete all of our renovations and get even more classes and activities up and running.
Thank you Kaylene for answering my questions, but most of all for creating an inviting place for readers, writers and artists in Brisbane.
At our last Write Links meeting, we had our first collaborative writing session with a specific purpose; to create two children's stories for The Big Draw to be illustrated by the children of Brisbane on Saturday the 22nd of August during Children's Book Week.
This This unique event is a collaboration itself between members of the Brisbane Illustrators Group, the State Library of Queensland, Book Links, Write Links and of course the QLD branch of the Children's Book Council Australia.
Most of us at Write Links were new to writing a collaborative story but were lucky to have among our group the talented Children's Writer Angela Sunde who helped us on our way.
Angela Sunde's team Prana Writers, won the open division National Award and Eastern States Award for the Write-a-Book-in-a-Day competition in 2011.
After several seemingly crazy warm-up exercises we formed two groups to create two stories, one for older children and one for younger children.
Thanks to Angela's warm-up and experience it was relatively easy to come up with the main character, problem and how the story would be resolved. As the stories are for children they had to be action-filled, fast-paced and with a fun topic and in a setting allowing for visual expression.
I was part of the story for younger children. A picture book has 32 pages of which 14 spreads (or 28 pages) will actually be used for the story and for our collaboration we had eight writers! Some of the pages were left purely for illustrations which meant we had one or two spreads each and only a short paragraph to write as word count was to be no more than 500 words. We also benefited from illustrator Anil Tortop perspective during the process ensuring there was enough room for an illustrator's perspective.
During The Big Draw the stories will be spread out along several long tables and children will be able to illustrate the story directly with the text with the help of Brisbane illustrators including the award winning illustrator Lucia Masciullo.
Using Dropbox for collaborative editing sessions Write Links created two fun stories lending themselves well to illustrations. I can't wait to see the result on the 22nd of August.
I hope to see you at The Big Draw, make sure you share the link to this free event!
Children's Writer and Illustrator