Writing Little Dog and the Christmas Wish
This story began in August 2008, when Maryann Ballantyne and Andrew Kelly, Publishers at Black Dog books, asked me to write a Christmas Book.
I remember Maryann’s words – they went something like this . . . ‘We want a traditional Christmas story and Corinne, you can be as sentimental as you like . . . we’ll edit it back.’
Little Dog began as Flip, Eugene, became Pip and ended up simply as Little Dog and since that day, my Little Dog has been on a very long journey.
This book is special to me for many reasons. A child of the 50’s, it was actually nice to know, first hand, what I was writing about – to remember the enormous Foy’s Santa on the corner of Swanston and Bourke Streets, calling children toward him and to remember coming into the city on the green and cream rattly trams to marvel at the Myer windows every year – I also remember the clip-clopping of the Clydesdale horses as they delivered milk or bread at our front gate.
Remembering all of this didn’t mean the research was less. I chased snippets of detail, like what was the theme of the Myer windows and what movie was screening at the Regent Theatre on Christmas Eve that year . . . and were there buskers in the 50’s?
As I keep saying, picture books don’t have many words – it’s often about what isn’t said, the breathing space in between – and it’s the marriage, the togetherness of the words and illustrations that tell the story.
We launched the hard cover in the Block Arcade on 25th October 2014, even then Harry the Westie was the guest of honour – and the book took flight.
Then in January 2015 while I was at my desk writing – and happened to be minding Harry for the day – I received a phone call – totally out of the blue – telling me that Little Dog and the Christmas Wish had been chosen for the 2015 Myer Windows. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I was dreaming and I remember saying to Harry – ‘Did that really happen?’
I rang Maryann and asked her to verify the call – as it turned out I wasn’t going ‘nuts’ after all. I then had the pleasure of calling Robin Cowcher.
I would like to thank Maryann Ballantyne for her continued support and belief in my words, Black Dog/Walker Books, Robin Cowcher for her delicious illustrations, John and Connie from Stage One for championing Little Dog and taking something I imagined, to another perfect level and to my family for being part of all of this . . . and to my parents, for a privileged-with-love childhood, full of the kinds of memories worth re-living and sharing.
Little Dog was re-launched as a paperback in 2016 and the Myer windows are still touring – Myer Ballarat in 2016, Myer Geelong in 2017 and this coming Christmas he will be in Myer Wagga Wagga.
A long journey for a Little Dog I only imagined could have been.
‘A heavy drip-drop rain began to fall. To Little Dog it felt like the whole world was shivering. Where was Jonathan? Trams rumbled past.
Little Dog dashed across the wide street, over the tram tracks and . . . out of the rain.’