I'm a children's author, wife and mum in no particular order. I perform these jobs simultaneously and I love them all!

Thursday 21 April 2016

A Very Literary School Holidays

As I reflect on our school holiday activities, I've realised it was full of book fun (in and round my daughter breaking her arm on the first day and having two temporary casts and a full cast fitted! Yes, two temporary casts - she broke the first one). 

I find school holidays restrict my creative writing time, but the kids and I spent the time experiencing books together instead. It's funny how it happened without any real planning. 

Exhibition Launch

My daughter and I attended the exhibition launch, 'Desert Lake: The Story of Kati Thanda - Lake Eyre' at Newcastle Library on Friday, 8th April (the eve of her breaking her arm). It's based on the picture book of the same name authored by Pamela Freeman and illustrated by Liz Anelli. Even though I was emerged in this exhibition during the Newcastle Writers Festival the week before, it was lovely to attend its official launch. Liz spoke beautifully about her experience illustrating it. I love going to these events as it turns into a lovely social outing too.

Recycled Aliens at Mayfield Library

I booked the kids into a craft session called, 'Recycled Aliens' at Mayfield Library on Tuesday, 12th April. My kids and a school friend used recycled materials to build aliens. They were encouraged to make up a name for their new characters and where they came from. It was a very creative adventure while it poured rain outside.

Rooftop Teddy Bears Picnic at Westfield Kotara

During the first week of the school holidays, Anthony Wood and I were special guests at the Teddy Bears Picnic hosted by Westfield Kotara. We read our book as the kids shared Tiny Teddies and drank Apple Juice with their teddies. The kids then had fun decorating biscuits and completing teddy bear craft. Paulette, the huge Build-A-Bear mascot also dropped by for a visit and photos. So much fun! I attended 3 picnics and was very lucky to strike sunshine every time. Poor Anthony! 2 of his 3 picnics were in the rain but the kids and teddies didn't mind. 


Friends of mine led by the amazing Kim Wilson went to Cambodia to visit schools and villages to donate food, clothes, shoes, school supplies and other essential items. They had fundraised in Australia months beforehand and then bought the supplies in the local communities. I slipped a few copies of 'Dandelions' in her bag. She so generously sent photos of her giving three schools our book. Wish I could have been there. What an amazing trip they had. A beautiful group of guardian angels.

The Jungle Book

The kids and I went to see The Jungle Book movie. OMG! What an experience. Viewing this movie on the big screen was amazing. Highly recommended!

DC Comic Marvels at Powerhouse Museum

We visited 'The Art of the Brick: DC Comics' exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum on Wednesday, 20th April. Batman, Superman, The Joker and more were on display as large scale figurines. So much fun! If you have a fan of Lego or DC Comic Marvels, I highly recommend a visit.

During our Sydney visit, my monkeys visited Kinokiniya Book Shop with Alan and sent me this photo while I was out shopping for shoes.

Ruby Wishfingers

On Thursday, 21st April, we attended story and craft time at MacLean's Booksellers to celebrate Deb Kelly's new chapter book, 'Ruby Wishfingers'. MacLean's and Deb entertained the kids with bookmark craft, cupcakes and readings from the story. 

Writing Group

I facilitate the Hunter Writers Centre Children's Writing Group and our April meeting fell in the holidays on Thursday, 21st April. As a lot of us are preparing manuscripts for the upcoming CYA Conference Writing Competition (which is closing next week), we madly critiqued competition entries - I think 15 of them. Busy!

Buy Me a Monkey

On Friday, 22nd April, we attended the picture book launch of 'Buy Me A Monkey' written by local author Cherelle Flemming at Swansea Library.

Cherelle read her book and sang lots of monkey songs while playing her ukulele. A very talented lady.

New manuscript

Oh, and in the middle of this fun, I managed to write a brand new manuscript. I can't say too much but I have sent it off to my publisher. Cross your fingers and eye brows (ok, not your eyebrows) that this one is a winner!

I'm going into lockdown as soon as Term 2 starts. I'll pop my head up to attend the 'Meet the Publishers' Conference in Melbourne in May and the CBCA National Conference in Sydney also in May. I have a chapter book calling me I must write ...

Hope you enjoyed your school holidays too!

Sunday 3 April 2016

The Newcastle Writers Festival Kids Program - Day 5 - Family Fun Day

The weather was absolutely perfect for our Festival Family Fun Day thank goodness! In fact it was extremely HOT! But the sunshine brought a sense fun and laughter as we celebrated children's literature with our wider local community.

Here is a summary of the mischief we got up to. There was fun to be had in every corner of our extended space. We even closed the front street and invited live animals. 

Madness? Yes! 
Worth it? Double Yes! 
Do it again next year? Triple YES!

Stage Performances

Plattsburg Cultural Dance Group started the day with beautiful indigenous dancing. The music was haunting and helped the festival give thanks to the traditional owners of the land we were occupying, the land of the Awabakal people. 

I hosted a live draw-off with the help of Liz Anelli, Leila Rudge, Kirrili Lonergan, Gwynne Jones and Serena Geddes. We were so lucky to have had five gorgeous, talented children's illustrators in the one place. Kids came from everywhere to watch the girls illustrate random topics suggested by children from the audience. As they competed in pairs, snow leopards, tiger moths, snakes and monster trucks jumped onto the pages in one minute. Then the audience voted for their favourite one with cheering. Finally the illustrations jumped into the hands of lucky audience members. It was the first time I had hosted such an event but I had so much fun - probably because I wasn't in the competition!

Next, Kirrili Lonergan and I presented the live 'Dandelions Stage Performance'. We invited the kids to copy our actions as we moved to the song, 'Dandelion' by Demi Mays. Then I read our story to the kids. It was a little weird hearing my voice reading it through a stage sound system but I felt very honoured. Kirrili then invited two children to join her on stage to demonstrate how to draw the characters from our story. To finish, we invited the kids to blow bubbles and pretend we were sending thousands of dandelion seeds onto the breeze. This was a beautiful way to end our session. 

I nearly forgot to mention we handmade our outfits to match our book. I even hid a blue butterfly on my outfit to match the blue butterfly Kirrili hid in the illustrations.

Next, local children's author, Renee Price wowed the kids with her 'Digby Fixit Live!' stage and puppet show that reflecting her picture book, 'Digby's Moon Mission', illustrated by Anil Tortop.

Book Launches

Jess Black launched her new picture book, 'Moon Dance', illustrated by Renee Treml. I couldn't attend as I was on stage, but her Facebook photos showed a room full of fun, excitement and celebration. Congratulations, Jess!


Deborah Kelly also launched her new book, 'Ruby Wishfingers', the first in a new junior fiction series. I couldn't attend it either (wish I could have been in three places at once!) but her Facebook launch photos oozed with a sense of fun and laughter too. Congratulations, Deb!


Story time allowed a spotlight to shine on some of our local authors and illustrators in the air-conditioning of the library. 

Ant Wood read his book, 'Flaming Charli', illustrated by Lorraine Robertson.

Fern Martins read her picture book, 'The Toast Tree', written by Corina Martin.

Illustrator Leila Rudge read her brand new picture books, 'Gary' which she wrote and illustrated, and 'The Whole Caboodle', written by Lisa Shanahan. Both books were only released on Friday. I may have also had a cuddle with her new baby. Lucky me!


Liz Anelli and Pamela Freeman read from their brand new picture book, 'Desert Lake' which was also released on Friday. The original illustrations were exhibited in the library's Lovett Gallery throughout the festival. This exhibition will be officially launched next Friday and will continue to be on display until the end of May.

Susan Whelan and Gwynne Jones read from their picture book, 'Don't Think About Purple Elephants'.

Katrien Pickles read her picture book, 'Georgia and Dad The Dragon', illustrated by Lauren Merrick.

And last but not least, Lyn Jenkins and Kirrili Lonergan shared their picture book, 'Lessons of a LAC'. 


Other Festival Activities:

Lulu Bell's World of Amazing Animals hosted by Belinda Murrell and Serena Geddes was a hub of craft activities and story telling. They were accompanied by a visiting petting zoo.

The Newcastle Art Gallery supplied their famous Art Cart and offered the children fun and messy book-related craft.

The Newcastle Library staff hosted relaxing story time in their pop-up library in the shade of the trees in Civic Park.

Facepainting and tattoos were available as well.

Lynn Jenkins and her family had their famous 'Bubble Tea' stand set up too. It was the perfect weather to recharge with this unique and soothing drink. I think it saved my sanity at one point. Did I tell you how hot it was?

Local author, Karen Hughes set up a beautiful stand to showcase her new series, 'Kalika Magic'. She also has a lolly stash and swords on display.

And of course MacLean's Booksellers supported us the entire time providing the books of all the book creators throughout the entire festival. A mammoth task!

As you can see, we have had a busy week. I have worn many hats (author, stage performer,   host, volunteer, and volunteer co-ordinator) and I've enjoyed every one of them.

Forgive me if I disappear next week. I may be found sleeping during the day, replenishing my fridge, ironing my mountain of washing, and catching up on family cuddles.

This week could not have happened without the support of our volunteers. I have a large group of amazing, reliable and beautiful volunteers who help me, the festival and library put on the very best festival we can for our local kids and families. We feel we offer a wonderful opportunity to bring children closer to their favourite book creators so they can feel inspired to become life long readers, and possibly writers and/or illustrators one day.

It had been an honour and a privilege to be part of the Newcastle Writers Festival Kids Program this year - my third year. After I catch up up on some sleep, I'll be ready to do it all over again in 2017. We have already started planning!

Saturday 2 April 2016

The Newcastle Writers Festival Kids Program - Day 4 - Primary School Groups

Here we are at day four of the Newcastle Writers Festival Kids Program.

We planned for the day to be a little slower so we could prepare for the magnificent Saturday Family Fun Day which is only one sleep away.

Steven Herrick dazzled students in the Civic Theatre Playhouse today with his 'Poetry to the Rescue' performances. What a treat for the children who came to see and hear him. I love how Steven makes poetry fun and enjoyable for everyone.

Serena Geddes just couldn't leave our festival without treating one lucky group of children to a workshop about how to paint cartoon cells. Serena shared her days illustrating for Disney in a way that had her group mesmerised.

The main program for the Newcastle Writers Festival also started today - you know, the one for the big people! I attended the Opening Night Event tonight at the Civic Theatre featuring Tim Flannery in conversation with John Doyle. Mesmerising! I enjoyed being an audience member this time too. I had trouble keeping my eyes open as I was exhausted but I wouldn't have had it any other way!

Short post this time. But the next one will be a 'bumper issue'. Stage shows, book launches, animal worlds, petting zoos, dancing, singing, illustration battles, face painting, and story time galore. Until then ...