Tulips for my birthday. Gorgeous.

This is a native hibiscus struck from one my folks have in their garden. It grows really quickly, is pretty, hardy and will soon hide the shed in the neighbour’s garden. Good, good, good.

Yes, I know this one is out of focus, but with the light through the window, it looks kinda painterly.

ASA is coming! So is Willy Lit Fest

Last night I trained into the city for the ASA panel discussion about digital rights, that murky evolving section of our industry (and many others). After a snack and a wee glass of wine, we and the panelists try to define just what digital rights will mean for creators of books and those other things we just call ‘works’.

I can’t say I’m a lot clearer about those rights after the discussion, but it was heartening to share that lack of clarity with many colleagues. And what was heartening was the diversity of views, the notion that there may not be one answer to the question of how to manage those rights. But the discussion will continue.

What’s also heartening, for this and other reasons, is that the Sydney-based-but-national body ASA will be establishing a larger Melbourne presence.

This morning, I trained back into the city for another ASA gig. I nearly ended up in the south eastern suburbs (that’s what reading can do for you) but managed to jump off the almost-leaving train just in time. I missed the AGM…not quite sure how…but was in time for the Colin Simpson lecture given by Arnold Zable. Arnold talked about what story means to him, and how he came to story. Along the way we were treated to many other stories, some sad, some tragic, others heartening. I’m glad I didn’t miss it. Also good to catch up with other familiar faces.


In other news, my picture book ‘There Was an Old Sailor’ has been shortlisted in the SCBWI Crystal Kite awards. Yay! I’ve also received copies of my new book, ‘Freaky Fact or Fiction: Human Body’, a non fiction book for 7-10 yos.

I’m looking forward to being ‘in conversation’ with Alison Lester as part of the Williamstown Literary Festival on 30 April, talking about ‘The Art of the Picture Book’. The Williamstown Literary Festival program features many great sessions. I’ve got my pencil out ready to select sessions. They are really cheap and you can easily spend the whole weekend immersed in words, words, words. My friend, Jackie Kerin is co-chairing the People’s Choice Awards with Mike Reynolds on the preceding Thursday. I’m trying to decide whether I’m game enough to perform or not. Check here for details

Canada here I come!

Last year I recorded a television episode for a program called ‘Tall Ted’s Story Time’. I shared the gig with Jackie Kerin and we featured my picture book, ‘There Was an Old Sailor’. There’s a website too with downloadable activities as well as short excerpts from the shows.

Story Time aired all around Australia on Channel 31. Now the whole shebang – all 12 episodes – is off to Canada, airing from 25 April. WHOOOO-HOOOO!


It’s no secret I love flowers. Not alone there.

This week, flowers made me smile in two ways. The first was a morning tea where we chatted books and their creation.

The flower link? Fine china tea cups and plates.

And the second. Pure and simple.

Bunches of flowers in my house. Made me smile whenever I saw them.

Come meet Catriona, George and Ghost

I’ve put on the kettle, and baked a batch of cakes, coz today I have a visitor!

Catriona Hoy is a picture book writer, secondary science teacher and much more besides. She recently spent over two years living in the UK, but we’re very happy to have her back in Australia.

Catriona is the author of ‘My Grandad Marches on Anzac Day’ (Ill: Benjamin Johson), ‘The Music Tree’ (Ill: Adele Jaune), ‘Daddies'(Ill: Mal Webster), ‘Mummies are Amazing’ (Annie White) (all with Hachette) and ‘Puggle’ (ill Andrew Plant, published by Working Title Press).

Today she’s here to talk about her new picture book, ‘George and Ghost’. ‘George and Ghost’ was released in UK in November, but Aussies have had to wait until this week. ‘George and Ghost’ is illustrated by Cassia Thomas and is a story about friendship, mixed with a little bit of science. Actually it’s several big bits of science, but they are slipped into the story very delicately!

Welcome Catriona!

Thanks so much for having me to visit, on this first day of my blog tour. It’s nice to be able to chat from the comfort of my own home, although it’s lovely to meet you in person too!

George and Ghost blends art and science. Was that a conscious
decision? If so, what motivated it?

I can’t point my finger at a particular gestalt moment about George and Ghost…I didn’t set out to write a story with a science theme. I think the idea came from living in England at the time, where every second pub seemed to claim it’s own ghost. I often begin my writing with a phrase or an idea that gets stuck in my head and for this book it was…’How much does a ghost weigh?’. It was tied up with this image I had of a little boy and his friend, Ghost. I’d read stories about the ways in which paranormal investigators try to measure a ‘presence’ and all these ideas fermented in my head for a bit. I wondered how this little boy would measure his ghost.
I was also intrigued by the differences in the education systems between Australia and England. In the English primary school my children were enrolled in, science was taught as a separate subject and was streamed. There was a big emphasis on being able to prove an answer to a question.

What came first? The characters or the science?

The characters definitely came first but then as the ideas progressed I saw how I could weave the science into the story. I wanted there to be that ‘scientifc method,’ where a question is posed and an answer sought. I began to see how I could put in ideas about matter and energy as well. George proves that he exists to George because he can be weighed and takes up space. Poor old Ghost is sent packing, shedding tears that couldn’t exist. But plucky ghost comes back to show that there are things that are real that can’t be weighed, such as music and light, which are forms of energy.
So I was able to blend together my science teaching background and these loveable, gorgeous characters. Incidentally, the illustrator, Cassia Thomas has done a brilliant job. I knew as soon as I saw the character roughs that she would capture that blend of curiosity and love that I wanted to capture.

What activities can you see being generated by George and Ghost?

I’ve actually written up a whole set of classroom notes, where I see how this could be used as a start in enquiry learning. There is the scientific method…making a hypothesis, testing it and drawing a conclusion…and the fact sometimes the conclusion we draw is incorrect if we haven’t measured correctly or thought about our question carefully enough. That all sounds pretty dry but think how far it could be taken. In fact what is reality, we could start with Descartes and keep going.
In terms of practical activities, all sorts of fun science… what kinds of things can you weigh? Can you weigh a thought? Can you weigh a sound? Does a sound take up space? Children could measure the volume of objects by displacement of water, the old Archimedes principle.

Do you have any other books in mind that would introduce scientific
principles in a young child-accessible way?

I’d like George and Ghost to keep going and have other adventures and investigate other things. Of course that means that lots of people have to buy the first one! I don’t tend to start out with an idea to put science into a book, I just write about things that interest or intrigue me. I enjoyed writing ‘Puggle,’ which came out last year because I learnt all sorts of fascinating things about echidnas.

Do you think students today have the opportunity to equally develop
their science AND their art? Or does the structure of the current
secondary education system make that difficult?

I think students these days are much luckier than they were in my day. There is much more emphasis on enquiry learning, different learning styles etc. It’s not about memorising facts so much as learning skills that are transferable and about the ‘big picture.’ One of the things that I’m hoping for George and Ghost is that it will encourage lots of open ended questions, whether they be in the classroom or at home.

You worked with a UK publisher on George and Ghost. Was that a
different experience when compared to working with Australian
publishers? If so, how?

I’ve worked with a number of editors now and I’d have to say that it’s not an Australian/UK thing so much as an individual thing. It also depends on the size and philosophy of the publishing house. It has been great working with such a variety as I’ve learnt something from each one. I think we have more opportunity in Australia to make our picture books more challenging, perhaps because we tend to start our chidlren at school later. The educational market over here is certainly a very important one and can often make or break a book.
I talk more about the editing process in my next blog stop tour tomorrow!

Thanks for stopping by Catriona. I do like visitors! For more details about Catriona and what she’s up to, visit her website.

To follow Catriona’s blog tour:

Mon 7 March HERE! Art Meets Science
Tues 8 March Does a picture book need editing? How do you work with your editor?
Wed 9 March Trevor Cairney Writing journey
Thur 10 March Robyn Opie Writing ‘George and Ghost’
Fri 11 March Dee White Ghosts. Do you believe?
Sat 12 March Chris Bell Writing picture books
Mon 14 March Lorraine Marwood In conclusion

I’m watching you…

Having fun with a macro lens

Nature is random, but very prettily so.

This flower is about 1cm diameter and just wouldn’t stay still to be photograped until my niece put her body on the line…in the line of wind that is.

This delicate little toadstool about 2 cm across and almost transparent.