Haywire – a taster

A little taster from my novel “Haywire” which was published mid-pandemic. Notice the lovely silver sticker? “Haywire” was shortlisted in this year’s NSW Premier’s History Awards.

Tom (Hay NSW) October 1939

There is silence around the dinner table: no plate-clinking, no elbow-jostling, no open-mouth chewing, no seat-wriggling.

Nothing normal.

Mick and Pete have joined up. Joined the army. Volunteered to go fight in the war.

‘The militia?’

The militia are a sort of home army. They won’t go overseas but do stuff here. I’m not really sure what.

Pete shakes his head.

They’re going on a ship. Overseas. To fight against Hitler and the Germans. Like we see in the newsreels each Saturday.

Mum’s face is paler than it was the time I nearly cut my finger off. Dad stares into the distance. Mick’s chin is out. Pete scratches at something interesting on the tablecloth.

My big sister, Joanie, opens and closes her mouth like a landed fish. Her boyfriend is in the militia and she reckons she knows everything. But my little sister beats her.

Mary takes a big, noisy breath. ‘But people get killed at war!’

Max (Bockhurst, Germany) October 1939

I am in mathematics class, turning numbers into angles.

If I’d known what was about to happen, perhaps I would have cleared my desk.

Or told Markus Kleinitz what I really thought of him.

I know I definitely wouldn’t have worried as much about geometry.

But I didn’t know.

I thought it was a normal day.

The school secretary whispers to Mr Weber, then waits by the door. Mr Weber looks at me and I wonder what I’ve done.

‘Gruber.’ He nods in the direction of the door.

I untangle my legs and follow the secretary down the central corridor of the middle school, all the way to the office.

There at the end is my mother. Why isn’t she at work?

‘Danke.’ Mutti nods at the secretary. ‘Come, Max,’ she says and hands me my coat, hat and scarf. ‘Your grandmother is gravely ill. We must go to her at once.’

I frown. Oma died more than a year ago. I open my mouth to ask. Mutti shakes her head, just a little, but enough so I close my mouth again and wind my scarf around my neck.

Still she says nothing.

Mutti retrieves a knapsack from the snow steps and threads my arms into it. It’s heavy.

Haywire is a novel for 10+ and travels from Germany, via England to outback town Hay, where Tom, son of local baker, meets Max, German internee who arrives via the Dunera with 2500 other internees in the small, quiet inland town of Hay. Both boys are trapped in lives not of their choosing.

Available for purchase here, here, here, and independent bookshops everywhere.

Out and about

Melbourne and Victoria are slowly emerging from lockdown and it’s a wonderful thing. We’ve been able to see family and have begun to see friends again too.

On Tuesday, Sam from Wild Dingo Press and I visited bookshops – real live in person visits! It was so lovely to walk through familiar doors and chat to familiar booksellers. To talk books and sign books.

Readings Kids https://www.readings.com.au
The Little Bookroom
Pictures and Pages


There’s no doubting that there are many people and places that have had tougher lockdown experiences than I have, but doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate being able to leave home for more than the four reasons.
I love wandering about and seeing unexpected things. All add to the ‘filling the well’ that I find so important for writing. This image is from the gallery under Flinders St that leads to the station. The title for the exhibition, or for this window, is ‘Structured Layer by Layer’ and features the work of Penny Sharples (on wall), and mosaics by Luna Cameron-Parrish. I like the calm of the painting and the contrast of the layers in the mosaic with the wall tiles of the tunnel.
I saw this before the subway art, but it fits really, being so many layers. So many posters layered on top of each other, but peeling away to show what else is there. Like a paperbark tree.
This lane, between Bourke St mall and Little Collins, is usually full of photographers taking pics of the graffiti. There’s a quietness here, despite the shouting of the colours.
Shops are opening slowly, but there are lots of empty ones too. This is a favourite streetscape, between Collins and Flinders Lane. I overheard snippets of conversations between vendors and customers like whispers or memories. I love that the world lives here.

On the RRRadio …

Georgia Ward-Fear and I have been chatting on the radio with Shane Huntington. Neither Georgia nor I could be there live, so we Zoomed in. It was a good half-way method. We could see each other but it was an audio interview (which went out live). Whoever thought of this idea is to be applauded!

It also meant I didn’t need to put on shoes and it didn’t matter that it has been time + several months since I had a haircut!

If you’d like to listen to us chatting about our Wild Dingo Press book Aussie Stem Stars: Georgia Ward-Fear, here‘s the link. You’ll meet the wonderful Georgia and get a small taste (or not taste) of cane toads, and why goannas are no longer eating them.

Thanks Shane!

Kookaburra competition results are in!

Thank you so much to everyone who entered our Kookaburra competition, for your imagination and skill. We were overwhelmed by the quality and number of entries in both categories. Thank you to the parents and teachers who supported their children/students.

Congratulations to our winners, for their imaginative and lyrical new verses

Emily (9, Forest Hill VIC)

Kookaburra sits in the empty playground

wishing there were children to make a sound

Come everybody, come everybody,

when this lockdown ends.

and Noah (Yr 2 St Pius X Unanderra NSW)

Kookaburra sits on my garden shed

Eyeing off my food like he wants to be fed

I give in kookaburra, you win kookaburra

I’ll leave some out at tea

Congratulations to our artwork winners for their creative and original artworks:

Quentin (Yr 2 Our Lady of Lourdes PS NSW) 

and Petra (Yr 1 Brunswick Nth PS Vic)

Congratulations too to Yr 5B at St Joseph’s Catholic PS Como-Oyster Bay NSW for submitting 36 verses – a clear winner for the most entries from a single class (verse) and to Yr 1/2AL at Avalon PS NSW for submitting 22 artwork entries, the most for a single class and school. Prizepacks are being sent to both classes.

Tannya and I shortlisted 5 entries in each category before choosing winners. Choosing a shortlist was tough but choosing winners was even tougher.

Each of the entries on the shortlist deserves a Special Mention.

Writing Special Mentions:

Amali (Year 6, William Clarke College Kellyville NSW),

Kookaburra sits in the hot gum tree

Tryna find shade cause it’s a hundred degrees

Search kookaburra, search kookaburra

Burnt your feathers must be

Hamish (Yr 2, Camberwell PS Vic)

Kookaburra soars through the dusty sky,

Looking down on rivers and lands so dry.

Fly, Kookaburra, fly, Kookaburra,

Watch the scene from high.

and Iyah (Yr 2 Our Lady Star of the Sea PS Ocean Grove Vic)

Kookaburra sitting in the big gumtree

Laughing at you and looking at me

Why kookaburra? why kookaburra?

Tell your story to me!

Artwork Special Mentions:

Eliana (Age 4 Jacks Avenue Kindergarten Dingley Vic),

Yaami (Prep Watsonia Heights PS Vic)

and Maxim (Yr 3 St Therese’s Catholic PS Denistone NSW)

Thank you so much to Tannya for cohosting and cojudging our Kookaburra competition. To learn more about Tannya, you can visit her website.

The countdown is on …

… only a few more days to get your Kookaburra entries in! We’ve had so many fabulous verses and pictures, it’s going to be tough to choose winners (if only we could award every single entry!).

I love the different ways that young authors and illustrators are bringing our Kookaburra to life and look forward to sharing some with you.

*Did you know*

Kookaburra teenagers (not really teenagers, really they’re young adults) are really keen to help with nesting, but are so clumsy they sometimes break the eggs.

Keep them coming!

There are two more weeks until the end of our kookaburra competition (scroll down for details). Tannya and I are so pleased that students and classes are creating kookaburra magic. There are so many talented young people out there sharing their work.

Submitted artwork has been stunning, and I nearly fell off my chair laughing at some of the new ‘Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree’ verses.

There are prizes for illustrators, prizes for writers, and a prize for the class that submits the most entries! So many ways to win.

Keep those entries rolling in. We love your work.

To inspire you further, here are some wonderful words. All are from NSW indigenous languages (although spellings vary depending on who wrote them down). All are onomatopoeic.

Cocopara. Cucuburra. Gogera. Gogobera. Guguburra. Kukuburra. Cuck’unda. Akkaburra. Arrangangg. Gugurrgaagaa. Gurgara. Karkungoon. Koaka. Ngungana. Tarakook. Wowook.

Kookaburras, cane toads and more

Kookaburra entries are coming in. Yesterday’s poetry offerings had me rolling about on the floor! Just the perfect thing for a wintry lockdown Wednesday. Keep them coming!

My biography of Aussie Stem Star Georgia has hit bookshops around the country. It’s so exciting to see this book in print. Georgia had no idea what she wanted to be until after she started university and even then she nearly dropped out to become a cabaret dancer! But her childhood was full of exploration in the Aussie bush in the Blue Mountains, both with her family and solo. Her love of animals and her passion to see them in their natural environment led to a career as an reptile biologist and explorer. Her PhD involved teaching yellow-spotted monitors NOT to eat cane toads! But that’s not all … you should read about how she travelled through Pacific Islands in a demountable kayak.

Look out for the other two books in this new series from Wild Dingo Press

Dianne Wolfer has written about Munjed al Muderis, and Cristy has written about Fiona Wood. Such amazing writers and such wonderful subjects.

Science has never been more important than it is now. Look out for these titles in all good bookshops.

Kookaburra Competition

**IT’S COMPETITION TIME!**

ATTENTION students, parents, teachers, librarians. It’s Kookaburra Competition time! Clear your desks and sharpen your tools. We have a writing competition AND an illustration competition. Submissions are invited from students for either or both competitions! Four entries (two writing, two illustration) will win a copy of ‘Kookaburra’. But wait, there’s more …

The class that submits the most entries will win a book prize pack from Walker Books Australia.

Competition opens 17 August. Competition closes 25 September.

Results will be posted here and on social media. Winners will receive their prize via Aust Post.

WRITING COMPETITION:

Many will be familiar with the rhyme/song, ‘Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree’. This popular song was written by Marion Sinclair in 1932. She wrote it for a competition and won! The rest, as they say, is history.

Here’s the original and one of the popular extra verses.

Kookaburra (the original)

Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree,
Merry merry king of the bush is he.
Laugh, Kookaburra, laugh, Kookaburra,
Gay your life must be!

Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree,
Eating all the gum drops he can see.
Stop Kookaburra, stop Kookaburra
Save some there for me!

And here’s a well-known extra verse NOT written by Marion Sinclair

Kookaburra sits on electric wire

jumping up and down his pants on fire

Ouch, kookaburra, ouch kookaburra

Hot your pants must be!

We’d like you to write a new verse for this song. Extra points for basing it on any page in ‘Kookaburra’.

Here’s an example for you:

Kookaburra sits in the tall gum tree,

eating all the spiders she can see.

Crunch, kookaburra! Munch, kookaburra!

Eat them all for me.

ILLUSTRATION COMPETITION

Download Tannya’s outline of a kookaburra. Make it simple, make it fancy. Make it beautiful! Use pencils, paints, collage or a mix of all of these to show us how much you love kookaburras. When you’re done, take a photo and email it to Tannya.

Where to send entries:

Send writing entries to Claire at clairesaxby@optusnet.com.au

Send illustration entries to Tannya at harricks@iinet.net.au

PLEASE NOTE: Include the following in your entry submission:

Your first name, your year level and the name of your school.

  1. Permission for us to post your entry on social media (yes or no)
  2. Permission for us to post your first name with your entry (yes or no)
  3. Permission for us to post the name of your school (yes or no)

*** You will be eligible for a prize, even if you say no to all these. We’d just like to share your wonderfulness. ***

Bring on the kookaburras. Kook-kook-kook! Kak-kak-kak!