In the Advocate

I’ve been to Skipton this week, visiting Skipton Primary School and their delightful students and teachers.

Despite the slightly-less-than-wonderful weather, it was a wonderful day.



More koalas

I was lucky enough to spend four days in a wonderful local school (fab teachers), spending time with all grade levels and talking about books, writing, illustration, environments, habitats, ecosystems etc as they connected with my books. We also talked about enriching language and choosing strong words for our stories.


Freewriting was a hit, known to some students, less so to others, but I’m hoping their freewriting will lead to some new stories, whether fiction or narrative non fiction. Meanwhile the students were also creating some wonderful art.

Here is a small sample of their wonderful work. These were from Year One students!


Koalas and books

Last week I visited a local kinder to share Koala with the Koala kinder group in the sunshine of the park. Weather was perfect and the children had made gumleaf crowns and were generally totally immersed in the outdoors. They regularly visit the park which abuts their kinder – how brilliant is that?


I’ve been in Sydney this week, tripping about with wonderful illustrator Julie Vivas, sharing Koala with children and adults, both in person and on radio. What a treat! After Sue Whiting led a celebration of the release of Koala (including singing Happy Birthday) Julie ran a koala-drawing workshop at Children’s Bookshop in Beecroft, then a stone-painting activity for some very enthusiastic preschoolers.


IT begins


Story stones




All her own work. Love it!

I’ve also had the opportunity to talk about why I think it’s important to share Australian stories with Australian children. The impacts can be far-reaching. I have also been guest blogger here

Book Week … ah … month?

I love Book Week. I love it even more when it’s extended over more than a week. This year my ‘Book Week’ began in late July and continues until mid-September.


First port of call was PNG, Oro Province where four writers and illustrators were lucky enough to be able to visit a range of schools from elementary (village-based) schools to secondary day and boarding schools.

Bonuses (as if we needed more):

1 x astronaut

1 x medical team determined to reduce/eradicate TB

1 x tiny frog

1 x water diviner (and yes we all tried it and yes we all found water)

1 x visit to Kokoda Trail (walked a few metres in … does that count?)

We had multiple ‘oh my’ moments, from the size of some of our groups, through incredible welcomes, odd food experiences (curried duck balls anyone?), and brilliant company.

Return to Melbourne was a rude (cold) awakening but my first dog walk affirmed the approach of Spring.

Then there was ‘Love Your Bookshop Day’ on Saturday. I visited both my local bookshops, Younger Sun in Yarraville and Book and Paper in Williamstown to join their celebrations.

Roll on Book Week!

Ballarat and back

I’ve spent two days this week in Ballarat. The first day I talked about books and writing with all primary levels at Sebastopol Primary School. We covered everything from drafting, editing, publishing and the challenges in getting the words right. I showed students why I don’t illustrate my own books and they were very encouraging. One group also learned and recited a poem I’d written about Koalas. We read books and considered what it would have been like to be aboard a convict ship in 1841. Despite all the horribles of that journey, there are always a few students who want to join that trip.

The second day was all about poetry. Young writers from six schools in and around Ballarat travelled to Sebastopol to take part. We began the day as a group of about 70 students, then broke into smaller groups to undertake poetry workshops. My session was free verse poetry and man those students came up with some amazing lines! Other sessions were blackout poetry and art poetry. As always, I wish there was time to also attend the other workshops.

The final part of the day involved the students breaking into small groups, writing, workshopping and selecting a rhyming verse invitation. The final seven were performed to the assembled students and I had the task of choosing one. The chosen verse will be used as the invitation to the closing ceremony of the Young Writers Program where parents and other invitees will have the opportunity to view the work of the students.

A great initiative, devised and delivered by some amazing teachers and schools. Congratulations to all who were part of it.

Oh, and it was cold. -4 overnight. But so crisp and clear the next morning. Just lovely.

Bitta dis, bitta dat …

It’s winter here in Melbourne, which means I’m typing while wearing very fetching fingerless mittens, multiple layers of woolies and a big scarf. My office gets a bit coolish. But it’s so beautiful. Much as I hate getting up in the dark, that’s dog walk time and it’s always worth the effort for the sunrises, and the early morning light (keeps the dog happy too).

And there are other things that happen in winter. Great new book releases to add to the reading pile (although a couple of these went straight to the top), I helped a friend launch her first book, our choir was part of a Folk to Classic concert at Newport Folk Festival, we finally managed to book our Christmas gift dinner, and Koala is about to be released. I’ve received posters and teacher notes. Plans for two launches are unfolding, one in Sydney and one here in Melbourne.

Before that though, I’m off to Ballarat for a couple of days, then to PNG. Where it will be warm.

Willy Lit Fest

There’s nothing like a festival to refill the well. And there’s nothing like Willy Lit Fest. This local lit fest is now in its fourteenth year and going strong. A small team of mostly volunteers put together a program that has something for everyone from young children to the most literary of readers. From the Markus Zusak/Andy Griffith conversation to folk music and Afgan dust, it was a treat.

This year, I was co-presenting a workshopping session with my friend and colleague Sue Lawson, author of many wonderful books and stories. We were ‘in conversation’, offering Insider Tips for Children’s Writers.

Totally unintentionally, we dressed in coordinating colours, carried red handbags and red black and white tote bags. We even brought some of the same books to share with the audience as examples of good writing!

Our session was sold out!


We talked about picture books for different ages, lengths of longer fiction, organisations that can help hone skills and create networks. There was so much to share, so little time. We wanted this to be a Q&A session and it was. Hopefully we were able to share useful tips for all participants. We certainly had fun. But then, as we said at the beginning of our session: we could happily talk for hours … underwater … yano.


We were looked after brilliantly, from the Green Room, to the volunteers to the ‘introducer’ to the personalised coffee!