Heaps better than a fake spider on your door frame – ‘Olivia’s Secret Scribbles: My New Best Friend’

Olivia'sSecretScribblesMNBF.jpgWhat’s more awesome than your kid not wanting to go to sleep because they’re reading a great book?

Having them wake up the next morning and keep reading! And almost be late for school because they love the book so much! And then talk about it all the way to school!

‘Olivia’s Secret Scribbles: My New Best Friend’ by Meredith Costain and Danielle McDonald is the first “big kid” book my daughter read by herself, cover to cover. In less than 24 hours, too.

That’s not reading, people, that’s devouring.

So, what was so inviting in this book?

  • Easy to read font with lots of enticing illustrations
  • A couple of mysteries to solve
  • Some hidden lessons

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Bushfire – Fiction Friday!!

I didn’t hear the characteristic rattle of the loose roof iron above the kitchen, heralding a change in the wind. Hot easterly turning to a south-westerly that on a normal day would promise a drop in temperature. My brain didn’t register the growing smell of smoke, creeping up like an intruder.


Image: CSIRO

The shrill clamour of the smoke alarm finally halted my study halfway through working out the molar weight of an unknown substance in question 34a. Fear buzzed as chemistry fled my brain. I made it halfway to silence the alarm before the power went out, plunging me into a dark that was simply too dark for the time of day it was.  Continue reading

Even better than a hug from a dingo cat – ‘Cyclones and Shadows’


I used to work up in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. Red dirt, indomitable spinifex and awe-inspiring mountain ranges.

I’m miffed that I never got to experience a cyclone, though. (‘You don’t want to,’ said everyone who ever had.) Still, I would’ve loved to really feel WHY. The wind and the pressure and the bunkering down…

Now, thanks to modern storytelling, I’m halfway there :). ‘Cyclones and Shadows’ is a collection of four fab stories all based around the north of Australia, including one in a cyclone.

I’m in love with them all. I’d love a Shadow of my very own!

And his mango tree too, please!

What made me grin reading this book?

These stories, by Laura Dudgeon, Pat Dudgeon, Sabrina Dudgeon-Swift and Darlene Oxenham, are full of humour, empathy, insight and adventure. There are strong female main characters, zero gender stereotypes (when was the last time you read about a girl fixing up a car in Junior Fiction? Yeah, I thought so…), and vibrant themes of family and friendshipContinue reading

The inconsiderate window

When you’ve shimmied through as many windows as I have, you develop a strong appreciation for why doors were invented. This one’s a prime example. Clearly not designed for ease of entry.

To be honest, I’m kind of wedged.

My butt is stuck out in no-man’s-land, legs dangling Humpty-style. It’s starting to rain back there. If this wasn’t so serious it’d be funny. If it was funny I could laugh. If I laughed it might just help me wriggle all the way through.

I brace my arms against the chill inner wall, empty my lungs, and push. Eyes bulge with pressure, fabric rips, then I slither headfirst to the floor with a boom that resounds through the whole damn place. I hate floorboards.

As I groan to my feet lights are appearing out in the hallway, voices raised and alert. But there’s no way I’m heading back out that curse of a window.

No. I’m going to get what I came here for.


windowBecause it’s fun (and seriously, who needs a better reason?) I’ve instigated a Fiction Friday post, where I pop up something short and (not always) sweet from my recent writing efforts. 

This one is from the #scbwiwestchallenge, which encourages us SCBWI West Aussies to #createeveryday. The prompt for this piece was ‘window’

Check out Instagram to see other creations of awesome from myself and SCBWI Aus West!

Poking around perfection with a bird-tipped umbrella: ‘Nevermoor: the Trials of Morrigan Crow’


When you hear of a children’s book exploding onto the scene like those whizz-bang fireworks that keep on sparkling (complete with everyone going ‘oooh’ and ‘aaah’) what you absolutely want to find out is HOW DID THEY DO IT?

‘Nevermoor: the Trials of Morrigan Crow’ by Jessica Townsend is one such delightful explosion. It’s surrounded by stories of bidding wars and movie rights that make me happy-sigh, because stuff like that is still possible, and books are still awesome and kids still love reading, and more will love it after reading this book.

And that’s all awesome!

So, how did Townsend do it?

What is so delightfully scrumptious about her book?

  • A huggable world you get immersed in
  • The laughs and clever whimsy
  • The intricate extras in the story.

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Diverse voices make for a brilliant read – ‘The Stars at Oktober Bend’

TSAOBThis was an unexpectedly extra-super-dooperly beautiful book. ‘The Stars at Oktober Bend‘ by Glenda Millard had been recommended to me, so I was prepared to thoroughly enjoy reading it.

I was even prepared to cry. Quite a lot.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the depth, the intensity of the characters, and the extent to which this book covers new and interesting perspectives.

I read the blurb and expected a love story with extras. It’s way more than that. The back calls it:

A beautiful, heartfelt novel about transcending past troubles and learning to live with trust and hope.

And it absolutely is. Like the ocean is water, or chocolate is yum.

3 things that were super-dooper

  • Diverse backgrounds and issues
  • Great use of POV
  • Poetry you really do want to leave around the place so people read it.

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Three reasons why your writing goals should be elastic and your imagination free

pablo (1).pngI love to treat my goals a little like my plotting. Give them freedom, and watch them grow and mutate into something better (preferably with superpowers or rainbow hair).

I feel the point of a writing goal is to give yourself a basic framework so you ACTUALLY START WRITING and then you can feel free to escape on the tail of whichever idea takes you.

Remember that little goal I set myself for January? Janowrimo? Newsflash – I didn’t make my 50,000 words (I wrote 35,000). And I’m not disappointed in the slightest. In fact, I’m totally stoked with what I achieved!

So, why shouldn’t you mind if you don’t achieve your writing goals?

1) You got in there and wrote! *celebrate!*

Okay, so when I’m suggesting you didn’t achieve a goal, I’m presuming it still inspired you to write and connect and plot and create. If you wanted to write 50,000 words and you managed 400 before giving up and turning the tele on, your goal clearly hasn’t worked at all. Go find yourself a more awesome goal. Continue reading

Crafting a great story: deconstructing ‘These Broken Stars’

TheseBrokenStars.jpgHello beautiful cover. I think I’ll read you…

It started with the gorgeous cover, but this is a clever and crisp novel that followed through on expectations.  ‘These Broken Stars’ by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner was a fab accompaniment to a great holiday.

And it only got better on my second read, because it was so crafty I didn’t notice some of the cool things the authors were weaving into it until I started analysing.

‘These Broken Stars’ is the first in the successful The Starbound Trilogy. We have society girl, Lilac, and low-born army hero Tarver. Sparks fly, their spaceship fails to, and they find themselves stranded together on a planet with too many mysteries.

I loved the clues and suspense, and the gentle beauty that came from two people hiking and learning about themselves as they went. I also love hiking, but I don’t think that’s a prerequisite to enjoying this fab book.

So, what was great about it?

Let’s do some deconstruction… and beware the occasional (read: frequent) blatant spoiler… Here are three areas I’m going to focus on for this novel.

  1. Multiple plot themes = ongoing interest
  2. Characters and POV (I know, I sound like a broken record…)
  3. Subtle introduction of ideas so you don’t even notice you’re noticing them

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Janowrimo – the busy writer’s solution to a hectic November!


I spent Christmas holidays on Rottnest Island – glorious!

There’s so much going on at the back end of a year. Study, end-of-school stuff, holiday prep… rush, pack, buy, wrap, plan…

Sometimes, November just doesn’t feel like the best month to decide to write 50,000 words (Even though I do love Nanowrimo!!)

So I’ll share a little thing I like to do. I call it Janowrimo.

I mean, wow, how inventive am I??

I sit down and write 50,000 words in January. It’s a marvelous month where Christmas is over, school hasn’t started yet, and that heavy headdress of end-of-year strain has been replaced by a marshmallow-and-rainbows sort of freedom from whence springs great writing.

Last year, I didn’t manage to do Nanowrimo at all because of study commitments, so my 2018 Janowrimo is twice as important. I’m breaking with tradition this Janowrimo, and NOT (shock! horror!) aiming to write a single MS over the entire month. The first thing I’m aiming for this month is a chapter book involving some splendid gardening and unlikely friendships.

Wish me luck! Maybe even join with me?

Superb book-hug: ‘Take Three Girls’

TakeThreeGirls.jpgWhen I finished reading this book, I hugged it. Arms. Book. Chest. Smile.

‘Take Three Girls’ by Cath Crowley, Simmone Howell and Fiona Wood is a raw and sometimes confronting book that is also funny, heartfelt and inspiring.

The friendship is fab, the character arcs super, the characters themselves so realistic. I ache for them, I cheer for them, I worry for them.

The book is chock-full of positive ways for teens (especially girls) to learn to feel good about who they are, but without that terrible feeling you’re getting a super-side-serve of preaching with your fiction. It’s simply a beautifully masterful, exciting and enlightening book.

I find I don’t want to dissect ‘Take Three Girls’ like I normally would.

No. I want to hug it.


I think it’s because I’m now a teacher, and I’ve seen both ends of these character arcs, and that’s why this book hit me so deep. I’ve seen the terrible sadness and missed opportunity of kids who can only deal with hate by hating on others. A dreadful spiral.

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