Category Archives: anthropomorphism PhD

International Shark Week – Reef Adventures

Happy International Shark Week!

I’m fortunate to be celebrating the occasion on a Pacific island, taking a week’s break before August; a month of Festival/Library/School visits and Bookshop events (more details next post).

Snorkelling here everyday reminds me how observing the busy minutiae of life on a coral reef inspired my novel The Shark Caller. So much is happening on even the smallest reef. Tiny fish, bright coloured, striped, spotted and plain, dart under rocks, hide in anemone or between coral scaffolding, while larger fish chase them or snuffle through sand or chew coral. Meanwhile the slower sea slugs and starfish make interesting patterns in the sand.

snorkelling trimmed

The island we are visiting is a sanctuary for turtles and sea snakes. Swimming with the former is a bucket-list delight. I’m trying to get used to the latter. Overcoming fear of strange creatures is something Izzy needed to do in Shark Caller to complete her quest. Like Izzy, I often find that adventure involves duality, it’s one of the themes that interested me during the long writing process of this book. The Shark Caller plot explores twin bonds and aspects of our shadow sides. It’s about light/darkness as well seeing degrees of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ within characters (and ourselves). And as I snorkel, I still wonder why creatures like octopus and sea snakes spook me whilst I seek out other (also strange) creatures like turtles.

The lagoon here seems too shallow for sharks (certainly no mako…), however yesterday I did see another creature from the story. From the vantage point of the jetty at low tide, I watched three different octopus, none as scary as Pyrena thank goodness although one was largish… I find octopus exquisitely creepy as they writhe across the sea floor uncurling their arms then suddenly jetting away when they’re disturbed. They’re intelligent and noble in their own weird way, but I prefer to have space between us.

Swimming above gaps under rocky overhangs reminds me of another aspect of the story, imagined passages to ocean vents and otherworldly creatures. I don’t think this lagoon hides underwater tunnels, but I guess you never know!

When I began writing this blog I found a long ago shark post which I forgot to publish. I drafted it soon after the release of The Shark Caller, as the first reviews began to arrive – always an exciting moment when they’re positive. I smiled when I read the opening line of the very first review by Joy Lawn in Books +Publishing:

The Shark Caller breaks new ground in junior YA fiction.

And was honoured to receive the following praise from living legend Hazel Edwards OAM (author of the famed Hippo on Roof books) in Goodreads:

This is the best book for the 10-12 ish age group that I have read this year. Highly commended for adults too. And it’s a pleasure to savour the language. 

Author Heather Waugh‘s comment was rather octopus-like:it lured me in and held me. It’s been a while since I’ve read magic realism, and I sank back into it like a comfy couch.’

But my favourite review came from primary student Lila, who says:

Dad, Mum and I have just finished your book Shark Caller and we all loved it. Mum and Dad loved it so much they had to read it after I went to bed, and Dad couldn’t put it down so he accidentally stayed up ’til 1:30am reading it! My favourite part was reaching Sephone after escaping Pyrena and onwards. For me the most tense part was in the Cavern with Pyrena and escaping her. I also loved the words especially solwara, puripuri and tumbuna.

Happy Shark Week everyone, may you also find clear waters in which to celebrate with some friendly marine creatures.

 

Ring in the new…

Happy New Year !

After five years working on PhD research; my two novels (The Shark Caller, The Dog with Seven Names) and the accompanying exegesis, “Crafting Animals Characters in Fiction for Young Readers”, it’s a wonderful (and somewhat fizzy) feeling to be able to at last be free to give attention to other projects which have been circling in a holding pattern. The first being Light from a Broken Lantern (working title).

Between final drafts of the exegesis I’ve been researching this manuscript; the third (and final?) book in the Lighthouse/Horse Boy series. The story steps back to explore the early WW1 years from the perspective of English nurse, Rose before she meets Jim (Light Horse Boy). This early stage of shaping an historical story is exciting in that research reveals all sorts of potential leads, some of which will be followed and woven into the plotline while others slip quietly back into history. I’ve been keeping a scrapbook journal of progress and notes, so that I can revisit some of the quieter snippets in later drafts.buttons-proofs

In early June, another long-term project, Nanna’s Button Tin will be released by Walker Books Australia (and Candlewick for the U.S. market). Heather Potter’s beautiful illustrations hold lovely details which add multiple layers to the story. I can’t wait to share more details in a following post.

2017 also brings exciting events linking to Lighthouse Girl and Light Horse Boy, as well as festival and school bookings. Here are some details for those:

  • Feb: Lighthouse Girl and Light Horse Boy will be included in an exhibition of Australian and New Zealand Children’s picture books called Anzac Stories Behind the Pages – held in Brisbane libraries.
  • March: I’ll be filling in for Warren Flynn while he takes leave from his position as English tutor at the Albany UWA campus. I’m looking forward to working with first year students on texts including Shaun Tan’s The Arrival and Art Spiegelman’s Maus.
  • Also in March: Between the Lines Writer’s Festival is on again in Busselton. I’ll be talking about The Shark Caller as well as sharing ideas for creating animal characters.
    • April 21 and 22 : Time to frock up for Black Swan Theatre’s premiere of Lighthouse Girl in Albany. Playwright, Hellie Turner’s terrific adaptation also links to Light Horse Boy.black-swan
  • April – May:  Black Swan Theatre’s season of Lighthouse Girl continues in Perth.
  • June : Nanna’s Button Tin will be released by Walker Books Australia (and Candlewick).
  • August: For the first time in many years, Children’s Bookweek will be spent in Albany and the Great Southern, coinciding with the Albany exhibition of Anzac Stories Behind the Pages. As well as Albany and Denmark sessions, I’ll be travelling to smaller communities and schools across the Great Southern.
  • Repeat bookings are always lovely and in 2017 I’ll be revisiting some favourite schools and places including; St Marks, The Literature Centre, Woodthorpe and Margaret River Library. More about dates and details in following posts.

Until then, thank you for your interest in my books and this blog. I enjoy receiving feedback, so please feel free to send me a message. In 2017, I hope to post more regularly, let’s see how I go …

 

Ring out the old…

a 2016 has been a whirl, with so many highlights, as well as the challenge of balancing study, writing and work commitments.

With just a few tweaks left to finalise my PhD research (Crafting Animal Characters in Children’s Literature), I look forward to working on several new projects over summer and launching a new book in 2017, but first I’d like to say a heartfelt thank you to the schools, festivals and libraries that hosted me in 2016. Here are some of the highlights:

  • The inaugural 7 Rooms 7 Stories Writers Festival in Busselton was fabulous and I’m thrilled to have been invited back in 2017. Boasting a sparkly new name ‘Between the Lines’ this festival is sponsored by Dymocks Busselton and will be held in March at Mary MacKillop College.
  • A few weeks after 7 stories, and further south, I enjoyed mixing with local creators and interstate visitors at Great Southern Grammar’s Literature Festival.
  • Meeting readers during school visits and returning to  IMG_7022schools I’ve previously visited is especially rewarding. In the first half of the year that included St Stephen’s, St Mark’s and Lakeside SHS (Perth) as  well as St Josephs College in Albany…
  • Travelling to Wickham in the Pilbara, celebrating Granny Grommet and Me being part of Better Beginnings Recommended Reads for 4s & 5s was fun.
  • So was revisiting NSW’s Riverina. Thank you Albury and Lavington Libraries for organising school visits last May.
  • Each Winter brings the excitement and anticipation of the SCBWI WA Rottnest Retreat. This year was as fabulous as ever, spending time reading, writing and workshopping with friends as well as being inspired by visiting legends Erica Wagner and Craig Smith. Thanks to the SCBWI organisers…
  • July brought the long-anticipated launch of The Shark Caller, a YA novel that was ‘in-production’ for about ten years. Some books take longer than others! To celebrate there were two launches; one at the Albany Surf Club and the other at Perth’s fabulous Aquarium (AQWA). Both were wonderful evenings.

 

  • Between these two launches, my sister, Karen and I went on a road trip/writers tour of Esperance and the Goldfields region where I enjoyed meeting students at Esperance SHS, Esperance Anglican Community School and Kalgoorlie’s John Paul College.

The second half of the year is when things get busy for children’s authors and 2016 winners & r up2was no exception. The excitement began with Albany Library and Penguin Random House helping to organise a Shark Caller Haiku Competition. The entries were delightful and I met with the winners to enjoy a milkshake meeting.

  • Then it was Bookweek. Thank you Iona, Newman, Mel Maria, PLC, Southlands Albany and Brighton Primary. As well as Rio Tinto for organising a full day trip to Paraburdoo …
  • In September I was honoured to join Maria Gill, Aleesah Darlison and Neridah McMullin on a panel session at the Australia/NZ SCBWI Conference in Sydney and a follow-up event at The Children’s Bookshop in Beecroft with my panel buddies as well as Hazel Edwards , Penny Morrison, Emma Allen and John Heffernan. Thank you to the amazing Susanne Gervay for organising these events and the lovely Deb Abela for offering me her spare room 🙂
  • bookshopBeing in Sydney also gave me the opportunity to spend the day with Penguin Random House publicist, Zoe Bechara visiting local bookshops to talk about The Shark Caller.
  • After flying back to WA, it was into the car and straight on to Toodyay for a session at the Avon Valley Writers Festival.
  • Then in October (and November) it was time to celebrate Fremantle Press’s 40th birthday. What a fabulous milestone for an independent publisher!
  • In October I also enjoyed an amazing week in Bunbury and Busselton as part of The Literature Centre’s Talented Young Writers’ Programme facilitated by one of the Centre’s motivating Education Officers, Beck Blaxell. Each year the TYWP programme reaches hundreds of budding creators, giving them unique opportunities to develop their skills. It was a pleasure to work with these highly committed high school students.
  • One 2016 regret was having to cancel sessions at Bremer Bay Primary due to urgent family illness. Thankfully my Mum is now okay and I hope to visit Bremer early 2017.

light horse girlSo that was my 2016. Thank you again to all of the schools, festivals and libraries that hosted me this year. After the adventures above, my 2017 resolution was going to be to slow down and enjoy each moment…  however with some exciting events coming up, this might be a challenge!

More about that in the next post. In the meantime, I wish you all a very Happy New Year!

 

 

Talented Young Writers

The Literature Centre runs a fabulous program called The Talented Young Writers Program in Fremantle as well as six regional centres across Western Australia. Last week I travelled to schools in Bunbury and Busselton with Education Officer Beck Blaxell to work with some of these creative students.

The students (from Years 6-12) meet four times a year with a visiting author to hone their writing skills. We talked about developing ideas, plotting, character development and my PhD research topic ‘anthropomorphism’. Students shared their own ideas and writing drafts. I heard so many great stories and can happily report that the future of WA storytelling is in safe hands.

Thank you to all at The Lit Centre for inviting me to be part of this great program, to the schools, teachers and parents for supporting this investment in our future. And… a  special shout-out to Beck who made sure everything ran smoothly, for being wonderful company and for introducing me to the delicious cabbage salad at Market Eating House (sounds weird, tastes great).

Shark Launch #2: Perth

AQWA, the Aquarium of Western Australia was the perfect venue for The Shark Caller Perth launch. Friends and colleagues gathered by the front door and were met by a snorkel-wearing shark and a glass of bubbles. Then we moved downstairs into the tunnel…

The tank at AQWA is huge with sharks, turtles and other exciting marine creatures. I am grateful to the AQWA team for their generosity, Beaufort Street Books, my agent Clive Newman and Professor Shaun Collin for his fascinating speech linking aspects of my new book with his leading edge research into shark sensory systems. I was thrilled that several other shark researchers were also able to attend; Lucille Chapuis, Kara Yopak and Caroline Kerr. Lucille has spent time in villages near the (fictitious) PNG setting in my story and I look forward to hearing more about her research.

Now that The Shark Caller has been launched twice, I am looking forward to sharing the story and writing process with students during Bookweek. Meanwhile the Albany Public Library has been running an ocean-themed haiku competition to tie-in with the Albany launch and winners will be announced next week. More details about that soon …

Friends appearing in the photographs above: Professor Shaun Collin, Jen Mars, Kris Williams, Meg McKinlay, Jen Banyard, Frane’ Lessac, Maree Whiteley, Mailee Clarke, Sasha Burbridge, Sophie Wolfer, Anni Wood and Melinda Tognini.

Shark Launch #1 Albany:

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The countdown to Launch #1 began with my sister flying in from the east. The Shark Caller is dedicated to three people and Karen is one of them. And last week, Karen surprised me with the most amazing gift; a shark carved from obsidian. If you read the book you will understand why this is such a precious gift. Over the past few years I’ve trawled the Internet for obsidian and never came close to finding anything like this.

For many children’s authors and illustrators, August is the busiest time of the year with Bookweek school and library visits spilling over into the rest of the month. For me, 2016 is busier than usual with two book launches to celebrate the release of The Shark Caller with Penguin Random House and a mini book tour of Esperance and Kalgoorlie.

Launch 1 was held at the Albany Surf Club, supported by Albany Public Library and Paperbark Merchants. It was a wonderful evening and here are some photos of the event.

 

 

A shoal of Sharks

… or a shiver of sharks. Or just a school of sharks.

Either way, my first box load of The Shark Caller arrived today. After so many years and hundreds of drafts, it’s become a book.

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It’s not actually on bookshop shelves yet, but has officially reached the ‘pre-order’ status, so that shouldn’t be too far away. So exciting…

 

World Oceans Day

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Happy World Oceans Day.

I had hoped to be celebrating with a walk at beautiful Middleton Beach in Albany, but given the wintry weather, have made do with a brisk walk at the harbour instead.

For the past three years as I’ve reworked drafts of nearly-published, The Shark Caller (Aug 1st), my mind has been focused on underwater creatures and the challenges threatening our oceans. Since completing the final draft in January, the situation has become even more dire for our Great Barrier Reef and here in WA, we hear heated community discussions over sharks and keeping swimmers safe. Sadly there are no easy answers.

I love swimming, diving, snorkelling and walking along the beach, and hope future generations will also be able to enjoy these simple pleasures in an ocean free of pollution and acidity.

The Shark Caller has been one of those stories that’s had a very long gestation, with the first idea, sparked by wonder at the beauty of marine life on a reef in Papua New Guinea. Despite our various inventions and deep-sea explorations, for me the ocean still holds that sense of wonder, mystery and adventure, qualities evident in some of the old classics like Hemingway’s, The Old Man and the Sea or Jules Verne’s fabulous, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. I never finished Moby Dick  but with whale season just starting, maybe I should give that one another go.

And there are so many fun ocean stories for children. My favourites include: Kylie Howarth’s Fish Jam, a jazzy picture book for young and old which is currently CBCA shortlisted; Bruce Whatley’s Looking for Crabs and Naomi Kojima’s quirky Singing Shijimi Clams (might be hard to find the latter). Karen Blair’s illustrations for Granny Grommet and Me also always make me smile! face3

For music lovers who like ocean themes, Simone Keane’s latest album, The Breath of the Ocean  donates proceeds to Sea Shepherd, and for me, one of Simone’s earlier songs, Life’s Ocean conjures lovely memories of Fay Catherine Howe (it was played at the Albany launch of Lighthouse Girl accompanied by historic photos of Breaksea Island)

There are so many ways to enjoy Ocean Day. I hope you find one…

 

 

What’s your Daemon?

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As my research into anthropomorphism and animal stories continues, I came across this lovely snippet from The Guardian whilst pondering Philip Pullman and his powerful use of daemon in His Dark Materials trilogy. I love the characters in Pullman’s series, particularly Iorek Byrnison; my all-time favourite character (along with Reepicheep and Eeyore). The article features illustrators drawing their own imaginary soul animals.

While I like to think my daemon would be some kind of large, shaggy dog (sorry little Harry), or a wolf or whale-shark, I remember once dozing on a plane and having a very strong sense of a wise, black crow on my shoulder. Or perhaps it was a raven. Either way, the image stayed with me. It felt like it was important and needed to stay.

Having googled Crow, the Universe of Symbolism site says this animal,’opens us to the gifts of ancient wisdom and sacred law.’ That seems to fit the sense of letting the crow stay. Alternatively Raven is, ‘the black winged messenger from beyond’. That sounds rather interesting too …

In a paper entitled What Makes a Classic? Daemons and Dual Audience in Philip Pullmans His Dark Materials, Professor Susan R. Bobby writes that:

… in The Golden Compass, the seaman tells Lyra that she can’t choose her daemon’s form, that he will choose his own (167-68). This is akin to saying to a child that one cannot reject part of one’s nature: if one prefers serving others, one’s daemon will settle as a dog, but if one is deceptive and crafty, one’s daemon may settle as a serpent. Pullman has revealed we should ask our friends what forms our daemons would take, because our friends may be more honest about our true nature than we would be ourselves (“Philip Pullman in his” 4). In fact, children may be surprised to know that Pullman sees his own daemon as a jackdaw or magpie, since he explains ” ‘A magpie is a thief: it takes the things that belong to someone else, bright and shiny things–and makes them his own. And that’s what writers do, isn’t it? ‘ ” (Andronik 43).

Philip Pullman is a writer I greatly admire. I guess if he has a magpie, then maybe having a crow on my shoulder is not such a bad thing, even though I think I’d prefer to be followed about by a grey wolf…

Daemon are interesting things to consider. If you have one (imaginary daemon included), I’d love to hear what shape it takes. And if you haven’t read Pullman’s His Dark Materials, an amazing journey awaits you.

 

 

The First Review

… and it isn’t even out yet! random cover pix

Thank you Joy Lawn for the wonderful early review in Australian Bookseller + Publisher:

The Shark Caller breaks new ground in junior YA fiction. [I]ssues of conservation and identity, as told from Izzy’s dual-cultural perspective, with a scattering of creole Tok Pisin words, will intrigue readers aged 11 and up.’ Joy Lawn, Australian Bookseller + Publisher

Here is a link to their website with the full review.

shark book uncorrectedAnd, my very first uncorrected proof copy arrived this week.

As I read through it for the multi-hundredth time, I couldn’t help getting out a pencil and making just a few more changes. How did I miss 2x ‘massive’ on pg 80 ? And why didn’t I delete ‘suddenly’ on pg 208?

Too late for this edition, but fingers crossed for a second print run. In the meantime, I think I need to channel Elsa and let it go…

More details closer to the publication date (1st August).

 

An Alternative to Red Hearts

Junior school teachers are probably helping their students make heart cards this week. As I walked past a mass of commercial ‘Made Somewhere Else’ heart stuff that may end up in landfill, I thought that a wonderful alternative present for a loved one, is a book celebrating love, not just romantic love… And that got me thinking about picture books with themes of love. Two favourites came to mind immediately; Old Pig (Margaret Wild & Ron Brooks) and Samsara Dog (Helen Manos & Julie Vivas).

I love both of these books. Both honour selfless love (perhaps that’s the best kind) and loss. Both are also anthropomorphic. I love animal stories too. Animal characters cross gender and racial boundaries. For me, they strip away the ‘trimmings’ and help young readers find the core of a story.

Love. There are so many other wonderful picture books on my shelves celebrating love; in glorious shades and forms. Great picture books like Old Pig and Samsara Dog can be read on many levels. Perhaps it would be fun to discuss different kinds of picture book love while the sticky heart card glue is drying…

Happy Valentines Day 🙂

* keep the tissues handy for these titles

Wordcounts

WA author Sandi Bowie recently shared an interesting article about the word count habits of several well-known authors. I found their different feedback on ‘a successful day’s work’ fascinating. And then I looked at my own approach…

The article claims that writing routines are important. That is so true. Reading the different methods of these successful writers reminded me again of the value and importance of ‘just writing’, especially whilst working on the first read-through draft of a new manuscript. Not censoring, researching, or checking emails, just setting a daily word count deadline and getting on with it. Permitting yourself to write junky sentences, but not leaving the desk before the word count is achieved .

The word count tab on my laptop is my favourite function. I often set myself mini targets and update the figure on the first page at least once a day. When I write, it also helps to know that what I am working on is a draft. And that I will edit it many times. Arthur Conan Doyle’s entry in the article states: ‘Anything is better than stagnation.’ Again, so true!

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Another quote I liked was by Somerset Maugham: “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”

After years of work and countless drafts, my YA novel The Shark Caller is now out of my hands being typeset. One part of me is relieved, another part wants to take back the manuscript and do another draft (or two or three). I know that it’s time to ‘let it go’, but each time I read the story, some sentences still feel clunky.

So this week I have returned to my other semi-completed novel, The Dog with Six Names. After reading the article Sandi posted, I decided to revive the word count habit. Yesterday I managed 700 words, enough to creep over the 29,000 tally. Those authors who achieve 3000 words a day are an inspiration. Today was an ambitious (for me) 1000 words. I was itching to pass the 30,000 mark. As I type, the story now sits at 30,194.  Two thousand more words to go till my final target of 32,000. Then the hard part begins; editing!

 

 

Farewell 2015

The last day of the year: a time for reflection and forward planning.

Tucked in a holiday house in the hills behind Apollo with my family, its also a time for counting blessings; we’re all relatively healthy and we have homes to return to.

2015 has been a huge year for me with several highlights including:

  • Lighthouse Girl’s close link to ‘The Giants’ performance through the streets of Perth. Following the Little Girl Giant as she searched for The Diver was an unforgettable experience. My special pass enabled me to stand right beside the fabulous giants.
  • signing with Newman Agency. Clive Newman has some exciting ideas for reinvigorating some of my backlist and also new markets for new titles. More info soon…
  •  The Shark Caller’s acceptance for publication with Random House in mid-late 2016. The final edit is almost complete and I can’t wait to share this story with readers. 
  • the presentation of Granny Grommet and Me to the Duchess of Cornwall. I do hope those young royals enjoy hearing about Albany’s surfing grannies.
  • Moss Vale High School selecting Light Horse Boy to be the 2015 book that the entire school reads (all 700 students and staff) as part of their school book club.
  • Light Horse Boy being serialised over 10 weeks in The West Australian newspaper.
  • flying to Breaksea Island in a helicopter to be interviewed for Channel 9’s TV show, Destination WA
  • my daughter’s Masters graduation ceremony.

Thank you to the schools and libraries across WA and beyond who hosted me in 2015. I believe teachers and librarians are unsung heroes of literacy. They open doors to learning, empathy and understanding for children and teenagers – the extent of their influence may not be known for years, but they enrich our community in immeasurable ways. I’d love to see teachers and librarians honoured and appreciated more in 2016.

Next year:

In addition to the launch of The Shark Caller, for YA readers, I hope the illustrations for my picture book, Nanna’s Button Tin will soon be completed. The artwork so far is lovely.

My main aim at the moment is to complete my PhD research ready to submit before mid-year. Hopefully the next blog post will have an update on my progress.

I have school and library bookings in Albany, Busselton, Bunbury and Perth and plan to visit Sydney/Melbourne, Canberra and regional NSW. Please use the contact page if you would like me to come to your school/library.

New Book: The Shark Caller

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On a day when various media report the findings of Matt Waller that sharks really like ACDC , it seems timely to announce my own good news, that my YA manuscript The Shark Caller has been accepted for publication with Random House in 2016!

The idea for this story began many years ago (Dec 2001), during a family holiday on a dive resort island near Kavieng in Papua New Guinea. My sister, Karen and her partner, Owen worked in PNG and were friends with the owners. I’d been to other PNG islands and The Marovo Lagoon (Solomon Islands) with them. Karen and Owen introduced me to the joy of diving on stunning reefs and WW2 shipwrecks. I loved watching ocean creatures and I also became interested in Pacific Island culture…

The actual Shark Caller story began a few years after that trip, but the draft  went into the ‘revise one day’ drawer. That day didn’t arrive until 2012 when I began my PhD at UWA.

I was fortunate to receive a scholarship for a PhD based on creative writing. I needed to write a linked Creative Work of 70,000 words and a research exegesis on a linked topic (in my case its Anthropomorphism in Australian Children’s Literature). Because I wanted to write for YA readers (around 11-14), I negotiated writing 2 titles for the Creative Works.

Initially these two Creative Works were to be linked dog stories set in WA; one during WW2, the other in the 60s. As my research continued I thought that to show anthropomorphic range it would be really interesting to write from a different species POV and perhaps also in a different genre.

I remembered The Shark Caller, went to the ‘revise one day’ file and have been working on it ever since. Weeks, hours, month and years. The story is semi-fantasy and this genre is totally new to me – and very challenging.

The Shark Caller is due for publication in August 2016. There are many people to thank and they will be acknowledged in the book, including: my UWA supervisors Van Ikin and Tess Williams; my family for reading endless drafts over the past three years and SCBWI WA for inviting Zoe Walton to our Rottnest Retreat and thus enabling me to connect with the wonderful team at Random House.

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I will post another Shark Caller update early in the New Year…

Research Trip #2 Port Hedland – Marble Bar – Corunna Downs

Eek, I meant to post this three weeks ago!!!

The second part of my research trip from Broome to Port Hedland seems to have changed the direction of my novel (weird how that happens)…

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After a wonderful few days in Broome, I flew to Port Hedland on the milk run via Karratha. The tidal scenery along the coast is spectacular and I’d forgotten how interesting it is coming in to land over the salt farms. Part of my story-in-progress takes place in small aeroplanes so I was busy taking notes along the way. Once I arrived in Hedland, I went straight to the old hospital site to view it in evening light. To my amazement the old building has become a DOME café. My first reaction was, Oh no! but it has been lovingly restored and absorbing the atmosphere from the inner verandah with a coffee was fun. And how lovely is the lattice…

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The next morning I visited Dalgety House Museum and had one of those meetings that are just meant to be. Joan Foley was volunteering that morning and after I explained a little about my plans, she told me her dad was at the airport in the same era and that her mother nursed at the hospital… Bingo! We chatted for ages and Joan invited me to join her the next morning on her Hedland Radio breakfast show. Joan is a multi-talented lady and gave me some helpful contacts.

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(I went in early to radio chat with her before heading out to Marble Bar/Corunna Downs)

After Dalgety House Museum, I’d also spent hours at the South Hedland Library’s historical collection – what a treasure trove. Thank you Helen Ellacott and Sharon Groch for all your help.  Then I walked along the foreshore and town, visited Pretty Pool and enjoyed a Pilbara sunset.

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Driving out to Marble Bar was a treat with the red earth, spinifex and hills that hold old stories.

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Marble Bar is our hottest town, lucky I visited in winter. I visited the nursing post and decided it was time to take notice of several strange coincidences that had been pulling me away from my intended main setting (Port Hedland) to Marble Bar. That decision is still playing out, so more on that in another post… After visiting the Marble Bar museum and going out to the Comet Gold Mine ruin, I checked petrol and tyres, ready to set out to try and find Corunna Downs, the secret World War 2 airstrip.IMG_3823

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(notice the bull behind the sign)

More lovely scenery and no one else around on the way out to Corunna. The turn-off:

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Then I found the marker for the next turn-off.

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 According to an online blogger’s directions, I was now within 6 kilometres, but the track was getting rougher and I’m not much of a four-wheel driver. I wasn’t sure what the Rav4 was up for and I’d promised family that I’d be sensible, so as I headed into another creek bed, I pulled over, walked ahead and decided that if I kept going I might not be able to turn.

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It was frustrating to be so close and not get out onto the actual overgrown strip, but I had enough background info. Walking on alone mid-afternoon wasn’t an option and so I turned back towards Marble Bar. Hopefully once the story is finished I can come back again.

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Thank you to UWA for help funding this trip which has given me a deeper understanding of the Pilbara landscape and shifted the direction of my work.

Research Trip #1: Broome Flying Boat Wrecks

AdiSunriseAfter the busy and delightful madness of Children’s Bookweek (Thank you IONA, Our Lady’s Assumption Primary, Woodvale and Vic Park Libraries), I took a week off from writing to go north. I needed to do more research for one of two novels I’m writing for my PhD. Both are linked to my thesis ‘Anthropomorphism in Children’s Literature’ – more about that in a future post…

The story I’m researching is set in Port Hedland and Marble Bar. It links to the WW2 attacks on north-west Australia and my first stop was Broome to see the wrecks of the Dutch flying boats.

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In 1942 hundreds of families fled the Dutch East Indies in the final days before towns fell to the Japanese forces. The evacuees flew south to Broome then onwards to other parts of Australia. Early morning March 3rd, fifteen flying boats were waiting to refuel in Roebuck Bay. They were packed with women and children. A squadron of Japanese Zeroes, on a long range mission from Timor, strafed the boats causing the death of over eighty people. Amidst the horror, there were stories of great courage. At extreme low tide, some of the wrecked planes can still be seen. Exploring them at dawn was poignant and deeply moving.

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Synchronicity is an amazing thing. More and more I believe that some stories are meant to be written. On the mini-bus trip to the hovercraft I sat by a woman, Karen Hasselo. We began chatting and she told her father (99 and in good health) was one of the pilots! Karen had travelled from Melbourne to visit his plane.

Karen Hasselo and Dianne at her father's plane

Karen Hasselo and Dianne at her father’s plane

Research trips are an important way for authors to immerse themselves in the setting of their story. To better imagine how things might feel, sound, smell…  You never really know what treasures will be discovered until after you arrive. Meeting Karen was one of those amazing moments that will give me a deeper understanding of my story.

I also found wonderful information and records at The Broome Historical Museum and Broome Heritage Centre. After a few days in Broome, I travelled south to Port Hedland and Marble Bar. More about that in the next post…  Akaren walks to wreck

‘The Shark Caller’ swims again

After setting aside my ‘Shark’ manuscript for 4 months, I’m now back underwater at last.

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I’ve come to learn that letting stories settle is an important part of the writing process. It’s tempting to send away a manuscript after the first few drafts but I’ve found it’s usually better to wait. Not usually as long as this one, however…

I have emails that go back as far as 2006 mentioning this story!

But the good news for my long-suffering family and friends is that I think Shark Caller is getting closer to being publishable. I hope. It’s also one of my two PhD Creative Works so it needs to be completed by September.

The Shark Caller is an underwater fantasy story that I hope readers aged about 10-14 will enjoy. Here are a few beautiful illustrations by Year 3 students at St Mark’s Anglican School. They were created in response to Granny Grommet and Me, but the artwork has helped me shift my focus underwater again and so I wanted to include some here. There are more beautiful drawings but they don’t all fit. Thank you Year 3’s for giving them to me.

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More details on The Shark Caller soon…

Young Reviewers

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I love reading reviews by young people. After all they’re the ones my books are mostly for.

Yesterday The West Australian newspaper’s Ed! supplement included five considered and well-written reviews of Light Horse Boy as well as two terrific drawings by readers from Years 5 to 8. It’s great to see teachers and journalists  providing opportunities for young people to view their ideas and opinions in public. I loved reading their thoughts.

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Grace from Upper Swan, I’m so glad that your views on historical fiction and World War 1 have changed. Brian is indeed an amazing illustrator. I love his charcoal drawings too.

Emily from Maida Vale, thank you for passing on all those recommendations. Adding the old-fashioned Aussie words was a fun part of the writing process.

Willow also from  Maida Vale, I smiled to hear that your heart was racing, and those sad moments needed to be there, didn’t they?

Zachary from Cannington, you must be very proud of your family and their own sacrifices.

draw2 Alex from Tom Price, your drawing is fabulous. I love that jaunty hat and the angry looking cloud!

Thomas from Nedlands, your drawing is fabulous too. That BOOM certainly captures attention and poor Breaker looks very worried.

Juliette from Forrestdale, Good news! I’ve spent much of the past two years writing a story set in World War 2. And it does link to several true stories. It’s told from the point of view of a dog. Do you like dogs? My last post mentioned the story briefly and there will be more posts about it over the next few months. Stay tuned…

Thank you reviewers for your kind words. There are many other books written by Australian children’s authors that explore different things about World War One. I hope you enjoy seeking them out …

Shaping Things…

If a writer is lucky, there comes a moment, usually after years of work, when the shape of a work-in-progress-novel ‘settles’ – like a jelly or some other wobbly thing. This happened today.

Three weeks ago I was ridiculously excited to reach the magical 25,000 word mark (of approximately 32,000 – 35,000). I powered on to 26k. I almost reached 27,000, but then I needed to revise. To go onwards I often need to go back to the very beginning, slowly reworking scenes (again and again) until I reach and then somehow work through a dead-end.

For many days and nights I’ve added, edited, rearranged words in Parts 1-5 and also spent hours researching Port Hedland circa1942.

The number 27,000 was in my sights so many times, but I had to go back to the beginning and edit to be able to go forward. Then I jumped ahead to the ending and re-wrote the last two parts; effectively bookending the troublesome scenes. I don’t know whether other writers do this, but it’s also what I did in Light Horse Boy. The beginnings and end became honed and more sparkly whilst the dreaded ‘Beersheba’ scene loomed. For those few paragraphs of print, so much research was needed. It was daunting and I didn’t want to get it wrong.

dogAnd that brings me back to where I am now with (drumroll for first public outing of the name)       The Dog with Five Names. The story is told from the point of view of a dog and is one of two Creative Works for my PhD.

Today I reached 27,002 and it feels as if the manuscript is ‘settling’.  I may well be deluded, there is always a good chance of that, and tomorrow I might change my mind about much of today’s work and have to  slash those 2 words. However tonight there will be no more editing 😉

 

 

 

 

Capel Library Anzac Evening

IMGP9072Last week, Susan Dalgleish and her team at the Shire of Capel Library organised a terrific Anzac event in conjunction with the Capel RSL. It was attended by a wide cross-section of the local population. Planning began last November with the amazing Lesley Jackes at an author event in Albany commemorating the Departure of the 1st AIF (see previous post).

Susan and the Capel Library staff are passionate about history and literacy. They created interesting displays and an inspirational program that began with local group, ‘The Wednesday Girls’ singing songs from the WW1 era to set the mood. Daniel McDonald from the 10th Light Horse arrived in full kit and brought along a life-size horse which was also kitted out with WW1 equipment. It’s always fascinating to see how much gear those strong Walers carried.

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IMGP9125Members of the Capel RSL sub-branch including Vice President Alan Kelly Parker were on hand to answer questions and give introductions. We also heard a fascinating account of April Jenkins’ WW1 archaeological work in Jordan. I was very touched by Light Horse Boy book review readings by Jordi and Fraser Milner and also their mother, Naomi. Thanks guys.

The library boasted an impressive collection of WW1 postcards, books and mementos – many of which I coveted (especially those stirrups) !

Thanks to the library and RSL for a great event, and also for my gifts; a beautiful scarf, book and Anzac biscuits. Thanks to Georgie Carter for her help with book sales (way more than we expected) and to Tracey Doyle for hosting me so well at Capel Primary. Finally a big thank you to students Lily and Bradley for all your help. Meeting you both was a highlight!  Keep reading and writing…

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