Category Archives: festivals

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!




Book trailers are a wonderful way for readers to peek into a book and gain a quick understanding of what the story is about so they can then decide whether to buy/borrow and read.

James Foley and Fremantle Press created a cracker clip for my Light Horse Boy, and there are multiple clips linked to Lighthouse Girl (details below), however as yet, there are none for my other books. And so, my resolution for March, is to make at least one more book trailer…

There are two specific Lighthouse Girl clips on Youtube. I love the trailer that was created by Year 4 students at Rosalie Primary School in 2010 – great that it’s still out there…

Then there is my own first attempt at creating a trailer. It’s quite factual and a bit basic as far as clips go, but it gives a nice view of King George Sound and Breaksea Island.

There are many, many YouTube clips linked to the Little Girl Giant, a character which was inspired by the book, Lighthouse Girl (more details on earlier posts). Amongst the terrific clips below, is one posted by Tracey Timmins, the granddaughter of Fay (the lighthouse girl). It’s a crackly but close-up view of Fay as the Little Girl Giant at PIAF 2015. There’s also one that I posted, and others by people I don’t know.

The first waking up


Waking up to Edith Piaf      DSC_0245

A lovely soundtrack version clip linked to Lighthouse Girl is by Caddy Cooper  Her clip features a song that she wrote, The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter which was inspired by Fay.

I hope that more clips of my books will appear soon. In the meantime, you might like to check out these clips by other WA authors and illustrators:

My Dead Bunny , The Last Viking Returns, Ned Kelly and the Green Sash,  A is For Australia, Zac and Mia,

This is just a sample, you will find more on most authors’ websites…


Perth Writers Festival

The annual Perth Writers Festival has been a delightful blur. As a regional author, the loveliest part of the weekend is catching up with friends and colleagues. SCBWI (the Society of Children’s Authors and Illustrators) held their breakfast on the lawn meeting on Sunday. I loved exchanging news with people I don’t see as often as I’d like to …

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with award winning illustrator Karen Blair

The Friday afternoon Inspired Learning Program was inspirational with two streams; Primary and Secondary each with three panel sessions focusing on different aspects of literacy. Speakers included many of our talented local authors and illustrators as well as interstate  luminaries; Sally Rippin, Andy Griffiths, Carole Wilkinson and Greg Dreise.

There was (unconfirmed) talk of this being an annual event. If so, and if you missed out this year, I’d recommend it for 2017. If you are a teacher I believe you also get PD points…

An interesting part of the 2016 program was the Young Creatives Blog. Albany girl, Katie McAllister was one of the chosen bloggers. We had a great catch-up over coffee and Katie has some exciting ideas for developing the arts in the Great Southern!

FullSizeRenderI enjoyed many sessions. Simon Winchester’s presentation was informative and at times deeply shocking as was Rosemary Sayer’s In Conversation with North Korean defector, Hyeonseo Lee. I haven’t heard her TED talk yet, but will soon… My favourite session was UK’s, Katherine Rundell talk about her book, The Wolf Wilder. After hearing Katherine read the beginning, I had to buy a copy. Her story is beautifully written, evocative and surprising. I love it. (Even the cover is gorgeous!)

The PIAF Writers Festival continues in Albany this evening. Congratulations and thank you to all the organisers.

The Importance of Festivals and Retreats

Festivals: Summer in WA (and probably elsewhere) is the time of festivals. Warm evenings and writer gatherings under the stars make for a lovely combination. Perth Writers Festival and its Albany offshoot are both a whirl of inspiration; hearing other authors talk, catching up with friends, exchanging ideas and the nervous energy of presenting sessions. This year was even more exciting for me because of my link to The Giants (see previous posts).

Elaine Forrestal and Cate Sutherland helping me with a presentation at Perth Writers Festival

Elaine Forrestal and Cate Sutherland helping me with a presentation at Perth Writers Festival

After the Perth and Albany festivals, I presented at the All Saints writers Festival with WA peers as well as Jessica Watson, Isobelle Carmody and Felice Arena. It was a great mix of people – large enough to provide plenty of interesting sessions but small enough to be friendly. Staying in the heart of Fremantle at The Esplanade was also inspiring.

Some of the presenters at All Saints 2015

Some of the presenters at All Saints 2015

Before these WA based festivals, I was fortunate to be on the program of the inaugural Book an Adventure Festival on Tasmania’s Bruny Island. Fellow WA creators, Norm Jorgensen and James Foley were the headline act and the festival had a Viking theme tied to their wonderful Last Viking books. There’s something very special about a festival devoted solely to Children’s Literature and the wild beauty (and weather) of Bruny Island made this an exciting few days. A highlight was meeting Tasmanian and east coast authors whose books I’d read, but who I hadn’t met.

Retreats: For me Easter signals the change of season. The air has a different feel and days are shorter. Circadian rhythms shift and after the busy and inspirational summer season of festivals it seems a natural time to retreat.

IMG_1950 I’m fortunate to have access to a beach shack with no Internet or phone range. It’s an ideal place to write and walk and think… So, with a self-inflicted deadline looming, it was time to leave town…

The retreat worked. I was able to think through and implement a major shift in my WW2 ‘dog’ novel, as well as add several thousand words (hurrah) to the manuscript.

I was also deeply inspired by the forest drive to get to our shack. A couple of months after the terrifying Northcliffe fires, the tree regeneration is so beautiful, it’s worth a drive south just for that. Here are some of the images:

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More Retreating: Not long also until my favourite retreat; the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) annual Rottnest Island Retreat. This getaway has inspired rich collaborations between illustrators and authors and is a time to combine the inspiration of a festival (catching up with peers, exchanging ideas, sharing a red wine) with the free time and space needed to create.

Festivals and Retreats – I love them both

Inspiring Giants – Final Day

hhThousands packed the city on Sunday morning to see the Giants wake up (approximately 1.4 million people). The Lilliputians received a rousing welcome as they arrived at Langley Park on a double-decker bus.

The program began with a ceremony commemorating the Anzac Centenary. After waking to the sound of a didgeridoo, our large guests watched Don Watson, the son of Fay, Breaksea Island lighthouse keeper’s daughter, lay a wreath with his son and daughter. w

Wreaths were also laid by Graham Edwards for RSLWA and by Premier Barnett.

My parents were keen to attend the commemoration and were ready to sit on the grass inside the fenced area, but at the last moment my sister found a bench beneath a shady tree; a perfect place to view the passing of the Giants and somewhere for my family and Don Watson’s to meet after the service. Peg and her daughters gave us handcrafted poppies which will be worn proudly on April 25th in Albany, Jindabyne and Albury.;

After lighting the eternal flame and a minute’s silence, horses and riders of 10th Light Horse led the Giants on a final lap of Langley Park. After the kerfuffle of banning horses from marching in Albany last November it was wonderful to see the Light Horse riders in pride of place.

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The Diver’s big footsteps passed so close to us and we had a wonderful view of the Little Giant’s dance. I loved her bilum dilly bag. To make the Giants move, their Lilliputians fling themselves into the air like mediaeval bell ringers. DSC_0234


DSC_0242After their final walk, Don’s daughter, Denise, my sister and I crowd-surfed trying to get another glimpse of the Giants before they sailed away. With so many people, all we could see was a speck of smoke as the Giants’ barge reached The Narrows.

We farewelled Fay’s descendants and my daughter Sophie, then drove to Fremantle for a swim and coffee. As we crossed the old Freo bridge I happened to glance left. More magic…  a giant-sized barge was docking at East Street Jetty and sitting proudly on top were the Giants, watching a flotilla of small craft and well-wishers sailing beside them.


The odds of crossing the bridge at that exact time and glancing left must surely be slim. We made a quick turn, stopped and had a perfect final view of the Little Girl and her Diver uncle.       I love synchronicity and there have been many ‘spooky moments’ during the ten years since I first read about Fay signalling to the departing troops. lighthouse rough2-17 The ‘luck’ of seeing the Little Girl Giant one last time, reminds me of Roald Dahl‘s words:      “And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”

IMG_4893It was an inspiring and overwhelming weekend. A time of chatting with strangers in the street, of celebrating special moments with loved ones from nearby and from afar. A time of a big, brash city sharing a sense of community. The Giants touched the hearts of people of all ages. Thank you to the sponsors and organisers. I was honoured to be part of it.


‘Two Giants’ by Eden May.



Inspiring Giants – a tender meeting and ‘that moment’

The best Arts events inspire controversy . But who IMG_5261would have thought in this age of religious tension, detention and blue ties that a little girl’s toilet break could inspire impassioned letters to the editor? It seems that public urination is a hot topic not just in Paris and Perth but also in Oklahoma . And my parents and husband were close enough to almost feel the splash! They’d perched at a table with a reserved sign amidst people they discovered were from Down South, but the table was actually reserved for Jean-Luc. By the time Karen and I arrived, the controversial moment was over, the asphalt was drying and everyone was enjoying a second drink…

The meeting of The Diver and the Little Girl a few hours later occurred against the impressive backdrop of The Swan River and included Noongar smoke cleansing for purity and cleansing and face painting.

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The respectful ceremony was followed by the Little Girl Giant’s joyful airborne dance. This was a highlight of the weekend. I have a beautiful clip of the dance, but I’m still trying to work out how to load it (!) In the meantime, here are some other evocative images:

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After the reunion, the Giants settled down for the night. The record player came out again and soon the Little Girl and her uncle were snoring. At last the hardworking and probably very hot Lilliputians were able to loosen their coats and relax before the final day…

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Inspiring Giants – Day Two

Day Two, Saturday: Mum and Lionel were up early to reclaim their bench. IMG_1469

Meanwhile the rest of the family went to watch The Diver wake up. While waiting near the overpass we noticed people in the multi-storey carpark. We joined them and had a brilliant view of The Diver’s leap, accompanied by a stirring James Bond soundtrack.

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The Diver even peered at us as he passed. DSC_0047

We gave him a wave, then raced through the crowd trying to get ahead of the parade so we could take up the amazing offer of being in ‘The Bubble’; a taped off area walking through the street just ahead of Diver. What a great opportunity. We took so many photos…


IMG_4780 We followed The Diver to the park where he had his afternoon nap. The Lilliputians helped Diver remove his helmet then wheeled out a record player and put on a record to help him sleep. At least half the audience had no idea what the strange scratchy pre-disk music was. More ancient magic.

I loved the way both Giants snored. u

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We also needed a rest. By late afternoon everyone was ready to continue the journey. The Diver travelled through the city towards Langley Place. DSC_0125

Meanwhile the Little Girl Giant was looking for her uncle, The Diver. Where was he….

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One of the things I loved most on Saturday was seeing people crowding city balconies and workers rushing from Royal Perth Hospital in their scrubs to catch a glimpse of The Giants. Babies in the crowd waved to them and even the blokes controlling the crowds felt the magic.


And then when  the Giants found each other, things became even more special…