Category Archives: school visits

AQWA Story Readings

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Lilian loves stories

This week I’ve been meeting young readers at the WA Aquarium for story-time.

We’ve been reading Granny Grommet and Me in front of a tank that’s home to some of the sea creatures that appear in the story. Lilian spotted angel fish in the tank and in the book!

Young book lovers also knew the names of sea stars, leafy sea dragons and many other marine animals.

I’ll be reading again tomorrow at 11.45, so please come and say hello if you are planning a trip top AQWA.

For middle and upper primary teachers and students, I’ll be back again on July 29th to read from The Shark Caller on the same day it will be launched.

My favourite sea creature so far, was this friendly ray in sick bay.

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Gairdner Primary

The K-Year 2 students at Gairdner Primary and their teachers are very talented artists. Look what they made after we read Granny Grommet and Me!

I love the way the budding illustrators mixed the bright colours with edacol dye. If you look closely you can see all sorts of sea creatures; saw fish, octopus, jellyfish, angelfish, whales and even leafy sea dragons… Thank you for inviting me into your classroom.

Booktrailers

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

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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…

 

Breaksea House @ GSG

This morning I went to Great Southern Grammar’s Start of Year Assembly to donate copies of my historical novels, Lighthouse Girl and Light Horse Boy. The occasion?

black and white photograph of the real Fay Howe

The real Fay, image courtesy of Don Watson

GSG’s new boarding house has been named Breaksea House to honour Fay Catherine Howe, the ‘lighthouse girl’ who signalled to the departing Anzac nurses, troops and horses in 1914.

I was honoured to present signed copies of my books to boarding house student leaders; Emma Taylor and James Gonzales.

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GSG has also purchased original artwork by illustrator, Brian Simmonds. The image appears on page 94 of Lighthouse Girl and shows Fay searching the Albany Advertiser for news about the troops in the Middle East. This lovely charcoal illustration will now grace the walls of the new boarding facility. I hope to see it when I visit for an informal book chat.

The full school assembly was a terrific occasion, welcoming the 2016 student leaders who then offered a badge to each Year One student, celebrating their new beginnings.

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Fay’s story continues to touch a chord with readers, particularly those living in WA. I often wonder how Fay would feel to know that so many people remember her…

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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.

Back to School

In WA students, teachers and librarians are going back to school, which reminds me that at the end of last term I became too busy to post some Term Two highlights.

I love it when schools come up with writer visit variations. Here are photos from two special events last term. One was a boat trip to Breaksea Island, home of Fay the ‘Lighthouse Girl’

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Year 5 students from Great Southern Grammar studied Lighthouse Girl in Term Two. After a more formal classroom presentation and workshop, their teachers invited me to join the students on a post-Naplan week boat trip to experience the island from an interesting perspective. It was so much fun, and a great extension activity…

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Great teachers like Carys Nichols and Paul Osborne and inspire literacy!

Another terrific extension activity was organised by Sandi Parsons, the creative and fun librarian at Mt Lawley Primary. IMG_2037

Sandi, Narrelle Thambipillai and other staff organised a short writing competition. The age group winners shared a party lunch with me after my presentations. It was lovely to meet them and hear about their stories. Here are some photos of the winners:

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For most authors, illustrators and librarians, Term Three is the hectic one.

In between school and library visits I will be working hard to complete two novels; The Shark Caller and The Dog with Five Names. I hope to post updates on my progress and also share some inspirational articles by fellow authors in the next few weeks. More soon…

‘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…

Bunbury Primary’s wonderful Entry Statement

Just a very quick post to share this photo of Bunbury Primary School’s entry statement sculpture.

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Dianne with south-west librarians Catherine Richards and Marina Harris

What a fabulous way to greet visitors; with someone enjoying a book. And what a powerful statement about the value of literacy. On my way to the school library I saw boxes of fun dress-ups in the school yard for lunchtime imaginings. Children went about their games in colourful, frilly and funny outfits.

So simple, so brilliant!

Thank you to the librarians at Bunbury and Capel Libraries for organising my visit.

700 member book group!

Each year Moss Vale High School runs a wonderful literacy project called Kick Start Reading. With funds from a generous and supportive P & C as well as Federal grant money, the school gives every student and staff member a book. This year English teacher and program facilitator Adelle Morris chose Light Horse Boy. ffEveryone in the school reads the same book making this a huge book group that links the entire school.

Principal, Peter Macbeth, Adelle and other staff members had spent weeks preparing the students. I arrived in Moss Vale on Monday morning for 3 days of workshops and received a rock star welcome.

Day One: My first session was speaking with the Special Needs students. They introduced themselves, shared their work and had so many questions. They made me feel right at home.

Next, a full school assembly with special guests; RSL Vice President Eric Campbell and Rob Berman who wore full Light Horse uniform in honour of his family’s Light Horse connections. The Performing Arts students showcased their talents with a music, drama, dance performance inspired by Light Horse Boy. Their use of plain black clothing, dance and quiet gestures was powerful and I had to pinch myself to stop being teary.

My final Monday session was with articulate Year 11 Extension English students, discussing ‘inspiration’ and many other topics. By the end of Day One I was impressed by how teachers across different subjects had woven aspects of my story into the curriculum.

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Day Two: I was in more familiar territory with Year 7 students, sharing my favourite Postcard Writing activity with links to Lighthouse Girl and Light Horse Boy. We ran out of time, but the drafts look very promising. Year 9 History students’ focus was ‘Symbols and Commemoration’. There were clear links to Light Horse Boy as there was with the Year 12 Extension history students’ focus of studying research techniques. I was so impressed by the Year 12’s ability to explain their diverse focus study topics, reporting on different aspects of approach. Their teacher James McGill was understandably very proud.

brai braBetween History groups, one of the students showed me his Braille version of Light Horse Boy. That was amazing. Thank you, Harrison.

On Tuesday I was also fortunate to have a sneak peek of the Aboriginal Ed students’ ‘8 ways’ project. Students are compiling artwork and stories based on traditional Gundungarra values into a book. We brainstormed ways to include a central character to link the 8 separate paths and I showed a title from the Wirlomin Noongar Language Project, Mamang. Thank you to the students and teacher Felicity for the signed copy  of their first book. Day Two ended with an informal dinner with teachers, exchanging ‘six degrees of separation’ stories linking to my old Albury High School days…

FullSizeRenderiDay Three: During roll call I joined the excited students poring over Paul Martin’s WW1 treasures. Paul of Australian Military History takes military artefacts to schools, sharing his passion and knowledge with the next generation. Paul has some amazing stuff.   I still can’t believe I held a bugle from Beersheba.

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Day Three: My first school sessions focusing on anthropomorphism. The Year 8 Ag Science students and I explored links to the WW1Walers and mascots taken to war. This was followed by a thought-provoking conversation with some very mature Year 10 girls. We discussed anthropomorphism as a literary technique and other aspects of writing.

Then I worked with primary students from different schools, focusing on the background to Light Horse Boy and partner title Lighthouse Girl. After saying goodbye to my new friends it was into the car and back to Canberra to catch an evening flight home to Western Australia.

I left feeling honoured that Moss Vale High School chose my book as their focus title for 2015.    A highlight for me, besides meeting so many interesting people and being in this historic part of Australia as the autumn leaves were starting to turn, was seeing how the Kick Start program gives every member of a diverse school something in common. Each teacher helped his/her students explore an aspect of Light Horse Boy which linked to their subject area.

The Kick Start Reading project celebrates things in common rather than difference. What a wonderful opportunity for the leaders of tomorrow. Thank you Moss Vale 🙂

 

 

Inspiring Giants – Day One

Watching Royal de Luxe’s Giants walk through Perth was unforgettable especially with the knowledge that Lighthouse Girl provided inspiration for the Little Girl Giant’s story. It’s taken a week to catch my breath and sort through dozens of wonderful Giant photos, many taken by my photographer sister, Karen Davidson. Like many others, I followed the Little Girl Giant and The Diver through the streets of Perth for three days. Here is Day One…

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After flying to Perth on Thursday I was met by my parents who’d driven across the Nullarbor from Albury. My sister and daughter also flew in to join the fun. For three days we became Giant Groupies. Our first sighting was Thursday evening when Karen and I saw Jean-Luc and his team making preparations at Langley Park. We stopped for a quick chat.

Friday: Mum and Lionel found the perfect bench outside their hotel. IMG_4759

Once they were settled Karen and I hotfooted to Langley Park to see the Little Giant wake up, have a shower and begin her search for The Diver. People of all ages were in the crowd. This sense of community and excitement is what I’ll remember most about the weekend.

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The Little Girl Giant made her way through the city towards Wellington Square where hundreds of excited school children were waiting for her to arrive. Amongst the crowd were students from Kingsway Christian College. Their teacher Jo Pulsford is one of those unsung heroes who do everything they can to foster a love of literacy in children. Jo had arranged an interview with me, her students and The West Australian before a school visit the following week. We watched the Little Giant read a book made by children from WA schools before her afternoon nap.

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When I went to buy a t-shirt from the merchandise tent I found DSC_0302that books had already sold out. More arrived later.

While the Little Giant slept, Karen and I walked into the city to look for The Diver. He was asleep near the train station and Lilliputian helpers were hosing his Dive suit to keep him cool.  We were able to stand next to The Diver Giant and peer into his helmet. The features of his face were so real.

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DSC_0345Somehow The Diver’s character has infused the wood. It reminds me of the way a violin develops a unique voice. When it’s played frequently and well, its sound becomes richer. The violin is wood, yet finds its own unique voice. The giants share this magic. Each has its own character. Stories are the same. For Don Watson and his family, Fay Catherine Howe is remembered as a mother and grandmother. For me, Fay has come alive in my imagination, a similar but separate person. I will always see her as a young woman standing on windy Breaksea Island waving to departing troopships.

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Stay tuned for Saturday…

 

 

Cocos 100 Commemoration of HMAS Sydney and SMS Emden

LIght Horse Boy coverI was fortunate to attend the 100 year Commemoration of Australia’s first naval victory at the Cocos Islands. There were dignitaries and descendants of both German and Australian sailors. The battle between the Emden and Sydney is featured in my book Light Horse Boy, so this was a special occasion for me to visit the island and find out more. The main commemoration ceremony was marked by the ringing of the new friendship bells on November 9th 2014.

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Between events I gave presentations and workshops to students at both Home and West Island campuses of Cocos Islands District High School. The younger children loved Granny Grommet and Me while the older students and I spoke about historical fiction. The students knew so much about their own history and so it was fun to show photos of the ships and Albany events linked to the convoy that passed their islands 100 years ago.

photo 1The staff and students of CIDHS were so welcoming, especially English and Library teacher Lee Hegarty, who organised my sessions, hosted me, took me sightseeing in her character-filled car, Roxy and introduced me to her friends and the friendly locals. Cocos is a horseshoe shaped atoll with amazing wildlife. Snorkelling with dolphins in clear turquoise water was wonderful.

The school’s motto ‘Kerja Sama dan Kejayaan’, means cooperation and achievement in Cocos/Malay and you can feel that spirit everywhere in the school. The students gave a respectful re-enactment of the Sydney-Emden battle as part of a Remembrance Day assembly. This was very moving for all who watched, particularly the visiting descendants.

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Thank you to the Literature Centre and Coco Islands School for sponsoring this very special visit.

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Christmas Island

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After the busy Anzac Commemoration weekend in Albany, The Literature Centre had organised for me to visit Cocos Island District School the following weekend to give presentations linked to the 100 year Commemoration of the battle between HMAS Sydney and SMS Emden (more of that and their link to the Anzac convoy in the next post). An exciting outcome for me, was that Christmas Island District School asked me to visit them on the way…n

Teacher-Librarian Sharon Francis organised my visit (as well as early morning snorkelling, kayaking and red crab hunting!) and I was touched by the enthusiasm of staff and students who prepared for my visit by reading all my books and creating linked art works to decorate the school. There were posters everywhere.

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The students know almost everything there is to know about sea creatures, so Granny Grommet and Me and Scuba Kid were especially popular.

The Pre-Primary class began with a scene from Granny Grommet and created a story of their own – somehow a lot of pirates became involved…  pp pirates

Reading Roselle 2Between sessions I was excited to see the beginning of the red crab season (and the teachers shared another crustacean for morning tea). Thank you to The Literature Centre for organising my visit and to Principal, Ian Francis and his lovely staff for making me feel so welcome. I had a wonderful time at Christmas Island District High School.j

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Mt Barker students learn about Light Horse Boy

The students at Mt Barker Community College have been doing amazing extension activities around Light Horse Boy.

Ms Klinac’s and Mrs Macmahon’s students are researching WW1 and creating beautiful charcoal sketchwork, Morse Code messages, military dioramas and much more.

Here’s a sneek peek of some of their creative work…

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