Tennis balls, FORTRESS AUSTRALIA and Hope


Australian flag behind the wire at Villawood Detention Centre.

A week ago, my husband joined a small group of refugee advocates outside No-man’s Land and the barbed-wire fences at the Pinkenba Immigration Detention Transit Centre in Brisbane. They were trying to throw tennis balls over the fences – unsuccessfully.

Ross, being a resourceful physics man took his tennis racquet from the car and lobbed dozens of yellow balls over those high fences. Refugee children chased them, giving them to their parents who waved from behind the fence.

Written on each ball was the message … WE CARE! DON’T LOSE HOPE!

But last night, in the Australian Senate, the most fascist, inhumane politician we’ve ever had the misfortune to endure, MP Scott Morrison, forced through a law that not only takes away any chance of hope for these lost souls on the high-seas who seek a safe haven, he used refugee children as ransom.

“No other minister, not the prime minister, not the foreign minister, not the attorney-general, has the same unchecked control over the lives of other people,” writes Ben Doherty in The Guardian.
With the passage of the new law, the minister can push any asylum seeker boat back into the sea and leave it there. He can detain people without charge, or deport them to any country he chooses even if it is known they’ll be tortured there. Morrison’s decisions cannot be challenged.”

Morrison, with his LNP government has torn up our commitment and bond to the UN’s Refugees Convention, a treaty Australia helped write and willingly signed up to more than fifty years ago. All references to our UN commitment have been removed from Australian law via this new bill that passed through the Senate.

I do not believe the majority of Australians would support these moves. To do so incites the very worst in us, a frightening apparition of what we could become. A fascist nation with no heart.

I work in a field that writes for our nation’s young, and we care very much about children. We visit schools, we talk to kids, we write about their dreams and hopes. I cannot imagine even one of Australia’s children’s book creators not standing united in horror and dismay at the direction our country takes under this regime.

I urge every single one of you, my friends, to look away from your computers, from your story making, from your pens and paints, and to stand united with one voice.

Speak out before it’s too late. Join the voices of those who abhor this evil attitude engulfing our Parliament and our democratic Australia.

Use your powerful word skills for a powerful purpose.

Do it now … the pen (and the voice) is mightier than the sword!

Scott Morrison’s email.

Or ring your local LNP politician

Jumping into the waters of Independent Publishing … interviewing Angela Sunde, author

SM.cover.119KBI’m thrilled to host my friend and author, the lovely Angela Sunde, on the occasion of the launch of her new novel for kids, Snap Magic.

Angela’s own tweenhood experiences were the inspiration for Snap Magic’s cringe worthy laugh-out-loud moments. As she says, ‘Writing Snap Magic took me right back to being twelve years old. It’s like I never grew up. I just wish I could reassure Lily that it’ll all be okay in the end.’  

Thanks for hosting me on your blog today, Sheryl. It’s lovely to be here!

Angela, I’m sure readers will be immensely interesting to hear about your experience of jumping into the waters of INDEPENDENT PUBLISHING. Take it away, kiddo! :)

 Independently publishing isn’t something I would’ve considered when I wrote my Aussie Chomp, Pond Magic. But with the Aussie Chomps list now closed, publishers tightening their belts and bookstores diminishing in number, it made sense (with the release of my new book, Snap Magic) to open up a new avenue to connect with readers.

 I’m one of the new breed of hybrid authors – being both trade and independently published. The lines of publishing are blurring and this is an exciting time for writers who are open to exploring new distribution platforms, independent publishing and the production of print on demand, e-books and other online offerings.

Was it a scary thing to take on?

You don’t have to go it alone. I strongly recommend first securing a high level, professional editor and also a book design company like Book Cover Cafe – my designer, Anthony Puttee, is also my mentor.


Angela Sunde, author and illustrator

As an independent publisher you set your own deadlines – a book’s editing and design needn’t be rushed or sent off to print before it’s ready. You now wear the publisher’s hat and all the responsibility that goes with it. The choices are all yours, from page placement to font size, from illustrator to line count, from signing off on cover designs to choosing price, retail discount, printer, distributor etc. This is why it’s imperative to be surrounded by an experienced team of industry professionals. It’s not something I would contemplate doing alone.

What about the book’s distribution; always a difficult aspect of non-traditional publishing?

Distribution is a question I am often asked about as an independent publisher. Our bricks and mortar world is moving online. Distributors in Australia are fewer than before, with good reason. As buyers move to online stores, distribution is bypassed by the print on demand companies who deal directly with these stores. My retail distributor is Ingram Content and libraries can order Snap Magic through their usual distributors.

With regards to Snap Magic (from a marketing and publicity perspective,) it’s not that different to the amount of work I have had to do for my trade book, Pond Magic. With my trade book I was never assigned a publicist and so had to do it all myself anyway. Trade or independent, only the big names have a marketing team and publicist. In spite of this I’ve managed to secure for Snap Magic’s release media interviews and features on live radio, online and in print media.

Would I do it again, Angela?

Absolutely! It’s such a buzz working with design professionals and creating a first class product you’re proud to show the world. Plus it challenges the brain, which keeps me young. It doesn’t get better than that!

I loved visiting today, Sheryl. Thank you for having me on your blog!

It’s always a pleasure, Angela. All the very best for your delightful story, Snap Magic!

If you’d like to know more about SNAP MAGIC, click HERE.

PODCAST: Angela Sunde was interviewed live on 612ABC Brisbane radio on Friday 3rd October about the release of her new children’s book, Snap Magic. You can listen to the podcast here:

Check out the rest of Angela’s blog tour on these fabulous blogs.

Snap Magic Blog Tour Dates


Monday 13. Kids Book Review

Tuesday 14. Sheryl Gwyther

Wednesday 15. Robyn Opie

Karen Tyrrell

Thursday 16. Alison Reynolds

Friday 17. Chris Bell – From Hook to Book

Saturday 18. Boomerang Books Blog

Dimity Powell

Sunday 18. Sandy Fussell / The Reading Stack

Monday 20. Aussiereviews

Tuesday 21. Dee White

Wednesday 22. Angela Sunde’s Blog Tour Wrap Up

November – to follow

Robyn Opie

Journey of picture book … a true collaboration

Excellent picture books benefits equally from the authors and the illustrators. Last post from Ellie Royce‘s point of view as the author of Lucas and Jack. This week, Ellie gives us some idea of what goes on behind the scenes of this collaboration. Take it away, Ellie! 9573503_orig

From my perspective and as a newbie picture book writer, the process of finding Lucas and Jack‘s illustrator was totally in the hands of my good publisher, Jane Covernton from Working Title Press.

I imagine that authors who have written many books and have the contacts could potentially canvass their ideas and concepts prior to submitting the idea to a publisher that is – work on a concept with an illustrator and present a whole package to a publisher but, I don’t know much about that side of things as it’s not my experience.

So I asked Jane about her process of deciding who the illustrator should be for Lucas and Jack. Her response was as follows:
“I guess the real thing about this manuscript is that it required an illustrator that could do people and Andrew is one person who is very comfortable with the human figure, gesture and expression. He can give his characters life and emotion in an understated way without resorting to caricature or cartoon.  Some illustrators work from photographs and consequently figures can look stiff. Andrew’s observation and his facility with line always allows him to work naturally and fluidly. I think he has really captured Jack who is a great character. The work had to be realistic but not overpoweringly so.” Jane Covernton.

I have to say, I can see what she means……now!

Lucas & Jack Cover 1-001

Rough cover

Again from my perspective as the author, there was a lot of waiting involved (there always is really, isn’t there?) while work went on behind the scenes, interspersed with moments of wild elation for example when Jane sent me some of the ‘roughs’ and I could see that a lucky star was shining on me the day Andrew McLean was chosen to illustrate my story! (Ed: Here’s the ‘rough’ cover. You can see the differences from the final illustration.)

evelyn close up final

Final illustration

evelyn rough

Rough illustration

Then finally there was around three weeks of intense editing, communication and discussion as the text was paginated and connected to the illustrations. It is at this point where an author has to be able to allow their work to cease being a text and to become a part of the whole, which may mean editing, changing lines, re-thinking your story. Be prepared!

And finally, again after another three months or so of waiting, comes the fabulous day when your book arrives on the doorstep and you realise that you have become part of the team who has produced this amazing thing, something which was once just an idea floating by and has metamorphosed into  an actual, real book.

This was my experience with Lucas and Jack I hope it inspires and helps anyone else who has an idea that just won’t leave you alone to persevere, be prepared for the work, the waiting, more work, more waiting and more work. It’s so worth it!


Final cover

And one final addendum, now that Lucas and Jack has been published for three whole months, don’t forget the joys that await an author/illustrator with a picture book to promote the joys of sharing it with the world and watching it metamorphose yet again and take on a life of it’s own as it goes out into the universe and is read by other people.

I had the most wonderful time over “Book Week 2014” visiting schools where we talked books with the fabulous kids and reading Lucas and Jack with residents in Aged Care Facilities. I was astounded, gratified and inspired to see how people of all ages connected with the book  and how it affected them. Some cried, some laughed, all were touched.

What an amazing experience.

CHECK OUT THE TEACHERS’ NOTES FOR Lucas and Jack  Download PDF for use in your classroom!


JOURNEY OF A PICTURE BOOK … from idea to bookshelves

9573503_origAre you aiming to write a picture book for children? Check out my guest blogger today – Australian author, Ellie Royce. Ellie talks about the journey of her first picture book, LUCAS AND JACKfrom first glimmer of an idea to bookshelves.

Lucas and Jack is the story of Lucas, young boy who waits impatiently for his Mum to finish visiting his Great Grandpop at a nursing home each week. “Waiting is boring!” is the first line in the story.

One week, as he wishes for his Mum to “Hurry! Hurry!” Lucas meets Jack, a rather special resident of the nursing home. Through a tricky game of “I Spy”, Jack shows Lucas that underneath the wrinkles and grey hair, older people are really just people – even Great Grandpop was a boy once – and Lucas decides that visiting might not be so bad after all.

Where my story ideas come from.
As is always the case with me, this book began as an idea that came a knocking at my brain. The idea said, “You work with older people who have led exciting and brilliant lives. They all have stories but all we see when we look at them is their white hair and wrinkles. What would they say if they had the chance and who would they say it to?”

I had never written a picture book before, but even though this is a pretty big idea to try and fit into 450 words, the picture book format seemed to be the most appropriate. This story needed to be told simply, so that younger people and older people could understand and connect with it, although from different ends of the spectrum. All well and good, right? But wait… there’s more… 1673147_orig

Writing a picture book text is like panning for gold.
I can’t tell you how many different drafts I did, from different perspectives, using different words, until I struck gold. Probably upwards of fifty. And that was before I even started properly!

Then I had to learn how to cut down the text and let the illustrations do their job – a vital skill to develop for anyone who wants to write a picture book. I was recently doing school visits for Book Week 2014 and we discussed this at length, for example – “It was a bright sunny day” is a BIG no no! You need to constantly ask yourself – “will the illustration show this?” again, to continue the panning for gold analogy, every word has to earn its place and be a 24 carat nugget or get rid of it.

You also need to be aware of the format – a standard type picture book has 32 pages so you have approximately fifteen chunks of text to work with.  Luckily for me I had some great mentors on the journey who gave me this kind of good advice that I’m now passing on!

My journey to publication.
Lucas and Jack started life as a story called “Underneath” – as in, underneath we are very much the same if you look more closely. After many different drafts it metamorphosed into “Before You Were Old” which is when my agent began sending it to potential publishers. It was rejected by all of them in that first round of submissions, but some of them gave me some useful feedback.

I actually kept one of the rejections on my desktop because it was one of the nicest and most encouraging rejections I’ve ever received!

I put the story away for about six months and tried to forget it, but it just would NOT leave me alone. So I pulled it out, looked again, read the feedback from publishers and re wrote another five or six drafts. Then I pretty much badgered my agent unmercifully (“Nag Nag Nag” is one comment I believe he sent me at this time – said playfully of course!) into trying again.

This time, one publisher expressed interest ‘if’ they could find the right illustrator. Well, you know the end of the story. The right illustrator was found, luckily for me and now “Lucas and Jack” is a reality. The whole process? About three and a half years.

Working with an editor.

I was very lucky that my editor was also my publisher. Working Title Press is a small operation so there was no passing of any bucks, it was all straight to and from the horse’s mouth so to speak.

The best advice I can give to writers is – be open to change during the editorial process. A book, especially a picture book, is collaboration, a team effort. I certainly had my own vision about what I thought it should look like. The finished product, I have to say, was very different to that original concept. It’s now better, more age appropriate and works on a level my inexperienced brain could not have conceived. So, let your work go and be prepared to re think it.

My experience was very positive. All my suggestions were all taken on board. There was only one thing I felt really strongly about and held out for and now everyone agrees it worked that way. So don’t be a doormat, but don’t be inflexible either.

The editing process (with waiting for the artwork to be completed) took about a year.

ON WRITING A NOVEL: Part 2 … video interview

Here’s Part 2 of the video interview with Mark G Mitchell in Austin, Texas … talking about illustrating the chapter motifs for my children’s novel, SECRETS OF EROMANGA; the novel’s Australian Society of Authors’ mentorship; jumping a slush pile; researching a novel on a fossil dig in western Queensland – the inside story; doing school visits in Australia.