On making a character live … the inside story

Authors are funny animals. We inhabit storybook worlds; and sometimes reside in our characters’ heads. There’s nothing quite like the excitement of fictional characters coming to life.

Adversity McAlpine is someone you won’t know yet, but one day, you will. She’s the young protagonist in my completed manuscript, SWEET ADVERSITY

Addie personified. This image helps me focus.

Addie personified. Image: Alexandra Kirievskaya.

SWEET ADVERSITY is a 50,000-word historical adventure for young readers (and the young at heart) … one of those books that should be in the new category I’m pushing for… for All Age Readers.

Set in NSW during the Great Depression, this story belongs to Adversity (fondly known as Addie) McAlpine. Addie took over my life around eight years ago after a dream of a young girl running away from an outback orphanage with a bird called Macbeth. The dream ended before I knew what she was running from – all I knew was she was angrier than a box of bees, and she was scared. That dream girl stayed with me for days … I even remembered how she looked (I dream in colour). The image above fits perfectly.

The only child of travelling Shakespearean actors, 12-year-old Addie McAlpine is feisty and loyal, funny, talented and at times opinionated (not a good thing when you live in an orphanage under Matron Maddock’s iron rule. She dreams of becoming a great actor one day – if she survives the dangers ahead.

When is the story set?

I set this story during the worst year of the Great Depression. Did you know that in 1930, Australia’s economy was much worse than in any other country in the developed world? Ordinary people suffered; children even more so.

Addie lives in the country where people could at least grow food. But then again, life in an orphanage in those days was bleak – especially one run by the likes of Matron Maddock. And that was all before Addie received the worst news of her life. And, before she fled for her life.

What sets this story apart from others?

There aren’t many children’s novels set in Australia’s Great Depression – this fascinating, life-changing era is ripe and ready for young readers. Those Hard Times were filled with turmoil. Life in the cities was a daily fight over lumps of stale bread; for a homemade remedy to cure illness. Some children fled to live in children’s camps in the bush.

It was a time when unwanted children disappeared and nobody asked questions. Corrupt and unscrupulous people got away with their bad deeds, but there were brave souls who stood up for themselves and for others less able to … rather like Adversity McAlpine.

With Shakespearean actors as parents, what else could Addie hope to become? She adores performing, whether in song or with the drama and language of the Bard’s plays – and even though her parents are gone, she continues to dream of what could be. One day.

1930-view-of-the-Sydney-Harbour-Bridge-under-constructionMain characters usually have ‘side-kicks’ – Frodo has Sam, Sherlock Holmes has Dr Watson, and Harry Potter has Hermione and Ron. Like in real life, these characters provide our main characters with more than just friendship.

Addie has a side-kick or two … one is Jack, her young friend at the orphanage; and then there’s Macbeth, a very talented cockatiel who becomes the catalyst forcing Addie to take up her dangerous quest; and to be there in the end when – in Shakespeare’s immortal words – even the most diminutive of birds will fight to the death if their young is threatened.


I was awarded a 2013 International SCBWI Work-of-Outstanding-Promise grant for this story, so I used the prize money to fly down to Canberra’s National Library and Archives to research for my story.  Of course, being the first non-American to win a SCBWI W.O.O.P. Grant was extra exciting! 

The National Library proved to be the BEST place to search for hidden stories of Australia’s Great Depression … to find out how it affected children. A bit of serendipity: someone ‘s recollection of pet birds learning to speak backed up what I have planned for Macbeth. Of course, he is different…he quotes Shakespeare, mostly in the right places.

williamson5Writing SWEET ADVERSITY has been like that famous line from Shakespeare’s play, As You Like It … Sweet are the uses of adversity… (check out the rest of the quote).
So it has been for Addie McAlpine, and for her creator – the the reason for the story’s title.

For Addie, facing adversity leads her into isolation and life-threatening danger, but it is tempered by the sweetness of friendship, loyalty, and just when she least expects it, her heart’s dream.

For me, adversity came with the uncountable drafts, rewrites and rejections for over 8 years – but it was worth trying to make it the best. This story is now all the better for surviving the fires of perseverance.

The right publisher will one day see its possibilities. And, like all stories that endure the blowtorch of a professional editorial team, it will be even better. Bring it on and let the TRUE edit begin!

Check out the many wonderful characters that inhabit the work of Karen Brooks too.

Image of Addie: Check out the amazing work of Russian artist, Alexandra Kirievskaya 

What I learned from Hans Christian Andersen


In New York’s Central Park

Today, 211 years ago, a storyteller was born in Odense, Denmark. Hans Christian Andersen became a prolific writer – of poems, travelogues, novels and plays … but it is for his fairy tales that he is most remembered and treasured.

Sad, clever, joyous and poignant, and always with a message to be a better, finer person (or animal). His tales have captured children and adults the world over since the day the stories were published.

Can you remember your heart breaking over the fate of The Little Mermaid (not the Disney version)? And sobbing as The Little Match Girl died in the snow? And that poor Steadfast Tin Soldier! Oh, and what about The Ugly Duckling … what a joyous comeback ending to being the odd one out in a group. And can’t you imagine our Prime Minister Turnbull as the emperor in The Emperor’s New Clothes?

Alan Moir’s clever cartoon

And if you’re of my vintage you’d remember every single word of every song from that movie made in the 1950s about Andersen, with Danny Kaye playing the key role. It was fabulous. It brought alive so many of the stories. Remember ‘Inchworm, Inchworm, measuring the marigold. You and your arithmetic, you’ll probably go far.’

As a small girl, I picked up a few things from that movie …. that my favourite author was a real person once (even though portrayed on the screen in a romanticised way); and that music and lyrics makes one feel so much more. Here is Danny Kaye singing the Inchworm song. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fXi3bjKowJU

In the film, a children’s chorus sings the “arithmetic” section over and over inside a small classroom, dolefully and by rote, while Andersen, listening just outside, gazes at an inchwork crawling on the flowers and sings the main section of the song. It wasn’t an easy song to write with its counterpoint sections, according to Frank Loesser, its composer, but it was worth his persevering. See what you think.

Contemplating Andersen’s birthday and his life today … the most important lesson I learned from his fairy tales was the expectation that when I opened the cover of my beautiful, hard-covered book, something magical would happen. That thrill has never left me. the-little-mermaid-

I’m sad for all children today who never read, or who read only when forced; those young kids whose parents never sit with them and read or tell stories to them; and then the final outcome of this … people who’ve never had the chance nor the inclination to allow their imaginations to grow and bear fruit.

Imagine how much kinder we humankind would be if everyone developed – like Hans Christian Andersen, and indeed like the great entertainer and humanitarian, Danny Kaye – a sense of wonder about our world; with imaginations large enough to feel for the lives of others. To make this world a better place for all. 

Happy Birthday, Hans Christian Andersen, love from millions of readers from every continent on the planetYep, I bet there’s even a hard-backed copy down in some ice-station on Antarctica. 







Off to a SIZZLING START … or not!

BANG! KAPOW! The visiting author punched her way through the dreaded Sizzling Start. ‘Who will rid me of this bothersome writing term,’ she screamed, valiantly, desperately.


Sorry, no offence meant to all those teachers (valiantly) trying to teach kids short story writing to fulfill the dreaded NAPLAN testing requirements. Teachers have SO much to deal with, it’s difficult to focus on one aspect … like learning how to write short stories. Nor am I bagging private writing programs schools may purchase to ensure their kids have good NAPLAN scores in narrative writing. It’s great to let teachers experience the joys of writing in a PD session, but so much harder to train kids into thinking like storytellers. There is no quick fix!

I was a primary teacher before I began writing fulltime. Teaching is a hard-yakka job! It does not finish at 3pm, nor on Friday arvo. I admire these valiant teachers so much. And now they and their charges face NAPLAN testing. (Thank the Muse I left teaching and began writing full-time before all this NAPLAN craziness hit the fan!)

To be able to write in narrative form require children to have the pre-requisites … like being able to speak in narrative form (i.e. telling stories); to grow up in a secure environment where books are valued and parents read to their young. For many families this does not happen. How then can teachers hope to help their classes fulfill the NAPLAN Narrative Writing test?

This is what they face. You be the judge… ‘The writing task for this test is a narrative. It is the same task for all students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9. The administration of the writing tasks employs closely scripted scaffolding. The teacher reads the directions on the writing prompt aloud to all students. The prompt includes images which can support students in crafting their response. Students have 5 minutes to plan, 30 minutes to write and 5 minutes to edit.’

How comfortable would you be writing a short story with only 5 minutes to plan it?

I write short stories, as well as 50,000-word novels, school plays and, chapter books. I adore the short story genre. (Check out my blog post on How to Write Winning Flash Fiction.I’m addicted to writing Flash Fiction’s very short stories. Reading a superb short story is a thing of joy. So yeah, I know about short stories … and I know it takes time and thought and instinct to come up with an idea that ‘has legs’; that will work as a short story. NOT 5 minutes!!! 

The NAPLAN’s requirements for children writing narrative pieces cover all aspects of writing stories … * see list below. You may or may not agree…but I reckon teaching to this list would send busy teachers running for the hills, and kids deciding writing short stories suck, big time! Which brings me to Sizzling Starts.

teaching short story writing

If a child picks up the message they must write a Sizzling Start before they actually write the first draft of the whole story, you will end up with young kids who write, Bang! Crash! The boy opened the door and sat at the table. First he had dinner. Then he went out to play. And then, he fell over, then he went to bed.’ (Sorry … feeble attempt, but you get the picture.)

This is happening in classrooms. I imagine it won’t take long before NAPLAN examiners start cringing at the recurring pattern – a sizzling start that falls apart because there is no story ‘with legs’.

And why the limit of three paragraphs? Come on! I’ve known four year olds who can tell a successful story in more than three paragraphs. And six year olds who can draw a comic strip with beginning, middle and end.  

Of course, good short stories don’t have boring starts either. Story beginnings must capture the readers’ attention and curiosity. The first sentence/paragraph must have a ‘reason for being’. It can be description, dialogue, action or thought. It could start smack bang in the middle of the plot too.

If I was teaching kids (and adults) to write short stories (and I do), I would want them to spend much more time reading good short stories; working up great ideas for stories; discussing and planning those stories, before they write their first drafts. And I’d do it many times, not just once. Then, I would get them to check out that first sentence again; to improve, to adjust, to grab a reader’s attention.

Teachers don’t have a lot of teaching time left in a day’s required curriculum, sadly – but if Curriculum Departments and schools want kids to become adept at writing it has to be a natural part of every day, not just dribs and drabs to pass NAPLAN tests. 

Some children are natural story-tellers. Some find it much harder. Do you think it’s important for children to be able to write narratives? Why? What can we do to help kids not lose the ability to tell stories? How can we encourage it?

Think of all those Year 9 students who are required to write their forced 1000 word narrative. How many will ever write another story? How many will think it’s the stupidest task they’ve ever had to do?

What if in Years 3-8 narrative writing was a part of every day, as natural as having a good friend? As natural as story-telling? It’s in our genetic make-up.

I would love to hear your opinion on this topic … whether you’re an author, teacher, parent, librarian, or whatever.
Thank you for reading my ravings, if you got this far. 

* 10 NAPLAN Criteria for the Narrative Writing Task:   

  1. Audience – The writer’s capacity to orient, engage and affect the reader
  2. Text structure – The organisation of narrative features including orientation, complication and resolution into an appropriate and effective text structure
  3. Ideas – The creation, selection and crafting of ideas for a narrative
  4. Character and setting – Character: The portrayal and development of character Setting: The development of a sense of place, time and atmosphere
  5. Vocabulary – The range and precision of language choices
  6. Cohesion – The control of multiple threads and relationships over the whole text, achieved through the use of referring words, substitutions, word associations and text connectives
  7. Paragraphing – The segmenting of text into paragraphs that assists the reader to negotiate the narrative
  8. Sentence structure – The production of grammatically correct, structurally sound and meaningful sentences
  9. Punctuation – The use of correct and appropriate punctuation to aid reading of the text
  10. Spelling – The accuracy of spelling and the difficulty of the words used. The following table shows criteria and the range of score points for the writing task. (Check out the web link for the Scoring Points).

The Death of Childhood?

I’ve had a ‘multi-skilled’ work career … the fault of a constant need to be challenged, and possibly a rebellious streak that makes me, in perfect Leo-like logic bend the rules – to do it ‘my way’. My way or the highway, sort of thing. Well-done steakMost times over those 20+ ‘career choices’, my way was the better way, except for those three days as grill cook at the Newnham Hotel … how many steaks can one massacre before getting sacked? Back on ‘the highway’ again.

So I went back to finish high school as a 27 year old, then university to train as an Early Childhood teacher. For the first time I knew what it meant to work with a passion, with an utter love of and belief in what I was doing. Piaget and Maslow became my heroes. New Zealanders, Marie Clay and Don Holdaway were my Literacy and Literature gurus. I taught children how to read and write – not with rote methods and forcing kids to write before their fingers could control pencils – but by Language Experience, and the wonderful Kiwi author, Joy Cowley’s Story Box series … The Hungry Giant and his Bommy Knocker, The Jigaree, The Meanies, Mrs Wishy Washy, and so many more wonderful stories. The Hungry Giant

I was an educator who believed in Play-Based Education. And I still do! But nowadays, play-based education and all its multi-benefits is out of fashion. Apparently.

Are we witnessing the death of childhood?

I’m not a teacher anymore – I’m a full-time children’s author. I wake up with a headful of stories and plots and characters every day, and I thank my lucky stars that I had the strength (and family support) fifteen years ago when I walked away from teaching.

If I had stayed in the Education Department I would be diminished, that I know now. Beaten by bureaucracy, by form-filling  on internet programs that never work, by constant pressures to perform, to get results from unwilling children, to test the poor little blighters until testing becomes the new norm of teaching.

And the worst thing of all – a blight to tear a hole in my Early Childhood heart – to witness the destruction of Play-based education in early-childhood classrooms, from Prep through to Year Three, for 3-8 year olds. prep kids

We have decades of research in child development and neuroscience that tell us that young children learn actively — they have to move, use their senses, get their hands on things, interact with other kids and teachers, create, invent. But in this twisted time, young children starting public pre-K at the age of 4 are expected to learn through “rigorous instruction. Nancy Carlsson-Paige, an early childhood development expert ... How ‘twisted’ early childhood education has become – from a child development expert.

Across the globe, concerned educators, parents, citizens and those who care about the state of early childhood education fight against the destruction of play. Play is the natural way for young children to learn – it makes sense to use it to facilitate good, true, successful learning. I know many Early Childhood teachers who believe in the right way to teach, who fight for their beliefs every single day, little by little, in classrooms across the country. Thank you for your courage! girl scientistSo, why this push to destroy childhood? Who benefits from kids learning under more restrictive regimes? Who pushes headmasters towards forcing it upon schools? Is, as many believe, corporate Australia slides its ugly head into Australia’s Education Departments? And why are parents so sucked into believing that Prep is all about preparing their kids for academic learning?

I’ll finish with Nancy Carlsson-Paige‘s words of hope. We all share a common vision: Education is a human right and every child deserves one. An excellent, free education where learning is meaningful – with arts, play, engaging projects, and the chance to learn citizenship skills so that children can one day participate — actively and consciously – in this increasingly fragile democracy.


Curiosity, dead chooks, science and the S.T.E.M. push

girl scientistAhhh, Science! How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I became a scientist at the age of four when curiosity reared its head. It was the day my mother killed a chook.

My father reckoned its head was still attached by invisible threads. Mum, who was in the process of de-feathering the chook, snorted – so I knew Dad was ‘pulling my leg’. Years later, I discovered for myself the science behind this disconcerting, horrifying feathered spectacle. And now, there’s an almost evangelistic push to promote S.T.E.M. – SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY ENGINEERING MATHS in schools (sometimes to the detriment of the Arts, History et al.

Recently I, along with engineer and author, Andrew King,Senior Lecturer and Australian Research Council Future Fellow at QUT, Professor Michael Milford, Teacher-Librarian and long-time advocate for children’s literature, Megan Daley spoke on a Book Links Queensland panel about S.T.E.M. But MAINLY, pushing the fact that we need children’s authors to provide worthwhile fiction to benefit young readers, to encourage their interest in these areas. I lead the charge for SCIENCE. Here is my talk……

Bringing science into children’s literature

I’m not a university trained scientist, but I did become a scientist at the age of four when curiosity reared its head. It was the day my mother killed a chook. Headless and spraying blood, the animal wobbled and jumped about before flopping on the grass. I was transfixed.

My father reckoned its head was still attached by invisible threads. Mum, who was in the process of de-feathering the chook, snorted – so I knew Dad was being silly. Years later, I discovered for myself the science behind this disconcerting, horrifying feathered spectacle.

An ever-increasing curiosity about the natural world of my hometown in tropical north Queensland also led to my digging up the remains of a dead rooster buried in our back yard. And to poking a stick at a toad to make the white poison bubble from its skin. To wonder why salt grains became a salty, mushy liquid in our humid northern summers. It was also the time I began my first rock and feather collections. This natural curiosity was the origin of my lifelong fascination about science. At age 7, science also taught me a devastating lesson. Tying a string leash around a pet kitten’s neck is not wise – and if that string is shorter than the height of a fence, tragedy will strike.

Queensland Museum fossil lab - that's me covered in dust while working on a dinosaur hip bone.

Queensland Museum fossil lab – that’s me covered in dust while working on a dinosaur hip bone.

At 12, on a school excursion to Porcupine Gorge outside Hughenden, I found a large fossilised shell in the gorge wall. Questions filled my head. Why were shells in the dry outback when the sea was hundreds of kilometres away? Curiosity took hold again. I learned about the shallow inland ocean that covered most of Queensland millions of years ago – the great Eromanga Sea – alive with huge marine reptiles … overhead soared pterodactyl. And roaming the edges of billabongs and lakes, a multitude of Australian dinosaurs. 

It was inevitable that my first novel, Secrets of Eromanga would delve into the world of these intriguing creatures. And that I would work as a volunteer on the Elliot Dinosaur fossil dig while I wrote my work-in-progress. No other writers have had the opportunity to pester the country’s top paleontologists with endless questions … every day … for two weeks. And because they knew it was a book for kids, they went out of their way to help.

Then I married a scientist, an earthquake physicist who was part of a team designing, making, installing and monitoring Strain Meters deep in the San Andreas Fault in California (this video shows the best ever explanation why Earthquakes happen with such devastation, and why scientists continue researching early detection of them).

And now our son is a young scientist computer modelling the melting ice beneath the Totten Glacier in Antarctic. You can see why science is still an integral part of my life. And why I often write short stories with a scientific bent … and entertaining, of course!  21. Parkfield

So … what are some ingredients for linking science and literature?

I’ll use my chapter book, Ali Berber & the Forty Grains of Salt as an example of how to expose children to science in the form of a folk tale, in an entertaining way. 

Rule 1 … never be didactic! Information should never be dumped! Kids should never be treated like sausage skins to be pumped with meaty facts. Therefore, no child thinks they are learning about Physical Science when they read Ali Berber’s adventures – that comes by osmosis and carefully chosen words.

Rule 2 – the story must entertain – that’s an essential. When kids enjoy what they read, they learn – not just information about their world and others, but also what it’s like to be human, and powerful and vulnerable.

Rule 3 – I want readers to connect with my main character. In this book, it’s young Ali Berber and his side-kick, a clever camel called Sufi. Readers need to like Ali Berber, to feel for this young merchant as he faces a huge PROBLEM … solving the mystery of the disappearing salt grains before the King of Alhambra cuts off his head.

A most important aspect in writing Ali Berber & the Forty Grains of Salt was to explain the science behind PROPERTIES OF MATTER … in this case, Matter is Salt. How does salt change its look and feel? Why can it revert back to what it was?

I think this story is a successful combination of Science and Literature. And it’s fun to read. STEM talk1 resized

So, yes, I do think we as authors and lovers of children’s fiction must jump on the S.T.E.M. wagon too – not just to open children’s eyes, and brains, and imaginations about the world we live in, but for science to become an integral part of their lives.

Every human should have access to understanding science … it’s all around us, it’s part of who we are

And never more so than in our millennia. We face the prospect of a world threatened by global warming, but all children and their children after them will face far worse unless ordinary people force politicians to reduce carbon emissions now.

Millions of dollars are being invested in Australian schools to promote S.T.E.M. to teachers, young children and young adults. Much of it is coming from the Mining and Energy Council, and one of the biggest players now, Military-Industrial organisations. They are active in most states including Queensland.

These companies seek their future work-forces, both for the hard-hat, coal face end, and for those who secure ways to increase production. From researching methods to suck gas from the earth with, or without poisoning waterholes; to building drones that drop bombs at the touch of a computer screen, to developing a ray-gun that directs an invisible 100,000-watt beam of energy at humans, burning their skin until they retreat. These companies require more young people trained in science, and they will spend millions to do it. (The 5th biggest military contractor in the world, Raytheon‘s connections in Australian schools. Military connections to schools  ) A sobering thought.

But I will leave you with a more positive thought… we know great stories have the ability to make children think and feel. And question the status quo.

To counter-balance the power of other forces, we must produce more great stories about respecting the fragility of our unique continent, the need to enact laws that diminish the threat to our surrounding oceans, estuarine eco-systems and the Great Barrier Reef. 

To treasure that amazing continent to our south, the Antarctic – a frozen, wondrous land that, unfortunately hides beneath its pristine surface, an unimaginable wealth of minerals. 

We have the opportunity, the passion and hopefully, the commitment to reach out to young Australian children through stories about the wonder of science, and the responsibility for their future custody of this planet.

Great stories, cleverly laced with scientific understanding not didactic waffle.
Great stories to make them feel and think, and question.
Great stories – for the sake of their future on this planet.

What makes a winning short story?

That’s like asking how long is a piece of string. There are endless articles written on this genre – most provide very useful hints in your quest to write the genre, and most as useful as a ball of string. Imagine the uses for a ball of string! chinese-paper-cutting-arts-running-horses2

We short story-tellers aim for one thing. To write a perfect story that will make your readers feel. To bring tears, or make them laugh out loud on public transport. Or angry enough to spit chips. Or for your story to stay in their mind. To indent. Imprint.

Writing Flash fiction is to seek fluid, snappy exposés of the human condition; sensory, uncluttered, a stories that rings with a sense of shared humanity … to me, that is the ultimate challenge of a short, short story. Oh, yes, I almost forgot to add the need for a twist, that ah-ah moment at the end that surprises the reader and the characters. The ultimate challenge for the Flash Fiction writer.

Recently, my flash fiction won the Write Links Short Story Competition. It’s one of my favourites amongst the 52 I wrote for the year-long Flash Fiction Challenge on Facebook. What a fabulous, pressure-filled, exciting year it was for the short story writers on the FF Challenge.

I was thrilled, of course that others loved my story THE LITTLE PAPER-CUTTER OF FUSHUN as much as I do. And also that the judge of this literary competition, well-respected ex-Teacher-Librarian, Mia Macrossan is a past judge for the Children’s Book Council of Australia and President of the Qld branch now. She is no ‘fly-in-fly-out’ sort of judge – she knows her ‘stuff’. And she is a brilliant advocate for children’s literature.

I follow some important ‘rules’ when I write short stories. Finding the perfect story idea requires lots of ‘what ifs’ and a bit of alchemy. When you do find it here are some hints…

  • Focus on a single event, or a small, tight, right issue … one theme only!
  • Limit your characters.
  • Ensure your reader connects with your main character … quickly.
  • Bring the CONFLICT in as soon as you can.
  • Use your senses!!
  • Write them yourself – that’s the best way to learn how to teach the skill to others.

There, that sounds easy, doesn’t it? Said with tongue-in-cheek. Because the less words you have to use (like in PICTURE BOOKS) the more challenging it is to write. But we all LOVE challenges, don’t we?

I’m about to take up another challenge … re-writing thirty of my Flash Fiction stories (for adults) into an independently published (new-speak for ‘doing it oneself’ because trade publishers don’t) short story collection. I’ll add a section on writing winning short fiction too. It’s called EVERY GRAIN OF SAND … a short story collection. It’ll be out later this year both in print and ebook. Keep an eye out for it. 

I have a fabulous editor – Ann Harth, and I’ll be putting myself into the supportive hands of Anthony Puttee at Book Cover Cafe Book Cover Designer and Publishing Services. I have seen Anthony’s work on other books and I like the professional look he gets.

In May 2016, I will be a presenter at the Rainforest Writing Retreat at O’Reilly’s Guest House up on the Lamington Plateau, alongside authors, editors and publishers, Charmaine Clancy, Anthony Puttee, Kelly Hart, and …. check out the photo below! Yes, JOHN MARSDEN. How exciting is that.

rainforest retreat

Have fun writing, folks!

 If you’d like me to visit your classroom, check out my listing in SPEAKERS INK, the speaker’ booking agency.

If you would like to book a WRITER-IN-RESIDENCE stint with me at your school, email me on my website. 

SEVEN TALES chapbook

A new collection of short stories for kids … SEVEN TALES.
A chapbook of seven stories to delight readers aged around 9-11
27 full pages – from folk tales and fables to fantasy, funny and contemporary.
Illustrated by well-known political cartoonist and story illustrator, SEAN LEAHY  

 Here’s a taste of Sean’s illustrations in my chapbook

BOOK IS AVAILABLE VIA MY WEBSITE … or contact me via email.


An ode to crows …

Just discussing powerful poetry with my son, David. He’s been reading Banjo Patterson’s The White Cockatoos. I’ve sent him Anthony Lawrence’s powerful and raw poem, Cro-kill. See what you think.

Sheryl Gwyther - blog

I feel sorry for the crows around our way. It’s the summer holidays and the local school is empty of kids – there’re no rubbish bins to scavenge from for the odd Vegemite sandwiches or half-eaten bananas. So the resident flock of noisy crows have gone off on their own little holiday somewhere where the pickings are better.
We city folk have an almost universal opinion about crows – noisy, ugly, dirty, creepy … the list goes on in many languages. It’s probably the same in the bush too.
Some civilisations recognise the status of a crow … whether from the grandeur of a winged mystical being or the depths of an efficient garbage disposal unit. Imagine a world where the rubbish and rotting, smelly things weren’t eaten by crows.
So in this countdown to the New Year, I thought I’d post a little verse I wrote as a tribute to…

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