My Writing Process (never a dull moment) Blog Tour

Thank you to talented and all-round lovely person, author, Julie Fison who has invited me to be part of the My Writing Process Blog Tour. Julie, along with several other well-known children’s authors lives in my suburb in Brisbane, Queensland. Must be something in the water! I write children’s novels, short stories, chapter books, school plays and flash fiction for adults. Okay, so here goes…. my Writing Process

What am I working on?
I usually have several things on the go – like just completing the final edit for new chapter book, The Magic Globe (due out mid-2014), working on my 52,000 word novel, Sweet Adversity, seeing my children’s play, Rosie, hero of Eggstown get published in the Irish kids’ publication, Through the Looking Glass Magazine. I’m also writing an adult flash fiction story a week for my 52-Week Flash Fiction Challenge blog this year. It’s been totally manic, but I love creating these short/short stories around a word theme. This week’s word was ATONE. Tricky, but I’m happy with the result.

52 week flash fiction imageMy main focus in the first half of 2014 is to complete the final polish of Sweet Adversity – an historical adventure set in the Great Depression in Australia. It’s for 10-13 year olds (and adults who like reading kids’ novels, haha. Yeah, that’s all of us, isn’t it?)

In 2013, this manuscript won a SCBWI International RA/ARA Work of Outstanding Promise award – a generous grant that’s helped me travel to Canberra’s National Library to research the affect of the Great Depression on Australian children.

Sweet Adversity means so much to me – its real-time history flavour; its protagonist, Addie McAlpine, a feisty and talented runaway from an orphanage; her pet galah, Macbeth, a bird with a repertoire of Shakespearean quotes; two twisted adults who’ll do anything in their power to get what they want from Addie, and a quest to the death.

I’ve always loved the language and drama of Shakespeare’s plays – from right back when, as a student, and a troop of Shakespearean actors arrived on a train in my tiny, Queensland outback town. They played The Merchant of Venice. One of them (apparently) was a young Geoffrey Rush. Of course, there are other influences surrounding this work-in-progress. Hope you get to read it in the real one day!

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I write with a slight literary style (I do love the magic and rhythm of words), but I keep in mind the reader’s enjoyment of the story is what matters in the end. Some say I have a great feel of writing the landscape of my stories – you’ll have to read them to see what that means. I’m also an artist, so landscapes have been significant in my life – sensory observation is second nature now, especially of some places that have left indelible impressions on my mind.

Earthquake country, California.

Earthquake country, California. Oil on board

I also like to make my stories a little different – like in Secrets of Eromanga, a junior fiction contemporary novel set on a fossil dig near Winton, Queensland. Every alternate chapter jumps back 350 million years to document the life story of a courageous, young female ornithopod called Wintonopus latomorum.

As I wrote, I became as attached to that gentle dinosaur as I did to Ellie, my human character. And like the kids who read the book, deeply felt Wintonopus’s ultimate demise.

An adventure set on a western Queensland fossil dig. Suitable for upper-primary readers.

An adventure set on a western Queensland fossil dig. Suitable for upper-primary readers.

How does your writing process work?
It depends on what I’m writing. I get ideas all the time – sometimes they cellar like a good wine until formed into a story. Other times, those impulses grow silver wings and off they go. Still, I do edit and rewrite MANY times. I’ve submitted manuscripts before they’re ready. But I’m learning to be patient nowadays. I like to start with a plot plan/outline (so I know the ending, sort of), then let my imagination free reign to think laterally.

I love the editing process – that’s when my brain really fires up. Sometimes I end up with a plotline that is nothing like I thought it would be. Very exciting!

I also enjoy being part of the wider world of children’s books – with a two-year stint as a Board Director of The Australian Society of Authors, and as an Assistant Regional Advisor for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators in the Australia East/New Zealand region (SCBWI).

Playing a leadership role in our children’s writing world is like adding grease to the squeaky wheel of authorship.

I’ve met people – other authors, illustrators, editors, publishers and librarians – they’ve helped increase my desire to write the best I can, they give me encouragement in those ‘down times’, they help feed my quest for knowledge, and they’re fun to be with – what more could an author ask for?

Coming up soon … an author and an illustrator I know you’ll love to know more about. Names revealed soon!!

To do or not to do … a.k.a. submitting a story

It feels strange to finally send off a story to publishers – especially a story that links to Australian actor, Geoffrey Rush (in an odd way).

I’ve worked on this manuscript for many years – it’s got a new name, and been changed in so many ways since I blogged about it in 2010. Part of me fears for its future, part of me rejoices in the fact it’s out there under the glare of lights. And the eyes of editors. It’s now called Sweet Adversity. (If you’re into Shakespeare, you’ll get that reference).

FEBRUARY 10 2010 Several weeks ago, I finished my mentorship novel, McAlpine & Macbeth with the Australian Society of Authors Mentorship . It was a fantastic experience – from learning more on the craft of writing from my mentor, Sally Rippin, to researching the Great Depression in Australia, to putting the final polish to a story that inched its way into my life like a stray child.

Mostly, it has been a labour of love over seven years. But there have also been times when the manuscript annoyed the hell out of me. Then it sat in the naughty chair in the corner, out of sight, out of mind. When the plotting got too difficult, I let other stories slip into its place as the ‘Work-in-Progress’. It sat there on the shelf, glaring at me for months, but then offering possibilities of plot-solving and pushing the characters further than I had before.

It tantalised me every time I saw an article about Shakespeare, or recognised a quote from one of his plays (you may have guessed from the title, it owes more than a little allegiance to The Bard). Like Macbeth, a pet galah in my story, Shakespeare’s magical mixture of spoken aloud words in his Plays captivate me.

My subversion to William Shakespeare happened when I was a student at a country school in regional Queensland in the late 1960s. One day, a troupe of travelling Shakespearean actors arrived in town on the train. We students sat on hard seats under the tin roof of the town hall – pesky and smelly and ready to dismiss it as a waste of time. But then the actors began The Merchant of Venice.

By the end of Act 1 you could’ve heard a pin drop on the splintery floor. I found out years later that one of those actors was the young Geoffrey Rush.

There is another reason I was determined to complete this story with its runaway girl, Shakespearean-quoting galah and a perfect pair of villains.

I have a close family link to that mostly unknown part of Australian history – the travelling actors who brought live drama to outback towns in the late 1880s.

Three generations ago, 18 year-old Lavinia Margaret McAlpine, and her father, Daniel travelled through northern New South Wales, part of an acting troupe. They didn’t confine themselves to Shakespeare – they also put on plays by demand. Like Ten Nights on a Bar-Room Floor. Paid for no doubt by the local chapter of the Anti-Alcohol Society.

There are other hand-me-down stories of Lavinia’s life – and a couple of them have inspired events in my story. I could tell you more, but it will have to wait for the day my story finally meets a publisher who will fall in love with it.

FEBRUARY 26 2014  Sweet Adversity work-in-progress was awarded a SCBWI International Work-of-Outstanding-Promise grant in September 2013. I’m using the money to travel to the National Library in Canberra to continue research in the best place in Australia to find out more of the Great Depression’s affect upon children.

I’ll never give up on this story. I owe it to the indomitable spirit of Lavinia Margaret McAlpine and Geoffrey Rush not to.

An Aussie Year Virtual Tour … with Tania McCartney, author

So very happy to host Tania McCartney, Aussie author and my good friend as she launches another of her great books. Congratulations, Tania. :)

Here’s the chance to win An Aussie Year Greeting Card Pack!


An Aussie Year – to celebrate Tania McCartney’s new book, here is your change to sneak a peak at February. ?????????????????February is back to school time for Aussie kids, when everything is fresh and smelling shiny. Kids love their new pencil cases and books, extra-sharp pencils and glossy school shoes. There are new tags on school bags, and lots of energy for playing schoolyard games like skipping and handball.

?????????????????Many kids ride a school bus but some walk, or ride a bike or scooter. If kids need to cross a road, a lollipop lady in a yellow vest helps them at the zebra crossing. If they’re lucky, Mum tucks a dollar in their uniform pocket, to spend at the tuck shop.

On 14 February, it’s Valentine’s Day. Some kids hand out love notes at school, and Dad makes Mum smile when he brings home flowers and chocolates (the kids usually eat the chocolates).

?????????????????Chinese New Year often falls in February. Kids make lots of noise with firecrackers and music. Some families stay up all night and eat noodles (for a long life). Adults give children money in red envelopes.

?????????????????It’s hot in February. Kids swim in backyard pools or skim pebbles in the creek after school. Some kids might go for a surf or do some skateboarding or ride mountain bikes in the bushland surrounding their home. Such is the diversity of the Aussie childhood.

WIN! A Aussie Year Greeting Card Pack

And because An Aussie Year is a very special book, I’m running a competition for a fabulous prize giveaway—a pack of exclusive An Aussie Year cards, valued at $41.70!

To win, just leave a comment on this post, 25 words or less, telling me which February tradition you celebrate with your children and why.

Book Info

An Aussie Year: Twelve Months in the Life of Australian Kids by Tania McCartney and Tina Snerling

(Oct 2013, EK Publishing, $19.99, hard cover, 9781921966248)

Meet Ned, Lily, Zoe, Kirra and Matilda––three Aussie kids keen to take you on a journey through a year in the life of Australian children, from cultural celebrations to traditions and events, to our everyday way of life.
An Aussie Year is a picture book bursting with national pride. It is a snapshot of who we are as a nation, covering our melting-pot culture, lifestyle and traditions. Its pages feature trailing, meandering text, dates and gorgeous illustrations showing our five Aussie children at play, at school, at home, enjoying their homeland––from the tropical north to our rugged west.
Trailing through the seasons and idiosyncrasies endemic to each month of the year, this is Our Australian Childhood.

 About the Creators

Tania McCartney is a book-obsessed author, editor, reviewer, photographer, traveller, mum of two and wife of one. She simply adores words and paper—and would ingest them if she could (though she’ll settle for a good coffee). She frequently flits around cyberspace but can also be seen visiting schools and libraries, running workshops, reading to kids or pushing tomes onto unsuspecting shoppers in bookshops. Tania lives in Canberra, but would like to live inside a book.

Tina Snerling is a designer, illustrator, artist, web designer, seamstress and mum. She adores Paris, fabric, design and paper. She lives a very illustrated life—one day she’s creating children’s books, the next she’s creating websites (in between the washing and school lunches!). She’s the type who has a notebook by her bed because most good ideas happen when you’re supposed to be sleeping. She lives in Brisbane with her two gorgeous poppets and one gorgeous husband. An Aussie Year Virtual Tour FINAL jpgAn Aussie Year Virtual Tour Schedule

Join Ned, Zoe, Lily, Kirra and Matilda on this journey around the webosphere, from 21 October to 21 November. There will be reviews, sneak peeks, guest posts and lots of fabulous giveaways including some publishing opps! See the entire tour schedule right here

Visit the An Aussie Year website ( to meet all the characters from the book, see updates and behind-the-scenes work. There’s also some Fun Activities for kids.

‘Eco Warriors to the Rescue’ virtual tour with Tania McCartney, author

Guest Post – Eco Tips for Little ReadersTania McCartney

 The thing I love about kids is they’re so fresh and new—not only physiologically, but in terms of the way they think. Like little saplings, their minds have such energy. They are dynamic and forward-thinking, open to new ideas, and very, very clever. eco warriors cover

 When writing Eco Warriors to the Rescue!, I knew children would be incredibly receptive to the sustainability themes outlined in the book. Not only do kids get to experience a unique adventure with the three eco warriors characters—Ned, Banjo and Matilda—they get to ponder ways they can contribute to the protection of or native flora.

 The 10 green tips featured in Eco Warriors provide countless educational applications for the classroom, home-schooling and general knowledge. For each of the included tips, I suggest the following fun activities:

 1.         Don’t litter
Organise an ‘adopt a spot’ campaign at your school or on your street, asking people to adopt a certain area or stretch of land to be responsible for keeping clean. Use recyclable rubbish items to make your own musical instruments or use scrunched up paper to create a Don’t Litter mural. Discuss how litter can harm our native plants.

 2.         Tread carefully whilst bushwalking
Go on a bushwalking excursion and focus on the ground. Watch carefully where you’re walking and take note of all the plants, seeds, pods, branches or insects you see. Discuss the devastation careless bushwalking, biking, etc, can cause—what can be damaged?

f - Copy 

3.         Never pick native flowers
Discuss what would happen if everyone picked native flowers. Take a camera on a local bushwalk and take creative images of the wildflowers. Host a photographic exhibition. If you sell photos, donate the proceeds to your local wildlife centre.

 4.         Keep our waterways clean
Research plants that use rivers, lakes and creeks for their water source. Discuss why polluted water would be harmful to these plants. Place a daffodil or other high-water-content flower in food colouring-tinted water and witness how much of a plant is made up of water.

5.         Protect plants from introduced animals
Look up the term ‘introduced animals Australia’ and choose one animal to research. Find out why this particular creature has the potential to upset or destroy our native plants. What does this animal do to plants, specifically? Do they eat it, break it, dig it up?

6.         Care for native animals and insects
Research native birds and animals and the particular plants they are drawn to. Where do koalas live? What do wombats eat? And cockatoos? Print off or draw a series of animals and the plants they live in or eat or otherwise use. Ask an adult to match up each animal with their plant.

7.         Plant native trees and shrubs
Organise a tree planting at your school or home, Have kids source which kinds of birds or insects would be attracted to the chosen plant. Investigate which native plants have edible parts and try to source jams, chutneys, dukkas, cordials or other delicious items made from our native trees and shrubs.

8.         Limit housing, road works, farming, mining and forestry
Choose one of the flora-damaging topics above and do a report on how they can damage our native plants. What flow on effect does this damage cause for our animals, waterways and land?

9.         Reduce pollution and climate change
How do plants help reduce pollution and climate change? Create a poster to encourage pollution control, drawing on factors you think will contribute to a cleaner environment.

10.      Prevent bushfires
Create a creative short film or slide show on how important it is to prevent fire and the consequences of arson for native plants and animals. Also research the trees that need controlled fires in order to regenerate.

 These tips are all fantastic ways to help our native plants flourish, but as I say at the end of Eco Warriors, I also believe one of the best ways we can care for our native plants is to enjoy them. Take an interest in them. And of course, to educate ourselves and share our findings with others.

 Thank goodness kids have fresh, young and forward-thinking brains. Because the future of our native plants really is in their hands. 

 ABOUT THE BOOK: Eco Warriors to the Rescue!
(National Library Publishing, Aug 2013, $17.99, firm cover, 9780642277800)

Join Banjo, Matilda and Ned on a magical adventure into the Australian native landscape via a series of historic, beautifully-rendered botanical paintings. Entering the very pages of their favourite book, the children interact with all manner of Australian flora including Kangaroo Paw, Wattle and Eucalypt. Along the way, these intrepid warriors seek ‘tips’ to ensure the survival of our native landscape for generations to come.  Can these eco-warriors help save our native flora from extinction?

Combining modern photography and typesetting with historical artworks from the archives of the National Library, Eco Warriors to the Rescue! makes our beautiful collection of botanical art accessible to the very young. The book also includes interesting facts about Australian flora, as well as floral emblems and birth months, and further ideas on how to keep Australian green.


Join Tania McCartney and her three real-life eco warriors—Banjo (Riley), Ned (Andrew) and Matilda (Claire)—as they launch Eco Warriors to the Rescue! at Canberra’s National Arboretum Gift Shop, Saturday 5 October 2013, at 11am.


Tania McCartney is an author of both children’s and adult books. An experienced magazine writer and editor, she also founded respected literary site Kids’ Book Review. She is passionate about literacy, and loves to speak on reading, books and writing. Her latest books include Eco Warriors to the Rescue! (National Library Publishing), Riley and the Jumpy Kangaroo: A journey around Canberra (Ford Street), Caroline Chisholm: The Emigrant’s Friend (New Frontier) and An Aussie Year: Twelve months in the life of Australian Kids (EK Publishing). Tania adores books, travel and photography. She lives in Canberra with her family, in a paper house at the base of a book mountain.

CLICK to check out the rest of Tania’s 3-fun filled days of blog touring.  Eco Warriors Blog Tour FINAL

Creating a picture book… ‘Riley and the Jumpy Kangaroo’ Blog Tour with Tania McCartney

A very warm welcome to my lovely friend, Tania McCartney!  Tania’s my guest blogger today and she’s talking about how she created her new picture book, Riley and the Jumpy Kangaroo. tania mcc

Behind the Scenes with author, Tania McCartney

It’s a well-known fact that the creation of a picture book is a multi-faceted affair involving many people of varying skill. From the text and illustrations to editing, proofreading, layout, design, printing, marketing, promotion, distribution, selling … holding a book in your hands is the result of a somewhat convoluted and lengthy process.

But boy, the results are worth it.

My very first picture book experience was with a little book called Riley and the Sleeping Dragon (2008)––a pet project I self-published while living in Beijing. Since then I’ve gone onto many picture book productions via traditional publishers–some of them with less involvement but most of them with lots. I love the hands-on and creative side of working closely with the picture book process, and have been fortunate to work with publishers who have allowed this.

Riley the Jumpy Kangaroo cover MEDIUMRiley and the Jumpy Kangaroo is the fifth book in the Riley the Little Aviator series, and this book was particularly good fun to create because in it, Riley visits my current home town of Canberra. I take all my own photos for the Riley series, so nabbing the right shot (or having to get another one) was easy.

The illustrator for the series––Kieron Pratt––also lives in Canberra, so this was very much a hometown production. For this book, Kieron and I continued to work together by email and in person, with Kieron drafting illustrations to my specifics. This has to be pretty carefully orchestrated because each image has to be placed over a photograph.sheryl image 1 You can see in the above image a draft page layout for page 14 of the book. This is where the jumpy roo smacks across the water of Lake Burley Griffin. I had originally envisaged the roo to be smacking across the water (ie: bounding), however, when Kieron’s illustration idea came through, I quickly changed the verb to ‘powered’. You can see why… 

sheryl image a2Although Kieron tried to stick to his brief in terms of what the roo would be doing on each page, I really loved it when he changed things up and added his own humorous twist, even if it meant adjusting the text to suit.

You’ll see in this second image that the colour in the photograph has been adjusted. In my first four Riley books, I wanted to use black and white photos so that Riley and his plane and accompanying critters really pop against the monochromatic palette and coloured pages. In this fifth book, I decided to change things up and start introducing colour to the photos as the book unfolded––with the final image being a double spread of Floriade.

I ask you––how can you have a black and white photo of Floriade?

This colour trick is indicative of a technique I use with each book in the series––to set it apart in some way from the other books. For Grumpy Wombat (Melbourne), you don’t see the wombat until the very end. For Dancing Lion (Hong Kong), I introduced many lions, but never the right one. For Curious Koala (Sydney), I hid the koala in the photos, in various incarnations.

Because the books all have the same format, changing them up like this helps add interest to the series.

Creating, designing, laying out and promoting a new Riley book is a fabulous but full-on affair––but the other challenge I faced with this particular production was the coordination of the characters themselves. As more and more animals are introduced to the series (kids love this!), I must admit it’s been harder to deal with all the contrasting personalities. Sadly, there were some clashes this time around.

Koala is interested in Wombat. Yes––in that way. She’s grumpy at the best of times, but having the hard word put on her by a critter half her size (and always half asleep) really pushed her over the edge. She’s not the most sociable of creatures, so yes, there were some diva antics.

Dragon, also a sleepyhead, really doesn’t like to fly––an irony because he can do it easily, and without wings, too. Getting him to Canberra from China seemed to be a bit of an ‘ask’ this time round. We added a few lumps of coal to the deal, and he finally agreed to partake in the production process.

Lion and Panda, who are always so enthusiastic and a joy to work with, tend to get up to a bit of mischief when they’re together. You know––face-stuffing donuts, accidentally setting their backsides alight whilst trying to fire themselves from the canons at the War Memorial, dive-bombing Roo over Lake Burley Griffin.

This is fun for only so long … and I’m afraid to admit the Old Lady McCartney in me reared her ugly head a few times. Roo, who’s new to the clan, didn’t seem fazed, thank goodness.

So, in short––what you see before you––this Jumpy Roo adventure, was a leeetle bit of a logistics challenge, but like most books, things all worked out in the end and this would have to be my favourite Riley book yet.

It’s so much fun to celebrate the Centenary of our nation’s capital through the pages of Jumpy Roo. I hope you enjoy the tour!

 The Book Launch in Canberra

The Jumpy Roo book launch is being held at Floriade this year! Anyone living in or visiting Canberra on 15 September is invited along, but RSVPs are essential if you want a goodie bag and balloon! You can find out more here.

You can also visit the Riley the Little Aviator website ( to see updates, learn more about the places Riley visits, and see behind-the-scenes work. There’s also some Fun Activities for kids.

To learn more about Tania’s books at her

Blog Tour Schedule: Bound along with Roo on a Very Jumpy Tour!

Monday 29 July to Thursday 1 August at the following destinations – click on the link here.