Sunday, December 20, 2009

Warm up those artistic muscles (warning - nudie pics)

Watercolour Pencil Sketch. Life Drawing. A.Sunde 2009

Even though I love to draw children, life drawing sessions are essential to the development of my skills as an artist. With a live model there is no choice but to draw the figure in the position I see her/ him. That means it's not possible to turn the model on his/her head (as I might a photo) simply because it's easier to capture a certain curve or a particular stroke.

Graphite Sketch. Life Drawing. A. Sunde 2009

Before I start to draw I have learnt to do warm up exercises designed to loosen my strokes and relax my mind. The exercises train my brain to remember arm and hand movements through repetition, using both left and right hands (sometimes simultaneously). It also shifts the focus of my mind to the 'right brain'. In other words the left analytical brain becomes so bored with the exercises it switches off and hey presto I am able to draw what I see and not what I 'think' I see.

These movements will then help me more accurately capture the image before me, even when I'm not looking at it. That makes it sound simple doesn't it?

Acrylic sketch. Life Drawing. A.Sunde 2009

I study Life Drawing at the Gold Coast Art School with Tony Champ. We begin by drawing circles, repeatedly, without taking the pencil off the paper, big ones, small ones, in one direction, then the next, with our right hand and then our left for ten minutes each. Then we do figure eights, then ellipses.

By now it's apparent to me that a certain direction of stroke feels uncomfortable and awkward. My hand just doesn't naturally relax into the movement. That will be my weak stroke and that's the one I need to practise the most, just like an archer practises his aim so he can shoot the bullseye with his eyes shut.

Speed is essential in Life Drawing. The less time you have the looser your strokes. You learn quickly to draw from the elbow and not the wrist. These exercises have helped me to achieve that relaxed sketch I so admire in others.

But the real trick is to draw with your heart and not your intellect.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


I have a little manuscript, an urban fantasy for 9-13 year olds, which I submitted to four Australian publishers this year. Three of these actually invited me to submit. How do you get an invite? Simply attend as many conferences and workshops where publishers are present. I've found the publishers at these events are very approachable and also looking for the opportunity to meet new authors like me.

The CYA conference has the 'Pitch' sessions each year, where you may pitch your manuscript to a publisher or an agent for a fee. This is really worthwhile, as through the CYA pitch I have met a leading children's publisher and a literary agent, both of whom were interested in my work. Hopefully this may lead to future opportunities. An editorial consultation at the Queensland Writers Centre also helped me to fine tune my approach to being published. The consultant has since introduced me to publishers and even obtained on my behalf an invitation to submit to one of these.

And then there is the slush pile for unsolicited manuscripts. Many publishing houses do not accept these; others only have their slush pile 'open' at certain times of the year. My little manuscript found itself on one of these slush piles where it was waiting up to six months to be read. Luckily an industry contact (through conferences and workshops) enquired on my behalf and my manuscript found itself being fast tracked to the editor's desk.

Yesterday I received an email from this publishing house, informing me my manuscript has potential and I will hear from them 'in the near future'. Now that is something to celebrate.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Battle is Won! And what did I learn?

Parallel Import Restrictions on books in Australia are here to stay.

Today the Australian Labor Party Cabinet and Caucus decided not to accept the Productivity Commission’s recommendations. This decision shows their support for the Australian book industry and the people who work in it. I applaud them for understanding the complexities of this issue.

As a member of Saving Aussie Books action group I have learnt a great deal about the impact standing up for what you believe in can achieve. I know now I have a voice and that voice can be heard. Through this campaign I wrote my first letter to a Prime Minister, a Premier, many Senators and politicians both federal, state and local. I spoke on radio and left my very first comments on local and international digital media sites. I had my first letter to the editor published in the Courier Mail and hand painted my first protest placard. My voice could be heard loud and clear at my first street rally outside the Dymocks store, Brisbane and I answered my first live interview by a national journalist in between handing out leaflets. And then there was the petition. It is a wonder my friends are still speaking to me. At BBQs, birthdays, school fetes, evening classes, P & C meetings etc the petition was always being passed around.

I’ve learnt so much on this journey. I’ve learnt we all truly have a voice and an opportunity in this great country to be heard. Thank you to the politicians who listened and understood. Thank you to everyone who posted, emailed, wrote, phoned and spoke in support of our cause. I am elated. It was indeed a privilege and an honour.

But best of all I have made some life long friends.

Three cheers for the Warrior Women of the Book.

WWOBs rule!

Friday, October 9, 2009

I squashed a Fairy

My family believes in fairies; not the sort who live in the garden, under toadstools and behind cobwebs, not the sort who fly through the night carrying bucket loads of baby teeth and chinking coins. We believe in the true fairies; the strong, tough, dependable ones, the ones who never let you down, the ones who don’t forget to leave a gold coin under the pillow. (Sorry Peter.)

Our fairies are real and they accompany us wherever we go. They especially like travelling, whatever the mode. When we took the kids to Europe, UK and Canada in 2006, our Travel Fairy came with us and she is a delight to journey with. Travel Fairy weighs nothing, never tires or complains and is always available.

This was lucky for us on the day we knocked at the door of our rental ‘gite’ in Haute Provence, France. Monsieur Chauvel had never heard of us, let alone received our booking. With a hot supermarket chicken and two tired little bodies simmering in the back seat of our car, my husband and I were gutted.

This is where Travel Fairy stepped in. She quickly turned my frown into a smile and dropped at least ten words of fluent university French into my head. As Mr Chauvel struggled to pull a shirt over his white singlet-clad tum, his wife appeared and Travel Fairy set to work charming her with expressions of praise for the lovely house, the delightful garden, the wonderful view – deftly slipping in a request for bed sheets.

So you see they are real.

But my most loved fairy of all is Parking Fairy. She has a twin who lives at my sister’s house. Just last week my sister found a free parking space right near an entrance at three different shopping centres in the one morning. True.
Of course I don’t want to compare Parking Fairy with my sister’s. You see, Parking Fairy achieved a major coup on the Sunday of the ‘Swell Sculpture Festival’ at Currumbin Beach on the Gold Coast. We wanted to have lunch at The Deck Café on the beach front. Parking Fairy organised for someone to pull out of their spot at that moment and then Café Fairy found us the last table.

What? You don’t know Café Fairy!

You don’t have one?

How do you arrive last minute for unorganised get-togethers then?

Look, I’ll see what I can do. Perhaps Café Fairy has a cousin.

A new fairy arrived to live at our house on the weekend. She just crept up on us while teenage daughter was fretting over Year 12 assignments, getting her P’s and buying a ticket for The Big Day Out. Teenage son was holed up in his room, connected to a virtual world, too engrossed in a game of strategy to notice a little fairy creeping up the hallway. And hubbie, well, some footie game was on.

Sitting at my desk, making plans, writing lists, plotting stories and feeling overwhelmed, I did not hear her come in. She was silent. I continued to focus on writing my junior novel; an urban fantasy with a young teenage protagonist who goes on student exchange to France.

I stopped.

I glanced across the desk at the rejection letter I had received that week from a publisher. It had been a positive one, full of hope and personally written.

But that is when the fairy pounced.

She landed on my back.

Her prickly skin rubbed against my neck. Her mocking laughter echoed around the room. Her cold breath froze my heart. I looked up at my reflection in the window and there sitting on my shoulder, delicately swinging one ever-so-small leg crossed over the other, was

a Doubt Fairy.

She laughed again, a sparkling laugh, and the bells on the end of her green, pointed boots tinkled.

A Doubt Fairy had arrived to fill my head with negative thoughts:

‘You can’t write, no one will publish it, you don’t know what you’re doing, your word count isn’t high enough, your characters are cardboard, your plot has no arc, the stakes are not high enough, your participles are dangling…’
She just went on and on for two whole days. I couldn’t shake her or that stupid little laugh, those ugly little boots, that annoying tinkling noise.

On the third day I forced myself to sit back at my desk and fiddled around, not achieving anything. And then there on my desk was the answer… a packet of positive affirmations given to me by a writing friend, my first creative writing teacher. That day’s affirmation read:

“You do not need to leave your room…remain sitting at your table and listen. Simply wait. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked. It has no choice. It will roll in ecstasy at your feet." Franz Kafka.
With one quick movement I slipped the thong off my foot and...


The Doubt Fairy was no more.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Are you brave enough to climb to the top of the tree?

Writers are like apples on trees. The best are at the top of the tree, but the climb is difficult and the branches are rough. Some writers don't want to climb because they are afraid of falling and being rejected, so they stay on the ground. These apples are good, but they risk withering in the leaf litter. Have you ever seen the view from the top of an apple tree? Are you brave enough to risk a fall? Here, take my hand. I am climbing up. Together we can reach the top and bask in the sun.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Chee Chee and Mia at the CYA

I was in the car at 7am; overnight bag, sleeping bag, pillow, foam mattress, writing materials and sundry all carefully stowed in the back. I was on my way to the CYA!

The highlight of the year in writing and illustrating for children is the Children’s and Young Adults’ Writers and Illustrators Conference held in conjunction with the Brisbane Writers Festival. It was at my first CYA conference three years ago that I fell in love with the industry and its people. Children’s writers and illustrators are a passionate, inclusive group who welcome and support new and emerging writers. Now in its fourth year the conference is a sell out success and draws award-winning speakers and workshop convenors from across Australia and internationally. Every year I am rewarded with rich learning and networking experiences and along the way I have made some treasured friends.

At 8.25am I slipped into a seat in the auditorium, looking forward to Jackie French’s key note speech. Our MC for the morning, Anita Bell, began by announcing the winners of the CYA writing and illustrating competition. I had entered in two categories, but did not expect a prize. When my name was called as the winner of 3rd prize in the Illustrated Picture Book and Graphic Novel category, tears began to sting my eyes. Somehow I fumbled my way to the front and accepted my award. Paul Collins of Ford Street Publishing had chosen my illustrated picture book ‘Chee Chee and Mia’ as the 3rd prize winner. WOO HOO!! That meant so much.

‘Chee Chee and Mia’ tells the story of a little girl’s love for her chicken Chee Chee (she can’t say chicken). Mia loves to hug Chee Chee, take her on the swing and push her around in the doll’s pram. But while Chee Chee tolerates all this attention, she is not all that pleased. The illustrations were worked in watercolour and coloured pencil.

My first workshop for the day was Jackie French’s master class. Her advice was hard hitting and to the point and her pearls of wisdom included:
“A good idea for a book is not enough; you need thousands of good ideas.”
“Quite good is never going to be good enough.”
“Be intellectually honest about your writing.”
“It takes longer for genius to be published than the very good.”

Together we brainstormed a story outline for ‘The Last Zoo’, set in Antarctica. Jackie had us smelling the ice and hearing the muttering of monkeys. She emphasised that each word must be specific and value laden and each character needs to be individual with their own characteristics and quirks.

Jackie believes ideas are more important than the quality of writing – you can always re-write. And writers need to be self-centred enough to spend time on themselves and their writing. This was good advice for me as self doubt and guilt are my two very good friends. But while I may doubt my writing, I seriously do enjoy re-writing.

A 15 minute pitch with Leonie Tyle of Woolshed Press (Random House) was the most rewarding experience of the day for me. I have taken on board her advice regarding my manuscript and in those few moments learned a great deal about some subtle aspects of ‘telling’ that still sneak their way into my writing.

In Meredith Costain’s ‘Constructing a Picture Book’ class she stressed that a good picture book must:
Resonate emotionally with the reader.
Have heart.
Tell an important story the reader can find meaning in.
Beg to be read over and over again.

This is very true of the favourite picture books I have in my collection. In groups of four we then brainstormed ideas for a story and amidst great laughter my group presented our version of ‘Grandma’s False Teeth’ to the audience.

Peter Carnavas’ master class ‘Illustrate a Picture Book’ took us inside the world of the professional illustrator. Peter led us sequentially step by step through the stages of illustration and story development, workshopping with us all the way:
Narrative structure and developing characters.
Finding the balance between words and pictures.
Developing a storyboard.

The session was valuable for the insight to Peter’s methods, for the hands on experience and the sharing of ideas with other illustrators in the room.

Among other things I learned a picture book is structured in three ‘Acts’ – a problem, a journey to solve the problem and a solution. Within Act 2 there is often a ‘blue page’ when all appears lost and the problem seems insurmountable. This week I have been re-working my picture book structures and have included where possible a ‘blue page’. Thanks Peter.

The CYA has been and gone. It was without a doubt the best one yet. Tina Clarke and Ally Howard have once again managed to seamlessly present the conference of the year. Their hard work and commitment is greatly appreciated and I thank them. I also thank the many friends who congratulated me on my award and who have supported me with their kind words. The life of a writer/illustrator is not a lonely one.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Olvar Wood - time to write

What is Olvar Wood?
It’s a writers retreat.

A place where you can go to refresh your mind, renew your passion for writing, meet other like-minded writers and learn more about the craft of writing.

Well, can’t I do that already? I mean, I go to workshops and conferences all the time.
Olvar Wood can offer you more than any workshop or conference. The programme is designed to suit your specific needs within a small group environment in a tranquil bushland setting.

What did you think of the price?
It’s actually good value for money. The cost includes a one-on-one oral manuscript appraisal, daily writing workshops, all meals (including a restaurant outing) and luxury accommodation.

So how was it? Did it live up to your expectations?
I’ve never been to a writer’s retreat before, but I had definite ideas of what I’d like to experience and yes, Olvar Wood lived up to all of them.

On my drive up from the Gold Coast I felt like a little kid on the way to meet Santa at the North Pole; part of me expected a magical place and another part was worried perhaps it didn’t exist. But, from the moment I turned into the driveway, I knew I was in for a treat.

Tucked away in the bush near the township of Palmwoods in the Sunshine Coast hinterland, Olvar Wood is an intimate boutique retreat. The warmth of wood, the sound of water and the aesthetics of great design were my first impressions as I pushed open the door into the foyer. The environment created by Dr Nike Bourke and Dr Inga Simpson is perfection and I would happily have stayed there even if I weren’t a writer.

After settling in to my sumptuously appointed room (luxury is the key word here), I joined my weekend co-writers in the lounge for pre-dinner drinks and nibblies. What a delight to meet two creative, inspiring and intelligent women, (Judy and Donna) both with a keen desire to learn as much about children’s writing as I was. Not surprisingly, we had loads to talk about.

Over a gourmet dinner of salmon (with the most delicious crust) with our hosts Nike and Inga, we began our journey of learning. Nike and Inga are warm and caring individuals with an honest desire to provide the most rewarding experience for their visitors. After that first dinner I also knew I was in the presence of great talent and creative writing wisdom. This was going to be a weekend to remember.

Everything was provided for us: a library of books, a complete office (printer, fax machine, copier), wireless internet connection, all our breakfast and snack needs, catered lunches and dinners, platters of fruit, wood for the fireplace, toiletries in the bathrooms, a laundry, our own desks with a dictionary, a personal Olvar Wood pen and pencil and a chocolate bar to feed that writing brain.

Saturday and Sunday were spent with Nike in workshop sessions, which included Working with Story and Character and Imagery and Imagination. Nike has a natural ability to nurture the writer in you. She addressed our needs and encouraged us to ask questions and meet challenges. I was inspired. Both Nike and Inga have backgrounds as professional writers, university lecturers and supervisors of creative writing. The knowledge that Nike was able to impart certainly raised the bar for me.

An hour was set aside for each of us for a private one-on-one appraisal of our manuscript. Not only did I receive an honest and supportive appraisal, I also enjoyed genuine interest and encouraging suggestions from Nike for furthering my writing career. This personal time also allowed Nike to get to know our needs and she incorporated this in the workshops which followed.

Between workshops we were able to enjoy the expansive grounds and native forest, take in the view to the Blackall Ranges, meet the locals (like the small goanna on the roof, who poked his head over to say hello to me) and dine on the veranda.

I left on Sunday with new friends, great memories and a wealth of ideas for my current children’s novel. Most importantly for me, the weekend confirmed I was going in the right direction. And if ever I feel doubt again, I will be beating a path back to Olvar Wood’s door.

Yeah, I’ll definitely give them a look. What’s the website?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


There is now an online petition available in support of Aussie Books.

To register your vote, go to:

Please forward this link far and wide amongst your contacts...


PS The online petition does NOT replace the paper petition. Paper petitions carry more weight (of influence) and are therefore still preferred.
Align RightThe paper petition can be downloaded from Paper petitions close 1 September 2009.
C'mon, We can do this!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

NZ proves lifting PIRs does not reduce the price of books

Parallel Importation Restrictions on books were lifted in New Zealand ten years ago and yet books there have not dropped in price, especially children’s books.

A hard back copy of one of Lynley Dodd’s famous Hairy Maclarey picture books recently cost me NZ$25 in New Zealand and yesterday I saw the exact same copy in an Australian independent bookshop for A$21.95.

Children's books in NZ by a NZ author are now so rare that they carry a small triangle in the top corner of the front cover stating: ‘NZ author.’

Why do you think this is so?

Well, the NZ Society of Authors and the Book Publishers Assn of NZ sent their own submissions to the Productivity Commission in Australia against the lifting of the PIRs. Here are the points they made:

"Lifting PIRs has had a detrimental effect in NZ."
“The consumer has not benefitted from lower prices in the shops.”
“Retailers actively increase the selling prices of books above the RRPs.”
“The chains are also limiting the range of titles they offer.”
“A number of large multinational publishers withdrew their distribution infrastructure.”
“Resulting in reduced employment within the industry.”
“Local authors receive reduced royalties or no royalties at all on re-imported overseas editions of their works.”
“Overseas publishers supply remainders (especially children’s books) directly to NZ booksellers when local publishers represent those titles.”

In spite of these submissions the Productivity Commission’s report states:
“The effect of the NZ reforms on book prices, if any, is less clear.”

What is clear is that the children’s book industry in NZ has suffered the most.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

I'm taking the petition to the Byron Bay Writers Festival

I'm off to a workshop tomorrow at the Byron Bay Writers Festival. Like a good music folk festival it is one of the richest experiences you can have creatively in Australia. The writings, the readings and the discussions are all music for the soul and the intellect.

What a pity then that such festivals will be reduced in size and will potentially fizzle out as fewer and fewer Australian publishers are able to invest in homegrown talent and nurture their local authors. Should the parallel import restrictions (PIRs) on books be lifted, there is every likelihood that this may happen.

Australian editions of books like 'Harry Potter' (published here) provide Australian publishers with the financial rewards that enable them to continue to invest in Australian-authored books which may have a smaller print run. Without this help many Australian stories may not be told.

If PIRs are lifted the foreign editions of Australian books will be sold here side by side with the Australian edition. However, the Australian author will receive a reduced royalty and if the foreign book is a remaindered copy the author receives no royalty at all.

The Productivity Commission admits that the foreign edition may displace the opportunity for the author to 'sell' his Australian published book, thereby directly affecting his income further. Not only does he receive no royalty on the 'remaindered' copy, but he misses out on selling the local edition - a no win situation.

It hardly seems worth spending years writing a book, then re-writing and editing it for no reward.

So tomorrow I will be going to the Byron Bay Writers Festival armed with a petition.

You can download your copy from

It will be my way of stopping this madness.

Join me.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


In today's Courier Mail, regarding the parallel importation debate, Suzanne Clarke had this to say about the myth of cheaper books:

"Surely the question is which books will be cheaper? The latest Dan Brown and myriad other American bestsellers, or offerings with a lower print run from Australian authors? You can bet we will be bombarded with the former. It's the equivalent of saying an abundance of fast food outlets is a victory for cheaper food."

Here, here. These low quality books will be found at your local giant supermarkets and multinational mega retailers, where you will see the following advertising slogans:

Cheap quality books - the fast food meal of words
Cheap quality books - the drive-through literary experience
Cheap quality books - the take away wrapped in a dust jacket
Cheap quality books - do you want fries with that?

is the TAKE ACTION blog for those of you who wish to take action immediately against the recommendations of the Productivity Commission re the lifting of The Parallel Importation of Books.

This blog has been started by a group of writers, teachers, parents and readers passionate about supporting the Australian book industry and...

it has a wealth of information, with articles, news items, blog posts, politicians' email addresses and handouts for you to use and pass out to friends, colleagues, family and neighbours.

Go and check it out. Join the campaign to save our Aussie books.

While you're there, leave a comment.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


I am rather chuffed today. You see my letter to the editor of the Courier Mail was published in yesterday's (Saturday) paper. They gave it an accompanying colour photo, a central position, a major headline and two columns. I'm glad to see that the Courier is open to reporting both sides of the debate.

I am taking action and I encourage you to do the same.

What can you do?

Follow my link to 'Saving Aussie Books' under 'Angela's Places' and there you will find all the email and postal addresses you need to make a difference, plus all the details of the impact the Parallel Importation of Books will have on our book industry and our children's literacy. I am so angry that not only did I email Mr Kevin Rudd, but I sent him a letter too. And it was so easy! Saving Aussie Books tells you how.

For your information I have included my letter to the editor below:

To the editor,


The market control that Woolworths and Coles now hold over petrol pricing and groceries will soon be extended to include books. Together with Dymocks, and under the guise of the Coalition for Cheaper Books, they have been lobbying for the lifting of the current restrictions on the parallel importation of books.

By hiding behind this collective name, the 'Coalition' has duped their customers, guaranteeing cheaper books.

There is no guarantee. These retail giants are not obliged to pass on any savings to the consumer. In fact, they have a history of not doing so.

In its submission to the Productivity Commission, Penguin Australia said: "At the moment two of our biggest chains are selling many titles significantly above the recommended retail price."

According to industry sources, Kmart and Target (Coles Group) demand up to 70% discount on the RRP from the publisher. (By comparison the author receives less than 10% of the RRP.) Then these mega-retailers add a few dollars over the RRP.
Does anyone really think they're about delivering cheaper books?
I don't.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Productivity Commission gets it wrong

I am angry! I am amazed... I am at a loss to explain the reasons why the Productivity Commission has failed to take any notice of the 100s of submissions sent to them from concerned Australians .

Instead the Productivity Commission has published its report to the Government recommending that the current restrictions on the parallel importation of books be lifted.

(The current laws state that if a book is written, designed, edited and published by an Australian, an overseas publisher cannot sell their edition of it here. If it is produced overseas, Australian publishers must publish it here within 30 days of its foreign release, or it can be "parallel imported".)

Most at risk from the lifting of these restrictions are Australian published books, specifically children’s books, their readers, and the workers involved in their publication.

For this reason I strongly disagree with the Productivity Commission’s recommendations and wish to make the following points:
The USA, UK and Canada do maintain territorial copyright and restrict the parallel importation of books.
Foreign publishers will flood the Australian market with foreign edited versions of Australian books. These are called ‘remainders’. These remainders will undercut the Australian editions.

Small publishers will struggle and close, larger publishers will likely move off shore.

Jobs will be lost in publishing, printing, editing, marketing, distributing, bookselling, writing and illustrating books.

Independent booksellers (30% of the market) will be unable to compete with the multinationals. (Sound familiar?)

Resulting in fewer Australian books being published and our unique Australian culture will be put at risk.

There will be less choice for the Australian reader. The multinational booksellers will decide what they offer us. (Coles, Woolworths, Target, K-mart, Big W, Dymocks, Borders etc. are behind the push for the lift of PIR’s)

Quality Australian books will increase in price not fall, like a fine wine no one can afford.

Publishers will not invest in new talent. ie There will be no one to replace Mem Fox.

Australian children need books that reflect their world, their culture and history.

The effect on our children and students:Foreign published ‘remaindered’ editions of Australian children’s books will be ‘dumped’ here. These will have been edited with American spelling and idiom. Eg. Ute > Pick-up, footpath > sidewalk, footie > gridiron etc.

With diminished opportunities here, Australian children’s authors will be forced to de-Australianise their writing to suit the global market. Kate Grenville said: “If I had said no, I would never have been published overseas.”

Australian publishers will be unable to afford to invest in new picture books and new authors. Yes, no new Possum Magic.

Foreign editions will end up replacing the Australian editions, as fewer Publishers continue to invest in Australian talent..

Australian children already struggling with reading and spelling will be further confused with the foreign editions.

Australian humour in books will be edited out because the foreign market will not understand our jokes. This will then be sold back to us.

Our children need to develop a strong sense of self and an identity of who they are as Australians. Australian books by Australian authors, which display Australian content with Australian spelling and reflect Australian social and cultural values and indigenous beliefs are one of the few sources still available to them. Young people are already bombarded with more than enough popular American culture and language in the forms of music, movies and food without taking away the only resource left to them which reflects who they are – Aussie books.

Worth reading is the closing address by Richard Flanagan at the recent Sydney Writers Festival Flanagan says this issue is about Australians' rights and our need to have our own stories in our own voice.
What you can do now:

· Write to Kevin Rudd and your local member before this becomes law.
Please feel free to use any of the above.

You may also like to read through some of the submissions to the Productivity Commission at (Two of them are mine)
I have to go now and have a herbal calmative...........fuming steam escapes my ears

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Finding the Window

In my experience a good lesson uses a variety of teaching strategies to capture the interest of each individual learner in the class. The time sequence needs to be flexible and reflect the interest of the group as a whole. When teaching a second language, I generally change to a new activity every 5-10 minutes, depending on the age and ability of the group. If the class is engaged in the activity then I allow them to continue. But each individual learner comes to the situation with different experiences to the others and they will react differently to each new activity as it is introduced. What interests one child may not interest another.

When a child is 'interested', when he/she is 'engaged', then that is your chance as a teacher or parent. That is your Window of Opportunity.

For very young children, children for whom English is a second language and children with learning difficulties, this window of opportunity offers them the chance to succeed. Finding this window of opportunity for children with learning difficulties can also be the key to teaching them to read.

Recently I came across The Fun Funnel, a picture book written by Robbie Cameron, an Australian author from Byron Bay. This picture book speaks, sings and dances across the page. It appeals to the visual and auditory learner on a variety of levels. It offers children a window; children with learning difficulties who have not previously understood that those squiggly marks on the page are in fact the words of the story.

To achieve this Robbie Cameron has successfully taken the karaoke idea and transformed it into a picture book with DVD.

The book is displayed on the screen as it is 'read', showing the turning of each page etc, while the child holds the book. What impressed me most was how each word 'bounced' on the page as it was read aloud in a clear Australian accent, making it obvious to the child which word they were up to. The cheerful illustrations are also animated, bringing to life the light-hearted tale of a grumpy old man who (like the Grinch who stole Christmas) tries to steal all the fun.

I tested The Fun Funnel out on my niece and nephew, who are 2 and 5 years old. First I gave them the book and as avid book lovers they devoured it while I read it aloud a couple of times. We then watched the DVD together with the book and that is when the window opened. The words on the page started moving and my nephew followed with his finger on the word in the book. Later that day my sister found him copying the words from the book onto a page. He had never done that before.

The Fun Funnel has proven to be successful with children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and Downs Syndrome. The parent of one boy with Aspergers had this to say about The Fun Funnel: "The jumping words have sparked his interest in individual words and he often points to words in other books now and asks What's that?" There are many more similar testimonials on Robbie Cameron's website with an overwhelmingly positive response from parents.

If you have a child who has difficulty reading or is just starting to read, then The Fun Funnel may be just the window of opportunity you are looking for.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Picture Book Illustrating

At the moment I'm working on picture book illustrations for the CYA competition. Three illustrations with accompanied text (mine) have to be submitted by the 30th June. I'm not sure that I'll make it, but what I like about this comp is that it forces me to be still and focus. With three weeks left to go, one illustration is pretty much ready and without too much distraction (from family etc) the other two should come together in time.

I am working in watercolour and colour pencil as I like the soft effect against the white paper. Jan Ormerod, Freya Blackwood and Julie Vivas are three of my favourite picture book artists, whose depiction of children has influenced me. My characters have their own 'look' and I am slowly coming to recognise this as my style. This style has been with me since forever and no matter how much more experienced I am now, this 'look' keeps emerging. It annoyed me at first, but now I own it. My characters can border on being cartoony as I did draw a lot of cartoons all through childhood and into my twenties, even my wedding invitation.

For the last three years I have been under the tutelage of Tony Champ at The Gold Coast Art School. Tony used to be the resident illustrator for the Courier Mail and Sunday Mail , during which time he won the coveted 'Stanley Award' for Black and White Illustration three times. He has also taught illustration at Illustration House in Brisbane with the likes of Gregory Rogers.

Last year I entered the CYA comp and was placed 7th in the illustration category. The illustrations were done for my picture book manuscript Roly-poly Baby and show a cheeky one year old climbing out of his cot. My daughter did this repeatedly and it is also my first childhood memory. The illustrations are on Arches smooth 300gm watercolour paper.

I really love drawing children. I hope you enjoy these ones above from last year...


Saturday, May 30, 2009

My first review (from a child I don't know)

My recently completed children's urban fantasy manuscript for 9 - 13 year olds is ready and polished. To celebrate its 'birth' as a final draft manuscript I sent it off a few weeks ago to a couple of friends. One of these friends has no children herself and so gave my manuscript to a friend's child to 'test it out'. All I know of this little girl is that she loves reading and is 11 years old. I was thrilled then to receive this feedback:

I really enjoyed it. I thought it was imaginative and really surprised me at the end. I just loved the way it kept you hanging at the end of the chapters. And also how it tied in with the show at school. I thought it was really funny how the prince knew everything about the blue powder and the girl turning into a frog. (Ellen, age 11)

Does that have you intrigued? A publisher has solicited the manuscript and it is being sent out next week. Fingers and webbed toes are crossed.

Call in next week. I'm making my mum's apple strudel.