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One of the things I love about science writing is the absolute variety I meet in my working day. I’m always learning new things, and I get to spend time talking to passionate, clever and interesting people.

Below are some of the stories I worked on last month for the Perth-based ScienceNetwork WA. SNWA articles require a journalistic “hard news” writing style, which is very different to the storytelling style I’m used to, but they’re still great fun to research and write. I’m always learning something new.

From WA’s tectonic foundations to the Bardi Jawi seagrass meadows, from microalgae to Australian football, from our Jurassic past to our (hopefully) glittery future…and all of it researched in Western Australia. Yay us!

WA foundations not as ‘stable’ as previously thought

What’s eating you? Solving the seagrass mystery

Marriage of maths and microalgae a good export

Zeds in bed not linked to AFL injuries

Long-gone bacteria blows the whistle on gold deposits

dualling-illustrators-heartlines-festivalWhat are you doing on Sunday 21 June?

Want to take a drive through the gorgeous Perth Hills?
Want to sip some mulled wine and talk about books and illustration?
Want to slip behind the scenes of book publishing in Australia and overseas?
Want to watch two of Perth’s best and funniest illustrators go head-to-head in an impromptu illustrator’s duel?

I do!

So book your $5 ticket and pack your bags!

We’re hosting a Meet the Maker’s session at this year’s HeARTlines festival of children’s illustration and writing, and it’s going to be fab! It runs from 1 to 2.30pm on June 21 and features some of Perth’s most distinguished authors and illustrators, including the award-winning James Foley, renowned illustrator Frané Lessac, historical narrative author Mark Greenwood and Young Adult author Amanda (AJ) Betts to share with you the how, why and what of their passion for children’s literature.

There’s more on the public program of workshops here, or you can check out Meet the Maker details below:

Heartlines-festival-event4MEET THE MAKERS

Sunday 21 June, 1 – 2.30pm

16 years + Adults

At the Mundaring Arts Centre – Gallery 2

$5 non-members or $4.50 MAC/ Katharine Susannah Prichard Writer’s Centre members

Afternoon tea provided

Maximum participants 35

Join the heARTlines curator Cristy Burne and some of the festival’s artists and authors, as they discuss and demonstrate their passion for literature. For this session, you will meet renowned illustrators, James Foley and Frané Lessac and authors, Mark Greenwood, Cristy Burne and Amanda (AJ) Betts as they share their knowledge, stories and inspirations.

The session will conclude with an illustrator duel… be prepared with some exciting adjectives and see what happens next! Then relax over a lovely warm, mulled wine and nibbles and a bit of informal mingling with the session’s presenters.

Clare Stroud Cristy Burne and Den Scheer

Clare, Den and I pose for Mundaring Arts Centre director Jenny. Note how empty the walls are. Hmmm. Much work to be done!

This week I’ve been working with the team at the Mundaring Arts Centre to hang this year’s heARTlines festival of children’s literature and illustration.

Like hanging the 2013 exhibition, 2015’s exhibition was a humbling experience. Thankfully, we were guided again by the marvellous Clare Stroud, who has an eye for detail and a terrific sense of what-looks-good-where (and she also cooks a fab pumpkin soup – mmmm).

Unlike 2013, we had the invaluable help of Dr Bob Squiggle, some sort of magical laser-pointing tripod-mounted Christmas gift that splashes perfectly level cherry red laser light across the entire gallery. AMAZING! Begone, heavy and ridiculous measuring devices! Thank you Dr Bob!

And even better than Bob, we had the help of artist Den Scheer, who valiantly volunteered her time to hang with us and was a huge help and inspiration (and she also makes a super-tasty quiche – mmmm).

The festival opens this Friday night… Come and see the exhibition…it’s super-inspiring to be surrounded by all these original and beautiful works, each created by people who love what they do and are looking forward to sharing it with us over the next six weeks. Yee ha!

Come see the exhibition, and you can also be part of our public program of workshops and the Great Kid’s Book Swap (bring in a book you’ve loved but can bear to part with, then swap it with another book and make a gold coin donation to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation….cool!)

THANK YOU to everyone involved in this year’s exhibitionto the authors, illustrators, the team at the Mundaring Arts Centre and to our sponsors: the Department of Culture and the Arts, the Shire of Mundaring, the WA branch of the Children’s Book Council of Australia, and the Mundaring Branch of the Bank of Bendigo. We love you!!!

Heartlines_launch_2015Come one! Come all!

Come for the OPENING of 

the 2015 heARTlines Festival of Children’s Literature and Book Illustration exhibition.

The exhibition opening will be held at the Mundaring Arts Centre from 7-8.30 pm on Friday 15 May and you can RSVP your attendance with the Mundaring Arts Centre.

More on the festival

heARTlines_montague_2015Held from 15 May till 28 June 2015, this year’s heARTlines festival, held at the Mundaring Arts Centre in the awesome town of Mundaring, will feature this FREE exhibition of awesome artwork from Western Australia’s most fabulous children’s illustrators, and feature workshops from WA’s best children’s authors and illustrators.

Details on our public program are below, and you can also check out our schools program (bookings required).

PUBLIC WORKSHOPS:

WATERCOLOUR PAINTING AND ILLUSTRATION WITH GABRIEL EVANS
Thursday 11 June, 10am – 3pm
16 years + Adults
At the Mundaring Arts Centre – Gallery 2
$110 non-members (including materials) or $99 MAC Members *
Maximum participants 12
Gabriel Evans has illustrated over fifteen books, working in traditional materials including watercolour, gouache and coloured inks to create his whimsical paintings. Join Gabriel for a fun-filled day of creative exploration to learn about watercolour techniques and apply them to create your own illustrative painting to take home.

MEET THE MAKERS
Sunday 21 June, 1 – 2.30pm
16 years + Adults
At the Mundaring Arts Centre – Gallery 2
$5 non-members or $4.50 MAC/ Katharine Susannah Prichard Writer’s Centre members
Afternoon tea provided
Maximum participants 35
Join the heARTlines curator Cristy Burne and some of the festival’s artists and authors, as they discuss and demonstrate their passion for literature. For this session, you will meet renowned illustrators, James Foley and Frané Lessac and authors, Mark Greenwood, Cristy Burne and Amanda (AJ) Betts as they share their knowledge, stories and inspirations.
The session will conclude with an illustrator duel… be prepared with some exciting adjectives and see what happens next! Then relax over a lovely warm, mulled wine and nibbles and a bit of informal mingling with the session’s presenters.

LANDSCAPE PAINTING WITH WENDY BINKS
Sunday 28 June, 10am – 4pm
16 years + Adults
At the Mundaring Arts Centre – Gallery 2
$110 non-members (including materials) or $99 MAC Members *
Maximum participants 12
Join well-known artist, illustrator and author Wendy Binks in a full-day workshop exploring acrylic painting techniques. In this session, Wendy will help you create an amazing piece of art you will be proud to hang on any wall, using simple rules, methods and shortcuts. You will leave with one practice piece and one completed large canvas. This workshop is for absolute, non-painting beginners…. be brave, you will be amazed!

#comm2inspireYesterday at Scitech nearly 100 science communicators gathered to network, share ideas and hear from some of Australia’s exciting and most influential scientists and communicators.

Highlights of the day included an opening address by the funny, inspiring and very switched-on Professor Peter Klinken, WA’s Chief Scientist.

5 quick quotes from Professor Klinken at #comm2inspire:Peter Klinken

  1. Scientists need to wave flags, ring bells and share their work: “You might’ve done the very best experiment in the world, you might‘ve just won the Nobel prize…but until you actually communicate with your peers and the outside world, no one knows what you’ve done.”
  2. Communicators need to know who they’re communicating with: “What is really important in communication, clearly, is understanding where the other person is coming from. If you’re speaking a foreign language [overly complicated science], they’re not going to understand it. It’s almost insulting.”
  3. People fund science (if their politicians let them): “At the end of the day, who’s paying for the research? …Taxpayers. Every person is contributing towards our ability to do science. We need to bring them along, so they’ll be our supporters.”
  4. People appreciate science (mostly): “The community values science, but if you don’t communicate with them, and bring them along in the journey, they think you’re a bunch of nerds. It is incumbent upon all of us to be able to talk to the community.”
  5. As Australians we take our fabulous lifestyle for granted (but how long will it last?): “We do not value science, innovation and creativity as much as we should…but we know everything about Eric Mackenzie’s ACL joint.” Paraphrasing Lord Alec Broers: “The pace of technology is relentless…Nations that do not keep up and invest in in this area will be consigned to a second world.”

And another super keynote by Australian of the Year burns surgeon Professor Fiona Wood, who rushed from her burns unit to give a flawless, wryly funny and thoroughly engaging presentation before rushing to her next appointment: her energy, passion and schedule are thoroughly awe-inspiring. I could watch her present all day.

Fiona Wood5 quick quotes from Professor Wood at #comm2inspire:

  1. Hospitals are a place where science and communication must go hand in hand: “I face people whose lives have changed in an instant. When you meet me professionally, you’re having a bad day…It is a privilege to be a medical practitioner. It’s a privilege to influence people’s lives. As a clinician I need to understand that I am a conduit [between science and people who benefit from science].”
  2. Today is not as good as it gets: “If today is as good as it gets, then I may as well go home. I believe tomorrow is going to be better. That is my fundamental belief, and my fundamental coping strategy.”
  3. Science communication is like an onion: Prof Wood likened communicating science to peeling an onion, suggesting we should explain layer by layer, depending on the level of interest, and stop before their eyes start streaming. “Why keep it to yourself? Why expect that people couldn’t understand it? The onus is on you.”
  4. Know your audience: We all have a passion that can be switched on to galvanise and engage: “Everyone has an interest. Sometimes you have to dig a bit to find it.”
  5. Our community depend on us: “Unless we communicate, we won’t get funding. Without funding, we won’t make progress.”

And so what did I personally learn? I’ve been in science communication for nearly 15 years, and these were the tips that resonated most with me as things I could do better every day:

A fab slide from on working with the media.

A funny slide on working with the media, from palaeontologist Dr Kate Trinajstic .

5 top science communication tips I picked up from #comm2inspire:

  1. Want someone to remember your message? Tell them a truthful and emotive story.
  2. Want to work with a scientist to bring the message of their research to a wider, non-science audience? Tell them that.
  3. Want people to click on your link? Be bold with your headline.
  4. Want to turn a roomful of awkward strangers into a group of joke-cracking, knowledge-sharing friends? Try 20 minutes of speed networking (even crazier in a noisy room).
  5. Want to know what to do next? Ask yourself the question: What does success look like?

I was thrilled to be part of yesterday’s conference. I really had a fab day, so thanks to the organisers for bringing the event to Perth (and especially for the photos I’ve used here), to Inspiring Australia and to everyone who was part of it. It’s great to be working with you!

How’s 2015 treating you?

I’m loving it! I’ve just finished reading The Luminaries, which is AMAZING and totally worth the months of dedicated reading it took me to finish. I’m also:TH 160

– writing a fast, funny chapter novel (at least my children think it’s funny),

– preparing for the 2015 heARTlines festival of children’s literature and book illustration,

– writing about rooftop wind turbines, gold leaching using glycine and nutrient spillover in farming, and

– working on some fab fun Scientriffic and Helix articles on diving for treasure, stunt doubles and the secret life of reindeer.

Busy? Yes.

Enjoying it? Double yes.

Need to go to bed early? You better believe it :-)

Digging in the dirt

Below is a short article that first appeared in this month’s Scientriffic… When I read Terry Gates’ comments, I think digging Rhinorex out of the rock is much like editing a novel out of a mess. What do you think?

“King noIMG_5089se” dinosaur discovered

Some dinosaurs had bony head crests, others had spiky armour. This newly discovered herbivore had an enormous nose.

Named Rhinorex condrupus, where rhino is the Latin word for “nose” and rex means “king”, the dinosaur’s fossilised bones were found in Utah, USA.

“It took two years to dig the fossil out of the sandstone it was embedded in,” says researcher Terry Gates. “It was like digging a dinosaur skull out of a concrete driveway.”

The bones had hardly moved in the 75 million years since the dinosaur died, a clue that leads Terry to suspect Rhinorex died quickly, perhaps in an attack by giant crocodiles that roamed the swampy estuary where it lived.

Terry estimates Rhinorex was around 9 metres long and weighed nearly 4000 kilograms, including its nose.

“The purpose of such a big nose is still a mystery…We are already sniffing out answers to these questions,” says Terry.

How’s your 2015 shaping up? Invented anything crazy yet?

I’m writing a manuscript with my five-year-old, which is quite an entertaining process. He has some off-the-wall ideas, which is just what I need for this book!

If you’re feeling creative, why not give yourself ten minutes to play on paper. Maybe try drawing something crazy-fun, like these awesome yokai artworks.

Thanks to Takeshita Demons fans for sharing their fab work! I love it! Spooky stuff!!

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