Cristy Burne

Author, editor, science writer

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Dogs of the Rich and Famous: Pepsi…and Sandi Parsons

Pepsi and Sandi Parsons.jpgToday we’re celebrating another clever canine in…Dogs of the Rich and Famous.

Today’s dog is Pepsi Parsons, Canine Story Advisor to West Australian author and proud book nerd, Sandi Parsons.

And in true Canine Story Advisor fashion, Pepsi has opted to tell her own story for us today…

Pepsi Parsons, Canine Story Advisor

When I first got this request from Cristy, I was so excited, I ran around chasing my tail for a bit. Then I read the fineprint: Cristy wanted my writer to do this interview.

But I’m rich (I have people to look after me!) and I’m waaaayyyy more famous than my writer, so I decided to take over. It’s what I do best.

pepsi-the-problem-puppy.pngBlue Heelers are working dogs, and I’m no exception. I’ve been a Canine Story Advisor for six and half years and I’m pretty good at it, even if I do say so myself.

I take research assignments very seriously. Once I ran away from home, and went on an adventure up and down the street. Then I found a bowl full of cat kibble and ate it all up. Yum! My writer yelled something fierce at me at the time, but she calmed down later and wrote all it about it in our book. It was a win for everybody.

While the research is fun and interesting, filing and editing are my least favourite jobs. Sometimes it looks like I am sleeping during the editing process, but I promise I’m busy being an excellent paperweight. The office chair spins which sort of makes up for the boring bits.

The worst thing about being a Canine Story Advisor is the puparazzi. Always with the photos!

About Pepsi

Age: 6.5

Breed (or best guess): A disgracefully behaved but sweet-natured blue heeler.

Assistant to: Sandi Parsons, author and proud book nerd.

Help or hindrance? Pepsi takes her role of Canine Story Advisor seriously, putting much thought and practice into the antics and shenanigans of her fictional counterpart.

She claims all shenanigans are purely for research purposes only, and that any Houdini-like escape attempts are not trouble, but plot points.

She’s currently giving some thought to setting the record straight and publishing her memoirs, tentatively titled Pepsi the Perfect Puppy.

Fave place: Lazing in the sun

Fave game job: Chief of Border Security for her household.

You can find Pepsi on the web and on Instagram. She has been officially acknowledged as a Canine Story Advisor on the title page of Pepsi the Problem Puppy.

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SCBWI West rocks 10 years at Rottnest

Tenth anniversary SCBWI retreat.JPG

Merch by illustrator Aska, modeling by author-illustrator Jake Bamford

Every year for the last ten years, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators has descended upon Rottnest Island for four days of writing and illustrating, inventing and pitching, laughing and heckling (quite a lot of heckling, actually :-)).

This year was our Tenth Anniversary. We had more than 60 of us on the island, including our dynamite duo of publishers, Suzanne O’Sullivan from Hachette and Susannah Chambers from Allen & Unwin. So. Much. Fun.

It was quite simply AMAZING. Thank you to everyone who came along, for your generosity and humour and for putting up with the smell in the Peacock Inn. You all rock.

Some happy snaps below, shared from the SCBWI West Rotto 2018 Instagram account. Want more? You can follow SCBWI West all year round for the hottest illustration and writing talent 🙂 Yes, that’s us, SCBWIlies 🙂




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Dogs of the Rich and Famous: Banner…and Kelly Canby

Today’s misnamed pooch is Banner, assistant to Australian author-illustrator Kelly Canby.

“My dog is called Banner because my, at the time four year old son, was allowed to name him and decided to name him after a character from the TV show Slugterra,” Kelly says. “That was fine, until a few years later I googled the character and found out the character’s name isn’t Banner, it’s Danna! Our dog was supposed to be called Danna!”

dog birthday cake.JPGAbout Danna Banner

Age:  5 years. (Check out lucky Banner’s birthday cake!)

Breed (or best guess): Boxer

Assistant to: Author-illustrator Kelly Canby.

Kelly was born in London, England, at a very young age. She now lives in Perth, Western Australia, and is quite a bit older. Kelly spends her days in the studio drawing and painting and when she isn’t in the studio drawing and painting she’s probably in another room drawing and painting. Kelly draws and paints a lot. Also, she is surprisingly good at parallel parking.The Hole Story.jpg

A full list of book titles and news can be found at

Lots and lots of drawings and current work can be found on Instagram.

Help or hindrance?

“I’d like to say Banner is a great writing and illustrating companion but all he does is sleep on the couch during the day so, no help there really,” says Kelly.

Fave toy: “When he’s not sleeping on the couch all day, Banner’s favourite toys are whichever one of my shoes I’m chasing him around the garden trying get back off him,” says Kelly. “And my son, they’re the very, very best of friends.”

Fave game: Chasie

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Young creators making books at Amherst Library

For the last few weeks I’ve been lucky enough to be working with some terrific young writers, illustrators and book-makers at the Amherst Village Library. We’ve been meeting after school once a week, with the goal of making our own books.

I’m so proud of everyone! We’ve gone from being a bunch of nervous strangers figuring out where to get story ideas….to busy beavers chatting away while we turn our story drafts into the real thing.

Over the weeks we’ve looked at how to find ideas, techniques for plotting stories, different ways to create mini-books, ways to edit your own work, and more… It’s been FLAT OUT!

Lots of this great work happened at home, after our workshops had finished. Each week you would arrive with your project even further advanced than when we left it. You are the best!! Well done! 

Congratulations to everyone in the group for your dedication and hard work (and to your parents too, for bringing you each week!). Thanks also to the terrific team at Amherst Library, especially Ashley and and Amanda. THANK YOU!!

I’m so impressed with everything our group has achieved! 



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Sour stuff leads to riskier behaviour

A news story for all of you who have ever dared to suck on a warhead super-sour candy… (And for those who cringe when you see your kids flock to a burst pinata full of sour lolly treats.)

Sour gummies, sour worms, sour patch thingies, sour squirms, sour rainbows, sour bears…

You name it, there’s a super-sour hyper-acidic version of your least favourite (or your kid’s favourite) lolly.

We’ve known for years that these acidic ‘treats’ are a menace for teeth enamel (acid + carbonate, anyone?), and now researchers have confirmed what dare-devil kids have known for years:

sour risktaking.jpgSour stuff increases risk-taking behaviour.

Researchers gave participants a drink of something sour, sweet, umami, salty or bitter. Straight after, they asked people to play a gambling game that involved pumping up a balloon. And there was a catch.

Money or the BANG!

The bigger the balloon, the higher the returns for the participant.

But should the balloon pop, you earned zilch.

When it came to gambling further and risking more, sour was king-kong of flavours.

Those with a sour taste in their mouth pumped the balloon up to 40 times, compared to just 20 or 30 times for other flavours.

So what does this mean in the playground?

It’s hard to say. The participants in the study were in their 20s, on average, so the results may not mean anything when it comes to kids.

But anyone who’s ever dared to suck on a super-sour warhead knows the thrill that comes with facing the pain and exploding your brain.

I’d guess that kind of adrenalin could well lead to other kinds of adrenalin-inducing behaviours…

Sweet advice for risk-takers…

If you’re about to head out lead climbing or race car driving or to a P&C meeting where they’re calling for a new president, maybe skip the margaritas. Stick to something sweet instead 🙂



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Young (and old) writers: City of Rockingham Short Fiction Awards

In 2013 I entered the City of Rockingham Short Fiction Awards…and I won a Commended prize for my short story! Back then, I was caring for two young children and teaching writing at TAFE, and I was seriously strugglng to find time to actually write.

Entering the awards gave me something to aim for. And having my writing acknowledged was such a boost. I walked around with helium in my beach ball for days.

Capture that Aussie beach feeling


“Two Children at Beach” by Delon Govender (2003)

If you’re anything like me, the sight of kids playing at the beach warms the cockles of your heart.

And if you live in WA, you’ll probably feel like you know the exact spot where these two kids are playing ball.

The painting might spark a memory, or a feeling, or the beginning of a story…

It’s a gorgeous painting, and it’s part of a fantastic opportunity for writers, young and old:

2018 City of Rockingham Short Fiction Awards

Whether you write for children or write for adults, so long as you’re aged at least 10, the City of Rockingham 2018 Short Fiction Awards are for you.

This year’s entries…

This year’s entries must somehow involve Delon Govender’s fabulous painting. Your story needs to be original, unpublished, not have received an award in another competition, and not be under consideration elsewhere. You can submit up to three stories and there’s $5000+ in prize money. Even better, entry is free.

There are three main categories – Open, Over 50s and Young Writers (10-17). Entries close Friday 13 July.

Motivate your young writers with cash!

While some of us write for passion or glory, I always say there’s nothing like the promise of a prize to motivate a young writer, and the City of Rockingham awards certainly deliver. (Do make it clear to your young writer that there’s no guarentee that they’ll win…but you do have to be in it to win it…)

Prizes in Young Writers (10 to 17) division:

1st prize: $700
2nd prize: $400
3rd prize: $200

Prizes in the Open division:

1st prize: $1000
2nd prize: $500
3rd prize: $300
Two commendations of $100

Prizes in the Over 50s division:

1st prize: $1000
2nd prize: $500
3rd prize: $500
Two commendations of $100

So what are you waiting for? Sharpen that pencil!

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Dogs of the Rich and Famous: Chloe…and Teena Raffa-Mulligan

Teena and Chloe.jpgWelcome back to my new favourite feature: Dogs of the Rich and Famous!!

Today’s sweet helper is Chloe, assistant to Australian author Teena Raffa-Mulligan.

“Chloe joined our family from a kennel in Victoria about 18 months ago and was so stressed by the flight she bolted the minute we opened the cage at the busy airport carpark,” says Teena.

“There could have been tragic consequences but fortunately she took refuge under one of the parked cars and after about an hour we managed to coax her out and take her home.

“It took time and patience to earn her trust and it was months before she considered every room in the house safe to enter.”

About Chloe

Age: 7 years

Breed (or best guess): Labrador (with anxiety issues and an obsession with toast)

Friends-cover-2-300x287Assistant to: Author Teena Raffa-Mulligan. Teena looks like a responsible adult —it’s a disguise. The real Teena is a kid with a sense of adventure who comes out to play when she’s writing her stories and explores the wonderland of imagination.

Teena’s publications include poems, short stories, picture books, chapter books and MG novels. She has also worked as a journalist and editor. Teena loves sharing her passion for books and writing with people of all ages and encouraging them to write their own stories.


Help or hindrance?  Hard to say….

“Recently she’s begun popping into my office occasionally to sit beside my chair while I work,” says Teena. “When she thinks her dinner is overdue, she now comes in and ‘tells’ me, pats me on the leg and nudges me until I get the message and abandon my writing.

“Someday I will have to give Choe her own story.”

Fave toy: “She has no idea what to do with a ball or stick, but will race around the backyard with the man in my life,” says Teena. “Never with me.”

Fave time: Breakfast. “We both have to be in the kitchen or she will go and hassle the latecomer out of bed,” says Teena. “If we are too slow delivering her toast treat, she ‘talks’ to us and dances about until we pop the bread in the toaster.

Find more of Chloe (and Teena): On Teena’s blogFacebook, Twitter, or sign up for Teena’s newsletter for all the latest and greatest author news.