Cristy Burne

Author, editor, science writer

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OFF THE TRACK to be serialised in Term 4

Hooray! I’m super-excited to announce that Off The Track will be serialised in The West Australian’s ED! magazine in 2019.

Below is an interview I did to celebrate the news.

Now all I need to do is get out my editing blade and cut the book down to 10 excerpts of 1000 words each. Should be easy, right? (Right?) (Huh?)

west australian interview off the track


Why do you use local; nature spots as the settings for your stories?

I love to tell stories our children can identify with. It’s super-exciting to be able to picture exactly where a story is happening. And in this case, it’s not New York, it’s not London, it’s Western Australia, because cool stuff can happen here too.

I love to write adventures that happen outside, in the fresh air and the trees, because I want to encourage children and families to get outside and reconnect with nature.

Do you think more kids should be bugging their parents to take them exploring in the wilderness?

If your kid is bugging you for more time exploring in the wilderness, then you have it easy. Just say “Okay honey” and make it happen.

Where is your favourite place to explore the wilderness in WA?

I love the Bibbulmun Track, so it’s no surprise that this is the setting for Off The Track. The Bibb is so long, you can experience all kinds of wilderness across many different parts of WA. Wherever I’m hiking, I always have a feeling of being out in the world, of the enormity of nature. It helps me to put everyday problems and struggles into perspective.

What’s the best part about being an author?

I love that my job is always changing and I can dive deep into different stories and different ideas. I also love the extremes of my job. I can spend the morning alone in a silent room, and the afternoon at a school speaking to 500 kids. Whatever I’m doing, my goal is always to inspire kids to become keen readers and engaged citizens.

Do you have a favourite place in Perth?

I have loads of favourite places in Perth… The beach. King’s Park. Home. Fremantle. North Perth. Our living room on a sunny winter’s afternoon, when the sun streams in and the kids are playing together nicely (yes, this does happen).

Where do you write?

I do most of my writing at home. We have an open plan office-cum-library-cum-computer room. It’s also the dog’s room. She has her own couch and she can type on my keyboard if she jumps up in just the right spot. That’s how I know it’s time for a walk.

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Holidays, penis bones and our board game binge

Don’t you just love January? 

For me it’s the month that just slides right on by. There’s no school. No uni. No deadlines. Just summer heat and icy drinks and my pile of to-be-read books. It’s the month of the year where I do the least, and I’m so grateful and lucky to have it.

penis bone promo

That said, I have still been tapping away at the keyboard. I’ve cooked up a few articles, including this fun story on penis bones (or lack thereof).

I’ve also recorded a podcast on how much can be achieved when science and creativity go hand in hand.

And I’ve painfully slogged my way kicking and screaming and scraping and wailing slowly forward in my long-suffering work-in-progress manuscript. Argh.

A more sensible me would just leave this manuscript half-finished and get on with something else.

But I just can’t. I already tried.

The story just keeps bugging me and wanting to be finished. I think I care so much about the characters I can’t bear to leave them in limbo. Also, it’s a story I want people to read.

Except I don’t really know how the story ends. So that’s tricky, now, isn’t it. Grrr.

But, if ever there was a month where I have the luxury of kicking and screaming and scraping forward (instead of steamrolling forward in my usual deadline-driven approach), that month would be January.

All hail, January…
…for some (pitiful) manuscript progress (but nonetheless progress) has been made.


When I haven’t been writing I’ve been loving the chance to try farmsitting, plus some ruthless spring cleaning (my secret passion) and board gaming!

We’ve spent entire days building railways in Ticket to Ride.
Or saving the world in Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu
Or escaping Abandoned Cabins and Mummy’s Tombs in various incarnations of Exit.
Or raiding treasure in Luxor.
Or stomping wasps in Dragonwood.
Or trying not to get electrocuted in Forbidden Sky.

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Now that I read that list, I have an inkling where January went. Board games!

It seems we have developed quite an appetite.

Don’t you just love school holidays 🙂


My favourite 4am start: one year of Ellie the giraffe

Time is flying and I can’t believe school is already finished for 2018!

I’m still recovering from being on NSW-time for Russ the Bus, and all this getting up early each day reminded me of my favourite super-early start: it was in 2017, and it was 4am.

Giraffe Correspondent

I was Crinkling News‘ Giraffe Correspondent, in charge of waking up super-early to catch the arrival of Ellie the giraffe to Perth Zoo. It was the chance of a lifetime, so I gave the kids the choice to come too. They opted to join me, voluntarily waking up at 4am to be part of the excitement. Go kids!

Ellie was late to arrive, which meant we were a little late for school, but it was all worth it! Here’s the story I wrote for Crinkling: I hope you think of Ellie next time you’re planning a road trip 😉

EllieNullaborSignCrate.jpgTall order

By Cristy Burne

At 3.2 metres tall, Ellie’s short for a giraffe, but there’s no way she’d fit into an aeroplane.

That’s why she travelled by road from Australia Zoo in Queensland, to Perth Zoo in Western Australia, crossing four states and clocking up 4510 kilometres.

“It’s the longest-ever road trip for a giraffe in the world,” says Andrew Stubbs, operations supervisor for transport company Toll Group. “We left Brisbane Monday [September 18 2017] lunchtime and arrived in Perth Thursday [September 21 2017] morning.”

Every kilometre of Ellie’s trip was carefully planned over many months. The team arranged for power lines to be lifted, traffic to be held back, and even for the lights to stay green.

“The idea was to get her here as quickly as possible, and as safely as possible,” says Perth Zoo’s Danielle Henry.

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Incredibly, Ellie spent the entire journey standing in her crate.

“Giraffes don’t really sleep for long…they just have nanna naps,” Ms Henry says. “And they don’t generally lie down, because then they’re susceptible to lion attacks.”

Ellie didn’t even break for a toilet stop—keepers just cleaned her crate on the go.

“Australia Zoo spent around four months getting her used to the crate, and making that a really positive space for her,” says Ms Henry. “They fed her in it, they got her used to walking in and out of it.”

80,000 giraffes in the wild

Ellie’s just 16 months old [at time of arrival], but she’s already an important part of the Australasian Giraffe Breeding Program. Zoo staff hope she’ll eventually breed with Perth Zoo’s bull giraffe, Armani.

“All the zoos work together to try and save this species,” says Ms Henry. “There’s probably only about 80,000 of them left in the wild.”


This story originally appeared in Crinkling News. 

Thanks to Perth Zoo for the images.

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Bigger outdoors, teenage pencil sharpener, and butts of the joke: Scribbler’s Festival Schools Program is go

The lineup for next year’s Scribbler’s Festival schools program has been announced, so in this, the last week of school for 2018, it’s time to start planning for 2019! Yeee ha!Program.JPG

The festival is hosting so many incredible creators, thinkers and presenters on that list, including WA creators Meg McKinlay, A J Betts, Kylie Howarth and Kamsani Bin Salleh, plus interstate guests and international guests Philip Ardagh, Alison Lester, Jacqueline Harvey, Eddie Woo, Megan McDonald, Kate and Jol Temple, Matt Stanton, Renée Watson, Jeremy Lachlan, Zoë Norton Lodge  and Georgia Norton Lodge, Sha’an d’Anthes, Celine Kiernan, Dr Karl Kruszelnicki….and ME!

You can download the full program or get more info here.

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The family program will be released in February with events held over Saturday 11 and Sunday 12 May.

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“This is the best day ever!” Reporting from Russ the Bus

I’m back from my tour! And I had an absolute ball.

I was lucky enough to spend a week touring Newcastle, Gosford and Maitland on board Russ the Story Bus as part of outreach by Sydney Writer’s Festival.

I had the distinct and unusual pleasure of travelling with:

  • Intrepid Wrangler and Chief Organiser Vanessa Hutchins, and
  • Wizard of All Things Bussery and High Five Guru Isaac Gallagher.

Together we’d roll into a school, unpack the bus, and introduce classroom after classroom of kids to their challenge: Step on board Russ the Bus, select a book from its laden bookshelves, and take the book home–to keep!

“This is the best day ever!!!!”

You should’ve seen their faces and witnessed the jumping up and down when we announced that. Every time, the earth moved. What a privilege to be the Bringer of Such Good News!

I also did mini meet-the-author shows at each school, sometimes to hundreds of students all at once, sometimes class by class. Each time it was a whole bus-load of fun 🙂

THANKS SO MUCH to Sydney Writer’s Festival, and especially Amelia Lush. Thanks to all the schools and teachers who hosted us so generously. And huge thanks to Vanessa, Isaac and of course to Russ for such a super week. I LOVED IT!


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Dogs of the Rich and Famous: Maverick and Ralph…and Kellie Byrnes

I’m out and about with Russ the Bus, which is uber-exciting! I’m missing my own pooch, so it’s a perfect time to cue a huge round of barking to welcome back…

Dogs of the Rich and Famous!!!!

Today’s hounds are Maverick (the sook) and Ralph (AKA Destructo), assistants to Australian picture book author Kellie Byrnes.

Me and the boys.jpgAbout Maverick and Ralph

Age:  Maverick just turned 11 years and Ralph is almost 9.

Breed (or best guess): Maverick is a Border Collie x Heeler (with a mixture of other things thrown in, particularly Huntaway, Kellie thinks).

Ralph is a Kelpie x Blue Heeler (with perhaps some Belgian Shepherd in the mix, Kellie thinks, based on his big thick lion’s mane!).

Assistant to: Author Kellie Byrnes.

cloud+conductor+small.jpgKellie Byrnes is a children’s author, freelance writer, blogger, book reviewer and presenter. Her debut picture book, Cloud Conductor, was released in May 2018, and her next picture book, Yes! No. will be published in late 2019. Kellie also writes early readers and junior fiction novels, and is slowly working her way up to longer works!

Check her out on Twitter, Facebook or Linkedin.

Help or hindrance?

“The dogs both help and hinder me in my writing,” says Kellie.

“As for helping, I come up with most of my story ideas and plot devices when I’m out walking them (many include dogs, of course!). If I’m having a problem with a manuscript, I take the boys for a walk and have usually sorted it out by the time I get back.

“I find that having a break from work, and hanging out and playing with them, clears my head and improves my mood, too. They’re always happy and loving, and it’s impossible to be cranky or stressed when they’re around, being playful and cheeky!

“Something that’s both a help and a hindrance is when I’m working on my computer at night and they’re inside, and think I should finish. If I haven’t stopped to give them attention after a while, they take it in turns coming into the office and bumping my elbow so that I can’t type, or pushing their heads into my lap and staring at me.

“Ralph also likes to give me a bit of a soft nip on the arm if I still don’t get the hint, or he ‘talks’ to me, making short little sighing, yipping sounds which get increasingly louder over time! Maverick also does a lot of sighing, sitting right at my feet, if I don’t get up!

“All of this distraction is a help though, too, because the dogs remind me to stretch and have a break and hang out with them more.”

Fave toys and games: Maverick’s favourite toy is a ball: “Any ball,” says Kellie, “as long as someone is throwing it to him. This is his favourite game, along with being chased, and wrestling!

“And since he’s a complete sook, he will take being patted and cuddled for hours on end. He thinks he is a lap dog, even though he’s 30 kgs. He still seems like a puppy in many ways!

Ralph’s favourite game used to be chasing after balls too, but he has bad knees now, so he’s not allowed. “He adores being given toys to tear apart though,” says Kellie. “His nickname is Destructo. Thankfully he is well behaved and doesn’t try to tear apart other things in the house (god help him if he touched my books!).

“Having said that though, when I bring home stuffed toys or puppets to use at school visits, and he sees them, he does everything he can to let me know he wants them!”