Cristy Burne

Author, editor, science writer

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The power of try and fail: Inventing Artoo

Jon Carroll - Favourite

Jon with the BB-8 droid his team invented

Sometimes in life (and in writing) I can get hung up on trying to be perfect. On wanting something to be fabulous. On needing to be the best I can be, every time.

But what if I approached the whole process of creation differently?

In my new book, Zeroes and Ones: The geeks, heroes and hackers who changed history, I look at the people behind the tech innovations we take for granted today. And I discover that…surprise, surprise…success doesn’t always come easy. Inventions, solutions and stories don’t always arrive fully formed and perfect.

Many successful, creative people give themselves permission to fail. Why not give it a try?

Building Star Wars droids

For a Crinkling News story, I interviewed toy designer Jon Carroll, the creator of Star Wars droid toys such as BB-9E and R2D2, about how he approaches the job of creation.

Jon works as Director of Prototyping at Sphero, the company that created the new toy Star Wars droids, BB-9E and R2D2. His team also helped invent the toy BB-8, and Sphero, the roly-poly robot being used to teach coding in 2500 Australian schools.

“Prototyping is trying to build something that someone can play with and use and touch and feel as quickly as possible,” says Jon, who studied computer science.

“Our job is to fail or succeed as quickly as possible.”

Sometimes, when his team members discover that a toy or feature they’ve invented isn’t fun to play with, they can feel discouraged. But Jon says failure is part of the inventing journey.

“If we take a long time to fail, that’s a failure for us as a team. If we’ve failed fast, we’ve done our job.”

How does this translate to writing (and to life)?


Jon with some mad cats

Don’t be afraid of failure. Don’t be afraid to give something a go, but do it as quickly as you can. There’s no point spending ten years on a project only to discover it’s a dud.

Far better to work swiftly, get some feedback, take that feedback on board (a crucial, yet oft-forgotten step), then rework your project. Swiftly.

Try and fail. Write and rewrite. Take what makes your project sing and discard what’s holding it back.

Failure is part of the journey.

But it’s only one part.


PS: Want to be a toy inventor?

Jon regularly goes toy shopping, so he can understand what makes a toy fun to play with. “We play with a lot of toys at the office,” he says. “Right now, we have a huge Hot Wheels track set up.”

Although he spends his days inventing high-tech toys, Jon still enjoys playing games with his friends.

“There’ll always be a place for board games. Half of the fun of a board game or dominoes or cards is that face-to-face interaction that you get with someone.”

Parts of this post first appeared in my article in Crinkling News.


(Gorgeous) cover reveal: Zeroes and Ones

Have you ever seen anything more lovely? I adore this cover!

Zeroes and Ones

I love that it features a robot, because automation and robotics is where so much of technology is heading.

I love that the robot is an amalgam of many smaller contributions, because that’s exactly how information technology developed, through the efforts and input of so many different people over so many years.

I love that the robot is a clunky hodge-podge. It’s not slick or polished or perfect, nor does it need to be. It’s an experiment, a work-in-progress. It’s a message to kids (and adults) that it’s okay to be clunky. It’s okay to be imperfect. The history-changing geeks and heroes and hackers featured in this book weren’t perfect either. They made mistakes (sometimes huge or expensive or embarrassing mistakes too!), but they kept trying, kept pursuing their passion. Kept making things better and better, bit by bit.

And I love that the robot is friendly. Because this book is friendly. It’s funny. It’s quirky. Plus who can resist a book that literally reaches off the shelf to greet you, and with such a winning smile too 🙂

So hooray for ZEROES AND ONES. And hooray for the geeks, heroes and hackers who changed history. I hope I do your story justice 🙂


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Drum roll…it’s a title reveal!

One year ago, I was tearing out my hair, wondering if I’d ever be able to finish my WIP. The deadline was months away, but the project was a big one. I set up a trusty spreadsheet to project-manage my way to success, and set to it.

I’m super-excited about this book.

Read my post on the timeline of this book deal

It’s a funny high-speed biography of the people who made modern computing possible.

And it’s written for kids.

To inspire them, to excite them, to help them realise the magicians of modern technology are actually ordinary people…and that anything is possible.


What should I title the book???

It was a huge project, and if I ever looked too far ahead, I turned pale and had to drink coffee.

Instead, I did what I could each day. And I crossed off each milestone as it was reached.

But one milestone resisted all efforts. The title.


And as you book-lovers know, it’s essential to get just the right title for the book.

Here is a list of some of my brainstormed ideas:

  • #computing
  • Why I like pizza and other stories
  • Cow-catchers, party tricks and Flyology
  • How many programmers does it take to change a lightbulb?
  • There are 10 types of people (those who understand this title, and those who don’t)
  • Version 1.0
  • Have you tried turning it off and on again?
  • Control-Alt-Delete

Clearly none of these quite do it. 🙂

I needed help. I asked friends, I asked family, I asked my editor and she asked her Guru Of Names For Books, and even then, we drew a blank. For an entire YEAR!


And then…

From the offices of XOUM (now Brio Books) came…a bolt of lightning!


Title reveal.jpgI love this title so much!! What do you think?

ZEROES AND ONES: The geeks, heroes and hackers who changed history is due out August this year.

Squeee! I can’t wait!



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What is Cristy like live?

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“I had different teachers returning children’s feedback sheets from your sessions (THE NEXT DAY!!!!) and letting me know kids in the playground had come up to them and said how good you were. One of the staff let me know her friend (a very experienced Teacher at Holy Spirit) had said our CBW programme was the best she’d been to…we will definitely be asking you back in the future.” Cambridge Library

“The feedback received from school about your visit is amazing. You have an amazing and a very positive personality and I enjoyed every bit of my time when I was with you.” Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival, UAE

“The kids were absolutely captivated by her, she had them fully engaged and engrossed in subjects many children would be too shy to talk about, she was definitely the talk of the library!” Amherst Village Library

“The students and teachers thoroughly enjoyed your session.  The feedback from the teacher was that she loved you “comedic approach to career choices and you kept the students interested”. Rockingham Campus Community Library

“The children were responsive, relaxed and engrossed.” Bentley Library

“Cristy had our students engaged right from the very beginning of her presentation.” Excelsior Primary School

“I would highly recommend Cristy for workshops with children. Her professionalism made my job extremely easy.” Wanneroo Library



“Cristy has the ability to provide a relaxed, non-competitive  atmosphere, where no matter how much experience you have, you are confident to share your thoughts and work.” Paula

“Thank you Cristy for the course in creative writing that I attended. The benefits I gained were far beyond my expectations. I truly appreciate your input and advice.” Steve

“Cristy’s classes were both fun with new writing prompts and activities each week, as well as inspiring for new writers like myself to explore different styles. I’d highly recommend Cristy to anyone!” Melissa

“Cristy knows her stuff and imparts her wisdom in the most fun and welcoming way.” Michelle

“Cristy’s energy and passion shines through each fun and engaging activity.” Brad

“Cristy facilitates with head, heart and hand and is inspiring and motivational in her approach. One thousand thanks.” Charlotte

“The Writing for Children course with Cristy Burne was an excellent way of learning the craft of writing as well as getting invaluable feedback on my manuscript.  I can highly recommend it.” Jenny

“Cristy is a great facilitator, not only did her classes inspire creativity within the course, her ability to see each person as individuals has helped immensely afterwards. Since completing the short course earlier this year, I’ve been able to finish my first novel and have had three articles published in my local community newspaper. Her lessons are fun, interactive and make you want to go home and write!” Nicole

“The class was informal, informative and structured. The tutor engaged well with the class and participation in the class exercises set proved helpful in seeing where possible errors in writing could be made. This short course sparked my interest in taking the full evening course. I would recommend to anyone considering writing.” dee

“Cristy is a joy to learn from. I would love to enrol in another class of hers.” Polytechnic West

“This course was a very positive learning experience and I have recommended it to friends.” Polytechnic West

“I learnt heaps and valued every minute of my course.” Polytechnic West

“Loved it! Surpassed my expectations.” Polytechnic West

“I was a student of Cristy’s creative writing course in February of 2014. I am not a fiction writer and was one of few in the class who did not have a piece I was working on so could easily have felt out of my league. This was not the case. Cristy’s enthusiastic, relaxed and encouraging style put me at ease immediately her engaging and fun classes took us through all styles of writing from fiction and biography to screen writing and poetry in such an interesting and unique way that you couldn’t help but be inspired. She even managed to create such a comfortable environment that people were happy and even willing to share their works with the class. .. Now that the course is over, Cristy continues to be a source of encouragement and is still approachable to offer help and advice when I need it. I believe that the skills and tips I have learnt from Cristy have helped me become a better writer and her infectious enthusiasm has help me expand and improve my blog. Thanks Cristy!” Nina-Marie

“In term one I enrolled in Cristy’s creative writing evening class. I am a novice writer with a day job who was looking for inspiration and direction. I found both in Cristy’s class. She provided a safe environment with a small group of like minded souls. We were encouraged to write often and get out of our comfort zones. Cristy combined structured writing tasks with
time for analysing each others’ work. It was a positive and productive experience.” Vivienne

“I attended Cristy’s course earlier this year with only an idea in the back of my head but no clue about how to go about it. Cristy has provided excellent tips and techniques to help me get started. It certainly was an eye-opener. Thank you so much Cristy!” Leona

“I found the Writing for Children course with Cristy Burne immensely helpful to my development as an author – not only did it provide valuable tips and techniques on the craft of writing, but also very importantly, it helped me gain confidence in my ability as a children’s writer. I loved the workshop element of the course and found that learning to give critiques was as useful as receiving it. I also enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere and the feeling of developing a friendship with fellow writers. Since the completion of the course, I’ve gone on to publish a children’s mystery series which has sold several thousand copies worldwide and won various book awards in the U.S. and U.K. – something I probably could not have done without the first step via Cristy’s course.” H. Y. Hanna


Make Your Own Storybook Competition

Crack open your ideas box and pull out some pencils: it’s that time of year again!

Every year the Children’s Book Council of Australia (WA) holds the Make Your Own Storybook Competition. The competition is open to all WA students from Pre Primary to Year 8. Private and school-based entries are accepted.

Entry is free and all entries are due Friday 8 June. Stick it in your diaries 🙂

For more information, check out the entry form, important dates and hot hints here.

Make Your Own Storybook Competition 2018.png

And…A Night With Our Stars

Another favourite annual CBCA (WA) event: A Night With Our Stars is a fast and furious evening of super-short presentations from WA’s children’s book illustrators and authors published in 2017.

And for the FIRST TIME SINCE 2011….I’m presenting!!! So there you go, people. Never give in.

Whee! I’m so excited. You can get tickets and more information here.



Write Your Childhood with the Town of Victoria Park Arts Season

Want to share a story from your childhood with today’s children? It could be a tale of growing up in another country, an experience of overcoming adversity, or a story from Australia’s history…

I’m very excited to announce a terrific opportunity…

Cristy Burne and Frane Lessac.jpg…Along with incredible children’s book creator, Frané Lessac, I’ll be running a free series of Write Your Childhood workshops as part of the 2018 Town of Victoria Park Arts Season.

The workshops are designed for adults with a story to tell about their childhood: retirees, recent arrivals, total beginners, those who grew up in another country, or who experienced another way of life. We want to help you share your story.

  • The workshops are free, but places are extremely limited.
  • The workshops will be held once a week for a month, to give participants time to work on their projects at home.
  • Free childcare is provided on-site, with a gorgeous leafy playground for your little ones to enjoy while you get creative in the adjacent room.
  • We’ll be working on the text and illustrations for a picture book.
  • You need to register to secure your place.

Note: It’s best to attend all four workshops.

WRITE YOUR CHILDHOOD: About the workshops

Join a group of beginner writers and learn how to write and illustrate a children’s book that tells a story from your childhood. Facilitated by children’s author Cristy Burne and author-illustrator Frané Lessac, this series of workshops aims to:

  • help residents from all walks of life to make connections in their community
  • give these residents a voice to share stories from their childhood in a format children can enjoy.


Venue: All workshops are held at the Victoria Park Community Centre.
246 Gloucestor St
East Victoria Park
(This is the home of the HoneyPot Play Group, between LeisureLife and John McMillan Park).

Week 1: Wednesday 21 March, 1pm – 2.30pm
Connecting with your childhood—getting ideas and meeting each other.

Facilitator: Cristy Burne

Week 2: Wednesday 28 March, 1pm – 2.30pm
Nuts and bolts of writing for children—techniques and tips for telling your story using pictures and words.

Facilitator: Frané Lessac

Week 3: Wednesday 4 April, 1pm – 2.30pm
Crash course in illustration—hands-on illustration workshop with a focus on children’s picture books.
Facilitator: Frané Lessac

Week 4:Wednesday 11 April, 1pm – 2.30pmBringing it all together—sharing the final product and tips on where-to-from-here.
Facilitator: Cristy Burne)


Post course exhibition: Selected works from the workshop (such as beautifully presented phrases, paragraphs, sketches or illustrations) will be exhibited in the foyer of the Town of Victoria Park Library.



artsseasonlogo.pngProudly supported by the Town of Victoria Park and the Victoria Park Community Centre Inc.

Read about the program in the Southern Gazette.

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Curated by Kids: Perth Writers Festival

In 2017 I was lucky enough to interview some of the 2017 Kid Curators for the Perth Writers Festival. One year later, it could be me in the author hot seat, being interviewed by the kids as part of Perth Writers Week! (How exciting!)(/me trembles in boots)

Find out more about the Curated By Kids program here.

My interview with the curators first appeared in Crinkling News.


The hottest stars of the children’s book world will be at the mercy of ten kids this Perth Writer’s Festival.

The kid curators are a specially selected team of book lovers. They’re in charge of designing and hosting interactive sessions across the biggest day of the PWF program: Family Day.

“I was extremely happy to get in,” says Madelaine Mayo, 10. “I screamed! But I’m also a bit scared, excited, terrified. Everyone will be coming to see what we do.”

Jarvis Hicks, 11, says he was “a mess” when he found out. “I was so happy.”

By kids, for kids

The team are now working hard to brainstorm ideas and invent workshops.

“Everyone’s really nice,” says Zoe Wallin, 10. “We all read books, we all think alike. When you read, you have that imaginative thinking, so you’re a bit more creative, a bit more out-there.”

Madelaine agrees. “I love being surrounded by other people who love books.”

Each of the ten curators brings their own talents to the table.

For example, Jarvis is an illustrator and actor with experience in multiple musicals, Zoe is a keen author of horror and action-adventure and a member of her inter-school public speaking team, and Madelaine is an accomplished writer, winning last year’s Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Make Your Own Story Book competition.

Backstage passes

On the day, the team will be working even harder: interviewing authors and illustrators on stage, publishing book reviews on the festival blog, managing all the details behind the scenes, and then relaxing backstage in the festival Green Room to munch on cake and hobnob with the stars.

The curators were formally introduced from their front-row seats at the launch of the Perth International Arts Festival last week.

“Helping a massive festival that everyone in WA knows about… I’m quite nervous, and really excited at the same,” says Zoe.

As well as planning and hosting Family Day, the lucky ten receive training and mentoring for their roles, and book prize packs for their school and personal library.

Meet the 2017 Kid Curators

Jarvis Hicks, Host, Interviewer

  • Recently read book: How to Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell
  • I most want to meet: Donovan Bixley, author/illustrator of Much Ado About Shakespeare and Lance Balchin, author/illustrator of Mechanica

Madelaine Mayo, Producer, Reviewer

  • Recently read book: Nancy Drew and the Bungalow Mystery by Carolyn Keene
  • I most want to meet: James Foley, author/illustrator of Brobot

Zoe Wallin, Host, Interviewer

  • Recently read book: Ratburger by David Walliams
  • I most want to meet: Oliver Phommavanh, author of The Other Christy

What does the 2018 Curated By Kids program hold? You’ll just have to come along to Perth Writers Week and find out…