Cristy Burne

Science writer, children's author, editor

Leave a comment

The (revolting) science of figgy pudding

Santa's work no exact science.jpgI love Christmas. I worked for years as a Santa’s Helper, and then presented Santa Science shows (see left!), so it’s in the job description.

But I’m not sure I would’ve loved traditional Christmas puddings, nor traditional mince pies, and please don’t bring us any figgy pudding…

  • The secret of suet

Traditional Christmas puddings and mince pies contained a secret ingredient: suet, otherwise known as raw animal fat.

Eaten by North Pole explorers, seal-fur traders, and anyone wanting a huge calorie burst, suet is (thankfully) no longer included in modern recipes. Instead it’s more often mixed with peanut butter and fed to birds.

Did you know? The best suet is hard and white. It comes from around the kidneys of cows or sheep.

  • Leftover meaty mince pies

The first Christmas mince pies were cooked up as a way of preserving meat.

Without freezers or fridges, early people were forced to preserve excess meat using sugar or salt.

By mixing leftover meat with sugary dried fruit, then sealing it up in a delicious pastry case, the meat could be kept longer.




  • (Don’t) bring us some figgy pudding

Figgy pudding was popular 500 years ago.

It was made from, you guessed it, figs. The fruit of the fig tree is actually an inside-out flower, called a syconium, and not really a fruit.

Some types of fig tree rely on fig wasps for pollination…

The female fig wasp must crawl inside the syconium, creeping down a tunnel so narrow her wings and antennae break off on the way.

Once inside, she lays her eggs in the hidden flowers, and then dies. When the eggs hatch, the baby wasps eat their way out of the syconium, flying free. They have less than 48 hours to crawl inside a new syconium and lay their own eggs, continuing the cycle.

So are figs full of baby wasps?

No. There are two types of fig on each fig tree: female (edible) and male (inedible).

The wasp can only lay her eggs on the inedible figs. When a wasp accidentally crawls inside an edible fig, she dies there, without laying any eggs.

When this happens, a chemical in the fig called ficain dissolves the wasp’s body completely, making her part of itself.

So the crunch when you’re eating figs comes from…?

Fig seeds, not from wasp babies.

But still, try getting that image out of your head 🙂

Merry Christmas everyone!

Leave a comment

Give stories this Christmas


My kids get their own newspaper in the mail, every week. Just for them.

Want a great gift idea?

Know a young person who deserves to know the world is actually a pretty fabulous place and it’s filled with great people who are working hard to make it even better?

Then I say, give words.

Give stories.

Give books.

Give knowledge.


The latest Double Helix issue…in my letterbox today! …Awesome!

Walk in others’ shoes…

I have two kids, and I’m passionate about keeping them inspired, giving them hope, giving them the tools they’ll need to solve problems and find solutions.

I think kids can find these tools when they take a walk in others’ shoes, which is why I adore and write children’s fiction (watch for my new book, out with Fremantle Press next year!).

But don’t wait till next year… Give a kid a book this Christmas!


Be inspired by others’ real life achievements

Real life is also an amazing source of inspiration and hope, so I’m super-proud to be writing non-fiction for two amazing kids’ publications:

CSIRO’s Double Helix magazine, for science-loving kids (or anyone fascinated by the world around them); and

Crinkling News, Australia’s national newspaper for young people (covering sports, politics, current affairs…you name it, and all for kids).

Subscriptions are available on-line (Double Helix and Crinkling News): they encourage kids to read, to engage, to think, to wonder, and even better, they’re a gift that lasts all year.

So what are you waiting for? A parking space? (I went shopping this morning; oh, save me from car parking.)

Or a good deal? Double Helix have a 12-month-with-gift-pack subscription, and Crinkling have 10% off for Christmas! And Fremantle Press deliver to your door…Whee!

Happy holidays everyone!!


1 Comment

Hot Date with the Laptop Ladies

Is there anything more decadent than giving yourself a day’s writing in a fresh new cafe with your authorly friends? I think perhaps not.

Today I met with the gorgeous Laptop Ladies. We lined up with coffees and cords and click-clack-clicked our way towards story satisfaction.


Yum! Fresh and tasty and healthy.


And I scored a new $5 note!

I had the total pleasure of working on edits from Cate for The New Book, which she has tentatively titled To the Lighthouse. (I am LOVING the new title, BTW.)

It was so much fun.

It had all the satisfaction of editing, with only scrapings of the usual angst (you know, the not-knowing-if-your-story-is-working kind of angst.)

I think as writers we always worry about whether the manuscript we’re writing is any good.

That’s why it is SOOOO reassuring to work on a story knowing that at least someone thinks it’s good.

This editing session was not only (relatively) angst-free, but also incredibly fun. I actually liked my book! And Cate’s edits were so clever. She seemed to be able to pull the real essence of the story up and out of the draft, so it really became the story I’d been trying to write.

If I think too long, I already fill with terror for the future (you know, the not-knowing-if-you’ll-ever-be-able-to-write-something-this-good-ever-again kind of terror).

So I’m trying not to think too hard.

Instead, I’m trying to enjoy this little bit of angst-free author’s life. I’ve dreamed of (and worked for) for this moment for so long, I think I deserve it. 🙂



Leave a comment

Takeshita Demons: now even scarier in Indonesian!

Miku and Cait Takeshita Demons.jpg

Miku Takeshita and Cait O’Neill: don’t mess with them.

At last, thanks to the lovely @_bacaisme and Twitter, I am holding copy of Takeshita Demons in Indonesian! YAY!

The cover is lovely and shiny, and Miku and Cait have been redrawn to look even more kick-ass, and the nureonna?

Well, let’s just say I’d never want to meet her in an empty school corridor in the dead of night.

It’s pretty strange to see such scary images on the cover of my books, especially since I don’t like scary stories. (I get really, really scared!).


And yes, that is a comparison to Roald Dahl and the Brothers Grimm on the cover. Woah! And really? Thanks reviewer, whoever you are.


Even looking at her freaks me right out. Just in time for Halloween.

Leave a comment

Free Halloween fun for ages 8 to 12

FREE HALLOWEEN EVENT: Friday 28 October 2016 from 6pm to 7.30pm

Come along to the Mary Davies Library and Community Centre in Rockingham to join me for a spine-chilling evening of spooky stories… if you dare!

I’ll first weave a terrifying tale, and then you can get creative and craft your own.

This free event is suitable for children 8 to 12 years.

Registrations are essential. Call 08 9591 0800 or email to book your place.



A new book! A new publisher! A new agent!

hoorayA new book!

I’m incredibly thrilled to announce that I have a new book coming out next year with the amazing Fremantle Press, edited by the fabulous Cate Sutherland!!!!
(YAY! Dancing hippy happy hornpipes allowed and encouraged.)

It’s an adventurous book for young readers, a story of friendship and trust, danger and doing, set on Western Australia’s iconic Rottnest Island.

I love this story because it’s also about taking risks. It’s about encouraging our children to play outside, to explore their limits, to discover what’s really important to them.

In yesterday’s paper there was a quote from Claire Warden of the International Association of Nature Pedagogy that really stood out for me, and it resonates with this book:

“If you don’t have any physical risk, there is greater emotional risk…If you’re scared of your own shadow, you don’t try new things, and you don’t have that inner emotional resilience to push yourself in any way.”

So get out there! Do something that scares you every day! (This has been my motto for years; it’s even a scary motto!)

A new publisher!

I’m honoured and excited to be sailing with the Fremantle Press crew. They’re fantastic. They publish great Western Australian stories, they take risks with the stories they publish, and they’ve been doing it for 40 years! The authors they represent are lovely too 🙂

Want to help share the love? You can be part of Fremantle Press’ birthday celebrations by joining the party on Wednesday November 2. fremantlepress_40year_oct2016

A new agent!

I’ve also just signed with Danielle Binks, agent-at-large with the Jacinta Di Mase agency. More hippy, happy hornpipes! They’re both super-well-respected in the industry and I’m looking forward to working with them on some exciting new projects, especially in children’s non-fiction. Yay!


The new Publishing: tips and advice from the Australian Society of Authors

what-do-you-mean-no-champagneThe business of writing is changing. Our publishing cheese is on the move. In fact, it may no longer be in the building.

So what to do? WritingWA invited Juliet Rogers—publishing guru and Executive Director of the Australian Society of Authors—to chat about why publishing is no longer all free lunches and champagne.

Scroll down for Juliet’s tips on getting published.


The business end of business

In Australia, the business of writing means we publish 7000 new Aussie books every year (and another 14000 titles from overseas), turning over 2 billion dollars and employing 20,000 people.

“We’re the sector that underpins the cultural identity of this country,” Juliet says.

“We’ve built a book ecosystem in this country which is largely self-sustaining, but there’s still a place for government support, and this is largely absent.”

In fact, she says, the industry’s currently under attack as the Productivity Commission moves to reduce the length of copyright for creators and FANG (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google) continue their push to “make free content cool and copyright old-fashioned.”

Sign the ASA’s petition here to help protect Australia’s book industry, and with it, the diversity of stories our children will be able to read.

Juliet Rogers of the Australian Society of Authors

Are we artists? Or entrepreneurs? Or both?

“We need to get better at separating the business of writing from the craft of writing, while understanding the importance of both,” Juliet says.

“As an industry we’ve been slow, we’ve clung to the old rules for too long and have had to scramble to keep up.”

We can now choose ebooks instead of print-and-petrol product. We can have the internet as a distributor, and social media as a publicity department.

However, says Juliet, the fundamentals remain the same:

“To write what is worth publishing, to find honest people to publish it, and get sensible people to read it are the three great difficulties in being an author.” Charles Caleb Colton

Anyone can be a writer

Anyone can make a book, and many do. This, I think, should be viewed as an asset to the industry, not a liability. Yet it does raise challenges.

Of Australia’s 3800 publishers, 60% have published just a single book. In fact, more than 70% of titles are published by only 3% of publishers, Juliet says.

“Writers no longer dream of winning Lotto; they dream of writing a title that goes viral,” she says. (Hands up if you can relate to this)(You’ve got to have a dream, right?)

Whether you’re writing, editing, self-publishing or searching for an agent or publisher, Juliet has some choice words of advice:

Juliet Rogers’ tips for getting published

Write a great book. “Your words have to be great words. They have to say something interesting or good or beautiful; most of all they have to stand out from the crowd…. Have you truly written something worth publishing? You need to be confident that it’s good enough for people you have never met to put their hands in their pockets and buy it.”

Beware ‘almost-there’. “The really good books, they stand out. You know you will move heaven and earth to publish that book. The sad ones are the ones that are nearly there. Almost there. In a tough market like this, almost isn’t going to get you there.”

Beware fraudsters and charlatans. The fake agents. The vanity publishers. The dodgy manuscript assessors who love your work but mostly love your chequebook. “When they hear, ‘we want to publish your book,’ perfectly intelligent, rational and perceptive human beings rush to sign contracts that are nothing less than criminal,” says Juliet. The answer, at least in part, is to get the ASA to check your contract before you sign.

Slow down. So, you have a publishing offer? It’s business time! “Let the excitement of imminent publication settle, and before you make any commitment, look for the red flags.” Is their website badly written? Do they make ridiculous promises without evidence or detail? “Let your head rule, not your heart. It’s not the time for emotion and passion and enthusiasm. Do you really want these people making your book?”

Read, read, read. “Read as widely as you can across your chosen genre. If you don’t understand the genre, you’re not going to succeed at it.”

Practise, practise, practise.Your first attempt is unlikely to win the Miles Franklin, but the more you write, the better you’ll become. Be prepared to listen to feedback. Learn when to take notice, and when to stand your ground.”

 “Self-publishing a shitty book doesn’t make you an author any more than singing in the shower makes you a rock star” Oliver Markus

Last words from Juliet

On diversity in publishing:There are many voices in this country that aren’t being heard in the way that they should be. I’m not entirely with Lionel, I have to say.  There’s a lot of work to be done.”

On globalisation in publishing: “The more corporatised you become, the less likely it is that you will take risks. That’s why there a lot of little companies starting up, and some are doing some interesting things.” See Text, Black Ink, Henry Scribe….

On rejection: Vodka is only a short term answer. This is a time for ruthless self-honesty. It may be that although you love writing, you simply don’t have the skill to be a published author.”

On getting published: “It is still possible. You don’t need to have won prizes, you don’t need awards. You don’t need any paraphernalia. You need a book that knocks you over.”

Now go write! The future is bright.

“New technology has begun to shift and equalise the balance of power for authors, because knowledge is power,” says Juliet.

“Great books will continue to be written, and great books will continue to be read. The future looks a pretty exciting place to me.” Juliet Rogers

“The business of writing is never easy, but there is always demand for good writing,” Juliet says.

“Wherever technology takes us, we’ll always need writers.

“Writers help us honour the past, record the present and shape the future.”

Pretty great, huh? It was an awesome night. Thanks so much to WritingWA for organising!