story, science, technology and creativity

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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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Yeee ha! I’m jumping aboard Russ the Story Bus this year. Hope you can too!

I’m thilled to announce that I’ll be part of this year’s super-fun Russ the Story Bus lineup of children’s book creators…

This will be the second time I have toured regional New South Wales with an enormous automobile for company.

My first vehicular love was the Shell Questacon Science Circus semitrailer

…but perhaps this incredible bus can bust that record!


Stupedenous artwork by Sophie Beer, image by Prudence Upton

Part-library, part-artwork, part-stage and departing this week, Russ the Story Bus will tour schools in Greater Western Sydney, North Coast Regional and the ACT right through till mid-December.

Also touring with Russ, just to hold his metaphorical hand, if not steer his literal wheels, are Sophie Beer, who created the amazing artwork that adorns Russ’ sides, and a bunch of other fabulous children’s book authors and illustrators that make me swoon and wish I could stowaway for the whole tour:

Nicki Greenberg, Sandy Fussell, Jeremy Lachlan, Rebecca McRitchie, Martine Murray, Yvette Poshoglian and Damon Young….

And me!

We’ll be bringing stories, adventures, excitement, creativity and fun…and a whole bus-load of fabulous storybooks and children’s novels.

I’ll be touring for just one week of this epic journey – from November 26 to November 30 – and I can’t wait!

There’s more information on booking a visit for your school here. But you’ll have to be quick. This is Russ’ fifth year of touring, so if you miss out in 2018, try again for 2019.

And if you’ve been lucky enough to snag a booking—HAVE A BALL!

I hope to see you bus-side very soon!


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Dark and spooky: Why kids need a safe scare–and where to get one this school holidays

DB_GreatBigDark_FB Ad Post Twitter Post.jpgIt’s dark. There are spooky hoots and crackles, talk of monsters, rapping noises, creaking sounds…

This is scary stuff. I’m scared just writing about it.

But it’s also safe. You’re surrounded by friends, they’re cracking jokes and you’re giggling. It’s exciting to feel scared. You hold your neighbour’s hand or cuddle in tight. You jump with surprise, laugh with relief.

Where, oh where?

There aren’t many places your kids can go to get a safe scare these days. But I think it’s vital that kids learn how to be scared, how to face their fear and get through it.

I’m not suggesting a weekly family viewing of The Walking Dead. (I’m not at all a fan of terror and violence and gore. And I don’t think our kids should be either! I can’t believe how many kids have seen movies I would never watch in a million years.)

I’m suggesting good, clean spooky fun. Torches. Moonlight. Ghost noises (made by your sister). More ghost noises (made by your mum). The kind of thrill you get from reading late at night under your covers, racing through page after page, hoping and wishing that the good guys will triumph and the bad guys will get their due.

I can’t imagine my life without exciting books. Without danger and fighting and escapes and giants and monsters. I certainly don’t want any of these things in my *real* life. But just reading about them takes me on a ride that also introduces courage and loyalty, tenacity and friendship. Reading about heroes coping with hardship helps me to believe I too can get through tough times. It’s important our kids know this too.

Two great reads

There’s a couple of terrific articles I’d love you to read. One is about Andy and Terry and the importance of freedom and wilderness in our children’s lives.

The other is by soon-to-be-debut author-illustrator Fiona Burrows. It’s called The Child and The Dark. It’s about the need for us to embrace the darkness. It’s moving and magnificent. As a taster, Burrows quotes Neil Gaiman’s opinion of the dark:

“I think if you are protected from dark things then you have no protection of, knowledge of, or understanding of dark things when they show up. I think it is really important to show dark things to kids — and, in the showing, to also show that dark things can be beaten, that you have power. Tell them you can fight back, tell them you can win. Because you can — but you have to know that.


So, if you’re looking for something dark and spooky and safe to do with your kids this school holidays, do youself a favour and grab yourself a ticket to this fun family event.

The Big Dark and Spooky Book Read is exactly that: Held at the State Library of WA on Wednesday October 3, the show features five children’s book creators reading spooky bits from their latest books.

And one is me!

There’ll be marshmallows on sticks. There’ll be walkie-talkies in the dark. There’ll even be (spoiler alert!) talk of monsters, rapping noises and maybe even some creaking sounds. It’ll be exciting and spooky and you can grab your tickets here.

PS: You get a free copy of your choice of book with your ticket!!!


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Book Week strikes again

Booragoon Primary

Hooray for Book Week!

I’m not sure if this combination of feelings is possible, but I’m simultaneously:

  • exhausted
  • invigorated
  • inspired

I feel SO LUCKY to have been part of Children’s Book Week 2018.

This last week has been a whirlwind of fabulous students, engaged teachers, welcoming librarians and fun stories. I’ve spent all week finding my treasure: celebrating books and literacy and children’s books in particular.

My job has been to inspire children to read stories, to create stories, to engage with the world around them, to feel wonder and passion. I loved it!!!

It was a massive week. Here are a few more favourite photos…

Thanks to everyone who came along to hear me speak, and to everyone who booked me in to visit their school or library. Yuluma Primary.jpgAnd of course, a huge thanks to the Children’s Book Council and to Healthways (Go for 2 & 5!), who sponsor so many Children’s Book Week activities every year. What terrific and important work you do!

Book Week costume success

And check out this clever akaname (Filth Licker) costume, made by Liza, worn by Andreas, and inspired by the second book in the Takeshita Demons series. How cool!!!

The akaname is a Japanese monster (or yokai) that likes to clean dirty bathrooms. Exactly what I need.

And, as those of you who study Japanese would know, aka means red, which is why the cute little guy is red. AWESOME! (You’ll see it’s murasaki on my cover.)


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What kids can do with glue and haiku

To Hedland I flew,

Friends and words mixed with red dirt

We wrote glue-haiku.

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I was lucky enough to spend a chunk of last week in Port Hedland visiting school kids and making poems at the West End Markets with Scribbler’s Fest and FORM WA. It was SUPER fun!

Not all the poetry the kids made was haiku. Some was freeform, some was prose.

All of it was thought-provoking and fascinating and fun. And lots of it made me laugh!

I had an absolute ball. I’m now Officially In Love with Hedland and the Pilbara.

The Port Hedland coffee was amazing, the cafe food fabulous, the landscape spectacular and the company an absolute hoot.

Thanks to the whole FORM team for making me feel so welcome and making me laugh. Especial thanks to Jeanine from the Port Hedland Visitors Centre for stocking gorgeous teapots, and to Deb for the courage to buy such a special teapot All For Myself.

And huge thanks to Maria for making it all happen….together we conquered airline food, invisible crocodiles, and even Putting Petrol Into A Hire Car. From here, I really don’t think anything can stop us.

Now, Children’s Book Week!

It’s here and it’s huge and… YAY!

Stories rock my world.







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Tales from Telling Tales in Balingup

I’m just back from the most fabulous weekend in the gorgeous town of Balingup. We had stunning weather for this year’s Telling Tales in Balingup Festival, and that was just icing on the cake for a super weekend.

Hundreds of people turned out for writing and illustration workshops, meet-the-author sessions, parades, pantomimes, gourmet pies, great coffee, loads of laughs, kite-making, book-reading and more. I ADORED IT!

Thank you to everyone who shared their ideas and read their work and chatted and laughed and bought my books. I appreciate it! Thanks to Timber Top Cottages for a log fire and stunning forest views. And special hats-off to the organising committee. You pulled together an A+ weekend of fun and literature and children’s books and lovely people. You rock!!


I got to be a sous chef for giggle-a-line children’s poet Chris Owen. I sat in on the most hilarious, poignant and floss-worthy author talk c/o multi-talented author Deb Fitzpatrick. I drank matcha latte with an incognito mouse. I shared a meal with my gorgeous cousin and her equally gorgeous family. I was blown away by kids’ ideas, stories and writing.

Also, I took a selfie with some chickens.

And I laughed a lot. Thanks to everyone who made it great! Thank you Balingup!

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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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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.


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Mulled wine, nibbles and a duel in the Perth Hills…come join us!

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.

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Dreadful writing, bloodcurdling thrillers, fun and games

Riverton-Library-School-HolidaysTerm 3 is nearly over!

It’s time to celebrate, so come on down to the Riverton Library on Thursday 9 October to talk dreadful writing and spooky stories.

We’re aiming to have loads of fun, including a bit of theatre, some games and some writing.

This will be a fab morning and it’s totally recommended if you or your 8-years-plus beloved want to have some fun.

You can also check out Clare Stace’s delightfully dramatic storytelling (2 October) and Sanny Ang’s awesome storygami (7 October).

All events are FREE but bookings are essential, so pick up that phone: 9231 0944