story, science, technology and creativity

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2018 Victoria Park Arts Season snaps

Some snaps from Write Your Childhood workshops, part of the Town of Victoria Park 2018 Arts Season.

Thanks to the amazing Frané Lessac for running two terrific illustration workshops.

Thanks to the Town of Victoria Park Community Centre for a great venue, and to the Town for funding and marketing.

And most of all, thanks to everyone who came along to give writing and illustrating their own picture book a go. Congratulations on nurturing your creative spirits!


Inspiration behind Off The Track… Plus cover reveal! And pre-orders link! And wheee! It’s out soon!!!

Off the Track cover.jpg

Check out this gorgeous cover!!!!

Check out this FABULOUS cover!!!

I am counting down the days till I can hold Off The Track in my own two hands… Touching a brand new book is a thrill that never gets old 🙂

Regular readers will know I’m excited to have once again collaborated with Fremantle Press and illustrator Amanda Burnett to produce a children’s chapter book for everyone who’s ever felt a little off-track…

Off The Track is set on WA’s amazing Bibbulmun Track.

It’s a new adventure for young readers about falling in love with the bush, and with hiking and being in the wild.

It’s about disconnecting from technology. And discovering yourself.

Download a sample chapter

Pre-order your copy

Bibbulmun Track Cristy Burne

Why write about the Bibbulmun?

Because I love it!

Whether you’re hiking for a few hours or a few days (or walking the whole 1000-km track, from Kalamunda to Albany, like my dad did!), the Bibb brings magic and memories into your day.

On the track family hike Bibbulmun.jpgI’ve spent many hours surrounded by its undulating bush, many nights enveloped in its starry darkness, and as little time as possible in its longdrop toilets (but seriously, they’re not that bad!).

From tramps to hikes

I grew up in New Zealand and was lucky that my parents often took our family tramping through NZ’s network of huts and national parks. We’ve hiked through pouring rain, thick mud, sleet and ice. We’ve tied ourselves together with ropes to avoid getting lost in the fog and falling off a cliff. We’ve climbed mountains, crossed rivers, compared blisters and eaten loads of instant pasta.

I believe there’s nothing more bonding for a family than being miles from civilisation with only each other and the packs on your back. I adore it.

Setting off on Day 2 Bibbulmun family hike.jpgNow I have kids of my own, we get out on the Bibb track or Munda Biddi at least once a year.

From the time our kids were old enough to carry a pack (albeit a virtually empty pack), we’ve been hiking the Bibbulmun. We’ve done day hikes, overnight hikes, and we’re working up to something longer…

It’s such a buzz to see how much they love it.

So that’s why I wrote Off The Track.

Because I’d love to see more families on the track.

Made it to the top Bibbulmun Track.jpgMuch of the action is inspired by our own experiences.

The story is about two families going for an overnight hike, the excitement of setting off, of breathing fresh air and blue sky, of sore feet and sweat and wondering if you’ll ever get there, of the thrill of spotting the roof-line of a hut and knowing that you’ve made it, at least for the night.

Bits and pieces of the story have actually happened to us.

I bet you can’t guess which bits 🙂

Spend some time Off The Track

Blue sky WA Bibbulmun.jpg

Harry’s perfect life was straying way off-track. He looked pleadingly at Mum. Surely she could see?

Spending an entire weekend tramping around stinking-hot, snake-filled scrub was a horrible mistake. But doing it without a phone?

That was just brutal.

As it turns out, it was only the beginning…

3D Off The TrackOff The Track celebrates the Australian bush and the time-honoured tradition of a family hiking adventure.

Illustrated by Amanda Burnett.

Download a sample chapter

Pre-order your copy

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Can kids get published?

As a kid, I loved stories and dreamed of being an author. Now I’m an adult, my dream has come true. But do you have to wait that long for a publisher to choose to make your book? Can kids get their stories turned into books?

Last month Penguin Random House signed up 13-year-old slam poet Solli Raphael’s first book, Limelight. Awesome! But are stories like Solli’s rare?

I talked to some Aussie publishers last year for Crinkling News about whether kids can get publishing contracts for their stories… This is what they said:

The write stuff

Lisa Riley, publisher with Penguin Random House Australia, says it’s rare for a primary school kid to get a publishing deal. “More often it’s the odd 15- to 17-year-old who’d written a [Young Adult novel] that might get published,” she says.

Story comes first

Cate Sutherland, publisher with WA’s Fremantle Press, says age doesn’t matter. “We often have no idea how old an author is when we first read their work,” she says. The most important thing, she says, is the story.

Linsay Knight, publisher with Walker Books Australia, agrees. “The story has to come from deep within you,” she says. “You’ve got to want to tell it.”

Practice makes perfect

All three publishers recommend that young writers start by developing their craft. “Writing and drawing are like lots of things: the more you practise, the better you get,” says Ms Sutherland. “Write or draw as often as you can. It can take a long time to get where you want to go, so don’t give up. No one starts out an expert. And when you’re not creating, read!”

A mentor to guide you

Many publishers recommend entering kids’ writing or illustration competitions. Ms Knight says: “You need to bring your work to the attention of adults.” She also says young creators need to have the support of a mentor—someone who can help and guide you along the way.

Case study: Josh Button’s success story

Josh Button, WA, was ten when he wrote his first book, Joshua and the Two Crabs. It was published by Magabala Books in 2008, when he was 13. The story is about Josh and his family, and he worked on it for three years with his teacher, Robyn Wells. “I was very happy and proud of this book,” says Josh. “I was kind of a celebrity when the book first come out.”

Josh’s publisher, Rachel Bin Salleh, says Magabala Books was thrilled to discover Josh’s work. “The story was both unique and bold…a beautiful interpretation of friendship and where you might find it,” she says.

Josh published his second book with Ms Wells, Steve goes to Carnival, last year. “The book is about a jazz-loving gorilla called Steve who lives in a zoo in Rio,” explains Josh. This year, Josh and Ms Wells published a third book, called At the Zoo I See.

Josh’s advice to wannabe authors and illustrators? “Pick up a pen or paintbrush and just go for it. If you are stuck in the middle of the book, or need some help, just look for someone in your community or city who might be able to act as a mentor, just like Robyn did for me,” he says.

Kids getting published.jpg

This article first appeared in Crinkling News

Types of book publishing

  • Trade publishers make books for sale in book stores and to schools and libraries. They usually pay authors an up-front fee, called an advance, and a percentage of the money earned from selling copies of the book, called royalties. The publishers in this article are all trade publishers.
  • Educational publishers make books for use in schools.
  • Vanity publishers require authors to pay a fee to publish their books.
  • Self-publishing is where authors make and sell the book by themselves.


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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!




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…


Writer’s Week, chance at a prize, and a new cover sneak preview

I’m super-honoured to be part of this year’s Perth International Arts Festival WRITERS WEEK! I’m returning to the festival for the first time since 2012, so you can imagine how excited I am 🙂

There’s loads to see and do and learn and create, for kids and adults, foodies and fashionistas… Download the full program here or click on the images below.

My Saturday session is a free storytelling event. I’ll be reading from To The Lighthouse and answering lots of questions. I’d love to see you there!

On Sunday I’ll be chatting with fab authors and all-round excellent people, AJ Betts and Deb Fitzpatrick, about writing for younger readers. Tickets available here.

PS: Want to win?

If you loved your vicarious visit to Rottnest via To The Lighthouse, you could maybemaybeprettyplease submit it for WA In Words, part of this year’s Perth festival (and potentially WA’s new museum!).

You will go into the draw to win two nights at Hyatt Regency Perth with a $150 book voucher from Boffins Books and a hamper of fine WA produce. Yee ha!

Amanda Burnett cover draft crop.jpgAnd PPS:…. Sneak preview!!!

I’m so excited about a new book (!!!) (tentatively called “Off The Track”) coming out with Fremantle Press in August this year. It’s for ages 6 to 10 and I’m thrilled to announce that the amazing Amanda Burnett will once again be illustrating with her gorgeous characters and amazing cover.

I’ve sneakily cropped a corner of Amanda’s artwork for the new cover design…

I wonder if you can guess where this next adventure is set? 


My New Year’s Resolutions…and goodbye Crinkling News

Happy 2018 everyone! I’m rested and rip-roaring to get my teeth into new projects.

Writing every day!
Inspired by children’s writer H. M Waugh’s JanNoWriMo, I’m writing every day. I’m working on a project I started a year ago and just haven’t been able to forget. It’s very close to my heart, and it’s going well. Perhaps that’s because I’m taking more risks.

  • I’m starting from setting. Now, will those of you who know me, please get up from off the floor. Yes. Setting. Enjoying setting is a relatively new thing for me, perhaps inspired by To The Lighthouse, where Rottnest Island is such a huge part of the story. So: yay, me! My relationship with setting is developing. My writing is developing.
  • I’m leaving story errors in the manuscript. (What!? You’re not making everything perfect!?!?)(Nope. Poo to perfect.) I figure I can fix the gaping errors, rubbish cliches and sketchy details later, when I have a better grasp of what the story actually is.
  • I’m not fleshing out minor characters. (See above.) I can breathe life into them later, when I know more about their B-plots.
  • I’m not chained to writing the story in order. Instead I’m writing in chunks, like building with Lego. I can move chunks around once I know the basic structure of my house, to give it that bit of architectural va-voom.
  • I’m writing what I love, what I want to think about, what I want kids to think about.
  • I’m writing every day. I know, I know. You’re supposed to write every day, all the writing coaches say this. Well, the tough truth is, they’re correct. Or at least, they are when it comes to being me. I write better, and I’m happier, when I write every day.


New Year’s Resolutions
My New Year’s Resolution last year was to Be More Selfish. (You’ll note I didn’t share this with you last year. Selfish, hey :-)) So yeah. Be More Selfish. If you’re a serial pleaser, like me, you should give it a try. 2017 was the first time in eight years since I’d had five days a week for myself. It rocked! I tried to spend more time doing what was important to me. I tried to spend less time bending over backwards on the off chance of keeping everyone happy. Resolution Rating: 5 stars.

In 2018, my New Year’s Resolution is to Think Less. Yep, you also read that one right. I over-think things. Important things and unimportant things. I spend hours and hours working out the pros and cons of A over B, or C over A, and large chunks of my life are spent deciding instead of doing. But, as my lovely mum always says: if it’s really hard to choose between two things, they’re probably both good. (Aren’t mums great!) So this year, I’m channeling Ben Lee: Just do it, whatever it is, whatever it is. Just do it. So, yep. Think Less. Resolution Rating: Watch this space.


Crinkling News
On a sadder note, I found out today that Crinkling News, the incredible children’s newspaper I’ve been regularly contributing to, is folding. It’s a shock, especially following the success of their crowd-funding campaign mid-2017 (thanks to everyone who helped keep it alive). I’m disappointed that it didn’t live for longer. But I’m proud to reflect on all the work Crinkling did to celebrate good news, educate kids about current affairs, and inspire our next generation to be involved, media-savvy citizens.

Thanks to everyone who subscribed or donated or contributed to Crinkling. I’m shocked and saddened to see it go :-/

A list of some of my stories is below. I’ve loved chatting to all my interviewees, learning so many new things, and inspiring kids with the possibilities of science and technology. Here’s hoping the ripples from reading Crinkling News spread far and wide.

And here’s hoping we have a fabulous 2018. Just do it, whatever it is.

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