story, science, technology and creativity


The waiting game…or why having a baby is like publishing a book

This may be the last post from me for a while… I’m taking a break to focus on the next big project: Baby #2.

He’s due Friday, but like Baby #1, he still shows no signs of realising it.

Still, I’m optimistically typing this in the hope that if I don’t post this now, I won’t be able to do it later (because I’ll be rushing around birthing and feeding and catching up on sleeping)(come on baby!!).

So, since I’m faffing around waiting, I’ve composed a 10-step process that demonstrates why having a baby is like publishing a book:

Cooking a baby is much the same as cooking a book.

1) It seems to take much longer than you realise or even sign on for.

2) The first bit is by far the hardest: you are struck with nausea, your energy flags, you’re sure there’s no way you’ll ever reach halfway, let alone the finish line.

3) Once you’ve thrashed your way through the first trimester, you spend the next month or so confused. Did I actually write a book? Where has it gone? I don’t feel that different. I don’t look that different.

4) Then you get your edits back and you realise your life really has changed. You can’t wear all the things you used to love. You can’t do all the things you used to do.  In fact, important parts of you don’t even look how they used to.

5) You get used to the new you. You get used to doing things a bit differently (like getting out of bed). You accept you are on a collision course and nothing you can do now will wildly change the outcome.

6) Nothing happens.

7) Nothing happens.

8 ) Nothing happens.

9) You think you might have an exciting email from your editor. You don’t. You think you might have an exciting package in the mail. You don’t. You think you might take a long, relaxing bath. You can’t.

10) Finally, almost unexpectedly, something happens. It happens so quickly and so strangely that you almost can’t believe that it actually has happened. The proof, however, is in the tiny bundle you hold in your hands. Unspeakable joy and unspeakably fatigue. And it is only now that the real work begins. (And strangely, with time, you forget how harrowing it all was and you start to play with the idea of doing it all again. Ye gad!)

But me? Right now?

I figure I’m up to Step 9, although I’m probably closer to Step 7.

Oh well. I figure I’ll get to Step 10 eventually and by then I’ll be wishing for Step 11: Can’t-I-just-read-the-paper-and-have-a-coffee-in-a-quiet-sunny-place.

Wish me luck!!!



Why so silent? I’m pregnant with #2! (and it’s not a book)

Hello all you lovely loyal followers,

My apologies for the silence echoing from these pages in recent weeks/months…I really haven’t felt up to it.

In fact, I’ve spent an inordinate number of hours lying on the couch feeling sorry for myself, or stuffing my face with whatever protein is available (meat, mostly meat, great chunks of it)(and we usually eat very little meat).

So yes, I’m thrilled to officially announce that we are 12 weeks pregnant with #2!!!

All is (thankfully) going well and I’m feeling better and better by the day. My lovely husband has been a trooper. Right now he’s off to buy Magnums because I really feel like eating Magnums, but he’s also been Chief Chef, Chief Fergus Entertainer, Chief Putter-Upper-With-My-Moaning, and for that I am forever grateful. My mum and mum-in-law and Nan have also been wonderful…THANK YOU LADIES!!! I love you all!!!

Cristy Burne at All Saints Literature FestivalThanks also to everyone I spoke with at the All Saints Literature Festival: I know that sometimes I may have looked a little green, and now you know that it wasn’t just my own scary stories turning my stomach!!

So I hope to be a little more vocal in posting Takeshita Demons news, scary Japanese mythology and family news.


Books to get your toddler reading

Baby Fergus drives the tractorIt’s been a very exciting week: the absolute highlight was playing with some lovely friends on their farm, complete with tractors and sheep and wild pigs and more tractors.  Fergus had a ball and we even let him drive (see left; he’s a natural ;-)).

On the writerly front, my authors’ copies arrived in the mail today and more reviews are arriving or in the pipeline. I can’t help but be excited, even though I’m trying to focus on writing and playing 🙂

Even more exciting, the next winner of the Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Childrens Book Award will soon be announced….I can’t wait!

THANK YOU to everyone who has read or ordered Takeshita FergusreadingTakeshitaDemonsDemons so far…

As you can see, Takeshita Demons is a thrilling read for all ages.

Fergus’ review goes something like this:

Takeshita Demons has a fascinating cover and interesting feel, and the pages flick very nicely. You can even read it upside down. It doesn’t taste as good as I’d hoped. Tuna is better. So is broccoli.

There you go, ladies and gentlemen. You heard it here first.

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More cool writing competitions

Good night.

I’m absolutely exhausted…

Way too many weeks spent living in three houses (almost down to two), buying a car (almost bought), wrestling a dog (gone to my parents’), juggling a baby (now asleep), trying to strip paint (stripped) and paint paint (one coat down), trying to eat healthy (does fruit bread count?) and stay sane (how many tins of peas can I fit up my nose?)…the usual.

But, just cause I’m falling over in my chair, doesn’t mean the world’s not full of great news!

More great news!

1) I got my first royalties, somehow. They seem to be fees from photocopying (?!), and I don’t pretend to understand how or why, I just nod and get excited.

2) Keren David, author of the awesome WHEN I WAS JOE, has some great news at her blog.

3) TAKESHITA DEMONS is 9/10th of the way to being finalised. WOO HOO!

4) There are HEAPS of great opportunities for young writers and free competitions for unpublished writers (and published writers!).  I encourage All Of You Out There to write for me (since I haven’t written at all this week!), and enter heaps of competitions… Most of them can be entered by email, many of them are free. What’s not to like?

Go gettem! (And I will go to bed).

More writing competitions to enter:

You are:

An unpublished fiction writer aged 16+: Enter your novel and synopsis (by email) in the FREE Read More competition

Aged 7-12 with a great bedtime story idea: Try the Book at Bedtime competition, also free to enter (and probably helps if you live in the UK, although the rules don’t state you have to)

Aged 8-16 and a UK resident: Enter the free microfiction competition at

A nature lover aged 18+: Check out this awesome opportunity for nature writers from the BBC

Aged 5-25 and living in the UK or Northern Ireland: WICKED! You can enter this free competition with any kind of writing you like: poems, theatre, you name it. And there are 20 prizes in each age category, so get writing!

An emerging writer of natural history, nature and place and probably living in Australia: The Watermark Fellowship is awarded this year and could see you resident at Varuna House in the Blue Mountains.

A childrens or YA writer or illustrator either unpublished or with just one publishing credit: CYA Later Alligator has a competition for you, and all entries get specific feedback.

Let me know if you win!!!

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We bought a house!

YAY! Finally, we have bought a house. Now we just have to sell the apartment.

And I’ve been writing, writing, writing.  Forests and Filth Lickers is going WELL WELL WELL!

I’m at the point now where I’m daring to actually show people what I’ve written. And by people I mean the Small Group of Trusted Readers: my editor, my parents, my husband.

I think all except my editor are people you’re not really supposed to get to read your stuff if you want decent, constructive feedback.  But I laugh in the face of “supposed to”. Aha ha!

And in exciting Fergus news: he’s crawling! Not traversing entire rooms, but certainly not where I last saw him. Turn your back for a minute and he’ll be somewhere else, chewing on computer cables. Not a good look. Another week and we’ll have to child-proof the entire house.

And, for those of you lucky enough to live in Fabulous Western Australia: Julia Lawrinson is launching her latest book, Chess Nuts, at the Fremantle Children’s Literature Centre. Be there or miss out on meeting a real-live Year 9 chess nut and getting your hands on a copy of what promises to be another terrific JL read.

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Writing! And Fergus falls off the bed.

Fergus's first ChristmasWoo hoo! I’ve spent this week house hunting, writing, catching up with my oldest friends and trying to make Fergus laugh (he’s getting really good at it :-))

The funniest thing this week was…

…We put Fergus to sleep on my Aunty’s bed, ensuring he was well padded on all sides. He’s becoming quite mobile and can wriggle backwards and roll over, so we walled him in with pillows and cushions to make sure he didn’t roll off the bed or wriggle into an awkward position.

Back outside, we could hear Fergus crying himself to sleep…no big deal, he usually whimpers for less than a minute before zonking out. My little cousin, aged 4, wanted to check on him, but we instructed her to wait until he was properly asleep. But this time, he didn’t sleep. Instead he cried and cried some more.

“Please,” said my cousin.

“OK,” we said. “Sneak in there and see if he’s lying  on his back or on his stomach.”

“Terrific,” she said. And in she snuck.

The theory was this: If he was lying on his stomach, we’d go in and turn him back on to his back, and this might help him sleep. If he was still lying on his back, then maybe he’d drop off to sleep in a few more minutes.

Anyway…my little cousin came back with the report: “He’s on his back.”

“Super,” we thought. “We’ll leave him for a few more minutes.”

But, he cried and cried and wouldn’t settle. Eventually, I went in to calm him down.

SHOCK! He wasn’t there.
Or at least, he wasn’t on the bed.

He’d reversed down the bed, pushed the pillow wall onto the floor, and then rolled himself right off the bed and onto the carpet. No wonder he was crying! The poor little guy must’ve had quite a shock. I gathered him up and went outside.

Further investigation…

My cousin seemed unmoved by Fergus’ tale of woe. It was my Aunty who twigged first: “Was Fergus on the bed or on the floor when you checked?” she asked.

“On the floor,” answered Little Cousin, without hesitation.

And oh, how we laughed. She’d done exactly as we’d instructed. We’d simply asked her to report whether Fergus was on his back or his belly, and she’d done that. We hadn’t asked for further details. We hadn’t requested initiative.

And the moral of the story?
Well, there are two:

1) Never underestimate your child’s intelligence. If we’d asked Little Cousin to check whether Fergus was OK, she probably would’ve told us: no, he’s fallen off the bed and crashed onto the floor. Instead, we asked a closed question and she gave a closed answer, as directed and expected.

2) If your baby cries and cries and won’t settle, check to make sure he’s still where you put him.

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“Will I Ever Be Able To Write Anything Good Ever Again?”

Fergus and the toe-munching dread

I am writing again!
Yeeee ha!

Over recent months I’ve been taking excellent care of a Growing Sense of Dread, watering it daily and keeping it in a special place in the corner of every conscious thought.

The feeling is part the dead-wood of procrastination, and part the claustrophobia of being a new mum. I call it “Will I Ever Be Able To Write Anything Good Ever Again?,” subtitled “What If This Next Book Is Rubbish, And When Will I Ever Have Time To Write It Anyway?”

Everything happens for a reason

Thankfully, I have a head-start: I used the last trimester of my pregnancy to slam out a few chapters of Forests and Filth-Lickers, the next title in the Takeshita Demons series.

And, as my lovely mum always says, “everything happens for a reason,” so maybe that’s why Fergus arrived so late. If he’d come on time (like I’d wished and ate curry and drank raspberry tea and hoped that he would), I would’ve had less Pre-Baby time to write, and would be in an even larger pickle.

As it is, I think things will be OK.

Writing, one hour at a time

Last week I finally found a few hours to string together and call my own, and voila! I read what I’d written all those months ago with much excitement. It’s a rollicking beginning, plus, the outlined plot is terrific and getting better as characters start to assert their own ideas about what will happen and change things along the way. I may not be able to write all weekend or in 12-hour stints like I used to, but I’m a step closer to adopting a more sustainable regime.

Funniest prank of the week

And PS: this made me laugh, all week. I recently emailed my sister, who’s kite-surfing the planet while we housesit her house, carsit her car, and dogsit her super-slim super-energetic two-year-old kelpie, Roo.

I filled her in on all the news — her leather couch is covered in spew, the house insurance is due, the lawn is doing OK, and the neighbours think Roo is putting on weight. I attached the photo below and asked her to double-check how much we should be feeding him: And oh, then I laughed and laughed. Apparently she did too.
The New Roo
PPS: I don’t know if that is as funny if you don’t know Roo. But I include it anyway because it makes me cry from laughing everytime.

It’s one of the funniest thing that happened this week. Up there with Fergus eating watermelon for the first time. And Fergus swimming in a friend’s pool for the first time.

Oh, how funny are dogs and babies!!


Fergus pooed his first words.

We’re so proud. This week Fergus pooed his first words. If you’re not keen on poo stories, you should probably skip this post. It mostly contains poo jokes and GPDs (Graphic Poo Details).

Goodbye, MSI! Never again, PWM!

This week we made the change from disposable nappies to modern cloth nappies (Green Kids), and we’re loving it. I’m the ultimate in lazy: if it’s less hassle, I’ll give it a shot. This means we’ve been using throw-away nappies, because, despite being greenly inclined, I kind of assumed they’d be easier. How wrong I was!

Using major brand disposables we’ve had constant trouble with leakage disasters, including major MSIs (Mustard Spouting Incidents) and PWMs (Public Wardrobe Malfunctions).

At the time I wondered: What’s the point of a nappy if you can’t count on it to work? What’s the point of a nappy if you live in constant fear? I couldn’t leave the house without packing spare everything and at least two changes of clothes; one time we pooed through four different outfits in 24 hours.

Use cloth: save on washing!

So far, touch wood, these new nappies are doing a much better job of containing the mess and keeping Fergus’ skin clean and happy. And…no poo leaks! This means we can focus on washing his *nappies* instead of his clothes, my clothes, his car seat cover, my sister’s couch. And isn’t that the way things should be?

These nappies are super-easy to clean and dry  (it helps when it’s 40 degrees centigrade outside), plus they look fabulous, they’re one-size-fits-all (they’ll last him ages), and I feel great about slashing the number of disposables we use. YAY all round!

And the funniest bit?

How do we know these nappies work? We unwittingly put them to the ultimate test.

Attack of the poo queue

Now he’s a bit older with a digestive system to match, Fergus usually poos about once a day. This is great because I can pretty much relax once he’s finished doing the pooing. HOWEVER, for the last few days there hasn’t been much action in the poo department. Something, and we knew not what, had caused a slow down, a back up, a poo queue.

As each hour passed poo-less, we grew more and more worried. How would the new nappies cope? Could cloth really pass the test when the poo-nami came?

We’d put him to bed each night hoping that the evening might bring some relief. And each morning we’d wake pooless and wondering. When would it come? How much longer did we have?

Well, our questions were answered this morning.

It came, it soaked, it was conquered

The poo-nami splashed down around 10AM this morning. Days worth, all at once. And the cloth nappy swallowed it whole, without fuss, without hesitation. Not a mustard trickle in sight. Yay nappy!

But what was in sight?

Amongst the debris, we spotted tiny undigested bits of something. The source of the go-slow.

Turns out that Fergus had swallowed bits of magazine he’d been chewing on. On closer inspection, we could actually make out letters, read bits of the article. Fergus had pooed his first words! We were so proud!

Hopefully things will return to normal now. I’ll certainly think twice before letting him chow down on trashy printed material in the future. Next time I’ll make sure he eats something more educational. 🙂

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The struggle to juggle; the joy of letting go

I was never turned on by recipes and shining bathrooms.

Dishes were washed once a day, clothes about once a week. I unearthed the vacuum cleaner at most twice a year. When bored of cooking the stand-by spaghetti bolognaise, I’d toast a cheese sandwich or eat out. I was too busy to feign interest, too interested in other things. I was focused on drafting queries, selling articles, going diving or mountain biking or planning trips… I wondered how other people could be so interested in cook books and tupperware.

But oh, how the un-housewife-ly have mutated.

Farewell to the otherly me

I am now a stay-at-home mum. I am stripped of many of the things I used to care about (work deadlines, work politics, work earnings, work) and must fill my days with something else.

Of course Fergus is a big (and delightful)(and gifted and talented)(and did I mention lovely?) part of that something else. But in the hours when he’s playing, it’s easier to be hovering and hoovering than furthering the strategic planning of my business empire.

I’m not moaning about staying at home. It’s an enormous privilege to be here to see Fergus smile and struggle and spew and grin. But I do lament the loss of the otherly me, the me who worked hard at school and university to create a career I loved, the me who was good at her job.

My (short-lived) valiant attempt: Super-Mum

For the last couple of weeks, since arriving back in Australia, I’ve felt the loss of this otherly me quiet keenly. I guess I half-expected life would return to ‘normal’ now we’re not jet-setting around the world on a never-ending honeymoon.

But there is no normal now. Fergus is rubbish at mountain biking and scuba diving and he’s certainly not conducive to the completion of any task requiring more than 45 minutes of my undivided attention.

For a while I tried to deny the change. I tortured myself trying to juggle my old life and my new life and I got more and more tense and felt more and more boxed in. It really wasn’t working. (I scored “8” on the post-natal depression questionnaire and was too scared to ask “out of what?”)

So this week I’ve given up.

Choosing to drop the ball

This week, I’ve ditched all thought of returning to work or spruiking for freelance contracts and instead I’ve embraced Being A Mum. I decided not to feel guilty that I was staying home and not contributing to the household income and not growing my career. Instead I took Fergus to Rhyme Time at the local library and we sang Twinkle Twinkle Little Star with all the actions. And I vacuumed the house. And today I actually opened a recipe book AND cooked something from a recipe!!!

And you know what?

It tasted good! All of it. Fergus loves Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. The house looks great without dog hair everywhere. And although I won’t cook chicken broccoli casserole again (perhaps a little bland), it was kind of fun to prepare and I felt kind of proud to serve it up to my in-laws (who thought it was very good :-)).

So now I’m beginning to understand why people take so much care in their cooking and pride in their homes. It’s not scuba diving or mountain biking, but it is fun and delicious and satisfying. And, lucky for me, most of it takes less than 45 minutes of undivided attention 🙂

And the funny thing is, now that I’m not stressing about how to fit so much in, I seem to have more time. Hopefully, all going to strategic-business-plan, I should begin a weekly Fergus-free writing slot, starting next week (no really! starting Tuesday, I promise!). I’ll miss Fergus for the few hours that I’m neck-deep in words and plots and imaginary adventures, but all that stuff is a part of the otherly me that is too precious to give up completely (and plus I really need to get a move on with the next Takeshita Demons book!).

I bite my thumb at physics

And as a final thought: it’s a real bummer that women have to choose between family and career, it’s really rotten and a mean trick. I know there are other ways and exceptions and all that, but for the most part “1” (family) + “1” (career) just cannot equal “2”.  Bollocks to you, physics!

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Dogs, babies and more cool writing competitions…

This week we’re settling in to our new digs

We’re housesitting a two-bedroom place near heaps of parks and shops and guess what?

The house comes with a great dog too! Roo is a 2-year-old Kelpie and has been around babies heaps. He’s very generous with his patience when Fergus is wailing and also very interested in Fergus’ smells and toys. Roo has loads of dog toys ripped apart about the place, but so far hasn’t touched any of Fergus’ toys. Instead he quietly sniffs and then settles on his mat (or at my feet when I’m feeding Fergus).

We’re going to keep a constant eye on them while they’re together, but so far it looks to be a great friendship in the making. Fergus loves Roo and is learning already to pat him “nicely” (instead of yank out a fistful of hair!).

Roo’s an inside dog, and lots of people have told us we should shut him outside now that there’s a baby in the house. Turns out that’s not the accepted logic when it comes to introducing babies to dogs…

Roo as a pup...awwwww

Introducing Roo to Fergus

I googled “dog” and “new baby” and found lots of nice tips, mostly:

1) Plan early and bring your baby home to a well-trained dog
Roo walks well on a lead, responds to basic commands, has been around babies before: we’re well ahead on this one, so “tick”!

2) Don’t stop loving your dog when the baby arrives
The dog will associate the baby with bad things. Instead, love your dog a little big extra when the baby is around. He’ll learn to love the baby too. We’re now working on developing this positive relationship, so “semi-tick”.

3) Don’t leave dog and baby alone, ever, even if everything is going A-OK
I put Fergus in his cot and then left the room so see what Roo would do. As soon as I was gone, Roo stood up and approached the cot, sniffing gently, then he left the room and went to Fergus’ play gym, sniffing the edges of that too. He didn’t do anything aggressive, but he did show extra interest when he thought I wasn’t looking. We love Roo already, but we’re planning to be ever-vigilent just the same. So “tick” on this one too.

And the writing?

Still haven’t done any writing :-/ But I did find some more cool writing competitions, including:

a songwriting competition where you can win a Gibson Guitar

a travel writing competition (300-700 words) where UK residents can win a trip to Istanbul

a free-to-enter journalism competition for Canadians wanting to cover the Winter Olympics

a song-lyric and short story competition for New Zealanders (with a special section for young writers aged 15-24)

a free-to-enter travel-writing compeition to win a scholarship writing travel for Rough Guides in Japan

a series of writing competitions for Muslim writers (including sections for young writers from age 8)

a script competition for scientists and technologists or artists exploring science and technology

And of course, don’t forget to get your entry ready for the 2010 Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices children’s book award. It’s free to enter, anyone around the world can enter, and you can win 1500 pounds plus a publishing deal. Go gettem!