story, science, technology and creativity

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Make your own monster: in Japanese and English

Creating monsters with Japanese students at the Hyogo Centre

Me causing chaos at the Hyogo Centre…the students are inventing some awesome monsters!

I’m just back from a terrific conference with the Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators. It was great!!

I am all inspired and fired up to start work on ideas for a Takeshita Demons book 5 (and I think book 4 is nearly ready to start writing!)

Monster self-introductions

If you’re looking for inspiration for your own writing, or you want a fun activity for teaching Japanese language or creative writing, check out the new Monster Self Introductions activity on my website.

We gave it a try with some Year 9s at the Hyogo Prefectural Government Cultural Centre last week and they came up with some super scary (sometimes hilarious) monsters. Well done guys!!!

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What can a children’s writer learn from category romance?

Last weekend I spent an entire day blissed out:

1) I rode my bicycle to a writing conference: the wind was in my hair (under my helmet) and my legs wobbled like jelly (I haven’t gone any distance on my bike since Fergus was a twinkle in my eye!) and I LOVED IT

2) I spent hours in the company of great women, talking about writing, learning new techniques, listening to different ideas, and generally loving being booky All Day Long.


The conference was called “Romancing the West” and was held by the Romance Writers of Australia.

Now you may be wondering:

What’s a children’s writer like you doing at a conference like this?

Well, fear not, this is not going to be an X-rated post.

Although I’ve never been a reader of Mills-and-Boon style romance (it’s called “category romance” for those who aren’t in the know), I cannot deny it: I am a sucker for a good love story.

Love! Warm fuzzy feelings! Belonging! Loving! Being loved! Let’s face it… Love – – and romance — makes the world go round. A good love story has me weeping in the aisles.

And raunchy scenes aside (for I am a children’s’ writer, after all), there’s much any writer can learn from studying romance fiction. I got heaps of hot tips on the day including some favourites, below:

IDEA GENERATION: Have an ideas box and post all your scribbled-on receipts and middle-of-the-night ideas into the box, where they’ll be ready and waiting for when inspiration strikes (or when the babysitter arrives)

CONFLICT: Characters should have at least a couple of head-on slams with their beliefs. This can be as simple as thrusting a character who hates children into a social situation full of children (from Fiona Lowe)

CHARACTERS: If two characters start as polar opposites, they will travel a longer (and more interesting) arc before finding equilibrium/happiness together (Fiona Lowe again)

BRANDING: There are a gazillion authors out there with a gazillion stories. To figure out what your brand should be, ask yourself (and your colleagues): As a writer, what do I do best? What is my strength? What do I write? (from Nikki Logan)

As part of attending the day I recieved a massive bag of goodies (and a door prize!), and my particular thanks goes out to 5 Senses Coffee for their support of the event, because even children’s writers like to stay up after dark. I totally recommend their DARK HORSE blend (and it’s even a romantic name).

Off now to take Fergus to the zoo…whee!!


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Although I can’t seem to pronounce “library” (apparently I say “lye-berry” and this is wrong?)(how did I get to this ripe old age and noone has ever told me that before??), I do love them.

This week I went to the State Library of Western Australia for the MEET THE TALENT session with a stack of awesome Youth Services Librarians (lye-berry-ens?), and guess what? I was the talent! Woo hoo. How much fun is that?

But the best bit was that I got to leave the house, alone, catch a train, alone, and meet a bunch of interesting adults and talk about books and writing (and not babies!). It’s not that I don’t enjoy talking about Fergus all day and all night (because I do: he’s really very Clever and Gifted and Good Looking), but HOOLEY DOOLEY it was great to forget all that for a couple of hours and be a writer again.

The session was designed to give librarians an idea of what kind of school visits West Australian authors and illustrators are available for, what kind of workshops, how many sessions, etc etc.

I said I was available most days to do most things, but of course my favourite thing is to run sessions that mix non-fiction with fiction, as I have done with TAKESHITA DEMONS (which features some Japanese mythology) and also ONE WEEKEND WITH KILLIECRANKIE (which features some gene engineering and biology). After all, nine-tenths of a good lie is the truth. Or a bit of fact makes for really great fiction.

Also this week I’ve been working on the finale to FORESTS AND FILTH LICKERS. Its thrilling to see everything coming together, and it’s hard work to sustain the pace.

And while all this has been going on, reviews of TAKESHITA DEMONS have been coming in…there are another two online. It’s very exciting…I even got Fan Mail this week (thanks!!). It’s still extremely nerve-wracking. Lucky I enjoy writing these stories so much! 🙂

Cheers to lye-berry-ens!


And PS: Parents and kids in WA: check out the State Library’s fun zone for children, called The Place. It’s well worth a visit!


A+++: a trilogy, a speaking engagement, Amazon

Takeshita Demons exists on Amazon! Like a real book!

You can pre-order Takeshita Demons on! Just like a real book! Argh!!

The last couple of days have been AMAZING, and for so many reasons:

1) Takeshita Demons is becoming more real!

Woo hoo! Takeshita Demons has a cover (thanks to everyone for your input: you picked a winner!) and its own ISBN! (978-1-84780-115-9, in case you were wondering)(Can I get this as a personalised bicycle plate?).

Plus it has its own webpage on Amazon UK where they say nice things about me (I’m always a sucker for that) and exciting things about Takeshita Demons (wow!).

And more incredibly, you can even pre-order Takeshita Demons! (Did you ever think it would become an actual *book*!? How surreal!)(Go on! Pre-order it, just for a laugh!).

2) Takeshita Demons is (very probably more-than-likely) going to be a trilogy!

We still haven’t put pen to contract paper yet, but Janetta and the Frances Lincoln sales team like my proposal for turning Takeshita Demons into a trilogy…. Books II and III promise to be super-exciting and will star my favourite yokai demon of all. I tried to include him in the first book but it just wasn’t right. So watch this space… I’ll be writing the sequel over the next few months… Thrilling but scary at the same time.

3) I made my first appearance as an author!

AnestofvipersOn Tuesday I was lucky enough to join a room full of librarians and some great speakers in Preston, a couple of hours north of London. It was particularly fab to meet Catherine Johnson, who lives just round the corner from me…what a coincidence! (Catherine had the room mesmerised with a reading from her latest book, A Nest of Vipers…check out her stuff!)

The day was organised by Jake Hope of the Youth Libraries Group to stimulate discussion of modern multicultural childrens writing, and to cast votes for the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway children’s book awards…

IT WAS FABULOUS! Not only did I get to talk to book lovers about books all day long, but I also did a presentation on Japanese yokai, Takeshita Demons, my take on multicultural writing, and more.  We also did some quick training exercises: how to identify and disarm a vampire (easy), a werewolf (more difficult), and a nukekubi (needs some work). It was good fun.

Plus, because uncorrected proofs of Takeshita Demons were available, I even did a few book signings, just like a real author. Woo hoo! Thanks to all those kind souls who asked me to sign their copies…I felt like a real celebrity 🙂

And for those of you who have no idea what an uncorrected proof is (like me just weeks ago):
They are draft versions of the book, where the pages are all bound and the text is laid out book-ily, with page numbers and indents and all that jazz. They’re designed to be a sneak preview of the book and as such aren’t final versions, but are pretty close. (I’m holding a Takeshita Demons uncorrected proof right now, and it feels like a real book to me!)

Contact the Frances Lincoln Books publicity team, supply chocolates, and mention you’d like a proof copy. You can get in touch with them at:

UK Publicity/Marketing

US Publicity/Marketing

(The chocolates are optional; I’m trying to start a new trend ;-))

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Babies, contracts, membership cards: It’s all happening

thinkingmanWhile I was sleeping: Baby life

The last few weeks have been a delicious haze of sleep deprivation, little fingers and toes, and all-permeating baby-milk smell. There have been trying times (you won’t eat, you won’t sleep and it’s 1am; repeat every three hours) and incredible times (watching Fergus figure out how to handle his head, watching him process new bits of this all-new world, watching his face crack into a smile). Plus there are fun bits: Bath time is hilarious…he goes all gooey and quiet and would float there all day if we let him.

It’s going quite well — screaming and massive poo spillage aside — and I feel we’re almost experts at this baby thing now.  (Just four weeks ago I’d never held a newborn and knew approximately two children, both of whom live in Switzerland).

What’s this in my mailbox? Publishing lifequestaconsciencecircus

In the last few weeks things have really heated up for Takeshita Demons. My publishing contract offer has arrived! I’m expecting to receive an edited version of the manuscript in today’s mail! And we’re planning to have proof copies of the book available for distribution at the Youth Libraries Group Conference in Warwick in early September ! Triple fantastic!

We’re also hoping (although it’s not yet confirmed) that I will be able to join a panel of Frances Lincoln authors at another conference in late September. This will be my first presentation as a fully fledged author: I can’t wait (I love presenting: I’ve spent years traveling Australia as a science presenter, including a year as part of a science circus!)(can you spot me in the photo?).

I can fly! I can fly! Authorly life

My membership card for the Society of Authors arrived this week…WOW! I’m being taken seriously as an author. This is a dream come true! And I can’t recommend joining the SOA enough: the advice they have offered on my contract (thank you!), the book store discounts (woo hoo!), the “members only” advice and fact sheets, plus the special interest groups (I’m a member of the Children’s Writers and Illustrators Group and can’t wait to meet the other members at a future event!).