story, science, technology and creativity

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Young (and old) writers: City of Rockingham Short Fiction Awards

In 2013 I entered the City of Rockingham Short Fiction Awards…and I won a Commended prize for my short story! Back then, I was caring for two young children and teaching writing at TAFE, and I was seriously strugglng to find time to actually write.

Entering the awards gave me something to aim for. And having my writing acknowledged was such a boost. I walked around with helium in my beach ball for days.

Capture that Aussie beach feeling


“Two Children at Beach” by Delon Govender (2003)

If you’re anything like me, the sight of kids playing at the beach warms the cockles of your heart.

And if you live in WA, you’ll probably feel like you know the exact spot where these two kids are playing ball.

The painting might spark a memory, or a feeling, or the beginning of a story…

It’s a gorgeous painting, and it’s part of a fantastic opportunity for writers, young and old:

2018 City of Rockingham Short Fiction Awards

Whether you write for children or write for adults, so long as you’re aged at least 10, the City of Rockingham 2018 Short Fiction Awards are for you.

This year’s entries…

This year’s entries must somehow involve Delon Govender’s fabulous painting. Your story needs to be original, unpublished, not have received an award in another competition, and not be under consideration elsewhere. You can submit up to three stories and there’s $5000+ in prize money. Even better, entry is free.

There are three main categories – Open, Over 50s and Young Writers (10-17). Entries close Friday 13 July.

Motivate your young writers with cash!

While some of us write for passion or glory, I always say there’s nothing like the promise of a prize to motivate a young writer, and the City of Rockingham awards certainly deliver. (Do make it clear to your young writer that there’s no guarentee that they’ll win…but you do have to be in it to win it…)

Prizes in Young Writers (10 to 17) division:

1st prize: $700
2nd prize: $400
3rd prize: $200

Prizes in the Open division:

1st prize: $1000
2nd prize: $500
3rd prize: $300
Two commendations of $100

Prizes in the Over 50s division:

1st prize: $1000
2nd prize: $500
3rd prize: $500
Two commendations of $100

So what are you waiting for? Sharpen that pencil!

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Young writers: Enter the 2018 Bragg Science Writing Prize

canon-sydney.jpegLots of people want to know how to get started in making a career as a writer.

One of the first steps is making your name as a writer, and for young writers, that means entering competitions.

Write, enter, repeat

I entered lots of writing competitions as a kid. I found they were great for giving me a deadline (stick) and the chance at prizes (carrot), and by the time I heard the results, I’d usually forgotten I’d even entered and I was busy with the Next Thing. I entered a lot. And I got nowhere, a lot. (Great for learning resilience and perserverance!)

My first big win in a writing competition wasn’t for creative writing, it was for writing non-fiction: an essay or piece of persuasive writing, if you speak Naplan.

The competition was the Canon Young Writer’s Of The Year award. The prize was a trip to Sydney, all expenses paid (including a stay the Ritz Carlton!). We even got to eat at the Hard Rock Cafe. I was hooked! And I’m still writing today 🙂

theme-768x320.pngTechnology & Tomorrow

If you’re in Year 7 to 10 and you’re wanting to dip your own toe into the writing prize scene, I totally recommend the UNSW Bragg Student Prize.

The Bragg Prize is named in honour of the winners of Australia’s first Nobel Prize: father and son team William Henry Bragg and William Lawrence Bragg. Entries are open from 30 April to 28 August 2018.

This year’s theme is ‘Technology & Tomorrow’.

Advice from last year’s winners

Advice from previous winners of the Bragg Student Writing Prize is to give it a go.

“Even if you don’t get a place, you’ll have learnt something worth knowing,” says Ebony Wallin, who was 14 when she won runner-up in last year’s prize. “It’s a lot easier than you’d think.”

Sam Jones was 12 when he won the prize last year. “You’ll be surprised how much adults will help you when they find out you’re a kid and you’re researching a topic they’re interested and passionate about,” he says.

So what are you waiting for? Find out how to enter and give it a go!

Sam with ugly pineapple.jpg

Sam Jones with an ‘ugly’ pineapple that will be dumped along with up to 60% of Australia’s fruit and vegetable crops.

An interview with last year’s winners

Sam Jones was celebrating the end of a busy school term when his science teacher emailed, encouraging him to enter the UNSW Bragg Student Prize for Science Writing.

“My first thought was ‘I don’t think I’ll be doing that!’” says Sam, 12, of Queensland.

But after watching the ABC’s War on Waste, and learning how much food is wasted every year, Sam changed his mind.

“I wrote about the embarrassing and alarming amount of fruits and vegetables grown in Australia that never make it to the supermarket shelves because they’re not perfect enough for fussy consumers,” Sam says.

On October 12, Sam discovered he’d won the national competition. “I don’t think I’d felt as happy as that before, because I’d basically worked the entire June-July holidays on this project.”

Give ugly a go

throw away banana.jpg

Up to 60 per cent of Australia’s fruit and vegetable crops are thrown away for being ‘ugly’.

Sam says he felt angry after learning that up to 60% of Australia’s fruit and vegetable crops end up wasted. “It was the first time I’d really been outraged about something that I had the power to change in my home,” he says.

Sam took charge of his home’s recycling, started composting, and researched ways that waste was being reduced in his local area. He used his research to write his essay, arguing it’s what’s inside that counts. “‘Ugly’ produce can be just as nutritious and delicious as perfect produce,” he says.

“I used to be that kid who didn’t eat my banana in my lunchbox because it had a black spot on it,” Sam admits. “This research has really opened up my eyes… It’s not sustainable to keep using precious resources to grow food that is wasted.”

Sam now runs his own Instagram account, Give Ugly A Go.


Ebony Wallin’s essay described how a common caterpillar can eat plastic bags, offering hope for the war on plastic waste.

The very helpful caterpillar

WA’s Ebony Wallin, 14, was a runner-up with her essay describing the surprising discovery that a common caterpillar can eat plastic bags.

“If scientists can replicate their ability, it could bring us a step closer to solving the problem of plastic waste,” Ebony explains.

Year 9 Carol Ge of the ACT was also a runner-up, with her essay about the Great Barrier Reef.

All three writers won a trip to Sydney in November to collect their prizes.

This interview first appeared in Crinkling News.



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The City of South Perth Young Writers Award: free workshops

South-Perth-young-writers-awardIf you live (or school) in South Perth, you’d be crazy not to enter this writing competition!

Right now I’m teaching lots of writing workshops, so I know there are a lot of you out there who love writing stories and can really write well.

Even better, I’m running two FREE writing workshops at the South Perth Library, especially for member’s of the library’s Secret Club. Come along on 11 March and 8 April to have a heap of fun, plus pick up some ideas, tips and writing techniques.

Then, enter what you’ve been working on into Young Writer’s Award, details below. Everything I’ve achieved as a writer has come thanks to entering writing competitions: the Canon Young Writer’s Award, the Varuna House Emerging Writer Fellowship, the Voices on the Coast writing competition, the Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Children’s Book Award…

I’ve won a few writing competitions, but I’ve entered about a billion more. LOTS of competitions, MILLIONS of them. Anything that’s free to enter or run by someone reputable (like a publisher or council) is fair game.

So get out your pens, tap at your keyboards, come to my workshops and ENTER! Sometimes, every now and then, something great happens. This could be that something great for you.

The City of South Perth Young Writers Award

Conditions of entry

–        Limit of one entry per child

–        Entries must be prose only

–        The entrant’s name must not appear elsewhere on the entry

–        Entry is open to any school aged child residing in or attending school in the City of South Perth.

–        Entries must be the entrant’s own original work (i.e. ideas should not be copied from television or books), nor should the entry be edited by another person.

–        Entries may be of any length up to 1500 words.

–        Entries may either be submitted in hardcopy on standard A4 paper or electronically in MS Word 2000 or higher and sent to

–        A completed entry form must accompany each entry.

–        Entries are not retained and cannot be returned (photocopied originals are acceptable).We regret we cannot acknowledge receipt of individual entries.

–        The organisers reserve the right to publish any winning entries in whole or part thereof.

–        Entries must be received by Saturday 10 May 2014.


Entries will be judged in the following categories

A. Year 1

B. Lower Primary Years 2-3

C. Middle Primary Years 4-5

D. Upper Primary Years 6-7

E. Lower Secondary Years 8-10

F. Upper Secondary Years 11-12


–        Prizes may be awarded for first and second in each category, and certificates for highly commended works may also be awarded.

–        The most outstanding entry for 2014 will be awarded the Christobel Mattingley Bronze Medallion.

–        All finalists will be notified about the award ceremony by mid-July.

–        Please note: We regret we are unable to individually notify all entrants of placings. Only finalists will be notified.

Thank you!

The City of South Perth Young Writers Award is proudly sponsored by the City of South Perth. The Award provides local students an opportunity to develop their writing skills.

The City of South Perth would like to gratefully acknowledge the support Of the Mill Point Caffe Bookshop.

For more information on the Young Writer’s Award, contact the South Perth library.

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Have you had any stories rejected by publishers? and other questions…

Welcome to the world of publishing (Image by SIku)

Welcome to the world of publishing! (Image from Takeshita Demons, illustrated by SIku)

A couple of days ago I got an intriguing mail from a Year 7 student called Andrew, who lives in South Australia. I’ve reproduced part of it — and my answers to Andrew’s questions — below.

As part of my personal project study I am writing a humorous novel and I would appreciate your input in answering some questions (it would keep my teachers happy too!). I hope that you can find the time to reply. Your answers will be included in my project folder.

And my answers to Andrew’s questions:

Where do you get your inspiration from to write stories?
From a mix of real life, science, history and culture. For example, TAKESHITA DEMONS was inspired by my time in Japan, my experience as a new kid at school, and my research into Japanese mythology. I’m currently writing another book partly inspired by my time in Geneva with the Large Hadron Collider and Roald Dahl’s THE WITCHES.

What steps do you take to create a story?
I smash a few ideas together and see what happens. If I get an interesting idea, I try to think of where that idea might go. I think of characters, give them interesting characteristics, then put them in awkward positions.

On average how long does it take to write a story?
There is no average! Some take much longer than others. TAKESHITA DEMONS took just three weeks, writing about 1000 words a day (which is only three pages!). MONSTER MATSURI took about a year, because the ideas were undeveloped and I was busier in my life.

What things do you find humorous?
The unexpected. You can often create this by using ‘the rule of three,’ which lets you make a list of three things, where the third in the list is surprising. Like this song lyric from Seth Sentry’s ROOM FOR RENT:

That’s why the real estate agent hates us
We get dirty looks from our neighbours
We get noise complaints from our neighbours
We get internet from our neighbours

So the first two items are things the grumpy neighbours do to the singer, but the third is something the singer does to the neighbour, so it’s funny.

What is the worst way to start or end a story?

–        Start: Worst is an ordinary, boring start. You have about half a page to impress a reader. If you don’t, they’ll put your book down.

–        End: Worst is an end that does’t satisfy the reader. I hate cliffhanger endings, because it’s not fair to the reader.

Have you had any stories rejected by publishers?
Only about a billion. But that’s part of being a writer. The worst thing that can happen is that they say “No thanks, not this story,” so rejection’s not actually bad.

Can you sum up your writing style in 5 words?
Quick. Funny. Sparse. Sporadic. Plot-driven.

Good luck writing your novel Andrew!!

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A Monster House: by Zac R from Room 13

…I’ve just come back from three days of workshops in Geraldton, where I met lots of terrific and talented people, including Zac R, a budding writer from Room 13. He worked very hard over two days to finish Chapter 1 of his story, and I promised to put it on the web for all to see. 

So, here it is: A MONSTER HOUSE, by Zac R from Room 13.

A MONSTER HOUSE: Intro/synopsis

The monster I’m going to talk about is the Monster House. I hope you enjoy!

The Monster House eats anything that goes or is near the house. The Monster House is afraid of fire, smells like a zombie, looks like an ugly house and sounds like a zombie dying.


One day a kid named Zac R went for a walk at night and saw a weird-looking house. Zac felt relaxed. Then, the house turned into a monster house and Zac felt scared. Zac started to run from China to Perth.

Zac was soooo scared that he said: “Awww, I’m going to get eaten alive!”

So, Zac carried dynamite.

Zac lit the dynamite on fire and threw it as hard as he could. The house blew up into many pieces.

The house turned into a zombie house and tried to kill Zac with a diamond pick axe. But Zac took his flare gun and blasted the zombie’s roof off, because the roof is the house’s main power source. So, Zac was now safe and went back home to go to sleep.

The next morning, Zac went to the place where he killed the zombie house and he saw graders, dump trucks and bobcats cleaning the place up. So Zac met a friend named Bob who was at the place, cleaning up the broken house pieces. Then, after that, Zac and Bob went to the playground and saw the Filth Licker. The brought the Filth Licker home and the Filth Licker started to clean up the house.

Then, the Filth Licker got hungry, so Zac and Bob gave the Filth Licker a name and talking cockroaches to eat, and the Filth Licker’s name was William. So William went around to other people’s houses to clean them. And they lived happily ever after.


That is the end of my monster house story. I hope you enjoyed it.

By Zac R, Room 13.

….Way to go Zac! I did enjoy it! Thanks so much for sharing: now lots of other people enjoy your story too…

It was great to meet everyone in Geraldton…thanks for your fabulous stories!


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Artist Patrick Lee

Artist Patrick Lee worked with kids from seven schools at the 2013 Geraldton NAIDOC Sports Festival.

Kevin Burgemeestre facepaints for NAIDOC festival

Author/illustrator Kevin Burgemeestre joined in with spontaneous Antarctic face-painting…

Woo hoo!

Just back from Geraldton, where I’ve had a terrific week with gorgeous authors and illustrators Sally MurphyKevin Burgemeestre and Den Scheer (who has also done a great write-up of this event).

Together, we did meet-the-author school shows and writing and illustration workshops across three days and seven schools, and it was FANTASTIC.

I trialed heaps of new jokes, met lots of great people, and had stacks of fun. Yee ha! (And thanks for laughing at my jokes :-))

Cristy Burne, Den Scheer and disembodied head

Me, Den Scheer and the disembodied head.

Awesome Aboriginal dance troupe

We saw an awesome Aboriginal dance troupe, made up of Year 9 students. Very impressive!

Thanks to the Children’s Charity Network for supporting the event, to artist Patrick Lee for his amazing talent and generosity, and to Marg Maxwell and her team (including Ken and the cat) for their brilliant hospitality. Hugs to you all (even the cat)!

Young Australian Art and Writing Awards

While I’m on the subject of the Children’s Charity Network, they run some exciting award programs for young authors and artists.

I was (am?) addicted to entering competitions of this kind, and even won a couple when I was still at school (the old Canon Young Writers of the Year was a highlight…my first trip to Sydney! Yee ha!).

We all know how hard it is to be a writer, how much you need to believe in yourself if you’re even going to put words on a page, and awards like this can give young artists a real boost, right when they need it most. It sure helped me!

So, if you know a young writer or talented artist (or if you suspect you might possibly be one…), check out the awards, and the OzKids in Print magazine.

I’ll leave you with more images from the NAIDOC Sports Festival…it rocked!

And a special bonus for reading down this far? Check out A MONSTER HOUSE by Zac R from Room 13.

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Singapore Writers Festival: Words Go Round

Singapore Words Go Round logoYay! The programme for the Singapore Writers Festival Words Go Round school program is up. It’s happening in late February, early March 2013, and some awesome writers from all around the world will be there (including me :-))

Kate McCaffrey

Kate McCaffrey, looking anything but angsty. 🙂

Also attending from Australia is the fabulous YA mistress-of-angst Kate McCaffrey, who will also be giving the opening address at an incredible day-long public event: the WGR Literary Open House, a day dedicated to young writers and readers. If you’re in Singapore on March 2 2013, be there! It’s going to be huge.

I’m offering a couple of sessions for kids in Grades P4-6:

From vampires and zombies to bean-shakers and talking umbrellas, the world’s mythical creatures have inspired generations of authors. Join Cristy Burne, author of the Takeshita Demons series, in a lively discussion of Japan’s monsters, how to survive them, and what they can teach us about history, culture and the human condition.

Have you ever rung an old bell, then imagined who might have rung it before you? Or perhaps you’ve read an old postcard, then felt the ghost of its writer beside you? Some objects seem to carry their own history, and in this creative writing workshop, we open a window into their past. Students interact with ancient and peculiar artefacts, combining history with fantasy to write their own exciting stories.

Fergus helps me research some science…He also loves dinosaurs, dolphins and How Things Work by Richard Scarry 🙂

TWO BITES OF THE APPLE: Combining science and literacy in the classroom
There’s also a programme for teachers, in which I’ll be presenting a hands-on professional development workshop on combining science and literacy in the classroom.

I call it Two Bites of the Apple, since I’m hoping to explore ways in which we can tick science learning objectives along with English learning objectives in the same lesson.

And why not? Some of the world’s best scientists are also great communicators, and science is a language that unites us all.  A couple of quotes that get right to the heart of it:

Science immerses children in content that is so interesting and important to them that they want to learn about it, which motivates them to read.” Dr John T. Guthrie, University of Maryland, Literacy Research Center.

“Not only is reading critical to the learning of science, science is critical to the learning of reading.” Dr Rowena Douglas, National Science Teachers Association, Canada.

What do you think? Sounds fun? I think so and I can’t wait 🙂 🙂


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Two million free books and counting

***Are you here for info on the short story competition for young writers?
Skip to the bottom***

Check out this awesome article on the amazing work being done by the Booked Up team and Booktime. The article includes some interesting stats, such as:

  • From 2008 to 2009 there was a 40% increase in the numer of dads reading with their children…YAY!
  • 60% of children like to share a book with their parents/carers as it shows that the parent/carer likes to spend time with them. (Awww. What cuteys :-))
  • the vast majority of parents and carers say that they often read for pleasure with their children (72% say weekly and 54% say the last time they read together was only yesterday). YAY!

And when children were asked why they liked to read with parents or carers, they said:

Why children love reading with parents/carers % Comments
They like spending time with me 60% This becomes the best thing about reading for older children (8-12), for whom time spent with adults has clear emotional benefits
We talk about the story / pictures together 55% Younger children (5-7) rated this as their favourite thing about reading together
They put on funny voices and make me laugh 50% This rises to 64% amongst 5 year olds and resonates more strongly amongst boys (52%)
I like the sound of their voice, it helps me relax/sleep 28% Younger children are more likely to cite this as reason for enjoying reading (34% of 5 year olds)
They / we make up new characters and stories 17% More than a quarter of 5 year olds said this is what they enjoyed about reading

Interesting, hey! But not every house comes complete with bookshelves of reading material, which is why Booked Up is giving kids the chance to choose a book they like and recieve a copy for free. HOW COOL!

Now in its fourth year, Booked Up will have given away over 2 and half million books to Year 7 pupils across England (by Christmas).

Booked Up allows each Year 7 pupil in England to make their own choice of free book from a selection of titles that include fiction, non fiction and poetry. This year children can choose their free book from a list of 19 titles, including six accessible books, to ensure that there is a book that will appeal to every child, whatever their ability or needs. The programme encourages independent reading and supports reading for pleasure as children make the sometimes difficult transition from primary to secondary education.

Secondary schools can register for Booked Up by visiting the Booked Up website. Public libraries and school library services are also being offered the opportunity to receive free sets of the books and supporting resources to enhance the Booked Up programme.

The new Booked Up book list:

Takeshita Demons by Cristy Burne (Frances Lincoln) [Also available as an audio book :-)]

Warning! Aliens Are Invading the School! By Dinah Capparucci (Scholastic)

Z-Rex by Steve Cole (Random House)

The Dying Photo by Alan Gibbons (Barrington Stoke) [Also available as an audio book]

The Joshua Files: Invisible City by M.G. Harris (Scholastic)

At the Sign of the Sugared Plum by Mary Hooper (Bloomsbury)

Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur (Puffin)

Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror by Chris Priestley (Bloomsbury)

Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve (Scholastic)

Michael Rosen’s A-Z: The Best Children’s Poetry from Agard to Zephaniah (Puffin)

How to Avoid a Wombat’s Bum by Mitchell Symons (Random House)

The Crowfield Curse by Pat Walsh (Chicken House)

The Lost Thing by Shaun Tan (Hachette)

Boffin Boy and the Forest of the Ninja by David Orme (Ransom)

The Big Fat Cow That Goes Kapow by Andy Griffiths & Terry Denton (Macmillan)

Me and My Cat? By Satoshi Kitamura (Andersen Press)

Stone Soup by Jess Stockham (Child’s Play)

Calm Down, Boris! by Sam Lloyd (Templar)




Clackety-Clacks: Elephant by Luana Rinaldo (Macmillan)

Calling talented young writers!!

And if you’re a keen writer and would like the chance to meet some AMAZING people in the writing industry, as well as be a judge of the 2010 Booktrust Teenage Prize, then this is the opportunity for you:


The launch of the Booked Up programme also sees the launch of a short story competition for young adults, to win a place on the judging panel of the 2010 Booktrust Teenage Prize. The theme of this year’s short story is Invisibility and was inspired by the 2009 Booktrust Teenage Prize winning title, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.

A panel of judges will select the best four short stories and the prize for each winner will be:

  • a place on the Booktrust Teenage Prize judging panel to help choose the 2010 teenage book of the year
  • a ticket to the award ceremony in London in November
  • the chance to meet and interview all the shortlisted authors, using a flipcam – yours to keep
  • a complete set of the shortlisted titles
  • your winning story published on the Booktrust website.