Wednesday, 23 June 2021

In Conversation ... with Elizabeth Mary Cummings


In Conversation with 
Elizabeth Mary Cummings

This "In Conversation" has been organised in conjunction with 
as a part of the Ocean Devotion campaign.

Tell us about your most recent publication. 

Ocean Devotion is a hopeful and powerful book about the plastic island in the ocean and young people getting involved in helping to reduce pollution. With the bright illustrations telling the story without words, the underlying deeper messages of a call to action are explored. A brilliantly constructed story that gently acts as a conversation starter for the young about environmental matters.

The young protagonists Khalea and Ohipo live by the ocean. They enjoy a beautiful life full of wonder and nature. One day they see a shiny object out at sea. On exploration, they discover to their horror that it is an island made of plastic rubbish. The fish are dying and the ocean is polluted. They quickly resolve to take action and help save their marine friends. They enlist the community in helping dredge the rubbish from the ocean and find that they can help renew their world and bring hope for future.
Published @ EC PRESS

Do you have any writing rituals you can share?

I get up around 5- 5.30am and always start my day down by the ocean. It centres me for the day. I make lists of tasks I need to work through. I focus in on a particular scene or character I’m working on and only think about that. I try to stop every hour and stretch or change my position, and I often like to stop when I am writing well and then feel more confident when I go back to my desk that it’s a good place rather than go back to where I was stuck. I always reread what I last wrote before starting a new writing session.

I also like to create playlists that go with the writing / character – sort of like an audible mood board! I like creating a Zen space and will have to have my desk clear to think with no distractions. I like having a candle burning and working in the outdoors down at my local ocean pool. I usually wear headphones even if I am listening to nothing as it sends a signal to the people around me that I am not to be disturbed! I must admit that my family find that ritual very annoying!

Top tip/s for writers?

Read, read, read!

Always jot your ideas down otherwise you’ll lose them.

Never fear critiques – they are designed to help your writing reach its potential

Spend time with other writers

Listen to the news – it is full of world stories

Writers are sometimes influenced by things that happen in their own lives. Are you?

Absolutely. I was born in Manchester England and moved to Scotland when I was seven years old. It was not always easy being seen as the outsider, although my mother was fully Scots. My accent and mixed background meant that my siblings and I were seen as ‘Sassenachs’ and often were the subject of racially focused bullying. I guess this sense of being on the outside and not feeling included has influenced much of my writing, so in a funny way those bullies did me a favour.

In these recent years I have become involved in the area of family and mental health education. My first book ‘The Disappearing Sister’ has gained attention for its simple explanation of eating disorders aimed at siblings and families of sufferers. This came about after my own lived experience as a carer in this area. My awareness of the role of storytelling in clinical settings was awakened, leading me to writing and researching more widely in the mental and family health sector.

In regard to my stories about the natural world, my personal interest and love of the outdoors drives me to write in a way that I hope inspires young people to take up the call to action to care for their planet.

Other than writing, what else do you love?

I love my family, my friends, my dog!

I love nature, seeing the sun rise, watching the ocean move and being outdoors. I love to run and to swim in the ocean.

I love going the movies and listening to music.

Do you have a favourite character from your stories? Spill the beans and tell us about them.

Yes, Fiona the Lifeguard is my favourite. She is a real person and she is simply so brave and resilient. I wish I could surf and swim like her, and her brave attitude is inspiring. She is a person who has suffered a great deal of gender bullying over the course of her life, and it amazes me how she has not let that deter her and yet does not push to be recognised – rather she just gets on with her job and looks after her family. I do not believe that her work and what she has achieved has truly been recognised or appreciated. Yet what she has done has helped build a vision for a more equal world as well as a safer one in the surf.

If you had a premonition you would be stranded on a desert island, what five books would you take with you?

Bramstoker’s Dracula is my favourite of all time – such brilliant writing

Also Winnie-the-Pooh complete works – so comforting

Love in the Time of Cholera – for hope and patience

The Arabian Nights – because it’s a good long read

And perhaps one of Austen’s: Persuasion or Pride and Prejudice depending on my mood.

What writing resources would you recommend?

Join you local writer’s group.

Be part of the CBCA, ASA, SCBWI and local communities.

They will support you and you can help support others. It is so great being surrounded by like-minded people!

How can we learn more about you? 


Thank you for joining In Conversation this week. Remember to always 
Dream Big ... Read Often.

Wednesday, 16 June 2021

In Conversation ... with Cameron Macintosh


In Conversation with 
Cameron Macintosh

This "In Conversation" has been organised in conjunction with 
as a part of the Max Booth Future Sleuth campaign.

Tell us about your most recent publication. 

My latest book, Map Trap, is the sixth title in the Max Booth Future Sleuth series, illustrated by the amazing Dave Atze and published by Big Sky Publishing.

In each book in the series, our 25th century heroes – 11-year-old Max and his trusty beagle-bot Oscar – investigate a long-forgotten item from the 20th or 21st centuries and are catapulted into fun and adventure by what they discover about it. In Map Trap, they come across a car GPS unit. They follow the previous owner’s most recent journey and find themselves at the scene of a high-tech art robbery. Not being the kind of folks to sit idly by, Max and Oscar use all of their wits (as well as a certain GPS unit) to try to apprehend the robbers and put things right.


What do you enjoy most about being a writer?

The more I think about it, the luckier I feel to have a job that allows me to spend inordinate amounts of time on my beanbag, thinking stuff up. I also love that it’s opened the doors to meeting so many interesting creative people, many of whom have been incredibly generous with support and advice.

What is the hardest aspect about being a writer?

For me, it’s the need to have ideas ready to go at any given moment. If a commission comes up and I don’t already have a few ideas scribbled down, I can get very stressed trying to harvest them out of thin air. This is where notepads and dictation apps are so helpful – any idea that strikes me as interesting or workable, I try to get it down and file it away before it escapes!

Writers are sometimes influenced by things that happen in their own lives. Are you?

Very much so. More often than not it’s in simple observation of physical locations, or people’s behaviours or speech patterns. Sometimes though, it can take a more concrete form. This was the case with the Max Booth series, which was sparked by a visit to Pompeii and the archaeological museum in Naples. I spent a lot of time looking at 2000-year-old artefacts – even mundane things like combs and cooking pots – imagining them being used by very real people all those centuries ago. This made me wonder what future generations will think when they see everyday items from our present-day lives, which gave me the idea for a future detective with a specific interest in precisely that, and (ka-boom!) Max was born.

Other than writing, what else do you love?

My other big passion is music – listening to it, writing it and performing it. I can occasionally be seen onstage at pub open mics and singing with classical choirs. I especially love 60s rock, and post-rock like Radiohead and Sigur Ros, as well as old-school gospel and Motown.

How did you get published?

I was incredibly lucky with the first Max Booth book – it was an unsolicited submission, and we’ve all heard stories about how hard it is to get published that way. It may have helped that I had a bit of a track record as an educational author over the previous six or seven years, but hopefully the concept for the series was strong enough on its own. 

Big Sky asked me for a second title shortly thereafter, and we’ve basically put out one a year since then. Map Trap is book 6, which blows my mind the more I think about it!

Have you ever had a fan moment and met somebody famous? Tell us about it.

Back in 2014 I went to a Salman Rushdie speech at the Melbourne Writers Festival, which was followed by a book signing. I lined up for about half an hour with book in hand, trying to think of suitably witty and/or profound things to say. Of course, the moment I reached the signing table I froze up and said some really boring thing about his speech and welcomed him to Melbourne. He was very gracious nonetheless.

How can we learn more about you? 


Thank you for joining In Conversation this week. Remember to always 
Dream Big ... Read Often.

Wednesday, 9 June 2021

Book Review (and blog tour) - Songbird Drought Rescue By Karen Tyrrell


Songbird Drought Rescue
By Karen Tyrrell

Book Giveaway
WIN two copies of Song Bird Drought Rescue!
Winners will receive a signed copy, bookmark, goodies and a signed stamped certificate. Just comment on this post, social media promotions or any of the posts on the blog tour!

My Review:

Karen Tyrrell's latest superhero story, Songbird Drought Rescue, is full of action, mystery, suspense and tension. Rosie, aka Songbird Superhero, is on a mission to find her kidnapped aunty, save the outback from drought and stop her enemy, Destructo, from committing any further destruction. 

Rosie and her friends, Ben and Amy, are tasked with trying to find Aunt Matilda. Rosie knows Destructo is behind the kidnapping, but is not sure why. As the story unfolds several themes emerge including drought, outback Australia's harsh
 conditions, and good verse evil. A delightful mix that blend together to create an exciting, high stakes read. This fast paced story had me turning the pages one after the other to find out where the next twist would take Rosie. 

A special mention goes out to Destructo and K9. The banter between the villain, Destructo, and his not so reliable sidekick K9, was really enjoyable. Destructo's frustration with the robot dog were clear (and humorous) with lines such as "Stop that, junk head."

This storyline subtly introduces the reader to some historical elements of Australia, including the famous poet Banjo Patterson. The notes left by Destructo in Patterson's famous Maltzing Matilda rhyme style were clever and worked really well within the storyline. Tyrrell had clearly done her research to ensure the rich history of the area was included.  It did not overshadow the storyline, but rather enriched it further and added to all the twists and wonder.

The action packed writing and superhero/villain theme meant an important topic like drought and conservation could be addressed in a manner that was entertaining and enjoyable for the reader. Highly recommend this fast paced, entertaining story!

From the publisher KAREN TYRRELL

Rosie, aka Song Bird superhero, must save the outback from the drought.

Animals are dying, water’s disappearing, dinosaurs are stampeding,

… and now Aunt Matty’s kidnapped.

Is Destructo behind the devastation?

Song Bird follows a secret map to unlock a mystery.

Can Song Bird rescue the outback before it’s too late?

You can check out my other reviews at GOODREADS

Wednesday, 26 May 2021

Book Review - Footprints on the Moon By Lorraine Marwood


Footprints on the Moon
By Lorraine Marwood

My Review:

Lorraine Marwood’s latest verse novel takes the reader to 1969 where man is about to take the first step on the moon. For Sharnie Burley, this momentous event runs parallel to several significant events within her own life.

Sharnie begins high school with her best friend Mia, and like many teenagers beginning secondary school, they both want to fit in and make friends. However, friendships become complicated and fitting in becomes a whole lot harder, especially when Sharnie is paired up with the social outcast Gail. The simmering tension within the friendship groups and change of dynamics between the teenagers is believable and relatable.

While Sharnie continues to navigate the socially complex world of high school, she also has to find a way to stay connected with her older sister Cas. A task not made easy by Cas who becomes involved with a returned Vietnam Soldier and anti-war protests. A sentiment that is strongly opposed by their father who forbids such actions. This forces Cas to become more secretive and distanced from Sharni who just wants her sister to be there for her like she always has been.

This storyline introduces the reader to the topic of conscription, Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War and how soldiers were treated upon their return. Marwood included both opinions to the topics and is subtle enough in her writing that the reader can’t help but draw their own conclusion around this time in Australian history.

The constant support in Sharnie’s world is her grandmother who enjoys pottering around in her garden and collecting special shells and stone. The two have a close bond, however Sharni has noticed that Gran has become forgetful and confused at times. She is not sure who to speak with about her fears. This relationship shows just how special the bond between grandparents and grandchildren can be.

The countdown to the moon landing is a clever and constant thread throughout the story. Even Sharnie’s younger cousin Lewis can’t wait for this monumental event. Lewis uses a telescope to look at the moon and wears moon boots whenever he can. The buildup of anticipation to the moon landing keeps pace with the events throughout the story. Each event slowly building in significance and tension.

The story culminates with the heart-breaking loss of a family member, the creation of new friendships, a very public anti-war protest and the successful mission of Apollo 11. The ending was satisfying as it addressed all threads of the storyline in a manner that both the main and secondary characters were considered. This made the read even more enjoyable.

The verse novel style makes this story accessible for the most reluctant reader through to the most confident. The easy to read narrative and short chapter style meant a smooth and past faced read. It is an introduction to hard hitting adult topics such as war, grief, persistence and friendship.

From the publisher UQP

Humans are about to leave footprints on the moon, but what sort of mark can one girl make here on earth?

It’s 1969 and life is changing fast. Sharnie Burley is starting high school and finding it tough to make new friends. As the world waits to see if humans will land on the moon, the Vietnam War rages overseas. While her little cousin, Lewis, makes pretend moon boots, young men are being called up to fight, sometimes without having any choice in the matter. Sometimes without ever coming home.

Dad thinks serving your country in a war is honourable, but when Sharnie’s older sister, Cas, meets a returned soldier and starts getting involved in anti-war protests, a rift in their family begins to show. Sharnie would usually turn to her grandma for support, but lately Gran’s been forgetting things.

Can she find her own way in this brave new world?

You can check out my other reviews at GOODREADS

Wednesday, 12 May 2021

In Conversation ... with Kaye Baillie


In Conversation with 
Kaye Baillie

Tell us about your most recent publication. 

WHEN THE WATERHOLE DRIES UP is a picture book illustrated by Max Hamilton and published by Windy Hollow Books with a target audience of age 3+. In this rollicking tale told in cumulative style, a dusty outback boy waits for his long-awaited-for bath to fill. But the native animals are very cheeky and one by one, they invade the bathtub. Chaos ensues. The precious water is sloshed everywhere, and the bath is emptied. How will this boy ever get clean?

What do you enjoy most about being a writer?

Having a creative outlet for my ideas. It feels like magic to take a thought or idea and turn it into a fully rounded story.

What is the hardest thing about writing?

When a book is released I find the promotional side quite challenging as I’m not very comfortable talking in front of an audience or at selling my books.

Writers are sometimes influenced by things that happen in their own lives. Are you?

My first two books were educational readers and were based on me being afraid of diving at the pool and seeing someone using sign language on a long train trip. After that I wanted to write about other people’s experiences which I found far more interesting or to write about something made up. My first three picture books were based on real events such as a soldier’s letter, a boy who hated reading until he read to cats at an animal shelter and the true story of John Wing who wrote a letter changing the closing ceremony of the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games.

What is the most surprising thing about writing/publishing that you have learnt

I think it’s the submission process. When I started out I thought I’d hear back from editors quickly. As the years went on I realised that it was more likely that I wouldn’t hear back or that if I did it could anywhere from three weeks to seven months, and that’s for a rejection or an acceptance.

How did you get published?

My first book was an educational PM Reader called Diving At The Pool with Cengage Learning. I was studying for my Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing and my tutor in the Writing For Children class told me I should visit an editor she knew at Cengage (back then it was Thomson Learning), whose office was in the same street where I was living at the time. So I did. After I wrote the story I sent it directly to that editor and one year later I received a letter of acceptance.

My first trade book was Archie Appleby and the Terrible Case of the Creeps illustrated by Krista Brennan and published by Wombat books. I read that they were looking for junior chapter books, so I sent it in, went through a few rounds of editing with them and it was accepted.

My first picture book, Message In A Sock illustrated by Narelda Joy was sent through the slush and accepted by MidnightSun Publishing.

Do you have a favourite character from your stories? Spill the beans and tell us about them. 

I love the sweet dog Boo, the rescue dog from my New Frontier Publishing book, BOO LOVES BOOKS illustrated by Tracie Grimwood. Tracie chose how he would look, and she made him look so loveable and gentle and full of expression. 

My heart goes out to Boo because he is waiting at an animal shelter for someone to love him. He is patient, gentle, a great companion and he helps Phoebe to overcome her fears.

How can we learn more about you? 


Thank you for joining In Conversation this week. Remember to always 
Dream Big ... Read Often.

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

In Conversation ... with Dimity Powell


In Conversation with 
Dimity Powell

Tell us about your most recent publication. 

Oswald Messweather is my latest publication, a picture book that acknowledges the presence of OCD in young children. Published by Wombat Books and stunningly illustrated by, Siobhan McVey, Oswald Dorian Constantine Messweather is a character who is easily overwhelmed by mess and disorder. Even the complexity of his own name is enough to set his legs jiggling and his palms itching with anxiety. To combat his unease, Oswald obsessively counts his take-everywhere pocket pals – his crayons. It is a compulsion he finds comforting but also extremely exhausting.

Oswald’s obsessive preoccupations distract him from everything and everyone else around him, until one day Oswald is encouraged to use his penchant for perfection and eye for detail in a class project. With the help of his crayons, Oswald’s classmates create something spectacular, which helps Oswald realise just how valuable he is in spite of his anxieties.

Oswald’s story is less of a cure for OCD rather more of a window of hope that despite debilitating mental conditions, fears and anxieties can be managed when their source is recognised and then employed with purpose to magnify ones strengths.

What do you enjoy most about being a writer?

The freedom to be who you want to be and go wherever you wish to go, even if that place does not exist and you’re doing it through a made up character. I love the challenge of crafting unreal situations into believable adventures and moments in time that kids find more real than real life. That is the unqualified magic of storytelling: transporting readers into that magical plane of suspended belief. It’s what I adored about reading as a child and hope to continue to perpetuate for children.

How much research goes into your writing?

No matter how brief the story, be it a 32 page picture book, short story or novel with more grunt, I spend a massive amount of time researching bits and pieces. My more issued orientated picture book tales demand a certain amount of factual credence to ensure the characters and their stories ring true. I also love exploring the symbolism of names, numbers and colours each of which can add more depth to the layers or nuances of a story.

It’s my firm belief that authors are the most fortunate people in the world. I may not be able to actually perform brain surgery but I can talk you through some of the technicalities. I may never have actually travelled to the moon, but I can tell you what to expect. I’ve never actually flown on the back of a dragon (yet) but I can direct you to the best site to order your own dragon! Researching ones story opens up a world of understanding and knowledge that I would not have been exposed to in a ‘normal’ same everyday job. If I can learn something new every day, it’s been a good day and possibly a slow writing one – I can get a bit carried away.

Writers are sometimes influenced by things that happen in their own lives. Are you?

Most definitely! I think this is one of most important aspects to remember when penning your characters’ stories; draw from that amazing treasure chest of memories and experiences you’ve encountered throughout your life. Never underestimate the potency of past experiences even if you think they were the most boring things you’ve ever done. Chances are the emotions you felt at the time along with a myriad of other details such as smells and even peculiarities of the weather can be distilled into your story which will ultimately enhance its authenticity and believability. I love that I’m able to ‘cameo’ my own experiences and situations into fresh storylines. Many of my anthology short stories were born this way.

‘Some people believe ideas are born in our imaginations
but I think some of the best stories come
from life – and simply living it.’

Top tip/s for writers?

Oh I have a gazillion but the one I preach most loudly to scribes young and old is to READ! You’d be amazed how many picture book writers for example have never even stepped into a modern day library and picked up a picture book but want to write a publishable one first go. Reading allows a certain amount of information to osmose into your creative comprehension. You’ll gain a sense of what works well and what doesn’t, what is popular and what is lacking in the market. You don’t necessarily have to write what’s out there but you should understand who your audience is and what they are reading. Plus it’s fun and informative!

My other top tip is to be consistent. Write often, enquire frequently, and regularly connect to your tribe and your passion. Then keep on reading and writing and rewriting. One of my favourite quotes of all time is by Robin Williams: It took him 20 years to be an overnight success. It does well to remember this; that patience, tenacity and perseverance is just as important as talent. Don’t rush your writing just to see your name in print. Concentrate on writing the best story you can possibly write and be true and committed to your characters. The rest will follow.

Have you ever had a fan moment and met somebody famous? Tell us about it. 

I have a background in hospitality management and have worked in various hotel properties and resorts around the world including a stint in the luxury motor yachting industry so it’s fair to say I’ve met my fair share of famous people. I’m not that fazed by any of them and tend to go more google-eyed over Kid Lit royalty. However deep down, we’re all the same animals and when I’ve had the opportunity and good fortune to work or present alongside some of the most revered creators in the Kids’ Lit industry, I feel more of a deep respect and camaraderie as opposed to wobbly kneed swoon. I confess though that I still go a bit crae crae for A-ha; you know the best thing to come out of Norway in the 80s since anything! I first met them in 1986 and attended their concert again in 2020 just before the world shut down. Ahhhh….they can take on me any day…

Do you have a favourite character from your stories? Spill the beans and tell us about them. 

Oooh another tricky question because like all good mums, I don’t really have favourites although I do have a deep fondness for the little girl from The Fix-It Man. She was my first picture book character and although she has no name, she represents such hope and resilience and bravery during one of the most devastating times of her life, I can’t help but admire and love her and want to scoop her up in my arms. Her demeanour and affection towards her father and indeed life, is infectious and heart-warming.

I am rather fond of Pippa too, that plucky little pigeon who wouldn’t take no for an answer. I’d love to be her and fly away unheeded for a day or two.

There is a girl who appears in one of my award winning Short and Twisted short stories, Concrete Boots, who again is nameless but shows a complex combination of responses as she navigates her way through the grief of losing her baby sister. I admire her comical candour and frustrations because she reminds me a little bit of myself.

And finally mention must be made of Ozzie from Oswald Messweather, who has already found his way into the hearts of many young people. They seem to find powerful solace in Ozzie, recognising themselves in his struggle with anxiety and having to cope in uncomfortable overwhelming situations. Their interpretations of his story and ways of managing his distress have been unbelievably intuitive and heartening. When a character of mine imparts those kinds of reactions, it makes him all the more special to me, as well.

How can we learn more about you? 


Thank you for joining In Conversation this week. Remember to always 
Dream Big ... Read Often.