NaNoWriMo Wrap up – I’m a Winner!!

A few days after the end of November – so I’m a bit late in announcing this to the world – but, I’m a NaNoWriMo Winner again!! This time I edited and as I’m now only working one day a week, I had an advantage. I’m also learning from various Scrivener tutorials that I’ve got a long way to go before I press compile. I need to sort out my Front and Back matter and then I’m almost there. I’m determined to finally get it done.

Facebook post 24/11/2019

Hi everyone, NaNoWriMo I’ve just reached 50,550 words! I’m a winner! But I’m not finished my compare edit so will continue over the six days. Once it’s all done, and I’ve stopped tweaking, I’ll finally get Scrivener to compile it so that I can upload into IS. That’s the aim.

And feedback on the new NaNoWriMo Website, I liked after learning where the time and update buttons were. I liked the graph and the daily tally giving you what you achieved daily. I like the overall, where I write, when I write bits. I’d like the link to this webpage to show the tally daily as it did in previous years.

On the whole, I thank my friends in The Ten Penners, five of which also set to the task of working away on their novels during NaNoWriMo 2019. It’s a great experience and sets up good writing habits. Bye for now – Jill

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NaNoWriMo Update and Book Review

Day 21 and I’m going cross-eyed doing my compare edit so I took time out to do another book review. If you add this in I’ll call it half an hour as taking my total to 44,050 words. I’ll be back to editing after a good nights sleep.

Book Review by Jill Smith©Nov19

Title: Howling on a Concrete Moon

Author: Simone Bailey

Publisher: Zeus Publications

Tess is a clever girl who loves English and writing. She’s shy around boys and her little sister, Julianne, is athletic and outgoing. This story is set in 1982 when she’s seventeen. As a twelve-year-old, the town hierarchy imposed a ridiculous curfew on teenagers in the town. Tess produced a pamphlet that became a rallying of the youngsters in town to protest. The ‘Resistance’ wasn’t flash but, it was her creation.

The town smart alec, Sebastian Keddie, was her pen pal for several years while he was away at boarding school. She liked that he was smart, and they could have a conversation, but she didn’t like him. When he became even more unpopular in town, the local cleric asked her to visit him in hospital. This could spell the end of her friendship with her best friend, Megan, whose older brother Greg, is good looking. She can’t fall for her best friend’s brother though, can she? Her other friends Tony Wilson and Barry Rizzo don’t mind so much her visiting Sebastian, even though he’s hated by almost everyone else in town.

Tess has a secret that she hasn’t told anyone about. The only way she’s been able to manage to live with the nightmare is to write it down. She begins her memoir, bans her dad from his office and his ball-type electric typewriter, and starts to figure out her own feelings. Sebastian twigs that she has a problem, he doesn’t know what it is, but he makes Tess talk to Megan about it.

Tess wants to protect Julianne. She blames herself for letting things get so bad. Why didn’t she speak up? How could this situation have gone on for so long? Why didn’t her parents realise what was happening? Why was it her sister, and not her, that suffered the indignity?

This is a cleverly constructed coming of age story, with scenes of awkward teenage embarrassing moments that everyone can relate to. It will make you laugh, cringe, and cry as you share Tess’s emotional journey.

For the young adult readers in your life, get a copy of this book and put it under the Christmas tree. It’s a great read.



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NaNoWriMo Update – Day 20

I haven’t been updating daily but I’ve been going well. I’m editing and with the 1 hour for 1000 words equation I’m now up to 43,550 words. I’m on a final compare edit to fine-tune anything else I might have missed.

I’ve been reading and will post a full review of this book, ‘Howling on a Concrete Moon’ by Simone Bailey, shortly. This book is published through Zeus Publications and I work there one day a week.

My brief Goodreads review is:

This is a very interesting take on a coming of age story. What would drive a shy and intelligent girl who has an athletic and gregarious younger sister, to start writing her memoirs? I’ll post a full review shortly.

I’ve also read some great little Aussie novella’s by accomplished authors that were free giveaways from Big W. Thankfully, one store chain has the sense to offer something other than useless points to their customers and the youth of Australia.

Goodreads review: How to Talk to a Frill-Neck Lizard by James Moloney, Illustrated by Simone Linehan (such action in images, loved them) –

Bern and Cody live in a little outback town where they have lizard races every year. Uncle Mo comes to visit to eat mums great tucker and to bet on the lizard races. Who knew Cody and Bern’s pet Frill-neck Lizard called Tarantula could run so fast? Cody had a secret way of talking to Tarantula and that’s how he got him to run. This is a great little Aussie yarn. James Moloney is a wonderful writer. Thanks to Big W for providing real Australian stories for children free. Wonderful giveaways that give back to us and our children and grandchildren.

Goodreads review – Cyclone Fever: by Sally Morgan, illustrated by Beth Norling

Another great Aussie yarn this time from Sally Morgan and Illustrated by Beth Norling. Again another fantastic Australian themed story for kids. Gran was on cyclone alert and insisted Danny help her put blankets at the window and batten down the hatches. He thought she was overreacting. Even Dad didn’t think a Type 1 Cyclone was anything to worry about. But Gran insisted they tie down the caravan and made sure everything in the yard was locked away. She packed an Esky full of sandwiches and water and made them all go into the bathroom when the alert hit the TV. It had gone from Type 1 to Type 3. This is a great book to show kids that it’s best to be prepared and to help out when others lose everything they have. Congratulations to Big W for making these brilliantly written stories available for free. That’s a giveaway that’s worth it’s salt in the promotion!

And lastly: Crikey! by Jane & Zannah Carrol, illustrated by Chris Edser

Joe lives on a farm in an isolated rural community. He’s sad because the teacher wants all the children to bring an animal to school to meet Davina Dabchick who’s on the telly but is making a special trip to their school.

He couldn’t take a cow! It had to be better than Patsy’s dog Esmerelda who was a dog show champion. He puttered home on his motorbike when he found a little galah chick that had dropped out of a tree. He took the chick home and called it Crikey. He taught Crikey lots of tricks and was sure Davina Dabchick would award him best animal on the day. But things don’t always go as planned.

Scholastic – Mates – Great Australian Yarns are brilliant reads. Thanks to Big W for giving this book away as part of a promotion. Much better than useless points. Here the point is kids read and learn something too.

Meanwhile, I’m keeping going on my editing and have worked out some of the formatting issues, fixed the Contents page with the corrected order. I’d added some chapters and not changed the index. Happy NaNoWriMo everyone! – Jill


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NaNoWriMo Update – Day 10

I’m going great guns and finding lots of things to change in a manuscript I thought was thoroughly edited. So worthwhile exercise all round. I’m up to 25,250 words edited using the 1 hour equals 1000 words formula. Well ahead of target, but the formatting was messy and I’m fixing it too. Maybe Scrivener will auto fix it but I’m taking no chances.

We had a great Melbourne Cup Day at Twin Towns with friends. Laughs and even a small win! We only bet once a year and that’s a good thing. We spent $24 to win $15.50!!

Also, started to think about Christmas. With our change of address, the Christmas cards will go out with our new address. I have contacted everyone on Facebook and phone lists but feel sure someone will be missed.

It’s less than SEVEN weeks to Christmas! Yikes! How did that happen? Happy NaNoWriMo writing or editing everyone! – Jill

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Book Review and NaNoWriMo update – Day 6

My NaNoWriMo total to the end of Day 5 is 13,750 words (13 3/4 hours) as I’m editing. Day 6 and I’ve nearly done another hour, now, as a diversion from the editing I typed up my handwritten book review. Here it is. Now on with the editing.

Book Review by Jill Smith©Nov19

Title: Lenny’s Book of Everything

Author: Karen Foxlee

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Three-year-old Lenny is a new big sister to her baby brother Davey. Her mother, Cynthia Spink, is good at knowing when something is not right. She had a bad feeling about Davey. He was born ‘Perfectly Normal’. Six days after Neil Armstrong took his first steps on the moon Davey turned five and he had a tantrum, and, his mother knew the bad thing had arrived.

Davey was a beautiful baby who enjoyed hearing his mother tell him about the story of his birth. Each chapter is headed with age and height – 5 1/2 years old 4ft 3inches December 74. He had grown too big already. Lenny loved her brother, but she didn’t like that he was different, that other kids loved his happy smile and charming ways, he stood out. She had to look after him.

Peter Leonard Spink was their father who came and went. He worked away. He was home until baby Davey said, Dada. Then he saw a job advert and he went again. Although Cynthia said he’d come back, this time when he left, he didn’t return. She raised Lenny and Davey on her own, leaving them with Mrs Gaspar from next door when she went to work.

The Encyclopedia arrived from Burrell’s Publishing Company Limited – ‘Our gift to you is the gift of knowledge.’ Lenny and Davey loved learning all the wonderous things in each volume delivered. Lenny loved insects and Davey loved Falcons and birds of prey.

Davey grew and grew. Their world changed.

This book is about growing up and making mistakes along the way. Of grief and moving on. It is a wonderful book.

Karen Foxlee is rapidly becoming a favourite author of mine. I loved ‘Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy’ and ‘A Most Magical Girl’. This is quite different but equally enchanting. If you’ve never read YA’s books before, this book is a great place to start.

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NaNoWriMo update

It’s The Ten Penners monthly meeting today and I’m pleased to say I’ve made a great start on my NaNoWriMo. Being a rebel and working on One-hour editing equates to One Thousand words. Yesterday, I rose early and did three hours, and after our normal walks, housework and going out for lunch, then in the evening, I managed another hour.

I’m hoping by doing as much as I can each day when I strike a day I can’t get anything done I’ll have it covered.

Looking forward to seeing all my inspirational writing friends and getting a kick out of learning more about Scrivener.

Happy Writing fellow NaNoWriMo’s!! – Jill

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NaNoWriMo Prep – I’m a rebel and will be editing

NaNoWriMo Prep – I’m a rebel and will be editing so I’m figuring out where I can write. It’s a card table in the lounge/dining area of our new unit. Space is at a premium, I will manage though.

I’ve done another book review today and sorted out a bit more of my manuscript to be reprinted through Scrivener thanks to a brilliant tutorial I recently watched, I now imported my word document and can sort it out much more thoroughly.

Of course, I’m still deciding whether I’ll put the two previous NaNoWriMo manuscripts – Microworld and Microworld Undersea together, or if I’ll just rework my old manuscript to get it republished.

Now for the book review:

Book Review by Jill Smith©Oc19

Title: 10 Short Stories You Must Read in 2010

Authors: Authors: Maggie Alderson, Georgia Blain, Mark Dapin, Nick Earls, Alex Miller, Judy Nunn, Malla Nunn, Craig Silvey, Rachel Treasure, Christos Tsiolkas

Produced by: Produced by the Australian Council for the Arts

I won this book as part of a package from the Library ‘Get Reading’ program. The Foreword by Sandra Yates, Chair of Get Reading. I’ve never needed to be encouraged to read but I know others struggle to read books as they prefer newspapers or magazines. This is 2019 so it’s one of those books I put off for someday having many others to read.

Some of these stories left a mark. I particularly enjoyed Maggie Anderson’s ‘Dress Medium’. Felicity is a psychic shopper whose talent could lose her everything, Anya is an antique shop owner desperate to sell ‘deadstock’, she discovers they are a perfect match. ‘Confession’ by Malla Nunn is an intriguing tale of a Priest who helped turn around the fortunes of McAlister’s orphanage. Well written with immersive descriptions of the horse-riding Priest and the children’s carer. I particularly loved ‘The Amber Amulet’ by Craig Silvey in which a solitary boy sets out to save the world in his street, one house at a time, after dark he becomes ‘The Masked Avenger’. It is a disarmingly charming story of self-discovery. ‘The Evolution of Sadie Smith’ was a great story very much in keeping with getting a reader interested in where it would go. I was surprised and delighted by this story. A young widow changed her own life with the help of mail she hadn’t ordered being delivered. The other authors all contribute in their own style, Nick Earls has his straightforward deadpan style with Steve when going for coffee with Jeremy, an almost tolerated, almost friend when they go to buy coffee at Merlo girls.

If you happen across this book it is worth picking up and taking to read. This copy is likely to make it into a second-hand bookstore for someone else to devour.

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Book Review – Goldilocks and the Six Simple Machines – Lois Wickstrom

I’ve been asked to review many books over the years and these twist on a Fairy Tale books by Lois Wickstrom are delightful.

Lois is so good a putting a twist on old fairytales. This one is a feel-good version of Goldilocks and the three bears. The emphasis is on Goldilocks found the door to the bears home had been left unlocked and that she went inside because she could smell the porridge. This Goldilocks was very clever and fixed things in the house. The bears were glad she came and invited her back anytime. Children can learn that things can be repaired not discarded. In this consumer age – six simple machines – is a valuable lesson. The artwork by Nicole Hehn is childlike in simplicity enhancing the overall effect of the book.

I’m wanting to have all my book reviews up to date in the next week so I can concentrate on NaNoWriMo. This will be an interesting exercise this year as I plan to edit, which is not my strength. I have no desk or printer connected at the moment so will be working on my laptop. This would be lovely if I had a table, but alas, the joys of moving our dining table delivery having been delayed, I am currently working off the kitchen bench. Let’s see how it goes? – Jill

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Spooktacular Stories launched…

spooktacular book launch good witch jill casting spellThe Spooktacular book launch yesterday 12th October 2019 was great fun. Lots of book signing, kids activities, face painting and best of all l met many talented creative people who inspire me. Here are some pictures courtesy of Maria of SCBWI and the proud aunt of the youngest author in the book. All the authors who attended read snippets of their stories to the engrossed audience.

My own copy of this great book is signed by-

Michelle Worthington – Share My Story host Sandra Bennett, Trish Donald, John Drake, M J Gibbs, Karen Hendricks, Jennifer Horn, Alison McLennan, and June Perkins. I think I missed a couple of creatives who were there but hope to catch up with them another time.

Here are some pictures courtesy of Maria of SCBWI and the proud aunt of the youngest author in the book.

I’m delighted to say the books flew off the shelves and the hosts at The Mad Hatters Bookshop provided a wonderfully enchanting venue.

To cap it all off my fellow Ten Penners, Marion Martineer and Kate Russell were able to travel up to Manly from the Gold Coast. No mean feat on a day with heavy rain that was truly wonderful to see but terrible to drive in. It was an amazing day! – Jill

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Spooktacular Stories Book launch is today!

Looking forward to an exciting day today. Meeting the most wonderful creatives who contributed to this great book. Will update later today! – Jill

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Spooktacular Stories book launch tomorrow!

thrilling tales for brave kids Spooktacular Stories anthology coverTomorrow at The Mad Hatters Bookshop in Manly I’ll be joining a bunch of talented creatives who contributed to this great book. Thanks, Michelle Worthington for getting it all together. The books will be distributed to hospitals throughout Australia.

Michelle Worthington’s Facebook post – Congratulations to our Share Your StoryAnthology Angels, in this case witches for a Not-So-Scary Storytelling at the Queensland Childrens Hospital, donating copies of the book to our bravest little readers. Some of them flew on their brooms all the way from Adelaide and Canberra! Can’t wait to get for the official launch this Saturday at The Mad Hatters Bookshop. It’s going to be Spooktacular!

We’ve already won an Amazon award for the book and it’s available in libraries. So if you can go ask for a copy that would be great.

More tomorrow from the good witch. – Jill


NaNoWriMo prep October 2019

November is NaNoWriMo month and October is the preparation month. I have three manuscripts written during previous NaNoWriMo challenges and have decided to be a rebel this year and edit. I’ll try to whip my ‘Microworld’ and ‘Microworld Undersea’ into shape, the shape of one book.

img_0281We’ve moved and still unpacking boxes. We don’t have a dining table or curtains yet so it’s all a bit primitive. Our second bedroom once free of boxes will be the room with a sofa bed on one wall and a desk and bookcase on the other. That’s a little way away yet.

The best part about living where we do now is that we’re a six-minute walk to the beach. The family arrived during school holidays and we enjoyed a dip in the pool at the units and paddling in the ocean. It was lovely.

On Saturday at the Ten Penners meeting, we all chatted happily about our current projects. Marion is having her Steampunk manuscript assessed at the SCWBI conference in November. I’d love to go but doubt I will be able to. Kate has just returned from an overseas adventure. Louisa is going great guns with her editing and development of her Utopia series and working on an adults book as well. Michelle shared notes of the CYA conference. Julie wrote a lovely story she’s planning to put into a competition. Lindy and I keep plotting along with our little stories. I do have five books to review and must get into gear with them. We don’t even have a dining table yet, so it’s been a while between posts for that reason.

img_0612Today is a glorious Monday Public holiday and we’ll be visiting our friends in Pimpama and sharing our moving house news with them. Have a wonderful day everyone! – Jill


The final countdown has begun…

Yes, we are nearing the end of our temporary living arrangements. It’s been a busy month. We now have packed up and moved out of our old home in Robina. Lived with laughs and fun times with our friends in Pimpama for two weeks and two days, and enjoyed their hospitality, dogs and fun with friends. If you’ve never played ‘Chicken Foot’ you’ll have to try it! Buy a set of Double 12 Domino’s to begin the hilarity.

Our settlement is now going to be a little earlier so we’re planning our next stage. The count down to the move-in has begun.

I’ve read a couple of books but not written the reviews yet. Watch out for my reviews of ‘The Magical Secret of the Crystal Kingdom’ by P S Nicholls, and ‘Lenny’s Book of Everything’ by Karen Foxlee, who is rapidly becoming my favourite author of the moment.

Stay tuned to resume normal service (or as normal as can be expected when being surrounded by boxes).

  • Jill


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Goodbye Hindmarsh Court, hello new adventure

Leaving a home of twenty-four years is hard, but, we’re looking forward to a new adventure.

The bookshelves are being sold at auction this weekend. They and the corner unit are the last remaining vestiges of our former life, apart from the red lounge suite.


Everything else apart from the clothes we’ve bought with us in cases is in storage.

We are enjoying being spoilt at the ‘Parker Hilton’. Our wonderful friends are fun to be with and their little dogs ‘Bella’ and ‘Lucy’ are gorgeous.

Now for more adventures.

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Madly moving

One thing I’ve learned over the last few weeks is that packing is a big job, especially when you’ve been in one place for over twenty-four years. I’m on the downhill run but now at the point, I can’t put stuff in boxes that I need at the last minute.
I have books I’ve just read, they can go in. I have books I am about to read or just started. I should get a chance to finish these when we’re between homes (which I’m hoping won’t be for a whole month). I have those important writing notes that have stacked up that I’ve managed to squeeze into a filing cabinet. Now writing itself has been put on the back burner, but, I can’t wait to get back to it. I’m consoling myself after demolishing my organised writing home office that I’ll have more time at the next house. Less room, but more time. Everything is downsizing.
The books I have on the go are in Goodreads, (so I must read them) once there I check them off after reviewing. Sam’s Theory is on the laptop or iPad was a requested read and one I’ve been wanting to read as the first two pages are a hook. ‘Momo Freaks Out’ by Samone Bos, was given to me for my birthday. I’ve started it, so far the series of blog posts are a bit like my own ramblings, although a more raunchy. I just need to get into it. Then three books for my pure enjoyment that will be quick reads ‘Lenny’s Book of Everything’ by Karen Foxlee, ‘Jake in Space 6 -Saving Saturn’ and another by Candice Lemon-Scott, her new series beginning ‘Eco Rangers – Pelican in Peril’.
My greatest fear among the stack of boxes and disappearing furniture is that my books will disappear too! OMG – that would freak me out. That won’t happen, they will be with my laptop and it’s staying close. (As close as my husband who is freaking out.)
I hope everyone who reads my posts followed my #astoryadayjuly which I enjoyed doing. Thanks again to Michelle Worthington for the great motivational suggestions. As I learned to schedule posts in her January Facebook Challenge, I was able to do the whole month ahead of time as moving house and packing has made me time-poor.
I might suggest a story a day challenge for my fellow writing family ‘The Ten Penners’. The topics get you thinking.
Next post will be on the other side of the move, either in our temporary accommodation at the ‘Parker Hilton’ or in our new unit.
Wish us luck in the transition. It’s a big one!
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Two Wolves by Tristan Bancks reviewed by Jill Smith

two wolves coverBook Review by Jill Smith©Jul19

Title: Two Wolves

Author: Tristan Bancks

Publisher: Random House Australia

Ben Silver is a kid that likes making up video stories. He’s always wanted to be a Policeman but doesn’t know if they’ll take overweight people. His sister Olive is seven and annoying. They are home alone because their parents are at work at the wrecker’s yard. When the police come to the door, he doesn’t know what they mean when they say, ‘we’ll catch up with them.’ They want to talk to their parents. What’s going on?

They’ve never had a holiday and now in a rush, they are driven off in the bush to a cabin that was Ben’s grandfathers’ place. It’s in the middle of nowhere. Everything feels wrong. Ben’s dad always calls him Cop, because he asks so many questions. When they argue Ben’s dad wrestles him to the ground. He’s humiliated and defeated. tristan bancks bio pic in book

His parents are acting weirdly. The food is running low. They didn’t come prepared for a long stay in a cabin. They are city kids. Ben feels he had to be there to keep Olive’s spirits up. They are scared. Especially when the food ran out and their parents take off. Being on their own wasn’t unusual but being where they were was.

Left to their own devices Ben and Olive explore the surrounding area and fall in love with the wild and rugged river and bush. What had happened? Why were they on the run from the law? None of it makes sense, but Ben is determined to find out.

The twists and turns in this story are artfully woven into the story of a teenage kid finding out who he is and what place in the world he fits.

I read this book in two days. It gripped from the first page. I’ll be reading more of Tristan Bancks work.

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#astoryadayjuly Facebook challenge

For those who haven’t caught up with my challenge, it’s day 13 and my next scheduled post will be published at 7.45am. It’s handy that the Jill Smith Aussie Author page allows for scheduling. Something I discovered while doing the Facebook challenge earlier in the year. Michelle Worthington has great ideas and ways to make you push michelle worthington bio picyourself as a writer. Considering I’m time poor this month due to selling our house and packing. I’m pleased to say I’ve only three days left to schedule my posts to complete the month.

Here are a couple of catch up posts for those who might have missed them.

Day 11 of the #astoryadayjuly Facebook challenge
Book of Poetry – This must be Banjo Paterson

banjo paterson book coverAndrew Barton Paterson Facts.
Andrew Barton Paterson (1864-1941) was an Australian folk poet popularly known as “Banjo” Paterson from his pen name, “The Banjo.” His swinging rhythms captured the atmosphere of the land, life, and humour of Australia’s people.

My dad was very ‘Occer’ and he would occasionally quote a line of poetry such as ‘A spectator’s leg was broken — just from merely looking on.’

I remember fondly ‘The Geebung Polo Club’, ‘The Man from Snowy River’, ‘Clancy of the Overflow,’ ‘Waltzing Matilda’, and ‘The man from Iron Bark.’ To mention but a few. Sadly, when I visited my son and his wife recently, I discovered that my twenty-seven-year-old daughter-in-law had little knowledge of our Australian icon and Poet Banjo Paterson. They live in Brisbane and we drove to a place in Geebung for lunch. I started saying I loved ‘The Geebung Polo Banjo paterson on the ten dollar noteClub’ and she looked at me as if I’d grown donkey’s ears. I looked up the poem on my phone and started reading it to her. My son was in the shop and we were waiting for his return. I was appalled that she didn’t know much about him or the poem I started spouting with gusto. What are schools teaching kids these days? I wonder has this truly Australian icon and the musical language died out?

The Man From Snowy River stampThe Geebung Polo Club by A B Paterson

It was somewhere up the country, in a land of rock and scrub,
That they formed an institution called the Geebung Polo Club.
They were long and wiry natives from the rugged mountainside,
And the horse was never saddled that the Geebungs couldn’t ride;
But their style of playing polo was irregular and rash —
They had mighty little science, but a mighty lot of dash:
And they played on mountain ponies that were muscular and strong,
Though their coats were quite unpolished, and their manes and tails were long.
And they used to train those ponies wheeling cattle in the scrub:
They were demons, were the members of the Geebung Polo Club.

It was somewhere down the country, in a city’s smoke and steam,
That a polo club existed, called ‘The Cuff and Collar Team’.
As a social institution ’twas a marvellous success,
For the members were distinguished by exclusiveness and dress.
They had natty little ponies that were nice, and smooth, and sleek,
For their cultivated owners only rode ’em once a week.
So they started up the country in pursuit of sport and fame,
For they meant to show the Geebungs how they ought to play the game;
And they took their valets with them — just to give their boots a rub
Ere they started operations on the Geebung Polo Club.banjo paterson pic

Now my readers can imagine how the contest ebbed and flowed,
When the Geebung boys got going it was time to clear the road;
And the game was so terrific that ere half the time was gone
A spectator’s leg was broken — just from merely looking on.
For they waddied one another till the plain was strewn with dead,
While the score was kept so even that they neither got ahead.
And the Cuff and Collar Captain, when he tumbled off to die,
Was the last surviving player — so the game was called a tie.
Then the Captain of the Geebungs raised him slowly from the ground,
Though his wounds were mostly mortal, yet he fiercely gazed around;
There was no one to oppose him — all the rest were in a trance,
So he scrambled on his pony for his last expiring chance,
For he meant to make an effort to get victory to his side;
So he struck at goal — and missed it — then he tumbled off and died.
By the old Campaspe River, where the breezes shake the grass,
There’s a row of little gravestones that the stockmen never pass,
For they bear a crude inscription saying, ‘Stranger, drop a tear,
For the Cuff and Collar players and the Geebung boys lie here.’
And on misty moonlit evenings, while the dingoes howl around,
You can see their shadows flitting down that phantom polo ground;
You can hear the loud collisions as the flying players meet,
And the rattle of the mallets, and the rush of ponies’ feet,
Till the terrified spectator rides like blazes to the pub —
He’s been haunted by the spectres of the Geebung Polo Club.

Day 8 of the #astoryadayjuly Facebook challenge
Adored Author

Anne McCaffrey booksAnne McCaffrey who wrote my all-time favourite science fiction/fantasy books ‘Restoree’, ‘The Ship Who Sang’ and the Series of dragon books including ‘Dragonsong’, ‘Dragonflight’, ‘Red Star Rising’, ‘Dragonsinger’, ‘Moreta Dragonlady of Pern’, and the ‘White Dragon.’ She also co-wrote ‘Dragon’s Kin’ with her son Tod, and ‘Acorna’s Search’ and ‘Acorna’s Rebels’ with Elizabeth Ann Scarborough. I have all these books on my bookshelf and will delight in re-reading them whenever the need to return to the world of Pern, or simply reconnect with the wonderful concepts of a woman being recreated as an alien on a new world after having been skinned and left for dead as in ‘Restoree’. I’ve read more of the Brain ship series but only have ‘The Ship Who Sang’ on my shelf, another brilliant concept that gets to the heart of what it is to be human.

To say that reading her books influenced my decision to become a writer is an understatement. I love her style of writing and the characters she creates.

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#astoryadayjuly Facebook challenge

 #astoryadayjuly Facebook challenge

Here are the first two days of this challenge, posted on the first and second of July respectively. I’ve been very busy scheduling posts on my Jill Smith Aussie Author page.

elephant rock 1Day 1 of the #astoryadayjuly Facebook challenge
Local Attraction – Elephant Rock

We go for long walks each weekend and one of our favourite haunts is the esplanade from Kirra to Greenmount Beach. Sometimes we start at Elephant Rock where the Vikings Surf Club is perched at above a rugged rocky outcrop on the water line. It’s beautiful and an icon of the area.

elephant rock 2



For many years I had bad knees and looked up at the steep stairs at Elephant Rock as an impossible mountain to climb. Now after two knee operations and much-improved health, I delight in being able to take the precipitous steps to the magnificent view. The reward of being able to see the sea cascading in along the pristine stretch of sandy beaches is heart-warming.

elephant rock 3It’s also a place where Anzac Day ceremonies are held and the images of red poppies cascading down the rock in a river of blood are so moving.

Elephant Rock is a Local attraction and one tourists’ and gold coast beach lovers enjoy.



Day 2 of the #astoryadayjuly Facebook challenge

angus lying downScrub a Dub Dub

When visiting our son and his new wife and their large, friendly, big-eyed Bull Arab Cross dog, we sit in the yard watching the dog play with his rope, chew on his plastic toys and wag his whip-like tail in jubilant excitement. He also talks in a very dog whining whimpering way.

When it comes to bath time, my son and his wife have a special routine. Yes, Angus has his own shampoo, his lead is bought out and he’s tied to a post. Dog treats at the ready and the hose ready to douse his body they begin.

First is the water with our son following up with a sudsy foam rubbed in from head to toe. The dog looks at our son adoringly but still tries to back away from the hose. He wriggles and tugs until finally, our son rewards him with a treat then finishes off with a massive towelling off.

So, the grey hair now is white, and the tan pattern stands out. He’s a beautiful dog. Until he rolls in the dirt and ruins all the good work.

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‘How to Bee’ by Bren MacDibble reviewed by Jill Smith

How To Bee coverBook Review by Jill Smith©Jun19

Title: How to Bee

Author: Bren MacDibble

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Peony wants to be a Bee more than anything in the world. She and her sister Mags are very good Pests. It takes a lot to make it through the test to become a Bee and if she did, they would have more food. Peony tries even though she’s too young. Her friend Applejoy has an excellent smile and he does make it through the test the Boz or Forman sets. This time she is tripped up by a mean girl Pomz, so she fails the test. Pomz and AJ are the new Bees.

Gramps makes them good food and gives good hugs. When Ma comes home from the city, all worn out and crying, Gramps feeds her and gets her to sleep. His love rejuvenates his daughter Rosie enough for her to go back to the city. Peony and Mags want Ma to stay. They don’t need the money she brings home with her. They live in a shed on the farm. AJ and his mum and MJ live in a shed nearby. What could be better than the learning over the radio and working on the farm?
Bren MacDibble bio pic

Peony is dragged away to the city and her world is turned upside down. She sees her Ma being bossed around and she doesn’t like the Ape Man who pulls her into the car. She must work and be polite, even though she doesn’t know what that means. She meets Esmeralda and finds out that people can be frightened of going outside. Peony makes a promise, and so does her new friend Ez.

MacDibble bio picThe book is wonderfully written and a world without bees becomes a possible near future reality. It’s no wonder this book won and was shortlisted in so many awards.

I’m sure to re-read it many times.



Winner of the NZ Book Prize for Junior Fiction 2018
Winner of the Children’s Book Council of Australia 2018
Winner of the Patricia Wrightson Prize in the NSW Premiers Awards.
Shortlisted: Queensland Literary Prize
Shortlisted: South Australian Festival Literary Prize
Shortlisted: Aurealis Award
Shortlisted: Ditmar Award

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Kisses in your Heart blog tour #day4

I’m thrilled to be part of this blog tour. I love picture books and enjoy giving them as gifts to family and friends who have little people to share them with. As my granddaughters have grown older, I’ve shared the joy of reading books and will continue to do so.

#kissesinyourheart #blogtour #booksontourpr #day 4

Please, follow this blog tour and enter the competition to win your own copy of this gorgeous book.


Book Review by Jill Smith©Jun19

Title: Kisses in your Heart

Author: Sonia Bestulic

Illustrator: Nancy Bevington

Publisher: Big Sky Publishing


My review

This is a beautiful rhyming picture book. I am in awe of anyone who can create rhyme to create a story that is a song. The emotions generated are deep and soulful. Every mother wants to give their babies the knowledge of their inherent love. A love that carries through the days the child faces, through times when they are alone or unsure in a new situation.

Sonia writes from the deep connection with her children giving them the knowledge of her love being with them when they face daily challenges. The words are delightful and emotive. This book will be one for mums, dads, and grandparents will read many times to the little people in their lives. ‘Kisses in your Heart’ will leave a positive message of empowerment in the hearts of those children as they grow older.

From Sonia’s blog:

I love writing, speaking and presenting, having written numerous articles and delivered countless education events nationally and internationally, to empower parents, educators and business owners to learn more, grow more and enjoy what life has to offer.

As a Children’s Author, I have the privilege of sharing my creative expression, which entwines my extensive knowledge as a Speech & Language Pathologist, and my personal motherhood experiences.

With my deep passion and commitment to self-development, positive psychology and wellbeing; for people of all ages, I hope to share inspiration and perhaps plant a seed of thought, to strengthen your connection with you, your family and friends, and your community.

The illustrator Nancy Bevington was selected by Big Sky Publishing. Sonia and Nancy collaborated to create this masterful story. The illustrations enhance the words delivered in a heartfelt way.






Would you like to win a copy of ‘Kisses in your Heart?’

Let this book fill your heart with love and joy… 

Plenty of loving kisses will melt into your heart once you read Kisses in Your Heart with your loved ones. So, follow your instincts and reach out for a chance to WIN your own copy of this beautiful story by Sonia Bestulic and Nancy Bevington, courtesy of Big Sky Publishing.

All you need to do is answer, ‘Who or what places kisses in your heart?’

Good luck! 🙂

*Open to Australian residents only. To enter, fill out the form below. Winner will be notified via email and/or Facebook and will be required to provide an Australian postal address. Special thanks – prize courtesy of Big Sky Publishing.

The winning entrant will be selected at random. No further correspondence will be entered into. Winner must reply within 7 days for their prize to remain valid, otherwise, the prize will be forfeited.

Closes midnight AEST Sunday, June 16, 2019.



Instagram: Bestulic_sonia


My belief is that communication is at the heart of connection, to our self, to others and the global community, and that the quality of these relationships is fundamental to our wellbeing.  – Sonia Bestulic

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Kisses in your Heart Blog Tour coming up…

I’m delighted to be part of the blog tour to launch ‘Kisses in your Heart’ a beautiful picture book by Sonia Bestulic and illustrated by Nancy Bevington.

 A bright beautiful and empowering story to inspire little people to use the strength of love within.

It’s all happening next week.

Stay tuned…

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The Ivory Rose by Belinda Murrell reviewed by Jill Smith

the ivory rose cover

Book Review by Jill Smith©May19

Title: The Ivory ROSE

Author: Belinda Murrell

Publisher: Random House Australia

Jemma just started her first babysitting job in one of Sydney’s iconic homes known as the Witches’ Houses. The house is old and run down and Sammy is a fun loving energetic girl. Her mum Maggie, is an artist and single mum, needing Sammy to be occupied for a few hours each afternoon so she can finish her work for an exhibition.

The rambling house is a bit creepy and Sammy’s cat screeches and spits when the air in her room gets cold. Mater of factly Sammy tells Jemma that her friend Georgie is in the room. The chair in the corner of the room begins to rock. At first, Jemma thinks the little girl has an overactive imagination then other strange things happen.

At home her parents are always busy and hardly there for Jemma, so she spends a lot of time at her best friend Ruby’s place. It’s untidy and chaotic but filled with love and laughter. Jemma’s home is a show home of neatness and she feels detached. It’s nearly her birthday and she’s longing to just hang out, having a sleepover, painting their nails and chatting. Her mum has other ideas.belinda murrell

Jemma looks up the history of the Witches Houses of Annandale on her laptop. She finds out a lot about the area and about Rosethorn house. She read that a little girl Georgiana Rose Thornton had been murdered in the house. Was it a coincidence that Sammy called her invisible friend Georgie?

The next Monday Jemma rushed to Sammy’s after school. She found more things had been unpacked. Jemma suggested she and Sammy read and then play hide and seek. She looked for Sammy and found her frightened and hiding in a secret cupboard. Jemma saw a flash of the past when a pin stuck in her hand. Once they were back in Sammy’s room Jemma calmed the little girl down, she put the dainty pendant carved from creamy ivory in the shape of a perfect rose on the dressing table, an ivory rose. But who was Aggie? Why did Sammy think someone was trying to hurt Georgie?

Sammy left to go downstairs and Jemma couldn’t resist putting on the pendant. Shadow the cat spat again and the room was cold. Jemma felt that someone was with her in the room. Someone wanting to hurt her. The history of the Witches’ Houses in Johnston Street linking Rosethorne house from the century before Jemma’s time to her own suddenly became very real.

This is an intriguing time slip story and one with a very satisfying end.

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A Most Magical Girl by Karen Foxlee reviewed by Jill Smith

a most magical girl alternate cover

Book Review by Jill Smith©May19

Title: A Most Magical Girl

Author: Karen Foxlee

Publisher: Piccadilly Press

Annabel Grey has been bought up in a privileged home, with an elegant mother and Miss Finch’s Little Blue Book (1855) to guide her. Such advice as – ‘A young lady does not yawn or sigh but listens attentively to any lesson a wise anecdote an elder may offer.’ This may not be helpful when meeting Miss Henrietta Vine, her Great Aunt, for the first time. Especially when her Aunt tells her that she is a witch and must learn magic.

When Mr Angel arrives at the magic shop he gives Annabel a message to pass on to her Great Aunts. Then she meets Aunt Estella and is told that she is – ‘A most magical girl’. Annabel must travel to Under London to save the good magic in the world. Miss Henrietta is not as sure as her sister that Annabel is ‘A most magical girl.’ The threat is close as Mr Angel has already bought a dark fog down over the city and is raising shadowlings to do his bidding. Karen-Foxlee2

Annabel is given a broomstick, a wand and a reluctant travelling companion. Kitty is also magical and not many are like her in the world. She can talk to fairies. She can run errands from Henrietta and Estella Vine’s magic shop to the Wizards and all those ageing members of The Great & Benevolent Magical Society. Kitty is wild and sleeps where she will at night. She knows all of London and listens to the trees speak. One day she’ll cough up her heart light and the body she is in will vanish.

Annabel is a plain Mayfair girl when she arrives at her Aunts. She misses her mother, who left her to go abroad. Her mother told her that her father had been in the navy and died at sea. How could she take on such a dangerous journey when she doesn’t know if there is any magic in her at all. She listens to her Aunt’s advice, be brave, be good. She learns about true friendship. She learns about her father The Great Geraldo Grey and that her elegant mother is very magical and told her lies about her father.

A most magical girl cover Karen FoxleeI loved the way the ending tied up loose ends and left a smile in your mind and heart. I think this book gives children hope, when they have self-doubts, when they don’t think themselves strong enough to fight for what they must, the message here is – Be good. Be Brave.

This whole book is delightfully written. Every word conjures up images of conflict and insecurities. I love this book. It’s a keeper, I gave it Five Stars on Goodreads, make you happy in your heart keeper.

I thought at first the dark side of the book might be too much for young adults, knowing some start very young and others may not be emotionally ready, however, I changed my mind. Be good. Be brave. Treasure it.


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My Life So Far by Jane Fonda reviewed by Jill Smith

my life so far Jane Fonda coverBook Review by Jill Smith©May19alternate Jane Fonda My Life So Far cover

Title: My Life So Far, Jane Fonda

Author: Jane Fonda

Publisher: Ebury Press, London

Jane Fonda has written this book in Acts. Like everything in her life, she sees as segments divided as a play or theatre. She writes articulately and the very first scene brings you into the moment of solitude and desperation she felt as a child. Peeking out from a cardboard box she was hiding in to snatch glimpses of her Henry_Fonda_and_Jane_-_1943mother further along on the verandah of their home. Her mother was pinning butterflies and Jane was in her box rubbing saddle soap into her half sister’s Pan’s saddle.

Her father was her idol and he loved him dearly. The photos of him are scattered throughout the book. His influence on her life from the start was powerful. Jane looked up to him, he looked anywhere else. Her mother was a troubled woman who was sent away. Then she committed suicide and Jane blamed her for all the wrongs in her world. Her father called her fat and Jane spent much of her youth trying to please him. If she could please him, she would make it better.486864.JPG

Henry Fonda remarried and Susan went from being her father’s mistress to her stepmother. She was loving and kind and good to Jane. Her father would replace Susan when she left him. Jane was very confused and hurt. She ran free as a child, pretending to be a cowboy to be courageous, not feminine. Her life was a series of run wild and free moments. In her teens, she went to Paris to live. The acting was something she didn’t really want to do, but it gave her some direction. She started to live independently with an income.

Jane_Fonda early acting daysIn her mind, her mother had failed her father. She would always put her own thoughts and feelings aside to make it better. To be a complete person she needed to be with a man. Much of the book delves in her marriages and her inadequate role as wife and mother. Of the times she didn’t take control and allowed men to control her.

The first marriage to Vadim, who was like a rock star in his own right in France. She bowed to his every whim. The birth of their daughter Vanessa was not what she’d expected. Vadim was a gambler and a womaniser. It didn’t last.

Then she became an activist and her second husband Tom was already a campaigner. jane fonda and activitst husbandShe learned a great deal about others during this marriage. Her career was on a high with movies like ‘9 to 5’ and ‘Coming Home.’ He was going into politics. They worked together but mentally went separate ways over the years. Then Ted Turner burst into her world after she separated from Tom. He wanted to date her. It was far too early to think about dating another man. She said so. Ted Turner was patient and gave her time. Just the time she gave him. Then he steamrolled into her life. Jane fell in love with the maverick. This time it was Jane realising she had changed and wanted a complete relationship. She made demands of her husband, ones he wasn’t able to meet.

a-dysfunctional-childhoodThis was a challenging read. Jane Fonda is remarkably frank about her dysfunctional childhood family and how the death of her mother shaped her feelings towards men. Her father was her idol but even as she reached out to him when filming ‘On Golden Pond’ their fellow co-star Audrey Hepburn described Hank Fonda as ‘a cold fish’.

Her writing of this memoir was clearly cathartic. It helped her to explain the reasons she needed to be with a man to be complete. Satisfyingly, she discovered in her sixties that jane Fonda bio picthis was no longer true. Now we know there have been a couple more Acts lived in Jane Fonda’s life since the writing of this book when she was in her early sixties. She has continued to forge a life in movies suiting her age and attacking stereotypes of older women. What a wonderful career she continues to have.

There are some books you read that you know will take place in your mind and heart and you’ll look back on as a reference for your own feelings and exploration of the world. This is one such book.


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NF Reads an interview with Jill Smith

I’m delighted to be able to present interview questions by Tony of NF Reads, with me! Here’s the link to this inspiring site.

Interview With Author Jill Smith

Introduce myself

jill profile picI have always been a writer. My first memory of writing was stick figure comic as a seven or eight-year-old. Someone who read it said they liked the story. I put together an Interplanetary Zoo which was quite detailed, and the creatures were way out there. One of my sisters said, ‘that can’t be real’. I said, ‘It’s an Inter-planetary zoo, of course, it can. How do we know what exists out there?’ Right there, I can pinpoint being a science fiction fanatic.


Introduce my books –Adults Science Fiction

Dual Visions front 29.06.17 (2)Dual Visions – Book 1 of The Ancient Aliens Series

Richard Davidson, a seventeen-year-old leaving home. He is abducted and taken to a space station at the other end of the galaxy. There he finds love. He and his new alien cloned partner Davrew return to Earth. Davidson’s family lives anonymously in a small rural community while raising a family. Rakal, a violent alien crash lands on Earth and disrupts their existence. Rakal’s intrusion becomes a blessing when the whole Earth faces a threat from space.

Vashla's World cover July17

Vashla’s World – Book 2 of The Ancient Alien Series

Vashla’s is related to Rakal. She is a sadistic space pirate living on her own planet VaLinta. Rakal has sworn to protect The Davidson’s family and Earth. Gardt Ness is a disgraced space pilot, campaigning to alert authorities on his planet Ghaur, that there is a terrible threat lurking in space, and not to attempt colonisation of other worlds. Orthama is a dead planet with a scientific space station orbiting it. Zorn lived on his mining planet Zamba. He wants to control his cousin Vashla. A chain of events occurs that culminates in a battle between all five worlds.

Children’s short stories and novella’s in collaborative anthologies

ten penners 3 books

The Ten Penners Logo by StarlaFan-tas-tic-al Tales – Thirty-four short stories, novella’s and poems make up this collaborative book written by eight ladies with a theme of magic. My six stories are aimed at eight to twelve-year old’s – My Word, Magical Musical Mervin, Horrible Hilda, The Toothpaste King, The Night Witch, and Goblins in the Grounds. This was released in 2009.


MMM coverMystery, Mayhem & Magic – Thirty-six short stories, novella’s and poems in this collection with a theme of adventure. My contribution to this book was eight short stories and a novella. The short stories – Red Beard’s Treasure Hunt, Trinny’s First Adventure, Trinny’s Prehistoric Adventure, Trinny’s Sky High Adventure, Trinny’s Kindy Playground Adventure, Trinny’s Tiger Island Adventure, Trinny’s Last Adventure, and Horseplay. The novella – The Real Deal. This was launched in 2017.


What inspires your creativity?

ten penners school visit Oct17

I simply love to write. This year I’ve been entering short story competitions. I had done this about twenty years ago with some success and found that the topics and criteria always made me create something quite new. I like to explore characters viewpoints and reactions in situations where their voice might be something foreign to me but believable to the reader.

How do you deal with creative block?

A. I don’t devote regular time to my writing so I’d have to say I write when I can and have never stopped. If I’m not writing my blog or Facebook posts, I’m reading books to review. The books I’ve written have been done when I’ve dedicated myself to doing them.

Dual Visions started way back when I had a young son. My husband asked what I was doing at the ironing board in the laundry with a notebook and pen. I was writing. I had the idea and I had to put in on paper. When my son was in Primary School, I wrote for Burleigh-heads-ss Jilltwo hours every morning before I had to get ready for work. My more recent books have been written during NaNoWriMo when I dedicate November to writing a first draft novel. All the time, these books have characters that are in my mind. When I come to write the story, I need to fit it all together. Often needing a great deal of editing after the basic work is done. A first draft is very much a work in progress. 

What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?

A. To think it’s ok without editing, getting it appraised (another person’s take on your story), critiques are invaluable. Then begin the most important work, editing. I’m still learning the craft of honing the basic story into a polished work. I’m better now than I was at the start, but still learning. Never think you know it all, believe in yourself, be persistent and keep going.

Do you have tips on choosing titles?Jill head shot

A. I always start with a working title and in the case of Dual Visions, I found other books with titles like my working title, so I needed something different. It may sound weird, but I woke up in the middle of the night and rushed to write it down. I dreamt the title. Vashla’s World came from the name of the character and the fact that the storyline became a battle for peoples from five different planets to defeat their foe. Short story titles come from the theme or character. I’m never sure if I get it right but it fits with me and that’s the most important thing. Your creation has a unique starting point, even if you don’t arrive at it until you’ve almost completed the first draft.

Jill at beach for blogHow do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?

A. When I started out, I found it very difficult to swallow that someone couldn’t see what I was writing was a complete story. I’ve since learned that a writer doesn’t always see faults in the work, you’re so close to it you can’t see the mistakes. The writing group I belong to critiques and helps give candid feedback. I love reshaping a story that has shortcomings. Again, I’m no expert and happy to admit, I’m still learning this craft. Sometimes, feedback can be surprising and take the story in a totally new direction. I love that.

How has your creation process improved over time?book signing jill julie lindy

A. Well, that’s a good question. I’m sure I’m better at editing. I’ve always been able to come up with ideas and write something, although, I’m my own worst critic. I never think it’s good enough. I don’t feel confident enough to say – that’s it! However, I’d never written for children when I joined The Ten Penners in 2007. Now I love writing children’s stories. My adult stories are romantic, and I may continue to evolve and change directions. That’s the beauty of writing.

What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your books?

robyn-and-i-gcw-ll-2016A. The best thing is joining writing groups. Being part of a group of like-minded people who share your enthusiasm. They are great friends, inspiration and critiques from them are invaluable. The worst thing is having to deal with technology. I’m always battling how to convert something to a file or to get organised. I have Scrivener and really need to learn how to use it to simplify my life. A new computer would be a boon too.

Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?

A. I love to write and have always written the kind of story I enjoy reading. Science Fiction and Fantasy has always been the start. However, having to stretch and change to suit any competition criteria or theme, has always given me the opportunity to try something new.

What role do emotions play in creativity?

A. If you tap into emotions and make the reader feel them, you have created something DV VW proofs May17magical. Emotions that feel raw and really enhance any story.

At one point in Dual Visions, I wrote a scene that was very dramatic. I was carried along with what was happening and could honestly say I didn’t know till I reached its climax if the character I’d created who’d become a central figure in the book, would live or die. The result was satisfying when one reader (a co-worker of mine at the time) came to work and said – Jill how could you do that? The emotional feeling, I had while writing that scene, shone through for the reader.

Do you have any creativity tricks?

granma reading charlie the cheeky spider to maria and heatherA. Just write whenever you can, as much as you can. And read, read, read. Go to writer’s festivals, join writing groups (but don’t get hung up on being on the committee), find time to be kind to yourself. Writing is a solitary and often insecure process. I need this advice myself – believe in yourself. Sign yourself as an author and believe it.

What are your plans for future books?

A. I’ve written the third book in the Ancient Alien Series, working title Travellers, that needs editorial work. I’ve also written a Young Adults manuscript, working title Microworld and it’s follow-on Microworld Undersea, both science fiction written during NaNoWriMo. I read YA’s books all the time and find them the best reads. Once these are edited, I’ll be getting it out in the wide world too, more than likely as one volume. I’d love to have a publisher take up my books. I’d also love to be paid for writing books and book reviews. Why should passion a pauper makes?

Tell us some quirky facts about yourself?cropped-jill-at-beach-for-blog.jpg

My full name is Barbara Jill Smith, but I have always preferred Jill, (DON’T call me Barbara!) I grew up in Victoria in Australia, the colder southern states. I hated getting chilblains (like frostbite) on my fingers, which I did every year in Victoria. When our son was young, I moved north with my family to warmer climes in Queensland, twenty-seven years ago. I have mad hair, that I’ve always tried in vain to tame. There are times it resembles a Witches’ broom. I believe in ‘the glass half full’ view of the world and that humankind will overcome tremendous hurdles to create a wonderful future. Yes, I’m a Trekkie at heart and the future where people strive to be good to the planet and themselves is one, I aspire to. I smiled when going to the doctors for my flu injection the nurse took my temperature with a little white hover on your forehead device. (very Star Trek)

Jill Smith
Aussie Author


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Somerset StoryFest Report – part eight

Somerset StoryFest report 2019– part eight

Now the best part of Somerset is there are times you can get more bang for your buck by going to panel sessions. The sure to be winners in my book. This year I was limited by both time and resources so I needed to cram as much of the author’s inspiration into my visit to Somerset as I could. Therefore, I picked for my last session: – Take Three Girls – a book and panel comprising Cath Crowley, Simmone Howell and Fiona Wood.

Session 10.15am to 11 am –

Take Three Girls – Year 11 Common Room – Cath Crowley, Simmone Howell and Fiona Wood

cath crowley picCath Crowley is a young adult author published in Australia and internationally. She is the author of The Gracie Faltrain trilogy, Chasing Charlie Duskin, Graffiti Moon (I’ve read and loved) and Words in Deep Blue. In 2011, Graffiti Moon won the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Young Adult Fiction, the Ethel Turner Award for Young People’s Literature, and was named an honour book in the Children’s Book Council, Book of the Year. Words in Deep Blue won the Indie Book Awards Young Adult Fiction of the Year 2017, the Gold Inky Award 2017 and the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Young Adult Fiction. Her collaborative novel Take Three Girls, written with YA luminaries Fiona Wood and Simmone Howell, won the CBCA Award for Book of the Year: Older Readers 2018 and was shortlisted for a Gold Inky Award 2018.

Simmone Howell is the award-winning author of YA novels Girl Defective, Everything SimmoneHoweell-1Beautiful and Notes from the Teenage Underground. She also writes non-fiction about dream houses, teen movies and ways to map a city. She lives in Melbourne and is currently working on a memoir about her formative female influences.

fiona woodFiona Wood is the award-winning author of three interlinked novels, Six Impossible Things, Wildlife, and Cloudwish. The books are published internationally and are Junior Library Guild Selections in the US. Take Three Girls, co-authored with Cath Crowley and Simmone Howell, won the CBCA Book of the Year, Older Readers, was shortlisted for the Indie and Gold Inky awards and has been honoured by the International Youth Library as a White Ravens selection. Before writing YA fiction, Fiona worked as a screenwriter. She lives in Melbourne.

Take Three Girls cover

This beautifully crafted, lively novel captures the good and the bad of female friendship” Bec Kavanagh Books + Publishing, 5 stars.


3 award-winning authors.
1 compelling book.

ADY – not the confident A-Lister she appears to be.
KATE – brainy border taking risks to pursue the music she loves.
CLEM – disenchanted swim-star losing her heart to the wrong boy.

All are targeted by PSST, a toxic website that deals in gossip and lies. St Hilda’s antidote to the cyber-bullying? The Year 10 Wellness program. Nice try – but sometimes all it takes is three girls.

Exploring friendship, feminism, identity and belonging. Take Three Girls is honest, raw and funny.


Now to my notes, after the introduction of all three ladies, Cath Crowley began with a reading from the book. The end of that scene shows Clem practising playing the cello alone and not wanting anyone to see her.

Q. How did you three ladies meet?

simmone-howell torso bio pic b&wA. Simmone, I write for television went to an event to talk about ‘The Secret Life of Us’ there I met Fiona through another writer at the writer’s centre. Fiona, we had the same publisher and attended the same writing retreat. Cath, me too.

Q. How did your relationship grow as you were writing this book?

A. Fiona, we were already friends and were well down the road to creating together. Simmone, it takes a long time, we don’t want to jinx it, by freeing us to write our sections then putting the work together. Fiona, how it developed made the characters’ friendships better and stronger. The earliest things we decided to make sure writing this book wasn’t going to wreck our friendship. Cath, though trying to tie the story together, the editing is the most difficult thing, we were constantly applying changes, the editor on her shoulder with two other people made it ok.

Q. What the book is about effects teenagers our age. (the host and her audience)Cath Crowley in chair

A. Simmone – the main thing online lumber secrets that are negative, toxic, viral things – each girl individual thing to deal with – Clem back to her own body image and finding a place in the world. Fiona – before internet bullying it would stop when you went home, now online it’s 24/7, being prosecuted rarely is a horror. Cath – made the reference of a secret tracker. Fiona – we didn’t want to sugar coat it, we won ‘Book of the Year.’ Simmone – realistic on the share the load. Cath – wade into the world.

Q. How did you go about structuring your novel?

A. Simmone – pre-planning, Fiona TV writing experience – getting the details. Fiona – this will be so much fun, chapter planning each one of us had a character. Each, two writers, write the same scene, from different points of view. Cath – we mapped out where the characters stand in relation to one another. Simmone – people remember differently.

Fiona wood Bio PicQ. All three of you are strong women, what does Feminism mean to you?

A. Simmone – Equality is not what you look like. Cath – same opportunity to the same pay. Fiona – Feminism has a bad rap, we need to go back to the meaning – Political equality, Economic equality, Social equality, Fundamental Social equality. There are still demonstrable differences.

Q. How do you think peoples outlook has changed in the last ten years?

A. Fiona – we have become immune to normal – nobody questioned it – at that time description of the status quo. Those questions asked now frequently look at with fresh eyes. Young people need to ask questions. Simmone – Now people are asking questions when I was at school, we didn’t. Cath – I love the way the world is now, very hopeful, the world is changing. Fiona – people are pushing back. Only a small percentage, so little and threatened.

Q. Relationships of the three girls in the book, did you want to protect your character?somerset stand

A. Simmone – Clem had self-esteem, she thought the boy was good and easily influenced by him but not a good relationship. Not needing external validation from boys, now – its change male opinion previously more important than female.

Q. How you drew inspiration from when you were at school?

cathcrowley-39A. Cath – I lived in the country and wanted to get out, I loved music, art, reading and literature. Fiona – I grew up in a middle-class safe environment, but my father was an alcoholic and there was pressure in the family to keep it a secret. Be authentic to herself but keep the family secret. Journals were more revealing.

Q. Did you slip into the characters you were writing?

A. Cath – Yes, while we were discussing them. Fiona – as professional writing it helps to keep you focused. Simmone – Emotionally true and everything else will follow. Cath -we were learning more of the craft using a whiteboard, fine-tuning the characters, cleaned up. Fiona – by the end of the book we knew all the characters.

Q. Why do you think YA’s read this type of book?

A. Simmone – wanted to write a book that was real for right now. Fiona – Online Simmone Howell - author photooptimistic ideas to gain strength and support each other’s back. Cath – freedom to be yourself. Fiona – deliberately structure wellness program people can feel ashamed of but constructive conversation helps.

Q. Write a book in a day story beats – plot pursuits?

A. Fiona – Story bead is something that happens in the story, narrative progression. Simmone – Save the Cat eight beats. Fiona – Film writing and novel writing depends on structure.

Q. How hard was it to stay on target?

A. Cath – amazing things happened to change the story but we kept to a plan.

fiona Simmone and CathQ. When writing what circumstance did you have?

A. Fiona – age group readers and how would you feel.

Q. Who are your biggest idols and inspirations?

A. Simmone – there are so many, artists who are true to themselves. Fiona – Jane Austin – a sense of humour. Cath – Jacinta Ardern said (and I didn’t note the quote)

Q. When you started this project did you think you would win an award?

A. Cath – no, it’s amazing.

Then we’d run out of time and the students moved on after photos were taken. I’ll hold happy memories of my day and a half at Somerset StoryFest 2019, for the rest of my year. I plan to get there next year and see more.

I hope you enjoyed my eight-part report. 





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Somerset StoryFest Report 2019 – part seven

Somerset StoryFest report 2019– part seven

This was the session I changed from my original purchases.  Mainly because having been moved by Clare Sultmann’s story on Wednesday I felt this story of recovery over adversity would be of more interest to me than the three young poets. I’ve nothing against poetry or youth, it was my choice from gut feelings that I go for this session, and I’m so glad I did. 

10.15am to 11am Venue – Spartans Indoor Baseball Courts (due to school renovations)

Samantha Bloom and Penguin the MagpieSamantha Bloom and Cameron Bloom

From the lows of a devastating injury to the highs of representing Australia as an athlete, and inspiring an upcoming Hollywood movie, Sam’s path has been anything but ordinary. In 2013, Sam’s dream life turned into a nightmare. On a 2013 family holiday in Thailand, Sam leant against a rotten balcony railing, falling through it and crashing six metres onto the concrete below. She suffered devastating injuries that left her paralysed from the chest down. Broken and hopeless, Sam reached her outer limits of suffering. But with courage, determination and a little help from an unlikely feathered friend, she made her way back from the edge, scarred but undefeated.

Samantha was introduced with her husband Cameron. They would relate how in 2013 penguin-bloom hard coverSam suffered devastating injuries, and how, a little magpie they named Penguin, would save the family.

Sam began. From a young age, she had a sense of adventure. Her mind was set on two things, travel the world and to become a nurse. She worked in a cake shop. She met photographer Cam, as they were kindred spirits, they set off to travel the world for two years. The more remote and exotic the better. They met Catherine, an Australian doctor in Ethiopia. They were inspired. They wanted to go back once their boys Ruben, Noah and Ollie were old enough to travel to Africa. There was too much unrest in Cairo so they went to Thailand and that’s where they went to a beautiful hotel. sam hospital with boysThey stood on the beach after a swim. Sam felt life was perfect. They stood on a balcony to enjoy the views, she leant against the safety rail and it gave way. She fell six meters to the concrete pathway. There was a pool of blood from the back of her head. The three boys saw it.

The journey changed, she was taken to a hospital close by. Her whole body was battered, her back was broken. She would never walk again. She was taken to Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney where she spent seven months in hospital. They were all looking forward to Sam coming home.

Once home Sam found it much harder. It didn’t feel like her own home or be a good sam and penguin recoverymum. They represented the world she’d lost. She wasn’t the same anymore and she missed the old Sam. She thought about suicide.

Then they found an injured magpie. They decided to give it the best shot. They called it Penguin and this bird was something that made them all happy. Penguin gave her a purpose. Sam laughed for the first time since the accident. Penguin was her constant companion. Never kept in a cage, we were her family. She found it hard to leave the lounge. Penguin would sit in the Frangipani tree.

Every morning at 6 am she came in. The boys had adopted a baby sister. A small creature that made a big difference. When we went out, Penguin was always excited to see them return. At 3.30 they called each other in bird calls, the boys mimicked the bird calls.

bloom familySam said watching Penguin get stronger every day made her feel she wasn’t useless. She could still add value and purpose to those around her.

Penguin had spent more time outside, sometimes going away. On Ruben’s thirteenth birthday, they said ‘imagine if Penguin came back today’. People around them knew Penguin. She did arrive at a nearby property but wouldn’t go to their friends, Cameron had to go and pick her up. When Ruben returned home and Penguin was there he rushed inside calling to her in bird song. Cameron took a video. Sam said simply – he was very excited.

Sam couldn’t do any of the sports she loved but she could kyack. So she took up racing sam and penguinand started training six times a week, going to the gym three times a week. She had a goal to compete in Kyacking in the Para Olympics. Travelling again was wonderful. Winning races and medals were not as important as being active.

Before the accident, her favourite place in the world was Palm Beach, Sydney on the point. She thought she could never go back there. Her first Christmas at home she was woken at 4.30 am and four friends were waiting for her. They carried her to her rock. Ruben sprinkled rose petals there. It was her Christmas present to be on her rock. One by one her friends left her. They allowed her twenty minutes to sit on her rock alone.

Now she knew anything is possible if your creative and determined.

xpenguin-bloom.coverShe’ll never accept being in a wheelchair for life. Surfing had been her passion before the accident, now laying down she started surfing again. She entered the Australian Adaptive competition and won. Then went onto the World Adaptive surf challenge. She can duck dive and Cam pushes her onto the waves. She made it through to become World Champion. At that moment, she was taller than everyone else, for once.

Sam said now she’s super grateful. You’re never too old or damaged to do what you love doing. Anything and everything can be taken away at any time. Strive to be the best you can be with those you love most. Accepting the love of others can help make you whole.

Penguin at two years old was ready to find a mate. Male Magpies are white and black on the neck but females are grey.

When the boys were at kindy they would take the kids sandwiches at morning tea and Penguin would fly down there.

Cam said it was an incredible story, Sam is goal orientated, and her World Championship participation showed how much she’d changed.

Q. How do you feel you’ve changed in yourself, what affirming things?

A. Sam – I’ve completely changed, I’m happy and content. I still don’t like my body. I’m resilient. I have amazing support and from Cam and the boys. I’ve not spoken publically before so this is new for me.

Q. What inspired you to share your story?

A. Cam – I made an Instagram account for Penguin. When the press picked it up and the book happened. Bradley, the author of the book, which was a wonderful process.

Q. How much involvement will you have in the movie?

A. Cam/Sam – we are executive directors, it’s being filmed in our house, all Australian production. We have to move out of our house while they make the movie.

Q. As an athlete how do you stay motivated?

A. I’ve always been competitive. I found Kyacking, not enough speed. I’d grown up surfing and that was when the fun feeling returned. The picture of me kyack training showed the strain. Surfing is better.

Q. Would you have found the unconditional love the same if it had been a dog?

A. Sam – a dog might be similar. Cam – I don’t agree, Penguin was wild, not a pet. The powerful thing was that she could have left at any time.

Q. How are they going to do a Magpie in the movie?

A. They have a bird wrangler.

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Somerset StoryFest Report 2019- part six

Somerset StoryFest report 2019– part six

Friday was a shorter day for me, I made every session count. Having bought and read ‘Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy’ by Karen Foxlee. She was first on my Friday list. I headed straight to the oval to Marquee 2.

Friday 22nd March 2019

Session 9.15 to 10 am – Marquee 2

Karen-Foxlee bio picKaren Foxlee

Karen Foxlee is an Australian author who writes for both kids and grown-ups. Her first novel The Anatomy of Wings won numerous awards including the Dobbie Award and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book. Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy, Karen’s first novel for children, (which I read and loved) was published internationally to much acclaim while her second novel for younger readers, A Most Magical Girl, won the Readings Children’s Fiction Prize in 2017 and was CBCA shortlisted the same year. Karen lives in South East Queensland with her daughter and several animals, including two wicked parrots, who frequently eat parts of her laptop when she isn’t looking. Her passions are her daughter, writing, day-dreaming, baking, running and swimming in the sea.

Karen was introduced as an award-winning author of five novels aimed at grades 5, 6, Lenny's Book of Everything coverand 7.  Lenny’s Book of Everything won independent booksellers of the year award.

Karen outlined that she would be talking about how stories come to be. How writers become writers and that there are so many different ways to tell a story.

Q. Do you think stories are important.

ophelia-and-the-marvelous-boy coverA. Yes

Q. Why turn our minds to stories

A. Escape, entertainment, to pass down history, to get away, to feel better about yourself. Turn to a book to learn to cope with difficult situations.

Karen said when she writes a book its to entertain, words sing so you want to keep turning the page. She wants her readers to think about things, all the things you have to deal with. Writers plugin to keep the world electrified.

How she became a writer was at six and a half she was bored and hot. She had a feeling karen-foxlee-special-note Ophelia and the Marvellous boyand she wrote a story. She had created something out of nothing. That was so powerful. She wants to recreate that feeling. She’s practising, taking time to practice. Lots and lots of practice.

Q. Where do you get your ideas from?

A. They come from everywhere, family life, maps, clouds, feelings – they all stew in her head.

Q. Where do you get your inspiration?

A. I’ll give you an example of an idea that came from experience. At twenty-five, I was backpacking, visiting a castle, looking all through the rooms. One part was blocked off. Along the corridor slightly open big arched wooden door. She went through the barrier and through the crack in the door. It was a storeroom and inside was a glass coffin, inside the coffin was a skeleton, on its head was a crown. What if you went into a museum and saw something you weren’t meant to see? That’s where Ophelia’s story began.

Karen-Foxlee2Lenny’s came from a feeling. When I write I have three random ideas in mind and my job is to write a story that links them.

1. What does it feel like to be different? When I was young I had curvature of the spine and I had to wear a back brace. I felt different.

2. The idea bubbled up – a boy grows up and he grows and grows, and keeps growing.

3. The story had to include a set of encyclopedia. Before computers where would you go to get information? The Library. You’d go to a card catalogue, go up to a reference section and pull out the book you need. The encyclopedia was Google before Google.

Q. What do writers use to start stories?

A. Pencil, memories, imagination, notebook and the best question – What if?

One day when my mum came home from hospital an encyclopedia salesman came to the door. The ideas don’t always come together right the first time. It needs to be written a second and third time.

Door – heart – feeling. The mother had a feeling. Davy grew. They had a Burrell’s Build it at Home Enclyopedia Set.

Karen loved looking up things in their encyclopedia.covers_anatomyofwings karen foxlee

A – Ants – bulldog ants, Amphibians, Albatross has a 3.5-meter wingspan, Abominable snowman.

B – Beetles – Lenny loves beetles – there are over 350,000 species of beetles. Davy loves birds.

C – Canada – there was a place in Canada they want to run away to.

The story is about love, friendship, to make you laugh or cry and what is there to know.

Q. What is the best thing about being alive? (Karen asked the children)

A. Family, friends. Experiencing new things. Learning crazy facts. Discover new things. Challenges. To help others to learn to succeed. Gods creation in nature. To reach for the stars. To feel fulfilled. To live for every single moment. To be your own person. (what wonderful answers)

A most magical girl cover Karen FoxleeQ. How did you feel when you saw the glass coffin and skeleton

A. Glad I took a risk and looked

Q. Why did you choose to be an author

A. I always wanted to tell stories

Q. What’s your favourite part of life?

A. My daughter and the natural world.

Q. What’s your favourite book?  A. Lenny’s book of everything.

Q. What was the first book you wrote? A. The Anatomy of wings told from a ten-year-old girls point of view. A girl who likes facts.

Q. Who did you look up to when you were young?a most magical girl alternate cover

A. My older sister, teachers, my mum and authors.

Q. What do you think your next book will be about?

A. A magical story and water dragon who doesn’t like water.

Q. What is the meaning of life in your words?

A. Love, kindness, don’t take anything for granted.

Q. In one word – how would you describe your books?

A. Adventures.

I went to a museum in London and there they had recreated Victorian era street with a carriage, pretty, prim and propper. I saw The Most Magical Girl in that street.

midnight dress karen foxlee coverQ. Have you got inspiration from other peoples books?

A. Yes, The Snow Queen from Hans Christian-Anderson – in Ophelia her version of the Snow Queen appears.

Q. What was your passion before being an author?

A. Writing, Nurse, love to help people.

Q. If there was one thing you could change in your career, what would it be?

A. Believe in yourself from the beginning.

Q. One fantasy animal you like, what would it be?   A. Dragons.

Q. What story mostly shows you and your family in it?

A. A bit of me in all my stories, maybe the first book, The Anatomy of Wings.




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Somerset StoryFest report 2019– part five

Somerset StoryFest report 2019– part five

There’s not a lot of time between events, by the time I went up to Clare briefly and said how much I enjoyed the session it was time to make my way to the oval to Marquee 2. This was a young audience and only about two grades. As I’ve already mentioned, the Marquee’s are hot. Right from the start, Lucas has his young audience in the palm of his hand.

Session 1.45pm to 2.30pm – Marquee 2

Lucas Proudfoot with instrumentsLucas Proudfoot

Lucas Proudfoot is one of Australia’s most versatile children’s performers, playing guitar, didgeridoo and stompbox to over 120,00 kids each year. He is a multi-platform storyteller, sharing stories through his music, books and live performances.
In recent years, he has been touring Australia performing his cultural show, Circular Rhythm, where he delivers an entertaining and contemporary Indigenous Australian music experience, inviting young audiences to learn about Indigenous cultures through a live show full of fun and interaction. He has shared stages alongside a host of Australia’s most renowned children’s performers including Hi5, Justine Clarke, Jay Laga’aia and Yo Gabba Gabba, performing his cultural show, Circular Rhythm. Lucas is a proud member of the Tweed Coast Aboriginal and Islander community and lives on the Gold Coast with his wife and their young daughter.

Lucas started by saying he’s a performance artist, who had been on Playschool.

He introduced his instruments and the characters they portray.

BILLY BLUE TONGEBilly Bluetongue – the Drum or Stompbox

Pat the Wombat – Pat-THE WOMBATDidgeridoo

Koolaz-selfieKoolaz Koala – plays guitar.

In the first twenty minutes, he had connected with the kids.

Lucas Proudfoot at Somerset StoryFest 2019

Lucas began by saying stories come in many different ways, heritage is a big part of his.

His Grandfather was ‘Proudfoot’ and that’s his Scottish side. It’s easy to start when you’re passionate about things.

He grew up at Nan’s place where he would go fishing and follow tracks down to the beach. Jullum – fish, is a big part of his background, catching mud crabs among the mango trees. They would eat all that food, and they had music.


The music was – lucas proudfoot guitar mad expression

Short – Fast – Fun

Lucas said his parents were teachers

Dad played the guitar and Uncle played spoon on the belly (this had the kids in hysterics).

Lucas said he writes about his experiences, the places he’s visited and the people he’s met. There’s a little about the languages and learning about cultures in each of his books.

books Lucas Proudfoot all 3 coversThe Proudfoots

Magic Globe? What Magic Globe?

Shaka Shaka Hawaii

Rocking in Japan

Culture – not all aboriginals play the didgeridoo, not in South Australia, Victoria or Tasmania, they did not play the didgeridoo only in Arnhem land they did.

Why do we paint a didgeridoo?

To give it a point of difference and to tell a story. This one has the story of the diamondback turtle.

Somerset StoryFest Marquees


What a magical way to end the day. The kid’s laughter ringing in my ears.

After ending the day on a high I couldn’t wait to get back for more on Friday.

Stay tuned for the next instalment.




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Somerset StoryFest report 2019– part four

Somerset Storyfest Report 2019 – Part Four

LUNCH – In my previous post, I said I changed sessions. I did go to the ticket office during the lunch session. I didn’t get to see who was slimed, although I suspect it was Belinda Murrell. I changed one of the Friday sessions and kept this day as its original schedule. I’m so glad I was one of the half dozen (older level students) to make it over to the Year 11 Common Room to hear Clare Sultmann speak. Her story is amazing, inspirational, and at times, graphic description of events the reason a mature audience attended.

Session 12.45 pm to 1.30 pm – Year 11 Common Room

bookcover Clare SultmannClare Sultmann

The story of Clare Sultmann is one of strength, determination and adversity. After a devastating blow, she demonstrates how her unwavering determination has her standing on her own two feet.

The 23-year old aspiring lawyer woke up one morning to start her normal daily routine and headed out to complete her 10km circuit run. Little did she know that very morning would change her life forever. Over the coming months, she battled,
not only to stay alive but to save her legs and walk again on her own two feet. Although the physical and mental obstacles she faced were overwhelming, her strength and determination were unwavering. Standing On My Own Two Feet is Clare’s first novel and autobiography which chronicles her journey from despair to happiness with a myriad of life lessons learned along the way.

Clare introduced herself by saying in 2000 she started writing ‘Standing On My Own Two Feet’, the title would make sense shortly.  The book was published in May 2013.

She continued to give the background to her life. When she was young, she didn’t know what to do. She went to Uni at UQ and graduated with a Business Degree, still not knowing what she wanted to do, she obtained a Bond University scholarship and lived in Robina while studying Law at Bond. She was always very athletic as a Junior Tennis champion in Queensland, she also succeeded in Dragon Boats National Titles. Fitness is a very big part of her life. When she completed her Law degree at Uni she would move to London, using Sydney as a stepping stone. She always planned things, that was the way she was. Her law degree was fast-tracked. January 2000 drove down to Sydney with her parents driving behind her. Their only daughter needed to ring every day to say she was alright. May 2000, she lived at Bondi Beach going for a 10k run every day before catching the ferry to work. She felt very accomplished. Her work at KPMG she was a consultant in the area of taxation. In fifteen weeks, she would be going to London.

Sydney was cold. On this Friday morning, 18th August 2000. Unusually she had a ‘should I or shouldn’t I’ feeling about going for her run, it was cold and it would be so good just to hop back under the covers at 6 am. Shaking herself out of that reverie she began her normal routine, got dressed, into her leggings and t-shirt and headed out for her run. Clare was determined to keep fit as outward appearance was important to her. At 23 with her life planned out, blond hair tied back for the run she headed out.

Only 200 meters from her unit a garbage truck didn’t see her and ran over her. Worse, the truck stopped on top of her. All she felt was a deep burning. There was an ambulance on the next corner. She was screaming. No one would answer her. Police arrived and she continued to scream at the garbage truck man. ‘You’ve already ruined my life.’ The truck had to be lifted off her to release her. She was taken to St Vincent’s hospital. She was conscious and spoke to her mother who said she was driving down. She asked her mother – why are you driving? Her parents drove to Brisbane and caught a plane.

clare visitors at hosp in book imageThe ambulance paramedic gave her 2000 dose of morphine, enough to kill a horse, which gave her no relief, she was in agony. The Triage Code One – degree life-threatening situation. They operated for thirteen hours to save her life, with three surgeons.

Her thoughts when she woke were. Do I have my legs? Yes, but! What about my job? In intensive care? She was lucky to have kept her legs, but the garbage truck had severed blood flow, her veins and arteries were gone. It was a question of – life or limb?

In September 2000 she began a month flat in bed. In October she’d been in hospital six months. Learning to walk again and the skin grafts were the next challenge. Clare was in incredible pain when standing.clare in hosp starting to walk

The support from family and friends saw me through. ‘Let’s get these legs moving,’ was her mantra. Most nights she had visitors. Forty-two are still some of her best friends. She’d write letters. Her mother stayed at her side the whole time. She had thirty-seven operations. And was in the rehab hospital from February 2001 for over six months. She was twenty-three and was now a different person. She got very depressed. Her mum always said ‘Clare, things will get better.’

The lessons Clare felt she’d learnt through this ordeal were. You need much love to get through this. In prosperity, our friends know us. In adversity, you know who your friends are.

There are defining moments in a person’s life that show your future strengths. At eleven or twelve in 1989 in a tennis competition. She was asked if she was going to forfeit or play on. Getting up after a fall is what sets you apart from others. That’s what she did.

Bikers groups get terrible press, but, when she was in the hospital the ‘King Cross Bikers’ came to give patients presents. ‘Skull’ was the father of a kid who had a teddy bear, with empathy and care, the boy chose to give it to her.

Clare said her mother told her. ‘It’s not the accident that will define you. It’s where you go from there. You are so much more than your injuries.’

Oprah and ClareOprah Winfrey quote: ‘What do you know for sure. No matter what you think, nothing is certain. Spirit can overcome.’

In 2011 she returned to work part-time. Work gives you a sense of purpose. Her work kept her focused.

Clare graduated with Master of Law Degree from Uni of Sydney in May 2004.

The book was cathartic.

How the book was published was with help from Johnny Elvers (not sure if I got this name down correctly) and Peter FitzSimons edited. The book was everything from her journal. The publisher Halstead Press came on board.

Then she showed photos of her at the Dorset Orthopedic Clinic, Hampshire, UK November 2005, sitting beside a cabinet filled with prosthetic limbs.clare Cam William Joseph

She began working for a charity – ‘Young care’ in April 2006 to 2007 for Age-Appropriate Care. The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in helping others.

She met her husband Cam and they married in 2010. She has three children William, Joseph and Amelia.

She has gone on to the Bar as a Barrister.

Has a women’s networking site – Dear Molly – and lives in Noosa.

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Somerset Storyfest Report 2019 – Part Three

Somerset Storyfest Report 2019 – Part Three

Session 11.15 to 12 noon – The Great Hall Louise

Zanni Louise is a picture book and fiction author based in Northern NSW. She’s written ten books for children, including Errol! Mum for Sale and the Tiggy and the Magic Paintbrush series. Her books sell in 20 countries and have been translated into multiple languages. Two have been long-listed for the CBCA awards and Archie and the Bear was selected for the White Ravens catalogue by the International Children’s Library. Zanni advocates for creativity and imagination and loves teaching writing to adults and children. She is part of the Byron Writers Festival StoryBoard program.

Zanni is also a Facebook friend of mine and I was delighted to see her presentation in the Great Hall. It was a relief to be in air conditioning.


The student introduction mentioned ‘Tiggy and the Magic Paintbrush’ and the Errol series. The room was packed and her hook to get the students involved was to set up an interview. It went from strength to strength from there.

The job interview was for an Author.

You are the best person for the job if you are: –

  1. Engaging and like playing games
  2. If you like being bored. Being bored is very important as not being entertained lets your mind roam. What happens is that your mind chases down ideas to make a story. My working life is like this – Zanni lies down on the stage. Stories come when I’m lying down.
  3. If you have a head with a brain inside you have imagination
  4. Perseverance – try and fail – try again – finish something
  5. Are any of you magic? Magic is making something out of a bunch of different things.

Zanni announced – you all qualify for being an author.

Tiggy magic paintbrush Birthday party trick cover‘Tiggy and the Magic Paintbrush’ idea came when one day she was folding clothes and her daughter was playing games and jumping on the bed. What would you do if you could print a friend? She wrote Wyn and the 3D printing machine. Early readers stories. She sent it away and the story was rejected. Zanni cried. Then she saved the idea and changed the name from Wyn to Tiggy, and the 3D printer to a paint brush.


Zanni sent the story to a different publisher and received a four-book contract, with Gillian Flint as the illustrator.Too-Busy-Sleeping cover Zannie

You are never too old for picture books. Zanni teaches writing for picture books. The story idea was a seed in the soil – inspired by emotions and observing how people feel.

Emotion – excited – frustrated

She wrote the first draft then edited and tweaked it. She sent it off to a publisher and discovered it’s an amazing business with lots of people doing different things.

Sent as a word document to the editor who sent it back with lots of red marks – oh no!

Okay, an Editor is good, they make the best story we could, reduce it down from five hundred words down to three hundred and fifty words. They suggested the main character solved her own problems. The illustrator was from the publishing house using colours and shapes on the page creating movement.

Two years later we had a finished book. The text and images came together.

archie and the bear coverArchie and the Bear had a different illustrator David Mackintosh.

The magic of picture books is that you can look through the book and read it without text.

As in Errol – a blank page with a blob helps the story take place with simple drawings that would take you through. The end pages are like wrapping paper.


Mum for sale – lets trade story ideas. Here are a few.

  1. A kid can print $100 bills and has to hide it because it’s illegal.
  2. The life story of a stick that falls into the sea, going all around the world.
  3. A little boy goes around the world and he loses his mum.
  4. A Mars Bar and you get eaten.

Writing is like dancing – (Zanni gets the kids involved)meet-zanni-1

The publisher asks – can you write a series of books about ballet? You can make anything out of nothing.

Bailey (a boy from the audience) gets up on stage and shows his dance move, like a caterpillar crawl.

Idea – Stardust School of Dance – books have relationships with people.

Question time

Q. How do you normally start your books? Zanni – with an idea from my notebook, I might draw a version of my story.

Q. Why does it take so long? Zanni – A lot of people are involved so it takes time, art takes time.

Errol-coverQ. When did you want to become an author? Zanni – When I was six I started, I didn’t think it was a job, I love picture books. When I had kids in 2015 I decided to try.

Q. What was your first book? Zanni – Too Busy to Sleep, but I knew I had a long way to go.

Q. How old were you when you wrote your first book? Zanni – Thirty-one

Q. What’s your best book? Zanni – I can’t choose. My favourite is Errol. I like to make kids laugh.

Q. How many books have you published? Zanni – Ten books published, I write a series.

Q. What’s your favourite Tiggy book? Zanni – A Birthday Party Trick

Q. What was your job before you were an author? Zanni – I worked in an Art Gallery. I wrote manuals on how to drive trucks. Training manuals, writing ten to twelve thousand words a day.

Q. Do you think you would write a book about bullying? Zanni – Maybe, I didn’t in my current book.

Then it was lunch time and I made my way happily to the Quadrangle. I ate my lunch perched on a seat, watching the bidding at an auction for an author to be slimed! Then I decided to change my next session and I’m glad I did. 



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Somerset Storyfest Report 2019 – Part Two

Somerset Storyfest Report 2019 – Part Two

Bren MacDibble bio picSession 10.15 to 11 am – Marquee 1

Bren MacDibble was raised on farms all over New Zealand, so is an expert about being a kid on the land. Bren lived in Melbourne for many years, but now lives and works on a bus travelling around Australia. How To Bee, her first novel
for younger readers, won the 2018 CBCA Book of the Year Awards, The NZ Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, and the NSW Premiers Literary Awards, and was shortlisted for several others. Her second children’s book, The Dog Runner has just been released.

This is for an older group of children. Bren is another Facebook friend and I was looking forward to hearing her speak.

Bren began saying she wrote ‘How To Bee’ released 2017 about a time in the future whenHow To Bee cover there are no bees to pollinate the flowers, thirty years after the famine, children hand pollinate the flowers.

‘The Dog Runner’, is another famine novel set closer to our time, the story revolves around Ella and her brother. She got the idea for this from ‘dog mushing’ with a scooter behind a dog led, under fifteen degrees. Dogs love running.

Why does she write books about scary worlds? Kids these days hear and see what’s happening around us, it is scary. Things like Queensland being the skin cancer capital, just one example. Children are taking on environmental issues – act as if you’re in a crisis. Kids previously were not told anything, now kids see too much.

the dog runner coverShe writes about love, security, strength and purpose for young readers to take comfort in. Talk about environmental issues. If you look for excuses fear will hold you back, we need to act. Fear will stop you from being creative. Solutions need creativity. The dog runner – the first ones to change will survive. Encourage creative thinking and exercise creativity.

Use imagination muscle as it makes you smarter.

Growing up, she was limited in the reading available to her. She had to grab a chance to read a chapter of a book before her brother got it. She remembers vividly ‘Dune’ that she had to read as fast as she could. It’s a big book and the ‘Dune’ wars showed no mercy. Her younger brother would snatch the book before she’d finished reading her chapter. The book itself gave her ideas. Skin suits are an amazing idea. Someone’s (the author’s) idea coming up with an imagined solution to an imagined problem.

Suggest solutions – Bees not diseases, aboriginal grains, can save Australia and possibly the world. Kangaroos for meat. Loss of Biodiversity, most urgent aspect of sustainability, fungi, bacteria depleted. Biodiversity – complex functions.

Reading – feels like magic on the inside – shows how other people feel.

People will be interested in your solutions.

A great idea is Electric self-drive cars. It’s cool and safer. Cityscape could completely change our air quality will improve and there will be less crashes.

Environmental alternatives – Solar, Wind, Water, Lithium Battery. More radical change.

Then it was question time. Bren ran about the room with her microphone to collect the queries.

Q. Has she always been a passionate writer? Bren – Yes, always good at telling stories. Writing something she enjoyed. Our history became stories.

Bren MacDibble profile pic

Q. How long does it take you to write a book? Bren – Depends on how hard it is.

Q. What age were you when you published your first book? Bren – ‘How To Bee’ published two years ago. She had been writing for the school market and it took twenty years to learn to write it well.

Q. How long did it take you to write ‘How To Bee’? Bren – about a year to write.

Q. How many books have you written? Bren – I wrote for educational services and ‘How To Be’ has won three major awards. ‘The Dog Runner’ is about to be released.

Q. What made you start writing? Bren – I have always been writing, I write to learn.

Q. What is your favourite genre? Bren – Science Fiction.

Q. What inspired you to write a book? Bren – Both food shortage and food security, the catalyst being Science Fiction conference and farmers competing with overseas imports. I asked – Are we self-sufficient as a country? Can we support ourselves?

MacDibble bio picQ. When did you become an author? Bren – twenty years ago.

Q. What is your greatest accomplishment in writing? Bren – Getting ‘How To Bee’ out. Nine years empowered accomplishment.

Q. What are your favourite books? Bren – Neil Stevenson – Snowcrash had all the elements I love like a computer virus, robot dogs, girl, skateboards and downloads.

Q. What inspired you to write about dogs? Bren – always wanted to have kids travelling across Australia with dogs.

Q. What goals are you trying to achieve? Bren – To make a living off writing, books to do well, and maybe to have a book turned into a movie.

Q. How do you come up with ideas for your books? Bren – I shove everything in I’m passionate about.

Q. What does your family think of you writing? Bren – husband happy, mum loves it, son not impressed.

Q. How old were you when you started writing? Bren – very young, mum wouldn’t teach me to read but I was very determined to learn.

Q. What’s the process of publishing? Bren – Open door contests – Allen & Unwin Friday pitch. Once I had a contract it took a year, overseas needed an Agent, it’s a long and tedious process – but let all that go.

Q. Who’s your favourite author here? Bren – Cath Crowley is great.

Q. What are you doing to change the world apart from writing books? Bren – Using environmental platform, talking about it, getting over fear. I live on a bus so that means I have less impact on the environment.

Q. What type of novel will you write next? Bren – Science fiction, post-apocalypse, post-famine.

The children in the front row had notebooks and pens at the ready for a wonderful presentation. I’m sorry to say they took few notes. The book – How To Bee – Bren wrote about passionately with her environmental issues abounding, it is award-winning. Her speech was delivered more like a lecture and I saw the kid’s eyes cloud over with disinterest. They did engage during the question time and I’m certain Bren with more experience of public speaking would have the kids enjoying the session. I wrote copious notes and feel her message was powerful but being that she read from her page of notes and didn’t have eye contact with the students, she lost her audience. Afterwards, I asked Bren if she had been to Somerset before and been to other sessions. She explained that she’d been living on a bus and had not been before. I totally understand as public speaking is not my forte, but her words were true and powerful. Had she had the opportunity to go to other sessions and see the other authors receive wrapt attention, she might have picked up some useful tips. 

(Personally, suggesting children protest when they don’t understand the full ramifications, can be a dangerous thing. Such as close coal power stations, people lose jobs, the Australian economy suffers, with no real tangible effect on the environment. Will the country slipping into bankruptcy help when coal is a valuable and available resource? Let children think about all the consequences before taking a day off school to march in the streets.)

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Somerset Storyfest 2019 Report-Part One

Somerset Storyfest 2019 – Report – Part One

somerset standSomerset was brilliant again. I attended sessions presented by inspiring authors and had a great time. Of course, had I booked sooner, I could have gone to a couple of magical workshops, but, as they are sold-out, I bought tickets adapting my programme. Some sessions were packed, as in The Great Hall, and others were a handful of eager students or two or three mixed grades. The Marquees are hot – (but I was prepared). The Great Hall is air conditioned but at times hard to hear the kid’s questions (the students ask the best questions).

“…a festival of storytelling for the whole family.”

Wednesday 20th March

Session 9.15 am to 10 am – Marquee 3

MGB at computerMichael Gerard Bauer’s first novel The Running Man was the 2005 CBCA Book of the Year for Older Readers. Since then four more of his books has been shortlisted for CBCA awards including his very funny picture book Rodney Loses It! Which was the 2018 CBCA winner in the Early Childhood category. His other very popular and award-winning works include the Ishmael series, the Eric Vale series and Just a Dog. His most recent publication is the young adult novel The Things That Will Not Stand. Michael’s stories have been translated into 12 languages and sold in over 40 countries.Rodney doll MGB

Michael is a man I’ve had the pleasure of meeting several times and he is a genuine and funny man. He began by telling the children about his book. His first picture book idea. The illustrator Chrissie Krebs from Melbourne. He explained, in a dancing way, that when he walks, he makes up rhymes as he marches to a beat.

The promotion to these younger students of his picture book ‘Rodney Loses It’ was a ‘Where’s Wally’ event. Rodney loves to draw but he is always losing things. He asked the children to find the missing objects. He involved them by getting a selection of children up on stage to help. They loved it.

Then it was question time. (I did already mention that the kids of all ages ask the best questions.)

MGB Rodney Loses It coverQ. Why did you want to write the book? MGB – I wrote one years earlier that didn’t get published, it was my son ‘losing it’ getting angry. This is better as Rodney is a Rabbit and the illustrations show where the things he loses go. This was how he tried again to make the story work.

Q. Did you and the illustrator write together? MGB – No, they didn’t even meet till after the book was published and they won a medal – Book of the Year 2018.

Q. Did you choose the front cover? MGB – Both he and the illustrator needed to decide, and the publisher suggested a few changes and decided it for them.

Q. What did you do before you wrote a book? MGB – I was a teacher of English because I like words. I wanted to be a Ninja or a Rockstar or even a songwriter before that.

Q. How did Rodney lose his slinky? MGB – It sprang up in the air and got caught on the light fitting.

Q. Where do you get the book from? MGB – The bookshop here.michael_gerard_bauer-450x576

Q. Are there any more books? MGB – I’ve written sixteen different books including ‘The Running Man’, they include the Ishmael series, the Eric Vale series and Just a Dog.

Q. Why did Rodney have problems? MGB – You need a challenge, to make the book interesting, a problem or a challenge to solve, otherwise it would be boring.

Q. Where do your ideas come from? MGB – I lose things too.

MGB just a dogQ. Where did you get the bunny? (there was a Rodney doll on the podium) MGB – The illustrator Chrissie Krebs makes soft toys, she made the Rodney doll for him and one for the publisher.

Q. Will you write more books about Rodney? MGB – Yes

Q. Do you have any narrative in the book? MGB – Good question, the illustrations show the missing things. That’s the narrative as Rodney is alone at his desk.


That’s part one. I’ll have more on my next post. Stay tuned!

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Books on Tour – The Apostrophe Posse

The Apostrophe Posse cover

Book Review by Jill Smith©Mar19

Title: The Apostrophe Posse

Author: Teena Raffa-Mulligan

Publisher: Sea Song Publications

It all starts innocently enough. Cam and Ellie go shopping for school shoes with their mother. Jimmy Leeds is painting a sign for Baker’s shop. Mrs Terry, their mum, points out that Jimmy has missed putting an apostrophe on the sign. Jimmy can’t see it.

Cam forms a group they call ‘The Apostrophe Posse,’ just like in wild west movies. He and Ellie, with their friends Billy and Louisa, will go out to fix the signs in Tea Tree Bend. School starts again in a few weeks and it must be done before then. The Apostrophe Posse head out after dark when no one can see them. That’s the plan. What could go wrong? Well, it turns out, lots. teena with picture book

Louisa’s little sister Lindy wants to help. They don’t want her to mess up their plans. When she wakes and follows her sister, what can they do but let her tag along? That’s a big mistake. While working to fix the signs, accidents happen. Before they know it, they are in big trouble. The local newspaper headlines say businesses are calling on the authorities to apprehend the vandals and have them prosecuted.Teena Raffa-Mulligan bio pic

This is a slim volume of seventy pages that invites young readers on a humorous adventure. Teena writes a story that will engage children in an entertaining way. It leaves them with a simple message – be honest. Ask for help if you need it, and – apostrophe’s matter!

Teena writes a variety of books including Juvenile fiction and Poetry, Picture Books, Chapter Books and Romantic reads. For more about her visit her website.

TAP-WiN-long competition logo

On Your Marks. Get Set. WIN!

Kids! This challenge is for you! Fix the apostrophe mistakes for a chance to WIN a paperback copy of The Apostrophe Posse by Teena Raffa-Mulligan!

Closes midnight AEST Friday, April 12, 2019.

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Accepting the Challenge…

March begins with another Challenge thanks to Michelle Worthington

Day 2 Breakfast – 30day Instagram Social Media Challenge






30 day instagram challenge March 19





My other Challenge is writing stories for submissions to The School Magazine – My stories for January and February have not been accepted but are good little stories I may be able to use for The Ten Penners should we decide to produce another anthology of stories for children. Yes, I’ve written another story for the March submission. I hope that, as the story is a little more quirky, it will be accepted. Wish me luck!

A couple more challenges that will keep me busy are:-

Penguin WriteIt Fellowship competition



Spooktacular Stories: Thrilling Tales for Brave Kids

Share Your Story Writing Competition 2019

Share Your Story anthology comp

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Feedback on my books…

Dual Visions and Vashla’s World have a ringing endorsement and great feedback from a recent recipient of signed copies. His wife gave them to him for a birthday present. 

Dual Visions front 29.06.17 (2)Having read Dual Visions and Vashla’s World I would thoroughly recommend them to anyone interested in an in-depth sci-fi tale, interesting characters and a story that sets your imagination racing … Barry Lunnie

The feedback on the books may include spoilers or just tempt new readers, here it is:-

Firstly I must commend you on your books Dual Visions and Vashla’s World, some of the most original and in-depth writings I’ve enjoyed for some time.

I must admit, the first few pages I was KEEN to see where you were coming from with the dual sex aliens and male to male relationships…but…and this may sound strange to you, being a scuba diver and being extremely interested in all things wild, I likened it to numerous aquatic species that change gender in order to survive, hence Orthama.Vashla's World cover July17

Favourite characters are Aunt Nance a lovely character, Rakal … more-so in Dual Visions although an interesting story with Vashla and Zorn all by itself… Vashla, my God your description of her, I fell for her straight away… and your narratives on the darker warrior side of these three I found a riveting read. The murder of Bon, what can I say… POWERFUL stuff… so much more I’d like to say but just wanted to let you know how much I truly enjoyed your novels and can’t wait for the 3rd instalment…

I’m truly thrilled with this feedback as it goes to the essence of both books. Now I’m about to re-release Dual Visions and Vashla’s World through Ingram Spark to be available to a broader market.

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Book Review Sweet Adversity by Sheryl Gwyther reviewed by Jill Smith

Sweet Adversity Cover

Adversity McAllister is strong-willed and she wants to keep the other children at the orphanage happy. Matron Maddock made them all miserable. As the daughter of two wonderful actors who travel the land as ‘The Famous Shakespearean Theatrical Troupe’, she knows how to she put on a show. Her cockatiel Macbeth is part of her act. He recites Shakespearean quotes. Addie loves him and watches out in case Matron should get clerk Algernon Parris to lock him away. Putting on a show for the other children also helps her forget being left by her parents. Matron had told her that her parents had died in a flooded creek and that she was now her legal guardian.

Addie knows Matron is mean but it’s only when she sneaks into her office to find a key to rescuing Macbeth does she learn the whole truth. Macbeth was in danger of being killed but she was also in danger. She discovers a child trader is on his way to the Orphanage to collect her as she’s being sold. She has to leave before Scrimshaw could get his hands on her. With the help of Mary the cook and Thomas, the gardener, who gives her his gypsy caravan, she runs away to Emu Creek. There she hopes to find a camp and a new family with lost boys who live in hiding. When she meets Sam, she thinks she might be in luck, but things don’t turn out that way.Sheryl Gwyther bio pick

Matron Maddock’s black Buick has followed and her new friends send her away as she might put them in danger. Worse still, Scrimsaw the devious man has discovered her escape from the orphanage. He wants his money so he chases after her.

The historical context of the Great Depression and the underlying expectation that children could be bought and sold and no one would bother about it. What’s the life of one feisty red-haired girl who can sing and act worth? And, would anyone miss her? Her steadfast friendships help her through, especially the little yellow cockatiel Macbeth and her friend from the orphanage Jack.

cockatiels imageI loved this book, I bought it off Sheryl on Wednesday at an SCWBI meeting in Burleigh, started it on Thursday, finished it on Friday. Young adults books are my favourite genre.

I will treasure the signed copy and Sheryl’s note. I did enjoy Addie and Macbeth’s adventures, and believe ‘All the world’s a stage’. Thanks so much, Sheryl Gwyther. Now to share this adventure with my granddaughters will be a joy.

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