Author and illustrator finally meet

You may have this idea that authors do all the illustrations for their books. That sometimes happens if the author is very good at drawing AND writing but that’s not me. I needed a talented artist for both my books.

You might have some image, then, of author and illustrator working side by side. Writing and drawing and sharing hot mugs of cocoa. The author saying “I know what could happen to the characters!” and the illustrator yelling out “Hey, I’m drawing it write now!” and then the illustrator saying “Look at this picture I want to put in the book” and the author saying “That’s so perfect – it’s made me think of a WONDERFUL story I want to write to go with it – just let me jot it down!”

Then they would take lots of nice breaks, ambles among the trees and by the beach. There would be cake and chocolate. Lots of cake and chocolate. And spotting of cute owls along the way.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work quite like this though many of us wish it would.

My gorgeously illustrated book, A Very Special Moon Mission, was illustrated by the talented David Allan and it was published and I didn’t meet him. I thought I wouldn’t.

Then last year, at a Book Fair in Sydney, David and I met. It was a lovely opportunity and David is as friendly and nice as he is a great artist. We had to take a photo of this (actually quite rare) occurrence!

While there wasn’t a lot of owl-spotting, David was making some dragon toys at the Book Fair so there was dragon-spotting – not a bad substitute!

A Very Special Moon Mission is published!

Yesterday, A Very Special Moon Mission was published! It is now available to buy – yes, actually to be handled by your fingertips which has to be one of the most exciting things about writing a book – actually making a something that is real … and yet very unreal too. Because you can do anything in books.

In this adventure, Phoebe and Elliot are best friends who go to a Space Station and meet astronauts in training. They are joined by a not-so-popular girl, Julia, and “accidentally” launch a spaceship to the moon with the help of a rather cheeky supercomputer, IMP. Of course, getting to the moon seems like lots of fun … then they realise the big problem is … getting back to Earth!

As it’s school holidays, there’s also time for activities. There are teacher’s notes and fun activities to go with the book like how to make your own rocketship out of a bottle, or a space-based word search. And I have my Goodreads page for the book if anyone would like to review it!

Big comet coming to Earth – see it in July 2022!

One of the biggest comets ever to be spotted by scientists is headed towards Earth. It can now be spotted by small telescopes and should be closest to Earth on 14 July. However, on 13 July 2022 a supermoon will be brighten the sky and this might make it harder to see, so it’s probably better to try to look for it now – or even a bit after – it might even be visible up to September.

The catchy name for this comet is C/2017 K2. I am sure Princess Hayley would have loved it.

Australia and space

Did you know that Australia has been involved in the world’s discovery of what’s going on in space? We even have our own space agency!

This is something I didn’t know until I started writing about Princess Hayley’s Comet, and even more, A Very Special Moon Mission. I read a lot about space and moon missions and it’s really interesting stuff. Of course, I’d heard a lot about space when I was growing up but most of the stories you read and movies you watch are about Americans and Russians and the space race. They’re lots of fun, of course. One of the most touching ones I read when I was younger was a great story called The Cosmonaut about a young Russian boy who wanted so much to be a cosmonaut and his teacher who encouraged his dream.

Later, I loved the movie Gattaca as it depicted a man who would go to any lengths to go to space.

But it was a very different experience when I attended a talk from a representative of the Australian Space Agency. He told us about how Australians had been assisting in these space projects. Unlike many of the Australian and Russian stories, we probably won’t be the single heroes who will have our faces in the magazines. However, as he pointed out, space projects require a great deal of collaboration and Australia is part of a team effort. We have a lot of … well … space in Australia to construct things like the infrastructure that can be helpful for these space projects (Space for Space!). We can be very proud of the contribution we make to something that’s exciting for the entire world.

I later watched a great movie called The Dish which shows the critical part that Australia played in bringing the first moon landing to everyone worldwide. Something a lot of people don’t know about. It’s funny and very Aussie and absolutely inspiring.


A Very Special Moon Mission

Coming out in early July, I am happy to announce a new chapter book!

This one is called “A Very Special Moon Mission” and is published by the wonderful people at Christmas Press who also published “Princess Hayley’s Comet”. As you might have guessed by the title, it is also has space themes.

This story sees best friends Phoebe and Elliott and the not-very-popular girl in school, Julia, meet aspiring astronauts at the Space Station and “accidentally” rocket off to the moon, and have to work out how to get back. They also need to work out how to get on together and face their fears in space. There’s a know-it-all computer called IMP who knows almost everything … but inconveniently doesn’t know how to land the spacecraft properly. Here’s the trailer.

The lovely illustrations are by David Allan.

I’m really excited about this one and I hope you are too!

Listen … an audiobook!

Hello, everyone.

It has been a difficult time recently with lockdowns, and a million other things we could not possibly have imagined. I remember at the end of 2019 seeing a huge mushroom cloud of greyness caused by the bushfires and thinking it looked apocalyptic. Little did I know what 2020 and 2021 had in store for us …

However, there have also been some great things coming out of the greyness. I can say I have found time when more at home to read lots of fantastic books. While I’ve felt a bit muddled with my writing at times, I have really found some things I want to write.

And the gang at Christmas Press have been more than wonderfully supportive and hopeful, bringing out an audiobook of Princess Hayley’s Comet.

I’ve listened and Aimee Smith does a lovely job of narrating it, and her voice along with the sound effects captures the sense of fun I hope Hayley, Ned and Cara are having finding that comet.

A million words

According  to this article on Essential Kids, children who are read five books a day before heading to school have heard more than a million words than those who aren’t read to regularly. That’s why some kids have such large vocabularies and others don’t.

This really emphasises the importance of children’s books in a child’s life although I remember as a child I would read almost anything. I loved my children’s story books, of course, but I just read things for the sake of reading. My parents regularly had the newspaper delivered – that was back when the newspaper was physically delivered and not searched for on a computer screen – so I would read bits of the newspaper and on Sundays, definitely the “Kids’ Page” section with the cartoons and comics. I also voraciously read junk mail. I could read a pamphlet for plumbing services just because it was there. I just liked seeing those words on the printed page.

Later some of my favourite books were not only fairytales and “what my mother grew up with” which was old-fashioned even then, like Milly-Molly-Mandy and Mrs Pepperpot books, but also children’s encyclopedias. I loved reading about dinosaurs or big mountains and famous explorers. I liked to feel important words like “chlorophyll” and “metamorphosis” roll off my tongue.

Not only did I probably hear a million words but I loved to say them and report back to everyone what I’d read and correct them which is probably really really annoying for adults. However, if your child can remember which dinosaurs ate only plants (herbivores!) better than you can, you are either doing the right thing with exposing them to lots of books or letting them watch too much Jurassic park.

I am pretty sure not only do parents who read at least five books a day to their kids, have kids who’ve heard a million words more than those who haven’t had that opportunity, but the parents have heard millions of words more than the non-bookish parent too … millions of words from those kids!

A batty Homecoming

I’ll spit the exciting news out – I have a story in this May’s School Magazine, the Orbit magazine. The story is called Homecoming and it’s on page 4. It’s very very batty!

When I first tried to write for this issue of the School Magazine, I saw the theme on the website, ‘Journeys’. It made me think of all sorts of exciting stories, after all so many things can happen when you take a journey. Then I read an article about bats migrating to Kasanka National Park.

This was an amazing journey. Not just because of how far the bats have to fly. But also because of the description in the article of this huge black cloud that comes into Kasanka, every year. A swarm of bats makes Kasanka its home, and no one knows exactly where the bats come from or where they go after.

I thought about what it would be like to fly in a huge black cloud like that, and to come to make a place your home only to swoop off somewhere else several months later. Would it feel like home?  How would you make it feel like home?

It was extra-exciting to find out The School Magazine accepted my story and to see it published. The pictures by Touby Riddle are absolutely beautiful and capture the bats, the joy of their flight and their new home and the feeling of family among them perfectly.

This is my story of Felix the bat, who’s making his first flight to Kasanka …