On Verse Novels and Bullies – and Wonderful Wins…

It started with Sherryl Clark’s book, Sixth Grade Style Queen NOT! (Penguin) – and blossomed with a class of Year 7 students. (They loved it and I loved the discussion that it generated, especially amongst the boys. Rich analysis and interpretation – expressive reading.)

It grew reading the wonderful works of Lorraine Marwood, Steven Herrick, and Karen Hesse. By Sally Murphy’s exquisite Pearl Verses the World (Walker) I was in love.

The verse novel is a powerful arrangement of words and emotions on paper. An exquisite agony of reading, breathing bare bones of beauty. I knew with a certainty that I needed to play with this form for myself.  To carve words and white space and open hidden places in my heart.

In a serendipitous way Bully on the Bus was written – from chapter book, to verse novel. (You can read how this came about on my post Laying the words down on the page.) The rewrite was like watching a butterfly emerge from the confines of its chrysalis. A delicate balance of strength and frailty – of beauty. Further rich insights from the generous and lovely Dr Robyn Sheahan-Bright strengthened Leroy’s story, and feedback I have received has given me hope that one day, my dream of publishing a verse novel might become a reality.

I entered Bully on the Bus in the 2012 CYA published author competition, and I was delighted when it shortlisted. To be honest, I’ve been a little disheartened by my publishing journey of late. So many things have come sooooo close, that feedback is so often a sharp combination of bitter/sweet hope… and disappointment. It was a wonderful thrill to be shortlisted – but in my heart-of-hearts, I didn’t expect to place in the final listing.

Until I arrived home last weekend to find I’d missed three calls on my mobile (and more on my home phone) scored a text from Tina (“Call me”) and finally an email… (because I was proving hard to get) …

Takes deep breath because it surely can’t be what I’m beginning to think it is…


It was.

Yesterday, at the annual CYA Conference in Brisbane, Bully on the Bus was announced as winner of the published author category, with friends and confidants Karen Collum, 2nd, and Dee White, 3rd. A huge honour giving wings to fantastic flights of fantasy and hope. (And a giggle to hear friends in the audience cheering and applauding as I received my award. Because the children’s writing industry is built on supportive friendships!)

It was fantastic to be at the conference, (last minute flights in and out organised!) a buzz to be with others in the children’s writing industry, and a delight to meet with the lovely Zoe Walton from Random House, final judge of the competition. Altogether such a wonderful injection of life, energy, enthusiasm and direction.

Once again I find myself saying a huge thank-you to Tina Clark and all the CYA team who make the conference and competition a reality year after year. It was my second CYA win – and with seven years between the two, this was every bit as exhilarating as the first. I can’t help but hope that Bully on the Bus follows in the footsteps of This is the Mud! (my first CYA winner) and finds its own perfect publishing house soon…

It’s moments like these that I believe it might.

PS  I didn’t dream it. It really IS real. 😛  Click on the link to read all the CYA Results 2012. Excited to see another Bundaberg writer in the shortlisting, too! And the other delightful thing I forgot to say, is that my picture book, ‘No Cows!’ inspired the three illustrators in Category 7. Fantastic to be there and see their wonderful works of art. I think they’ll go up on the CYA site, so if they do, I’ll add the link and you can check them out!


  1. Fabulous news, Kat. I hope it finds a publisher soon. My little grandson loves This Is The Mud, and I’m sure he will appreciate Bully On The Bus.


  2. Could not be happier for you Kat!! It was a superb win. I am yearning to immerse myself into your verse novel very very soon 😉 Thank you for sharing a few lovely moments with us at CYA. CU around for sure.


  3. You know how happy I am for you, Kat.

    I love your Bully on the Bus and you are a wonderful writer and friend who thoroughly deserves this break:) I hope, hope, hope it leads to publication.

    So honoured and chuffed to be on the ‘virtual podium’ with you and Karen:)

    Keep smiling, keep writing.



    • Thanks, Dee. How amazing, that we who share so much, should share this too. But now I come to think of it… where did I meet YOU… seven years ago!?! Even MORE to thank CYA for! 🙂


      • Serendipity:) Yep it was at the CYA Conference. I think that year you came first in unpublished PBs and I came third in unpublished YA novels. Seems to be a pattern here LOL.

        A lot to thank CYA for:)


      • I’m sure you’re quite happy with where you’re sitting, Kat:)

        I’m happy for you too:) Patterns are nice but I’ve always been a bit erratic so I can’t guarantee the same result next time.

        I’m so excited for you and for my boy. Still don’t know where he came. One person told me he came second and another told me he came first. Whatever the result it will be so great for his confidence:)

        Dee xx


    • So happy for your boy, Dee. Wish I could help you, but I was literally running in the door at that time and so thankful to be there! As to our patterns… I’m happy to continue it, because that 2006 third was Letters to Leonardo… right? And it sits very well on my bookshelf. Can’t wait to add Saving Sarah Davis! xx


      • Yep, 2006 was Letters to Leonardo:) I have a place on my bookshelf reserved for Bully on the Bus next to many of those fabulous verse novels you mentioned in your post. xx

        Not to worry about the Hatchlings results. We’ll find out soon enough. I’m rapt for him because he is such a good writer but he has no confidence and doesn’t believe me when I tell him how good he is. He says I just say that because I’m his mother:) Started his novel when he was eleven and is on his fourth draft:)


  4. Huge congrats lovely one! So deserved 🙂

    It was wonderful to (quite literally) run into you at CYA. Such a lovely surprise! Would have been great to properly catch up rather than just swap a few words in hallways, but this blog post makes me feel like we did.

    PS. I LOVE verse novels – go Bully On The Bus!


  5. Awesome, awesome, awesome. Congratulations Kat – so so thrilled for you. The Universe is certainly smiling on us poets at the moment 🙂


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  7. Congratulations Kat. I love verse novels and I am pleased to see they are still getting published. Fingers crossed for yours. A friend and writing critque partner of mine had a verse novel published with Walker Books this year – Cinnamon Rain by Emma Cameron. Have you heard of that one?


  8. Congrats Kat and thank you so much for coming out from the bush and making the journey to CYA Conference!

    It was so great to see someone who won in the unpublished section back in our very first competition in 2006 win in 2012 in the published section.

    Well done again!

    Bye 4 now
    CYA Conference


    • Mwah! Big hugs and appreciation, Tina, not just for your wonderful vision in creating this opportunity, and your dedication in bringing it to fruition year after year… but also for your wonderful care of me as I flew-in-flew-out this year, and for your gorgeous welcoming smile. Every bit of it is so very much appreciated! xx


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