Poetry Friday Round-up, 24th January 2020

Welcome to Australia (twice in the one month!) for another round-up of Poetry Friday. Since Sally hosted, a lot of Australia has received rain, so dust has settled, and many fires have also been checked back. But what a horrifying month it has been! And it is not over. Even as I write this post (Thursday), the news comes through of the large air tanker crash, killing 3 US crew members. And we are once again reminded of the many different ways people risk their lives in our service. And how precious – and fragile – life is.

Our Queensland property is far from the fires, but we have been contending with drought, and have empty dams all around us. Two inches of rain in the past 2 weeks has brought a wash of green creeping over the paddocks, for which we are so thankful – but we are praying for much more rain to fill those dams!

I am proud of the Australian kidlit community – who, led by Nova Weetman and Emily Gale, and joined by much of the world – raised more than $500,000 in the twitter-based #AuthorForFireys auction. One of my offerings was a new-to-you poem about an Australian animal. (Thank-you to my beautiful PoetryFriday friends who jumped in to bid for that.) The winning bid was for a poem about a bogong moth, for $200. I’m still working on that one! (Fascinated, from what I’ve learnt thus far.)

When I signed up to host today, I had thought I’d have a Month of Poetry to share with you, to make your visit to my blog interesting – but I started the year in a sad place, following the loss of my beloved Amber – and just didn’t want the commitment of a joyful play with words. It has been a productive month none-the-less, with time spent polishing and submitting picture book manuscripts and writing new poems for a project I’m hoping to be involved with. One of the poems was about a selection of Queensland animals, and on a night-time wander this week, I snapped this pic of mama and bubba possum, high in an ironbark tree along our track – so I thought I’d include my stanza about the possum for my poetry offering today.

© Kathryn Apel – All rights reserved.

What have you been working on? Who has news to share? I look forward to catching up on your happenings through the round-up, and comments below. Hoping your weekend is wonderful! Last weekend before the new school year starts in Queensland! (I’m sure families will be cramming every last moment with holiday-feels!) I’m reminded of this trimeric I wrote in January during Month of Poetry 2014, when I had kids on school holidays…

Clockwork Holidays

The clock has stopped. The bus has run.
School bags lie in wait, lunchboxes packed,
while uniforms hang about in dishevelment
and kids run free!

School bags lie in wait, lunchboxes packed
and stacked
away at the back of the cupboard.

While uniforms hang about in dishevelment,
waiting to be pressed into shape,
rumpled, crumpled comfy clothes are donned,

and kids run free!
No HW. No bedtimes. No alarms.
Unwinding as the clock… ticks… down… to… school.

© Kathryn Apel – All rights reserved.

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https://fresh.inlinkz.com/js/widget/load.js?id=c8cd94ed6d171cb9d89dSneaking in for an unexpected bonus extra … This little video was released this week, by Newport News Public Schools, following my visit to Riverside Elementary, in November. Oh the wonderful memories! (Why does it seem so long ago?)

My Amber

My Amber

Imprinting your shape,
and texture
into the palm of my heart;
knobby horns,
forehead whirl,
and floppy dewlap.

Hands smooth across
sleek red hide,
eyes clouded by tears.

I inhale.

Hold time.

Breathe in the scent of you.

Each pat

   a memory,
   a caress,
   a pause;

‘I love you.’

‘My beautiful girl.’

'I love you.'

© Kathryn Apel December 2019

She was older than my boys – and lived in our home paddock almost as long as I have. She was my second bottle-reared calf (arriving two months after Cocoa), and for 23 years she has been just a roving glance away – a frequent visitor at the house for sweetest treats. She was our gentle giant; for many years, the fattest cow on the property, and the one cow I have never feared. Loved by many, she would happily exchange hay for pats – from family, friends and strangers.

And now, we’re shedding tears. And clinging to the memories … and a thousand photos of our beautiful Amber.

10 years of reading with Amber. Always her favourite book.

Teary hugs to my grazier husband who has shared the care of our Amber-girl, most especially in recent drought months during my extended author visits – where kids the world over have loved to hear about Amber the cow.

My beautiful Amber-girl. xx

Edit: Thank-you to my online friend Rachel, who I first met when she ordered a signed copy of ‘This is the Mud!’ because it was her daughter’s favourite book, and she’d worn it out! Rachel sent me this verse in response to my Instagram post – and I can tell she has read ‘This is the Mud’ many times. (Including tonight, in honour of Amber – when her girls wanted to know why she was crying, since it’s not a sad story! “See… she’s chewing her cud so that means she’s happy.”)

This is the author who smiles through her tears,
at the wonderful memories from 23 years,
of a happy old “Moo”, chewing her cud,
knowing how much she was ever so loved. ❤️

I cried buckets – and smiled some, too. Rachel, your poem will always be special! Thank-you! xx

Poetry Friday Friends – IRL

My American adventure was funtabulous! Last week I showed some of the awesomeness of my ‘Bully on the Bus’ school tour. This week, I show you my Poetry Friday friends. I was sooooo looking forward to seeing everyone …Note: Memories couldn’t possibly be rosier than rosy reality.

Sunday: Portsmouth with Molly within hours of landing. Combating jetlag with a friend and a camera! The only thing better would have been more time.

After two weeks of school-visits (talking myself hoarse, then succumbing to sinusitis) I caught up with more Poetry Friday friends. I felt like I was the care package, nurtured and passed from one friend to another.💕

Saturday/Sunday: Walking the Manassas Battlefields and the Memorial Mall (DC) with Linda.

Monday: Slipped in one more author talk, this time at Stonewall Middle School – because author talks are always fun! And so is visiting a friend’s library! (I was intrigued by some of their takeaways.)

Monday: Linda briefly met Tabatha for the first time, before Tabatha and I took off for another day in the Capital (Library of Congress pictured) then home to Tabatha’s for more TLC.

Tuesday: Lunch and a meander through Ellicott City with Tabatha, Irene and Laura. There may have been shopping… Home to Laura’s with Irene.

Tuesday Night: Reading Night at Hammond Elementary School, presenting a session on shape poetry with Laura and Irene. Such a busy, buzzing evening! #glassesaremyfaveaccessory🤷‍♀️

Wednesday: Laura organised a behind-the-scenes tour of the newly renovated Enoch Pratt Library… and even the architects were on-hand. (We might have been models for a moment.😂)


Thursday: NCTE 2019 – Dinner with some of the Poetry Friday crew – and it wasn’t even Friday!

Friday: More food and poets. (Hi to Liz our host today, hidden up the back.)

Recognising faces in the conference crowd… no introductions necessary!

More NCTE faces and fun!

A powerhouse bookstore – literally!

Thank-you! For all that you all did. It was pure joy to meet you and talk face-to-face. Poetry Friday has long been my go-to recommendation for teachers (and poets), wherever they are in the world, because of YOU! You are an awesome support crew and inspiration.

Elizabeth Steinglass is hosting our Poetry Friday link-up this week, but before you rush across, let me share a sneak peek into ‘Soccerverse – Poems about Soccer’ by Liz – with illustrations by Edson Ikê. They’re all disciplined, playful poems – but ‘Instructions: to Field Players / The Goalkeeper’ are kicking g⚽️als with words!

Liz Steinglass and illustrator Edson Ikê score with this reverso.


American School Visits

November passed by in a blur for me, with three weeks in the USofA cram-packed with school visits and catch-ups with friends. I have a ToDo list the size of Mt Everest that I am still chipping away at, but I am determined to post for Poetry Friday – so here I am with pictures! And some words…but there are not enough words to express how wonderful those three weeks were!

This week, I bring you two weeks of school visits! One week of visits with UBAM Consultant Beth Paiva – including schools in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, followed by a week of visits in Virgina with Emily Griffin. I spoke with kids from Pre-Kinder to Yr 6, sharing a peek into life on our family cattle property, the inspiration for ‘Bully on the Bus’ and chatting about the verse novel format – and the fun of poetry! I absolutely LOVED each and every visit – and seeing how schools were using ‘Bully on the Bus’. In some cases a whole school read! If ever I doubt myself, I will bring myself back to these photos, because they bring me joy, joy, joy.

I never did get over my fascination for yellow school buses – in so many different shapes and sizes! In different weather, too; sun, rain and snow!

Week One:


Week Two:


I even managed to squeeze in a luncheon for community members… where I was thrilled to see ‘On Track’ – in large print. New to me, though I have to admit, I do much prefer the play with formatting and alignment in the standard version.

Dinner out with some of the UBAM sales team. And a rocking horse pig… because I may or may not have grown up on a pig farm…

Thank-you to all the amazing counsellors, librarians, educators, janitors and kids who made my school visits so amazing! The smiles are because of YOU!

There are many more pics to come – including lots with my wonderful Poetry Friday friends, but I’m saving them for another post – because there are already a heap of pics in this post. I have always loved Poetry Friday – but I love it so much more, now that I have met so many of you! Tanita is hosting the Poetry Friday round-up this week. I look forward to seeing what you’ve all been up to! xx

Poetry Swap – and Continent Swap

Gorgeous envelope! And stickers to live by.

Life is a whirlwind, and I’m caught in it! But how wonderful to have mail from Iphigene arrive today – giving me the perfect excuse to join in the Poetry Friday party!

Winter in Melbourne inspired Iphigene’s poem.

Living Winter
by Iphigene Daradar

If we breathe in this cold air
Would we not wake up?
Shiver and come to surface
Hold ourselves close
Until the warmth in our bellies
Heat our limbs
Blood coursing through
Our veins telling us
We are alive

This living, unfamiliar
A first Australian winter
Of rain and wind,
Wind and rain,
Pounding through
my coat, my doc
Martens and useless
Layers my tropical
Ignorance believed
Warm enough

And yet, I walk through
Hours of gardens
And sanctuaries
Filling my lungs
With mother nature
Expanding my chest
The chill biting
Through fingers
Wind reminding me
I AM alive,

Why I AM alive.
Encountering different,
Fish out of water
Thriving in the cold
Knowing, this is living
A contrast of warm
Skin against icy winds
Reminding, life
Is worth
All of it.

© Iphigene Daradar 2019

Such a lovely refreshing breath of poetry! Thank-you Iphigene. The second verse is particularly striking a chord for me as I’m packing for Autumn in America. My lovely, helpful friends are saying ‘pack layers  it won’t be that cold’  but then tell me temperatures to rival winter in Qld! I’m packing LOTS of layers!!! 🙂

Karen Edmisten* has the Poetry Friday link-up for today. I’m looking forward to skipping through and catching up with you all online  and I can’t wait until I link-up with lots of PoetryFriday friends in real life over coming weeks! Excited? Much!

Gunnedah to Gayndah

This is a quick post to share some pics from my trip to Gunnedah last week, for the Dorothea Mackellar Poetry Awards Presentation Ceremony. I know many of my Poetry Friday friends are keen to see the winning poems – and if you click across to Dorothea Mackellar Poetry Award Winners (my previous post), not only will you see the poems, but you’ll meet the amazing poets, too! For today – pics of Gunnedah! Thank-you to Laura from Writing the World for Kids for hosting our Poetry Friday round-up this week.

I arrived Wednesday evening, to run poetry workshops on Thursday for children from Gunnedah and surrounds. (There are so many sites and towns with delightful names, including the nearby Boggabri.) Thursday afternoon, award winners and the secondary judge (Meredith Costain) arrived – though there were some hiccups with delayed flights, lost luggage and a broken-down bus… But we still managed to squeeze in a whistle-stop tour of Gunnedah, which is a town that has so much to offer tourists! Two lovely lookouts – with amazing vistas. (Pensioners Hill also includes stone carvings which are impressive.) I tried twice for a pic with Dorothea on her horse, opposite the Mackellar Centre but alas, Thursday evening I was too rushed, and Friday morning, the wind was gusting… (I look a fright!) I’ll have to go back again to try a third time for a better pic. (Sentiment runs strong on this!) But you can spot Dorothea on horseback in the collage below.

I’d printed a small canvas of my golden shovel inspired by Dorothea Mackellar’s iconic ‘My Country’ as a thank-you gift for the committee. I was touched by how much they loved it – and a little blown away to hear that it will find a place on the wall in the Mackellar Centre. It resonated with committee members who are also feeling the grit of dust, as they pour their lifeblood into this vast sunburnt land – and love her.

Less than 24 hours after announcing the award winners at Gunnedah, NSW, (and three chock-full, sometimes turbulent flights later) I was presenting a writing workshop for artists at Gayndah, Qld, where I was delighted to meet a young lass who rates ‘Bully on the Bus’ as her favourite book – has read it double-digits times and perhaps knows it better than me! She now has ‘On Track’ and ‘Too Many Friends’ to complete her collection…

After the dust of Gunnedah and Gayndah, I arrived home to more dust – and smoke. Numerous dams dried up in my absence, and grass is tinder-dry. We are all yearning for the drumming of the army, that Dorothea writes of;

Core of my heart, my country!
Her pitiless blue sky,
When sick at heart, around us,
We see the cattle die –

But then the grey clouds gather,
And we can bless again
The drumming of an army,
The steady, soaking rain.

From My Country, by Dorothea Mackellar

Dorothea Mackellar Poetry Award Winners

Last Friday I was in Gunnedah for the prestigious Dorothea Mackellar Poetry Awards Presentation Ceremony. It was an honour to be asked to judge the Primary category – and a joy to meet and mix with committee and community members, award winners, and their families. I am so proud of these amazing kids, and I’m thrilled to be able to share the winning poems and poets with you. (Shared with permission.)

Lower Primary Winner:  Lincoln Cecil -“The Beat

The Beat

Harsh rays on wrinkled skin.
Lungs suffocated, breathe out.
Callused hands scarred deeply.
Vision forced through cracks.
Hope strangled and choked.
Life turns lifeless.

The heart beat stops.
Joyful rhythms pour down.
Drops dancing on rusted hope.
Falling from prayers passed down.
Veins of water stretch out flowing.
Ancient arteries filling,
Bringing family trees to life.
The heart beats again.

Judge’s Comment: So many phrases take my breath away. The imagery, vocabulary and maturity in this evocative poem is astounding – especially in such a young poet! A poem written from the heart of experience.

Lower Primary Runner-Up:  Eric Qiu -“Dark


I’m not scared
Of many things:
But I don’t like
The dark.

It’s always there,
Inside boxes, waiting
To get out,
Waiting patiently
For the day to go
So it can seep down
From the sky;
It’s there,
Under my bed, waiting
For me to turn out
The light
So it can jump out
And frighten me…

It even follows
Me around.

My shape

A sound.

Judge Comment: A deceptively simple poem with a clever twist to end. Well crafted!

Upper Primary Winner: Sanu Kariyawasam -“The Earth is in Good Hands

The Earth is in Good Hands

Earth is in good hands…
It’s not
it’s too late now.
Don’t tell me
We can still save our earth
We can take a step forward
That we can still stop
You know
It’s too late.
They say
We’re getting there.
You know
It’s a lie.
We’ve gone too far.
We can’t stop now.
Every day you hear how
Animals are killed.
Wildlife is burned.
We need to take-action,
We can’t just hope.
That’s what they say…

Earth is dead. It’s the end.

(now read from bottom to top)

Judge’s Comment: I am in awe of this young poet, who has crafted a reverso that reads fluently both ways. The form is perfect for this topic – first portraying a bleak reality, then rereading it with shades of hope. Having attempted a number of reversos, and completed three, I fully appreciate and admire the skill that went into crafting this masterpiece.

Upper Primary Runner-Up: Henry Maning -“I think my teacher is Cinderella

“I think my teacher is Cinderella”

It’s not just
that she drives to school in a carriage,
or that she wears a tiara.

It’s not just
the way she mops the floor
and lets us treat her like a slave.

It’s not just
the way she talks to mice
or when she chats to the prince she blushes.

What gives her away
at the end of the day
is how she leaves
her glass slipper at the gate.

Judge’s Comment: Perfect use of repetition and rule of three. Every word working to earn its place. The rhyme to build to climax. And humour! Simplicity at its finest.

Assisted Learning Primary Winner: Felix Liu – “Untouchable


The apricot on the table was my heart’s desire,
But there was no right way this extravagant fruit
Could ever enter my covetous mouth.
I tried, I dared.
I resisted, I stared.
Like a diamond just out of reach.
As rare as gold.
However, I couldn’t give in.
Until finally …
Temptation overcame me.
I felt as black as the devil,
Yet as rich as a king,
It was as sweet as honey,
As soft as marshmallows,
As astonishing as the universe.
This amazing fruit,
Had corrupted my mind,
And made me forget,
That it wasn’t mine.

Judge’s Comment: This poem is delicious! It weaves similes, rhyme, alliteration and rich vocabulary into a tightly controlled poem, with the inevitable ending looping neatly back to the start.

Assisted Learning Primary Runner-Up:
Jasmine Safrglani – “Artistry


When the rain falls from the sky
A rainbow appears.

The sun grabs the rainbow
And uses it
As its pallet.

Judge’s Comment: There is beauty and poetry in the simplest, quietest moments. This poem makes me look at rainbows in a different light.

David Maher Award for Small Schools Winner: Lachlan Spence -“Forgotten Tree
Awarded to the best individual entry from a small school (less than 25 enrolled students)

Forgotten Tree

I hear a loud noise to my side,
I fly towards it, using sound as a guide,
The land is barren and no good for crops,
Then all of a sudden the noise stops,
I land on a branch so I can see,
Alone in my forgotten tree.

A rusty ute was making the sound
A man steps out, onto dry ground,
His ute must have run out of fuel,
I notice his finger bares a jewel,
It glitters in the sun so I see,
Alone in my forgotten tree.

If I could swoop right down with speed,
I’d grab that jewel a prize indeed,
I need to think of a masterplan,
To steal it from this lonely man,
It would be easy I can see,
Alone in my forgotten tree.

I see his face and it looks sad,
if I steal that jewel, I will feel bad,
I realise that this man is alone,
And a long way from his home,
His life is the same as mine I see,
Alone in my forgotten tree.

For days on end I watch this man,
I see him suffer, his face is bland,
The process is so very slow,
Oh how I wish he would just go,
In the night he dies, I see,
Alone in my forgotten tree.

I watch the Goanna’s feed on him,
The foxes too, when the light is dim,
His memory is haunting me,
Alone in my forgotten tree,
There I see his bones sink in,
I choose to leave the ring with him,

Alone in my forgotten tree.

Judge’s Comment: A complex poem from a bird’s eye view, exploring the use of symbolism, rhyme and repetition.

Chatting to Lachlan over breakfast, I was so pleased to hear that his poem was written outdoors – when the class was taken out to the long paddock to sit and be inspired by nature as they wrote. This is such a valuable exercise, and I am so glad there are schools who still see worth in it! And look at the poetry it produced! I know my first national competition win came with poems I’d drafted on a Yr 10 school writing excursion; scratching away in my notebook whilst poised on a rock in the middle of a trickling stream, as others perched in tree branches, or sprawled on the grass. If we value writing and creativity, we will value excursions that release their creativity! I spent considerable time tramping paddocks with my nose in my phone screen (thankfully not snake season!) and propped up under a tree, judging the Dorothea Mackellar Poetry Awards. As an author, I head for the hills if I’ve got a mental block or need to ponder plot problems. Fresh air and country vistas release word snarls.


Award winners at the ceremony – with Dorothea Mackellar Memorial Society President, Juliana McArthur, Kate Neasey (Cottage School, Tasmania – winner of the Primary Schools’ Award) Primary judge Kathryn Apel, Secondary judge Meredith Costain and guest speaker Gabrielle Chan. (Photo credit: nvi.com.au)


Don’t forget to read the Secondary Award Winners poems from 2019. Janiru Liyanage brought tears to my eyes with his stirring presentation of his winning poem, whilst Amelia Neylon blew me away with her slam poetry performance. Don’t miss the full list of Secondary poems, as judged by Meredith Costain. Wonderful works!

The Dorothea Mackellar Society is already in planning for next year’s competition. Start writing now – and watch this space for more information.

Two Aussie Verse Novels – and Picture Book NEWS!

How lovely to be with you all again – and have you gathering at my blog for the Poetry Friday link-up.

Today I wanted to share two recent Australian verse novels with you, both published by UQP – and both written by friends.


‘Leave Taking’ was written by Lorraine Marwood, whose earlier verse novels, ‘Ratswhiskers and Me’ and ‘Star Jumps’ (which won the Australian Prime Minister’s Literary Award for children’s fiction) were amongst the earliest verse novels I read and loved. I’ve known Lorraine online for more years than I can count – and finally met in 2014.

‘Leave Taking’ is a story about grief and farewells; letting go – of places that are a part of the fabric of our lives; of people, forever in hearts and memories. Leaving any home involves a tearing away, but a farm that has been in the family generations surely leaves a bigger hole. And a farm where your little sister once played with you … that your Mum and Dad need to leave, to make new memories … Such a bittersweet letting go.

‘Leave Taking’ is a quiet, story about a country kid called Toby – but the underlying grief constantly tugs at your heart. We never had a chance to know Leah – but through Toby’s memories, and Lorraine’s words, we do.

‘Little Wave’ was written by Pip Harry, her first verse novel – and foray into the younger market. I connected with Pip in 2014, when our UQP books released the same day, and it is always lovely to cross paths online. Even lovelier to meet in real life in Singapore last year, when we celebrated the announcement of our books on the CBCA Notables list. Pip mentioned ‘Little Wave’ during our catch-up, and I was eager to read it.


‘Little Wave is the story of Noah, Lottie and Jack – and a city school’s endeavours to bring a country class to the city for a beach visit. Each child has challenges they are dealing with – but as the story ebbs and flows, beautiful friendships are formed, and characters stretch and grow.

‘Leave Taking’ and ‘The Little Wave are two very different verse novels that I highly recommend.

Never give up on your dreams!

To close my week of hosting, I am so excited to share some good news!

More than 10 years ago, my rhyming picture book, ‘This is the Mud!’ released … and this week we signed the contract on my second picture book – another rural rhymer featuring … beef cattle! (And a bird in the herd.) I’m super-thrilled to be working with the talented and lovely illustrator, Renee Treml, and the beautiful team at UQP. There is a CYA connection … but that’s for another day! (Yay, CYA!)

It’s been a long hard road to a second picture book contract – with some lovely verse novel diversions along the way. This cumulative tongue-twister story was written for my toddler farm boys, way back in 2002. (They’ve grown a bit, since then.) Maybe one day they can read it to their own kids – with illustrations! (Those kids might be down the track a bit, yet.😆)

If you’re joining in the Poetry Friday Party, please leave your link below. I’m looking forward to doing the rounds and seeing where you are all at.

Have a great Friday – and into the weekend.

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CYA 2019 – Everything’s a Genre

This post is the third (and final) in a series, feeding-back from my attendance at the 2019 CYA Conference. Click the links to read last week’s post with the CYA notes, or a sum-up of the PB Bootcamp. This week we cover ‘Everything’s a Genre’.

Opening Panel

Lucy Bell (Pantera Press)
Considers all adult commercial fiction and issue-based non-fiction

Anna Solding (Midnight Sun)
Chasing international sales at Bologna/London book fairs

Danielle Binks (Jacinta di Mase Agency)
Mostly what they do is the contract stuff. Yes submissions/quality control.
Join QWC and ASA.

Carolyn Martinez (Hawkeye Publishing)
Recommends ‘On Writing’ – Steven King

Angela Meyer (Echo – Aus imprint of Bonnier Books UK)
Particularly fond of crime fiction and historical fiction

Sophie Hamley (Hachette)
Mostly open to adult submissions
Involved with mentorship programs

Julia Carlomagno (Black Ink – Quarterly Essay)
Non-fiction that contributes to national conversation. Includes history.
Also small literary fiction list.
Not a lot of YA.

Belinda Murrell – The Reality of publishing from an author’s perspective

Despite the doom and gloom, more books are being published than ever. (Nielsen Book Scan)
Book industry was worth 1.18billion dollars in Australia in 2018
CYA 29% of the total market, with 28million children’s book sales in Australia.
5000 new titles in Australia (kids/YA/adult) in 2019

Big W is closing 30% of its Bookstores

(Shared during other sessions …
Market down 2.6% but children’s writing up 1.2%.
Middle grade has been booming for 4-5yrs. Is doing really well.
YA is down. Publishers trying to bring YA down to your middle grade.
Stand alone beautiful middle grade.)

Picture books are becoming cheaper to produce.
Heart, hope and humour – PBs
Penguin Random noted that 80% of submissions received are for PB alone.
YA is currently the toughest field to get published in.

Bologna – (April 2019) Publishers actively seeking – trends for next year:

  • diversity
  • #metoo
  • feminism
  • teenage thriller
  • gritty realism (YA dark/edgy contemporary issues – refugees, homelessness)
  • friendship & kindness
  • environment
  • girl power

Growth of micro publishers and self-publishing:

  • 2,200 micro publishers in Aus (1 book/yr) – independent authors
  • 1300 small (2-5)
  • 200 mid (5-100)
  • 28 large (100+ titles)

Big Publishers – Belinda’s experience

  • The Top 5 have 72% of total market, Penguin Random (20%)
  • They are publishing new and aspiring authors.
  • Big publishers have efficient distributions
  • More money for marketing/promotion/support (bookmarks/standings/banners/bunting/craft activities/crafts/merchandising, etc …)
  • Publishers are not the enemy! They are passionate, kind – and don’t get paid much.

Writing fulltime:

  • Belinda suggested you need 10 books to make a living from writing.
  • Children’s sales are driven by school visits.
  • Things to do to promote your books:
  • Teacher notes
  • Character Profiles
  • Recipes
  • Activities
  • Things you didn’t know about me

Christine Well – Bringing History to Life

What is historical fiction?

  • A fictional account of real events
  • journey of a real person from the past
  • fictionalised characters against background of real events
  • fictionalised characters in a fictionalised past
  • speculative fiction – with a thread running through the past

There are no historical fact police.

Developing a Story Idea:

  • Write about something that evokes emotion in you
  • Use a real person as inspiration
  • Sticky facts – quirky twists to bring to the narrative
  • personal interests, eg; medicine, law, parenthood, women’s rights
  • write a brief synopsis
  • read round the era / test/refine

Immersion: (Gaining confidence in the period)
Traditional research … (Primary sources/secondary sources)
Watch movies/documentaries to immerse yourself in the era. Use it as an idea spark , then VERIFY through research. History texts don’t bring in textures/aromas/etc …
Read fiction and plays that were written AT the time!
Think about social class, region, background , personal history, eras before and after the ‘present’ of the story. (Manners and morals)

Questions to anchor your writing:

  • Who are you writing for?
  • What is wonderful about this era?
  • What’s frightening about the era?
  • What’s romantic? What will heighten romantic conflict?
  • What is fascinating?
  • What has not changed since this time?
  • Is this the right historical period for you story and your voice?

Characters are key! Write strong, vital characters with agency.
Leave out the bits people skip.

Edwina Shaw – Writing Memoir

Focus it around some segment of life
What is the central question – to propel the reader through.

What is this story about?
What is this story really about?
What is this story really about?
(Ask it three times – to get to the heart of the story)

When you start writing – just start writing.
When rewriting, look for the shape/theme.
Think in scenes. Showing – and a little bit of telling.
Characters – and you are one of them.
Dialogue doesn’t have to be exact. The gist …
Doesn’t have to be chronological. You can reorganise structure to give narrative drive.

Formula for Narrative Drive:  Suspense = Hope + Fear

If others are involved, you need to get them to read it as well.


Allison Paterson – Writing Non Fiction in the Adult World

Lesson One: Know your audience.
What do you want this to be?

Elements of Non-fiction

  • Facts – about real people, things events and places.
  • Has a major idea
  • Contains aids to reading – glossary, headings, maps, charts, diagrams,
  • Come in sub-genres, but contain elements borrowed from fiction.
  • Purpose is to inform, entertain – and perhaps convince

* some narrative nonfiction blurs the line between fact and fiction.
(Author may create dialogue based on fact.)

Your idea:

What is your purpose? Inform/entertain/persuade/all
Who is your audience?
Competitors – unique selling points?

Finding the inspiration/detail and emotion – the research:

  • Listening/observing/conversations
  • Writing – journal
  • reading nonfiction and fiction – immersing yourself
  • TV documentaries/movies – can bring settings to life
  • indulge your writing. Go there. Engage your sensors – visualise, imagine, walk the scene take in sounds and scents, take photos – interpretative boards
  • Google: books, maps, You/Tube
  • real people – oral histories
  • libraries – librarians love the thrill of the hunt!

Meticulously record your sources – to verify.
Know when to stop researching and start writing. (That will then drive further research.)

Apply the Elements of Fiction:

  • Engage the reader. Hook.
  • Plan – bend reality into a story arc – develop a captivating plot.
  • How do I end?
  • Think of the people in your writing as characters.
  • Develop your own unique voice.

The challenge for a nonfiction writer is to achieve a poetic precision using the documents of truth but somehow to make people and places spring to life as if the reader was in their presence.

 Simon Schama

Closing Panel – Chaired by Tina Marie Clarke

“Where on the spectrum of genre does it fit? How is your manuscript unique? What is your particular angle or hook?” (Julia Carlmagno – Black Inc)

“Genre is a reader promise which we writers have to fulfill.” (Amy Andrews)

“Genre is a slippery concept – even for those who write it.” (Isobelle Carmody)

“Genre targets readers and ensures the reader is satisfied. But a good book is more important than genre. Write a good book.” (Lucy Bell)

“Know the rules, the trope, so you can break them.” (Lucy Bell)

For some months I’ve been pondering what to call my Antarctic verse novels. I’m quite okay with them sitting across numerous genres – actually think that’s part of their uniqueness. But CYA has confirmed that they are indeed historical non-fiction verse novels. The name doesn’t changes the work! But it is good to know that’s where they sit on the spectrum.

I am grateful for the Bundaberg RADF Grant that made attendance at all these conference events possible. The networking and knowledge gained far exceeded my expectations (as did the notes and blog posts!) and has given renewed purpose, passion and direction in my writing. It was a privilege to represent the Bundaberg region at the conference, and feedback information via these blog posts, and the session at Bundaberg library, last weekend.

Thank-you also to Tina and the crew at CYA. I appreciate the time you all put into organising this conference and competition. With three competition wins over the years, and numerous placings, your conference has had a significant impact on my writing career – and my confidence. I value the friendships as much as the knowledge gained. Connections made at that first conference are still strong, and I wonder where I would be, without the impact of the CYA on my writing life.

Heidi has the Poetry Friday link-up for us today, so click over to my juicy little universe for lots of fresh-squeezed poetry goodness!

CYA 2019 – Conference & NEWS!

Part Two – CYA Conference Notes

Following on from last week’s post about the three-day CYA Event recently in Brisbane…

The actual CYA Conference started with a buzz! Competitions winners were announced and I was thrilled (and even relieved) to find that my trio of rhyming PB manuscripts won the published author competition, judged by Luna Soo (Hardie Grant) and Alyson O’Brien (Little Hare). A CYA win is a massive injection of confidence and affirmation, and I was so thrilled! It was wonderful to later have time one-on-two with Luna and Alyson, discussing my work, and hearing their thoughts/feedback. (They are both so lovely!) Thank-you to Alyson and Luna for their belief in my work, and to the whole tribe of CYA organisers and volunteer judges who bring this competition to fruition!

Photo credit: Peter Allert/CYA Conference

From there I went to my first editorial one-on-one, which was insightful, but also discouraging. It was a story I heard from a number of publishers throughout the conference – and have heard often before – about a reluctance to publish in rhyme. Rhyme is lost in translation – so it’s hard to ‘sell’ to Sales & Marketing. But kids (and parents!) love rhyme! And there are a lot of English-speaking countries in our world! And having written rhymed and unrhymed picture books, I know the time and tenacity taken to get rhyme right! I loooong for a Sales & Marketing department who will love (and value!) rhyming PBs like I do.

Then onto the sessions of the day – when I wasn’t popping out for one-on-one editorial interviews…

Dee White – Pitch Perfect

I have had the benefit of Dee’s attention to details in pitching. She knows her stuff – and nails it!

Elements of an Effective Pitch:

  • Hooks the reader
  • Connects the reader with MC
  • Hints at what’s to come
  • Sets context – genre/readership
  • Shows where it might sit in a bookshop / comparative titles

Do’s and Don’ts

  • Don’t introduce too many characters.
  • Hint at story arc.
  • Don’t try to tell the whole story – MC, story problem & why it’s getting worse.
  • Include themes.
  • Clear & coherent
  • Why it’s unique and appealing to readers
  • Establish personal connection – why you and why now?
  • Be proud/passionate
  • Be prepared for questions
  • Practise your pitch
  • Be prepared to take on feedback
  • Try not to read too much if asked to read a sample. (Start at the start – and edit the text so that it is punchier than the actual start to the novel.)

Photo credit: Peter Allert/CYA Conference

Belle Brooks – Self-Publishing
This was the most enabling presentation I have seen about self-publishing. I took pages of notes, and started to see how it could be a viable option for me and a number of manuscripts I believe in, if I run out of options (or heart) with traditional publishers. Much of my notes would only make sense in context, but here are some takeaways…

• You must have a professional editor, who hears your voice and doesn’t try to change it – but helps you bring the story out.
• Don’t fluff your book with ‘content’.
• Know your strengths. Accept your faults.
• Not everyone loves your stuff. And that’s ok. Everyone judges.
• There’s a market for every book.
• Own your voice. Own your style. You are YOU.
• When you get bigger, Amazon works harder for you – because you make them money.
• Always work on your backmatter … Leading them where they need to go. Constantly leading them to your best work.
• Three stars is a good review.

Belle’s tips on blurbs:

  • A blurb is critical to success – You can change your blurb on platforms.
  • Appeal to your reader – not yourself. (Belle writes the blurb before she writes the books – which means there is no temptation to include too much detail.)

Photo credit: Peter Allert/CYA Conference

Isobel Carmody – Writing YA

Isobel spoke freely, with no notes. Some of the gems gleaned:

To write is to be. We are a tapestry of everything we’ve ever written.

  • Or job is not to be constrained, but to stretch out beyond the edges.
  • What do you want to give the world? Nothing.
  • How do I write like a child? The child in me it’s still there. Same for YA.
  • A relief to let go of the adult world.
  • Write to your deep-seated questions.
  • Write about the ideas that are in you!
  • In children’s books, children grow – but they don’t grow up! (Margaret Wild)
  • The choices we make as children/young adults inform the choices we make as adults.
  • Writing is an attempt to believe that humans can get better.
  • Issues books – Approach your craft/subject with a humility. Don’t use it to push an issue.
  • Write your first draft. Then look for themes/issues.
  • Write inwardly. Write the book. Worry about where it lands afterwards.
  • If the story’s not working for you, don’t push through. Step away. Give your mind the fallow times.
  • Editing is an essential part of the creative process. Dig down into it for themes, nuance, etc… Create the sense of reality.
  • If you’ve written deeply from yourself, you will not get bored during editing.
  • Go deep. Into yourself. Into the moment. In your writing.
  • A great book will make it through.

CYA Closing Panel

General Takeaways:

  • Market down 2.6% but children’s writing up 1.2%.
  • Middle grade has been booming for 4-5yrs. Is doing really well.
  • YA is down. Publishers trying to bring YA down to your middle grade.

Alex Adsett (Agent):

  • It’s not an easy industry for author/illustrators. It’s not an easy industry for agents/editors either.
  • Always write what’s in your heart. Let us worry about how to fit it into the market.

Debbie Lee (Ingram – Sparks)

The Bundy Connection!

  • Wherever you’re at, work with professionals.
  • You are a business.

Davina Bell (Affirm Press)

  • Looking for more junior fiction.
  • Trends: girl power / child activism/climate change / diversity

Mary Verney – Sydney office. (Penguin Random House)

  • Lots of buyers are asking for good non fiction for kids.

Lucy Bell (Pantera Press)

  • Has mostly acquired from the slush pile.
  • Looking for activism/climate change. Haven’t published many PBs, but possibilities with non fiction/activism books.

Indie is often a stepping stone. It’s not an us and them. We’re part of the same conduit and can coexist.

Thank-you to the Bundaberg RADF committee that made attendance at all these conference events possible. There is still one day of notes to catch you up on – from the Everything is a Genre day of conference. Tomorrow (Saturday) from 10-11am I will be feeding-back in person at the Bundaberg Library. You can register here.

Margaret is collecting Poetry Friday links a Reflections on the Teche – with a teaspoon and a bit of string.