Introducing a Character… Toby

-Users-KatApel-Desktop-Screenshots 2015-02-06 at 5.36.25 pm

Wise and wonderful Wendy Orr, tagged me for a blog post about one of my characters. She followed it up with that evil laugh – but when I skipped across and checked out her blog post on Nim, I was quite excited to be asked. What a great way to get a bit of perspective on your character! (Be sure to read Wendy’s post for lots of fascinating insights into Nim.)

But here I am. I’m ‘It’.  Continue reading


Sneak Peek – What I’m Writing

I’ve been tagged again – this time by talented picture book author and beautiful, supportive friend, Katrina Germein.

The challenge is to share 7 lines from page 7 or 77 of a current WiP. Then tag other writers to continue the game.

Here’s 7 lines from page 7 of my current WIP – another verse novel.


My hand hurts and the
harder I try the more
those blue lines
squeeze my letters
out of                         place
.           out of
.                        shApE.


Now to tag the next writers to share a sneak-peek of their work…

1) Adam Byatt , 2) Rebecca Newman and 3) Samantha Wheeler.

Looking forward to seeing where you’re all at with your current WIPs! (And congrats Sam, on your beautiful new UQP book, Spud & Charli. xx)

Tagged – Blog Tour

I’ve been tagged and today I’m ‘it’ in the Author Process blog tour. My friend Chris Bell caught me, and I confess to being a little surprised that she could drag herself away from her research long enough to answer the questions last week… and play tag too! (I think that’s how she caught me. Unawares. 😛 )

Chris BellChris Bell is a historical writer and she loves research – so much so that occasionally she forgets she’s supposed to be writing, as she journeys back to life a century or two ago. She’s currently working on a YA historical novel set in convict Tasmania. Chris has written over thirty published books for children, including picture story, chapter and YA. Her contemporary YA novel, Jumping Through Hoops, won the CYA Published Author Prize 2011 and was longlisted in the international 2012 Mslexia Writing for Children Competition. Next month, she’s excited to be heading to Katoomba to take up a Varuna Retreat Fellowship to work on her YA novel. That’s exciting, Chris! I’m sure you’ll enjoy being pampered and inspired.

You can read more about Chris as she takes you from Hook to Book at – including her post last Monday, where she talked about her writing process.

But now I’m ‘it’, so today I get to answer four questions about my writing process. Here goes…

1. What am I working on?

I’m currently working with the lovely Michele from UQP, putting final finishing touches on Bully on the Bus, my verse novel for younger readers, which is coming out in July. This is my first verse novel, and it’s a story that carries a huge chunk of my heart, so it’s all very exciting!

During the Month of Poetry in January, I started a new verse novel (my third) – something completely different for me, as it’s YA. I’m equal parts inspired and nervous. The story drew an encouraging response from participants in the MoP, so I’m hoping I can sustain it! That’s where the nerves come in …

And of course, there’s always a couple of picture books in the mix, too. Though they have taken a bit of a back seat in the last 12months, as I’ve worked on three different verse novels…

2. How does my work differ from others in my genre?


The rural flavour that comes across in much of my writing would be one signature trait. It’s subtly there in a lot of my writing – a background to the story, not THE story.

In my rhyming work, I think it would be the integrity of rhythm and rhyme. That tenacious desire to get it right  – not compromise with near rhymes and forced rhythms. The tricky bit is to be true to good poetry, but not at the expense of story. Sometimes I get it right, and other times … Well, I’m still working on those stories!

3. Why do I write what I write?

Lots of my picture books are purely for fun – the enjoyment of playing with words and story in a lively reading experience.

Both bogged!

The rural-ness comes into my writing because that’s what I know. I was born and bred on a farm, and then married a grazier … which does not mean I’m a farmer by any stretch, because cattle and horses still scare me witless. BUT – I am surrounded by farming stories from my hubby and sons. So much inspiration. (So much that can go wrong!) And it’s good for Australian farm kids to see themselves in stories, too.

More recently, I’ve been exploring the verse novel format, and these have all been emotive heart-stories that leave me feeling vulnerable – but also filled with hope. These stories are really resonating with others, giving them words they might not otherwise have been able to share.

4.  How does my writing process work?

I am not a planned or methodical writer. I usually jump in and write and then when I’ve found my rhythm/voice, I step back and think about where that story could go, and start to jot down possible scenarios – adding to this as the story unfolds.

The writing process can be a little fraught with tension along the way – with doubts in both my ability and the story – but the euphoria when things click perfectly into place is unmatched. And no-one is ever more surprised than ME!

Because I’ve spent so long writing picture books, I tend to get speed wobbles when I’m working on longer projects. I usually hit my first bump at 600wrds. Last year I surprised myself with my Bully edits, writing 2000 words in less than two weeks. I never knew I could do that! It was very empowering when I started writing my YA verse novel – which will require so many more words than anything I’ve ever written.

When I’m on a writing roll, my tweets stream out – and you’d be forgiven for thinking I’m procrastinating or distracted – when in reality I’m actually writing HEAPS, and just letting off a little bit of creative steam. Crazy, I know. But it seems to be the way it is.

I’m also a very polished draft-writer, which I think comes from writing so much in rhyme – when you need to get it right, before you progress, or the whole direction of the story could unexpectedly change. I can’t write a sloppy first draft, no matter what I write – and some days I may only write 100 words a day – but they’re generally GOOD words. I know you’re supposed to switch the internal editor off and just write … but I haven’t found that switch, yet!

Now it’s time for me to get snappy on my toes, and tag some authors to be ‘it’ next week…

Lorraine MarwoodLorraine Marwood is an author I have enormous respect for, but we’ve never met – though we’ve corresponded for 5 years. Lorraine writes poetry but also writes stories too. She has just written her sixth book for Walker – which will come out in 2015. Her verse novel ‘Star Jumps’ won the inaugural children’s literature section of the Prime Minister’s awards in 2010 – and I (Kat) remember the excitement of that day well! Lorraine takes lots of writing workshops using her own poetry techniques. She loves polishing the ordinary into something extraordinary. Lorraine lives in Bendigo with her husband and new puppy and often babysits one (or more) of her seven grandchildren.

Kaylene WestKayleen West is an online buddy who I met  more recently, via twitter. Kayleen’s childhood dream was to write and illustrate for children. But first she ventured into a career of an exhibiting fine artist, where her work won many awards and now hangs in private and corporate collections, in the Australian Embassy in Ireland, and in Australian government collections. Kayleen returned to her original passion in 2009. She is now the author/illustrator of the picture books, ‘Without Me?’ and ‘Adoptive Father’, and has illustrated the soon-to-be-released ‘Better than a Superhero’, written by Belinda Francis.  Kayleen is working on two more picture books for 2014 publication. She also writes content and illustrates for editorials. See more of Kayleen’s work at;

Sandra PeutSandra Peut is one of the lovely writers I meet up with on an irregular regular basis, sharing writing sessions and chit-chat at the Bundaberg Library. Sandra began writing stories for her school friends when she was a young girl. Growing up she was a voracious reader, with friends and family describing her as always having her face buried in a book. Her first novel, ‘Blue Freedom’, received third place in the 2009 Rose & Crown New Novels competition, and was subsequently published by Sunpenny Publishing in 2010. It was also shortlisted for the 2011 Caleb Awards. Her second novel, ‘The Guardian’ (a YA paranormal romance) is in the final stages of editing. Watch her website for more details; 

And now, it’s over to you, girls. You’re ‘it’!

The Littlest Bushranger – and a Competition!


Last year on the katswhiskers blog, we got a bit catty, with Alison Reynolds and Heath McKenzie, for the launch of their picture book, A Year With Marmalade. (You can click back and read it here; CattyPost.)  Today I welcome Alison and Heath back to the blog, with The Littlest Bushranger – the brave and imaginative main character in their newest picture book collaboration. And … we have a MONSTER competition for YOU!

I also welcome the Busy Bees – a class of Year 1/2 students who enjoyed a sneak-peek at The Littlest Bushranger. They had these fantastic questions (and observations) for Alison and Heath.

Thank you Busy Bees. Fantastic questions!


Alison, we loved your descriptive language. It made it more interesting and made the story stand out in our minds. You have very clever alliteration.

Thank you!

Why did you choose a bushranger as your main character, rather than a pirate, or a cowboy?

The publisher, The Five Mile Press, wanted a picture book about bushrangers and asked me to write one. I really liked writing about a bushranger as they are very Australian.

Aah. *sighs wistfully* What a beautiful position to be in, Alison. They obviously recognise you for the talented writer that you are! And you’ve woven it into a wonderfully entertaining story that will delight kids the world over.

Did you have the idea of the hose for the slithery snake, and the crow for the villain, or were they Heath’s idea?

When I was little I used to pretend the hose was a snake, or a river or lots of different things. Before I wrote the book I watched a bird hopping near our little dog and thought “What if” and in my imagination the bird turned into a villain. It was interesting to see Heath’s illustrations. He used his imagination to come up with his own ideas, and created illustrations that I love!

Did you know that the illustrations would show that Jack was in his back yard – and that the adventure was in his imagination?

I set the story in Jack’s back yard as I used to spend a lot of time in my back yard when I was Jack’s age. I also really like thinking that a day can turn into an extraordinary day with lots of adventure.

By using his imagination, Heath turned the rescue of Lil’s telescope into a wild, rollicking adventure!

He thought of lots of clever things! I love seeing what he transformed into what.

I did too! But each time I read the book I discover new things. I love that!

Did you talk with Heath to plan the story before you wrote it – or did you write the story and then Heath had is own ideas for the illustrations?

I didn’t talk to Heath before I wrote the story. I wrote the story and suggested illustrations. But on the spread where you first see the outlaw I wrote, “Heath, go wild”. I trusted him to come up with an amazing creation, which he did. For the spread that shows the fight, I wrote “fight sequence” and couldn’t wait to see what Heath did.

Littlest Bushranger

What is your favourite page spread – and why?

I love the whole book, but if I had to choose I think the spread of Jack galloping after the villain and the last page with the bike leaning against the fence.

My children like the spread with the bunyip best.


Heath, we think you’re a talented illustrator.  We thought it was very clever that the dog bowl became the villainous crow’s eye. And we noticed that the bike got hungry at the end of the story!

Where did the idea for the pencil squiggles (we even called them ‘scribbles’) come from?

They are scribbles! They came from the roughs I did. They gave a good sense of looseness and motion to the roughs so wanted to keep that feeling in the final art – hence the scribbles featuring!

I love reading this Q&A, because you definitely achieved that, with your scribbles. 😉

Why did you choose such a mean colour and shape for the horse’s eyes – especially on the cover photo? Weren’t you worried little children might be scared?

I guess I wasn’t going for ‘mean’ in the eyes and more ‘serious and determined’! This is a horse of action, charging into battle, afterall!

I chose the eye colour because that’s what colour horses’ eyes are!

Why isn’t there a streamer on the bike, like a horse’s tail?

I guess just because I’ve never seen a bike with a streamer at the back like a tail! We didn’t want to give away that the back was imagined into a horse later in the story so kept things as subtle as possible.

When the crow was perched on the tower, was it on the clothesline? Or the yellow umbrella? We just aren’t sure!

The clothesline! As the umbrella was the sun.

It looks like the clothesline, in a sinister, imaginative way, and it makes a fantastic tower. Clever!

Were the bunyips based on toys in the pool… or frogs?

As the horse gallops through the wading pool toward the very end of the story, you’ll see on the ground a flowerpot with some tennis balls sitting on it and a few weeds growing out through some cracks…

What is your favourite page spread – and why?

The billabong one! I like the action and the bunyips!

Charlotte, Sydney, Hayden and Ethan shared these ‘favourite things’ about The Littlest Bushranger.

Charlotte:  I like how Alison has used big words because it makes the text stand out a bit more.

One of the best things is how Jack uses his imagination – how he was pretending his bike was his horse. I want to ask, why did Heath use the horse’s shadow on the bike – and feed the bike hay?

It’s really just some grass that got caught in the front of the bike as Jack wildly chased the outlaw round the backyard.

Or is it?

Is it, indeed. I for one am not convinced it isn’t hay… 😉

Sydney:  I like the picture when Lil said, ‘You’re too little to go to school.’  I like that she is looking after him nicely.

Hayden:  I like when they hurdled the slithery tiger snake. I like snakes – and it looks scary.

Ethan:  I like the words because they were telling us where he was going. They were interesting words. The pictures matched up with the words and helped us imagine new things.

Thank-you to the Busy Bees for the awesome help. You are obviously great little readers, and it was wonderful to read your observations, and learn from your questions. Also a huge thank-you to Alison and Heath for dropping by my blog again. Always a pleasure to have you both!

Monster Competition.

There are a couple of monsters in The Littlest Bushranger. One’s a bunyip, and the other an outlaw/monster who steals Lil’s telescope.

What sort of monster do you like? Send along a painting/drawing/model of a monster and you could win a piece of Heath McKenzie’s amazing artwork for The Littlest Bushranger.

Upload your own best monster to or email it as a low res jpeg file to and we’ll upload it. If you don’t have a scanner, take a photo on a smart phone and email that!

Two categories. Under 12 and 12 plus including grown-ups. Entries close 25th June!

Saddle up for The Littlest Bushranger blog tour.

June 11 Kat Apel
June 12 Chris Bell
June 13 Angela Sunde
June 14 Boomerang Books Blog
June 17 Ask the Sales Rep. Interview with Melinda Beaumont
June 18 Dee White
June 19 Kids Book Review
June 20 Ask the Editor. Interview with Melissa Keil.
June 21 Heath & Alison interviewed by Juliet Chan, Marketing & Publicity Executive.

Watch out for PRIZES  including; a piece of Heath McKenzie’s artwork from The Littlest Bushranger, a picture book assessment by Alison Reynolds, 2 free passes direct to an editor’s desk (you get to skip the slush pile), and copies of The Littlest Bushranger.

PS: Dimity Powell Blog Tour

Today I welcome Dimity Powell to my blog, to talk about her FIRST book – the newly-released, PS: Who Stole Santa’s Mail? 

Congratulations, Dimity. Such an exciting time for you! What a wonderful Christmas YOU will be having this year – if no-one steals Santa’s mail, that is. 😉

Today Dimity is going to be talking about the writing process – and how this first published book has inspired her to continue writing…

Over to you, Dimity.

I began writing when I could properly master the pencil grip. It’s been a continual exploration and accumulation of words and wisdom since that momentous day in kindy. I remember jotting down kids’ book ideas whilst on watch on a super motor yacht as we cruised across the Atlantic, thinking, I’ll write about these properly one day. One day, began around 2008 when I decided to equip my writing satchel in earnest. This is when I really committed to the whole ‘process’ of writing. I did courses, attended workshops, seminars, submitted work, entered competitions, listened carefully, read more, gave up paid employment and last year even learnt how to use Face Book! It’s been a good trip so far. But the training never ever ends.

Hearing the words sing in perfect unison and being moved either to laughter or tears by them is my greatest joy in writing. This is what I want to improve on and most importantly share with children.

Getting it right is the hardest part of writing for me. And finding time for it. I can’t seem to clock on and off to write. I have to write when I can but also when the words want to be written. The two don’t always want to play together.

I don’t think writing is that easy, even when you’re good at it. It involves discipline, skill and technique, and remembering when best and how to use them. But it is easier than most sports for me…I have no eye hand coordination!

The publication of P.S. Who Stole Santa’s Mail? has encouraged me to get on with a second chapter book I began a couple of years ago. I need to reacquaint myself with the characters and their saga before I know if it’s going to ever see the light of day. Creating picture books is my passion. I would love to see a picture book of mine on a shelf somewhere someday. I enjoy writing them and can produce one in days when the fancy strikes, but it takes me ages to perfect them, sometimes years. I am currently polishing a few picture books and short story ideas.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts – and joy – with us, Dimity. Wishing you wonderful sales, and many more exciting publishing opportunities.

PS:  Have a Merry Christmas!

In conjunction with this blog tour, you can go in the draw to win one of three copies of the book PS: Who Stole Santa’s Mail. Send the answer to this question: ‘What do you think Santa wants for Christmas?’ to In the subject line put, PS: WSSM entry. The competition will close at midnight on November 30th  2012. All entries will be assigned a number, and that number will be put in a draw. The winners will be notified by email.

PS: Who Stole Santa’s Mail can be purchased at your local bookshop, or a signed copy is available from You can get to know Dimity at; Dim Writes Stuff.

To follow Dimity on her blog tour, click the links below;

Kids Book Review 17 November
My Little Bookcase  18 November
Sheryl Gywther  19 November
MPA Australia 20 November
Kat Apel 21 November
Elaine Ouston 22 November
Renee Taprell 23 November
Alison Reynolds 24 November
Buzz Words 25 November
Christine Bell 26 November
Dee White 27 November
Jackie Hosking PIO 28 November
Alphabet Soup 29 November
Angela Sunde 30 November

Let’s get Catty – and a Competition!

Today, I’m going to be a little bit… catty. I’m hosting a cat book on my katswhiskers blog, so we’re running to a theme… and running a competition! (Today’s competition is a little bit different to the other competition that’s running throughout the blog tour at

But firstly, welcome Alison Reynolds and Heath McKenzie – and congratulations on your dreamy new picture book, ‘A Year with Marmalade’.

Thanks very much!

Thank you, Kat!

To start the ball rolling… In keeping with the blog, can you each tell me one thing that you think is… the kat’s whiskers? (Or mayhaps it’s the cat’s whiskers.)

Perhaps my new baby daughter, Ava!

Oooh. Lovely! Congratulations, Heath. I’m sure Ava is the kat’s whiskers!

My family and dog. Although I’m not sure if the dog will like being referred to as the kat’s whiskers! 

Haha! Now that could be a little bit catty, Alison. 😉

Where did you find Marmalade, Alison?  Is he the type of pet you would want to keep forever?

When I was little I had a very special green-eyed cat called Charlotte. I feel as if a cat based on her was just waiting to pop into my mind. I was brainstorming book ideas with my publisher, and we wanted a sort of self-contained character, which is a very cat-like characteristic.  I definitely wouldn’t want to give Marmalade away. I spent half my childhood unsuccessfully trying to convince my parents to let me have another pet.

Alison, is Marmalade one of those cats who willfully does his own thing? Or does he have a soft and smoochy side?

Marmalade is a mixture of snuggles and snarls. He is very independent, but wants to be included and loved. Much like most of us!

Not being an artist myself, I’m always fascinated by the Illustrator’s process. Heath, there’s a lot of whitespace in this gentle, breezy book – almost a touch of whimsy. What influenced your decision in terms of colour and whitespace – and characters?

I felt a simpler approach would suit this particular story – something gentle and not too over-thought or designed. Hence the approach of letting the line do most of the talking and leaving colour to make a single statement in each image.

What I find particularly interesting, is that the children (Ella & Maddy) are line drawings – not colour. Yet Marmalade, who would seem to be of equal importance to Ella, is colour. As is background. What is the artistic reasoning behind this, Heath?

Given a big and striking part of the different seasons, from a visual point of view atleast, is the many distinct colours that emerge each year – colour was always going to be the best way to highlight the changing seasons (and then a little extra here and there where an image might not have a direct seasonal element to focus on!)

As for Marmalade’s colour – for a long while, Marmalade wasn’t in colour but ultimately it was decided Marmalade, being the key player here, might need to stand out that bit more – and fair enough too!

The seasons! When you say it, it is of course, very logical. (I feel a bit of a scatterkat for asking!)

Alison What five individual words best describe Marmalade?

  1. Watchful
  2. Awkward
  3. Fun-loving
  4. Loyal
  5. Purrfect

It’s the ‘awkward’ makes Marmalade so real and loveable, Alison.

HeathI’m hoping you have that cat-like quality of landing on your feet, because I’m going to throw you a challenge… I’m pretty good at drawing the katswhiskers (to the right -> ) but that’s my limit. I’m hoping you can extend my repertoire a bit, and skill me up on some other cat moves.

To help you out, I’ve listed some catty emotions I thought you might cat-ture!

  • ’fraidy cat
  • ecscatic cat
  • purrrrfect cat
  • catastrophic cat
  • caterwauling cat
  • cat-ching cat – on the prowl

They’re gorgeous, Heath!! So much personality on the page.

Now it’s over to you, Alison! What can YOU do with Heath’s examples? (Yes – I am asking you to draw a cat pic for us. :P)

I’m no scaredy cat, Kat. But remember, I never claimed to be a artist!

A very catatonic cat, Alison. And clever word play. Well done, you!


READERS:  This is your chance to get catty!

1.  Draw your best cat picture. You can have a bit of fun with it like we did.
2.  Email it to; contactkat @ optusnet . com . au (no spaces) by 8pm this Friday, 17th August, and
3.  YOU are in with a chance to win your own, signed, original Heath McKenzie cat picture!

Please keep cat files less than 300kb. 

Your pictures will be posted to the katswhiskers blog on Sunday, 19th August, when we will also announce the winner, as decided by Heath and Alison.

So – pick up a pencil, pen or piece of charcoal and get drawing!

Want to read more about ‘A Year with Marmalade’? Follow the blog tour;

A Year with Marmalade Blog Tour

7th Aug Dee White;
9th Aug Karen Tyrrell;
11th Aug Tania McCartney;
13th Aug  Pass It On;
14th Aug  Kathryn Apel;
17th Aug  Dale Harcombe;
20th Aug  Peter Taylor;
22nd Aug  Susan Stephenson;
23rd Aug  Robyn Opie Parnell;
27th Aug Sally Odgers;
29th  Aug  Angela Sunde;
31st Aug Chris Bell;

Looking forward to seeing your cats! >^,^<

DO NOT FORGET AUSTRALIA – Blog Tour and Giveaway

This past week I’ve enjoyed reading the backstory for the wonderful new-release Walker picture book, DO NOT FORGET AUSTRALIA, by Sally Murphy and Sonia Kretschmar. Both Sally and Sonia have a swag of awards and commendations to their names, and collaboratively, they have created a rich and warm picture book that Australians can be proud of.

DO NOT FORGET AUSTRALIA tells the story of Henri and Billy, two boys who are oceans apart, but together in heart. Billy’s Australian father is fighting the war near Henri’s French hometown, Villers-Bretonneux. The year is 1918.

Inspired by a significant battle in World War I, the story doesn’t focus on the despair of war. Rather, the illustrations and text gently move the story past death and destruction, to focus on the hope – the lasting good that comes from cross-cultural compassion, empathy and aid.

When Henri’s village is destroyed in battle, Billy is one of many Australian children who work together to help rebuild Villers-Bretonneux. To this day the sign of acknowledgment remains; DO NOT FORGET AUSTRALIA.

DO NOT FORGET AUSTRALIA is a must read for all Australians.

Lest we forget.   Continue reading

Kisses for Karen!


It is not every day a special friend launches a first book – but today is one of them. You’ve all heard me talk of Karen Collum – my twitter buddy, crit partner, #pblitchat co-convenor, soul friend, and totally beautiful lady…

Well, today that Karen Collum is delighted to be launching her debut book, Samuel’s Kisses at Greenbank C&K Kinder. And I have the pleasure of launching her blog tour around cyberspace! Continue reading

Lorraine Marwood joins us for A Ute Picnic

Today I welcome some special guests to my blog. Firstly we have Lorraine – a poet I greatly admire. Then we have four budding poets – whose work often catches me unawares with its awesomeness. So welcome to Branyon, Poppy, Fletcher and Tara, too.

Lorraine, Congratulations  on this beautiful rustic collection of poetry. I can almost see dust motes dancing across the cover of ‘A Ute Picnic – and other Australian Poems’.

As you know, I share your passion for poetry. And I too love to share that with children! So – for this poetry post I thought I’d feed both our passions and use your poems to inspire some poetic kids I know…

Here’s what they came up with. And they’re very excited to be sharing it with you.
Continue reading