Tuesday, 22 July 2014


I've just been in Sydney for the Walker Conference followed sharply by the SCBWI International Conference.

The Walker Conference was for authors and illustrators who work with Walker Books and was a great way to meet all the Walker team and learn more about how they work together with us to make and sell books. It was also great to meet new people and spend time with friends and co-creators.

Two highlights for me were meeting Graham Byrne, illustrator of 'Big Red Kangaroo' and 'Emu' for coffee before the conference, and then meeting Lizzy Newcomb who is illustrating 'My Name is Lizzie Flynn'. Lizzy had brought with her the art for 'Lizzie' and I was bowled over. Okay, I cried. It's so beautiful.

The conference was held at Rose Bay on a glorious Sydney day.

The following day was just as beautiful and a group of us went for a walk across the Harbour Bridge ... not the climb, but the walk. It was fabulous. Lovely to stretch the legs after a day mostly sitting, and to see the Harbour at its sparkly best. Good company too! We were quietly chuffed to be identified as 'artists' by someone we asked to take our photo!

 We weren't the only ones to enjoy the day. This wedding had a video photographer and at least three other professional photographers!

Three wise monkeys aka me, Sue and Sally. Emu, my new picture book is dedicated to these two good friends. 

The second conference was the bi-ennial SCBWI Conference which is always great fun. The program is full, as is the time between. It's stimulating, noisy, informative and absolutely exhausting! I've come home for a rest!

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Making sourdough bread

Last year, Julia, Kate and I ran a 2 hour workshop on making sourdough bread (as part of the Newport Folk Festival). This year, we did it again.

Part of the magic of copresenting this workshop is that the audience get to see how differently we make the bread, despite having the same starting point. 

Some sourdough recipes call for digital scale measuring of every ingredient, others say just do what seems right. Of the three of us, I think I am the least experimental, and the one who can hardly read her scales! But again, that's the magic of sourdough - it just works anyway.

Here Julia is wet-kneading. Not necessary for a normal sourdough loaf, but great fun. Bread made in this way has large holes.

Michael and a few others lined up to throw and turn using this wet-knead method. Highly recommended if you've had a tough day and feel like throwing things!
Here's one Kate made earlier. We were talking at this stage about oven temperatures and crusts, crunch and chew. 

Here's some we all made earlier. 

The proof is in the pudding, so they say, so everyone had to taste all of them.
Of course.

By the way, we did a handout sheet with basic instructions, as tested by the three of us and refined over the last couple of years. If you would like instructions, send me an email, or comment here.

Monday, 23 June 2014

I've been a-beaching!

We've been to the beach for a bit. Don't let anyone tell you there's no fun to be had on a winter beach. It was fabulous. 
This beach was awash in giant kelp, only freshly shared with the shore. Tough as leather, heavy as wet rope.
A tiny plover, one of many on this deserted beach. 
How could you not be moved by this awesomeness?
Playing with my camera, and the late-afternoon light.

The dog wanted to know why she couldn't swim.

Now we're in Townsville and these pics are from the newly-developed Jezzine park at the end of the wonderful Strand.


And finally, it was time to fly home. But not until after this glorious late afternoon walk. 

Pics from a school visit

Just after ANZAC Day I visited a school in the northern suburbs of Melbourne.

Man, were these kids sorted! They knew all about Gallipoli and WWI. 

I took some WWI supplies including: tinned jam, hard tack biscuits and tinned corn beef. The latter can still be purchased today ... probably little changed. I'm not sure how the soldiers stored their hard tack biscuits but I do know why enlisting soldiers needed to have good teeth!

This lovely librarian was a fan of Seadog - she has a seadog of her own at home. She brought the best photo series to school to show her seadog at the beach.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014


If only it were possible to bottle inspiration!

Actually, I suspect bottled inspiration would only be a pale imitation of the wild stuff.

I love that it's impossible to know when inspiration will strike.

Randomly, yesterday, I had an encounter with inspiration that I'm struggling to contain. I was chatting about books and war and children (as in books about war for children rather than booking children into wars) when a phrase burst from the conversation as if it had been lit with neon. Not that it was intentionally delivered that way, but that's how it landed.

Oh, sunny day! Trying now to control my curiosity, my exploration until deadlines are met.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

What did you do last night?

We went outatown to film a fire. As you do.

Well, as you do if your husband works in theatre. Over the years, our family has contributed to many sound and visual effects. If done well these are often not 'noticed' by theatre-goers but are intended to effect their experience nonetheless. 

So while the fire setter/lighter/filmers were doing their thing, I was taking photos.

The weather was surprisingly mild for this time of year/this place and the rain arrived when it was time to douse the fire.

 Then it was time for marshmallows and a fleeting visit to the goats before heading home.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

A quick trip to Hobart

Since writing about the Rajah quilt (My Name is Lizzie Flynn, due out early 2015) I have been keen to revisit Hobart, to visit Cascades Female Factory (and I also had some vague story ideas centred around Pt Arthur). This past week I had my chance. My folks were staying in Hobart for a week and had a spare room. We had a lovely few days together.

 It's a tough place to visit, but not when compared with what it must have been to be a convict there. Although many of the buildings are shells, they still hold a powerful sense of the past and the occupants.

 This was a window in the chapel of the 'other prison' (I think that was it) where convicts attended weekly services. They were led in individually, to stand up in a upright-coffin shaped space where they could only look forward, not at any other convicts. Not that they were allowed to talk anyway and all the convicts had to wear sacking masks when outside their cells so they remained anonymous. 23 hours a day they were in their cells, silently working on making brooms, or shoes or other projects. They were identified by numbers never names. The floor had matting and they wore soft foot covering so even their walking was silent.

This gate leads to the prison yard where for an hour a day a prisoner might walk about. The walls are 2 1/2 m high and very thick so they would not have been able to communicate with anyone in the next yard, even if allowed. 

If they misbehaved, they spent time in solitary confinement cell ... which was completely dark and silent. This is what it looked like ... yup ... like nothing. I did close the door, but didn't stay very long at all.

They did build a fine church, handmade bricks and local stone. 


 The government gardens, were magnificent with an added benefit for visitors to Pt Arthur (it was quite the social place apparently) that it blocked off any view of the prison buildings.

How's the size of this bee? Enormous!

This is a metallic sculpture inspired by the Rajah quilt. It's at the Cascades Female Factory. The centre panel includes names of the Rajah convicts, some of whom worked on the quilt.

There are few buildings left of the Cascades Female Factory, but a dramatic enactment gave us some idea of what life was like for the women locked up here.

The markings on the ground here are the dimensions of the cells, where supposedly recalcitrant women spent time. They worked while in these cells, removing tar from rope so it could be reused. This section of the prison was low-lying and often damp or downright wet.

If misbehaviour continued, a woman might wear an iron neck piece 24 hours a day for up to 7 days.

Functional knottery.

 Last day and we visited MONA. I found it fabulous and not a little overwhelming. A lunch break and some time watching these two adolescent peacocks helped to balance the day. Then I headed back in to see some more before heading to the airport and home.

I wasn't alone in taking time out. And the view was worth it. 
Last night we were lucky enough to have last minute invitations to the Rose of Tralee Ball (thanks Lone, Pat and Jackie), which was held in the sumptious (and I do mean sumptious) ballroom that hides beneath the Regent Theatre. There would have been over 500 people there as aspirants to the 'Rose of Tralee' title walked the stage and performed for the assembly.