Friday, 28 March 2014

The Ugg Boot War by Kylie Fornasier

Kylie Fornasier

Jake’s father is an embarrassment to Jake. He wears his old, stained, and (in Jake’s opinion) ugly ugg boots everywhere. Winter or summer, home or out in public, they are on his feet. Jake is determined that this needs to stop: he cannot handle the embarrassment of having a father in ugg boots any longer. Despite his best friend’s misgivings, and his mother’s warnings about trying to change people, Jake embarks on a daring plan to remove the ugg boots from his father’s life. Jake’s father, however, is unaware of the problem his beloved boots are causing, and the final outcome of Jake’s ugg boot war surprises even Jake.

I wrote The Ugg Boot War because I wanted to write about something uniquely Australian, and what’s more Australian than ugg boots? Like Jake’s dad, my own dad loves his ugg boots, but that’s where the similarities end, even if my dad doesn’t believe it. Since writing this book, I’ve realized just how much I wear my own ugg boots (but only at home). In fact, I’m wearing them as I write this!

 Kylie, when do you write?

I try to write every day, but that doesn’t always happen, in fact, it doesn’t even happen even half the time. If I can’t write everyday, I try to at least do something related to writing, whether that’s research, promotion, daydreaming about my story or simply reading something wonderful.

Where do you write?

I have a writing desk in my bedroom, but I rarely sit there to write. It’s more of my go-to desk for my writing supplies. Since I write on my laptop, I can write anywhere. I love sitting on the porch to write in the morning sun. And I am guilty of writing in front of the TV, quite a lot.

What can’t you write without?

My ugg boots, most of the year! A cup of tea and a piece of dark chocolate also helps. Post-it notes, in all colours, are another must.

What’s next for you?

I have a young adult novel being released by Penguin Books in July, titled Masquerade. It’s Gossip Girl meets Shakespeare set in 18th century Venice. I’m very excited about it. I also have a picture book being released by Koala Books/Scholastic in November, tilted The Prince who Shrank. And as always, I’m writing, writing, writing.

Where to buy The Ugg Boot War:

The Ugg Boot War by Kylie Fornasier, Publisher: Omnibus Books an imprint of Scholastic was published in the Mates: Great Australian Yarns series. Illustrator: Tom Jellett. Publication date: 1st March 2014



Monday, 24 March 2014


© Goldie Alexander

Of the many genres aimed at young readers, fantasy has proven to be extraordinarily popular and an ‘awesome’ number have appeared on our shelves.  All fantasy has certain common elements: they must take place in a consistent, if imaginary world. Their major theme, much like the fairy story, is good versus evil, with good eventually winning out against what seems like insurmountable odds. The reader is asked to suspend disbelief with a completeness that is not required in more traditional genres.

 If the best fantasy is written with flair and imagination, it can also be used as metaphor, such as coping with climate warming, protecting the environment, ensuring endangered animals survive, overcoming totalitarian rule. They all offer the hope that everything can and will, turn out for the best.

‘eSide: A Journey Through Cyberspace’, has gone through several metamorphosis. Originally a long short story for my collection ‘My Horrible Cousins and Other Stories’ and called ‘The Great Google’, I extended the idea into a five part novel that would hopefully help more reluctant readers tackle what would otherwise be a big project, and feel a sense of achievement. Because this story blends fantasy, science fiction and reality, I had hoped that it was different enough to make it stand out from the usual Tolkien style novel.

I already had one of my favourite characters in place, the magician tGF, favourite because he commands dishes to wash themselves, towels to hang themselves on a line, and manage lots of other household tasks with just a twitch of his fingers.  I liked the idea of placing fantasy inside a recognisable setting, and the small, friendly Conch Café where some of the action takes place is similar to many cafes in my home city of Melbourne.

Sam and her single mother Kate live in the rear of the Conch Café, close to Sam’s best friend Melody and her dog, Billy. The building is owned by greedy witch Hecate Badminton who will do anything to own the café’s Good-Luck-Conch that she believes will give her immortality. After Hecate steals the shell and the café burns down, the girls have a series of remarkable adventures inside the wicked witch Hecate’s mainframe computer or in ‘eSide’ as they are pulled into a totalitarian digital world. Because computer graphics create unique scenarios, the girls must travel through new and dangerous worlds to overcome some of their worst fears before they can recover their conch and return home.

“Neptunia” combines a very modern predicament with a gentle introduction to “Homer’s ‘Odyssey”.  Cassie Georgiana Odysseos has the potential to become a champion swimmer. However, her life is interrupted when her father leaves home, and Cassie’s mother sends Cassie and her little brother Timmy to stay with elderly Mike and Peg Calypso in Ithaca, a small country town without a swimming pool. Finding a small bronze box, the magic entry to Neptunia, Cassie is asked by Miss Iris Laertes, a previous Olympic swimming champion, to carry an important message to that city of water.

Lost in an unknown ocean, Cassie’s plasticine figures come to life when a wrathful Mer-King Neptune holds Cassie responsible for the damage humans are inflicting on his oceans.  Athena, a telepathic turtle, informs Cassie that before she reaches Neptunia, the Mer-King will do everything in his power to exact his revenge and that she must undergo three dangerous trails before he will listen to her message. However, Cassie manages to use ‘strength, strategy and spirit’ to conquer the dangerous One-Eyed Octopus, the wily Enchantress, and the fearsome Boil and Bubble. Between adventures, the story pictures her life back home.

Both novels are aimed at upper primary readers. Teacher Notes are on my website.

“eSide: A Journey through Cyberspace”
and “Neptunia” are both published by
“eSide” for  $16.95. “Neptunia” for $14.95





Sunday, 23 March 2014

The Rat Catcher's Daughter

The Rat Catcher’s Daughter by Pamela Rushby (HarperCollins, 1 April 2014)

The year is 1900 and the new century starts with the oldest disease – the Black Death. Thirteen-year-old Issy McKelvie is forced to leave school to start her first job as  a maid in an undertaking establishment. Issy’s entire family is now working and because her father’s job on the wharves is unreliable, he also works with his dogs as a rat catcher.

In 1900 the plague – the Black Death – arrives in Australia, spread by the fleas on rats. As the disease starts to take its human toll, panic grows. The rats must be exterminated.

Issy loathes both rats and her father’s pack of yappy, snappy, rat-killing terriers. But when her father becomes ill, Issy must join the battle to rid the city of the plague-carrying rats.

However, many things about the city’s control of the plague are not as they seem. As she discovers and pieces together various clues, Issy comes to realise that the real world is very different from the one she thought she knew.

From the author of the award-winning The Horses Didn’t Come Home, this is a fascinating story about a little-known event in Australia’s history.

“A brilliant and richly evocative insight into a fascinating and little-known aspect of our past”  Jackie French, Australian Children’s Laureate

Writing the story by Pamela Rushby

Some time ago, I was at an exhibition at the Museum of Brisbane and I noticed two old photographs: one of men with a pile of dead rats and another of men with packs of rat-killing terriers. The caption said the photographs dated from the plague epidemic of 1900. I had no idea that we had ever had the plague – the Black Death – in Australia. I did some research. And I found an amazing story: people forced into quarantine, a street barricaded off, the dead bundled into coffins packed with quicklime and taken down river to be buried on a remote mangrove island, accusations from the press and public of government bungling and failure to be prepared, rumours of the wealthy and influential bypassing the regulations, racism and panic in the streets. Quite a story! Who wouldn’t want to write about it?

Pamela Rushby

Other books by Pamela Rushby

When the Hipchicks Went to War (Hachette 2009) Notable Book CBCA Awards 2010,
Winner Ethel Turner Prize NSW Premier's Literary Awards 2010
The Horses Didn't Come Home (HarperCollins 2012), Short-listed Queensland Literary Awards 2012. Notable Book CBCA awards 2013
Flora's War (Ford St Publishing 2013)


Tuesday, 11 March 2014

The Gestation of Convict Jack

© Jill Blee

It was not until my children started primary school that I realised how little I knew of the history of this country. What history I had done during my school days was British with an Irish slant provided by the Mercy sisters who taught me.

We had moved to Sydney where the convict history of Australia speaks out loudly from the sandstone buildings just before the children started school. As Gough Whitlam had made tertiary education free about the same time, the opportunity to rectify the flaws in my education was there for the taking. And I took it.

While I soaked up everything I could about the establishment of the convict colony of New South Wales, I was disappointed with the quality of material available on the subject for young readers. It was not until the mid nineties that I had the time and the head space to do anything about it, but I decided to tell the journey of the First Fleet through the eyes of a young convict.

My first attempt called Me Name’s Jack was far too wordy, had too many characters, and too much information about the issues surrounding the bizarre decision of the British Government to ship 750 convicts plus marines and navel personnel to a spot on a map which only one other group of people had stumbled upon eighteen years previously.

Quite understandably I didn’t find a publisher willing to take the manuscript on. In the meantime, I had embarked on more study and on writing for adults. There novels followed, all with an Irish/ Irish Australian theme, and one also dealing with the more gruesome history of our convict past.

Jack emerged from the bottom drawer where I had consigned him once these novels were published and gone from the creative space in my brain. I read children’s fiction widely to more accurately determine what should be in my story and what could be chopped before I embarked on another draft but before I could finish it, another project loomed. I was commissioned to write a series of histories so Jack was returned to his drawer.

A couple of years ago I decided to do a masterclass series with the well known and many times published Nic Brasch. I got Jack out and started again, trimming and refining slabs of the manuscript to present to the class. Nic loved the finished product and wrote a glowing commendation of it but while I got several letters from publishers which said words like beautifully written, delightful, extremely well researched, they also followed up with less cheerful advice that it would not fit their list, they couldn’t be sure of the market, and other platitudes.

By this time the story had had several name changes. Another writer had published a story called I am Jack. Although it is on a completely different topic, I felt I could no longer use my title so I changed it to Dorrington’s Extraordinary Journey as Jack’s surname is Dorrington. Then I decided it was too complicated so I decided on Transported. Now, at long last, it is going to be published as Convict Jack by Eureka House. It will hopefully make its appearance this month. Details of when and where it will be available will be announced on   

Monday, 10 March 2014


At the moment I'm writing a book which started as a conversation with my husband during which I said how I could remember where I was and with whom when I learnt of the death of my adored fifth grade teacher, but I had no memory of what happened subsequently. ‘Why don’t you write about it?’ my husband asked.

Over the past few years I’ve written several books based on children we fostered, a nine year old boy and girl, both of whose mothers were drug-addicted. And then a book about a family of children put into care when their parents returned to a drug life-style. But it had not occurred to me to write about my young self, raised on a goat and chicken farm, and how I came to learn about death – of animals and of humans.

The Girl in the Basement front new sml.jpgWrite about what you know is one of the first tenants of authorship. One knows most about one’s own life so this has been my starting point for the majority of my novels. For example, the starting point for my YA novel, The Last Refuge, was my experience of domestic violence as a child and later as an adult. When I wrote Crossing the Line, about a teenager who self-harms and later finds herself in a psych ward, I was drawing on my own experience as a self-harming teenager and as a bipolar sufferer who had several stints in hospital.

The inspiration for my latest YA novel, The Girl in the Basement (Celapene Press) was a newspaper clipping and photograph. The story told how a Polaroid showing two bound and gagged children – one a teenager, the other a seven-year-old -- had been found in a Florida car park. Both children had been missing for different periods of time. When the photo was shown on national television, the respective parents came forward; this was the first evidence they had of what had happened to their children after they went missing. My curiosity was piqued; who had kidnapped the children and why? What happened to them after the photo was taken? Eventually I created a fictional story about a teenage girl kidnapped by a serial killer who wanted a family of his own.

I have published over 120 books, mainly for young readers. The inspiration for each of them has been different, though most are the result of my being able to draw on my own experiences and emotions. Who Pushed Humpty? came about after I’d seen graffiti on a wall (Humpty Was Pushed!) The Case of the Kidnapped Brat (co-written with my husband, Bill Condon) was the result of a publishing commission for a mystery novel. The Wild and Wacky Adventurers’ series that I’m currently writing with Bill was initiated when we realised it was far too long since we’d collaborated; we decided on humorous books for 8 to 11 year olds and took it from there. (Read about the creative process of getting started on my blogsite, Writing for Children )

Inspiration is really just another word for getting started. If you don’t get started = you don’t write = you don’t finish writing = you don’t get published.

That’s just about it, folks.

© Dianne Bates



Sunday, 2 March 2014


© Marion Lucy

Journal writing can be conducive to professional writing – it can kick start the imagination, bring ideas to the surface and hone writing skills in new ways. I like to experiment with journals and get as creative as I can. Sometimes this means making the books from scratch or creating my own covers for existing books. Journal writing need not be time consuming however, you can keep it simple and just write when and if you feel like it. The main point is that if you find a journaling style you like, it will help to keep you inspired. I have four main styles I use: ranting, ideas, dream recording and creative representations of everyday life.

A ranting book is for writing quickly with little or no conscious thought. You don’t worry about grammar, presentation or what other people will think of it. Personally I use re-cycled exercise books and scrawl over every possible space. It’s messy but the chaos provides a certain level of privacy – I can’t see anyone taking the time to decipher it.

The beauty of a ranting book is that you can ignore you inner critic for awhile which is liberating – it loosens you up and gets the words flowing. Another good thing about automatic writing is that worthwhile ideas sometimes emerge from the sub-conscious – some of which may be useful in your professional work. If this is the case, go over the ideas with a highlighter pen once you’ve finished the entry and write them out separately so they don’t become lost or forgotten.

Another benefit of ranting journals is that they are cathartic. You can write out all your troubles whether they are significant or trivial, leaving you more relaxed and ready to focus on your ‘real’ writing.

Record of ideas

An idea book may relate specifically to a writing project (you might, for example, sketch a stage setting, map a plot, record dialogue or write character profiles) or you may want to be more diverse and record all the ideas that grab you, from a recipe idea to a tree house design. I try and keep idea books neat and as visually appealing as possible so I’m more inclined to turn to them for inspiration. Idea books are good places for lists, mind-maps, fabric scraps, photographs and paint samples. If you’re really keen you can write a contents or index page when you’re finished for easy reference.

The dream journal

Dreams can be a good source of ideas for poetry and fiction, particularly if you tap into their imagery and emotions. If you have trouble remembering your dreams keep a journal or note book by your bed and start writing as soon as you wake up. Aside from writing the dream out as you remember it you may also want to try out different ways of recording them. Here are some ideas: give your dream a title, pinpoint the strongest part, draw a significant image, list the emotions you felt during the dream and reflect on the theme and possible meanings. You might also record whether you have had similar dreams before. If there is a particularly significant image that haunts you from a dream – or you can’t remember anything beyond a single image – try drawing it and give it a caption or a title.  You don’t need to be a skilled artist to do this, sometimes a crayon picture drawn roughly and quickly while half awake can capture the essence of an image surprisingly well.

The creative journal
The creative style is all about recording your life in new and interesting ways. This can be helpful in your general writing practise as it pushes you to think imaginatively. Try putting an experience into a poem, record a day as a cartoon-strip, write what you wish you’d said in a certain situation, make a pie-graph of your day or write down the finest details of an event. The possibilities are endless and many of them can help to hone your writing skills. Of all the journal styles this is the kind that lends itself the most to artistic embellishments. Beyond drawing, painting and collage, experiment with the visual appearance of your writing – the style, size and lay-out of your words can make the journal more interesting.

Some other journal types you may want to experiment with are travel and nature journals. As travelling takes us out of our usual routine we can be flooded with new ideas, images and perspectives – and a journal is a good place to capture them. Nature journals enhance observation skills – a definite benefit for writers. You could try drawing or describing insects, shells or fossils in fine detail.  You might also chart the moon or tides for a month – or record your observations of your local wildlife.

Experiment in any or every way you like with journaling. Mix many different styles into one book or stick with your favourite.  One of the beautiful things about writing in a journal is that if you tap into new approaches and styles that you truly connect with, it will keep you perpetually inspired.

Marion Lucy is a freelance writer of fiction and non-fiction. Many of her children’s pieces have been published by The School Magazine and her first picture book The Giant Bowl of Chocolate was released in 2013. Web: