Posted in authors, interviews

Kaye Baillie on writing The Friendly Games


Kaye Baillie holding her book THE FRIENDLY GAMES

Kaye Baillie writes picture books, novels and short stories. Her latest book is a nonfiction picture book The Friendly Games (illustrated by Fiona Burrows.)

From the publisher:

John Ian Wing couldn’t be more excited about the upcoming Melbourne Olympic Games. It’s 1956 and from his parents’ Bourke Street restaurant, John swells with pride watching the hive of activity as the city prepares to welcome its guests. But when world tensions threaten to overshadow the good nature of the Games, John knows he must do something to remind everyone of the meaning of friendship and peace.

Based on a true story, The Friendly Games is a fascinating tale of one boy’s role  in one of Australia’s most significant sporting events.

The Friendly Games by Kaye Baillie and Fiona Burrows

How did you first hear about John Wing?
I was researching the introduction of television in Australia. My idea was to write a story about a fictional family getting their first TV. I found out that television was introduced to Australia in 1956 in time to televise the  Melbourne Olympic Games. And of course the internet brings up stories related to what you’re searching for, so John Wing’s story came up. I read about a boy who wrote a letter to the Melbourne Organising Committee suggesting how the closing ceremony for the Olympic Games should break with tradition and allow all athletes to march as a mixed group behind one Olympic flag — as a kind of peace march. I was amazed by what he did and that his letter worked — all within three days of the closing ceremony. I gave up on the introduction-of-television story and began working on John’s story instead.

How did you go about gathering research for writing the book?
I researched old newspaper clippings on the government website called Trove. I also trawled through microfilms at the State Library in Melbourne.

I watched the official Olympic promotional video made for the 1956 games.

I read sections of the official Olympic report which detailed every part of the Games from its preparation to its final moments.

I purchased a CD from the National Library in Canberra containing an interview with John. This was great because I could hear his voice and listen to how he spoke.

On the City of Kingston’s website there was information and photos detailing John’s early years at a Children’s home.

I tried to find John by emailing his last known email address and I also wrote a letter to his last known home address but I didn’t receive any response.

I visited John’s address where much of the story took place. His bedroom window in Bourke Street, Melbourne is still the same today as it was in 1956. It’s important to get a feel for your subject and their surroundings through first-hand experience.

Did you have any interaction with the illustrator (Fiona Burrows) while the book was being created?
Not in the beginning. Fiona was chosen by the publisher as Fiona had already illustrated one book with MidnightSun. When Fiona was about to begin work on the illustrations, the publisher put us in touch so if we had any questions, we were free to talk to each other. We often emailed each other and Fiona invited feedback from me. Because the story is non-fiction we had to make sure the illustrations were a true reflection of the era, 1956 and the location, Melbourne. Usually illustrators and authors do not have any contact with each other during the book’s process. This is because the illustrator must have freedom to interpret the text how they see it.

Do you have any tips for children who would like to write about real events from history?
Make sure your subject is something you are really interested in. Research can take a long time so it’s important to enjoy the process.

Gather as much research as you can. The more information you have, the more interesting facts you will have to choose from.

Your story will be much better if you can show that you have a good understanding of the facts.

Can you tell us a bit about your next writing project? 
I’m currently researching another non-fiction story. This one is set in America so it’s a little less familiar than researching in Australia. But I have found lots of information and the best part is that I am regularly talking to the daughter of the woman I am writing about. This makes the project very special. I am planning to finish the story within 2-3 months. It takes a long time to do the research and then to write the best story possible.

The Friendly Games is out in bookstores and libraries now!


The Friendly Games by Kaye Baillie and Fiona Burrows

Look inside some of the pages from The Friendly Games

Read a review of the book (review by Anishka, age 10)

Click here for Teachers’ Notes

Visit Kaye Baillie’s website for more about her and her books

Posted in authors, illustrator, interviews

Meet the author: Gus Gordon


Gus GordonGus Gordon grew up on a farm in northern NSW Australia and, after leaving school, worked on cattle stations all over the country before deciding to pursue a drawing career. He has since illustrated and/or written nearly 80 books for children. His writing is always anthropomorphic (animals take the place of humans in his stories). Gus lives in NSW with his wife and three children. His latest book is Finding François.

From the publisher:

Alice wishes she had someone her own size to talk to. Then one day her wish comes true.
Through hope and chance, love and loss, two little ones who need each other find each other.
A heartwarming story from award-winning author and illustrator Gus Gordon about loneliness, saying goodbye and the value of life-affirming friendships.

Finding François by Gus Gordon

Alice Bonnet (the main character in Finding François) lives in Paris. Are the places where Alice lives and visits based on places you’ve visited in France yourself?
Yes. It’s no secret that I love France, particularly Paris. It is an incredibly inspiring city. I have spent a great deal of time there, wandering the streets aimlessly. Much of the story is based around the river that flows through Paris; the Seine river. In the background of many of the illustrations, you can see the historical buildings that sit beside the river, including the Institut de France and the Musée D’Orsay. The bridge Alice throws the bottle from is the famous Pont Des Arts pedestrian bridge.

Alice and her grandmother live up the hill in the 18th arrondissement village of Montmartre. It is where I always stay when I’m in Paris. It is well known for its artists community and many famous artists have lived and painted there.

The illustrations include snippets that look like they’re cut from the pages of French catalogues, magazines or books. Do you cut up real pages, or do you find these images online?
Most of the images I use are from actual old French Catalogues. Sometimes I source material online if I can’t find what I’m looking for in my collection. Very rarely do I actually cut or tear the pages out of the catalogues. They are far too old and precious (many are well over 100 years old). I also used old postcards, receipts, stamps, letters, labels and advertisements. I scan the image I need into my computer, essentially ‘cutting’ out the image (or paper) and ‘pasting’ it into the artwork. This is all done digitally. Aside from this, every element of each illustration is hand-drawn, painted and collected, then scanned-in, bit by bit, into my computer. I assemble the whole thing, like a glorious puzzle, on the screen. This is good and bad (but mostly good). It allows me to move things around and change my papers and tweak my colours if I need to. Unfortunately I’m not left with any originals so I do prints instead. Everything takes an awful long time but it seems to work out in the end so I’m happy.

Alice likes to write lists of what she plans to do each day. Are you a writer of lists? What’s on your list of plans for today?
Like Alice, I love writing lists. I have to really as I forget things otherwise. Today I am filling out questionnaires like this one, emailing my publisher and others, collecting a framed print and hopefully I’ll have time to do some writing later today.

Have you ever sent (or found) a message in a bottle yourself?
No, I haven’t but I’d love to find a message in a bottle on the beach one day.

Do you have a tip for young artists/illustrators?
My tip for young artists would simply be to keep doing what you’re doing. Do what feels right to YOU and no one else, no matter how unique or peculiar your art is. Stick at it and good things will come your way in time.

Can you tell us a bit about your next writing project?
My next book is about an anxious robot named, Gerald.


Finding François by Gus Gordon

See Gus Gordon working in his studio (YouTube – Paper Bird Home club video)

Click here for Teachers’ Notes for Finding François

Visit Gus Gordon’s website for more about him & his books

Posted in authors, interviews

Meet the author: Tristan Bancks

Tristan Bancks (photo Amber Melody)MEET THE AUTHOR

Tristan Bancks tells stories for the page and screen. His books for kids and teens include Two WolvesThe Fall and the Tom Weekly series. Tristan is currently working with producers to develop several of his books for the screen. His latest book is Nit Boy, which is illustrated by Heath McKenzie. 

From the publisher:

Meet Lewis Snow. He has the worst case of nits in world history. Everyone wants him to shave his head. But Lewis thinks of his nits as pets. He’s determined to keep his hair and his nits, whatever it takes.

Ned lives on Lewis’s head. He’s the first-ever jumping nit. His dad wants Ned to help nits take over the world. But Ned likes it on Lewis’s head. Ned’s vegan and hates the taste of human blood.

And you thought you had problems.

Nit Boy by Tristan Bancks and illustrated by Heath McKenzieOkay … how much scratching did you do while you were writing Nit Boy?
I scratched my head till it was raw. It’s so weird how reading or writing about itchy things makes humans need to scratch. I love reading Nit Boy chapters to kids at events just to see the ocean of scratchers in the audience.

Nit Boy is fiction and features headlice and fleas as characters, plus some quick quizzes for readers. How did you go about your nit/flea research?
I watched disgusting YouTube videos of nits feeding on kids’ scalps and presenters like Michael Mosely giving themselves head lice on purpose for the sake of science. I considered doing this but I had young kids at home, so I didn’t need to try to get nits. I had them anyway. I also read everything I could and I tried to remember what it was like having nits as a kid and having my deputy principal pick through my hair with a razor-sharp lead pencil.

Jumping competition! Who wins: Ned the-first-jumping-nit or Sahaj the flea?
Sahaj is an elderly flea and his knees aren’t what they used to be, so he mainly walks these days. Ned has been genetically engineered to be the world’s first-ever jumping nit, so I’d say Ned definitely wins the jump-off!

Do you have a writing tip for young writers?
It’s more of a challenge than a tip. Try writing a story from the point-of-view of a non-human character. So, a nit or a flea or a cicada or a dog or a guinea pig or a lion. It’s fun and takes lots of imagination to put yourself inside the perspective of another creature. It’s a good one for the Book Week theme of ‘Curious Creatures, Wild Minds’, too!

Can you tell us a bit about your next writing project? 
My great great uncle, Jimmy Bancks, created a comic strip called Ginger Meggs in 1921. It’s now Australia’s longest-running comic strip, in newspapers all over the country, every day. I’m writing a 100th anniversary book of short stories for release in 2021! It’s a project I’ve dreamed of for many years and I love telling stories with the characters. My Tom Weekly books and Nit Boy have been great training for tackling Ginger Meggs. I’d love to write another Nit Boy book, too.

Nit Boy is available from bookstores and libraries now!


Watch the book trailer:

How to draw Ned the Nit (YouTube video)

Read Chapter 1 of Nit Boy

Click here for Teachers Notes 

Visit Tristan Bancks’s website for more about him and his books!

Posted in authors, interviews

Meet the author: Michelle Kadarusman


Michelle Kadarusman. Photo by Micah Ricardo RiedlMichelle Kadarusman writes novels for children and teenagers. Michelle grew up in Melbourne, Australia, and has also lived in Indonesia and in Canada. Her books have been translated into Spanish and Turkish. Today we’re chatting to Michelle about her own voices novel The Theory of Hummingbirds. Like Alba (the main character), Michelle was born with the condition talipes equinovarus (commonly known as club foot) and underwent operations when she was still young.

From the publisher:

Alba has been best friends with Levi since forever. They’re both obsessed with hummingbirds and spend their lunchtimes hiding out in the school library. Alba normally doesn’t mind that Levi’s got a science theory on just about everything. But when he becomes convinced the school librarian has discovered a wormhole in her office, Alba thinks maybe he’s gone too far.

Then there’s Cleo. That’s what Alba calls her left foot, which was twisted in the wrong direction at birth and has been strapped in a brace for most of Alba’s life. With the final cast about to come off, Alba is set on running in her first cross-country race. But what if Levi doesn’t believe she can do it?

The Theory of Hummingbirds by Michelle Kadarusman

How long did it take you to write The Theory of Hummingbirds, from first draft to final draft?
The Theory of Hummingbirds took two years from first draft to finished book. When I initially submitted the first draft to the publisher it was a little short so I had to add more chapters to plump it up. Then I worked with the editor on revisions for many months before we felt completely happy to send it off to press.

Did you already know a lot about hummingbirds before you wrote the book?
The first hummingbird I ever saw was at a friend’s lake house in Canada. I grew up in Australia where we don’t have hummingbirds, so when I saw my first hummingbird, I was very excited. They are so tiny and dart around like fairies. I was mesmerized and knew that I wanted to include them in a story. I read all about them for research before writing the book.

Alba and Levi are both committed and persistent in working towards their goals/theories. Were they inspired by anyone you know in real life?
Like most fictional characters, both Alba and Levi have traits of real people I know, but mostly they are from my imagination.

Can you tell us a little about your next writing project? 
My current work-in-progress is a middle-grade novel set in my father’s homeland of Indonesia. It centres around a captive orangutan and two middle schoolers. One is a budding animal and environmental activist the other is the orangutan’s keeper. It will delve into palm oil deforestation, the black-market exotic pet trade, identity and belonging.

Do you have a writing tip for young writers?
 I have three tips! The first is: read a lot. Read, read, read. Reading is what all writers do to learn and become inspired.

The second tip:  let yourself be bad at first. Don’t expect to be able to write like your favourite authors right away. It will take time to develop your craft. Keep working at it and let yourself make mistakes.

My third tip: listen to feedback from people you trust, the feedback will always help you become a better writer.

The Theory of Hummingbirds is out now, and available from bookshops, libraries, and the publisher!

The Theory of Hummingbirds by Michelle KadarusmanAWESOME EXTRAS

Find out more about Michelle Kadarusman and her book on the publisher’s website

Check out photos of hummingbirds on the National Geographic site.

Posted in authors

Meet the author: Janeen Brian


Janeen Brian

Janeen Brian is an award-winning children’s author and poet with over 100 books published. Janeen lives in South Australia and writes poetry, short stories, picture books, nonfiction, and novels. Her first book was published in 1984, and her latest book (June 2020) is Eloise & the Bucket of Stars.

From the publisher:

Orphaned as a baby, Eloise Pail yearns for a family. Instead, she lives a lonely life trapped in an orphanage and is made miserable by the cruel Sister Hortense. Befriended by the village blacksmith, Eloise soon uncovers some strange secrets of yesteryear and learns that something terrible may be about to happen to the village. As troubles and dangers mount, she must learn who to trust and choose between saving the village or belonging to a family of her own. Unless something truly magical happens …

Eloise and the Bucket of Stars (cover)

How long did it take you to write Eloise & the Bucket of Stars, from first draft to final draft?
Including all the research, brainstorming, planning, and first drafting, re-working after a manuscript assessment, and many more drafts, it would’ve been over 2 years before the ‘final’ manuscript was finished — and accepted.

The book is set in the early years of the nineteenth Century — did you need to do any research before you wrote the book?
Whenever I travel, I always take dozens of photographs of anything that interests me, because I never know when I might need them for referencing or as an idea for a story or for poetry. So, I had many pics of English and Irish orphanages and workhouses that were built and used in those earlier times. From previous trips, I had photos of walled cities which also came in handy for the story setting. I always collected or bought pamphlets, brochures or from museums. I jotted in my diary too. Even an odd word or two can jog the memory of something you saw or experienced. I’d walked on cobblestones, I’d been inside old houses that lined narrow streets, I’d been in tiny market squares, seen what were used as toilets in those days and so much more. Apart from my own experiences, and photographs, I also used the internet for pictorial references. If I needed any extra information as I wrote, I scoured books or did further exploration on the internet.

If you lived in the village of Whittering, what would your occupation be?
Great question!
I would’ve been the flower-seller! Not only because I love flowers, but also because they would’ve masked the smell of animals and their droppings, rank drains, pit-sewerage and unwashed bodies! Most people had few clothes which were not washed as often as we do today, and nor did they wash very often. Hygiene was not a top priority but also houses had no running water and water needed to be heated on a stove.

How did you choose the title of the book? 
The earliest title was Girl in a Bucket, and that came as a suggestion from a Year 6 girl at a school I was visiting. It remained as that until the publisher commented that it could tell more. I thought about the main character’s name and what was important to her. And so then I had ELOISE and STARS. But I also wanted to use the original situation, of her being left as a baby in a bucket. So, finally it all came together, and the title was born.

Can you tell us a bit about your next project? 
My next project is a picture book which I’ve been working on for several weeks. It’s to do with a waterhole, the competition between several African animals and the funny set up before the animals realise what is most important.

Do you have a tip for young writers who want to try their hand at magical-realism or fantasy?
First of all, you have to believe in the story idea yourself. In this book, I used an everyday situation and setting and then created the element of fantasy and wove that into the story. I didn’t have to create a new world but I still had to make the magic believable in the story.

Eloise & the Bucket of Stars is out now and available from bookstores and libraries.


Hear Janeen Brian read an excerpt from Eloise & the Bucket of Stars (YouTube)

Eloise and the Bucket of Stars (cover)

Click here to download Teachers’ Notes for the book

Click here for more writing tips from Janeen Brian

Visit Janeen Brian’s website for more about her and her books

Posted in authors, interviews

Meet the author: Jacqueline Harvey


Jacqueline Harvey (credit Jenni Bradley)

Jacqueline Harvey is the author of the popular Alice-Miranda series, Clementine Rose series, and Kensy and Max series. Her books have sold over one million copies in Australia alone.

Jacqueline speaks to thousands of young people at schools and festivals around the world, and says the characters in her books are often made up of the best bits of children she’s met over the years. While she is not a twin, like Kensy and Max she does have excellent powers of observation and has always thought she’d make a great spy.

Jacqueline’s latest book is Alice-Miranda in the Outback (book 19 in the series).

From the publisher:

Alice-Miranda and her friends are off to the Australian Outback! They’re going to help an old family friend who’s found himself short staffed during cattle mustering season. The landscape is like nothing else – wide open and dusty red as far as the eye can see. It’s also full of quirky characters, like eccentric opal miner Sprocket McGinty and the enigmatic Taipan Dan.

As the gang settles in at Hope Springs Station, mysteries start piling up. A strange map is discovered indicating treasure beneath the paddocks, a young girl is missing and there are unexplained water shortages. Can Alice-Miranda get to the bottom of this desert dilemma?

Alice Miranda in the Outback by Jacqueline Harvey

Alice-Miranda is a well-travelled girl! Have you been everywhere Alice-Miranda has been?
Yes Alice-Miranda has travelled a lot. I’ve been to most of the places she’s been, although I haven’t ever travelled to Spain and that’s where Alice-Miranda at Sea begins. I had to do a lot of research about Barcelona particularly and in that instance I find Google Maps, Google Earth and Google Streetview invaluable. I have been to a few places in the Australian outback but Coober Pedy isn’t one of them (and part of the new book takes place there) so I have had to do a lot of research on the town and the landscape and the mines before and while I was writing the story. I find it easier to use places I’ve travelled to as it helps create the atmosphere but as I said – you can do your homework too.

Alice-Miranda in the Outback is the latest book in the series. How long did it take you to write Book 19, from first draft to final draft?
I spent a few weeks plotting and planning over the Christmas New Year period then sat down with a goal of having the draft finished in 6 weeks. I basically wrote just over 10,000 words a week for that time and achieved the goal. There would have been about another six weeks of rewriting, editing and proofreading after that. I knew that I would have to write quite quickly to meet the deadline but I found it such a fun story that it was a joy to work on each day.

When you wrote Book 1, did you write it as Book 1 in a series?
I originally thought Alice-Miranda would be a picture book. How wrong I was. Once I started to write the first book as a novel I thought it would be a series – I had ideas for about five books when I initially submitted it.

How do you keep track of all the characters across multiple books in the series?
Spreadsheets! I have a spreadsheet with the characters in all of the series so that I don’t accidentally give someone the same name. It’s a very helpful reference.

What’s your next writing project?
At the moment I am writing Kensy and Max: Full Speed which will be out in October 2020. It’s set in London and Switzerland and takes the children back to the days when their parents worked in ski resorts all over the world. I’ve wanted to write a book where they can exhibit their extraordinary skiing and snowboarding skills and this is it. I have also just finished a short story Kensy and Max: Spy Games for the Australia Reads campaign which will be out at the beginning of November. I have been working on a couple of side projects as well but they’re still top secret so unfortunately I can’t share just yet. Suffice to say I’ve been keeping busy in lockdown.

Alice-Miranda in the Outback is available from bookshops and libraries!


Alice Miranda in the Outback by Jacqueline Harvey

Click here to download Teachers’ Notes for the Alice-Miranda series

Click here for Jacqueline Harvey’s writing tips

Visit Jacqueline Harvey’s website for more about Alice-Miranda, colouring-in sheets & activities

Posted in authors, interviews

Meet the author: Penny Tangey


Penny TangeyPenny Tangey writes humorous books for young people. She has studied Chemistry and Indonesian, and is currently studying information management to become a librarian. Penny works as a researcher for television quiz shows, and has performed stand-up comedy. Her latest book is As Fast as I Can. 

From the publisher:

Ten-year-old Vivian is determined to win a medal at the Olympic Games one day. Problem is, she hasn’t found a sport she’s any good at yet. But everyone says if you work hard enough you can achieve anything, right? So when Vivian discovers she has a talent for cross country running, finally, her Olympic dream might actually come true.

But then a family illness is uncovered and all of Vivian’s plans begin to unravel. Can she keep her dream alive? Or will she be stopped in her tracks?

As Fast as I can by Penny Tangey

As Fast as I Can is a humorous read, but involves a family learning about a serious medical condition. How much research did you need to do to write the book?
I already knew a little about the medical condition in the book because it’s an illness in my family. I needed a lot more detail to write As Fast as I Can. I read medical papers but also found first-hand stories from people with the condition. Both of these were really important.

After I wrote a draft a medical professional read it to check I had the details right. I also got feedback from my cousin who has the condition to make sure she thought the book was accurate and helpful.

Writing the book: a sprint or a marathon?
It was a marathon that I thought would be 5km. I kept telling myself the finish was just around the corner, gave up a few times, but then started again. It wasn’t a personal best time, but I’m glad I kept going.

In a parallel universe you can become an Olympic Athlete and choose your event which event would you choose?
This question is so exciting and quite tricky. I would definitely choose athletics because competing in the big stadium is the ultimate goal. I think I would have to choose running because it’s the simplest and purest sport. Sprinting is over too quickly so I think 800m would be good.

Vivian (your main character) faces down several challenges. Are you a competitive person yourself?
I am, but I’m also not a perfectionist and very happy to settle for second or third.

Can you tell us something about your next project? 
I’m writing a story for adults, mainly just for fun. It’s about a woman who starts investigating a crime while she’s on maternity leave.

Do you have a tip for young writers?
Keep a diary. It’s great practise for writing and lots of fun to read back later.

For example, in Grade 5 I wrote in my diary: “I have a dream to get to the Olympics not as a spectator but as a competitor. I am turning 11 next week, my days of being ten are numbered.”

I didn’t get to go to the Olympics as a competitor, but I’m really glad I have my diary to help me remember the dream.

As Fast as I Can is available from bookshops, libraries and the publisher’s website.

As Fast as I can by Penny TangeyAWESOME EXTRAS:

Click here to download Teachers’ Notes

Click here to visit Penny Tangey’s website and find out more about her and her books.

Posted in authors, interviews, poetry

Meet the author: Sally Murphy


Sally Murphy is an author, poet, speaker and educator based in the South West of Western Australia. Sally has published more than 40 books, and her latest book is a verse novel for upper primary readers: Worse Things, with illustrations by Sarah Davis.

From the publisher:

After a devastating football injury, Blake struggles to cope with life on the sideline. Jolene, a gifted but conflicted hockey player, wants nothing more than for her dad to come home. And soccer-loving refugee, Amed, wants to belong. On the surface, it seems they have nothing in common. Except sport …

Worse Things by Sally Murphy with illustrations by Sarah Davis

Worse Things is your fourth verse novel. Your first verse novel was published in 2009. Has the way you go about writing your verse novels changed since then?
I think so. When I wrote the first one, Pearl Verses the World, I didn’t really plan – a character started speaking to me and I started writing. Pearl’s voice came in verse, and the plot emerged as I wrote. When I wrote Toppling and Roses are Blue the process was similar, though Roses are Blue took longer to get right.  When I wrote Worse Things I really wanted to do something different. I still loved verse novels but I wanted to see if I could write in multiple voices and with slightly older characters. This dictated that I needed to write more self-contained poems. I also played around more with poetic form – so there are, for example,  little definition poems scattered throughout which define key words from the  story or the themes being explored.

Worse Things includes characters who play various sports (hockey, soccer & AFL). Do you play these sports yourself?
I loved hockey and played in primary and high school and a couple of seasons as an adult. I actually wish I had kept playing for longer. I got busy as a mother and now that I have more time I am probably not fit enough. I loved soccer as a sport at school, but never played it away from school – when I was growing up there was no soccer for girls where I lived. The other sport in the novel is AFL (football) and again I didn’t have the opportunity to play, but my kids did, and so I spent a lot of time at junior matches, as well as being a mad keen Fremantle Dockers fan.

You write picture books, poetry, chapter books, and verse novels. How do you know the sort of book you’ll start writing when you have a creative idea?
Mostly the story or character presents itself and I just kind of know what is right for that story. It’s about how the story feels, although sometimes I also push myself to try a particular form, or I’m asked to. My two historical novels – 1915 and Bushfire, were both written because the publisher asked for them, and so that dictated that they would be novel-length.

Do you have a tip for young writers who would like to write a verse novel?
Read lots of verse novels to get a feel for how they work. As well as mine, there are some other excellent Australian verse novelists whose work you will love: Steven Herrick, Lorraine Marwood and Kat Apel, for starters. The other thing to do is to start by writing single free verse poems, to practice things like poetic technique, line length and portraying emotion or themes in poetic form.

Can you tell us a bit about your next writing project?
I usually have a few things on the go, and right now is no exception. I have two junior novels which need redrafting – one is set in Vietnam, and I started it when I went there for a residency. I am also doing some research for a historical idea I am interested in. And there is a voice talking to me at the moment and telling me that her story needs telling. I have a feeling she may win.

Worse Things is out now in bookstores and libraries.


Worse Things by Sally Murphy with illustrations by Sarah Davis

Watch Sally Murphy read the first chapter of Worse Things (YouTube)

Take a sneak peek at some Definition Poems from the book

Click here to download Teachers’ Notes

Visit Sally Murphy’s website for more about her and her books

Posted in authors, illustrator, interviews

Meet the author: Gavin Aung Than

Gavin Aung Than with some of his charactersMEET THE AUTHOR

Gavin Aung Than is a New York Times bestselling cartoonist. His current project Super Sidekicks is a fun-filled action adventure series. Book 3 in the series, Trial of Heroes hit bookstores in April 2020.

From the publisher:

The Super Sidekicks just saved the world and now they’ve been invited to join H.E.R.O. – the Heroic Earth Righteousness Organisation – an exclusive club for the planet’s most famous superheroes. But before they can become members, the team must pass the hardest challenge in the universe, a test so scary and difficult only the truly heroic can survive.

The Super Sidekicks are back! Prepare for another amazing adventure from New York Times bestselling Australian author, Gavin Aung Than.

Did Super Sidekicks Book 1 start out as a standalone book or did you plan the series before you started?
I always planned it to be a series. So No Adults Allowed is all about how the sidekicks meet each other and become a team. Ocean’s Revenge (Book 2) is their first big adventure together, and Trial of Heroes (Book 3) is another big and exciting challenge for the heroes.

How do you create your comics? Do you draw by hand, or onto a computer?
I use both methods. So I draw all the pictures in black and white on paper first. Then I scan those drawings into my computer and add all the grey colour and words. You can see my full process on my website here:

Do you have a favourite sidekick to draw?
Wow that’s a hard question! I love drawing all of them, they’re like my kids. If I had to pick just one, then i’ll say Goo is my favourite. He’s so lovable and can literally be drawn into any shape or size which is always fun!

Trial of Heroes is the latest book in the series. How long did it take you from first draft to final draft?
Each book takes about 6–8 months to complete. It’s a lot of work but I absolutely love it!

Do you have a tip for young comic creators?
Practice, practice, practice! The only way to get good at drawing or making comics is to practice all the time. Start making your own mini-comics. It’s also okay to copy your favourite artists, even to trace their work when you’re just starting. The great cartoonist Chuck Jones said that every artist has 100,000 bad drawings in them, so the quicker you get those done and out of the way, the better!

Three books in the Super Side Kicks series are out now – ask at your bookshop or library.

Super Side Kicks Book 3AWESOME EXTRAS:

Click here to peek inside Book 1

Click here to peek inside Book 2

Click here to peek inside Book 3

Click here to watch Gavin at work in his studio as part of Paper Bird Books Home Club (1/2 hour YouTube video)

Posted in authors, illustrator, interviews

Meet the illustrator: Karen Blair


Karen Blair is an award-winning illustrator and author of children’s picture books. She loves to draw characters that are young, old and in between, as well as Australian wildlife – in the bush, the sea, the outback, or at home. She has a background in painting landscapes and loves incorporating this into her illustrations. You might recognise her work from Baby Animal FarmWhen Billy was a Dog (written by Kirsty Murrray), the Lemonade Jones books (by Davina Bell), Hello from Nowhere (by Raewyn Ciasley), and many more. Her latest book is Meet Eve in the Outback (text by Raewyn Caisley), which is part of the new Aussie Kids series. Raewyn visited Alphabet Soup recently to talk about writing the text. And now it’s time to hear from Karen about the illustrations!

Meet Eve in the Outback (book cover)

You illustrated Meet Eve in the Outback, written by Raewyn Caisley. How is illustrating a junior fiction book different from illustrating a picture book?
This was my first junior fiction book, which was both exciting and nerve-wracking. In a picture book, I have almost unlimited space on the page to do my visual story-telling, and the words usually fit in around the images. In a junior fiction book, it’s the opposite, with a higher word count, smaller pages and much less space. It makes you really crystallise what you want to add with the illustrations, and it comes down to how can I show an interesting part of the story – the action, the emotion, or even some visual information. That might be showing some of the Nullarbor setting, and the characters’ reaction to being in that part of the story. The shape of the illustration is also more limited, and needs to be varied throughout. It was an interesting process.

What are your favourite art tools/mediums?
I love illustrating with line, and I felt brave enough to try the very traditional dip pen and ink for this book for the first time. It’s slightly unpredictable and does some great things with a big brush and just a little water. I also love drawing with charcoal, it has a life of its own, I think because it used to be twigs it is not a uniform material and can also be a bit unpredictable. I like how you can get a line that will move from delicate to strong with the slightest change in pressure.

How long did it take you to do the illustrations for Meet Eve in the Outback?
I think it was about 3 months, but I work part time. It was a 2 part process – I had to do ‘spot colour’ digitally, which I had never done before. Also nerve-wracking and I was very grateful that my friend, and brilliant author-illustrator James Foley, helped me. His knowledge of digital illustration is phenomenal. Mine is not!

Do you have a tip for budding illustrators?
So much of illustrating is about process. Find a process that you enjoy. In the beginning I would do every part of the process – character sketches (hundreds), visual research (how DO you draw a car graveyard, or a truck, a camel etc), storyboard, dummy, roughs, colour roughs, and final artwork. I still do most of those for each book. You really have to love the process, which also includes getting feedback from the publisher, or it all might be torture. It’s a bit of torture, here and there but worth it. I would also recommend playing a lot with style and materials.

Can you tell us a bit about your next creative project?
I have started writing again, which I haven’t done properly since I had children. I’m working on a book called Train Party which will be published with Penguin next year. It’s set at the miniature railway, and is a rhyming text. It was inspired by some toddler birthday parties I went to last year, including the son of my friend Briony Stewart, another incredible author-illustrator, and incredible train-cake maker! It’s such a fun experience that I think many generations of Australians have enjoyed, and I love the community aspect of the train-drivers sharing their trains with children. There’s heaps of visual research for this one, I am realising that I don’t know much about trains …

Meet Eve in the Outback is out now! Available from book stores and libraries. 

Meet Eve in the Outback (book cover)AWESOME EXTRAS:

Click here to download an Aussie Kids series activity pack

Click here for Teachers’ Notes for Meet Eve in the Outback.

Read our Q&A with Raewyn Caisley, the author of Meet Eve in the Outback

Watch Karen sketching & talking about her book creation (YouTube)

Visit Karen Blair’s website for more about her and her books.