Moving to a New Site & Blog

Although WordPress has been good to me as a start-up & introduction to blogging & websites, I’m jumping ship to Wix. I’ve imported a few of my past blog posts to my new site, just to establish a bit about who I am, but from here on out it will be all new stuff – blog posts, published stories and lots of me babbling about writing, the environment and how there aren’t enough hours in the day. 🙂

I really hope that you all join me over there at

I have also set up a Mail Chimp newsletter thingy which you can sign up to on the blog page. I’m still working it out & promise you won’t receive any more from me than you did here – partly because I respect you don’t need to be overwhelmed by stuff & partly because it will probably take me several years to work out.

This blog will soon be closed down so hope to see you all at my new one.


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First Ever Story Sale

My short story, ‘Studying Shakespeare’, has been bought and published by Silver Pen/Youth Imagination Magazine.


I’m pretty excited about this as it’s the first story I’ve been paid for. Plus it gets its own accompanying picture on the site. 🙂

Accompanying picture for my story.

Accompanying picture for my story.

It’s exciting that anyone ever wants to read anything I write. It’s exciting that they would want to publish it on their site to share with others. But there’s something incredible about the fact that somebody, somewhere, is excited enough by my story to actually give me money for it.

I won’t be going shopping for a yacht any time soon but I will definitely be purchasing a bottle of bubbly.

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Like Bees to Honey

The theme of my life lately has been ‘BEES’.

It all started when somebody on Scribophile posted a link to a writing comp. Essentially on the Unfettered site there are ten beautiful images from featured artist, Terry Whidborne, and you choose one to use as a prompt/muse/inspiration to write a story. One of the pictures features a girl suspended between two bees. It leapt out at me and I had my theme.


Lately I’ve been discussing bees with my students, not in detail, more in passing. We’ve been discussing the rules of the kitchen garden (reminding really after the long Christmas break) and one of the major issues centres around why we encourage insects into the garden rather than stepping on them. Yes, I’m looking at you, year 2 student who-shall-not-be-named.

So I thought I was up for a beautiful, gentle bee story full of sweetness and flowers and the great engineering feats rendered through the power of co-operative effort. It didn’t quite go like that.

My bees realise their importance to life on Earth and it has done something unforeseen to their egos. They know we need them, we encourage them, we plant flowers to feed them. And they like it. They are evil, bloodthirsty buzz-happy monsters. Who knew?

To supplement the violence and bloodlust of the story, I thought I’d insert the odd bee-related quote or riddle; some ancient myths and superstitions. I began researching and I’ve become obsessed!

I read about them, I dream about them, my flash fiction is becoming a novel. I escaped into a (fantastic) mystery novel set in the Canadian wilderness which turned out to have bees as part of the central answer to the mystery. I got a notification that someone had repined one of my pics on pinterest – one I pinned months ago & haven’t even looked at since then. It was this one:


They inserted it onto their own board titled ‘Bee Happy’.

I feel torn between happiness that fate seems to be leading me on and fear that bees are stalking me and somehow all that I write will come to be(e).

If my body is found drowned in a puddle of honey, I expect anybody reading this to find the bee/s responsible & take revenge.

Have you ever become obsessed by a story theme? Did it wear off?

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The Classics Club – Challenge for 2014

Recently, a friend of mine joined The Classics Club, and it piqued my interest. I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with the classics – memories of being forced to wade through dry, boring texts at school war with memories of passionate readings of Treasure Island and The Three Musketeers.

Deciding I needed a new challenge for 2014 (and beyond) I’ve decided to join the site and challenge myself to read and review at least fifty classics over the next five years.

The Classics Club is a club created to inspire people to read and blog about classic books. There’s no time limit to join and you’re most welcome, as long as you’re willing to sign up to read and write on your blog about 50+ classic books in at most five years. The perk is that, not only will you have read 50+ incredible (or at the very least thought-provoking) works in five years, you’ll get to do it along with all of these people. Join us! We’re very friendly.

I decided to start off slowly and compile a list of fifty classics that I want to read or re-read. This seemed a daunting number when I began, but as I started researching, reading other’s lists and making notes, it was surprisingly easy to compile the list. In fact, it was tempting to make it longer.

So…my list of fifty classics to read and review before 2019 is upon us (that seems so far away) consists of the following:

  1. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
  2. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
  3. The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie by May Gibbs
  4. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  5. What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge
  6. What Katy Did Next by Susan Coolidge
  7. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
  8. Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson
  9. Belinda by Maria Edgeworth
  10. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
  11. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  12. The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
  13. The Divine Comedy by Dante
  14. The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
  15. The Tempest by William Shakespeare
  16. The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
  17. The Collected Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins
  18. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  19. Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  20. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielwski
  21. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
  22. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
  23. A Child’s History of England by Charles Dickens
  24. The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  25. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  26. The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
  27. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
  28. Murder in the Cathedral by T.S. Eliot
  29. Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
  30. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  31. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  32. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
  33. Island by Aldous Huxley
  34. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  35. The Crucible by Arthur Miller
  36. The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy
  37. 1984 by George Orwell
  38. Animal Farm by George Orwell
  39. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
  40. Collected Stories and Poems by Edgar Allan Poe (every single one!)
  41. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathon Swift
  42. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain
  43. The Art of War by Sun Tzsu
  44. Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne
  45. The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne
  46. The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
  47. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
  48. The Princess Bride by William Goldman
  49. Emily Climbs by LM Montgomery
  50. The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

Some of these will be re-reads and some will be new, but I’m looking forward to all of them.

* This list is now a permanent feature of this blog – see the tab up the top there? That’s where I’ll be linking my reviews as I work through the list.

Did I miss any of your favourites?

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2013 vs 2014

It has certainly been a busy year. It was only around June this year that I got ‘serious’ about writing again. I’ve tinkered around with it on and off, just for myself, since I was a kid, but never dreamed of doing it seriously, then my best mate wrote a novel draft or two, got some things published and joined a writing site. Finally something happened, the planets lined up, and I started writing with the view to sharing my work.

I know how you feel, buddy.

I know how you feel, buddy.

Achievements in 2013:

  • Collaboratively completed the first draft of a YA novel with my mate.
  • Joined Scribophile, had some work critiqued, critiqued the work of others and made some great friends.
  • Started a MG novel.
  • Had 3 small stories published on online websites.
  • Entered one writing competition and won a small prize.
  • Successfully completed PiBoIdMo (30 picture book ideas in 30 days).
  • Failed NaNoWriMo (50,000 words in 30 days).
  • Wrote more than I have in the last ten years.

It’s not a bad start. The challenge is to keep that momentum going in future years.

Goals for 2014:

  • Complete the YA novel to submission stage and begin querying publishers.
  • Continue critiquing and posting work at Scribophile.
  • Get the MG novel to final draft level.
  • Submit at least one story per month. I’d love to aim for one per week but life will be busy next year and I don’t want to set myself up to fail – I may change this half way through 2014 though.
  • Enter as many writing comps as possible – especially those aimed at children’s authors.
  • Complete PiBoIdMo again.
  • Win NaNoWriMo!

I also have the final year of my Master’s to complete as well as working….so even if I don’t reach all of these targets I’ll be happy just to keep writing in some way, shape or form.

Boo to failing NaNo, yay to everything else.

Boo to failing NaNo, yay to everything else.

Wednesday Story Swap

My friend and I have made the commitment to a Wednesday Story Swap – each Wednesday we exchange something we’ve written, or something to do with writing. It could be a completed novel (ha!), a short story, poem or flash fiction. It could be just an idea, an outline or a first paragraph or chapter – anything writing-related is fine.

If you have a friend that writes you may want to set up a similar arrangement. It gives you accountability, keeps you sharp (critiquing other’s work definitely helps with your own writing) and ensures that you’ll write something each week.

I hope everyone else has reached their goals for the year. Have you made a list for 2014?

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Annual Holiday Flash Fiction Contest


Susanna Leonard Hill’s Holiday Writing Contest is in its third year, though this is my first year of participating.

The 3rd Annual Holiday Contest!!!

The Contest:  Write a children’s story about a Holiday Mishap, mix-up, miscommunication, mistake, or potential disaster (a la Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer :)).  Your story may be poetry or prose, silly or serious or sweet, religious or not, based on Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or whatever you celebrate, but is not to exceed 350 words (aren’t I being generous?! 🙂  It can be as short as you like, but no more than 350!)   The field is wide open!  Have fun!

For more information, you can read all about it (& enter yourself!) here:

Here is my entry for the comp, I hope you enjoy it! 🙂

‘Twas the Accident Before Christmas

“There’s been an accident.” Mrs. Claus blushed as red as her dress.

“Is anyone hurt?” Santa’s voice rang with alarm.

“No. Not that kind of accident.”

“Phew. Are the reindeer ready?”

“Yes, all strapped in and good to fly.”

“And the presents? Are the presents packed?”

“Of course they are! The elves loaded the sleigh, no problem there.”

The woolly white caterpillars that were Santa’s eyebrows lowered in thought. “Not the lists.”

“No, love. The lists are fine.” She pointed to the table. “Nice in green and naughty in red, same as every year.”

“Then what….”

Mrs. Claus sighed and held out Santa’s suit. The woolly white caterpillars shot up.


“Pink.” She nodded, biting her lip.


“Yes dear, pink.”

“What… How….”

Mrs. Claus shuffled her feet. “Well, your suit was getting so grubby with chimney soot, plus all those hot chocolate stains and cookie crumbs. I know children mean well, but honestly, water and celery sticks would make less mess.”

Santa flapped his hands. “But the colour?”

“Well, I wanted to get all those stains out. I wanted to send you off clean and shiny. For the children!”

Santa’s foot beat a rhythm on the floor.

“I thought some stain remover would help. Except I got a bit muddled between it and the bleach. I’m sorry, at least the stains are gone.”

Santa took the pink suit from his wife’s hands and pulled it on. There was no time to waste. Buttoning the last button, he looked up.

Mrs. Claus tried to hide a smile behind one plump, dimpled hand.

“It’s not that bad…” she mumbled. “Like candy floss.”

The woolly white caterpillars jerked up and down rapidly. “Well, it will have to do. The jolly man in pink has to fly.”

He leaned down and kissed her cheek, before taking the two lists she held out.

“Can I have that red pencil?” he asked, pointing to the table.

Mrs. Claus frowned and passed it to him. “What do you need that for, dear?”

“Well, I’m afraid your name won’t be going on the nice list this year!”


Although I didn’t win a main prize in this comp I won a prize for We-Loved-It-But-Thought-The Humor-Was-A-Little-Too-Grown-Up 🙂

You wrote a great story – we all really enjoyed it!  You are right about the kid-friendly – that was what stopped us putting you in the finals – but it was still very well-written! 🙂

So that was pretty exciting! Thanks, Susanna, for such a wonderful comp. You’ll definitely see me again next year. 🙂

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10 things I learned from failing NaNoWriMo

I signed up for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) for the first time this year – and managed to fail completely at completing the challenge. However, I’m still happy with what I achieved, though it isn’t anywhere near enough to get me the NaNo tick of approval.

The NaNo target is 50,000 words – 1,667 per day on average. I managed to reach 20,848 words. It’s not where I hoped to be but it’s 20,848 words that weren’t written a month ago so it’s a win in my book. Over all I’m very glad I took the challenge and I’m planning to be there again with bells on next November. Following are ten things that failing NaNo has taught me.

Who am I to give advice, you ask? Nice attitude, buddy. These are things I want to remember for next year, when I vow to complete the Nano Quest!


  1. A regular schedule is essential. Slice out a certain amount of time per day – 20 minutes, an hour, 2 hours, whatever it may be and, ideally, write at the same time each day. This was key for me. It’s when I deviated from this plan that my writing dropped off. For the first two weeks I wrote each morning, while I had my morning pot of tea. This gives the added bonus of getting it out of the way – and anything else you write that day is a bonus.
  2. Accountability is essential. I wish I’d known about the blog widget earlier, so it’s there for everyone to see if I slack off. Well, everyone that reads this blog that is – me and, occasionally, my mum. Hey mum. 🙂 The NaNo graph was good for a week or so then it palled for me, the blog widget is definitely a go-to for me next year.
  3. Tools really helped. A mate who is an old hand at NaNo introduced me to the concept of ‘word wars’; you set a timer (30 minutes for us) and write your heart out. You then compare totals and crow if you write more than your competitor/s. This got me through my original slump at 9,000 words. Thanks to Aaron I broke the 10,000 barrier and got as far as I did. We used this online timer to keep track:
  4. Goals are another essential – even if they’re not the same as the official Nano goals. My goal was to finish a first draft of my MG novel, aiming for around 45,000 words. I didn’t make it, but I got almost halfway.
  5. Breaks are necessary. Get out & see the sun every now & then or you’ll go completely insane.
  6. Staying healthy (& sane) is important. Drink water in between the tea and coffee, eat more than just junk food and stop and stretch every now & then.
  7. Support helps. If I’d been in more regular contact with Aaron, my word sprints partner, from the beginning I think I would have achieved more. Doing it alone is tough!
  8. Motivation helps. Find pictures of settings or characters that motivate you, pin up inspirational quotes and use a funky cup for all that caffeine you quaff.
  9. No excuses or breaks from writing every day. Some people can do this, but I learned I can’t! Once I lost momentum it was game over for me. Next time I’m going to write every day, even if it’s only a page worth.
  10. It’s the journey that matters in the end. Maybe this is just an excuse as I didn’t ‘win’, but I’m not going to beat myself up over that. Real life happens and my aunty died early in this challenge, so I took time to be with friends and family and grieve as that was my priority. Make sure that you don’t neglect life to the point that nothing matters but those 50,000 words – no novel is worth that.

Any other tips you want to share for how to get those words down?

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Publication with Postcard Shorts

The story I submitted, The Red Shoe, was culled from a longer short story which was an exercise in playing around with description – trying to use expressive, lyrical language to describe a rather depressing scene.

If you’re in the mood for a bit of micro fiction, you’ve come to the right place. Postcard Shorts has several hundred diverse and diverting short stories, for you to read, share and enjoy.

The inspiration for this site comes from a challenge made by George Hay, a science fiction magazine editor in the 1970s, to Arthur C. Clarke (and others). The challenge was to write a short story to put on a postcard. One result was Arthur C. Clarke’s story “Quarantine”, which you can read here.


All stories must be around 250 words long – enough to fit comfortably on the back of a postcard.

I know this is only a small publication and a lot of people would probably hardly register it, but these things are what keeps me typing away at my desk night after night. When you have a busy life, work, study and a slight social life, then it really takes some motivation to sit up late and write.

Small accomplishments like this are what does it for me. Start small and aim big, my new motto. Today, a postcard, tomorrow a fantasy trilogy! 🙂

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What is PiBoIdMo you ask? It’s the cool shorthand for Picture Book Idea Month, a fabulous initiative begun by children’s author Tara Lazar.

Tired of novelists having all the fun in November with NaNoWriMo, I created PiBoIdMo as a 30-day challenge for picture book writers.

The challenge is to create 30 picture book ideas in 30 days. You don’t have to write a manuscript (but you can if the mood strikes). You don’t need potential best-seller ideas.

You might think of a clever title. Or a name for a character. Or just a silly thing like “purple polka-dot pony.” The object is to heighten your picture-book-idea-generating senses. Ideas may build upon other ideas and your list of potential stories will grow stronger as the days pass.

Daily blog posts by picture book authors, illustrators, editors and other kidlit professionals will help inspire you. By the end of the month, you’ll have a fat file of ideas to spark new stories.

PiBoIdMo was first held in 2008 by a party of one—me! Then I hosted it on my blog for the first time in 2009. Each year the number of participants has doubled. In 2012 we had over 750 writers following PiBoIdMo.

I’m having a go at this for the first time, as well as trying my hand at NaNoWriMo. So far, this is getting most of my attention.

I flushed out a small, thick, blank notebook from my hoard and have been using a double spread of two pages for each idea. Some days the ideas flow easily, other times I stare at the blank page for what seems like hours. It’s a lot like novel writing really.

Below are a few of my pages so far, just to get the gist of what my approach is all about.

Zebra Horse2 The Red Balloon2 Rainbow Shoes2

If anyone has any wonderful ideas for The Horse that wanted to be a Zebra, feel free to share. At the moment I’m thinking he may somehow paint big stripes on himself before running away to the jungle? Hmmm.

Most of these ideas may not see the light of day but I’m certainly feeling creative & motivated to continue, which makes all the page-staring worth it in the end.

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The perfect writing space.

Question of the day:

writing retreat

I’m so torn when it comes to this question because three settings instantly leap to mind:

  1. A beach hut on an isolated, wind swept peninsula. My desk sits before a giant picture window which looks out across the white sands to the sea.
  2. An isolated mountain cabin, snowed in. There’s a huge fireplace and I sit before it with a small folding table and my laptop with a glass of red wine. When I need a break I stretch out on the bearskin rug and stare into the flames.
  3. A huge, rambling garden that’s attached to a house miles away from civilisation. Okay, it’s isolated too. There’s a back verandah where I can stretch out in the sun, listening to birds call in the trees and watching the lazy flight of bumble bees as they move from flower to flower.

You’ll notice the common theme here is isolation. I’m the type of writer who writes best with total silence; no music, no tv, no conversation. Ideally I have no interruptions whatsoever except for when I get up to boil the kettle or make another cup of tea.

Unfortunately my reality is a bit different. I have a cramped desk in a two bedroom unit. Piles of work and uni papers are stacked haphazardly around the shelves and my pen always seems to dry out just when I need it most. I’m usually able to get in a few solid hours without interruption though and my five dollar chair from the second hand store is immensely comfortable.

Here’s where I write at the moment:

My writing space New tools

It’s a little cramped but I like to tell myself it’s cosy, and one advantage is that everything is within reach. In the meantime I’ll keep dreaming of that beach shack, or that snowy cabin, or that peaceful garden; one day I’ll get there!

Where would be your ideal place to write?

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