A beautiful Sunday morning - and several excited SCBWI members getting together for a Sketch and Scribble event on Cockatoo Island. Led by author Yvette Poshoglian, it was a fascinating combination of dark history and stunning scenery. Yvette spent three years researching the island's history, resulting in her novel Escape from Cockatoo Island . Published by Scholastic, it tells the story of eleven year old Olivia Markham, who is sent to the Biloela Girls Industrial School and Reformatory on Cockatoo Island in the middle of Sydney Harbour in 1878.
Here's an excerpt from one of my scribble stops. This was triggered from learning that girls were made to eat with their hands, and of course longed for freedom from dark working conditions and darker encounters with the older men building ships alongside their school...
Mercy eats like an animal.
Lukewarm, porridge spills from the corner of her mouth. 'Tomorrow we go home?' she says.
I reply as always. 'Yes, tomorrow we'll go home.'
The smell from the cookhouse turns my stomach. Everything turns my stomach these days, ever since...
I won't think of it. Not now. Not yet.
'Lizzie do ye' want the rest of your food?'
One blue eye sparkles with hope. The other flickers violently inward, seeing what only Mercy can know. I push my bowl, the metal meeting hers with a clang.
'You have it Mercy. A five year old needs all her strength. You'll grow up big and strong, you'll see.'
'Big and strong,' she repeats, before dipping her dripping fingers into her second helping. 'Tomorrow we go home?'
'Yes, Mercy tomorrow we go home.'
It is Sunday, a precious Sunday where God has heard my prayer and opened the gates for twenty whole minutes. The other girls shelter in the shade of a fig tree, its roots snaking out, one thick flowing embrace.
I find the sun as Captain Walker has instructed me, to soak up goodness against the damage of darkness. Mercy watches white caps riding on the harbour waters.
Captain Walker teaches me many things. He says it must be our secret.
'You are no ordinary girl, Lizzie,' he says. He instructs me to read letters one more time.
A B C
His calloused fingers drum impatiently on the desk.
D E F... He caresses my cheek.
These letters are my imprisonment.
Mercy laughs. 'Our boat there, Lizzy?' The wind lifts her grimy hair.
The stone beneath my fingers is cold despite the sun.
'Someday Mercy. Our boat will come.'
These letters will be our escape.
Crossing the river seems like the most likely ending here, but no. Happily in situ on one side of the stunning Hawkesbury river, I took a holiday time out to join the Creative Kids Tales zoom workshop with Australia's favourite, Jackie French. As a history lover and eternal workshopper this was just the thing to inspire, with thought-provoking content about bias, sources, censorship, creating fantasy history and of course the sounds, smells and all the fun stuff that colours in the characters world. The only problem I have now is deciphering my notes I was scribbling that hard!
Early this year, a commitee formed here on the Central Coast NSW, to create the inaugural Words on the Waves Writers Festival. In 2021 we bring you a feast of authors and illustrators for both children and adults. We will be holding fundraising events in advance of the main event in June.
Join our Facebook page to stay posted on events.
A lovely afternoon sketching and scribbling at the Gosford art gallery with @coastwrite.It was lovely weather for ducks but we were all very taken with some other birds!
The Creative Kids Tales Anthology will soon be hitting the shelves of Central Coast Libraries! Last week I presented a copy to my local library. Once catalogued, you will be able to borrow it from any of the council library venues. Compiled by Georgie Donaghey, this is a collection your kids are sure to love.
Our first meeting for 2020 @coastwrite coffee and chats. Things are brewing up here on the Central Coast!
I'd never used writing prompts until a year or so ago. I hadn't needed them. I had a million zillion ideas already. But then a chance encounter with a wooden box full of story prompts produced a short piece I never thought I had it in me to write, a comedic monologue about a girl getting her own way. Since then, I've dipped in occasionally, taking prompts from website generators or being inspired by something I've seen. Today at writing group, I drew a hilarious prompt - My brother does this weird thing with turtles. Well, that could have gone anywhere, but here's where I went in the twenty minutes we had. This is the unedited first splurge that came out.
Seth is different. Not the type of different that prompts people to take a second look, or the type of different that makes you want to be part of his gang. He’s - a different type of different. You see, my brother does this weird thing with turtles.
‘Seth,’ I call, ‘Are you ready?’
I look at my phone, checking the time again. The beach is empty but I know it won’t be long.
Seth finishes dressing, zipping up his black wet suit. ‘Yes, just need my bag.’
He fishes around in the dark searching for his bag amongst the rocks. The salt hangs thick in the air. I can taste it on my lips.
In the moonlight, I catch a glimpse of movement. It’s not just the ebb and flow of the waves wrestling against the shore.
‘Quick,’ I hiss, ‘they’re almost here.’
Seth retrieves the bag. ‘Okay, got it. Have you got the notebook?’
I check my pocket. ‘Yes.’
‘And the translator?’
I roll my eyes. ‘Yes.’
‘Good. Make sure you document exactly how many there are.’
Of course I will. It’s been twelve months exactly. Twelve months since Seth discovered he could speak to turtles.
Seth gives me an ear piece and a mike. I fit it snugly into my ear and wait while he clips his mike into place.
‘Go over there and test it.’ Seth points to the hollow of a large rock.
I head towards it picking my way over the shells and weed that are crusted onto the rocks.
‘Can you hear me? Testing, testing.’
Seth’s voice rings clearly in my ear. ‘Perfect. Can’t wait for this one, Bee. This is the best night of my life.’
The sentence ends in a squeal. ‘Quick Bee, they’re here. Come back.’
Scrambling, I grab my phone, flicking the camera on, swiping it onto night mode.
Seth is down at the water’s edge. One by one, the turtles emerge, surrounding him. He crouches down and I hear him murmur in the language that I have become accustomed to but can’t understand.
‘Be careful,’ I whisper, my stomach suddenly twisting with nerves.
Seth climbs onto the back of the largest turtle. ‘Bye Bee.’
He raises a hand in salute, then is gone, leaving me alone on the cold beach.
Crazy! I had no idea where I was going, but am quite happy with what came out. Of course there is cleaning up to do, but you can see how a sentence formed into the beginnings of something more.
Why not have a go yourself! Forget about grammar, plot, tense - just write! Google writing prompts, or stab your finger in the dictionary and pick three words that you must include somehow. Either way, you'll have something to shape, which is better than where you were twenty minutes ago.
Leave me a comment with where you think this turtle tale could go!
Hooray, school is back! First things first - an excuse to chat with fellow writers. We were a small group celebrating not one, but two contracts around this table! Managed to squeeze in some editing in the beautiful state library earlier in the day. A lovely evening chatting all things kid-lit and kicking 2020 off to a great start.
So 2019 is over and 2020 is well underway leaving me waiting slightly impatiently for school to go back so I can plan my writing year! Where was I out and about for the last few months?
As well as attending the last Meetup group, a local creative writing group of all genres, our own group Coast Write started by a friend and I, had its last meeting for the year at a beautiful new café/wine bar in our local area.
Since starting the group a year ago we have discovered and connected with some amazing people here on the coast, including proof readers, editors, teacher-librarians, self-publishers, non-fiction writers, memoir writers, illustrators and others who are starting out in various areas, keen to network. If you are on the Central Coast NSW and want to come along, you can join the group via my facebook page here.
On an almost smoke free Sunday I headed to the city for the annual SCBWI Christmas get together at Woollahra library for the second year in a row. It was, yet again, a fun-filled afternoon celebrating the talent of the Australian industry with some moving and informative presentations by Margete Lamond and Oliver Phommavanh, and of course a good chat afterwards and a chance to meet more kid-liters! I think we can safely say Australia is lucky to have children’s literature in such very caring hands.
2019 of course was a highlight for me personally. With two short stories and a poem published in the Creative Kids Tales anthology, it was such a humbling experience to see my words in print. There were multiple launches around the country and the book spread far and wide, even overseas! Thanks to Georgie Donaghey for her incredible work compiling this edition, and to all the people who supported me through this process, and who bought the book! We received some lovely feedback from kids and also moved a couple of people to tears - let's hope they were good ones!
Motivated by the adrenalin of actually being in print, I attended a writing retreat with a group of amazing authors who really know their stuff when it comes to author business. We spent the weekend getting as many words as possible on the page, even when in our pyjamas!
2019 also saw me visiting schools for Books In Homes. Thanks to Julie Ditrich and Peter Large for allowing me the opportunity to interact with the children and see their faces light up as they investigate their book bags. My second assembly at Woodberry Public was a wonderful experience. What a great group of students and teachers. I particularly enjoyed reading one students work, a long piece he had been working on with great enjoyment and was excited to share with me!
In November I had a wonderful evening at the Australian Society of Authors seeing Tom Keneally receive the ASA medal. Benjamin Law gave a wonderful talk about the importance of stories in the margins and of course another great opportunity to meet more inspiring people!
Throughout the journey, Creative Kids Tales has been such a fantastic resource for my writing journey, as has the facebook group the Duck Pond. If you are an aspiring author don't hesitate to click on the links and check out these fantastic groups.
You can also check out my CKT year in review here:
I can't wait to see what 2020 has in store.
With courses delivered in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane, the Australian Writers’ Centre offers over fifty courses to suit anyone with the writing bug. With the Creative Kids Tales festival theme of INVEST in mind, I took the plunge and attended a wonderful 'Plotting and Planning' course with renowned novelist Kate Forsyth at the Sydney Writer's Centre. I also completed an online course 'Writing Chapter Books for 6-9 year olds' delivered by children's author Lesley Gibbes. Both courses delivered such high quality content that has improved my skill level. I'm enjoying putting the lessons into action!
"You’ve always had the power my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself."