Mar 27

Books Writers Read with Katrina Germein

Author Interview
Author: Katrina Germein

Katrina GermeinI am very pleased to welcome Katrina Germein to Reading Upside Down. I have loved Katrina’s books since first discovering Big Rain Coming several years ago.

What book(s) are you currently reading?
I’m reading Tales From The Half Continent by D.M. Cornish. It’s a companion book of stories to the Monster Blood Tattoo series. I love the Monster Blood books. Usually I read realistic fiction, adult and young adult, and I don’t tend to seek out fantasy so I was surprised when I enjoyed Book One: Foundling. The series is just so beautifully written. I savoured all three books.

I also have a pile of picture books beside me because, I always do. Paul Meets Bernadette by Rosy Lamb is the most recent addition. It’s a superb book.

Do you have a favourite genre? What do you enjoy most about it?
Picture books speak to my heart. I’m a hopeless collector and gushy reviewer but beyond picture books I tend to read literary fiction, chick lit, historical fiction and a little bit of science fiction and fantasy. I like short stories as well as novels and enjoy poetry sometimes too. Occasionally I read memoir and biography. I don’t read much non-fiction. Maybe I don’t have an absolute favourite genre but I can say that I don’t really read crime, mystery, murder, erotica or romance.

Do you have a book you like to re-read? If yes, which book?
Not really. I know lots of people who re-read favourite books and sometimes I feel like I’m missing out but the experience of reading a great book can be quite intense and I’m never really sure if I want to go through it again. Also, there are always so many new books that I want to read. But maybe I should try it one day.

Where do you read most often? Why?
Wherever. In bed. On the lounge. In the sun. In the bath. On a plane. In the park.

Do you have a favourite book from your childhood?
No. I can’t choose a single favourite. I’m lucky to have parents who kept my childhood picture books. I have shelves of favourites.

How do you choose which book to read next – Cover? Blurb? Recommendation from a friend? Reviews?
Sometimes it’s a recommendation from a friend but most often it’s me quietly reading the blurb. The word war puts me off, as does Great Depression, winter and divorce, not that those themes don’t infiltrate my reading anyway.

You can put one book you have written and one book by another author into a time capsule that will be opened in 100 years. Which books would you choose and why?
For my own title I’d choose Big Rain Coming. It’s my first books so it feels extra special. People seem to like it. I’d also choose The Secret River by Kate Grenville. Because it’s amazing.

Can you share little bit about your current or latest writing project?
I’m not sure what my current writing project is, really. I’m kind of dabbling between a few picture book manuscripts. One is about an unlikely hero. (It’s been done before, I know. But I think the world is crammed with quiet, gentle heroes so I’m writing about another one.) And maybe something about a frog. (Also been done before but I never tire of frogs.)

Much of my time at the moment is taken promoting my latest book, Thunderstorm Dancing. I’m very proud of this one. Judy Watson’s illustrations are outstanding and I feel like together we’ve created something good. I hope others think so too. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.

Thunderstorm Dancing

Katrina Germein is an Australian author of numerous picture books including Big Rain Coming, Little Dog, My Dad Thinks He’s Funny (review), and My Mum Says The Strangest Things. Her latest book is Thunderstorm Dancing, illustrated by Judy Watson and published by Allen & Unwin. You can find out more about Katrina and her books by visiting her website and Facebook page. You can also find her on Twitter (@KatrinaGermein) and Instagram (KatrinaGermein).

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Mar 23

Don’t Think About Purple Elephants Book Launch

Sometimes Sophie worried.

So begins my picture book Don’t Think About Purple Elephants, but I could have just as easily say ‘sometimes Susan worried’. Take Saturday morning for example, when I woke to cloudy skies and stomach full of butterflies.

The launch of my debut picture book was held as part of the Newcastle Writers Festival Family Fun Day on Saturday. Gwynneth Jones, the illustrator, and I sent our Purple Elephants out into the world surrounded by friends, family, colleagues and the Newcastle community in an event that was so wonderful that I’m still feeling a little overwhelmed by it all. Like Sophie, my worries were unnecessary and I can confidently assure you that trying to not think about purple elephants was just as impossible for me as it was for Sophie in the story. There were purple elephants EVERYWHERE!

Gwynneth Jones and Susan Whelan

I’ll share more about the book in the weeks to come, but for now I want to share some of the wonderful snapshots of the Don’t Think About Purple Elephants launch. If you can get to the end of this post without thinking about purple elephants, then you deserve a gold star.

Visitors to the Newcastle Writers Festival Family Fun Day were welcomed by a very friendly group of purple elephants.

Purple Elephants

Next, everyone followed the purple elephant footprints to the Lovatt Gallery,

purple elephant footprints

where they found…

purple elephant cupcakes and biscuits

purple elephant cupcakes and biscuits

…delicious purple elephant cupcakes and biscuits (huge thanks to Julie Swane for the amazing cake decorations and the biscuits!)

Then it was time for the launch to begin, with our wonderful literary fairy godmother (and fabulous author) Kaz Delaney officially launching Don’t Think About Purple Elephants.

Kaz Delaney

Kaz Delaney

Next it was time for Gwynne and I to say our thank yous and share a little about the story…

Susan Whelan

Gwynneth Jones

…with time for a quick hug as we handed over the microphone.

Gwynneth Jones and Susan Whelan

I know it doesn’t always work like this, but I feel very blessed that I was able to develop such an amazing friendship with Gwynne as we worked together to create Don’t Think About Purple Elephants. Her wonderful illustrations brought so much to the story.

We then shared Don’t Think About Purple Elephants with the crowd.

Susan Whelan and Gwynneth Jones

Susan Whelan and Gwynneth Jones

After the official launch, we had lots of fun signing books and chatting with people. There were so many friends and family there, as well as people from the local community attending the Family Fun Day, and we were very grateful for the wonderful comments from everyone about the book.Signing Dont Think About Purple Elephants

Before we knew it, it was time for us to take part in our storytime session, reading the book again for children in the City Library.

Susan Whelan

The librarians did a wonderful job of recreating a special illustration from the book, so that children could sit on the ‘grass’ and look up at the clouds, just like Sophie.

Storytime reading area

Of course, these are just brief moments from a day filled with amazing people and lots of excitement. I am grateful to Newcastle City Library and to MacLeans Booksellers who set up amazing displays for our book throughout the library (with Gwynne on hand to tweak the book arrangements as needed).

MacLeans Booksellers book display Dont Think About Purple Elephants display

Dont Think About Purple Elephants book display

It was an amazing day, made possible by the hard work of so many people. Thank you to Carol Edmonds, Julie Swane and your team of librarians who did so much to support us. Thank you to the Newcastle Writers Festival for including us in the program and to MacLean’s Booksellers for being such enthusiastic supports of authors and illustrators in Newcastle and beyond. Thank you to Katrina McKelvey for your help with organisation on the day and your ongoing encouragement. Thank you to the wonderful writers, illustrators, librarians, teachers and others who are involved with the local CBCA and SCBWI groups who have done so much to encourage us along the way. Big hugs and thanks to Kaz Delaney for everything you have done at every stage of this story.

Thank you to our wonderful publisher, Exisle Publishing, who have made this who process such a positive one for Gwynne and myself. We’re very grateful for the opportunity we have been given by Exisle through their imprint EK Books to share our story with the world.

Thank you to our friends and family for your patience, encouragement, excitement and support as we have been on this publication journey. Thanks especially to those friends who travelled to attend the launch and to all those who took photos and generously shared them with us over the weekend.

Thank you to Gwynneth Jones, who made creating this story such an amazing experience. I am in awe of your talent.

And, finally, thank you to my wonderful purple elephants who made Saturday such a fun day. The sight of you all walking into the room together is one of my very special memories from the day.

Purple Elephants

For more information about the book, visit the Don’t Think About Purple Elephants website.

don't think about purple elephants

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Mar 13

Books Writers Read with Tania McCartney

Author Interview
Author: Tania McCartney (Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads)

Tania McCartney2I am very pleased to welcome Tania McCartney to Reading Upside Down. Tania is the founder and creative inspiration behind Kids’ Book Review, a talented author and illustrator, and a wonderful friend.

What book(s) are you currently reading?
The Strays by Emily Bitto. Author/Publisher extraordinaire Louise Park was raving about it on Facebook so I headed straight to a bookshop. I’d been promising myself to read more adult fiction, as much of my life is drenched in tales for kids, and I’m absolutely loving the depth and sophistication of Bitto’s work. Jane Hawking’s Travelling to Infinity (which inspired the movie The Theory of Everything) is next in line.

Testament to the utterly irresistible nature of children’s books, however, I have an 8-Volume Puffin Classics box beside my bed, pilfered from my daughter’s room. It contains such candy-coloured classics as The Secret Garden and Huck Finn, which I’ve never read. Seeing as though my reading window at night is around 40 minutes before the good old head-drop, I’m unsure how long it’s going to take to wade through these!

Do you have a favourite genre? What do you enjoy most about it?
Picture Books. And I’m not even six. There’s something about them. They quite literally send my heart racing.The brevity of text, often so rich in meaning. The words trapped in the pictures. The colour, the texture, the prettiness. I love it all, most especially the books that surprise and sit firmly outside the square.
I’m also increasingly loving Middle Grade fiction, which combines rich and magical storytelling with more sophisticated language and plots. And as for adult books, historical fiction and biography is my thing. Real life sure can be stranger and [oftentimes] more enchanting than fiction.

Do you have a book you like to re-read? If yes, which book?
I remember reading Danielle Steele’s The Promise about 19 times in my teens. Nowadays I rarely re-read books—but only due to time constraints. One day I’ll re-read lots—and top of the list will be Erica Bauermeister’s The School of Essential Ingredients and At Home by Bill Bryson.

Where do you read most often? Why?
Almost always in bed at night or in the morning during a luxurious lie-in weekend (rare!). I think this is the spot because it’s so comfy! and I’m rarely interrupted. I don’t like being interrupted when I’m lost in a book—it’s like someone coughing at the movies. I also read on planes and on holidays, preferably in a hammock. I’ve even been known to read whilst stopped at the traffic lights (beep! beep!).

Do you have a favourite book from your childhood?
The No Such Thing by Penelope Janic is the first book I can remember adoring as a very young child. Richard Scarry and Golden Books were great loves, too. I simply adored the Saggy Baggy Elephant. Then, of course, there’s Dr Seuss and PD Eastman. Green Eggs and Ham and Are You My Mother? were my all-time favourites.

How do you choose which book to read next – Cover? Blurb? Recommendation from a friend? Reviews?
Almost always it’s by recommendation, whether direct or via the zeitgeist. Like most people, I can be sucked into bestsellers or award-winners; I still have an Award-Winner pile I’m yet to wade through, including Anna Funder’s All That I Am and Michelle de Kretser’s Questions of Travel. I do tend to read favourite authors, too (can’t miss anything by Bill Bryson) but I must say that reviews rarely sway me because they’re so subjective. I’m a reviewer – I understand this!

Even more rarely, I’ll pluck a book from a bookstore shelf and buy it from the blurb and first page. It would have to knock my socks off, though. I’m hesitant because I’m very impatient with books that don’t hold my interest. One of my old bosses – a prolific reader – once told me that life’s too short to waste it on a book that doesn’t engage you. So I like to try to ensure I spend my time and money on a Sure Thing.

You can put one book you have written and one book by another author into a time capsule that will be opened in 100 years. Which books would you choose and why?
Tricky question! I suppose it would have to be my first children’s book, Riley and the Sleeping Dragon, because of what it represents (the beginning of my current authorship journey). It’s what Started it All, despite having written professionally for 25 years before its publication. The second book would be Let the Land Speak by Jackie French—a) because it’s so important and b) I can’t wait to see how right she is.

An Aussie Year by Tania McCartney and Tina Snerling

Can you share little bit about your current or latest writing project?
I’m currently working on a picture book series with Tina Snerling, based on An Aussie Year: Twelve Months in the Life of Australian Kids. It’s very exciting because it’s heading into an overseas market or two. I’m also busily working on some junior fiction, and very, very best of all is the fact that I’m finally plunging headlong into my own illustrated picture books. That’s both daunting and thrilling, but then, I’ve always loved rollercoasters.

My most recent book has just been released – This is Captain Cook (National Library Publishing) with friend Christina Booth as illustrator and collaborator. I’ve wanted to do a book series like this for a very long time – it’s just glorious to finally see it on the shelves. The book sold out of its first print run months before publication, so it’s been a wonderful result so far, and we’ve just signed for book number two! Watch my website to see who we’re covering next …

This is Captain Cook

Tania McCartney is an award-winning Australian author for kids and adults. The founder of Kids’ Book Review and the 52-Week Illustration Challenge, she is an experienced book and magazine editor, publisher, illustrator and speaker. Tania has lived in Paris, London and Beijing, and currently lives in Canberra with her family and a mountain of books. Visit Tania’s website for more information about her books, illustrations and other projects.

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Mar 12

Review: The Wedding Wallah

Review: The Wedding WallahThe Wedding Wallah
Author: Farahad Zama (Website, Facebook, Goodreads)
Series: The Marriage Bureau for Rich People #3
Published by Abacus, 2011
ISBN: 9780349122687
Genres: fiction, general fiction
Pages: 335
Source: Library
Buy from Fishpond
Mr Ali's flourishing marriage bureau seems to have chalked up another success when his ward, Pari, receives a surprise proposal from a rich, handsome aristocrat. But why is the boy's family so keen to get him married to Pari - an orphan, a widow, and now a single mother?Meanwhile Communist insurgents on the warpath in India's rural hinterland, and gays on the march for their rights in the big cities of Bombay and Delhi seem from another world. But soon these threatening forces invade the peaceful lives of Mr and Mrs Ali, their son Rehman and their able assistant Aruna...

I have been a fan of Farahad Zama’s books since reading The Marriage Bureau for Rich People several years ago. I love the combination of unfolding family drama, humour, interesting characters and cultural insights that his Marriage Bureau stories offer.

Set in Vizag in India, The Wedding Wallah once again features Mr Ali and his family who run a matchmaking service for Indian families. The complexity of the negotiations by families when organising a match, including the way the prospective bride and groom influence the process, is quite fascinating and nuanced, although in this novel there were only a few matches discussed as the action focuses more on the lives of the Ali family and friends.

While there are the usual interesting social, family and marriage bureau scenes, the general action focuses on several cultural and political issues which added a more serious layer to the story. The Wedding Wallah focuses particularly on the issues of political turmoil resulting from guerrilla groups fighting against the often corrupt and unjust social hierarchy, but doing so in a way that endangers those they are fighting to protect, and on gay rights and the social impact for those who wish to be open about their sexuality.

While the cultural references are at times a little heavy handed with overt descriptions of foods and social customs from characters, The Wedding Wallah and other books in this series do offer readers some wonderful insights into Indian culture related to foods and meal times, family relationships, social expectations, gender roles, and general social customs.

I enjoy the Marriage Bureau stories as much for the insights into Indian culture that they share as for the interesting story and entertaining characters (Mrs Ali is my favourite). The books really highlight that India is a country of contrasts, with modern and traditional approaches to life existing side by side, with varying degrees of success.

When I read these stories, I am not only interested in the characters, but also in their world and I love viewing that world through their eyes. The differences in age and outlook of the characters ensures that the reader has multiple perspectives to consider.

The Wedding Wallah is the third book in the Marriage Bureau series (following The Marriage Bureau for Rich People (review) and The Many Conditions of Love). A fourth title, Mrs Ali’s Road to Happiness, is also available and I will definitely be looking for a copy to add to my TBR pile.

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Mar 11

Don’t Think About Purple Elephants Book Launch: The Countdown Begins

don't think about purple elephantsIt is only ten more sleeps until the launch of my picture book, Don’t Think About Purple Elephants, so today seems like the perfect day to initiate a launch countdown.

It’s been a rather amazing journey so far – from initial idea to manuscript, surviving the acquisitions meetings, partnering with amazing artist Gwynneth Jones, and finally receiving a contract. That was only the beginning of course. After that there were edits, meetings to discuss layout, illustrations to ooh and aah over, and various checkpoints along the way where we had a chance to stop, assess and make sure we were all on track.

Throughout the process I’ve been supported and encouraged by some amazing people and there is definitely a great big Thank You! post on the way, but at the moment, it’s hard to think beyond the building excitement as we head towards the launch.

Our official release date is 1st April, however we have been given the most amazing opportunity to launch Don’t Think About Purple Elephants at the Newcastle Writers’ Festival Family Fun Day on the 21st March. Gwynne and I are so excited and so humbled by the wonderful efforts of the library staff to organise a really incredible event. I don’t think either of us can quite believe that it’s real.

Book launch - NWF2015

Of course, there is a rather long checklist of things that need to be done in the next nine days that brings us back to the reality of it all. Gwynne has been busy organising images of illustrations and extra sketches for colouring pages and various decorations amongst other things.

My major task has been to find elephant onesies for our wonderful teen volunteers on the day of the launch. This is harder than it sounds. Finding elephant onesies wasn’t a particular drama, but finding PURPLE elephant onesies has proven a little more difficult. As a result, over the next few days I will be endeavouring to transform my collection of seven blue elephant onesies into seven purple elephant onesies with the help of a wonderful friend with a very large pot that I can use to boil the onesies in purple dye.

Purple Elephant onesies on the line

I’m sure people think picture book authors spend all of their time playing with children and daydreaming about cute and whimsical stories. I think that many children’s authors would agree that there is more time spent on tasks like dyeing elephant onesies than most people would expect.

If you are in Newcastle on the 21st March, we would love for you to join us at the launch. You can find details in the image above, or you can visit our Don’t Think About Purple Elephants book launch page on Facebook. The launch is part of the Family Fun Day which runs from 9.30am – 1.30pm, so why not head into town with the kids for a morning of fun with craft, storytime, activities and various other entertainment (and some purple elephants too, of course!).

The Newcastle Writers Festival runs from Friday 20th – Sunday 22nd, so you might also like to check out the program at the Festival website.

I’ll share some more details about the book, including a sneak peek at some of the illustrations, next week. Until then, you can find out more at the Don’t Think About Purple Elephants website.

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Mar 06

Books Writers Read with Melissa Keil

Author Interview
Author: Melissa Keil (Website, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads)

Melissa KeilI am very pleased to welcome Melissa Keil to Reading Upside Down. Melissa’s young adult novels are favourites in our home.

What book(s) are you currently reading?
At the moment I’m in research mode for my new book, so I’m reading mostly non-fiction (dipping into Adam Spencer’s Big Book of Numbers, which is fascinating to my non-maths-brain!) I’ve just purchased a lovely big stack of Australian YA that I’m desperate to get stuck into – Nona and Me by Clare Atkins, Laurinda by Alice Pung, and The Flywheel by Erin Gough among them. And I also recently finished Nicole Hayes new novel, One True Thing, which I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek at, and it was amazing.

Do you have a favourite genre? What do you enjoy most about it?
I read fairly widely, but gravitate mostly towards contemporary realism these days (though I don’t know if that would be considered a ‘genre’). I love small stories about real people, and love writers who can combine depth and warmth with humour. I do still read the odd fantasy or sci fi though.

Do you have a book you like to re-read? If yes, which book?
The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy is on the top of my re-read list – I must have read it a dozen times over the years, and I never get tired of Douglas Adams’ writing or crazy imagination. I think I’ve re-read Jane Eyre multiple times as well (disparate genres, but there you go!)

Where do you read most often? Why?
I always have a book and/or my kindle with me, and I read everywhere – I don’t drive a car so spend quite a bit of time on trains and trams, which is great for catching up on books. I also love curling up in bed with a book (but who doesn’t?)

Do you have a favourite book from your childhood?
I was quite obsessed with all things Enid Blyton, and as I got a little older, L.M Montgomery and Louisa May Alcott. I was also quite obsessed with the Obernewtyn series when I was 13 or 14.

How do you choose which book to read next – Cover? Blurb? Recommendation from a friend? Reviews?
All of the above. Book recommendations come from everywhere – industry newsletters and journals, friend and colleague recommendations, Goodreads, chatting to booksellers, and those random discoveries stumbled upon when browsing in bookstores. I freely admit that I occasionally do buy books based solely on the covers!

You can put one book you have written and one book by another author into a time capsule that will be opened in 100 years. Which books would you choose and why?
Tricky question! If it’s one written by me, it would have to be my first YA book, Life in Outer Space, simply because it’s my first published novel and so will always hold a special place in my heart.Choosing only one book by one other author seems like an impossible ask! Is the purpose of a time capsule to preserve an artefact that says something about the era it was buried, or the person who buried it? Can I just say The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy again? I would like my great great (great?) grandchildren to be able to read it in paperback form, and not have it beamed directly into their brains or whatever they will be doing with books in the future.

Can you share little bit about your current or latest writing project?
My second YA novel, The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl, was released late last year. It’s an apocalyptic-themed romantic comedy, in which I was able to indulge my love of comic books and small-town stories. I’m working on my third novel now, but it’s still very early days (it always feels like bad luck to talk about books that are still bubbling in my brain!)

Life in Outer Space

Melissa Keil is an Australian author of young adult fiction. Published by Hardie Grant Egmont in 2013, her first novel, Life in Outer Space, was the inaugural Ampersand Project winner and has been shortlisted for numerous awards. Her second novel, The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl, was published by HGE in 2014. You can find out more about Melissa and her books by visiting her website and Facebook page. You can also find her on Twitter (@MissMisch77) and Instagram (MissMisch77).

the incredible adventures of cinnamon girl


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Mar 02

University Regrets and Insecurities

I wish I had a university degree. There. I’ve said it out loud. I don’t have one and it makes me feel… well, bad and embarrassed and less somehow, like I’ve wasted an opportunity or failed or that I’m somehow lacking in the mental discipline to apply myself to the task of furthering my education.

I have tried to complete tertiary studies. I completed a few subjects post-HSC, but had to eventually choose between university and being able to earn enough money to eat and pay rent. I tried later to return to studies via correspondence, but family commitments, finances and various other issues got in the way.

I know many people who managed to get through uni post-school on a shoestring budget with a diet of 2-minute noodles and all-you-can-eat pizza nights at Pizza Hut. I know single mums and stay-at-home mums and working mums who have completed degrees, so the whole ‘no time, it’s too hard’ thing really does feel like an excuse, not a reason.

Most of the time it doesn’t bother me too much. It’s a quiet, niggling regret at the back of my mind. I’m happy for friends who are studying and I’m excited for my 15-year-old son who has been able to start an advanced placement subject this semester that will count towards his eventual degree. I don’t envy others their academic success. I’m lucky that I don’t need to be ‘qualified’ to be an author or to do many of the writing jobs that I love so much. I can achieve in my chosen career without a degree on the wall and letters after my name.

I think my regret is stirred-up most acutely when I read about post-graduate studies that touch on the areas that interest me, particularly anything related to literature for children or teens. A brief thought of ‘oh, I’d love to study that’ is generally followed by ‘if only I had a degree’.

I know that I can study anything I want without university. There are plenty of places I can gather resources both online and offline. I can pick a topic and explore it for as long as I want to, without the issue of examinations, HECS (or whatever it’s called now), having to attend lectures or tutorials, or justifying my area of interest to a lecturer or senior academic.

The complete freedom to study whatever I want for as long as I want has its own challenges of course. If I can study anything, where do I start? Without some sort of boundaries or framework, it all just becomes too much, too vast, too directionless.

Self-directed study also lacks one of the things I most crave about completing university studies – the interaction with others who are interested in the same things. I don’t just want to study a particular subject, I want to bounce ideas of others who are interested in that same topic but who perhaps view it from a different perspective; who can help me refine my ideas and explore a topic more deeply than I would alone. I want to debate and discuss and share ideas.

For those trying to fit study, family, work and all those trivial little annoyances like eating and sleeping into their weekly routine, yes, I am aware that what I’ve described above is closer to some utopian academic ideal than it is to real life. Very few people have the time, energy or inclination to indulge themselves so completely in their studies.

Yet I can’t help but wish that I could wind back the clock a little (well, okay, a lot) and take better advantage of the opportunities I have had in the past to study. To not be so easily discouraged or persuaded that there just wasn’t any point in trying to return to university. I wish that my careers advisor at school had focused on what I loved (books, reading, writing, analysing) instead of looking at my academic results and suggesting that I pursue studies in law and medicine. That someone, somewhere had encouraged me to pursue my academic interests and passions. I wish I had understood myself well enough to have known that’s what I should do.

With the cost of supporting three children with their own tertiary study plans on the not too distant horizon and a small but persistent HECS debt from previously unsuccessful attempts to study myself, my dreams of university qualifications seem out of reach unless someone knows about a scholarship for people who took too long to work out what they want to be when they grow up.

It seems self-indulgent to want to pursue studies at this point simply to satisfy my own desire to Know All The Things and, if I’m perfectly honest, to still that small voice that sometimes whispers that I’m simply not qualified to share my opinions or to even have an opinion in the first place. I know that’s silly, but insecurities often are.

For now, despite quietly wishing that I’d chosen a different path to get to this point, I’m about to embark on the adventure of having my first book published and I’m looking forward to whatever literary adventures might be around the corner. Who knows, that might even include a return to studies in the future, or maybe not. I guess time will tell.

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Feb 27

Books Writers Read with Kate Gordon

Author interview
Author: Kate Gordon (Website, Blog, Twitter, Goodreads)

Kate GordonI am very pleased to welcome Kate Gordon to Reading Upside Down. I started chatting with Kate on Facebook and Twitter after reading her amazing YA novel, Writing Clementine.

What book(s) are you currently reading?
I’ve just tonight finished the astonishing A Small Madness, by Dianne Touchell. It’s a book that will stay with me for a long time. Bleak, confronting, and a truly accomplished work of literature. If it doesn’t win all of the awards, I’d be very disappointed. I’m about to start the first in the Pandora Jones series, by Barry Jonsberg. I’ve been meaning to read these for ages – I’m a huge fan of Jonsberg – and am glad I’m finally getting around to it. Exciting!

Do you have a favourite genre? What do you enjoy most about it?
Nope! Not at all. I’ll read anything. I guess I’m predisposed to children’s and YA literature, but I read quite a lot of general fiction, too (though I steer clear of the super-literary end of the spectrum – not clever enough for that stuff), and I’m a bit addicted to memoirs and autobiography.

Do you have a book you like to re-read? If yes, which book?
I read Tess of the d’Urbervilles at least once a year. It’s my favourite ever (the fact that my daughter is called Tessa attests to that). Despite generally being attracted to more upbeat fiction, there’s something about Tess’ spiral into blackness that grips me every time. I have to restrain myself from shouting, “Don’t do it!!!” at the page every time I read it. I also often reread The Catcher in the Rye. It was my first ever proper YA. It squeezes my heart every time I read it. And, if I’m after some proper comforting, I’ll reread Queen Kat, Carmel and St Jude Get a Life – my favourite when I was a teen. It is one of the greatest accomplishments of my life to have a testimonial on the cover of the latest reprint. It’s a beautiful book.

Where do you read most often? Why?
I read most often in a dark room, listening to my daughter breathe. I steal little gobbled treats of words while she naps. There’s something delicious about sneaky reading in the darkness. Reminds me of being a kid, reading under the covers by torchlight!

Do you have a favourite book from your childhood?
As a very small child, I loved books by Babette Cole and Graeme Base – I pored over The Eleventh Hour so many times I think I could reproduce it from memory – if I could draw! Robin Klein was my big obsession as I got a bit older, and a tremendous series by Jill Murphy called The Worst Witch. I so identified with the hapless Mildred Hubble. And I loved Seven Little Australians. It’s another book I reread often. I also had a secret obsession with The Babysitter’s Club. Ssh. Don’t tell anyone! Oh, and then there began my passion for Tamora Pierce. And the Nick Earls phase began … Sorry, too hard to answer that one. I think it’s why I’m stuck in writing and reading books for young people. There’s just too much good stuff there.

How do you choose which book to read next – Cover? Blurb? Recommendation from a friend? Reviews?
Oh, golly. All of the above. If I’m in a physical bookshop, a cover might grab my attention, and a blurb will lead me to buy. Quite often, nowadays, though, I get my recommendations from social media. The books people are raving about on Facebook, or the ones publishers are talking up on Twitter are the ones I’ll often scout for. Also, I am “friends” with so many authors on Facebook, it’s often a job just keeping up with their publications! This year, I’m trying to read a bunch of YA from all over Australia, so that will keep me busy for a while!

You can put one book you have written and one book by another author into a time capsule that will be opened in 100 years. Which books would you choose and why?
Writing Clementine is the book I am most proud of, and the one I’d most love to share with people in the future. As for a book by another author? Probably something by Shaun Tan – The Lost Thing or The Rules of Summer are books I think should definitely be read for hundreds or thousands of years.

Can you share little bit about your current or latest writing project?
I’m fiddling with a few things at the moment, as usual. I’m editing a YA project called Tiger, about a young girl dealing with a tragedy in her life, set on the backdrop of my hometown, the supermarket where I used to work, and the rural football community. I love it and I can’t wait for it to be read. I’m also working on a couple of middle grade projects as it’s an area I really want to explore. I’m still practising, but I’m getting better!

Writing clementine

Kate Gordon is an Australian author of young adult fiction. Her novels include Three Things about Daisy Blue, Thyla and its sequel Vulpi, and Writing Clementine. You can find out more about Kate at her website, which includes a wonderful blog where she shares her thoughts. You can also connect with Kate on Twitter (@misscackle).

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Feb 23

Finding Focus

I wrote several years ago about my suburban mum camouflage wardrobe in its many shades of brown, tan, beige, khaki and black. I’ve recently noticed that I’ve started drifting back to old habits, not only with my clothing, but in my life in general – bland, lacking in direction and simply drifting along without any real sense of purpose.

Not that I haven’t been busy and active. I’m still involved as Managing Editor of Kids’ Book Review, a volunteer role that I love and am very proud of, and I’ve managed to reactivate this blog with semi-regular posts including the Books Writers Read interviews, which I’m really enjoying. My first picture book, Don’t Think About Purple Elephants, will be published in April this year with the launch at the Newcastle Writers’ Festival in March and I have a few other story ideas in various stages of completion. I’m involved with the CBCA and SCBWI, meet regularly with other local authors and illustrators, and talk about books and reading with anyone who makes the mistake of showing even the vaguest interest in the topic.

On the surface, it would seem that I’m actually quite focused and motivated, but I know that I’m still trying to do All The Things, which sounds great, but in reality leads to chronic procrastination, indecisiveness and a feeling of being overwhelmed and ineffectual.

I was trying to write a blog post about all the gentle (and no so gentle) messages about finding focus I’ve had over the past couple of weeks when the following image popped up on Facebook, that ultimate haven for procrastinators. Thank you, The Writer’s Circle, for this visual prompt.

She Wrote What She Wanted


It’s time to write what I want to write; to stop over-thinking everything and simply get the words down on the page. It’s time to prioritise writing the stories that I have scribbled notes for. It’s time to write blog posts about issues that matter to me. It’s time to stop trying to work out what point there is in researching the topics of diversity in children’s literature and STEM themes in books for children and simply research them. The destination will work itself out if I simply start along that path.

This week will be a planning week. It’s time to get some details down on paper – goals, timelines, routines. Working from home is wonderful, but it’s also fraught with the danger of losing all sense of structure and motivation. It’s so easy to get distracted and lose focus.

It seems appropriate to conclude by thanking the people who directly and indirectly have inspired this post:

Thank you to my lovely friends Anj (from Your Literary Coach) and Kerri for your encouraging words during the past week which have helped me to come to this point.

Thank you Kate Gordon for writing with such clarity and passion and inspiring me to do the same.

Thank you Carol Duncan for being generally awesome and for your passion for building community and valuing individuals. You are a champion of the people and a true inspiration.

Thank you Reena from The Mummy Project for listening to my rambling about diversity and helping me to connect to the reality of how important this topic is.

Thank you Steven Herrick for taking the time out to tell me what I already knew was true and for being steadfast in your message that the work of writers and other creatives should be valued.

Thank you to the commissioning editor who read my rambling junior fiction series concept and very kindly pointed out the lack of focus and direction. You are right and I’m hoping my attempts to refocus in other areas will help me find the sense of purpose for the character of Isabelle as well.

Thank you to the wonderful staff at the Australian Council of the Arts who offered advice and answered my questions about the new grants process. I’m very grateful for your time and will hopefully put together a much more cohesive grant application in time for the next application deadline.

Thank you to the Facebook algorithms and serendipitous timing of Twitter that put so many links to articles about diversity in children’s literature in my newsfeed over the past week.

And thank you to my lovely friend Tania McCartney for sharing your own journey towards finding focus. I can’t wait to see what 2015 has in store for us both.

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Feb 20

Books Writers Read with Belinda Landsberry

Author Interview
Author: Belinda Landsberry (Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads)

Belinda LandsberryI am very pleased to welcome Belinda Landsberry to Reading Upside Down. I first met Belinda through her success with the Kids’ Book Review Unpublished Picture Book Manuscript Award and am delighted to now be interviewing her as a published author.

What book(s) are you currently reading?
I can never read just one book at a time so at the moment I’m reading The Water Diviner by Andrew Anastasios and Meaghan Wilson-Anastasios and The Pixar Touch by David A. Price

Do you have a favourite genre? What do you enjoy most about it?
I have a couple of favourite genres – children’s fiction (including picture books), YA, fantasy, biographies and historical fiction probably take up most of my bookshelf space.

Do you have a book you like to re-read? If yes, which book?
I have a few! I love re-reading The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch and Noisy Nora by Rosemary Wells. I also re-read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, The Shape of Three by Lilith Norman, A Lamp is Heavy by Sheila Mackay-Russell, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Lord of the Flies by William Golding and The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien.

Where do you read most often? Why?
I actually read most often in the car while I’m waiting at traffic lights or for my daughter to finish art class after school. I know I probably shouldn’t read at traffic lights but reading not only makes the jolly things turn green that much faster – but it also makes the trip considerably more pleasant.

Do you have a favourite book from your childhood?
Cherry Ames Student Nurse. As a child, I wanted to be a nurse more than anything else in the world so I devoured every “nurse romance/adventure” book I could find. I can still recite the opening paragraph which I learned by heart by age 7.

How do you choose which book to read next – Cover? Blurb? Recommendation from a friend? Reviews?
All of the above. I actually DO judge a book by its cover – literally –but probably my biggest influence is by recommendation. I think “word of mouth” is invaluable.

You can put one book you have written and one book by another author into a time capsule that will be opened in 100 years. Which books would you choose and why?
Without a doubt I would put my first published book Anzac Ted in there. Not just for sentimental reasons but because in 100 years it will be the bicentenary of the landing at Gallipoli – and that’s pretty special. I would also put Lord of the Flies by William Golding in there, quite simply because it’s timeless.

Can you share little bit about your current or latest writing project?
I have a few right now. I’m just polishing the sequel to Anzac Ted as well as just starting another war-themed chapter book for older readers. I have a YA I’m still plotting and planning and I’m currently illustrating a number of picture book manuscripts which I have piled on my desk.

No rest for the wicked!


anzac ted


Belinda Landsberry is an Australian author and illustrator of books for children and teens. Her first picture book, Anzac Ted, is wonderful way to share the story of our First World War veterans with young children. Visit the Anzac Ted website for more information. You can visit Belinda’s website and Facebook page for more information about her writing and illustrations and you can also chat with Belinda on Twitter (@bjlandsberry).

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