Book Week Challenge – A-Z of Characters from Australian Children’s Stories

This post is a few weeks late, I know. The last fortnight I’ve had a run of sick children, my son, then my daughters, then my son again, then me and hubby. I haven’t read a lot over this time, though I do still have a couple of books that I’ve read, but haven’t yet reviewed, that I need to type up and post in the coming weeks, but they all require a little more brain power than I’m capable of giving at the moment.

Instead I thought I’d share with you our book week activity. As a homeschooler, I still try to incorporate all the awesome things the kids loved about school, and Book Week is definitely one of them. After searching out some ideas online, this year we sat down and made a list of all the characters we could think of for each letter of the alphabet. We tried to focus on books by Australian Authors, though you’ll see that a few non-Australian characters have snuck in there as well.

mm-chronicles A – Ash (Mapmaker Chronicles by AL Tait), Ashala Wolf (The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf by Ambelin Kwaymullina), Andy (The Treehouse Series by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton), Alfonso (Cat’s Ahoy by Peter Bentley)

B – Blinky Bill (Blinky Bill by Dorothy Wall), Booger Boy (Captain Underpants by Dav Pilky), Bilbo (The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien)

C – Cuddlepie (Snugglepot and Cuddlepie by May Gibbs), Cleaver (Mapmaker Chronicles by AL Tait)

D – Damon (Obernewtyn Chronicles by Isobelle Carmody)

E – Elspeth (Obernewtyn Chronicles by Isobelle Carmody) and Ellie (Tomorrow When the War Began by John Marsden)

F – Figgy (Figgy in the World by Tamsin Janu), Frodo (Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien)figgy

G – Grandma Poss (Possum Magic by Mem Fox)

H – Hush (Possum Magic by Mem Fox), Harry Potter (Harry Potter by J K Rowling

I – Isabeau (Witches of Eileanan by Kate Forsyth)

J – Jericho (Mapmaker Chronicles by AL Tait), Jill (The Treehouse Series by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton)

K – Koala Lou (Koala Lou by Mem Fox)

L –

M – Mary, Margaret (Who Am I by Anita Heiss), Marly (Meet Marly by Alice Pung)

N – Nana (Figgy in the World by Tamsin Janu), Nell (Sail Away, The Ballad of Skip and Nell by Mem Fox)

O –

P –obernewtyn

Q – Quinn (Mapmaker Chronicles by AL Tait)

R – Rushton (Obernewtyn Chronicles by Isobelle Carmody)

S – Skip (Sail Away, The Ballad of Skip and Nell by Mem Fox), Snugglepot (Snugglepot and Cuddlepie by May Gibbs)

T – Terry (The Treehouse Series by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton)

U –

V – Very Hungry Caterpillar (The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle)

marlys-businessW – Wilfred Gordon Macdonald Partridge (Wilfred Gordon Macdonald Partridge by Mem Fox)

X –

Y – Yousra (Marly’s Business by Alice Pung)zaza

Z – Zain (Mapmaker’s Chronicles by AL Tait), Zaza (Zaza’s Baby Brother by Lucy Cousins)


Though we tried our best, we couldn’t come up with a character for every letter.

Can you think of any children’s book characters for the letters we missed?

Better Late than Never…

Last week was the first week in a very long time I did not have a post scheduled and ready to go on Sunday morning. When I’m really organised, I write several posts at once, and schedule them for the coming weeks. When I’m not so organised – as has been the case over the last couple of weeks – I write them Thursday night.

cooking by candlelight
‘Cooking by Candlelight’ taken by my 10 year old.


That was my plan for last week, too. Unfortunately other things got in the way. Thursday morning we woke up with no power. This lasted all day, until around 3 we got a courtesy call from Tas Networks letting us know the power wouldn’t be on that night – they were letting us know so we could find somewhere else to stay if need be. (Which, I must say, is absolutely brilliant service). Thankfully having no power is not really a problem for us – we have a combustion stove – which means hot water as well as cooking and heating, and in our spare time we make and sell beeswax candles, so there was no shortage of lighting either. I was concerned about the chest freezer, but it seems to have been full enough to have survived (I didn’t open it at all while the power was out.)

The ice-cream didn’t make it. That was in the fridge-freezer, and by Friday afternoon had turned into thick shake. Concerned with unnecessary waste (it was almost a full tub) the kids kindly offered to finish it off with the help of some friends who dropped in.

The power was back on late Friday night, and Saturday morning gave me just enough time to do the three loads of washing that had somehow accrued over the two days, and make myself a cuppa at lunch time, before going out again for the rest of the day, coming back on around 6:30. I was feeling very unmotivated, and decided I could whip up a quick blog post Sunday morning, but waking up Sunday morning the power was off, again!

It was probably a good thing, really. Saturday and Sunday were sunny and warm, and I got several hours of weeding done in the garden, helped by my two year old who spent a good deal of time replanting the weeds I’d just pulled, and insisting I examine the worms we found as we turned over the soil… and then there was splashing in the stream that forms whenever we have a lot of rain…

Splashing in puddles

And I had intended to post this during the week, but it’s been one of those weeks, and I still don’t have a new blog post for Sunday (despite having two half-written book reviews, and three-quarters of a post about my nomination for the Leibster Award – thank you Alisdair Daws – 🙂 I’m getting to it!), so this is my blog post for Sunday! Happy Sunday!! 🙂 Hope everyone has a relaxing day! 😀

#AWW2016 Review -‘Meet Marly’ and ‘Marly’s Business’ by Alice Pung

Meet Marly

I’m reviewing something a little different this week.

Meet Marly, and Marly’s Business, by Alice Pung, are middle-grade fiction (actually, I noticed on the publisher’s website they are listed as ‘historical’ fiction – hmm… I realise 1983 was in the past, but ‘historical’? I was around in 1983… makes me feel ancient!)

These two books are the first in a series of four, belonging to the ‘Our Australian Girl’ series from Penguin Random House Australia. They follow the life of 10 year old Marly, a refugee from Vietnam, and the struggles she has in trying to fit in at school, when home life is so different to that of her class mates.
Marly's BusinessMy daughter received the first three of these books for her birthday (the third is ‘Marly and the Goat’ and I see the fourth: Marly walks on the Moon is due out at the end of this month – what perfect timing!), and every night we’ve been reading half a chapter or so each (except last night – last night we were so keen to find out what happened in ‘Marly’s Business’ we read the entire last half of the book!)

It’s been a great way to give my daughter not only an example of another culture, but also discuss the differences between growing up now and growing up 30 years ago.

These books are a great read, and certainly have kept me entertained as we work our way through the series. Highly recommended – especially if you have children around that age you can read them with! 🙂


Draft 6 – Finished… for now


For over two years now I’ve been working on a historical fiction – tentatively titled ‘On Demon’s Shores’ (It’s a play on words for ‘Van Diemen’s Land’).

A couple of months ago I opened it up again, after putting it aside for 3-4 months, and began to read through the drivel… and there was plenty! I took out approximately 1/3 of the scenes, leaving just over 40,000 words at the end of May. That’s when I started rewriting. I have a wedding to go to next weekend, out of town, and so I set that as my due date. I want this novel to be at least 80,000 words, and so that was my word goal. Homeschooling 2 children means no time for writing during the day, so I did it at night. For the last 3 weeks I’ve been up late getting these words down. I tried not to stay up past midnight (it’s not really conducive with an 11 month old who wakes during the night, or those aforementioned homeschooled children), but there were the odd couple of nights I crawled into bed at 1am or just after.

I’ve made it to 80k, just ahead of schedule, though I still there are several scenes to write to complete the story, so I’m not quite done.

I’m feeling good about this draft. It aligns with what’s in my head much better than any of the previous five. It feels better. There’s some good writing in there, much less drivel. 😉

I’m looking forward to getting it all tidied up, and sent out to my early-readers for some feedback! 🙂

6 Sentence Sunday – A Sustainable Dream

I am so excited to announce that one of my favourite stories has been accepted for publication at narratorAustralia. It will be available on their website ( on 19th May 2013 (next Sunday!) narratorAustralia publishes writing and poetry by authors residing in Australia – everyday there is something new to check out!

A Sustainable Dream was written for a competition: Todorov’s Equilibrium. Tzvetan Todorov is a philospher who argues that all stories follow a structure – the story starts with the characters in a place of calm and equilibrium. This happy lifestyle is turned upside down by an event, and the characters then have to fight their way back to a place of equilibrium again, though slightly different to the first.

Without any further babbling – here are the first 6 sentences of ‘A Sustainable Dream’.

Kayla took her coffee to the veranda and sat back in the old rocking chair, looking out as she did to survey the landscape. The scene before her was one she had imagined so often: lush gardens; trees laden with fruit; vines, canes and bushes overloaded with berries; a forest of colour as vegetables grew to abundance. Tiny blue wrens and robins with their bright red breast flew from tree to tree; wattle birds fed on the cyclamen and higher above a flock of black cockatoos screeched their way across the sky. Beyond towered the mountains, their colour ever changing with the seasons and the light.

The beauty of it all still caught Kayla, the realisation of a life’s dream. She had worked so hard to have her own slice of heaven; juggling two jobs while James was raised by his teachers during the day and her parents most other times.


To read more: check out narratorAustralia next Sunday!


Writing from the Vacuum

Recently my father-in-law asked me about my writing. Specifically, how I write about things that I don’t know about. He said ‘obviously you don’t write from a vacuum, it has to come from somewhere’.

And I agreed. I talked about research, and how I could do a little research, and get an idea about something, but that someone who knew better would see the problems in my writing, would know I didn’t really know what I was writing about. (Unless of course I’d done heaps of research and then hopefully I would be able to express myself properly, in a way that would show that I did know my topic as best as I was able, without experiencing it myself).

But then I came away and thought about it. And I think, really, that my best writing comes when I am writing from a vacuum. Though I tend not to think of it in quite those terms.

For me, it’s being in the zone, totally focused, unaware of my surroundings, even the keyboard I”m typing on. Everything is the story. When I have those moments, I can easily write 2500 words in half an hour. Easily. Getting into that zone can be hard work though. Trying to get my children to pester my partner for drinks/snacks/general conversation while I’m writing can be extremely difficult. The other day my dearest daughter took my writing time as a personal offence and kept interrupting me to bring me artwork and cards with “I love you Mum”, and a paper bracelet she’d made just for me, just in case I was angry at her for something. It was so precious and I told her so, and of course reassured her that I loved her too, and was not angry at her, but I really just needed the time to write.

After an hour I had only written about 500 words. The next half hour wasn’t much better, but after forcing myself through the painful process of forcefully extracting words from my head, something clicked and suddenly I was there. In the next half hour I had written well over 1000 words.

I have seen research about this ‘zone’. A TED talk I do believe, and possibly a post on the Office of Letter’s and Light blog (actually I think the link to the TED talk was in the blog… ) If anyone knows what I’m talking about, I’d love the link again, because I cannot find it anywhere!

Anyway, the general gist of the talk was that creative people use a different part of their brain when creating, and when they are in the zone, other parts of their brain do shut down, and amazing things happen.

For me, the story writes itself. The characters do things I had never expected, they reveal aspects of themselves that were never in my outlines and planning. The story veers off track and reveals new exciting paths, paths that usually much better than the one I had planned to follow.

Are you creative in any way? Have you experienced this ‘zone’? Have any thoughts about it?

Feel free to share your thoughts! And don’t forget, I have two more copies of The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton to give away this month, all you have to do to get your name in the draw is comment on any post! :D (For more info check out this post)

Nanowrimo Young Writer’s Program, and Homeschooling…

My son’s picture of his character, and the castle he lives in.


I want to start by saying that I am not a homeschooler. I have certainly thought about it in the past, and it’s something I wouldn’t mind trying at some point in the future, but for now my son goes to a great school, (and my daughter is VERY excited to be starting next year!) and lets face it, I get more writing done without them at home 😉

But doing the YWP with my son had shown me how useful it could be, on so many levels for homeschoolers. Maths, as we work out the overall word count, and how many words need to be written each day. More maths, as DS counts his words-so-far each day, and works out how many more he has to write. There’s spelling as he tries to write new words, and synonyms as we discuss using different words to mean the same thing. Come December there’ll be grammer too, when we go over his story for a proper edit. There’s art and drawing, as he draws pictures of his characters and their home (see above picture). 🙂

We could start in October – using the YWP Workbooks that are downloadable from the site. These guide YWP participants in what makes a novel, and how to develop and plot out their own.  We could start the month by reading a novel, noting the characters, the points of conflict, and resolve, then work on his own book, the planning for that. It could involve research of another topic, which in turn leads to more literacy and numeracy as he encounters new words.

On the other hand, trying to keep my son focused for more than 20 mins is proving difficult, and I wonder how I would deal with that on a daily basis.

DS will be away over the weekend, so he wrote 157 words today, in various stints and with various incentives (the one that worked – money – he wants to take his pocket money with him on the weekend, and I said he had to reach 150 words!)

Total word count DS: 507,

Me: 16,395

Are there any other homeschoolers reading this, who are doing the YWP with your children? I’d love to hear from you!

And don’t forget, I have three more copies of The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton to give away this month, all you have to do to get your name in the draw is comment on any post! :D (For more info check out this post)