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Illustrators’ Alert – Nami Island Concours – Nambook Festival

Opportunity for Illustrators internationally - Nami Island Concours

Opportunity for Illustrators internationally – Nami Island Concours

The wonderful people of Nami Island Concours have created another outstanding opportunity for illustrators all over the world! The dream of these folk, who are so passionately devoted to children’s literature, is to¬† turn Nami Island into a library! ūüôā Angela Kim is the¬† Assistant Manager and the person to contact if you wish to know more – her contact details are on the website.

These are the links  РNami Island Concours, Guidelines and information

Application forms

Festival information

You can find the brochure by going here.


Researching the environment of story

By happy accident, I¬†discovered¬†the ¬†way to travel interstate, overseas,¬†inter-culturally¬† and explore the ¬†ambience of remote towns, cities, country lanes and outback outposts. Air tickets – well that’s the ideal, but no, I used Google Earth.

It started with my trying to locate a lovely country home in West Hougham, Kent, England. It was featured in Country Life for September 7th, 2000, and was the

Inspiration for “The Dolls’ House in the Forest”

inspiration for my story “The Dolls’ House in the Forest”. I was fascinated by the quaintness of the architecture compared to anything out here in Oz and the size of the immense, almost regal trees forming a perfect backdrop to the house. I tried to relocate the house by doing a ‘street view’ saunter down English lanes in the vicinity. ¬†I located the area on the map and zeroed in from aerial to ‘here I am virtually walking down this street on the other side of the world the environs of which I just happen to need¬†to¬†explore.’

West Hougham, Kent, country road, travelled via Google Maps street view.

I didn’t find the house, but I had the most wonderfully inspiring time wandering down¬†country¬†lanes that were little more than wagon tracks, great boughs canopying overhead and wildflowers dotted in the fields…

Now, if I need to capture¬†something¬†of the ‘feel’ of an area. I seek out an address.¬† Real estate notices for sale/auction/for rent are a good source, then go explore in Google Earth. ¬† Wander around that area, exploring the architecture, streetscapes, lifestyles evidenced in things as random as ¬†street art, verge¬†gardens, bus stops, signage, graffiti, shop window decor, fences or lack of, litter, strays and the bystanders to my wanderings. Don’t forget YouTube – Example – Dingle, and with Celtic song overlay Dingle

I have also found that  exploring the Realtor advertisements in the area I am exploring gives insight into the lifestyle and inhabitants of the town. Many homes  give a slideshow or even a video tour online.  This helps you pick up on details of lifehome decor, layout, from wall hangings to  cushions, scatter rugs to artwork, the placement of chairs to take in a much loved outlook, the windows and their views out, the garden. Example.

Perhaps this sounds a little bit the voyeur. It is not the intention, far from, it is seeking faithfulness in recreating a ¬†‘feeling’ for place. It is gathering the elements of story , setting the stage, arranging a convincing backdrop to the action!

Lovely example of a virtual tour – 1893 mansion, St Georges Road, Toorak.


Another lovely virtual tour – historic “Douglas”, built in 1881, in Birchgrove, Sydney.

Visualising Story

The tips above, of course, are beneficial to¬†illustrators¬†as well. Not many can afford to jet around the¬†world¬†on location research for images. ¬†Other ways¬†to¬†‘get in the setting’ for free include YouTube clips.¬†This is even a Youtube video clip on West Hougham, Kent. Sadly, it doesn’t feature that house…

Other ways¬†to¬†‘get in the setting’ for free, besides YouTube clips, are Flickr and photographic collections held in State Libraries and on¬†places¬†like Pinterst. Jeff Faria recently sent me ¬†a great link to early circus posters – fascinating. Little did he know I am¬†currently¬†writing a story ¬†which involves Civil War period circuses in the US.

If your story requires an historical setting, you are in luck! Heritage listings in Australia and the UK are excellent.

Below are some very useful research sites¬† for historic buildings in Australia –

Federation style dwellings   lists many excellent buildings, of which Alister Brae, Pymble is an outstanding example.

Additional links are given for some residences, as in the case of “Venice”, Randwick.

The NSW Heritage database also gives excellent information. TIP: Put in the street name and the suburb to narrow your search for a particular building. Just putting in the suburb will bring all heritage listed buildings in that suburb. Putting in the street number and street will draw a blank. Putting in the property name will sometimes bring up additional material otherwise unaccessed, e.g., “Glen Rhoda”, a gothic residence in Woollahra. Using the¬† name in the search brings up information on the existing residential property, No.71, and and an additional link to the listing for, No.67, property formerly part of the original “Glen Rhoda”.

For anyone researching Kew, Camberwell or Hawthorn buildings [mainly but not only residences] from 1860s through to 1969, this site is a must. Other Councils will have similar sites.

Open Gardens, Australia has links to various of its  most notable gardens. Windyridge shows the garden in all four seasons in a map based virtual tour.

International settings – the virtual tour

Aside from a drop in to street level via Google Earth, many online sites feature virtual tours of historic settings, buildings,¬†rambles around towns, cities and country areas.¬†A few examples –

Castles –

Eilean Donan, the iconic Scottish Castle featured on  innumerable  calendars, tourist  brochures and used as a location in numbers of  feature films [you need Java 7 to see the virtual tour on the official website] can be viewed in Youtube Clips.

The best clip of Eilean Donan, features a commentary on the Castle’s history and shows the exterior, surrounds and interior in much more detail.

Neuschwanstein [Castle that inspired the Disney fairytale castle] – site tour;

Virtual Tour of Neuschwanstein with  commentary in English subtitles;

Virtual sight-seeing – contemporary and historical


A walk around Paris by video [sadly not signposted but gives a good  overview of  everyday life];

Louvre  Рhistorical commentary and tour [mainly external],   contemporary , history [in French] and tour of architectural features;

Tuileries, Paris  surrounds, exterior, interior in brief;

Whatever the historic building or the town, you are quite likely to find a youtube clip or at least flicker photos, then there is always Google earth! Have fun!

Thoughts on Collaborating, incorporating an Interview with Joanna Marple on uTales


Darshana Shah Khiani‘s interview on her Children’s Book Review site, “Flowering Minds”, with new children’s picture book author, Joanna Marple, is revealing on lots lof levels.

Joanna and Darshana met on children’s writer and illustrator FaceBook site, 12 x 12¬†, a very lively, supportive, share and learn community set up by Julie Hedlund. When Joanna released her very first picture book, a collaboration with the very talented Maja Sereda, Darshana jumped in with the interview offer.

“Snow Games” is a fun tumble and rumpus in winter’s wonderland aimed at 3 to 7 year olds. Maja’s wonderfully endearing little animal¬†characterisations¬†beautifully complement the¬†story.

Joanna ¬†shares what it was like to collaborate with Maja to create “Snow Games”.¬†Close collaboration between author ¬†and illustrator is a circumstance largely [and sadly] foreign to most traditional print publishing. For Joanna and Maja it was a fun and very rewarding experince.¬†But¬†the interview goes beyond the creation of ¬†“Snow Games”. It also details Joanna’s¬†experience¬†of the¬†uTales¬†website and her thoughts on traditional and digital publishing.

Cover for “The Sea Cat Dreams” collaboration with Muza Ulasowski, a narrative verse story with a theme of surviving the changes in life.

Joanna Kindly makes mention of my collaboration with noted animal and wildlife illustrator, Muza Ulasowski, a story about surviving change, “The Sea Cat Dreams”. Muza was one of many¬†wonderful¬†illustrators¬†I met on the uTales Facebook group and have since worked with to create a varied range of¬†children’s¬†books.

How to Create a Storybook App

How to Create a Storybook App.


Julie breaks the ice and gets us in the water with this great blog on creating a kid’s book app!

Open Plea to Bloggers: Kick CAPTCHA’s, Word Verification to the Curb

Open Plea to Bloggers: Kick CAPTCHA’s, Word Verification to the Curb. [Link reposted from Julie Hedlund’s blog.]

I tried to join a writing site today – twelve, yes, a whole dozen tries later I gave up…. This is the wwworst but I commonly have to try two or three times. I just don’t have time to ¬†persist with a system that is clearly flawed.

Those of you who use CAPTCHA on your sites might want to look at removing it. You are loosing potential members and  a whole swag of comments.

Presenting – the Lockyer Arts Festival

Can’t remember when I’ve had so much creative fun with such a fantastic group of multitalented folk! 13th to 16th January ¬†we arrived in from all over – WA, NT, Vic and ¬†‘locals’ Christian and¬†self. ¬†We were housed in the Gatton Motel, a leg stretch away¬†¬†from the main venue, not that we needed to walk. We were chauffeur driven everywhere by local Minibus/taxi owner Sue.

12a/aka 13

This is the door to my room, the non-existent  No. 13, on 13th January, a Friday, how lucky can you get!  Interesting how many places omit room 13, floor 13 etc etc. Do folk really think we are so bound by superstition and hangovers from the dark ages that we will eschew  a room or a whole floor just because of a place in a numeric sequence? Evidently it is so.


Craig and I had joint sessions with small groups of ardent attendees in a series of workshops. All interacted with us freely and kept us on our toes with their questions.

We started with a draft of my story about the cow that swam the Brisbane river during the January 2011 floods. It was  over 700 words [too long for a picture book] but gave the background Craig needed to locate the story and characterise the little cow. This is a link to a newspaper article about her amazing survival swim.

It was a revelation and a privilege to work with Craig one on one as he sketched out his visual thoughts on the story with me reading excerpts and the audience ¬†interspersing with comments. I cut swathes from the text as Craig’s expert hand created ¬†wonderful image after image.

This is a glimpse of the creation process –

  1. A view of the Brisbane Rive in flood provided by Kim Byron from her newspaper collection on the event.
  2. Craig working on a charcoal image of  the little cow. He has a strong feel for movement and can create a whole range of emotions with sometimes the barely there addition of a line or a smudge.

I love the way illustrators  climb into the  visual universe of a story. Text says a family is sitting in a kitchen. The illustrator will look over their shoulders, look out the window, go out into the next room, climb the stairs to the attic or down to the yard and see where the  house is located in a community.

[more coming… I just need to sleep now…]

Lockyer Arts Festival – just the beginning – 13 to 16 January – Arts& Crafts & Music

The Lockyer is a fascinating and fruitful area and I don’t mean just crops. They grow talent there. This was very evident at the Lockyer Arts Festival where I was honoured to be a presenter recently. ¬†All the arts were represented.

The Nolan family alone included an artist, a potter and a jeweler. KCMinis beautiful¬†miniature¬†3D creations using recycled materials and Sheryl Lothian’s bread¬†jewelry¬†revived old arts that are ‘new’ again. Couture, millinery, original art for t-shirts, art for the garden, art on stone, art with icing, quilting, aboriginal art, lapidary¬†work, woodwork and culinary arts were just some of the wide and wonderful variety of¬†artistic¬†skills displayed.

Music was high on the agenda with the  Battle of the Bands resulting in a win for country singer, Reanna Leschke, and her band [Open] and runners up, Third Eye Alchemy. In the under 18 division, the very talented classical guitar trio, Un Dia Antes wowed with their  original work. Winners joined  the inimitable Marcia Hines as supporting acts in a first rate live concert.

The ¬†writers and poets of the Lockyer had their work displayed by local poet and editor, Andrea Kwast. ¬†Andrea’s bookshop is the Lockyer’s writing hub!

Presenters for the Festival, whose theme was focussed on ‘resilience’, came from Western Australia, Victoria, Northern Territory and Brisbane, led workshops on writing a novel, memoir writing, non fiction writing with an emphasis on culinary arts. ¬†Workshops on writing children’s books, illustrating¬†picture¬†books, cartooning and animation and¬†landscape¬†painting drew presenters from Perth, Melbourne and Brisbane. This will be discussed in more detail in another blog.

My own photo images from the Festival, focussing on the talents of the Lockyerites themselves, are reproduced below. 

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One World Many Stories – Ipswich Festival of Children’s Literature 2011

Once again, we have all been blown away, enthralled, entertained and  awed by the wonderful talent Jenny Stubbs amasses biennially for this outstanding festival!

This year, I was involved¬†again¬†as a volunteer and, more intrinsically, by being allocated a slot to launch my latest book, “All in the Woods”, a chapter book, illustrated by Linda S. Gunn [USA] and published in the UK by Pixiefoot Press.

This Festival provides the penultimate opportunity to network with other very talented authors and illustrators from all over Australia, as well as publishers, media advisers, education experts, teachers and much, much more!

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How not to do a Book Launch?!

When Jenny Stubbs, Festival Coordinator Extraordinaire,¬†told me I had a slot to launch¬†“All in the Woods” I was ecstatic! It was my first book to be published in the UK and a launch venue at the¬†Ipswich¬†Festival of Children’s Literature, Woodlands, was almost too good to be true. Jenny facilitated a link to Aleesah Darlison¬†who agreed to MC. BRILLIANT!¬†What¬†could go wrong?

The Ipswich Festival is always an exciting event! It is held at Woodlands, a stunning, heritage listed venue set amongst rural fields, magnificent trees and rolling hills – what a setting for a launch! The lead up to the day, Tuesday, 13th September 2011, was a real buzz! Then the unthinkable happened… The weekend before, my throat started to get that irritating little scratch and that niggly cough that sometime precedes worse.¬†Sunday¬†night it started to hit! Laryngitis!

Friends, good friends can be the saving of such worst case scenarios. I spoke (whilst I still had a voice) to¬†Tara Hale, who designed the promo poster, would she be Guest Artist “Pink” the possum [cousin of “Ink” the animal hero of my book]. Next I contacted ¬†Nooroa Te Hira, he has worked as a tour guide so I knew he would ace a reading of my book. Then I rang Christian Bocquee¬†and asked would he help with¬†nitty grittys like directing teachers and students to seats, distributing prizes and general moral support! Bless them, they all ‘volunteered’ unstintingly!

Result? Fun, fun, fun! ¬†We had a ball, the book¬†launch was a total success! The author having to use copious amounts of sign language¬†but, hey, she has 5 kids so she speaks the ¬†lingo with hands and fingers! ūüôā

You can see some of the fun in the gallery below.

And the book, which was illustrated by wonderful watercolourist Linda Gunn

? It had been a truly international effort – written by an Aussie, illustrated by an American and published by a Brit! The icing on the cake was a nomination for the OPSO Award!

Here is a recent review by Kathy Schneider!

Where can you get it? Here!

Her Ladyship Awaits‚Ķ what happens when an elderly control freak is let loose on an unsuspecting community care worker!

Read it here and ‘comment’ or ‘like’ –¬†Her Ladyship Awaits‚Ķ.