Tag: Australia

Tennis balls, FORTRESS AUSTRALIA and Hope

Australian flag behind the wire at Villawood Detention Centre.

A week ago, my husband joined a small group of refugee advocates outside No-man’s Land and the barbed-wire fences at the Pinkenba Immigration Detention Transit Centre in Brisbane. They were trying to throw tennis balls over the fences – unsuccessfully.

Ross, being a resourceful physics man took his tennis racquet from the car and lobbed dozens of yellow balls over those high fences. Refugee children chased them, giving them to their parents who waved from behind the fence.

Written on each ball was the message … WE CARE! DON’T LOSE HOPE!

But last night, in the Australian Senate, the most fascist, inhumane politician we’ve ever had the misfortune to endure, MP Scott Morrison, forced through a law that not only takes away any chance of hope for these lost souls on the high-seas who seek a safe haven, he used refugee children as ransom.

“No other minister, not the prime minister, not the foreign minister, not the attorney-general, has the same unchecked control over the lives of other people,” writes Ben Doherty in The Guardian.
With the passage of the new law, the minister can push any asylum seeker boat back into the sea and leave it there. He can detain people without charge, or deport them to any country he chooses even if it is known they’ll be tortured there. Morrison’s decisions cannot be challenged.”

Morrison, with his LNP government has torn up our commitment and bond to the UN’s Refugees Convention, a treaty Australia helped write and willingly signed up to more than fifty years ago. All references to our UN commitment have been removed from Australian law via this new bill that passed through the Senate.

I do not believe the majority of Australians would support these moves. To do so incites the very worst in us, a frightening apparition of what we could become. A fascist nation with no heart.

I work in a field that writes for our nation’s young, and we care very much about children. We visit schools, we talk to kids, we write about their dreams and hopes. I cannot imagine even one of Australia’s children’s book creators not standing united in horror and dismay at the direction our country takes under this regime.

I urge every single one of you, my friends, to look away from your computers, from your story making, from your pens and paints, and to stand united with one voice.

Speak out before it’s too late. Join the voices of those who abhor this evil attitude engulfing our Parliament and our democratic Australia.

Use your powerful word skills for a powerful purpose.

Do it now … the pen (and the voice) is mightier than the sword!

Scott Morrison’s email.  https://twitter.com/scottmorrisonmp

Or ring your local LNP politician

My Writing Process (never a dull moment) Blog Tour

Thank you to talented and all-round lovely person, author, Julie Fison who has invited me to be part of the My Writing Process Blog Tour. Julie, along with several other well-known children’s authors lives in my suburb in Brisbane, Queensland. Must be something in the water! I write children’s novels, short stories, chapter books, school plays and flash fiction for adults. Okay, so here goes…. my Writing Process

What am I working on?
I usually have several things on the go – like just completing the final edit for new chapter book, The Magic Globe (due out mid-2014), working on my 52,000 word novel, Sweet Adversity, seeing my children’s play, Rosie, hero of Eggstown get published in the Irish kids’ publication, Through the Looking Glass Magazine. I’m also writing an adult flash fiction story a week for my 52-Week Flash Fiction Challenge blog this year. It’s been totally manic, but I love creating these short/short stories around a word theme. This week’s word was ATONE. Tricky, but I’m happy with the result.

52 week flash fiction imageMy main focus in the first half of 2014 is to complete the final polish of Sweet Adversity – an historical adventure set in the Great Depression in Australia. It’s for 10-13 year olds (and adults who like reading kids’ novels, haha. Yeah, that’s all of us, isn’t it?)

In 2013, this manuscript won a SCBWI International RA/ARA Work of Outstanding Promise award – a generous grant that’s helped me travel to Canberra’s National Library to research the affect of the Great Depression on Australian children.

Sweet Adversity means so much to me – its real-time history flavour; its protagonist, Addie McAlpine, a feisty and talented runaway from an orphanage; her pet galah, Macbeth, a bird with a repertoire of Shakespearean quotes; two twisted adults who’ll do anything in their power to get what they want from Addie, and a quest to the death.

I’ve always loved the language and drama of Shakespeare’s plays – from right back when, as a student, and a troop of Shakespearean actors arrived on a train in my tiny, Queensland outback town. They played The Merchant of Venice. One of them (apparently) was a young Geoffrey Rush. Of course, there are other influences surrounding this work-in-progress. Hope you get to read it in the real one day!

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I write with a slight literary style (I do love the magic and rhythm of words), but I keep in mind the reader’s enjoyment of the story is what matters in the end. Some say I have a great feel of writing the landscape of my stories – you’ll have to read them to see what that means. I’m also an artist, so landscapes have been significant in my life – sensory observation is second nature now, especially of some places that have left indelible impressions on my mind.

Earthquake country, California.
Earthquake country, California. Oil on board

I also like to make my stories a little different – like in Secrets of Eromanga, a junior fiction contemporary novel set on a fossil dig near Winton, Queensland. Every alternate chapter jumps back 350 million years to document the life story of a courageous, young female ornithopod called Wintonopus latomorum.

As I wrote, I became as attached to that gentle dinosaur as I did to Ellie, my human character. And like the kids who read the book, deeply felt Wintonopus’s ultimate demise.

An adventure set on a western Queensland fossil dig. Suitable for upper-primary readers.
An adventure set on a western Queensland fossil dig. Suitable for upper-primary readers.

How does your writing process work?
It depends on what I’m writing. I get ideas all the time – sometimes they cellar like a good wine until formed into a story. Other times, those impulses grow silver wings and off they go. Still, I do edit and rewrite MANY times. I’ve submitted manuscripts before they’re ready. But I’m learning to be patient nowadays. I like to start with a plot plan/outline (so I know the ending, sort of), then let my imagination free reign to think laterally.

I love the editing process – that’s when my brain really fires up. Sometimes I end up with a plotline that is nothing like I thought it would be. Very exciting!

Ali Berber and the 40 Grains of Salt
My newly published chapter book from the Pearson stable – a fun story involving science and literature.

I also enjoy being part of the wider world of children’s books – with a two-year stint as a Board Director of The Australian Society of Authors, and as an Assistant Regional Advisor for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators in the Australia East/New Zealand region (SCBWI).

Playing a leadership role in our children’s writing world is like adding grease to the squeaky wheel of authorship.

I’ve met people – other authors, illustrators, editors, publishers and librarians – they’ve helped increase my desire to write the best I can, they give me encouragement in those ‘down times’, they help feed my quest for knowledge, and they’re fun to be with – what more could an author ask for?

Coming up soon … an author and an illustrator I know you’ll love to know more about. Names revealed soon!!

An ode to crows …

I feel sorry for the crows around our way. It’s the summer holidays and the local school is empty of kids – there’re no rubbish bins to scavenge from for the odd Vegemite sandwiches or half-eaten bananas. So the resident flock of noisy crows have gone off on their own little holiday somewhere where the pickings are better.
We city folk have an almost universal opinion about crows – noisy, ugly, dirty, creepy … the list goes on in many languages. It’s probably the same in the bush too.
Some civilisations recognise the status of a crow … whether from the grandeur of a winged mystical being or the depths of an efficient garbage disposal unit. Imagine a world where the rubbish and rotting, smelly things weren’t eaten by crows.
So in this countdown to the New Year, I thought I’d post a little verse I wrote as a tribute to a bird who’s scraping the bottom of the popularity barrel.

Glossy black, green & purple sheen,
piercing pale eyes see all.
Pariah of city, suburb and street.
Scavenger of schoolyard waste,
your only threat walks upright
as shanghai, rock & bullet you taste.

Intelligent, clever & bold, old crow,
you alone know how to eat cane toad
and survive.        Sheryl Gwyther – 2011

Here’s a poem by Anthony Lawrence, award-winning Australian poet. Once read, never forgotten. 

Anthony Lawrence


We had this stuff that Wayne found in the shed:
a tin of white powder called CRO-KILL.
It had POISON in big red letters on the label.
Wayne said his dad used it for killing crows.

Pissy Paul the overseer had shot a bullock
and left it out in the horse paddock,
so we went out on our bikes, and the crows
took off as soon as we came through the gate.

The bullock’s guts had burst, its intestines
coiling like blue shaving cream in the grass.
The crows had already removed its eyes,
and the blowies were spawning their busy line.

Wayne used his knife to lift the lid off the tin,
then sprinkled some of the powder
into the red cave of the animal’s stomach.
Then we rode off and hid behind a wind-break.

Crows are suspicious things, and it took
a long time before they came back.
You can walk out with a rifle over your arm,
and the crows will fly away.

If you walk out with a long stick,
they just throw their black laugh at you.
Anyway, finally one came down: a mean bastard;
a surgeon with a mortician’s grin. It settled

on the swollen stomach and lifted out a length of gut.
Then two more decided things were safe.
Then twelve birds were cutting and fighting over the carcass.
We waited. Nothing was happening.

Then one of the crows fell over
and flapped about on its side in the grass.
Soon they were all dancing and jumping around
as if they were drunk.

Two of them managed to get off the ground.
They were like sick black planes, their undercarriages
blown away. They sat down in a nearby tree
and began to cry.

It was terrible. Smoke began pouring
out of their beaks before they fell, their eyes melting,
their wings on fire, and we just stood around
and laughed at the death of crows.     Anthony Lawrence – University of Qld Press 1998