Short Stories

A Bookish Month, Engaging Book Launches & School Visits.

August has been a busy month with lots happening for authors of children's books. With Book Week in the middle of the month, we have all been busy launching books and attending school functions. This years theme was 'Find Your Treasure.' So hang on to your pirate hat me matey,, lads and lassies, this is going to be one amazing adventure into the world of children's books. You may even want to make a cup of tea, this was a long month.

Children's Book Council of Australia

It all started back in July, 25th July to be precise. The ACT branch of CBCA held their Romancing The Stars meeting here in Canberra. Craig Cormick encouraged us with his stories about writing books in a series, those that are successful and those that are not quite so successful. Jacqueline de Rose-Ahem discussed ways to broaden your books reach internationally. Kerry Malone took us along on her journey to self-publication. Jack Heath brought us to tears with laughter as he looked back on his teenage years searching for books he wanted to read which became his reason for writing. Pauline Deeves discussed the abundance of research necessary when writing for the NLA (National Library of Australia and Maura Pierlot delved into her interest in dramatic play writing.. It was an inspirational evening, we all came away filled with information and motivation to continue our writing journey.

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May Gibbs Exhibition

Still in July, but at the end, 30th July, I attended the opening of the 100 year anniversary exhibition of the works of May Gibbs at Queanbeyan Library. There hasn't been a generation in Australia in the last 100 years that hasn't grown up reading about May Gibbs much loved and iconic characters Snugglepot and Cuddlepie and the rest of the Gumnut Babies. To my international readers, if you have never heard of these adorable stories I highly recommend you find yourself a copy and learn about these beautifully illustrated Australian bush characters.  May Gibbs was a magnificent and much loved author and illustrator. Author Tania McCartney had the fantastic opportunity to open the exhibition. She has spent years researching the life of May Gibbs to be able to have the honour of writing a children's picture book somewhat loosely based on her life story.

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Wyrd Book launch

Cate Whittle held her book launch for her new chapter book, Wyrd, to a great crowd at Harry Hartog, Woden on August 11. The audience was enthralled to listen to Cate read an enchanting chapter full of magical wishes. Followed by delicious cupcakes, colouring-in for the little ones and plenty of books to be signed. I couldn't wait to take my signed copy home and start reading. Cate didn't disappoint. The story was wonderful. Imagine the horror of two girls who can't stand each other suddenly discovering their parents are planning to marry. Add to that mistakenly becoming a reluctant witch and you have the potential for disaster. Cate Whittle handles the story with both gentle humour and sensitivity.

 
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SCBWI ACT Meeting

Only a couple of days later, on the 15th August SCBW! ACT held their next development meeting,  Putting Yourself in the Picture was an amazing evening of shared learning experiences. Award winning author/illustrator Caroline Magerl had us in stitches with her light-hearted journey through the publication world from before technology right up to present day with the launch of her latest beautiful picture book Maya and Cat. Emma Allen, Hannah Sommerville and Susan Hall spoke about the benefits of collaboration, while Maura Pierlot discussed the advantages of going away on a writer's retreat. We all came away from the evening enriched and inspired once again. I also came home with an armful of gorgeous irresistible picture books.

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CBCA Book of the Year Awards

These were held at the National Library of Australia on 17th August and mark the beginning of Children's Book Week. I didn't have the time to attend this year, maybe next year I will make it. Congratulations to all of this years winners. Check out the list of recipients on the CBCA website.

Secrets Hidden Below Book Launch

Saturday 18th August was my turn for the official book launch at Paerchain Bookstore in Manuka of Secrets Hidden Below. Thank you so much to everyone who braved the cold wet wintry afternoon to come out and join me. My dear friend and colleague Lynne Audsley kindly agreed to launch my book for me. A small part of her wonderful speech said,

'As a child I loved reading the Famous Five books. Books that took me to a world where children had amazing adventures involving smugglers and hidden treasure. Secrets Hidden Below is that for modern children. They can experience the thrill of reading a book they can't put down. In fact it would be a good contender for dragging children from 8 years, away from their electronic devices  as they get caught up in the mystery of Secrets Hidden Below.'

After Lynne's amazing speech that I appreciated very much and felt rather humbled by, I spoke about the inspiration behind the story before reading a chapter that had everyone hooked. We then went on a treasure hunt around Bali before to the delight of the kids I revealed the hidden treasure inside the treasure box. Yummy Volcano cupcakes were enjoyed by all as the signing of books began.

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Official School Launch

Monday 20th August took me to Curtin Primary school to launch Secrets Hidden Below with the year 5/6 Indonesian LOTE students. We were fortunate to have Pak Baskora from the Indonesian Embassy join us for the morning. A huge thank you to Ibu Karen Kennedy for organising the event. The kids really enjoyed the presentation and were enthusiastic to read more of the book. We held a writing competition beforehand whereby I selected the best story to win a free copy of the book. The students were asked to write a story using several Indonesian words. The winning entry was titled The Berapi Harimau, (Volcano/Fire Tiger). I selected this one as I felt it read like a Balinese legend. I could see that Madison has the potential to be a great writer as she grows and learns.

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Telopea Park School Visit

There was no rest, this was Book Week after all. Tuesday meant another fabulous school with more kids eager to see me, learn from me and read my new book. This time I visited year 3 students at Telopea Park School. On arrival I was surprised to find an awesome display the kids had made from their work about my earlier books. They were so excited as they entered the library, the chatter bubbled with hello's, waves and whispers. By the end of the session I was swamped with requests for my autograph. It was a beautiful moment to be able to share time with these gorgeous kids. The competition here, I asked them to come up with a title for an adventure story. The winner I selected was 'The Caves Beneath The White Cliff of Dover.' I could imagine all sorts of intriguing situations arising from that title.

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Forrest Primary School Visit

Thursday 23rd August I found myself back at Forrest Primary. I have very fond memories of my teaching years at this school, but today I was not teaching, nor presenting my book. This time I was supporting fellow author Skye Davidson and illustrator Agnes Rokiczky as they launched their gorgeous and mischievous picture book Archibald the Naughtiest Elf in the World Goes to the Zoo. It was a lovely afternoon, the Kinders and year Ones had a lot of fun.

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Of course there have been many children's authors launching books and presenting at schools this month. I couldn't get to all the launches, as much as I wanted to. I apologise to those I missed. I was there in spirit and hope to catch up with your amazing books soon.

My hectic schedule did not stop there. I flew to Perth for my eldest son's 30 birthday at the end of Book Week. Still can't believe he is that old! Where do the years go? Then flew to Port Moresby to attend the PNG Independence Day Ball with hubby, That takes us into September and there is still so much more to come. More school visits, more book signings. These are exciting times.

 
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If you missed the book launch of Secrets Hidden Below at Paperchain but would like a signed copy, you have a second chance. I will be signing books Saturday 15th September from 11:00 am at Harry Hartog Bookshop in Woden. Hope to see you there. For those who are not in Canberra, books can be purchased through Elephant Tree Publishing.

I will also be returning to Forrest Primary this Friday, 7th September to do a writing workshop with students from years 5/6. 

How about you? How was your August? Did you dress up for Book Week? Let me know in the comments below, add a photo too. I'd love to see those bookish costumes. 

 

#Gr8t Blogs Winter Road Trip

Check the tyre pressure. Plug in your GPS. Dust off your road maps. We’re off on a family-friendly road trip across Australia, North America and Great Britain in this #Gr8tblogs Winter Road Trip 2018.

My writerly friends and I are sharing insiders touring tips for your wintertime fun. I’m excited to guide you around my part of the world, Canberra, Australia. Then you can pop about the globe for more inspiring road trip ideas from other great bloggers, who are linked at the bottom of this page. 

5 Things I love about Canberra.

1.       Canberra, unlike other Australian Capital cities, actually has four seasons. Our temperature this time of year ranges from -6 Celsius to 12 C. So, if you come here June through August, be prepared to rug up. Even though our Summer can rise as high as 40 C, you can never quite put away your winter woollies, as you never know when a cold front will blow through. It has even snowed in October, our Spring! I love that with the change of seasons comes the change of colour in the trees. The streets are lined with deciduous and evergreen trees making a beautiful display all year round. I love that kids can shuffle through fallen leaves of amber in Autumn and blow wispy petals of white in Spring. In Autumn we have the Hot Air Balloon Festival that rise high above the lake early on chilly mornings, and Enlighten that illuminates the buildings around the Parliamentary circle in the evenings. Both are ideal for those walks around the lake, while in Spring we have Floriade. A festival of tulips that blossom in arranged splendour to the delight of children and parents alike. Not so much happens in the depths of winter. Canberrans tend to either hibernate her head to the snow. Living in the hills just south of Canberra sometimes we are lucky to have a snowfall ourselves. It is one of my favourite times of the year.

 

 The photo of Enlighten on Parliament House and the Balloon Festival are courtesy of the Crown Plaza Hotel Canberra  

The photo of Enlighten on Parliament House and the Balloon Festival are courtesy of the Crown Plaza Hotel Canberra  

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 A Royalla Winter Wonderland, rare but beautiful when it does happen.

A Royalla Winter Wonderland, rare but beautiful when it does happen.

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2.       If you are a nature lover like me, there are plenty of walking and bike riding tracks in and around the city. You can do the bridge to bridge walk around Lake Burley-Griffin or settle for a shorter walk on the foreshore. If you are lucky you might even hear the bells of the Carillon on Aspen Island, chime. Weddings are often held on Aspen Island, including one of my sons and his wife. We watched in awe as she walked across the bridge while the bells rang out across the lake.

The National Carillon on Aspen Island in the middle of Lake Burley-Griffin, playing a little something you may recognise. 

 A wonderful place for a winter walk on a sunny day.

A wonderful place for a winter walk on a sunny day.

 The Carrillon is lit up this week for #Donatelife week

The Carrillon is lit up this week for #Donatelife week

1.       Nature reserves on the outskirts of the city provide ample opportunity for hiking and discovering native flora and fauna. Tidbinbilla and Namadgi National Parks are ideal spots for picnics, day walks and even a bit of sight-seeing historical sites like the remains of the old space tracking station at the end of Apollo Road. Honeysuckle Creek Tracking station played a major role in many of NASA’s space missions including the 1969 landing on the moon. If your kids are interested in space they will love the drive out to explore this place. There is a beautiful picnic area, walking tracks and plenty of kangaroos to see as an added attraction. After that you can also take them on a tour of Tidbinbilla Space Tracking Station where they still hold all the memorabilia from the space race days.

 Remains of Honeysuckle Creek Space Tracking Station in Namadgi National Park.

Remains of Honeysuckle Creek Space Tracking Station in Namadgi National Park.

 Orroral Space Tracking Station also in Namadgi National Park, both perfect for a picnic, walk and kangaroo spotting.

Orroral Space Tracking Station also in Namadgi National Park, both perfect for a picnic, walk and kangaroo spotting.

4.       I love science and here in the middle of Canberra we have Questacon, the greatest hands-on science museum for kids I have ever seen. There is much to see and do in here. Plenty of experiments for the kids to take part in, ask questions, learn and explore. In fact, Canberra has so many places to immerse yourself in learning, there are too many choices. My favourites after Questacon, would have to be the National Gallery of Australia which features outstanding touring exhibitions such as the Cartier Exhibition, Turner, Monet, and many other brilliant Impressionists, just to name a few, and the National War memorial. Be prepared to spend hours wondering around the war memorial, it covers every possible conflict Australia has been involved in.

 Questacon The National Science and Technology Centre, on the shores of Lake Burley-Griffin.

Questacon The National Science and Technology Centre, on the shores of Lake Burley-Griffin.

 Floriade, held every September, (Spring) in Commonwealth Park on the foreshores of Lake Burley-Griifin.

Floriade, held every September, (Spring) in Commonwealth Park on the foreshores of Lake Burley-Griifin.

5.       One of Canberra’s best attributes to me, is its location. We are only a couple of hours drive south to the Snowy Mountains, east to coastal beaches and north to Sydney. This means ample opportunity for country drives on long winding roads discovering old country towns, with quirky gift shops, creative art & craft shops, antique shops and amazing little cafes. One of our favourite little restaurants is only an hour drive east of Canberra towards the coast in the old majestic country town of Braidwood. TorPeas is quaint and quirky, all gluten free and so welcoming it is like eating in someone’s home. On reaching the coast, my favourite beach to take visitors from overseas is one that is possibly the best kept secret. Pebbly Beach is part of Murramarang National Park just a 20 minute drive north up the Princes Highway from Bateman’s Bay. It is a quiet little beach, very clean, plenty of soft white sand, waves gently roll in, I’ve never seen the waves big enough to surf there, so it is safe for kids to swim, but the best draw card of all, is the kangaroos you will find grazing on the grass. They are so used to people they will let you pat them. To pat a kangaroo in the wild is not common, most will hop away, they are usually wary of humans, these fellows appear quite tame. The kangaroos on our property will not let us anywhere near them. Naturally, I would still caution anyone, to move slowly not to frighten them and do not feed them.

 TorPeas Restaurant in Braidwood.

TorPeas Restaurant in Braidwood.

 Me patting a kangaroo at Pebbly Beach, South Coast NSW

Me patting a kangaroo at Pebbly Beach, South Coast NSW

Thanks for your company. Hope you enjoyed your tour around Canberra and the surrounding region. What are favourite road trip must sees in your corner of the world? Please share in the comments section below. We would love to virtual visit you too! If you blog and want to hop with us add a live hyperlink to your family-friendly road trip in the comment section We'll swing by and give you some blog love!

As I am the only blogger in the Southern hemisphere, the other road trips are all Summer road trips. Click over to the next fun and inspirational road trip destination of your choice at any #Gr8tblogs below.

Other Blogs

Carmela Dutra - California

Julie Gorges - California

K. Lamb - California

Rebecca Lindsey - West Virginia

Cat Michaels - North Carolina

Rosie Russell  - Kansas City, Missouri

Rhonda Paglia - Pennsylvania

Impressions of Papua New Guinea ... so far.

It took a lot longer than expected, but I'm finally here. Below are four of my impressions of living in Port Moresby as an expat as I see it at the beginning of this journey. Some things may change in the next three years, some things may not. Life goes on wherever we are and we make the most of what we are given.

1. No Hurry.

The first thing I have learnt about this nation is that nothing ever happens in a hurry. I think living in the tropics makes people more relaxed. With the constant heat there is no need to exert yourself. There is no sense of urgency to complete a task. I remember observing my maid in Thailand. Before then I had never seen anyone sweep a floor with such carefree abandon as she did. Khun Nong made sweeping a floor look so relaxing. The Papua New Guineans make it look just as easy, they do not put in the effort that we do. Time here is viewed in a similar manner to the Indonesians. It's all about 'rubber' time, flexible, easily bent and of little concern. It's a bit like learning to 'hurry up and wait.' You tend to do a lot of waiting here. It took us a lot longer for work visas to be approved than we anticipated. In fact, to sum up the life style here, the Spanish have a saying 'manyana' meaning tomorrow or some unspecified time in the future. Here in PNG the meaning of manyana is similar, but does not convey the same sense of urgency. Even the cars are driven around the city at a snail pace as if there is no where in particular anyone has to go. Consequently traffic jams are amazing, cars manage to find their way into gaps that no westerner would attempt, but when driven at a crawl, it is no problem. This photo was taken back home in Canberra at the PNG High Commission on one of our visits to complete our visa applications.

2. Safety.

I touched on this in my original post when we first visited PNG before signing the contract. The gap between the 'haves and have nots' is huge. Consequently crime is rife and staying safe requires vigilance. When driving through the traffic we have been told to always be aware of an escape route. Leave a gap where possible to allow to do a u-turn and drive away as fast as you can if a rascal comes racing towards the car. Keep the car doors locked at all times and always be aware of your surroundings. Never drive anywhere at night and certainly don't think about driving out of the city without a driver who is a PNG National. As for walking anywhere, that proves near impossible too. I have two choices, a) the treadmill in the gym in the apartment complex or b) the path around the inside of the gated community we are living in. As I am used to my walks around the valley I live in back home, I prefer to walk outside, therefore so far I have chosen option b. I have been told it is not wise to leave the gated community on my own at any time. I have lived in a guarded compound before, we did it for two years in Thailand. The only difference was that I felt safe to leave that one, catch a baht bus and head down to Beach Road in Pattaya to go shopping. That's not at all possible here. Life is going to be that much more restricted. However, I'm sure once I meet a few other expat wives, life will become more involved in the community. In the photo below you can see the car park to our apartment complex. There are two sets of security gates to drive through before you are in.

3. The People.

Even though there is an element that will choose to do harm for the chance to take a wallet, mobile phone or jewellery, the majority of people I have met have been nothing but friendly and courteous. Whether it's the guards at the gates, cleaners, gardeners or restaurant staff, they all say hello, and are keen to stop for a chat. We had a wonderful conversation with our waitress just last night at the Royal Papua New Guinea Yacht Club. Christine was a lovely quietly spoken young girl with pearls of wisdom beyond her age. When I commented that I probably shouldn't have had dessert as I couldn't really fit it in. Christine smiled and replied, 'dinner is for the stomach, dessert is for the heart.' I thought that was a beautiful comment. Although Pidgin English is their native language, they are all taught to speak English in school. It is with education that this nation will grow.

 

4. Tourism.

Would I recommend Port Moresby as a place to come visit? Probably not. It is pretty much a developing country on Australia's doorstep, desperately trying to elevate itself from poverty, but I fear that is still a long way off.  We did have a day out of the city on Sunday. A driver took us into the mountains to the Virartas National Park. The drive through the mountains was stunning. The road meandered through thick lush green tropical forest. The majority of the vegetation resembled the rainforests of far north Queensland. Our driver informed us that the road was built by the ANZACs during the war. He said WW1 , but I'm sure he meant WW2. If we had continued for another 35 minutes along the road, we would have reached the beginning of the Kokoda Track. One day I would like to walk part of the track, but it will be with security, or an expat tour, not just a driver. On our return down the mountain we visited the ANZAC War Memorial which was quite an emotional experience. Graves  of fallen soldiers from Australian and New Zealand Armed Forces were in lines too numerous to count. Many tombstones bared the name and age of young men too young to die, it broke my heart. Many still, were unnamed. Lost souls buried in another country for fighting for our freedom. There were PNG soldiers buried there too. We have much to thank them for. If you have loved ones buried here or who fought here and managed to survive the horror of Kokoda, then perhaps a journey here is worthwhile.  Port Moresby is only a 3.5 hour flight from Brisbane and if you appreciate war history, then this is a place worth considering.

Have you ever lived in a gated community? How did you find life there?

Would you want to visit Papua New Guinea?

Do you have any questions you would like answered? I will do my best to find out.

An Expat's Life..... Again!

Here we go again, one last hoorah before retirement. Hubby and I are about to embark on one final adventure in a career that has taken us throughout South-East Asia and all around Australia. Last week we flew overseas to a neighbouring country to see where our next and final posting is most likely to be for the next three years. The new company wanted us both to have a look around the area before making the final decision to sign the contract. We have seen some incredible places during our working lifetime, yet nothing before had quite prepared me for this.  I can certainly say that being married to Mr B, for 32 years has never been boring. Life has taken us on a wonderful journey of adventure and cultural learning.

His first Expat job took him away to Indonesia for the duration of my third pregnancy. He departed when we had two point three children, yes I was just at the end of my first trimester with Alex, when he was asked to head to Jakarta and the Sumatran jungle. We made the joint decision that it was better for the boys and I to stay in Australia at that time. Our other two boys were only 2  and 5 years old.  Mr B finally managed to returned to us just days before Alex was born.

A year later, the Expat bug had nibbled his feet again and I found myself with seven weeks to pack up our house before hubby returned to help me move the family to Pattaya, Thailand for two years. That was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. The boys experienced growing up immersed in a fascinating culture while attending school in a multicultural melting pot of diversity. I was fortunate to pick up work teaching at the same International School which broadened my skills and knowledge to a level of experience I could never have discovered back home. We made many wonderful life-long friends along the way and made precious memories that will forever be in my heart and soul.

Since then, work has taken Mr B in and out of Indonesia. We both learnt to speak Bahasa Indonesia, He, while immersed in the culture, myself, during two years of intensive night classes which helped qualify me to then teach Indonesian language. after also completing my Grad Cert in ESL/LOTE. In the years since our travels through South-East Asia and study of this unique culture that is on our doorstep, I have written a chapter book set in Bali full of adventure, history, culture and language. After many revisions, I hope to finally publish it this year.

We've also had the opportunity to work all over Australia including Perth, Karratha and most recently two fabulous years in Darwin. Living in the Top End of Australia was akin to being an Expat. The tropical climate made it feel like Thailand again. The transient population of workers that flew in and flew out, or had short term contracts combined with the influx of tourists during the dry season all added to the vibrant and welcoming nature of the destination. We embraced the life-style, the people and the cultural diversity once again.

As I write this, I find myself at the beginning of the latest chapter of our expat journey. This should be our final chapter before settling down on our beautiful little country property just outside Canberra. Where am I? As I look out of my hotel window I see a beautiful blue bay surrounded by lush green mountains. Immediately below me in the foreground I can see and hear the busy work of construction as a city prepares four lane highways, lays down pipework, and re-seals existing roads. Cranes and trucks beep as they reverse busily erecting apartments and business centres. It is a city of massive growth and excitement. The new convention centre is well on the way to completion in time for the APEC summit in November. There is a buzz in the air as people go about their day to day business in a constantly developing nation. Yet, at any time of day, the nationals are happy to stop, say hello and have a chat.

It is a tropical climate once again, they are nearing the end of their wet season. by April there will be minimal rain then it will be dry until the rains start to arrive again in October.

The only downside I can see so far is the fact that I am used to walking at least 5 Km every day. This will not be possible here. With my fair hair and white skin I tend to stand out in a crowd somewhat, making it not advisable to walk the streets alone during the day or night. There is an element of danger that an Expat must be aware of at all times. While the people we have met so far have been so friendly, there are those on the streets that will take advantage. After all, this is a developing country, wages are minimal, poverty is everywhere. The gap between those that have a lot and those that have very little is quite obvious. Everywhere we have been taken, shopping centres, restaurants, apartment complexes, business buildings and hotel, have all been heavily guarded by armed security and gates. Hopefully as the country develops this will diminish as economic growth brings prosperity to the region.

Have I given you any clue as to where I am? Do you think you know?

We fly home tomorrow, then it's a waiting game. We wait for work visas, medical reports and Mr B has to be accredited as a member of the IEPNG, all before we will be permitted to return. All being well, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea will become our new home for the next three years. While Mr B will spend most of the time here, I plan to fly in/out, sharing my time here and home in Canberra. This Nanna can't miss out on the first three years of my new little grandson's life.

It should be an interesting few years, full of cultural learning and diversity once again, all of which we embrace with open hearts and minds.

Have you ever experienced life as an Expat? If so, let me know where and your thoughts on the experience in the comment section below.

If not, if you could work in another country, which one would you choose and why?

Looking Back at 2017: My Most Memorable Moments.

What sort of year have you had? Has it been a roller coaster for you or perhaps more smooth sailing? Were there any Milestone events? Let's take a moment to ponder upon our happiest times and consider maybe a few of those not quite so successful days. In general I hope 2017 has been a good year for you all.
I invite you to come along on a journey with me as my writerly pals and I  share our most memorable moments in the Looking Back at 2017 Blog Hop. Please have a read of each our most personal reveals. Read mine here, then visit the other #Gr8Blogs linked at the end of this post for more look-backs. We hope you’re inspired to gather round with your family for a look-back, too.
1. Surprising/Joyful
I'll never forget the moment my middle son and his wife presented me with a little surprise package.
It was a Friday evening in early May. They arrived home grinning from ear to ear and placed a small black cardboard box in my lap.
I had no idea what was going on or what to expect?
Inside was a card and several gifts. - The card read "Congratulations on becoming Grandparents! Here's your starter pack!'
Included were several tiny nappies, bibs and coveralls.
They had been wanting this miracle to happen for quite some time. We had stopped thinking about it being possible for now as they had appeared to take on a different direction in their lives and began to concentrate on work and buying a home.
You can imagine our surprise and delight!
We have spent the remainder of the year preparing for the joyful event, as the card reads, 'Womb departure date, 1st January 2018."
It's going to be one amazing New Year!
Update: The joyful news is he arrived on Friday 5th January 2018
The most precious gift of all, our gorgeous first grandson, and this Nanna couldn't be prouder. 
2. Exciting/Triumphant
We moved onto our dream piece of land in 2007, 13 acres of sheer bliss. At the time we moved into a shell of a shed, a caravan and a port-a-l00. Over the years we gradually made the shed comfortable, (probably a little too comfy) and slowly worked away at building our dream home.
Each year when someone asked when were we moving in? My reply was always the same, sometime before Christmas, but I never said Christmas of which year.
2017, ten years after the initial move, was finally the year. In October we finished enough of the house to be able to move in.
It was such an exciting and triumphant moment to move our furniture in and not have to go down to the shed to sleep at night.
A lot of hard work and love by all our family has gone into building our home, it feels amazing to finally be in! Yet somehow, so homely, just as I always planned, it also feels like we have always been here.
There is still much to be done to complete the finishing touches. We still have no cupboard doors in the kitchen, or skirting boards and architraves around some doors, but that's ok. I'm a patient woman. I've waited this long, I can wait a bit longer. 
3. Successful.
As far as my writing is concerned, 2017 brought me success in having two  short stories accepted for publication in the Creative Kids Tales Story Collection.
This was an amazing opportunity to be part of a collection of stories by so many wonderfully talented Australian authors and illustrators.
The stories are varied in style and length, some are prose, some poems. Some are light and entertaining, others are humorous or thought provoking.
The stories range from the really young reader to the young at heart.
One of my stories is a poem for ages 3 - 6 years while the other is a short story for ages 8 - 12 years.
As the collection was due for release in time for Christmas, both of my stories are Christmas themed.
"Aster's Aussie Christmas" is a little poem penned to delight children from all around the world as they travel with my little alien in Santa's sleigh and discover all the wonders Australia has to offer.
"A Whale of a Christmas Time," takes older children on a journey of discovery in a different way. As the maim character must learn to help save a pod of beached whales, readers will learn that giving is far more important than receiving.
4. Disappointing.
As I embarked on 2017, I had many plans when it came to my writing. I had stories set to publish, marketing plans, school fetes and visits to organise.
Sometimes life gets in the way and even the best intentions and plans don't always see the light of day. I'm OK with that, it's been a busy and amazing year in so many other ways.
At least it gives me time to ponder those stories a little longer, revise, edit, and revise some more.
Who knows, perhaps 2018 will be the year?
Thanks for stopping by! How was YOUR 2017? Please share in the comment section.
For more Look-Back moments, visit the #Gr8blogs below.
If you’d like to join us on this hop, add the family-friendly link to your blog in the comment section. We’ll visit and give you some blog love!

Imagination and Realism Combine for a Fabulous Learning Opportunity.

One of the great advantages of becoming a children's author, other than the obvious, which is kids reading my stories, is that I get the opportunity to meet other amazing authors from all around the world. I feel I am so lucky to be asked to read and review their stories and help spread the word about their wonderful children's books too. Last week I brought you 'Sweet T and the Turtle Team' by Cat Michaels. This week, I am pleased to tell you all about 'Doonsey Returns - The Great Rescue, Part 2' written and illustrated by Rhonda Paglia. It is summer in America and both authors have timed their new release perfectly for summer holiday fun reading at the beach. Down Under we can at least dream of lazy warm days at the beach and reading these stories with our children or classroom students to help keep those memories alive.

Doonsey Returns is perfect for the little ones in your family. We have all made sandcastles while at the beach, but have you made other sand sculptures? Rhonda Paglia takes this fun and creative idea to make "Beach Buddies" that are decorated with items that children find all along the beach. Seaweed, shells, even fishing bobbers (we call them fishing floats) are just a few decorations that enhance the buddies and help them come to life. While reading this cute and creative story children come to realise the importance of keeping the beach clean.

There are two basic problems to be solved. The first in finding the sand made beach buddies, the second in helping a very real, very different kind of beach buddy. I read this story with a neighbour's son who was delighted to find what arose out of the sand. No spoilers here! Suffice to say his face lit up when he realised what had been buried and then came crawling out of the sand. Keeping these little creatures safe is the second issue that needs solving. This idea brought a wonderful discussion of possibilities and a writing exercise during our tutoring session on what he would have done in the same situation. He was fascinated by the facts in the back pages, the glossary and the photos of sand sculptures.

The illustrations are simplistic but adorably cute for little ones. I thought the inclusion of realism along with the cartoon-like characters made for a fabulous way of relating the story with children's knowledge of beach settings. It opens up even more opportunities for discussion as children can relate their own memories of holidays at the beach. 

Another awesome story from author "Grammy Pags." Packed full of fun, imagination, creativity and learning. Teachers and parents couldn't ask for anything more. I recommend this book for children 3-8 years, as there is so much you can take away from it.

I give Doonsey and her Beach Buddies 5 out of 5 star(fish).

 Doonsey Returns, The Great Rescue, Part 2 is available on Amazon: Doonsey Returns

Summer Fun, Adventure and Learning.

Come dip your toes into the warm North Carolina coastal waters, smell the fresh salty sea air and taste a bit of southern hospitality in the new release by Cat Michaels, "Sweet T and The Turtle Team." It is summertime in the States and author Cat Michaels has timed her new beach book perfectly for lazy days in the sun. This is a great story for kids to read at the beach or to transport them there. Written for children ages 6 to 11 years this story is sure to engage both curious and reluctant readers.

Take a summer holiday to Gull Island and experience the wind in your hair and sand in your toes as you make friends with Tara, (Sweet T) her little sister, Jenna and Fuzzy, a blue stuffed rabbit that has a tendency to get lost. I'm sure most families can relate to this concept. Who hasn't lost a favourite stuffed animal at one time or another? It makes the characters so relatable as we read about their desperate search for Fuzzy.

Most kids on holidays seek to make new friends and T is no different. She is not happy to settle to play with her little sister (and Fuzzy if they ever find him), but why is the boy next door being so difficult? Cat Michaels was rather clever to bring into the story an issue that provides a learning opportunity for discussion of different needs. While the other children on the island are being bullies, it is Sweet T who finds a way to resolve the problem, demonstrating to the reader that there is always a way to help and make things right if you are willing to think about alternatives.

 

The story is also a delightful way to learn about Loggerhead turtles and their hatchlings. Included at the end of the book are quizzes, questions and even a few gorgeous photographs of these turtles, but first, you have to read the adventure and see if Sweet T and her turtle team can save them before the big storm threatens to devastate their survival.

The other unique learning tool Cat Michaels has included in the story is the way T and her older sister keep in contact throughout the summer. Like most kids these days they are allowed to text, (with supervision). Each interaction between the two is a short chapter that appears in the form of texting on a mobile device. I found this a rather clever way to move the story along, keep the pace interesting and link with today's younger generation. A glossary of texting terms is also included at the back just in case anyone needs to look them up.

Feel hungry? Aunt Mae, who Sweet T and her family are visiting, is always cooking up something yummy. I admit this Aussie girl has never tasted most of the treats Aunt Mae prepares, however Cat Michaels certainly makes them sound quite delightful. You'll have to read the story to see what I mean.

I recommend this short chapter summer adventure to all kids who love the beach, sea creatures and fuzzy stuffed animals. The story is not only entertaining, it provides ample opportunity to learn and discover through social interactions and environmental awareness.

I give this gorgeous new release 5 out of 5 star (fish)

 

 

Note: I received a PDF copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

About Cat Michaels :-

Author, blogger CAT MICHAELS, M.S., Ed., has more than two decades of experience helping students from kindergarten to college with learning disabilities and Asperger’s syndrome.

Her chapter books and Sweet T Tales series for beginning readers tell of every day life with a twist of magic and mischief.  Cat’s books encourage young and reluctant readers to use their imagination and solve kid-sized dilemmas as they enjoy reading.

Cat lives in North Carolina with her family, where she enjoys digital photography and graphic design, creates pocket gardens, works out as often as she can, and writes.  

Website/Blog  |  Facebook |  Twitter  |  Pinterest  |  Instagram

Find Cat’s books on Amazon and iTunes 

I'd like to take a moment to give a big thank you to Stacie Theis at BeachBoundBooks who put together the materials to add to this post and coordinated the blog tour for Sweet T and the Turtle Team. I’m so happy to join the fun and to present my Sweet T and the Turtle Team book reviewThis children’s book written by Cat Michaels and beautifully illustrated by Irene A. Johns was a pleasure to read and review. Both the story and the learning included in this book made it easy for this review to be written. The tour will run from July 12 – August 9, 2017.

 

Blog Tour Giveaway

Prize: One winner will receive a $75 Amazon gift card or $75 PayPal cash prize, winner’s choice Giveaway ends: August 9, 11:59 pm, 2017 Open to: Internationally How to enter: Please enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

A winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook.

This giveaway is sponsored by the author, Cat Michaels and is hosted and managed by Stacie from BeachBoundBooks. If you have any additional questions feel free to send an email to stacie@BeachBoundBooks.com.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

What if we are not alone in the Universe?

The other day I saw a post on Twitter that it was #World UFO Day on July 2. I couldn't resist asking the question, do you believe in aliens? What if we are not alone in the Universe?  If you know me or my writing for children, you would know I like to play with this possibility. After all, with the size of our Universe or (Multiverse, depending on your point of view) I don't believe it could be plausible that we are the only inhabitable planet with intelligent life forms. I'm not here to delve into the specific science of it all, I'll leave that to astrophysicists that are for more knowledgeable on the subject than myself. Suffice to say, as a children's author, I kind of like the idea of friendly little aliens that come to visit.

If we are not alone, and if we were ever visited by aliens, surely they would be inquisitive and friendly. It makes sense that a life form that has evolved the technology to travel in time and space long enough to reach us, would also be a peaceful race. They would have to have evolved to a higher level of co-operation and understanding to reach such a level of intelligence far beyond what we as humans, know and understand today.

Obviously, many people are sceptical but that doesn't mean I can't have a little bit of fun with the idea. Part of writing for children is to engage them in reading through fun and exciting ideas. Take my first short chapter book for example, in Gingerbread Aliens we wouldn't have such a compelling and enjoyable story without the boys next door neighbour, Mrs Witherbottom being absolutely convinced she saw a UFO smash in through the school Principal's window. Her tale is so convincing that the police officer decides -

'I believe we need to call in the Scientific Research Team for Radioactive Meteorites and Asteroids. You can never be too careful with Unidentified Flying Objects from outer space.'

In book 2, Alien Shenanigans, I take the laughs up a notch with the idea of the boys trying to catch a

mischievous little alien.

'How cool is that?' agreed Brian. 'He's a chameleon, no wonder we couldn't see him. He keeps changing to blend into his background. ' Brian reached out to grab him but the alien was too quick. He slipped through Brian's fingers, danced across the science table and knocked over a packet of washing powder and red food colouring. David made a swipe to grab him but in the process he in turn spilt the bottle of vinegar. The reaction was instant, soapy coloured froth oozed and bubbled along the table and overflowed onto the classroom floor and out the door.'

Any budding young scientist will know the disastrous mess that would have occurred in this scenario. Not only does the book provide teaching opportunities for research into space topics but all sorts of amazing science projects.  My books may be full of laughter and imagination, but they also include great learning opportunities through STEM projects.

Both the alien, the idea of UFO's and Mrs Witherbottom return in the third book in the series, Alien Milkshakes. What has caused the crop circles on the school oval? Can the Bradberrie brothers keep the alien a secret and help him repair his spaceship before Mrs Witherbottom discovers the truth behind her missing vegetables from her garden? All will be revealed when the book is released later this year.

'The brothers were so busy helping Aster and listening to Simon's tale that they didn't hear the footsteps coming towards the side fence in Mrs Witherbottom's yard, or hear the little step ladder that banged against the fence. It wasn't until they heard an unexpected voice call out that they all jumped. The three boys turned to see who was there.

'Hiya, What's the news laddies?' A bright eyed, freckle-faced girl peeped over the top of the fence. All three brothers quickly shuffled together to hide Aster from her sight.'

In the meantime, I have also written a short story that has been accepted for inclusion in an upcoming children's story collection. I have taken the idea of my friendly and mischievous little alien and combined it with my Australian animal picture books, to produce a short story where my alien travels around Australia with Santa in his sleigh on Christmas Eve. He sees some incredible sights and meets a few amaing animals along the way.

'Aster waved to camels in the desert and whales in the Bight,

koalas in the rainforests, it was all an incredible sight.

He met echidnas and emus and a baby crocodile,

dingoes and dolphins and a shark with a huge scary smile.'

The possibilities of friendly little aliens visiting from other worlds are endless. My children's books encourage a fun enjoyment of reading and learning. Children have amazing imaginations that can be engaged in incredible creative thinking given the opportunity.My books are a gateway to discussions that may produce that critical thinking. It is up to us to foster their imagination and creativity so that they may become our future inventors who will develop technology far beyond anything we can produce today.

Kids love the idea of aliens, (especially little mischievous ones), do you?

Are we alone in this huge universe? What do you believe?

If you are interested in any of my books, you can purchase them here in print form

http://www.sandrabennettauthor.com/books/

The ebook copies are all available on Amazon except for Alien Shenanigans, sorry I've still not managed that.

I hope to have Alien Milkshakes released before the year is out, and my short story, Aster's Aussie Christmas will be in the CKT Story Collection to also be released before Christmas.

Four Reasons Whales May Accidentally Beach

Each year whales migrate up and down the length of our Australian coastline, both east and west, in their search for warmer breeding grounds. People flock to our shores during migration season in the hope to catch a glimpse of these magnificent mammals. I admit, I have been among them, both viewing from on-shore whale watching platforms and boats that take you further out to sea for a chance of closer encounters. I have watched a mother and calf at play in the safety of the bay at Warrnabool in Victoria and I have watched a pod migrating beside our boat from the far north-west coast off Broome, in Western Australia. In my recent blog journey I discussed our travel across the Great Australian Bight at the bottom of Australia as I searched for whales. They didn't disappoint, I found them off the south-west coasts of Esperance and Margaret River.

Unfortunately, every now and then we hear about a pod of whales that has beached on a coastline somewhere around Australia or New Zealand. Then the nearby community subsequently spend hours in frantic attempts to rescue as many lives as possible. This gave me the idea for a story about a young boy living in such a community and his realisation of the importance of lending a hand.

While writing my short story 'A Whale of a Christmas Time' which will be included in the upcoming CKT Story Collection, I researched possible reasons whales may find themselves beached. I discovered several surprising possible reasons. No one can say for sure which one is correct or if they are all true. However, it is worth being aware of all of them, just the same.

  1. A whale may have trouble detecting a sloping sandy beach with their sonar and before they know it they have come too close. In this case the whale would panic and accidentally beach themselves as it would be too late to turn back in the ocean current. Other Whales would subsequently beach themselves when trying to come to the aid of the first whale who has already made the mistake and would be sending out a distress signal.
  2. A whale may be sick, have some kind of disease or be injured and may come into shallower water for refuge to heal and then become trapped in the changing tide. As social creatures, the rest of the pod will follow as they refuse to leave their sick or injured family member.
  3. The pod could be foraging for food or chasing prey and come too close to shore, then find themselves stuck in the incoming tide.
  4. Seismic underwater activity ie  earthquakes, change in weather conditions, disease, unfamiliar underwater topography or magnetic field irregularities in which the sea floor spreads,, are all possible causes of disruptions to their sonar and would surely cause confusion.

No matter the reason whales find themselves caught on-shore, as long as communities continue to do everything humanly possible to prevent these horrific events as well as help these magnificent creatures when the inevitable does occur, we can't ask for anything more. Watching whales majestically swim safely out to sea unharmed is one of the greatest sights I have ever experienced. 

Have you ever had the opportunity to witness a whale and her calf playing in a bay, breaching the water as if waving to you? It's a beautiful sight. Tell me in the comments below where you were and how it made you feel?

If you are interested in reading 'A Whale of a Christmas Time,' subscribe to my newsletter for up to date information on the release date.

Ready, Set, Jump into Summer 2017 C*U*R*R*E*N*T*L*Y SUMMER BLOG HOP

I know, what you are  thinking?  You may ask. It's not summer? Winter has hit with a vengeance this week! Some of my author friends are currently preparing for their SUMMER blog Hop, dreaming of sun screen. Kids playing Marco Polo in the pool and family road trips, I on the other hand am preparing for WINTER. That means snow men, bon-fires and cosying up in font of glowing embers at night with a hot cuppa and a good book.

My author friends to the north of us will be sharing their summer moments and inspirations in the C*U*R*R*E*N*T*L*Y - Summer Blog Hop to encourage you towards a great summer, however it is up to me to lead the way for those of us embarking on the depths of winter.. Please have a read and enjoy each of their #Gr8Blogs listed at the end of my post for Summer 2017 C*U*R*R*E*N*T*L*Y inspiration.

But for now, let me get you all nice and warm and toasty first off with my completely opposite C*U*R*R*E*N*T*L*Y - Winter Blog Hop 2017 .

*Loving
I am currently loving my early morning country walks with my dog. The fresh crisp air, frost underfoot and fog hugging the mountains like a cosy blanket. The remains of autumn leaves crunching underfoot while Snowy (my fluffy white Japanese Spitz) splashes in every puddle she can find. The cacophony of galahs, cockatoos, rosellas and magpies that protest their disturbance as we walk through their feeding frenzy. The alpacas and ponies that stop grazing and wander over to the wire fence for a friendly pat and I especially love the sight of kangaroos hopping through the paddocks and gracefully jumping each fence easily and naturally. The windchill factor has our temperature dropping below zero degrees celsius most mornings, but that's ok, it means we walk faster and burn more energy.
* Reading
 "Love Your Sister" by Connie and Samuel Johnson.
I have been meaning to read this for quite a while. My to read list is always a mile long. Now that winter is setting in, this means ample opportunity to rug up under thick, warm blankets with some great reading.  Connie has been an inspiration to women with breast cancer for years, her battle has been well recorded throughout Australian media as she has striven to raise funds for breast cancer research. Her brother Sam, put his acting career on hold and rode a unicycle around Australia to help raise attention to the need for breast cancer research and breast check/health awareness. This book is their life journey, their struggles and celebrations. Breast cancer has touched the lives of so many families, including my own, yet it was only a week or so ago when Connie and Sam mounted their final fund raising campaign here in Canberra that I finally managed to buy the book and started reading it. Connie's final wish was to raise $1,000,000.00 in 5c pieces in the shape of a huge heart. Australians really did open their hearts to her as the donations surpassed all expectations and reached over double anyone's hopes or beliefs. I'm finding the book to be quite moving, as Connie talks you through her courageous experience of surviving cancer not once but several times.  Her outlook on life is truly inspirational to anyone going through the stages of this traumatic disease.
* Watching
Dr Who and loving it! This season would have to be the scariest in a long time. There has to have been a moment in every episode where I have nearly jumped out of my skin. David Tennant is my favourite Doctor, but Peter Capaldi is fantastic this season. The story lines have been creative and intriguing.
I've also just watched "Anne with an E" on Netflix. There was only seven episodes in the series so it left me wanting more. The Canadian scenery was spectacular and naturally the story of Anne of Green Gables was portrayed magnificently. If you ever read the book as a child, you will enjoy this series.
 'The Crown" was another superb Netflix series. The early life and reign of Queen Elizabeth 2 and her family is fascinating. Winston Churchill is portrayed brilliantly by John Lithgow and Matt Smith has Prince Phillip's mannerisms perfect. The first season covers events in the Queen's private and political life from 1947 to 1955. I found the historical accounts quite compelling and am looking forward to next season.
*Listening To
I like to listen to a range of music styles and artists. At the moment I am quite enjoying a lot of Ed Sheerin's works. He reminds me a lot of my youngest son's best mate who also plays the guitar and piano. Mike is a rather talented young musician who is a super composer of music scores. He graduated from the Australian Institute of Music and is now completing his honours year at the Australian National University. I am sure he has a bright future ahead of him.
There's always a bit of the Eagles playing somewhere in the mix and this weekend we are off to a concert by a cover band  titled "The Ultimate Eagles" who I hear play all their hits brilliantly. I am very much looking forward to watching their performance.
*Writing
I am currently in the process of working on a number of stories. They are all in various stages of completion.
I have two short stories almost ready to submit to an Australian Anthology that will be released for Christmas. As such, I have written both stories with a Christmas theme. The first is suitable for children ages 8-12 yrs and is about a young boy who in helping a stranded pod of whales, he comes to realise the importance of helping others, while the second story is a fun little tale for children aged 3-6 yrs. It uses my alien character from my Bradberrie Brother's Alien Adventures. It is the aliens first Aussie Christmas and describes all the wonders that he sees and experiences.
I am also working on a middle grade chapter book where the Bradberrie Brothers have a bit of a Bali adventure. It is totally different from the rest of the series as it is for slightly older readers. The third book in the series "Alien Milkshakes" is sitting in the wings waiting for final edits and cover design to be completed.
Not to forget, several other Australian animal picture books I am ready to have illustrated and still working on writing more.
* Thinking About
 I'm always thinking about the never ending list of things to do. Whether it's on my writing list, reading list, study list (I am always learning more about this writing life), our company paperwork, housework, or helping to do more on the house building. The list never seems to end, but I enjoy it all.
* Anticipating
Moving into our house. This September will be ten years since we first moved onto our property. I am anticipating that by then, our dream might finally be complete. We have worked hard building it and each time we reach a milestone I am thankful and proud of our accomplishments, but I have to admit, I must be a very patient wife to wait this long!
I am also anticipating another good fall of snow this winter. We had one beautiful white day last year, but it doesn't take long to melt. I always promised my boys a "Snow Day" so that they could have a day off school. It never eventuated. Maybe this year now that they have all moved out of home it just might happen.
* Wishing
The house was already finished and we were moved in.  The shed is pretty comfortable but it's time we moved into the house.
* Making Me Happy
My family makes me happy. Seeing my boys happy, self-sufficient and successful in their chosen careers. I look at them and know hubby and I have raised three amazing sons that we can be very proud of. I love them, their gorgeous wives and my hubby "to the moon and back." :)
It also makes me really happy when I am asked to refill an order for my books at a gift shop or tourist centre. Knowing my books are selling and people are at home reading them to their children at night fills me with a wonderful warm fuzzy feeling. If a child is smiling because a parent has read one of my books to them, I couldn't be happier.
* Seeing in My Camera Lens
I love taking photos of the animal silhouettes in our fireball. One of the best parts of this time of year is sitting outside by our fire at sunset with a cheese and crackers plate and a glass of red wine. Neighbours, friends and family gathered all around to chat and laugh by the warmth of the fire.
What are you currently looking forward to this winter or summer? Please drop me a line in the comments below. Now that the cold of winter has set in, I am sure to be inside by the fire waiting eagerly to read.
Now that you have warmed your toes by the fire, be sure to take a peak and see what some of my author friends are up to this summer. Their links are listed below.  (Or will be in the next few days.)
Happy reading :)