Lucas And Jack & Writing Tips with Ellie Royce

Ellie Royce has been telling stories her whole life. This resulted in some problems in her early days, notably at age five when she told her grandmother she had flown around the world on a broom.

Eventually Ellie learned to use her powers for good instead of evil and the result is a passion for writing books and sharing stories of all kinds.

Ellie RoyceEllie is the author of two books for teens, Letterbook One – Amy’s Secret and Letterbook Two – Passion for Fashion.

Lucas and Jack is her first picture book.

Ellie lives in Northern NSW with a little dog, a big dog, a second hand cat and her human family.


1. Write. Don’t wait “Till ……”  just write.
2. Write what you love.
3. Be flexible. There is more than one way to tell a story. If one way doesn’t work, try a different way!
4. Sometimes we run out of steam. When this happens, do what you need to fill the well, inspire yourself and feed your soul; walk outside, read,whatever it may be.
5. Then…..write!


Every week Lucas’s mum visits Great Grandpop at the nursing home.

And every week, Lucas waits for her outside.

Waiting is boring! Until Lucas meets Jack.

lucasAndJackLucas and Jack is a sensitive story about bridging the cap between generations.

I love the way that Lucas changes during the course of the story from a boy who is bored with visiting ‘old people’ to someone who can sees them not just as ‘old’, but as people with their own feelings and stories to tell – people who were young once and did things that Lucas can relate to.

There is a strong message in this story that is passed down to the reader in a gentle and inspiring way without them feeling like they are being ‘told’ what to think or they are being talked down to.

As well as revisiting the past through Jack’s eyes, Lucas is also able to find a way to connect with his Pop on a whole new level.

I love the authenticity of the characters in this book, and the way they become even more real for the reader through Andrew McLean’s wonderful illustrations.

There is so much emotion and life in his beautiful pictures.

Lucas and Jack is a wonderful book for families to share. It would also be a great introduction to living history in the classroom.

Lucas and Jack is written by Ellie Royce, illustrated by Andrew McLean and published by Working Title Press.

Teacher’s notes are available here.



Tania’s Picture Book Collaboration Tips – Celebrating Tottie and Dot

image031Today I’m so excited to welcome my very dear writer/illustrator and all round amazing creator friend, Tania McCartney who’s visiting to celebrate the release of Tottie and Dot, her new picture book collaboration with Tina Snerling.

Tottie and Dot is an important story about friendship and how to fix it when things go wrong.

Tottie and Dot live side by side. They drink marshmallow tea in the morning. Side-by-side. They water blooms in the afternoon garden. Side-by-side. They make speckled eggs for tea. Side-by-side. All is calm and peaceful until, one day, things change between Tottie and Dot. Who can create the prettiest, the bestest, the coolest house? And at what cost?

If you want to know more about Tottie and Dot you can read my review here.

Today, Tania is generously sharing some great tips about the collaboration process and how to make it work.

Tania’s Five Writing Tips – Author/Illustrator Collaboration

Tina Snerling and I are lucky creators. We get to work very closely together when we produce our books, and—to me—there is nothing more rewarding in the book production journey. Working in collaboration enhances any work, especially when both parties are willing to open their hearts and minds to collaborative possibility. Two minds are always better than one—and working with Tina so closely has allowed me to shift and change and grow my text, with new ideas, concepts and elements that might not have occurred had we put this book together ‘blind’.

Tina and TaniaWorking collaboratively absolutely makes for a more seamless book creation, where that delicate author/illustrator dance comes together in a truly cohesive way. Here are my top tips for a rewarding collaboration:

  1. image029Try not to be precious when you begin collaborating. Accept that the other party may have something really special to offer—some humour, a quirky addition, a plot twist, a new perspective. It’s not about who’s right or wrong—it’s about creating a new entity that takes seed in both image and text, but grows into its own creation. Allow the process to be organic. I have regularly changed text to suit Tina’s illustration ideas, and vice versa.
  2. If you are the author, let go of being the ‘primary’ creator. The books I write become as much Tina’s as they are mine. The nuance and meaning her illustrations add to the text are priceless.
  3. Set up a google doc spreadsheet and keep track of how the book unfolds. Tina and I put illustration notes in the columns and discuss the process as we go along. Listing the pages down the left hand side (including cover, inside cover, endpapers, half title, title, imprint, etc) really helps keep tabs on how the book is flowing, and if text needs to be moved to another page or if page imagery needs to be broken up in some way. You can also keep several versions of the spreadsheet so you can look back and see how things changed over time. Fascinating!
  4. image030I can’t imagine things turning sour (and you rarely hear of this happening), but if they do, it’s probably due to a battle of wills. For the sake of the book, agree to put the disagreements behind you, be prepared to compromise and if things are really bad, call on your editor or publisher to make the final choices/decisions.
  5. Keep communications open and strong and clear. This will minimise any drama, confusion, misinterpretation of text (rare) and—most importantly—the reworking of images, which can be immensely frustrating and time-consuming. Remember some illustrators like to storyboard, some like to create full mock ups, some create in full draft or go straight to final (exponentially easier if the illustrations are digital, like Tina’s, or the images can be manipulated digitally). If you spend time discussing imagery before it’s created, you minimise these issues. Of course, once the discussion occurs, you also need to let go of expectation and remember the illustrator may well throw out your illustration notes and—gasp!—create something better than you ever dreamed.

(Sep 2014, EK Books, $24.99, hard cover, 9781921966491)

Thanks for the tips, Tania. We look forward to seeing more wonderful books from you and Tina:)




Tottie and Dot Blog Blast!

Tottie and Dot blog blast webToday I’m so excited to be part of a very special event – a blog blast to celebrate the release of Tottie and Dot, Tania McCartney’s new picture book collaboration with Tina Snerling.

image029        image030

My review of this gorgeous book is below, but you can also hear great interviews, and do other fun things at the other fabulous blogs involved in the Tottie and Dot blog blast.  Just click on the BLOG BLAST picture above and it will take you to the blog schedule.


image034Turning the pages of Tania McCartney and Tina Snerling’s new picture book, Tottie and Dot is like browsing through a candy store. It’s so vibrant and full of appealing surprises.

Tottie and Dot are two adorable little girls who live side by side in quaint little houses.

image032They share the same taste in many things, marshmallow tea, apricot sandwiches, and my favourite, speckled eggs. But one day, things start to change.

image037image038A competition springs up between them over who can create the prettiest house. They become more and more outrageous in their attempts to come up with grander and grander plans for their homes.

image033I love the way this book is symbolic of modern day consumerism – where people accumulate things not out of need but out of a desire to impress.

Tottie and Dot and their deteriorating friendship over things that don’t really matter will invite important discussions with readers at home and in the classroom.

image040Friendship, consumerism and the environment are all contemporary issues for children to grapple with, and they are woven into Tottie and Dot’s story in a colourful, non-confronting way.

Tania McCartney’s lyrical language makes this book a pleasure to read out loud.

image039Each girl’s house is shown over a series of exquisitely illustrated double-page spreads — Tottie on the left and Dot on the right. Tina Snerling’s enchanting illustrations are full of expression and telling detail.

image035Tottie and Dot is a delightful read that raises important themes to be discussed with teachers and parents. But it’s an appealing story in its own right.

It’s another beautiful creation from the team who brought us An Aussie Year.

image036Tottie and Dot is for readers aged 4-7. It is published by EK Publishing.

(Sep 2014, EK Books, $24.99, hard cover, 9781921966491)

image031The collaboration between writer and illustrator on this book is clearly a labour of love. Their close connection comes through in all the nuances, the perfect marriage between text and illustrations.

Tania McCartney is coming back to my blog this Tuesday to talk about the collaboration process and she has some great tips – so stay tuned.

I hope you enjoy Tottie and Dot as much as I did.



Writing Humour – The Summer of Kicks

Today, I’m pleased to welcome hilarious Dave Hackett to DeeSribe Writing. Dave has generously agreed to share his comedy writing tips with us, and I’m reviewing his very funny new book for teens, The Summer of Kicks.

Dave Hackett (Cartoon Dave) is currently seen each week on Channel Eleven’s Toasted TV and Channel Seven’s It’s Academic, He has written a number of cartoon and funny books for kids, and is known for his lively humour, and he brings this to his writing in The Summer of Kicks, and to his main character, Starrphyre.


For a long time I’ve had a real yearning to write a comedy/romance from a teenage guy’s perspective.

Growing up, I was the only guy in a house full of girls, and I wanted to tell a story from that perspective. Like a three-year-old with an IKEA flat-pack bunk-bed and desk combo to assemble, I wanted to write a character who knows what his end game is, but has no idea how to get there. He’s surrounded by girls at home, overloaded with inside information on the female species, but getting close to anything that would resemble a potential girlfriend in the real world is going to require more than a step-by-step instruction booklet and a handful of allen keys.


  1. Be Funny. Comedy really sucks if it’s serious.
  1. I’ve heard it said that to write comedy, it’s a great idea to work with someone else. Find a partner – someone to bounce ideas off. Someone whose gasping-desperately-for-air-stomach-cramping-peeing-their-brand-new-jogging-pants response to your last line is evidence enough that you’re onto something witty. If nobody likes you enough to work that closely with you, at the very least, read your funny bits to anyone you can find, and gauge their response. (two year olds and cats don’t count).
  1. This is a gold mine of opportunity, because (and this might surprise you) – your characters can say anything you want them to say. If you’re writing about teenagers, go and listen to actual human teenagers talking to each other (some might put a label on this activity, like ‘eavesdropping’ or ‘invasion of privacy’, but let’s just call it research). Go out into the world, sit near a bunch of them in the food court and listen to them talk. It’s hilarious.
  1. Take a character or two, find a situation and ask: What’s the dumbest, most embarrassing thing that could possibly happen here? Make a list and then choose the thing that you’d least like to happen to you. And go there. And stay there. And then make it worse for them. Unbearably worse. (See, this is fun!) In your story-writing world, you are God. You’re the all-seeing, all-knowing, designer of all things (but let’s just clarify that this is just in your story-writing world. You’re not actual God. Don’t get ahead of yourself). The bottom line is, what you say goes.
  1. Remember, humour doesn’t work if it’s forced or too contrived. If you’re having trouble with funny, if it’s not coming naturally to you, maybe you should be writing sanitation manuals, or a series on the joys of accounting. But if it is comedy that you really want to tackle, don’t be afraid to look close to home for your ideas. Think of all the moments in your life that were cringe-worthy at the time, that you can look back on and laugh about now, and start there.

Comedy is challenging to write, but life is comedy that writes itself.


Starrphyre is your average sensitive-meets-dorky 16-year-old, with a tragic hippy name thanks to his parents – live to air radio therapist mum, and a bass player dad from a one hit wonder 80s metal band.

All Starrphyre wants is one date with his dream girl, Candace McAllister. Or at least, a meaningful conversation. It seems like he might get his wish when he gets the starring role opposite her in the school musical, but things don’t quite go according to plan. Added to this are Starrphyre’s ongoing battles with his sister’s meat headed boyfriend who has become his room mate, a friendly stalker, an internet scandal and a pair of shoes that get him into a whole lot of trouble.

The Summer of Kicks_978 0 7022 5336 2_COVER_FINALStarrphyre makes mistakes, but you can’t help liking him. He has a good heart and a great sense of humour, but he also has many cringe worthy moments in the story, which is one of the things that make this book so authentically teen.

In Starrphyre’s character, Dave Hacket captures all the awkwardness and vulnerability of being sixteen and embarking on first relationships.

Starrphyre’s loyalties are often torn between family and friends, between friends and friends, but you get the feeling he will make the right decisions in the end.

I also loved the secondary characters in the story from his oddball but wise mother, the sex therapist to his school mates and the people he works with in his first job.

The lives of the characters in this story are entwined in a complex mesh that brings plenty of twists and surprises to the story.

There’s plenty of action and humour to carry the reader along with Starrphyre on his journey and I also like the way female point of view characters are sensitively portrayed through the main character’s eyes.

I can see this book appealing universally to teens of both genders.

Thanks so much for visiting my blog, Dave and sharing your great tips. I hope that The Summer of Kicks finds its way onto many bookshelves:)



Australian Children’s Publishing – What’s Hot and What’s Not!

Sometimes being a writer is tiring. It’s not just because you wake up at 400am because your character has new plans for their life and wants to share them with you NOW! The process of writing is tiring – spending hours crafting your manuscript, submitting, being rejected, writing  more, submitting more – you know how the story goes.

In spite of the ups and downs I LOVE LOVE LOVE being a writer. But every now and then I feel the need to recharge. Sometimes it’s by having time away. Other times it’s by simply listening and being inspired by other creative people.

IMAG7075Last weekend I was lucky to be able to do both. I spent the weekend with my crit buddy and good friend, author, Alison Reynolds. As well as laughing, eating good food and chatting about all things writerly, we managed to fit in time to attend some fabulous events at the Melbourne Writers Festival.


Allen and Unwin Publisher Eva Mills, and Author/Editor Penni Russon gave us some great insights into what’s currently happening in Australian children’s publishing.

IMAG7062The purpose of their sold out session was to highlight the trends, possibilities and challenges of writing for 21st century children.

Both Eva and Penni were very generous; sharing their experiences and staying back afterwards to answer questions that they didn’t have time for during the session.

It was so wonderful to be given insight into their very special author/editor relationship and to hear how Penni’s popular Undine trilogy, Little Bird, Indigo Girls and Only Ever Always came into being.

Allen & Unwin Publisher, Eva Mills talked about how she gave up a successful career in science to follow her passion for children’s books.

Eva and Penni (who is also a freelance editor for Allen & Unwin) shared their knowledge and views about current industry trends.

What’s hot in Australian Kid’s Publishing

Eva told us that the top three things she is on the look out for are YA memoir, Middle Grade adventure/realism and she also said YA romance is still popular.

She also mentioned the Friday Pitch where authors have the opportunity to have their work seen by Allen & Unwin publishing staff.

What’s not

Genre that publishers aren’t currently seeking are dystopian, paranormal and quirky girl character centered junior fiction.

On the positive side, Eva said that outstanding manuscript in these genre might still be considered for publication.

She also mentioned that these thing go in cycles so genre that are not popular now could very well be back in fashion in a few years time.

It was a fascinating session and I came away feeling hopeful and inspired.

I highly recommend taking a break from your story world and venturing out into the real world to see what other writers are doing, and what’s happening on the publishing scene.

Did you go to any Melbourne Writer’s Festival Events that you can highly recommend? If so, feel free to share your experiences in the comments section of this post – or you might want to tell us about what you do to rejuvenate when being a writer has made you weary.

Happy Writing:)





Letters to Leonardo Goes Global

Letters to Leonardo Book CoverI’m thrilled to say that from 1st September 2014, Letters to Leonardo is available as an e-book so it will now be available to my readers and writerly friends in other parts of the world.

You can buy a copy here:

  • Amazon
  • iTunes
  • Kobo
  • JBHiFiNow ebooks
  • Bookworld

Or read what readers have said about letters to Leonardo here:

Dogs, Kids and Books – My Dog Doesn’t Like Me

Recently, our beloved 14 year old dog passed away. She drifted off peacefully, but she left a big hole in our heart and lives.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy youngest son was not much more than a year old when Puff came to us so she has been part of his life for nearly all of it.

Dogs and kids have such complex relationships, but they can form the strongest of bonds.

This week it seemed right to pay tribute to a great new book My Dog Doesn’t Like Me about kids and dogs, and to my special girl, Puff.

Pets make great inspiration for stories. Like any character, you have to think what sets them apart from others – what makes them unique – what makes them someone readers can connect with?

What made Puff special was her gentleness. Our pet rabbits sometimes jumped on her while she was asleep and while she woofed at them when she woke in fright, she never harmed them.

I don’t have Puff’s story yet, but one day I will. I often find that reading books about characters similar to those I want to write about can help me find the core of my story.

My Dog Doesn’t Like Me by Elizabeth Fensham is about another very special dog called Ugly, and a young boy, Eric who wants so desperately to bond with him, but doesn’t know how.

My Dog Doesn't Like Me_978 0 7022 5017 0_CoverMY DOG DOESN’T LIKE ME – REVIEW

One of the things I liked most about this book was the perspective it was written from.

Eric really does think his dog doesn’t like him and this is just the kind of thing a young boy might think in the situation Eric finds himself.

Eric is disappointed with his dog Ugly. Ugly was supposed to be his special pet, but he seems to like everyone else in the family better.

It’s not that Ugly doesn’t like him, it’s just that Ugly doesn’t know him as well as he knows Mum who feeds him or Grandpa who spends time with him when Eric is at school.

If Eric wants to bond with Ugly he’s going to have to spend a lot more time with him.

And now he’s facing a deadline because Eric has limited time to train Ugly and get him under control or his dog is going to be sent to a new home.

I love the way the author presents this very authentic character dilemma in such a realistic way.

We can feel Eric’s pain and worry, and the tension builds as Eric finds himself running out of time to train Ugly.

The author sought expert assistance when researching dog handling and you can tell this from the believable way in which the story unfolds.

This story has a life lesson, but it’s woven seamlessly into the narrative and I can see this book appealing to pet lovers, parents and teachers.Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 7.10.07 am

It is published by UQP.

Another dog story you might like is Just a Dog by Michael Gerard Bauer.