Kaye Baillie is a writer of fiction and non-fiction children’s picture books and short stories. She has a Diploma in Professional Writing and Editing. One of Kaye’s passions is bringing stories about remarkable people or events to young readers. In 2022 her book When The Waterhole Dries Up was Shortlisted in the Children’s Book Council of Australia Book Awards and many of her picture books have won or shortlisted in awards such as the Speech Pathology Australia Book Awards, NSW Premier’s History Awards, WAYRBA (West Australian Young Readers Book Awards), and the Children’s Peace Literature Award.
Her work is published in Australia and internationally. She is an active member and the Assistant Coordinator of SCBWI Victoria, Australia, and a member of the Children’s Book Council of Australia. She is represented by Essie White of the Storm Literary Agency in the US. Kaye lives in a Victorian coastal town in Australia with her family and high-maintenance pets.
When she is not writing or reading, she can be found walking on the beach, baking or eating a scrumptious pudding.
ABOUT THE GREAT BIG SOFTIE
Kaye wrote Great Big Softie when the words, ‘Mind the glassware, sweetie’, popped into her head. She enjoyed saying the line so much she knew she had to write a story to go with it. She wondered who ‘sweetie’ was? And why he/she didn’t like being called ‘sweetie’? Then when a soft-hearted monster made an appearance in her imagination, Elliot became the main character who while trying to fit in with his monster friends, upsets a little girl. Elliot must decide whether to continue his monstrous deeds or follow his heart.
The amazing illustrations in this book have been created by Shane McG.
The Great Big Softie is published by New Frontier Publishing.
THE HARDEST THING ABOUT WRITING THE BOOK
In the scene where Elliot stands outside the little girl’s house, I wanted it to be unclear about what Elliot will do next. At the same time, I wanted to hint that he has decided not to do what the other monsters expect of him. It’s a lot to capture in one image
HOW KAYE OVERCAME IT
I had several back-and-forth emails with the editor who was in direct contact with Shane, the illustrator. I explained my intention for the scene and Shane produced a perfect expression for Elliot’s face. I then altered my text to best capture that moment.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING AN AUTHOR?
Wondering if the text is finished. Is it the best it can be and should be.
HOW DO YOU OVERCOME IT? WHAT KEEPS YOU GOING?
Getting a critique is essential for making a story stronger. With fresh eyes on a story and receiving someone else’s view, it helps me to see my work from another angle. This provides an opportunity to revise and improve things like the structure, the POV, or even remove a character. Or sometimes it helps me reword text to make it clearer.
Today, sisters Marg Gibbs and Kim Roberts are visiting to talk about their beautiful new poetry book, Tomorrow Land, and the challenges they faced creating it.
“I am passionate about poetry. For me, it’s music in words, a flutter in the heart and a calming space that offers a second and third reading. It can be a stepping stone into writing a story.
Tomorrow Land’s poems for children is my first collaboration with my sister Kim. I believed that the two of us could channel our strengths and skills as teachers to come up with this book, Kim’s background as a primary teacher/ librarian and me as a secondary teacher.
The wonder of poetry is the playful combination of words and feelings. Tomorrow Land is based on time chapters or themes, six altogether. Before, First, Next, Now, Always and Last. Kim and I wrote poems to suit these sequences based on what if? time, space, imaginative places, journeys, and a sprinkle of magic.
The trickiest thing was ensuring a balance of poems in the table of contents. We overcame this by rearranging the different poems and changing a couple of titles, My Magic Finger and Magic Treehouse became The Treehouse. We also had two What if poems, so altered that. Structuring the poems involved careful layout. Our styles are different.
The most challenging thing about being an author is the never-ending ideas that come to me; choosing the best ones and letting go of some. I overcome this by brainstorming with others, including my sister, who will edit and suggest a new approach. Sometimes I need to walk away from an idea for a time.
What has kept me going is the passion, drive, and pleasure I receive in sharing words with others to foster reading and curiosity about the world. In the back of my mind and heart are my grandchildren. They are tomorrow’s generation, and this makes me happy.”
“Poetry is something that I’ve written all my life. It’s short, precise and is like a little package that you open up when you read. If I can’t write a poem in an hour or two, it’s just not there. Everyday life inspires me, so for many years my poems were about my 4 boys. They included their dad, their friends and events like holidays and birthday parties. A concise memory to treasure forever.
As a teacher in the Primary school, I’d make up funny ones about a particular teacher having a birthday or having a baby. These often turned into songs sung in the staffroom. As a librarian, I love reading aloud to children, using my voice and expression to tell the story. It is easy to know the mood of the book, even for older children. Connection is the key. Each student connects in a different way and question time is rewarding.
The hardest thing about writing this book of poems was believing in my style. My sister writes differently and sometimes I thought maybe this isn’t good enough. To overcome this fear, I read my poem in the mirror and saw my own enjoyment. That was enough.
Being an author is easy. We are all authors. Believing your work is worthy for the public eye and for someone to pay for it is more challenging. Marg and I were fortunate enough to self publish. I think if you pour your heart into something, and it gets rejected, that can put you off trying again.
Tomorrow Land is full of poems to make you think and wonder. The illustrations also highlight this play with words. This experience was given to me by my sister after I had a stroke 8 months ago. It gave me the purpose I needed to navigate a difficult time in my life. The printed books arrived today on my doorstep. What a joy it was to hold one in my hand and know that some child will soon be discovering fresh ideas. Some mother or father, some Granny or Pop, will lie at night, like I do with my grandson and share a beautiful memory.”
Kate Foster is a children’s author writing about friends, family, and dogs. Originally from a small town in the southeast of England, she now lives on the stunning Gold Coast in Australia with her family and second-hand dogs. She is passionate about encouraging and teaching a wider understanding of autism and mental illness via a positive approach and representation. Her favourite things are dogs, books, and cake … any kind of cake but preferably with cream or ice cream on the side!
THE BRAVEST WORD
A rescue story of love and trust between a boy and a dog from the talented author of PAWS.
“Do you hear that? You’re Cliff now, and your life is going to get better, I promise.”
When eleven-year-old Matt finds Cliff, a hurt, neglected dog abandoned in the bush, he knows the brave little pup needs saving. He wants to help. But can he?
Lately, Matt has had way more bad days than good days. The pieces of his life just don’t seem to fit together any more and he doesn’t understand why. He’s finding it impossible to concentrate at school and has lost interest in the activities he used to love. Plus, he’s tired all the time.
Matt’s too afraid to share what’s really going on in his own head with anyone. His friends and family will never understand . . . maybe it’s not only Cliff who needs saving.
THE HARDEST THING ABOUT WRITING THE BRAVEST WORD
The hardest thing about writing THE BRAVEST WORD was, as is the case with most children’s fiction, creating the perfect balance. This is a story about depression. And I don’t mean a story starring a boy who has depression, I mean a book actually about the illness, how it tricks, manipulates, and destroys, and how the main character including the people who love him respond and react. So, particularly in a book aimed at readers aged nine to twelve, getting this topic spot on was a big responsibility. I didn’t want to scare children or create a story that was so miserable and bleak that they wouldn’t be able to empathise or absorb what I wanted them to. With any piece of fiction, the reader needs to be entertained and experience a range of emotions, because that way information and details are naturally woven into their memory.
FACING THE CHALLENGE
Finding that balance came in the form of a dog – surprise, surprise! A dog that needed the main character as much as he needed the dog. A dog that had been through its own trauma and, in its own silent way of communicating, reached out and enabled a sick boy to process then in turn reach out for help himself. Dogs and children together are a shining light of hope and hope is the balance that all children’s books need. I also relied on a plethora of amazing readers who I asked to tell me if the book was too flat, too depressing, too joyless. But at the same time tell me if the message was working, that the illness was exposed in as much detail as needed. I never underestimate the power of several fresh pairs of eyes to bring me clarity and perspective.
THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING AN AUTHOR
The hardest thing about being an author changes most days for me! That’s a terrible answer. But, when I’m drafting, that’s the hardest part. When I’m editing, that’s the hardest part. When I’m promoting, that’s the hardest part. Yet strangely, I love each part and miss them when I’ve moved on to the next one! There’s a lot of giving up control, knowing exactly what’s happening with your work and when once it’s in a publishing schedule, and accepting changes to this schedule as and when they occur. Being flexible is a toughie.
OVERCOMING THIS CHALLENGE
There are always things that can distract me from the hard parts, though, because I’ve found that I don’t have a brain which overcomes things in their entirety. So, I am always working on a new project and usually juggling two or three processes at the same time. Outlining a new idea, polishing a drafted manuscript, waiting for feedback on a completed project. I need the variety and change in activity to keep my brain ticking and away from the risk of obsessing. I’ve also learnt to be comfortable (or at least becoming more comfortable) asking questions when I can’t move on. That certainly doesn’t mean emailing my agent or editor or publicist every week, though! And finally writing friends. I rely on buddies to keep me going. Sometimes those buddies I meet with in person, and sometimes it’s a tweet a writer posts that allows me that lightbulb moment.
ABOUT KAREN Karen Hendriks is an Australian picture book author with Go Away, Foxy Foxy, Feathers and Home recently being published. Feathers was shortlisted for the international Rubery Awards in 2021. The Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson read Feathers on her You Tube channel. Home is listed on the Australian Refugee Council’s webpage as a picture book resource. Karen’s website is karenhendriks.com. Karen writes stories that are heartfelt and quirky. Her home is on the south coast of New South Wales and she loves the ocean and nature. Karen has swum with manta rays and turtles. She’s too afraid to scuba dive and prefers to snorkel. Karen dreams of swimming with whale sharks one day.
KAREN AND ALISA’S BOOK Home is a picture book inspired by Karen’s own family history. The heart locket character is based upon her heart locket from the village of Wunschendorf where her Mum and Oma were born. Home is about losing a home, finding a new one but never forgetting the home that you lost. War ends, yet its dark shadow remains. A family is forced to flee their home. As they journey through hunger, long cold nights, and homelessness, a heart locket whispers words of hope. And a country that’s far away, calls for those that are no longer wanted. It offers new beginnings and a precious place, once more to call home.
The illustrator, Alisa Knatko is Russian and she lives in St Petersburg, Russia so Home has a very European look and feel.
THE HARDEST THING ABOUT WRITING HOME I wanted to shine a light not on a story that is largely unknown but I also wanted it to be one my mum would be happy with. There’s a lot of sadness about war and it’s important to know these sort of stories because war is cruel. It was hard to write because my own mum, grandmother and great grandmother went through this event in history.
THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING AN AUTHOR AND OVERCOMING THE OBSTACLES The hardest thing about being an author, is wanting your writing to be seen and heard and often that is not the case. It took me years to be published. Also I have wonderful ideas but it has taken a long time to develop my craft so I have learnt to be patient. That is a very hard thing to learn when you start out writing and I was very intimidated by other more established writers. It took me a long time to realise I do belong because I love what I do and I am good at it.
Candice Lemon-Scott is the first author to share her tips on how to overcome writing challenges and stay motivated.
We hope this helps get your writing week off to a great start.
Candice Lemon-Scott is an award-winning Australian author, editor and presenter. She has published 14 books. Her quirky style, fast-paced narratives and originality appealing to young readers in particular. Her most recent book Ocean Warriors: The Rise of Robo-Shark is an environmental adventure book with STEM themes. Her previous series, Eco Rangers, is a wildlife adventure series. Her first series Jake in Space features turbo space cars, hurtling asteroids, and evil villains.
She has received awards recognition in the Wilderness Society’s Environment Award for Children’s Literature, Green Earth Award, Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards, PPA Award and EPAA (Educational Publishing Australia Awards). Candice has a Bachelor of Communication / Diploma of Arts (Professional Writing & Editing) and is a PhD candidate in English. When not writing, or running her bookstore, Candice can usually be found on a beach somewhere.
Ocean Warriors:The Rise of Robo-Shark is an environmental adventure with STEM themes for kids 7-12. It’s set in the not-too-distant future at a time when sea creatures are virtually extinct. In this future world, kids are sent to Environmental Citizenship summer camp, and Kai and Emily go to a research submarine to help restore extinct sea creatures. Kai would rather spend his days playing virtual reality games than restore the icky sea cucumber, until one day he sees a great white shark out the portal of the submarine.
The problem with that is, sharks are extinct. Plus, this one is a cyborg. Kai then sets about working with Emily to prove its existence and learning to communicate with it. In getting to know the shark, he becomes determined to bring sharks back from the brink of extinction. Not everyone likes the idea of great white sharks roaming the seas again though, and they come up against an evil organisation trying to thwart the mission.
THE HARDEST THING ABOUT WRITING THIS BOOK
The hardest thing about writing the book was combining writing from the point of view of a human character with that of the robo-shark. It was very different getting in the ‘head’ of a cyborg great white shark compared to that of my main character, Kai. It was a particularly challenging process to get the shark voice right in creating an anthropomorphised character. I really had to think about how a shark might perceive a world where most sea creatures have disappeared from the oceans in a different way to how humans would see it.
HOW CANDICE OVERCAME HER WRITING OBSTACLE
I originally wrote the different points of view in separate scenes, alternating between the shark point of view and the human ones. Once I’d written those initial draft scenes, I started to combine them into the story. It took a lot of redrafting, particularly in playing around with different ways the shark might ‘talk’ and in seeing the world through the shark’s worldview.
THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING AN AUTHOR
The hardest thing for me is finding the time to dedicate to writing around running my business, my love of travel, and family life.
HOW CANDICE DEALS WITH THE CHALLENGES OF BEING AN AUTHOR, AND WHAT KEEPS HER GOING
I made the decision a long time ago that I was going to dedicate at least one day of the week to writing and nothing else. When the kids were very little it was only a few hours a week and gradually I’ve been able to build that up. Knowing I have that set time each week really helps me and it’s surprising how much can be achieved by giving myself even a small block of time. My passion for storytelling is what’s kept me going. Stories that come to me will persist until I write them, and it brings me a lot of joy to write. Writing is my ‘me’ time.
MIRROR MENTORSHIPS – 3 MENTORSHIPS VALUED AT OVER $10,000 EACH
Think+DO Tank Foundation and Scribble have opened applications for the inaugural MIRROR MENTORSHIP Program. They call for Expressions of Interest from writers, illustrators, and literary translators who come from historically marginalised communities and who are developing literary work for children and young people (0-14 years) for publication in English and in languages other than English (bilingual works).
MIRROR will identify, support and mentor THREE talented artists with the aim of making new Australian children’s literature that reflects an increasingly diverse and curious reading public.
This innovative mentorship program lasts for a year and will provide a total in-kind support package to up to three literary artists valued at over AUD$10,000. The package includes:
● skills development
● industry networking and market development
● career-pathway guidance and profile development
● a financial stipend to support the artist’s practice ($4000)
● over 40 hours with an industry mentor matched to their needs
● support from the Think +Do Tank Foundation and Scribble teams, and more.
The program is designed to connect emerging literary artists with industry professionals, and develop market opportunities both within Australia and abroad. Writers, illustrators and literary translators are encouraged to apply.
Applications will be assessed by a panel of industry professionals including: Miriam Rosenbloom,the founder and publishing director ofScribble; Jane Stratton, the founder and CEO of Think+DO Tank Foundation; Rachel Bin Salleh, the Publisher of the award-winning Magabala Books publishing house; Rebecca Lim, an award-winning author, illustrator and editor; and Freda Chiu, an acclaimed illustrator.
“There is a universality to childhood in some ways, but without a diversity of storytellers and illustrators, we lose the specificity and diversity of how children grow up in the world,” says Miriam Rosenbloom. “The same mirror, the same lens reproduces a reality that become monotonous.”
Jane Stratton explains: “The most powerful lever for a more inclusive and diverse publishing landscape is to widen access and deepen opportunities for historically underrepresented artists to tell their own stories, and to showcase their work in front of both mainstream Australian and international audiences.”
Rachel bin Salleh of Magabala Books, Australia’s leading First Nations children’s publisher, says, “There is an ancient need to be told stories, in all its form and in all its ways. Storytelling needs new opportunities to find innovative voices, and through this, new ways of seeing, thinking, being and existing in this world.” Rachel addresses artists thinking of applying to MIRROR saying, “Your story is important and unique, and this is about creating the fundamentals – a safe space to connect. For you and your story. Connection is a cornerstone of humanity and being able to see who we are through you is one of the greatest gifts we can give to the world.”
Rebecca Lim, celebrated young adult writer, illustrator and editor joins Rachel urging artists to apply. Rebecca says, “If you think you can add to our landscape and give our children a more diverse set of books to read, and beautiful things to hold, and take forward into their lives, please apply.”
Frida Chiu, illustrator, says: “I hope the MIRROR Mentorship can help identify and nurture extraordinary talent who will go on to influence the politics of children’s publishing, paving the way for more exciting role models and stories that are a truer reflection of the diverse and rich backgrounds of Australian children.”
Think+DO Tank Foundation uses the creative arts in many ways to amplify the voices of disadvantaged Australians and to incubate and promote artists who work in languages other than English. The organisation will also be launching a program for multilingual writers later this month called The Writers Room.
Applications for the MIRROR MENTORSHIP are now open. The closing deadline is midnight, 6 May 2022. Applications are invited from writers, illustrators and translators creating children’s literature who are from historically marginalised communities, including First Nations and culturally and linguistically diverse communities. Applications can be made here: https://www.mirror.org.au/
MIRROR will also be generating a database of Australian literary artists from historically marginalised communities to assist publishers, art directors and commissioning editors in Australian books and publishing to retain great talent. Announcements about how to have your work featured in the MIRROR Database will be made in May 2022.
This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.
Asa is running from a troubled past, and when she goes to stay with the father she hasn’t seen in twelve years, she’s hoping that finally she has found a home.
But he’s more interested in spending time at the pub than with his daughter and when the notorious Dirt Circus League arrives in town they draw Asa into their web.
Apart her instant attraction to their charismatic leader, Quarter, Asa is drawn to the possibility of friendship and connection and the yearning to become part of this unruly group of under 20s, all except The Surgeon who’s an ‘outsider’ like Asa but attends to all the group’s medical needs.
In this page turner, we see Asa drawn deeper and deeper into the League’s mysterious web.
Up until now, Asa has tried to ignore the gift of second sight; the ability to see both the past and the future, but since she has joined the League, her visions have been getting stronger and she soon realises that there’s way more to the League than she thought, and there’s a dark reason why none of it’s members are over twenty.
Asa is also forced to face the darkness in herself and the reasons why she always resorts to fighting and violence to handle the deep anger in her that comes from a lifetime of betrayals.
Asa’s visions help her to discover the truth about the Dirt Circus League, but not everybody is going to be happy with her revelations, even if they save lives.
Asa is forced to choose between her feelings for Quarter and her need to find a space where she is loved unconditionally and personal happiness doesn’t come through violence and danger.
I found myself drawn into the deep and disturbed world that Maree Kimberley has created in Dirt Circus League . I loved its authenticity and the way the author uses the setting as a character in the story, creating menace and beauty at the same time.
The lure of constant danger and Asa’s disturbing visions made this book a real page turner.
I was also hooked in by Asa’s complex character and the way she battles the demons within herself. I loved her strength and her vulnerability, and how they lead her into danger, but also save her in the end.
It is written by Maree Kimberley and published by Text Publishing.
Maree Kimberley is a writer from Brisbane. Her work has been published in several anthologies, including The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2015 and Defying Doomsday. Dirt Circus League, her first novel for young adults, was inspired by the remote landscapes of Cape York and her fascination for neuroscience.
I spoke to Maree about how she wrote this extraordinary book and you can see our interview here.
My great nieces, Ella and Evie absolutely lovedHello, Baby written by Shelly Unwin and illustrated by Jedda Robaard.
And it’s hardly surprising! Hello, Baby is a perfect ‘Baby’s First Story’.
The emotive pastel illustrations beautifully complement the gentle lilting text. There’s so much love, warmth and joy in this delightful picture book as the family welcomes their new arrival and contemplates the wonderful years ahead with their new baby.
Today we’re lucky to have the author and the illustrator, Shelly and Jedda, here to talk about how they created this beautiful book.
Shelly is the SCBWI ACT Coordinator and author of the much loved ‘You’re Series’ also published by Allen & Unwin.
I had some questions for Shelly about the inspiration behind this book and how she created it.
My parents were foster parents, and I loved helping them care for the babies. So, when I became an author, I knew at some point I would write a book specifically for babies. But if you asked my husband, he would tell you he was my inspiration – he was the one to suggest that I put pen to serviette (we were in a restaurant at the time) and write it. And I’m so glad he did!
2. Why do you think books like this are important?
I think people often buy books to celebrate the arrival of baby, but they’re often hard-back collectables that sit beautifully on the shelf until the child is older. This book is about reading from the day baby is born, and this is so important. Reading to baby as soon as possible has so many wonderful benefits, assisting cognitive development and nurturing the bond between caregivers and babies. And, in our non-stop world, this book says, ‘Pause, pause and look at the beautiful baby you have created. Pause and relish the time you have with them and the future you will have together.’
3. Can you tell me about the writing process?
As I mentioned, my first draft of this book was written on a serviette. I then took it back to my office and reworked it. When I felt confident, I shared it with my critique group for their feedback, several times. This helped to make the manuscript as strong as it could be and ensure I’d nailed the rhyme and the rhythm regardless of who was reading it.
4. What is your top writing tip for picture book authors?
Find a critique group that works for you. It is so important to get feedback from writers who can look at a story critically and help you build it to its potential before sending it out to agents or publishers. Even if you know a lot about books and writing, you’re often too close to your own work to really see where it can be improved, and this is where a good critique group can be so beneficial.
5. In your mind, did you visualise your main character as a human baby? How did you feel when you saw the illustrations?
I always envisioned an animal as the main character, but I thought it would be one animal family the whole way through the story. I was delighted when Jedda illustrated a whole host of animals who gather together with human babies at the end of the book.
6. What have they added to your text?
I love that the family unit is different throughout the story – some families are single-parent families and many of the animals have no clear gender. It makes my heart sing that the book can support any family structure and is accessible to all. I also love Jedda’s beautiful illustration style – it complements the text and is perfectly suited to the age group. Allen & Unwin also added the dedication page at the front of the book and the space for baby’s first photo at the back, which makes it such a special keepsake.
Jedda has created over 40 books. Her books are sold internationally and have been published in many languages including English, French, Dutch, Greek, Italian, Korean and Chinese.
Although she enjoys writing her own stories, Jedda has also collaborated with a number of Australian Authors, including Katie Richie, Kerry Brown, Melissa Keil, Libby Gleeson, Kate Welshman, and Tania Cox.
Jedda is published in Australia by Hardie Grant Egmont, Penguin Random House, Hachette, Five Mile Press – Bonnier, Walker Books, Scholastic books, Little Hare Books, Allen & Unwin and HarperCollins.
And internationally by Little Bee, Langue Au Chat, Pearson & Planeta Junior.
I loved hearing Jedda’s insights into how she illustrated Hello Baby!
1. Did you connect with the text straight away? If so, why?
As soon as I read Shelly’s next, I loved it. I knew straight away how it could look. The images jumped into my mind immediately. Which isn’t always the case when someone else has written the story.
2. Was it your idea to use animal characters? If so, how did you choose which ones to use?
I believe it was always destined to be animals, but the idea of it being a different animal family for each page made it so much more fun.
I’m not completely sure on how I came to to pick each animal. But the text definitely helped set up characteristics for each family.
3. What medium/s have you used?
This book was done entirely on the iPad in Procreate (digital drawing program created specifically for illustrators). I’ve found it the only digital program that allows me to draw and paint and get as close as possible to the feeling of illustrating traditionally.
4. What is your top tip for new picture book illustrators?
Don’t spend so much time perfecting your folio that you never send it in. You will learn a lot ‘on the job’ and although you may worry your initial folio isn’t good enough. If you have what a publisher is looking for they will see it.
5. What was the most fun thing about illustrating this book?
Having so many different animals. As your probably aware I love illustrating animals and this was like Christmas for me.
6. What was the most challenging?
I think using digital media is always the most challenging for me. Not the actual drawing but making the images look as non digital as possible while not pretending it’s traditional watercolour. It’s a balancing act that I am still working on.
Thank you so much Shelly and Jedda for sharing your insights on how you created this beautiful picture book. I hope that Hello, Baby finds its way into many small hands.
If you have questions for Shelly or Jedda, please feel free to include them in the comments section of this post.
I inherited a love of reading from both my parents. They read widely and encouraged me to explore all kinds of books and to value the importance of words.
Today my father turns ninety-eight. He has seen many changes in his long life time – the advent of the motor car, WWII, the invention of computers and so much more.
He still reads the Age newspaper regularly and as his mobility has declined, words have become even more important to him.
My father became an avid reader as a small child. He was an only child, a lonely child. His mother had a hectic social life and his father was busy building his business. Books were my father’s solace and companions. They were his friends, they provided characters for him to spend time with, and allowed him to step into different worlds, to feel connected.
He also read non fiction voraciously – particularly newspapers. Europe was becoming increasingly unsettled in the early years of his childhood, and after Adolf Hitler became Germany’s Chancellor in 1933 and introduced policies to isolate and persecute Jews, my father suspected that his family’s comfortable life in Vienna wasn’t going to last.
Although he hadn’t been raised in the Jewish faith, his parents were married in a synagogue, and my father knew that was enough to put his family at risk.
His father was too busy working to keep up with everything that was going on around them, and his mother didn’t take an interest in world affairs. So as a boy, my father took it upon himself to keep across the news and report back to his family.
At first, his parents dismissed his concerns as paranoia. They believed that he spent too much time reading.
In 1935, the Nuremberg Laws were passed, decreeing that Jews could not be full German citizens. The more my father read, the more he realised how the rights of Jews were being eroded. He told his parents that they needed to start thinking about an exit plan, that they should leave Austria because it was becoming unsafe.
At first his parents were too busy to pay attention. But my father read more and more about Jewish arrests and persecution, and his parents were forced to acknowledge that what he was reading in the papers had a good deal of truth in it. They began to plan for a possible future away from their homeland.
In the Autumn of 1938, 17 year-old Herschel Grynzspan became outraged at the treatment of his Polish Jew parents who had been exiled from Poland. His anger built and on 7 November 1938, he was so incensed that he shot German Diplomat, Ernst Vom Rath in Paris. Vom Rath died two days later from his wounds and the Nazi Party used this incident to incite further hatred of Jews.
The Nazis retaliated quickly and between the 9 and 10 November they smashed synagogues and shops and arrested thousands of Jewish men and sent them to concentration camps. This event became known as Kristallnacht, (Night of Broken Glass).
It seemed that my father’s parents had left their run too late. My grandfather was one of those arrested and sent to Dachau concentration camp.
They called him a preventative prisoner because he hadn’t committed any crime, but because he was a Jew they believed that it was only a matter of time before he did.
My grandfather wrote to his wife and son from Dachau, heavily censored letters with hidden meaning where he urged them to hurry their plans to escape from Austria.
“Write to Huttert Limited London, Region Street, a MrsHolzer to remind her that she should not forget something which is particularly important right now.” “My friend has not let me down. I am happy no end that you are with Pauline. Hope to see you soon.”
My grandfather was one of the lucky ones, released from Dachau in early 1939 on the condition that he and his family would emigrate and leave behind EVERYTHING they owned. Plans to leave were accelerated.
With fake identities, they escaped by train, fleeing for their lives, nervous every time the train stopped, wondering if they would be searched, and their true identities discovered.
They arrived in Australia on 1 May 1939, a short time before WW11 began.
If they hadn’t had the help of generous Austrians who risked their own lives to help, my father and his parents would most likely have perished along with other family members who were murdered at Auschwitz.
My father’s reading and awareness of the true seriousness of the situation they faced, allowed his family to plan and leave Austria in the nick of time.
I grew up hearing accounts of my father’s escape and what his life was like before he left his homeland. His story led to me writing Beyond Belief, inspired by the true story of Muslims at a Paris Mosque who saved Jewish children in WW2.
It has also made me reflect on the importance of reading, and how it connects us, can alert us to danger, and keeps us informed of what’s happening in the world around us.
If my father hadn’t been such an avid reader, he might never have survived Hitler’s Nazis and made it to Australia where he has lived in peace for the last eighty-two years.
During the last few weeks we have been working with Australian author, Dee White, learning how authors create their stories.
The Yarrawonga College P-12 Editorial Committee interviewed students in the junior years and asked them about their experiences during the Your Story is Our Story Project.
We have gone around to a few classes interviewing year 3 students about their experience working with Dee.
The first question I asked was what have you learnt?
Ava said she learnt how to write a proper story, and Sam learnt how to put proper language into his writing piece. The others also said they have learnt how to use their punctuation in the right way.
All the students I spoke to would have liked it to have Dee come in a lot more. Some of the people I spoke to have said that Dee White has made a huge impact on them. They said that they have started to like writing more than they used to.
Dee really likes to come in and help us with our writing piece.
Personally, I think it was pretty fun to have a great author to help us with our own writing piece.
YEAR TWO PERSPECTIVE
By Grace Foran, Year 6
Last week I interviewed some year 2’s about working with author, Dee White.
Dee White has been working with students from Prep up to Year 8. While interviewing the year 2’s I learnt about how much they have been enjoying working with Dee!
A little bit about Dee: Dee White has written many books including, Letters to Leonardo, Beyond Belief and the year 2’s favourite Eddy Popcorn! Dee has been coming here for a few weeks and has been working with the students on story writing.
I interviewed six kids and found very positive feedback! Most of the kids said that they loved working with Dee and that their stories are coming along well.
The Year 2’s are writing a realistic fiction story based on an event they experienced themselves. The kids have been making their own puppets and using them as characters for their stories. A few lucky kids even got to hold the Eddy Popcorn puppet!
A lot of kids have been loving being creative and all the kids I interviewed only had positive things to say about Dee and her visits!
Stella and Hunter have both said that they have learnt more about creating their own characters. Taylah said that the sessions with Dee helped her get more ideas and Layken said Dee gave him lots of tips to write his story.
Overall the year 2’s found the experience enjoyable and are very proud of their stories.
YEAR THREE PERSPECTIVE
By Ava Cox, Year 6
During the last few weeks of term we have invited Dee White to help us improve our writing and write a realistic fiction piece with us.
While she has been at our school, students have had the opportunity to write, edit and illustrate with Dee.
On Tuesday, week 8 some of the students from the Editorial Committee went over and interviewed some of the junior grades. My friend and I went over to the year three’s to interview them, here are some responses.
All of the girls I spoke to are enjoying writing very much and love it when Dee comes. Right now the year threes are learning to plan and write a realistic fiction story based on the character they put on a milk carton they made. On their milk cartons they have put some pictures of missing people or animals.
Everyone I spoke to has started to enjoy writing more now that Dee has come to visit.
We are all very grateful that Dee has come to work with us, we can’t thank her enough. It will be great to have a book full of stories and a school full of authors!
YEAR ONE PERSPECTIVE
By Jackson White, Year 8
The year 1 students at Yarrawonga College were enthused about Dee White visiting them for the Your Story is Our Story project.
I got to interview of them last week and here are some of their responses.
All of the year 1s found it amazing having Dee White, an Australian author, here at Yarrawonga College. And they all thought that writing their own stories was the best.
Some students said that they love writing stories because they get to show their ideas. One said, ‘It’s fun to write about past experiences and what you did on the weekend.’
From stories based on a koala sleeping all day, to a magpie at the skatepark that crashes a lot, they all made funny fiction stories based on animals they can see or hear around them.
Some of the characters that came out of the students’ imaginations included Edie the Koala who loves to sleep, Kangy the kangaroo who loves to play in bushes, Ed the magpie who loves to skate, and Lizzy the koala who loves to play.
They all can’t wait till they get their creative stories put into a book for each other to read.
Thanks to all the students from the Editorial Committee for their great pieces. It was so much fun working with youall.
Thanks to Creative Victoria and Creative Learning Partnerships for making this program possible.