I know this is a writing blog, but I wanted to devote today’s post to reading.

If there was nobody to read our books we wouldn’t experience the pleasure and true honour of having someone read, interpret and enjoy what we have written.

I grew up in a household where books spilled over into every room, where you couldn’t walk more than a few paces before you came to a bookcase. Everyone loved books in our household. They have always been talked about, and I remember being read to from a very young age and being taken to public libraries every week.

But some people aren’t so lucky. They don’t have exposure to books on a daily basis, and then there are those who struggle to read; who have never been taught or who have struggled with an education system that doesn’t allow for their learning differences.

According to the National Year of Reading, a staggering 46% of Australians can’t read newspapers; follow a recipe; make sense of timetables, or understand the instructions on a medicine bottle.


1.  Read to them before they were born and even read books together as a family when me kids were in upper primary school. You can continue this even further if you want.

2.  Bought books as birthday presents…or any kind of presents.

3.  My husband and I made time to read ourselves so that our kids could see reading being modelled.

4.  Made family trips to the library a treat – like a family outing.

5.  Gave my kids autonomy in books they chose.

6.  Helped my kids choose books according to their hobbies and the kinds of things they liked.

7.  Gave books as treats or rewards instead of chocolate or money.

8.  Incorporated books and reading into our lifestyle.

9.  Left reading materials where they could be easily accessed; books on the coffee table, newspapers at breakfast etc.

10. Encouraged my kids to have a book to read during television ad breaks (instead of fighting with each other).

11.  Did research so that when my kids ‘couldn’t find anything to read’, I always had something to fill the gaps.

12.  Encouraged reading to be a habit – something that was done at the same time every day – like brushing teeth.

13.  Allowed reading time before sleep so that even if they were in bed at 7.30, they were allowed to stay awake for an extra half an hour to read – that way reading was a treat.

14.  Read books my kids liked even if they weren’t the sort of thing I preferred to read – that way I encouraged them to be open minded about what they read and it also meant I could have a fun discussion about the book with them.

15.  Had special book shopping days where my kids could choose to buy a book as a treat for something they had done well.

16. Made books a part of our life in every way possible from the day they were born.


During the National Year of Reading there will be heaps of great projects to encourage reading and writing. Some of the great events planned include:

  • It’s Never Too Late…To Learn to Read
  • Creative Reading Prize
  • Writers in residence
  • Festival of Indigenous Reading, Writing & Storytelling in Darwin
  • Local library membership drives
  • The Reading Hour

More about these projects is available on the love2read website.

The National Year of Reading also supports the Indigenous Literacy Foundation and the Pyjama Foundation which “makes it possible for Pyjama Angels – volunteer members of the community who work with children and Australia’s foster families – to read every day to thousands of children in care.”

During 2012 I’ll be donating 10% of my fees from author school visits to these worthy causes and to organisations that support children with learning differences.

To find out how you can support the National Year of Reading and help turn our country into a nation of readers, visit the National Year of Reading website.

I hope you will get behind the National Year of Reading too.



Some time ago, I wrote a post about editing and mentioned how reading Steph Bowe‘s, Girl Saves Boy helped me find my ‘character’s voice’. Just reading someone else’s words can spark great ideas and can help you identify the weaknesses in your own work.

I know some writers who refuse to read books in the same genre they are writing because they don’t want to be influenced by them or seen to be copying, but as well as showing you better techniques, reading someone else’s work can spark gems of creative brilliance and give you something great to aspire to.

I’m currently writing a survival story about a tween and a teen stranded in the Australian outback. I travelled Australia for almost two years in tents with my husband, the family dog and two toddlers, so the outback setting  for TEXT ME WHEN YOU GET THERE is very familiar to me.

But I wanted this book to be more than just an action packed read – I wanted it to leave the reader with a strong sense of setting, the strength of the human spirit and a connection to the characters. Even though I had the plot figured out, I knew there were still many layers to be added.

So I went back to read other survival stories for kids/YA. I pored again through Hatchet by Gary Paulsen (an old favourite) and Wendy Orr‘s wonderful new survival story, Raven’s Mountain. Both novels are set in an area that I’m totally unfamiliar with yet they still managed to make me feel as if I was actually there fighting for my life against the obstacles the characters were facing.

Reading both these great books again and thinking about how they were crafted, helped me identify the following weaknesses in my own manuscript:

  1. Main character doesn’t make enough observations about himself – this would help reader see how he grows throughout the story.
  2. Compare the outback setting more to his home – this will help reader connect with how out of his depth the character is in his new surroundings. Make observations about the things that aren’t there as well as the things that are.
  3. Use road signs to identify where the MC is for the reader.
  4. The MC is stuck in life-threatening situations without any adults present. Give him permission to do risky things that parents wouldn’t want him doing because that’s how they are going to survive – perhaps he keeps hearing Mum’s voice in his head. Jack and his sister are on their own so they would be more introspective – nobody to talk to except each other and when they fight, they would have nobody left to talk to.
  5. Apart from fear of outback hazards like dingos, snakes etc, there would also be phobias that kids might experience in a normal environment like fear of the dark.
  6. Need more sensory detail in terms of smells and taste.
  7. More description needed about physical state and injuries.
  8. Need more lighter scenes where kids are mucking around like they would at home – this will help add tension to the darker moments.

This is just a hint of the improvements to my manuscript that were inspired by reading Gary and Wendy’s books. I haven’t included specifics because I didn’t want to give away too much of the story.

But hopefully this will help you see that reading other books isn’t copying what other writers do. It can generate ideas and teach you things about your work in progress and the way you write.

I’d love to hear about books you have read that inspired you to write better. Feel free to leave your comments at the end of this post.

Next week at Tuesday Writing Tips we’re looking at how Critiquing Can Help You Write Better. Hope you can join us then.

Happy Writing:)


P.S. the pics for this post are from our “Around Australia trip” Hope you enjoy them.

Here are another couple I just had to include for the ‘cute’ factor even though they have no relevance to the story. Pic 1 is camping at Hogwash Bend. Pic 2 is with a baby kangaroo at Oodnadatta.

Here’s one last one I had to include of a Goanna who used to drop in every afternoon to play with the boy’s Lego.


Over the last few weeks I’ve been commenting on this blog about all the wonderful and clever things I did on my May Gibbs Fellowship.

Now I thought I’d share with you something I did that was dumb – well it wasn’t so much dumb as naive and inexperienced.

I wanted to share it on my blog, so that other writers don’t fall into the trap.

At home I plant a lot of trees

I’m afraid I am NOT one of those writers who can edit ‘on screen’. This means I have to print my manuscripts out to edit them – and for this I sincerely apologise to the trees, but in my defence, I do plant a lot of new ones – trees that is.

While I was doing my May Gibbs, I somehow managed to write 56,000 words – the equivalent of a lot of pages. In order to start my edits, I had to print it out.

During my Fellowship I was also contacted by my publisher about doing edits on another ms I had submitted to them – and this meant printing out another lot of pages.

While I was away in Brisbane, I also bought quite a few books – for research purposes you understand?

Now all this added paper ended up weighing quite a lot – in fact a lot more than I anticipated.

So when I got to the airport I discovered my luggage was 20 kilograms over the allowed weight. For this, Qantas charged me $170 – and they weren’t very friendly about it either. I’d anticipated paying for excess luggage, but not that much! Instead of packing my manuscripts and books in my suitcase, I would have been better off buying another plane ticket and having them on the seat beside me – it would have been cheaper.

At the time, it was too late to do any thing about it – I was at the airport about to catch the plane home to my family, so I wasn’t keen to have any delays.

But when I got back I did a bit of research and discovered this:

When I'm away I buy a lot of books

If I had sent my excess luggage via Australia Post, it would have cost me $76. I would have had to split it up into 5kg packages, but being books and paper, that would not have been too difficult.

I assure you I am not a particular fan of Australia Post and I promise I am not in discussions with them about a possible PR role. BUT if you’re a travelling writer, I suggest you check out the Australia Post option.

It would have saved me a lot of money.

Happy writing and travelling.



Young readers have embraced computer technology – and are choosing it as an alternative form of entertainment to books – or so I thought.

That was until I spoke to my teenager, a serious gamer who has reached an advanced combat level in Runescape  (I think that means he’s pretty good – he should be, the number of hours he ‘practices’).

One day we were having a discussion about how things were going at school.  I asked him, “If there was one thing you could change about your school, what would it be?” His answer was spontaneous and surprising. “Less computers in the library and more books.”

Admittedly, he has always been an avid reader, but it seems that so are lots of kids at his school – but they are being turned off the library; particularly by the lack of non-fiction books. I think sometimes that we assume that if we give kids access to the computer and the internet, they can find out whatever they want.

My son still loves to curl up with a real book and is still keen to learn about anything and everything. But he doesn’t want the superficial facts like the speed of the fastest car in the world, he wants to know how that car is built and what makes it run.

School libraries have steadily lost funding, support and teacher-librarians over the past ten years and the situation has reached crisis point in many schools.

It makes me wonder; before we replace bookshelves in our school libraries with computer desks, perhaps we should think carefully. Maybe the answer to encouraging more readers is to offer them more books and more people to enthusiastically guide and encourage them with their reading.


On the 10th March 2010, the Federal Minister for Education, Julia Gillard MP, set up a committee to inquire into and report on school libraries and teacher librarians in Australian schools. She has invited submissions to be sent to her by Friday 16th April 2010 (ironically, the closing date for the Prime Minister’s Literary awards)

This is your chance to act to save our school libraries. Send your submission to the Gillard Inquiry. For more information about this issue or how to submit, go to the Saving Aussie Books Blog

If you are an author, an illustrator, parent or a lover of books, this is your chance to help save our school libraries for Australian kids today, and in the future.



It was fun visiting Sandy Fussell’s blog today to talk about Reading to Write.

For the complete interview go to

Here’s Sandy’s tip for us:

Dee: Do you have a tip for writers about what they should be reading to enhance their own writing skills?
I call it free range reading. Writers need to read all over the place. It’s a bit messy and unstructured but it’s fun and it will help improve not only your writing technique but the scope of your ideas. Read within your own writing genre, read what appeals to you as a reader, read what your target readers are reading, read non-fiction that catches your eye. Anything and everything. Perhaps the most important point is to read outside your comfort zone.


We’ve got lots of great writing tips coming up for you over the next few weeks.

We’ll be looking at all sorts of stuff including more about Point of View, Adding Layers to Your Writing and Good Writing Habits.

Thanks for your support for Tuesday Writing Tips. It’s fantastic!

If you have a writing question you’d like us to address, please leave it in the comments section of this post and we’ll tackle it in future Tuesday Writing Tips.

Happy Writing



I often hear writers talking about how important it is to ‘read’ – and it makes sense.
After all, it helps you to check out the competition, and also gives you an idea of what readers like and don’t like – of style, technique and so many things.

As a writer, I know how much I learn from what other people have written.

Today we’re off to visit Samurai Kids author, Sandy Fussell at to talk about why writers need to be avid free-range readers.

Sandy’s going to be giving me a great tip that I’ll be posting back here when I return from my visit to her place.

I’m also excited to advise that Sandy’s new book, Jaguar Warrior is coming out on 1st March. Here’s more about it:

I hope you are enjoying the Tuesday Writing Tips Blog Tour. I know I am. I’m collecting so many great tips along the way.

Next week we’re off to visit Robyn Opie to talk about adding layers to your story.

In case you’ve missed any stops. Here are the complete tour dates.

2ND February 2010 Claire Saxby Writing Picture Books – Leaving room for the illustrator.
9th February 2010 Dee White Reviewing ‘There Was an Old Sailor’Reviewing vs Editing skills.
16th February 2010 Sandy Writers Need to be avid free range readers
23rd February 2010 Robyn How to make your story longer – adding layers.
2ND March 2010 Angela More about Point of View – head hopping.

Happy writing (and reading)



Tomorrow our Tuesday Writing Tips blog tour continues. I’m very excited because we’re going to visit the home of my good friend Sandy Fussell, author of the wonderful Samurai Kids books and award winning Polar Boy.

I hope you can join us then. Sandy will talk to us about writers and reading and she’ll have special tips for us.

See you here tomorrow and I’ll give you the directions to Sandy’s place.