Monday Motivator with Rebecca Fraser


Rebecca Fraser is an award-winning Mornington Peninsula-based author whose genre-mashing fiction for children and adults has won, been shortlisted for, and honourably mentioned for numerous awards and prizes including the Aurealis, Australian Shadows, Ditmars, and Mornington Peninsula Shire Mayor’s Writing Award.

To date, her traditionally-published works include three middle grade novels, a speculative short story collection, and over sixty short stories, poems, and articles in numerous Australian and international anthologies, journals, and magazines.

Rebecca feels most at home writing in the middle grade space and strives to write books with heart on issues that matter.  To learn more about Rebecca and her work, feel free to say G’day at


Sea Glass is Rebecca’s new contemporary Australian middle grade novel. 

Sea Glass is a coming-of-age family drama for readers aged 7-12 that tells the story of eleven-year-old, cricket mad Cailin and the summer holiday she reluctantly spends with her estranged grandfather who lives in a remote shack on Victoria’s east coast.

Sea Glass explores how, despite difference and disaster, a generational gap is bridged over a shared enthusiasm for sea glass. Sea Glass celebrates the importance of family and environment…and proves you’re never too old to go treasure hunting. 

Sea Glass Is published by Wombat Books, available through your favourite bookstore or online retailers.


Interestingly, the hardest thing about writing Sea Glass turned about to be the most enjoyable! Protagonist Cailin is a talented cricketer, who has high hopes of making not just the school team, butone day the Australian team. During the course of the story, her grandfather gifts her a bat once owned by Don Bradman.

Cailin’s love of cricket was inspired by the wonderful achievements of our Australian Women’s National Cricket Team, and the heartening elevated interest in females in sports that is so richly deserved. I wanted Cailin’s passion for cricket to be an authentic part of her character, which meant to write about it with authenticity.

Problem was…I knew nothing about cricket!


I went down the research rabbit hole! Thankfully, research is one of my favourite things about the writing process. I spent a lot of time researching cricket in Australia, the Ashes test series, ‘stars’ of cricket across the years, and the legend of ‘The Don’ – including what type of bats he used.  

As a long-time beachcomber and sea glass enthusiast, I’ve always been fascinated by the science behind how sea glass is formed, and how the history of each piece tells its own remarkable story. As well as learning about cricket, my research process also encompassed learning as much as possible about the lifecycle of sea glass, and how the examples you find can be influenced my many variables: global location, currents and shipping channels, local industries over the years, and the different colours and qualities of glass used throughout the centuries.

Thanks for sharing this Rebecca. It’s fascinating. I must admit I’m a bit of a cricket tragic so I love that your book is about cricket.


For me, it’s time! I sometimes struggle to find a good writing/work and family life balance. I also do a lot of volunteer work (as a writing mentor, as Vice President of Peninsula Writers’ Club and as one of the founding directors of the national youth writing competition Little Stories, Big Ideas). While all roles are incredibly fulfilling and rewarding, they do carve into writing time.

As often as I can, I schedule a block of consecutive days to escape to a writing retreat, usually with a group of writing friends, and never too far from home. I find removing myself completely from my home environment, and focussing purely on the writing, really maximises my momentum and productivity.

I so agree with this, Rebecca. Getting away on a writer’s retreat with likeminded people is so inspiring.


It might sound a bit cliched, but I couldn’t imagine ever not writing. Since I first started taking my writing seriously in 2007, I kept writing, kept submitting, and in between the (many) rejections, every now and then would be an acceptance…and then another…and another, to keep the dream alive. I think patience and tenacity are two of the most important must-have resources every writer should have in their toolkit. 😊

Clearly these two qualities have paid off for you, Rebecca. Thanks for sharing your journey and congratulations on your new book.

Monday Motivator with Margaret Gibbs

M J Gibbs, Marg has published 14 children’s books. She is devoted and committed to the love of literature and art for children. The themes in her books reflect nature, friendship, family, hope and working together. A lover of poetry from an early age, Marg has written 4 anthologies for young readers; Backpacks and Paper Planestravel poems for kids is her latest.

You’ll find Marg reading stories and poems at her Mapleton home in the Blackall Ranges.

The Waiting Room of Weathervane Vet

Lenny Watts lives with his cranky Uncle Jack on Pigeon Farm. Together they sort through the day-to-day challenges with a bunch of injured rescue animals that Lenny adores. Soon, there is a missing tortoise and Rottweiler, a reward offered and a schoolyard bully who pushes his way into the mix.

Aimed at 7-10 years, Lenny must face his emotions – those of his family, budding romance, and beautiful pets. Discover the mystery and magic, community bonds and kindness that Lenny shares. And what happens in the waiting room of the country vet clinic is just the beginning.


The Challenges
The words and story flowed well once my ideas came together.

The hardest thing was getting the grumpy Uncle Jack’s voice right. I edited a few times and practised reading the dialogue aloud to make sure it conveyed what I wanted it to in order to show Uncle Jack’s character.

When the uncle is upset or cranky, I use shorter, sharper and more direct language. For example, ‘Blasted water!’ ‘Clean it up.’ ‘ Who’s the girl?’ ‘ Nonsense boy!’ Jack snapped.

Uncle Jack gets stressed easily with all the animal injuries. His temper flares, so I worked on the tone of his voice by writing punchier lines, emotive words without warmth. His actions and words showed his abrupt manner. 

The Illustrations and Design

This book is self-published. I was fortunate to work with Mac Hewitt from Melbourne, who sent me roughs and spot illustrations to suit the text. He did a superb job and catered for my wishes and vision. His cover design has flair and imagination. I was conscious of choosing a suitable font and size for children aged 7+.

The story uses animals, a fun colour run and hair shaving for charity. Mac has captured this well.

Monday Motivator With Debra Tidball

Monday Motivators is back to help you get your week off to a great creative start and today we’re very pleased to welcome Debra Tidball with her brand new book, Anchored. And she has some great writing insights.

Debra Tidball is a Sydney-based award-winning author of picture books, short stories, poems and plays for children. With a background in social work and a master’s degree in children’s literature, she has a particular passion for picture books and the profound way they can touch children’s lives.


Anchored is about a big ship and little tug boat and the power of love that anchors them together even when oceans separate them. It’s for anyone who’s ever spent time away from someone they love.

Anchored is published by EK Books and illustrated by Arielle Li.

What was the hardest thing about writing the book?

The hardest thing in writing the book was the ending – endings are HARD! I had a manuscript that I had workshopped in my writer’s group and thought was complete. At that stage it ended with Ship and Tug happily together in port after Ship’s return. I was about to send it out to publishers, but I had a niggle that perhaps it wasn’t finished, in that it didn’t show how the main character, Tug, was changed by her interaction with Ship, just that she was happy to have Ship home.

How did you overcome it?

The light-bulb moment came when I was discussing it with another writing friend, and I hit upon the idea of an anchor! Everything then fell into place, including the title, which had been called ‘Ship’s Shadow’ until then. It was one of those unexpected blessings of Covid, in that I was able to (paradoxically) see more of this friend.

What is the hardest thing about being an author?

All the other things that get in the way, like promotion (if I have a book out) and procrastination! How hard is it to actually switch off and do the thing you actually love? But somehow it seems easier to do all the things around writing rather than the writing itself!

How did you overcome it/What has kept you going?

I don’t think I have overcome it! It’s a daily struggle! But when I actually DO sit down to write – that feeling of being in ‘the zone’ and creating form from formless fragments floating around in my head? That’s magical! It keeps me diving back in!

Thanks for visiting, Debra. I love how brainstorming with another writer can really help us think of solutions to writing problems.

All the best with Anchored. It looks beautiful. The illustrations by Arielle Li look gorgeous too.

A Girl Called Corpse

Today Reece Carter is visiting to talk about his wonderful debut, A Girl Called Corpse: An Elston-Fright Tale. He answers some tricky questions on how he wrote this book … and I’ve reviewed it.

Reece Carter’s debut novel, A Girl Called Corpse: An Elston-Fright Tale was the subject of an international bidding war, with rights already sold in Norway, Italy and Spain – and it has been published in ANZ and the UK simultaneously.

Reece grew up in rural Western Australia and holidayed along the south-west coast as a kid. The coastal setting of A Girl Called Corpse is inspired in particular by Cape Leeuwin in WA, and the witches’ shack is inspired by Sugarloaf Rock. ‘This is the kind of story you would expect to see set in a Transylvanian castle or a graveyard in Salem,’ says Reece, ‘so for me one of the biggest joys of writing this book was knowing that its landscapes were inspired by Australia, and that the language is unapologetically Australian.’


Reece Carter’s A Girl Called Corpse: An Elston-Fright Tale is a fresh, unique and heartwarming debut about a lonely kid ghost searching for answers. With a body made of wax, seaweed for hair and polished abalone shells for eyes, Corpse is bound to haunt the Witches’ sea shack forever. She has no memory of her name or who she was before the Witches snatched her and took her to the rock-that-doesn’t-exist.

One day, a ghost called Old Man gives her a message: a treasure exists that can reunite Corpse with her family and her name. Corpse sets off in search of answers, bringing her trusted friend Simon, a huntsman spider, along for the ride.

Allen and Unwin


Hey Reece, thanks for visiting. I’m interested to know, who or what inspired the character of Corpse?

Hi Dee, thanks for having me!

The character of Corpse came about reasonably fully formed (pun intended) when I was trying to get to sleep one night. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness I realised that the manhole in my ceiling was ajar – eep! I began to wonder who or what might live inside a roof, peering through a gap down into the world below, and I came up with the character of Corpse – a kid ghost with a body made of wax, who wanted more than anything to rejoin the living world.

She is clearly flawed as well as dead, but still very likeable? Were you worried that readers might not engage with a ghost? If so, what changes did you make to get around this?

Funny – I never even considered that might be a hurdle! We see all sorts of non-human protagonists in children’s stories, from animals to stuffed toys, aliens to talking trucks – and, yes, ghosts! The thing they all have in common is that they are written with childlike qualities. That is, I don’t think it matters too much what your character is, as long as you write them as if they were a child.

This is where voice comes in really important. I tried as much as possible for Corpse to sound, act and think like a child. When I’m writing her, in fact, I quite often forget that she’s a ghost because first and foremost I’m focused on writing a stubborn, headstrong, but totally loveable child!

Did you develop profiles for your main characters before you started writing or did they evolve and develop along with the story?

I had a very strong idea of who Corpse and Girl were when I went into writing the book, so I never sat down to type out profiles or anything like that (though I did plot the novel out in a spreadsheet), and the rest of the characters just evolved as the story went on.

Flip was the exception in a way because he was a character from another manuscript of mine that was never published. He fit so well into the world of Elston-Fright, and I just love him so much, so I found a place for him in A Girl Called Corpse.

I love Simon. But am wondering why you decided to give Corpse a sidekick who’s a spider?

Corpse needed a sidekick, but the reader also needs to see her as quite lonely (initially, at least) and so it didn’t make sense for her to have another ghost as a sidekick. It just wouldn’t have worked. And so, I decided on an animal sidekick. Why a spider? Ultimately, it felt like a natural fit! A spider is the exact kind of critter you would find inside the roof of a rickety old shack, and so it made sense.

Corpse clearly has an intriguing past. Did you know her family history at the outset or did it evolve as you developed Corpse and her story?

I knew Corpse’s backstory before I started writing, but it’s continued to evolve and grow more detailed as I move deeper into the series. We learn quite a bit in the first book, but there’s lots more for readers to uncover in the next books too.

Which character do you like best – Corpse or Girl? Why? Which was the most fun to create?

I love them both equally! Although I will say that I expected Girl to be a favourite among readers. She’s very sweet. She’s honest. She’s kind. I assumed she would be the character readers loved most. I was way off though – Simon is the clear favourite! Kids, as well as grown-up readers, always ask for more Simon.

Corpse has a really strong character voice? Did her voice come to you fully formed or was this something you put a lot of work into?

Both! Her voice was quite clear from the outset but making sure that it landed on the page in the way that I was imagining it involved a lot of reading and re-reading, to make sure the words were having the right effect.

Voice is such an abstract concept, but so important to get right. It really does involve a lot of trial and error, playing with sentence structure and word choice until you can read your work back and it feels faithful to your character.

I understand that A Girl Called Corpse: An Elston-Fright Tale is your debut novel although you have been writing for many years. What would be your top two tips to aspiring authors?

My first tip is to keep writing! The hardest part of being a writer, in my opinion, is grappling with the self-doubt. There is a lot of rejection, and a lot of opportunities to throw it all in and give up, so sometimes just keeping on writing can be the hardest part. It’s a rubbish feeling, but I don’t know any authors – published or unpublished – who don’t experience it. Self-doubt is a yucky part of the job. Don’t let it stop you from writing though.

Secondly, I would encourage aspiring authors to take the time to learn as much as they can about the craft of writing. Take a course. Take two courses! Read widely in your chosen genre to see what works and what doesn’t. Hire a developmental editor if you can. I personally don’t believe in talent; I think writing is a skill set that can be learned.


I wasn’t sure how I’d respond to a book where the main character is dead, but this story is way livelier than it sounds, and Corpse’s enigmatic and delightful character really hooked me in – as well as the wonderful illustrations by Simon Howe.

Right from the start it’s clear that Corpse is a lot more than she appears to be.

There has to be a reason the dastardly witches, Worst-Witch, Gorflunk and Scraggleknee are so focussed on her destruction.

Author, Reece Carter cleverly brings Corpse to life with her unique voice and fascinating quirks.

I loved her pet spider, Simon and it was easy to empathise with what Corpse has lost and what she’s searching for.

All the characters in the book are so well drawn and complement each other’s narratives, and readers will want to know more about Girl, the friend Corpse lost early in the book who clearly brings out the best in her.

Corpse doesn’t seem as though she was a particularly nice when she was alive and yet she’s an engaging and intriguing character in death. So, we already know that in death she must have undergone some transformation and it piques our interest even more. It appears that even dead people can grow and change, and this makes us keen to learn about Corpse’s past, her present and her future.

There were plenty of twists in this book and I was wondering how the loose ends would be tied up, but seamless tied up they were.

And although A Girl Called Corpse: An Elston-Fright Tale works so well as a stand-alone there are clearly more adventures in store for Corpse, and I for one can’t wait to find out what they are.

An intriguing, fun and creepy read that will charm middle grade book lovers. It tackles themes of friendship, family and loss in a unique and insightful way.

Ask No Questions – a memoir by Eva Collins

Eva and her family left Poland during the Cold War. Her verse memoir describing this period is published by Puncher & Wattmann. She graduated with two BA degrees, (Philosophy and Fine Art Photography) an MA in Contemporary Art, a Diploma in Professional Writing and a Graduate Certificate in Secondary Teaching.

As a writer and photographer, she captures evocative images with camera and pen, paying tribute to precious, fleeting moments and unsung heroes. She has published poetry and articles and exhibited photography and short films.


Ask No Questions is a refrain that Eva Collins heard her parents say whenever she questioned their decisions whilst living in Communist Poland.

Heartbroken to leave her homeland, 12-year-old Eva recounts her family’s departure, their boat trip, impressions of other countries and the culture shock she experienced in coming to Australia in the 1950s.

Eva uses simple language to convey powerful images. Its restrained form matches the caution and alertness her parents felt whilst living under the surveillance regime and widespread anti-Semitism.

At the book launch.

Eva’s father’s decision to go to the other side of the world was ‘to be as far away from Moscow as possible’, sadly topical today with the war in Ukraine.

Aside from the actual story, the theme has universal implications. It applies to all migrants and refugees from anywhere. Eva says she has used pathos and also humour to carry the message across.

At the book launch. Eva with MC, Rosie Lew AM

Ask No Questions fits with the Intercultural Capabilities of the Victorian Curriculum prescription for the Year 10 students.


What was the hardest part about writing Ask No Questions and how did you overcome it?

The hardest thing about writing my book was to know what to include or what to exclude.

On one hand I wanted to include enough detail so that a full picture of the story would be there to immerse the reader. On the other hand, I didn’t want to make it too long or overstated.

I hope I overcame it by putting in enough detail to make the reader ‘hungry for more’. As a result the story is a little understated, but the language is accessible to everyone and the images powerful enough to carry the meaning.

What is the hardest thing about being an author?

As an author my aim was to write in a spare, simple informal language as otherwise it would come across as lofty and pompous.

It was easy to overcome, as I prefer direct, every-day language. It’s the images which are most important rather than formal words.

Eva’s book can be purchased via her publisher here.

The Raven’s Song – A Harmonious Collaboration Between Two Much Loved Authors

Bren MacDibble and Zana Fraillon are two of my favourite YA and children’s authors so I was so excited to read their new collaboration, The Raven’s Song.

Bren is the bestselling author of How to Bee and The Dog Runner, and Zana Fraillon – the multi-award-winning author of THE BONE SPARROW.

They have joined forces to create The Raven’s Song, an absorbing dual narrative, set in a post-climate change, post-pandemic (not COVID-19) world.


YES, they’re here to chat about the way they worked together to create this amazing book. I asked them some ‘crafty’ questions about how they wrote The Raven’s Song.

1. How did the collaboration come about?

Bren: Zana put a call out on twitter for ideas to help her with her current novel, I offered an idea, Zana said, ‘No but I’d like to write that novel with you.’ And we did.

Zana: I’m not a big social media user – but one of its great wonders is how quickly and easily you can access help and support from your community (this is at least true with the wonderful kids lit community). I have always been a huge fan of Bren’s, so when she jumped in to help with a plot problem I was having, I was thrilled. And although it didn’t work for my WIP, the world of the story itwould work in was quickly unfurling in my head. I was only half joking when I suggested that we use her solution to craft our own book together, and when she came back to ask if I actually wanted to, I think I may have squealed.

2. What was the most challenging thing about collaborating on this book?

Bren: The collaboration was a breeze. The most challenging thing was when Covid overtook our pandemic novel and we both agreed it would never sell, but we were having too much fun to stop.

Zana: I have honestly never had as much fun writing a book as I did collaborating on this with Bren. It wasn’t work. It wasn’t hard. It wasn’t difficult. It was like we were playing. I think because we both said from the outset that this would be an experiment and that we could pull out at any time, there wasn’t any pressure to succeed. There were no stakes, and if nothing came of it, then we would both have improved our craft and enjoyed ourselves. It was really just an exploration of what ifs. As Bren said, the challenge was Covid turning up and inserting its reality into our fiction (we had a fictional pandemic! We didn’t want a real one!). We didn’t want to stop exploring and experimenting and having fun, but at the same time, we worried that a book about a pandemic would just be too close to home. But in the end, we decided to keep going for our own benefit. We didn’t want to stop! And as it turns out, I can see now that having books about something like Covid, can be a way of processing everything that has changed because of it. The Raven’s Song is all about change and dealing with change and how to keep going when things get tough and how to shift your perspective about the world you think you know. Strangely enough, it seems to have become a book for our time.

3. What did you enjoy most about the collaboration process?

Bren: The whole two brains thing. Zana says it better. Zana brought ideas and knowledge to this story that I just didn’t have, plus she has a really poetic writing style and I think the readers will like the tempo of moving back and forth between timelines and her poetic ancient times, her thoughtful careful boy character and my stark reality loud girl character. I like that we each got to do what we do best and it works so well together.

Zana: I agree – having someone who knows the story inside out, who knows what we are trying to do, where the thoughts came from, where the story is headed – it is like having two brains working on the one story. I could shoot a one-line message off to Bren and she would know exactly what I was talking about and come back with some brilliant idea that my brain would never have arrived at. Or at least, never have arrived out without months of circling around and tripping over itself. I also loved having Bren there to question my assumptions about what we could or couldn’t do. There is a scene that comes towards the end of the book, and I said to Bren, ‘We couldn’t actually do this, but how cool would it be if we did XXXX’ (no spoilers!). Bren’s response was, ‘why can’t we do that?’ And of course we could, and we did and it is still one of my favourite parts of the story. And the other thing is, it was so quick to write and edit! Two brains really are better than one…

4. With Covid, I imagine you weren’t able to be in the same actual space working on the book so how did the collaboration work practically. Did the discussions/editing take place via Zoom/email or some other form?

Bren: We’re also on opposite sides of the country and though we once both lived in Melbourne have never actually met. The initial bouncing of ideas was on Twitter messages, quick back and forths and brainstorming real time a lot of the time, then we went off to each write our characters timelines and then came together to work once we’d pieced the novel together, mostly via email.

Zana: It was actually incredibly magical. After Bren and I had a huge Twitter brainstorm of all the things we could do with this book (messaging each other so quickly that our ideas were tumbling over each other and evolving more quickly than either of us could keep up) we each had a character and a very vague idea of where that character was headed and where we thought the story would go. So we both went off and wrote their stories. I don’t think we really messaged much during that process – other than a couple of check ins – but when it came time to piece the book together, I sent my half to Bren and miraculously our chapters slotted into each other as though we had written them together. It was incredible. I think we needed to split one chapter in half to even it out, but that was it. And then once we were at the next stage, we took it in turns sitting with the manuscript and playing before sending it back.

5. Were the characters inspired by anyone you know?

Bren: Don’t they say you put a bit of yourself into every character you write?

Zana: Not consciously! Although none of my characters are firmly based on, or inspired by real people, there are always bits and pieces of people I know in my characters. It is how I make them real in my mind. Even if it is something small, like a phrase they use, or a habit, or the way they walk. Adding the little details brings them to life for me, and hopefully, for the reader also.


The Raven’s Song, a stunning collaboration from much loved and awarded authors, Bren MacDibble and Zana Fraillon, is set in a post climate change, post pandemic (not covid) world, but despite its intense content will give readers hope for the future.

Shelby and Phoenix are living one hundred years apart in very different worlds, but they are joined across time, and the future of one depends on the other.

Phoenix lives in a world that is choking under the excesses of human consumption and destruction of the environment. When a deadly virus is released from the bog near his home, his life, and the whole world is changed forever.

Shelby and her ancestors inherited this damaged world and for the past 100 years have been working to put things right. They’ve created a working civilisation that respects and lives in harmony with the ‘honoured and natural world’.

Shelby and her best friend Davy live quiet low-tech lives in a closed community that is made up of exactly three hundred and fifty kind, ethical people living on exactly seven hundred hectares.

When they climb through a hole in the perimeter fence to venture into the surrounding jungle, what they find is more astonishing than anything they could have imagined. They discover a relic city from Phoenix’s time, and remnants of a life that could destroy all the healing that has taken place in the last 100 years.

Phoenix and Shelby’s stories and their worlds are seamlessly interwoven by these two master storytellers. I loved both the carefully crafted characters, and we get their unique and contrasting perspectives through the dual narrative.

Shelby is feisty and strong and courageous.

‘Right down in the base of my skull I have a nagging that someone needs my help and I gotta be brave.’

Phoenix is kind and sensitive and gifted with a sixth sense and a deep awareness of his surroundings. ‘This was the first time Phoenix had seen something so strange that he knew it couldn’t possibly be there.’

Shelby and Phoenix’s worlds are both so evocative, they are like extra characters in this story and help to provide the edge of your seat tension.

I connected instantly with Shelby and Phoenix and could not put this book down, wanting to know what would happen next.

Although sometimes, ominous, ravens represent prophecy and insight in The Raven’s Song and their symbolism is used throughout the book to coherently connect the two worlds and the narrative.

This unique and thought-provoking story is about family and friendship and the passing down of knowledge through time.

I highly recommend The Raven’s Song to readers over the age of 9 who are looking for a page turning story, characters they can identify with, and hope for the future of human civilisation.

The Raven’s Song is published by Allen & Unwin.

Monday Motivator with Shae Millward and The Rabbit’s Magician

Shae Millward is the author of The Rabbit’s Magician, Koalas Like To, and A Boy and a Dog. Shae is an enthusiastic advocate for literacy. She aims to inspire through a love of books, the joy of reading and writing, and the art of storytelling. Shae enjoys writing picture books, poetry, song lyrics, funny or inspirational quotes, short stories and more. Shae’s creative writing skills once helped her win a trip to Disneyland!

The Rabbit’s Magician

The Rabbit’s Magician is a gentle story of love, loss and comfort inspired by a fundamental law of nature: Energy cannot be created or destroyed, but it can change from one form into another.

The book contains references to and representations of the moon and its phases. It is a children’s picture book, but offers comfort to anyone of any age who has lost a loved one – person or animal. 

The Rabbit’s Magician is illustrated by Andy Fackrell and is out this month with Ford Street Publishing.

What was the hardest thing about writing that book?

The potentially sensitive subject matter. I had no intention of writing a story about loss. But a scene appeared in my mind of a rabbit looking up at the moon. I sensed he was waiting for something. The moon changed phases, and still, he waited. What are you waiting for? I wondered. And then, he told his tale. In a matter of moments the whole story suddenly existed, like a neatly wrapped gift.

How did you overcome it?

Although there was still some hesitancy on my part in regards to the subject, sometimes you just have to get over yourself (and any pesky doubts about what you ‘should’ be writing). Sometimes it’s all about the story, not all about you. Because of the blessed way in which the story came into being, I felt it was not only a gift for me but for anyone who needs it. 

What is the hardest thing about being an author?

Being on the Autism spectrum has its positives, like unique perspectives and creative thinking, but it also has its challenges, with social communication being one. Just think awkward, so awkward, haha!

How did you overcome it? What has kept you going?

I’m lucky to have a supportive publisher who allows me to play to my strengths. I’m grateful for his wisdom in dispelling the thought that you must force yourself to do ‘all the things.’

Fortunately, these days there are a good variety of promotional avenues one can partake in.

Books On Tour PR & Marketing has a number of packages, and options within which you can tailor to your needs. Romi is a superstar – super helpful and brilliant to work with.

Having an illustrator who is also active in promoting – which Andy is – certainly helps and provides team spirit. *enthusiastically does spirit fingers*

Monday Motivator With Susannah Crispe

Susannah Crispe is a Canberra-based children’s book author and illustrator. She studied art history and zoology at university and has volunteered with native wildlife throughout Australia. She worked in museums and bookstores for about 15 years, until discovering her true passion for creating books.  Susannah works from her glorious home studio in Canberra; drawing inspiration and support from her rambunctious four year old son, step daughters, super-husband and the cutest dog in the world.

Under the Moonlight is Susannah’s first book as both author and illustrator. It is a gentle story about showing bravery in the face of your fears. Set in a snowy, Scandinavian forest, an enormous, brave and solitary moose settles down to rest. Unfortunately for Moose, his tranquil sleep is about to be shattered by a fright in the night. The story follows Moose as he shows great bravery in facing his fear of the unknown and investigating the source of the night-time fright. Told in lilting, roll off the tongue rhyme with the character of Moose is playfully rendered in quietly humorous scenes.

The hardest thing in writing this book was working out how to turn a nonsense monorhyme poem that I wrote years ago into an actual story. Once I got my head around the structure and stepped away from the monorhyme, I was able to map out the plot visually. I saw scenes illustrated in my head, almost like a stop-motion film and the words just fell into place.

In general, I find the most challenging thing as an author and illustrator is having to stop writing and illustrating to do real world things. I have a seemingly endless list of ideas for both stories and illustration, a million techniques to try, a laptop filled with downloaded (and unstarted) courses, and a very limited amount of time to do it all. I love my work so much, and if I had my way, I would write and illustrate to the exclusion of everything else. My family, friends and other commitments have different ideas.

I overcome this problem (but absolutely do NOT advocate this for anyone who wants to retain their sanity), is to work until midnight or 1am, 6 or 7 nights a week. The thought that this is a temporary state of being gets me through, as I fantasise about an improbable day when I have no responsibilities and limitless time to explore all my ideas. Well, that and the litre and a half of tea I drink daily.

Monday Motivators – The Whole Truth

Writing biographical fiction about someone who’s still alive is easier in some ways because you can run things past them. You can check the facts, make sure you have them right. But it comes with its own challenges.

I must admit I was a little daunted from the beginning at the thought of writing about someone as successful and inspiring as Professor Emma Johnston, a leading marine ecologist and TV presenter and the subject of my new Aussie STEM Stars book published by Wild Dingo Press.

Emma is a staunch advocate for the women in science and I connected with this straight away, not that I ever had aspirations to be anything other than a writer, but my mother was one of the first women scientists with the CSIRO long before Emma was born. My mother loved her job, but she was forced to leave when she got married, and her wage was half what her male colleagues were paid for doing the same job.

Fifty years later, I learn from Emma that obstacles still exist women wanting to shine in science, and she’s passionate about breaking them down. I became more determined than ever to write this book.

Emma is truly an inspiration. She’s on the board of the Great Barrier Reef Marine authority, has done amazing work for the marine world of Sydney Harbour and has dived under the ice in Antarctica to learn more about the ecology there and she’s also a FOXTEL tv presenter. She has done so much to advocate for the environment and to help marine life faced with the impacts of climate change.

Because of her commitments, our interview time dwindled to just a few hours. So it wasn’t possible to delve into things like ice diving training and life on an Antarctic base. I had to find out about these things myself.

I did as much research and writing as I could and Emma spent hours reading through the drafts and gently correcting anything that I might have accidentally misrepresented, misinterpreted or not been able to find out.

It took at least 12 months longer than planned to get the book to publication, and our Wild Dingo editor/publisher was ever patient and understanding.

At first I felt insecure about the process, so many changes to my manuscript, so many rewrites. But I had to let that go.

In the end, the most important thing was to help readers discover Emma and her inspirational work and find out how they could help the marine environment. It was more important to be able to tell the whole truth, to depict Emma’s life and works in the most accurate way possible.

It has been a longer journey than I anticipated, but I’ve learnt so much along the way and I’m proud to have a book that sits alongside the other inspiring Aussie STEM Stars and their creators.

Monday Motivator with Andrew Dittmer

I’m a children’s fiction author from Sydney. I like being outdoors and active. Find more about me and my writing as well as book reviews and interviews with kids book creators at my website:


Everyone has unique gifts and talents. Sometimes they’re not always recognised and appreciated. Snuffy is a cute puppy with an amazing sense of smell. Her owner, Grum, thinks her nose is nothing but a nuisance… until she finds an opportunity to show how amazing her gift can be. If kids put on their detective caps and study the illustrations (by Jenni Goodman) carefully, they’ll find all the clues to the story. 

Snuffy has just been shortlisted in the Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year Awards.


Deciding on the final storyline. I had so many drafts all going in different directions. 


I tried to boil down the message I was trying to convey into a sentence or two and then I tweaked the story around that message.


It is very difficult to devote significant time to it because of needing to provide for the family financially and also fulfilling the roles of husband and father properly.


I’m still trying to make it work. But I’m very grateful that this year, I’ve been able to reduce my normal job to three days per week and devote two days per week to writing and family. What keeps me going is I have no other choice but to keep writing. I can look at the situation logically and think, this is a terrible return on investment of time. But because it’s what I believe I was born to do, I keep doing it anyway. Nothing could stop me from writing.

I’m sure there are many creators who can relate to Andrew’s story. Perseverance is definitely one of the keys to being a successful author. Feel free to share any of your tips on the time juggle of being a creative.