Elephants Have Wings

Elephants Have Wings is a stunning picture book written by Susanne Gervay and illustrated by Anna Pignataro representing the search for peace.

ELEPHANTS-HAVE-WINGS-COVER-jPG-1170x520It’s the story of two children who embark on an extraordinary journey on the wings of a mystical white elephant, as they search for the humanity in all of us.

This story is inspired by the parable of the blind man and the elephant found in Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Sufism and modern philosophy.

pic-elephant-800-x-3801Each page in this book is an exquisite work of art – a true harmony of text and illustration.

The parts of the elephant are the parts of the truth and the tree of life is beautifully depicted in Anna’s detailed illustrations..

I love the colour and vibrance of this book, the movement and the melding of all elements.

“The air dances with elephant wings, flying with tails whirling, legs outstretched, ivory shining.

Ears swaying in a towering wall as we soar
over snowy mountain peaks.

There are so many layers in this book that I can see it having appeal to readers of any age.

Elephants are revered in religion and respected for their prowess in war. Ever since the stone age, there have been images of elephants in art and mythology surrounding them. For many cultures they symbolise courage, hope, endurance, wisdom.

Elephants-children-with-elephant-partsElephants Have Wings crosses all borders, and has relevance anywhere in the world today.

Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 5.22.25 pmIt’s no wonder this book has been endorsed by the Blake Prize for art and poetry.

The Blake Prize is named after the legendary British artist and poet William Blake (1757-1827). Established by Jesuit priest, Michael Scott and a Jewish artist, Richard Morley to create significant works of spiritual art in 1951 in the search for understanding and peace. The Blake Poetry Prize was added in 2008.

Full of motifs, symbols, pictures and texts that represent diversity and our universe, Elephants Have Wings provides so much to think and talk about in the classroom.

Elephants Have Wings is published by Ford Street Publishing. Find out more about this ‘peace book for our time’ at author Susanne Gervay’s website.

Comprehensive teacher’s notes are available here.


Another Cute Aussie Christmas Book

Downunder 12 Days of Christmas 9781921665608With Christmas fast approaching, I couldn’t resist mentioning this cute Australian Christmas story written and illustrated by Michael Salmon, and published by Ford Street Publishing.

Santa Claus has landed outback and is busily checking his list twice. The kangaroos are in charge of all the presents and his koala helpers are not being much help at all!

And are those crocodiles really “a-snoozing”?

With surfing sharks, skiing snakes, dancing dingoes, leaping lizards and lots more, Michael Salmon’s Aussie characters come to life in pictures and verse.

Welcome to Christmas down-under.

This book is cleverly written and beautifully illustrated by best-selling Aussie creator, Michael Salmon.

It is full of his customary colour and wonderful humour.

A great Christmas pressie for kids aged 3+.


J.E. Fison is the author of the kids’ adventure series, Hazard River. The series was inspired by a family holiday on the Noosa River, but she also relies on her journal for a constant source of ideas for her adventure stories. Julie describes how newspaper stories inspired her latest adventures, Blood Money and Toads’ Revenge.

Two teenage brothers are fishing in a quiet creek near their home in northern New South Wales. There’s been some heavy rain and the creek is littered with broken branches that have washed down in the flood – nothing unusual about that, until the boys spot a plastic bag amongst the debris. It’s most likely just a bag of rubbish, but the boys decide to check it out. They can’t believe their eyes when they open the bag. It’s full of money, cold hard cash and loads of it – a total of one hundred thousand dollars in all. What an unbelievable find!

This isn’t a story I made up – it really happened to two boys in a town outside Lismore. The boys spent two weeks deciding what to do with the money, before eventually doing the right thing and handing it in to the police.

When I read this story in the newspaper a couple of years back, I knew it would make a great start to an adventure story. So, I cut it out and put it into my journal (which is more of a plastic folder than a journal). It emerged a year later on the banks of Hazard River, in the latest adventure, Blood Money.

Just like the boys in the real story, the kids at Hazard River find a bag of cash and just like the real boys they face a moral dilemma about what to do with the money. Add to this a few snakes, some troublesome meatballs and a nasty neighbour and everything is in place for a rough ride for the newly cashed-up kids of Hazard River.

Starting a journal was one of the first things I did when I began writing the Hazard River series. My journal now runs into several volumes – all choc-a-block full of news clippings on endangered animals, notes on adventure ideas and snippets of conversation I have stolen from my own children as well as strangers. There are also bus tickets, maps, plane tickets and an assortment of other souvenirs from my travels that might just come in handy for a story some day. So, when I come to write a new story, it’s just a matter of linking it all together. Well, it’s not actually that easy, but having a good source of story ideas certainly makes it easier.

I spent many years working as a news reporter before I wrote the Hazard River series and I still like to keep up to date with the news. I read the newspaper daily so I know what’s going on in the world. I also keep my eye out for strange, quirky and bizarre stories that I might be able to weave into my adventures. I tuck those stories into my journal until I need them.

In Toads’ Revenge the kids of Hazard River find themselves thrown into a nasty toad-infested new world when they accidently fire themselves into the future. Although it’s a bit of a change from the usual Hazard River stories, the idea came from the real world. Cane toads were introduced into northern Queensland to eat sugar cane beetles. Now they have spread as far south as Sydney and into Western Australia, threatening native animals and fragile wilderness areas along the way. Cane toads are poisonous and when snakes and lizards try to eat them, they die. (The keelback is one of the few snakes that can eat a baby cane toad and survive.) The super-resilient cane toads are also super breeders. Females lay up to 35,000 eggs at a time and the toads’ march across the continent is proving impossible to stop. A newspaper clipping on the cane toad inspired me to make them the bad guys in my latest adventure.

So, if you haven’t got a journal, start one today. Write down your story ideas and keep anything at all that you find interesting. You never know when that news story on the skateboarding dog or the ticket from last year’s grand final is going to come in handy. Inspiration comes from all sorts of places and there’s nothing worse than remembering you had a great idea but forgetting what it was!

Good luck with your journal and good luck with your writing!


For more information on J.E. Fison and the Hazard River series you can visit her website at www.hazardriver.com or read her blog at www.juliefisonwriter.wordpress.com

I also get a lot of my inspiration from newspaper articles.  My book, Elephant Trouble was based on a true story I read in the paper about a man who came home from work and found an elephant stuck in his driveway.

Journals are great for storing away all those great ideas that you think you will remember but often don’t.

Some authors like Sue Lawson have a journal for each book they write. My journals tend to be a mish mash of ideas with all sorts of weird bits and pieces including:

  • song lyrics
  • leaves and other things from nature
  • scraps of material
  • newspaper articles
  • song names
  • scraps of conversation I hear
  • poems
  • names of people and places
  • photos
  • drawings
  • sounds
  • description bites
  • word prompts
  • story titles I dream up
  • random thoughts

Do you keep a journal? What do you put in it and how does it help you with your writing?

Feel free for sharing your thoughts and comments.

Happy writing:)



Today, I’m pleased to welcome a special guest to Tuesday Writing Tips.

Tania McCartney is an author, editor, publisher and founder of well-respected children’s literature site, Kids Book Review. She is an experienced speaker, magazine and web writer, photographer and marshmallow gobbler. She is the author of the popular Riley the Little Aviator series of travelogue picture books, and is both published and self-published in children’s fiction and adult non-fiction.

Tania is visiting my blog on her tour to celebrate the release of her latest book, Riley and the Grumpy Wombat (published by Ford Street Publishing)

As well as being an inspiring creator and marketer extraordinaire, Tania is also a kind and generous person and has agreed to share her tips here today.


Some writers started young. Some started yesterday. Some are starting as I type, but they all have one thing in common: they write. And so begins the first of my Top 10 Writing Tips for anyone keen to make a dent in this tightly-crammed world of fabulous literary talent.

Tip Number 1 – Write

Yes, that’s right. Writers write. And they do so with tenacity, chutzpah and unfailing self-belief. Well, that’s the ideal, anyway. Truth be told, even the most established, successful and famous authors have doubts about their work.

Doubts, insecurities, uncertainty – any creative endeavor is fraught with these very real emotions – but it’s the writers who manage to overcome emotion and focus on productivity and writing from the heart, that truly succeed.

Work can always be edited and improved upon. It can’t be edited or improved upon if nothing has been written.

Tip Number 2 – Write What You Know

Write about the things that interest you, the things you adore, the things that make you smile, laugh or enliven you. It will show in your writing. It will make the words come alive.

I know some authors will tell you to explore what you don’t know – but I prefer to call this ‘research’. Sure, I could research and write about the evolution of the V8 engine, but I just don’t want to, thanksverymuch. I don’t know anything about V8s but I also don’t WANT to know. I want to write about what I know and love because I will do it well and here’s a thought – I’ll have fun doing it.

Writing should be fun, not a chore.

Tip Number 3 – Be Original

Don’t be tempted to ‘copy’ a successful idea that already exists on the market. Firstly, it simply may not resonate with your style, your voice or what you love to write about. Successful books are those written from the heart and with passion about the subject matter – not formatted against a pre-existing idea.

Publishers are always on the lookout for something ‘new’ – something that will stand out in an overstocked market… think outside the square when it comes to your book idea. Do we really need another fairy book on the market? What about a book on pixies instead? Often the greatest ‘original’ shift can be very simple.

Tip Number 4 – Develop Your Voice

Even the most original, clever and perfectly woven stories can suffer if they don’t ring out with a unique and beautiful voice. Incandescent, original writing that doesn’t rely on stereotypical or adjective-laden descriptives or mundane structure, allows the reader to skip along merrily with the text, and truly become absorbed in the storyline.

A book that plods along with clumsy or complicated writing is the equivalent of a popcorn-munching neighbour in a movie theatre – whose every crunch hauls you away from the magic of the film and back to ‘reality’.

Write clearly and creatively. Learn to edit and rework. Do it over and over again. Let your writing simmer, then come back to it later. Toss it up in the air and restructure it, if need be. And learn to let it go, if need be, and start all over again.

Work on the ‘voice’ of your work until it flows and meanders and doesn’t in the least bit get in the way of a great story.

Tip Number 5 – Know Your Target Market

Who are you writing for? Young adult? Primary school age? Toddlers? Who?

Carefully ponder this as you write and hold it close as the plot unfolds. Be certain you’re able to drag yourself back to this market as the story develops. Keep an eye on the words you use, the nature of the plot threads, the voice, the characterisations. Hone these elements to suit your audience, and you’ll save yourself a lot of rewrites later.

Never talk down to nor patronise when you write. Not even to toddlers.

Tip Number 6 – Watch Your Word Count

Whatever the style of book you’re writing, word count is a surprisingly large consideration.

Picture books should not exceed 500 to 600 words (for someone who reviews hundreds of children’s books a year, there’s nothing more frustrating to me than a picture book that is superfluous with the text, and fails to let the images do the talking). Junior Fiction generally runs between 10,000 and 30,000 words, depending on the age, and young adult may run anywhere from 30,000 to 70,000 words. Adult fiction – 70,000 to 100,000.

Whatever you write will probably be cut considerably by either yourself or your editor, so going a little over these figures is okay – but save yourself the time and energy of over-writing (and potentially complicating the plot) by keeping a solid eye on your word count.

Tip Number 7 – Push Through

Writer’s block? You better believe it exists, particularly if you’re working on a complicated novel.

Storyboarding or keeping a spreadsheet of the plot and characters may be helpful, but my own personal strategy for those agonizing moments of Blankdom, is to push through. Just keep writing. Don’t avoid writing, whatever you do. Don’t do the washing or go out. Keep going. It’s not easy, sure, but for me – pushing through and persisting, even if it means writing drivel, works every time. Suddenly, things begin to magically unfold – and the synchronicity and ease with which this happens never fails to astound me.

Tip Number 8 – Let it Simmer

So you’ve written a best seller and you think you’re kind of done, but you’re still not sure. OR you’ve sent it to a million publishers and you’ve got nothing but rejections. What to do?

Put it away. Let it simmer. Let the flavours deepen, and go back to it later. This could be a month later, or twenty years later. Looking at your work with a fresh eye is often just the tonic a book needs to become something More – something publishers will want to publish.

Tip Number 9 – Network

Share the agony with other agonized writers. Get some empathy happening here. Groan, moan, laugh, share, learn. Join your local writers’ group. Set up your own group. Network online and in person. Sharing your processes, your frustrations, your joy – your WORK – with others is absolutely priceless for your work and your sanity.

And you may just make some lifelong friends.

Tip Number 10 – Be Tenacious

My number one piece of advice when it comes to writing books is one word: tenacity. If at first you don’t succeed… If it took Andy Griffiths ten years to have Just Tricking! accepted for publication, then you simply must accept, in your heart, that a rejection slip simply DOES NOT define the quality of your work.

Keep at it. Dust yourself off and keep going. A wise golfer once said “a hole-in-one is absolutely achievable – it just depends on how many times you’re willing to hit the ball.”

Polish up those golf clubs and keep on swinging.

For more, see www.taniamccartney.com and www.fordstreetpublishing.com.


Writing a book? EASY! Selling it? Not so easy. Whether you’re published or self-published, these tips on marketing your work effectively will hopefully nudge your sales in a positive direction.

Tip Number 1 – Branding

Your book is important, but let’s face it – it’s often the name of the author or illustrator that really carries the majority of sales. Thinking of yourself as a human ‘brand’ can help you maximize exposure so that every book you produce will fall under the umbrella of your authorship, and so attract a potentially larger market. People relate to people – and developing a personable presence is a wise and unexpected way to maximize your marketing potential.

Branding involves visuals – logos, colour, images – in a consistent, repetitive way. Do you have a logo for your business as an author or illustrator? Do you have a website and blog and other online presence that are visually tied together with colour or images or style? Are your book covers reflective of your brand (picture an Andy Griffiths book cover and you’ll know what I mean)? Do your emails have branded signatures? Your business cards and flyers and book trailers?

Think about this branding issue and how you can hone it to work for you. When someone glances at your book, do they instantly know it’s yours?

Tip Number 2 – Excellence

Always, always, always do everything with excellence. Dedicate your time and energy to your interviews, your websites, your events, your readings. Half-hearted effort will reap parallel results. Do a great job and you’ll be asked back again and again and will develop a reputation for being wonderful to work with – and producing great work. Make yourself an asset.

Tip Number 3 – Events

Events are a truly fabulous way to promote your work. And they don’t have to be expensive or difficult to produce. Book readings at schools, libraries or bookstores usually cost nothing but your time. Organising sponsorship for book launches (food, giveaways, goodie bag stuffing, entertainment) is surprisingly easy – and cost free.

Online events like this blog tour require nothing more than dedication to writing a stack of great articles.

Tip Number 4 – Online Presence

This, of course, is a given. It’s almost free – just takes a little time – and has the potential for world-wide, constant market saturation.

Websites are nowhere near as daunting as they used to be. Blogger offers incredibly simple blog templates that can be played around with before publishing online, and for just US$10 a year, can be converted to an official website domain, complete with email addresses. For those not-so-confident net-users, almost any website-production process, like writing html, can be googled for instant answers.

It’s well worth the time investment of exploring the option of running your own site – it will save you much time and money – and is an essential and far-reaching marketing tool.

Tip Number 5 – Networking

Priceless. It’s the new word-of-mouth. Not only does it help you with market saturation, it is the best writing and book marketing school in the world. Authors and illustrators are notoriously supportive of each other (they ‘know what it’s like’!) and you will only be failing yourself if you don’t get involved on the social networking scene. You don’t need to live and breathe it – but at least set it in place and contribute regularly. You may just make some glorious friendships, too.

Number 6 – Book Trailers

Book trailers are the new calling card. They are quick and easy to make – you can either learn to do it yourself (Windows Movie Maker is good) or source someone to do it for you, relatively inexpensively. And trailers are yet another avenue for marketing your work. Kids and teachers love them and you can splash them all over YouTube – one of the busiest ‘marketplaces’ on the web.

Number 7 – Author Photo

Do you really want to represent your brand with a blurred, be-sunglassed photo of you on holiday in Ibiza fifteen years ago? That’s not branding.

Get yourself a bottle of wine, a friend who’s slightly handy with a camera, a neutral backdrop (bookshelves and a white, collared shirt, if you really must) and a series of props that relate to YOU and your work – and get snapping. Taking hundreds of photos, in natural light – and you’ll be surprised at how easily you’ll achieve a great author shot with little effort and expense.

If you create illustrated books, consider asking your wonderful illustrator to draw in your book characters, as Kieron Pratt has so expertly done with my own author photo. Oh – and keep the photo current.

Number 8 – Ancillary Products and Resources

You don’t need to set up a production line in China, but offering that little something ‘extra’ – whether it be teachers’ notes, magnets, printable paper dolls of your book character, colouring sheets, online writing workshops (the list is endless) – is a prime way to attract a whole other market to your work. Offering ’something for nothing’ is a great route to more market saturation.

Number 9 – Produce More

Product sells product. This is why book series do so well – both from a branding perspective and from a ‘well-stocked’ perspective. If you have more in the pipeline, more on the shelves, more coming, you will receive more exposure, and each book will link into the next. You don’t want to be a one-hit wonder – more books sell more books.

Number 10 – Keep At It

Unless you want to change your career path, you can’t stop marketing your books. Ever. A publisher can only do so much (they have other books to promote, too, and most books have a relatively short shelf life), and a proactive self-promoting author can sometimes make or break a book’s success. Commitment to promoting your own work is a truly vital marketing component.

For more, see www.taniamccartney.com and www.fordstreetpublishing.com.

As you can see, Tania is a wealth of information and ideas. If you’d like to follow the rest of her blog tour, you can find her itinerary here.  Tomorrow, Tania and Riley are visiting my other blog, Kids’ Book Capers on their journey through cyberspace.


Something to crow about

Back in July I did a post about why it pays to enter writing contests and competitions and how you can use them to hone your craft.

I’m very excited to report that last weekend I won the Published Author Section of the CYA competition for my YA manuscript, Cutting The Ice.

It’s an amazing feeling to have your writing recognised and appreciated by colleagues and industry professionals. But the main reason I entered this particular competition was because the judges provide comprehensive feedback for every single entry.

My Cutting the Ice manuscript was finished, but I had an instinctive feeling that someone wasn’t quite right with it…that my main character had a bit too much angst and aggression to inspire empathy in the reader.

And I was having trouble identifying exactly what it was that made my character unsympathetic. So I was thrilled to discover that winning the competition meant receiving a crit from the final judge, Paul Collins of Ford Street Publishing.

From his detailed feedback it was clear that he had the same concerns about the manuscript – and the best part was that he offered suggestions on how to fix it.

I'm 'all ears' when it comes to writing feedback

The more experienced I become as a writer, the more I realise how hard it is to be objective about your own work – to stand back from it and pick out the problems and even if you identify the issues, it can be hard to come up with solutions.

I think it’s human nature. We fall in love with our characters and the beauty of how we have strung our  words together on the page. It’s difficult to step back and say to ourselves, ‘yes these words are beautiful, but they are not relevant to the story so DELETE THEM’.

That’s why competitions with feedback can be so useful. So if you have an opportunity to get someone to crit your work…especially an experienced author, publisher or editor…grasp it with both hands.

Thanks to my CYA win, Cutting The Ice is moving forward again. Whether this award ultimately leads to publication remains to be seen, but from the judge’s feedback I received I have learned some important things about structure and character development, and identifying issues with my own work.

I’ll keep you posted on developments.

Happy writing:-)