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Marvellous May

Greetings from Bali, dear Reader, where I am writing (or drafting, I should say: it is very drafty!) a new middle grade novel, as well as enjoying the beachy goodness, massages and delicious food on offer. (And yoga. I have done yoga too, a fact that may surprise you as much as it surprised both me and my hamstrings) The new novel has the working title ‘ABBA novel’, although so far it does not have very much ABBA in it, to speak of.

Aside from feeling as if I should update this blog from time to time for form’s sake, I also would like to update you on the latest writing news. Which is this piece of wondrousness from Fremantle Press’ clever designer:

Maddie in the Middle front coverPublication is in far off February, but I am delighted to be able to share the cover with you. [Late breaking news! Pub date is now 1 September!]

And if you can’t wait for a sneak peek, here’s a sample.

And if you want the jacket in total (go on, I know you do), here it is:


May May bring you all good things.

Delightful December

Dear Reader, it has been an eventful year from this end of the computer, on the writing front as well as all others.

I had two peak life experiences in the form of taking part in Big Sky in Geraldton and the Ubud Writers Festival in Bali, both assisted by writingWA, a small organisation that does huge things for Western Australian writers. I visited a bunch of schools and libraries before, during, and after Book Week. And this happened:

181101 Fremantle Press acceptance

It is delightful to be back in the Fremantle Press fold, and to be sharing the middle grade novel that will be out at the beginning of 2020. This book has been rewritten quite a few times and it is good to feel that I’ve almost got it to where it should be.

My colleague’s daughter is currently reading said novel, and giving me editing feedback (as well as the editing feedback I’ll shortly be getting from my editor!) This is the gorgeous card she gave me:

181212 Emmas card

Somehow I managed to fit in a fair bit of reading this year. I am tossing up between these two as my favourite books: Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton and Too Much Lip by Melissa Lucashenko. (I also have a towering TBR pile – so many good books out this year!)

I wish you all a peaceful festive season, and a sensational start to 2019.

Ubud Writers and Readers’ Festival

Dear Reader, Greetings from Ubud!

Thanks to writingWA, I am here and about to do my third workshop and first panel session in a festival crammed with fascinating writers and stories, set in tropical (and appropriately humid) paradise, with equally fascinating punters. Apparently Hanif Kureishi yesterday inquired as to whether there were any Australians left in Australia: I am staying in the ridiculously beautiful Ananda Cottages, where most of Perth is also currently residing.

It is a gift to be here. As a writer who also works (very) full time, sometimes the balance between creativity, work and life is a little bit, er, challenging. Events like this remind me that it is worth it and that I am incredibly lucky.

As an added bonus, I have just posted off a new manuscript. Fingers crossed, everyone!


Jakarta International School: such a great bunch of writers!


Dyatmika School in Denpasar


My writing location for the week

Book Week shenanigans

It is that time of year again, where those in the world of children’s literature wander far and wide, aided by teachers, librarians, TAs, and parents, to celebrate the books made to expand the imaginative horizons of our kids. Although we in the trade have taken to calling it Bookweekmonth, as gigs start before and continue after it, Book Week itself concluded yesterday. For me, it started with the WA Children’s Book Council dinner and ended with me having visited Dianella, Inglewood, Osborne Park, Southern River College and St Brigid’s in Lesmurdie. The library gigs were sponsored by the Children’s Book Council, an organisation of volunteers who do so very much to connect books and kids. Go 2&5!

I am exhausted, happy and grateful for the wonderful kids and young adults I met this week – including a girl who shared the name of my protagonist from my first novel, Obsession, and had also gone to Kemmy high school. Quite a freaky coincidence, what?!

Here are some happy snaps from some of the above:

Gee, June!

Dear reader, where does the time go?

Last month I was privileged to be a part of the Big Sky festival in Geraldton. It was a peak life experience, of which fact I was aware at every moment. From travelling to the stunning Abrolhos Islands, with their history of mutineering and murder, guano-mining and crayfishing, to meeting warm, engaged audiences, re-visiting Geraldton schools and  meeting fabulous writing colleagues, it was delightful, fun, thought-provoking and occasionally terrifying (in the seven-seater plane). Trudi Cornish and her team did the most remarkable job putting it all together and making us all feel welcome and at home.


Charlotte Wood, Rachael Woods, Alison Lester, Jock Serong, me and Michael Leunig

At Big Sky, the remarkably eloquent Gideon Haigh spoke about A Scandal in Bohemia , which I am now engrossed in. It is an exploration of the life of talented and spirited Mollie Dean, who was murdered while walking home in Eltham, Melbourne in 1930. This week another murder in Melbourne, of talented and spirited Eurydice Dixon, has made reading this even sadder: the tragic loss of a talented young woman, again. On a personal level, apart from despairing and being furious about the danger of being a female, I am reminded of the rape and murder of my friend Carita Ridgway, and the way the sense of loss never goes away, only, at best, diminishes.

I leave you with something cheering, my daughter’s latest painting-in-progress:


Dog love and laureates

I know I have been remiss on the blogging front, but I just have to re-blog this wonderful post from the clever and delightful Cristy Burne, about Hecta. Check it out here.

In other news, last night I chaired a session on the Life of a Children’s Laureate at the inaugural Scribblers Festival. Leigh Hobbs, PJ Lynch and Chris Riddell were funny, thought-provoking, and generally delightful as artists and as human beings – pretty sure the audience would have been happy for them to keep going all night. Here are some pics of the evening:


Fabulous, frenetic, festivally February

Happy 2018 to you!

It is a year since the launch of Before You Forget. The video, produced with the help of so many of you, is being used far and wide to help convey what it’s like to be a teenager with a father developing Alzheimer’s, and the book is doing likewise. I will be speaking about Before You Forget at A Night With Our Stars, organised by Joanna Andrew (and Children’s Book Council folk) and now going into its second decade, if memory serves me correctly. It’s like speed dating: each writer and illustrator gets three minutes to spruik their wares, and punters can stock up their school libraries in the break. It’s a bunch of fun for everyone. If you’re interested in hearing the varied and wonderful books written for children and young people in Western Australia, you could do worse than come and have a listen.

I started a fabulous new day job in the new year, just after frantically finishing my middle grade manuscript and sending it off to my publisher. Now we wait, with fingers crossed, or with thumbs pressed together, as they say in German (she adds, apropos of nothing). It really doesn’t get any easier, sending off your work to see what reception it’s going to get, although it is probably marginally less nerve-wracking than the first time (marginally).

It is Perth Festival time, my favourite time of the year: so far I have seen Il N’Est Pas Encore Minuit, a French company of acrobats whose show was clever and warm and mindboggling in equal measure; and yesterday the Barbershop Chronicles, energetic, funny, thought provoking. It was a wonderful way to start Festival frenzy.

This year I will be doing fewer school gigs, but I am delighted to be heading to Geraldton again in May for Big Sky. More details when they are available.

My daughter is starting a business doing portraits, mostly of older people. Here, for your viewing pleasure, is her latest.

Of All Things October

I am about to go to Albany for my final two days working with the Talented Young Writers program, workshops organised by The Literature Centre for kids who love reading and writing. They come from different schools to a host site (in Perth, the Lit Centre itself in Freo) to spend four days each year working with different writers and illustrators. As a writer, it is a gift to be with these young, enthusiastic and brimming-with-talent people. The feedback the participants give confirm that they love the days as much as we do: from this week, a St Mark’s student wrote:

“Honestly this was my favourite ever day at the Lit Centre. Not only did I learn a heap and write things that I am pleased with but Julia’s stories and background was super interesting to hear about. I am grateful to have this opportunity and thankful to have learned so much in such a short time!”❤️

171020 Julia at the Lit Centre Insta

Creative kids writing, the Literature Centre, Fremantle

171014 John Willcock Library

Lesley Reece, me, and the wonderful library staff at John Willcock College, Geraldton


This week I also had the pleasure of speaking to Nadia L King, Paper Bird Fellow, and Jen Jackson about all things YA on Thursday night, at the gorgeous Paper Bird book shop in Fremantle. There was a small but enthusiastic audience, including Nadia’s two intelligent and informed daughters.


My daughter travelled to Melbourne last week to speak at the Be the Change conference, the national conference of Alzheimer’s Australia (now known as Dementia Australia). She talked about growing up with a father who was developing younger onset Alzheimer’s; the isolation and distress of it; the transformative power of art: of she and Gemma writing /discussing/workshopping Before You Forget with me, and creating her own art. It was a hard thing for her to do, but the connection she made with others going through the same thing, including parents with younger onset Alzheimer’s, was incredibly validating. I do not have words for how proud and pleased I am that she could do this. My thanks to Dementia Australia, especially Celina Day, for making it possible for Annie to attend.

IMG_4148 (2)

Annie’s painting of her dad



I’m sure I have other things to note, observe and celebrate, but I shall get packing now. Happy reading, happy writing, happy spring to you all.


Stitching Stories in September

August and all its Book Week fun is done for another year, dear Reader.

I had the pleasure of presenting to kids from year one to year eleven (not in the same session, you’ll be pleased to hear). I didn’t travel anywhere too far-flung: St Thomas’ Catholic School in Claremont; Victoria Park library, attended by various schools in the area; and Applecross High School, where my week ended with a self-selected group of inquisitive and lively kids. It was such a fabulous few days, I wished Book Week would never end. I will have my own version of Book Month later this year, when I travel to Geraldton, Albany and Fremantle (hey, it’s up the train line) for The Literature Centre’s Talented Young Writers Program. I can’t wait, already.

Children's Book Week 2017 Applecross

Before You Forget, the scarf


Book Week was also special because my dear friend Bri early-surprise-birthdayed me a scarf on which is printed the text of Before You Forget (obviously not all of it). I absolutely adore it: it’s harder to think of a more personal and lovely gift for a writer.

CBCA dinner 2017

CBCA WA Branch Dinner, costumes preferred


On my YA reading pile: Zana Fraillon’s The Bone Sparrow is breaking my heart, while Cath Crowley’s Words in Deep Blue is putting it back together again; I also started Claire Zorn’s One Would Think The Deep and desperately need to get hold of a copy to continue. The trio were honour books and winner of this year’s CBCA awards, and worthily so (although how the judges pick from so much excellent work is beyond me).

Am writing: slowly, slowly, I’m threading my narrative needle and stitching my new story, a middle grade novel about a moral quandary (pre-ordering yet?!), among other things. It’s amazing how a change in perspective can reveal where the gaps are: I changed from first person to third and thus sewed up one set of holes. No doubt others will appear elsewhere.

Wishing you all a super spring.


Joyful in June

It has been a bit quiet on the writing news front, dear Reader, and the rest of life rather hectic, which accounts for my sparse blogging. On the news front, though, I am now about a third in to a middle grade novel, which has had ‘it’s got legs’ approval, so I’m very excited about this. Starting a new novel is as feeling-your-way-in-the-dark as it ever was: I am a beginner every time. Which is the joy (more of which below) and frustration both of this writing life.

Yesterday was the Perth launch for Dianne Wolfer‘s beautiful new picture book, Nanna’s Button Tin, illustrated by Heather Potter.  Button-festooned Frané Lessac started a new trend by launching a picture book by way of reference to Captain Koons’ speech in Pulp Fiction: I’m sure Tarantino could never have imagined this would be one of the uses to which his script would be put, but I think more books should be launched in this manner, although it was possibly confusing to the small children present, who almost swallowed their buttons as adults in the audience guffawed about grandfathers dying. (You had to be there.) Anyway, it was a beautiful event for a special book. I have such admiration for Dianne and her creative openness and writing trajectory, and it was most excellent to see the latest in the Wolfer oeuvre.

Following this were the mainland events of the SCBWI Rottnest Retreat. I was excited to attend this not only so I could catch up with my SCBWI buddies and meet some new ones, but also because my publisher from Penguin Random House, Lisa Riley, was one of the panellists. The session on children’s and YA publishing was enlightening and sobering: Linsay Knight from Walker Books said that out of the 360 submissions (from published and unpublished authors) Walker had received since November, only one had been acquired, with a couple of others making progress. Penguin Random House received 2300 manuscripts in 2016, with many, many picture books among those: given that only 12 picture books are published each year, that gives you some insight into the odds. However, the final word was: if you have a great story, it will out. Eventually! Many, many thanks to the SCBWI volunteers who make the retreat possible: it is a wonderful thing you’re doing, and we know how much work (and prayer: see James Foley below) go into these things.

And speaking of good stories outing eventually, it was wonderful to be at dinner with Michael Speechley as he received his first offer of contract from Penguin Random House. Joyful in June, indeed!