Asian Festival of Children’s Content – it’s a wrap

The book creators’ part of the AFCC is over for another year. I have heard about Japanese picture books, the state of children’s literature in Ireland and Africa, content controversies in the Philippines, Singapore and the States, why you should never post your book to a reviewer, and met (and re-met!) a bunch of passionate children’s book people from the world over. It is a warm, friendly and mind-opening conference. It is an important cultural exchange of ideas, and reinforces the fact that people who love writing, creating and sharing books for young people have a common language, no matter where we come from.

I’m off to do a writing workshop for The Writers Centre now, and to find the durian mousse recommended in this post, so here is my summary of the festival in pictures.

I am grateful to writingwa, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators – West, and the Department of Culture and the Arts for making it possible. I am also grateful to the organisers of the AFCC, Alycia Teo and especially Mr Rama – you have done a stellar job in bringing people together and getting us talking. It is a remarkable thing you have created.



Day One, Asian Festival of Children’s Content

How I love this festival.

In one day, I’ve heard Calef Brown talk about the development of his warm and witty illustrative style, and show us why nonsense books (‘Pure folly that makes sense’) are so enduringly delightful.

I’ve heard Cynthia Leitich Smith talk about why fantasy raises the bar for the suspension of disbelief, and how teenage readers identify most strongly with characters from fantasy novels.

I’ve heard Felicia Low Jimanez, Gabriela Lee, Cathy Hirano and Edmund Lim discuss the role of parents (or the absence of parents), as well as the role or desirability of books in promoting ‘good moral character’ in children, the influence of religion on content, and the current state of play with these and related matters in Singapore, the Philippines and Japan.

And I’ve heard Leonard Marcus, Dr Murti Bunanta and Deborah Ahenkorah talk about the role of awards in promoting particular types of children’s literature and illustration, and the ‘unprecedented experience’ book juries are looking for.

I’m about to go and set some illustrators to duelling. More to come.

Before takeoff

I am writing talks, packing bags and preparing my chili palate ahead of my departure to Singapore and the Asian Festival of Children’s Content next week (thanks to writingwa, the Department of Culture and the Arts and SCBWI West). I will be narrating for duelling illustrators Soefara Jafney and Gabriel Evans; talking about controversial content in children’s lit with Cynthia Leitich Smith and Mariko Nagai, chaired by Nury Vittachi and talking about obsessiveness, creativity and young people. I cannot wait.


It’s been four years since the launch of Losing It (see here for a read excerpt from the night). I am delighted it is still getting some attention – most recently on the Stella Prize blog here, by  the splendid Danielle Binks.


Anyone vaguely interested in books, writing and creative industries generally will have noticed the short shrift the latest Productivity Commission’s  latest report is getting from anyone vaguely interested in books, writing and creative industries. Tim Winton (who opines about the technocrats wanting to piss all our cultural achievements up against the wall) and Richard Flanagan (who says ‘This is a government that despises books and views with hostility the civilisation they represent’) fire the latest salvos. Write a submission if you will: the link is here.


In terrible news, the marvellous Gillian Mears has died. The tragic loss of a wonderful woman and unique voice.


Western Australia has got a good showing in the CBCA Shortlist.

Congratulations to my fellow writers, here and elsewhere. Congratulation to you/us all, shortlistees or not. Doing the work is the thing. Remember this.

Marvellous May

  • Everyone is talking about diversity in children’s books, it seems. The Asian Festival of Children’s Content is an annual event that more than talks about diversity – it is an opportunity for children’s content creators from all over the world to meet and find out what is going on in different countries. The organisers originally wanted it to be the Bologna of the southern hemisphere: my guess is that it’s already beyond that. I was lucky to attend in 2012, and I can’t wait to see how it’s changed and grown. This year, the country of focus is Japan. (Thanks to writingwa, SCBWI West and the Department of Culture and the Arts for making this possible.)
  • I got an advance copy of The Book That Made Me yesterday, edited by the wonderful Judith Ridge. It doesn’t launch til September, but I am proud to be among this bunch of luminaries, including Shaun Tan, Markus Zusak, Fiona Wood, James Roy, Ambelin Kwaymullina, Simone Howell and more. All proceeds go to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation. Here is a sneak peak:

Bookmark some reading time in September for this


Left: me pretending to be Laura Ingalls Wilder

  • The Cambridge Youth Network Young Writers Competition is now open: deadline is 24 July. Download an entry form and further information from
  • Here, for no particular reason, is a photo of our Jack Russell. As well as featuring as a major character in my new YA novel, to by published by Penguin Random House in February 2017, he really, really doesn’t like being bathed.


    Hecta the bath-resisting dog




Busselton bliss

Last week, thanks to Beth and her crew at Dymocks Busselton, seven(ish) writers and illustrators descended on Mary MacKillop College (also in Busselton) for a new festival called Seven Rooms, Seven Stories. The day and everything surrounding it was an unadulterated delight, from rocking up in a 1960 Chevy to our willing and able helpers to the fab food and coffee to the cracking sessions with keen kids. I have to say, I don’t think I’ve ever had such responsive and enthusiastic audiences – especially from my last session, attended by 60 ten year old girls who were just brimming with warmth, stories and acting talent. (It also didn’t hurt our discussion of The Flyaway Girls that most of them were gymnasts!)


A J Betts being awesome at MacKillop


We stayed at Beds by the Bay, a B&B (this could start getting very alliterative) which held the visiting crew in comfort and style. Beth (of the festival) and Mike (of the Chevy) couldn’t have done more to make us feel welcome.


There may also have been ABBA and dancing, but that would be telling.

The next day we fronted up with replenishing juices and more coffee to sign books for the enthusiastic kids and bemused passersby who wondered what was going on.

Thank you to Beth and the team for a brilliant day, and let’s hope the one off becomes a Busselton tradition.

The Flyaway Girls: what Paula thinks

As a jiggly-bottomed girl who can’t do a cartwheel, reviewing a novel that focuses on competitive gymnastics drew some trepidation and perhaps a wobble around my middle.

But the The Flyaway Girls is a well paced story for young girls aged between ten and fourteen. I read it one sitting. It flows beautifully like a rhythmic ribbon touching on the nature of friendship, competiveness and self-acceptance.

Chelsea is a devoted hard working gymnast who at the ripe old age of eleven has to work out although hard working and dedicated she is not naturally gifted or exceptionally talented. She does not have the right stuff. Chelsea is steaming mad when an untrained new comer Telia, apparently rips her dream position on the coveted National team from her grasp.

Chelsea’s focus becomes so intense and driven that it begins to cause her all sorts of problems particularly with her friendships and family.

Her obsession to get to the Olympics over rides life. The competitive nature of sport and coaching is called into question.

After a knee injury, she is rude to her two friends, Rosie and Gemma who don’t understand her ambition and single mindedness. They are devoted to their musical instruments but choose to enjoy it and take a more moderate approach.

Meanwhile, Chelsea’s Dad has chosen to live in Canberra with his new partner and that’s got to hurt. In fact, it is revealed that Chelsea channels her negative feelings to overcome her fear of the vault. It’s a tip she gives Telia who is having problems with this one piece of equipment.

Telia is a naturally adept at all sports but doesn’t have that drive and prefers to have fun. Ironically, it is in Telia’s company that Chelsea enjoys herself but the green-eyed monster gets in the way and bridges have to be built.

It’s all pretty intense and a little bit alarming that by the end of primary school the girls have worked out their limitations and accepted them. Telia drops out to enjoy the next sport and Chelsea realises she is great at supporting and teaching gymnastics. The two combine their skills and zest for fun to come up with The Flyaway girls, their dance gymnastic display rocks the end of the year concert and a compromise is found.

The themes of the natural verses the hard worker, of self-acceptance and seeing where you fit into the big picture of things are well drawn and totally accessible and relevant to the young pre/teen girl.

Reviewed by Paula Hayes, Creative Kids Tales

Shameless plugs, various

My Booked Out profile has been updated – see here for details.vI’ve got more scope for school visits than I have for some years, so please contact the Booked Out crew for details. I’m hoping to be in Melbourne before or after Book Week, too.

Also, the Flyaway Girls is fitting for primary kids in an Olympic year. Just saying.

Perth Writers Festival Schools Day and Inspired Learning Program is on this week (eek! I’ve written many, many questions for my illustrious panellists, but I feel I need more). See here for more details.

In other news, the Perth International Arts Festival has started. Every Brilliant Thing was my first show: I saw it last year in New York and seeing it a second time was just as delightful and thought-provoking. See it if you can.

Next week, the fabulous James Berlyn’s show, I Know You’re There. It’s the hottest ticket at PIAF: get in if you can.

Meanwhile, I’ve just finished a substantial edit of my new YA novel coming out next year. This is one that Matters. When I can share more, I will.


The Flyaway Girls: what Wendy thinks

From Good Reading magazine, February 2016

Four stars

‘… In Chelsea we see a character who is determined and goal-oriented to the point of obsession. It’s the sort of drive that an elite athlete needs, but sometimes, no matter how hard the person words, the goal isn’t achieved. We feel Chelsea’s distress when her dream is shattered. But we’re also delighted when she learns that family and friends should never take second place to their own ambitions. It’s a story for those of us with dreams and for those of us who live with someone who has a driven personality.’

Wendy Noble

Perth Writers Festival is nigh

It’s that time again.

This year, as well as MCing Schools Day, AJ Betts and I are chairing the Inspired Learning Program for teachers. (Side note: AJ has been driving me insane with jealousy by posting frequent pictures of her cycling expedition to New Zealand, but I should have found my way to forgiving her by 18 Feb. Maybe.)

The program for Schools Day is here, and the Inspired Learning Program is here.

For Schools Day, I’m talking to Carole Wilkinson about her fascinating non-fiction book Atmospheric, which deals with the history and science of climate change, and Katherine Rundell about her rollicking girls-own-adventure novel, The Wolf Wilder. I’ll also be talking to the remarkable Yassmin Abdel-Magied: if you haven’t heard of her yet, she’s a mechanical engineer, writer and activist who campaigns for tolerance with Youth Without Borders.

For the Inspired Learning Day, I’ll be speaking to Sally Rippin, Sean E Avery, Jasper Fforde, Meg McKinlay and David Burton, among others, about how to engage readers both reluctant and enthusiastic, how to encourage and expand the horizons of young creatives, and introduce some new and exciting work for young people, among other things.

If you can come, it’ll be one cracking Friday afternoon.



Sweet 2016

Happy 2016 to you!

1. Above is my reading pile/s for Perth Writers Festival Schools and Teachers Days. Luckily I’ve already read a couple in that list, and it is proving a pleasure to make my way through the rest.

2. If you’re free on Saturday 16 January, come to the State Library of WA for free writing/reading workshops for kids – details here.

3. 2016 is already looking exciting writing-wise: I have started the year doing an edit for a novel I first drafted last year, and will be out at the beginning of next, and the calendar is filling up with lots of fabulous things, including the Asian Festival For Children’s Content in Singapore in May (thank you, writingwa and Department of Culture and the Arts!). More of both forthwith.

4. I spent the first day of 2016 swimming in the clear, shark-less waters of Yallingup with cousins and kids. The evening before, we saw these folk head for the hills. A visiting Irishman suggested that the sight of them to us must be ordinary: we put him straight. The elegant strangeness of a kangaroo can never be ordinary.

5. I wish you all a year of books, and the open-minded curiosity they create.