Ted 1954

Ted 1954

The date hit like a fist to the heart. I’d forgotten his anniversary. And it took me two weeks to even remember that I’d missed it.

Thirteen years since my Dad died. And I didn’t ring my Mum. Or speak to my brothers. Or even register the date until two weeks after it had passed.

What kind of daughter does that?

Then I imagine him, looking up from his newspaper (the Catholic Leader or Queensland Graingrower, for sure), eyes huge through the lens of his reading glasses.

The half snort, half laugh. That’d be right. Then the sly look. You still miss me?

Yes, you old stirrer, I do. You’d be thrilled to know how much… And you’ll also be pleased to know that I took your advice –097_97

My advice? You became a nun? Good. I told you: it’s never too late; Mary Magdalene became a saint-

Uh, no, but-

You got married? Before you  lost your looks completely?

Well, yes – but you already knew that. You were there, remember?

2015-11-23 16.09.48I imagine him then, losing interest in the conversation. Going back to his newspaper. I was safely married, he could relax. And maybe one day, I might still become a nun and make him proud…

I wonder then if he remembers the other piece of advice. The one I can’t forget because it was delivered from a hospital bed just before he died:

…be what you were meant to be, do what you were meant to do

Thanks Dad, I took your advice – and became a writer instead.

Someone with only one foot on the ground, and a head in the clouds.

Someone who feels her father’s presence more deeply since he died. But forgets to ring her Mum on the anniversary of his death.

Someone who goes back through her diary to see what kind of daughter does that, and finds this entry: ‘How to Destroy Earth (Part One) 13,419 words – it’s getting there!’

Someone who takes time out today, when the word count stands at 20,064, to spend an hour just thinking of her dad.

And so we beat on, words against the page, a middle-aged woman, unsuited to the cloistered life, still trying to make her dad proud.



If you are going through hell, keep going‘Leave nothing in the tank,’ my gym instructor pants as we enter Dante’s ninth circle of suffering at the end of a hellish fifty-minute ride class.

She’s killing me. My heart broke free of my chest two tracks ago, my lips are peeled back in a rictus of agony, my leg muscles are screaming. Yet I know from experience that this is the moment to push harder, dig deeper, and find that last lick of energy at the bottom of the barrel.

We finish hard and fast. Because endorphins don’t come cheap (and because I know there will be chocolate tonight).

This is the cycle – go hard, empty the tank, then refuel, to go further next time.

In writing and in life, I’ve learned to go hard even when I don’t feel like it – especially when I don’t feel like it – because that’s where the rewards are found.

When I look back on some of my toughest times writing – a scathing manuscript appraisal before I was published and two grueling structural edits on Intruder – I am grateful that I didn’t give up. That I pushed through.

It has taken six  years and four books to learn that persistence pays. In the past twelve months, I’ve been invited to four Writers Festivals, two educational conferences, three Writer-in-Residencies and I’ve spoken to more than five thousand students from more than fifty schools.

I’m grateful for every opportunity, but after this year’s eight-week long Book Week, the tank was officially empty. So I cut myself some slack. Ubud, Bali

While hubba hubby was off surfing in the Maldives, I took myself and the three youngest on a family holiday.

We read books. Chased waterfalls. Mountain biked down a volcano. Rode elephants. Walked down and back up a thousand steps to go rafting. Cooked and ate Balinese food. Laughed and had fun.

The tank is officially refilled. And now I’m ready to go hard again.


Gitgit Falls


Me and Sophie Hannah

Me and Sophie Hannah

I can die happy after a cracker of a night in Melbourne where Intruder won the 2015 Davitt Award for Best Debut Crime Book!

Do not underestimate my excitement. The last prize I won was a netball raffle ten years ago – a mountain bike designed by the military to be dropped out of helicopters into war zones.

A Davitt is infinitely more useful. And it fits on my desk!

A huge thank you to the awesome Sisters in Crime Australia for welcoming me into the fold at their 15th Annual Davitt Awards for best crime books by Australian women.

Intruder was shortlisted twice – in the Young Adult category (won by Ellie Marney’s wonderful Sherlockesque thriller Every Word), and for best Debut Crime Book which is judged across all categories (Non-fiction, Adult, YA and Children’s fiction).

With Pam Rushby and hubba hubby

With Pam Rushby and hubba hubby

Hubba hubby was there to take out the good husband award and to share in a fabulous night that celebrated Australia’s best women crime writers and which starred international best-selling author Sophie Hannah.

Huge congrats to all longlisted and short-listed authors, especially:

Liane Moriarty, Winner of the Best Adult Fiction Award for Big Little Lies and Sulari Gentill, Highly Commended for A Murder Unmentioned

Ellie Marney, Winner of Best YA Fiction for Every Word, and Pamela Rushby, Highly Commended for The Ratcatcher’s Daughter

Judith Rossell, Winner of Best Children’s Fiction for Withering-by-Sea, and Lollie Barr, Highly Commended for The Adventures of Stunt Boy and His Amazing Wonder Dog Blindfold 

Carolyn Overington, Winner, Best Non-fiction Book for Last Woman Hanged, and Julie Szego, Highly Commended for The Tainted Trial of Farah Jama.

And finally to  Candice Fox, who was Highly Commended in the Best Debut Crime Book category for Hades.20150829_223918

2015 Davitt Award for Best Debut Crime Book for Intruder

You are all winners in my book and I look forward to adding all your books to my tottering bedside reading pile!

small BW promo logoIt’s coming at me … Faster than a Matthew Reilly plot! More powerful than an idea whose time has come! Able to leap from primary to high schools in a single bound!

Look, up in my calendar – It’s an event, it’s a tradition, it’s …. Book Week!

Yes, it’s Book Week (which this year is super-sized for me – eight weeks long, with back-to-back school visits and festivals from mid-July to mid-September).


With Will Kostakis jump-starting our Book Week at St Aidans Literature Festival

It’s a gorgeous time when everyone who loves books comes together to celebrate: teachers, librarians, booksellers, writers, illustrators, and of course, our wonderful readers.

Festivities officially kicked off last Friday with the CBCA’s Book of the Year Announcements.

I was so proud and grateful to have Intruder shortlisted this year and offer my warmest congratulations to all Winners and Honour Books for 2015. especially author Claire Zorn for her beautiful Book of the Year for Older Readers, The Protected, and illustrator Freya Blackwood for her extraordinary achievement in taking out three Book of the Year Awards for Picture Book, Early Childhood and Younger Readers.

Have a super Book Week. I know I will. :)

Cathedral Writers Camp
McLellands Lookout

For someone who doesn’t camp, I couldn’t have picked a better way to kick off the month of Book Week than Townsville’s Cathedral School Writers Camp in North Queensland.

Although I had hoped it would be relatively civilised (ie with somewhere to plug in my laptop), I didn’t expect the experience to be more glamping than camping.

Writers Camp 2015While the forty-five kids and four dedicated staff had to rough it in dorms, their precious writer-in-residence had her own queen-sized bed in Paluma’s Rainforest Inn, all her meals cooked for her by the lovely Jeanette and Jodie at Gumburu Environmental Education Centre, and was even chauffeur-driven the two hundred metres back home each evening.

Mind you, with the food police 1600 kilometres away back in Brisbane, there was nothing to stand between said writer and the sticky date pudding, so they could just as easily have rolled me down that unlit road each night after dinner…

fire pic

Our days and nights were filled with writing, games, singing and story telling. We hiked to a waterfall, drank from its crystal stream and survived to tell the tale (Carmo’s mountain goat escapades have probably reached legend status back home in Townsville by now.)

I’ve been home a day and miss it already – all the laughs with our inspirational leader Judy; the blind-folded walk through the rainforest with Loretta; threading sinkers through trousers with Carmo; and scary stories round the campfire with Floyd.

And the kids, well, they’d take some beating. Thanks for making me part of your writing crew.

Writers Camp Paluma

When I got home I opened the folder Judy gave me and haven’t stopped grinning. Thanks for the warm and fuzzies, Cathedral. You writers rock! Writers Camp Cathedral School Townsville

Cathedral School Writers Camp

How many authors can you fit in a photo booth?

Whitsunday Voices has just rocketed to the top of my list of favourite Youth Literature Festivals EVER.

Enthusiastic hordes of kids (nearly 6,000 over two days), an unruly mob of wacky funsters (er, I mean authors and illustrators), and a sold-out bookstore that more than eased the graphospasm pain from six frenetic signing sessions.


Two of my awesome minions!

Whitsunday Voices made it look effortless with a top lineup of literary and musical talent and gifted minions catering to every whim of its fourteen resident authors, illustrators and musicians over the two days and nights of the festival.

And what a demanding mob we were. Especially Tony Flowers who insisted on fresh jelly beans in the green room each morning AND his sandwiches cut into circles, NOT rectangles, triangles or squares.

Tony Flowers and his signature Tim Tams

Tony Flowers and his signature Tim Tams

When he demanded chocolate biscuits decorated in his own inimitable cartooning style, we almost choked laughing – until Mandy Lawless and her nonpareil catering corp managed to come up with exactly that.

Now I know that Literature Festivals aren’t all about the food. But when you’re talking to up to 300 kids per session, a writer has NEEDS (some of which only occured to me when they wheeled in the freshly baked scones, and please, don’t get me started on that apple and date cake with caramelised coconut topping).

[Pauses and wipes dribble from keyboard]

Now, where where we? Oh, yes, literature. Um, have I mentioned this year’s awesome lineup?

The Green Room

RA Spratt, Emma Quay, AJ Betts, Dave Lowe, Nick Falk, Danny Katz, Will Kostakis, Tristan Bancks, Tony Flowers


Tara Moss, Emma Quay, Nick Falk, RA Spratt, Tony Flowers, Tristan Bancks, AJ Betts, Danny Katz, Jenni from WAS, Will Kostakis and me


At last, the elusive Mark Greenwood (second from right) finally captured on camera (along with the usual suspects)


Singing the praises of short stories

A huge thank you to Whitsunday Anglican School for hosting such a marvellous event, to the Winchester Foundation for bringing rural and remote students to the Festival, to my fellow scribes, artists and performers for making it so much fun, and to the kids – you’re the best. Write on!

On making unsatisfactory realities into deeply satisfying stories

On making unsatisfactory realities into deeply satisfying stories

Shaun Kirk, blues musician extraordinaire

Lucas Proudfoot keeping the littlies entralled with traditional Aboriginal dance and music

Head chef Mandy and the team!

Head chef Mandy and the team!

Awesome organiser Sonya Anderson and Anne De Luca

Awesome organiser Sonia Andersen and Anna De Luca

CBCA 2014 Short list Older Readers

Well, I did warn hubba hubby last night: ‘I’m having a cry tomorrow. Just so you know.’

He didn’t know why, of course, until I told him. About the CBCA Book of the Year – Notable Books and Short List announcement.

About how all we writers for young people wait with roiling guts for the announcement at midday. Distracting ourselves with keep-busy work, while all our hopes and fears dash up against the ever-present thought:  So many great books … such a strong year 

So yes, I did burst into tears when I saw Intruder short-listed for the 2015 CBCA Book of the Year for Older Readers.

Because until I saw it there in such fine company, I didn’t believe that it would be, that it could be …  Because there were so many great books. It was such a strong year

So, I’d just like to say thank you to the CBCA and offer my congratulations – not only to the 2015 Notable and Shortlisted authors, but to all the writers and illustrators of the 400-odd titles that the CBCA judges deliberated over this past year – here’s to the rich diversity of Aussie books for kids and teens, long may it rule! *clinks glass*