Meet the Author: Jan Golembiewski

Jan’s top tip for aspiring authors: I really believe in the power of story. If you don’t have a good yarn, even the prettiest of prose has nothing to say. And if you don’t have a good story, then turn away from your keyboard and head for the door. Don’t bring anything with you other than what you’ve already got. And go forth to elsewhere and come back with a story. When I left Australia, I had very little to offer life. I chose the Sahara and returned with Magic.

Jan Golembiewski grew up in suburban Canberra and in the jungles of Papua New Guinea. He has a PhD in psychological aspects of architecture, and he runs his own architectural practice specialising in psychological aspects of design. Jan lives in Sydney with his wife, the novelist Bem Le Hunte and their children (Taliesin,
Rishi and Kashi) and a revolving collection of friends.


Why do you write? The brain is a story telling machine. It looks into the chaos of existence to extract meaning. Communication is as basic as life itself (recent research suggests that even plants do it). But one thing that separates humans from animals, is that we can write and through writing, our stories can benefit humanity as far as it stretches, and as long as readers will be here.

Until now, most of my writing has been scientific and academic – and the benefits of that kind of writing are limited to the topic at hand (let’s say approaches to design to protect against the onset of dementia, useful – but not a pool-side page-turner). Magic is different. It’s my own memoir, and I wrote it to inspire people to reach out beyond the muck of everyday life and to find the swirling lava of pure magic beyond.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I run an architecture firm, specialising in design for bespoke psychological impacts and I spend far more time doing that than writing books. It sounds like a completely different focus, but in its essence, I’m doing the same thing in my day job, only using a different language: in place of words and sentences, I use the language of design to shape people’s worlds and experiences. And like with my words, the narratives I create are for the psychological benefit of those that experience the creation afterwards.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? I had some surprises in my publishing journey. Firstly, it took ages, but I wasn’t hit by a string of rejections. If anyone read my manuscript (and bothered to get back) it was to say ‘yes’. One big publisher did just that, only to return a week later with bad news from the marketing department who couldn’t find a sufficient budget to bring a book like Magic to market. On another occasion, I had to turn down a publisher because we disagreed about a vision for the book.

The one thing I thought I’d hate (and thus put off for 20 years) was the editing. But once I started, I realised that it’s a joy and privilege to make the time to read through your manuscript, slashing and re-writing – turning a jungle into a manicured garden. It must’ve started overweight. I slashed 50,000 words – and far more, if I were to count the bits I re-wrote.

So in short, the toughest obstacles were phantasms – the ghosts of other people’s difficulties that somehow haunted me.

How involved have you been in the development of your books? Do you have input into the cover/illustrations? I submitted my manuscript with a cover I designed myself. But in truth I wasn’t happy with it. I did a couple of others, but somehow they were all wrong. And then the publisher’s designer sent me his first idea. It was meant to be coloured flames but looked like someone had vomited on a notebook. I rejected it. The publisher wasn’t displeased. I don’t think he’s was impressed either.  The next cover was lifeless. So I sent a brief to the designer detailing the visual themes I wanted to see.  Just as I was thinking I’d have to insist on one of my own covers, the designer presented a third  – and I loved it. I have no doubt it is better than any I could have done myself. It takes a village…

 What’s the best aspect of your writing life? This question is like being asked, “what’s the best bit of the ride?” when you’re still on the roller-coaster. So far it’s been sharing my story with my friends, students and family and the general public. But I just don’t know. The ride hasn’t reached the loop de loop where the fixed camera takes the shot I’ll no doubt see in the gift store afterwards. You never know, I might hate that the world at large knows all my boyhood secrets. I might balk at the reviews.

—the worst? So far the hardest thing has been in paring the story to the bone. While editing has been fun, I’ve suffered when I’ve had to  slash out countries, people and experiences because they don’t add to the overall narrative or because publicity about what happened may have compromised real people in some way. Magic is a true story, and so it has to tell other people’s stories, at least in part. And I feel genuinely sorry for the characters who deserve to be represented in the book, but didn’t ‘fit’.

 What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I’d embrace the editing phase sooner and with less caution. I’d stop listening to the nay-sayers who complain how hard it is to get published. I think the stories we tell ourselves need as much pruning and re-writing as those we prepare for publishing. Tell yourself a story you want to hear. There, that’s your first lesson in magic!

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? I wish I’d been told that I’d get a killer advance. Sadly it didn’t happen. Instead, I chose to publish with an independent who offered something more important, but less glamorous – passion and commitment.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Good advice is a major theme of my book: I was told to pare back my belongings. Good advice – advice I took so much to heart, that in the end I had nothing more to protect me from the harsh Sahara sun than a loincloth and string bag containing my vaccination certificate, some quinine pills, a hand-traced map of northern Nigeria, an empty water bottle and some tarot cards. It was good advice. It made for a good story, and later for a good edit!

How important is social media to you as an author? I hope it’s not important. When the Cambridge Analytica scandal hit, I was in the first wave of people to quit Facebook. Bye bye to all my ‘friends’, au-revoir to my connected life. For me, integrity is everything. I could no longer believe in Facebook, and I wasn’t going to support them with my patronage.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? What is writer’s block? Is it what happens when you’ve got nothing to say? If so, go and explore. The world is a fascinating, contradictory and extraordinary place once the humdrum of normalcy slips away. Take some risks in your life and in your writing.

I don’t really suffer from writer’s block. But I do teach creativity, and one of the lessons I share is to leave your editor persona turned off until there’s something substantial to edit. Having a strong critic on your shoulder won’t assist the creative and generative impulse – it’ll turn your words (however presentable) a bit anaemic.

How do you deal with rejection? As I say, rejection isn’t the narrative I write for myself. But I understand it can happen, in which case, be rational: there are reasons that a publisher might need to reject a manuscript, even if it’s a heart-rending work of unadulterated genius. It might be a boring reason – a marketing budget overrun for example. Would you prefer a publisher to offer you a half-arsed deal, with a shit cover and without the resources your book needs to make it in the market?

There’s also always the possibility that your work isn’t the genius you thought it was. Once it’s written, it’s essential to read it through again and again, and if you can’t muster a worthy critic when one’s needed, get a professional editor to look at it. What do they say? If it’s junk, do you really want to put your name to it?

In three words, how would you describe your writing? An amazing story.

If you had the chance to spend an hour with any writer of your choice, living or dead, who would it be and what would you most like them to tell you about living a writing life? I live in the heart of a wonderful literary scene, and I’m married to Bem Le Hunte, one of the greatest writers I’ve ever read. My friends also include a bunch of other wonderful writers – Louise Katz, Libby Hathorn, John Zubrzycki, Sofie Laguna, Dominic Smith and so many others, and frankly I’d probably prefer to do something fun with any of them, than be stuck with a total stranger. But the possibility of drawing someone from the dead using some time-travel magic (just to ask a stupid question) wouldn’t lead me to literature, but to music. I’d probably end up with Bob Marley or Leonard Cohen to ask about how they got here (to Sydney in 2018) and how was the journey!



Jan Golembiewski

This is a true story … A young man heads off on a journey to find out if magic still exists in the world, to know its wonder, and to see if it might save him when his own life is unexpectedly at stake. In the Caribbean, he meets a Rastafarian Don Juan who teaches him about the ‘natural mystic’. Fate propels his travels through
the Americas and Europe to locate the source of this knowledge in Mother Africa, where his own emerging mastery of mysticism is tested by the Sahara Desert. He is imprisoned in Nigeria, and tortured, and then sold as a slave.

Magic is an incredible journey, both physical and spiritual, that reverberates with the uniqueness of lived adventure and of a passionate heart and vision. Upon closing the last page of this book, we ache for the innocence to lose our way and travel deeper, to rediscover the savage but delicious nature of the
miraculous in our own lives.

The book is available here.


Meet the Author: Cameron Macintosh

My guest this week is celebrating the release of a new adventure in his popular future detective series for young readers.

Cameron Macintosh was born in Melbourne and has been trying very hard to grow up there ever since. He studied Psychology and Italian at Melbourne University, and Professional Writing at RMIT. Since then, he has written more than 80 books for primary and early secondary students. He has also honed hundreds of books for teachers and students in his other life as an editor in the educational publishing sector. In the few minutes per week that he isn’t wrestling with words on the laptop, he loves playing the guitar, reading music biographies and drawing angry-looking owls.

To find out more, visit Cameron’s website:


Why do you write? It’s just something I feel compelled to do. I think a lot of it comes from being quite introverted – I’m generally a person of few words, outwardly, so writing is how I make my noise.

What do you think you would be doing now if you hadn’t become involved in the world of books and writing? I think I probably would’ve done an art or music therapy course, and gotten into that line of work. I still like the idea of doing something like that in the future, using creative writing as the medium.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? I think my own rush to get published actually hindered the journey. I sent a lot of things off before they were ready, and then took it pretty hard when they were rejected. I’m taking things more slowly these days, and it’s definitely proving less painful!

I love the idea of a future detective and his robo- dog. What sparked your idea for the Max series? The first spark of the idea came about a few years back on a visit to Pompeii, and the National Archaeological Museum in Naples. I was especially fascinated by domestic items from the Pompeii excavations, particularly the most mundane things like hair combs and cutlery. I found myself wondering if future people will find our domestic items so interesting and mysterious. From that question came the idea to invent a character in the distant future who actually does find our present era fascinating, and who makes a living from investigating long-forgotten everyday items that would be familiar to a present-day reader. Max Booth soon popped into my head to apply for the job!

How involved have you been in the development of the series? Do you suggest the ideas for new titles to your publisher or is a brainstorming session? How closely do you work with your illustrator? So far it’s been quite simple – I conceptualise and write up the stories, and hope the publishers like them (so far so good!). I’d envisioned Max being a series from the get-go, so I was very excited that Big Sky were open to the idea of further adventures.

As far as the illustrations go, I write the illustration briefs as I write the manuscripts, and our illustrator, Dave Atze, interprets them beautifully. I get to see Dave’s rough sketches and comment on them, but he really understands the characters and the feel of the stories, so it’s been an incredibly smooth process with the three books we’ve released so far.

Do you have any detective buddies who give you clues about how they solve crimes? Sadly not, but if you know anyone, feel free to give me their email!

How does your experience as an editor influence your own writing? Although I never trust my editorial eye when it comes to my own writing, I do think my editorial background has helped me write more concisely, and to be aware of my own convolutions. Having worked in-house, it’s also given me an appreciation of how incredibly busy publishing people are, and how passionate they are about what they do. I implore everyone out there to be very nice to them!

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? The freedom to work strange hours is something I’ll never take for granted. Being a total night owl, this suits me extremely well.

—the worst? Constantly facing your own demons and insecurities as part of your job is arguably a strange way to make a living… but then again I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Probably not much. I’ve made so many mistakes along the way, and experienced so many knockbacks, but they’ve all paved the pathway to the opportunities I enjoy now, and hopefully more in the future. As I mentioned earlier, I think I’d probably take the journey a bit slower, and pay more attention to who’s publishing what in the genres I’m interested in.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? You might possibly require a secondary source of income! (That aside, go for it – it really is the best job on earth.)

What’s the best advice you were ever given? My teachers at RMIT constantly encouraged us to keep actively seeking out constructive criticism, particularly by joining a writing group. They were so right about this. I’d be in all sorts of bother without my trusty writing posse.

What’s your top tip for aspiring authors? Don’t take rejection personally – if you’re struggling to find a publisher for your book, it doesn’t mean it isn’t good. There are so many factors at play in publishing decisions – if you really believe in your work, keep polishing it and sending it out. You never know when it will land on the right desk at the right time.

How important is social media to you as an author? I haven’t needed to use it to market my educational writing, but now that Max has taken flight I’m working to build up that side of things. It’s a very useful promotional adjunct, and I’ve already found it a great way to connect with kindred spirits in the writing community.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? I don’t know if I’d call it writer’s block, but there are definitely times when ideas just aren’t there when I need them. I usually find physical exercise helps clear the mental fog. If that fails, I often make a spiderweb-style mind map, writing the main problem I’m facing in the middle, and branching out with any possible solutions, however ridiculous they seem. It’s amazing how often seemingly disparate ideas link up to get me back on track.

How do you deal with rejection? I’ve experienced enough that it should be water off a duck’s back by now, but it’s never enjoyable. I do allow myself a few days of sulking! I think it’s reasonable enough to feel deflated for a while, especially if you’ve put a lot of heart and sweat into a story and other people aren’t seeing its potential. But I try to get back on the bike pretty quickly.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Clear, fun, unpretentious (I hope!)

If you had the chance to spend an hour with any writer of your choice, living or dead, who would it be and what would you most like them to tell you about living a writing life? He isn’t a children’s author by any stretch of the imagination, but it would have to be Dante. I was lucky enough to study his work at uni, with the guidance of some incredible lecturers who were able to draw out its astonishing levels of meaning and symbolism. It was extremely humbling, to say the least, and I’d love to know how he structured his work days (200 years before coffee made its way to Italy!).


Max Booth Future Sleuth

Stamp Safari

Written by Cameron Macintosh, illustrated by Dave Atze


A tiny piece of paper from the year 2019 might not sound very interesting to most people. But Max and Oscar – Bluggsville’s sharpest sleuths – aren’t most people! Max has a hunch that this ancient patch of paper might be valuable, and extremely rare.

Max is right – this isn’t just any old piece of paper. It’s a strange, sticky thing called a postage stamp, and it’s more than 400 years old! It’s an exciting discovery, but before long, it leads Max and Oscar into some very sticky situations…

Sales site:

Check out Cameron’s blog tour at the following sites:

Monday Nov 12 – Wednesday Nov 21

Monday Nov 12

Wednesday Nov 14

Thursday Nov 15

Monday Nov 19

Tuesday Nov 20

Wednesday Nov 21

For details about Books on Tour visit

Meet the Author: Rachel Nightingale

What do rainbow cupcakes have to do with a writer’s life? Today’s guest author Rachel Nightingale reveals this and more as part of the book tour to celebrate the release of the second book in her YA fantasy series.

Rachel was a highly imaginative child who used to pretend she was a gypsy wandering the woods on her way home from school. Once she realised creating stories gave her magical powers she decided to become a writer. Some years, and many diversions later, she is the author of Harlequin’s Riddle, published by Odyssey Books, and also, rather unexpectedly, an award winning playwright.

She is currently writing the final book of the Tales of Tarya trilogy – which by complete coincidence is about the power of creativity to shape the world – and desperately trying to ignore all the other stories clamouring for her attention. Rachel lives in regional Victoria with a very bossy cat, her family, and the cutest dog in the world.

For more information about Rachel, go to


Why do you write?  Two reasons – one is because I’m a better, saner, nicer person when I do. The second is because if I didn’t get the stories and ideas that bounce around inside my head onto the page, I’d probably explode.

How has your theatre experience influenced your writing? There are aspects of performing that you have to experience to understand – the energy buzz that comes from the audience when they love what you are doing, the anticipation when you’re about to step onstage at the beginning of a show, and the sheer, utter panic of improvising and knowing you could fall flat on your face at any moment. They’re emotional, physical, visceral experiences and I hope I’ve captured some of that in my books. Plus if I hadn’t personally experienced the magic of the theatre I don’t think I would have even had the idea to write about a world where that magic is actually real.

Your series is a fantasy, which draws on your imagination, however you are also an experienced editor. This skill is obviously an asset to a writer – does it have a downside, for example when you are working on the first draft? That’s a really great question. I think it did when I first started editing professionally, because it was really hard to turn my analytical brain off, which meant my creative brain didn’t get a look in. Now I think I’ve worked out how to balance the two so I can let the creativity flow but at the same time I’m conscious of how I’m using language as I put it on the page. It means I have to do less reworking later, which is great.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Children. I wrote Harlequin’s Riddle around the same time my son was born, and when it was published last year he was starting Year 11. The thing is, children take a lot of time, and so do books. No first draft is ever going to be perfect, and if you send a book off to a publisher before you’ve spent the time to craft it into the best book you can make it, you’re not doing yourself any favours. But finding that time when you’ve got young kids is pretty tough. So getting the books to publishable standard took a long time.

How involved have you been in the development of your books? Do you have input into the cover/illustrations? I had come across Nadia Turner’s artwork in a shop near where I lived. Beautiful prints of gypsy wagons and animals with top hats – they were stories in themselves. I thought her artwork would be perfect for my covers. I’d been rejected by the ‘big five’ Australian publishers and was considering self-publishing, so I approached Nadia, gave her a copy of Harlequin’s Riddle and luckily she also thought my stories and her art were a perfect match. Then I got offered a publishing contract by Odyssey Books. It’s not usual for the author to organise the cover, so I had to go to my publisher with Nadia’s artwork and go ‘um… I commissioned this a while back, what do you think?’ Fortunately my publisher loved it (of course, because Nadia’s work is AMAZING!). I’ve been lucky enough to get to keep the artwork from both covers and I can’t, can’t wait to see the cover for book three!

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Because I write fantasy I figure rainbow cupcakes are an important part of the image, so once a fortnight I go to my local café and have a hot chocolate and rainbow cupcake whilst working on book three. Then I Instagram it, which hopefully makes all those cupcakes a tax deduction. It doesn’t get better than that! Mind you, I also LOVE getting to talk to people who love my book, because writing is a very isolated job.

—the worst? Writing is a very isolated job! I actually enjoy that to an extent because I’m very introverted, but the problem is it leaves me with my own thoughts a lot, and the anxiety can creep in.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I’d do more classes and read more books on the craft of writing. When I was starting out I had the stupid idea that reading books on how to write would stop me finding my own voice. But there are so many different facets to writing, from grammar and sentence construction to point of view, pace, structure… it’s never ending. I’ve developed an understanding of those, and hopefully some skill with them, over many years of writing and editing. But I could have saved a lot of time and got rid of some of my bad habits earlier if I’d trusted the expertise of others rather than stumbling around figuring out how to do it myself.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? That’s a tough one because I decided to become an author at the age of eight, so it would need to be the sort of advice an eight-year-old would understand. Maybe ‘make sure you always put money aside to feed your stationery obsession’?

What’s the best advice you were ever given? To think of it as a marathon, not a sprint. It takes time to craft good writing. It takes time to find a publisher. It takes time to get known once you actually have a book out there. It’s so easy to get discouraged.

What’s your top tip for aspiring authors? Writing is a craft. No matter how talented you are, you need to be willing to keep working at it. I edited a book a while back which had chapters from different authors. One of them had been around a long time and was very esteemed. I pointed out to him that he overused a certain word throughout the chapter, and in all his years of writing no one had every pointed that out before – and he realised he overused it everywhere. We all have personal quirks we are blind to and things we can improve, even when we’ve been writing for a long time.

How important is social media to you as an author? We’re told all the time that it’s important, so there’s this sense that you have to do it. I wrote a whole blog post on why that’s really hard for me as an introvert. My publisher’s advice, which I think is great, is to do what you are comfortable doing. For me that’s mainly blogging and Instagram. It can take up so much time, and I need that time to write!

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? I have done. What worked for me to overcome it was that I went back and reminded myself of why I wanted to write. I did this by re-reading some of the books I’d loved as a child and teenager. It helped me get back in touch with the magic of story telling.

How do you deal with rejection? Chocolate, wine, and cuddles with my puppy dog, Snowy.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Magical, imaginative, visual.

If you had the chance to spend an hour with any writer of your choice, living or dead, who would it be and what would you most like them to tell you about living a writing life? Zelda Fitzgerald! I think it’s one of the greatest injustices of the world that she’s not given the proper credit for her contributions to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s work. He virtually transcribed parts of her diary for Tender is the Night. Her writing is original, lyrical, poignant and so, so beautiful and I feel terribly sad that she lived in an era where she didn’t get to express herself creatively. I don’t know if she would be a great source of advice, but she would be a fascinating person to talk to.


Columbine’s Tale is the second book in a Young Adult fantasy trilogy, The Tales of Tarya, about the gift of creativity and where it can take you.

For three hundred years the traveling actors of Litonya roamed the land entertaining crowds, but secretly leaving devastation in their wake. Is Mina the only person with the power to stop them?

Tragedy and an ancient mystery plunge Mina ever deeper into the ethereal otherworld of Tarya, known only to a select few artists, a place where dreams are transformed into reality. In Tarya, Mina begins to master the rare, inexplicable powers somehow attached to her gift for storytelling. She discovers she can touch dreams, influence the real world, and perhaps find out who is manipulating Tarya for dark purposes. In the waking world Mina is on the run, pursued, plotted against, beset by divided loyalties between the travelers, and caught between two men she could love and a brother who desperately needs her help.

 Check out Rachel’s visit to the following blogs as park of her Book Tour.

Monday Oct 22 – Sunday Nov 4

Monday Oct 22

Tuesday Oct 23

Thursday Oct 25

Friday Oct 26

Monday Oct 29

Tuesday Oct 30

Wednesday Oct 31

Thursday Nov 1

For enquiries about Books on Tour visit



Meet the Author: Melissa Fagan

Melissa Fagan is a writer and editor
based in Brisbane, where she also
teaches and lectures in creative
writing courses at the University of
Queensland and QUT. Her fiction
and nonfiction has been published in Overland, Kill Your
Darlings, Meanjin, QWeekend and others. At various times throughout her life (but mostly pre-21st century)
she has worked as a receptionist, data entry clerk, call
centre operator, market research telephonist and editorial
assistant. She has also taught swimming and horse-riding,
and led tours through South East Asia, In 2018 she started
a practice-led PhD in travel writing with Curtin University
and the University of Aberdeen.

Visit Melissa’s website to find out more:


Why do you write? The only reason I can write is because I stopped asking myself this a long time ago … even thinking about it gives me the heebie jeebies. Having said that, if I don’t write for a period of time, I soon realise that something is missing, so that’s a definite motivation.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? For most writers, myself included, being a writer entails doing lots of other things that may be only loosely connected to writing; so as well as writing (books) I also write professionally, and edit, and teach writing. If I wasn’t a writer who also did those things then I couldn’t be a writer. If I weren’t a writer at all I would be a wandering mystic. Or maybe a small business owner. Or both. And I’d probably still write a little bit.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? My own impatience/lack of resilience. A few people may have a dream run from the outset, but for most of us it can be a long, hard slog. You’ve got to have self belief and humility in equal measure; it took me a long time to grow into that.

How involved have you been in the development of your book? Do you have input into the cover and illustrations? What Will Be Worn is my first book and I was very involved in its development. I submitted it to my publisher more or less fully-formed. The editing process was intensive at the line level, but even then I had a lot of say in which changes I would take on. I also had a lot of input into the cover, which is an amalgam of old illustrations from McWhirters catalogues. Fortunately my publisher and I were in basic agreement about which illustrations might work from the outset. There were a few sticking points throughout the process, but we got there in the end and I couldn’t be happier with the end result.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Freedom and flexibility.

—the worst? As a result of the above, you have to be your own task master. I wouldn’t choose to have it any other way but deadlines are essential to getting things done, even self-imposed ones.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? One way to answer this would be to say nothing, because I am the writer I am now because of the pathway I have taken. But that pathway might have been shorter if I’d made a more concerted effort to finish things – that’s why writing courses are good, not because they teach you how to write but because the structure forces you to create finished works.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? I don’t know if there’s anything that anyone could have told me that I would have listened to, not when I was younger anyway. If anything, it would be that life experience, which includes alternative careers, is really beneficial for a writer. I sometimes held back from opportunities, or didn’t follow them through, or only pursued them half-heartedly because I thought they were taking me away from my ‘true path’ of being a writer. But pursuing opportunities, professional and otherwise, that don’t seem to have anything to do with writing, can actually be a really good thing for a writer.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? I’ve had a Rod Jones quote (from a 2003 interview with Jane Sullivan) pinned above my desk for the past 15 years. It’s about the importance of getting lost while you’re writing, that it’s part of the process and you shouldn’t fight it. While you need willpower to keep going, especially when you are lost, the breakthroughs come “not through will or ego or intellect, but through intuition, the accidental glimpses that come when you’re relaxed”. I’ve always found this to be true – ideas come to me in the shower, mid-conversation, in the middle of the night, while cycling or swimming or doing yoga – but it’s easy to forget this when you’re feeling frustrated.

What’s your top tip for aspiring authors? Read a lot and read widely.

How important is social media to you as an author? It’s not very important – at least it hasn’t been to date.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? I think I used to, or at least I used to feel as though I did. I don’t think it’s a case that I’m less prone to writer’s block now than I once was, but I think my expectations have changed as I’ve become more attuned to my own rhythms. Some days I might struggle to write a good sentence; other days (rare days) I might get into a groove and write 3,000 words. Potentially the fact that I haven’t tried to write fiction in a while makes a difference. In memoir and creative nonfiction, the words are just as important, but you’re not trying to make stuff up; the challenge is often more in finding a shape for what’s already there.

How do you deal with rejection? Not well! Who does? A couple of years ago, I received a rejection email on Easter Thursday while waiting in line to buy beer tickets at a festival. I tried not to look at it, but the first line came up on my phone … so it was impossible. My mood tanked. I tried to fight it, to no avail. So I gave myself 24 hours to mope, then put it behind me. It wasn’t quite that simple – in reality it stung for months – but I think giving myself a contained period in which to really feel like shit helped a lot.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? You tell me.

If you had the chance to spend an hour with any writer of your choice, living or dead, who would it be and what would you most like them to tell you about living a writing life? This is a trick question isn’t it? What could Jane Austen or Virginia Woolf or Marguerite Duras or Jeanette Winterson tell me in person that their words couldn’t?


What Will be Worn

Melissa Fagan

Sometimes it seems the most invaluable stories can be
found in the unlikeliest of corners.

For all who know Brisbane, McWhirters, a once celebrated
department store in Fortitude Valley, is an icon. For Melissa
Fagan it is also the starting point for this remarkable
exploration of her mother and grandmother’s lives, and a
poignant reminder of the ways in which retail stores and
fashion have connected women’s lives across decades.
Behind the dusty shop counters of an Art Deco treasure,
Fagan discovers both what has been lost and continues to
shine. Ultimately this tender exploration of self and family,
so exquisitely written, speaks of the ways in which life so
often surprises us and of how the legacies of others can
truly enrich our own relationships and lives.

What Will be Worn is available from your local independent bookshop and  Booktopia.

Meet the Author: Elizabeth Mary Cummings

My guest author this week is Elizabeth Mary Cummings, a British author based in Australia who writes, advocates and speaks on storytelling and health matters for families and youth. She is a qualified primary school teacher and has worked in many schools in the UK, New Zealand and Australia. Elizabeth is a member of the American Psychology Association and studied psychology and business studies at The University of Edinburgh in Scotland before training to be a primary school teacher and traveling around the world with her family. She travels globally to talk about family and mental health matters as well as creative writing.

It’s my pleasure to chat with Elizabeth today as part of the blog tour for The Forever Kid, a sensitively written picture book about how one family deals with the loss of a loved one.


The Forever Kid is a beautiful, moving book told with warmth and compassion. What was the inspiration behind it? I was inspired to write The Forever Kid in a lightning moment in the middle of the night a few years ago. My parents were visiting and we must have been talking about family and life the universe and everything. One night I went to bed and woke up with the whole story in my head.

My dad is from a big family and the brother closest in age to him passed away as a teenager. I recalled as a child being very affected by this knowledge. I had been told that at the time of his death many of my grandparents’ friends had been inhibited by the sadness of my uncle’s early death and so had distanced themselves from my grandparents and the family rather than rallying round and supporting them.

There seems to be a culture, certainly in the UK at the time, of not talking about family and mental health issues and not sharing emotion around tough times and topics. This stiff upper lip is not helpful and I just remember being so very sad at hearing the story about my uncle’s death and how it impacted my grandmother and the whole family.

Around the time I wrote the manuscript I had been grieving for the loss of two very close friends and I do believe that this grief triggered my mind to start thinking about grief and loss in a wider sense.

I also have some dear friends who have gone through extreme grief at the loss of their own children, their partners and in some cases their siblings. The grief and loss resonated with me in the context of where I was at in my own grief.

Grief does not go away, it is real,  it is always there and I believe it is too important not to talk about it and the loved ones for whom we mourn.

Beautifully said, Elizabeth. Choosing to write about loss and remembrance in a picture book must have presented some challenges. What are your thoughts on tackling this topic for young readers? The challenge in writing a book like this is that the message has to be pure; it has to have integrity and it has to be honest.

You cannot dress these topics up. Children can see right through that. Young children grieve and their loss and grief is no less significant than that of older children and adults. They need to have a safe space in which to talk about the grief. They need to have a close adult or older child to do this. They need to be included in the memorial process as well as in the events surrounding remembrance and death.

Mental health education is a focus of your children’s books. Do you see it as more important now than in earlier times for parents to discuss these sensitive topics with their children and what role do you envision for your stories? No I don’t see it as more important now; rather I believe that it is only now that we as a society are beginning to understand how important talking about mental health is for our well-being.

Our society has become more and more sophisticated, there has been almost a sanitising of the circle of life that has for a while cut off the pointy end, the part of our lives that is about dying and leaving this world.

Where we are prepared to talk about birth and love in great detail, the full cycle of life has not been a subject that is easily talked about. I believe that is partly to do with the fear and mystery surrounding death. Whatever one’s religious or spiritual beliefs might be, one thing is certain: every human on this planet dies. It’s the one thing for sure we all have in common. Back in ancient times and in tribal societies children were involved in rites of passage in whole community engagement with life and death. That does not happen so much now but I think we are beginning to see the pendulum swing back towards recognising the value in including our young at these very important family times.

How has your teaching background influenced your approach to writing for children? As a teacher I have had a lot to do with children and their lives. I have worked with children from a myriad of backgrounds. You get to realise that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to teaching and that each child has the right to be helped to discover their own potential in a safe environment. I am very mindful of these things when I write As well as very grateful that I have had the chance to help children both as a teacher and hopefully now through my writing.

Tell us a little about your journey to publication. How did that come about? I have independently published a number of books before The Forever Kid was accepted by Big Sky Publishing.

I had written the manuscript for The Forever Kid a number of years ago and had polished it before going for a manuscript assessment with the amazing Anoushka Jones from EK books at the 2016 kidlit fest. She loved the narrative and wanted me to submit it to EK which I did. Sales and marketing were unable to commit to such a particular style of book due to the fact that they were already publishing a number of books with heart at that time. So reluctantly they did not take my manuscript on, though apparently there was not a dry eye in the room when they all sat and read the manuscript! This was motivation enough to me to keep going.

So I got advice from many different sources including large trade publishers like Sarah Munn from Lake Press and other publishers who all gave me direction. Andrew Wilkins from Wilkins Fargo suggested I speak to Big Sky Publishing which I did and the rest is history!

How involved have you been in the development of your book? Did you have input into the cover, illustrations and book design? Yes. Big Sky Publishing have been very inclusive to me as a writer and sharing various thumbnails and asking my opinion at each stage about the cover and the final layouts. They have made it a very natural and ‘unscary’ process.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? I love connecting with other people and having the chance to share ideas and messages through the written word.

—the worst? The worst part of my writing life’s is that I have so many ideas and projects it can be a challenge to keep up with myself!

I can certainly relate to that, Elizabeth! What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? I’m not sure – maybe that I should’ve got on with it earlier in life than I have. We can all have self-doubt and will allow other aspects of our life to get in the way, but if you have that burning desire to write, action it sooner rather than later.

What’s the best advice – writing or otherwise – you’ve ever been given? Best advice is not to compare yourself to anybody else, and not to compare your writing journey to that of anybody else’s either. You and your writing journey are unique. Your voice as a writer is important and does have a place, you just need to work out where that is.

What’s your top tip for aspiring authors? Read, observe, write, repeat!

How important is social media to you as an author? Social media is fairly important to me as a writer, however first things first. You’ve got to actually write!

I believe engagement through social media is not merely a marketing tool, it has a far bigger impact than that. Obviously there are your readers and fans and followers, but that is not all. SM connects a writer to the community out there of other writers and industry people. One can’t feel alone when you know there are people out there also writing, and reading about books and words in a way that motivates and inspires you

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? We all do, I’m sure.  I have a few trusted tricks to fight back against dreaded WB:

1:  Switch to another WiP for a while.

2: Go for a run/swim.

3: Change the music I’m listening to.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Intense, honest and accessible.

If you had the chance to spend an hour with any writer of your choice, living or dead, who would it be and what would you most like them to tell you about living a writing life? Ooo, I love this question. I’d love a night on the town with Oscar Wilde. I’d imagine us drinking cocktails in cool little speakeasies and talking all sorts of nonsense until the morning before going off ‘Bunburying’ in the country in a very ‘Importance of Being Ernest’ manner! On a serious note I would love to know how he coped with much of the stigma against what he represented. I also reckon Mary Shelley would have proved a great partner in school chemistry labs! Can you imagine the experiments!

The Forever Kid

Written by Elizabeth Mary Cummings

Illustrated by Cheri Hughes


A gentle story about loss, lasting love  and remembrance that will move hearts. The Forever Kid  is a powerful picture book tackling the complex subject of grief from a child’s perspective. The thoughtful, wise narrative and beautiful illustrations combine to sensitively explore the idea that loved ones are always connected even when relationships change.  This story about the strength of family love is gently told and tenderly illustrated.

Order book:

To find out more about Elizabeth, check out the following links:

Twitter: @EMCummings1








Check out the rest of the blog tour at the following sites:

Monday Oct 1 – Sunday Oct 14


Tue Oct 2

Wed Oct 3

Thu Oct 4

Sat Oct 6

Mon Oct 8

Tue Oct 9

Wed Oct 10

Thur Oct 11

Fri Oct 12

Just Write For Kids & Books On Tour

Meet the Author: Nadia King

Today’s author in the spotlight describes her writing as ‘raw, real and thought-provoking’ and is not afraid to tackle difficult subjects. It’s my pleasure to introduce Nadia King.

Photo: Louise Allen

Nadia was born in Dublin, Ireland and now calls Australia home. She is an author, blogger, and presenter. Her debut book, Jenna’s Truth, is published by boutique small press, Serenity Press based in Western Australia.
Nadia is passionate about using stories to reflect a diversity of realities in order to positively impact teen lives.
Her short fiction has been published by Write Out Publishing, and has appeared in The Draft Collective, The Regal Fox, The Sunlight Press, Tulpa Magazine, and Other Terrain Journal.
Nadia runs a teen book club for the Centre for Stories. She enjoys writing contemporary young adult fiction and short fiction, and lives in Western Australia with her family.

Find out more about Nadia on her website and social media links:


Why do you write?  I write because I enjoy writing. The writing process is a way to connect with my creativity. I’m one of those people who feels too much and writing gives me a safe space to expel some emotion.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I’ve always managed to work with words. My first job after school was in journalism and I worked for a number of years in corporate communications. Currently, I’m studying to build my editing skills with a view to freelance editing in the not so distant future.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? I hate to admit this but my toughest obstacle to becoming published was tied up with myself. I held myself back from creative writing for a very long time so it was almost a relief to get out there and try my luck with publication.

How involved have you been in the development of your books? Do you have input into the cover/illustrations? For my debut book, Jenna’s Truth I was very involved in the book’s development. For my short stories, I have little to do with choosing graphics etc although the magazines and journals I’ve been published by have been very open with me during editing. I don’t know if it’s because I’m an ex-journo but I really enjoy the editing process and collaborating with other creatives.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? I never know what will turn into a story and I find such possibilities exciting. Using stories to connect with others fills me with happiness. Stories are a way to share your perspective with the world in a profoundly human way. For me, stories are a constant source of joy.

—the worst? The worst is tied up with the best aspect of writing—wondering if what I’ve written will resonate with readers. I mainly try to ignore my wonderings and concentrate on being truthful with my writing. I believe if you are authentic and honest in writing, readers will connect with what you have to say.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I would write more short stories to gain experience in the craft. I would read more (although I’m not sure that’s humanly possible). I would be kinder by reassuring myself there is no one way of writing and I would take time to find out what works best for me.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? A tweet from author, Dea Poirier (@deapoirierbooks) lists five things she wished someone had told her five years ago. These points would definitely have been helpful to know before I embarked upon my writing journey:

  • You’ll never stop questioning yourself, no matter what you write
  • Don’t disregard praise and only focus on criticism
  • Impostor syndrome never gets better
  • Done is better than perfect
  • Perfect doesn’t exist

You are tackling some confronting issues in your fiction. What do you hope readers will take away from your stories? I’m very attracted to social justice issues and tend to tackle such issues in my writing. Even though I play with dark material, I strive to convey a sliver of hope and humanity. It’s that sense of faith and humanity I hope resonates with and engages readers.

Is there any area of writing that you still find challenging? All of it! Ha ha! Writing doesn’t get easier and I seem to be drawn to writing projects which I am ill-qualified to tackle. But that’s also what makes the work exciting. I jump in the deep end, swim bloody hard, and pray I’ll make it to the other side.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? ‘Just bloody write!’ While I was toying with the idea of writing fiction, there was a part of me which was paralysed with fear. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to meet with a playwright from New York who patiently listened to my rumination before giving me a shove in the right direction. His shove was exactly what I needed and before I knew it, I was writing every day.

What’s your top tip for aspiring authors? Ignore everyone else. I don’t mean to sound facetious but it’s so important to listen to your own voice. What are your dreams? Chase after your dreams not someone else’s. Not everyone will aspire to be on the New York Times Bestsellers’ list, and that’s okay. Pursue your own goals and define your own reality rather than following someone else’s idea of success.

How important is social media to you as an author? When I first started writing, social media was important because it gave me access to many other writers. Now though, it can often be a distraction. Social media can be valuable but it shouldn’t keep you from your work and if it takes away from your happiness, it may not be the right tool for you.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? I was writing a manuscript a while back and it took me a while to ‘hear’ the voice of my protagonist. Writing can be a slow process. Respecting the process and nor coercing the words helps me find my voice for each project and overcome writer’s block.

How do you deal with rejection? Surprisingly well considering I’m quite a sensitive person. I’ve learnt not to take rejection personally and to realise the market can be fickle. There is a huge amount of competition out there and if you’re submitting to a traditional publisher, your manuscript needs to be commercially attractive. Coming to that realisation has freed me from my own personal pressures to seek publication.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Raw, real, and thought-provoking.

If you had the chance to spend an hour with any writer of your choice, living or dead, who would it be and what would you most like them to tell you about living a writing life?

This is probably the hardest question of this interview. There are so many writers I would love to spend time with but I’ve narrowed it down to five:

  • Jane Austen (1775-1817, England) because she awakened in me a love of classic literature. I’m curious to know more about what made her tick and what were her motivations for writing.
  • Haruki Murakami (1949, Japan) because his stories make my heart pound in my chest. I would love to fangirl him one day and tell him how much his work means to me. If he could give me any tips on writing magical realism I would really appreciate it.
  • Favel Parrett (1974, Victoria, Australia) because her writing makes me weep. I would like to know why Favel writes and how she edits – I find her prose quite lyrical and she is generous, genuine and amazing.
  • Margaret Atwood (1939, Canada) because Alias Grace is one of my favourite books of all time. The structure of the book fascinates me and I would love to know how she went about planning the structure and tying it together with her research.
  • Germaine Greer (1939, Melbourne, Australia) because she’s fearless with her words and I admire her bravery and we both love drinking tea.


Jenna’s Truth
N L King

New and revised edition (previously published by Aulexic).

Jenna’s just a teenager who wants to fit in. The popularity that she wanted though, quickly turns into infamy when two “well-meaning” friends spark a controversy that alters her life forever. What happens when the popular kids are responsible for one of the most painful and humiliating events in your life? Inspired by Amanda Todd’s tragic story of bullying, Jenna’s Truth is more than just teen short story – it’s a lesson in empathy, self-awareness, and speaking out about what matters. Jenna’s Truth is a gripping story, which explores the themes of cyber bullying, teen drinking, sex, and suicide.

Life is not black and white, and sometimes teens can be the most insensitive people.

‘Inspired by the real-life story of the late Canadian teenager Amanda Todd, this story puts a human face on cyberbullying…[and is] a deeply affecting, valuable story and educational tool.’ — Kirkus Reviews

Jenna’s Truth is available from the following outlets:


Meet the Author: Sonia Bestulic

The spotlight this week is on a delightful new picture book about music and noisy play and it’s my pleasure to welcome author Sonia Bestulic, who stopped in during her celebratory book tour to chat about her writing life.

Sonia was born and grew up in Sydney, Australia, enjoying a childhood filled with wonderful books, a passion for writing, and musically entwined, having played the violin until her late teens, including performances at the
Sydney Opera House. Sonia is founder of Talking Heads Speech Pathology, the well-known, reputable Sydney-based clinics established in 2006. A long-term advocate for children’s learning and literacy, Sonia continues to write and speak when it comes to all things children.

You can find out more about Sonia at her website and on Facebook.


Why do you write? I write to create connection. Books are such a powerful and personal mode of connection, and with children’s picture books there is a beautiful layer of shared experience that occurs with the child and the reader (who is often a parent/ carer or educator). I consider myself and other authors as facilitators of connection, which is both humbling and amazing.

Where do you draw your creative inspiration? Very much from my personal experiences (with my own children and extended family), and professional life experiences working closely with children and families. Generally I enjoy observing life- the people, the places, and nature.

Where do you slot in time to write around your family commitments and career? Whenever I can – this is an ongoing challenge for me! Generally I do enjoy writing during early mornings and evening time when the children are asleep.

Reece Give me some Peace is a wonderful picture book about music and noisy play. It’s a delight and brought a smile to my day. It also reminded me of the precious little peace and quiet parents get to enjoy when children are young. Is the story inspired by personal experience?

Absolutely! I wrote Reece Give Me Some Peace! in the period of my life when my three young children were two, three and four years old at the time. Life was certainly hectic, and there was always activity happening. Having three children so close in age brought with it a strong reminder to live in the moment and be playful. Reece Give Me Some Peace! reflects that, as well as the difficulties parents often experience, in trying to enjoy moments of peace and quiet in a noisy child inhabited household.

How does your knowledge as a speech and language pathologist influence you as a children’s author? My knowledge as a Speech & Language Pathologist has a massive influence on my writing. I work so heavily to support and further develop children’s oral language skills and readiness to read, spell and write; and so I look to incorporate language features and themes that will create a rich and engaging language experience for children.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Patience and perseverance in having my voice heard in a busy and competitive industry.

How involved have you been in the development of your book? Did you have input into the cover/illustrations?

The development of the book has been a fantastic journey that I have certainly been involved in. I had welcome opportunities to provide feedback and collaborate with regards to the cover and overall illustrations; and initially was able to provide an illustrator’s brief, which allowed me to communicate the strong visual I had in my mind when writing the text.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? The avenue for creative freedom and expression.

—the worst? Can be a challenge making the time to do as much writing as I would like!

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Set more dedicated writing time in my daily routine – this is still a current goal. Step out of my comfort zone sooner and proactively network.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? Get ready to be extremely patient!

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Don’t evaluate your manuscripts based on whether a publisher takes them up or not.

What’s your top tip for aspiring authors? Keep writing, get feedback, keep submitting, network.

How important is social media to you as an author? I have to say, being comfortable using social media has been a bit of a journey for me. I have always preferred a more quiet life on social media; however I quickly realised the importance and relevance of connecting to an audience through social media – it really is an avenue that allows an author to effectively engage others in sharing their author journey, book travels, and just get to know them as a person overall. I certainly had to step out of my comfort zone!

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? By taking a mind break and doing something different. I try to be very clear on what specific obstacle I am facing/having difficulty with, and then I move on to a different task, as often ideas and solutions flow more easily when I am not overly focused on the task at hand. Taking a walk, sitting quietly observing nature and even doing household tasks allows my mind to wander and work through that block and provide me with at least the very next step to take.

Do you have another book in the pipeline? I sure do; I have another children’s picture book in the making at present; and it is due to be published with Big Sky Publishing mid-2019. Nancy Bevington is once again the illustrator, and it is looking beautifully amazing so far.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? A constant evolution.

If you had the chance to spend an hour with any writer of your choice, living or dead, who would it be and what would you most like them to tell you about living a writing life? It would definitely by Dr Seuss! I would love to know as much as possible – his inspiration, his typical day, his toughest challenges in the industry, his tips and strategies, his way of organising his great ideas.


Reece Give Me Some Peace

Written by Sonia Bestulic, illustrated by Nancy Bevington

A fun-loving book about the wonderful world of music and of noisy play!

Reece is a very cheeky, curious young boy who loves making NOISE. Today he’s making music. There are lots of interesting clangs, bangs and thumps coming from his room as his playing gets more and more vigorous. His mother’s requests for him to be quieter only seem to make him louder and louder. As his exuberance for his playing grows, so does his mother’s exasperation! Will she ever get any peace?

The simple rhythmic text combined with delightful illustrations remind us of the power of learning through play and exploration. Kids will love making the lively sounds, and parents and carers will relate to the challenge of being able to enjoy some quiet; especially when there are instruments at play!

The book is available from book retailers and also from the publisher here

You can find out more about Sonia and her book by following the blog tour.






Here are the direct links:

Monday Sep 3 – Sunday Sep 16

Monday Sep 3

Tuesday Sep 4

Wednesday Sep 5

Thursday Sep 6

Monday Sep 10

Tuesday Sep 11

Wednesday Sep 12

Thursday Sep 13

Friday Sep 14

Just Write For Kids & Books On Tour

Sea Song Publications

Creating books to uplift the spirits

Spiral Designs

Pain-Free Website Services

Libby Iriks

True Blue Librarian | Sharing quality children's picture books




The sentimental claptrap of a 40-something solo mum


writer & author

book'd out

Book Reviews and News

Julia Lawrinson

An Australian author of literature for young adults

a little birdy told me

Neridah McMullin

DeeScribewriting Blog

Young Adult authors, books, childrens' writers, authors, interviews and reviews

Design Of The Picture Book

Welcome to Design of the Picture Book! I'm Carter Higgins, and I'm a writer and librarian for kids. I spent a spectacular stint as the Children's Book Editor at <a href="">Design Mom</a> which I loved! You can find my column <a href="">here</a>.<br /> I'm a K-6 librarian, a former-ish graphic designer, an SCBWI member, and a huge fan of words and pictures.<br /> Represented by <a href="">Rubin Pfeffer of Rubin Pfeffer Content, LLC</a>.

The Hub for Just Kids' Lit

Just Write For Kids Blog

Just Write For Kids is an online group of writers and illustrators, with a distinct focus on advocating Australian children's literature.

Meg McKinlay

Children's Writer & Poet

Sheryl Gwyther ... author/artist

This is my 'other' blog - the one where I share the things that fascinate an author and artist, and hopefully, you too.