Karting Kel in Chinese


It’s always exciting to have one of my books published in another language and to see the differences in the international covers. I was delighted recently to discover that my title Karting Kel had been republished for Chinese readers in Taiwan by Pan Asia Cultural. I love the bright, vivid colouring of the cover.

Beyond the Red Star


I’m excited to see one of my eco-fiction short stories for older readers, Beyond the Red Star, published in the new  Ssstories anthology. Mine is one of the scary stories of the group, but it’s a glorious gathering of 54 funny stories, soul stories, adventure stories, all guaranteed to bring smiles, shivers or sighs to kids from early readers to over 11s.

I’m delighted to be among the great company of some wonderful new and established writers and can’t wait to sit down with a cup of tea and curl up with this new anthology.

Strange Creatures


Chris Bell and Clare Hallifax CYA 2016A little bit of writing news, well big news for me really. I’m thrilled to say I’ve been awarded a “Highly Commended” in the published section of the 2016 CYA Writing and Illustrating Competition for my middle-grade chapter book “Strange Creatures”. (Pretty cool since they only award one overall “winner”, and no placings, over three combined sections.)

I wrote this story some years ago and though I haven’t written chapter books in quite some time, I’ve never been able to let go of the characters or the world in which my Strange Creatures exist. Often times when I’ve been between projects or a bit stuck, I’ve grabbed out this manuscript and tweaked and played or rewritten. I love that the story’s underlying theme is ecological and though it features fantasy creatures, it is set firmly in the human world.

When Noah and Angelo stumble upon the hidden underground world of the Gwoks and lose the glowstone, they enrage the Gwok Guardian. For the glowstone is no ordinary stone, but the cocoon of the Gadija, future ruler of the tiny Gwok people.

Strange Creatures is a story of friendship and courage: of trusting and taking risks: of sometimes proving yourself to others to prove something to yourself. It was originally conceived as a three book series, but, busy with novels, I haven’t gotten back to write books two and three. This award may just be the catalyst.

Special thanks to Tina Marie Clarke and CYA team for organising a wonderful conference and offering writers and illustrators the fabulous opportunity to put themselves and their work in front of publishers face-to-face. Absolute gold! Special thanks also to ‘published’ section  judge, Clare Hallifax, Scholastic Australia.

New Editions



What better way to start the year than with a new edition of an old book baby! Just before Christmas, I was delighted to receive the new Cengage Learning multicultural version of my 2001 title Roller-Coaster Ride, re-illustrated by Samantha Asri to set the story in the Middle East for early Arabic readers.

I was surprised to find only a couple of words had been changed in the text: the main character’s name has changed from Rosie to Yasmin; hot dogs have become shawarmas (an Arabic meat dish cooked on a spit and served on a plate, or in a wrap etc.) and Asri’s vibrant illustrations portray Middle Eastern dress and an updated, ultra-modern theme park. Otherwise the book is pretty much as originally published.

rollercoaster-rideroller-coaster-ride-french-edition1The original 2001 edition was published in Australia, but has since sold into multiple countries, including the UK and US. It has also been published in the French language and sold into schools in French Canada. So Roller-Coaster Ride is truly gone global and it’s really exciting for me as the author to see it travel and find new readers both in other countries and cultures.

The Art of Story and the Narrative Game


A few months ago, on the hottest day of summer, myself and five other fearless writers gathered in an (unairconditioned) artist space in Mornington to participate in a documentary with a difference. The Art of Story gives an inside view into the creation of stories and the stories behind the stories. The Art of Story and the Narrative Game The initial six episodes feature novelists, publishers, editors, TV writers, filmmakers, cinema proprietors, actors and others involved in bringing story into our lives through different media. My involvement was participating in a writing workshop scenario with other experienced workshoppers where we discussed the value and process of workshopping, dispelling some of the associated fears and sharing a few hints and the many benefits of workshopping gleaned through our collective experience. Despite some initial apprehension, on my part, never having been in front of a television camera before, it proved a fantastic experience. The diverse range of writers and personalities in our group made for some insightful viewpoints and approaches – ones many writers will relate to. The Art of Story promises to be a valuable insight into the creation of story, the highs and lows and view from the writer’s desk to the publisher’s to the filmaker’s. Series One is currently being screened on Channel 31 on Mondays 6.30p.m. and Tuesdays 4p.m. Each episode is also available on Catch Up C31 website for two weeks (the Wednesday after screening). For those who missed episode one, here’s the link: http://www.c31.org.au/program/view/program/art-of-story The Art of Story and the Narrative Game is produced by Nathan King and David Muir.

Big Books, Little Books


Barnyard big and littleOne of the most exciting things for authors is always the arrival of a package bringing their latest book/s. Or shiny new author copies.

Book deliveries have been a bit thin on the ground at my place over the past couple of years while I’ve been fully focused on writing and redrafting two historical novels, which, means it’s been a lot longer between new book celebrations. So it was especially exciting to receive a BIG book version (426mm x 315mm) of my title The Barnyard Dance from Gilt Edge Publishing in New Zealand.

One of the things that drew me to write for Gilt Edge were their books’ gorgeous full colour illustrations and cover designs, and that, for some series, they produce BIG books. A large version for teachers to utilise.

I’ve always loved The Barnyard Dance because it’s a fun to read, rhyming story, beautifully illustrated by Richard Hoit. Now I think I love its BIG brother even more.

Barnyard Dance internal

This post started out simply to herald a new book arriving – or new version – and the thrill of it, but it also led me to search out my other kid’s fiction titles and, taking a fresh peek, it’s pretty exciting to see how many of my educational titles have been re-published internationally in different versions and formats, including braille and audio. Some feature new covers/colours/designs, new titles or changes in spelling, and quite a few have been translated into French and sold into Canada.

Here’s a few pics of some of my titles that have travelled and changed, if you’d like to play Spot the Difference.


mactavishs-creature both covers

Runaway all covers

tall-tales both Covers

trapped both covers

rollercoaster-ride both covers

The Grand Street Theatre Robbery


jonosrescue both covers

darcy-devlin both covers


The Beast

The Keycutters Grandson both

h-for-horrible both covers

karting-kel both covers

scar both covers

Batty both




Varuna – Writer Bliss


varuna-writers-houseMarch was this writer’s bliss month. I spent two wonderful weeks taking up my Varuna Creative Time Fellowship in the Blue Mountains. Ever since I first started writing seriously a Varuna Fellowship has been on my radar and goal list. The chance to write free from  day-to-day interruptions and really focus on particular aspects of my novel. No phone, no tv, no appointments (bar a well-needed and therapeutic massage), just time to write and walk and think.

Blue Mountains

This thinking time resolved a niggling missing element in my manuscript in what proved to be the simplest, now most obvious way. All I needed was to clear the clutter and noise in my head and remove myself physically from the clamour of everyday life – and there it was waiting for me. Yay!

Now back to work and the real world. A couple of weeks later, I’m still powering on with the words and think somehow I must have caught and brought back some of Varuna’s magic.

Chris Varuna Walk

My Writing Process


Over on my blog, From Hook to BookI’ve been tagged to share my writing process. A bit of a worry since, as a child, I was “Chris of the Scabby Knees”, more likely to fall over than tag anyone. Just as well this time I can tag via email.

Seriously the Tagged tour asks authors to answer four questions on their writing process, so I thought I’d share mine here as well as on FHTB.

What am I working on?

I am working on a YA historical novel set in convict Tasmania. It’s a bit scary saying that, because really it’s done and time to send it out into the world. That’s the hard part though, because a writer always fears – it might come back.

DSC03909 copy

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

When writing my last two novels, both the main characters’ voices  arrived strong and distinct. I hope this originality of voice will help set them apart from some other historical works. I write very much from story rather than the historical period I’m writing in. Of course, I want the details and history to be correct, but I don’t want to give my reader a history lesson. Detail is soon sacrificed if it ruins the moment or pace.

Rue de Kanga - Peronne copyRooDeKanga 1918 Peronne copy

Why do I write what I write?

These days I write mostly historical fiction because it’s become an absolute passion for me and, as it turns out, it’s what I’ve always loved most to read. Starting with A Little Bush Maid by Mary Grant Bruce, back in the days when I could read all night by torchlight to get to the end of a book or crash to sleep trying. I get so lost in the research, learning about the different ways of doing day-to-day tasks, gutting and skinning rabbits, lighting a fire, dressing and talking, that sometimes I forget to write.

I love that I get to talk to so many interesting people from all over the world too, including an ex-Scottish coal miner, the owner of a French chateau, and an expert on antique weapons, discussing everything from botany to broomsticks, cockatoos to crinolines. Plus I’ve been fortunate to go to some truly amazing places. A lot of the time only in my mind, yes. But my research has taken me to Scotland, down a real coal mine, onto the battlefields and into towns in France still bearing the scars of WW1, and forced me to face some fears stepping nervously through tunnels deep under the city of Arras.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

How does my writing process work?

My process varies depending on what I’m writing. For short titles, I tend to plot first and then write out the story. But for my historical novels, I found the settings first and then the main characters arrived. I always knew what the problem/conflict was to start, just not how my character would solve it. With a basic starting point, I wrote to find out how things turned out. Themes and subplots emerged later, through many hours of daydreaming, midnight musing and redrafting, as well as during the writing.
ww1 mortar in wall IMG_1351 copy

Until I really get to know a character, many thousands of words into the writing, I can’t know how they will react to different challenges or what decisions they might make. Sometimes they surprise me and their decisions can lead to a plot twist that I wasn’t planning on. I can write copious notes in notebooks, ideas and scenes, and possible scenarios for the story, yet when I look back, months later, it has all turned out so differently. The character/s I planned in my notebook never turn out the same as the one/s that come to life on the page.

It’s  thrilling when a new character I hadn’t planned turns up. Shattering when one dies unexpectedly, yet rightly for the story. Sometimes things occur because they’re inevitable and no other way things could have worked out.


Then the editing process begins. Stuff gets chucked out, stuff gets rewritten and stuff gets added. So I guess my process is not systematic, though I’m always in control, even if I do have to wrench it back sometimes from my characters.

If you’d like to read more about other authors’ writing processes, please visit my blog to check out my “tagged” authors, Claire Saxby, Liz Corbett and Kat Apel and my “tagger” Alison Reynolds.

Books for Mother Africa and PNG


Mother Africa donation

I’m so excited to see some of my books taking a journey that I have long wanted to take myself.  All the way to Africa, and Papua New Guinea, thanks to the amazing efforts of author Tina Marie ClarkCYA Conference, and a fantastic band of helpers.

I was lucky (in a strange reversal of fortune) to be able to contribute a substantial number of my titles Blackheart Bilko and the Cape Barren Rats and Ghostgirl that I had purchased in a bulk lot when their trade publisher sold out to another only not their Aussie fiction titles. Sad faced at the time! 🙁 But I’m happy now to think that these two books, which I love, will be read and, I trust, enjoyed by eager young readers in both Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, Africa and across Papua New Guinea, including Kokoda.)

Unloading books at Wamira

Tina and CYA Conference have been raising funds and collecting books and school supplies for The Mother Africa Trust (an organisation “created as a way for people to “give back” to both the environment and to the people of Zimbabwe.”) in Bulawayo Zimbabwe.  Now Tina and CYA are also collecting books for a fantastic new project. Milne Bay Mobile Libraries, PNG. This has included the creation of a library in Kokoda, to help students learn and practice English. If you would like to read more about the development of these projects on CYA’s news page or can assist in way with donations, please click here.

How cool to see my books reaching such far away, exotic places. How cool that so many authors, publishers, couriers and organisations are contributing to give and get books into the hands of readers. Makes me want to stow away with them!


Calling Young Writers


Prize WinnerIt’s that time of year  to flex your writing muscles and get your entries in to the fantastic number of competitions and exciting opportunities open to young writers right now.

Visit the Young Writers’ Resources page on my writing blog From Hook to Book for details on some cool new opportunities, such as writing residencies, including: three great KSP places in WA, the Ray Koppe Residency – offering a week at Varuna Writers’ House; writing conferences, including:  CYA Hatchlings  combined with the full CYA program in July 2013 and  the National Young Writers Festival blasting off in October 2013, plus lots more competition details, events and workshops.

Check back often on my blog to keep up-to-date with more fabulous opportunities to get your writing in front of judges, publishers and selection panels and some of the not insignificant cash prizes on offer.