I received the best book mail today. An early advance copy of Today!
The world is a treasure waiting to be explored. Join a little boy and a bear as they spend a memorable, adventurous day of shared wonders, discovering and learning new things together.
A fun, magical tale about unexpected pals who find the extraordinary in the ordinary through playful exploration.
Beautifully illustrated by Felicity Byrne and published by Little Pink Dog Books. Available April 2024.
Click link below to hear the podcast.
Loved hearing this podcast about Seal Child. Kerry and Lynette nailed it. Enjoy!
I love this time of year when I get to visit schools to celebrate books and inspire a love of reading and writing.
I visited many schools and presented to hundreds of children and I hope I’ve inspired a new generation of readers to follow their dreams and to never give up.
It was great to end Book Week with a visit to my old primary school, Punchbowl Public School. I was overwhelmed by the warm welcome waiting for me as soon as I walked through the gates. Children greeted me, shook my hand and congratulated me. The day was a roller coaster of emotions.
Huge thanks to the all the amazing teacher librarians. I admire the way they give their all in everything they do. It's a testament to their love and dedication.
Check out my recently published picture book titled Patience. Illustrated by Krista Brennan and published by IP Kidz.
This book is about a girl and her aptly named dog who learn about the value of patience in everyday life.
For more info head to https://ipoz.biz/product/patience/
Thrilled and honoured to see Finding You included in the National Centre for Australian Children's Literature list of Picture Books for Older Readers along with many great Australian creators who I admire.
You've warmed my heart on a cold winter morning.
A little girl sets off on a quest to find an irresistible gift to help bring the outside in for her homebound brother.
Nature's Song is an invitation to discover the wonders of nature in all its mysterious glory ... and how nature creates and touches our lives for the better.
Illustrated by Nicky Johnston and Published by New Frontier Publishing
Shae, welcome to the blog!
The Rabbit’s Magician is a heart-aching yet gentle story of loss with uplifting themes of friendship, love, science and magic. Can you briefly tell us about this book?
The Rabbit’s Magician is a gentle story of love, loss and comfort.
The Amazing Albertino and Ziggy the rabbit love travelling the world and performing together. One day, Ziggy wakes to find that his beloved magician has disappeared.
Ziggy waits for him to reappear.
And waits some more.
He worries that something went wrong with the trick. But, perhaps, the Amazing Albertino has performed a different trick, one that could be his greatest ever.
Ziggy’s new friends provide understanding and welcome comfort.
The Rabbit’s Magician is a children’s picture book but offers comfort to anyone of any age who has lost a loved one – person or animal.
How did the idea present itself in your mind?
The story was inspired by The Law of Conservation of Energy – a fundamental law of nature, which states: Energy cannot be created or destroyed, but it can change from one form into another. I had long known of this scientific principle but had more recently come across a speech by Aaron Freeman about why you want a physicist to speak at your funeral. It was so moving, how the science-talk – which is often cold and clinical – was heart-warming.
I never intentionally set out to write a story about loss – this was certainly not a subject I would have chosen to tackle. But an impression must have been made on my subconscious because a scene appeared in my mind of a rabbit looking up at the moon. I sensed he was waiting for something. The moon phases changed, and still, he waited. What are you waiting for? I wondered. And then, he told his tale. In a matter of moments, the whole story suddenly existed, like a neatly wrapped gift. No tackling involved.
Did you collaborate with illustrator Andy Fackrell during the creation of the book? How do you feel his illustrations capture the essence of your story?
Yes. Paul (Collins) put Andy and I in contact from the start, he was happy for us to communicate back-and-forth freely, with him copied in on our emails. So we were able to bounce a lot of ideas around and make good progress. We shared the common goal of wanting the best outcome, so it was never about ‘whose idea was better,’ but rather ‘which idea was best for the project.’
Even though I was in the loop throughout the process, just as The Amazing Albertino surprised and delighted the audience in the story, the amazing Andy surprised and delighted me with each picture. In the opening scenes, the depiction of that darling little rabbit staring up at the moon while his ears droop down captures the sense of waiting and longing. There are some beautiful silhouette moments with the moon as a backdrop that speak of Alby and Ziggy’s close relationship. The spread of Ziggy with the stars, rainbow and flowers has a peaceful ambience in perfect alignment with the words.
How did you find the process of publishing with Ford Street Publishing?
A welcoming, supportive, professional, inclusive, interactive, positive experience! Paul is very knowledgeable and I’ve enjoyed learning more about the publishing industry.
There was a lovely flow that continued on from the ease with which the story came to mind – to then submitting it, signing a contract, having an illustrator come on board who was available to start, communication throughout, to a finished product – it seemed quick! There was a real momentum.
What has been the most rewarding part of creating The Rabbit’s Magician?
There are picture books about loss, but none from this angle that I know of. There’s no intention to oppose anyone’s beliefs. It’s simply another tool to help bring some solace to hearts. It offers a sense of comfort from the viewpoint and solidity of a sound principle of physics. It fosters a gentle shift in thought, from the total emptiness of loss to the presence of a continued energetic connection. Energy cannot be destroyed. Energy cannot die.
I did have some hesitancy in regards to writing a story about the potentially sensitive subject of loss, but because of the blessed way in which the story came into being, I felt it was not only a gift for me but for anyone who needs it.
Favourite part in the book?
At the end, when Ziggy is feeling comforted. He has his eyes closed and he says when the breeze blows against his fur, it feels like Alby’s hand gently stroking him. And he sighs with a peaceful expression.
Which other picture book authors and/or illustrators do you enjoy or gather inspiration from?
The supremo, the magnifico, the fantastico . . . Robert Vescio! Thoughtful, beautiful, valuable stories that just keep coming – so many books – and I’m totally here for it! Mucho inspo!
Dr Seuss – words and pictures, the epitome of fun – this Doc rocks! Mo Willems – gotta love that cheeky pigeon! Philip Bunting – funny! Sophie Beer – bold and playful! Emma Quay – cute! Demelsa Haughton – oh, the whimsy! Megan Hess – Claris books… oh, the elegance! Jo Empson – the style of Jungle Jamboree and Rabbityness! Emily Gravett – Orange, Pear, Apple, Bear – wonderfully simple, simply wonderful! Kim Krans – dreamy kid’s books! And, of course, I’m a fan of the illustrators who have brought my own books to life: Jenni Goodman, Brent Wilson, Andy Fackrell.
Awww! You're very sweet, Shae. Thank you!
What are your top tips for aspiring authors?
You don’t need a pretty notebook, a fancy pen or a planetary alignment – just write! Nike – the Greek goddess of victory – says it best: Just do it!
Ok, now that you’ve started, you’ll need to invest in some bum glue. Think of it as a staple: milk, bread, eggs, toilet paper, bum glue. If you can’t find any at the supermarket, there’s a shop that stocks it on the corner of Motivation Street and Persistence Road. Beware not to take a wrong turn down Procrastination Way. You’ll find it’s simple to use the bum glue: Apply to buttocks regularly until project is complete.
Join a writing group. In-person or online, or even better – both! The kidlit community has to be one of the friendliest, most helpful and inspiring group of gangsters I know! Find your scribe tribe! #ScribeTribe
What’s next for you?
Well, I always have a bunch of ideas for picture book stories floating around, and my long-term work-in-progress is a middle-grade novel which I pick up between projects. I’m also creating a range of t-shirt designs. It’s a bit top secret at the moment, however, I can divulge that some designs are autism-championing and others are especially for writerly folk!
Do you have an online presence?
Thank you for your time today, Shae. I wish you all the very best on your writing journey. You're a joy!
Red written by me and illustrated by Emma Stuart Illustration and published by Brolly.
This moving story came about in part as a response to the horrific bushfires that raged in the Australian summer of 2020, and inspired by the heroic fire fighters and animal carers, and is also in honour of the increasingly endangered Australian native animal, the koala.
Released November, 2022.
The Storytellers cover. Storytellers come from all walks of life. In The Storytellers, six children have followed their dreams and are all intertwined and connected by one story Illustrated by Krista Brennan and published by IP (Interactive Publications Pty Ltd)
Ellie, welcome to the blog!
Thanks so much for having me, Robert.
The Avery’s Hat-Tastic Adventures series for 5 to 7 year-olds can be described as fun and imaginative stories with themes of friendship and real-life problem-solving challenges. What can you tell us about the first title in the series, How Does a Hat Save the Day?
Avery’s a girl who loves hats, using them creatively to express how she feels. Book one is set in a community garden, so Avery is wearing her very favourite gardening hat to a day of fun with her best friend Olivia, Olivia’s dog Gatsby and Granny Irene. They plan to work in Granny Irene’s plot in “The Patch”, followed by a community feast of dishes from all over the world made by the different people who have plots in the garden. But things don’t really go according to plan when Sam the Scarecrow, one of Avery’s favourite parts of the whole garden, is in danger of being ‘re-cycled’ to become a bit scarier and keep the birds out of the plots.
So - problem alert! Avery has to come up with a way to keep Sam in one piece, as well as figure out how to make him seem scary to birds. Because it’s Avery, the solution to these problems is creative and of course also involves hats! There’s a protest, a scientific experiment, and a really kind act involved in the happy ending.
How did the idea present itself in your mind?
That’s always the million-dollar question, isn’t it? Where do ideas come from…
I think in this case the illustrator Mardi Davies and I, (who are good friends and critique buddies in real life) have wanted to do a project together for ages. We took everything we love like nature, community, kindness, feisty girls, friendship, family and solving problems in creative, positive ways and put them together. We wanted certain things to be woven into the book, for example Mardi’s unique illustration style of the characters is quite different from the usual depiction of girls in most junior fiction books. I wanted the characters to be able to make positive change in their world, by thinking about what they CAN do within the scope of their own individual abilities talents and capability rather than what they can’t do.
And, gosh, the hats, a very important part of the idea!
When I was thinking about this story, I wanted something to make my character special, a little quirk that made her different from everyone else.
I remembered some of sweet little quirks my daughters had when they were small, particularly when my older daughter was about three and she had this kind of 1920s hat she’d put on and then we had to address her as “Madame Sari”. She totally became this other character. It was very cute and really, quite interesting.
So, I started wondering about hats. They’re fun and a great way of being creative in expressing ourselves, but they also can have a real effect on how we’re feeling. Research shows when people wear certain hats, they can do better or worse in test situations. Some athletes wear ‘lucky hats’, for example golfers when they play a game, and hats can even reduce anxiety for some people, who find they give a sense of security when out and about.
Avery collects hats and believes that they are helpful. She wears certain hats for certain situations and uses the hats to express how she’s feeling, as well as to help her ‘be’ a certain way. She even has a ‘thinking ‘cap! Her hats help her navigate the everyday challenges that arise in her adventures around her neighbourhood, in her relationship with her best friend Olivia, and life in general.
Later in the series, we’ll see how Avery deals with a scenario where she can’t get a hat to help her- I wonder what she’ll do? (Don’t worry, it all turns out fine!)
How did you find the process of both writing and publishing these books under your own imprint, We Are All Made of Stories?
Well, I hadn’t really considered the idea until the last year or so when I came across so much information and some wonderful, inspirational stories from other authors that demonstrated how much more accessible independent publishing has become in recent times. The ‘Avery’ stories were already written, they’d been liked and taken through to acquisitions by a few publishers, but for one reason or another didn’t make it through the process (e.g.- we’ve just signed something very similar, etc).
They sat in the metaphorical ‘drawer’ for a while, and when I had a bit of time to look back over them, I was thinking a lot about my personal philosophy of how the world needs MORE different stories so that everyone has the chance to see themselves represented in literature, especially in children’s books, hence the name of the imprint “We Are All Made of Stories”.
I’m also a book nerd from way back, so I thought, “What if I could actually make a book for the readers who like these kinds of stories?” As a lifelong learner, the thought of learning something new was quite exciting, too. It really became a case of having to take that leap and try it out.
So anyway, long story short- I found the process of publishing fascinating! There’s a lot of work and a lot of research, many stages in the process if you want to do a good professional job, professional editing, formatting of the files, book and cover design plus all the metadata and then the marketing of course!
But I’ve loved it. What an experience!
What has been the most rewarding part of creating Avery’s Hat-Tastic Adventures?
Oh definitely the great feedback from the girls who have read the book and loved it- found it fun and inspirational. That’s always the best part, isn’t it? That’s why we do it.
It’s also been amazing working creatively with a friend and following the whole book making process through to completion. Usually as an author I hand a manuscript over and then much later on have a bit of input on the illustrations (that’s been my experience and I feel very fortunate that it’s the case) then later again a book shows up- this time I’ve been a part of every little bit. Awesome fun.
Favourite part in How Does a Hat Save the Day?
Oooh, hard to say!
I love the sit-in where the girls stage a protest to stop Sam being taken away while they figure out their next step- but there’s so much more. I love their scientific experiment too, and the kind heartedness that runs through the book.
Too hard to pick!
Which other junior fiction authors do you enjoy or gather inspiration from?
I’ve always loved the “Violet Mackerel” books by Anna Brandford and Sara Davis (Walker) and when I was researching junior fiction I came across so many fabulous authors; Sally Rippin (Billy B Brown), Belinda Murrell (Lulu Bell), Lesley Gibbes (Fizz), Matt Stanton (Funny Kid) – the list goes on…
What are your top tips for aspiring authors?
They’re pretty bog standard, everyone says it but it’s true- read and read and read, and write and write and write. Don’t give up. Don’t be afraid of rejection, and do create with joy, remember you’re doing this because you love it, because maybe someone somewhere needs the story you’re writing, that they will laugh or cry or be touched, inspired or fall in love with it.
What’s next for you?
I’m working on another Junior Fiction series at the moment, there’s a new picture book on the way with Ford Street (who also published my last book “Frizzle and Me”) in 2023, and of course, there’ll be more Avery’s Hat- Tastic Adventures in the coming months. We have 2 more books ready to go, once they’re illustrated, so stay tuned!
Do you have an online presence?
You can find me online at www.weareallmadeofstories.com,
on Instagram at @ellieroycekidlitauthor or @weareall_madeofstories
and on Facebook at @ellieroyceauthor.
Thanks so much for having me on your blog and asking such great questions Robert!
My pleasure, Ellie. Wishing you every success with Avery’s Hat- Tastic Adventures series.
Welcome to my blog page!
Here you will find the latest news and updates on my writing and published books.