The Mad Hatter and The Easter Vibe.

Posted by Nette on Apr 13, 2017 in Uncategorized

So, in Sydney this weekend there is a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party which, sadly, is too far for me to attend but the lovely, wonderful Mr Billy Bilby will be there representing me. I thought, as I can’t be there to chat about the Billy Bilby’s actual story, I might just do it here.

First things first. The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party is on at Sir Stamford at the Quay on Saturday 15th April 11am – 2pm Certainly looks like fun. If you can get there I’m sure you wouldn’t be disappointed.

And now, to Billy Bilby. He began in 2001 with a phone call from my agent, Brian Cook. We discussed the likelihood of developing books and stories about a Bilby becoming the Easter Bunny. The idea had been first mooted to Brian when he was Children’s publisher at Harpercollins by Rosemary Dusting who had always been interested in the idea. From this small acorn we began our work. Several ideas were thrown around, not the least being my favourite which was a ‘Watership Down’ type of story with the Bilbies being threatened by foxes and rabbits and feral cats (the lovely Swayne, the biggest feral with the messiest fur featured in this manuscript). I just loved it. Billy was found by the Ancients who dragged him around in a felt slipper that had been salvaged from a garbage dump until they had to leave him to find his own way. He was the one chosen to save all the Bilbies from extinction.

I really did love it. It made me laugh. The Ancients were glorious and – you know it. Publishers said …. oh, well its about bilbies. Big kids don’t like bilbies so it can’t be a novel. It has to be a picture book.

Fine. So into a picture book we had to fit an Easter message (as Easter is a Christian celebration and to have a bilby become the Easter bunny we sorta had to have an Easter connection), danger in terms of cats, and foxes and rabbits and eggs. Of  course, eggs aren’t dangerous but if you have an Easter Bilby you have to have Easter eggs. It was a big ask, let me tell you.

So, after many failed attempts the story of The Smallest Bilby and The Midnight Star emerged. It is a story of love and faith and teamwork. And it just so happened to fit into an Easter theme. I  sighed a sigh of relief, Billy went on to become a White Raven, which is a special award he received in Bologna and we busied ourselves preparing a lovely colouring book and an activity book about Billy and his mates.

Many more failed attempts eventually led to The Smallest Bilby and the Easter Games . Bruce Whatley did the most wonderful artwork for this book – I still laugh at the animals all trying to be fluffy –  and have loved playing Giant’s treasure with lots and lots of littlies in schools because this is where the idea came from.

Finally, and this one took so long I thought I might explode, the final book was finished, The Smallest Bilby and the Easter Tale. Jane Covernton, the publisher and I had many, many, many conversations about how these eggs were going to be delivered. My favourite idea was with a mad cat who kept being splattered whenever he tried to catch a bilby. Jane was a bit horrified and said, in a rather firm voice, I recall, that the cat was way tooooo scary. (Incidentally, the first cover was also dismissed as it was considered too fearful for small readers – and this was a bit of a conundrum as it was to be the cover on the novel – so not for small readers but … do big kids really want to read stories about Bilby wars?)

Billy was tested in his own little movie and was great. I really wish I had a copy as it was nearly good enough for ABC but not quite. A big shame! He did get to be his own little plushie though. A truly sweet little guy.

All up it took eleven years to get Billy Bilby sorted. I still have folders and folders of stories developed for him which might, one day, become stories for another. Just between you and me I ‘m thinking Arfie and Ben might like some of the adventures and they’re not bilbies at all. In fact, they’re my newest fun thing discovered in a pattern on textured tiles in my bathroom. There they were, two little Westies, standing together, captured in the shadow of the late afternoon sun and just waiting for me to notice them. I guess, if you asked me where did the idea for their stories come from I’d have to say … well, part of it came from The Smallest Bilby, little Bill.

Have a wonderful Easter. I hope its peaceful and joyous, gentle and restful and all the things you want it to be. Oh, and remember there’s no such thing as too many chocolates.



The Best of Times, The Worst of Times.

Posted by Nette on Mar 3, 2017 in Uncategorized

So, we have finally had the CBCA Notables List announced and I’ve had to experience the delight of having read so many fabulous books for younger readers and the disappointment of knowing so many authors and illustrators are feeling disappointed and – if they’re like me – full of spite and despair and homicidal/suicidal thoughts. It has been a double edged sword.

To begin with it was a hoot – lots of books, lots of covers to consider, lots of notes and ticks and crosses. By the time we have surfaced from the twelve month journey I must say I was ready to get my head down in a good old ‘who-dun-it’ for adults. Even now, as I sit here writing this I’m aware that there is a list of to-do waiting in the inbox for me – we are not finished yet, not by a long shot. But this blog is not about my journey. I wanted this blog to be the one that soothes troubled authors and reassures them that their work, their books, their ideas and plots and hard work are not simply written off.

I am not a lover of competition. I have failed many more than I’ve even won but it doesn’t stop you from wanting to be the one that gets the accolades. I can still remember Joanne Horniman and I sitting having coffee when the short list was announced and WE WEREN’T THERE! How could that be? How could OUR books that were so honest, so deep and so bloody worthy miss out? Well, they did. There was no magic salve to stop the hurt so we simply decided the judges were nuts, not well qualified enough to sit in judgement of such obviously well written tomes and sulked for quite a while. I accept that many authors are now deciding this about me and the other judges. Honestly we did our best within the guides and criteria that shapes CBCA winners.

Authors write as they write – as do illustrators. I could no more write a series than fly to the moon in spite of filling many, many boxes and pages with ideas and attempts. I wish I could – believe me, it would pay a lot more than having a one-of that done good! I am in awe of the trials and tribulations of all the the characters who are strong enough to appear in book after book after book. I am equally in awe of books that can fictionalise real events and make them into stories that are page-turners. I love adventures where things happen! I think I’m saying that books that didn’t make this list sure as hell are making others. So, please – if you didn’t get there this time give yourself a giant pat of the back for lining up and taking a chance – and line up again next year.

We march on towards more excitement and more heartbreak – so buckle up! And if you’re not on the next list please don’t hate me too much – we’re doing the best we can – just like you are.


Me and the Laureate!

Posted by Nette on Jun 24, 2016 in Uncategorized

If you could have seen me last night! Standing there, chin up, chest out beside the hugely famous Children’s Laureate, Mr Leigh Hobbs, keeper of Mr Chicken and Old Tom and Mr Badger and all those wonderfully glorious 4F freaky kids,  you would have been proud. I didn’t do anything wrong – well, just one smallish thing.

You know how sometimes it is possible to get one person mixed up with another? And you know how you finally pluck up courage to say hello and then its the wrong one! You know that feeling? Well, that’s what I did and to make matters worse, it was the author of one of my favourite books. Mmmmm-mmm. I have to tell you that ‘The Ratcatcher’s Daughter had me glued to my seat (well, bed as I like to read in bed) – not only but also, it became Ronaldo Hilton’s favourite as well and I had to finally steal it from his bedside-table to take it back to the library. I would have kept it longer if I’d known I was going to meet Pamela Rushby, who wrote it! And I insulted her by calling her the wrong name! Oh, Pamela, I gave myself such a beating when I got home but . . . in my own defense . . . I have to say I really do call you Pamela and not Pam – you tricked me momentarily. And Pamela does sound like Cheryl – doesn’t it? I promise I won’t do it again.

So, onward I went to see if I could make it for the rest of the night without another blooper, and there he was, the Laureate. Now I have to say that we go back a long time – him and me. I first met The Laureate when he was merely an author at a very spooky house in Ipswich. We were the first Ipswich Children’s Writer’s Festival (1997) – me and Leigh and Anne James and Brian Caswell (who tried to teach us to play tennis properly) – we were visited by equally famous Gary Crew and cared for by a good cook and her hubby and the ghosts of times past. I’m not joking, it was the scariest place in the world and we were in it and to prove it, the Laureate tested himself by walking through the corridors alone, at night. He walked and then he ran. I walked too, but only as I approached the building then I ran. It was like that scene in ‘The Shining’ when the little boy looks down that long corridor and then rides his tricycle along it. He was a whole lot braver than us.

But, back to last night. How brilliant it was to hear someone speak about the contribution made by librarians and school libraries. Equally wonderful to be included as a contributor were the creators – the authors and illustrators who plow away trying to keep our own culture and thoughts and understandings and stories going. The night, however, clearly belonged to the teachers and librarians and their libraries- and Leigh made sure they knew it. It belonged to the kids, too, even though they weren’t there. We heard wonderful stories about how cleverly children can read a space left in a good illustration. As an additional bonus we were all given insight into how a line here, and a dot there, can relay so much in an artwork or illustration.

To prove it, ho-hum, Ronaldo and I have our own versions of Old Tom.


A Week In The Mountains or How Come I Could Do It Then and Not Now!

Posted by Nette on Jul 25, 2013 in Uncategorized

I have just returned from the most wonderful week in the Blue Mountains staying at Margaret Hamilton’s Pinerolo learning to be an illustrator. I actually WON this opportunity for my latest  picture book idea that I submitted to Margaret who loved it… and so my newest journey began.

Not the journey to the mountains. That was exciting as well. My first trip in my new second hand camper – didn’t sleep in it. Trust me, sleeping out in the Blue Mountains is for the birds and they’d be furry ones at that. I carried with me all the tools of my new trade, paints, paint brushes, pencils, erasers (lots of them), paper, scissors, glue, books that I love that I use for my guide (lots of them) and…ambition.

Margaret and Max greeted me and didn’t even look startled as I unloaded the camper and filled their lovely studio. Oh, that studio is to die for… every wall, every space is adorned with original artworks and, as the week went by, I grew more and more awestruck at the talent of our kids’ book illustrators. How did Patricia Mullins get that eyeball in exactly the right place? How did Dee Huxley get that wonderful orange and the sense of longing with so few lines? How did Stephen Axelsen fit all that together so it looks good? And how did Stephen Michael King get that blue? Margaret, who promised she hadn’t noticed the lights going on and off as I helter-skeltered from one artwork to the other trying to find the #@$! S.M.K’s blue hidden in the four thousand tubes of blue that I had, called in Helen the Water Colourist. Oh, thank you Margaret, and thank you Helen. What a wonderful opportunity to sit and listen to someone break down the colour code, to have someone open a book and talk about the way the artist has added another dimension by adding the complement of a colour (oh, joy – so many many many things to learn).


My newest picture book, which will probably be published when I’m ninety, has all sorts of added extras – as you’d expect from someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing. Margaret, again, (what a wonderful woman), didn’t get fazed – she called in Victoria, the expert designer and publisher in her own right, to suggest ways we could include my fantastic ideas in this book. And you know what? Not only did I learn heaps about books and printing and layout, I also learned how to learn without giving up – the top requirement – a good teacher. Victoria was enthusiastic and excited and a great listener when I read the story aloud (more on this later). Eventhough she could see the difficulties of what I am intending to do, she didn’t simply shrug her shoulders and suggest that it wouldn’t work. This is the best, best way to learn. If it harder to accomplish, then work harder because it will be so much more worthwhile – think of all the things you learn on the way, think of the problems you’ve created that only you can solve (given the help and support of someone who believes in you). And isn’t that the secret… you can do anything if someone believes in you.

So, tips from Margaret that I’ll share with you. Tip Number 1 – when you write a story you have to read it aloud to as many people as you can (tie them to a chair if necessary). Tip Number 2 – learn the craft of your work. This isn’t the story and the lovely ideas you have. Its the absolute ‘how a book is made’ from the first fold up. Learn the words you need to know – gutter (thank-you Brian),  die (not me, that way books are folded – I think – oops, need to check spelling but I know what I mean), dummy book, story board, paper engineering, technicians – the list goes on but the more I learnt the more I was informed about what might make my book work. Easy to suggest I’d like a fake invitation stuck in but hey, did I even think about how that would happen? Someone actually does it! I mean, how much does this add to the cost of bookmaking and…there’s another thing I began to learn. How much a plan for a book is dependent on how much it is going to cost to produce it. And another thing, sometimes books just can’t be produced – they are technically impossible. Now I understand how my ‘Bear Book’ didn’t work. Doesn’t make me happy but at least I know why it wasn’t possible.


At home again I am sitting surrounded by paints and paper and inks and brushes. I’m at the start of my new learning – one thing always sets off another, doesn’t it. My incredible achievements with Margaret’s tuition are staring at me and encouraging me to push on… even when I’m feeling overcome by the prospect of the whole journey. And that, I think, is the secret of my week in Pinerolo – you learn that the longest, hardest journey starts off small – a step at a time – one scribbled line on one blank page and then another. One colour and then another and, when that messes up, you just stand still for a bit and then take another step in a slightly different direction – a small one. That way you don’t have so far to find your way forward again.

Thank you Margaret. And Pinerolo.

And Brian, who listened to my excited babble when I discovered that I could, I had, I did make a picture board!!!!

From a couple of scratchy drawings to a completed storyboard – shows what a residency can do – especially one in the mountains with Margaret!


Back to school.

Posted by Nette on Jun 14, 2013 in Uncategorized

It’s time, I thought this morning when I woke up, to say thank-you to the schools who have made me feel so special. I have had a fantastic year – as I have every year – going into schools to run workshops and have talks and share books and any number of other things…. my goodness, this year I met Lucia The Lionheart! Wow – she impressed us all so much I think she needs a book of her own – she wrote a book for me and she’s promised to finish it – didn’t you Lucia? I’m waiting for it to land in my letter box – and I mean the one out the front waiting for the postie.

And, just to take a sideways detour, isn’t that something that I think we could revive. I love getting realio-trulio letters in the letter box. I love envelopes that someone has decorated or stuck little stickers on with their addresses on the back. I love opening them up and finding someone’s writing….their actual writing… with little hearts for dots on top of the ‘i’ and swirlies on the tails of the ‘y’. It says a lot about the person who’s writing, don’t you reckon. One of the things that I often am asked in schools is ‘when did you start writing?’ Hard question to answer – I know that it means ‘when did you start actually writing books’ but the other one is better. I think my writing and story telling grew out of the letters I used to share with my grandmother, Rene. We never called her Nan or Gran – she was Rene and she had, without a doubt, the best letters in the world. She’d actually make me laugh out loud – mad things like the one with Mum’s pumpkin vine story I’ll never forget. Even more special… and I know some people haven’t even had this happen yet – was when she’d put a photo in with her letter, or a knitted scarf – they were always a bit wonky but great colours (she used to unpick old jumpers and knit them into other things – made the wool all wobbly as well). So, if you’re bored and sitting and wondering how to make the world a happier place write somebody an actual letter. Go and decorate a bit of paper, make a card, make some origami folds and write, write, write a letter. Who can you send it to….ME!!!! Or a friend (they’ll get a surprise) or another author or your gran or Nan or Pop or Dad or Mum or teacher …. or the Prime Minister – trust me, they all love to feel wanted and cared about and that’s what letters do!

So, back to schools and libraries… this year I’ve been to Tweed Heads where we made like Bilbies. In fact, if you go onto Tweed Heads Library facebook site (www.rtrl.nsw.gov.au), and search my name you’ll find me – I think I might have been doing a dead wombat when the photo was taken. St Andrews West Morton was next – its an old favourite because I have been there every year and had some great, great times with the students. Now, I meet students who are tall and elegant and handsome and taller than me who were working with me in Year 3 – how brilliant that they were waiting to say hello when I arrived. Pretty good, Westmac (www.wmac.com.au) – and how about the wonderful books you’ve made and all those fantastic posters in your library. Next Tamworth – and I heard all about boot-scooting and how wearing a hat makes you a great dancer…I’m gonna try it! Our choir teacher says it helps to hit the high notes  if you put your finger on top of your head – bit like hats on heads when you’re trying to make your feet go sideways I guess.

And now to Orange – Kincross Wolaroi (www.kws.nsw.edu.au). I had never been to Orange and flying there in a little plane with actual propellers – I kept my eye on them to make sure they kept turning – was sooo exciting. All foggy in the valleys and sun trying to melt it… yum. And then autumn leaves. Red and redder and brownish-crimsons and, again, the good old sun peeking through grey clouds  just long enough to remind me how beautiful our dear old planet is. Lots of rain then – and thunder and lovely, luscious cold. Boy, when you live in a place where there are only two seasons – hot and wet – you really like a bit of cold breeze to stir you up. MMmmmmm. Not only but also – I got to work with the wonderful artist Gaye Chapman who does the yummiest illustrations – and I can’t find her website for you…Gaye? I put in ‘Little Blue’s’ website – and the incredible West Tigers Fan Oliver Phommavanh who just happens to be a pretty incredible writer as well… Wow!!! Talk about name dropping!

Next I’m warming up for McKay – and that’ll be something different again. I have never been there and I love trying to imagine what it will be like. I know I could google it… but hey, won’t that take away the surprise I get when I’m flying along gazing down and I see…what? What is going to make McKay outstanding…I can’t wait.

A little bit on the end – I have only managed to include this year’s schools – every year I’m lucky enough to head out into the most incredible schools and have fun. It’s great and I apologize for taking so long to say thank-you to you all. Oh, and in case you think I’ve forgotten I will list some of the things that I’ve met in your playgrounds – a huge, long enormous red scarf (The Long Red Scarf), and lovely blue river that beckoned me to it with little bare feet until I was reminded that actual crocodiles lived there, a fairy land of lights in the middle of the desert, and a lake where a mine used to be and it also had little crocodiles – the fresh water kind. What else, a brown snake slithering along in front of a teacher’s broom who was hurrying it back into the bush (I didn’t walk on that side of the school AT ALL), a school when I was late – the only time – and when I arrived the whole assembly cheered. I blushed. Little children being kangaroos and big kids being cool… and always, in every place, smiles! Aaaah, the best memory of all!

PS An update….I am now going to be an illustrator! True! I’m going to work for an entire week on my new book – Fox and Hen – a love story – at Pinerolo (www.pinerolo.com.au) with Margaret Hamilton. I can’t believe it – just wait until I’m there and I’ll tell you all about it… every bit – even me in being nervous about how on earth am I going to do this…more soon.


For Greg

Posted by Nette on May 15, 2013 in Uncategorized

Greg Rogers was my friend. He was the sort of friend who laughed, grizzled, shared secrets and gossip and, most of all, was there. We didn’t get together very often but it didn’t seem to matter. He was always ready to pick up where we left off … and I will miss him. He was the face I’d look for at gatherings – if Greg was there, I’d know it was going to be fun.  I don’t think I was the only one… so often I’d hear ‘Greg will be there’ …

And now he’s not going to be there again.

I wanted to write so much in this space but, for the first time in a long time, it is really difficult to find exactly what I want to say. That I am grateful to having known him…that I am grateful for his faith in me… that I am grateful for the wonderful work he did …. that I am grateful for his willingness to support my efforts ….

Mostly I think I want to make sure that, for a short time, the world is a little sadder for having lost such a wonderful storyteller, artist and illustrator. In every library – in schools and towns and cities all over the world, in galleries and bookshops there has always been a Greg Rogers book. And there was always the promise of another … an expectation that something this good could never dry up.

I guess I just want you to think about that.  They’re quiet achievers, artists like Greg, and they can slip away from us unnoticed until one day, when you want another Rogers book to read, you discover there is no more… not another Midsummer Night, or Bears and Boys and Bards. It was one of my favourites – The Boy, The Bear, The Baron, The Bard – and I used it in a publicity photo. Someone asked me why I hadn’t used one of  my own books – I think I liked Greg’s book  better than mine. I know I love that bear to bits!

So, to celebrate Greg’s life and to make sure you spent a moment, like I am, thinking especially about him, how about finding his books in your library… how about making a display that says ‘Greg was here.’

Yep… Greg was here and last week he slipped away.

I wish he could have stayed longer.


Drama in my backyard.

Posted by Nette on Oct 25, 2012 in Uncategorized

Everybody’s life is busy and mine is no exception. A lot of my time is writing my new novel and sometimes I forget that this takes up as much time as if I had to get dressed, get in the car, drive to work and then kick start the day. I heard the other day how many kilojoules are burnt playing chess (a lot actually) so now I understand a little better about why I compare writing a book to a long distance race. You’re knackered when you’re finished.

But, this isn’t the backyard drama. It’s more a prelude to why I’m making my first step this note to all of you – I do hope there’s a few can make a difference. Tomorrow, in amongst the muddle on my desk which is the novel and the illos for Christmas cards, there’s the beginning of a letter about the native animals who are being forced out of their own backyards and…ooops… they don’t have another to go to. The only way for them to move is across a very, very fast road and … you know it. Road kill. And… guess what… more road kill.

Now, I suppose that I’ve learned one thing in my life and that is there is no stopping development. So, please…this isn’t about development. We all have our own feelings about that but I think a big, shared feeling is the concern for the planet and the creatures who inhabit it. Right now a part of the planet that was, until ten years ago, a densely populated seaside bushland is home to a lot of people and houses. Back then nobody went there much… bad vibes.  However, it was a koala,  wallaby, lizards and snakes and birds of every colour, sound and description hanging out place.

So, it is a beautiful place that has attracted a lot of interest. Gradually people moved in and built houses and then more houses and rec. parks and pubs and resorts and all good stuff like that… and gradually the native life-stock moved on or out or simply off the planet. Roads grew faster and wider and fences went up to protect the wild-life or whatever was left – and that was a good move.

Until now.

Because now the latest development is looking a bit more like a jail than a bush land. Mesh fences that run for kilometres, sheeted over with long, long banners saying the name of the developers involved – seem to have forgotten it which is probably a good thing – have animals neatly tucked away within.

I rang National Parks and Wildlife and they’ve sent a ranger down to check it out – a big, big thank-you to the Murwillumbah ranger who listened to me bleat on for ages. They have asked me to write a letter to the paper, which is on my desk waiting to be completed. My mates have written letters and my friend whose work involves snake removal and relocating wild-life is jumping on board because… you know what…this isn’t about development. This is about living with a changing world and making sure the stuff living in the changing world is given a fighting chance to change along with it.

So, if you’re reading this, thank-you. If you’re interested in helping out, or helping make sure the creatures of the Bushland Jailhouse have a good chance when they make a run for it – and that’s if they find the hole in the fence and then find the hole in the fence on the other side of Coast Road from Cabarita Beach to Cudgen and Kingsciff – slow down if you’re driving up this way, or contact the council and ask if there could be some signs to advise motorists that animals are making a jail break and need all the help they can get, or write to the paper to see if some organised re-location can be instigated so these creatures don’t finish up like their cousins across the way… dead and unsavoury on Coast Road, or eaten by dogs or just plain lost and forgotten.

Gosh, its a serious grizzle tonight. But good stuff is happening – like, last night I did hear a koala and, when I went out to look for the noise, I found a wallaby. So, maybe, maybe they’re finding their way down here. And wouldn’t that be a bonus. All those new houses and resorts and pubs and restaurants with fancy names and fences will only have memories of the mob who lived there because the mob, if they make it, will be living in my backyard.

Fingers crossed.


Moving on.

Posted by Nette on Oct 1, 2012 in Uncategorized

You’d think writing a book in your own house, with your own timetable would be easy but lately I seem to have a lot of interrupted beginnings. I’m not complaining. The interruptions are fun and worth leaving the computer for a few minutes….but…my novel is suffering. For the rest of this week I’m promising myself that I will dutifully write my new novel as soon as I get up….  a good way to make sure the work gets done.

My new work is for adults. I’m revisiting a time I spent in the bush a long time ago and using this as a setting. A good idea….okay…but then we think about technology and the difference this is making to outback living. When I was governessing, the mail arrived once a week with the week’s lessons – one set to go and one set marked with comments and whatever help you sought. Now, if you’re going to join school of the air, a satellite dish is installed on your property and viola…you’re on line and set to go. I do wonder though, as with all things, sometimes the way it sounds doesn’t work as easily or as readily as it might.

My lovely protagonist is in very deep trouble. It was, as they say, all going well until the home visit and the body in the bag….

She accidentally finds herself responsible for a very dark secret and must, at all costs, protect it from the people who want it. I’m loving working out the plot lines and all the events that have to happen. She has to protect herself, and the secret and there’s also someone who is very, very appealing who might, or might not, be her protector. He could belong to the wrong side….who knows? (Answer, I do – hey, if you’re writing the book you have to know….otherwise you’re reading it.)

My lovely old bus, my writing travelling bus, was sold today. I’m sorry to see her go but she’s going to be reshaped, redefined and renamed…she’ll be fabulous and her new owner is thrilled with her. I hope he has a much fun as I’ve had.

Another end… I’ve finished working as mentor for my dearest Zoya – she’s going to be Australia’s newest talent. She certainly has a great tale to tell…all about spirits and lost children. Good luck, Zoya. I’m waiting to see how the cover looks!

So, back to work. Already we’re gearing up for next year with lots of school visits planned and a visit to McKay….can’t wait.


Hello New England

Posted by Nette on Jul 26, 2012 in Uncategorized

What an amazing week. I’ve been in Armidale and Inverell working with the most incredible schools. Mostly we’ve been trying to work out what makes books work and how to best go about writing them. Everyone from Kindergarten in Gum Flat to Year 7 & 8 in Inverell and Armidale have done some pretty inspiring stuff. I was really impressed by the way we managed to take a boy running to so many different types of stories.

I started out last Saturday and drove through trees which are just hanging out waiting for spring. It is so different from being down on the coast. Up here winter really does happen – no leaves, lovely, lovely white grass, and skies that light up with great flashes of lightning and sudden, unexpected rushes of thunder.

I have been reading ‘Sprite Downberry’ all over again. You know, its a good feeling when you read something you’re written and everyone listening is moved to come along with you. I could feel my audience easing into the story and then being carried along by it. Its always a bit scary reading your own work but Sprite works. I’d love to read ‘The Innocents’ but I’m always a little concerned that a book about a child who knows her world better than the adults around her might be a bit tricky in schools.

I’ve been frantically photographing everything. Since my work with my own illustrations I’m starting to want to capture all sorts of things. There is a dog here, Frank, who is just such a good model for dog movement – he is very kind and doesn’t make quick turnabouts so I have plenty of time to capture him. The same with the lovely cats, two beautiful Burmese, who pose around the place and sometimes come and share the dear little cottage that is my home.

I was accepted into an Arts course at TAFE in Murwillumbah but, sadly, had to pass. I really do need a course that works into illlustration more specifically. I’d love to do printing and sculpture and all the other delicious parts of the TAFE course but I feel I have to learn such a lot and I need to really choose what will suit me best. I’d love to say I’m growing younger but…. only in my head.

Thanks all you dear ol’ New Englanders – I’ve had a great week….. hope you want to invite me back.



Nette Hilton School of Righting The Words!

Posted by Nette on Mar 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

I’ve done it! At long last I’ve booked the venues and written the program (almost) and am starting to feel a wee bit nervous (and excited) because I’m starting my own writing classes – with some illustration tucked in. It is going to be soooooooo good. So many people tell me how they’re going to write a book – mostly a children’s book – and how did I get started. Its a matter of doing it so I’ve set it up so we can all make a new book together and have our own book awards and launches and displays and the whole kit-and-kaboodle.

I’m going to run two classes a week in two locations. I want it to be so beaut that I can eventually run my own writer’s school – a little nook upstairs with a view and some lovely notepads and pens and pencils and computers and printers and whatever else you want to use for writing. For me, the feel of paper and pens and ink and the smell of writing is bliss and I have to remind myself that most of my writing now is in the sanitized air of computers and clean, white screens with no messy crossouts. There is a place, though, for the weighty pens and the dawdled words of good writing. There is a lovely connection to a poet or an artist or a writer when you can see the messy bits they’ve made on their journey.

So, my loves! If you want to come a-righting the words with me – contact me through this website or on nette.hilton1@bigpond.com or on 0438877324 and I’ll book a place for you in our classrooms at Cudgen Leagues Club on Mondays 10am – 12noon, $30 per session or the Art Gallery at Murwillumbah Tuesdays 10am-12noon, $30 per session. The course will run over ten weeks with each week including new strategies, scaffolds and writing times and experiences. We will journey into illustration (either black and white for chapter books) or picture book illustration in your choice of medium (and we can all do this with photos or whatever).  

My newest book, The Smallest Bilby and The Easter Tale is out and we’re celebrating at Boardwalk Booksin Kingscliff on Easter Saturday, 7th April (and all the invitations are out and, you guessed it, the date is wrong). I could say it was done on purpose so that everyone would contact me and then I could convince them they should come but…. the sad truth…it was a genuine mistake between printers and designers and the world didn’t need a whole lot of lovely cards scrapped just for the sake of one little number (albeit a pretty important one). So…come and say hello on Saturday 7th April, between 11-12.00.

My newest work is in the computer and is about a boy who was scared out of his skin….mmmmm. A lot of fun so far.

Till next time…and think about joining the Righting Class.

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