Tag Archives: Children’s Literature

#CBCA2015 Celebrating Children’s Book Council of Australia Book Week 2015 – Chloe Prime : Alien Space Vet, Chapter Two #BookWeek

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This week was Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Book Week. In celebration of this wonderful event, that helps bring the spirit of fandom to children’s reading, I am going to pop up chapter 2 of Chloe Prime: Alien Space Vet. Chapter 1 is HERE for people that have missed it. Enjoy, and I hope you enjoyed all the celebrations around Book Week that took place.

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Chapter Two: Greedy Goldfish

The next morning Chloe lay in her backyard pulling faces at her reflection in her fishpond. Meanwhile her mother rushed about inside the house getting Chloe’s things ready for school. Chloe enjoyed listening to the gentle trickle of water running through her backyard and the feel of the soft blue-green grass on her stomach. She reached out her hand and gently ran it through the cool water, carefully not to scare the fish. Chloe laughed at her funny faces as she waited for the fish to surface for their feed. One fish nearly leapt out of the water in fright as it came up for air to the sight of Chloe flaring her nostrils and pulling her lips back over her gums. Chloe giggled excitedly at the response and kicked her legs up behind her; her metallic leg braces glinted in the sunlight.

Leg braces might have slowed some children down but not Chloe Prime. She had been born with hip dysphasia which meant that her hip sockets were out of phase with her legs and had not formed properly. Despite the braces, Chloe was an utter tear about. She could often be seen leaping about her backyard playing ‘Super Ninja Rabbeets’ with her best friend, the amazing Hippopotati, Joshua Suza.

Chloe stood up and moved around the fishpond that she loved scouting for fish. She followed the small stream that sprang from the pond winding its way around the lush green yard. Chloe stopped and flopped down on one of the two small bridges that crossed the stream. She reached out her hand and softly parted the ferns that grew around the water, peeking in carefully to check for fish. She was hoping to be able to hand feed a few of her favourite fish friends before heading off to school.

“Chloe…” A voice drifted out to the yard disrupting Chloe’s face pulling. “Have you fed the fish yet?”

“In a minute Mum.” The little girl called back, quickly rushing back to the pond.

“You’ll be late for school. You better get a wriggle on.”

Chloe wriggled cheekily on the spot and then grabbed a tiny cube of bread from a basket beside her. She hovered the cube over the water and waited. Pretty soon a large bright orange fish broke the surface, mouth eagerly open. Chloe gently popped a piece of bread in the gapping gob and watched the fish duck back under the surface. She repeated this process for a few minutes with fish of a variety of bright oranges and pearl white, and any splotchy combination of the two colours.

“Chloe.” Mum’s voice cut through the quiet garden again. “Hurry up Sweetie. I’ve packed your bag, and the school shuttle will be here soon.”

“Two more minutes Mum.” Chloe called back.

Chloe kept emptying her bread basket into the pond. SPLASH! All of a sudden a big greedy fish leapt from the surface and tried to snatch a piece of bread from another fish. Chloe gasped in shock.

‘No, no, no! Naughty Glen,’ Chloe scolded the silly, snatching fish. ‘You know you can’t have bread. It makes your tummy sad. You don’t want to have a sad tummy do you?’

Glen’s guilty gills could be seen skulking below the surface, and he looked pleadingly at Chloe with his big, sad, googly eyes.

‘Don’t pout Greedy Glen,’ Chloe said. ‘I’ve brought rice crackers for you.’

This cheered glum Glen up no end, and he did a little fishy dance flicking his tail in excitement. He positively leapt for the rice crackers and gobbled them all up. Poor Glen could not have gluten without getting a big, bloated belly. It was very unfortunate for a bread loving goldfish. Luckily for Glen he was owned by Chloe Prime who had always been very good with animals. She just seemed to understand them. Glen had been her first patient and possibly most difficult patient. You see Glen was a bit of a glutton and he loved gluten so he was not exactly forthcoming with telling Chloe his issues. So Chloe was forced to use scientific methods in order to help gluttonous Glen. As she fed her fish each morning Chloe had noticed that Glen always got sick shortly thereafter. As he always got sick after food she believed that it must be the food. So Chloe scientifically tested out different fish foods until she discovered that Glen would swell up with any foods containing gluten but was fine when given rice or oats. As a result of Chloe’s careful testing Glen remained a happy and healthy fish some seven years later.

Fortunately future patients were a little more forth coming with information. Dogs would walk past complaining that they itched. Cats would wonder by wanting more water. Frogs would hippedy hop along saying they wanted a friend. Chloe would dutifully pass on this message to their owners. But despite Chloe’s expertise with animals there was one little hiccough. Try as she might she could never quite seem to understand insects. Each morning when she finished feeding her fish she would sit, cross legged with her eyes closed, trying to hear what the insects had to say to her. Sometimes she thought she could almost hear their words but she never could quite work out exactly what was being said. And so Chloe Prime sat, crossed legged listening for a message, on that very morning.

‘Chloe Prime,’ Mum’s voice cut through Chloe’s concentration. It was clear from Mum’s tone that she meant business. ‘I can hear the shuttle, you better come now.’

Somehow Mum could always hear the shuttle a good five minutes before it came. She seemed to have supersonic hearing. Mum could hear all manner of things, there was no keeping secrets of any kind with Mum around. Chloe scrunched up her little nose and twisted her lips, annoyed to be interrupted before she could hear anything. She quickly tossed another handful of bread into the goldfish pond and rushed inside calling goodbye to her fish friends. She really did not want to be late for her first day at school and miss out on any potential exploits.

Chloe Prime was an adventurer to the core. She was only ten but exploration was in her blood and adventure was in her bones. Chloe was related to the late and great Sir Giovanni Colompedia. One of the greatest explorers that the galaxy had ever known, he had travelled the universe in the twenty third century. Colompedia had discovered many new sights; including the very planet that Chloe lived on now. The adventurous Miss Prime was ready for New Earth Beta Campus but was it ready for her?

The inside of Chloe’s home was quite different from the outside. The outside was all lush green trees and ferns mixed with the gentle sound of trickling water. There was a constant gentle hum of insects and the popping noises of air bubbles reaching the surface of the water. The air was cool and crisp and tasted of fresh moisture. Chloe dearly loved her backyard but she also loved the inside of her house. It was white and clean yet still homey and always smelt of something being freshly baked. Chloe ran into her huge kitchen where she found Mum waiting for her, school bag in hand.

‘Can I smell double jam space biscuits?’

‘Already in your lunchbox,’ Mum replied, helping Chloe put on her school bag.

‘Have you packed enough for Joshua?’

‘Of course,’ Mum smiled.

‘What’s for lunch?’ Food was very important to Chloe.

‘You’ll have to wait and see,’ Her mum gently replied, taking Chloe by the hand to walk outside.

Chloe was serious about food and she was serious about flavour. She always loved to try the different things her mum made. Some kids always bought food from the school lunchroom but not Chloe. She always brought something fresh from home. The rich mineral soil of Giovanus meant that all of Earth’s food could be grown along with new delicious alien foods. Chloe felt her mother was aiming to become an expert in it all. Chloe did not know what kind of food she liked best. She enjoyed tucking into an Earthly lasagne as much as snacking on Neptunian urchin fruit. All Chloe really knew was that she was assured of a good lunch today. And to be perfectly honest, does anything else really matter?

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Structural Workshop with the Divine Dr @KathrynHeyman – #SydneyWritersFestival

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If loving Kathryn Heyman is wrong, then I don’t want to be right. There, I said it. Everyone else in the Structural Intensive workshop hosted by the Sydney Writers’ Festival was thinking it, I just said it. You would be hard pressed to find a more dynamic presenter, and the best bit was, that Dr Heyman had substance to back it up. I’ll be perfectly honest, I am not going to detail everything that she covered, partly because I wouldn’t do it justice, and partly because if you want to truly learn from Kathryn Heyman then you need to go and do a workshop/course/mentorship with her yourself. What you get out of a course is a deeply personal thing because we are all on different paths in this writing journey. BUT this would be the world’s shortest blog if I gave nothing away for free so here goes…

One of the first sound bites that really moved me was when Kathryn Heyman said, “Your fear drives why you write.” Now I’ve heard, “if it scares you do it,” “go where the fear is,” and all those other common things before but on that cold, wet, Friday, where I had arrived drenched, late, with a slightly broken umbrella and the memory of my kids crying ringing through my brain, this phrasing, and this women really hit home. For me, I’d got my money’s worth all in that one hit. Because, I’ll let you in on a little secret, come closer, even closer, shhhh, closer, I’m going to whisper this so listen carefully, every single novel I have written deals with exactly the same issue, no matter what the genre or target audience. My chick lit novel coming out in July has a main character who has an intelligent, and quirky main character who happens to have incredibly low self-esteem so can make some pretty dumb choices. My children’s novel coming out next year has a very confident main character but the backstory that never gets explicitly covered is that the mother is deeply scarred and traumatized individual trying to be that super mum who gets everything right. Memoir From the Madhouse (I’ve never shared an excerpt from that so will pop it at the end of this) looks at why we are who we are, how our past demons drive us. I could go on but in a nutshell, I write women’s fiction, no matter the genre, no matter the age range, and the story is always – What happened to the little girl that nobody loved. Fuck, I hope she turned out okay. Until Kathryn Heyman said, “Your fear drives what you write,” I did not realise that I had written the exact same story over and over again as I grappled with my fear. It’s kind of liberating to know that I am on a cathartic journey. It’s even more liberating to know that I love that story and I will tell it over and over again, in as many ways as I like until I am ready to put that issue to bed. Because that story needs to be told. That story needs to be told not just for me but for all those little girls. I’ll keep speaking out. I’ll keep publishing for you. I hope you will join me.

Now I think you can understand what I meant by saying that this writing gig is a deeply personal journey and you have to go sit at Dr Heyman’s feet yourself to get what you need. However, I won’t be a total spoil sport, there were plenty of general things that were good for everyone. Mainly, it really helps to have a concrete, physical manifestation of conceptual matter. So if there is an obstacle, how about getting another character to embody that. If you have some sort of transformation make sure there is some sort of event or location that can act as a metaphor rather than having it all inside the character’s head. If the character has an internal desire, give it a physical manifestation, as in what action or situation would demonstrate that the desire had been met or totally failed. I’m leaving it there because as I keep saying, you have to go learn from Kathryn Heyman yourself in order to get the real benefit.

 

As promised, and true to my blog’s about section, unedited, unkempt, and untamed, here is an excerpt from Memoir from the Madhouse.

 

I am running, running faster than I’ve ever run before. The cold from the dew damp ground runs up my bare legs and covers my naked body with goose pimples. But still I run on. The warmth is fleeting, the wind is chasing me, and they are hunting me. I run naked in the cold dark night and all the while I think – I’m not crazy, I’m not crazy.

Out of my periphery I see a nurse approaching me. I let out a delirious laugh and keep on running.

‘Run, run, run as fast as you can…’

The wind whips away my words and I still run on. The ground starts to gently slope downwards and in the darkness I lose my bearings. I trip. I roll. Arms and legs flail at impossible angles. The world slows down as sky and earth blur into one. I smile and think about what has brought me here, starkers, in the dead of night, chasing demons, in the psychiatric hospital’s grounds.

 

6 Hours Earlier

I sit in Consultation Room 2 staring at my psychiatrist. I have no idea what he is saying. His voice is so soft that I can only make out every second sentence if I’m lucky. Regardless I nod like I understand. I don’t want him to think I’m rude or worse, stupid. My constantly interrupting to say, ‘Eh?’ or, ‘What?’ only results in him repeating his mumbles anyway. So instead I just nod along like I agree.

‘Are you anxious about going home tomorrow?’ Finally a sentence I can hear.

‘No,’ I lie.

Of course I’m anxious. I’ve got newborn twins and a two year old. They’re hard work. I have to somehow keep on functioning, no, mumctioning, despite the fact that the twins won’t sleep, which means I can’t sleep either. All work and no sleep makes Robin a dull girl. Perhaps they could be trained to settle one another. One cries and the other rubs their back, then they roll over and swap jobs. That’d be pretty sweet but although I’m in the nuthouse even I know that won’t happen.

‘Really?’ my psychiatrist raises an eyebrow. ‘Last time you were supposed to go home you had such an anxiety attack that we had to transfer you to a medical hospital.’

I shrug. More words are spoken that I nod thoughtfully along too. God only knows what I’ve agreed to in these sessions.

‘Do you like cap guns and pillows?’ Nods in agreement.

‘Do you still wet the bed?’ Nods thoughtfully.

‘Do you have a Christ complex?’ Nods politely.

‘Do you like the smell of your own farts?’ Nods vigorously.

He probably thinks I’m the biggest psycho to ever have graced this Crackpot’s with Babies Unit. No doubt I’ve inadvertently agreed to having a fetish for gingerbread men, partaking in cock fighting as a chicken, and having to burp three times every time I hear the word purple lest the world ends. Not surprising that Doctor Huang is so shocked by my casual attitude.

Truth be told I’m just quietly packing shit. My husband and I have arranged for a babysitter to come for a few hours a day during baby rush hour. 4 – 7 sucks with the under threes. They’re cranky, they need baths, they need dinner and they need to go to bed. Times that by three and I seriously struggle. The babysitter coming at these times doesn’t help me rest. Just helps me make sure none of my kids are neglected. I want to rest. We can’t afford rest. Fucking money.

‘A lot can change in a week.’

Aurealis Awards 2014 nailed the Australian Women Writers Challenge – #AWW2015 @aurealisawards

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aww-badge-2015Aurealis Awards prove that anything men can do, women can do just as well.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Aurealis Awards I suggest you check them out, they’re the premiere awards for the Australian Speculative Fiction crowd. A chance for Spec Fic writers to get recognized, connect, maintain a professional discourse, and to sink a few bevies. Or French Champagne for the more successful authors.

It was a fantastic event, organized by two women, Nicole Murphy and Tehani Wessley, and MCed by the talented, multi-award winning, Margo Lanagan. Those unfamiliar with her works, might I suggest Tender Morsels as a starting place. Her writing is spectacular, you will not be disappointed. Cat Sparks, demonstrated her multi-dimensional talents by, presenting, photographing, and if you check out twitter, also doing a spot of glamour modelling. On top of that, Kate Forsyth (if you haven’t heard of her… have you been living under a rock?) presented the Fantasy awards. I am pretty sure I was not the only one who had to pop on shades when she walked onto the stage to dim her radiance. She is truly amazing. And the cherry on top was Angela Slatter. Angela Slatter essentially won the Aurealis. Well, she won pretty much every category she was in. She even beat out internationally acclaimed, juggernaut, Garth Nix.

The Australian Women Writers Challenge was up for the Covenors’ Award for Excellence this year and although it didn’t win, I think it actually kind of did. The Australian Women Writers Challenge is about showcasing the enormous depth of talent that is demonstrated by Australian women who are writers. These Aurealis Awards certainly nailed that brief. So bravo Aurealis Awards, bravo Australian Women Writers Challenge and bravo all Australian women writers. If nothing else, you all get a vag badge from me.

So let’s have a ‘Clam Bake’ and celebrate these wonderful women of the Aurealis Awards and go check out their wares. Names listed below for your convenience.

Angela Slatter

Margo Lanagan

Kate Forsyth

Juliet Marillier

Kim Wilkins

Cat Sparks

Lian Tanner

Amanda Bridgeman

Amie Kaufman

Carole Wilkinson

Charlotte Nash

Deborah Biancotti

Deborah Kalin

Faith Mudge

Glenda Larke

Goldie Alexander

Jaclyn Moriarty

Judith Rossell

Karen Foxlee

Kathleen Jennings

Keri Arthur

Kirstyn McDermott

Lisa L Hannett

Liz Argall

LynC

Lynnette Lounsbury

Marianne de Pierres

Meagan Spooner

Nina D’Aleo

Nova Weetman

Rebecca Lim

Rosaleen Love

Thoraiya Dyer

Tehani Wessely

Nicole Murphy

Up and coming Australian women writers at the Aurealis Awards: @LisaFleetwood , @helen_petrovic , @RobinRiedstra (me!)

Up and coming Australian women writers at the Aurealis Awards: @LisaFleetwood , @helen_petrovic , @RobinRiedstra (me!)

“All I Want For Christmas Is You” … and books, mainly books

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Trust me, he wanted a book not that sweater.

Have you left Christmas shopping until December? Have you just realised that stores are now zoos full of rabid animals? Never fear, I can and will help you… well,  not so much me as books. Books can and will solve your problems. So here are my Christmas recommendations for those of you without the time to think.

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Where Do You Hide Two Elephants? by Emily Rodda. Ridiculously cute picture book.

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The Red Wind by Isobelle Carmody. For the lover of fantasy. Added bonus, yes it is a series. We fantasy geeks love a good series.

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Impossible Quest Series by Kate Forsyth. The first two books are already out. Get into them before they blow out Harry Potter style. Fantastic kids series.

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The Protected by Claire Zorn. Incredibly moving YA novel about grief, resilience… I actually have to stop writing about this novel now because I’m tearing up just thinking about it. It’s powerful stuff. I’ll leave it at that.

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The Fictional Woman by Tara Moss. Non Fiction exploration of stereotypes and beliefs thrust upon women/Tara Moss. That description does not do it justice at all. Captivating read. Just go out and get it for any and all women you know.

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Under Siege by Belinda Neil. A memoir about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It rings true for a lot of mental illnesses though, such as depression and anxiety,  not only PTSD, so is highly accessible.

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Holiday in Cambodia by Laura Jean McKay. For you travel bug friend. Get Destination Cambodia by Walter Mason as a companion piece. Your friend will love you forever. I’m trying not to literally laugh out loud remembering the “dangerously jolly” scene in Destination Cambodia.

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The Black Dress by Pamela Freeman. Get it for the woman who wants to read about strong women and also anyone with an interest in religious history. A truly excellent read about Mary MacKillop.

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Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. Yes, you can believe the hype. Buy it for yourself for Christmas.

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The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton. For your historical fiction loving friends who enjoy some romance.

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The Nightingale by Fiona McIntosh. Another beautiful romantic historical fiction novel.

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Fishing for Tigers by Emily Maguire. For the Literary snob who secretly likes it a bit sexy. In other words,  exceptionally well written but they get down to business.

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Avoiding Mr Right by Anita Heiss. For the woman who likes the idea of chick lit but needs something with a bit more depth.

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Sea Hearts by Margo Lanagan. Styled as young adult but so brilliant. Honestly,  it’s for any adult, young or old, human or seal. A beautiful take on the Selkie myth.

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Blood and Circuses by Kerry Greenwood. Love a light murder mystery and the cover is very cool. Seriously, I know you can’t judge a book by its cover but… well… we do.

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Animal People by Charlotte Wood. Slightly traumatising but oh so good. For your friend who likes a bit of real life grit.

Okay Christmas peoples,  go forth and part with your cash. Probably online, so you can avoid the people. Mwah.

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Writer/ Publisher Interviews: or Literary Speed Dating as the cool kids call it

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As a high school English teacher I’m familiar with Parent/Teacher Interviews. I get to see the parents of the children I teach and find out why they’re so hilarious or why they’re so not hilarious. Often they’ll have the nervous teenager in tow giving you that look like, “Please don’t tell them I said my parents don’t care if I don’t do my homework because they do and they will kill me,” so I obligingly start with homework. It’s generally all very civilised and we have a few laughs and agree that their child is special and what we can do as a team to maximise their potential, ie homework. Well except for that time when the parent turned up drunk and fell off their chair and kept forgetting why they were there and persisted on asking me about their nephew who I didn’t teach instead of their son who I very much taught,  that was slightly less civilised and laughy. Although now years and schools later I am seeing the laughingness of the whole thing. However, this only prepared me in part for the Literary Speed Dating event hosted by the Australian Society of Authors and the New South Wales Writers’ Centre.  Mostly because the publishers were the teacher, I was the parent and my manuscript was the kid… and I was utterly petrified that I was going to hear that he hadn’t done his homework.

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Fortunately, as I am the queen of catstrophising, things did not go as badly as I’d imagined.* Now I was a little delirious from lack of sleep,**  so my word can’t be taken as gospel,*** but it all seemed really good to me. The organisation was excellent. I know from Parent/Teacher Interviews that things can quickly devolve into a chaotic quagmire with nobody hearing bells or moving on but with the very loud air horn going off every three minutes that just wasn’t an issue. Light bladder leakage may have been an issue as some of us never quite got used to the volume, but it certainly made things run smoothly. I salute you air horn. Lining up was a great chance to catch up with old friends from writing courses like Lisa and Helen who I met through Kate Forsyth courses, and new friends I’d met through twitter such as Meyrnah. And I cannot forget my fellow acolyte of Walter Mason,   Ms Ashley. Thanks to Ashley I am now obsessed with Armenia. My husband is very pleased because he loves discussing history and politics. The atmosphere was absolutely electric. Being around so many dedicated writers was really inspiring. Most people were happy to discuss their manuscripts and I can honestly say that there are a lot of very interesting concepts out there waiting to be published. And to top it all off the Publishing reps asked for my manuscripts so that was brilliant. I shall now have an accelerated heart rate for the next three months whilst I wait to hear back about my memoir, or my children’s novel. Worth it!

If you have a completed manuscript that you feel is ready for a professional eye I strongly recommend you book in early for next year. It sells out around 6 months in advance so make sure that you’re organised.

For great tips on how to handle the event read here:
http://illuminationsbylisafleetwood.wordpress.com/2014/11/17/literary-speed-dating/
https://highfantasyaddict.wordpress.com/2014/11/20/literary-speed-dating-sydney-nsw-writers-centre-2014-asa/ ****

The only thing I could possibly add is, don’t be afraid to discuss your manuscript with others. Discussing it will warm you up for pitching to the publishing representatives. Life is too short to be paranoid that everyone is going to steal your ideas. And heck, even if they are, back yourself, you’ve written it better and at the very least you’ve got a massive head start as yours is already finished. If someone is now out there madly attempting to write a memoir inspired by my time in a psychiatric hospital best of luck to them. Heck, if they want to write a tale of friendship for children, go ahead, there’s already plenty on the market and there will be plenty more because life is about relationships. Back yourself,  be confident, believe in yourself. If you can’t believe in your own writing how can you expect other people too? So book in early, be confident and pitch your heart out.

*I’d imagined being met with a long awkward pause followed by, “Don’t ever waste my time ever again.”

** Mummy still loves you, but kids… I’ve got an audio book narrated by Samuel L Jackson that you need to hear.

*** Or any biblical chapters for that matter.

**** Those entries managed to capture photos of a smoking hot red head… a red head… a bottle red head. It’s me ok!

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Book Review by Miss 3: Daddy’s Cheeky Monkey – Andrew Daddo and Emma Quay

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My daughter has noticed me writing book reviews and so has decided that she too would like to do some reviewing.  So I am dutifully typing up what she has to say on the matter. The first book she has chosen is Daddy’s Cheeky Monkey by Andrew Daddo and Emma Quay,  published by ABC Books.

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I like this book. It is about me and Daddy. Daddy calls me a monkey, actually I’m a cheeky monkey. Daddy has three cheeky monkeys. I like this picture Mummy, it looks like the baby has a tail and monkeys have tails. It’s not a tail, it is a strap for the chair but it looks like a tail. Look Mummy, Mummy look, it looks like a tail. Look at the tail right now! And it has poo in it. POO! Mucky Moo!

… Disolves into giggles so I assume the review is over…

Let Them Drink Lolly Water

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It has become quite the trend of late to YA shame adult readers. Rather than putting myself up for having each and every word I say analysed to the point that the message is lost I have decided to leave it up to the experts. Below are a series of quotes that I have imageflipped about the matter.

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You may also enjoy

https://riedstrap.wordpress.com/2013/10/24/monsters-under-new-south-wales-writers-centre-nswwc/

https://riedstrap.wordpress.com/2013/08/10/dream-builders-the-gifts-of-speculative-fiction-writers-to-emerging-writers/