My Books

My Books
My Books

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

A cure for insomnia, anxiety and over stimulated brains! Why Colouring in is so effective

I only ever won one competition at school 
It was a colouring in competition. And guess what the prize was? A colouring in book! I have always loved to colour inside those lines carefully, adding my own colour scheme with vibrant combinations.

Something we left behind
But as I grew up I left this cherished activity behind. It was considered childish.
Until adult colouring in books hit the shelves and everyone went mad with it! A former editor in a large publishing house lamented the demise of what he called 'proper books' as he spent most of his time helping to publish colouring in books. Discouraged, he quit the industry.

What's the point?
Having been an insomniac since I was a child, I am always looking for ways to wind down and slow the endless processing of a creative mind. And guess what? Colouring in helps. There's no blue light to keep stimulating the visual cortex. There's no noise. I just sit up in bed and scribble to my heart's content until its time to turn out the light.

These are the pages I've done so far, from Adam Fisher's amazing book of 300 odd pages - Brothers Grimm Coloring Book. It has thick, excellent paper and the pictures are only printed on one side. Best of all, the designs aren't completely covered in lines, so you can make each picture your own by adding shading etc. (I hate those mandala thingies!)

Adam's book has a lot of devotees. Just google it and check out the images. So get yourself a decent colouring in book and go for it!

Wednesday, 30 November 2016


How do kids become non-readers?
Is your child struggling to learn to read, even after being in school for one or more years? There are  many reasons why some children fail to pick up the skills required for reading. It's usually down to their specific learning style, be it visual, auditory, kinaesthetic or multi-modal. There are usually bits missing, because of the peculiar way your child learns. Filling in those missing bits is what I do best.

It can be shattering to confidence, especially to older children who have experienced difficulty over a few years. I once had a student in year 11 whose reading age was 6 years. He had managed to get through the school system without being able to read and was facing year 12 HSC. Amazing! You'll be happy to know that within the year he was reading books on psychology and changed his original career plans when he realised reading was no longer a barrier to achieving his goals. He's now at university.

Help is here!
Anyway, back to your child.
I have 27 years experience teaching literacy to reluctant and struggling reader of all ages. If you live in NSW in the Greater Sydney or Blue Mountains area, bring your child along to my 2-day workshop and I guarantee he/she will have a fabulous time and will finally become a reader!

The flyer at the top of this page is easy to download and print, should you need a hard copy. Just right click on it and select 'save.'

Thursday, 3 November 2016

ZENA SHAPTER'S new book INTO TORDON out now!!!

My gorgeous friend and colleague Zena Shapter has a new book out, one that's a LOT different to most - it had NINE authors. She is my guest today. :-)

So, tell me about “Into Tordon”?

“Into Tordon” follows two online gamers on an adventure that’s out of this world! It’s a middle grade novel for 8-14 year olds, set in a slightly futuristic Australia, and there are dangerous creatures, exotic cultures, scientific impossibilities, riddles, advanced technology and challenges. Our two main characters, Beth and Zane, must face them all to survive!

Sounds like a wild ride! Nine of you wrote “Into Tordon” together. That sounds like a wild ride too. How did nine authors write a book together?

With patience and understanding! When writing collaboratively with so many people, you have to leave your ego at the door and contribute as much as you can with enthusiasm and a good spirit, knowing full well that your actual contribution is likely to go unnoticed once the book is released. There’s an element of trust too. One of you has to take the lead, to keep everyone on track, drive the project and make decisions. Thankfully, when I suggested the book to the other authors, they were all members of my writers’ group, the Northern Beaches Writers’ Group, and had written under my leadership before, so knew and trusted in my abilities.

Is that because you’re the founder and leader of the Northern Beaches Writer’s Group?

Yes, but also because they know and like my writing. Not only did I write a chunk of “Into Tordon”, but as ‘Editor-in-Chief’ I also rewrote other parts, then rewrote the whole book to give it a single ‘voice’ (the words, not the story itself), and polished it again once we had a publisher on board. I’m a freelance editor and mentor too, so they trusted in my experience when I picked up on things like inconsistencies, plot development, character arcs and worldbuilding issues. I’m so glad they did! “Into Tordon” is awesome!
colouring-in page for the book
How did you get a consistent voice / tone from nine separate authors?

It was tricky! We don’t all write in the same style. Some of the other authors don’t even write speculative fiction! (*gasp*) But I found the right tone with time, respect and experience. We had a solid consultation process too, where everyone got to critique everyone else in a safe and nurturing environment, until every single word was perfect. It was a real team effort. I also had a good second-in-command, Zoya Nojin, who always had my editorial back.

What was your favourite part of the process?

The writing of course! Though I’ve also enjoyed the promotional side of things: designing the website, posters, bookmarks, social media, this interview of course, and even a colouring-in sheet for readers. I’ll include one readers can download from here if they like.

What’s your favourite scene in “Into Tordon”?

I love discovering new worlds, so my favourite scene is when our two main characters, Beth and Zane, first enter the ‘strange world’ mentioned in the blurb. By the end of that chapter, there’s only one option left to them, which Beth phrases perfectly: “Run!”

Zena's book launched by the fabulous Susanne Gervay
Will you be doing author visits?

Yes, all of us will – to schools and libraries of course, but also to writers’ groups, festivals and centres who want to know about collaborative writing. Anyone interested can contact us through the website at

What’s next for Zena Shapter as a solo author?

I have my own debut novel coming out next year! It’s called “Towards White” and is set in a fictional Iceland. Scientists have discovered where the electrical energy in our brains goes when we die, which brings about certain cultural developments. Becky’s brother visits Iceland to study those developments, but goes missing… I can’t wait to see it on the shelves! Details will go on or my publisherswebsite, IFWG, as production progresses.

In the meantime, when and where is “Into Tordon” available?

All good bookshops on the highstreet and online. Here’s the blurb, I hope readers enjoy it! Thank you for having me, Dawn!

Into Tordon
Only champions dare to enter!

Thirteen-year-old Beth has been waiting for weeks to play in the championship of her favourite online game, Tordon. Now tribes of beastmen roar through her speakers. Game on! She plays to win, until her gaming nemesis Zane challenges her to a real-life risk that has them sucked into a strange world. Here they must push their skills to the limit just to survive! 

Faced with riddles, a multitude of dangerous creatures, exotic cultures and scientific impossibilities, Beth and Zane are forced to take on challenge after challenge if they’re ever to return home.

‘a pacy, exciting read’ Books+Publishing

Zena Shapter
Zena Shapter writes from a castle in a flying city hidden by a thundercloud, creating what-if worlds and adventures. She’s the winner of twelve national writing competitions, including a Ditmar Award and the Australian Horror Writers’ Association Award for Short Fiction. Her work has appeared in numerous online and print venues including the Hugo-nominated ‘Sci Phi Journal’, ‘Midnight Echo’, ‘Award-Winning Australian Writing’ (twice), and ‘Antipodean SF’. Reviewer for Tangent Online Lillian Csernica has referred to her as a writer who “deserves your attention”. She’s the founder and leader of the Northern Beaches Writers’ Group, a book creator and mentor, creative writing tutor, movie buff, traveller, wine lover and all round story nerd. Her novel “Towards White” will be published by the IFWG in 2017.

Monday, 10 October 2016


I've been in this game for a while now and found some things are really helpful in raising my profile (not easy when you basically want to stay in your cave and write most of the time). Some very generous people have shared their ideas with me, so now I pass on what I know to you. And you don't have to pay a fee to know my secrets.
  1. Your platform - what is it? How you market yourself will open doors. What do you want to be known for? Have a media release ready (and regularly polished) to send out.
  2. Contact other bloggers in your field of expertise/interest and offer to send a copy of your book for them to review, in exchange for reviewing theirs.
  3. Promotional materials, for business cards, posters of your book covers, bookmarks, banners, freebees. Being an author is a business and you need the promotional tools handy. I use Vistaprint or make my own using MS publisher and Powerpoint.
  4. A flyer with what you offer, ie: author talks, writing workshops, school visits. these can be emailed and printed out to give when you are out and about at festivals, libraries, schools, etc.
  5. Amazon author page. If your books are available on Amazon, it is imperative that you have a presence there. Its easy to do, just follow the prompts. You'll need to write a blurb about yourself and your books. Hunt for them on Amazon and then add to your author page. 
  6. Slide shows of your books - how they were made, what influenced you, where you write etc. These are fabulous for school visits or conventions. People want to know WHY you wrote a book, not just about the content.
  7. Swap book reviews. Invite people to review your book on Amazon. 50 reviews gets attention from Amazon and help from their marketing juggernaut
  8. Blog or website. My blog (blogger) functions as my website. Its free and I have total control of content. The downside is I have to do it all myself. but with labels on your blog posts you can attract attention to your pages and books. Also, provide handy links for purchasing. If things are one click away you'll get more sales. Every time I blog about my books I get a spike in page views and then sales. Also, I have 10 pages of information on my blog, which also attracts people.
  9. Networking! Be part of groups with similar interests. These don't have to relate to your books, just to your interests. all sorts of conversations begin randomly, centred around mutual interests.
  10. Social Networking. Facebook - regular profile and separate pages for your books for people to 'like'. I don't do twitter or instagram. Haven't the time quite frankly! But it might work very well for you. Linked-In - this is an awesome way to network too and stay up to date with whats happening. Share your tips there and follow interesting people.
  11. Events. Conferences, book days, conventions etc. pester (nicely) until they let you in, then you can set up your own table with books and flyers etc.
  12. Blog tours. I admit I don't do a lot of this. Wish I had the time! But they are brilliant and mutually beneficial for each person who swaps 'exposure' on another person's blog.
There we go, lots of ideas for you to munch on. I have included some of mine below to give you an idea.
Good luck and keep writing!

Sunday, 9 October 2016

ROBOTICS FOR KIDS - easy to make projects using kitchen utensils

As some of you may know, I LOVE robots. In fact, I am currently writing a book called 'Ten Ridiculous Robots." I subscribe to the website INSTRUCTABLES which sends me newsletters about the latest things you can make using household tools and products. From hen houses to rainwater tanks to, you guessed it... robots!

Here is the latest link: make your own robots from kitchen utensils

About the Teacher

Randy Sarafan is an artist, designer, inventor, and founder of the Instructables Design Studio. Over the last 10 years he has created hundreds of step-by-step tutorials on diverse subjects ranging from pancakes to self-driving robotic queen-sized beds. ​He has​ authored two books, 62 Projects to Make with a Dead Computer and Simple Bots.
His work has been showcased by the NY Times, Popular Mechanics, The Today Show, The Tonight Show, NPR, the BBC, Core77, Boing Boing, and the National Examiner (to name a few). He currently splits his time between Brooklyn, NY and the internet.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Childrens Book Council of Australia Blue Mountains Pirate Day!

I had a ball on Saturday at my local library. As one of the local authors and illustrators invited, I ran two short workshops on writing. There were lots of other activities to do as well, such as drawing workshops, talk like a pirate competition, treasure hunt, puppet making and book buying/borrowing.
Everywhere you looked, kids were excited about reading, drawing and expressing their thoughts in writing.

Ahoy, there, ya scurvy lads!

SCBWI Conference Sydney 2016 Winner Andrea Pinkney Writer Award - tell your story the way you want!

with judge Clare Stuckey. photo by Denzo Guiney
A lovely shock
I can hardly believe it! I am so amazed and gratified to announce that at the recent Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators conference in Sydney I won the SCBWI Andrea Pinkney Writer award! Apparently I beat some of Australia's best children's authors to win - wow! The award is a personal critique of my work-in-progress, a YA paranormal crime novel, with Vice President of Scholastic USA Andrea Pinkney next month.

What do publishers actually want?
At the presentation dinner, I was so shocked when my name was called I cried my eyes out. I am a published author of children's chapter books, but after 20 years and 7 novels completed I am yet to have a novel published. This award means to me that my work can stand on its own two feet. This was the novel which I had decided to write as I wanted to write, to introduce the character and her dilemma in my natural 'voice', which has taken me 20 years to figure out. The irony is, that after I submitted the synopsis and first page to the competition I lost all confidence and began 'polishing' the first chapter - endlessly, angrily tapping away, deleting, crying, shouting at my PC etc. A writer friend had agreed with me that the new opening was dull. I feel completely lost. Why did I do this to myself, you ask? Because the initial feedback I'd had from publishers when I started submitting it, was that the opening was too much 'telling, not showing,'

Publishers are always saying they want a fresh voice, original ideas, good writing but also sticking to the formula. This is SO confusing. It's like a lost, dead language only the privileged few understand. The rest of us feel like we are on the outside, blinking in the sunlight.
with one of my beautiful mentors, Susanne Gervay. photo by Denzo Guiney

So, it was incredibly gratifying to stand at the podium with the judge and accept an award for the original version of chapter one. Ha! I completely forgot to thank everyone who has helped me reach this point. All I could think was, 'Bloody hell, why did I waste all that energy, emotion and stress trying to change it, when it was good enough already?' And afterwards, a couple of people came up to me and said how they appreciated me sharing the frustrations and crisis I'd been through. It's a lonely business, writing, and we have to have an incredibly thick skin to take the constant rejections, year after year. It felt to me that when I accepted this award for my work, the weight of every single rejection I've ever had as a writer flooded over me like a tidal wave. The relief was overwhelming.

Keep going!
So, my advice to you is keep going! Keep believing in yourself. Keep developing as a writer. Never give up your dream.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

KIDS and photography - the fascinating world of small

autumn splendor
I love taking photos, particularly close-ups, things you don't always notice straight away. And with digital cameras making it so easy, even kids can take fantastic photos, in their own environment or as they go about their day. My tip - focus on the small things. Zoom in with that macro setting and click away!

hail in our garden

These pics can then be cropped and printed out for a display or use to inspire stories or artworks. Sometimes its really nice to just have them as a screensaver on your desktop and remember the day you took them. If you're not sure what you've captured, you can research and make a new discovery. Have fun and enjoy the small world!

Mmm... yummy pumpkin scones!
a tiny gecko we nicknamed Fred
a wildflower I saw on a tourist walk. The purple petal section is about 1cm wide!
a leaf that blew in onto my verandah and caught the sunlight

Friday, 22 July 2016

Childhood Anxiety - what can you do to help your child?

Why I wrote this book
When I wrote this book for my clients and their families I had no idea how quickly I would get through the first 100 copies. When I visit schools I take copies with me. They all disappeared. Then the next 100. Now I'm on the third lot. Everywhere I go people pick up the book and exclaim, "Wow, I wish I'd had this when I was a kid!" Now it sells all over the world on Amazon   Booktopia  and  Collins booksellers

So why is this book so important to people?
Through my work in schools and teaching parents often chat to me and many of them are concerned about the pressures on their children. Modern life is supposed to have given us freedoms and more leisure time, and yet kids seem to be suffering even more than they did when I was young. I believe technology and our obsession with it has contributed to this phenomenon. Kids spend hours a day glued to screens, instead of interacting with real people, chatting, reading facial and body clues, smelling, sensing, touching. This makes them less able to interpret what they see in their environment, causing confusion which results in anxiety. Of course, this is a simplistic explanation. There are many more aspects to life that contribute to anxiety, such as genetics.

When parents start flicking through the book they often remark that it speaks to them and then sheepishly admit that their child has 'probably got that from me.' This is actually great! I wanted my book to start a conversation between parents and children about how anxiety affects them, to demystify it.

The power of this book
Self-knowledge - My standpoint is that children should be empowered by recognising they are prone to anxiety, and accept they will probably always be that kind of person. Stop fighting it, I say!

Managing, not suffering - Learn how to manage it instead. Be realistic about the triggers that set you off and learn how to minimise their effects on your life. I mention lots of different techniques and ideas in the book, as well as the 12 monsters themselves, which represent the unhelpful messages that repeat inside your mind over and over.

Physical effects  - To break free of that, you must first understand the physical aspects of what anxiety actually is, so that even though it feels like you're going to die/pass out/have a heart attack/suffer major embarrassment you know that it is just adrenaline flooding your brain and body, and that if you breathe deep and focus your mind it WILL pass.

What age group is this written for?
I designed it to be read independently by children aged 8yrs+ but it is equally accessible and interesting for teens and even adults. The idea is to take the scariness away and replace it with a humorous take on being an anxious person. Being an anxious person is not the end of the world, or your life, it's just a way of thinking - that you can learn to control.

You can buy your own e-book or paperback book here. I'd love to hear how it's helped you!

Monday, 30 May 2016

World War II Book for Kids - What was it like to be a teenager at war?

The virtual world has made it so easy to recreate fight scenes and battle scenes for our entertainment, but what if you had real memories, of real experiences of war? How would this affect you a year later, two years, ten years, seventy years later?

Meet Jim Haynes. He joined the Royal Navy at 16 and served the British Empire in some of the bloodiest and most horrific theatres of the last world war as a teenager, alongside hardened sailors and soldiers, on the Atlantic Ocean and in the jungles of Burma and Malaya. This is Jim's story of WWII, from the streets of a slumin Nottingham, England where he grew up to finally settling in Sydney, Australia at the age of 20, leaving behind his family (and his sweetheart, Olga) forever. Jim has led a fairly normal life - married, had children, divorced, married again and had more children, but the cost of his service back in his teens has haunted him throughout his life, affecting his happiness and that of his family. The impact of PTSD cannot be underestimated, as Jim's life proves.
Jim (far right) and Aussie mates on board the LST 3008 ferrying soldiers and equipment after the Burma Campaign

Olga, aged 16
So, what can we learn from Jim's experiences? After all, he begged his parents to let him join the Navy, thinking it would be a fantastic adventure. In some ways it was. He still talks of his mates and skipper of HMS Avon with fondness, but those mates are long gone and what remains is the battle that still rages in his mind. If virtual reality should teach us anything about ourselves as a species, it ought to be that war is futile, despite it being a constant, and that fighting the after effects is a much bigger task than the actual fighting.

You can buy a copy of Jim's story here:
The Boy Who Went to War on Amazon
and here:
The Boy Who Went to War (Five Senses Education)
from Five Senses Education website