LIFE AFTER WRITING … Is there such a thing or do old writers simply write themselves off?

Nette Hilton
Nette Hilton

SCBWI Qld is thrilled to welcome our guest blogger this week – author, Nette Hilton. Nette’s work includes the brilliant, edge-of-seat and beautifully written YA novel, The Innocents.

Thoughts of a baby-boomer who was a child bride (twice) and is still saving up for when she gets old.

This isn’t something I’d pondered intentionally. Stuff happens and then you die. Not very philosophical but it was working for me. Then my mate, Jo (Horniman) – a woman with whom I

  • shared angst and mangled manuscripts
  • more angst and mayhem when we were overlooked by the CBC (how could that happen?)
  • then smirking delight when the Premier and the Prime Minister found us (how good was that!)

Then my mate (who had shared coffee and cakes and obscure blue-grass bands – not the members, only their music, in all sorts of boonie based coffee shops) said she’d quit! No more writing, she said. And with a girlish giggle went on to declare that there was, in fact, life after writing.

I mean, we’d been handmaidens for Paul Jennings. Mature hand-maidens, given, but at the end of a grueling tour and late nights cavorting with press agents, festival organizers and the entourage we were probably all he could have handled. As it was, I nearly killed him in my little sports car as we roared over a hill on our way to Lismore – heady days!

So. Joanne Horniman. A diva of written delight. Quit! I felt like I was out there alone holding the aged writer’s banner aloft. A poor withered thing (the banner, not me) that dangled sadly in a fading breeze. The Innocents_Final Cover.inddDo we just fall out of line like weary soldiers too tired to keep marching? Is there no-one there to cheer us on? Even my agent said that a publication date had been offered, five years hence, and how old are we gonna be then? Is there no-one to organize the gold-watch – or pen, which would be more appropriate given that writers and illustrators have poor connections to time and motion – but is there no-one?

It would seem not. Jo, I must say when I gasped and clutched my fevered brow, did suggest that she might do it again – when the right book called, when the right light at the end of that dark tunnel called the duration of writing a manuscript beckoned, call it a sabbatical – and I breathed a little easier.

But not for long.

What was I going to do with my life from here to the ever-after. Simply be content to live happily-ever? My god, the thought was untenable. What about the hours of fumbling around with mind-maps and charts and midnight flashes of genius that sent you hurtling – or fumbling for the light switch in another room because spouses of writers tend to get a little bit grumpy if you constantly wake them – to grab that thought and write it down. What about the dreams? How many times have I woken to find my dream scribbled in sleep-hieroglyphics to discover that, in broad daylight with a thinking brain attached, they were a just a wee bit scrambled and the content did seem to suffer somewhat. The last one was a goody though… if only I could remember it and where I put the paper. I did share it with a kid in a class in Tallebudgera so I can track him down if I need it.

Which I do.

Dreams that good deserve to be novelised. It’ll probably go on to be a Booker. Speaking of which, I saw the wonderful, fabulous, Vernon God Little by D.C.B. Pierre on a $2.50 table in Sam’s Warehouse.

I clutched that book. I felt its terrible grey furry-papered pages and the awful little font that they’d crammed across each line minimizing the paper they’d need to print his glorious words. Shame! It didn’t faze me, though. No. Not for a second.

The next novel is already in its specially-labelled, Nette’s Planner for the next major masterpiece, book ready to go. The next picture book is already in its own special folder, ready to go. Actually, there’s a couple of novels in their own books, and at least five picture books and god-knows-how-many drawings and etchings and collections of appropriate materials and I live in fear of fading before the ideas do.

The stampede of new technology rides out with the ferocity of the Four Horsemen. It is exciting and mind-blowing and carries a language which changes and morphs before there’s time to learn it. As does the technology.

I mean, back to Sam’s. There I was, queued up with my new copy of Vernon et al and my Penguin Shower-Radio (my grandson’s eighteenth – I managed to get sunglasses to match – everyone should have a writer in the family if only to be truly amazed at what they can dream-up for a birthday present – a few days/months late usually) – and, right beside me on the chuck-out table was a digital voice recorder for the worldly sum of $10. Now, to all the new technophobes, this is a worthless object already past its use by date but for me… the ease, the possibility of such ease was outstanding. I mean, have you ever tried fumbling a mini-tape deck together in a traffic snarl to record the next line of the book and then discover that you’ve pressed the wrong button. #**!!

Oh, I ramble but there’s a lot there to ramble around.

Back to the future.

What will happen to me? Will I be the funny old thing in cabin 4 who likes a drink or two and gets a bit muddled in the midst of panel discussions? Will I drool onto my cross-buttoned blouse as I nod off when surrounded by subjects like the place of literature in an app and how much is it worth when matched to Barbie and The New Dancing Shoes.

Truly. What do I know?

I know that mastering writing is like catching water. I know that rejected writing is as wounding to your soul as it is to your pride and, as they say, if it doesn’t kill you, will make you stronger. And more determined.

I believe that story-telling and creating narrative are the most precious gifts that can be given and, like Jo, there’s a time to discover what else is out there beyond writing. A time to simply switch off – if you can.

I can’t.

Maybe it’s not time for me yet – even though I begin to feel the pull of different writing master…

So I guess, given a choice, I’ll just continue to write myself off.


scbwi qld

SCBWI Queensland Professional Development 2013 #1

A PERFECT SUBMISSION – from an editor’s eye. Perfecting your manuscript submissions. (Bring along the first chapter of your ms to work on).

Presenter: LEONIE TYLE, well-respected editor and former publisher at University of Qld Press and Woolshed Press, Random House.


Plus: A video presentation for illustratorsWhat do I charge for my work? Finding the right price to suit you and your buyer can be difficult. This 23 min. video provides some thought-provoking answers. A short discussion will follow.

When: Sunday January 20th  @ 10.30am (sharp) – 12.45.

 Where: Queensland Writers Centre meeting room, Level 2, State Library of Queensland, South Brisbane.

RSVP for catering purposes by 18th January to Sheryl G

 Cost: $15 (SCBWI members)  $20 (non-members)

Includes morning tea, smoko, elevenses, elva-kaffe, konkelstik, las onces, little lunch or whatever takes your fancy.

Reading, Running and Realising Books are the Real Treasure!

Do you want your kids to be excited about books? Do you want your kids to spend more time playing outside?

Are you looking for something different for your kids to do so that they’ll look back in years to come and think of it as one of the really fun things they did as a family when they were young and maybe even carry on the tradition?

If you’ve answered yes to all the above then maybe you’ll be interested in organising a Book Sleuthing Treasure Hunt for your own children and invite all the others in the street or neighbourhood to join in. It’s also perfect for a children’s party or a school class.

How to Organise a Treasure Hunt where Books hold all the Answers.

Devised by Prue Mason with lots of help from Jill Morris, Judy Paulson, Gillian Leigh and Sue Collaro.

 Image Image

This activity can be for as little as two children but definitely the more the merrier as they can be divided into two teams.

What you need:

1. At least two treasure hunters ore more divided into two teams – to make it simple make one the gold team and the other the silver team with each having a team leader.

2. Gold and silver medallions for the participants (cut out of cardboard and tied around the neck with string)

3. 20 books

4. 20 clues (these can be put inside gold or silver tins or boxes before they are hidden)

5.  20 signposts to mark the areas where the clues are hidden

6.  2 maps (if you’re an illustrator you can make your own but for others there are great treasure hunt maps that can be downloaded and from the internet and adapted)

7. 2 clipboards

8. 2 instruction poems

9.  2 answer sheets marked from 1 -10 so the hunters can mark each letter in right order as they find them and which will then spell out a full ten letter word. This sheet also needs to have space for the hunters to write their definition for the ten letter word they uncover.

10. 2 sealed envelopes with instructions on how to find the edible treasure

11. 2 treasure chests full of edible treasure

12. At least an hour before hand to set up the signposts, clues and books.

What you do:

1. Draw 2 maps of the area where the clues are to be hidden.

2. Give names to 20 places where you want to hide the clues, linking them to the stories and characters in the books you’re using.

3. Make signposts using these names. Mark these with gold or silver and put these in the ground around where the clue from each book is to be hidden.

4. Divide the books into two groups and mark each map with 10 hiding places, making sure they are marked 1-10 so the hunters find each clue in the right order.

5. Think of two ten letter words – one word for each team and using the first ten books find one letter inside each book to make up the ten letter word. e.g. If looking for a letter ‘e,’ this might be found in book titled: Camel Rider on Page 20, line 4, word 6, letter 2. These instructions will then be the clue. It’s important the hunters find each clue in the right order to make up the word.

6. Repeat this with the other ten books to create the second 10 letter word

7. Hide the clues in the sign-posted places making sure you keep the two lots of 10 clues separate. The paper clues can be hidden inside small boxes or cylinders that can be painted either gold or silver.

8.  Keep the books in two separate baskets so the hunters can return to them each time they find a clue. They will need to look through the book for the answer that they then mark on the answer sheets provided.

9. When each team has found all the clues and spelled out their word they must think of a definition for the word. They don’t need to know what the word means but be encouraged to use their imagination.

10. When they have met this final challenge they can be handed the sealed envelope with the final clue that will lead to the edible treasure


Poem to start the treasure hunt:

Golden/Silver Treasure hunting Team
It is time to test your sleuthing skills
And join the treasure hunt that’s full of thrills
Read these words most carefully
For it tells you what your team’s tasks will be.

A special map will set you on the track
for in this park/garden you will see
Signposts that will be the key
Start at one and end at ten
Seek the golden/silver tins for each one holds a clue
But it is the books that will find the true answers for you.

All ten letters you must get
This will give you the full set
That make a word that’s weird but fun.
The challenge is to find meaning for this one
And then there is one final test
And an edible treasure to end your quest.
So off you go and find your first clue.
good luck to each one of you!

Poem to end the treasure hunt:

Look to the nearest, biggest, greenest tree
From this take steps three by three
Towards a …. (an obvious place such as a wall, window, garden bed etc.
Then in the ground
Dig deeply until the treasure is found.

If all this sounds like lots of work that’s because it is but to see children rushing around and having fun with books does make all that organising worth it.


Welcome to 2013, SCBWI Qld


Greetings, fellow members of SCBWI Queensland

Wishing us all a productive, exciting, interesting and creative year in 2013.

Watch this space for up-to-date articles from writers and illustrators in the months ahead. First off the rank in January 2013 will be Prue Mason, author of Camel Rider, Birdie in the Sky and Destination Abudai.

SCBWI Queensland celebrates a great year

Another year of writing and illustrating is almost at its end. SCBWI Qld members met recently to celebrate another year of connecting and enjoying the company of many of our colleagues and friends in the world of publishing children’s books, celebrating successes and otherwise. 🙂

Some of our SCBWI Qld members
(l to r) Julie Nickerson, Angela Sunde, Ozan Tortop, Anil Tortop, Ally Howard, Lynn Priestley, Katherine Battersby, Sheryl Gwyther, Lucia Masciullo

Our end of year/Christmas party was a great success with yummy food, great company, lots of laughter and even a visit from a hairy gentleman in a red hat bearing gifts. Note: no further auditions for the part of Santa Claus will be needed. We have our star.


In SCBWI Queensland we’ve had member meetings this year in Brisbane with guest speakers, like Michelle Richards, the events coordinator at the Brisbane Square Library (with particular reference to children’s books); SCBWI Qld support team member, Pam Rushby, who gave us a great talk based on an article she wrote about selling your own books at a local market. At another meeting Pam also presented a Professional Development mini-workshop called “Perfect Pitching” following on from feedback from the Sydney conference pitching sessions. 

This year was also the first time SCBWI Qld ventured (physically) further into the state’s regions. Sheryl Gwyther (SCBWI Qld ARA) and team support member, Prue Mason flew to Cairns in far north Queensland. The meeting with members in the north was very successful and funding from SCBWI central will allow Sheryl to fly north again in April 2013 to ensure another regional meeting. In 2013, we’ll also be conducting a meeting/workshop in the Gold Coast region, and a workshop in the Sunshine Coast/Maleny hinterland. All members are welcome.

first SCBWI Qld regional meeting
The Cairns Regional visit

In July-August 2012 we had the opportunity for an exhibition in the Brisbane City Library in George Street. JOURNEY OF A BOOK … from idea to publication. A great success for many of our authors and illustrators. Thank you all who participated. 

Part of the Exhibition at the Brisbane city library
Part of the Exhibition at the Brisbane city library

2012 also saw a competition for our own SCBWI Qld logo – and because of the high calibre of entries from member illustrators, we ended up choosing three. One for this blog (Anil Tortop and Jennifer Poulter), one for Facebook (Jennifer Pearce) and one we use for our banner (Lynn Priestley). Thank you to everyone who entered.

Our new outdoor/indoor banner

This year saw a very successful national conference in Sydney for SCBWI Australia (east and west)/New Zealand. Roll on 2014 for the next one. 🙂

Our newsletter, SCWIBBLINGS also began life this year with three issues already ‘put to bed’. Looking forward to more member input over the new year. SCWIBBLINGS Newsletter Issue 1 2012

Best wishes to everyone in SCBWI Qld for the new year ahead. Hoping to connect up with many more of you over 2013. 

November is Picture Book Month.

My goodness, it is November already.  But before we think about singing Christmas carols (oh no!), this is a  great month to celebrate picture books.

Picture Book Month is an international literacy initiative (since 2011)  that celebrates the print picture book during the month of November – though as children’s writers and illustrators we always value the importance and magic of picture books.

To celebrate the month, a different author or illustrator will visit each day to share their love of picture books, explaining why he/she thinks picture books are important.

Click here to see their 2012 schedule­:

And make sure you look out for Australian picture book talents, Jackie French (November 11), Emma Quay (November 17)  and Bruce Whatley (November 28).

And, how can you participate in Picture Book Month?
There are many ways to celebrate Picture Book Month. Their official website has a Celebrate! page with suggestions on how you can join the celebration!

How can you become a Picture Book Month Ambassador?
Anyone who loves picture books can become a Picture Book Month Ambassador. All you have to do is place their PBM Ambassador logo on your website or blog  and celebrate by shouting out Picture Book Month. In exchange for using the PBM ambassador logo, all you need to do is link back to

And you might like to read SCBWI’s Christopher Cheng’s 2011 post on why picture books are important. Click here.

So let’s celebrate together. More information at

We’d love to here from our own SCBWI Queensland writers and illustrators  as to why you think picture books are important. Please feel free to leave your comment below.

Long Live the picture book!

Post by Helen Ross.

Inspirational words from our SCBWI QLD illustrators

A post from Helen Ross, SCBWI Qld member.

As children’s writers we know the magic that books can weave – and their importance in a child’s literacy and language development. We love words and pictures and feel very contented spending endless hours playing with ideas. We love to play.  Sometimes our best work has come out of an idea that might have seemed silly to begin with. But after tossing in a mix of creativity, thought, play and flair, metamorphosis has occurred. And a wonderful picture or story has emerged glistening, dynamic and spirited. And we have had fun! Though it can be a little hard going at times.

However, many adults tend to lose of sense of play – especially with art.

As roving reporter during Brisbane’s One Word One Day (OWOD) 2012  illustrator event, each artist kindly offered me their words of inspiration to children – in relation to art.

The following pearls of wisdom are from the talented SCBWI QLD members who attended this event.

 ‘They have to play.  They have to be free to draw something even if they think it is bad.  Each time they draw something they improve.’   (Angela Sunde)

‘Unlike mathematics and some other subjects, in Art there are no errors, just a continuous experiment; no mistakes. So this is a good thing for children to remember when they draw – you just keep learning.’   (Lucia Masciullo)

 ‘Use nature as inspiration.  For example, the words wind and rain can be very inspirational as they can be interpreted in so many different ways.  Kids can use nature as inspiration.’   (Peter Taylor)

Paint with your heart.’   (Lynn Priestley)

Great words of wisdom! Now go have fun!

Please feel free to offer your own inspirational thoughts in the comment section.