Category Archives: Guest Posts

Working with an Awesome Publisher

Guest Post By Dianne (Di) Bates

Dianne (Di) Bates, award-winning author of over 120 books for children, recipient of The Lady Cutler Award 2008, and founder of the popular Buzz Words e-zine, reflects on her most recent publishing experience with Big Sky Publishing.

imageWorking with Australian publisher Big Sky Publishing to produce my two latest books, Awesome Cats and Awesome Dogs has been, in a word, awesome! I emailed my manuscripts in late January this year, receipt was acknowledged the next day, and them less than three weeks later I received an email from the publisher Diane Evans saying the company was interested. Submitting a manuscript and having it contracted in less than two months is something I hadn’t experienced in many years. This was the beginning of what has turned out to be a very happy journey for me.

The publisher was a total delight to work with; I was constantly told what was happening and my opinion sought and when I was sent samples of the artwork to approve, I was even happier. Each of the books feature lots of gorgeous illustrations combined with coloured photographic images of adorable dogs and cats from Best Friends Rescue and Little Legs Cat Rescue. The inclusion of real-life images and stories of the charismatic animals from these pet rescue organisations adds another level of education and inspiration. The books also feature quirky cartoon characters; the information is attractively presented with lots of break-out boxes – the whole of the books are all wonderfully designed.

Big Sky Publishing also promotes their titles via schools through Redgum Book Club, focusing on quality children’s books for children aged 4 to 13 years of age. Diane Evan’s sister, Sharon, who is responsible for book promotion, has also been a blessing in the publishing process. On top of that, Jodie Bennett, who also works with the Evans’ sisters, has been responsible for the production and delivery of bookmarks and posters – all in full, bright colour, and like the illustrations in each of the books, beautifully designed and presented.

imageI could not have imagined that the Awesome Cats, Dogs and Horses’ books would turn out as brilliantly as they have. My whole experience with Big Sky Publishing from start to finish has been an author’s dream… in fact I really couldn’t have dreamed it, only hoped for it. What is also exciting is that the company will publish two more awesome books in mid 2016: Awesome Horses and Awesome Kids. I’m sure they will be just as awesome as the two coming out on 1 October this year.
Each paperback book has about 150 pages and retails for $14.99. The books will also be available as e-books ($6.99) and distribution to bookshops is through Woodslane, phone: (02) 8445 2300 F: (02) 9970 5002,,

People can also buy the books at the following links:
Awesome Cats … and Awesome Dogs.
Details about Dianne (Di) Bates
Twitter: @dibatesauthor
Blog: Writing for Children

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Filed under Book News, Book Reviews, Guest Posts

Just Andy

Guest Post by Katrina McKelvey

I’m a self-confessed reluctant reader. I know what it is like to do anything to avoid reading. As a child I climbed trees instead.

Andy Griffiths has showed me how to love books. He’s my inspiration! Here’s how it all happened …

‘Laughter is the reward for even the most reluctant reader.’ – Andy Griffiths 2014

The year was 2002

I discovered the power of books well into my teacher career. I can’t remember how, but ‘Just Tricking’ by Andy Griffiths landed on my desk. Over the next few years my class and I would lie on the floor after each lunchtime and soak up every word of the ‘Just’ series. It was a powerful bonding experience.


Not long after I started my journey of writing for children, I learnt Andy was going to be at the Sydney Writers’ Festival. I was so going!

I sat in the lecture room mesmerised as he spoke and read from his books. I laughed as much as the children. I was uplifted. However, I was too shy to approach him, take a photo or line up for a book signing.


The following year I was given a trip to the Byron Bay Writers’ Festival for my birthday. Andy was going to talk to adults and mix with the kids.

As he had talked a lot about ‘The Bad Book’ at the SWF the year before, I bought a copy and went to line up to get it signed. By the time I got there, he’d gone.  I’d missed out. I was devastated! Within minutes the most amazing thing happened – THE MOST AMAZING THING!!!!

I saw Andy on his own so I plucked up the courage to go and speak to him. He talked to me – no lines, no people, just us. We chatted about my former teaching career and how to navigate my new writing career.  OMG! The conversation was mind-blowing. He signed my ‘The Bad Book’ in the most unusual way too.


Then he went riffling through his bags. He pulled out and gave me some sample exercises from his upcoming book, ‘Once Upon A Slime’. No way! Then Morris Gleitzman joined the conversation, followed by John Marsden. NO WAY! There I was having a conversation with Andy, Morris and John in a paddock out the back of Byron Bay. HIGHLIGHT OF MY LIFE! And my biggest regret … no photo!


Two years later I met Andy again at the CBCA National Conference in Canberra. I took my 1999 copy of ‘Just Tricking’ for him to sign – the copy that landed on my teaching desk in 2002.

image  image

I also asked him to sign ‘The Very Bad Book’ for my son in a very special way. Looks familiar?


He also signed, ‘The Day My Butt Went Psycho’ with a special message for Aidan on his 8th Birthday.

For Aidan. Have a really smelly 8th Birthday. Andy.

For Aidan. Have a really smelly 8th Birthday. Andy.

Photos weren’t allowed in the signing line so I high-jacked him in the foyer of the conference venue. He was very obliging and he even introduced me to his publicist. She took the photo!



Later the same year, I returned to the Byron Bay Writers’ Festival . We had another chat and I got a few more books signed. From there, we agreed I would be known as ‘Katrina from Newcastle’.



Earlier this year I attended the SWF again. I took my son as he is also a huge Andy Griffiths fan. After an early start and a long train trip we arrived to discover we had missed out on getting into his session so we listened and peeked through a gap in the wall of red curtains.


We waited for nearly two hours to reach the top of the signing line. Aidan had his special moment … another one for me too!

image image image

Andy asked me how I broke my arm. I told him I fell out of a treehouse! I actually fell out of my own house – down 2 steps into the garage – but I thought it was funny! He does humour better than I do.

My next mission? To catch up with Terry Denton. We’ve already met but that’s another story.

Melbourne 2013.

Melbourne 2013.

I hope others have had similar experiences as I have. I’d love to hear about them.

Written by Katrina McKelvey, author of ‘Dandelions’ to be released October 2015.

** Thanks Katrina! An awesome read. **

*** Andy Griffiths is celebrating his birthday today! Happy Birthday from everyone at Just Write For Kids Australia! 😀 *** IMG_9481


Filed under Events, Guest Posts

Useful Links to Help Flush Blockages! 

Guest Post by J.R.Poulter

My tried and true way to overcome a bit of a blank spot in writing is to leave it.  Down pen or off computer and do something else totally unrelated for a while. If the story then doesn’t flow the way I want, I put it away till I feel inspired to dig it out again.

However, we don’t always have the luxury of putting something aside. Competitions have deadlines. Publishers have deadlines. We live in a world that is constantly ticking down to the buzzer!

The links below might give you some ideas for those critical situations.

Having difficulty describing the feelings you want to attribute to your character? Use the Patrick Allan Vocabulary Wheel.


Peter Taylor dug out this one to help develop characters – Found at Character Secrets.

Stuck for the perfect name for your character? Try this site for a choice of one or two first names, surname, sex and ethnicity.

Need a name for a fantasy character? This generator is specially designed to give you names for fantastical creatures and magical beings.

If you are a bit techy and like to generate really sophisticated fantasy names, give this one a go.

One just for fun, to see how weird it could possibly get! This site gives everything from plot twists [really twisted ones] to location names.


Have fun and clear away those cobwebs at the same time!


Written by J.R. Poulter.

Web addresses:


Filed under Guest Posts, Writing Tips