Saturday 19 December 2015

Writing in 2016

It's far too long since I posted on my blog though who wonders if it's read and by how many. It's like travelling on the wind and feeling nothing but the silence all around one. At this time of year I begin to assess the 12 months gone and the year ahead. Start making plans, especially for my creative year ahead. Lately I've posted some children's poems written years ago on Australian Children's Poetry, the blog I began in March last year (now it's had 140,000+ hits). Heartened by enthusiastic comments, I have resolved to write more poems in 2016. I'll also finish my humorous children's novel with draft title School's Crool. I've written so little in 2015, but have had five books published and at least another three in the months to come. 

Meanwhile, I will be judging the 830 entries in the Red Gum Book Club's national youth writing competition. Really looking forward to that as it's not often I hear the creative voice of children. 

If you're reading this, I wish you a Merry Christmas with your loved ones, and a creative and successful year ahead!


Monday 19 October 2015

Jo-Kin Battles the It

This recent children’s book was reviewed by Ashling Kwok  in the Australian children’s book review blog Buzz Words )

Jo-Kin Battles the It by Karen Tyrrell, illustrated by Trevor Salter
PB RRP $14.95
ISBN 9780994302106

Blast off on an exciting adventure with Josh Atkins (aka Jo-Kin) and his trusty sidekick, nerdy Sam Jones (Sam-Wich). The adventure begins when the fearless duo win the Super Space Kid contest and set off on a mission to save the galaxy from a deadly alien called the IT.

The battle is on when the IT kidnaps Captain Astra and Jo and Sam must find a way to save the galaxy before it’s too late.  Along the way, they must survive entry challenges, successfully master high tech gadgets and battle creatures trying to destroy them.

This excellent book is perfect for middle grade readers aged 7 to 10 years. The storyline is creative and will hold the read’s attention from the moment they pick up the book. The characters are well-developed and likeable. Readers will relate to them and enjoy going on this journey with them. 

Jo-Kin Battles the It is the latest release from award-winning resilience author-teacher Karen Tyrrell. Over the years Karen has released a number of empowering books dealing with issues that affect us all.

This book embodies many of the elements required to produce a great story but it also deals with important topics such as resilience, team building, bullying, self-esteem and friendship.

The cover of the book is graphically enticing as it is brightly coloured and features interesting images that will appeal to young readers. The illustrations inside the book add a nice touch and break up the text.

This is a brilliant book and is definitely worth a read. It is action-packed and humorous, and will leave the reader wanting more.

Jo-Kin Battles the It is also available on LSI, library services and selected stores including some Dymocks and Angus & Robertson.  

Saturday 3 October 2015

Sad, the Dog by Sandy Fussell

Sad, the Dog by Sandy Fussell, illustrations by Tull Suwannakit (Walker Books Australia) HB RRP $31.99

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

The cover of this picture book for readers aged 6+ years is gloomy, and like the dog depicted, it looks sad. An unwanted Christmas present, the nameless dog is looked after competently by an elderly couple, but they don’t really care about it. They are so disinterested in the dog that when they move house, they dump poor Sad.

Author of Sad, The Dog, Sandy Fussell
Happily, life is not always gloom and sadness; there is always hope. And, into the neglected dog’s life comes a new chance at happiness in the shape of a small boy. Jack cares for his new, adopted pet in the way any pet ought to be cared for and by the end of this story this now lucky dog Sad has a new name.

The author, Sandy Fussell, is well-known for her immensely popular Samurai Kids junior novel series, and other prize-winning novels; this is her first picture book. It’s sure to be a winner. The story is told in clear, simple words that are wonderful for reading aloud, especially by a parent to a child; the watercolour illustrations perfectly match the tone of the story.

Sad, the Dog's illustrator, Tull Suwannakit

Offering hope to anyone is probably the best gift anyone can give another, and this book certainly offers a loveless dog much hope by story’s end.

A page from Sandy and Tull's new book

Tuesday 15 September 2015

Working With a Great Publisher

For about 35 years I’ve been writing books for children and have now published well over 120 titles with a range of big publishers like Penguin Books and HarperCollins to smaller publishers such as Morris Publishing Australia and Dragon Tales Publishing. Although the bigger companies have more clout nationally and internationally and the royalties from them are generally more than that received from smaller publishers, I have a preference for publishing with the smaller. Personal attention, better lines of communication and pro-activity are hallmarks of staff working on small imprints. This is the story of the latest publisher I worked with which has been one of the best I’ve ever published with.

Some years ago I wrote three children’s non-fiction books about cats, dogs and horses which, being all alike in presentation, I saw as a book series. Each contained fun facts and amazing stories about animals - a Guinness Book of Records meets Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Each book -- for example cats -- had the same format as the other two. Awesome Cats looked at cats in history, cat adventures, famous cats and famous people’s cats, TV, stage and movie cats; and working, lucky, spoiled and clever cats. There were many jaw-dropping facts about cats, stories that were amazing but true, jokes and verse featuring cats, and for the true catophiles, there was a list of children’s novels featuring cats.

As well as completing every manuscript, I also created a marketing proposal to help any publisher make a decision to publish. The proposal included the demographics of the intended audience (children aged 8 to 12 years with a reading age of nine), a description of the series’ contents and approach, the main strengths of the series, any major competition (I couldn’t find any), markets to which the series would appeal and an author bio. I then found as many possible publishers for the series and began my submissions.

Looking at statistics in my dispatches’ file over a few twelve month periods, I have found that on average one third of publishers to whom I submit manuscripts never respond. Of those that do, most of them take from three to nine months to reply. None ever give reasons for rejecting manuscripts (which is fair enough as they are not assessors, just industry people accepting or rejecting a product).

Eventually I had submitted to 30 publishers in Australia and overseas but without any luck. Then a small Australian publisher based in Sydney expressed interest. I was invited to the publisher’s office where she showed me books she had published. They looked exactly what I had envisaged for my books – attractively designed with photographic content. All of the books she had published were about animals. That very happy day the publisher said she would send me a contract.

I waited. For months. When I wrote asking when I might expect the contract, the publisher replied (after some weeks) apologising that she was now unable to publish my books; that since our meeting she had closed her doors.

I then submitted my book series to all other publishers I thought might be interested and when I had exhausted all possibilities, I put my manuscripts in the proverbial ‘bottom drawer’. Years followed and I had more or less forgotten about my animal series. Then one day I was reviewing a beautifully designed, attractive and well-written children's non-fiction book by an Australian publisher I’d not heard of before – Big Sky Publishing, based in Sydney. When I saw on their website that Big Sky specialised in non-fiction books, I remembered my manuscripts and made a submission.

I sent my manuscript via Word document attachment by email on 13 January, 2015; receipt was acknowledged the next day, and then on 12 February I received an email from the publisher Diane Evans saying Big Sky was interested. Diane phoned me three days later and all three books were contracted the following month. 

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, and when I was sent samples of the glorious artwork and page designs to approve, I was even happier. 

Diane’s sister Sharon who is responsible for book promotion has also been a blessing in the publishing process. 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. Distributed nationally my book will reach so many more children than would be possible with most other publishers.  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. 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. 

I could not really have imagined that 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.

So here’s an enormous thank you for all of those at Big Sky Publishing for their vision, their courtesy and great communication, and for their hard work turning once rejected manuscripts into books that I feel immensely proud of.

The books retail for $14.99 each. Here’s where you can get Awesome Cats:
                                                                                                                      The distributor is Woodslane, phone: (02) 8445 2300 F: (02) 9970 5002

Monday 17 August 2015

New Play Collection

Out this month is A Gaggle of Giggles (Phoenix Education), a collection of LOL plays for junior secondary students co-written by husband and wife team, Bill Condon and Dianne Bates. All the plays feature large casts. 

Students will soon leave the classroom far behind when they dive into this funny assortment. They will set sail for adventure with such characters as Dotty Potty, Odious Underarmus, Freddie O’Feral, Louis Q Weasel (Q for Cute), Oscar Swindlepuss, and Tazzie Wallaroo and his faithful team of Cha-Wow-Wows. 

The collection retails for $19.95. For more information, go to

Sunday 9 August 2015

Word Farm

Word Farm is an interesting Facebook page which offers a sneak peek into the writing spaces of Australian authors. Some are humble and business like, while others have inspiring views or are adorned with artworks, personal treasures and even toys.  It’s a fascinating insight into the world of other writers. Each guest offers a trinket of writing wisdom, but ultimately as writers we have to find our own path and what works best for ourselves,.

Word Farm is always willing to hear from published Australian authors who would like to be featured. Please email and check out the page at

Friday 31 July 2015


Nearly two decades ago, after a particular long stint of black depression, I was relieved to discover that I suffer from bipolar disorder. It was only then that I realised why I could be so up one week and so down another. It took a while but eventually I was medicated so that I can now function without any mood swings. 

Nowadays, if my husband Bill thinks I might be a bit over the top (symptoms are heightened creativity, speaking too loudly or too often, inability to focus and to sleep), he reminds me to take increased meds. Alternatively, if he suspects I’m slipping into a dark place, again he reminds me to increase my meds. Any time he’s particularly worried about me, we both visit my GP. I always obey Bill and my GP when it comes to my illness.

It’s rare, though, that the usual dose of meds needs to be increased. I am a high functioning, creative and productive person. 

So what’s this article go to do with writing for children?

Last week I had an ‘ah!’ moment. A fellow children’s writer told me that the convener of a national conference had ‘whispered’ to her that I have bipolar. For ten years this conference has been running and despite the fact I was one of its co-founders, and that I have over 30 years’ experience as an author, bookseller, national online magazine compiler (Buzz Words), bookseller, schools’ performer, manuscript assessor, editor and teacher, not once have I received an invitation to present at the conference. Now, it seems this reluctance to have me involved is because of my (very much in control) mental illness.

It could be that I’m being paranoid or perhaps the convener has simply overlooked me. But with the word ‘whispered’, I suspect the poor woman is afraid that asking me might create a scandal of some sort. The mentally 'ill' woman running amok! Imagine it!

The fact is that I let anyone know of my illness because I am not ashamed of it. It’s part of who I am. I have chronic physical illness conditions and a chronic mental illness condition. So what?

I really feel sorry that anyone, including this convener, is so misinformed that they miss out on the opportunity of really getting to know me and to make use of my considerable expertise and my talents.

Friday 24 July 2015


© Dianne (Di) Bates

Not so long ago, my award-winning children’s author husband Bill Condon and I began to meet fortnightly with three other local children’s writers, one being Ann Whitehead (Dangerous Places, Hachette Livre Australia) and the other two who are unpublished, to workshop our writing. Each brings a major current project to the table, talk of the problems we are experiencing, read sections of our work-in-progress, and open the floor to comments, criticisms and suggestions from the others.

It is over a year now since I left a well-established workshop group*; I had forgotten how helpful and inspiring it is to have the support and insight of others, and how inspiring a workshop session can be. Between now and our next workshop meeting in a fortnight’s time, I will be re-working my blighted YA novel, preparing it for re-presentation to the group. Even if you are an unpublished writer, can I suggest that you find – even advertise – for some writing buddies? It can be extremely motivating, to say the least, to have even one supporter, someone you can bounce ideas and writing drafts off of.

Reading what other published authors have to say about their methods also inspires me with my own work. One of my favourite American writers is Lois Lowry, twice winner of the prestigious Newbury Medal (I especially love her book, The Woods at the End of Autumn Street.)  Below are some answers I found this week that she gave to common writing problems: her answers helped me with some questions I am grappling with at the moment. I hope you find it helpful, as well.

What advice do you give to authors who would like to develop their writing voice? What suggestions do you have for creating self-discipline at writing? 
As for "voice": I feel that you should write a book as if you are writing a letter to a friend: telling about something interesting, something meaningful, that has happened. It should be an intimate and private telling, friend to friend. It should be YOU, laughing, crying, teasing, angry, relating events, inviting your close friend to pay attention, to empathize. That will be your voice, a recognizable one.
The question about self-discipline is a tough one for me. I don’t think self-discipline is a problem if you are doing work that you love and that you feel is important. I can’t imagine anyplace that I’d rather be than right here, at my desk. I need self-discipline to make me get up and take the dog for a walk, or to cook dinner!

How do you get beyond just an idea? How does an idea become a story? 
Some ideas don’t. Sometimes what seems like a wonderful starting point - a wonderful idea - turns out to be no more than an anecdote. You have to look beyond a "beginning" to see if there is any depth to it, any reason for sitting at a desk for month after month laboring over it, any reason for a publisher investing thousands of dollars into it, any reason for kids to pick it up and care about it. Does it have anything to say beyond the superficial? I think that’s the key, for me.  

What do you think are the key elements when writing a book? When you have your ideas do you write a set plan of what will happen in the plot of the story? 
I have occasionally listed the elements - each of them leading to the next - of a successful book as 1. character; 2. quest; 3. complications and choices; 4. catastrophe; 5. conclusion, and 6. change.
I think most writers and teachers of writing would probably agree that some similar list applies.
But - in my opinion - it doesn’t work to make the list and then try to create the story to fit it. You create the story first; later, you see how and where it fits the pattern; finally, you make the necessary revisions which will become apparent at that point. You may find, for example, that the catastrophic event (#4) - upon which the concluding events (#5) should be predicated - occurs too early. Or (and this is quite common a flaw) that the character, who should have experienced growth as a result of the events throughout the narrative, has not really undergone a change (#6).

 * This workshop, which met fortnightly for five years, and was originally composed of six children’s authors, folded when some of the members moved to mostly writing adult science fiction and fantasy. There are now two groups – one writing for adults, and the other, to which I belong, are writing for children.

Dianne (Di) Bates has published 130+ books for children. Her most recently published titles are Nobody’s Boy (Celapene Press, 2013 CBCA Notable) and A Game of Keeps (Celapene Press, 2014), Here Comes Trouble! (Dragon Tales Publishing) Her website is

Saturday 27 June 2015

Children in Care

Even though I’ve written dozens of books (more than 120 and counting), it’s always an exciting time when a new book hits the shelves. My latest, due out in July, is a novel for young readers aged 8 to 11 years. Here Comes Trouble! is based on a boy I knew, one of five siblings, whose parents were addicts. The boy's family lived close to where my husband and I lived. He and his brothers and sisters ‘adopted’ us as ‘Nanny’ and ‘Poppy Bill.’ Sometimes the children came to us for food, other times we took them out, gave them gifts for Christmas and birthdays, or we shopped for groceries for the family. Sometimes we lent money to their parents.

It always upset me that their mother frequently kept them home from school. I talked to their school and became aware that the family had a caseworker, that the authorities were aware of their situation. I worried a lot about the domestic violence in the home and other adult abuses the children suffered, so it came as a relief to me when I discovered that all five had been taken from their parents and put into care. 
Months later I ran into them and was amazed by the differences in them – happy, smiling and clean children who seemed much calmer. Yes, their carer told me, they were attending school every day and coming on in leaps and bounds in their learning and socialising.

Here Comes Trouble! is a fictional story but with a background of five siblings taken into care. The oldest boy struggles to fit into his home and his school life. Friendless, he accepts the company of an older boy who leads him into trouble with the police. Happily, there is an older couple which helps him and his siblings when their parents fail them. As with the children I was ‘Nanny’ to, they are taken into care where they live happily, all the while wanting the return of their parents.

Recently, I’ve heard of several academics who are researching Australian written books for young readers that feature foster children. Both academics have been surprised to see how few there are -- even though thousands of children in our country are taken into care every year. 

As a foster mother, I too looked for books to read to children we cared for: at the time all I could find that fitted the bill were books by American authors -- The Pinballs by Betsy Byars and Ruby Holler, Sharon Creech. 
Here Comes Trouble! is my third book about foster children: the others are Nobody’s Boy and A Game of Keeps (both Celapene Press books). 

Here Comes Trouble! is published by Dragon Tales Publishing RRP $14.95.

Wednesday 24 June 2015

Harry Helps Grandpa Remember

In her most recent book Australian author Karen Tyrell tells about the special love between a little boy and his grandpa who was Alzheimer’s. Harry will do anything to help his grandpa remember. Karen says, ‘this is a heart-warming story, full of humour and hope.’ 

Harry Helps Grandpa Remember is now on Amazon world-wide as a print Book and as an eBook. ISBN: 9780987274083

Here is a review that appeared recently in the Buzz Words blog

Harry Helps Grandpa Remember written by Karen Tyrrell, illustrated by Aaron Pocock (Digital Future Press)
PB RRP $15.95
ISBN 978-0-98727-408-3 
Reviewed by Peta Biggin

Harry and Grandpa love to play hide-and-seek together.  However, Harry starts to notice changes in Grandpa.  He’s become grumpy, confused and forgetful – even forgetting Harry’s name.  Harry is hurt and sad but decides that he will do whatever he can to help Grandpa remember the things he’s forgotten.

Harry Helps Grandpa Remember is an uplifting story about the important, supportive role family can play in the lives of those suffering from Dementia. Harry is hurt and distressed at the decline of his grandpa, feeling the loss of a friend and playmate.  However, rather than withdraw from the relationship, Harry comes up with lots of wonderful ways he can both reconnect with his grandpa and help him to reclaim his lost memories.

Harry Helps Grandpa Remember tackles a confronting topic in a positive and encouraging way.  The focus is always on what can be gained and enjoyed from such a difficult situation; activities that can easily be undertaken by most children to ensure a continued participation in their relative’s life. 

It is the little things that we sometimes take for granted – a walk through familiar surroundings, a song – that are presented here as the important tasks anyone can enjoy with a relative suffering from Dementia.  In doing these, we see Harry not only bring something back to his grandpa but also take the first steps in adjusting to what will be a constantly changing relationship. This is a very hopeful book, however there is no unrealistic happily-ever-after on offer.  Grandpa does not recover; however, his recollection of Harry’s name is celebrated as the blessing it is.

Aaron Pocock’s illustrations are fun and energetic.  With lots of colour and detail, they are a beautiful accompaniment – reflecting the optimism and positivism of the story. Karen Tyrrell is an Australian author of both adult and children’s books.  Her books for adults include Me and Her: A Memoir of Madness and Me and Him: A Guide to Recovery about her own battles with mental illness.  Her children’s books include Bailey Beats the Blah (a coping skills picture book) and STOP the Bully (a bully prevention mid-grade novel).  She can be found online at

Aaron Pocock is an English artist/illustrator who is based in Brisbane.  He illustrates children’s books, book cover, CD sleeves and almost anything else.  He also works in a find art capacity producing watercolour, acrylic and oil paintings.  In 2011 he was chosen to illustrate the Australia Post stamp set ‘Mythical Creatures’ (for Children’s Book Week).  He can be found online at

To celebrate, Harry will be visiting these author sites:
22 June: Harry Helps Grandpa Remember  Now on AMAZON   

23 June: Ali Stegert Interview
25 June: Robyn Opie Interview
25 June: Jackie Hosking Review
26 June: Charmaine Clancy Author Platform
29 June: Sally Odgers interview
30 June: Jill Smith Review
30 June: June Perkins Interview
1 July Dimity Powell Review
Please leave a comment on any of the sites above for a chance to win an eCopy of Harry Helps Grandpa Remember. There are five copies to be won with the winner announced 3 July. Good luck

Friday 20 March 2015

Signing Your First Book Contract

© Dianne Bates
Getting one’s first contract is probably the highlight of a new author’s writing life (next to first hearing that a publisher wants to publish her book). However, it can be easy to receive the contract and in a moment of blissful ignorance, sign and date it with a flourish – only to later discover you have signed your life away. I’ve signed hundreds of publishers’ contracts over the past 30 years, so I, too, have blundered along the way. Here are a few "nevers" I would suggest when signing a contract:
* Never let a publisher bully you. Never! If you are inexperienced or nervous and you have a contract, then is a good time to contact a literary agent and get them to negotiate on your behalf. (Agents are more interested in writers who already have contracts.) Alternatively you can contact the ASA (Australian Society of Authors), a private arts lawyer or the Arts Law Centre, all of whom will advise you on what rights you should accept.
If at any time during negotiations, the publisher tries to bypass your agent re the terms of the contract, be firm and refer them to your agent.
* Do not sign the option clause in your contract. The option clause basically says that you agree to submit your next manuscript to the company. It is unnecessary and for many reason it’s to your advantage not to. You can always submit your next work to the same publisher who gave you the first contract. Or to anyone else!
* Never sign with book publishers for "devices which might be invented in the future" Negotiate these separately, when the publisher is ready to publish via non-book means.
* Never assign CAL (Copyright Agency Licence, or photocopying) payments to your publisher, but DO register your book with CAL as soon as it is published
* Never let your publisher take your share of ELR and PLR payments. (If in doubt, ring the Lending Rights' people and ask them what to do). Lending Rights is a Federal Government payment to compensate authors for their books held in public and educational libraries.
* Never refuse to take an advance against royalties. Even if it's only $300, take it. If a publisher says he can't afford it, find a publisher who can afford it. Do you want to deal with a liar? Advances should always be non-returnable. If the contract is signed and your publisher reneges, you are entitled to what is known as a "kill fee" which compensates you for the work you have done, or have missed out on doing.
* Never take a flat fee payment: if you do, then you will never get ELR and PLR payments which are worth a lot of money to you over a period of time. Lending Rights payments are only made where there is a continuing interest in the book (ie royalties coming in).
Always check every single clause in your contract: be especially careful with percentages on subsidiary rights and book club deals. Also, watch the translation and film rights clauses and make sure you negotiate for as much as you can.
·      Re negotiation tactics, put everything in writing. Talking to publishers in person or on the phone about contracts can be emotionally charged, so it is best to put it in print (either email or snail mail) and keep paper copies of all email exchanges. Create a paper folder marked with the publisher’s name and keep papers in consecutive date order, including royalty statements, letters (or emails) to and fro etc. Date everything. This will prove very helpful in the long run if you need to check on anything, or if there is a legal problem.
 If it is difficult for you to negotiate your contract, get an agent, a lawyer or the Arts Law Centre to negotiate on your behalf.
If you negotiate for rising royalties make sure you keep an eye on the number you sell and let the publisher know if they conveniently forget that the clause is there. A rising royalty means you are to receive a greater percentage of royalties depending on book sales. You might, for example, have a royalty of 10% on the first 3,000 copies sold, rising to 12% thereafter.
Don't let all your great talent and many hours of work be under-valued by yourself and/or your publisher!
Whenever you receive a royalty statement, always check how many copies there are remaining; if it approaches 50 (which indicate the book is close to going out of print) immediately write to the publisher and give notice to reissue or reprint the book. If they don’t want to do so, ask to buy remainders at discount (offer 50 cents, and negotiate from there.) According to your contract, when the book goes out of print, the rights will revert to you so you can get your book published elsewhere, if you wish. Get the publisher to put it into writing that rights have reverted to you. I have done this quite a few times.
Sometimes publishers decide to get rid of stock in their warehouse. There can be numerous reasons for this, including old stock making way for new, or stock not selling and taking up valuable space. In any case, most contracts indicate – or should, as it is to your advantage – that the author gets first right of refusal. Having remainders means that you can dispose of them as you wish (donate them to schools, give them as gifts to family and friends, or sell them.) Often the publisher will offer the remainders to you at a certain price. But it is better if you make the first offer. I generally ask to buy remainder stock (which might be up to 1,000 copies) at 50 cents a copy. The publisher will agree or (mostly likely) make a counter offer. Always make sure that the agreement you reach results in the publisher paying the freight charges (they get them a lot cheaper that you will.)
You can sell your remainders at RRP, if you wish, or at discount at
                            Your local schools
                            To book shops
                             Schools where you present
                             Via the internet
                             Via your website
                              By mail order
If you donate your books to organisations, such as schools or charities, you can claim a tax deduction (as a donation or for promotional purposes).
If giving the books away is part of your marketing yourself as an author, you can also claim a tax deduction. Make sure you keep accurate transaction records, including date, price, quantity and customer. I was once stuck with 500 CD books which I was unable to sell, so I donated them to a teachers’ organisation which had a stall at a national conference; that year I made a bonus tax deduction as a result.
Dianne (Di) Bates is the author of 120+, many of which are now out of print. Her most recent books are The Girl in the Basement (Morris Publishing Australia), Nobody’s Boy (Celapene Press) and A Game of Keeps (Celapene Press). Di’s website is  Di also offers an online course for those wishing to write for children.

Saturday 14 March 2015

Writing Competition: The Historic Beginning Challenge

For many authors, re-publishing in digital formats means the title, cover, blurb and opening sentence become even more important, because that’s all prospective buyers see. Sometimes the online catalogue or listing allows prospective reader to look at a sample page and often this includes the opening paragraph.

Your challenge is to write two different 100 word openings to the same short story, novel or non-fiction piece. Each must introduce the character, setting and conflict. Content can be the same. It must be your original story and probably is your W.I.P.(work in progress). Labelled Buzz Words Historic Beginning Challenge, these can be emailed to  

Closing date is 30 April. The winner who will be announced in Buzz Words will be sent an e- copy of Authorpreneurship: The Business of Creativity and Fake ID the YA family history mystery for adolescent readers, plus some other autographed print titles such as Chopper Rescue Stories and Activities for mentoring and guided writing.

Below is the opening to my novel, Fake I.D., a YA family history mystery where Zoe investigates who her gran really was.


It was printed in black on the package.

So I opened it. Gran was dead. So in one way, it was OK to open her envelope. On the day of your gran’s funeral, you expect to say goodbye to her, help pack up the house and her belongings and even arrange for her dog to be looked after. But you don’t expect to find out that she was someone else.                                                                                                                                        
Fake ID, that’s what my gran had. For years and years. Now I don’t know who she really was. But I’m going to find out. I have to.

Check out  for background articles, especially

For a free issue of Buzz Words, an online magazine for people in the children's book industry, write to 

Saturday 7 March 2015

The Anti-Good Kids Book Rant

Just recently I read a book in a children's series titled The Anti-Princess Club published by one of Australia's top publishing houses. It was the author’s attempt to indoctrinate young girl readers into feminism. Basically, the idea is take a trio of girls who want to overcome parental expectations (that is, parents treating them like princesses) and have them figure out ways in which they can be ‘themselves.’

I agree that all young people – boys as well as girls – ought to be raised without stereotypical, sexist expectations, but this book seemed to be just ticking all of the boxes. At the moment, too, there are (and I counted) over a dozen book series for girls who have happy adventures with minor hiccups they need to explore and come to terms with.

I have to say it or I’ll explode! I am heartily sick of children’s books like those above, especially novels for pre-teens, which are about middle-class children with middle-class expectations and petty problems. Sadly, books these days are written by middle-class authors, accepted for publication by middle-class editors and chosen for children by middle-class parents, grand-parents and librarians.

Where are the junior novels about children from dysfunctional or disadvantaged children, and/or children from working class families? Where can a child who’s in care read a book about herself? 

What book can the child whose parents are unemployed or who drink too much, or take drugs, have mental illness, or live their lives in confusion, find another child like himself? Which books can these unfortunate children read about kids like themselves which show how those kids manage to find hope in what might seem like a hopeless world?

I want to see – I demand to see -- books which challenge young readers to go beyond their comfortable, middle-class existences. I want young readers to see children like some of their peers who struggle on a daily basis. Where are the publishers brave enough to take on such novels? Where are the writers prepared to go beyond the boundaries of their safe little worlds?

Yes, reader, I am writing them! Nobody’s Boy (Celapene Press), A Game of Keeps (Celapene Press), Here Comes Trouble! (Dragon Tales Publishing) – and two more which are currently looking for a publisher: The Very Best Teacher and To the Moon and Back

The only children’s author of novels for younger readers I can name is the UK’s Jacquelyn Wilson whose books – like The Illustrated Mum, The Suitcase Kid, Tracey Beaker -- are immensely popular. Check out her books me know if you have read any books such as I’ve described – I want to read them, too!