Win ME at your book club!

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Would you like to WIN an hour with ME hosting your next book club or gathering of reader friends? Tell me in 25 words or less why you’d love me to host your book club (and which of my books you’d choose to discuss) in the comments below. Then, share this post and you’re in the running to win! It’s that easy!

Also, if you’re the winner, you and each person who attends your book club event receive a signed book plate for their copy of my book. Check out the terms and conditions on my website if you’d like more info. Entries close on 12 May. I’m so excited to be part of someone’s book club – and it may be yours! Happy posting!

(Click here for T&Cs.)

Why I Want to Write Children’s Books

Did you know I’m still an aspiring writer? Four books published and another scheduled for 2018 and I’m still in the same place as so many other writers out there: the beginning.

My heart still burns with the passion, frustration and disappointment of the unpublished writer. Why? Because I want to be a children’s author.

Right now, I have half a dozen picture book manuscripts ‘marinating’ in my hard drive, and one young readers’ (7-10 year old) 30,000-word chapter book bursting with promise to get out into the world.

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(Me with my pony Sparky, who stars as a character in my children’s writing.)

The reality of publishing is that is is difficult to cross that magic line and become “published”; and this is even more true for those of us who aspire to be children’s authors. Like so many of you out there, I too am writing, editing, sending out for review, submitting, following competitions and so on. It still doesn’t feel that long ago that I was in this position as a totally unpublished writer. The feelings are all too familiar!

It might be tempting for me to think, oh well, I already achieved the dream of being a published author and making a living from my writing, why bother chasing another one? Here’s why I am so passionate about making this dream come true.

  • Because reading as a child changed me fundamentally as a human being and made me the writer I am today.
  • Because I am a mother, and therefore I read hundreds of books to my son and I SEE him changing with every one we read.
  • And because I am a mother, it would be my greatest joy and honour to be able to cuddle up with him in bed and read to him a book that I wrote myself.
  • Because I want my son to be able to read Australian stories written by Australian authors.
  • Because in my heart I am an educator (and former English teacher), and being able to read and write is the number one skill a human being can have to empower her to change her life. And literacy begins in the laps of the parents who read to their children.
  • And finally, and probably most pressingly, because I have scores of stories and characters bumbling around in my head who are desperate to get out there into the world!

So here I am, an aspiring author, working away invisibly alongside so many other aspiring authors, wanting to write the best books I can possibly create to bring the greatest gifts to the world.

Write on!

 

Looking for opportunities to donate at Christmas? Here are my favourites.

So, speaking of the Christmas Spirit, I thought I’d share with you a few of my favourite charities in case you are looking for some ideas of where to spread your Christmas cheer too. I donate to these charities every time I get a royalty statement too, so thank you for supporting my books because you in turn support these charities. xx

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Kiva

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To see who’s leading the way of amazing things you can do for the world in my list, head on over to the Kiva site. These are TRULY the gifts that keep on giving. Kiva is a phenomenally life changing micro loan site. That means, your money is a loan to an enterprising individual or group and they pay it back to you in tiny amounts at a time. You can literally change people’s lives with a $25 loan that comes back to you and then… here’s the awesome thing… you can send that same $25 on to someone else! It’s incredible. We can change the world with micro loans. I’ve got tiny loans out to people in Cambodia, Senegal, Phillipines, India, Zambi and Peru. I cannot speak highly enough of this charity.

And if you ever want to feel unbelievably inspired and hopeful for the world, listen to anything Jessica Jackley (co-founder of Kiva) has said. She is one of my heroes in life and I’ll be she’ll quickly be one of yours too.

Australian Koala Foundation

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On a sad note… Koalas, our national emblem, our national disgrace.

Did you know it takes fifty (50!) trees to supply food for ONE koala for ONE year?

We are losing our koala trees through deforestation and land clearing and cannot plant them fast enough to save this much-loved, cuddly species from a wipe out. The AKF is very clear: the only way to save koalas is to legislate protection of their habitat.

As their slogan says: No tree, no me.

Twice a year I donate to AKF to buy trees for their tree planting programs, building up crucial tracts of koala networks to save our friends. If it’s too late for the wild populations, then there is always the hope that zoos will have breeding programs to repopulate our land, and if that happens, the trees that AKF are planting right now (on private land, often donated or bequeathed) will be leading the way in providing food for them.

Freedom Hill Sanctuary

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These are our sponsor cows: ‘Teddy’ is on the top and ‘Christina and Batman’ are on the bottom. Teddy is my husband’s cow and the two on the bottom are mine. Cute, aren’t they? We have a real thing for cows. (Actually, we have a real thing for everything, hence why we founded and ran a horse rescue charity for three years and now have a paddock full of horses.) This year, hubby wants to add on a pig. Getting a real live pig is the one thing I have resolutely said we can not under any circumstances get!! I love pigs, don’t get me wrong, and haven’t eaten one for twenty odd years. But everything I’ve read about pigs leads me to expect broken fences, endless ear-splitting squealing and earth destruction! I just don’t think I can cope. So anyway, that’s why sponsoring your favourite animals is a great alternative, and hence why this time next year I’ll probably be showing you a photo of ‘our pig’. 🙂

Book Drive

You’ll likely find a children’s book drive going on somewhere near you. For us, it’s run through our library system in Books 4 Kids here on the Sunshine Coast. Because kids and books just go together, don’t they? And no child should have to be without books, especially at Christmas.

 Oxfam

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“One person in three in the world lives in poverty.”

Wow, right? How lucky we are.

Oxfam’s slogan is: The power of people against poverty. They help people all around the world, including here in Australia, through industry, agriculture and businesses that provide ongoing employment, education and food resources.

And fortunately for all of us, they supply us with great Christmas decorations and gifts for everyone. We do a lot of shopping with Oxfam at this time of year. 🙂

 

So there you go! Please, go forth and be merry! xxx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Should I quit writing?

I am distressed.

Right now I feel like never writing another book. And I’ll try to explain why as simply as I can, trying to untangle the messy political drama that is about to change the entire Australian publishing industry and how it affects me personally.

The government has proposed and recommended that Australia does two things:

  1. Introduce parallel importation
  2. Drastically reduce copyright protection to just 15 years.

(You can sign the petition to tell the government you don’t want this to happen right here.)

How does parallel importation affect me and you?

  • The first point I want to make sure you know is that our contemporaries, the USA and the UK do not have parallel importation. We would be going against them. (Which doesn’t make sense, right?)
  • The next point I want to make is that New Zealand lifted their parallel importation laws and rather than seeing cheaper books their book prices have risen to approximately $37 a book.

When I was offered my first publishing deal (after a long battle of 12 years to crack into my dream career), I was lucky enough to have three publishers offer to buy The Tea Chest. The two biggest offers came from Allen & Unwin and from Penguin (now Penguin Random House). This was a painful decision. Who in their right mind wouldn’t want to be with either of these stellar publishing houses? In the end, I chose Allen & Unwin, in part because it is Australia’s largest wholly Australian owned publishing house, and because I was a total newbie to the scene and I had seen the merger of Penguin and Random House in Canada not long before, and I wasn’t sure what would happen if the same thing happened in Australia. (An aside, I have also published with Penguin Random House since then and still consider them a stellar publishing house.)

As it turns out, my very choice to choose Australian owned may come to hurt me after all.

Parallel importation of books is exceptionally complicated, but let me give you one example of how this might affect my publisher. Books are published by ‘territories’. Australia/New Zealand is one; the UK/Ireland is another; and the USA is another. What this means is that books sell into those territories, giving publishers the chance to make their money in their own territory, without having to compete with the whole world. It also means that they can acquire the rights to publish books from other territories. So Allen & Unwin, for example, has the rights to publish Harry Potter here in Australia. As you can imagine, that gives the company good cashflow. That cashflow and security is exactly what they use to reinvest in their Australian authors, and gives them the change to invest in (and take a financial chance on) new and emerging authors here in this country. With that guaranteed cashflow taken away? Well, let’s say that if I was an aspiring career author I would be losing a lot of hope of being published at all.

For me? I am lucky that I have a foot in the door, a good sales record and publishing track record. Still, my publisher is wholly Australian owned. It doesn’t have the backing of the multi-billion dollar publishing houses that are internationally owned to help it through the choppy waters of parallel importation.

  • Cheaper book prices for you? Not if New Zealand is any example to go by.
  • The market flooded with cheaper overseas books at the exclusion of our more costly Australian-written books? Highly likely.
  • A destruction of Australian literature? Highly likely.

How do changes to copyright affect me?

 

Right now, copyright laws in Australia are in alignment with the UK and USA, giving authors full rights over their work for the term of their life plus 50 years, which ensures that any royalties owing to their estate will go to the next generation.

The government has proposed and recommended reducing copyright laws to just 15 years, giving us the lowest copyright protection in the world.

The government claims that a book’s commercial life rarely extends past 5 years. They also claim that most authors aren’t motivated to write by making money, and those that do make money earn such an insubstantial amount that protecting their commercial rights is ridiculous.

Okay, firstly, I can name many Australian authors who are making good money from their writing–enough money to support themselves as a full time job, myself included. (And, dear government, we’re paying a lot of tax to you too.)

Secondly, even if we take that as a valid point (which it isn’t, just to be clear), what about our rights in intellectual property? What about our right as an artist to have ownership over the piece of art we created (generally spending years at a time to create)? What about our right to have our name attributed to our work 15 years after it was made?

What about my right to NOT have to stand by and watch someone take The Tea Chest and reprint it as their own work, make money from it AND put their own name to it?

What about my son’s right NOT to have to watch the same? Or to read his mother’s book at school with someone else’s name on it? How in any way, shape or form is this logical, ethical or fair?

What about my right not to have my heart broken by this insane treachery?

Does this all sound far fetched? It’s not. Do I sound panicked? I am.

So, yeah. This makes me not want to write anything again. Because I would far rather quit writing than to see my work end up in anyone’s hands to be done with as they please and have to sit by and watch helplessly while it’s torn apart.

Or perhaps, I should leave this beautiful country I call home to reside somewhere else that will give me intellectual property rights. And maybe all of our artists and thinkers will do the same, leaving Australia duller and with a shrinking identity because its voices have been stolen.

Please, Australia. Don’t let this happen.

Please, at least, sign this petition.

Thank you.

 

Filling the Well in 2016

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Hungry unicorn

To keep myself accountable to my unicorn for providing her with input from which to draw inspiration for new work, this year, I am keeping a list of everything I’m feeding her. She’s a hungry magical being–an insatiable appetite for creativity–and does tend to get stroppy if I neglect her.

I’m excited about what’s on there already, and looking forward to seeing this grow. If you have any awesome events you know of in the Sunshine Coast, Brisbane or southeast Queensland area, I’m keen to hear them. 🙂

So far, I have:

Books Read (completed, or at least half way, not including the hundreds I read to my toddler). Don’t be alarmed by the brevity of this list. As I’ve said many times, I’m a very slow reader.

  • Hester & Harriet, by Hilary Spiers
  • Fall of the Beasts (Spirit Animals), Immortal Guardians, by Eliot Schaefer
  • Diamond Spirit, by Karen Wood

Theatre Productions/Music

  • Australia Day (Noosa Arts Theatre), February
  • 2016 Season of One Act Plays (BATS, Buderim), April
  • Educating Rita (The Events Centre), April

Speakers

  • Elizabeth Gilbert, February

Workshops/Courses

  • Cheesemaking, Brisbane, March

Travel (research, inspiration)

  • Melbourne, April
  • Writing Retreat, June
  • Burdekin Writers Festival, July
  • Bundaberg Writers Festival, October
  • Tuscany, September

Movies

  • Under the Tuscan Sun

R U Ok? My life, three years on.

Three years ago, my life was very different.

Three years ago, my life was very different.

This photo recently came up on my Facebook page and it floored me. I was speechless, with my mouth actually hanging open as I stared at it. And because this week, it was R U OK day here in Australia, I thought I’d talk about why it had such an effect on me.

R U OK day is about suicide prevention, specifically, about asking us to engage with the people around us with meaningful conversations about life and how we feel about it. I don’t normally write posts like this, but this image, randomly generated by Facebook in a ‘your memories from three years ago’ way, moved me.

This is not me in the photo, it my Friend, holding my son, then three-months old. I remember that day; I remember it so clearly. I remember where we were, what we talked about, the things we said, the anger and sadness and grief we vented, and also the hope we held that the light at the end of the tunnel we were in must surely be coming.

This baby was everything and he was wonderful and I wanted everything to be perfect for him. But right on this day of this photo, I was living in an isolated town with a newborn. I had post-natal depression. I had post-traumatic stress from a birth that went badly and a litany of physical problems for myself and my baby (and what seemed like endless medical appointments and all-day trips from the country to the city) that followed. I had insane levels of sleep deprivation (quite seriously, in hindsight, I should never have been on the road, let alone driving the highway as much as we were). My husband and I had just received notice that an enormous mobile phone tower was to be built right next to our house, something we found very distressing. (We lived on six acres and our neighbour had over 100 acres but still the tower would be right outside our lounge room window.) I was in the middle of a soul-destroying, heartbreaking, messy, bitter breakdown and breakup of relationships with several women I had considered to be close friends. I was losing a significant business/life calling I had created from scratch (my first ‘baby’, with my identity all over it). I was gutted. My heart was in pieces. My world was falling apart.

And of course, I was trying to keep it together so that no one could tell how much pain I was in, especially the women with whom I was ‘breaking up’ and especially from my precious baby. I couldn’t possibly be vulnerable… I had to be strong!

As for my Friend, her life was in a very dark place as well. I won’t speak of her troubles as they are hers to share with the world if she wishes. But they were even greater, and more difficult, and more life-changing than what I was going through. I was so worried about her that day. I could see the stress and the trauma all over her face and body.

But we had tea (and hot chips and probably some cake). Many cups of tea. And we talked for hours while we sipped that tea, and I fed the baby, and we rocked the baby to sleep, and we talked some more. We could be vulnerable in that space. We were each other’s life preservers that day, holding each other’s heads above water for a bit longer so that help could come to us eventually. We trusted Light would come to us somehow. That it had to get better. It just had to.

So the other day, Facebook pulled out this photo and this sea of emotions from the technological ether washed over me. I was viscerally shocked. Why? Because my life is completely different now. And so is my Friend’s. Our lives couldn’t possibly be any more opposite than what they were that day.

And I think this is important to note: neither of us could see it coming. Neither of us could have predicted it. Neither of us had a plan.

All we were doing was getting through each hour of each day, trusting, hoping, trusting, listening, drinking tea and trusting some more.

And it happened. Now, we are both living our dream lives. Three years on.

I have my dream career that I’d worked so hard for and wonderful publishers I am blessed to call my friends. I have published three books in three years, all of them best-sellers, two of them internationally so, and I have contracts for two more. The success of these books has paid for the renovations on the seriously rundown house we took a huge chance on buying. Yes, we moved house and re-located to acreage on the Sunshine Coast, with all of our horses, which had been my childhood dream. My husband’s business has gone from strength to strength, as has our health and our level of joy, creativity and connections to wonderful people. We are happy, every day.

Now, I’m not saying the past three years hasn’t been the most intense and frantic of my life. But I could never have imagined this life on that day three years ago. So I’m thinking you don’t always need to be able to see the Light on the other side. You don’t always need a plan. You don’t always have to know the answer. I think we just need to keep talking to our friends and family, and drinking tea and hugging and laughing and crying and be able to borrow their strength when we don’t have enough for ourselves.

Sometimes, just drinking tea with your best mate (or mum, or neighbour, or aunt, or pastor, or your kid’s teacher) might be all you need to make it through the day. And you only need to make it through this day. If you look too far ahead it gets scary. So just get through this day. And take on tomorrow with fresh eyes.

Wishing you love.

The Light will come. It always does.