Monday, October 5, 2009

Confessions of a Scaredy-cat

Okay, so last post sounded like I was at the confessional! Sorry! But thanks for the comments / emails of support and understanding.

Writing is a scary business. For all of us. With each word we put on the page for others to read, we reveal a little of ourselves. With each book that hits the bookshop shelves, we put ourselves and our work out there to be judged. Scary, indeed.

I still haven't written a word for the WIP. But it's been more because of an extremely hectic schedule rather than because of fear. But I did have time to reflect on what exactly I was scared of.

Summary of Fears:

  • That I wasn't up to it. That the story I was trying to tell was more than I can handle.
  • That my writing lacked elegance.
  • That my writing was flat and dull.
  • That my characters were two dimensional and boring.
  • That my story was boring.
  • That the story that had excited me months ago when I started writing wasn't nearly as exciting or unique or interesting as I had hoped/dreamed/envisioned.
  • That with my current work commitments, I didn't have the time or the energy to become immersed enough in my characters' heads to do the story justice.

And there's more. But none of these fears are new to me. I go through periods of self-doubt with every book I write. And I'm sure these types of doubts and fears are pretty typical for many writers. It is all part of the territory. And as writers we have to suck up all that negativity and get on with the job. (It helps to have wonderful writing buddies to help you out of the abyss though.)

So Suzie, go listen to your own advice, and get cracking!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Truth is, I'm scared

Book Week mania is over, and I've now had a chance to recharge my batteries, hang out with the family, smell the gorgeous salty sea breezes from my front verandah - heck, I've even cleaned the house. Technically, I should be brimming with enthusiasm, ready to smash away at the keyboard every chance I get, building my WIP towards its thrilling climax.

But I haven't written a word. Not one.

I open up my file and read snippets, hoping that will get me motivated. Some bits I read, I know are fit only for the waste disposal, but that's okay - it's only a first draft, I can cope with that. Other bits excite me. I really like my characters. I miss them, even. And I am clear about what is going to happen in the next half dozen scenes. I have visualised the scenes over and over, can hear my characters talking - calling to me. So what's my problem?

Writer's block? Nah - I know what I want to write; I just can't get my fingers to do the walking.

Lack of time? Possibly - I've started a new role at Walker Books, and am now full time, all the time, so this is probably part of the reason. (And the reason I like to hide behind.)

But if I am completely frank and honest with myself, I know the real reason. And it's not pretty.
Truth is, I'm scared.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Packing Away the Safari Suit

After travelling almost 2800 kms (1600 by plane, 1200 by car) to give 11 author talks , 3 writing workshops and attend 5 Book Safari events (including 2 Safari luncheons, 1 dinner and 1 brunch!), it's time to pack away the leopard skin and zebra print outfits and head back to the "day" job.
But it's been a blast.


The surprise "welcome" performance of a dramatisation of Taming Butterflies by a group of Year 6 girls at Meriden.

The nail-biting finishes to the "Who Wants to Win a Sue Whiting Book" competition.

The open-eyed, gaping-mouth response to my readings of Freaky - especially from the boys at Sydney Grammar.

The opportunity to join in with the Queensland events.

The enthusiastic response to some new material I was trying out.

The numerous kids begging me to write a book about the Antarctic adventure story I told.

Favourite quote:

Kindi boy: What is your next book going to be?
Me: A book called A Strange Little Monster.
Kindi boy (gleefully): Yay! It's about me.

And I think he may be right ...
Photos courtesy of Sally Govett at Meriden Junior School. Thanks!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Safari, anyone?

Book Safari 2009 started off with an early morning flight to the Gold Coast to attend the announcement of the CBCA Book of the Year winners and honour books.

It was my happy duty to look after our talented Walker Books' winners: Bob Graham (Winner, Early Childhood category for How to Heal a Broken Wing) and Mark Greenwood and Frane Lessac (Honour Book, Eve Pownall Award for Simpson and his Donkey). Speeches were accompanied by the barks and coughs of the neighbouring sea lions and a wild time was had by all.

Next stop was Brisbane to the CBCA Qld Branch's Book Safari dinner where the highlight was Glenda Millard's poignant and heartfelt speech, entitled, Getting Naked, which dealt with the use of raw emotion in writing. It was truly wonderful.

Saturday morning I trekked to Cafe San Marco, South Bank, for a wild Book Safari brunch with a great bunch of kids. It was lots of fun celebrating Book Week Queensland-style. (Thanks Beth!)

(I also had the chance to catch up with my sister and nieces and nephews, which was an added bonus!)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Children's Book Week Fast Approaching

It's that time of the year again!

Children's Book Week is officially celebrated from 21st - 30th August, but for most, the fun and frivolity lasts for most of August. Perhaps we should change it to Book Month? (No groaning, please!)

Although always hectic, I thoroughly enjoy all the festivities, events and school visits. I love the bookishness of the whole thing - the chance to really celebrate Australian children's literature and to put kid's books in the spotlight (albeit briefly). It also provides me time away from my "day" job, to share my passion for story and writing with others and to recharge my batteries.

Once the festivities are over, I usually finish up exhausted and enthused in equal measures. And I'm often ready to dive head first into my current writing project. (I'm really hope this will be the case this year as I have most definitely stalled on my WIP.)

So where will I be?

Monday, 17th August: Gib Gate School, Mittagong, NSW

Tuesday, 18th August, Gib Gate School, Mittagong,NSW

Friday, August 21st: QLD CBCA Book Week Dinner, Brisbane, Qld

Saturday, August 22nd: Book Safari Children's Literary Brunch, Cafe San Marco, South Bank Brisbane, Qld

Monday, August 24th: NSW CBCA Children's Book Week Luncheon, South Steyne, Darling Harbour, Sydney

Tuesday, August 25th: Frenchs Forest School, Sydney

Wednesday, August 26th: Meriden Junior School, Strathfield

Thursday, August 27th: Sydney Grammar Prep, Edgecliff

Sunday, August 30th: NSW CBCA Book Safari at the Australian Museum, Sydney, 10.30 - 11.00.

As you can see, there are a number of events open to the public. So why don't you contact your local CBCA branch and see what they have planned for your state? Come along and join in the fun!

See you round.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

People power needed

It's been a sad week for the Australian publishing industry. The Productivity Commission's report on the Restrictions on the Parallel Importation of Books was released, recommending that the current copyright restrictions be lifted, thus putting the viability of the entire industry in jeopardy.

There is a lot of misinformation in the media about the ramifications of the lifting of these restrictions. The "Coalition for Cheaper Books", which, interestingly, is made up of Coles, Woolworths and Dymocks, is stating that the lifting of the restrictions will result in cheaper books. This is something that I seriously doubt.

Consider these facts:

  1. The commission itself has stated that the lifting of the restrictions will not necessarily lead to cheaper books.
  2. While Australian retailers may be able to obtain cheap remaindered US stock, they are under no obligation to pass on the savings to the buying public.
  3. There is already a great variation in the prices of books in the Australian marketplace and some of the major chains often charge MORE than the publisher's RRP on a number of titles. Do you trust them to deliver cheaper books? I certainly don't. It is within their means to do so within the current market conditions, yet they choose not to.
  4. If it is not likely that the lifting of copyright restrictions will result in cheaper books, but it is likely to have serious ramifications on the viability of the Australian publishing industry, then what's the point?

We need to act now. We must lobby the government to reject the commission's recommendations. And more than anything, we need to try to gain the support of the book-buying public. We need to enlist some People Power!

It is a complex issue, but the following blogs explain the situation very well:

Have a read. Have a think. And if you don't want to hand over further market control to the likes of Woolworths and Coles, but you do want to continue to read quality Australian books, then pick up a pen and write to your local member, telling them so.

I certainly will be.

Monday, July 6, 2009

How long can a character survive concussed at the bottom of a river?

Have been busier than normal, fitting a number of "author" events around work, as well preparing for my son's 21st birthday. Lots of fun all round, but am feeling rather weary at the back end of it all.
Attended two great events last week. On Wednesday, the Illawarra Branch of the CBCA put on an amazingly well-organised and fun luncheon. I was fortunate to sit with the kids from Berkeley Public School (pictured left). Thanks to Georgie (CBCA, Sutherland Branch) Mrs Hornig (T/L Berkeley) and the awesome Imogen, Crystal, Chelsea, Zoe, Dayna, William and Stephanie for making the day so much fun. (BTW, guys, I lost the piece of paper with your names on it, so I hope my memory hasn't let me down. Please let me know if it has!)
I also had the privilege of speaking at a South-western Sydney Teacher Librarian Network meeting. It is always such a pleasure to be around people who share my enthusiasm and passion for books - makes the job rather easy when you are speaking to the converted. Thanks, Lyn, for inviting me.
Now, hopefully, life will settle down a little and I can get back to my WIP. I woke up with a start in the wee hours this morning as I realised that I hadn't touched the manuscript in weeks and have left young Seth concussed, sinking to the bottom of the river and poor Bailey and Oscar thrashing about frantically searching for him. How could I do that to my characters?! I'm a bad, bad author.
All for now. :)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Lots of Fab Stuff

While I have been busy flitting around the place sugar plum fairying, some other fab stuff has been happening.

In no particular order:
  1. The Firefighters has been shortlisted for Speech Pathology Australia's Book of the Year Award. You can view the shortlist here. As a former literacy teacher, this is sweet news indeed.
  2. It has also been listed by Brisbane's Book Garden Bookstore as one of the top ten books for children for the holidays at
  3. I received a great review for the Sugar Plum Fairy at Aussiereviews. The words "sheer delight" were kinda cool to read!
  4. Australian Women Online magazine did a feature article on me. How exciting is that! You can read it here.
  5. I received a lovely thank you letter and a whole pile of kid-made postcards from the kids at Rossmore Public School. I did a school visit there a few months ago and had a ball! What a great school, and what a wonderful surprise to receive in the post. Thanks, Mrs McGregor! Thanks kids!

Here are some snippets from the postcards:

"Thank you so much for coming to our school. We had a fun time when you were here. I've read 'Battle of the Rats'. It was gross but at the same time amazing. I think you are an amazing writer. I love 'Freaky'. I am reading it again ..." Tianna

"We really enjoyed the time you were here. I thought you were very funny." Taryn

"... I enjoyed making a book and hearing your stories ..." Andy

"... It was so funny I nearly died (which you wouldn't want me to do, I hope). Thank you very very much." Hunter

"... We learned many new writing skills and were inspired to write our own stories. One of my favourite parts was Cooking up Books because it was an easier way of remembering the writing process. It was fun and interesting. We are reading Battle of the Rats in Library and loving every minute of it." Lauren

Wow - doesn't get much better than that!

Now, on the down side, I have to admit to only adding 2 500 words to my current WIP during the last month. That will teach me for bragging about getting to 25 000!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Sugar Plum Fairying at The Children's Bookshop in Beecroft

It's kind of scary standing, book in hand, in front of a room full of under four year olds. Especially when you know that the story you are about to read is longer than your young audience is used to and the chances of holding their attention to the end are slim. So you remind yourself that, if things get too out of hand, you can aways resort to some speed reading or, if need be, bring the story to an abrupt conclusion.
But, oh, one shouldn't underestimate one's audience - no matter how young!
The kids at Storytime at The Children's Bookshop in Beecroft were awesome! They sat and watched and listened, with hardly a peep, as Sarah and I donned hats and wigs and crowns and twirled and "actioned" our way through our story. I'm not sure if they were just too terrified to move as they watched the two mad women at the front, or if they were actually enjoying the story. No matter, we made it to the end, without the need for any diversionary tactics. Yay.
Thanks so much to Paul for inviting us to The Children's Bookshop - what an amazing shop - and for Theresa for sharing her Storytime gig. (Pictured above on the left.)

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Launch Pics

Well, the launch was a lot of fun! Lots of gorgeous sugar plum fairies flitting around the place. A fantastic display of candy making by the talented guys at Sticky. Heaps of clever crafty kids making sparkly wands and pictures. Stacks of enthusiastic participation in the storytelling. And gorgeous sweets to tempt everybody's tastebuds.

Thanks to all who came along - especially all my very supportive writing buddies.

Friday, May 29, 2009

A Sticky Book Celebration

Illustrator, Sarah Davis and I would like to invite all Sydneysiders to a STICKY celebration for the release of our new book: Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.

Where: Sticky – CANDYMAKERS
10 The Rocks Centre, Kendall Lane, The Rocks NSW 2000
When: Saturday 6th June at 2.30pm

This book is packed full of magic, music, candymakers, greedy kings, wicked guards, and sugary sweets galore! It is the second book in New Frontier's Music Box series, which aims to introduce children to famous pieces of classical music. It comes with a bonus CD with the story read by Antonia Kidman!

Watch real candy being made!
Taste some of Sticky’s delicious sweets!
Hear Sarah and I read the story and watch Sarah draw!
Come dressed as a fairy, a greedy king, or a yummy sweet! (optional)

No need to RSVP -
just come and join the fun!
Proudly brought to you by:

Sunday, May 10, 2009

WIP - celebration

Have just passed the 25 000 word mark in my WIP and am feeling decidedly pleased with myself - especially as I am working full time at the moment.

Just needed to share.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Have a STICKY at this!

In my new picture book Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, Marcus and Mary are the finest candymakers in all the land. To help make this part of the story authentic, I spent a number of sugary, calorie-rich hours at STICKY ( ) in The Rocks. All in the name of research, of course!

If you haven't ever seen rock candy being made, it's certainly worth a visit. If you can't make it in person, catch a glimpse of the action in this YouTube clip. These guys are awesome!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Writing Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy

For me, picture books are one of the most difficult genres to write in. It looks dead easy - heck, how hard can 600 words for 4 and 5 year olds be? In my opinion: very.

One of the things I discovered after a number of years of bashing my head against the proverbial brick wall, writing dozens of flat, uninspiring picture books texts, is that I can't write picture books on demand. My picture book texts generally come to me unbidden and usually in response to something I have witnessed or experienced that has stirred me emotionally. I've also discovered that I need to leave that initial flash of inspiration to simmer in my brain for quite sometime: until the rhythms of the language and the voice of the piece, toll bell-like in my mind; until, in fact, the text is almost fully formed and begging to be written. Then, only then, can I can risk putting words down on paper.

So when the publisher at New Frontier rang and asked me if I'd like to write a picture book text for their new Music Box series, I felt very uneasy - so much so, that I nearly refused. You can't write picture books on demand, I told myself. Don't try. You'll regret it, you fool.

But the concept behind the series was intriguing: writing picture book stories inspired by great pieces of classical music and I was sorely tempted. Then when I was given The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy from the Nutcracker Ballet as my inspiration piece - a piece of music I swirled to in my ballet slippers in front of my wardrobe mirror for most of my childhood - I was more or less hooked.

So I agreed to have a think about it and at least to have a try. But heck - was I nervous, definitely out of my comfort zone!

Then thanks to cyberspace, with a couple of mouse clicks, I was able to find U-tube clips of the ballet and within minutes I was six again, spinning (recklessly) in twirling pirouettes around the lounge room and bending into deep (and clumsy/painful) pliƩs, and gradually an idea started to form. Ah - here's to the magic of music and the power of our childhood memories! Several brisk walks around the neighbourhood, a bit of research into the story of the ballet, a visit to Sticky (candymakers in The Rocks, Sydney) and I was ready. Ready to start, anyway, and happy that I had a story to tell ...

Here is a link to one of the many Sugar Plum Fairy U-tube clips. Enjoy.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Look what came in the post today!

Yay! Look what I got today.
An advance copy of my latest picture book, Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. Gorgeous illustrations by the talented Sarah Davis and a CD with the story narrated by Antonia Kidman.
Happy day.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Freaky Interview

Interested in a Freaky interview? I have been interviewed by Sally Murphy - author and reviewer - about the writing of Freaky and also about writing for series in general. Thanks, Sally!

Catch the interview at: and also

It's a gloriously wet Sunday afternoon here, perfect for curling up in bed with my laptop and working on WIP. So back to it.

PS: Watch out for Sally's new book out next month - Pearl Verses the World. It is gorgeous.

Friday, April 10, 2009

It's all in the telling

Many years ago, when I first started out trying to write stories for publication, I wrote a story called The Baker and the Bunyip. It was, at the time, the "best" story I had written. I loved it and was very keen to see it get published.

In my enthusiasm to find a publisher, I rang the editor at an established trade publishing house and very cheekily asked: "Do you have an aversion to stories with talking bunyips?"

The editor laughed (thankfully!) and said, "Well, actually, yes. Talking bunyips aren't really my thing. But send it in anyway as, after all, it is all in the telling."

Well, obviously, my "telling" at the time wasn't quite up to scratch as the manuscript was quickly rejected and returned. But that bit of advice - it's all in the telling - stuck. It is the one truth that informs all my writing to this day.

No matter how wonderful your story idea, how exciting your plot, how quirky your characters - it all comes down to the telling. To voice and style. To the way your words flow into sentences and weave their magic on your readers. It is all in the telling.

Now ten years on, the editor I spoke to is a very well-respected publisher.

The Baker and the Bunyip was reworked and became The Baker and the Bush Beastie. I sold it to Macmillan Education in 2005. (Seems it's okay for bush beasties rather than bunyips to talk!)

And I am now an editor who very frequently utters the words: "Well, it's all in the telling, really ..."

Happy writing.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Playing With Spiders

Any Aussie will tell you that you shouldn't play with spiders. But here's a link to a spider that begs to be played with.

Drag the spider around with your mouse. Feed it some insects and be ready to shudder. Not recommended for anyone suffering with arachnophobia!

Yours in skin-crawling freaky fun. (Thanks for the link, Paul.)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

No Stopping Now

I work as an editor four days per week and have Fridays "off" as my PWD (Precious Writing Day).

My current WIP (work in progress) is a teen novel that I think will end up being about 50 000 words long. At best, on my PWD I seem to be able to do about 1000 words, which means that it is going to take at least one full year, minimum - especially when you factor in school visits, life interventions etc - to get down my first draft. Ouch!

Will I make it?

Answer: yes!


Because I can happily announce that I have already managed to get over 15 000 words down and that means I will keep going until I finish, no matter how long it takes.

I have many 5000 word "starts" on my hard drive - but once I have got over the 10 000 hurdle, history tells me I'm in for the long haul.

And that makes me very happy.
And satisfied!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

CBCA at the Southside Festival

Yesterday I joined a group of authors and committee members from the Illawarra CBCA to do some readings at a lakeside community festival. Stalls, buskers and artists were sparsely scattered along the foreshore walkway for about three kilometres. (So I was told, as I didn't walk all the way to the end!)

To be honest, despite valiant efforts from Di Bates in lassoing and herding in passersby, we were only able to secure two very small groups to read to - which we did with much enthusiasm, might I add.

So what did I gain from the experience?

In terms of publicity and books sold - very little!

But heck, it was fun. It was a gorgeous day. We were sprawled on picnic blankets overlooking the sparkling lake and distant escarpment. I got to catch up with fellow local authors, Di Bates, Bill Condon and Richard Harland and hardworking CBCA committee members and talented writers, Anke Sieb, Vicki Stanton, Sandy Wooton and Maree Smith (and Maree's gorgeous daughters). I listened to three fantastic young girls from Di's Book Buddies Reading Club enthusiastically and confidently recite poetry. And I met a wonderful family who stayed and listened intently to a number of readers and whose daughter, Elizabeth (10), was a delight: an avid reader and aspiring writer. (Her brothers were very patient and pretty cool too!)

All in all, a lovely day, me thinks.

Pics thanks to Vicki Stanton: Above left Richard Harland and moi / Above right Di Bates and moi. Yes, I'm the silly one in the yellow raincoat pretending to be a firefighter. (Again!)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

First Freaky Reviews

I received a lovely surprise last Friday. On my doorstep was a plastic sleeve with a letter and "reviews" of Freaky from the Year 6 at my local primary school. The teacher, who has been a wonderful supporter of my books, read Freaky to her class in a couple of days. She wrote that: "the children forced me to read the last five chapters before Dictation this morning! I agreed though 'cause I couldn't put it down!"

There is no better validation than responses like these - it truly is what keeps you writing and believing in yourself, especially in those dark - and often too frequent - times when you start doubting yourself and wondering what the heck you are doing! So thanks, Year 6 and Mrs B! You have helped charge my enthusiasm and resolve and helped me add 2,000+ words to me latest novel this week. Yay!

Here is a sample of some of the kids' comments: (Sorry I couldn't post them all Year 6! They were all so great.)

"... Best book ever!" Mitchell
"... The story was great and chilling to the bone. It seemed so real. Please write more." Aidan
"... I loved this story. It is really FREAKY!" Emily
"I loved this novel because of how Jayden isn't used to the country ... It was an excellent book." Ella
"The novel Freaky was fantastic. It had everything a kid wants in a book: thorns, skateboards, computer games, spiders, fire and lots more! I recommend this book to anyone from the ages of 8 - 15." Thilo
"I loved Freaky because it's so funny and exciting ..." Sophie
"I hate spiders and it gave me the chills when the spiders came out ... I enjoyed reading this book and look forward to reading more of Sue Whiting's books!" Nadine.
"My favourite part was when Jayden fell off his board and landed on a cactus. It made me have goose bumps ... I'd recommend it to anyone." Zoe

Saturday, March 7, 2009

New blogger. New book.


I have resisted the world of blogging for a very long time - being fearful that blogging would eat up my already limited and precious writing time.(Translation: Give me something else to waste time on while procrastinating about my writing!)

But the time has come. I can resist no longer. So here I am.

And here is my new book: Freaky (Walker Books - Lightning Strikes Series).
The reason I have chosen today to enter the blogosphere.
However, I am already very frustrated as the book cover is YELLOW and no matter what I do, it keeps uploading as BLUE? HELP! What have I done wrong?
Sue the hapless new blogger