World War One Panel – Adult Program

Story by Rebecca Sheraton

World War One was a defining moment in Australia’s history and we are now in the 100 year anniversary of this event. Three accomplished authors spoke about their experiences of publishing their World War One books – Andrew Plant, Tony Palmer and Sophie Masson.


Andrew Plant wrote and illustrated the picture book titled The Poppy based on the important battle at Villers‑Bretonneux, France. Australia played a vital part in defeating the Germans and this battle cemented a strong relationship between our two countries. The Poppy started off as a silent book. Andrew painted all the illustrations first, then he wrote the words. The words only took 25 minutes to write after spending so much time researching and painting. The whole book took two years to make and two trips to France. Andrew used real photographs he took while in France as the basis for his acrylic paintings. His daughter features in some of the paintings towards the end of the book.

Andrew encourages teachers to download a copy of The Poppy without words and let students tell their own narrative from the paintings first before reading it to them.

TPalmer's book

Tony Palmer is the author of The Soldier’s Gift, which is illustrated by Jane Tanner. He wanted to write a book about the war from a child’s point of view. The Soldier’s Gift centres on life on the home front for family members who are left behind, namely Emily and her father while her brother Tom goes off to war. There is one spread on the war on the Gallipoli Peninsula.

Tony’s book uses the end papers to tell a visual narrative and timeline of characters in the book. He researched many original photographs, newspapers, advertisements and more to be included in the end papers. Tony also drew on memories of his late Uncle Jack and the time he spent with him as a child. His Uncle Jack fought in Gallipoli and survived being shot three times. His grandmother looked after his Uncle Jack and the character of Emily is based on her.

SMasson's book

Sophie Masson wrote the book My Father’s War and 1914 Australia’s Great War. 1914 focuses on the event that triggered World War One, the assassination of the heir of the Austrian Empire.

When writing about war, Sophie noted the importance of making the reader feel what that period in time was like and not just give a history lesson. Authors need to carefully select what information to include and what not to include. To help her connect to the era, Sophie looked at original photographs and ordered newspapers and magazines from the time.

All authors spoke of the need to check your facts. Even sources from that period can have inaccurate information. They also spoke about the importance of correctly acknowledging photographs and images from that era.

Each of these books tell a different side of the war. Thank you to the panel for sharing how they each researched and wrote their books.


Andrew Plant is an illustrator, author, science educator, theatre designer, director and choreographer. Find out more information on his website

Tony Palmer is an author and Art Designer at Penguin. Visit his website

Sophie Masson has published over 50 books in Australia and overseas. Sophie’s website is

Rebecca Sheraton is a children’s writer and primary school teacher.

The Many Story Treehouse Exhibition – Terry Denton

The Many Story Treehouse exhibition in Ipswich has come to an end!

Treehouse f

Terry Denton at the Many Treehouse Exhibition

To celebrate this fantastic exhibition created by Books Illustrated we have put together some snapshots.

Treehouse 3

Ipswich Treehouse at the start

Treehouse a

Ipswich Treehouse later

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Jill, Andy and Terry together on stage for the first time at the Story Arts Festival Ipswich

You can read more about the various sessions held during the Story Arts Festival Ipswich during the exhibition:

Cartooning with Terry Denton, Peter Carnavas and Tony Flowers

Terry Denton and Ann Haddon

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by Yvonne Mes

Designing a Picture Book with Tony Palmer, Ann James and Janeen Brian

Saturday 12th of September, 2015

SAFI Tony Ann

Ann James sneaking a photos of the alternative covers that were under consideration by Tony Palmer at one stage for ‘I’m a Dirty Dinosaur.

This session gave an interesting insight into the creation of a book and the team behind ‘I’m a Dirty Dinosaur’ and ‘I’m a Hungry Dinosaur’.

Author Janeen Brian and illustrator Ann James were thrilled to see the variety of covers that had been under consideration by Tony before deciding on the eventual cover with its equal amounts of adorable and fun.

SAFI Janeen Tony

Janeen Brian and Tony Palmer talk covers

Tony talked us through his process when deciding on a cover, the typography/ font and placement. Sometimes the illustrator is involved in parts of this process, and Ann James had some input into creating different types fonts but usually the eventual decisions take place away from the eyes of the author and illustrator

I loved hearing how Tony thought he had received ‘an environmental disaster’ when he received Ann’s mud covered illustrations in the mail.

Overall it was great to learn more about the creation of a picture book and the roles author, illustrator and designer play in different.

There is a team involved in the creation of a picture book and as Tony says:

‘Usually the apparatus gets it right.’

SAFI Ann James

Ann James talks about her illustrative process


After graduating from Monash University in 1985 with an honours degree in Graphic Communication Tony Palmer has worked full-time as a book designer for various publishers. He has also been a part-time typography teacher at Victoria University and is currently undertaking a Masters in Art and Design at Monash University focusing on the aesthetics of typesetting in Mandarin. As a long-time enthusiast of Australian History Tony wrote his first novel for teenagers, Break of Day which was published in 2007. Following this he wrote The Valley of Blood and Gold, published in 2011.

by Yvonne Mes

Karen Tayleur – Publishing a Picture Book – Adult program

Story by Rebecca Sheraton

A picture book is a timeless classic. Readers remember picture books they loved as children. Their beauty is often in their simplicity and the joy of being shared by readers of all ages. Picture books look deceptively easy to write, but they are not.

Karen Tayleur, author and editor at The Five Mile Press, unlocked the ingredients to publishing a picture book. And there are many. Karen used funny cartoons to add a dash of humour to her presentation.

Karen Tayleur

Some of the magical ingredients include:

  • A good idea
  • A pinch of good luck
  • Strong voice
  • Characters and situations readers care about
  • Believable dialogue
  • Solid narrative arc
  • An opportunity for the reader to grow and learn something without being message driven. The story must come first.

That’s quite a list. Then it has to make it through the slush pile. Karen detailed the entire process of getting a book to print.

Karen noted that it is important to think outside the box on your subject matter or come up with a unique spin on recurring themes like grandparents or the death of a pet. Humour is always a winner, but it must be natural to the author, not forced.

Karen emphasised the need to target the correct publisher. It is also important to list your contact details on each page of the manuscript with your name, book title and page numbers. In your one-page cover letter include comparative titles and any qualifications you have that link to the topic.

In the publishing world, authors and illustrators need to be their own promoter. You need a website with a blog, that should contain teaching materials and relevant social media handles like Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Pinterest and Instagram. Be careful what you post, as people watch you online. Your social media profiles have two audiences: 1) people in the industry, 2) community of readers and schools. These are two very different audiences to reach.

One final tip! Karen spoke of the need for authors and illustrators to network. It is how you get into the industry.

Thanks Karen for sharing your industry secrets.


Karen Tayleur is the Editorial Manager at The Five Mile Press and previously at Black Dog Books. Karen is the author of 6, Hostage, Chasing Boys, the David Mortimore Baxter series and other titles. Find out more about Karen on her website

Rebecca Sheraton is a children’s writer and primary school teacher.

What it is like to visit Story Arts Festival for the first time

Katrin Dreiling

Story by Katrin Dreiling

Being very new to the industry as an aspiring children’s books illustrator, it was my first time attending the Story Arts Festival and the second writing and illustrating festival I’ve ever been to.

I had booked in for two portfolio appraisals with Ann James and Alan Edwards, as well as a few presentations and workshops. Sadly for me I could only attend that one Saturday and somewhat expected it to be a very hectic day.

The first thing that occurred to me was SAFI’s very relaxed atmosphere. There was no rush but plenty of time to network and have chats with your friends at the Illustrators Cafe. I loved that because I think this is where a lot of good things can start from. You could also hang around a bit and enjoy the absolutely stunning illustrations and books on display and for me that gave the whole event a beautiful framing.


Dinner at Story Arts

As I have no sense of direction I got a bit lost trying to find my first talk by Gregg Dreise and ended up in a Diversity in Children’s Literature session presented by Valanga Khoza. I loved every minute of it despite the fact its content was maybe not designed for illustrators!

Luckily I found my portfolio appraisal sessions easily and received heaps of precious information, encouragement and positive feedback. I truly appreciated the fact that Ann James took the time to look at every single piece in my folio – this is not as common as you might think. My appraisal with Alan Edwards went just as well and I was very chuffed to hear that Alan had shown my work to his team at School Magazine so that I could get even more professional opinions out of this.

At Nina Rycroft’s illustrating workshop we could let our imagination run wild creating animal characters surrounded by Terry Denton’s quirky original illustrations. The info I gathered there will help me with a couple of ideas I had in mind for future illustrations.

Photo by Nina Rycroft

Some of the illustrators and authors at Story Arts

I rounded off my Story Arts Festival day with a very informative and helpful talk on the process of publishing picture books by Karen Tayleur.  Listening to these professionals and being welcomed to ask questions, I know I have saved myself doing months of research on these topics.

So altogether I can only warmly recommend the Story Arts Festival to anyone interested in this industry even if it’s only for one day. This lovely atmosphere and massive amount of expertise Jenny Stubbs so very elegantly and apparently effortlessly (she didn’t seem stressed and looked so happy all the time) put together made the trip well worth it.

See Katrin Dreiling’s wonderful illustrations at:

Katrin's pic

Breakfast Panel – Adult Program

On Sunday, Michael Gerard Bauer hosted a comedy breakfast panel with Oliver Phommavanh and Barry Jonsberg.

SAFI Michael Barry Oliver

They talked about early influences, from dads who told very bad jokes, to old sitcoms. Then Michael asked “When writing comedy, what is that magic ingredient that makes something funny?”

Barry: I like humour that wounds. For example, in one of the emails I sent to Michael prior to this, I said I was a bit worried about the name ‘chair’ being used for him. I thought maybe ‘stool’ might be work better on so many levels.”

Michael: I think one of the requirements you listed, was to get rid of me, in order to boost attendance numbers.

Barry: That wasn’t a joke…

SAFI Barry Oliver

They discussed what made things funny (they decided it was the element of surprise), then Michael asked, “Does comedy have serious side, can it do things that drama can’t?”

Oliver: It can engage kids, and it’s also a great way to talk about serious issues, because there’s always a light side to things as well as a serious side. Morris Gleitzman was very good at this. There is a thin line between comedy and tragedy. A few tweaks and it crosses that line.

Barry: As a teacher it is very useful to engage the children, but it is a thin line – a funny teacher or a teacher who thinks he’s funny… it’s a tricky one to do.

Oliver: I used to be a crazy teacher as well. I used to bring out these toys here, [he picks up a Care Bear and speaks in a high voice] “High, my name is Grumpy Bear and he’ll be teaching you art, and I’ll be doing Maths and Science.” I had a year six class and they’d be thinking “What are you doing, that’s just a teddy bear!” After months they cracked and went along with it.

SAFI Oliver

Michael: If I had both of you in my grade eight English class, what would I be in for?

Oliver: I would basically send the teachers into nervous breakdown. One of my teachers was lactose intolerant, so I just wrote these really descriptive paragraphs on dairy milk and cheese products, and eventually he got a rash from it. So mission accomplished.

Barry: I’d be the quiet kid in the corner, laughing at Oliver and egging him on. I’d be writing the A-grade essays while Oliver was getting thrown out.

Michael: You would have been my favourite, Barry. And Oliver… No.

SAFI Michael Barry

They talked about the origin of Barry’s book, My life as an alphabet from a classroom exercise, and Oliver’s book, Con-nerd from his family knowing lots of child geniuses. Funny experiences during school visits included 32 year old Oliver being mistaken for the exchange kid, and one time getting in trouble for being out of uniform. Eventually Barry ribbed Michael so much he retaliated:

Michael: Remember how I said your first book was short-listed for the CBCA award? I didn’t mention who won that year.

Barry went on to tell us how he worked out he hadn’t won because he was asked to announce the winners in Darwin: “I thought this was some kind of clue because the ceremony was down in Sydney which was where Michael was to receive the award. So I read out ‘The winner is Michael Gerard Bauer for The running man,’ and my wife who is in the audience goes ‘Yay!’ and claps. I told my mother and she said, ‘Well it did deserve to win.'”

Thus began their “friendship”…


Barry Jonsberg writes books for young adults and children. He lives in Darwin where he teaches and writes. His books include: The whole business with Kiffo and the pit bull (Shortlisted for CBCA 2005), Dreamrider, Being here, Pandora Jones, and the multi-award winning My life as an alphabet. See more at:

Oliver Phommavanh is based in Sydney. His books include: Thai-riffic!, Con-nerd, Thai-no-mite!, Suff happens: Ethan, and Punchlines.

Michael Gerard Bauer lives in Brisbane. His books include The Running Man (won CBCA 2005), Don’t Call Me Ishmael!, Just a Dog, You Turkeys!, Eric Vale Epic Fail.

Writing for the Education Market with Simone Calderwood and Pamela Rushby – Adult Program

Sunday, 13th of September

SAFI Simone 2

Simone Calderwood

There are many authors who love writing for the educational market to supplement their income while writing for the trade market or as Simone Calderwood said:

‘writing for the educational market is your bread and butter and writing for trade is the cream on top.’
This session benefited from the experience of Simone Calderwood, Senior Publishing Editor at Cengage, with over 25 years experience in the publishing industry and Pamela Rushby who has many books published in the educational market and the trade market.
Simone talked about the Nelson/ Cengage’s PM series which are used in guided reading sessions with primary school children.

Here are some things to consider when writing these types of leveled readers:
• Vocabulary
• Sentence structure
• It has to be meaningful
• the story has to have a beginning, a problem and a satisfying ending
• Stay away from the supernatural such as ghosts, anthropomorphic characters and violence
• A tie to curriculum is also important
In the early years children are interested in stories that feature family, pets and friends and as children get older stories can broaden, for example friendship troubles.
Stories that focus on sustainability and include diversity, multicultural perspectives, disabilities and special needs are also sought after.
Authors are given a brief that include a word-list. Simone and an educational consultant receive the submission and if it is accepted the stories go to an editor and finally the illustrator.

SAFI Pamela

Pamela Rushby

Pamela talked about how she loves writing for the educational market in Australia and overseas. She showed several of these publications.
Pamela’s favourite part of writing for the educational market is the research. She also shared some insights in how to approach an educational publisher and talked about the importance of joining professional groups such as SCBWI, writer’s group such as Write Links, subscribe to Buzz Words and Pass It On, and attending workshops and conferences.

In regards to briefs Pamela said:
• These can be very general.
• Make sure the payment is worth your while. If you have an agent you can use them to negotiate
• Usually the publisher will hold the copyright and will pay a flat fee
• Royalties are more lucrative for the author (Cengage provides royalties)
• Briefs are a competition
• Send outlines, ideas, proposals. This could require a lot of research, but if you are not successful hopefully you will be able to recycle the material
• Sometimes briefs are extremely specific
The best brief is one where an editor approaches you directly and asks you to write a specific book.
Pamela flagged a new area in educational publishing; that of the short text for comprehension exercises.
She finished with these

Seven Ways to Make an Editor Love You:
• Stick to the brief
• Stick to deadlines
• Don’t argue about changes unless for a good reason
• Proofread your work before submitting and check against reading levels if these are being used
• Be professional (not high-maintenance)
• Use the internet, it has made research so much easier
• Send an email or card to thank the editor afterwards
There was a brief discussion around the importance of poetry (yet it is), fiction and non-fiction (these are balanced equally) writing for the USA market (e.g. mom vs mum) and the importance of PLR and ELR in writing for the educational market.
Pamela Rushby has worked in advertising; as a pre-school teacher; and as a writer and producer of educational television, audio and multi-media. She currently freelances as a writer of children’s and young adult historical novels, and also writes fiction and non-fiction for educational publishers. Her historical YA novels have won the Ethel Turner Award for young people’s literature in the NSW Premier’s Literary awards, CBCA Notable Book, and short listed in the Queensland Literary Awards. Pam has also written children’s television scripts; hundreds of radio and TV commercials; documentaries on Queensland dinosaurs, Australian ecosystems, bilbies, the Crown of Thorns starfish and Chinese terracotta warriors; short stories; and freelance journalism.

Story by Yvonne Mes