School drawing competition. Eye and imagination winning drawing by prep student Jed Fraser Monbulk Primary School
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Monbulk Primary School has great imagination!

Students of imagination at Monbulk Primary School

Take a look at the clever drawings from the students of Monbulk Primary School! Some students entered the eye and imagination competition for a chance to win one of 2 books. The winners are Jed Frazer (Prep class) and Samantha Daly (2/3 class). Well done everyone who entered. All the entries where brilliant!

If you haven’t seen it yet this is the video I created about using your imagination creatively. (At the time I posted this it is positioned on the side bar) It uses a simple illustration of an eye and turns it into all sorts of object. This is what the students did for their competition entries.

Monbulk Primary Students Montage of entries. Drawings for the eye and imagination competition.

Monbulk Primary Students Montage of entries. Drawings for the eye and imagination competition.

I was also impressed with some of the original ideas some students created like eyes-cream and the spider and web. There were impressive birds and animals of all kinds and the strange creatures were pretty popular.

Congratulations to all students who will receive a certificate this week. The prize winners will also receive a personalised certificate created just for them and their personally signed picture book. Well done Monbulk Primary, you all have wonderfully creative imaginations.

Scotch College Student cartoons from workshop.
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Fun ways to make faces with students

Scotch College Student's cartoons from workshop.

Scotch College Student’s cartoons from workshop.

Teaching facial expression is one of my favourite activities. I recently work-shopped with the delightfully well-mannered students at Scotch College doing just that.

For further practice , I encouraged the boys to pull faces in a mirror to copy. Exaggerated faces help us understand how the different parts of the face alter our expression. Cartoon faces often utilize the eyebrows in particular to express emotion. In children’s books facial expression is important. You don’t want stuffed mannequin-looking characters that are all facing front when trying to illustrate an expressive story – well I don’t anyway.

Joining forces with over a dozen Ford Street Publishing authors for a special Ford Street festival we enjoyed a day of fun with staff and students. It was a whole day event. Together, myself and Victoria Lane (author of Celia and Nonna) worked with 3 groups of very enthusiastic boys. Victoria spoke to the students about herself as an author and journalist and did a small writing exercise. I stepped the students through a fast-paced practical exercise in drawing cartoon faces. There wasn’t a lot of time so I was particularly impressed with the results.

At the end of the class I asked the students, “Can you draw cartoons now?” With faces beaming, they all echoed a resounding ‘YES!”

For the teachers looking for the cheat sheets I mentioned they are here.

Well done boys!

Scotch College author visit for Ford Street Publishing Event

Scotch College author visit for Ford Street Publishing Event. Victoria Lane

Victoria Lane


Book Week author illustrator visit at Rye primary School. Puppets, drawing, how a picture book is created and more.

Puppets and storytelling during Book Week

My goodness, life as a children’s author and illustrator is a busy one – but incredibly fun!

Book Week author illustrator visit at Rye Primary School. Puppets, drawing, how a picture book is created and more.

We are in the throws of book week (which goes for more than a week) where I have been visiting children in different parts of the state. Storytelling and creative education has to be the best job in the world.

My reward mazimus is witnessing the excitement in the eyes of my young readers. I love it when the children rush up to me excited about what they now CAN do with all they have learned. It is so much fun to ask the question, “was that fun?” and get the response, “It was AWESOME!” I am especially enjoying the introduction of my cheeky puppet tortoise, AT (pictured above hiding in his shell) and friends. You know you’ve hit the sweet spot when all the children unanimously sigh, “ooooh!” when I have to put AT away. I have fallen in love with him also. He has come fully alive over the sessions. I didn’t realise how much fun puppetry was until now!

So far, I have the pleasure of presenting to over 1300 students and I have more to visit still. Tomorrow, I join other authors and illustrators for the Ford Street Literary Festival at Scotch College in Hawthorn. Victoria Lane (author of Celia and Nonna) and myself will lead workshops for grades 4,5 and 6 tomorrow amongst lots of fun happenings during the day.

Book Week author illustrator visit at The Grange Prep-12 College. Puppets, drawing, how a picture book is created and more.

I would LOVE to bring AT to visit your school too. You can contact me for more information via my event booking page or via my agent Creative Net

Thank you to Rye Primary teachers for their feedback this week:

Kayleen gave the teachers lots of writing ideas. I got my grade to draw pictures from squiggles and write about them coming to life.  Amanda Enright – CRT Grade 2. Rye Primary School

Interesting and students were engaged for the whole session – illustration and activity excellent, Thank you. Michelle Venturin – Class teacher. Rye Primary School


Children's education. Literacy Expo notes illustrated.
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Literacy, books, child development and behaviour.

After a full day of lectures and workshops last week I reflected on the clear message throughout; literacy begins before school – the earlier the better!

Growing your child’s brain and helping them to learn

Listening to Barbie Bates (Paediatric Occupational Therapist) I learned about the brain activity of a baby and how early we (adults) influence a child’s mind. I love Psychology, learning more about new studies in neuro-plasticity and the brain. I am a fan of Caroline Leaf since a conference I attended last year in Sydney. This talk elaborated more on the young brain.

Babies brains are influenced by the sound, touch and the sight of their main carer. This aids language and “grows a baby’s brain” regulating it. What stood out as important, was that the limbik system needs to fire up to reach the right sub-cortex, for the child to take in what he or she is learning into the top area of the brain where learning occurs. This explains why children need to be engaged when learning to remember what they are being taught. Put simply, we need to motivate our children to learn by delivering engaging material and have an attitude to match. This interested me as an educator. When I go into schools, I present with high energy and remain animated when I address an audience of children. The disadvantage is that it is hard to get stage photos of me because I am always pulling expressive faces…LOL

Dad can make a difference

Books are important and our attitude toward books influences our children’s passion to read. Dad’s take note! If you find your little boy squatting on the toilet and reading a book because you do, you’re a champion! Your little lad knows you like reading. He watches your movements and is mimicking you. Little boys are more inclined to mimic their dads and other boys. I have observed and it has also been verified by Leonard Sax MD Phd in his book, Boys Adrift that girls are happy to learn from adults in general, male or female.

My conference notes

I pretty much draw every minute I can these days. I like to take my notes in a visual way. I remember them better as my brain learns better visually. As I also learned, my brain is stronger in this capacity. I noticed the other day that I recalled the exact conversation I was having when I went over a line I had drawn hours earlier. Sometimes I can remember a song or moment  even years later. I take my notes in church this way too. It is not only better for remembering the message but a lot of fun. I thought I would post this image for a bit of fun.

Children's education. Literacy Expo notes illustrated.

My education: Literacy Expo notes illustrated.

Language Comprehension and strategies to address learning difficulties

Nadine Shome from mirrored that children mimic adults. Also that repetition was a key element to learning. Talking about early brain development, she also stressed that the mind has more to do with learning than the eyes. Parents and teachers can look to sight as an issue but the mind is more influential when it comes to reading. It is important to understand and accommodate that children learn at different rates. Apart from specific medical needs, repetition is the key to overcoming learning difficulties. In spectrum children and children with ADHD, repetition can strengthen the child and influence their capacity to learn. This talk focused on auditory processing, eyes movement, visual processing and visual memory. She also talked about tools to help children learn and build confidence.

Children's education. Casy-Cardinia Library Corporation Literacy Expo.

Casy-Cardinia Library Corporation Literacy Expo. Workshops and talks by professionals in child development and literacy. Pitctured: From top left: John Marsden, Myself (middle images) Botom left: Amanda Mickelson. Bottom right: Barbie Bates.

Storytelling and Puppets

I attended a workshop with Cindy Lee Harper from Communities for Children Plus on story time which was interactive and fun. I can’t wait to try a few new games with the kids.

I also did a puppetry workshop with Amanda Mickelson. She had an array of different types of puppets and one I particularly fell in love with (pictured below). I have been in correspondence with Amanda on my Facebook page and I have since and told her she is totally responsible for my puppet shopping spree the next day. I am delighted that my turtle is on his way to me from America as we speak – yay!

John Marsden kills off the critical red pen.

The finally was an incredibly informative talk by author John Marsden. He also gifted us with his book, Tomorrow, When The War Began – thank you John! His talk was liberating. I loved his advocacy for creative exploration, original thinking and especially the death to the overused red pen. His message: to encourage children to create with freedom of expression and play, to bridge the gap from ignorance to knowledge, and without fear of adult criticism or over-controlling mentorship (my words and interpretation). He was entertaining but with a strong and important message I totally agreed with.

Draw with your children

Author/illustrator Jeanette Rowe, talked on literacy and play and the stigma of being the best or good enough. I very much related to her life experiences and she demonstrated a very similar drawing exercise I use myself.

A lovely lady who is an integration aid was sitting next to me and feeling a little intimidated by my drawing. When I told her I was an illustrator so had practice she asked for a copy of my drawings as a cheat sheet. I offered to upload it to share. In my 200% way, I created a 2 page lesson sheet. It is basic cartoon drawing make it easy for students and anyone wanting to give drawing characters a go. You begin with basic shapes, create eyes, noses and mouths, then mix and match the face parts to make characters. Jeanette did this by using 2 pieces of paper. One to draw the parts on and the other to trace over them to make the faces. I didn’t think of the tracing idea – thank Jeanette! This link will take you to the download page: How to draw funny cartoon faces – cheat sheets

Cartooning faces cheat sheet for educators and teachers free download

1 0f 2 Cartoon faces cheat sheet for educators and teachers – free download

Casy-Cardinia Library Corporation

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I stayed the full day from 11am until 9pm and all the workshops I did were worth my very valuable time. I can’t thank the Casy-Cardina Library Corporation enough for putting on such a wonderful event. Not only was it packed with professional advice, but it was accessible to everyone. I am finding it more difficult to source learning to equip myself because all organisations charge larger and larger entries into everything. CCLC put this whole expo together and offered free admission – well done! The organisers and staff where friendly and approachable – I couldn’t fault a thing. Pat yourselves on the back!

Pakenham Library

Anyone who lives anywhere near the Pakenham Library would be well advised to join. They have so much to offer members including educational kit hire for educators within the shire. I am dedicating this paragraph to you all in appreciation of a great training day not only as an educator but as a parent. All the children I influence will benefit from this day I am sure.

Children's Author speaking on author platform
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Creating Author Platform Event

Children’s Author speaking on creating author platform

This weekend I have been invited to speak at the Caleb Conference in Indooroopilly, Queensland. The sessions are Marketing Tips and Traps and Children’s Books Today.
Publisher Rochelle Manners (Wombat Books) and I will be discussing author platform with writers from all over Australia and New Zealand.

The conference is a line-up of speakers including many multi-award winning authors, offering their expertise on a wide variety of topics.  A special feature of this conference is the opportunity to have a one-on-one meeting with a publisher. Going to conferences like this can kick-start your career. It may be too late for this conference (not on again until at least 2016) but there are other events like this you may want to looks at. This particular conference is faith-based, though mainstream publications are still represented. The workshops and presentations are valuable to anyone writing.

The publishers’ representatives are:

Member of Omega Writers will be updated on future events and the ongoing Caleb Award.

If you would like to follow Tweets on creating author platform check my Twitter feed from 1.30pm. You may be able to stalk the boards (my session) via the hashtag #AuthorPlatform