Would I have kept writing poetry if…?

Would I have kept writing poetry if it hadn’t been for The School Magazine?

Yes . . .but

it’s the excitement of acceptance!

The whizz-bang in your tum that your work’s been read and appreciated and it’s going to be in print for children to read!

That’s the buzz.

It can brighten your whole day.

There’s a deep, satisfying thrill that comes with having your work both accepted and then illustrated by such wonderful creators, including Kim Gamble, Tohby Riddle, Kerry Millard, David Legge, Bronwyn Bancroft, Gaye Chapman, Stephen Axelson, Matt Ottley, Vilma Cencic, Peter Sheehan and Tom Jellet.

That’s due not only to the quality of the magazine and its remarkable endurance, but also the reputation of the team steering each issue to publication.

Today I’ve included the poem, Jigsaw Bits. It was the first poem I ever had published by the magazine in 1983. It’s illustrated by Walter Cunningham in black-and-white, as were all illustrations at the time.


And here’s the last poem: Magpie Morning, which was only accepted a week ago. (March, 2016)

On the banks of
a new day, bursts
a bubbling sound;
a gargling
gurgling, tumbling of
river song
from beaky birds
all black and white.


As in both poems, and in many others, some of which I’ve included here, there’s a longing to share the natural world, either in rhyme or free verse, lyrical or humorous.

Magpie Morning came about because of late, our suburban street has been commandeered by an army of magpies. On one particular letter-posting day, I counted twelve birds near my house.

The sight of them with their head thrown back, and the sound of their beautiful song, sent a smile to my toes. It reminded me of water cascading over river rocks, or swirling in eddies. Hence the link to river and river banks within the poem.

Here’s another watery one.

The Puddle (illustrated by Kim Gamble) was published in 1995.

A puddle
is a muddle
of droplets together.
A puddle dribbles edges
in wet, rainy weather.
A puddle can wriggle
its way to a river
to meet other puddles
with tingle and shiver.
Then, silent,
they journey
but listen to them shout,
when at the sea-mouth
the puddles rush out!


And here’s a longer, more personal poem. But it’s still connected to the natural environment.

A Dad Time,  illustrated by Matt Ottley, was published in 2009.

I remember a dad time.
It was a gentle time
with a long jetty,
a sharp knife
and slivers of squishy cockles.
His sure fingers
which I would thread on a hook
as if making a garment.
Sun crowned our heads,
I in his shadow
freckling away,
swinging legs,
aching to reel in- and in – and in.
Sure each wavelet
was a fish, Dad!
Mostly it wasn’t.

Mostly it was
just a dad time.


I often write short, quirky poems.

Jiggery Piggery

Between a curly tail
and snout,
a lot of bacon


Fishery (illustrated by Tom Jellet)

flap and flippery,
end up
fish and chippery!


Fish (illustrated by Vilma Cencic)

Down by the sea –
in the shallows,
fish, thin as silver needles,
lacy seaweed.


Spider light (illustrated by Anne Bowman)

you hang upside down in a dim corner
like a fancy chandelier.
Are you waiting, spider,
for someone to switch on
the light?


In 2015, Ride the Rhythm was published and illustrated by Matt Ottley. I think it says a lot about what I love about poetry. Although I enjoy rhyme, what is even more compelling for me, is the actual look and sound of words. And the rhythm.

It’s how I view the world.

Thank you, School Magazine, for helping me share it.




The Number One Question

DSC_0173THE NUMBER ONE QUESTION: Where did you get the idea for Thunderstorm Dancing?
We’re always curious, aren’t we? Join me as I invite the wonderful picture-book writer, Katrina Germein, while she answers that question!


Where do you get your ideas from? – the Number One question authors get asked. Usually, I have an answer. I say that my story ideas come from events in my life, from people I’ve met and places I’ve been. But with Thunderstorm Dancing the answer is not so simple. I don’t really know where the story came from. I mean, it still came from my life (it’s the second time a vibrant, comforting granny has appeared in one of my books) but I can’t pin point a single event or place. It’s as if the storm in the story has swept through my life, lifted fragments in the wind and blown them into the book.

Firstly, the book begins at the beach. Most of my daydreams begin at the beach, so do many of my nicest childhood and adult memories. As well as that, it’s a book about family (always important) and it’s a book about dancing around the house for the sheer fun of it. I’m guilty of a bit of shameless lounge room dancing myself.

11075020_358199787707027_8601546528408027836_nWhen I was in Primary School I had the same teacher for three years, starting from when I was six. Mrs Vaughn was a keen pianist and singer. She encouraged us to express ourselves through story and music. Some of my favourite school memories are of times when Mrs Vaughn took us to the big, empty activity hall for dancing. She would play the piano and call out stories, line by line, to go with the music. (I assume she made them up as she went along.) We would dance (or romp/roll/rollick) out whatever actions we felt matched the musical story. There was one tale about a fresh water crocodile and a salt-water crocodile meeting in a river and fighting each other, and another about wild ponies prancing and whinnying across a hillside. So much fun! Anyway, the feeling of those occasions was definitely lurking while I wrote Thunderstorm Dancing. (It’s not surprising that nearly all of the early reviews have mentioned opportunities for classroom performances as a follow up to the book.)

resized_9781743314593_224_297_FitSquareThis story was written quickly, over a couple of days. Most of it was penned within a few hours of the first word, even though I had things to do and couldn’t stay home to write it. The words rolled in from somewhere and I had to save them. One page was written on a receipt when I pulled into a service station. Another page was written on a café napkin as I waited for a friend. It was like the little parts of me that had been lifted by the storm dropped onto the paper like raindrops plop-plop-plop and as the momentum built more ideas poured down.


One of the things I love about writing is you never quite know where it’s going to take you. Sometimes I read things back later and think, Did I write that? Thunderstorm Dancing is one of those.

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