Anzac Ted shortlisted for WA Young Readers’ Book Award 2016

Just how much excitement can a teddy really bear?

2016 WA Young Readers' Book Awards - some of the shortlisted titles

2016 WA Young Readers’ Book Awards – some of the shortlisted titles

I certainly don’t want to sound glib and I know it’s a tad clichéd but that was the question flying around in February, 2016 when Anzac Ted found himself rubbing shoulders – or should I say spines – with some of the best in Australian children’s literature. I am honoured to have my debut picture book, Anzac Ted, included in this illustrious list of exceptional children’s authors and illustrators and extend my heartiest congratulations to everyone mentioned. Of course special congratulations must go to Aaron Blabey for Pig The Fibber; winner of the Picture Book category.

For your own copy of Anzac Ted go to

Belinda x

Happy Book Week 2015!

Driving up and seeing this was a mega thrill!

Driving up and seeing this was a mega thrill!

Book Week has always been a red-letter week for me. Sadly, there was no such literary celebration when I was growing up in the 60s, but my children were luckier – books were finally being celebrated in schools – and I couldn’t be happier!

I remember the excitement building as the kids plotted and planned their costumes for the much-anticipated Book Week parade! The fabulous characters who paraded the playground while proud mums and dads clicked away on their cameras.

I remember being very impressed by a fabulous Pippi Longstocking, whose clever mum had “wired” her plaits so they stuck straight out from her head! I gasped with astonishment when The Wardrobe from C.S. Lewis’ imagination strutted her stuff (and deservedly took out First Prize) and I recall grinning like Lewis Carroll’s Cheshire Cat when my daughter rated a Highly Commended for her Pirate Queen – swashbuckling boots, sword ‘n’ all!

Me with some of the Year 7s at The Ponds High School

Me with some of the Year 7s at The Ponds High School

Every year Book Week has been special for me – and this year even more so. This year saw my debut picture book, Anzac Ted, rubbing spines with some of the world’s most celebrated titles. I walked into five different schools this week; and every school had my book on its library shelves; it was a very special moment. Added to this was that I’d been asked to appear as guest author/illustrator, so by week’s end I’d met hundreds of children and dozens of teachers and books had connected us all.

One of the highlights for me was returning to my old primary school, Normanhurst West, which I attended from 1966 – 1972.

Reading Anzac Ted to the children at Normanhurst West

Reading Anzac Ted to the children at Normanhurst West

During my dash down memory lane I pointed out classrooms where I’d chanted times tables and trod the very same asphalt where I had learned the joys of progressive dancing under the sweltering Aussie sun.

I meandered past the old tuck shop where I’d occasionally experienced the heady heights of ordering my lunch: a hot meat pie dolloped with tomato sauce in a paper bag! I scuttled past the principal’s office which had echoed with the thwack of the cane in the 60s and 70s. And I told today’s generation about the virtues of “signing up to drink milk” which was a double-edged sword! Mostly it was cold, creamy and delicious, but since it was delivered in open crates and unrefrigerated, winter meant that your chilled fingers froze into a claw-like grip on the bottle. Added to that was the unhappy fact that summer had the tendency to morph the milk into yoghurt – but hey, we’d signed on the dotted line, so we were pledged to drink the stuff, regardless!

The kids at Brooklyn Public School brought in their own teddies - how sweet!

The kids at Brooklyn Public School brought in their own teddies – how sweet!

All in all it was a whirlwind week of words, pictures, smiles and laughter. I read my book, painted Anzac Ted “live” and ran workshops for budding young writers and illustrators. Perhaps most rewarding was when children approached me, some quite shyly, to tell me they had been inspired to write their own stories now.

So thank you to the wonderful students, teachers and parents from Normanhurst West, Riverbank, Cowan and Brooklyn Public Schools as well as The Ponds High School.

At Cowan Public School

At Cowan Public School

I hope, like me, you had the best Book Week ever!

Belinda x

100 Anzac Commemoration: 25 April, 2015

Anzac Ted bearOn the centenary of the first Anzac landing at Gallipoli, I felt I just needed to say something about this once-in-a-lifetime event and what it means to me.

As the author and illustrator of Anzac Ted, I have had both the privilege and honour to be invited to numerous schools and preschools in the lead up to 25 April and speak to hundreds of children and teachers about my book. And it has been an incredibly moving and eye-opening experience for me.

I have sat beside Australian war veterans bearing a weighty array of service medals on their breast pockets. I have had hundreds of children listen to me speak and then ask countless questions prompted by my book. I have watched in breathless silence as wreaths were laid, songs from a world long past were sung and tales of our first Anzacs were told.

But over and above all, I have been struck by the depth of respect, pride and awe – both here and overseas – which has been woven into the very fabric of our lives for those who have gone before and sacrificed so much.

And this is not restricted to our soldiers but to their families as well who – in many respects – may have suffered just as much as their fathers, husbands, brothers and sons have. After all, they were left behind, not knowing the fate of their loved ones and yet they found the courage and strength to roll up their sleeves, lift up their chins and keep the home fires burning.

As an Australian who has inherited the legacy of the sacrifice of these men and women, both past and present, I am truly grateful. I have always considered myself lucky to live in The Lucky Country, but only now am I beginning to understand what that really means.

The 100 Anzac Commemoration has inspired a deeply moving and patriotic Australian spirit which has surpassed anything I have ever witnessed. People have come together, bound by gratitude and respect for our troops and their families. And while every Anzac Day is special, perhaps this one is more so because it has kindled the knowledge that not only are we tied indelibly to each other through our own unique history – but that we are seeing history in the making.

So, long may the Anzac legacy continue to strengthen us as a united and grateful nation. Long may we acknowledge the terrible costs of war and of defending our hard fought democracy. Long may we continue to pursue peace and in so doing, acknowledge those men and women who are prepared to defend that pursuit on our behalf.

In the words of renowned WW1 journalist Charles Bean: “They gave their shining youth and raised, thereby, valour’s monument which cannot die.”

Lest we forget.

Belinda x

Anzac Ted Book Launch

BookLaunch Ted IMG_4004Friday 14 November saw the mercury hit a sweltering 38 degrees in Sydney – but the heat didn’t deter the sensational crowd from attending my first ever book launch for my first published book – Anzac Ted.

Oh, what a night!

Book Launch Colouring IMG_3991
The bubbles flowed, the kids took industriously to the colouring-in table and everyone was in a party mood.

Book Launch Mins Speech IMG_3999
As I said in my short, and almost dry-eyed speech: writing and illustrating picture books may be a lonely pursuit – but it’s anything but a solo one. There are just so many people involved with getting Anzac Ted up and running and I couldn’t be more grateful to each and every one of them.

To my parents for helping me fall in love with words so early on in life, and to my brother, Adrian for nurturing that love. To Anouska, Gareth and the entire team at EK Books (Exisle Publishing) for taking on an unknown author and to Ali and Mark for managing such incredible publicity for the book. To the wonderful and talented Tania, Susan and the Kids’ Book Review team for their exceptional encouragement and support.

Book Launch Speech Kiss IMG_3995

To my biggest supporter and inspiration my husband, David, who not just encouraged and believed in me every step of the way but helped me organise every last detail for a successful book launch. To my gorgeous daughters, Samantha and Elyse for their unswerving faith, social-media know-how and terrific pics. To my wonderful sons, Michael and Alexander, who move not just mountains for me but are my tech-savvy saviours and of course to the ever-vigilant Alana and Karen who never fail to roll up their sleeves and make everything run like clockwork.

  • Book Launch Signing IMG_4003
    Being also my mum’s birthday, there was a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday before I signed books for the rest of the night, and watched in awe and wonder as people approached me at the signing table with 3, 5 and in one case 9 copies in hand!

    Book Launch Crowd IMG_3990The entire night was a very moving experience for me which was punctuated by so many highlights – but perhaps the most touching was when I was given a hand-written letter from a young Army wife, who had written to me about just how much Anzac Ted meant to her after she’d been given her own Army bear by her husband when he’d been shipped off for training. I was incredibly moved that my book had already made such a positive impact – and immeasurably grateful.

  • Visit my Facebook page or the Anzac Ted website for more.

    Anzac Ted Front Cover High Res

    Belinda x

    Remembrance Day

    At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in the year 1918, the guns fell silent. And the First World War; the Great War; the reputed War to End All Wars was finally over.

    Looking back as I am now from the threshold of the next century, I can’t begin to imagine the joy, the relief and the overwhelming gratitude the world must have felt at that moment; yet mingled with indescribable and inconsolable loss.

    Why the Great War started and how it ended is for all of us to debate. What we learned from it and how we put that knowledge into practice to ensure a peaceful future is up to each of us to decide.

    So as we stand and observe a minute’s silence on Remembrance Day, we remember those who served and who are still serving in all wars and conflicts.

    And the list is long.

    I have vivid memories of Remembrance Day when I was a schoolkid in the 60s. We knew it was a special day because we were all given a sprig of rosemary to wear in our button holes with reverence and pride. It was a special day because the teachers informed us we were required to stand still with bowed heads at 11 o’clock precisely and think about all the soldiers who had gone to war for us. Not so special was having several teachers punctuate the seriousness of this request with dark looks and threats of picking up papers at lunchtime should we waver in our reverence and pride by fidgeting, chatting to our neighbour or eating playlunch early.

    Suffice to say, most of the boys in my class ended up picking up papers at lunchtime!

    Anzac Ted Front Cover High ResAnd that’s where it all ended. Ironically, for the kids at my school, Remembrance Day often lasted about as long as the wilting rosemary in our buttonholes. Then it was promptly forgotten.
    Still, we had little to draw from. Many of our fathers and grandfathers had served in the World Wars, and yet I know that in my house the subject was never broached. War was considered a closed book – especially for children.

    And it’s a tricky topic – how much should children be exposed to? Being naturally curious they will ask questions – as I did as a child – and hopefully Anzac Ted will encourage engagement and discussion. And not just about war, but about its repercussions such as the returned soldier, the unsung hero, tolerance, acceptance and peace.

    While researching the illustrations for Anzac Ted, I spent a day at the Australian War Memorial where I wandered, unhurried, and lost myself in the halls of a defining piece of our history. It was eye-opening. And the more I saw, read and heard, the more I felt a deep sense of gratitude, respect and awe for these men and women who had gone before and given so much.
    I felt I owed it to them to learn a little about who they were and what they had done, and by remembering them, they would live on.

    Belinda x

    ‘Anzac Ted’ makes his debut!

    Anzac Ted
    Very exciting news! My first picture book Anzac Ted is now available for pre-order!

    ‘Anzac Ted’ is the heart-warming tale of a teddy bear who goes to war.

    This is a story about the unconditional love a young boy has for the battered old teddy bear passed down to him by his grandfather. A bear who – despite his ragged appearance – embodies the Anzac spirit. Through courage, loyalty and love, this brave little bear not only helps bring the Anzac soldiers safely home, he reminds us of what it is to be truly human.

    You can get in early and order your copy right here on Exisle Publishing’s website, and of course I’ll post again when it hits the shelves in November.

    Also looking forward to my very first book launch – details to come soon!

    Oh, and happy Spring! How good is this sunshine?

    Belinda x

    My Writing Process Blog Tour

    An Aussie YearI was recently tagged by the incredibly talented and energetic Tania McCartney to join this exciting blog tour on writing processes. Each week, authors post their answers to four questions, then tag some writerly pals to play along the following week.

    You can read Tania’s answers and discover more about what she’s up to right here. (As you’ll see, Tania is not just an author, but an octopus – she has so many fingers in so many pies!)

    So… here are my responses to the writing process questions, and way down below you can check out the two inspiring authors I’ve asked to post next week.

    What am I working on?

    Well, as a real “newbie” I’m currently working with my publisher on getting my first picture book on the shelves later this year! It’s exciting stuff to be both author and illustrator, and I can’t wait to hold a copy in my hands! I’m also working on a sequel, just in case everyone out there wants to cuddle this first book as much as I do!

    I’m also putting the finishing touches (a.k.a editing with a fiery, burning passion) to an adult creative non-fiction book, and I’m fleshing out a Young Adult novel, which usually resides, somewhat mysteriously, in a bottom drawer of mine. (Oh, it can hide, but it can’t run!)

    The other genres are sulking, however, because they’re taking a backseat to my picture books, which, try as I might (and I confess, I don’t try too hard), I just can’t stop writing!

    How does my work differ from others of its genre?

    Well, I can multi-task, in that I can both illustrate, and write across multiple genres for adults, teens and children. I guess many authors pick a favourite genre and concentrate on that. But I like to see what’s possible. Can I do something new? Why not try? What’s that fabulous saying? “If you reach for the moon – you’re sure to touch the stars!”

    Perhaps what makes me different from other author/illustrators in the picture book genre is that this first book of mine appeals to not only children, but a very wide audience. Well, that’s the aim anyway! Fingers crossed!

    Why do I write what I do?

    This is going to sound cringingly clichéd – but I write and illustrate picture books because I think they’re the best books on the planet. Picture books are every child’s first introduction to the wondrous world of words and pictures. So as an author/illustrator of picture books, I’m given the amazing opportunity to guide those first faltering footsteps into literacy. In short, I’m here to encourage children, parents, teachers and friends to read aloud and fall in love with books together.

    And I must confess: I’m an addict! I can’t stop drawing and writing – and the older I become the worse I get! Occasionally, I do try to control myself and walk PAST my computer and art desk, but then those tell-tale signs begin… my eyes widen, my fingers start to tingle… and before I know it, I have another scathingly brilliant idea which I simply must jot down before the fit passes!

    The hard part – is no matter where I am, I simply MUST stop and write or draw what’s in my head! So if you spot me at the bus stop or in the cinema with my head in my handbag – I’m not shy – I’m searching feverishly for the back of a shopping docket and an eyeliner pencil! No kidding!

    How does my writing process work?

    To date I have written and partially or fully illustrated 10 picture books, though how I got there for each one is vastly different.

    My furry muse...

    My furry muse…

    For some stories, I find myself coming up with the title first and saying (even though there is nobody else in the room): “Hmm, now that’s a great title for a story! I wonder what happens?” Then there’ll be a slight pause before I add excitedly: “Let’s find out, shall we?” (By this point there are usually two lazy cats lolling about on my keyboard which I need to move aside so I can start tapping straight away.)

    I often write in rhyme. In fact I find it hard not to. I think this hails back to my Third Grade days, when I was taught by rote. Classrooms in the 60s and 70s resonated with it. Poetry, spelling lists, times tables… and by golly it worked too! Most kids thought learning by rote was about as enjoyable as eating a jar of Perkins Paste, but I believe it taught me the joys of rhythm. And rhyme. (And I guess it’s not a bad thing to know your times tables!)

    When I’m writing, I try to give first priority to the words and ask the pictures (very politely) to just wait their turn. For the pictures, the first thing I do is go back over the story, line by line, and write (in words) next to the text, what I see happening. I do this for the whole story. Then I go back to the beginning and just sit and think; sometimes for hours.

    I don’t listen to any music or drink tea or coffee. I just look out of the windows of my study at the green, green trees… and think. (And I can’t recommend this activity too highly.) I believe this is where some of my best work comes from. During this time I open the door to the illustrations and a number of characters (who just can’t wait any longer) come barging in. From there, I just start scribbling with a 2B pencil. And believe me, I go through a lot of pencils and a lot of paper!

    Who’s up next Monday, 24 March:

    Kate Forsyth wrote her first novel at the age of seven, and is now the internationally-bestselling, award-winning author of 30 books, published in 15 countries. She was recently voted one of Australia’s Favourite 20 Novelists, and has been called “one of the finest writers of this generation”. The Wild Girl tells the story of star-crossed lovers Wilhelm Grimm and Dortchen Wild, who told him many of the most world’s most famous fairytales. It was recently named the Most Memorable Love Story of 2013 by Australian readers. Bitter Greens received an Honourable Mention in The Norma K. Hemming Award, and was called “the best fairytale retelling since Angela Carter”. Kate’s books for children include the award-winning The Gypsy Crown, The Puzzle Ring and The Starthorn Tree.

    Adrian Deans is a lawyer, journalist and novelist who grew up in the bushy north of Sydney, which forms an occasional backdrop to his evil stories. He writes in a range of genres but has had the greatest success in crime with Mr Cleansheets (April 2010) and Straight Jacket (September 2013). He aims to write immersive novels that bounce along at a decent clip, but are textured enough to go on giving up their secrets over multiple readings.

    Can’t wait to read their responses next week!

    Belinda x

    Hello, world

    Well, this is it then. My first post. I’m new to this blogging thing, so forgive me any rookie errors!

    Received some brilliant news last month – my first book will be published this year. It’s a children’s picture book, my favourite! And for added thrills, I get to illustrate it too. Couldn’t be happier, and look forward to updating you on its progress in the coming months.

    In the meantime, I’m beavering away to get it all done and dusted. I’ll also be participating in the Writing Process blog tour later this month, so keep a weather eye out for that!

    Belinda  x