Emilio: a novel for young people about a different kind of war

Last year my novel Emilio was published by Allen and Unwin in the Through My Eyes series, which is a series of novels for young people by different authors, about children caught in conflict zones around the world. Mine is set in Mexico, around a very different sort of war. As the last novel in the series, Zafir, by Prue Mason, set in Syria, is about to come out, I thought it might be interesting to revisit my interview last year about Emilio.


Love letters to writing..

US author Julia Munroe Martin recently asked several other writers, including me, to create a ” love note to writing. It can be sweet, bitter, funny, serious, whatever you like in terms of tone, but it needs to be *to* writing itself.”

The results have been published on the popular international writing blog, Writer Unboxed. It’s a great collection of love notes of all kinds, in prose and poetry. The full piece is here, but this is my contribution:

Natural as breathing, close as my heart, you haunt my nights and magic my days. With you I live an adventure like no other, and dare to dream always.

Picture That: Illustrators on food 3: Lisa Stewart

Lisa Stewart 4Today I’m featuring the touching, lively and beautiful work of Lisa Stewart, illustrator and musician. Lisa’s illustrated seven books, including five picture books and two illustrated books. And I’m thrilled to reveal that we are collaborating on an illustrated story together, to be published later this year by Christmas Press.

Lisa Stewart 2In this post Lisa tells us a bit about her journey to becoming an illustrator, offers a delicious family favourite recipe devised by her daughter Claire, and shares with us some of her gorgeous illustrations. Lisa’s website is at www.lisastewart.com.au

Lisa Stewart portraitLisa’s story

As a young mother, some 17 years ago, pushing my daughter in her pram to any paper, art supply, card or book store I could find I was instantly attracted to wrapping paper with illustrations by Jane Ray wonderful British illustrator and author). I adored her attention to detail and her animals, trees, water, sun, moon and stars. A new love was born, of children’s picture books and paper.

Later in Germany I sent a CD of mine (I play the violin ) and a letter of thanks to Jane for her artwork. To my delight she responded with five picture books and a glorious phoenix card of hers and a friendship was formed. Lisa Stewart love story 1
My family and I flew to England to meet her. Seeing her studio and her artwork (admired by her husband and her three children) framed and hung throughout their home filled me with joy. My secret dream was to become an illustrator and be like Jane.
The illustrative style I use came about during the creation of a 20 page wordless love story. I began to cut out hundreds of tiny pieces of paper and create images. Friends and family were represented as trees, birds, fish, dragons and whales. A broken heart became thousands of little flowers and the night sky a full moon on black rice paper.Lisa Stewart love story 2
With support form my dear friend Lynndy Bennett at Gleebooks, I sent some publishers a few of the pictures from the love story and had a call from Ana Vivas from Scholastic Press. We met and I got to send in ideas for a book by Kerry Brown called ‘Can I Cuddle the Moon?’ I enjoyed doing some little drawings and to my amazement was chosen to illustrate it.

My dream of becoming an illustrator has come true. Lisa Stewart 8

Lisa Stewart 1

Here is the recipe for  a favourite family dish, ‘Claire’s Nachos’,  that my daughter has been making  from around the age of ten. She is nineteen now.

Claire’s Nachos

> 1 medium to large brown onion
> 3 tins kidney beans
> 1 tin tomatoesLisa Stewart 3
> 1 small tin corn (optional)
> smoked chipotle in adobo sauce or other chilli e.g. chilli paste
> 2 tsp cumin or premixed Mexican seasoning
> Corn chips
> for the guacamole:
> 2 ripe avocadoes
> cumin
> salt and pepper to taste
> the juice of one whole lime
> for the pico de gallo:
> 3 to 4 medium tomatoes
> juice of one whole lime
> salt to taste
> chopped cilantro(coriander)
>Lisa Stewart recipe
> Instructions:
> Dice onion and fry in vegetable oil of your preference until translucent.
> Finely chop/mince half a chipotle chilli and add it to the onion.
> Drain the beans and fry them in with the onion and chilli until the beans soften.
> Roughly mash the beans, then add the tin of tomato and the cumin.
> Add the corn.
> Stir well and season to taste.
> Guacamole:
> halve the avocadoes and scoop out the flesh into a medium mixing bowl.
> Mash with a fork and add the lime juice, salt, pepper, and cumin.
> Mix well. Lisa Stewart 6
> Pico de Gallo:
> finely dice the tomatoes, and place in a bowl with the lime juice, cilantro and salt. mix well.
> To serve, place bean mix on top of corn chips, with pico de gallo and guacamole on top.


Lisa Stewart 5

Interview on Wordmothers site

sophie-masson-deskI was interviewed recently by Nicole Melanson of the fabulous Wordmothers site, which features interviews with female authors, artists and book industry professionals. She asked some great questions. Full interview is here, but below is a short extract.


As a child, I heard lots of stories—my family’s always told them—and I’ve always seen the world through that prism. To me, creating stories is as natural as breathing, and I need it pretty much as much! That is still exactly what compels me—creating stories, living in their world, and sharing them with other people.


It’s the same as it ever was—the constant challenge of staying published, of interesting publishers in your work, of reaching readers. I’ve been very lucky as a writer in that I’ve made a living at it for many years now, but I never take anything for granted and I keep an eye out for opportunities; I stay flexible while also never sacrificing my integrity.

Also, I never allow myself to dwell on rejections but simply pick myself up and try again. It doesn’t mean that it’s easy to do that though! There are always times when you think, what if the publishing dries up? What if I can’t get anyone interested? But I don’t dwell on that either. It sharpens the wits but you can’t allow it to sour the writing!




Picture That: Illustrators on food, 2: Beattie Alvarez

Beattie's rabbit familyCross-posted from my food blog.Beattie's flower fairy 1

Today I’m featuring gorgeous illustrations and a yummy easy recipe by Beattie Alvarez, young multi-talented illustrator, author, editor, toymaker, mother of two lively children, and passionate reader! She is also one of the team at Christmas Press Picture Books and at the beautiful toyshop, Granny Fi’s Toy Cupboard.

Beattie portrait

Mi Goreng for the busy reader

by Beattie Alvarez

Too busy reading a book to do the shopping? Just got to the exciting part and don’t want to stop for long, but your tummy is grumbling? Want something hot, simple, and delicious to eat while you’re reading your book?
I have the perfect recipe for you!
Mi Goreng!
Most people have had this delicious noodle concoction, a favourite with students and people on a budget. They’re cheap, quick, and yummy. Most people have also gone to the cupboard in their hour of hunger only to discover that they have RUN OUT! Oh, the horror!
This happened to me yesterday.
It was a quiet afternoon and I was happily reading Harry Potter in the sun when I realised that I was drooling on it as I read about the fantastic feasts. NOT GOOD. Being the day before payday, my pantry was looking sad. What could I make that was warm and cosy and QUICK? I didn’t want to put down Harry for too long.
I found two sad looking spring onions, half a Spanish onion, tomato sauce, and manis (sweet soy sauce). And a ten pack of dry two-minute noodles.
Five minutes later (I kid you not!) Harry was safely tucked under the edge of my bowl as I wolfed down my meal. To be fair, mi goreng is not ideal for eating with Harry Potter. What you need with Harry are pies and puddings, cakes and sweets, hot chocolate, baked potatoes, and all those other fabulously English things. However, my meal was perfectly adequate and (with the right book) would have been perfect!  Beattie's mi goreng

1 tbsp sweet soy sauce (manis – available from most supermarkets in the Asian food aisle).
1 tbsp tomato sauce
pepper – I used a lot, but some people would prefer less. Start with half a teaspoon and go from there.
Onions of some description
3 packets of dry noodles
soy sauce to taste
egg (optional)

Beattie's goblinMethod:
1. Pick your favourite book. Get it ready for later.
2. Mix tomato sauce, pepper, and sweet soy sauce in a bowl.
3. Boil and drain your noodles
4. Finely chop, and then fry your onions in the oil until they are nice and crispy, but not burnt.
5. (optional) poach or fry your egg
6. Turn the heat off, throw everything into the frying pan and mix, adding soy sauce to taste.
7. (optional, but advised) transfer to plate or bowl.
8. Open your book and read while eating.
9. Go back for seconds if necessary.
NB. All quantities are approximate and to my taste. I don’t like things very saucy (read want you will into that statement!), so I used three packets of noodles. Some people would only use two. I also like quite sweet savoury dishes. If you prefer salty, then add more soy sauce or lessen the amounts of Manis and tomato sauce. And if you aren’t kissing someone later, fried garlic works well too.

Beattie's mushroom

Beattie's strawberry fairy