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Diving into Dysart

Diving into Dysart

Have you ever been to Dysart? Even know where it is? I found it, a few hours drive inland from Mackay. Not much to see as a tourist, but a whole lot to find out as a guest. When I was invited to visit as part of a Theiss community project, here are the things I discovered in Dysart:

  • You can run a curry takeaway from your one bedroom unit.
  • The local IGA says it “knows what locals want”. But does it? Turns out blondes in Dysart want blonde hair toner more than anything. Oh, and single carrots (what does a single gal need with a whole 1kg packet?)
  • The teachers in the high school and primary school are working tirelessly to create a passion for reading and writing in a town dominated by mining families. And they’re winning. Grade 3 studentsThey embraced our the short story competition developed to spark local interest.

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  • Sleeping in a mining donga is quieter than sleeping in most motel rooms.
  • Miners from the Lake Vermont mine site volunteer in Grade 3 classrooms to listen to reading on their days off.

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  • The kids in Dysart will steal your heart away!

Want to come with me when I go back? Thanks Dysart for making me feel so welcome!



Cassowary Hunt

Cassowary Hunt

I’m going on a cassowary hunt. I’m going to see a big one. I’m not scared….

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Creative Time

cassowaryFebruary = a month to write! And write I did!  I lugged severely overloaded suitcases into The Burrow, Norwood, South Australia, on the 31st January, a “to do” list firmly clutched in my hand, only to lug them out again on the 27th February, “to do” list ticked. Thanks to a May Gibbs Children’s Literature Trust Creative Time Fellowship, I enjoyed one whole month down in Adelaide, with accommodation and airfares paid for, working on 4 exciting writing projects;

  • a YA story about a girl who can’t talk,
  • my next animal adventure story ‘Mister Cassowary’ (due out Sept 2015),
  • a pirate story for younger readers,
  • and a story about the Snowy Mountains and pygmy possums.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAll this while the temperature soared over 40 degrees, the Adelaide Fringe Festival tugged at my arm, and the support crew at MGCLT tempted me away from the keyboard with dinners, cake, and trips to the zoo. Everyone treated me like royalty.  I’d like to say I wrote 10 blogs in my spare time, but sadly, no. I was too busy hobnobbing with other writers like Rosanne Hawke, Katrina Germein, and Janeen Brian, researching new stories – see the wombats, and catching up with old friends, and making new ones.

May Gibbs 2015 033Sam and MaryAll in all it was a month to remember, not only because it validated me as a writer, but it enabled me to network, experience my first school residency (thank you St Mary’s) and dip my toes into the world of being a full time writer. Trouble is, once your toe’s been dipped ….


For more information about the MGCLT Creative Time Residencies, and how to apply, check out http://www.maygibbs.org.au/creative-time-fellowships/creative-time-fellowships/

Ebola, Lyssa, Hendra? Don’t believe everything you hear

How are you enjoying the news at the moment? Sick of media beat up? ISIS, G20, Ebola Virus? Me too! My media filter is mostly pretty good, but sometimes … enough is enough.

Here’s what got me cranky. A story a week or so ago in news.com.au

Lyssavirus fears as three bitten by infected bats

The story explains that: “THREE NSW residents were bitten or scratched this week by bats carrying the potentially fatal lyssavirus­. One was a wildlife worker, one a veterinarian and one a member of the public.”

Potentially fatal – yes. But no-one died, right?

Oh, but don’t worry, if that didn’t scare you, this will: “In the past month, 32 people required ­rabies post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) following high-risk exposures to ­potentially infected animals.”

Disaster! Rabies, here in Australia? But then you read a bit further and discover that “only five of those people reported “local” bat exposures, while the remaining 27 people had animal bites or scratches while travelling overseas.” So, the people exposed were mostly affected by animals outside Australia? Mmm, that’s not so scary is it?

Oh yes, it is scary. Scary enough that the reporter is thrilled to report that, luckily, a “shoot-to-kill bat policy has been approved targeting nuisance colonies that drop faeces, shriek next to homes and schools and bombard farms.” And, wait for it “An anti-bats package will give councils outside metropolitan areas extra powers to move on nuisance flying fox ­colonies.”

Oh thank goodness! An anti-bats package. That’ll do it. I mean, bats are terrifying! We’re all at risk, 3 people were scratched weren’t they (2 of whom work with bats)? Because, as the environmental minister says in the article:

People’s health must come first!

So, is this the plan? We get rid of all the nasty, scary, annoying bats, save 3 people from getting scratched while doing their job, and then we all die from malaria and the effects of global warming. Because, Environment Minister, micro bats eat mosquitoes (the worlds biggest killer), and mega bats pollinate rainforests (which help balance carbon emissions). Without bats, far more than 3 people’s lives are at risk! Isn’t it time we got our priorities right?

Since the release of my second book, Spud & Charli, I have been spreading the word about bats and how crucial they are to the environment. Ugly, noisy, smelly … yes, but if we want a healthy planet (and we do, don’t we, Environmental Minister?) – crucial.

Please do your bit. Help me and other animal lovers diffuse the media beat up that feeds on scare tactics. Be informed, and understand the truth behind crazy media stories.

Full news article

Worlds deadliest animals

Smooch & Rose for real

Locals stand up for koala food trees

Locals stand up for koala food trees. Source: Redland City Bulletin

My first story, Smooch & Rose is playing out for real in a neighbourhood near me. Council has just voted unanimously to approve a development application which will include the removal of twenty koala food trees in an area where koalas live.

But what about the koalas?

Ormiston is an outer Brisbane suburb, where koalas are seen regularly, and has a lovely leafy feel. It’s not far from where I set Smooch & Rose, but like many recent developments in the Redlands, including the one which inspired me to write Smooch & Rose, the koala trees are set to go. Twenty koala food trees are in the way of future houses, and are not protected because “their location conflicts with infrastructure”.

Locals are up in arms. It’s a heart breaking result. But perhaps, just perhaps, there is time, and the koala trees can be saved. Can’t we have development but koalas too? Surely we can compromise?

You can write to the Redland City Council Mayor, Karen Williams, and request the trees be protected. Join me and all koala lovers out there to do a ‘Rose’, and stand up for what you believe in.

Redland Mayor Karen Williams address :

Redland City Council
Attn Karen Williams
PO Box 21
Cleveland Qld 4163

Redland City Bulletin article

7 lines from page 7

It’s not every day you get a sneak peek of an author’s work before it’s ready. We’re far too self conscious for that. But thanks to the “Sneak Peek” blog tour, that’s exactly what you get to do! What a thrill to peer into the work of fellow writers and see what they’re up to.

I’ve been tagged by Kathryn Apel, author of the gorgeous Bully on the Bus, recently released by UQP. Now I must share 7 lines from page 7 or 77 of a current WiP, and then tag 3 other writers to continue the game.

So, here we go. 7 lines from page 7 of a story that is very close to my heart, and was the one I was lucky enough to receive a May Gibbs Trust Fellowship for. That means I get to work on it for one whole month in Adelaide next year. Yippee!

Mum only half listens when Nic tells her she’s organised a sleepover. She looks tired as she feeds me and I try to swallow without choking. There’s enough tension in the house today without choking.

‘Grace can go to Nan’s, right?’ asks Nic.

Mum starts to say something but then my arm shoots out and grabs my apple juice popper. I watch, as in slow motion, it tips and spills across Nic’s toast and vegemite. I try not to laugh – it’s made an apple and toast smoothie.

Okay, that’s enough sneak peeking from me for now. Now its someone else’s turn. I tag: Caylie Jeffries, Michelle Worthington, and Sheryl Gwyther!

Happy peeking!

A cup of tea with Louise Saunders

 

Louise saundersA few weeks ago, Louise Saunders was kind enough to spend the afternoon with me to talk about bats. With my new story Spud & Charli, about bats and Hendra virus, due out in September, I wanted to make sure I had my facts right. Louise has been a bat carer for over 21 years, and was so impassioned by bats, that she founded Bat Conservation and Rescue Qld. http://bats.org.au

So, Louise, what happened 21 years ago that turned you from successful artist to bat carer?

I went on a Batty Bat Cruise around Indooroopilly Island and fell in love with the bats. When the organisers said they were looking for more bat carers, I offered to raise one. One soon turned into many…

But, aren’t you scared of catching a deadly disease – like Lyssavirus?

BatNo. As carers, we are trained to handle bats properly, and we always take the right precautions. I have been bitten by an infected bat, but because I am vaccinated, I am still okay.

What message would you most like people to receive about bats?

Don’t be afraid of bats. We can live with bats in close proximity without getting sick as long as we don’t touch them. A bat found alone needs help. Report sick or injured bats, don’t touch them, and stay safe.

Louise’s passion and knowledge about bats is inspiring. Here are just some of the amazing batty tit bits she shared with me:

  • One of people’s biggest complaint about bats are their smell. But this comes from their pheromones, not from their poo. The more you stir up a bat colony, the more they will release their pheromones, and the more they will smell. The same goes for noise. The more you stir bats up, the noisier they will become. So, leave bats alone.
  • Bats are capable of pollinating up to 60,000 trees in one night, flying over 100km looking for food. The pollen from flowering Eucalypts and other native trees rubs off on their faces when they feed on the sweet nectar. This pollen is taken to the next tree they visit, spreading the genetics across many kilometres. So, bats are making forests while we sleep.
  • If bats are annoying you, check out the trees growing in your backyard. Introduced trees like Cocos palms produce a lot of sugary fruit, attracting bats to feed in your yard instead of on the native trees. The palm fruit isn’t good for the bats, and the poo it creates is sticky and smelly. Removal of these trees might solve your problem.
  • Bats not only spread pollen, but they also spread fruit. This is because of their raider/resident behaviour. The “resident” bat is the bat who “owns” the food tree, and will eat while hanging on the tree. The seeds drop close to the tree, which is not an ideal place for a new sapling. However, young “raider” bats flying through the area will duck in to the tree, steal a fruit, and fly away with it. This is an effective way to spread the seed of native trees kilometres away from the mother plant, where, if the conditions are right, they will germinate and grow into new trees.
  • The roosting habitat of the bats is their home. Bat colonies are often formed in Melaleuca wetland areas where the micro climate is perfect to keep them healthy. However, if we remove these vulnerable wetlands (and we do), the bats look for other less suitable places to roost. These may be in parks or schools or your backyard. These roosts are unsuitable, for us and for the bats. They have no way of keeping cool in these new roosts, and can often die in their thousands when the temperature soars over 43 degrees. So the trick is to leave the natural roosts alone.

Fllying batHere is what Louise had to say when she was interviewed by Sixty Minutes after their segment on Lyssavirus. http://www.batsrule.org.au/batsrule-helpsavewildlife/2014/3/9/extra-minutes-australian-rabies-interview-with-louise-saunders-bat-conservation-and-rescue

Bats are incredible animals, and according to Louise, probably the most important wildlife in Australia. After 34 million years of evolution, they have hardly changed, and the worst thing we can be is ignorant. Learn more about bats, and be amazed!

Here are some websites I found useful:

Batty Boat cruises, through Wildlife Queensland

Bat Conservation & Rescue QLD

All About Bats