Category: Uncategorized

A Wang Workshop – Gabrielle Wang

Important themes in children’s literature like “fitting in”, belonging, what is home? and finding “hidden potential” are the threads that weave themselves through the fantasy novels of Chinese Australian author, Gabrielle Wang. What a talented woman she is writing magnificent stories for the middle grade audience ( 10-13 years) With 26 novels behind her, it is fitting that today’s workshop held in the Brisbane City Square library was going to be good.

Leader Sheryl Gywther of SCBWI ( Society of Children’s books and illustrators) welcomed Gabrielle to about twenty plus eager aspiring and published writers. We listened to her story arcs, plotting methods, use of voice, the hook, setting, characters and emotional journey. Above all, we discovered more truth about her story boarding, pushing boundaries, similes and the multi layering of the story.

Elaine on left talking to Gabrielle


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In story structure the idea of page turners is very important because it drives the story forward. In her latest book called Ting Ting and the Ghosthunter the author uses characters who make major mistakes then redeems themselves. The Wishbird is about two extraordinary heroes and one magical journey. Oriole’s beloved Whisbird is dying and she must leave the Forest to save him. In The Beast of Hushing Wood, Ziggy Truegood lives in a tiny town deep in Hushing Wood, where strange things are happening. Many of her books are illustrated by her as she started her career as a graphic artist, not a writer.

Ramping up the story, says Gabrielle is about sometimes adding a gruesome scene, or making a flip side happen, that is, when the reader is least expecting it, the character can react differently. I love it when she says, it’s vital to teach the reader “how to cope with different situations. take them on an emotional journey!”

Gabrielle explains her technique of story planning- a fold out book


chapter by chapter insight into the story


character profile used for writing

Because this was a workshop we were given some interesting writing exercises, for example, look closely at this photograph of the family and choose one person and write about what they are thinking. Who did I pick? The crying baby of course. It was a fun thing to do and challenging. We were also asked to think of a treasured possession that we owned. To write and create a storyboard based on the object. I chose a wedding dress that belonged to my mother. In the class we were invited to read aloud our pieces of writing. So much talent in one room.

Gabrielle loves to go with the flow when she plots. Most authors might try both – planning from beginning to end and letting the story find itself. We all liked the quotes on a slip of paper that she gave to us; something that we had to add to our “dream” story.

In The Ghost in my Suitcase there is a poetical charm “where the rhythm of your heart beats in your voice.” It takes a “star” and humble author like Gabby to know her character’s voices and make them so appealing to children. What a privilege to meet her again, and thank you to SCBWI for this literary treat.


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Brisbane city close to library

A Garden Room Gift

Ever wanted you own little shed with a difference? It’s not my she shed. It’s called Garden Room, skilfully designed and made by my husband Bill. A wedding gift and project.

Every day I see something that Bill has made with love. From the heavy pavers that we both carried down the steps from the carport onto the site. Three by three metres, out near the side of the laundry – a cosy spot for potting plants, gathering blooms, cutting, snipping, watering etc.


Bill orders the cypress pine timber, thousands of screws for the job, the roofing and all the bits he needs to build with. We already have a potting bench so the framework will be opening onto this. We enjoy a trip to the demolition yards at Yandina to source second hand doors and windows. Scrounging around in the big yard is an interesting experience  – so much gets delivered and dumped.



I assist with the paint work but Bill has done the bulk using black as the colour to add appeal and the sort of country style shed with a high pitched gable roof – a bit “barnish.”

Bill prefers to work by himself as he knows where everything is placed, or should be placed; he likes the freedom of working his own pace. Mastering things solo means working out clever tricks for balancing on the roof, ladder, trusses, stepping in exactly the right centimetres and moving across the right position.

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When the walls go up, the site starts to look like a shed. Working independently and with plenty of coffees, hot brekky stops in the cold mornings, means I can browse some Pinterest sites, blogs and think about the interior. I have already some vintage buckets, Bunnings essentials, a K Mart prop or two, vases, bottles and essential gardening gloves, hat etc.

Can you spot the hard worker up high? He is listening to bird calls.
Planing the rosewood timber for shelving I vacuum the shed for the fine red dust.

I think the pride comes when Bill sees what he has made with his own strong hands. It’s really a beautiful thing to share and allows him to feel connected with timber, tools and his time. There’s a sense of purpose that is so satisfying when one makes something.

July hits with rain. He takes a good break. Bill takes his thoughts to paper and comes up with a skillion roof side to protect from rain.




WOW! Impressive hey! and my new colour scheme is Mexican chilli. Bold and vibrant.

Two coats of wash and wear Taubmans paint one cold morning

So, after 4-5 months, the wedding gift has emerged. Stronger and more beautiful than ever. A pavilion perhaps, a sleep out for Bill (NO) a room for plants and possums and hanging baskets. A place to appreciate the human touch of craftsmanship.

Thanks darling Bill.

I will share the more finished look closer to Spring when the light filters through the windows, and the scent of jasmine or lavender drifts in.


Maya and Cat



It is very clear to me that children’s writer and illustrator Caroline Magerl loves her art and stories. Her latest travelling exhibition Maya and Cat is showcased at the Nuvo art gallery in Buderim and I was the lucky one to have met the artist. German born, Caroline’s father sailed a yacht and played music, her mother loved fashion and the seven year old girl found herself sailing off into the horizon. This haphazard lifestyle meant she had time for drawing and reading, although she did move school 9 times. Imagine gazing out from 2 portholes in a cabin watching the world go by. Imagine being the new girl at so many schools! That was hard.

Adventure ran deep in her veins and it was to be a humble start with scrubbing pots, sailing, some freelance illustration and working as a cartoonist for the Bulletin. Patience and hard work paid off for Caroline when she won the Crichton Award in 2001 for Grandma’s Shoes illustrated by Libby Hathorn. How exciting for her. But ideas take time.

Some ideas take 10 years to simmer and grow. As she says, ” every book will take its own route.”

“I am in a 2 legged sack – write and draw.” Her influences extend from Germany to Russian and East German styles of art, John Birmingham and UK Quentin Blake.

Caroline Magerl



Have you lost a cat?

Interviewed by Jo Chandler, she is asked about what she hopes children will learn from her books. “I want connection and engagement with the story – emotion. For kids to feel.”

She remember feeling those quiet days with her nose deep in a book reading all day.

Caroline cares about her words although she wasn’t first a writer. You need to care about the characters, ask questions about my characters. Her illustrations are playful, messy, loosely evocative and fun. In Maya and Cat and Hasel and Rose windows and animals feature along with the sea, boats, bicycles – finding the lost, searching. Maya and Cat is about friendship and resilience. Rose and the Wish Thing is about the power of imagination. In the Naming of Tishkin Silk by Glenda Millard, Carolie’s tender black and white drawings enhance the text.

as Fritz and Irma, beaming and calling, threw their arms into the air
Margaret Gibbs and Caroline Magerl

From an upbeat childhood to international artist and children’s book author, Caroline is both gentle and comforting to talk to and knowledgable about her craft. Her favourite double page spread of Maya and Cat is the one with the rooftops. A bit of Mary Poppins.

She has carefully placed the cat and Maya and the distance between them.

Now to her process. Everyone loves to get inside an artist’s mind. For her the design of the place comes first. Perspective and characters with setting. Following on are the black and white drawings with a focal point to look at. Then the colours. Practise being spontaneous. Finally, the wash first and the ink.

If you look closely at her art work, you will notice dashes, lines, little squiggles, slabs of colour, scratchy trees and pathways, lush green and blue foliage, citrus lemon hills, pink teacakes shaped like starfish.

Jo Chandler interview


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I love the words that Caroline used from Einstein – Hold onto your tiny ideas.

From these ideas stories grow and grow.

draft and dabbling

Why not visit The Books of Buderim store and say hello to Fiona who will be delighted to sell you a copy of Caroline’s books. Snuggle under the warm doona and read this magical story to any child – more suitable for 3 + years.

A chilled country experience

Have you been to Tenterfield, Warwick, Stanthorpe and Spring Creek? Certainly most Queenslanders do know of these places, except the last one belongs to a dear school friend of mine whose husband had a dream to run a cattle station. Their property is where we stayed for 2 nights. But first, I will begin with Tenterfield.

My husband Bill loves the country experience. I mean real outdoor bushwalking, camping in tents and gazing up into the stars. However, rather than freeze ourselves silly, I decided to stay in a fire lit cosy elegant bed and brekky guesthouse called Winton.

Wow! were we in for a treat and some winter indulgence.


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This fireplace kept us very toasty each afternoon from about 3pm. A library of books, delicious home made scones and tea, and Kerrie’s impeccable styling of interior made for a beautiful short stay.


Even real roses in vases on the bedside tables in our room brought a heavenly feeling.

Winton treats its guests lavishly. We were impressed. Kerrie introduced us to her furry companion Mr Darcy and allowed us a peek through the back door into their private abode. Everything I love. A bit classic, electric with vintage wares, gardening finds, wicker furniture, gorgeous art, another fire place, eye catching bric a brac and more.

One of the shops I enjoyed in Tenterfield was the Potting Shed. It was just opening when we were leaving. I walked in to be greeted by a lovely lady who posed for this photo.


Naturally with my project at home going on ( my potting shed) I bought the broom home.

A few words about this shop – rustic, wood, earthy, well designed and welcoming.

brick wall and rust go well together
a contemporary art print


Love the chair! I might copy this idea. Terra cotta pots, climbing ivy, a bath tub of herbs and veggies, pumpkins adorned the shelves.



Far from the chilled country air ( I wore my trusty green knitted scarf and woollen socks), hospitality in the country is warm. We said goodbye and travelled on to Stanthorpe ( a lunch only) then to Spring Creek.

Margot and Chris have lived here for 10 years and are currently selling off one of the 5000 plots of land. Their homestead has been slowly and lovingly worked on by Chris over different stages of renovation and the big wrap around verandah captured my attention with its open spaces. I have known Margot since school days. Life’s circumstances have separated us but it’s an amazing thing to be reunited after many years.

Margot and me

Throw in some Angus cross, 12 kilometres of new fencing, several dams, old shearer’s shed, bull dozer, antique tractor, quad bikes, skulls, jumping roos and perfect crimson sunsets plus a few night time board games and you have a rich and invigorating stay.

Margot is a writer, author, blogger, computer whizz, rural podcast listener, grandma, handyman, quilter, kefir expert, questioner, dedicated grazier, reader and marathon runner.

Chris her husband keeps up with her and wears many hats. While playing Boggle, I discovered also that Margot can win 24 words to my 13.



Chris and his proud strong fence
Bill standing near the rusty tractor



The prickly pear is a pest. Kangaroos are everywhere, especially dead on the roadside.

The drought is hurting everyone.

Where is Spring Creek?  Head towards Texas from Stanthorpe, about 40 ks out of town you will come to a fork in the road. Take the Inglewood fork. About 6 ks along this road you will come to Inverary Road. This is a dirt road. Follow it for another 7ks and you will come to a grid and see the sign “Spring Creek”. It’s another 7ks down to the house.

Bill and I truly loved the chilled country experience in July. We left Margot and Chris with some hearty lamb to cook up and unforgettable memories that I will cherish.



Graceful Elegance!

Back in the Maryborough days I knew keen gardeners and educators, Judy and Allan Morgan whose home now in Samford, Brisbane is their pride and joy. Both passionate about anything they can get their hands into ( building, planting, sewing and cooking) the owners have designed a beautiful, serene space with plenty of scope for entertaining. Their garden relates to the their lifestyle and how it will age. It is both pleasurable, soulful, gracious and well planned. Plant selection, colour and perfume combine to lift one’s spirits. There’s a balance exists between the private parts and the busier playing areas for their grandsons. It’s a love affair that’s worth sharing – a Morgan piece of paradise.

I asked Judy about what she loves most about her garden. She skilfully worded her response this way, ” we purchased this 1.5 acre property 6 years ago and were attracted to the position of a very large dam that traversed the width of the property. The only trees on the block were two large gums. The view and the expanse of the garden created would be uninterrupted.”

Take a look at this and ask yourself, wouldn’t it be a marvellous spot to appreciate, value and enjoy?

Like a mirror the sunlight captures simple beauty and reflections


There are a variety of trees from Jacaranda, Himalayan magnolias, olives, lemon scented myrtles, fruit trees, cedars, poinciana and more. Imagine setting up your easel for a plein air class, or sketching under the shade of waterhousias.

Because Judy and Allan are a close family they  love to watch the sunsets and beautiful reflections on the water with their families. Coming together for a glass of wine and food both down near the dam and fire-pit or under the climbing roses and ornamental grapevine alfresco style is popular. Throw in two active grandsons and as Judy says, “the tree house and flying fox get great use with the boys.” Allan, Matthew and son-in-law Andrew often kick a football or use the kayak to paddle in the dam. Toasting marshmallows in the fire-pit is so enjoyable.

The family and friends gather to share a meal
Anyone for a swing?

For Judy her favourite season is “Spring when the ornamental plum, cherry and peach and crepe myrtles are in full bloom. However, our garden does give rewarding colour in Autumn with the changing leaf colour of the swamp cypress, liquid amber, persimmon and pear trees.”


Fragrant blooms


Planted carefully are agapanthus, cannas, spider lilies and one weeping willow.

Imagine Mary in the Secret Garden finding this?!

The owners have created a calm, lush and fragrant garden with a classical stone urn, places to sit and read and roses that Judy loves to use indoors.

The perfect bouquet


Allan prepared the soil well with adequate mulch after the planting. Trial and error with plant choice, a mixture of natives and exotics with Lilly-pillys, leopard trees, Fraser Island Apple, native frangipani, azaleas, callistemon, tibouchinas and a St Mary’s magnolia. Breath taking.


And even the friendly kookaburra comes to take a closer look.

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A kookaburra’s gaze is something to behold

It’s always hard to choose favourites in the garden. Roses for Judy are very special. Pierre de Ronsard, Cecile Brunner are winners. And when the native banksias are in full bloom, her heart sings. Talking of heart, her own parent’s garden has inspired Judy. The hippeastrum, hydrangea ( my favourite) crucifix orchid, azaleas and day Lillies also bring smiles. Being subscribed to the Diggers Club helps Judy to learn more about plants and shrubs. Also the active pair like travelling so many of their ideas come from magazines, Pinterest and visits to both public and private gardens in Australia and overseas.

ornate garden seat with a view

Del Kathryn Barton, famous artist has said that Autumn is the season she adores. “The light and colours go to a deeper place energising my creative and feeling life. Art is the shifting from summer white wines to reds and a different heart space.” I think Judy would agree.

As a final tip for any gardener, the Morgans believe that mulching is SO IMPORTANT!


And when Allan is not around, you can bet that Judy is out with her lady’s hedge trimmer. I can smell the lavender and rosemary hedges after she’s been through!!


This is the last in my garden series. Thanks Judy and Allan for sharing your beautiful garden with us. As a way of thanks, I am sending you some roses to smell!!





Henriette’s Haven

A long time resident of Mapleton, Henriette’s beautiful garden with its stone walls, magnolia trees and blossoming camellias, shows what one garden owner can achieve over time. I have known Henriette Guest for about 7 years, but she has lived in Mapleton for 30 years. Thoughtful and well kept, Rainbow Park as the house is known, has touches of whimsy, spiritual and nature loving shining through.

Just over an acre in size, the lawns are tidy, shrubs thriving, manicured merging to a rainforest backdrop. As you drive around the bend you will notice a stone carving of Mary and Joseph with its back figure the young colt or ass. Henriette tells me that this was made by a Nambour man at the Garden Expo. A bold front view naturally attracts the passer by. Mingled throughout the garden are gardenias, camellias and rhododendrons that grow well in this part of the Hinterland.



Mist on the mountain and  fragrant roses

Take a closer look at the back and you will find a statue of Francis of Assisi, lover of all animals, standing at the end of the walkway. A tall proud dove cote is erected where birds and possums appear. Stone sculptures like the goose and little girl reading add a touch of the owner’s personality.





Dove cote ready for the birds

A home is a sanctuary; a familiar landscape, a sheltered meeting place with both light and dark, a unique expression of ourselves.

For friends and family, Henriette’s garden is shared at Christmas time, with overseas visitors, neighbours and for church lunches.

There are roses, snapdragons, pansies and freesias, bromeliads and fuchsias.



The pergola sees climbers and potted herbs.


Staghorns, alkorns, palms and natives all marry together. There’s the hard and soft landscapes. When I asked Henriette, what was her favourite time of day to work in the garden, she was quick to respond with, “early morning is best”. Naturally weeds and continual maintenance provide challenges for her, however, the beauty and calm that is around her makes up for any difficulties.

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Overall, there’s a strength about the stone walling that matches the owner’s strong personality. Sitting with friends in the evening glow of candlelight, the shadows of the towering palms, seems like the ultimate celebration of life. Henriette’s green space encourages us out into the world to explore, enjoy and reflect.



Can you identify this plant?

The next garden will take us away from Mapleton closer to the Samford valley. I hope you will enjoy the journey.

Beautiful blooms in a Mapleton Garden

The garden – a place for quiet reflection, mundane work, play, escape or healing – is ever changing. Those of you who have your own plot know that a garden is an extension of the home. The garden owners possess their own individual style, hard work and willingness to create a personal, serene place. Friends and homeowners, Catherine and Max Standage have designed a beautiful home with an equally beautiful garden. Located at the end of a cul de sac with spectacular ocean views of the Sunshine Coast beaches, this property shows that in a short time with careful planning, hard work and motivation, a garden paradise can be achieved.

Of her garden, Catherine says,” I like to look out on my Mapleton garden and stroll around it, enjoying the form of the plants I have chosen to grow in the interesting and ever changing landscape that surrounds us. That I have designed and created this interesting place that was previously a cow paddock brings me great satisfaction.”

A storm is brewing in the distance



Catherine and Max’s garden is essentially an Australian garden filled with banksias, grevillias, golden kangaroo paws, grasses, fruit trees and healthy herbs. It is obvious that any visitor sees the pride in what they have achieved. Inspiration comes from gardening books and from visiting established gardens. Making the garden sit comfortably in the landscape is like easing back into a comfy chair to watch a film – the view, balance and position are all good.

Creative, child friendly, relaxed and well kept, The Standage’s garden demands a closer look.

There’s a seat designed and built by Max to take in the views. What can he see?



Favourite flavouring shrubs are the varieties of vireyas that grow well and picked to bring into the house for floral arrangements. Transformative.



A beautiful arrangement



Blossoming kangaroo paws ready to pick


One of the delights for Catherine and Max of having grand children is when they visit and see the excitement as they discover tadpoles and frogs, butterflies and many other insects, monitor lizards and wildlife. The lawn is important for playing bolle, badminton, kicking a soccer ball, flying kites. Even the kids can pick the cherry tomatoes, beans or watch the eggplants ripen. Limes are abundant. Nectar feeding birds are plentiful.





As the owners harvest seasonal vegetables or watch as different birds visit the garden, all the seasons offer something to appreciate.



A patchwork of stone steps leads onto the lawn


When I asked Catherine about any obstacles they encountered, she mentioned how challenging it was to get rid of the many weeds including thickets of lantana and strangling thorny vines like cockspur which infest the perimeter of their land. Protection of the fruit trees is vital too and the slope of the land keeps them both fit.

Up in the Blackall Ranges, heavy periods of rain come, but also managing the dry times that go on for months can be challenging. The colours of the sky – stormy, indigo grey and  azure blue always a contrast.

Feather sculptures and bird bath enhance the space


As I wander through my friend’s garden, I really appreciate a measure of peace and wonder. What a joy to share in this pleasurable landscape. And like any keen gardener, I ask Catherine what is her most essential garden tip and tool?

She says, ” recognise weeds when they are small and pull them out. Be observant. I always have my secateurs with me when I work in the garden.”

And to finish off with someone’s else’s wisdom, ” every leaf on every tree you see out there represents the opportunities you will have in life.” Some words are like seeds.