52 weeks of Gratefulness: Wk 41: Sibling Time


This week was one to be extremely grateful for as it presented a rare opportunity for me to have ‘sibling time’ with my brother Mark and sister Gisella, while none of us were actually in our home cities.

As luck would have it, I was in Brisbane when Mark was in Byron Bay and a cruise down the coast had me in Bundjalung Country in no time of all. In between catch-up sessions talking through life, and fits of laughter around me complaining about the hard sofa bed I had aggressively insisted I’d sleep on, time with Mark helped renew my spirit and de-stress within less than 24 hours.

Together we enjoyed three memorable meals: lunch at Tree House, dinner at the Byron Brewery Company (have the ice cream sandwich with peanut butter, salted caramel and chocolate – it’s rich enough for two! ) and breakfast at Fishheads (recommend Fishheads Royal).  A short walk along the beachfront also meant that we had enough time to tick off the ‘agenda items’ that bind us as siblings:

  • Mum
  • Careers
  • Love life
  • Travel plans and wish list
  • Life goals
  • Health and fitness

My brother has this incredible sense of wisdom for someone so young – he always has had. And I cruised back up the highway 24 hours later feeling better centred and at peace about life. And I’m supposed to be the bigger sibling offering all the advice!


Only days later I was on Larrakia land in Darwin, hanging out at Mindl Beach Markets with my sister Gisella following my presentation at the Early Childhood Australia National Conference. Gisella is Manager of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Programs At KU Services and was also speaking at the conference about KUs Reconciliation Action Plan. It was a fluke we were at the same conference together – it may well have been the first time.

I take great pride in introducing my sister to others – she is a star at what she does at KU – and the fact that she loves her job means she’s easy to listen to when she talks about her work. I also need to do a shout out to her as she was just awarded the perpetual KU Marcia Burgess Award for demonstrating an outstanding commitment to fostering and enriching the lives of vulnerable children and their families. #proudsistermoment

Similar to Mark, Gisella is much calmer than I am, less anxious and fun to be around, so I was grateful for the opportunity to just have some yummy local food and play the tourist at sunset.

When you live a plane ride away from your immediate family some days are lonelier than others. And so this week, I am grateful that the universe smiled upon me and made it possible for me to spend time with both both Mark and Gis.🙂

52 Weeks of Gratefulness: Wk 40: Being the daughter of a tradie


My dad was big on recycling so he would’ve loved this set I picked up at the West End Salvo’s store

My dad was known as Joe-the-Carpenter. He was a cabinetmaker, a craftsman. All my life I watched him making desks, bookcases, shoe cabinets, chests of drawers, doors, anything that could be crafted from wood. He turned old oak doors into wardrobes for me. His creations were pieces of furniture crafted by the hands of a perfectionist. Do it properly or don’t it at all – he told me once and I never forgot it.

My dad was from the generation where a tradie mastered all the needs around the house: re-wiring, plumbing, woodwork, painting, you name it. He did it himself.

In November 2004 my father was diagnosed with the cancer that would take his life 12 months later. As soon as he started treatment I stopped asking him to ‘fix’ things around my place. I’ll never forget the look on his face when I got a plumber in to fix a tap in my kitchen. I realized instantly that I had robbed him of an important role in my life. His sense of being ‘needed’ as a dad who did stuff. But I just hadn’t wanted to put any extra pressure on him.

There have many times in the last 11 years where I have looked at a door hanging loose, or something in need of a touch up with the paintbrush where I felt a pang of heartache, missing my father. And then there have been moments when I feel him watching over me with pride.

This week was one of those weeks… I took myself to Bunnings and bought a flat pack thingy (insert technical term) for my bathroom. I put it together. It looks okay. I was so excited I went back to Bunnings the same day and bought new handles for my kitchen cupboards and drawers. I put most of them on successfully. I was proud of myself.

I have a local carpenter Joel who is about to build me new wardrobes. I’ll get him to remedy the wobbly cabinet and the lose handles and the jobs will be complete. Joel reminds me of my dad. He is a craftsman, and he works solo with a sense of pride. I think everyone needs someone like my dad in their lives – to make their homes beautiful, and well, homely.

After doing some maths, I realized if I painted my flat myself I could use the savings to take myself back to Maui in 2017… so in the same week I went to my local Mitre 10 and bought paint and drop sheets. I’d done it before. So at least this time I walked in with some level confidence. I moved furniture by myself (this may have been a stupid action); I sugar-soaped, primed and painted walls and tiles. I smiled to myself at the effort – more than the end product (it’s not perfect!), and I felt a sense of achievement when that project was finished too! Before and after pics below – walls were sand colour and splashback was navy with red feature tiles. Now everything white. I like it!


My dad’s toolkit, hammer and his Stanley measuring tape are significant ‘things’ I’ve kept close to me since his passing. They are the tools I need to ‘do stuff’ but they also mend a heart that remains heavy with the loss a daughter feels for the one fella who was also true to his word. Was always there to fix things and kill spiders. And he built a home with my mother that we all still find warmth and love in.

Okay, so this blog took a turn for the emotional and I’m writing it on the plane with eyes welling so I’ll sign off.

Love to hear your stories of being #daughterofatradie if you have any. Or #sonofatradie too, of course. And why you’re grateful.

52 Weeks of Gratefulness: Wk 39 – My #NewyTiddas


Sometimes we can be SO grown up!

Sometimes, having to travel for work – and yes, a book tour is work – can be a real effort. Unless it means heading to the Hunter Region in NSW where I get to connect with readers, writers and my local #NewyTiddas. I’ve written about them here before.

So, I was thrilled when I was told the last stop on my Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms book tour was going to be doing events with Lake Macquarie Libraries. Coordinated by one of my favourite librarians Cathy Shay (who has been a guest of mine here before!) I had 24 hours of books-with-a-blast! So this blog is simply a shout out of gratitude to Cathy, Linda, Jayne, Carol, Athena and Susan.


With Cathy Shay – Super Librarian!

Newcastle and surrounds has become a special place for me over the years because of these women. They have shown me that this once mainly industrial town is the hive of social and creative activity, with restaurants and bars, and a meeting place for like-minded literary ladies who share a passion for life. Most of us found each other via social media – connected by the love of Australian and world literature, a pretty frock, random firemen, dance-floor antics and most importantly, a sense of social justice.


Linda Drummond – the genious behind saving SPC!

My gratitude for them is deep – for they have supported me during hard times [which don’t need to be rehashed here] and they have reminded me over food and bubbles of the importance of letting my hair down. We all have good women in our lives, these are just some of mine!


Carol Duncan – Broadcaster, interviewer extraordinaire!

I need to also mention a wonderful younger sista, Sharnee, who came into my life via a Koori Radio music event back in 2007/2008 and as been like family ever since. Sharnee wrote a song inspired by my novel Not Meeting Mr Right, we once connected for dinner in Las Vegas, I MC’d her beautiful wedding to Farron, and this week I got to meet her first child, the most gorgeous Ezra. Isn’t he just the most gorgeous bub? Aunty was grateful for cuddle time in the hours leading into my first event that night.


Book tours, yes they are work, but they bring balance into my life in the most unexpected ways, like dancing the night away with these chicks below, and for that I am grateful.



52 Weeks of Gratefulness: Wk 38 – Troy Cassar-Daley’s Things I Carry Around


Things I Carry Around is the memoir of Troy Cassar-Daley who has 30 years experieince in the music industry and is winner of 32 Golden Guitars. He’s also an APRA, ARIA and Deadly Award winner. But his fabulous life story told in this volume, tells us so much more about the Goori fella from northern NSW.

From reading his story I can tell you that Troy Cassar-Daley was in earlier times a self confessed ladies man, believing in his youth that he was the local Love God with a mullet hairstyle, skinny black jeans and pointy boots. I’m sure the fact he liked a bit of Brut 33 didn’t hurt either.

In his own words he was “cocky as shit’ when young. But maybe he had reason to be: he mastered many skills including mustering and branding cattle, working as a mechanic of sorts at 5 Mile Wreckers yard, and he was a chef at Nautilus Resort Coffs Harbour in his late teens.

He’s played in bands with names like the Bundjulung Beat, Southern Comfort and Little Eagle. He rates Goanna’s ‘Spirit of Place’ in his top three alums of his life, while the Warumpi Band from Papunya gave him an appreciation of culture.

Troy had his first guitar lesson at 10 and first visit to Tamworth Festival at 11, where he met Jimmy Little and it started a lifelong love affair with the town and its music, even though Keith Urban once beat him in Starmaker at the Tamworth Festival.

For the stalkers, you might like to know that he eats Promite and avocado on toast. If this doesn’t sound like an interesting person and read, then some of the titles in this book might pique your interest: “You shot me, you fuckin idiot!’, ‘Splinters, black-stained hands and a nine-pound hammer’, ‘How long can you blow on that thing – the Highwaymen tour’, ‘Distracted by Halle Berry’s Bum’ and ‘When love finds you’.

Troy says Things I Carry Around is the stuff people won’t read about him in the papers or on social media etc. This is his story in his words. And we learn about his family first…

We read about life in Vincent Street, a wonderful myriad of memories with family – aunts, uncles, cousins, some sad like Hoppy, many happy like his time with Uncle Buddy who sounded like a prankster / joker. There are so many wonderful memories of his Nan who was a good shot with the single-plugger thong, and Nanna Cassar was a big hearted Catholic woman. And stories of singing with his dad.

And while I wanted to be a nun and Ginger from Gilliagan’s Island when I was a kid, Troy wanted to be a train – and even wrote a song about it – ‘Wish I Was a Train’.

Much of the memoir is about Troy’s journey as a muso – discovering music, including learning guitar, playing on stage with Jimmy Little in Tamworth at 15, the Brian Young tour, touring with The Highwaymen supergroup (Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings), smoking a joint with Merle Haggard at end of their tour, his first album deal with Sony and his Breakthrough albums Beyond the Dancing and True Believer.

We read about meeting the love of his life, and now wife, Laurel on the road and their Nashville wedding and Australian weddings.

Most of all we learn of Troy’s success as a family man  and how he is a wonderful role model for Indigenous Australians.

I had the enormous pleasure of interviewing Troy at the Brisbane Writers Festival on Indigenous Literacy Day and in my 20 years of participating in the BWF, it was quite possibly one of the most enjoyable and engaged events I’ve been part of. And for that I am incredibly grateful.

Get your copy of Things I Carry Around  and get some of the same insight, engagement and enjoyment.


52 Weeks of Gratefulness: Wk 37: Time Out


Excercising at daybreak with a view over the city is a great way to start the day!

My friends, colleagues, family, especially my Mum often ask: When are you going to take a break? When do you stop? They comment I am always on the go, racing around, running – literally – everywhere. It’s true. I’m busy. I like to be busy. Life is short and there’s so much I want to have done before the end of it. And I fill the void of loneliness also by being on the go, all the time.

However, the body and mind do need a spell, time to relax, reflect and recharge. I’m a huge fan of the power nap. I prioritize my weekends and some workdays around lying down for 20 minutes in silence to just regroup, especially when I am on a book tour, which I’m on until September 17.


Breakfast with a view and good company makes for perfect ‘me time’.

So, while I was in Melbourne (twice in seven days) for the writers festival, having decided not to fly back to Brisbane for two nights only to return for the third time in ten days, I took some time out, some ‘me time’. Some time to sit and enjoy breakfast, to lie down and read, soak in a bath, have coffee with friends, look in a frock shop without a sense of having to rush. I spent extra time in the gym; meeting my 100km aerobic challenge my gym had set me for the month of August. I managed to fit in a massage, facial and pedicure and I felt like a pampered girl again. And I did all of that, plus some work in two days.

The time out for me, which included a daily nap, renewed my energy and spirit enough to get me back onto the roundabout of the writerly life and back into Festival mode for an event with Michael O’Loughlin and Kicking Goals.  We had a fab day talking to 100s of school students from around Victoria. If you work with you young people (or former AFL players!), you’ll know you need all the energy you can muster to keep everyone engaged!

52 Weeks of Gratefulness: Wk 36 – Book Week


Authors love Book Week, although we know that parents sometimes don’t. I watched my Facebook feed during Book Week and saw numerous mothers complaining about having to pull together a costume for their child (or children). I totally understand the pressure on time and resources in an already jam-packed parenting week (okay I’m not a parent but I am around parents a lot!).

But what I wanted to say in this blog post is that what the parents might not see is the absolute joy in the classroom, as students explain their outfits and share with pride who their favouite character is and why. As an author, it’s wonderful to see young Australian students engaging with literature when they have the opportunity to do so. Book Week is the one week of the year when the entire school community – teachers and parents included – go the whole hog(worts) – see what I did there?🙂

In Book Week this year I spent a fabulous day at Helensvale State School running writing workshops with their student authors in Years 3-6. We had a blast creating characters and settings on the page. In between those classes I spoke to classes about my books, aiming to inspire the little people to also write. I didn’t have to try hard though at this school. When I asked students who wanted to be a writer – hundreds of hands shot up in the air! It was extraordinary. Also good to see a few teachers admit their desire to write the great Australian novel as well.

So, this week I am grateful for Book Week and the parents, teachers plus the all important teacher librarians that make the week a memorable one for all those who participate.

And I’m incredbly grateful for the invitation to visit H.S.S and work with some extraordinary students. I hope to be attending their book launches one day!

What was your Book Week experience this year?

52 Weeks of Gratefulness: Wk 35 – Avid Reader, West End


I have posted here many times about Avid Reader – the West End institution and haven for book lovers, the community minded, coffee and home-made-cake-connoisseurs. The bookshop owned by local legend Fiona Stager (below) is a navigation point for me in Brisbane. I measure distances from Avid Reader – my home is 1.5km by foot. The State Library is 1.3km. My Epic Good office is 800m. When I am in Brisbane Avid is not far from me. Or should I say I am not far from it!?


The shop is not just about books. It’s about the way the staff – each and everyone one of them – makes people feel when they walk through the door. Everyone is a rock star; everyone is someone to be considered (or so it seems), as someone who belongs there. It is a place I always feel welcome. It is a place that helped me decided to move to Brisbane.

This week I am grateful for the sense of family that Avid Reader has given me. It is the reason I choose to have my book events there – because launches are about celebrating with family. It is the reason I put my hand up when I can to participate in events they have like National Bookshop Day. And community events they participate in like Swim The Reef.


Thank you Fiona for being such a role model in the local community but also the literary world. Thank you Krissy (below) for not only years of unconditional friendship but for hosting the best events an author could hope for. Thank you Christopher for some of the funniest tweets the Twittersphere has seen. Thank you Stuart for the impressive treats your prepare day after day (please don’t let me eat too many!) and thank you to all the staff, you make being fabulous look sooooo easy!


52 Weeks of Gratefulness: Wk 34 – Routine


The calming effects of the Brisbane River is part of my daily routine

I live a good life; there is no doubting that. But while the flying around for events where I connect with readers and re-connect with old friends are all food for the soul and warm the heart, the travel also takes it’s toll on the body and mental well-being.

With that in mind, I am always grateful to come home to my own bed, bathroom, kitchen (okay so most of you know I don’t cook but it’s still my kitchen) and the peacefulness that living by the river brings me. It was the same when I lived in Sydney. I just wanted to get back to Matraville where I could swing by Maroubra Beach, suck in the salt air and feel the calming effects of an at at-times forceful sea.


My morning walks with Shaz to the Goodwill Bridge for a coffee with Brendan and the biceps is a great way to start the day!

And so in Week 34 my gratefulness is the routine of daily life: wake at daybreak, run / gym alone or walk with Sharon , a smoothie or green drink, the library or Epic Good Foundation, coffee with a friend, lunch in the sun, home on my couch watching mindless television, ironing, talking on the phone, bed with a book. Routine. I love it. Routine you see keeps me sane.

Am I the only one who craves routine at times?