Feathers of the Firebird blog

Sophie Masson's blog, Feathers of the Firebird features a post written by me today, in her new series called '2017 Book Discovery'.

I discovered a fascinating book this year, Pirate Hunters by Robert Kurson, a gripping read about real-life modern day divers, who are passionate to the point of obsession, about undersea diving and searching for sunken treasure.  

I love to travel and enjoy reading travel memoirs from exotic locations, so Pirate Hunters was the perfect book to take away with me on a recent beach holiday.  I gazed out to sea and imagined what sunken galleons and buried history might be waiting to be discovered...

Pirate Hunters Kurson.jpg

4 Star Review of A Christmas Menagerie!

A great review by Merle Morcom in the latest issue of Good Reading Magazine of A Christmas Menagerie.  

'Christmas is a wonderful time to give a gift of a special book to a child.  A Christmas Menagerie...is just that sort of book.' 

A Christmas Menagerie would make a great stocking-filler!

Christmas Press A Christmas Menagerie review Good Reading.jpg

Arree Chung webinar - Dummy Books

Just participated in a very useful SCBWI webinar with author/illustrator Arree Chung.  Arree was focussing on the process and reason for creating Dummy Books in developing picture books.  He finds the process of creating 'dummies' enables him to refine and develop his initial story ideas and as he says, 'turn ideas into something real'.  

A 'dummy' narrows your focus and helps you to see problems earlier, in either your manuscript or your illustrations or both.  Arree recommended the 'creating a dummy process' even for writers without illustration skills, and encouraged everyone to have a go.

It was fascinating to see his process through developing his recent picture book 'Mixed' and how important the dummy book was in that creation.


Webinar Masterclass with Colleen Doran, artist and Graphic Novelist

On 21 October I took part in the Comics Stripped Bare Series of webinars hosted by Comics Mastermind, this time with the fabulous Colleen Doran.

What a great webinar - Colleen spoke of her creative process behind the creation of her graphic Novel, Troll Bridge, an adaptation of Neil Gaiman's short story.  

Colleen shared her tips on developing illustrations, character and the reasons behind her creative choices, along with some great digital tips.  It was lovely to hear that she still prefers to work initially with hand-drawn work on paper, before moving to digital finishing and that she feels the 'hand in art' is still very important for her - that 'human element'.

When considering the elements to put into an illustration, Colleen suggests to ask yourself what can you bring to the illustrations, that hasn't already been put on the page with the script - to 'expand the prose'.  Also to think about the emotional impact and try to create a more 3D character.

Lots of food for thought!

Meet the publishers ! Publishing Panel

The recent CBCA Northern Sydney Sub-branch meeting included guest publishers Claire Hallifax of Scholastic/Omnibus and Chren Byng of HarperCollins.  These two wonderful children's and YA publishers were interviewed by author Louise Park, during a fascinating question and answer Publishing Panel session at Chatswood Library.  There was a capacity crowd of eager, enthusiastic writers, illustrators and librarians all hanging off every word!

The two publishers discussed what they're looking for in manuscripts, how many new authors and illustrators they take on each year, whether social media is helpful, and where they find new creators.  Again, the publishers emphasised not to write to the latest fad, but to write from the heart - and that is ultimately what will speak to them.

Some great tips - Claire said to think of a picture book as an 'audio-visual medium' and 'practice, practice...' your writing.  Chren recommended reading your work aloud, especially picture book texts, and even better, to get someone else to read your work aloud...

After the Publisher Panel, the meeting continued with a round up of recent CBCA-run events, included the fun Authors in the Hills and the very successful Lunch with the Stars at St Patrick's Seminary Manly.  The meeting ended with the latest 'Book Babies' being shared by proud writers and illustrators - including me, with my latest, A Christmas Menagerie (Christmas Press), for which I created colour illustrations.

Clever Wombat Christmas Menagerie Yvonne Low.jpg

Clever Wombat illustrations (A Christmas Menagerie, Christmas Press)


ASA Creators on Craft - Ann James

On 12 October, I took part in another Creators on Craft Webinar offered by the ASA, this time with wonderful illustrator Ann James.  Ann talked to us about working as an illustrator and how to improve and enhance our art portfolios.  I particularly loved one of her insights - 'let the line breathe', when colouring illustrations.

The books have arrived! A Christmas Menagerie.

A Christmas Menagerie books have arrived!  The book looks gorgeous and my illustrations came out well for Janeen Brian's story 'Clever Wombat'.  The books will be available in November.

One of my illustrations for the story 'Clever Wombat'.

One of my illustrations for the story 'Clever Wombat'.

Clever Wombat story

I had fun creating the illustrations for Clever Wombat written by Janeen Brian, one of the entertaining illustrated stories included in Christmas Press' upcoming A Christmas Menagerie, soon to be released.  Look out for my illustrations in this Anthology for the festive season!

Clever Wombat busy sweeping his home clean.

Clever Wombat busy sweeping his home clean.

A Christmas Menagerie

Christmas Press' 2017 gorgeous Christmas Anthology, A Christmas Menagerie, is now at the printers and will be available in November!  My illustrations for Janeen Brian's story, Clever Wombat, feature in this collection of entertaining illustrated tales for young readers.

SCBWI Success Story

I was asked by Susanne Gervay to write about my experience being 'snapped up' by Author and Publisher Sophie Masson (Christmas Press) at the SCBWI Sydney Conference 2016.  Hope this encourages other pre-published and emerging writers and illustrators to keep plugging on!  (My article can be read in full at https://scbwiaustralianz.com post of 5 March 2017.)

One of my initial roughs for the front cover of Jack of Spades (author Sophie Masson, Eagle Books).

One of my initial roughs for the front cover of Jack of Spades (author Sophie Masson, Eagle Books).



SCBWI Draw This - Wild!

Going wild, in the wild!  I wonder who's having more fun?

Detail of my 'Wild' illustration.

Detail of my 'Wild' illustration.

The full image of my 'Wild' illustration for SCBWI Draw This August prompt word.

The full image of my 'Wild' illustration for SCBWI Draw This August prompt word.

SCBWI Draw This: Celebrate

Two mice having their own 'celebration'!

My inclusion in the July SCBWI Draw This prompt word of 'Celebrate'.

My inclusion in the July SCBWI Draw This prompt word of 'Celebrate'.

CYA Conference 2017

I was thrilled to hear today that I was placed Highly Commended by the final Judge Clare Hallifax (Scholastic) for my illustrations entry into the 'Aspiring Category: Graphic Novels, Illustrated Middle Grade Novels, and Illustrated Picture Books'.  Thank you CYA Conference organisers and judges!

ICPBS - International Centre for the Picture Book in Society

I'm taking part in the Migrations Exhibition of artwork from around the world, hosted by ICPBS and BIBIANA (International House of Art for Children) in Bratislava, Slovakia.

This exhibition intends to draw attention to the plight of refugee children and families, using artists as visual storytellers and communicators and the theme of a migrating bird.

We were encouraged to create our own unique postcard and send it across the world to the University of Worcester, UK and its ICPBS, the 'flight' of the postcard (via the postal services) also carrying its own significance.

My postcard arrived safely and can be seen on the online map of the world, showing from where each artist's card has originated - a fascinating and truly global response.  Many beautiful, whimsical cards, with profound and thoughtful comments.

My Bird Postcard, flown all the way from Sydney Australia to Worcester UK.

My Bird Postcard, flown all the way from Sydney Australia to Worcester UK.


SCBWI 'Draw This! monthly art prompt for June was 'Splash!'  I couldn't resist creating a wet and close encounter of the 'whale' kind...

 'Splash!' Whale watching...

 'Splash!' Whale watching...

CBCA Author/Illustrator Afternoon Tea

I had a fantastic time at Terrey Hills Public School, during the CBCA Author/Illustrator Afternoon Tea.  Part of a group of 10 authors and illustrators, I presented to 3 groups of enthusiastic and engaged Years 5 and 6 students.  It was wonderful to hear that all of the students had taken a look at my website and work and some had even created artwork inspired by my own illustrations.  During the afternoon, we looked at my process of creating the illustrations for Jack of Spades, which included fascinating historical research and the students also had fun learning a little about what life would have been like in 1910 Paris.

Thank you kids and teachers at Terrey Hills Public for a fun afternoon!  Hope you've all been inspired to write and illustrate your own stories.

A great group of students learning about illustrating an exciting historical thriller.

A great group of students learning about illustrating an exciting historical thriller.

One of the period hats I brought along for the children to try out.

One of the period hats I brought along for the children to try out.

Thank you for the lovely flowers!  Our CBCA Northern Sydney Sub-branch Author and Illustrator group (L-R): Lindy Batchelor, Wendy Blaxland, Jan Latta, Louise Park, Penny Morrison, Aura Parker, Shelly Unwin, Debra Tidball, Yvonne Low, Belinda Murrell, Lesley Gibbes.

Five Favourites

Sophie Masson asked me to contribute to her blog Feathers of the Firebird and share my 'five favourite' books from childhood.  What a difficult choice to make! It was great to revisit this liberating world, where as a child you can read, absorb, escape, wonder and imagine to your heart's content.  Interesting to see how the illustrations were so much a part of why I loved these books, and still do!

I still love this book and the charming illustrations.

I still love this book and the charming illustrations.

Medieval Paris

I was inspired to write a travel article after an in-depth visit to Notre-Dame in Paris. Every nook and cranny of the cathedral is filled with history, from its stones to the rooftop sculptures, carvings and gargoyles and its famous bells.  My article includes tips on seeing other wonderful medieval sites in Paris, as well as a great place to stay and eating out in medieval surroundings.

Notre-Dame gargoyles who have a great view of Paris.

Notre-Dame gargoyles who have a great view of Paris.