Friday, May 25, 2012

The Writer's Block Interviews: Anne Morgan, Plus Raychelle Reviews: The Sky Dreamer

1) Tell us a bit about yourself and where you live and work. How did you become an author?

I live on Bruny Island, off the island state of Tasmania, which is off the island continent of Australia.

I grew up in Hobart, Tasmania, and am the eldest girl in a family of eight. As a teenager I used to put my younger brothers to bed at night and read them stories. I enjoyed drama and relished this opportunity to read aloud and practice character voices. When I had my own kids I loved reading aloud to them too. But I also started writing children’s stories and surreptitiously sending them off to publishers.

I trained as a teacher, but have worked in a variety of occupations, including professional acting. I completed a Master of Education degree in the 1980s and in 2008 I completed a PhD in Writing at Edith Cowan University, West Australia.

2) Do you gravitate toward specific genres in your writing? Who is your ideal reader?

I enjoy writing in the fringes between fiction and fantasy – stretching fiction as far as it can go without it breaking. And without allowing the word magic to creep into my text.

My ideal readers are children with imagination and sense of humor but who have not yet switched on to reading. Then they discover the ‘right’ book for them (hopefully, one of mine), and there is no holding them back. Overnight they transform into the kind of reader whose hands start to twitch if they are not holding a book.

3) Describe your body of work. Which projects have been the most rewarding?

My first picture book, The Glow Worm Cave, was published by Aboriginal Studies Press in 1999. I had two more picture stories published before 2006-7, when Random House Australia published my Captain Clawbeak series of junior novels.

I have also had one book of adult poetry published (A Reckless Descent from Eternity, 2009).

My latest children’s picture book, The Sky Dreamer, was published in 2011. It has now been translated into French (as Le bateau de rêves) by its very talented Swiss illustrator, Céline Eimann. I am looking forward to the release of my next children’s book, The Smallest Carbon Footprint in the Land & Other Ecotales early in 2013.

The Captain Clawbeak series was great deal of fun to write. The Sky Dreamer, however, is the book I wish I never had to write, for this story would never have come into being if my gorgeous daughter, Miranda, had not died in a car accident a week after her eighteenth birthday.

4) Describe your road(s) to publication. Was the approach for your newer books much different than that of your earliest projects?

Between 1992 and 1998, I wrote four children’s book manuscripts and sent them off to publishers. Those early manuscripts are still unpublished. My fifth book, The Glow Worm Cave, was published in 1999. I now have six published children’s books and another in press. But I still have a bank of unpublished manuscripts.

I like to think I know a lot more about writing children’s books now, than I did when I first started out. I have learned how to tell a story and to introduce suspense and humor and strong, often quirky characters.

5) How do you promote your work? What methods have worked best for you?

I wish I did not have to promote my work so that I can get on with writing new work. But having said that, I realize that to survive financially in this highly competitive industry, I need to promote myself.

I have a website,

And I am organizing a launch of the French and bilingual editions of The Sky Dreamer (Le bateau de rêves) next week.

When I email people, I have started including a link You Tube trailer for The Sky Dreamer:

I am also working with the Children’s Book Council (Tasmania) to organize a series of picture books to children in supermarkets, as part of Australia’s National Year of Reading activities.

And I am just starting to contact bloggers such as you, Raychelle, who work in the children’s book industry.

I don’t think any one particular form of marketing works best. My view is that people respond best when they hear about a particular book through a variety of media.

6) Who are your favorite authors? What is on your reading list right now?

My favorite children’s author is Tove Jansson, author of the Finn Family Moomintroll series.

Sonya Harnett’s The Ghost Child is next on my reading list.

7) What are your views on self-publishing?

If I were rich and famous enough to be confident that my books would sell worldwide with very little marketing effort on my part, I would consider self-publishing. But probably not for very long.

8. When you are not writing, how do you spend your time? Describe a typical day in your life.

I live on a glorious island farm with spectacular ocean views. There is a creek running through the farm and sometimes I kayak down the creek to the sea. I have just bought an electric bike, and try to go riding every day whatever the weather (a challenge on days like today). In summer I swim and snorkel. I usually enjoy bushwalking, but not now as I have damaged my ankle. Sometimes I work in the fields, digging up thistles or harvesting potatoes. And then there are the chooks – they’re great characters. I must write a story about them one day.

Sitting at a computer for hours every day can be very damaging to the body, but physical activity is the perfect antidote. Having said that, I need to spend far less time on the computer and far more time moving around. Physical activity is great for inspiration, too.

9) What projects do you have in the works?

Three half-completed novels for twelve year-olds.

10) What advice would you offer to aspiring authors?

Learn the craft of writing. Have faith in your abilities and persevere. When you send a manuscript to a publisher it’s a bit like buying a lottery ticket. Don’t be surprised if you don’t win a contract first up. Take heart from each rejection. Perhaps this was the wrong publisher for your manuscript, or your manuscript wasn’t ready yet. Rework your manuscript and send it off to another publisher.

Author Bio

Anne Morgan was born in Tasmania. She is the author of seven children’s books, including the Captain Clawbeak series by Random House Australia:

She has been a teacher and a professional actor. She is also a prize-winning poet, and has a Master of Education degree and a Ph.D. in Writing. Her latest book picture book is The Sky Dreamer, illustrated by Celine Eimann. This is an achingly beautiful picture book about childhood grief, courage, resilience, imagination and hope.


Facebook pages:


Raychelle Reviews: The Sky Dreamer by Anne Morgan

The Sky Dreamer is a poignant story about a young boy named Liam who is grieving the loss of his sister, Cassie. On the eve of his birthday, Liam takes a night journey with Cassie on a flying ship called the Sky Dreamer. During the course of their trip, Liam comes to the realization that he can indeed survive his tragic loss. He overcomes feelings of hopelessness, loneliness, fear, and uncertainty about the future.

This book is beautifully illustrated in a way that gives it an ethereal quality. The Sky Dreamer is a wonderful message of hope and healing in which children and adults alike will find comfort.

The Sky Dreamer is available on in paperback and Kindle versions.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Raychelle Reviews: Obama Search Words by Stephen Black

I prefer to review children's picture books, but when Stephen Black sent me Obama Search Words, I was intrigued. This book marries interviews and some little-known historical tidbits about President Obama's culture and life experience with fictional dialogues and events which could have taken place in any corner of the world.

Stephen's book is illustrated with wonderful photography of places the President has lived in and/or been connected to in addition to creative artwork. From the beginning, I was taken on a journey around the planet from Hawaii to Kenya. Each chapter felt more like I was moving from one exhibition to another in a museum or art gallery. I liken it to walking through a documentary. The fictional accounts provided me an opportunity to consider how Barack Obama's rise to the most powerful office in the United States has touched and inspired people across all classes, genders, ages, and ethnicities.

Obama Search Words is well-crafted, informative, and enlightening. Grab a copy--it is worth the read!

Stephen Black is an artist, writer, photographer, videomaker, speaker, producer, and educator. To learn more about Stephen, read his resume on

Obama Search Words is available on

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Raychelle Reviews: Moon Girl by Beatrix Tambunan

Moon Girl by Beatrix Tambunan is a story about overcoming envy by discovering one's purpose, self-worth, and value.

The tale begins by introducing Moon Girl who is jealous of her sister Sun Girl. Moon Girl believes that the earth and its creatures appreciate Sun Girl more because she provides daylight. The plants and animals seem to be more active and have more fun during the day than they do at night. Feeling slighted, Moon Girl decides to travel to Jupiter. With its many moons, she is sure that lighting them will earn her more love from the planet's inhabitants. The problem is that Jupiter is very different from Earth. Moon Girl gets no apparent rewards for lighting Jupiter's moons. When she returns to Earth's moon, Moon Girl realizes that she is needed just as much as Sun Girl is. The plants get no relief from the constant light and heat, the animals cannot sleep, and the night creatures cannot come out and play without her. In the end, Moon Girl realizes that she was loved all along.

Moon Girl teaches children and adults alike that we all have a purpose and immeasurable value that we must cultivate and share. Our greatest rewards come from using our gifts and talents as they were intended--to help others. Beatrix's book will go a long way in teaching children self-esteem and to honor their gifts.

Moon Girl is available on

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Raychelle Reviews: My Life as a Carrot by Laila Kujala

My Life as a Carrot by Laila Kujala is a sweet story that takes the reader through the life cycle of a carrot. While the story is educational, it also explores fear, bravery, discovering one's own potential, accomplishment, and pride. These are very real issues for people of all ages. By writing this book, Laila makes it possible for parents to start a dialogue and make their children feel confident and secure about growing up.

The pen-and-ink illustrations are simplistic and fun which makes the story easy to follow.

My Life as a Carrot ends with the carrot producing seeds which starts the life cycle anew. Curious about what happens to the new seeds? Flip back to the beginning and read it again!

My Life as a Carrot is available on *The ebook is available on Smashwords for FREE until May 31st!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Raychelle Reviews: Bosley Sees the World by Tim Johnson

Dual-language children's book author Tim Johnson first appeared on Raychelle Writes as a guest blogger who discussed the importance of teaching foreign language to young children. Read his post here. At that time, Tim was promoting his fundraising campaign for Bosley Sees the World on Kickstarter. Tim was successful and has published his book in 7 different languages. I am reviewing the Spanish translation for this review.


Bosley Sees the World is the delightful story of a young bear who is curious about the world outside of the seemingly tiny cave where he lives. So Bosley decides to explore the outdoors. After running out into the forest, climbing a very tall tree, hearing the sounds of nature, and seeing new things, Bosley decides to climb a mountain in the distance. From the highest point on the mountain, Bosley sees that the world is much larger than he originally thought and returns home. There is no way that Bosley would be able to see the entire world in a day. He realizes that his cave is just the right size--for now.

Written in English and Spanish, Bosley Sees the World teaches the reader new vocabulary by highlighting specific words and their translations. By using a picture book format, the reader is more likely to retain new information because they establish a connection between the terms, the wonderful illustrations, and the context.

Young readers will enjoy taking this journey with Bosley. Not only will they enjoy the story, they will improve their reading skills while getting exposure to a new language.

Visit for more bilingual books by Tim Johnson.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Raychelle Reviews: For Readers Only!

Welcome to Raychelle Reviews! This week, I will be introducing you to some established as well as some up-and-coming authors and offer reviews of their work. I focus primarily on children's picture books, but occasionally I will consider other genres. There are a few reasons for my approach: 1) I like picture books, 2) I write picture books, 3) my time is limited, 4) my freelance work, blogging, and other projects center heavily on non-fiction and I need the escape, and 5) I am able to provide feedback and help promote my fellow authors.

Please note that aside from a hard copy or electronic version of the book, I charge no fees for reviews. I believe that it is to the benefit of the author to interview on The Writer's Block in conjunction with the book review, but participation is solely at their discretion. I offer my personal opinions from my own perspective in my reviews: after all, I am not a book editor. However, constructive criticism is provided privately, especially if proofreading and professional editing would benefit an otherwise viable concept/story. I would rather give the author the opportunity to make improvements rather than publish a bad review. I have been there. What good can come from stalling someone's career before it gets out the gate? I attribute my recent successes to some people who took the time to offer some honest feedback and suggestions about The Writer's Block.

So, my hope is that you will discover new favorites, buy a book, refer it to someone else, or even leave a comment. Stay tuned!

Keep your pen to the paper! Remember, inspiration is everywhere...