Blog

A man in jeans, T shirt and baseball cap, stood in the Washington Metro. He took out his violin, threw some loose change into his violin case and began to play.  It was rush hour, 7.51am. The violinist began with Bach’s Chaconne, one of the composer’s most complex pieces. 63 people passed by before someone […]
Literacy Empowers People. Shadow Forest Authors gets books to places where children are most disadvantaged. If you are a published author, please consider donating a copy of your book to one of the named beneficiaries. One small act can make a world of difference. From Shadow Forest Authors website: Our mission at SFA, to encourage every […]
If you want to see how big the Millennium Dragon is, you can visit him at the Chinese Museum in Melbourne. http://www.chinesemuseum.com.au/whatson.html
I haven’t made a patchwork quilt since my daughter was a baby. It was heaps of work and in the end, I only made a quilt the size of  a cot. The other day, while I was walking my dog in the park, I went inside a shop that sold everything related to patchwork. I […]
Since having kids, I’ve learnt that being highly organised is the only way I can cope with my two passions – my children and my writing. When they were small, I would try and have most of the dinner cooked before I took them to school. Then I could devote my day to my stories […]
I read an article in The Age this morning about Ernest Hemingway penning stories in cafes. I discovered the beauty of writing in cafes when I was in Brisbane on a month long May Gibbs Residency last year. It was truly wonderful having ME all to myself 24/7 – living with my characters and the […]
Are you more right brain than left brain? Take the Right brain vs Left brain Creativity Test and see how you score It will take you about 10 minutes to complete. Let me know how you scored. I was slightly more right brain which I’m glad about as I consider myself a creative person. Do […]
When I thought I was safe at home…. A study has been conducted by Queensland University of Technology into laser printers. It seems that some printers can emit dangerous ultrafine particles into the air.  A range of printers were tested, some with no emissions, some with low, medium and high emissions. Unfortunately, the brand of […]
I had a lot of fun yesterday at the launch of my new book A Ghost in My Suitcase. Here are some photos from the launch. More will be posted on the Ghost in My Suitcase page of this website. Thank you to all who came. This is the beautiful fishpond chocolate cake made by […]
My new book  A Ghost in My Suitcase will be launched here in Melbourne tomorrow. Everyone is welcome.  Come along and help me celebrate. I hope to see some of you there.
It seems that almost everyone I talk to here in Melbourne knows someone who has either lost their life, or their home, or been affected in some way by the recent bushfires throughout Victoria. I went to taiqi this morning and one of my classmates told me that her brother lost everything except his car […]
With 3a water restrictions in place throughout Melbourne and with the on going drought worsening, I decided to try my sister-in-law’s method of car washing. I found it worked like a dream! All you need is half a teaspoon of  Martha Gardner’s Wool Mix in half a bucket of water and a cloth. I use […]
People often ask me about the dog I’m holding in the photo on my website. Let me tell you a little about her. Saffy is a golden cocker spaniel. She is 12 years old which is 84 in human years. I got Saffy as an 8 week old puppy from Ararat. She was very easy […]
Thank you to my nephew Jin, who revamped my website. I think it looks fantastic.
My latest book,A Ghost in My Suitcase came out last Monday. Be one of the first people to write a review. The best ones will be published on this website. Please include your first name and your age.
Someone wrote to me saying how she appreciated my handling of the topic of death and grief in my new novel A Ghost in My Suitcase. She asked what inspired me to write about these sensitive issues? Death IS a very sensitive issue, but perhaps more so in Australia than in China. The Chinese view […]
1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009 Those born in the Year of the Ox are hardworking, well balanced, patient, honest, and persevering. They are very responsible and thrifty and are natural born leaders. Oxen love a sense of order and will apply themselves wholeheartedly until the job is done. They love nature and […]
In this painting of a water buffalo I used a Chinese paint brush and ink on Chinese water colour paper. The paper is very absorbant so you need to work really fast. I like working with this medium but it means you can’t make any mistakes because every brushstroke is visible. See if you can […]
Three new things I did when I was in America: Walk across a frozen stream Visit a town where nobody locks their doors and leave the keys in their cars Being stuck in a snow storm in an aeroplane on the runway in Boston for four hours
Have just received an advanced copy of A Ghost in My Suitcase. This is always a very exciting time for an author. Even though it is not in the bookshops yet, it has already been reprinted. The girl on the front cover is my cousin’s daughter. She is so excited to be on the cover […]
On Sunday I’m off to America, to Los Angeles and Boston. The trip is not connected with my writing, but  I will be doing a lot of writing on the way. Even when you’re supposed to be on holidays a writer’s mind never rests. It will be freezing in Boston. I’ve heard it’s snowing there […]
I had a wonderful morning at Camberwell South talking to the grade fives and sixes. Some pieces of great writing came out of the talks and wonderful drawings of Peng too.
This is the cover for my next book, A Ghost in My Suitcase. It’s a story about a girl called Celeste who inherits a very powerful gift – the gift of ghost-hunting. If you’ve read The Pearl of Tiger Bay, Por Por, the ghost-hunting grandma also stars in this new book. The girl on the […]
Every now and then articles appear in the newspaper that are out of the ordinary. I like these little stories. They break us out of our traditional ways of thinking. Strange things do happen in the world. Stories like these can also be used as inspiration for a novel and they can change the way […]
This morning all the ambassadors for the Vic Premier’s Reading Challenge, and I am one of them, were invited to the Great Hall in the National Gallery for a special presentation. The schools whose students read the most books were given a special certificate by the Premier. It was great to see so many enthusiastic […]
It is a nice change from writing to be doing the illustrations for A Ghost in My Suitcase. These black and white pencil and ink drawings will be dotted throughout the text as in a previous novel of mine, The Pearl of Tiger Bay. The first illustration is Celeste’s business card. The second is of […]
Who were/are your writing inspirations 1. I’m inspired by Chinese philosophers like Laozi and Zhuangzi. I like to use some of their thoughts in my books. They talk about peace and harmony and going with the flow. Where do your ideas come from for your books? 2. I write from my personal experiences because I’ve […]
It was very strange but for about a year while I was writing the first draft of my new young adult novel Little Paradise, I did not remember having one dream. As soon as I sent the manuscript off to my publishers though, that very night I began to dream again, and have done so […]
Now that i’ve basically finished A Ghost in My Suitcase, I’m doing the small black and white pencil illustrations that will be inserted into the text. There will be about two illustrations per chapter and each one takes about half an hour to complete although that also depends on how complicated they are, or if […]
It was great visiting schools for Book Week. I always enjoy meeting my readers and all the students did some wonderful writing and drawing during the sessions. My new novel, A Ghost in My Suitcase is progressing well. I sent the second draft to my publishers on Monday which was a big improvement on the […]
Every now and then articles appear in the newspaper that are extra ordinary. I like these little stories. They break us out of our traditional ways of thinking. Strange things do happen in the world. Stories like these can also be used as inspiration for a novel but more importantly, they can change the way […]
A Stowaway’s Short Trip A thirteen year old boy wanted to see Iceland so he stowed away on a fishing trawler. Seventeen hours later the trawler moved to the next dock for repairs. The boy went home.
On Saturday 19th July, I am having a book launch for my Aussie Bite, THE LION DRUMMER at Book Bonding in Essendon and everyone is welcome. There will be a traditional lion dance, lollies, drinks and more. If you would like to come along please phone Bookbonding on 9370 4422 THE LION DRUMMER will have […]
Last night I went to see the Quanzhou puppets. They were fantastic! They have come from Fujian province in China with 2000 years of puppet history behind them and tell ancient folk tales and legends. There is the famous monkey Sun Wu Kung who does tricks while he rides a bicycle and much more. Each […]
Last night I was invited to meet the members of a Mothers and Daughters Book Club (MDBC) to discuss the book they had been reading for the month which was my latest novel, The Hidden Monastery. This book club is such a great idea that I want to pass it on to you. There were […]
My next door neighbour raised a Pekin duck from a tiny duckling. He got Ducky from a farm that breed ducks for eating. When the neighbour went away recently, Ducky seemed distressed making loud quacking sounds. I climbed the fence to investigate. I found Ducky trying to get out of a kids wading pool which […]
Occasionally in life, the interconnectedness of things is so obvious you can’t help but sit up and take notice. On Monday, there were four such ‘coincidences’ that took place. Four different books of mine converged on that day, all of them at different stages of their lives. 8.30am Little Paradise. After working for almost two […]
Perched up in the Rothbury, an Art Deco apartment building in the heart of Brisbane, I am working on Little Paradise, my new young adult novel. I’ve been lucky enough to have gained a month long Creative Time Fellowship with the May Gibbs Trust. I like Brissie – the weather, the river, the walks, the […]
When I was young I couldn’t speak or read Chinese, even though my parents were both Chinese. This was because they spoke different dialects so English was used at home. But when I left school, I became interested in Chinese philosophy, art and martial arts and that changed everything. I felt that the only way […]
Zhuangzi is my favourite philosopher. He lived in China in 256BC. My creature Peng from The Hidden Monastery is inspired by The Book of Zhuangzi. Here is a piece of his wisdom: The tit bird building its nest in the mighty forest, occupies but a single twig. The beaver quenches his thirst from the river […]
Recently I received from my publisher 6 copies of the Korean edition of The Garden of Empress Cassia. I was thrilled not only because my book could be read by Korean children but because there are colour illustrations throughout and they are so gorgeous. When I get organised I will put up some samples on […]
I am almost at the end of my first Young Adult novel, Little Paradise. And what a relief it is. 🙂 When I say, ‘almost at the end’ I really mean the end of the first draft. What’s left to do now is a heap of refining where I go over every paragraph, every line […]
The cover of my new Aussie Bite, The Lion Drummer has just come through via email. It looks great and is illustrated by Andrew McLean. The book will be out in July. The story was inspired by my niece, Louisa, who is training to be a lion dancer. It was also inspired by the big […]
Welcome to the Year of the Rat! It’s meant to be a good year because the Rat is the very first animal of the twelve animal signs in the Chinese Horoscope, and it is also the beginning of a new 60 year cycle. So a completely new cycle is about to start tomorrow. Cycles are […]
I never realised how second nature texting was for young people until my daughter, who sometimes sleepwalks, sent me a text msg completely written in her sleep on Christmas Eve at 2.15am. This is what it said: Merry Christmas! Im out right now. i have the dog i will bring her home. X It sounds […]
As an ambassador for the Victorian Premier’s Reading Challenge, it was great to meet with the winning schools last Friday in the National Gallery’s Great Hall. So many enthusiastic readers! Make sure you meet the challenge in your state next year. Good luck!
A book’s title is very important so I always take great care with my own novels. It’s one of the big decisions I have to make when writing. The ‘working title’ is the title you use when you’re not completely sure what you are going to call your book and you are still working on […]
I have just received first pages for my new Aussie Bite, The Lion Drummer. It’s always exciting getting these from the publisher because for the first time you see your manuscript looking like the real thing. Before a book is published there are three sets of pages – first pages, second pages and third pages. […]
When you live in a city for as long as I have, you become so used to it, you are incapable of seeing it – I mean REALLY seeing it – anymore. For a writer, this is a terrible thing. The best cure then is to go away for a while – six months at […]
The following news item presents an interesting dilemma A donkey in an Algerian market ate the money of the man who came to buy him. When the buyer and the seller were bargaining the price of the donkey, they didn’t see it eating the stack of bank notes meant as its payment. So who now […]
As you can see, Peng from The Hidden Monastery now welcomes you into my website. You might notice also that I have added a Spanish page. This is because I receive emails from children in South America who have read The Garden of Empress Cassia (translated into Spanish of course). This page includes a biography […]
I just received an advanced copy of When We Were Young. This is a book of short stories and cartoons by authors such as Leigh Hobbs, Sonya Hartnett, Ursula Duborsarsky, David Metzenthen, Paul Jennings and many many more including myself. All the stories are true and about something that happened in our childhood. The story […]
I had a wonderful time visiting schools in the Cairns area in Northern Queensland. I drove along roads lined with fields of sugar cane, their grainy heads waving to passersby. Clouds of white smoke billowed from the cane mills in the distance. The first school I visited was Babinda, a tiny school set in amongst […]

Cairns

Jul 22: Booktalk
I’m off to Cairns tomorrow to visit schools in the area and to hold writing workshops in the Cairns Library. I’m really looking forward to meeting the students at Babinda, Gordonvale, Caravonica, Trinity Beach, Yorkey’s knob (such a fantastic name for a school) and White Rock. I love this area of Australia and it is […]
Have you ever been thinking of someone, then hey presto they ring you? Or every time you look at a digital clock the time is exactly 11.11 or 1.11 or 2.22 or 3.33 or 4.44 or 5.55, and often all within one day? Is it mental telepathy, tapping into another dimension, gremlins playing with your […]
I have just received word that The Garden of Empress Cassia will be published in Korea. It has already been published in England and Spain. Each of the covers for these two editions have been different to the Australian version so it will be interesting to see what Korea does with the book. At the […]
It is those who have compassion for all life who will best safeguard the life of man. Those who become aroused only when man is endangered become aroused too late. – Edwin Way Teale, naturalist
When I first went to live in Taiwan to study Chinese, I met a local girl called Peggy. She was around the same age, about twenty-two, with a wide, generous smile. I liked her very much. One day, her parents invited me home for dinner. It was her birthday. I spent the whole day looking […]
In some countries, animals are used to predict earthquakes. In south central China, there is a 24 hour watch on snakes in farms. If the snakes begin making desperate attempts to escape, the observers notify the government.
The first draft of my latest novel, A Ghost in My Suitcase is almost complete. Only one more chapter to go. I’ll work on that today. The next stage is refining, editing, chopping, making sentences sound more beautiful. This is the stage I like the most. My secondary character, Ting Ting, who I just recently […]
Some highlights of my Christmas day were, -watching my 82 year old mum boxing the daylights out of her opponent on Wii, -receiving Shaun Tan’s beautiful illustrated book, The Arrival, from my pets, -listening to Eva Cassidy’s music, her CD IMAGINE, a gift from my children, -a Kris Kringle present – a donation to TEARAustralia […]
When I write my stories, I see complete scenes in my mind just as if I’m watching a movie. As far back as I can remember I have been able to see whole pictures and always thought that everyone had the same ability or at least could visualise very easily. Training your mind to visualise […]
It’s early morning.The magpies are warbling but it’s still dark outside. I was kept awake by ideas for stories so I had to get up to write them down. Night time seems to feed my mind with thoughts. Maybe it’s because everyone’s dreams have escaped and are flying around free. Maybe that’s what dreams are […]
I have just come back from China researching a sequel to The Hidden Monastery. I was in the far west in Yunnan province 3,700 meters above sea level in a town that has been renamed Shangrila. Even climbing up steps was hard work because oxygen at that height is limited. When you suffer from altitude […]