What is your comfort zone? I notice the trend of YA novels these days is to write in the 1st person – ie using ‘I’. This sets up an intimacy with your reader as if you are talking only to them. Kate Grenville says, ‘First person can give a force, an immediacy, an idiosyncratic and […]
Last week my editor gave me back the copy edit for Little Paradise plus pages of notes. This is the Chan Buddhist – Chan means Zen in Chinese – stage in the evolution of a book where every word in every sentence is considered for its value to the story. I love this part of […]
What a great time I had at Voices on the Coast last week. The festival is held every year in Mooloolaba, Queensland (love saying that word – just rolls off the tongue). What I enjoy about writing festivals, and especially those for children, is being able to meet my young readers, visit new places, and […]
I have just returned from a Desert Writers walk lead by Raymond Hawkins of Into the Blue Creative Walks with writing workshops facilitated by Sydney based author Jan Cornall. The walk took us along sections of the Larapinta trail through some of the most beautiful country in the world. Lying in my swag on a […]
Robert Mckee is considered the guru of Story and every novelist should have a copy of his book in their shelves.  He was in Melbourne over the weekend to deliver his gruelling but inspirational three days of lectures. This is the second time I have attended his seminar, the first was back in 2003. (John […]
As writers of fiction, there are many things that we are in control of. We’re like God playing with the lives of our characters, deciding when they should suffer and when they should be happy. We create settings, devise plots and subplots, we place obstacles in their way. In short, our job is to make […]
It’s amazing how tight writing becomes when you remove the adverbs. I know, it’s been mentioned time and again in all the writing books, but I’m a slow learner or perhaps I wasn’t ready for that major piece of advice. It took a writer friend to sit down with me and go through five chapters […]
With grown up children still at home, (twenty and twenty-two) but living their separate lives with university and work, it is a rare occasion these days that we as a family – mama, baba, big sister (jie jie) and little brother (di di) –  are in the house at the same time. So I rejoice […]
While collecting ancient Chinese poems to include in my YA novel, Little Paradise, I came across this one by the famous poet, Bo Zhu Yi  (722-846). Reading it made me realise that those writers who penned their works before the invention of the printing press, before publishers came into being, before the spread of literacy, […]
Between the age of 6 and 12 life was full of adventures. In one day my friend and I might have ridden across the desert on our horses (mine was always a palamino), fought the baddies in the jungles of South America, sung at the tops of our voices in the Armadale railway station – […]
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 […]
When my son was a little boy he wanted to be a truck or a crocodile when he grew up. Oh, to have the creativity of a child, the boundless mind without compartments. The Taoist philosopher, Lao zi says that we must get back to this childlike state, to be like an uncarved block of […]
I hadn’t done any life drawing since I left art school so I was pretty rusty when I started it up again at the beginning of the year. More often than not I find it frustrating, but sometimes the conte or charcoal or brush does what I want it to do. It’s a lot like […]
I spent a lovely morning talking with the girls from Ivanhoe Girls Grammar. There were many talented writers and artists in the groups and lots of enthusiastic readers.
There is an agreement between Copyright Agency Limited (CAL) and Australian educational institutions in regard to websites. If you have a website and an Australian educational institution reproduces some of the content off your site, you may be entitled to receive payment through CAL. I am about to add this new page to my website. […]
I know many writers who keep extensive diaries writing in them everyday. I find it hard to keep one and always have. I remember when 5 year diaries were the fashion for birthday presents and I wrote for five years straight around the age of 10. But I only wrote down mundane things never anything […]
The beauty of Cradle Mountain can never be captured on film but here’s just a small taste
I am off to Cradle Mountain in Tasmania for a few days. It’s cold in Melbourne, it will be colder down there being that much closer to Antartica. But the beauty and serenity of the place will sure make up for it. See you when I get back.
Just when I thought I had come to the end of my novel, Little Paradise, and had even gone out to a French restaurant to celebrate, I have now found that I still need to write two more chapters. It’s so tempting to rush an ending. But my duty to the novel and to my […]
It was very nice to find my blog, A Passing Whisper, on the list of the Top 50 Aussie Writers Blogs. You can see the whole list at
If you have a website or are setting one up, it’s really important that you’re able to change the information contained within it without having to ask the web designer to do it for you. My web designer and nephew, Jin, used WordPress to create my website. And now I can add new pages and […]
I am a very slow reader and a subvocalizer. That’s someone who has to say each word out aloud in their head. Until I met my husband, I thought that everyone subvocalized. I’m not sure if it was the way I was taught to read when I was young, or whether it is the way my brain […]
As I sit in my small office in a suburb of Melbourne, I think back to my nine days of solitary writing time at Lorne. While I was there, I could feel the space inside my head expanding with each day until, in the end it was as if I had a huge head like […]
I am on a solitary writing retreat at Lorne, a seaside town on the south east coast of Australia. This area is one of the most beautiful places in the world – a land where mountains meet the sea. It is rugged, the beaches are pristine. It is a surfer’s paradise. The house is set […]
I was thrilled to hear that The Lion Drummer has been named a Notable Book in the 2009 Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards. My congratulations to Andrew Mclean who created the beautiful illustrations.
Out of the six books I have written so far only three have had titles that were perfect from the start. The Garden of Empress Cassia could not have been called anything else. The same goes for A Ghost in My Suitcase and The Lion Drummer. But the title, The Pearl of Tiger Bay was […]
Being locked away with your novel is a little like being a mother with a newborn baby. In both cases you can feel isolated and exhausted. I have been been writing 8 or 9 hours a day lately in order to keep to my deadline which is set for June. When my babies were very […]
I buried our last remaining guinea pig, Ratty in our garden this morning. We bought him from the RSPCA six years ago. When we arrived at the centre there were two little, very scared guinea pigs huddled together in a corner of an enclosure. One was black and white, the other dark brown. How could […]
Yesterday we had our monthly writers’ circle. We always start off with a 20 minute writing exercise, just to get us in the mood. Then we move onto either workshopping each other’s stories or discussing things like contracts or agents or whatever a member happens to bring up. And of course we couldn’t survive without […]
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.
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 […]


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 […]