Children's Book Series: Pre-orders Open!

It's been a long time in the making, but my 4 children's board books are being printed as we speak. Pre-orders are open!

We only have limited Australian stock so get in quick because I'm not sure when the next print run will be coming!

These babies are off to Canada through Lake Press & Indigo Books in January.

Enjoy!

Kylie

 

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Top tips for a great time at the QLD theme parks in winter

Like thousands of other southerners, we followed the sun to Queensland in July. The average temperature was 21 degrees. In our 10 days, we had one rainy day, and even then, it wasn’t cold. Not Melbourne-cold anyway.

Blue skies...

Blue skies...

And like thousands of other parents, we agreed to brave the theme parks.

A VIP pass that allows unlimited entry to Warner Bros. Movie World, Sea World, Wet’n’Wild Gold Coast and Paradise Country until 30 June 2018 will set you back $109.99 per person (look out for deals – this price is often reduced to $99).

Our kids are aged from 6 to 13, so a spread of options in any theme park is always going to give us the best value for money.

We decided to do three parks in three days which maybe wasn’t the best idea. There was method in my madness; I was trying to fit it into Victorian school holidays, all the while avoiding Queensland school holidays. The sunshine kids started back on the Monday of our second week, so we timed it then, in the hope we’d have fewer people to contend with. I have no idea if this plan worked as I’ve never visited the theme parks in peak times. There were still plenty of people moving through the gates, but lines for rides were bearable, and in some cases, very short!

Here’s a summary of our experience.

MOVIE WORLD

This was our first stop.

I had gone online the day before to check out all the rides and shows, and had a vague plan for the day.

Out of four children we have two thrill seekers and two observers. At first, I thought Movie World may be a waste of money for the non-ride goers, but there is much more than just rides. We watched the Hollywood Stunt Driver 2 show at 11am, while having a drink and a snack. It was great fun and not too long. I noticed the line for the 1:50pm show was much longer, I presume because people move on after finishing lunch, so I’d recommend doing the morning one.

We saw the Looney Tunes 4D show which was interactive and a new experience (moving chairs and 3D glasses, along with random sprays of water!).

Then we divided and conquered – I went with the adrenalin junkies to try out the rides. Our favorites were the Scooby-Doo and the Road Runner Rollercoaster. We weren’t quite up for the completely crazy, lose-your-brain-and-catch-it-at-the-bottom kind of rides – namely, Green Lantern, Arkham Asylum, Batwing – so we happily watched others on those, from the safety of the ground.

My husband took the two conservatives to the dodgem cars, which they went on repeatedly, and then they browsed the gift shops.

Unfortunately, Wild West Falls was closed for maintenance but I’ve heard that’s a great family ride.

We had lunch in the square as superhero characters strolled the streets.

After lunch, all the kids tried out rides in the kiddie area – Junior Driving School, Taxis, Tweety Cages and Sam Train, Pounce and Bounce. These were much more sedate so the thrill seekers weren’t as excited.

The longest ride wait was 45 minutes. I think in peak periods it may be worth getting the Fast Track ticket that allows you to jump the queue, although this does add significant cost onto the entrance price, it would give you more rides and less time standing around in queues. It would just depend on how ride obsessed your kids were.

We spent six hours at Movie World and I feel like we had a full day that was good value for money and the kids weren’t too pooped.

Top Tips:

  • Wear comfy closed toe shoes – you will be walking a lot
  • Hats aren’t allowed on most rides, so you can probably ditch them in winter
  • BYO fruit and water (permitted)
  • Set a spending amount for your kids – there is much on offer and unless you want to spend the day negotiating, I’d do this at the very beginning.

WET 'N' WILD

We tried to pick the best day, weather-wise, for this, which is always a gamble in mid-winter. It ended up being a mild day of 21 degrees but there was a little bit of wind, and once our kids get cold, add wind and you have frozen children.

In hindsight, I would have packed wetsuits, then we would have got more value out of the day.

We chose to go near lunchtime as the sun was out and the day had warmed somewhat. The kids loved it here – many rides to choose from – all levels are catered. The wave pool was a big hit, as are the water slides of all shapes and sizes. The only drawback for some of them is carrying heavy inflatable tubes up slopes and stairs. As neither my husband nor I went on the rides here, it was difficult for my 13-year-old to heave the inflatables up. It’d be great, if there was some kind of conveyor belt or similar system that returns the inflatables to the top without wet kids having to carry them up.

Monster inflatables!

Monster inflatables!

In winter, the park closes earlier – 3:30pm. Our kids had three hours of fun here but were starting to get cold, so the time we spent was long enough. There were hardly any lines, thanks to it being winter, but I have to say, it was busier than I had expected.

Quite a lot of the rides were closed due to seasonal demands – Kamikaze, Calypso Beach, Surf Rider. Although this was a shame, there were plenty of others in operation. The spa was very popular (although a little run down) and a great way to end the day.

There are plenty of grassy areas and undercover seating and tables, so setting up for the day in summer would be easy and a fantastic day out.

Top Tips:

  • Bring two towels if you can spare it – one towel gets very soaked after a few rides. A towel spinner or quick-dryer would have been a great addition, especially in winter when they just don’t’ dry quick enough lying in the sun.
  • Bright rashies – these are so awesome when you are trying to spot your child amidst a sea of black rashtops and wetsuits
  • Pack a wetsuit – your kids will last longer because they’ll be warmer
  • This is the only park you are permitted to bring a picnic lunch into (however, no commercially prepared food or alcohol), so make the most of it and pack lots of healthy snacks and hearty lunches. Kids get hungry with all that energy expenditure!

SEA WORLD

This was our last day on the Gold Coast and a lovely way to end our holiday.

The day we went, there were a lot of people - I can’t imagine what the crowds in summer must be like if this was a cloudy day in July!

Because of the crowds, we couldn’t see one of the dolphin shows, nor could we get onto the monorail. The wait was 20 mins and then when it did arrive, no one was getting off so there was no space to get on! If you can get a seat, I think this would be a great way to see the park and get an overview of where everything is.

We did, however, see the “Affinity” at the Dolphin Beach stadium at 11.15am which was fantastic.  We also saw the Jet Stunt Extreme show and the Fish Detectives Sea Lion show, which were also very entertaining. Again, preplanning to work around the shows is always a good idea so you don’t miss out while you’re laughing at penguins or intrigued by just how ugly sting ray are!

Two of the rides at Sea World ended up being my thrill-seekers’ favourites of all the parks: Storm Coaster and Jet Rescue. There were long waits for rides in the Nickelodeon area so we didn't try out too many of those.

Shark Bay was also a big hit – great viewing from glass windows under the water. We could have spent hours in there!

The grounds at Sea World are lovely. Again, plenty of grassy areas and places to relax and eat.

Top Tips:

  • Plan your day around the show times – these are a highlight of the visit
  • If you can, grab a seat on the monorail first up so you can get a sense of the grounds and orientate yourself
  • Merchandise is great and surprisingly reasonable. Stuffed toy polar bears were a big hit with my youngest child.

(NB: We ran out of time so didn’t get to see Paradise Country).

VERDICT?

All in all, I enjoyed the theme parks much more than I thought. Most parents say it with such dread when they have agreed to visit them, but I had fun at all three. There’s enough to do for kids who aren’t ride obsessed, and plenty of space to relax and recharge too.

The bonus of visiting in winter is shorter queues and more pleasant temperatures.

Movie World, Wet ‘n’ Wild and Sea World offered a great combination of entertainment for adults and kids.

The kids are already asking when we’ll be going back. Hopefully before the VIP pass expires in June 2018!

One of their favourite water slides at Wet 'n 'Wild

One of their favourite water slides at Wet 'n 'Wild

5 character traits that will serve your child well (but are annoying right now)

As parents, we all want to raise confident, happy kids who are resilient and driven. We'd love them to be compassionate and kind, and to follow a career path that leads them onto a successful life, whatever that may be.

So, even though we know the very traits that will make them reach these heights in the future are fantastic to possess, they're not always easy to parent. Here are some of the big ones that have us hovering on the edge of a mental breakdown.

Read more at Essential Kids : http://www.essentialkids.com.au/development-advice/behaviour-discipline/5-character-traits-that-will-serve-your-child-well--but-are-annoying-right-now-20170706-gx5rqz

Enjoy!

Kylie.

 

Novel writing, here I come...

I'm back from Fiona McIntosh's Commercial Fiction Masterclass.

You'd think as a writer, I'd have plenty of words to describe the intensive 5 days. There are many words but none of them seem adequate to encapsulate the experience.

Leaving my family to spend the longest time I've ever been alone in 14 years was quite a commitment. Let's not pretend it was all sad. There may have been some fist-pumping as I approached the airport. Reading a book, on my own? Hallelujah! 

My husband managed the four kids, all their activities, school paperwork and assorted dramas, just fine. He may have even enjoyed moments.

I got to be in a room with 15 other aspiring novelists. Some further down the track than others, but all of us nervous, excited, insecure about our abilities, hopeful of one day having a book on a shelf (other than our own bookshelf), and ultimately all of us had an overwhelming desire to write. 

It took all of five minutes in Fiona's company to feel at ease. She was self-assured, driven and enthusiastic but she was equally kind, compassionate and supportive of where we all sat. For she, 17 years ago, sat in the same place, being instructed by the brilliant Bryce Courtney.

We learnt technical writing skills - plot, character, emotion, pace - things we probably all knew in some form already but Fiona's delivery and explanations were full of humour and practical application. It wasn't simply her knowledge and experience over 34 books that made this class different, it was her genuine care, as though we were all orphans she was trying to find a home for! Or perhaps the manuscripts are the homeless ones... looking for a family to call their own.

I left after 5 days, almost sad to leave, but fired up. I know how to fix my novel now. The hard works begins but I have an arsenal of ammunition to attack Draft 1.

I was humbled by Fiona's generosity and her genuine care for each and every one of us. She was like our personal cheerleader when we had to pitch our stories to a commissioning editor. I felt like I should have packed a spare pair of pants that day ... 

If there's only one course you do, I'd say this is the one. It doesn't come cheap (and I was super fortunate to have been awarded the scholarship by Fiona & Dymocks which I will forever be grateful for), but it is worth every cent. To get the best out of the experience, you need to know that commercial fiction is what you want to write, and have a manuscript, or at least the beginning of one, to work on.

Can't wait to sink my teeth into my novel!

Kylie

x

Fiona McIntosh and me at the Commercial Fiction Masterclass, Adelaide 2017

Fiona McIntosh and me at the Commercial Fiction Masterclass, Adelaide 2017

 

 

 

Fiona McIntosh's Commercial Fiction Masterclass .. in 13 sleeps!

I have been working on a commercial fiction novel for almost two years. The process has been equal parts inspiring and deflating.

I was originally approached by Haylee Nash when she was a commissioning editor at Pan Macmillan. She liked my writing style and wondered if I had any "gems" lying in my bottom drawer. I set to work writing one of the gem ideas and submitted the first 20,000 words to her. She liked it but there were some definite plot issues and character development problems. Unfortunately, Pan Macmillan was unable to offer me anything at that time.

I was crushed. I thought that was going to be my big break into the novel world. I rocked in a corner for a while, wondering if I would ever be good enough to call myself a published author.  I had no idea how to fix the issues in my novel.

Once I shut down the pity party, I decided I needed to finish that novel, for myself. I needed to prove I could write it to the end. I wanted to believe I could make it work, that I could find a way to get the story out. So, I applied for a mentorship with Kathryn Heyman. For six months Kathryn helped me find my voice. She guided me through the first draft of my novel, 85,000 words bleeding onto the pages. Some great words, some awful words, some just plain boring words. But that is what a first draft is: the bones; bare and exposed. Now I had something to work with.

Midway through my mentorship, my sister-in-law sent me an email promotion from Dymocks & McIntosh Books, putting the callout to aspiring writers to submit 10 pages of their novel to win a scholarship to Fiona McIntosh's Commercial Fiction Masterclass in SA.  Seeing as I already had the first 10 pages written, I spent some time polishing them and even more time trying to squeeze an entire story into a 400 word synopsis. That was a challenge! I sent it off and crossed every part of my body, hoping I may be the chosen one. 

When Sue from Dymocks called me, she asked, "Are you sitting down?" I cried, somewhat hysterically, when she said Fiona had chosen my novel as the winning entry for the scholarship. She must have thought I was a maniac. It was unbelievable news. I felt validated by an industry that is notorious for its steel doors that make us emerging writers feel locked out.

We all thought [your novel] was utterly compelling and we can’t wait to read more. It was a unanimous decision among our internal panel and overall judge Fiona McIntosh. Fiona said it was the most commercially ready manuscript of any submitted to the competition. Well done! 

The Masterclass is finally within reach. I have been looking forward to it for nine months, like a baby due to be born. The scholarship win was the final piece in the puzzle that confirmed this book, my very own novel, is worth writing. It is a story worth telling and I believe I am the one to tell it. I cannot wait to inhale and absorb Fiona's enthusiasm for writing, and her business-focused direction to get us all writing, as a fulltime profession. To sit in a room with a group of other, equally nervous yet hopeful writers, will bring a buoy of support to all of our insecure writing heads.

I can finally see a pinhole of light at the end of an extremely long tunnel. I feel so close to living the dream...! 

Australian Writers' Centre - Giveaway!

So, the AWC are giving away a MS Surface Pro 4 Laptop.

Who doesn't love a good competition? 

People always find 25 word or less competitions super-hard and often off-putting. I love them because they test my creativity and stop my tendency to waffle on! Same reason I love Twitter - succinct and witty is the key (for me, anyway)!

So, here's my entry:

“A Surface would help me create… a (versatile) future for my (ultrathin) children, a (powerful) legacy I'm proud of. How? NY Times Best Seller 2017." #SurfaceLife

Good luck to all those entering. May the best creator win!

Kylie

 

The exhausting truth about parenting a toddler while pregnant

Toddlers are exhausting all on their lonesome. Tackling them while pregnant is a whole new challenge.

Photo: Artiga Photo

Photo: Artiga Photo

I've written about it in my latest article for Essential Baby:

http://www.essentialbaby.com.au/toddler/life-with-a-toddler/the-exhausting-truth-about-parenting-a-toddler-while-pregnant-20160928-grqttx

You may need a nap after reading.

Enjoy!

Kylie.