I do adore passionate people. Felicity Marshall is the Australian author and illustrator of two children’s books about bees – ‘Hello, Honey Bee’which is a fictional tale about a queen bee meeting the Big Queen, and also a fact-filled non-fiction book, ‘The Very Clever Bee.’ Her passion and respect for bees is contagious. Here, she answers some questions about the inspiration behind her books.
Introducing Felicity Marshall.
What inspired you to write two children’s books about bees?
The truth is, I have been interested in bees from the day we found a swarm in our paddock when I was about 10 years old. The local apiarist who captured the swarm rewarded us with bantam chickens (that bred like crazy) and several jars of honey fresh from his hives (pure bliss!). After that day our family renounced commercial honey and walked up the road to the beekeeper’s property to buy fresh honey. I was fascinated by everything at his apiary – the hives, the bees, the delicious smell, even the apiarist’s quiet wife who had enormous brown eyes, just like a bee and who had a swarm of little, brown-eyed children buzzing around her. We lived in a semi-rural part of Western Australia and the apiarist’s honeys varied from rich dark brown Jarrah honey to light golden Karri honey. We tried his many flavours over the years. That’s when I learned that the colour and flavour of honey depends on the flowers visited by the bees. I also learned that bees sometimes follow the beekeeper to retrieve their honey that he had removed from the hive. He was very relaxed about leaving the door to his honey processing room open, and in they came! I don’t advise this. They were a bit cross…
Fast forward about 40 years. Remembering my childhood fascination with bees and my growing awareness of threats to bees and the natural world, I enrolled in a class on beekeeping. I convinced my partner Marc to come along. He was reluctant – a coastal bloke who needed to at least glimpse the ocean each day to feel calm, but he came along. I watched a light bulb appear over his head as the day progressed, and now he is a totally dedicated , knowledgeable beekeeper with more than 40 hives. And despite a lot of muscle building in the early days of our beekeeping, (a full box of honey weighs about 30kgs) I’m now a mere assistant to him. Interesting how things work out! I have to say here that his superior strength and extreme patience (where bees are concerned) have meant that nowadays he does most of the heavy lifting, while I assist, keep the smoker going and help load and unload the ute. Beekeeping is secondary to my art and writing, but I love the days we spend together working on the beehives and keeping the bees happy, healthy and tirelessly industrious. It is very calming…
Who are your heroes?
I have several heroes in my life, but the most outstanding is Sir David Attenborough whose tireless worldwide exploration of all the natural world has revealed its wonders to us and raised awareness of the astonishing beauty and fragility of life. My second hero is Rachel Carson, a marine biologist and writer, who in her famous book ‘Silent Spring’ published in 1962, predicted a future dire state of the world due to farmers’ use of synthetic fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides without considering the toxic effect to the environment, to all animals, birds, reptiles and insects and eventually humans.
Also among my heroes are the tiny humble creatures that work constantly to uphold the healthy ecology of our soils and plants and are often invisible or overlooked -the earthworm, the dung beetle and many other beneficial insects, butterflies, moths and grubs.
*Rachel Carson’s book is now even more relevant than ever before as industrialised farming grows and so does chemical use. Fortunately, there is a groundswell of people wanting to save our planet from destruction by embracing ethical and natural farming practices to regenerate the soil, eliminate poisons from our environment and restore habitats for all creatures. Our insect pollinators, especially the many species of bees are benefitting from these actions and beekeepers are growing in number.
What is your hope for the future of your book?
As an artist and beekeeper, The Very Clever Bee is my small but heartfelt contribution to the education of future generations about the importance of pollinators, especially bees, to the survival of life and the security of our food supply. Children are our future scientists, policymakers and custodians of planet Earth. They are endlessly curious, and bees are endlessly fascinating! And bees provide humankind with so much more than honey, things we see in everyday life, from beeswax candles and cosmetics to medicinal honey and propolis.
I hope that children will see that we can all make a difference to the health of our beautiful planet and that nature is our greatest source of joy and awe.
Jayneen Sanders is truly a gift to all parents, carers and educators. Jayneen herself is an educator and she is an advocate committed to empowering children around body safety, gender, equality and respectful relationships. She is also a publishing powerhouse with over 100 published stories. Jayneen takes tough and tricky topics and breaks them down into digestible, age-appropriate content. Her books provide fabulous scaffolds for adults to have discussions with children about big, worldly issues. We are HUGE fans of her Little BIG Chats series. Over on the Educate2Empower website, Jayneen shares so many free resources to help adults empower children.
I am… Jayneen Sanders, author, teacher and mother of three amazing and inspiring adult women. I live in the Dandedong Ranges, SE of Melbourne with my wonderful life and work partner, Mark Sanders. We have lived on our 27 acres for over 25 years and we both absolutely love it here. We have two dogs: Wanna and Pademelon (Paddy) and five horses (eeekkk far too many). Even though it’s quiet and peaceful on our farm, the wildlife is abundant. We have magpies, eagles, rosellas, kookaburras, cockatoos, wallabies, wombats, deer and a few too many rabbits.
I find inspiration… Children inspire me. The teacher in me only wants the best for kids. They are born into this world ready to learn and grow, and adults really need to be mindful of their influence, both negative and positive. I love listening to kids’ stories and their perspectives on life. I’ve learned so much from children that is insurmountable. I have always looked at life as a gift. We can choose to look at situations from a negative or positive framework. I always try to choose ‘positive’— as best I can. As the Dalai Lama says, ‘We are visitors on this planet. We are here for 90 or 100 years at the very most. During that period, we must try to do something good, something useful, with our lives.’ I try to live by that quote.
I am excited about … exploring ’wide open spaces’. Mark and I hope to travel across Australia in the not-so-distance future and I’m so excited to go to isolated and beautiful places. I want to visit country towns, long white beaches, old forests. I want to wander and wonder slowly and mindfully. I want to slow down time and soak up what is around me. I see the world through a lens of colour, shape and texture, and I am always imagining and inventing stories.
When I’m in a creative slump, I… walk in the forest in Olinda with Paddy. I watch him play with the other puppies. I sit and stare up at the massive gum trees surrounding me and feel immensely grateful. I might go to Phillip Island and walk along the beach behind San Reno or walk along the coastal path that skirts around the cliff tops. Or I might buy a fish burger at Sam Remo and sit on the pier. Sometimes, on a sunny day, I go to Churchill Island, get a coffee and then walk beside the lavender field that overlooks Port Phillip Bay.
I’m really proud of… ‘gifting’ ’my children’s book ‘My Body! What I Say Goes!’ to World Vision India. They translated it into 10 Indian languages and printed over a million copies to give to kids in poorer areas. They also in-serviced 900 teachers in how to use the book so they could go out into communities to educate kids in Body Safety. I then wrote and ‘gifted’ another book specifically for World Vision India entitled ‘My Body! My Rules!’. This book is a guide for teenagers in Body Safety, consent, self-esteem and respectful relationships. It was also translated into 10 Indian Languages and large numbers printed.
Jayneen Sanders is an Australian award-winning author, educator and advocate. She is committed to empowering children around body safety.
Someone once told me… ‘Everywhere I go there I am.’ This is so true. There is no use distracting yourself with work or travel or love unless you have sorted out your own issues first because they will always pop up again, no matter how hard you try to run away from them.
My advice to you is …
I should never give any advice unless I am asked.
Any book by Kylie Howarth is a HOT favourite here with Miss 7 and Mr 5. Her Fish Kid chapter book series has been on our bedtime rotation with each release. My kids love how the narrative is infused with loads of facts about marine life. I appreciate the subtle themes of sustainability and looking after the ecosystems that we impose ourselves upon. The latest release, Fish Kid and the Turtle Torpedo, caused quite a stir here as turtles are a firm aquatic favourite at our place. We read/sped through it at torpedo speed. It got 5 stars from all readers, young and middle-aged.
Knowing that I love a good READ + CREATE, Kylie has shared a sweet creative activity to team with Fish Kid and the Turtle Torpedo. I loved reading about Kylie’s creative process and the people and places that inspire her. It is so obvious that the Great Outdoors influences Kylie’s work.
Meet Kylie Howarth!
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I am … Kylie Howarth, a children’s book author and illustrator and Mum to two wonderful boys. We have lots of backyard art sessions where the kids and I get messy dipping flowers, sticks, leaves, seaweed (basically anything we can find) in paint and then splat it on paper. I scan these paintings and use them as backgrounds and textures in my book illustrations.
I find inspiration … In the ocean – most of my books have an ocean theme. My family and I spend a lot of time boating and snorkeling. We are very fortunate to live 30 minutes by boat to Rottnest Island, and once a year we drive 14 hours to holiday on the Ningaloo reef.
I did my advanced scuba diving license 13 years ago in Dahab, Egypt. The marine life in the Red Sea was incredible and being able to stay under water for forty five minutes at a time, opened my eyes to a whole new world. I then dived with hammerhead sharks in the Galápagos Islands, and met many other amazing creatures including marine iguanas, which inspired my Fish Kid chapter book series.
I’m also very excited to be visiting Broome this year as their guest author for CBCA Book Week.
When I’m in a creative slump, I …Go outside. If I’m struggling with a plot or something like that, I often go for a beach walk or take my lovely pooch (Indie) for a walk through the bush. The combination of fresh air, time to think and being out in nature usually always does the trick.
Once I was brainstorming picture book ideas, but nothing came to me while sitting at my desk. So I rode my bike down to the beach and sat there drawing everything I saw in my sketch book, hoping to find a spark of an idea. After a while, I reached for my snacks … but soon realised they were gone! Someone had been sneaking up behind my back and pinching them! That’s when I saw the cheeky seagull that inspired my picture book, ‘Chip.’
I’m really proud of … My son. He is dyslexic and has to work really hard at learning to read. It’s been quite a struggle for him, and there were once many tears over his reading homework. But he didn’t give up and now always tries best. He knows it’s harder for him than most kids, but he remains upbeat and positive. He loves books, so I’m also really proud of my husband and I for fostering a love of books in him, despite the hurdles, which could easily make him hate them.
I’m also really proud of the Fish Kid series, as I’ve been receiving emails from parents (who say their children are reluctant readers) thanking me for writing the books that made all the difference to their child’s reading journey. I tear up every time I read one of these letters because I know the struggle they’ve been through and how wonderful it is when your child finally finds the book they love and won’t put down.
Someone once told me … To trust in the creative process. I remind myself of this during the down days, when what I’m working on, just isn’t working. Even the most successful creatives doubt themselves at some stage during every project. You just have to back yourself, keep going and eventually you’ll find that creative high again
My advice to you is …Involve kids in your creative process. Mine always surprise me and often take the activity off in a direction I’d never have thought of. The textures they create are always so energetic and expressive.
Bindi by Kirli Saunders is a junior fiction novel written in verse. Written “for those who plant trees”, it uses both Gundungurra and English to explore a young girl’s relationship with her friends, family, Country, Culture and creativity. The story is set against the backdrop of devastating bushfires whilst sharing First Nations knowledge about the healing power of fire. Kirli’s expressive language is beautifully paired with the equally expressive illustrations of Bigambul artist Dub Leffler. This is an exquisite book to share with students in upper Primary through to the early years of High School.
I came home from school at about 5pm on Friday to discover Bindion my doorstep. (Thank you to the team at Magabala Books for sending it through for review.) As we navigated dinner, bath time and pre-bedtime shenanigans with the kids, I devoured this book. By 7pm I had finished this beauty of a novel. It’s now Tuesday and it is still lingering with me. I keep getting flashes of imagery and phrases from the book. It is a visceral read and bone-achingly moving. Without being preachy or didactic, it is a brilliant call-to-action to young people to acknowledge their role in caring for Country.
Enough of my adulation.
Meet Kirli Saunders, a proud Gunai Woman and award-winning international writer of poetry, plays and picture books.
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Image: Tad Souden Film & Photography (c)
I am… Kirli Saunders, a proud Gunai Author and Artist and I’m penning this on Yuin lands, my Mother’s Country among the spotted gums and ferns by the ocean. Here I acknowledge the Saltwater peoples of this Country, my Ancestors, who have always cared for the lands, seas and skies.
It’s a pleasure to be spending some time with Mum down here, reconnecting to community, after being raised on Gundungurra lands, over the mountain. I have always loved being with Mother Earth in the valleys and highlands, and appreciate learning so much on the coast too.
I studied teaching at UOW and have lived around Yuin/Dharawal land since. I left the classroom to manage my Poetry in First Languages project at Red Room Poetry, facilitating workshops with First Nations communities on Country, to support students and poets to create works about the land and identity in language.
This year, I left Red Room Poetry, to pursue full time creative work, which currently includes storytelling in many forms (poetry, art, picture books, plays) and consulting for a range of organisations on education, systems change and decolonization.
I find inspiration… My greatest inspiration is by far Mother Earth, who is also my greatest teacher. From an early age we were spoiled with bushwalking, and ocean time tapping us into a unity with the land. The storytellers in my family, have always encouraged us to attend to the relationships between living things, and to understand our interconnectedness with them. All of my work speaks to that oneness in some way.
I start each day with yoga, meditation, a walk by the ocean or a surf, with the aims to find that synchronicity with the body, mind, breath and other spirits. For me, this balancing, gratitude, awareness and grounding is so important.
When I’m attuned to the Earth, I’m a stronger change maker and storyteller.
Image: Sarah Tedder of Bear Hunt Photography (c)
I am excited about … I’m based on the far South Coast of NSW this week for a writer’s residency with South East Arts and Merrigong Theatre for a play titled Dead Horse Gap. It’s been magical settling into the landscape and having the time to write and connect to community.
It’s also a super special time, as I’m celebrating the launch of my verse novel, Bindi, the inaugural winner of the Daisy Utemorrah (WA Premier’s) Award 2019! Illustrated by the incredibly talented, Dubb Leffler, Bindi is largely autobiographical, with so many memories interwoven from my childhood on Gundungurra Country. It was written as the bushfires on Yuin and Gundungurra lands broke out last year, with the aims of exploring cultural knowledge of care for country and the hardships of bushfires within communities, in trauma aware and culturally respectful ways.
Bindi features language taught to me by Aunty Velma Mulcahy, Trish Levett and Sharyn Halls. For me, thinking and speaking about Country is deeply interwoven with Language. I feel deeply grateful to be able to learn the language of the land that raised me and to also share this with young ones, to encourage them to connect to the Earth and protect her.
Outside of Bindi, I currently have two large artworks in First Nations and decolonial exhibitions at Shoalhaven Gallery, for Terra Within (10 Oct – 5 Dec) and Wollongong Art Gallery, Here + Now (17 Oct – 29 Nov). It’s super exciting to be pursing art-making, as it’s always been a dream of mine to share stories in wordless ways.
For the next year or so, I’ll be working on developing a sequel forBindi, Cloudspotting, a picture book series with thanks to Magabala’s creative scholarship program, Returning a poetic arts installation and publication with support of Ausco and Going Home, supported by Playwriting Australia.
When I’m in a creative slump, I… move! I studied my Yoga Teacher training at Byron Yoga a month or so ago to ground myself in a deeper practice and absolutely loved it.
I also meditate. I am exploring Transcendental Meditation (TM) and breath awareness as well as pranayama at the moment. Creating from calm spaces helps to get grounded in a central idea.
I journal and write with a stream-of-consciousness. The late Candy Royal (powerful poetess who everyone should read) taught me this method of continuous writing to release ideas without editing it. And I found it really helpful for moving past the critical mind and opening to possibility.
I jam. I love singing, and playing with other musicians, I’m trying to be braver in this space and am working up to performing!
If all else fails, I jump in the van and we dance our way to a bush walk, and I give myself permission to skip writing for the day and just reconnect to the Earth.
Image: Sarah Tedder of Bear Hunt Photography
I’m really proud of… being an Aunty, watching my nephew grow and being a teacher and guide to him is so profound. I’m also really proud of my community. There’s been so many hardships in 2020, and I’ve watched everyone around me band together during bushfires, COVID isolations, mental health hardships and charitable moments. I feel really grateful to be held in these spaces and to contribute to them.
Someone once told me… Recently one of the Northern Rivers Aunties told me ‘bub, they picked the right person to embody the gift, cause they knew you wouldn’t waste it’ and I love that notion. I think it speaks to the magic everyone holds – they chose YOU to have that gift, because they (the Ancestors, God, The Universe) knew you could enhance the world with it.
My Dad’s advice of ‘stop and smell the roses’ is an oldie but a goodie too. Slowing down this year has been mandatory with some health woes, and it’s been an absolute gift to take my time.
My advice to you is … (I don’t know if I’m qualified to give advice!) but someone who is, is my Mum and she would say ‘always be kind’.
You can find me …
Out in the bush or ocean, or on Insta + Twitter: @kirli.saunders
The enthusiasm of Georgie from Mini Monet Studio is A-Grade infectious. When she says that her online art club is all about bringing JOY into the lives of mini-makers, it is due largely to the fact that this teacher-mumma is joy personified. Georgie is mum to little Eve who has the most enviable collection of knitted rainbow sweaters you’ll ever see. Hanging out with these two online is the raddest of rad.
Through blogging and Instagramming, I’ve been introduced to an amazing Virtual Sisterhood of Creative Ladies. The Oh Creative Lady series is your chance to meet these incredible, kind-hearted, inspiring <insert ALL the happy, positive adjectives HERE> women.
Meet Georgie from Mini Monet Studio.
I am… Georgie! I’m a Mum and an art teacher living on the Mornington Peninsular with my daughter, Eve and husband, Shaun.
I teach all things art and design in a P-12 school and I am the owner of Mini Monet Studio, an online art club for creative kids. When I’m not bouncing out of bed ready to draw and paint with kids you can find me going for long walks with the pram and sitting on the beach building sandcastles with Eve.
I find inspiration… I have always been drawn to pattern and colour. I have a huge collection of all things bright, bold and patterned fabric that I often dive into to find inspiration for new art projects. My family also love being outdoors and find new bush tracks to explore or rock pools play in at the beach.
My daughter also inspires me every single day! Eve is nearly 18 months old and was born with lung and heart disease. She’s a one in a million baby! Eve requires oxygen 24/7 to support her breathing, this means she is attached to a 15 cord and an oxygen tank at all times. With such a tricky start to life and so many day-to-day challenges, I am constantly blown away by her joyful nature. Her giggles, her smile, her ability to find everything and anything so fun inspires me to keep on being the best Mum I can.
I am excited about … the new launch of the Mini Monet Art Club for Kids. It has been a dream of mine for quite some time to create a space where kids can create and enjoy art-making without expectations, supervision or judgement.
As an art teacher at a P-12 school I know that kids come into my class with a bit of fear about being graded, assessed. We often have rush through a project to submit, and there can often be comparison with other students in the class or worry about not being “good enough”.
The Mini Monet Art Club is all about creating art for pure JOY. I created a membership program for creative families where you can find an online library of guided video art lessons with me, and some Live art classes for members every month. It’s designed to make it easy for families to foster creativity in their home through drawing, painting and creating projects for kids.
I’m always motivated by this promise to my Mini Monet families: I will help your kids discover that creating art is the shortcut to happiness and that every child can learn to draw, paint and create art that they love.
When I’m in a creative slump, I… stop what I’m doing and get out of the house! Usually a walk in nature, a swim at the beach or some time doing an activity completely different re-sets my creative flow!
I’m really proud of… my baby daughter Eve. She has overcome so many challenges since birth just to be here, and she is THRIVING! Eve was born with a one in a million genetic condition that doesn’t allow her to breathe on her own. We don’t have any answers as to what this means for her future. But we do know her will to LIVE and find JOY every day is incredibly powerful. She lights my world up and I’m incredibly proud of her.
“You don’t have to get it perfect, you just have to get it going”
I love this because I often spend way too long trying to perfect minor details before I’m ready to finish/launch/post/start. Perfectionism can be a huge barrier to gaining any momentum in all aspects of life. I often find most people don’t even like to see “perfect”, they relate most to YOU being your authentic self.
I’ve been swimming in the freezing ocean everyday this September! I called it swim-tember! Now I’m on a roll I want to bounce into Ocean-october!
My advice to you is …
Whatever your dream, goals, aspirations are; find someone who is doing it well and connect with them. Reach out and ask them questions, watch their actions closely, observe what they value and how they spend their time. Connecting with mentors who are modelling your own aspirations is a great way to learn and seek really practical advice from.
There is always, always, always someone amazing out there to learn from and help you get to where you dream to be!
It was about Week Eleventy Billion of COVID-19 Lockdown, when the team at Scribe asked if I’d like to review a copy of Extraordinary Parenting by Eloise Rickman. (This is an affiliate link.)
My answer was a resolute and possibly-too-enthusiastic YES.
In easy-to-read, accessible language, Eloise holds our hands through parenting and home-educating with intention and connection in these extraordinary times. Her advice is practical and evidence-based.
I love that the overall tone of the book doesn’t feel preachy but empowering.
The overall takeaway is “You got this.”
There are a few points in particular that I love about this book.
This question. THIS QUESTION.
When I read it, it took my breath away. Reflecting on this question provides quite the glorious framework to begin thinking about how you parent.
I adore that Eloise advocates for rhythms over routines. This involves identifying your family’s needs and values and structuring your daily, weekly and seasonal rhythms to meet these.
AND HOORAY FOR PLAY! Eloise shows us how by simply observing our children at play we can deepen their learning of the world. Eloise maintains that you do not need a spacious home, your undivided attention, expensive toys and resources to educate your child.
To celebrate the publication of Extraordinary Parenting by Eloise Rickman, her team have given me permission to provide these printable resources to you. Included are some journaling prompts, some rhythm charts and this FABULOUS resource for those moments. You’ll also find a delightful nature bingo.