Last year I asked a group of primary school students: ‘What makes a great story?’

Hands shot up and soon I had a white board full of answers like:

  • adjectives
  • spelling
  • punctuation
  • sentence structure

My inner child was very confused. Was Judy Blume’s excellent grammar really the reason everyone was reading Forever?

My adult self tried a different question: ‘What did you like most about the last book you read?


Their eyes lit up and their answers spilled out.

It was the characters they loved and the adventures they had. It was how they lost track of time, how they laughed, cried and didn’t want the experience to end.

Now that sounds like a great story.

Out of Print t-shirt from Kinokuniya

Putting the magic back into reading and writing

I know life is busy but if you have a few minutes around work, kids (if you have them), study, sport, housework and everything else, consider squeezing in a bit of time to have some fun with reading and writing.

Stories, after all, are one of the best things about being human.


Here are a few ideas that have worked for me:

  • Read the book then see the film (or vice versa) – we’ve had great success with our ‘reluctant reader’ by introducing him to the Percy Jackson and LOTR movies before he embarked on the books.
  • Geek out – through sites like Pottermore or stores such as Galaxy Bookshop, Kinokuniya, Dymocks, EB Games and Anime all of whom have book merchandise that will make your eyes water.
  • Write – there are some hilarious creative writing exercises for kids in Once Upon a Slime by Andy Griffiths and illustrated by Terry Denton, and for us older writers Everything I Know About Writing by John Marsden is brilliant.
  • Competitions – local bookshops, publishers and writers’ centres run them throughout the year. Take a look at the Queensland Writer’s Centre’s #8WordChallenge from 2017.
  • Reviews – consider penning a review on Goodreads or Amazon and help out some fellow readers (and authors).
  • Ride the wave – whatever the interest, whether it’s Pokemon, Barbie, Monsters High, Dora, Diego, Thomas the Tank Engine, Pearlie the Park Fairy or Peppa Pig resist the toy aisle and steer the offspring towards ‘the’ book.
  • Meet the author – check your local library or bookshop for events. Look out for events such as the Sydney Writers Festival and intrepid book bloggers like Read3rz ReVu.
  • Workshops – bookshops, libraries, writing centres and companies such as Story Squad run sessions to help you (or your kids) brush up on your creative writing skills whilst having fun.
  • Libraries – libraries are becoming ‘destinations’. There is a slide into the children’s area at Woollahra Library. A slide. I’ve seen toys, gardens, art shows, games and coffee shops in libraries, so set aside time to enjoy them.
  • Scholastic – remember those book catalogues from school? If there isn’t a book program or fair at your school contact Scholastic Australia. Also if you love a bargain, warehouse sales happen throughout the year.
  • Get the kit – gorgeous notebooks and colour pens are available for next to nothing at Kmart. You might be surprised how quickly new pages can fill up with notes, pictures and stories.
  • Books at home – it’s not hoarding if it’s books.
  • Books at other homes – book shelves are a great place to find new reads. Before picking up the PS4, perhaps suggest the kids see what their mates are reading.
  • Open doors – organise your own book swap and support organisations such as the Indigenous Literacy Foundation and Literacy for Life.
  • Book clubs and writing groups – they come in all shapes, ages, sizes and interests. Libraries, bookshops, community centres and writers’ centres generally post topics and meeting times on their websites or notice boards.
  • Creative writing courses – quite a few Aussie authors run their own programs, just check their websites or social media pages. Try the Australian Writers Centre or the NSW Writers’ Centre if you’re in Sydney.

These are just a few ideas, the world is full of them:-)

Everything I Know About Writing by John Marsden

Make 2018 the year that you find your inspiration. Brush off that book idea, short story or script you’ve been meaning to do and novel you’ve been meaning to read.

Happy reading and writing!