Monday, 2 May 2016

WWII book for kids

It's here!
I'm very happy to report that my newest book, 'The Boy Who Went to War' is officially launched!

A five year journey
I have been working with 91 year old Jim Haynes for five years to achieve this amazing victory. Slowly and carefully, extracting painful memories, reliving horrors and reminiscing over good times. For Jim, who suffers with PTSD it's been particularly difficult.

 A positive day
The event drew a good size crowd who enjoyed the fabulous food laid on by a wonderful group of my personal friends. Thanks girls! Lots of kids came, which was what I wanted most of all, as this book was written for children. My passion is to bring a true story of wartime to the current generation, to give them an understanding of what it was actually like to be a child during WWII and hopefully encourage a sense of gratitude for the amazing, safe, suburban life they now lead. Thank you, Jim, for sharing your story with me. I have a greater appreciation of what you sacrificed and am honoured to have your friendship.

Want your own copy?
You can purchase your own copy here: Dawn Meredith books 

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

The Boy Who Went to War - One man's true story of WWII

I am SO excited to announce that my newest book, The Boy Who Went to War is here!
purchase from

I've been working on this project with 91 year old veteran Jim Haynes for five years, interviewing Jim, collecting documents and photos and writing his story. I am so privileged to be the guardian of this true life account of what it was like to be a boy in England at the start of World War II.

The son of a policeman, Jim joined the Royal Navy at age sixteen, trained at HMS Royal Arthur, HMS Drake, HMFS Paris and ended up on the brand new River Class frigate HMS Avon in the Atlantic, dropping depth charges on German U-Boats. Jim had many adventures. He saw ships blown up, picked up survivors of the Tonsberg Tarifa just as they ran out of water, saw a WRN (Women's Royal Navy) buried at sea, saw King Farouk's bombed palace in Alexandria and much more. As an inexperienced teen, Jim got into trouble in the out-of-bounds area of Alexandria markets and had to be rescued by a truckload of 'Red Caps'.

At nineteen Jim joined Special Forces fighting Japanese marines in the dense jungles of Malaya. In the jungles he fought malaria as well as the short, well-muscled 'unkillable' Japanese marines, often with insufficient weaponry or no guns at all! Finally his role was in transporting men, women and children from Japanese prison camps before settling to a new life in Australia. Making that choice meant Jim had to leave behind his entire family and sweetheart Olga in England. He never returned.

Jim has struggled with PTSD in his adult life as a result of what he witnessed as a young man. This story tells of his boyhood in Nottingham at the start of the war, the events which later shaped his future, the courage of these boys as they fought often invisible foes in the dark, the excitement of training with their mates and the resilience they developed to survive.
Nancy Wake
Jim witnessed cruelty, bravery, compassion and met extraordinary people along the way, including famous female spy Nancy Wake, The White Mouse.

Jim today
Our first event is as part of the ANZAC Day celebrations at two local schools. Jim is looking forward to meeting the kids, answering their questions and sharing his story.

On Saturday 30th April we will launch the book to the public. Everyone is welcome! This is a free event for kids and adults. See below for details.

If you are interested in meeting Jim, chatting to us about the book, or have questions, email me at

some of Jim's medals

Thursday, 17 March 2016

HOMEWORK - Some great Literacy and Maths books you can order online

Homework. Lots of parents disagree about it's importance. Well here's my two cents' worth, after 25 years of teaching. It helps. As long as you do it together and make it fun, not a terrible chore. It consolidates what is learned at school and takes the pressure off the student. Its difficult to somehow absorb everything while at school, especially when the teacher is going too fast or the child has days off due to illness, or has emotional issues that prevent her/him from attending mentally. Done the right way, homework can be a fabulous, confidence booster. You just need 2 things - to take the time to sit with your child and have the right resources.

So, this year my daughter's new teacher is advocating an online study program for homework. This I am NOT in favour of. Nothing is better than face-to-face instruction. As a teacher of many years, both Primary and Secondary education, I have found certain resources helpful and decided to purchase copies for home use. Then I thought I'd share them with you!

Literacy -
My daughter is in year 4. Lots of literacy books are either boring or visually overwhelming and confusing. This book does lots of things simultaneously:
  1. Extending vocabulary
  2. Improving comprehension skills
  3. improving spelling knowledge and practical use of words
  4. Improving skills of inference (reading between the lines) and interpretation of text
  5. Improving self-directed work
  6. Improving focus and motivation
  7. A wide variety of topics, including history, science, biography and fictional stories are covered.
Sound good?
It's Reading Freedom book 3
I bought it here:

SPELLING workbook for year 5 -
  1. phonics based spelling
  2. vocabulary development
  3. prefixes, suffixes, base words
  4. contracted words
Available from the publisher, Pascal Press  and other websites

Maths - 
I'll admit, Maths has never been my strong suit. So when I'm looking for an appropriate Maths textbook I consult my Maths Teacher husband. Easy!
The features of this book that make it stand out from the rest are:
  1. Its simple layout
  2. Not too many bright confusing images and colours
  3. ONE TOPIC PER PAGE. I get so fed up with current textbooks that give just a snippet of every topic on the one page. This goes against everything we know about Mastery Learning! 
  4. Sequential format
  5. Plenty of opportunities to practice the skills learned
  6. Instruction box at the top of each page shows you HOW to complete the exercises 
  7. Practical applications for what you just learned are at the bottom of each page.
Here's the book and link:

If you have any questions, I am happy to answer. Just leave a comment below.

Monday, 14 March 2016

STEAM PUNK GLORY! Is the future just a re-jigged Victorian past?

About time I collected some more awesomely cool steam punk pics for you! I love the ingenuity of steam punk, the way it incorporates art and machinery and persistence with a dreamlike lens into the future. Or is it the past? The glory of the Victorian age of mechanisation was, in part, the beginning of much suffering and alienation in the world, but at the same time thrust humankind forward in great leaps to the technological age we now 'enjoy'.

For me, Steam Punk seems to try and preserve some of that old fashioned humanness while exploring the extraordinary with a childlike fascination. Interesting questions surface - Will the future mean complete mechanisation of everything, including insects? Will we utitlise brass and copper once again, in a way we haven't before?
Enjoy my selection, obtained from

I think this one is actually fractal art, made with a complicated method of mathematics! But it does have a steam punk feel, with the luxurious colours and mechanical theme, so I thought I'd include it. 

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Getting that Novel STARTED! How to kick procrastination

If there's one thing I'm great at, it's starting a novel. Finishing it presents a far greater challenge! And then there's the middle of the middle section - ARGH!

But in the last two years I've developed a system (yes, an organised system) that helps me:
  • Develop the characters so that I really know them
  • develop and maintain plot elements such as tension
  • keep track of those tiny but important details readers will complain about
  • not lose my head
  • reduce stress
  • make it simpler, easier and more transportable
  • allow me to jot down ideas in a way that I can actually FIND them again

Sound good?

So,what do you need?
1. Buy a white board.
Doesn't have to be big. Also some whiteboard markers and a rub out thingy. You can hang the whiteboard on the wall, sit it on an easel and take it to other rooms when you feel like a change of scenery. Last year I wrote an 86,000 word novel in five months using this method. Normally it would take at least a year, perhaps two.
2. Buy a box of index cards. I bought a 500 pack.
3. Buy blu-tac to stick the index cards on the whitebaord
4. Draw up Michael Hauge's six stage plot outline, on the board itself or a sheet of paper to keep handy. (see below)
5. Print out character profile sheets for each character. I bind mine all together in booklet form for easy access.

So what's the method?
6. Divide the whiteboard up into three sections. You can use colour to help you keep track. I bought stick-on tabs.
7.Start filling in what you know about the basic plot elements. If you can condense it down to these questions, its helps:
  • who is the main character? (describe them in about five adjectives)
  • what is their main goal and why? (their motivation, what they want most dearly)
  • what obstacle/person stands in the way of this goal? (is it their fear of something? an enemy?)
  • how does the character overcome this obstacle? (what changes does the character have to make in order to achieve their goal?)
8. Every time you get an idea for a scene, write in on an index card. Even if its for another book! File the 'other' cards away under the headings STORY IDEAS and CHARACTERS.
9. Place a small box or pile of spare index cards by your bed for those late night inspirations that will surely vanish by morning if you don't write them down! I made this one out of an empty tissue box.
10. Keep a bunch of spare cards in your bag or car. I made a neat little purse thingy which holds a pen too.

11. Begin to fill in the character profiles as you get to know your characters and their lives. This is CRUCIAL for keeping track of their history, motivation, little telltale habits they have, how they feel about other characters and why, physical characteristics that are important etc.

Below are the sections I use, after years of gleaning bits and pieces from all over the place:

 12. As scenes pop into your head, decide which of the three sections they'd fit into - is it setup? Major development? Major inciting incident? Aftermath? You can add a little stick-on tab in the relevant colour and then adhere it to the whiteboard with blu-tac. ***** The beauty of these is that if you change your mind about the order of scenes, you can move them around the board. You don't have to keep it all inside your head!

13. When you get to the crisis point - for me, about 3/4 of the way through - you have clear direction. If you're still stuck, you go back to the character profiles and figure out how they would react and why. this guides your next scene and subsequent scenes.
14. VOILA! I am a converted 'Pantser.' Instead of dashing along with the Muse until she loses interest and buggers off, (by the seat of my pants writing) I now have control and yet still retain that delicious feeling of inspiration and willful divergence, should I so desire. (Planned writing). Try it! It has worked so beautifully for me that I teach it in my workshops now.

I just wish I'd known about this sooner...

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Free audio stories for kids - listen while you work!

During the last school holidays we were saved by a fantastic website, 
We did craft at the kitchen table while listening to entertaining stories and loved it!

BBC journalist Hugh Fraser and Matthew Lynn founded storynory. " Hugh and Matthew knew each other (slightly) at Oxford University in the 1980s where they both worked on Isis, the student magazine.

Hugh Fraser is Storynory’s editor and producer. He writes the original stories and adapts many of the myths and legends. He is also webmaster and oversees the development strategy for Storynory.

This is what Hugh says about himself:
“I used to be a journalist. I spent some time in Russia (1990-1993). I am planning a “magnum opus” for Storynory that will be set in Russia, but somehow I haven’t quite written it yet.
I did ten years at the BBC World Service where I got my background in all things audio and started to write for the net. Now I try to get all that journalese out of my head and write proper English.

A very long time ago I did Classics at Oxford. Regular listeners to Storynory will recognise my interest in the ancient world. ”

Storynory provides original stories, in fabulous series, to listen to as well as classics and other stories. just click on the story you want to hear and away you go! The other great thing about this website, and the reason why I use it at work with my reluctant readers, is that it provides the story in written form too, so the listener can follow along. Brilliant!

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Holiday craft for kids and adults - have FUN!

We spent many happy hours doing craft this holidays, with the simplest materials and made lovely gifts. Here are some of the projects. The key thing is to HAVE A GO and not worry about the outcome. Experiment with the materials and enjoy the process.

This brilliant stuff is plasticine that you bake in the oven. makes fabulous little critters which we made into a mobile with a piece of dowel, one hook, some fishing line and beading crimpers. 

 I used two part epoxy resin glue to attach the beasties to the dowel.

the finished mobile.


Edward Bear. I never use a pattern, I just experiment and see how it goes. Of course I end up pulling it up several times, but that's part of the process for me.
 Fingerless gloves. So easy!
A little bowl for knickknacks. A flat circle, then doubled up the trebles to form this lovely shape. It's already in use, to keep a bedside table tidy!

I used the wool from a kit to make this little guy. Many versions later I was happy with the result! He's a little late for this Christmas, but he'll be ready for Xmas 2016. 


Its amazing what you can come up with when you just have fun! The best ones didn't use glue at all.


Friday, 1 January 2016

Guest Author - Donna Maree Hanson

If you, like me, LOVE LOVE LOVE dragons, then this author is for you! She has two books in her fabulous 'Dragon Wine' series.
Who am I talking about? Donna Maree Hanson. She is my guest author this month and I'm so excited! I gave her complete open rein as to what to write, and this is what she says about herself:

How reading helps my writing

I like reading. I love being absorbed in a book and being so involved I don’t want to stop until the story is done. I read lots of different genres, crime, romance, science fiction and occasionally literary type books (those contemporary stories where it’s about the words and the character rather than about the plot). If it hooks me I’m there. If it hooks me a lot, I don’t move until I’m done. I have had some impatient children/ partners who want to be fed or something and I’m nose deep in a Georgette Heyer and won’t move. Sigh. I love being that indulgent with a book.

Reading fabulous stories inspired me to write. I am from that school of writers who consider reading very important for a writer. I recall very early on a writer giving a talk about how aspiring writers had to read, read and read. This author said that reading allows your mind to absorb story rhythms and flows and by osmosis a writer will pick that up. Another author, Jack Dann, said at his workshop many years ago that if you like a passage you read, copy it down, study it and understand why you liked it, why it was good. I don’t think I’ve done that but I do study texts more now to look at an author’s technique, see how they have done something. Not so much to copy them but see how a certain thing can be done. Sometimes a novel or a way a novel is written gives me ideas or even confidence. For example, I might think they’ve done something daring and then that leads me to be daring too.

There are opposing schools of thought on reading within the genre you are writing. Some people believe you should be across the genre, know where your work fits etc. Others don’t read in their genre because they don’t want to  accidently influence their work. This happened to me with my dark fantasy series, Dragon Wine. It has dragons in it. I didn’t want my dragons to be clich├ęd or like someone else’s take on dragons. So I didn’t read any books with dragons in them. I’ve been told that my depiction of dragons is a bit different, that they have a different edge to them. That pleases me because that is what I was going for.
Dragon Wine
When I was writing Dragon Wine (Shatterwing and Skywatcher) it came out quite dark and there are things in the story that are disturbing. When I started writing this book back in 2003, dark fantasy wasn’t a thing. I hadn’t read a dark fantasy. I’ve had feedback from editors and readers that the story was too dark. Now dark fantasy is a thing. So I’m not writing the most dark and nasty fantasy out there. One reviewer did say it was ‘grim’ dark, which is about a dark and depressing as you can get. Dragon Wine has a layer of light in it so I’m hoping that’s enough to shrug off the grim dark label.

Dragon Wine Book 1: Shatterwing by Donna Maree Hanson is free in e-book for a short time. As part of spreading the word about Shatterwing Donna is doing a blog tour and offering a give away of a hard copy of Shatterwing. Winners will be drawn from people who comment during the blog tour. So leave a comment to be in it to win.
What is the book about?
Dragon wine could save them. Or bring about their destruction.
Since the moon shattered, the once peaceful and plentiful world has become a desolate wasteland. Factions fight for ownership of the remaining resources as pieces of the broken moon rain down, bringing chaos, destruction and death.
The most precious of these resources is dragon wine – a life-giving drink made from the essence of dragons. But the making of the wine is perilous and so is undertaken by prisoners. Perhaps even more dangerous than the wine production is the Inspector, the sadistic ruler of the prison vineyard who plans to use the precious drink to rule the world.
There are only two people that stand in his way. Brill, a young royal rebel who seeks to bring about revolution, and Salinda, the prison’s best vintner and possessor of a powerful and ancient gift that she is only beginning to understand. To stop the Inspector, Salinda must learn to harness her power so that she and Brill can escape, and stop the dragon wine from falling into the wrong hands.
Dragon Wine Book 2 :Skywatcher, the follow on book is also available in ebook and print.

About Donna

Donna Maree Hanson is a Canberra-based writer of fantasy, science fiction, horror, and under a pseudonym paranormal romance. Her dark fantasy series (which some reviewers have called ‘grim dark)’, Dragon Wine, is published by Momentum Books (Pan Macmillan digital imprint).  Book  1: Shatterwing and Book 2: Skywatcher are out now in digital and print on demand. In April 2015, she was awarded the A. Bertram Chandler Award for “Outstanding Achievement in Australian Science Fiction” for her work in running science fiction conventions, publishing and broader SF community contribution. Donna also writes young adult science fiction, with Rayessa and the Space Pirates and Rae and Essa’s Space Adventures out with Escape Publishing.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

ANXIETY in CHILDREN - helpful book this Christmas

I've had such a fantastic response to this little book! It seems to strike a chord all over the world and that gives me such joy. In this technologically complex modern world the simple,instinctive things remain - how we feel about ourselves and how we feel about the world in which we live. Many, many people struggle with anxiety and it often begins in childhood My aim with this book is to provide information, to use humour to de-mystify the stranglehold negative thought habits can have upon our minds and to provide practical advice THAT WORKS! Being a 'sufferer' myself I know exactly how it feels but I also know that it can be overcome, if you can accept it for what it is - an early warning system that gets a little out of control.

So, if you know someone who struggles a bit with anxiety, be it child or adult, this little book has many answers and LOTS of tips. My mission, still, after 25 years, is 'Changing the world, one child at a time.' You can order it here:
12 Annoying Monsters, at Five Senses Education website
12 Annoying Monsters, from 


If you've missed the Christmas run, aim for a NEW Year's present! What a fantastic way to begin 2016 - with the promise of a new way of tackling anxiety - becoming victorious over its effects! And please, if you've had success or still have questions, drop me a line at I can send you up to 2 copies (in Australia) for $30 plus $1.80 postage.
Much Happiness to you all!

KID KRAFT - Christmas trees you make yourself!

Here's a simple little thing you can do to brighten up the house this christmas. And its so simple, ids can do it! We collected stick from the garden and raided my ribbon hoard to make little gems just like these. which we hung in the window along a piece of string. For more detailed instructions, go to 'Fireflies and Mud Pies' website.
Have a fabulous Christmas everyone!