2023 Fellows

Our 2023 Fellows

Brenton Cullen (QLD)
Matt Shanks (VIC)
Sandra Kendell (NT)
Lorena Carrington (VIC)
Judy Watson (VIC)
Heidi McKinnon (VIC)
Michelle Write (VIC)
Sally Murphy (WA)

                                                                              Brenton Cullen

My first effort in ‘writing’ a book was when I was 6 years old, and this was the moment I became hooked on my life-long goal: to be an author. I was submitting picture books and short stories to publishers and magazines as a zealous and precocious 9-year-old. I wrote fan letters to my favourite authors and corresponded with them for years. Some connections were forged and friendships grew and mentorships, with the author I wrote to being my mentor on general writing advice as well as looking at my stories to give feedback, continue to this day, like with Wendy Orr or Hazel Edwards or Sally Odgers, whom I have been writing to for nearly 16 years, since I was a 10-year-old fan.

These connections with writers, who have guided me in mentorship to improve my work these last couple years when I, as an adult, became serious about writing as a career, along with opportunities like contests for manuscript feedback/mentorship etc. offered by Book Links and Australian Society of Authors (organisations of which I am a member), have hugely benefited me on my road to become an author. Since I began writing and submitting stories for publication as a 9-year-old, I have written articles, book reviews, newspaper columns, playscripts for performance, and been awarded writing scholarships. 

When not writing fiction, I work in a bookshop and write freelance articles, book reviews, and interviews for Magpies, Reading Time, Good Reading and Books + Publishing. I was awarded Scholarships to Meanjin Writers' Camp and Queensland Theatre Company's Residency Performance & Scriptwriting Week, nominated for a 2014 Australia Day Cultural Award for community services to scriptwriting and performance as a teenager when I performed in and scripted several stage productions as a part of two local theatre companies, and received a Longlisting for an environmental-themed picture book manuscript in the 2022 Just Write for Kids Competition. My short stories, poems, and columns have been published in OzKids in PrintWriting QLDYoung Writers House UK and the South Burnett Times. I am thrilled to be the 2023 recipient of the Ian Wilson Memorial Fellowship and endeavour to spend the time in Adelaide researching and writing a non-fiction picture book and revising a draft of a middle-grade novel with themes relevant to rural areas. 

Matt Shanks

 (re-scheduled from 2022)

Matt Shanks is an internationally-published and critically-acclaimed author/illustrator of over twenty picture books. Eric the Postie (2018) and Queen Celine (2019) were both awarded Notables by the CBCA for Picture Book of The Year. Rosie the Rhinoceros, written by Australian rock legend Jimmy Barnes, and Herman Crab, written by one of Australia’s favourite comedians, Peter Helliar, is available now. Matt is an Australian Literary and Numeracy Foundation ambassador, co-editor of Words Like This, and works primarily in watercolour. He lives in Melbourne, Victoria, with his partner and cat.

Matt was born in Sydney, Australia and now resides in Melbourne. Sandwiched between the bush and beach, the inspiration for his short stories comes from a love of his unique country.

His early fascination for the combination of words and pictures saw him complete a Bachelor of Design at the University of Sydney in 2003. It took him 10 years while working as a Creative Director at some of Melbourne’s best design agencies to realise that this ‘watercolour hobby’ of his needed to be shared with more than just his wife and cat. Simplicity, humour and the art of the unseen are strong themes in Matt’s illustration work.

With his strong understanding of the commercial aspects of the business from a career in design, he is a uniquely creative and pragmatic artist. He loves to work collaboratively and iteratively to achieve the best result for the audience.

He’s currently working on books for children with the wonderful people at Scholastic AustraliaHarperCollins AustraliaWalker Books Australia, and Allen and Unwin.

Matt is a member of The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and The Australian Society of Authors. For books, he is represented by the lovely Margaret Connolly.

 Sandra Kendell

Sandra Kendell is a Darwin based an author and illustrator who creates stories that celebrate and familiarise the reader with some of our most fascinating native animals. Her passion is making picture books that serve as conduits to inspire learning and encourage connections with the richness of Australia’s biodiversity.

Four of Sandra’s books have been named as Notable books in the Eve Pownall section for information books by The Children's Book Council of Australia. In 2016 her book, “Green Tree Frogs" was shortlisted for the YABBA, KOALA and CROC reader's choice awards. In 2019 Sandra won the Environment and Conservation Award at the Territory Natural Resource Management Awards for her contribution to conservation and the environment through her picture books. In 2020 her book “Beauty” was shortlisted for The Chief Minister’s NT Book Awards and in 2021 one of her illustrations was included on the Virtual Illustrators Wall at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair.

Sandra has completed residencies at Tactile Arts and the Territory Wildlife Park in the Northern Territory and in 2018 won an Arts NT Varuna Residential Fellowship.

Sandra was a presenter at the 2014 CBCA National Conference in Canberra and in 2016 a speaker at the Early Childhood Australia conference in Darwin. She regularly visits local schools to conduct readings and workshops and participates every year in the CBCA NT BookFeast event and at the NT Writer’s Festival.

Lorena Carrington

Lorena Carrington is a book illustrator and photographic artist based in regional Victoria. Her works are created using photography and digital montage techniques to form richly layered images.

She is published in Australia with Serenity Press and MidnightSun Publishing, and internationally with Kane Miller (US) and Wydawnictwo Tadam (Poland). She has also been commissioned for covers by publishers such as Transit Lounge, Swan River Press (Ireland), Eagle Books, and the Australian Fairy Tale Society. She established Pardalote Press with Sophie Masson in 2022, where they publish small surprising things.

 Lorena presents at literary and arts festivals around Australia, and visits schools and libraries to give talks and hold workshops on illustration, books and story. She also exhibits her work in galleries around Australia. 

Lorena is the recipient of the 2020 Australian Fairy Tale Society award, for her “outstanding contribution to the field of Australian Fairy Tales”.

Judy Watson

Judy Watson is an established illustrator of picture books and junior fiction, living and working in Frankston South on the outskirts of Melbourne. Judy grew up in an outdoorsy veterinary family with three passions: animals, art and books. After working as a veterinary nurse, then Front of House in a London theatre, she moved back to Australia and began learning about revegetation and Landcare, adding Australian plants and wildlife to her list of loves.

These passions led naturally to children’s book illustration and Judy’s illustration work often features animals, and people’s close relationship with them, along with a touch of the theatre. She takes an experimental approach to new picture book projects, allowing ideas to cross-pollinate with her fine art practice, and often incorporates mixed media techniques, using both computer and analogue elements in her finished work.

Judy’s illustration work has received awards including the Prime Minister’s Literary award in 2012 for her picture book Goodnight, Mice! with Frances Watts, a CBCA Eve Pownall Award short-listing for her non-fiction picture book Searching for Cicadas with Lesley Gibbes, and several CBCA notables. Leonard Doesn’t Dance was selected by the International Youth Library for inclusion in the White Ravens Catalogue 2020. Her latest book When You’re Older was written by Sofie Laguna and was published by Allen and Unwin in March 2022. Judy is currently turning to writing with much enjoyment and will be working on both fiction and non-fiction during her stay in the Burrow in July. 

Heidi McKinnon

Heidi McKinnon is an author, illustrator and designer who lives in sunny Melbourne with her partner, daughter and a very lazy cat. With a background in art and design, Heidi is passionate about creating funny and engaging books for children.

Heidi’s first picture book, I Just Ate My Friend, was shortlisted for numerous awards, including the Children’s Book Council Crichton Award and has been published around the world, including in the USA, France, Japan, China and Korea.

She then went on to create Baz and Benz, It’s a Long Way To The Shop, There’s No Such Thing and We Found A Cat. All of which have been published worldwide including UK, USA, France, Japan and Germany.

Heidi’s latest picture book, Floof, is a story about a very cheeky cat and perfect for anyone who has ever loved a ridiculous fur-ball.

Michelle Write

 (re-scheduled from 2021)

Michelle Write, previously known as Children’s Author Michelle Vasiliu, is best known for her award-winning children’s picture book, My Happy Sad Mummy, now in its second, revised edition, including teachers and parents notes. My Happy Sad Mummy, along with Michelle’s second picture book, Together Things, tackles the reality of families raising young children where a parent or primary carer is experiencing mental health challenges. Using her own authentic lived experience, Michelle weaves messages of hope and recovery throughout her narratives to bring light to darkness. Michelle has also published junior fiction chapter books and children’s non-fiction titles.

As a qualified Teacher and Workplace Trainer and Assessor Michelle enjoys giving talks and presentations about her role as a Children’s Author. Her employment history is varied and includes several roles working with children - Teacher, Youth Worker, Afterschool Childcare Coordinator and a Deputy Matron in an English Boy's Boarding School.

Michelle’s children’s writing career began in 2007 when she won her first writing mentorship funded by the Stonnington City Council (Victoria) in partnership with the May Gibbs Children’s Literature Trust. She was extremely fortunate to be mentored by multi-award-winning Author/Illustrators Sally Rippin and Kevin Burgemeestre.

In 2018, Michelle won a Writers Victoria Write-ability Fellowship. As part of this Fellowship, she chose to be mentored by award-winning, critically acclaimed YA Author Shivaun Plozza. Under Shivaun’s guidance, Michelle developed the beginnings of her first YA novel-in-progress Me and My Mad Mum. Inspiration for this novel is drawn from Michelle’s own daughter’s experience of living with a parent with mental health challenges

With the support of the May Gibbs Children’s Literature Trust for the second time in Michelle’s writing career, Michelle will use her Fellowship (The gift of time) to complete the first draft of Me and My Mad Mum.

Sally Murphy

Sally Murphy is an award winning children’s author, poet and educator from Western Australia. Having grown up  surrounded by books, in a small country town, she  always knew she wanted to write books of her own, as well as to help other readers love books as much as she did.

As a result, Sally became an English teacher, had six beautiful children of her own, and still managed to find time to develop her writing as she moved around rural Western Australia with her family.  Her first published book – a book of literacy activities for the classroom - combined her love of writing and teaching and she has since gone on to have 53 books published, ranging from classroom resources  to picture books, historical fiction, junior novels and verse novels. It is for the latter that she is perhaps best known.

Sally’s first verse novel Pearl Verses the World (2009) was an Honour Book in the CBCA  Children’s Book of the Year, and that book, and her subsequent verse novels, Toppling, Roses are Blue and Worse Things have garnered a range of awards and nominations, as well as being well received by young readers.  Her fifth verse novel, Queen Narelle, will be published in 2023, and another The Riding Gallery in 2024.

Sally’s passion for verse novels and poetry in all its forms motivated her to complete a PhD in Creative Writing in 2018. She subsequently took on a role at Curtin University in Perth, lecturing in literacy education with a special focus on sharing how children’s literature can be used in the classroom. This includes now supervising other Creative Writing Doctoral projects. In 2022 Sally was awarded a  Medal in the Order of Australia (OAM) for her services to children’s literature and education.

When not writing or teaching, Sally visits schools and festivals, sharing her love of reading and writing with children and adults. Away from work, she loves walking, exploring history, reading, and spending time with her husband and ever growing family – she currently has six adult children (along with their partners) and four amazing grandchildren.