The Centre for Children’s Literature

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Romancing the Stars – Toowoomba 2024

Romancing the Stars – Toowoomba
Date: Friday 7 June 2024
Venue: The Write Gallery at The Lighthouse Toowoomba, 126 Margaret Street
Time: 6:00 – 9:15pm
Cost: $25 for Book Links members | $35 for non-members

(Have your 2024 membership discount code ready to  apply at the end of the booking process)

Bookings close Tuesday 4 June at noon.



Speed date 14 stars

Discover the books our local authors and illustrators have been creating for children and young adults.

Each creator will give a short introduction to their latest publication in a small intimate circle, before rotating on to the next group.

You have a chance to get inside information about the creation of the books and make contact with potential presenters for your school or library.

Special Features
The event will be held in The Write Gallery surrounded by an exhibition of illustration by Lucia Masciullo featuring the book Eat My Dust. Be the first to see it.

Suzanne Leal from Victoria will be in Toowoomba that week and has agreed to stay on to be a special guest at this event.


Buy the latest books from the pop-up Dymocks bookshop

Enjoy great food and drinks. View and buy books.
Enter raffle and win books in the quiz competition.

PD certificates provided after the event.

Picture Books Authors/Illustrators: Clare McFadden, Irena Kobald, Kristen Willis, Lucia Masciullo, Rory Mather, Samantha Lloyd

Authors Younger Readers, Older Readers: Annaleise Byrd, Charlotte Barkla, Jane Smith, Nathan Taylor, Nette Hilton, Suzanne Leal, Tylissa Elisara




Clare McFadden is a writer, artist and educator. She has worked in arts education with children, young people, and communities in both Australia and the United States. Her first book, The Flying Orchestra, was awarded the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Crichton Award, was selected as one of the “50 Books You Can’t Put Down”, was adapted for the stage as the headlining work at the “Out of the Box” Festival and listed as one of the Australian Booksellers’ Association’s 50 Favourite Children’s Books. It will return to Brisbane in August this year peformed by the Queensland Symphony Orchestra.

Her next book, Book of Hours, is out now (Walker Books). Clare holds a Master’s Degree in Education from Harvard University.

Clare McFadden website




Blithe Fielden is an illustrator from the UK but now based in Brisbane. Blithe loves to create playful, colourful and happy illustrations, depicting the world through the eyes of children. Since graduating from Leeds Arts University with a BA (Hons) in Illustration, Blithe has showcased her illustrations to a range of audiences. In March 2024, Blithe illustrated her first picture book, Dinosaur in My Pocket written by Ashleigh Barton for Hachette.

Kids Book Review Meet the Author of Dinosaur in my Pocket.




Irena Kobald was born in Austria and has a master’s degree in Russian. By the time she came to Australia at the age of 26, she had picked up English while living in other countries.

She has worked in a wide range of remote schools in the Northern Territory, taught German in Queensland high schools and English as a Second Language to both adults and children, so her understanding of how language is acquired is both personal and technical, experiential and academic.

Her picture book My Two Blankets illustrated by Freya Blackswood was the 2015 Australian Book Council Picture Book of the Year. It was shortlisted for the 2015 Prime Minister’s Literary Award, received a ‘starred’ review for the Kirkus Prize (U.S.) and was reviewed in the New York Times Book Review (23/08/2015). Irena has completed over 250 presentations with My Two Blankets in 9 countries and 3 languages.

Irena Kobald Website




Kristen Willis is a seasoned creative about to publish her debut picture book, Peek-a-Boo Lottie! with Five Mile Books alongside Perth-based debut author Laura Holloway. Kristen may be cannoli-sized, but she’s piped with enormous narrative storytelling ideas and passionately injects herself into every pigment stroke.

Kristen’s unique fast-track introduction to the kid-lit landscape led to her mentorship with Annabel Barker Agency in 2022. That same year, she was awarded second place as a CYA Emerging Illustrator for her piece ‘Bacalah’s Christmas Surprise’, judged by UQP.

In 2023, Kristen landed two picture book contracts—the first with Five Mile Books (March 2024) and the second with EK Books and author Brooke Graham (Late 2025). And be sure to pop your prosecco on ice because there will be plenty more surprises to follow.

Explore Kristen’s portfolio and follow her kid-lit journey on Instagram at @tondocreative












Lucia Masciullo is an award-winning illustrator who loves to create whimsical characters and colouring with traditional techniques, mixing watercolour, pencil and collage. Born and bred in Livorno, Italy, she moved to Australia in 2007 and since then she has illustrated more than thirty books.
Lucia currently lives on the Gold Coast and when not at work she likes running, watching anime and eating home made pizza. Her most recent books are Eat My Dust!, Walker Books, 2023, An A to Z of Dreaming Differently, Penguin Random House, 2023 and  Ayla’s Christmas Wish, National Library of Australia, 2023

Lucia Masciullo website



Rory Mather is a picture book and rhyme enthusiast. He loves potatoes, dogs and sticky date pudding, and he adores his wife and daughter. When Rory was a kid, he lived on a sailboat with his family. They sailed around the world, and while Rory never saw mermaids or pirates, he can confirm that whales have bad breath. Rory now lives in South East-Queensland with his family and an ever-growing collection of picture books






Dr Samantha Lloyd (Sam) is an award-winning Principal Scientist for the Queensland Fire and Biodiversity Consortium with Healthy Land and Water (the regional Natural Resource Management body for south-east Qld), a dance teacher with Achieve Performing Arts Studio and a writer. Sam recently published her first book, a children’s non-fiction narrative story with CSIRO Publishing called Alight: A story of fire and nature. . Sam has a keen interest in engaging children in science and nature through literature and art and contributes reviews of children’s science and nature books for Children’s Books Daily and the Ecological Society of Australia.

Book Trailer for ‘Alight’.

More info on Sam (StoryArts Festival Ipswich website)












Annaleise Byrd grew up on a farm in Queensland, ignoring most farm-related pursuits in favour of reading books. She then spent nine years in England and Canada, neglecting a variety of jobs in favour of reading books. Eventually, she realised the best way to get away with this was to become an author.

Annaleise now writes funny books for kids and lives in Brisbane with her husband, two young sons and rescue greyhound. She is particularly fond of lamingtons. Annaleise’s debut middle grade novel, Losing the Plot, was published by Walker Books Australia in March 2024.

Annaleise Byrd website












Charlotte Barkla is a Brisbane-based writer who worked as a civil engineer and physics teacher before rediscovering her love for children’s literature. She writes picture books, early middle-grade fiction and feature articles.

Charlotte’s books include 11 Ruby Road, All Bodies are Good Bodies, the Edie’s Experiments series and From My Head to My Toes, I Say What Goes. She has five books due to be published in the next few years, including a fiction series with Walker Books Australia, a picture book with Hachette, and a junior fiction series with Scholastic.

Charlotte’s books have been translated in multiple languages and short-listed for awards, including the Wilderness Society’s Environment Award for Children’s Literature and the Speech Pathology Book of the Year Awards. As well as writing for children, Charlotte writes feature articles for publications including the CSIRO’s Double Helix, Beanz magazine and Youkie magazine. She regularly visits schools, libraries and festivals for creative writing workshops, sharing her passion for creativity and stories with children of all ages.

Charlotte Barkla website



Jane Smith is a Toowoomba author, librarian/archivist and freelance book editor who loves bringing history to life for all ages. Jane’s latest release for children is ‘Carly Mills, Pioneer Girl,’ a time-travelling historical fiction series that celebrates women who changed the world.  She is also the author of the rollicking historical fiction adventure series ‘Tommy Bell, Bushranger Boy’. Four of Jane’s children’s books have been short- or long-listed for Australian literary awards.

Jane Smith Website



Nathan Taylor is an award-winning author of the Winterthorn Saga, a clean contemporary fantasy for young adults (and not-so-young adults too). He lives in Western Queensland with his wife, kids, and a fluffy cavoodle named Bucky.

With over a decade of experience in education, Nathan is passionate about writing action-packed stories that explore big questions. His debut fantasy, The Non-Magical Declan Moore explores a world dealing with the impacts of magical climate change. It is currently shortlisted for the 2023 Aurealis Award for ‘Best Young Adult Novel’.

Outside of writing, Nathan works as a teaching-principal in one of Queensland’s smallest schools. He loves reading, cheese platters, and testing his aging knees on the basketball court.

Nathan Taylor Website




Nette Hilton is an established author of children’s literature, young adult literature and, in past times, adult novels. Her work is sold internationally and is in translation across many countries. She is best known for ‘Proper Little Lady’ and ‘The Web’ and was recently celebrated as one of the Golden Ladies of YA literature in an article by Brenton Cullen, Queens of YA: The Women Who Championed Australian Teen Fiction’ which was in the November 2022 issue of ‘Magpies’ magazine.

Her latest books, The Princess Peony and her Adventures which include her encounters with bears, frogs and a troublesome prince, have been well received with the First Adventures being short-listed for Speech Therapists Award 2022. Due to judging commitments Princess Peony was withdrawn for CBCA 2020 judging as Nette was one of the judges and had been for the past two years. Her 2021 book D’Lila LaRue smacks of naughtiness in the nicest way. She is currently working on developing illustrations for her own picture book and continuing her involvement with creating and promoting YA and children’s literature from her involvement with Toowoomba Lighthouse.





Suzanne Leal is the author of novels The Watchful WifeThe Teacher’s Secret and The Deceptions, winner of the Nib People’s Choice Prize. Her debut novel for junior readers, Running with Ivan, is included on the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s 2024 Notables List for Younger Readers and was shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s History Awards and the ARA Historical Novel Prize. Running with Ivan is an exciting time travel adventure for middle-grade readers. Inspired by real historical events in wartime Europe, it’s a compelling and moving story of friendship, resilience, survival and hope.

A lawyer experienced in child protection, criminal law and refugee law, Suzanne is an experienced facilitator at community, corporate and literary events. She is the founder of Thursday Book Club, a relaxed book club connecting readers online.

Suzanne Leal Website




Tylissa Elisara is a children’s social worker who lives and works in Meanjin (Brisbane) with her husband and children. She descends from the Narungga, Kaurna and Adnyamathanha people of South Australia and was born and raised on Mamu Country in Innisfail, Queensland – a heritage, alongside her Irish ancestry, that she proudly regards as a long legacy of storytelling. Tylissa is studying a Master of Writing, Editing and Publishing at the University of Queensland.

Wurrtoo: The Wombat Who Fell in Love with the Sky is her first novel published by Hachette Australia. Described as an Indigenous Blinky Bill meets Winnie the Pooh, this heartwarming and beautifully illustrated middle-grade novel from 2021 black&write! fellow Tylissa Elisara follows Wurrtoo the wombat on his quest to marry the love of his life, the sky, while facing his fears and learning the importance of friendship along the way. It has charming illustrations throughout by Dylan Finney.















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