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‘Ugly’ illustrations help author’s career take flight

Author and illustrator Sami Bayly can thank the humble ‘bin chicken’ for her first break in the publishing world.


The former University of Newcastle Bachelor of Natural History Illustration honours student, set to return to her stomping ground later this month for the 2022 Write Here! Festival in Lake Macquarie, got a call from a children’s book publisher in 2018 after entering a portrait of the much-maligned Australian white ibis in an artwork competition.

“In my third year of university, I was finding myself being inspired by the more unusual or ‘ugly’ animals in life, wanting to draw the stranger-looking creatures instead of the ‘beautiful’ or ‘cute’ ones,” Bayly said.

What followed was The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Ugly Animals! a compendium of 60 of the world’s most unusual animals, exploring their appearance, habitat, diet and conservation status.

The book’s incredibly detailed watercolour illustrations helped earn Bayly a swathe of awards, including the 2020 Children’s Indie Book of the Year, and paved the way for two further non-fiction publications.

Bayly, 26, is one of 30 accomplished authors to present at this year’s Write Here Festival, held 18-20 March at Belmont Library, Toronto Library and Warners Bay Theatre.

She will provide an insight into her writing and illustrating techniques at a talk at Toronto Library on Saturday 19 March, before hosting a children’s story-time and illustration session at Warners Bay Theatre the following day.

Bayly will also join fellow authors Sandie Docker, Chris Hammer, Fiona McArthur and Tobias Madden on the evening of Saturday 19 March, offering a sneak peek into their new and unpublished works.

“I hope that the kids and adults watching or joining in with my sessions learn that nature is incredible, and that there are endless amounts of facts to be learnt about it,” Bayly said.

“It is so important that we instil a love of the planet in upcoming generations, because right now we need to take care of it more than ever.”

This year’s Write Here! also features an ‘Afternoon of Crime and Thrillers’ at Warners Bay Theatre, featuring authors Chris Hammer, Barry Maitland and the Walkley Award-winning Jane Caro.

The $25 admission includes ‘in-conversation’ sessions with all three authors, as well as a drink and snacks, and Dine and Discover vouchers can be used. Tickets to each of the three individual sessions are $8.

Fiction and memoir-writing workshops, author talks and a screening of Dead Poet’s Society at Rathmines Theatre are among the other highlights in a packed three-day program.

Lake Macquarie Mayor Kay Fraser lauded the diversity of talent secured for the weekend.

“In just a few short years, Write Here! has established itself as one of the premiere literary events in regional NSW,” she said.

“Not just for budding authors and illustrators, but for everyone who loves books and reading.”

Bookings for each session are essential. Costs range from gold coin entry to $40 for some workshops.

Go to or phone 4921 0400 for more information and bookings.


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