Meet Maria…


 Maria is a primary teacher, public speaker, journalist and is currently studying her Cert IV in Fitness with the Fitness Institute, Townsville. She has also worked in public relations (PR) communications and administration. She started Big Sister Blogs to record things that mattered to her. In Writerly Wisdoms, she shared tips from author, illustrator and storyteller workshops. Her picture books reviews are from a teacher’s perspective. Why? ‘Because Picture Books are a child’s first interaction with literacy.’

Covid-19 blindsided kids and teachers – separating them. Under the ASA (Australian Society of Authors) guidelines Maria garnered the support of Staff and Teachers at her Manly School to read Picture Books to over 100 Year Ones for *StoryTime* on the Education Queensland Learning Place while they were at home. She also read stories to her parents and class’s private FB site. This shared-community experience with so many created a sense of continuity, connection, familiarity and engagement for children and parents. 

Her wish for children is… 

…to engage with authors – writers, illustrators and storytellers as they are the gold sticker every child deserves. 

‘Children mirror you be the positive reflection.’ ‘Children are little sponges who love learning. Give them stories in shelf loads.’

Achievements & Publications


Studying Cert IV in Fitness – Fitness Institute Townsville. Completed Cert III in Fitness 14 Feb, 2022. 

out end 2020…

  1. Rainforest Writers Retreat anthology. Ghost Stories – YA to adult.
  2. Share Your Story Australia – Tell Them That They’re Dreamin’ anthology – kids.


  1. Kookie Issue 10 – Nicky Shortridge. The Prank illustrated by Katrin Dreiling.
  2. Lots of Zoom, Zoom sessions about writing, stories and their creators.


  1. Library for All – Lara Cain Gray. Little Godwit, illustrated by John Robert Azuelo
  2. Creative Kids Tales, Story Collection 2 – a Flip book with Enchanted and Things that go Bump in the Night. Complied by Georgie Donaghey. ‘Libraries Have Bottoms’ (poem)p49 – illustrated by Megan Higginson and ‘The Empty House’ p86 – illustrated by Allison Howard. This included a fun book launch with KidLitters and June Perkins at Hearty Art Studio.
  3. Rainforest Writer’s Retreat – Charmaine Clancy. Short stories of Forest and Fantasy. ‘A Morning of Many’ p98.
  4. Attended writing workshops.
  5. Attended Conferences, Festivals and Retreats.
  6. Reviewer for StoryLinks – BookLinks (Qld) Inc.
  7. SCBWI Sydney – part of Dimity Powell’s media team – photos and blogging.


  1. The Anzac Many at the Australian Children’s Poetry.
  2. Share Your Story – Michelle Worthington. It’s Beginning to Look a Lot like Christmas – an anthology of Christmas Tales – Christmas Bellyaches p109.
  3. Attended writing workshops, assessments.
  4. Attended Conferences, Festivals and Retreats.


  1. Longlisted Greenleaf Press Picture Book competition with Cecilia Cicada
  2. Published an ekphrastic poem, ‘We Are Travellers’ — in Dr June Perkins’ Ripple Poetry.
  3. Some conferences, festivals and retreats.
  4. Writerly Wisdom blog posts
  5. Picture book Reviewer
  6. Blogs about life within her space – Personal Blog
  7. Australian Writing Centre (AWC) writing workshops online


  1. Numerous AWC workshops online.
  2. AWC podcast, So You Want To Be A Writer with Valerie Khoo and Allison Tait.

Published over 100 stories in Townsville Bulletin and The Sun Newspaper during  her Journalism degree – 1996 Maria Gibbs. 

Advice for writer & illustrator

Maria says becoming a writer is like doing an apprenticeship. She started in 2016 and is working towards 2021 for publication. (This has been surpassed with anthology and stories in publications)

  • ‘If the voice in your head tells to give up, it can also tell you to have a damn good go (poster on gym wall).
  • ‘If you know what giving up feels like, what would happen if you didn’t’ (poster on gym wall).
  • Resilience means never give up and dust yourself off and go again. Attend conferences, festivals, workshops, retreats. Pay for assessments, edit x10 before submitting. And join the right critique group for you. Repeat.
  • Perseverance means keep trying your best.  if you’re unrelentingly passionate, giving up is not an option. It could take, 5-10 years. Give or take a few cuppas in between.
  • Respect, it’s free to be kind, caring and considerate

She believes writing communities offer a sense of place and belonging.

Her philosophies

  • Be Positive. Be Productive. Be Proactive.’
  • ‘If you have something positive to say, say it – otherwise restrain yourself.’
  • ‘Get in. Get it done. Get it finished. ‘ 

Prior… because she’s been around for a while.

As a teacher of some 20 years, it’s the ‘Ah Ha, I got it now!’ light-bulb moments which keeps her in this profession. Her passion is for children to read, thrive and discover. To be themselves with confidence, knowledge and love for life.

In-between… because she wanted to learn.

Bachelor of Education and Bachelor of Journalism – She wrote over 100 stories including two front pages  — The Townsville Bulletin, ‘O Negative Blood for Premature Babies’ and The Sun Community Newspaper, ‘V8 engine drivers head-butting with Police’ (byline Maria Gibbs). Publicity Assistant – during Townsville’s VP50.  She interviewed Vietnam Veterans and wrote stories for the Townsville Bulletin (Dear John Letter, Nurses of War etc.,).

Prior prior… because she’s older than most.

She worked in local government administration for 18 years – public relations, payroll (in the days of counting cash in a small locked room with burly security guard outside, cashiering, Cotter’s market co-ordinator etc.,

She’s travelled extensively, written numerous reviews on ‘Tripadvisor, mpare5‘ and according to stats some 50 000 travellers have seen her reviews.

Along the way…

She loves taking photos which ‘make her look twice’. See her Instagram. She went to Toastmasters International to crush her fear of public speaking. She has a passion for writing and as the eldest of seven she started a personal blog ‘Big Sister Blogs’ to share their goings-on. She is Aunt to 20 nieces and nephews and proud mother to one son.

Firm Friendships…  

Her 40+ year friendships from boarding school are worth sharing. It’s the thing kids crave at school and we do too —  to belong and have friends.



One day she’ll get around to filling this spot too. If you can’t wait, please check out her personal blog – ‘Family’.

Knowledge is Power 

To quote her Dad, ‘Every day above ground is a good day’ and ‘Every morning you wake up is a good morning.’ Her father passed 2 August, 2018 (the month before Father’s Day). Maria and her mother nursed him at home. Their palliative nurse said. ‘Remember. They’re always in our hearts and by our side. No matter where you are.’ 

To quote her Mum’s father, ‘My father used to say, “Learn and put aside.” Whenever you need that knowledge, it will always be there to use. When Maria reached ‘end stage renal’ in 2016, it scared her into realising, ‘Oh my God! I haven’t started that book I always wanted to write.’ Her successful kidney transplant was 3 Feb 2017. She returned to teaching full-time in 2019, grade one class in Brisbane. 

To quote her husband, before he passed June 2018, from aggressive pancreatic cancer, what he wished for her: He said, ‘I want you to be happy.’  His last wish was – to be home on the dairy farm on the Atherton Tablelands. Maria drove him back from Townsville. Palliative care nurses supported her with his care.

He was diagnosed 22 May, 2018 (advise he had six months to live) but doctors didn’t count on how aggressive the cancer was. He passed 21 June, 2018. Maria set up an In Memory for research and ‘early detection’ for men and women. Pancreatic cancer (the silent killer) is the least publicised (compared to breast cancer…) yet highest and most excruciatingly painful disease – constantly scratching, itching, nauseous, yellowing… . Steve Jobs and Pavarotti, high profile people could not beat it. Research is key. Knowledge is power. Live Life, you only have One.



Maria Parenti, primary teacher, writer, amateur photographer and blogger at  www.bigsisterblogs.com  and www.mariaparenti.com