Congratulations to Carly on Say Hello.

Say Hello is a book written by Carly Findlay and its an education.

I’ve taken an awfully long time to put words to page for Carly about her book. The promises I made for words and reflections after speedily reading (in early February) we’re not delivered by me in a timely way, and that’s not like me.

Why? I’ve been procrastinating, hmmm, maybe, more mulling over how to express words that won’t belittle, be taken out of context, diminish, demean, be offensive or superficial. I don’t know how and what to say, as being introduced to Carly’s perspective and world, is tricky territory. I want to get it right, but chances are…

It’s a risk – but I want to bring words to and for Carly that’s a true representation of her worth and work. For, Carly Findlay has worked HARD and toiled long, and introduced me to the term ‘emotional labour’ (gosh, that’s so true – thank you) and invested over a decade of work and her lifetime of ‘being’ – to be seen and heard in this form, and I get that.

This is a difficult task and I will now attempt it, in my way.

Carly, IOU these promised thoughts into words, but before I do…

Carly and I met about 18 months before the publications of her memoir and first book. At the time, she had recently quit her job and was juggling around being completely self-employed whilst writing what she thought would be the final chapter of her manuscript. I had been down this road myself fairly recently, so kinda knew where she may have been at with some things, and what may lie ahead.

Carly had put it out on social media that she was keen to meet up with other writers whilst in Sydney on one of her rare free-afternoons – to do ‘writery things’.  We met in a leafy courtyard café in my home town of Glebe with 5 other women writers who were part of a writing Facebook group. It’s after this first face-to-face meeting that I started to pay more attention to Carly and her work.

I had a low-level of awareness of Carly back then. I certainly recognised her from her appearances on TV and had seen posts and media around her disability activism, but I wasn’t close to her work. We were and still are, from different orbits, circling around each other’s universes and linked by writing and Facebook, and writing groups on Facebook.

On Facebook, we support each other where we can. I slip in out of connection or participation into observation-mode at times, and watch her sometimes epic posts go off the charts, in good ways and sometimes, terrifying ways.  Bold, brash, colourful, courageous, fierce, fragile, funny. This is how I get to know Carly over these short, intense years. Like many others, I’m consuming her educating, explaining, defending, calling out, dressing up, eating well, suffering, dealing with and living out loud in the public space.

We’ve met up a few more times since that first time – for coffee when I’ve been in her home town of Melbourne and for dinner on a fleeting trip to Sydney. We’ve also batted about and chatted on Facebook and email –  raised thumbs, angry faces or heart of support where appropriate.

It has all been building up over the year and half to the launch of her book, Say Hello. I’ve been doing fist pumps for Carly from my screens, watching her do absolutely everything, and doing it right, and doing it 10 times more than anyone. In short – Carly deserves every success and more, for the work, energy, pioneering, dealing with trolls, handling media and generally being a star as a writer, author and a joyous human being.

She’s one of the hardest working people I know. I am officially, a Carly fan-girl.

It’s now time to talk about her actual book, Say Hello.

I was freakin’ excited about her Sydney launch (Feb 6, 2019) because when we met up for dinner in Sydney, she let me know that another superstar of the world was helping her launch (Annabel Crabb). I grabbed my ticket as soon as they were released and a week before the big occasion, grabbed myself a copy. I started reading in the afternoon, read as long as I could through the night and finished it in the early AMs.

Yes. That good.

I emerged from Carly’s world, firstly, enormously proud of my friend and shell shocked and ashamed of myself. As an able-bodied person who thought that I was open, aware and sensitive to the needs of people around me, I now understand better, how I am guilty of unconscious bias, behaviours and assumptions about people (and families) who manage and live with disability. I understand a little better, but not completely, how marginalising and diminishing our able society is and how the fight for justice is left to a few.

I’m now pointing at Carly and say directly to her: I still don’t have the words to truly express to you how enormously significant and important your life and work is to the world. I know that the wave of praise you’re receiving, all put together, shows you the scale of impact you and your efforts have. In all the ways people respond to your work – the lovers and the (jealous) haters, this is proof that you’re a substantial, powerful force in the world.  I couldn’t tell you to your face, Carly, I would cry too much and too hard. I’d probably just end up saying, ‘I rate you’ or ‘you’re tops’– but you know I think that of you already. 

Say Hello is an education, a romp, a journey. Carly is candid and honest about navigating some of the hardest edges of our society and her own, very personal challenges. She joyously bring to us her family, friendships, relationships, experiences growing up and becoming a woman with a visible difference and disability. Carly brings to light with rawness, the truth and realities that many people living with disability (and their families and supporters) experience every day. She’s candid (in good ways and shocking ways), blunt, unapologetically graphic, sometimes too understanding of other people’s stupidity, and very generous with her time and energy ( emotional labour).

If you want to know how it feels to be in Carly’s skin and in her brain (trust me, you do), grab yourself a copy of her hilarious, tender, sad and sassily written book.  It’s gritty, bitty, sticky, interesting, hilarious, mortifying and enlightening.

Carly is by no means an overnight sensation – she has work solidly, building a body of work and experience for well over a decade. As a fellow author and someone who strives for understanding and recognition, I COULD be jealous of all the success and attention. But, I’m not. Carly has done ‘the work’ and earned this recognition and truly deserves the success that comes from divulging the inner most parts of herself in public. I, of all people, know how this feels, and it is not a comfortable space. That’s why I take my hat off to Carly and appreciate what it means to have achieved, Say Hello. It’s a work to celebrate.

Find out more at

See, Carly, it was easier to write it and I hope it was worth waiting for.

Sue x

Over the years, I’ve kept up with my newsletter, Zulu to YOU with fair frequency. It’s a way that I’ve taken stock of work, progress and success over the years. Here’s how you can dip into my journey as a new writer, author and self-publisher. Here’s the archive of Zulu to YOU!

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At the Australia-ChinaFriendship Society Christmas gathering, I’m with Professor The Honourable Dame Marie Bashir AD CVO, who is the Patron of ACFS. Prof Bashir’s kind words are on the cover of the 3rd reprint of Accidental Aid Worker!I  also donated a copy of my book for the fundraising auction and the lovely lady next to me bought it. It was signed by both Prof. Bashir and myself as part of the prize!

Author talk for Australia-China Friendship Society NSW

I will be giving an author talk for ACFS on 13 March 2019 in Sydney CBD – Check for details at the Author Talk page

Sue Liu’s book, Accidental Aid Worker is a compelling read and fun, too. The opening, travel-oriented chapter in particular is a ripper — personal, fast-moving and revealing, plus there’s romance and a villain, and then redemption. Sue captures ‘moments’ beautifully and the turning points in any episode, and does so in crisp prose that’s devoid of artifice or self-aggrandisement. As her narrative progresses into the book’s sustaining topic, the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, she is revealed as an absolute demon for responsibility and involvement, and for getting results. It’s a lengthy tale, set mostly in Sri Lanka and partly in Australia, of tenacity and touching humanity. Her achievements both in “spontaneous” aid work and in later penning this well-crafted tale are formidable. – John Borthwick – Travel author

John Borthwick, is a fellow adventurer and, among many other accolades, Australian Society of Travel Writers’ 2016 Travel Writer of the Year. It was a serendipitous meeting of travel and writer minds at the launch of John Maddocks’ book, Against the Odds, last week in Newtown. John very kindly purchased Accidental Aid Worker and after reading, furnished me with this lovely review.

High praise! I’m thrilled!

I’m also in good company with this tribe of travel writers. I also met the vibrant and hilarious Glenn A Baker!

Escape to Sri Lanka, Japan, Cambodia, Papua New Guinea and on a rollicking journey through and extraordinary life!  Grab your holiday reading directly from me. Signed copies of Accidental Aid Worker include some sweet gifts for Christmas! 

VISIT THE SHOP here –  Edition 1 now on sale! 
For bookstore, distribution and online ways to buy – click here

After receiving the huge news about being accepted into the writing residency at Hedgebrook in October, flights are booked, arrangements have been made and now, this…

I have revisited the work that has been ‘plonked on page’ since mid-2015, revised the plot and plan, printed off pages and am ready to start work – seriously. Vows have been renewed. This book wants to come into being.

Writing begins for Accidentally, with Purposethe next steps of Accidental Aid Worker.

I will not make the ‘mistake’ of announcing a due date for this new ‘baby’. One step at a time. Writing has commenced.

I have amazing news. In October, I will be spending a week on Whidbey Island – just outside Seattle, Washington, for a week-long Master Class workshop and residency at prestigious Hedgebrook.

Hedgebrook’s strapline is women authoring change. Their mission is to support women writers from all over the world to develop their voices and works, to  raise awareness in a vast range of issues.

Hedgebrook is THE place for me! My goal is to make headway on my next book, Accidentally, with Purpose – the sequel and next step from Accidental Aid Worker.

I submitted applications for a place in both the 2019 residency program and a Master Class residency workshop. Over 1800 applications are received each year for a coveted 40 places in the residency program (successful applicants are advised in December – I’ll let you know if I get in), and places in the week-long Master Class workshops are also hotly contested.

When the email congratulating me for my place in Hope Edelman’s Master Class arrived in my inbox, my excitement leaped off the email and straight onto Facebook. I think I said “Oh my GOD” out loud and all over my (Facebook) wall whilst jumping around the living room, for about three hours.

Being awarded a place at Hedgebrook is a real achievement and an opportunity I will make the most of. I will be joining six other women from around the world for a week on magical Whidbey Island to do exactly what I had wished for – take time out to invest, focus, write and develop Accidentally, with Purpose. 

Working with Hope

One of the reasons why this workshop with Hope Edelman is an important next step for me is that I will be learning how to approach and write stories that are deeply personal. Hope wrote Motherless Daughters, a book that saved my life by helping me relate to and come to terms with my grief and experiences resulting from my mother’s death. Hope’s work was a guide for me in expressing some of those raw and conflicted emotions around loss, in Accidental Aid Worker.  To have the opportunity to thank Hope for her work personally, is one thing. To work with her and learn how to become a more effective writer – quite another!

I am SO excited. Wish me and Accidentally, with Purpose, luck.

I am delighted to announce that Windhorse Books is the new distributor for Accidental Aid Worker.

Windhorse Books is a specialty, not-for profit, Australian business that has a focus on making available, quality books on Buddhism and meditation. As a business that has operated since 1994 distributing books to  bookshops, Buddhist groups and individuals, Windhorse Books aims to engage in ethical, non-exploitative and spiritually beneficial business.

For trade and distribution enquiries – please contact  Windhorse Books  or phone (02) 9519 8826

I am very proud to be represented by Windhorse books and Bodhi Books and gifts, sharing the shelf with a select collection of authors, whose stories, values and qualities align with mine.

I’m excited about the potential to connect with readers who seek real stories about exploration, social change and personal transformation.


EXCLUSIVE to Bodhi – AAW and special blessed bookmark

Windhorse also operate retail store Bodhi Books and Gifts in Newtown, Sydney. Bodhi continues to be enthusiastic about having Accidental Aid Worker in store and online.

Bodhi are the only retail bookstore to have copies of the special 3rd reprint cover AND a free gift – the special, limited edition bookmark with string that was blessed in The Temple of the Mother in Haputale, Sri Lanka.

Accidental Aid Worker is RRP$34.95 and available now at Bodhi Books and Gifts – 375 King Street, Newtown, or online at  or phone (02) 9519 8890

24 August 2018 – update: With Dennis Jones and Associates ceasing to trade as of 17 August, 2018, so ended our distribution agreement for the paperback version of Accidental Aid Worker via DJA and e-book via Port Campbell Press.  Please direct all new trade and distribution enquires to Windhorse Books or contact Sue for further details.

Thank you to Jessie Street National Women’s Library for inviting me to speak at Sydney’s historic Customs House Library.

Jessica Stewart very kindly reviewed the author talk: Sue does not shy away from the hard questions. Accidental Aid Worker is the story of how wanting to help a community became life changing. It is also an exploration of the complexities of aid, both moral and logistical. She asks us to think about how aid might impact local economies and can become mired in corruption. Read the author talk review on page 7 of the National Women’s Library newsletter – May 2018

Book review by Jessie Street National Women’s Library.

Read the full review on page 4 of the National Women’s Library newsletter-February 2018


Presented by publishing, marketing professionals and self-published authors Sue Liu and Anna Maguire. 

This one-day workshop is for writers aspiring to publish their new works as print copy and ebooks.

Be guided on the importance of:

  • Being business savvy and marketing aware about publishing;
  • How author profile and book identity are crucial for writers;
  • Building your brand and marketing options;
  • Key elements for producing a book and how it helps with marketing, sales and distribution;
  • Funding options to enable you to create a professional publication.

Date:  Saturday 24 June

Time: 10-4pm

Where: Leichhardt Library

Cost:   Free

Limited numbers. Bookings essential at Eventbrite or phone: 9367 9266

Supported by Inner West Library Service & State Library of NSW as part of the indyreads™ pilot program.

Find out more – Sue – Self Pub Leichhardt Workshop Media Release – 16 May 2017


PRESENTERS: Sue Liu and Anna Maguire

Sue Liu is an energetic community leader, business woman and marketing communications consultant with over 24 years’ experience. She self-published her first book, Accidental Aid Worker, in November 2015 and has been recognised by fellow writers, industry experts and readers for her efforts and achievements, as an author.  Sue has also been acknowledged as an emerging voice and one worth listening to in the education sphere. Her approach is from the perspective of the author/self-publisher/business person/marketer. Sue shares her insights, perspectives and experiences to help each writer clarify expectations, hone goals and create strategies, resources and tools to best suit their journey.

Accidental Aid Worker has also been praised by Tom Keneally and Hon Professor Dame Marie Bashir, whose comments feature on the cover of the 3rd reprint edition. For further information about Sue and her work, explore: , ,Facebook, Twitter (@zulu2you) and LinkedIn

Anna Maguire is a Sydney-based consultant and blogger specialising in digital training and strategy. She advises on digital publishing and crowdfunding through her consultancy Digireado. Anna has worked in book publishing and digital content for 25 years. She is a former head of production and interactive at Random House Australia and is a passionate advocate for digital developments in the book. She is a graduate of the Yale Publishing Course and has appeared at the Sydney Writers’ Festival and Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. Anna has trained authors in their digital publishing options for over eight years.

In September 2012 Anna wrote her first book Crowdfund it!. Anna lectures and coordinates the unit Book Production and the Book Publishing Business unit of stud at Sydney University.  Anna blogs (infrequently) on the Digireado website,, and at She is also on Twitter (@digireado and @crowdfunditnow) and Facebook ( and


About indyreads™ 

indyreads™ is a hosted eContent Management Platform that has been developed by the State Library of NSW to provide library users with access to local publications including digitised local history material as well as purchased ebook titles. The platform allows the Inner West libraries to work with community authors and independent and mid-list publishers to explore ways of making locally important content more readily available to readers.

The industry standard platform has enabled the library service to smoothly integrate ebook content into their catalogue and provide a seamless experience for library members. The hope is that indyreads™ will give communities a greater diversity of local content and help connect writers with their audiences.

The State Library is developing plans to make indyreads™ available in more libraries across NSW and to continue their support of programs for self-publishers.

Find out more – Sue – Self Pub Leichhardt Workshop Media Release – 16 May 2017


1 November 2015 – a year ago today, I launched my first born book, Accidental Aid Worker, at my home, with friends. What a year it has been!

These past 12 months, I have committed myself to getting me and my story out to the world. Being self published, self employed (and not earning as a consultant), a solo woman and without a team or support. I have invested as much as I can of myself to this enormous, complex and worthy story. YES, I believe my story, experiences and messages are worthy and of value to humanity. I believe that they are important, have integrity, heart and are worthy of sharing in this way.

It has not been easy. Far, far from easy.

There have been many dips in the road and shitty happenings along the way. This has been a cleanser of a year. I have done what I wanted to do – make changes that stick. I have really sorted out where I am and who I’m with in the world moving forward. I have FOUND my voice, gained clarity and made a new commitment to my values, hold those values dear, and with absolute integrity.

To explore what it means to write and publish – I sacrificed a lot too, investing creativity, effort, drive, money and energy to:

WAS THE EFFORT WORTH IT? Will I continue to write and publish and where to from here?

One step at a time, and only time will tell. My most urgent need is to get back to the work that earns me a living as a business, marketing and communications consultant – the Chiefette of Zulu Communications and start the final season for Candles for Community – Christmas 2016 Campaign.

Accidental Aid Worker has been a blessing in my life and I hope it will continue to be embraced, educate, inspire, amuse and give people pause to consider “who am I, where am I going and what can I do?”

This is a real and raw story about taking on life with the spirit of adventure, striving to maintain integrity in the face of loss and adversity and the power of connection and community.


When you purchase your copy of Accidental Aid Worker directly from me, you’ll receive a personalised, signed copy of the 3rd reprint edition of Accidental Aid Worker that features Tom Keneally and Professor Dame Marie Bashir’s comments on the cover. It comes with a complimentary gift card, bookmark and numbered puzzle token. $5 will be donated to a community project.

Purchase online here at the shop

To those who have read my story: Thank you for taking the time to read, for prioritising this in your busy lives. It means a hell of a lot to me. Thank you to so many of you who have stood close and not let me fall, particularly in these last 12 months since making my life so public. It’s a test of your character as well, to stand in the eye of the storm with me. I celebrate you – and your courage to do so.

Well this is interesting.

This morning I decided to Facebook live my interview with ABC South East NSW.

Here’s the Facebook live video – watch it on Facebook 


On the flip side – here is the radio interview!

I have to say – even I found this hilarious!




Sue x

8-9 October  – Rosehill Racecourse – 9-4pm

I’ll be at Book Expo Australia – with lots goodies at my first public ‘bookish’ event as an author!
 I’m sharing a space with fellow author, Gabriella Kovac on stall S34 ( 3 stalls along from the bookshop!)

 Keep your eyes out for this poster – and  me of course!!


Book Expo Australia is afacebook-profile-logo dedicated event for national and international publishers and authors to meet and interact with avid book lovers held at The Pavilion, Rosehill Racecourse, James Ruse Drive, Rosehill.

Find out more about the expo, speakers and what’s on at

batch_aaw3-book-quotes-squareA few months shy of celebrating the 1st birthday of the release of my book, Accidental Aid Worker, was another occasion to celebrate.

Legendary Australian author, Tom Keneally, and celebrated community advocate and former NSW Governor General, Professor Dame Marie Bashir both provided heartfelt words for me about my precious book. These worlds grace the cover of  the new edition of Accidental Aid Worker, which is now at 3rd reprint.

Professor Bashir kindly launched the edition at an author talk at Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts on 20 September, 2016.  In the company of a community of supporters and  70 keen readers, she spoke about her own experiences in Cambodia, and the power of connection and community, before providing her reflections about my story.


This is the video of the introduction and speech by Professor Bashir.

Part of my brain doesn’t compute that this happened. I’m thankful for the photographic evidence and that their words are immortalised in ink on my new cover. As you can see above, Tom also signed my copy of my book.

Today is R U OK? day.

SL13042Actually – I am not OK. I haven’t been OK for a while in my internal world.  Right now, I’m having a pretty confronting time of life and struggling a bit to hold it all together. So, this morning, if you ventured to ask me R U OK? I would probably answer truthfully “actually, no” to friends or people who I know well enough. To strangers – it just wouldn’t come up. Or would it?

See, for someone like me, who just published a very raw and revealing book detailing the internal workings of…everything; this territory is a bit challenging. Up until now (10 months after publication of Accidental Aid Worker) – I have somehow avoided speaking publicly about: my mental health and living/coping/functioning with prolonged grief, extreme anxiety and chronic depression.

I refer to in my book blurb and media releases, but up until now (apart from divulging it in my book for those who choose to read it), it hasn’t specifically been a point of interest in interviews… until now.  In a recent ABC Radio interview, I danced around the topic. I didn’t think it was what people wanted to hear. To be honest, I was surprised I actually had a conversation ‘live to air’ that had anything to do with my struggles.  I’ve stayed away from this in my author talks – because there are so many other things to talk about, and I actually don’t know how to talk mental health and give it the space it deserves, in that context.

Some say my story is raw, real, brutally honest and full of unspoken words. It’s a mirror or an echo of their own struggles. Feedback I receive from readers (friends and strangers) is that many can relate to my life experiences in dealing (or not dealing) with loss and grief and where holding onto stories, pain and emotions can often manifest: breakdown, mental illness, addictions, depression, suicidal thoughts, crippling anxiety and insecurity.  It’s a level of un-wellness that knocked this high-functioning coper into more than two years of mental breakdown – often disguised as manic creativity, over-enthusiasm, hyper-achievement, busyness, over-giving, volunteering and hyper-activity.

Just this week – I received this feedback from a reader, a new connection. In the spirit of trying to move the conversation about mental health into non-stigmatised dialogue, Annette has allowed me to share her comments publicly.

The conversation we need to have – about mental health

It’s truly an amazing journey in terms of geography and the projects you threw yourself into but, for me, the journey that really resonated was your mental health story.  As someone who has had my own battles with anxiety, I am always so grateful when someone bravely shares their experience and how they have found a way of perhaps not curing themselves, but managing their condition.  I think you are so brave to have detailed that part of your life, and I hope that your story helps to destroy the stigma around mental health issues, and that someday soon it won’t be such a brave act to reveal that part of ourselves; that it will be with the same ease that people talk about other health issues like food allergies or diabetes.

The more I talk to people about mental health, the more I realise we all have some sort of struggle going on.  I often think of Ferris Bueller’s immortal words: “Sooner or later, everyone goes to the zoo!”.  I think we all need to keep talking.Thanks Sue for sharing your story. – Annette

I am choosing today – to start to talk about my mental health.

This topic, is important to me. I reflect Annette’s words into the world today – because…yesterday, was a particularly challenging and tough day for me. I will spare you all the valid and invalid reasons why I ended up on the couch, curled up in a quivering ball of anxious overwhelm, self recrimination, crippling fear and doubt. I tried to nap it off, caffeinate it away, self-talk, rationalise and grind those feelings to submission, so I could feel back in some kind of control until I put myself to sleep last night.

Strangely – it woke me up to the volume of challenges and not- so-straight forward things I’m dealing with in my life, and the timing of it all: September and October. These are my ‘mourning months’ for mum and dad.  I’m here again, preparing for these anniversaries, that are significant markers on my mental/emotional landscape that will not be ignored – despite the buzz of my day-to-day.

I will do my best to buckle in and ride that rollercoaster, as I do every year. The added twist is the not-so-easy public sharing of my deeply, personal story and that of many around me.  The  upside of this – is the knowledge, that by sharing it, and being open about my struggles, I may be helping others navigate through the complex tracks laid down in their own lives.

We live with such dis-ease in our minds and our souls. Some times, we as human beings just cannot deal with the immensity and volume of it all. Today, may be a day – when you can consciously take a step toward seeing your own human struggles – the struggle we all have and share.

We are human – and it’s no sin or crime admit a truth and see our mental realities, or support someone else struggling with theirs. 

Asking R U OK? is actually quite complicated

I know that the intent of this campaign is to actively work toward raising awareness and encouraging a more outward-thinking community of human beings, who are authentically concerned for one another and their mental – emotional wellbeing.

From both sides (askers and those being asked), we (society) are still learning how to respond to this very loaded and difficult question.  In all reality – the answers, are not simple, quick or straight forward to resolve.  As Annette says – it’s the start of a conversation, and often not a light one.

If you are asked R U OK? and you are not comfortable with it – it’s absolutely fine to say: “Thank you for asking and showing concern.” Sometimes, it’s just that someone has asked and has shown that level of awareness and attention that makes all the difference.

If you find, that this question leads you to need more support and longer or deeper conversation, I think it’s helpful to:

  • keep calm, and purposely seek out someone in your ‘space’ who you know has compassion, empathy and time to give you. Sometimes, asking someone who is themselves not in the best space, the right personality or able to assist you, can be quite devastating.
  • talk to your partner or someone who can support you to find a good GP who can assist you with a referral to a trained and qualified mental health professional.
  • in an emergency – call Lifeline 131114

I am OK

Just letting you know. No need to call, thank you. For me, today, I have taken a positive step forward, by writing this post.  This action has given me focus, clarity and purpose to my day and it’s the sort of thing I do to help me to move on and help get myself back to ‘ok’ or better.

Friends are telling me to go easy on myself, rest up and just ride on through the coming months. I think, that’s good advice and essential for me to stay on track.

Sue Liu x 

With Tom Keneally at SMSA

With Tom Keneally at SMSA

July is ‘the Month of Sue’ – when Sue and Zulu celebrate birthdays.  This year, it included some pretty amazing happenings including: achieving recognition fromTom Keneally, reconnecting with Professor Dame Marie Bashir, attending a wonderful writing workshop in Bali, organising 37 author talks with libraries and communities in NSW (between June and Feb), and Zulu celebrated 15 years in business.

This is the tale of a woman who bravely opens doors and thus has astounding adventures and enlightenments. All in the context of what can only be called an adventure story and an extraordinary life. – Thomas Keneally


I continue to work hard in my ‘pioneering’ ways to make a path for myself as a writer, artist and self publisher, and this newsletter includes some of my wins. Come celebrate with me at one of my author talks and work with me in making stronger connections in publishing and community.

The next edition of Accidental Aid Worker will feature the words of an internationally acclaimed author and an Australian treasure. Reviews from Tom Keneally and Professor Dame Marie Bashir will grace new cover of the book, which will be launched by Professor Dame Marie Bashir at Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts on 20 September – 12:30pm .

September/ October Author talks

  • Saturday 3 September – Author Talk – 2:30pm at Kiama Library 
  • Wednesday 7 September – Author Talk – 11:00am at Paddington Library 
  • Wednesday 14 September – 10am at Balmain Probus
  • Tuesday 20 September – Talk about – 12:30pm at Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts – NEW EDITION OF BOOK LAUNCHED BY PROFESSOR DAME MARIE BASHIR CVO
  • Monday 10 October – Monday Matters  – 10am at Mosman Library
  • Sunday 30 October – 11am at Sunday Assembly-Sydney

NSW South Coast Tour  13 – 19 October – Nowra to Merimbula

  • Thursday 13 October – 1pm at Nowra Library
  • Friday 14 October – 10:30am at Ulladulla Library
  • Saturday 15 October – 10am at Batemans Bay Community Centre
  • Monday 17 October – 10am at Tura Marrang Library – Merimbula
  • Tuesday 18 October – 10am at Bermagui Library 
    – 2:30pm at Narooma Library
  • Wednesday 19 October -1pm at Moryua Library

See a full list of Sue’s Author Talks here 




The reality is for most people who choose writing and publishing as their career path, it seems, that it leads to success for very few. Of course, each person has their own definition and markers of success, which includes the usual goals; actual publication, a publishing contract, sales on all platforms, readership, favourable reviews and the ultimate nod – inclusion as someone of worth and note in writing festivals.

The key takeaway for me from the two of the three events I attended during Sydney Writers’ Festival 2016 this past week (Being a Writer in the 21st Century – Woollahra Council and Forest For The Trees – NSW Writers’ Centre) is this:

It’s bloody hard to make a living wage and sustain income in a writing and publishing career – even for the most well known, best selling and industry-backed writers. To make a living from the craft and business of writing, you need to diversify into other forms of media, channels and platforms – not just publishing and selling books.

Is it madness to want to have a career in writing and publishing?

I have only really been on the self publishing/ publishing scene really since the release of my first book. That was only 6 months ago (1 November) – yet I guess in reality, I started researching and considering what I needed to do if I aspired to write and publish, in March 2013 when I came up with the crazy idea to write my story.

In any case, as a (relative) brand newbie to book and publishing world, perhaps this has been an advantage -not knowing the mechanics and realities of how hard, demoralising it actually is – and how skinny the rewards and returns can be.

I push on regardless with my business and marketing hat on, being guided by the gems I pick up in my writer/ publisher education and determined that I might just cut through by being a little bit naive and off centre as I carve my own path for my work.

Reality IS biting though – about the money aspect. Yes, financial reward is important to me and a key success marker – because we all need money to not only live and pay bills, but to continue to write, create and inspire with our work. After a solid 6 months of putting off seeking work from my usual profession, (and recovering from the writing and publishing efforts of the last few years) I have now tuned into the clear and unmistakable message from industry veterans and those who have ‘made it’ on the publishing scene (this year).

Here is my reality: I should not expect to live off the efforts of my writing at the moment or any time soon. If I do not want to lose my  house and want to continue to invest in being a writer and self publisher – I have to diversify my writing activities and get paid work immediately. And, I will – but right now, I need to keep plodding. I am making great headway, but it’s a ways to being able to sustain myself. 

Here are some of the wins.

Reason to continue and persist

  1. It’s early days – I’m not going to give up after only 2 years and 6 months of focus. I am reminded by others that it’s only early days and I am an infant in this new world. I am not yet worthy of being an overnight success am I? It won’t stop me trying.
  2. I am finding some places to fit into the writing and publishing world which is full of quirky creatives and inspired, hilarious and deeply talented people. I want to be one of them.
  3. My work as a marketer, communicator, sales person, writer and publisher is of high quality and standard. I know I have a lot of knowledge and now, experience to give in the future as an educator.
  4. Sheer determination and willingness to swallow my fear and charge on is reaping rewards. I should not stop now – I should keep going! I will!

In my last newsletter and just before Christmas, I put out a call for volunteers to help with the preparation and service of lunch on Christmas Day at Gethsemane Community in Petersham. It’s my usual Christmas Day gig – and as the year wound up, I took on the additional duties of trying to organise the volunteers for The Christmas Project. Read more and see the video to refresh your memory.

Making Christmas Day 2015 a joy for community, volunteers and homeless people

Here’s how it happened – starring  Zulu’s Community/Sue, Gethsemane/Myree, Vic, Our Big Kitchen, Live, Love, Learn and volunteers

  • I offered to assist Gethsemane Community‘s Sr Myree Harris to find and co-ordinate volunteers for Christmas Day and also to help fellow volunteer, Vic, with the sorting and delivery of hampers to boarding houses around the inner west.
  • I contacted Our Big Kitchen to ask for help in finding volunteers for the day and also to supply vegetables for the making of salads for the lunch.
  • OBK put the word out on their Facebook page and also introduced Live, Love, Learn – a children’s art program, who co-incidently were going to be making cookies and gift bags on Christmas Eve for (ideally) homeless and disadvantaged people on Christmas Day – but did not have a recipient. Divine providence was at work here as this perfect match was made! On Christmas Eve, I went to OBK to collect 100 beautifully decorated cookie bags and thank the 85 children who prepared these package. The afternoon was spent doing the final packing of gift bags and hamper deliveries to boarding houses.
  • My nephew, Tim, helped me prepare 3 industrial sized salads (in a tiny kitchen) for the Christmas Day lunch.
  • On Christmas Day, around 35 volunteers assisted to put on a memorable day for around 80 visitors and their carers, preparing and serving a delicious feast and truly enjoying each other’s company.

That’s the power of community, collaboration and co-operation – and Zulu’s Community.

Thank you to everyone who contributed goods, gifts, food, time, energy, attention and support to make this day run so smoothy and so well.  

On going – Sue and Vic team up to feed Sydney’s homeless

One of the key outcomes of this short but intense lead up to this festive season service is, that after 4 years of volunteering for Gethsemane, a very key connection was made. Vic, who has worked with Myree for 6 years with the running of Christmas Day lunch, was -dare I say, shocked and surprised that I could ‘take over’ and run things so smoothly and drama-free.


Screenshot 2016-04-22 11.18.44

When Vic asked for my input into a community lunch that he has run for 3 years at a church in Darlinghurst, I said yes.

Each Thursday, Vic and a small team of volunteers prepare and serve fruit salad, burgers or sandwiches and coffee to around 40 homeless people. I have been volunteering most Thursdays now, and during his university break, so has Tim.

These few hours have become an important way for me to keep grounded and connected to my community. I look forward to this time and prioritise it, because it’s a tangible, practical way to serve my fellow human beings. I help feed people without any other agenda than to make a difference IN that moment.

We are a small team – from 4-7 people each week and this motley crew, called the ‘dream team’, are a really lovely bunch. It’s a small, but mighty effort – and we need more volunteers in our dream team.


If you can contribute 2.5 hours on a Thursday morning, even if it’s now and then, to assist us with feeding a small segment of Sydney’s homeless community – please contact me and I’ll connect you with Vic, who will be thrilled to have you as part of the ‘dream team’.


Just finished reading your book Accidental Aid Worker. Thank you for sharing your journey – not just a how-to on becoming involved in community work – but a very raw, personal & honest account of your emotional, spiritual, physical & mental journey of life. Funny, tragic & inspirational all rolled into one, I admire your vulnerability, down-to-earth attitude and your courage to face both mountains and valleys, and to traverse them both. What a pleasure to get to know you further through reading your memoirs and of course, to have you on our team at our C3 Cares Community Lunch. You are greatly appreciated & I’m looking forward to Book No. 2! – Monica Olander from C3 Church

I am very proud of my association with Sydney Development Circle (SDC). It has been almost 9 years since, as a fledgling volunteer ‘aid worker’that I became a founding member of this group in 2007. I was invited to speak at the second meeting of SDC about my experiences in Sri Lanka after the tsunami in 2005 and 2006.  I have been active and involved in helping keep our development community connected with SDC, as part of the steering committee, helping with events (including the cook-in event in February 2016 at Our Big Kitchen) and social media.


Sydney Development Circle cook-in event at Our Big Kitchen, with food produced donated to the House of Welcome. This event in February 2016 was produced by Zulu Communications for SDC.

Today, SDC has evolved and still serves as an important volunteer organisation that brings together practitioners, academics, volunteers, students and passionate, kind-hearted human beings who desire to be involved for the good of humanity. It is by hearing each other’s stories that we often learn about how complex the world is and many, like me, value this opportunity to connect and share so that we can continue to make a difference in community. Find out more about SDC 

Accidental Aid Worker is my very unique story about diving into development work in the wake of the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami as a passionate, ‘gung-ho, independent and self funded ‘aid worker’. This beginning has led to over 12 years of getting hands-on and often, in too deep, in far flung places like Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Papua New Guinea and here at home in Australia

 SDC logo$5 donated to Sydney Development Circle when you buy a copy of Accidental Aid Worker. 

To help SDC with keeping our communities connected, I will be donating:

  • $5 from each hard copy book purchased directly at an SDC event or from our shop.  Enter ‘SDC’ in to the coupon or comment section at check out and $5 will be donated to SDC.
  • $1 from each e-book from this link

Zulu Communications is proud to be a supporter of SDC through the Accidental Aid Worker fundraising campaign. I hope you’ll support us both and, learn from AND enjoy the journey. 


Review by Kiran and Robyn Hutchinson, SDC members and community development practitioners.

In 2004 the Boxing Day tsunami struck Sri Lanka, a country to which Sue Liu had travelled only a few months earlier. Leaving 35,000 dead and 500,000 displaced, Sue felt compelled to DO something and she did – rallying her friends to chip in, donate and give whatever they can. Sue and her friends’ generosity fill a container bound for Sri Lanka, where she travels to escort the supplies through the chaotic port of Colombo and then to Trincomalee in the far north. What she finds is far removed from her expectations of good will and the experience plunges her into the challenges that all of us face in the development landscape.  Sue finds herself an ‘accidental aid worker’.

“A brave and honest book”

This poignant travel memoir, Accidental Aid Worker details the adventures, challenges, doubts, and tribulations Sue experiences as she finds herself immersed into the humanitarian and development world.  The book extends far beyond the aftermath of the tsunami though.  Through her experience in Sri Lanka, Sue finds she has a passion and skill for community work.  Sue is also a woman of the world, with skills in demand by corporations. The pressures of humanitarian and corporate work, including the physical and mental stresses thrown up when doubts surface about the worth of one’s work and life, are a compelling theme of Accidental Aid Worker.  It is a brave and honest book.

Sue passionately, and always honestly, leads us on a path through the cultural challenges and the rewards that the community development sector can bring – and many humorous and heartfelt tales involving nuns, a tuktuk accident, refugees and orphaned children and so much more.  For those of us working in development, Sue’s passion to support community reflects our own paths in many ways. Her story reminded us of the joy we have felt at the connections and contributions we have made and why we are so passionate about development at the grass roots level. Accidental Aid Worker provides real-life lessons of operating in a cross cultural context.

Accidental Aid Worker highlights the bigger question facing us all, no matter where we are working on the continuum between aid and development: how to get ‘right’ that fine balance between aid and development, including how these two facets can complement each other and move towards sustainable community development at the grassroots level. This is a fundamental principal and critical challenge for all of us working in development. By putting her own achievements, mistakes and the personal impact of her efforts in writing, Sue holds up a mirror to the sector – allowing readers to reflect on our own struggles. Sue is one of us. We appreciate her honesty and energy because it keeps us focused on what is important in development work: passion and impact.


Yes – you know that late last year I (Sue Liu via Zulu Communications) successfully self published and launched my adventure travel memoir Accidental Aid Worker.

Yes – the process of writing and producing my own story and work took enormous time, commitment, focus, creativity, trips to the Chiropractor, learning a new craft and industry and tenacity AND money. It was a mighty effort to push through without completely burning out (again) and I made it through with sanity intact. JUST!

People ask me (constantly) how many books I’ve sold, because in terms of the perception of success in authoring and publishing – the measure is the number of units sold. I always baulk at this question because I wonder if it’s giving away too much and quite honestly – it makes me feel like a failure. WHY? Because I’m being measured by a scale that does not really exist for first time authors and self publishers and doesn’t equate at all in the world of traditional publishing. This is not just new for me – it’s new for everybody.

I have to create my own context and terms. That’s not so easy. Having run my own consultancy ( Zulu) for over 14 years, you’d think that I could more easily work this out. No – this is not the same and if you think being a self employed consultant is easy (no one does) – then try entering a new field and writing a book! It’s a completely different kettle of balls.

Do I care what people think IS success when it comes to units sold or ROI? Isn’t it more important for me to consider the impact of my story and how it feels, helps and resonates with those who’ve taken a punt on me and have bought my book? When exactly will I be able to say to myself “Sue, you can relax. You have been successful” ?

Sure – all of that – but what about my dreams? When you do this – aren’t you supposed to shoot for the moon? Am I expecting too much to dream big – to be snapped up by a publisher, be widely supported, have a marketing and PR machine behind me, be on the best seller list, have  a movie made from my book (who would play me?) and have my book sitting next to Elizabeth Gilbert, Frank Lowy or Sophia Loren on the shelf?

It’s ok to dream you know – and to have lofty aspirations and goals, but how deeply grounded in reality are those dreams and expectations when one is:

  • A first time, unknown author, self published, self employed, single person;
  • Between contracts and seeking connections – to pay the mortgage and feed the cat;
  • On the way to writing a sequel to the first book and juggling;
  • Considering if this is a post-mid life crisis thing or a real chance and a career transition;
  • Trying….really HARD to stay balance and grounded.

Gauging and measuring success (in no particular order)

1. Resonance and response: My story is unique, yet resonates with many in so many ways (I don’t want to give the story away – so let’s just say many ways).  People tell me that I’ve helped them experience many different aspects to life and raise burning questions that no-one else dare to verbalise. Yes -I went there. Maybe that I’ve helped a few people come to terms with their own struggles is in itself a measure of success.  You can read comments from readers here.

2. Attention: Maybe getting myself onto the shelves of two of my local book stores and in my local library is a win too. I didn’t realise how much it may be a win until others told me that is a victory.  Perhaps being interviewed by fellow author and master broadcaster Kel Richards on radio 2GB ( yes he did read the book) should be a time to celebrate. I did – that was nerve wracking and exciting.  You can listen to the interview here.

3. ROI and sales: So back to that questions about how am I doing with book sales and does it matter? Yes, it matters to me, because as a self funded, self publisher and a business woman. I want to see my investment in putting myself on the line and also my financial investment bare fruit. Based on this (modest) success, I have to evaluate if, how and when I will publish again.  Since launching on November 1, 2015, purely on my own steam via hard slog, marketing and direct sales, I have over 200 hardcopies of the memento edition of Accidental Aid Worker out in the world throughout Australia, USA, Sri Lanka, UK, Canada and Europe. Buy a copy of Accidental Aid Worker – signed copy and ebook or look for me on if you’re outside of Australia.

4. How I feel: Being human and learning about all of this as I go, understanding how to keep my ego in check and balance out all of these complex variables is probably THE most important thing.  Sometimes I get a bit hyped up and excited, other times it’s just dull and hard slog. I can’t afford really to go too NUTS about anything – one way or the other.

I am constantly reminded by friends when I get a bit blue or impatient about the pace of things, that this creation – a book of my life (that took me a year and half to incubate and year to write and two months to deliver) is only two months old.  They tell me, to have achieved Accidental Aid Worker at ALL is a big deal and to compare my version of success to anyone else or have reached those levels of success is stuff of dreams. I need to be real –  I’ll give it another few months 🙂

And, on my bookshelf, I’m already next to Elizabeth Gilbert and in a book store, I’m right next to Sophia Loren – so I should be happy with that. 

AAW on shelf with Liz at home