Picnic Day for Missing People: Launch August 2

Australian bestselling author Melissa-Jane Pouliot will launch a ‘Picnic Day for Missing People’ in her hometown to raise awareness as part of a NSW book tour in August. Melissa-Jane, whose first cousin Ursula Barwick went missing 27 years ago, will launch the initiative with a ‘Picnic for Ursula’ in Quirindi on Saturday August 2 at Bell Park from 10am. Morning tea and coffee will be available, and proceeds raised will go to missing persons charities.



Picnic Day, which Melissa-Jane is planning to make an annual event as a fundraiser to support missing persons work, is the day before Australia’s National Missing Persons Week from August 3-10. Australia’s National Missing Persons Week is an initiative of the Jones family whose son and brother, Tony, went missing in Queensland in 1982. A few years later, they called for the first week of August to be dedicated to highlighting missing Australians and it has become a vital opportunity for families to gain some much-needed attention.

The Picnic Day for Missing People is inspired by Ursula’s love of family picnics while the cousins were growing up.

“Every weekend Ursula’s Mum Cheree and my Mum Dianne would gather a group of friends and family for a picnic somewhere. Sometimes it would be by a creek, other times in our backyards, up the paddock, in a park or in the mountains. There were always lots of kids, lots of adults and of course, lots of great food. We’d light a fire and cook some rissoles and sausages or we’d just have sandwiches and cake. There’d always be a thermos for coffee and tea and plenty of laughs and good times.

“It seemed fitting to launch a Picnic Day in memory of Ursula, but also for all the other friends and families who are missing someone.” 

Melissa-Jane, who released her debut fiction novel ‘Write About Me’ during National Missing Persons Week last year, said she had worked hard for the past 12 months to raise awareness for missing people through her book and associated publicity.

She said the book had resulted in links with Australian and international missing persons networks and an invitation to be a global ambassador for an award-winning phone safety app developed in the UK to help find missing people.

She said people had also come forward with new information about the 27-year mystery of Ursula’s disappearance.

“I am proud to have not only honoured the memory of Ursula, but to have played a strong role in raising awareness for the often under-appreciated and under-publicised issue of missing persons,” Melissa-Jane said.

Ursula disappeared aged 17 in 1987. The last time Ursula’s family saw her was when she boarded a train on the NSW Central Coast bound for Sydney.

Melissa-Jane said Ursula’s family and friends had learnt to accept they might never see Ursula again but the long-term effects of not knowing what happened to her were still obvious today.

“When a close family member goes missing without a trace, you have to live with so much unresolved guilt and grief. I was nearly 15 when she went missing and at the time I found it very difficult to accept that she was not coming home.

“Now as an adult with children of my own, I have a deeper understanding of what the adults in Ursula’s life went through after she disappeared. A lot of time has passed but we will never stop looking for her, and we will never stop missing her.”

  • The inaugural Picnic Day for Missing People will be in Bell Park, Quirindi, from 10am. Morning tea will be supplied. All donations will go to missing persons charities. To RSVP or to get involved, visit the Facebook Page Picnic Day for Missing People.

Top 5 books that make you cry

A week ago Write About Me was voted in the Top 5 books that make you cry by Indie Author Land. 

Here’s what they wrote: “Each week we pick a topic and chose our top 5 free or hugely discounted novels on the subject. Books that make us cry. The recent box office success of the movie incarnation of the bestselling novel, The Fault In Our Stars has got us thinking of some of the most emotional books we’ve read of recent, books that left us with a lump in our throats, and a speck in our eye. Here are our favourite five.”

Write About Me appears at the top of the list, along with four other fantastic books that I can’t wait to read:

I was so excited to see my book at the top of that list because it’s something a lot of my readers say to me. And even more exciting is the buzz it has created on twitter! So many authors, indie author pages, writers, readers and just random people who love books that make them cry have been tweeting and retweeting like I’ve never experienced. Thanks to everyone, and thanks so much to Indie Author Land, for their love of books!

So I thought it would be a good opportunity to post a review from one of my readers who definitely needed tissues while she read Write About Me:

An important story: tissues are a must
By Melissa-Jane Fogarty (GoodReads Review Feb 17, 2104)
Write About Me is a young adult story about a teenage runaway. But it isn’t just another YA story about love and boys and heartbreak and it certainly isn’t fantasy.

It is an important story.

Perhaps this seems so important to me because the life of the main character Annabelle and those around her are so close to reality that they could be real people.

From within the first few chapters, it is clear to the reader that Annabelle’s mental state is not quite right. She has conversations in her head with ‘Anna’ and ‘Bell’ who are both very controlling and are the ones who continually set Annabelle on the wrong path. I found myself so frustrated with Anna and Bell, and Annabelle for not being able to stand up to them, but in reality, people who suffer from mental health problems, are controlled (to differing degrees) by their disorder, unless they seek help.

There are so many important elements in this story: the loss of a child, the difficulty in finding good help from the authorities in locating missing teens, undiagnosed mental health problems, domestic abuse of children and drug and alcohol use amongst teens. I feel as though most people can relate to at least one of those issues.

In spite of all the sadness though, there were light-hearted, happy moments and those were what really created the much needed balance whilst reading such a devastating story. I could talk for hours about this book, but instead of giving too much more away you had best read it for yourself and discover all the highs and lows that I myself felt while reading this story.