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Raise a glass to best friends

Catherine Russell

To the author of the Sisters Saint-Claire (Carlie),

It takes a long time to grow an old friend and no matter where we have found each other in life, you remain this beautiful, brave, witty, creative force.

That is why this moment, where your book, the Sisters Saint-Claire meets the world is so precious.

We have often spoken about where creativity comes from, how it can be gifted mysteriously and you simply must make it come it life in words, or pictures, music or cooking.

But to watch you take this idea, shape it and mould it over a year, to have the moments of self-doubt, to see fate step in and your publisher sit up – it is a journey, a commitment and something that takes a great deal of faith and bravery.

You have always had those ingredients in your character. 

You are a woman who took a near three hour round trip to school each day in her stride, who took on the world of politics with its long hours and unrelenting demands, you embraced motherhood like a natural and always held onto your dream to be a writer.

When loss came in the most unexpected way, I know it shattered you to your core and it sent you – like it does the best of us – out to sea with unfounded guilt and despair. But I do believe, through the long talks we shared that loss delivered you, in part, to this space and you made a choice to create, to bring the light and colour back in.

Your choice demonstrates that greatness can come from any of us, if we are brave enough, no matter where we are in life.  (Someone should put that in a children’s book? Oh wait, you did!)

And we are all the richer for the choice you made – using creativity to heal and in doing so, nurturing a story that so many adore. 

I read it to my daughter and I hear much more than a children’s rhyme. I hear the memories of a sister, I hear the sense of sometimes being overlooked, I hear your love of all things Parisian, I hear the strong self-belief that inspires a little mouse to create, and I hear your wit and humour.

I cry every time I read it, even though it is such a joyful book.

I hold this in my hands, the way I held your first born in awe of what you had created. I tear up the way I did when I watched you get married. I giggle at your humour there on the page the way the notes we passed in class would make me smirk.

It is all the best bits of you, with the characters lovingly brought to life by Tasmin.

It takes a long time to grow an old friend and we have shared our ups and downs. This is one of the ups and I am so proud my heart is bursting for you.

Canberra is lucky to have a brave creative soul like you in our midst for so many reasons and I hope the Sisters Saint-Claire is as widely successful as it deserves to be.

May we toast your success soon somewhere appropriate …. Paris?

Lots of Love, Cath


The Sisters Saint-Claire, a delightful rhyming tale about five fabulous French mice who love food, fashion and family, and a story about how greatness can come in any size. Available in all good book stores now.

Carlie Gibson is a mum to three young children and the eldest of five girls. The Sisters Saint-Claire is inspired by her experience of family and country living. She is a former media adviser and journalist living in Canberra.

Tamsin Ainslie was born and educated in the UK and lives in Murwillumbah with her daughters Olympia and Matilda. Tamsin started drawing at an early age, making books and keeping illustrated journals. She works from her home-based studio spending most of her time illustrating children’s books, designing book covers, drawing, painting and printmaking.

Catherine Russell

Catherine Russell is enthralled by public affairs in Canberra and the world at large; the issues that impact people from all walks of life; start memorable dinner party debates; fuel politics; create our advocates; and drive social media commentary. Consultant, mother and partner Catherine presents the HerCanberra perspective on the headlines. More about the Author

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