Welcome to the part where I tell you more about myself than you could possibly want to know!
I’m a children’s writer and poet, with publications ranging from picture books, chapter books and young adult novels through to poetry for adults.
My children’s writing tends to be quirky and off-beat, while my poetry is more quiet and thoughtful. I think perhaps the book I really want to write is the one that successfully blends all these different elements.
I live near the ocean in Fremantle, Western Australia, but I’m a relative newcomer to the coast. I grew up in Bendigo, in central Victoria, and spent my childhood running wild through mullock heaps, striking it rich at least once a week on a vein of fool’s gold. I grew up in a TV-free household, and was one of those bookish kids, in love with words, excited by dictionaries and spelling bees. I was a sporty kid too, though, and love a good balance of both.
Although I’ve always loved books, I’m not one of those people who always wanted to be a writer. Like most kids, I wrote stories at school, though, and I entered a few competitions. The judges had this to say about my work:
- “Although quite imaginative, the story was overly long and lacked a clear focus.”
- “Although the story was intriguing, the vocabulary seemed rather unusual for this age-group.”
- “Although well-written, this was not really a story.”
I was unfocused, chose odd words, and had no idea what a story was. Clearly, I was never going to be a writer. That didn’t bother me at the time, as I was quite content to be a reader. I devoured the work of Roald Dahl, along with mystery series such as The Famous Five, Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden, and was a great fan of Australian writers such as Colin Thiele, Patricia Wrightson and Ivan Southall. Like many young readers, I loved the Chronicles of Narnia, and spent a lot of time pressing at the backs of wardrobes, hoping.
Although I was good with words, I never saw writing as a job that might be available to me, and had no real idea of what I wanted to be when I grew up. When I was in primary school, I thought it would be fun to be a teacher, mostly so I could make satisfying little ticks in ball-point pen on large stacks of paper. In high-school, I spent a year on exchange in Japan, and everyone told me how useful Japanese would be, that I could become a Japanese-speaking lawyer or accountant, or business executive. But I didn’t care about any of those things. What I really liked was standing over an inkwell with a horsehair brush, making tiny, deft strokes onto rice paper, and tasting the way the unfamiliar sounds crackled on my tongue. I just loved language for its own sake, and didn’t really care where it might take me, as long as it didn’t involve business suits or high heels.
Somehow, I resisted the urge to study economics or law, and enrolled in Arts, majoring in Literature and Japanese. I figured that would buy me a few more years of reading and talking about books, and I was convinced that if I just followed what I love, something would turn up.
Luckily, it did. Along the way, I’ve had all sorts of interesting jobs, including swimming teacher, translator, and Japanese-speaking tour guide, and, after completing my PhD in Japanese Literature, spent several years at the University of Western Australia, where I taught everything from Australian Literature and Creative Writing to Japanese Studies.
Somewhere in there, I started writing. I began with poetry, and had a few things published here and there. Then I moved on to novels, and began collecting rejection slips. Like my early rejections, these tended to feature the word ‘although’, which I firmly believe should be banned. I gathered a large folder of rejections, but I also got some encouraging feedback, which motivated me to keep going.
I love writing for children, and find it disturbingly easy to slip into the skin of my childhood self. The Russian writer Dostoevsky once said that perhaps the best education is ‘some good, sacred memory, preserved from childhood’ and I think this must be particularly true for writers. I am fortunate enough to have a marvellous storehouse of these, which are happily proving much more useful to me than high heels and business suits! Now, I’m just waiting to see where the words take me next. I hope you enjoy reading the books as much I enjoy writing them.
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