Family, friends, reading and writing are what I love most in life. I am the wife of a builder and golf tragic, the mother of two compassionate, intelligent and sassy daughters, and the daughter of a brave, strong woman who has always been my greatest role model.
I’m also a fiercely proud sister, auntie, great-auntie, sister-in-law and loyal friend. After more than 30 years as a journalist, sub-editor, columnist and editor, I recently exchanged newspaper and magazine deadlines for a corporate communications and marketing role.
When I’m not at work, I relish the hours I spend reading, writing, writing about reading, and reading about writing. I also love talking about writing and reading, particularly with some much-loved writer and book club friends.
What do you enjoy doing aside from writing/illustrating?
It sounds like a cliché, but I love spending time with my family and friends, who mean so much to me. I also practise yoga and run regularly, and I completed my first two half-marathons a couple of years ago, when I was almost 50. Although I’m slow, I’ve got stamina!
In another cliché, I also love to read, and have done since I was a freckle-faced five-year-old. I favour character-driven stories that offer a deep emotional connection, so it’s probably no surprise that my favourites include Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove, Richard Adams’ Watership Down, and John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany. In recent years I encountered two novels that haunt me still – A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara, and Elemental, by Amanda Curtin.
Why do you write?
I simply cannot go a single day without writing in some form. I’ve been a journalist throughout my adult life, only recently swapping freelance work for a position in communications and marketing for a busy local government. Thirty-plus years into my writing career, I still feel the thrill of creating sentences that precisely convey the meaning I intend (even if I don’t always manage to convey that meaning succinctly!)
What do you write about/ what’s your style?
At different times of my life I’ve been an avid journal writer, zealous correspondent with family and friends on foreign shores, and a student of written English. I’ve also been a newspaper and magazine columnist, writing about topics as diverse as employment, new homes, education, residential land development, local government issues and court and parliamentary reports.
These days, in addition to the writing I do in my workplace, I take enormous delight in writing feature newspaper and magazine articles about authors and books, and I’ve got a bookish blog, called Shelf Aware, which invites guests to share images of their bookshelves (you can tell a lot about a person from the books on their shelves, you know).
Oh, and I’m attempting to write my first novel and finding the task of transferring the story from my head to the computer screen significantly more difficult than I ever anticipated. To be honest, I’ve spent so much time plotting and planning that I’ve failed to give the story the writing time it now needs. Wish me luck with the writing phase, which is now underway – and watch this space!
What would you most like people to know about your work?
My children’s picture book, Every Family is Different, was first and foremost inspired by my generous, kind-hearted, unselfish, hard-working and loving Mum, Maureen O’Donnell, who raised my two sisters and I thousands of kilometres away from her family.
It aims to acknowledge that there’s really no such thing as a ‘typical’ family – they come in so many different shapes and sizes, and all should have an equal place in our society. It was also inspired by the families of friends and neighbours – blended families, those with adopted or fostered children, families in which children are raised by grandparents or aunties and uncles, and families with same sex parents.
Who is your audience?
Every Family is Different (published by Serenity Press) was written to be read to toddlers, or to be read by children in kindy, pre-primary school or perhaps Year 1. I’m hoping younger children will love hearing about families in their many forms while they enjoy looking at Veronica Rooke’s vibrant and heart-warming illustrations, and that older children will relate the words and illustrations to their own family.
What do people like about your work?
The people who have read it so far tell me it has a freshness and positivity that they find delightful, and that its message of celebrating diversity in family life is particularly important at a time when we all need to be tolerant and accepting of others. Early readers also love illustrator Veronica Rooke’s vibrant, joyful interpretation of my words (and I love that, too!).
Tell us more about Every Family is Different:
Every Family is Different has a simple but timely message – not every child lives in a traditional family unit. Some children live with their mum and dad, others live with their grandparents or foster parents. Some live in a big house, others live in a tiny apartment.
Every Family is Different celebrates what it is to be part of a family, and reminds us that there’s something that’s always the same in every family…
In writing this story for young children, I wanted to highlight that while their family may not be the same as the family next door, the family across the street, or even my family, there’s a place for us all.
I’m incredibly proud of it!
Illustrator Veronica Rooke has created characters that perfectly complement the message I wanted my words to convey – and my heart sings every time I open the book, turn the pages and look at her beautiful families. Every face has an open, loving expression – even the animals that make an appearance look like they love and are loved (although there is one rascally black cat that is up to a bit of mischief).
I wanted my story to be positive, heart-warming and inclusive, and for the illustrations to reflect the love that I feel for my own family – and that other people feel for their families. I think Veronica and I shared the same vision of what it means to be part of a loving family, and I tried to share that vision through my words while she shared it through her captivating pictures.
Why did you write it / what inspired you?
Having grown up many thousands of kilometres away from my nearest relatives, I’ve always been incredibly close to my Mum and my two older sisters. We are fiercely loyal to one another, supportive and loving. When I met my husband Mal, at a party on a farm, we spent the evening sharing childhood anecdotes over a fire blazing in half a 44-gallon drum, and I knew family was important to him, too.
Thirty years later, our family has grown to include our two daughters, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, nieces, nephews and, more recently, great-nieces and great-nephews, but the love that ties us together remains, and always will.
I wanted my children’s story to try to convey what family means to me, while acknowledging that other people’s families may be different to mine but they also share this essence of love.
What do you hope people will take away from reading your work?
I hope that people will recognise and accept that families don’t all have to fit a traditional mould, and that we should celebrate and embrace the different types of families we will encounter in our communities, among our friends, and even among our own relatives.
Ultimately, being part of a family simply means sharing the bond of love, and that’s the most important message I want people to take away.
Do you offer any services that might be handy to indies?
I welcome opportunities to feature authors, illustrators and others in the publishing world on my bookish blog, Shelf Aware, which allows them to provide information about their current release or work in progress, as well as sharing details of their favourite books and authors, and pictures of their bookshelves at home. I must confess, the idea for the blog came from my avid curiosity about the books that other people love and keep, and it has grown from there.