Your short story Five Degrees From Happiness is in Australian Literature: A Snapshot in 10 Short Stories. What can readers look forward to in Five Degrees From Happiness?
Five Degrees From Happiness is a story about a young woman and her struggle to find herself. Her desperate attempts to connect with others is shadowed by her addiction to the bottle. She has a strange affiliation with ‘five degrees’ in all it’s forms. ie: five degrees in temperature, five degrees in direction and also it’s ‘figurative’ form. She uses this to help her make decisions in life, constantly looking for a signal as to where she should turn next. A red flag is finally waved at her in the most unlikely of places.
While backpacking overseas when I was twenty, I had a gun pulled on me while admiring the jewellery of a homeless woman. This is what inspired my opening. The rest of the story is fictional. I am always pleasantly surprised where life’s experiences take me. This is what is so great about writing. As an author I get to change my journeys and explore new outcomes. It’s exciting!
Now that you’ve had several books published, you are getting invited to speak at events like the recent Somerset Writers’ Festival on the Gold Coast and for writing groups. How are you finding that aspect of being a published author?
I absolutely LOVE it! For me, writing the story is only half of the journey. I love to chat with people about the process of writing and to hear their journeys. I feed on their enthusiasm and am constantly looking for that next idea, that next spark and that next experience.
As a teacher, I have always been comfortable talking to groups of children. Talking to groups of adults, outside of parent/teacher interviews, is relatively new to me. I never imagined I would feel this comfortable. It’s amazing the things you find out about yourself once you are in a ‘happy place’ and enthused about your job. It’s limitless. The goals just keep being reset.
You also have some recent publishing contracts for new projects. What can you tell us about those projects?
Yes! I have been happy dancing around the house a lot this month!
ABC/Harper Collins have offered me a contract for my third picture book. I can’t release the title just yet, but I am thrilled to be working with the team at ABC again. They are a wonderfully supportive and talented team.
The second contract I was offered last week is still in motion, so I’ll fill you in when I get the green light. But I am equally excited about it! Watch this space.
‘Five Degrees From Happiness’ is also due to be launched this month as part of The Australian Literature Review’s Australian Literature anthology, on Amazon and in paperback. I am keen for readers to give me some feedback on my adult short stories, as this is one genre that I am keen to explore further.
You have a passion for engaging children’s imaginations through stories. What do you think tends to work well in stories, or in particular stories you know, to engage children’s imaginations?
Children are capable of thinking outside the box much easier than adults. Igniting their imagination is easy, as life and it’s experiences are still new and exciting for them. A children’s story must have movement within it. By that I mean it must take children on a journey and introduce them to exciting places, new emotions and relatable characters. Children like to place themselves within a story. If they can relate to the character and the adventures they are experiencing, then you have a good chance of enticing them to very the last page.
What is a story you read recently which stood out, and what made it stand out for you?
I have recently re-read The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kid. This is a beautiful story about a little girl and her journey through life, searching for a mother figure to replace the one she accidentally shot as a child. The style of Monk’s writing is easy to read and it takes you on a journey. You can almost smell the honey! I actually liken Monk’s rhythm similar to that of Harper Lees in To Kill a Mockingbird. I think this literary genre appeals to me both on an emotional and writing level.
What is a fiction book you are looking forward to reading in 2011 and why?
Hmmm there are so many! I don’t get to read as much as I would like. My children would never let me sit down and enjoy a novel. If I sat down to read, they would throw a couple of picture books on my lap. So, I’m very up to date on my picture books!
I am looking forward to reading Michael Gerard Bauer’s Don’t call me Ishmael series. I have heard so much about it and I love Michael’s writing. He is a great story teller.
I also want to finish Tim Winton’s Cloud Street. I keep leaving it too long between chapters so need to start afresh with that one.
In your previous interview with The Australia Literature Review, you recommended to new fiction writers the importance of reading lots to improve their writing and quoted Dr Suess: “The more you read, the more you know. The more you know, the more places you will go!” Do you have another piece of writerly wisdom you’d like to share for new fiction writers (in the words of Dr Suess or otherwise)?
I often tell the children I teach that ‘Your imagination is like a tree. The more you feed it the more it will grow. Eventually it will flourish into full bloom telling a story all of it’s own.’
Write from the heart. Don’t over think it. There is plenty of time for that during your edits. Just get it down. Let your writing flow. When open, your mind can create amazing things without much guidance at all.
In the future, do you think you’ll concentrate mostly on children’s, teen/young adult, or adult fiction? Or do you think you’ll range from children’s fiction to adult fiction?
Time is my biggest enemy at the moment. My children are so young that I don’t have the amount of time that I would like to put into writing. I think I will constantly explore new genres. I am not known to sit still very long! Children’s picture books are dear to my heart at the moment because of my children’s ages. I have almost finished a short children’s chapter book inspired by my son’s love of longer narratives. I’m guessing my writing will grow with my children. I guess that means I’ll be publishing a book on lawn bowls and crocheting eventually.
The Australian Literature Review