I have a daughter, Becky, who is 16 and completing year 10 in 2004. She loves writing and reading and photography, and so we enjoy those things together. She has travelled a lot with me because of my writing- Turkey, Flinders Island, Italy, Fremantle. She’s my best friend.
My husband, Gordon, is an educationist and reads in every spare moment. He encourages me a great deal with my work as a writer / illustrator and though he is the reason we have moved around so much, we all agree that our years together have been a lot of fun.
Our two woolly Shih-Tzus, Dylan (Thomas) and Oscar (Wilde) are an important part of our little family and go almost everywhere with us. Dylan enjoys Frequent Flyer status and has lived in three different states in Australia!
My hobbies are reading, drawing, gardening and I love walking in the bush or along the beach. Gordon and I work in a Bush Care group, helping to regenerate the native flora in our neighbouring blue gum forest.
My favourite sports are swimming, tennis and golf. I love seafood of every kind, with chargrilled vegetables. I especially love travelling to places I have never seen.
I grew up in country Victoria and was educated at the University of Melbourne. I worked in Melbourne as an English teacher and then as an educational psychologist, for about fifteen years, before accepting a position at the Dromkeen Children’s Literature Centre, where I was Director for five years.
In 1990 I moved with my new family to Perth for another five years, where I began writing and illustrating for children. My first two books, “China’s Plum Tree” and “The Deliverance of Dancing Bears”, were published in WA. I subsequently lived in Canberra and am currently based in Sydney. Moving so often, with a family to settle and a home to organize each time, has limited my output, but we are in Sydney for some years to come, so I have been able to become more focused and more productive. My more recent books include “Night Without Darkness”, “The Wishing Cupboard” and “Yardil.” (the latter two books I illustrated for other authors).
I work in an attic studio in the roof-space of our old home in Chatswood, Sydney. I share a large area up there with my husband and daughter, so we have a couple of computer desks around the room, as well as a large easel and several tables of different sizes, covered with books and papers and art materials, etc. There are also storage cupboards and a number of book cases. It’s pretty messy, but a lovely quiet place to work and well lit by the big sky windows that look out on the tree-tops.
Where do you get your ideas for your stories?
Mostly from my own experience or from things I have read which interest me. I am most interested in animal welfare and conservation and would like to focus on these areas in my writing.
How did you learn to draw?
I’ve always loved drawing and always done a lot of it but I have had no formal training. This is something I regret but I have been able to teach myself quite a lot through reading and observation.
Do you prefer writing or illustrating?
I honestly don’t have a preference. Both are equally challenging and satisfying when I am doing them and I’m always amazed at the similarities the two processes share. Researching my stories informs both my writing and the illustrations I make.
What medium do you use?
All my books with the exception of the first are illustrated in chalk pastel. I have a preference for drawing above painting and I love the rich, undiluted colours of good quality pastels. I have several types of pastels, ranging from very soft to quite hard (conte). They come in sticks as well as pencil form, for more delicate bits. It might be time that I tried another medium. Perhaps my next book…
Of your own books, which is your favourite?
I have a kind of “love affair” with each new book I am creating, but despite this, my favourite book remains “Deliverance”. It was written about something dear to my heart, at a time when I was happy and living in a place I loved. It is a book which has touched many people’s hearts and brought me into contact with hundreds of children all over Australia.
What are you working on at present?
Another contemporary fable, rather in the style of “The Deliverance of Dancing Bears”. The theme is again one that pleads for the care and protection of wildlife, but this one is not about bears.