Dreams, Persistence and Passion

For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to be an artist. I was always drawing.

So after I finished Year 12, I studied Graphic Design at RMIT. Then worked first for a creative agency then opened a design studio with four other designers called Rum Jungle.

It was fun. But there was something missing.

I didn’t LOVE it.

I wrote and illustrated my first picture book in my early twenties while I was living in Taiwan.

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The book never got published because I didn’t know anything about crafting a story back then. But I did get valuable feedback from the wonderful illustrator, Ron Brooks

Years went by but I always held at the back of my mind the thought of being published one day.

Then one night…

I had a strange dream which changed my life forever.

As a child we used to live on top of a shop. To get up to the living area we had to climb a very narrow staircase. It was also very steep.

In my dream I was coming down these stairs. I was about ten years old and on either side of me were strangers lining the stairway. As I went down they began patting me on the back and saying, ‘Go out into the light. Go out into the light.’

Below I could see a rectangle of light that was the front door of our shop. Outside, a crowd of people were streaming by all going in the same direction.

When I got onto the street I joined them. It was a sunny day and the feeling was one of happiness.

Suddenly up the front of this big procession I saw an enormous dragon’s head being lifted high above the people. It was at that moment I realised that we were all part of the body of this gigantic creature.

When I woke up I knew this dream was important because of its weirdness. So the next day I began writing it down and as I wrote I began remembering the shop that my parents had and all the things in it – pearl necklaces, embroidered handkerchiefs, porcelain figures, jewellery boxes.

Slowly, over the course of that day, a short story emerged. I called it Bonnie’s Gift. I didn’t know then that that story would become my first published novel.

In the year 2000 I joined a writing class in order to find out more about writing picture books. But we also had to write a junior novel. So I pulled Bonnie’s Gift out of my bottom desk drawer and reworked it into a junior novel.

By the end of the year my teacher, the well known author Hazel Edwards who wrote There’s a Hippopotamus on my Roof Eating Cake said it was ready to send to publishers.

After a total of NINE rejections, and much heartache, it was finally accepted by Penguin and published as The Garden of Empress Cassia.

There were many times I felt like giving up.

Persistence did pay off in the end.

Here are a few illustrations I did for The Garden of Empress Cassia.

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My keys to success therefore are persistence and passion.

Gabi x

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