I recently spent a week ‘playing’ with my childhood friend, Wendy. She now lives on beautiful Kangaroo Island off the coast of Adelaide. I say ‘playing’ because it doesn’t seem that long ago since we were curious ten year olds. And if you peel back a layer or two, the child is still there, giggling just beneath the surface.
During the day, Wendy was always over at my place. And at night she would often run away from home and we would have a midnight feast of jelly snakes, clinkers, milk bottles, bananas and Metro bubble gum.
She loved the bigness of my house and garden, our Chinese food, and for a short while, my older brother.
Wendy was born a leader – confident, brave and bossy. We climbed the tallest trees, clambered over the highest roof tops, snuck into the scariest mansions, fought the biggest bully boys, and rode our bikes for miles and miles and miles.
I barely remember primary school.
If it hadn’t been for Wendy I would not be a children’s writer today. I know that for a fact. Being a bit of a wuss, I was forced to act brave and be brave.
Setting is very important to me and I always begin my novels by first picturing a place in my mind. Once that is done, I create the characters or sometimes and this is always strange, they create themselves.
So going away to Kangaroo Island was not only a wonderful chance to catch up with Wendy, but also to discover a new backdrop for a story.
I find my camera more useful than a notebook when I’m travelling. Just one glance at a photo and I can recreate the atmosphere, the emotion, the sounds and smells of the moment.
To be a writer of children’s stories we must nurture the child within us. We must make friends with the troubled teen we once were.
Being a writer we can right wrongs.
We can turn weakness into strength.
We can be the child we always wanted to be.