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This month's free book winners are Corallie and Linda, both from QLD.
Aleesah Darlison is a new picture book writer with Wombat Books. Welcome Aleesah...What inspired you to write Puggle’s Problem?
I’m such a big softie when it comes to animals. When I saw my first puggle (baby echidna) a few years back, I immediately fell in love. I just knew I had to write a story about puggles... and so Puggle’s Problem was born.
What are you passionate about?
Animals, making kids laugh (which is a much more pleasant sound than hearing them cry)! chocolate, books, social justice, and being a good mum.
What do you find is your biggest struggle as an author and how do you overcome it?
Trying to be everything you need to be in the competitive world of children’s writing can be demanding. Not only do you have to manufacture your own ‘product’ (i.e. write your books), you also have to be your own PR and Sales department, Accounts department, Events Manager and so on. It’s exhausting! Being a newcomer to the field, I have my work cut out for me in getting my name out there. But I just keep chipping away, doing what I can. I’m starting small and local and hoping the word will slowly spread....
How did you come to be published with Wombat Books?
I’m always on the lookout for an opportunity. When I heard about Wombat Books, a new QLD publisher, through the Alpha2Omega competition, I checked out their website and saw they were accepting unsolicited manuscripts. By this time, I had written quite a few picture book manuscripts, so I picked two that I thought were the most suitable for the Wombat Books list and sent them in. As luck would have it, the publisher at Wombat Books liked my puggle story... and the rest is history!
Who were your favourite authors as a child?
I think every girl growing up when I did read Enid Blyton. I also loved C.S. Lewis’ Narnia Series. Those two authors were really bread and butter reading for my generation. Jean M. Auel’s prehistoric series was also a favourite when I was a little older. I lapped that stuff up.
What made you decide to become a writer?
I think the desire was always there, but I stifled it for a long time. When I was a teenager I won a writing competition and had some stories published in an anthology. When I expressed an interest in becoming a writer, however, I was told to forget about it! That I would have to live in a third world country on a tiny pittance and never get anywhere. It seems funny now, but I guess the people advising me were just trying to help. Or perhaps they’d read my stories and were trying to tell me how bad they were without being too unkind! I really don’t think I was a good writer back then, my writing was too raw, my skills completely un-honed. But the desire to be a writer never really left me. I went to university and did other things, but I was always writing in my spare time. When I stopped full-time work to become a full-time mum, that’s when my dream to become a writer flared up again. I decided this time I was going to make it happen. And now no one is more surprised than I am that my dream has actually become a reality.
What would you say is the most important message to help a new writer gain publication?
Work hard. Write constantly. Don’t ever give up.
What are the themes running through your work?
Friendship. Loyalty. Love. Kindness to animals and to others. Courage.
Tell us something about your latest book.
Puggle’s Problem is the story of a tiny puggle, a baby echidna, called Pipp. Pipp has a huge problem: he can’t get his spines. Tired of waiting for them to appear, Pipp sets out to ask his friends for help. Puggle’s Problem teaches children about the importance of patience and that sometimes we have to wait for good things to happen. It also showcases some of Australia’s best-loved native animals. Award-winning wildlife artist, Sandra Temple, illustrated the book for me and she’s done a wonderful job.
My next book, Totally Twins: Musical Mayhem, is due out in September 2010 and it’s for girls aged nine plus. It’s about identical twins Persephone and Portia Pinchgut and is written in diary format by Persephone. It’s a fun—and funny—read and it’s illustrated by Serena Geddes. Serena’s illustrations add so much humour and depth to the story, I just know girls are going to love it. If people want to find out more about me, they can visit my website at: http://www.aleesahdarlison.com/.