I was born on a rainy winter’s day in 1965 in the lovely regional town of Albury, New South Wales, Australia although I spent much of my childhood in nearby Wagga Wagga and the surrounding countryside.
I remember wanting to know how to read and write from a very early age and asking my older brother who was at school if some of the scribbles I made were real letters – I remember how excited I was when he said yes.
I remember the phonetics alphabet chart with the coloured letters on the dark background my first and second grade teachers used to teach us how to read and write, the green covered books we used to practice writing in, the reams of printing paper we used to write stories on in second grade.
I remember the coloured chalk figures of Jiminy Cricket and the Blue Fairy and other story characters my second grade teacher drew on one side of the black board and left up for weeks while we learned our lessons.
The first story I can recall writing was about a little black kitten walking down a road and looking up at the full moon and into a tree with an owl in it who went ‘hoot, hoot’, as owls do. I was in first grade then. After that I used to write stories and make books and often bind the pages together using wool that my mother used to knit us jumpers with.
My brother and sisters and I (that’s me, second from left) were always writing and drawing and making things: for gifts, for celebrations, on rainy days when we couldn’t get outdoors; for fun.
My father had these great books on how to draw and illustrate by an artist called Andrew Loomis as well as beautiful illustrated books by Marcel Marlier called Mary and Mark – Mark was Mary’s baby brother – and Sophie and Johnny – who were about the same age and used to have adventures in the forest and the country and all sorts of things.
We often bought books through the school book club and some of my favourite books are still those I read then: A Pony for the Winter, Lyrico, A Book of Wizards and Witches, Gone Away Lake and many others.
Heidi by Johanna Spyri is one of my favourite books; images of the Alps, playing in the flowers and grass with the goats and the goatherd Peter, talking with Alm Uncle and eating fresh cheese and drinking milk from a cup; these are some of my favourite story memories as is the Sugar Plum Fairy and Enid Blyton’s ‘The Magic Far Away Tree’ as well as stories of Mooninpapa and Mooninmama.
I come from a family with a tradition of telling stories at night and I have very fond memories of being snug in bed and listening to these with my brother and sisters.
Silvery Elms is my first children’s book series. The story of The Singing Stone began when my sister bought a small stone dragon for her garden and I was looking for something to inspire my first fantasy writing assignment with The Writing School who I was doing a correspondence writing course through.
My sister made the comment that she had been thinking about buying a stone cat that looked like ‘it was just waking up or just going to sleep’. I liked the dragon, and that description, so the chapter “Not Just A Stone Dragon” is the first scene I wrote in the series although I didn’t know at the time I would turn it into a series of books.
That was in 1997. I finished the writing course but I didn’t write most of the novel until 2008. I revised it and added the first three chapters in 2010 when it was finally complete. The illustrations were drawn in 2013.
The Kaleidoscope was begun in October 2013 while I was at Varuna, The National Writer’s House, in the Blue Mountains. “The Woman in White” was the first scene I wrote.
I thought it would make the second chapter, but my friend Peter Bishop suggested it worked as the first chapter. I meant to finish it by that Christmas but as it turned out I wrote more of it in 2014 but finally completed it in 2015 along with the illustrations.
A few years earlier I had decided to write full time. A Harp of Truest Tone, an historical novel about an escaped Irish convict, a young governess and a harp-shaped brooch which acts as a portal through time, was written between 2011 and 2012. Right now, I am writing another historical novel called Coventina’s Well.
I like to sing and since 2017 I have been developing my voice with Ganga Ashworth through Singing the Self.com. Ganga has such a warm and lovely voice, one day it occurred to me that she might like to read my Silvery Elms stories for audio, because listening to stories is such a lot of fun. And I was very pleased when she said she would be happy to read them.