Welcome to the Writers' Clubhouse. Join us behind the scenes in the book industry as we talk to prominent authors and illustrators about the process of creating great books for kids. Have you ever wanted to be writer? Get inspired here!
Tamsin Janu is an Australian children's author based in Sydney. She has lived and worked in many places, including Australia's remote Northern Territory and Ghana in West Africa. Her award-winning debut junior novel, Figgy in the World, follows the journey of a young Ghanaian girl who travels to America seeking special medicine for her ailing grandmother.
Figgy is a unique, funny and courageous character who faces challenges head on, with her special goat friend Kwame by her side. Figgy Takes The City is the latest in the series. Janu's newest release is Blossom, a mystery/fantasy tale set in Australia, for middle primary readers.
We spoke to Tamsin about what inspires her as a writer, and asked what advice she would give to emerging writers.
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Q: You have written some amazing books for children, but what was your professional background before you became an author?
A: My first book was published a few months after I finished my law degree, so I hadn’t had much professional experience yet! I did work part-time in a cake store and a children’s shoe store while studying, and they were both lots of fun.
After finishing uni I was a youth worker for two years in a community in remote Northern Territory, then I moved back to Sydney and worked at an Aboriginal NGO and a refugee legal centre. Currently, along with writing books, I work as a publications assistant at a legal NGO — a job which enables me put my writing skills, interest in social justice issues and legal knowledge to good use!
Q: What is the best thing for you about being a published author/illustrator?
A: Definitely hearing that kids have enjoyed my books. I have done school visits where the kids are studying my book in class, and they are always particularly special. Also being able to do something that I genuinely love (writing!) and having the opportunity to share what I write with other people.
Q: What are some of the key ingredients that make a great book for kids?
A: A fast-paced plot and interesting story are really important, as are engaging characters. I think kids really like to see strong characters in books that they can look up to and aspire to be, but who also have faults and insecurities just like them.
Q: What advice would you give someone who is just starting out as a writer?
A: Read a lot, but also write a lot. And don’t put too much pressure on yourself! I find that with writing, like most other things, you improve the more you do it. Also, try to write stories with subjects that interest and excite you — it makes the writing process easier and more enjoyable and, I believe, makes the end product that much better.
Looking for some great examples of kids' books to inspire your writing? Look for these titles in stores, online or in your local library.
Images courtesy of Tamsin Janu's website: http://www.tamsinjanu.com/