The Writers’ Clubhouse: Q & A With Author Jackie French

Jackie French

Jackie French

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! 

Jackie French was the Australian Children’s Laureate for 2014/15 and the 2015 Senior Australian of the Year. She is also an historian, ecologist, dyslexic, and a passionate worker for literacy, the right of all children to be able to read, and the power of books.

Jackie’s writing career spans 25 years, 148 wombats, over 140 books, 36 languages, 3,721 bush rats, and over 60 awards in Australia and overseas. Jackie is a passionate advocate of help for children with learning difficulties as well as the conservation of wildlife and our planet. For nearly 40 years she has studied the species in the bush where she lives, with publications ranging from scientific articles on wombat ecology or endangered species to her ground breaking books on theories and practices for pest and weed ecology and more popular books on subjects like backyard self sufficiency.

Library For All increases literacy globally by bringing a unique digital library to readers without access to books.

We work with writers all around the world who want to share their cultural stories and see their words in print. 

Q. You have written some amazing books for children, but what was your professional background before you became an author?

A. I began work at 12 (my parents faked my age) washing up at the Mater Mother’s Hospital in Brisbane. I’ve been a sugar packer, cook, chamber maid, echidna milker, private investigator, public servant and farmer….but see for  much more, including how a wombat helped get my first book published.

Q. What is the best thing for you about being a published author?

A. Writing a book is even better than reading it, as  it can be exactly the world you wish to be in, with exactly the friends you like.

Q. What are some of the key ingredients that make a great book for kids?

A. Joy, moral choices (it is so easy to underestimate kids- the job of a kid is to work out how the world works, and what is good and what is evil) and all the qualities that make a book for adults fascinating too- a compelling story where you can’t stop turning the pages, or characters you do not want to bear to leave.

Q. What advice would you give someone who is just starting out as a writer?

A. Write. Don’t write a book- it’s too terrifying. Write the most fascinating scene you can think of, the one that nibbles at your neck, then write another, and another… and a few weeks later a book will be emerging.

Q. What is your next big creative project?

Clancy of the Overflow comes out in  November- the final one in the Matilda series, that brings all the stories of love, fortitude and friendship- and extremely good food- together in a vast saga of our nation.

Looking for some great writing to inspire your work? Visit Jackie French’s website, or look for her many books in stores or at your local library.