Thursday, August 13, 2009


How long have you been creating art and how did you get started?I have been writing for over 20 years; my first magazine article (Dolly) was published in 1988 and my first book (You Name It, Hodder Headline) was published in 1995. I’ve written in many genres including script and playwriting, fiction, non-fiction, magazine articles, reportage, interviews, reviews and children’s books. I have also written and taught various workshops. I’ve written for Time Out, beijingkids, City Weekend, and currently write for Australian Women Online and Little Star magazine (Beijing).

I decided to self-publish two books just before leaving China in January of this year… I had not planned on this – it is something that just unfolded and the success of both books has been beyond my wildest dreams. Beijing Tai Tai (a tongue in cheek memoir of family life in Beijing) and Riley and the Sleeping Dragon (a unique multimedia children’s picture book) are still selling out in China and are now being distributed Australia wide. I’m currently writing the second book in the Riley series and it’s been one of the most rewarding projects of my life.

What is the main inspiration and influences for your work?I live to write and my inspiration comes from everyday life – from the smallest things that people do and say; from the things I see. I’m heavily influences by aesthetics – beauty, colour, nature, photography, film – and of course – books. I read prolifically and am constantly inspired by what I read. I also find I’m inspired and influenced through travel – the sights, sounds and cultural disparity I’ve experienced over the years have injected much flavour to my work.

When and how did you realise, this what you wanted to do with your life?I’ve always written and have always dreamt of being a respected author. My first piece was published in elementary school. Alas, I’ve also been an easily discouraged and self-doubting person. As a consequence, I’ve wasted a lot of my working life doing ‘other things’.

Writing is not a well-paid, easy profession – it is unpredictable, unstable, and full of rejection. It wasn’t until we moved to China and I had the opportunity to write so productively and fruitfully, that things really took off. I had over 220 pages of magazine and internet articles published in just 16 months, and also wrote, self-published and marketed two books in that time. It was a surreal journey and the results have been absolute confirmation that I’m ‘meant to do’ this. Finally!

What other areas of life have shaped your work as an artist?
Becoming a mother and the confidence and sense of accomplishment that has brought me. Also, the small hardships I’ve been through – I have been determined to twist them into positives. I really feel I have earned the right to do what I love and to succeed at it. On top of loving what I do, I really want to do it for my kids and leave them something memorable and special. I want to show them that you can follow your passion and succeed, no matter the obstacles.

Receiving feedback and responses to my work has been an incredible boost to me as a writer, and this continues to shape my work in a wonderful way – it not only brings me confidence, it makes it all worthwhile. Positive comments or reactions are indelible and continue to absolutely shape who I am and subsequently what I write. Having people appreciate or even grow from reading your work is an unbelievable feeling.

How would you describe the art & design scene in Canberra?Having come to Canberra from one of the world’s most exciting, artistic and design-rich hubs, I am absolutely astounded at the eclectic mix of talent in Canberra. Who would have thought it? I am so impressed and inspired by the creative women I’ve met, in particular, and I’m also delighted by the mutual support being shown to artistic people, right across the board. It’s really exciting to see a resurgence in, and a renewed appreciation for, all things handmade. There are some very clever people here.

What have you learnt most about establishing yourself as an artist?I’ve learned I can do this. I can do what I love and I can succeed, and people can love my work. It’s one of the most amazing learnings I’ve ever experienced. Simple but true. And it’s something I want to teach my children.

Where would you like to take your art in the future?I dream of becoming a household Australian name in children’s and adult literature. I would like to infiltrate (don’t tell the Chinese, they don’t like spies!) the children’s book market in China and write directly for Chinese children. The current children’s literature setup is about to blossom in a wonderful way and I’d love to help that happen and be one of the first Western writers to enchant those beautiful kids.

I want to expand my Kids Book Review website into something teachers and parents all over the world can use as a resource. It celebrates existing and new talent in children’s literature and includes news, reviews, interviews, authors, illustrators and information on publishing. I already have several contributors, which is wonderful.

I also have a super dream of heading my own magazine, something I’ve been working on for some time. In the meantime, I’m going to focus on making my first Riley book into a series.

What advice do you have for other artists hoping to follow in your footsteps?It’s so easy to just say “go for it” and don’t let anything hold you back; that is a given. But I also say that the timing must be right. I wasted a lot of time in Beijing before getting into my writing again but I often wonder if I would have succeeded so well if I’d started things earlier. You have to be ready and you have to ‘ready’ yourself. Educate yourself, research things intently and then systematically set about your work. If you just throw yourself and a tonne of cash into things without a thought for what you’re hoping to achieve or where you’re going, you could waste a lot of time, money and creative energy. Focus is a huge component to success.

The other thing I’d say is be prepared to work your guts out. Be prepared for setbacks. One of the best things I learned on this seemingly insurmountable journey of self-publishing from China is that each time I stared in terror at the mountainous obstacle in front of me, I just put my head down and burrowed right though (hyperventilating all the way!) and absolutely refused to let it beat me. I am still, to this day, astounded at how these very large obstacles just peeled away of their own weight. I still can’t believe it. We can be powerful when we believe, unfailingly, in what we are doing.

Be like the ‘little engine that could’ and just keep powering along. Do not give up. Do NOT give up. Each time you get scared, fire up that old classic – Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway.

Riley and the Dancing Lion: A Journey Around Hong Kong will be released in time for Christmas. See my website for updates.


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