Research in Writing
At the moment I’m heavily in the research/writing-many-drafts stage of a 2017 book so I spent the weekend in a Victorian country town sifting through old photographs, books and information at the Historical Society in the middle of the town. I visited and interviewed people connected with the story including a 90 something year old gentleman while we sat by a roaring fire and I listened to his recollections and memories.
The following day I met ‘other generations’ of the family member I’m writing about and it made me think of the number of people I’ve met in the almost 10 years since ‘Queenie One Elephant’s Story’ was released in August 2006. Yes, it is almost a decade. There’s another book that I will have been working on for a decade, when it comes out in 2017 – so picture books take time and persistence, perserverance and patience, generous spoon-fulls of them all.
Looking back I’ve met the relatives of Queenie’s keepers and many wonderful people who worked at the Melbourne Zoo or visited there when Queenie was ambling around the circuit and they’ve shared with me their memories of riding on her back. I’ve met the man who helped make Queenie’s cakes, worked with the Secretary of the Bullockies League in Australia, who traveled down from Orange in NSW to meet me in Canberra to discuss ‘The Dog on the Tuckerbox’ and to make sure that all my information on bullocks and bullockies was correct. I spent many hours (much to the horror of my ‘then’ teenagers) riding the carousel at Luna Park so I could feel how Flame felt and how Clara felt when she saw him (Flame Stands Waiting). I spent many hours with a puppy in our backyard watching him play and chase shadows and wondering how I could make that a story (Chasing Shadows) and I followed West Highland Terriers along city streets in Brisbane, around Lake Como in Italy and followed Little Dog’s footsteps many times though Melbourne’s streets and laneways, for ‘Little Dog and the Christmas Wish.’
In 2012 in New York I visited the daughter of a character who, while not appearing in the book, will be talked about in school visits and I discovered the son of a main character by first ringing Jamaica. I walked the streets of Singapore hoping there would be something to remind me of my character from the second world war and for Bob the Railway Dog I visited South Australia several times going to the places where Bob traveled.
What a wonderful privilege it is to do this job . . . crazy, but wonderful.