Writing Chasing Shadows

All stories begin in a different place.

For me, some start with a single word or phrase, spoken or read, some with an idea which finds its way into my brain just as I’m falling to sleep – then I need to shake myself awake and write it down on whatever scrap of paper or electronic device is closest. Others come from a chance meeting or experience remembered  . . . from yesterday, or long ago.

But Chasing Shadows came as a title which kept dancing persistently into my sub-conscious, for months, then it knocked me on the head saying, ‘I am a story – write me!

The words came, not as I was drifting off to sleep, but as I  sat in my steep backyard in Warrandyte, watching a puppy called ‘Maverick’ tumble, twist and turn about, in the autumn leaves – chasing shadows.

But as picture book writers among us know, that was only the beginning, the scraping of the surface, all I had was the bones, very bare bones. So I wrote, rewrote, fiddled, added, subtracted and rewrote some more. At about this point, Paul Collins from Ford Street Publishing contacted me asking if I had a picture book story, something issue-based perhaps.

What I had wasn’t anywhere near finished or polished, but I did have a brand new story to offer him.

I had always wanted to write a book on sadness and depression in children and this is how Chasing Shadows emerged. The review below, by Francine Sculli, summarises it much better than I can:

 “Chasing Shadows is a number of things – soft, beautiful, touching, silent, open, heart-wrenching and honest. It’s a picture book worthy of discussion and multiple reads, to truly soak up the meaning, purpose and unspoken pull of its pages…

Chasing Shadows is perfect for older picture book readers, but also perfect as an education tool for teachers, librarians, parents and psychologists. The story is so wonderfully told, so soft and delicate in its handling of this complex theme, that it could be an excellent vehicle for important discussions — not just about depression, but emotions and being able to open up to our loved ones. On a simpler side, this could also be a story about the love shared between animals and humans. However you choose to read it, it will be a beautiful journey.”

— Francine Sculli

When Hannah Somerville’s name came up as a possible illustrator, I was delighted as Hannah’s was one of two business cards I’d picked up at the 2012 SCBWI conference in Sydney.

The memory of the launch is bitter sweet as it was the last book launch my darling mum made it to. I’m so glad she did. I know she wouldn’t like the photos I have of her and I taken at the launch, so I’m not posting them here.

And of course, a big thank you to Maverick – without him Chasing Shadows may never have been.


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