My father was a professional sculptor and a great storyteller. My mother was a compulsive reader. In my teens, we moved to Canada where I completed secondary school. I always imagined that I would write books one day but decided that I needed to get a few adventures under my belt before I started. It took a long time for me to realize that life is a continuing adventure and writing well is about discovering the story in every situation, no matter how ordinary.
I travelled the world both before and after I started my own family. I took all sorts of jobs and worked in bookshops, restaurants, offices, schools, universities, artists’ studios and as a partner in a graphic arts business. My most important job and the one that took up most of my time was being a mother.
In 1993, while living in Wales with my three small children, I was selected as one of five young British authors to participate in a series of master classes at the Hay-on-Wye literary festival. The master classes were sponsored by the local arts council and Booker Entertainment. I spent ten days working with the Booker prize-winning novelist Bernice Rubens. Her workshops provided me with the inspiration I needed to develop my writing.
After returning to Melbourne, I enrolled at RMIT to study professional writing and editing. My first non-fiction book was published in 1998 and my first novel, Zarconi’s Magic Flying Fish, was published the following year. I was thrilled when it won the Western Australian Premier’s Book Award in 2000.
I’ve been very lucky to receive many grants and fellowships that have made it possible for me to work full-time as a writer, including support from the Australia Council for the Arts and other arts organisations. I received a Creative Fellowship from the State Library of Victoria in 2006 and was an Asialink Literature Resident at the University of Madras in 2007. Since 2008, I have spent many months at The Literature Centre in Fremantle in Western Australia writing my novels and conducting workshops with young writers. In 2012, I was a member of the Bookwallah Roving Writers’ Festival which included visiting five cities in India across 3½ weeks. When the Bookwallah festival finished I travelled up into the foothills of the Himalayas to spend three weeks as a writer-in-residence at Himachal Pradesh University in Shimla.
I’m addicted to books – both fiction and non-fiction – and love to read widely across all genres. I’m an active member of two book clubs and like nothing better than spending time in bookshops and libraries.
I regularly give talks and conduct creative writing workshops in schools and at festivals all around Australia and the world. I know from my own experience what a fantastic impact a writing workshop can have on your life.
I live in Melbourne with my husband, the puppeteer Ken Harper. Our house is full of books and puppets and a constant parade of visitors. We have six grown-up kids between us as well as three grandchildren and a gorgeous assortment of godchildren. You can never have too many young people in your life.