Quokkas and Scooby-Dos

Rottnest Island is a tiny, car-free, quokka infested island a twenty-minute ferry ride from Perth. I’d never been there before but on Saturday morning, at 6.45 am(!), WA author Katy Watson-Kell picked me up from outside the Fremantle Prison and we drove down to the docks together to sail over to Rottnest Island for the SCWBI WA 2010 retreat.

Over forty authors, illustrators, and a stray publisher had been on the island since Thursday. Illustrator Ann James ran a fantastic workshop on illustration for writers, there were sessions on various aspects of writing and publishing and a lot of cheese, wine, cake and good company. And there were quokkas.

Early Dutch sailors had mistaken quokkas for huge rats, hence the island was named ‘Rottnest’ but the little critters are much prettier and sweeter than your average rat. They’re endangered marsupials so dogs and cats aren’t allowed on the island as there are no quokkas in the wild on the mainland.

A minor character in ‘Vulture’s Gate’ was named Quokka but now that I’ve seen a real, live quokka, I’m surprised I haven’t read more books featuring them as characters. They’re incredibly cute.

Julia Lawrinson and I went cycling around the island and stopped to pet the quokkas, check out the beaches and contemplate the sad little island cemetery which is peppered with century old tombstones. I managed to fall off my bicycle while it was pretty much stationery which was vaguely humiliating and surprisingly painful. But it all felt like the sort of adventure I used to love as a kid (minus the accident – I was much better co-ordinated when I was little). I couldn’t stop thinking about Enid Blyton’s ‘Five on Kirrin Island’ and episodes of Scooby-Do, which is very appropriate as there wasn’t an author on the island who wasn’t familiar with Blyton’s work and ‘scooby-dos’ strikes me as a better handle for adventurous kid’s authors than ‘scwbi-dees’.

Kirsty is an Australian author of books for children and young adults.

“Every adult was once a child and the child inside them never disappears.”

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