Q & A with children’s author Tamsin Janu

Meet children’s author Tamsin Janu

She’s the brainchild behind the popular Figgy series, and Tamsin Janu is coming to Castle Hill Library on July 11 to teach budding authors a few of her writing how-to’s.

Before her visit, FOCUS had the opportunity to interview the award-winning writer about her own personal story.

This is what she had to say:

How did writing all come about for you?

I’ve loved writing since I was a little kid, and I wrote lots of plays that I forced my younger siblings to be in. But the first time I thought about writing a novel was in my first year of university — I was studying law, which was a bit dry, and I felt like I needed a creative outlet.

How do you come up with the ideas for your novel?

My ideas generally come from real life experiences. The stories for my three Figgy books (Figgy in the World, Figgy and the President and Figgy Takes the City) were inspired by the three months I lived in Ghana, West Africa. Many of the people I met, places I visited, food I ate and stories I heard while I was over there made it into the books. My standalone novel Blossom was inspired by numerous experiences, including the two years I was a youth worker in remote Northern Territory and the time I spent working at a refugee legal centre.

I’ve also worked with kids in a number of different capacities since I started writing, and the little things they say and do are constant sources of inspiration.

What is your writing process? Do you just smash out a book in a week or do you start with a mind map and pull it all together from there?

My writing process is very flexible. I try to start with a few dot points on where I want the story to head, but I mostly just make up the plot as I go along. This means that I write the first draft quite quickly (I want to get the story out of my head!), but it needs a lot of editing before it’s in good shape.

What do you hope to achieve from your novels? More specifically, what do you hope your readers take home from your novels?

Hopefully my novels encourage readers to seek out more information about the world around them, and to have empathy for people who might come from a different background to themselves. I also hope readers enjoy my characters, who are brave, funny and adventurous.

What can audiences expect from your author talk/creative writing workshop at Castle Hill Library?

I will talk about the inspiration behind my writing, the places and moments from my travels in Ghana that made their way into the Figgy books, give kids tips on how to write good characters and come up with exciting stories, and run a couple of fun activities exploring creativity.

What advice can you give to budding young writers?

Read a lot! You can learn so much from other writers. And write a lot, about things that interest and excite you rather than what other people say you should be writing.

I’ve notice you studied various courses and had a variety of jobs? Why the change?

I’ve had many jobs: working in a cake store, a children’s shoe store, at legal centres, as a youth worker in remote NT and in Sydney, as a tutor, at a charity and now at a legal association. I guess, particularly while I was at uni, I was still discovering what I was interested in and wanted to do, so I was constantly seeking new and diverse experiences. This turned out to be great for my writing because every experience has been a treasure trove of ideas.

Are you working on a new novel? If so, can you give us a preview of what it’s about?

Yes, I’m always working on something else. I have a new novel coming out next year, about kids who live in a small country town and decide to start their own gymnastics club using the school’s playground equipment. So I’m excited about that! I am also working on a couple of other things but I try not to speak about new projects until I’ve at least the first draft — I’m scared that if I tell people about them I’ll put myself off and I’ll never finish the story!

Join writer Tamsin at a children’s writing workshop on Wednesday, July 11 at Castle Hill Library.

For children in years 3-6 in primary school.

Cost: $16 per person. Bookings essential.

To book:  www.thehillsshirelibraryservice.eventbrite.com.au.

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