I met the delightful Perth author, Nanci Nott at my book launch. To be honest, we didn’t really meet then because book launches are crazy events and for authors it can all pass you by in a blur. Nanci and I are published by the same small press so I guess that makes us family! Here we are talking about home-schooling, circuses and what it means to write. Enjoy!
NLK: You homeschool your children, how on earth do you find the time to write?
NN: An embarrassing amount of what I write is thumb-typed onto my phone screen. I only sit at the computer to write if I have a decent chunk of free time, which isn’t often.
Writing on my phone is insanely inefficient from a ‘words per minute’ perspective, but it enables me to add a few sentences here and there whilst cooking dinner, waiting in line, sitting on the toilet, or drinking coffee. Which is convenient, because I love coffee.
If you like writing, there is no such thing as not having time to write. If there are many different things you want to write, it’s simply a matter of prioritising what you’re in the best headspace for, and focusing on that.
I teach music from home, alongside the lovely Aaron Gwynaire, so I need to allocate set times for lessons. Recording and editing episodes of The Literate Child Podcast (which I co-host with Rebecca Laffar-Smith) is another thing I (try) to stay on top of, time-wise.
It helps that we don’t use traditional schooling methods. My kids learn through pursuing their individual passions, and exploring a variety of interests. We spend a lot of time reading, playing, making things, and having in-depth discussions about the most random ideas. We are notorious for late night conversations punctuated by hysterical laughter, for which our neighbours must love us. We don’t spend five hours a day doing worksheets. To be honest, we don’t spend any hours a day doing worksheets. Except my six year old. He loves workbooks, and does them for fun.
On the whole, home-education means our days are pretty flexible. I’m happy to let dishes pile up in the sink when I have more important things to do, like write stories, or lose at Guess Who. Everything balances out in the end. You just can’t always see the balance until you take a step back and examine the whole picture.
NLK: Tell us about your debut novel, Zany Circus: Paradox published by Aulexic in April of this year.
NN: Zany Circus: Paradox is the condensed version of a much-longer story I started writing with my kids a few years ago. It wasn’t written with the intention of being published, it was just something we did together for fun.
Last year I wanted to focus on getting out of my comfort zone. I’ve always loved writing, but never felt compelled to let anyone read what I’d written. My family, of course, being the only exception. I was mortified by the idea of sharing my writing with the world. On some level I still am.
But I know that fear holds people back, and I wanted to face my fears. So I sent a draft of the story, which didn’t even have a title, to Rebecca Laffar-Smith at Aulexic. To my astonishment, she liked it.
Rebecca’s decision to publish the story changed my life, and made me consciously realise how much I actually did want to be an author. Ten-year-old-me would be so happy if she knew she would write a book one day.
Reading, especially fiction, is crucial to children’s education and development. Books are brain food. Children who don’t enjoy reading miss out on so many adventures and learning opportunities.
Aulexic’s mission is to level the playing ground, so to speak, and make reading more accessible to children who struggle with it for various reasons. Accessibility is not just about using dyslexia-friendly fonts, or including a funny glossary. It’s also about taking children on an adventure they want to continue, even after the story ends.
As for the book itself…
Imagine you live in a circus, and never go to school. You’re free to play pranks, read books, and hang upside down to your hearts content.
That’s what life is like for Zandee, Tobelia, and Kadin Zany. Until tragedy strikes, and a teacher arrives to shower the circus in actual school work, nostril scarves, speckled mice and spiders.
What spooky secret is the teacher hiding? Where did Nikola Tesla come from, and where have all the moths gone?
What happens if you break the number one rule of time travel?
Join the Zany Circus kids as they navigate a strange new world of magic, history and science in fiction.
So yeah, I totally just copied and pasted the blurb. Is that too cheeky?
NLK: What made you begin writing?
NN: That’s a tricky question! It’s kind of like asking someone, “What made you begin eating chocolate?” All I know is that at some point during my childhood I tried it, and liked it, and never looked back. I can’t quit now, it’s too delicious.
I wrote countless stories, poems and songs as a child. I kept detailed journals spanning at least ten years. When I was eighteen, I threw everything I’d ever written in the bin, because I didn’t want anyone reading my thoughts. I wish I still had all those notebooks, so I could give them to my kids. They could have met the me that I was when I was their age, which could almost be considered time-travelling.
NLK: What was your favourite book growing up as a child?
NN: There are too many to choose from!
When I was little, I loved Enid Blyton. I remember finding a Faraway Tree in my backyard when I was six or seven. Unfortunately, it never grew high enough for me to reach the land on the other side of the clouds.
Growing up in the nineties meant I read hundreds of Horrible Histories, Animorphs, and Goosebumps books. Which I’m grateful for, because when we are out in public, and we see a sign saying, ‘Take a Seat’, and my daughter writes a note saying, ‘Take it where, Prince Jake?’, and sticky-tapes it to the sign, I can truly appreciate the moment.
Between the ages of eight and ten, I fell in love with ‘Jane Eyre’ by Charlotte Bronte, ‘Seven Little Australians’ by Ethel Turner, ‘The Nine Days Queen’ by Karleen Bradford, and anything else with a sense of history.
In upper primary school/early high school my favourite authors were Traci Harding and Marion Zimmer Bradley. Then I discovered Alison Weir, Philippa Gregory, and Paulo Coelo, and I hunted down everything they’d written.
As an older teenager, I read a lot of non-fiction. I was incredibly inspired by ‘The Consolations of Philosophy’, by Alain De Botton.
I was lucky because my family made sure I was always surrounded by books, and I was not limited to children’s books, nor was my reading content censored.
Looking back, I can definitely see how the books I enjoyed reading as a child have influenced the way I write as an adult. History, time-travel, humour and philosophy have always featured heavily in the books I love to read, as well as the stories I love to write.
NLK: How does writing change the writer?
NN: Sometimes when I write, I change into a cat.
NLK: Your daughter illustrated your book. Was it easy to communicate what you wanted for each illustration?
NN: Yes, and I was so proud of Xanthe throughout the entire process.
Initially, Xanthe’s internal illustrations were more similar to the cover, which she also designed. However, Rebecca (our lovely publisher) was worried about solid blocks of ink bleeding through the pages. She asked if Xanthe could re-do the illustrations using thin lines, and no shading.
Consequently, Xanthe created more simplistic, childish, cartoon-y characters, and used cross-hatching instead of her usual shading techniques. The illustrations in the book deviate hugely from Xanthe’s usual art style.
Rebecca was wonderfully supportive, and mentored Xanthe through the illustration process. Xanthe worked very hard, and I am so proud of her. I don’t know many 14 year olds who could have illustrated a book, in an unfamiliar art-style, with such a tight deadline.
To be fair, I don’t know many fourteen year olds. But Xanthe is definitely my favourite.
Xanthe really understood the vibe of the story, and she portrayed that beautifully through her illustrations.
NLK: What would you tell your young self?
NN: If I could travel back in time and meet my younger self, I wouldn’t say anything, because the number one rule of time travel is to avoid creating a paradox.
About Nanci Nott
Nanci Nott lives in a normal house that doesn’t have six toilets. She likes extra cheese on pizza, and in-jokes.
Nanci has three children, who don’t go to school because they are busy learning about the world. The whole family like to spend their days reading, making music, visiting the library, exploring museums, wearing pajamas, playing trampoline-dodge-ball, creating art, inventing things, and laughing at absurdities.
Connect with Nanci