I first met Cristy Burne through the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) here in Western Australia. If you’re serious about getting into #kidlit, SCBWI is where you’ll find likeminded individuals and opportunities for professional development. It’s also where you’ll meet your future friends, mentors, and colleagues.
NLK: How did you get started writing fiction?
CB: I grew up reading loads of The Famous Five, The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Trixie Beldon, and The Three Investigators. All these books show ordinary children overcoming extraordinary obstacles with the help of their wits, their daring, and their friends. I loved it! And I still think these books teach a recipe for living a great life: striving for good to triumph, using your brains, stretching your courage, walking each day with your friends by your side…
And that’s why I write stories. I try to show children that the world is ultimately a beautiful place and that they have the resilience to live well within it.
NLK: How do you combine your love of science with your love of storytelling?
CB: I have a passion for (and tertiary qualifications in) science, science communication, and arts. I believe in the magic of story and the magic of science, which means I love to straddle fact and fiction. In my career, I keep a foot in both camps, which is an exciting place to be, especially in this age of STEM and STEAM.
If you ever get stuck on a novel, read some history or science and you’ll come unstuck in a flash. Non-fiction is a great inspiration for fiction, and I love any opportunity to pop a little science into my storytelling. Off The Track is fictional but includes some real-life botany and bushcraft—so yes, there really are snottygobbles in the Aussie bush. And Zeroes and Ones is a non-fiction journey through the development of information technology and computing. The book is a series of true stories, and they’re all great.
NLK: How did your childhood in New Zealand affect the way you see the world, and consequently your approach to storytelling?
CB: I grew up on a farm in New Zealand, so my sisters and I spent years climbing trees and chasing runaway cows and splashing about in drains. We learned to make our own fun and to find new worlds in books.
Like any writer, I love my laptop, but I do think everyone needs time away from their tech, just to dream and observe and be. I certainly need to unplug every now and then, just to unwind and find myself again. We hiked a lot as kids in NZ, and I still hike today with my family. It’s terrific quality time and free therapy.
NLK: Why did you choose to write for children?
CB: Children are our future, it’s as simple as that. Adults already know their mind. They already know what they believe and what is and isn’t possible.
Kids are still malleable. Children don’t yet know their limits, and so they can surpass them. I try to feed that process with my writing.
NLK: You’ve written eight books (congratulations on such a prolific career), what advice would you give a newbie writer who wants to get started?
CB: To make a habit of writing, don’t bog yourself down with goals that are difficult to achieve. That just leads to procrastination, a personal poison that drowns all joy in its own lingering stench. Seriously. I’m a much nicer, happier person when I stick to my writing goals.
So don’t set yourself up to fail. Be kind to yourself.
Start by finding your love for creating something from words. Spend just 10 minutes a week writing whatever you want. If, on a particular day, you want to write for longer, write for longer.
About Cristy Burne
Cristy Burne is a children’s author and science writer. She has also worked as a science circus performer, garbage analyst, magazine editor, Santa’s pixie, and atom-smashing reporter. Her recent children’s books are To The Lighthouse (set on Rottnest Island) and Off The Track (set on the Bibbulmun Track). Her debut non-fiction title, Zeroes and Ones: The geeks, heroes and hackers who changed history, is out August 2018.
Cristy has a passion for learning through doing and loves to inspire creativity, daring and resilience in her readers. And she also loves chocolate.
Connect with Cristy
You can buy Cristy’s books at all good bookstores!