There are lots of writers who I admire (okay, also adore) from afar, and what’s great about having a blog where I primarily interview authors, is that I get to chat (albeit via email) to lots of authors about their writing, and ask for writing advice for emerging authors (such as me). It’s a perfect system really! So, without further ado, let me introduce you to one of those kid lit authors I worship from afar — the very lovely and talented Western Australian author, Deb Fitzpatrick:
NLK: Why do you write for children?
DF: I love having child characters in my books – and writing for kids – because there’s a vulnerability you can access through their young eyes. I find that very powerful and poignant. Also, kids are funny, smart and fun! I love incorporating all these things into my writing for them. I think sometimes our adult world treats kids as though they are powerless, and I want them to know they’re not. They have the power to effect change; we see this every day all around the world.
Another reason I write for kids is because I read an enormous amount during those years as I was growing up and reading gave me great comfort and escape from real life. Being a kid and teenager can sometimes be tough and reading in the quiet privacy of your own room, on your bed, with the characters’ voices in you mind, is a beautiful thing. Then and now it gives me ways to see other people’s lives and therefore assess and contemplate my own.
NLK: What is the most valuable thing about studying literature and creative writing?
DF: Studying Australian and American literature and creative writing at uni taught me so much about how writers put together their work and how their social, environmental and political interests fuel their writing. I was exposed to writers of so many styles and eras, and at some point I read The Bodysurfers by Robert Drewe. This changed everything for me, as I saw on the pages before me the beaches and town where I lived – where I walked! – and it struck me that it was valid to write about Western Australia. I began my first serious writing efforts around this time. I was in my early 20s.
I’m not sure what my biggest achievement is to date – in a way I think it’s simply being published; having a career as a fiction writer! And I’d add to that: receiving lovely reviews, being shortlisted for awards, and the fact that all my six books are still in print and selling well. I’m proud of that.
NLK: Can you share your writing routine?
DF: My writing routine is pretty simple: when I’m working on a book, I write five mornings a week, and aim to get down no fewer than 750 words each session. It isn’t much, but if you do the sums that amounts to nearly 4000 words a week, which could – if life never intervened! – become a 50,000 word book in just over three months! It also keeps the momentum of the story ticking over. Once I lose momentum, I can avoid the writing for weeks or months. Okay, years. My style is fairly pared-back and economical, so I’ve never been one to write 130,000 words for a book that will be 60,000. Usually, I struggle to get enough words on the page, which is just as frustrating! I also don’t write at home anymore; the domestic chores can too easily be used as cause for procrastination! So I leave the house and either write in my shared work space in central Fremantle or lurk in a cafe or my local library.
NLK: How do you juggle your many roles? Any time-saving tips for other writers and busy mums?
DF: The life juggle – writing, parenting, earning enough – is messy. Of course, the elements all feed in to one another in a way; my kids give me ideas and inspiration, as does my work as an editor. But time spent doing those things takes away from time I might be writing. So a lot of time is spent thinking about writing and yearning to write, but not even getting close to doing it!! It’s frustrating. This year I’ve been enormously lucky to have received funding so that I can write and not worry about doing paid work, as well as receiving a May Gibbs Creative Time Fellowship. These are huge gifts and I’m so very grateful for them.
NLK: What advice would you give to emerging writers?
DF: To young or emerging writers I would say: never doubt the validity of your inspiration. Don’t shut it down, rip it open! Instead of pushing away stories or thoughts that visit you, give them a go on paper, knowing that you can (and will) edit it all later anyway.
About Deb Fitzpatrick
Deb Fitzpatrick is the author of six novels for adults, young adults and children. Her two YA novels (90 packets of instant noodles and Have you seen Ally Queen?) were named Notable Books by the Children’s Book Council of Australia; two of her books have been shortlisted in the West Australian Young Readers Book Awards (WAYRBAs); and her middle grade book The amazing Spencer Gray was published in the US in 2017. Deb loves using stories from real life in her novels and tries to include her kids’ names in her books wherever possible. Deb regularly teaches creative writing at schools and loves motivating writers. Her latest book is The spectacular Spencer Gray, and Deb is the recipient of a 2020 May Gibbs Children’s Literature Trust Creative Time Residential Fellowship to write her next novel.
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