Having written over 132 books over a career spanning 17 years, award winning Australian author Jackie French is a literacy icon.
Along with her countless awards, Jackie is the ACT’s Children’s Ambassador and a strong advocate for encouraging children to read.
She also serves as the director of The Wombat Foundation, raising funds for research into the preservation of the endangered northern hairy nosed wombat.
Her professional writing career began when she was broke and, having to register her car, Jackie said the only way she could think to get the money was to send off a story.
“For the first time I really worked at my writing and made it the best I could,” she said.
“And within three weeks I’d been offered two regular columns, my first book had been accepted and then shortlisted for a couple of major awards. I was suddenly making a living as a professional writer.”
While always wanting to be a writer, Jackie considered other paths because people told her that “you couldn’t make a living as a writer”.
While the list of people that inspire her is endless, Jackie said that her grandmother was among them along with the Greek philosopher Socrates who taught to strive for excellence and to always “question everything”.
She also describes the poet and environmentalist Judith Wright as one of her inspirations.
“The beauty that she saw in the world around us and how she wrote that in her poems was beautiful,” said Jackie.
“Judith also helped me to become a professional writer and to take my writing seriously.”
Jackie doesn’t believe books will ever become obsolete, instead saying that the way we read books was going to change.
“People have been saying that ever since the first manuscript was written,” she said.
“We’ve had books for probably around 6000 years and the way we’ve read them changes constantly. Possibly my great-grandchildren are going to read books via a computer where words are put directly into their brains.”
Throughout the years Jackie has seen the publishing industry flourish with a growing number of Australian authors.
“When I was a kid there were very few Australian writers for young people, but this year just looking at the latest children’s books, there are just so many wonderful books and extraordinary authors on the list,”she said.
“That is an incredible change, from growing up thinking that no one can make a living as a writer in Australia and now that just isn’t true.
“When kids read a good book or a book they love, probably two times out of three its Australian and that’s wonderful.”
With the second book in her Miss Lily series coming out in May, Jackie said that there will definitely be “so much more”.
“There are always more books, more wombats, more advocating for libraries and good books for kids and good literacy programs for kids, more talks, more mooching about the garden, more yelling at the wombats and feeding them carrots, just more.”she said.
Jackie French’s new book The Lily and the Rose will be released later this month. You can preorder it here