September 9, 2011

Interview with Children's Author Neridah McMullin

Neridah McMullin is the author of two books for children. Her next book is an Indigenous folklore story called 'Kick it to me!'. It’s an ‘aussie rules’ story that’s being endorsed by the Australian Football League. Neridah loves family, footy, and doing yoga with her cat Carlos (who also loves footy!)

When did you first know you wanted to be an author?

I’m a Scientist (a cheesemaker actually) and worked in Flavour Development for a long time. Part of my role was technical report writing and I admit I used to sneek in a little bit humour until my boss said, “Neridah, this really isn’t appropriate in a scientific report.”  And I said, “Yeah, but it’s funny, right?” And so on maternity leave, (I had a perfect baby boy) I had a creative rush and was inspired to write more seriously: mainly poetry and short stories (for all age groups). 

What was your road to publication like?

It’s a bumpy one for sure. There are so many wonderful writers out there, so it’s competitive. I won a prize in the ‘Banjo Paterson Writing Awards in 2008’ for a Short Story and then in 2009 I won the Poetry Prize in the ‘Henry Lawson Literary Awards’. These awards were really encouraging. I also had some pieces published in The School Magazine, Stories for Children in the U.S, and The Scrumbler in the U.K and that’s when I decided to self-publish ‘Ponkidoodle’. Ponki has done well for me (and still is) and from his quirky name I gained the attention of my current publisher One Day Hill Publishing in Melbourne. These guys rock, I love what they publish, and we have congruent values. 

 Tell us about your books.

Okay. Ponki is a picture book and he’s about a little guy who lives in the roof. He’s nocturnal and clumsy, so if you are ever scared of any night time noises – there’s no need to be as it just Ponkidoodle...and he’s friendly and cute and he’s there to protect you.

Ponkidoodle sells solidly and I take him on school visits twice yearly (Book Week just gone – I’m exhausted) and late in Term 1. I’m from country Victoria so I like to go to a lot of country schools, those kids don’t get to see many writers, so that’s my privilege.

My other two picture books are historically based folklore stories about ‘aussie rules’ and cricket. My footy book has received a full endorsement from the Australian Football League and will carry it’s logo and be a part of their Education Program with AFL School Ambassadors.

I have just finished a trilogy of three more historically based folk lore stories about footy. They’re Chapter Books for early readers.

What do you like to read?

I read everything and anything. I have just read ‘Bearbrass’ by Robyn Annear which was a cracker. I love Australian History, so Kate Grenville, Peter Fitzsimons, every Tim Winton book. I write Book Reviews for Fremantle Press and I have just loved reading their latest YA book “Have you seen Ally Queen,” by Deb Fitzpatrick. Colin Thompson really makes me laugh and cry, Tohby Riddle, and anything by Gecko Press. 

What advice would you give aspiring authors?

Read everything, write lots. Heard of the B.O.S Theory? Bum on seat. Persevere, don’t be afraid to change things. I’ve just re-written something from the point of view from a different character and it’s been accepted in a mag. 

What has been the biggest highlight in your writing career so far?

My footy books have been a joy. I only have boys who adore ‘aussie rules’ so they’re the reason why I write them.

When and where do you write?

My study is a beautiful space. It’s in the middle of the house so I can hear my family moving around me. I have a huge sydney blue gum built-in-desk with my i-mac, printer, i-pod dock and graphics tablet all set up on it (I shamelessly love technology). And I have heaps of book shelves all around me with books I love. I also have an art desk and easel at the other side of the room, ready for when I’m in the mood to paint or make jewellery. I’m pretty spoilt, eh?

I try to write for 2 hours everyday, usually early after school drop off. I like to write after yoga (quieten that inner dialogue). If I’m not happy with what I’ve done, I’ll do a couple of hours at night (I don’t watch a lot of TV). Sometimes my research slows me down a bit but I’m addicted to it, I love it, and it just has to be done sometimes before I start a project.

What do you like about being an author?

Working your own hours, meeting other lovely writers like your good self, doing research like going to the Melbourne Museum, travelling to interesting places or interviewing fascinating people. 

What's your writing schedule like?

I have several things on the go at all times and sometimes it’s a real juggle (especially if one of the kids is sick – it’s been a bad winter in Melbourne this year – very cold). I’ve made a firm rule not to write on weekends as otherwise I’d be at it 7 days a week - that’s family time.

Do you do school visits? If so-What do you enjoy about it?

I see a definite dip in sales figures with Ponkidoodle if I don’t keep up my school visits. That’s the problem with self-publishing, you’re on your own in selling it. 

Every time I do a school visit, I learn something new about myself and Ponkidoodle. Children are so funny and engaging, always thinking outside of the box. I met some children recently who thought Ponkidoodle should have a girlfriend, they even came up with a name – Pinkydoodle! Cute, eh? I have seen all sorts of funny stuff at schools and have been asked: Is Ponkidoodle Jewish? Not sure about this one, I said he could be...Where is Ponkidoodle’s doodle? It’s there, hidden in his fur. Does Ponkidoodle have a girlfriend? Go Pinkydoodle!  Does Ponkidoodle eat people? No! Does Ponkidoodle go on holidays? Yes, he loves holidays. Does Ponkidoodle go to hospital? He has been known too.

I have been trampled at schools by children who don’t know how to form a queue. I have been sent the most adorable and divine thank you letters and drawings of Ponkidoodle. I have also had a child tell me that he killed Ponkidoodle while the little girl closest to me held onto my sandal strap stroking my painted toenails...

P.S Ponkidoodle can’t be killed – he’s magic? 


Charmaine Clancy said...

Wow, what a full and entertaining interview. I love the idea of a creature who lives in our roof to protect us. Sounds like we have many little Pinkidoodles in our roof.
Wagging Tales - Blog for Writers

Unknown said...

Hi Charmaine,
Thanks for your comment. I've been online friends with Neridah for probably a year and we met for the first time at CYA. She's just lovely and hugely talented at writing and illustrating.

Ponkidoodle is one of my favourite picture books! I definitely think Pinkidoddle and Ponkidoddle need to meet.

Karen Tyrrell said...

Hi Renee and Nerida,
Thanks for this insightful interview.
I've learned so much about Neridah and her books and illustrations.
Especially Love the magic of Ponkidoodle!

Unknown said...

Thanks Karen. I've really enjoyed learning more about Neridah and her books.