OH MY GOODNESS. EXCITEMENT SHIVERS.
I am sooooooo delighted to welcome an incredible multi award-winning author and all around kind and wonderful person (I LOVE THIS WOMAN!) to the blog today as one of her MADE-INTO-A-MOVIE books celebrates its 21st birthday this year!
Check it out...
With a string of national awards including the Prime Minister’s Award for Children’s Literature and CBCA Book of the Year, Wendy Orr has written over 40 books and been published in 27 languages. Her books include Nim’s Island, the first Australian children’s book to become a Hollywood feature film, the much loved YA novel Peeling the Onion, as well as the more recent and highly acclaimed Dragonfly Song and Swallow’s Dance. She has presented on school and festival stages around the world and is known for the honesty and inspirational qualities of her sessions. Wendy believes that every child deserves to find the books that fuel their passion for stories, encourage empathy and connection, and empower them for the future.
All three Nim novels - Nim's Island, Nim at Sea and Rescue on Nim's Island - collected in one edition to celebrate the 21st Anniversary of the original publication of Nim's Island.
In a palm tree, on an island, in the middle of the wide blue sea, was a girl.
Nim's hair was wild, her eyes were bright, and around her neck she wore three cords. One was for a spyglass, one for a whorly, whistling shell, and one for a fat red pocketknife in a sheath.
Nim lives on an island in the middle of the wide blue sea, with her father, Jack, as well as a marine iguana called Fred, a sea lion called Selkie, a turtle called Chica and a satellite dish for her email. No one else lives quite like Nim, and she wouldn't swap places with anyone.
In Nim's Island, when Jack disappears in his sailing boat and disaster threatens her home, Nim must be braver than she's ever been before. And she needs help from her friends old and new. This book was adapted as a major motion picture starring Jodie Foster and Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine).
In Nim at Sea, Nim's new friend Alex Rover flies away without saying goodbye, and Selkie the sea lion is captured by villains from a cruise ship. Nim must risk everything to bring them back. A second major motion picture was inspired by this story, and screened as Return to Nim's Island, starring Bindi Irwin.
In Rescue on Nim's Island, Nim unearths an amazing fossil, but this discovery puts her island in terrible danger. Nim must choose between saving a natural treasure and saving someone's life.
Happy 21st Birthday Nim!
Who are you and what do you write?
Wendy Orr, and I write mostly for children – but the truth is that I write for myself, with the story that wants to be told, and let my publisher worry about the category later. Usually it’s called middle grade fiction, sometimes YA, and once a novel for adults (The House at Evelyn’s Pond, which is sometimes called a literary novel and sometimes women’s fiction…) I’ve written a few pictures books too, which I’ve really enjoyed. Somehow I’ve written nearly 50, which still seems like a miracle to me.
Where and when and how did the writing life begin for you?
In some ways at 7, when I learned to read and write in English, the language we spoke at home. We lived in France, so I’d learned to read and write in French; I can still remember the sense of power at picking up a book one morning and realising I could read in my own language, and I believe that moment shaped my writing destiny. I started writing stories immediately.
The writing for publication life began in 1986 when I crossed the street to go out to lunch with a work friend and she said, ‘Did I tell you I’ve written a book?’ I thought, ‘I’ve always said I’m going to do that - when am I going to do it?’ I was working 3 1/2 days a week and had two small children, but i knew I had to start. I jumped in and started playing with all the different stories I wanted to tell, in every different genre.
How has the journey to this point been? Can you give us a basic rundown?
My first book, Amanda’s Dinosaur, won a Scholastic competition for an unpublished picture book manuscript and was contracted at the end of my first year of writing seriously. The book was published in 1988 and did quite well - it was in print for over 20 years and sold well in North America as well - but the publication journey didn’t follow as smoothly as you might think. However I eventually sent something to Harper Collins, where it landed on the desk of Cathie Tasker, who’d been the commissioning editor at Scholastic when I submitted Amanda’s Dinosaur. We worked together for several years, with two CBCA shortlisted books, one of which, Ark in the Park, won the Junior Readers in 1995.
In 1991 I had a catastrophic car accident and when I was strong enough to write again, decided to use my accident and injuries in fiction. At that time I decided I wanted to be physically closer to my publisher and took the idea to Allen & Unwin. Peeling the Onion was published in 1996 - not an easy book to write, but luckily it was extremely well received. I remember discussing a new idea with my publisher on the way to the 1997 award ceremonies - that book turned out to be Nim’s Island, which took a year or so of reworking before I remembered a story I’d written when I was eight, and it finally came to life. It was published in Australia in 1999, sold to seven other countries - and in 2003 was optioned for a film. That came out in 2008, starring Jodie Foster, so it was quite an amazing experience - very different from my usual life as an author. The sequel also came out as an Australian film, but the next big writing milestone for me was when I decided to write a story that had been haunting me for nearly 30 years, and to write it in the way I heard it - in blank verse, though in the end I rewrote about half into prose. I wasn’t sure why a book set in the Bronze Age felt so intensely personal and frightening to share, but as I finished realised it had explored many of my feelings about becoming disabled, in a different way from Peeling the Onion. That was Dragonfly Song, which won the PM’s Award for Children’s Literature in 2017. I’m now writing/rewriting/rewriting… a third novel in the same world and style, Cuckoo’s Flight.
What's been the hardest part of your writing/publishing experience so far? And the most enjoyable?
The two hardest things generally are those moments of wondering whether anyone will ever read or love what I'm writing, and the constant fluctuation in income, wondering if I’ll make a living each year. The hardest experience was having an educational company verbally contract (Note - there is no such thing!) twelve pictures books and one middle grade. New owners took over the company, decided that my editor wasn’t experienced enough to handle a project that she had sold internationally, fired her and sent back all the books she’d contracted. Later they asked for four of them back. This time I got a contract, but when I saw the changes they’d made to one text I refused to have them published under my name. It was devastating. (Obviously this was before I had an agent.)
So many more enjoyable experiences! The thrill of feeling a new story take shape in my head, and later the quieter joy of feeling I may have got some of it close to what I dreamed. The incredible experience of seeing my characters come to life on screen; of working with very smart people who really understood and loved my story, and of course the whole surreal Hollywood red carpet glamour. But there is also nothing like the feeling of your publisher phoning to say how much she loves the new book, or the first time you hear that one of your books changed someone’s life. Nim’s Island is used widely in the USA for One School One Book, where the whole school community reads the same book and sets other curricula around it for a month or a term. The teaching staff go to so much trouble to set it up - it is such a thrill every time I hear about it. And for something completely different - one of the loveliest experiences I’ve had was doing a reading to families under a huge banyan tree at a festival in New Delhi. It was magical.
Would you go back and change anything?
I’d have more confidence in asking for what I wanted and was entitled to. (And I wouldn’t break my neck. Not being able to do appearances just as my career was taking off was not a good start.)
Where would you like to be in 5 years time? And 10? Or, what are your plans for the future?
To go on writing the best books I can, no matter where they take me.
What's one piece of advice you'd give to new writers just starting out?
Love what you do, and only do what you love.
And most importantly...
Ketchup or Mayo? - Mayo.
Night or Day? - Day
Inside or Outside? - Outside
Dogs or Cats? - Dogs
Twitter or Facebook? - Twitter
Ebook or Paperback? - I’m in transition! A year ago I still would have said paperback but now I’m not so sure…
Sun or Rain? - Sun
Keyboard or Pencil & Notebook? - Notebook and favourite pen
Comedy or Drama? - Yes please.
Chips or Chocolate? - Chocolate. But only if it’s above 75%
Want to guest blog or be interviewed? Got a cover reveal or book coming out?
Get in touch today!