'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Tuesday 29 November 2011

Guest Post: Author Katherine Pershall

Kids Book Review warmly welcomes Katherine Pershall, author of The Dog Stole My Brain, who released her first book (co written with her mum) when she was only in grade five! This is one dedicated lady and this is one lovely story of how this author found her way into writing kids books. Reading her story made me want to drop what I was doing and write right now. Over to you Katherine!

As soon as I learnt to read, I was sure I wanted to be a writer. My early primary school days weren’t always easy. I had one very special friend but try as I might, my mum’s wholegrain sandwiches and carrot sticks didn’t get me far in the lunch-swap economy, and my brilliant attempts to appear ‘cool’ usually drew more laughs than accolades. Note: If long hair is in, do not swan around with black tights on your head as a speedy alternative.

See, I was always just that little bit different, and fitting in didn’t seem to be my forte. But when I discovered books, I found a way to escape the trials of the classroom. I would open my latest story and join my friends on the page. I devoured Paul Jennings’ funny tails one after the other, playing back the characters’ shenanigans in my mind as I fell asleep.

Walking back from school one day I was day-dreaming about a story I’d read. It was about a miniature girl that lived in a cupboard. She would sneak out at night and have a rollicking time teasing the cat, snacking on leftover morsels from dinner and swimming in the fish tank. Then all of a sudden I had an amazing realisation. The cupboard in the story was my cupboard! The house was my house! I hadn’t read this story, I was making it up!

From that day I knew I wanted to write. As soon as I put a book down I couldn’t help but begin a narrative in my mind. I loved trying to come up with distinguished sentences like my favourite authors did.

My mum is a children’s author, so of course she was a big source of inspiration. She read to me for hours every night until a rather embarrassing age that I won’t mention. She passed her childhood books down to me. So I wouldn’t say I caught the writing bug so much as inherited it. I tell you what, though, however you get that bug in the first place, you can’t get rid of it with antibiotics. It’s with you forever. Every experience that I have is just more fodder for the writing fire!

When I was in grade five, I told Mum that I wanted to write a book with her. She almost teared up she was so proud, and rang her editor at Penguin immediately. Julie, the editor, told us about a new series she had dreamt up to bridge the gap between picture books and novels. Now, this was the late 90’s, and the late 90’s produced many dubious pleasures, The Spice Girls, snap pants and Titanic amongst them. But there was one product of that time which I think has been great for kids all over Australia, and that’s the Aussie Bites series. Mum and I were invited by Penguin to be part of the first ever release of Aussie Bites.

We worked on the book every Saturday morning, nursing our hot chocolates and toasted cheese sandwiches at Mamma Lina’s café. We hand wrote every word together, and only had a few arguments when we couldn’t agree on what should happen next. The story was about a slightly dorky schoolgirl struggling to be part of the cool group. No free guesses who we based it on!

When we were done, I was shocked at how many times our editor kept sending the manuscript back, asking us to develop this character, change that one, and draw this scene out more. I felt it was all a bit tedious. But Mum explained to me that us writers should be very thankful for our editors, because they help us to write the best book possible!

Too Much to Ask For, by Katherine and Mary K Pershall, was the product of our toils. It turned out to be really popular, and made me Australia’s youngest author. Boy was I proud.

In high school I channelled my writing drive into essays and funny anecdotes for all my new-found friends. At University, even longer essays became the focus of my attention. I started to worry that my writing bug had been leached out of me by so many assignments! Then last year, a new story found its way into my brain. A story about a boy who accidentally swaps brains with his dog. I couldn’t stop chuckling to myself about the idea of a dog at school, trapped in a boy’s body, dashing around, shouting, and peeing everywhere! I rang Mum and told her it was time.

For the latest book I put my essay-structuring skills to good use. Mum and I worked out an outline before we started, that way we could write alternating chapters but stick to the same plot. After giggling our way through the manuscript, we finished our second Aussie Chomp, titled The Dog Stole my Brain. If you want to have a read it’s in bookshops and libraries now.

Now I’ve told you about my writing journey, how about getting started on your own? It’s a great start to keep a writing diary. Whenever you think of a funny idea or beautiful sentence, you can jot it down so you’ve got it for later. Don’t worry too much about making your writing perfectly polished, just write for the fun of it, and eventually you’ll find your natural style. And last but not least, read! The more books you read, the more you will learn about writing.

I don’t regret a single thing in my life, because all of my experiences have led me to where I am today. I’ve got the career I always wanted!

For more info on The Dog Stole My Brain click here

To buy a copy of this book click here.