Metal Fish, Falling Snow (Cath Moore); Where we begin; (Christie Nieman); We are Wolves (Katrina Nannestad); Bindi (Kirli Saunders & Dub Leffler) Anemone is not the enemy (Anna McGregor); Ellie’s Dragon (Bob Graham); Footprints on the Moon (Lorraine Marwood); By the River (Steven Herrick)
What do you enjoy most about reading aloud to an audience?
That reading aloud has such glorious power to capture!
Whether it’s a story or a poem, if the reader is honest and immersed deeper than the words on the page, then reading aloud is capable of connecting both reader and listener and transporting them to another world.
Also, I love voice.
What was your favourite book as a young reader about a tree or garden?
Books in our home were far and few between, so I can’t name any. Though I wish I could because trees are one of my most favourite things. And gardens are the next! However, I did read The Secret Garden, The Magic Faraway Tree and The Giving Tree when I was older. I enjoyed them all, but I would loved to have read them when I was younger.
What do you enjoy snacking on as you write?
Almonds, corn-chips, fruit, cups of tea and water. Chocolate and biscuits when necessary. . . !
What’s the strangest thing you’ve done or place you’ve visited to research for a story?
I was in India and saw a turbanned camel owner walking along the side of a field with his herd. I asked the driver of the car I was in to stop and ask the camel owner if he could milk a camel so I could take some photos. Even though I offered payment for his trouble, the camel driver was not overly thrilled. It turned out that the camels had already been milked. However, he finally agreed. Using a pink strip of fabric, he tied one of the camel’s legs back up out of the way and proceeded. The milk squirted into a tin can – which he then offered to me. I was expected to drink it. I hesitated. I didn’t know what warm camel milk would taste like, but I knew I would certainly offend if I didn’t drink. What did it taste like? I couldn’t really say because I’d clamped my lips tight to the rim and barely sipped. But what I did gain were some fantastic photos, which became part of my research for my CBCA Honour Book, Hoosh! Camels in Australia. (ps: I have since had a chocolate icecream made from camel milk and it was delicious!
You enjoy doing crafts like working with broken tiles. If, instead of being an author, you made a living by selling your craft work, what craft would you like it to be, and in which country?
I’ve always liked making things, crafting and creating with all sorts of bits and pieces. I knitted my first jumper at nine and sewed my first dress aged eleven. But nothing has come close to my enjoyment of creating mosaics, using recycled materials; broken crockery, old jewellery and discarded tiles etc. So if I were to take on another craft, it would have to be something to do with recycling unwanted ‘treasures’ and using my own designs. But my heart is with mosaics. I love pottering about my little studio (made with recycled materials!) down in the backyard, beside the chook pen. So, I reckon I’ll stay there!
Check out Janeen's mosaics: www.janeenbrianmosaics.com.au
When you were at school, was there ever something that made you feel different to other kids that you worried about, but when you became an adult, it turned out being a good thing?
I loved doing things well and it didn’t bother me how much time I spent achieving that. I wasn’t trying to be perfect, I just enjoyed being proud of what I’d done. And subsequently, I was easily crushed by criticism or remarks that I felt were unjust. I had to learn that some people who criticised often didn’t care about things that were important to me or never took the risks that I did.
When you look back now over all the books you’ve written, do you think there’s a message that you’re proud of that you may not have planned on when you started your writing career?
I think it would be to live a full life, using all your senses and opportunities.
How have children’s books and stories changed since you were reading as a child?
Children will always be engrossed in stories, but I think they don’t press their own PAUSE buttons as readily as when I was a young reader. With less distractions, it was easy to make a choice to read and give yourself more time to get into a story. Reading takes time and concentration and perhaps books these days reflect that children’s other interests have a pull on both their time and concentration. So, to engage children, there is more immediate action in the writing, more illustrations, and more choices as to how children receive stories; books, audio or other, varied devices.
What is the strangest thing you’ve seen or which has happened while you were at a library?
A cat called Dewey used to wander about in the local library and would happily sit on anyone’s lap and purr with contentment. Then one day, he was no longer there.
To learn more about Janeen, visit her website: www.janeenbrian.com