I have a lifelong love of books and reading – and dinosaurs. When my first career choice (looking after the Queens horses) fell through I immediately decided I would be an archaeologist so I could dig up dinosaurs.
However real life got in the way of my dreams at age six, and many years and two kids later I found myself running a private education business with a focus on learning and reading skills. That really opened my eyes to how many children, especially boys, were not happy readers.
I found there were a number of consistent factors putting them off reading. Apart from subject matter, the size of the book (thick books were perceived to be difficult and boring), and the layout (too much text on the page and not enough white space) were major issues. The readability for the age group, as measured by the Flesch-Kincaid index, was also important, and all these issues combined meant a number of our students were reluctant to even try. Over the years we tried young adult fiction by a number of different authors, and found those who produced reading material that was interesting and in a format that was not scary had a winning formula, and this is a formula I have endeavoured to follow in my books.
By chance I attended at a lecture on Queensland Dinosaurs, which opened up an opportunity for me to volunteer to work on real dinosaur bones in Winton in 2008. All that I needed was a reliable 4WD, two weeks of spare time, and a can-do attitude.
Next school holidays found me camped in the shearers’ quarters on the Elliot property some distance from Winton where a number of dinosaur bones had been found, learning how to be preparator and then becoming a life time supporter of what is now the Australian Age of Dinosaurs.
There is something awe inspiring about working with 100 million year old dinosaur bones. First is the absolute privilege of being allowed to be the first person EVER to expose the bones of a dinosaur that roamed the plains of central Queensland. Then the effect of 100 million year old dinosaur dust on my brain…
This resulted in my first three books that I donated to the Australian Age of Dinosaurs to complement a small but growing line of products that they could sell to raise funds. These were pre-readers or what I call ‘read to me’ books designed to be read to a very small child to inspire a love of books. Based on bones of several different dinosaurs we volunteers had been working on, they were titled Matilda faces her WORST FEAR, Banjo bounces into BOTHER, and Clancy gets STUCK. These were based on real Australian dinosaurs, with a fair amount of writers’ interpretation!
Fast forward to 2016: I happened to be in Winton working on bones when the Outback Writers Festival was on. There I met Dan Kelly from Boolarong Press, which resulted in the publication of my first young adult fiction book Dinosaurs Fight to Survive. Twelve months later I was back in Winton launching my book at the 2017 Outback Writers festival, and planning my second young adult fiction book Dinosaurs and Dragons.
It has been an absolute privilege to combine two things I really like doing – working on dinosaurs and writing books I hope will inspire and engage young readers.
And there is another book on the go – watch this space for The Coldest Dinosaur.
Who doesn’t like reading about dinosaurs…