Five minutes with one of Australia’s most beloved children’s authors
Mem, who lives in Adelaide, boasts an array of book awards and also received an AM for services to the cultural life of Australia in 1993.
She is now releasing her new book with illustrator Mark Teague, Cat Dog, in October — a read-aloud gem about the irresistibly funny antics of an unlikely animal trio.
To celebrate the upcoming release, Mem shares with us the first book she wrote at just 10 years old and the challenges she still faces today.
What is the book Cat Dog about?
It’s a call-and-response book about a dozy dog, an active cat and their interactions with a lively mouse.
What was the inspiration behind Cat Dog?
I wrote a school reader centuries ago — A Cat Called Kite— which my American editor found on my bookshelf. It gave her ideas. She encouraged me to rewrite it, a process that’s taken almost 10 years for a book of only 135 words.
What do you hope young readers take away from Cat Dog?
A lot of happy yelling of the words YES! And NO!
When did you first start to write?
I wrote my book when I was ten. It was about soil erosion, of all things. I read it to my mother who said, absently, ‘That’s lovely, darling.’ I loved writing from that moment on.
What is your story-writing process?
I don’t have a process really. I have bursts of being interested but many more periods of, ‘I can’t be bothered. It’s all too hard.’ I’m probably working on stories in the back of my mind a lot of the time but most days, amazingly, I don’t write at all.
What are the biggest challenges you face when writing?
One of the reasons I put aside my writing so often is because writing a picture book is so much more than merely writing down a story. The rhythm of the words has to be, well…rhythmic! And that’s incredibly difficult to achieve. And each word has to be the very best word I can find, either in my own head or in a thesaurus. It can’t be any old word. And picture books are theatrical. They’re going to be read aloud in a dramatic fashion, so there has to be drama, highs and lows, noise and quiet. Writing picture books is a nightmare. But when they’re done, it’s a dream!
Cat Dog will be released on October 19.
Bestselling author of DEADLY, UNNA? on his latest coming-of-age YA novel, THE BREAK.
Bursting full of children’s curiosity Everything Under the Sun is a glorious celebration of life on earth.
'I want reading my novels to feel like walking through a forest or swimming in the ocean, to offer a breath of fresh air and remind readers of the beauty that still remains in the world.'
The debut author of the YA novel soon to hit Netflix on discipline, working with Daniel Kaluuya, and the complications of writing about time travel.
The Penguin Literary Prize winner on inspiration, advice and what's next.
Meet the author-illustrator and autism advocate behind A Different Sort of Normal.
Meet Anna Zobel, author and illustrator of Little Gem.
The bestselling author discusses tapping back into Jack's world, twisty-turny stories and her favourite crime dramas.
The Jam Queens author on the joy of writing foodie fiction.
A Glasshouse of Stars author on second-person narration, immigration and childhood fears.
The Great Circle author on inspiring travel, research and spending seven years on her latest novel.
Vintage Creative Director Suzanne Dean and artist Lena Peters on circles, Murakami and monkeys.