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Q&A  •  20 September 2021


Five Minutes with Mem Fox

Five minutes with one of Australia’s most beloved children’s authors

Mem Fox is one of Australia’s most beloved children’s authors, with more than 40 books to her name, including Koala Lou and Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes.

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.


Feature Title

Cat Dog
Join an unlikely animal trio for some irresistibly funny antics in this read-aloud gem from bestselling, award-winning and much-loved author Mem Fox and acclaimed illustrator Mark Teague.
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