Somerset StoryFest report 2019– part six
Friday was a shorter day for me, I made every session count. Having bought and read ‘Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy’ by Karen Foxlee. She was first on my Friday list. I headed straight to the oval to Marquee 2.
Friday 22nd March 2019
Session 9.15 to 10 am – Marquee 2
Karen Foxlee is an Australian author who writes for both kids and grown-ups. Her first novel The Anatomy of Wings won numerous awards including the Dobbie Award and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book. Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy, Karen’s first novel for children, (which I read and loved) was published internationally to much acclaim while her second novel for younger readers, A Most Magical Girl, won the Readings Children’s Fiction Prize in 2017 and was CBCA shortlisted the same year. Karen lives in South East Queensland with her daughter and several animals, including two wicked parrots, who frequently eat parts of her laptop when she isn’t looking. Her passions are her daughter, writing, day-dreaming, baking, running and swimming in the sea.
Karen was introduced as an award-winning author of five novels aimed at grades 5, 6, and 7. Lenny’s Book of Everything won independent booksellers of the year award.
Karen outlined that she would be talking about how stories come to be. How writers become writers and that there are so many different ways to tell a story.
Q. Do you think stories are important.
Q. Why turn our minds to stories
A. Escape, entertainment, to pass down history, to get away, to feel better about yourself. Turn to a book to learn to cope with difficult situations.
Karen said when she writes a book its to entertain, words sing so you want to keep turning the page. She wants her readers to think about things, all the things you have to deal with. Writers plugin to keep the world electrified.
How she became a writer was at six and a half she was bored and hot. She had a feeling and she wrote a story. She had created something out of nothing. That was so powerful. She wants to recreate that feeling. She’s practising, taking time to practice. Lots and lots of practice.
Q. Where do you get your ideas from?
A. They come from everywhere, family life, maps, clouds, feelings – they all stew in her head.
Q. Where do you get your inspiration?
A. I’ll give you an example of an idea that came from experience. At twenty-five, I was backpacking, visiting a castle, looking all through the rooms. One part was blocked off. Along the corridor slightly open big arched wooden door. She went through the barrier and through the crack in the door. It was a storeroom and inside was a glass coffin, inside the coffin was a skeleton, on its head was a crown. What if you went into a museum and saw something you weren’t meant to see? That’s where Ophelia’s story began.
Lenny’s came from a feeling. When I write I have three random ideas in mind and my job is to write a story that links them.
1. What does it feel like to be different? When I was young I had curvature of the spine and I had to wear a back brace. I felt different.
2. The idea bubbled up – a boy grows up and he grows and grows, and keeps growing.
3. The story had to include a set of encyclopedia. Before computers where would you go to get information? The Library. You’d go to a card catalogue, go up to a reference section and pull out the book you need. The encyclopedia was Google before Google.
Q. What do writers use to start stories?
A. Pencil, memories, imagination, notebook and the best question – What if?
One day when my mum came home from hospital an encyclopedia salesman came to the door. The ideas don’t always come together right the first time. It needs to be written a second and third time.
Door – heart – feeling. The mother had a feeling. Davy grew. They had a Burrell’s Build it at Home Enclyopedia Set.
Karen loved looking up things in their encyclopedia.
A – Ants – bulldog ants, Amphibians, Albatross has a 3.5-meter wingspan, Abominable snowman.
B – Beetles – Lenny loves beetles – there are over 350,000 species of beetles. Davy loves birds.
C – Canada – there was a place in Canada they want to run away to.
The story is about love, friendship, to make you laugh or cry and what is there to know.
Q. What is the best thing about being alive? (Karen asked the children)
A. Family, friends. Experiencing new things. Learning crazy facts. Discover new things. Challenges. To help others to learn to succeed. Gods creation in nature. To reach for the stars. To feel fulfilled. To live for every single moment. To be your own person. (what wonderful answers)
Q. How did you feel when you saw the glass coffin and skeleton
A. Glad I took a risk and looked
Q. Why did you choose to be an author
A. I always wanted to tell stories
Q. What’s your favourite part of life?
A. My daughter and the natural world.
Q. What’s your favourite book? A. Lenny’s book of everything.
Q. What was the first book you wrote? A. The Anatomy of wings told from a ten-year-old girls point of view. A girl who likes facts.
Q. Who did you look up to when you were young?
A. My older sister, teachers, my mum and authors.
Q. What do you think your next book will be about?
A. A magical story and water dragon who doesn’t like water.
Q. What is the meaning of life in your words?
A. Love, kindness, don’t take anything for granted.
Q. In one word – how would you describe your books?
I went to a museum in London and there they had recreated Victorian era street with a carriage, pretty, prim and propper. I saw The Most Magical Girl in that street.
Q. Have you got inspiration from other peoples books?
A. Yes, The Snow Queen from Hans Christian-Anderson – in Ophelia her version of the Snow Queen appears.
Q. What was your passion before being an author?
A. Writing, Nurse, love to help people.
Q. If there was one thing you could change in your career, what would it be?
A. Believe in yourself from the beginning.
Q. One fantasy animal you like, what would it be? A. Dragons.
Q. What story mostly shows you and your family in it?
A. A bit of me in all my stories, maybe the first book, The Anatomy of Wings.