Some writers say they were born to write. I’m not one of those. My first published piece didn’t appear until I was in my forties. But stories have always been a part of who I am.
I write short stories for both children and adults, and my work is published in a wide variety of journals, anthologies and magazines. I am also the author of two picture books and one book of poetry.
On the surface there might appear to be little connection but there is a common thread. I write to inspire compassionate empathy and to challenge social and environmental injustice. My stories often tackle cultural and group stereotypes with the aim of stimulating meaningful and inclusive conversation, especially in primary school age children.
Many of my stories had their beginnings during a trip of discovery that lasted twelve years and covered dozens of countries and truly life-changing experiences. Along the way, I taught English, learned Japanese and met my husband. In 2000, I arrived in Australia with a suitcase full of notes and have been writing ever since.
It has been a gradual process that began with poetry and a very high rate of rejection. I have learned how and when not to submit work to publishers. I have also struggled to embrace self-promotion and marketing, two skills that definitely don’t come naturally to me. I have won awards that may or may not impress some people, and felt the thrill and frustrations of being published.
One of the joys of being an author is being able to support programs that empower children. In 2019, I was lucky enough to be invited to submit stories for the WellRead online reading platform, supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and BBC Children in Need. WellRead combines stories and psychology to help boost and maintain mental health by helping children learn about their feelings and the feelings of others. It is a project I continue to follow and support.
I am also proud to be involved with the Children’s University Australasia and Africa (IO), an international charity aimed at encouraging and rewarding children who take part in extra-curricular learning activities.
My website has been validated as an online Learning Destination and I have a Children’s University page which is packed with downloadable activities.
When not writing, I maintain a strong connection to the environment. I run an Adelaide Hills Community Veggie Swap which meets monthly and my garden is a microcosm of everything I love. I grow over forty types of organic vegetables and herbs and have planted an orchard of seventeen fruit trees. I keep chickens and bee hives and have taught myself how to preserve produce by freezing, bottling, pickling, drying, fermenting and cooking up dozens of jams, jellies and chutneys. My family are particularly fond of my ginger beer and limoncello.
Do I do too much? Probably. Am I going to change? Nor for a while. Doing what I do brings me into contact with the most incredible people and allows me to use creativity to make a positive impact, even if it is for a very short moment in time.
© Alys Jackson 2018