When Hunter Creatives Unite - 'Slippery, Slimy, Feathered and Furred'
Towards the end of 2021, amidst yet ANOTHER lockdown (thanks Covid), a bright spark of creativity and hope made its way into my email inbox. I had been invited by the Hunter Writers Centre to be a part of a project which would see 14 Hunter authors and 16 illustrators unite to help raise awareness of the plight of vulnerable Australian animals.
All of this would be possible thanks to funding from Create NSW.
'What?' I thought. 'How cool is that!'
Each author was given a list of vulnerable animals, and we got to choose an animal from this list to create a short story about. Our target audience? 7-12 year olds.
Me being me, I looked for the quirkiest animal I could find on the list. I wanted an animal that had spunk, one that I could turn into a funny, confident character at the heart of a funny, action-packed story. Of course the story would have to spread the message about the importance of conservation and caring for our land and native animals, but I wanted to do it in an entertaining and engaging story.
Enter the Barking Owl (so named because of the 'Woof-Woof' sound they make instead of your traditional 'Hoot-Hoot' or 'Twit-Twoo'). That's right, these birds make a noise like a barking dog! And when they're feeling really threatened, they sound like a human screaming for help! Wild, right?
Needless to say, I had found my animal. The more I researched barking owls, the more I fell in love with them. From their yellow, dinner-plate eyes, to the fact they mate for life, to their extravagant dinner menu (they will eat anything that's their size or smaller, grabbing it from the air, the land, and even out of the water!), these birds had all the qualities of a truly awesome main character. And thus Winky the Barking Owl was born.
Throughout the course of the project, I got to chat (via Zoom) with some wonderful local authors, both established as well as up-and-coming talent, including Jess Black (author of the ‘Bindi’, ‘Animal Tales’, and ‘Little Paws’ series), Candice Lemon-Scott (author of the ‘Eco Rangers’ and ‘Jake in Space’ series), Kelli Hawkins (author of ‘The School for Talking Pets’ and ‘Other People’s Houses’), and Lynn Jenkins (author of the ‘Lessons of a LAC’ series, ‘What if…’ and ‘Ollie’s Treasure’).
It was really lovely to be able to get together in this creative 'zoom' space and chat with fellow authors, especially seeing as lockdown was taking place. You forget how important it is to connect with other creatives when it gets taken away from you, so this project was a great spark of life for me.
The other great part of this project was getting to choose our illustrators. I chose the amazing Chrissy McYoung of Hairy Phish to bring my story to life. Her fun and cheeky style meshed really well with my fun and cheeky story (let's just say there might be an animal poop attack on the humans somewhere in my story...).
If all this wasn't exciting enough, once we launched the book, the story of how our anthology came together was shared by the Newcastle Herald and the Newcastle Weekly. Exciting, right?!
This project was such a fun and inspiring thing to be a part of. I love that it pushed me outside of my comfort zone, helped me learn about our vulnerable Australian wildlife, and helped me to make new friends with fellow creatives. How lucky can one gal be?
'Slippery, Slimy, Feathered and Furred' is available for purchase from Amazon, or you can order it through your favourite bookstore.