***NEW UPDATE HERE- May 2013***
Jackie French's writing career spans 20 years, 148 wombats, over 140 books, 36 languages, 3,721 bush rats, over 60 awards in Australia and overseas, mobs of possibly insane lyrebirds, 'Burke's Backyard' TV segments, radio shows, newspaper and magazine columns, theories of pest and weed ecology and 27 shredded back doormats. The doormats are the victims of the wombats who require constant appeasement in the form of carrots, rolled oats and wombat nuts, which is one of the reasons for her prolific output: it pays the carrot bills.
Jackie wrote her first children's book `Rainstones' in a desperate attempt to earn $106.40 to register her car, while living in a shed with a wallaby called Fred, a black snake called Gladys and a wombat called Smudge. It was described by the editor at HarperCollins as the messiest, worst spelt manuscript they'd ever received. The messiest was due to Smudge the wombat who left his droppings on the typewriter every night; the spelling was due to the fact she is dyslexic. She recommends all beginning writers to misspell their first book with a wombat damaged typewriter - at least that way it stands out of the pile! The book was accepted (also shortlisted for the NSW Premier's Award and CBC Younger Reader's Book of the Year).
In the same fortnight she was offered a regular column in a newspaper and a farming magazine and discovered that writing books, articles and columns was easier than hauling manure in the old green truck to feed the peach trees while counting the wasps that parasitised the pear and cherry slug.
Jackie has been a full time writer and wombat negotiator ever since.
Jackie is one of the few writers to win both literary and children's choice awards, as with Hitler's Daughter, which as well as a decade on most of Australia’s kid’s choice award shortlists won the 2000 CBC Book of the Year for Younger Readers, the UK Wow! Award, a Semi Grand Priz Award in Japan and has been listed as a "blue ribbon' book in the USA. Monkey Baa’s production of Jackie French’s Hitler’s Daughter: the play won both the Helpman and Drover’s Awards and will open on Broadway in the 2012/13 season as well as tour the UAS and Canada. Diary of a Wombat, created with Bruce Whatley, is one of Australia’s best loved picture books. It has been on bestseller lists across the world, with a still increasing number of awards and translations.
Jackie’s vast body of work now contains both fictional and non fictional accounts of the last 60,000 years of Australian history, with books like Tom Appleby: Convict boy; The Night They Stormed Eureka and the forthcoming Dingo: the dog who conquered a continent. Her non-fiction also includes an eight volume history of Australia for young people (The Dinkum History series) as well as The Secret World of Wombats and other works of natural history.
Jackie is the ACT Children’s Ambassador, 2011 Federal Literacy Ambassador, patron of Books for Kids, YESS, the Moruya Harvest Festival, and joint patron of Monkey Baa Theatre for Young People with Susanne Gervais and Morris Gleitzman. She is also a director of The Wombat Foundation that raises funds for research into the preservation of the endangered northern hairy nosed wombat.
Jackie is a passionate advocate of help for children with learning difficulties (Jackie is dyslexic) as well as the conservation of wildlife and our planet. For nearly 40 years she has studied the species in the bush where she lives, with publications ranging from scientific articles on wombat ecology or endangered species to her ground breaking books on theories and practices for pest and weed ecology and more popular books on subjects like backyard self sufficiency.
Jackie and her husband Bryan run an experimental orchard of over 800 fruit trees, with more than 272 kinds of fruit, as well as preserving as many rare varieties of fruit as possible as government collections of fruit and vegetables are shut down. The orchards and gardens are run as experiments not just in pest and weed control, but to show how farming can coexist with wildlife.
Jackie writes columns for the Canberra Times, Australian Women’s Weekly, Earthgarden Magazine, Australian Wellbeing and Gardening Australia. Her latest books include A Waltz for Matilda, Nanberry: Black Brother White, Christmas Wombat with forthcoming books including A Day to Remember: the story of Anzac day, with Mark Wilson, and Pennies for Hitler, a sequel to the themes in Hitler’s daughter.
Jackie and her husband Bryan live in the Araluen valley, a deep valley on the edge of the Deua wilderness area, in a stone house they built themselves, with a home made waterwheel as well as solar panels to power their house (and computers). Their garden rambles over about 4 hectares, and there is never a time when there aren't basketsful of many kinds of fruit to pick.
For more information, see the link ‘Useful Stuff for Projects and Questions Kids Ask’ on the menu at the left.
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