Meg McKinlay is an Australian writer of picture books through to novels for young adults. Meg grew up in a book-loving, TV- and car-free household and on the long and winding path to becoming a children's writer, worked a variety of jobs including swim instructor, tour guide, translator and university lecturer. These days, she lives with her family near the ocean in Fremantle and is writing full time.
Meg's work has won a number of awards, including the Prime Minister's Literary Award for A Single Stone and the Davitt Crimewriting Award for Below. A Single Stone, Duck for a Day, and No Bears were all shortlisted for the Children's Book Council Book of the Year Awards.
Meg is always busy cooking up more books, and you can visit her on the web at www.megmckinlay.com
I live on the other side of the world in the coastal city of Fremantle, Western Australia. It's a beautiful place with gorgeous weather and beaches and bush and far too many distractions for an easily distracted writer! Some of my favorite things are swimming, riding my bike, and pottering about in my garden.
I've always liked writing but didn't plan on becoming a writer. I don't think I thought of writing as a job you could decide on and head towards. But I knew I wanted to be around books, so I studied English and Literature for as long as I possibly could, then went on to teach at a university. After my daughter was born, I started reading to her, and remembered how much I loved children's books. Stories started growing in my head and eventually I wondered if it would be worth trying to write them down. Approximately five years, twelve manuscripts, and 127 (-ish!) rejections later, my first book was published.
About My Work
I like to write all sorts of things - from poetry to picture books to middle-grade novels and beyond. From time to time, people tell me I should choose one area and settle down and to that I say, "Nonsense!" I started writing because I love the directions words and ideas pull me in, and if I don't let them lead, I suspect the fun will go out of it fairly quickly.
A story for me rarely begins with a plot idea – it usually starts with an image or a line that grabs my attention and won't let go and I then have to work out how to use that in a story. In Duck for a Day, I began with the lines, "The duck was different. The duck had demands." But at that point I had no idea who the duck was or what his story was going to be.
I'm not good at plotting and usually start writing with very little idea of where the story is going to take me; I just have to trust that it will unroll ahead of me into a road I can keep walking down to the end. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes I have to get out my writerly machete and hack a path through thick jungle. And sometimes I have to abandon the expedition altogether and go back the way I came. But I don't see those U-turns as failures because I always learn something along the way, even if it's simply that I need to pack a sharper machete!
One of my favorite things is talking to kids about my work. I love hearing what they think about the books, whether it's "This is one of the best books ever!" or "It was so boring I gave up halfway". These are both real comments I've had recently. Another highlight for me has been having Duck for a Day adapted into a musical theatre production which toured through schools. Just thinking about my lovely duck Max as a marionette makes me smile.
Three Things You Didn't Know About Me
1. I do a somersault every year on my birthday, just to prove I still can.
2. When I write my name in Japanese, the characters I use mean "bright face".
3. I have been sky-diving and bungy jumping, but I hate climbing ladders. It's all about perspective - the less you have, the better!