I hope the information which follows answers a few, if not most of your questions. If you do have any more questions, leave them in the guestbook and I’ll answer them eventually, unless the answers are already elsewhere on the home page.
Question: Where do your ideas come from?
Answer: Real life, books, and feelings of the deepest kind.
Question: How many books have you written?
Answer: About thirty five. You tend to lose count after a while. A list of my publications appears in the bibliography section of this website
Question: Why don’t you stick to the same illustrator?
Answer: Artists can pick and choose the books they want to illustrate. If they don’t like my stories I have to grin and bear it and find another one—there isn’t much I can do about it.
Question: How do you choose your illustrator?
Answer: I don’t, the publisher does.
Question: Where do your characters’ names come from?
Answer: Real life, such as friends and family or work-mates; or the phone-book; or from my head.
Question: Have you won any book awards?
Answer: Not many, sadly. But I do know that awards for books are not as important as the number of copies your book sell: that’s what really tells you if you’re a loved, adored, and remembered author, and I seem to have become that!
Question: How long does it take to write a book?
Answer: From seven minutes to seven years. Koala Lou, for example, took two years although it’s only 487 words.
Question: Why do you have so many different publishers?
Answer: Because no one publisher likes everything I write. Also, different publishers have their own special ‘list’ and will only publish books which fit the tone of that list. My major publishers are Omnibus/Scholastic, and Penguin, in Australia; and Harcourt and Beach Lane Books in the USA.
Question: Have you always been a writing sort of person?
Answer: Yes. I wrote a book about soil erosion when I was ten although it was only six pages long; and I wrote another much longer book when I was seventeen. I used to like writing letters best of all, and long daily entries in my diaries.
Question: What made you become a writer?
Answer: I was studying children’s literature as a mature-age student at university and I had to write a children’s story as an assignment. My story, Hush the Invisible Mouse, later turned into Possum Magic. After that I felt like a writer: ideas for books kept popping up, so I carried on writing!
Question: Do you write full-time or do you have another job?
Answer: Writing is my spare time activity. Most of the time I travel around the USA and Australia talking to parents and teachers about teaching reading and writing. I was a university professor for 24 years until the end of 1996, teaching writing to people who were going to be teachers. I also taught them how to teach reading, writing, speaking and listening. I’m crazy about teaching. It’s much easier and, for me, much more instantly rewarding than writing because I adore being with people and laughing a lot.
Question: Which was your first book?
Answer: Possum Magic. published in 1983.
Question: Of the books you have written which is your favourite?
Answer: I love them all, really, although the latest is usually my favourite.
Question: Who is there in your family and what are their names?
Answer: I have a husband, Malcolm and we have one daughter, Chloë to whom Possum Magic. is dedicated. She was born in 1971.
Question: Is Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge really your father’s name?
Answer: Yes. And in the same book, Nancy is my mother’s name, and Alison Delacourt Cooper is a combination of my two sisters’ names.
Question: What is your life story?
Answer: I was born in Melbourne on March 5th, 1946. I grew up in Zimbabwe, where my parents were missionaries. From 1965-68 I went to drama school in England. In 1969 I married Malcolm Fox. We came to Adelaide, in South Australia, in January 1970, because my grandfather aged 90 was all alone, and we have lived and worked here ever since.
Question: What is your real name?
Answer: If I remember rightly it’s Merrion. I was a Miss Partridge before I married. I’ve been “Mem” all my life so my real name doesn’t sound like the real me any more.
Question: Are you writing anything at the moment?
Answer: Yes. I usually write three of four books at once but goodness knows if any of them will ever be good enough to be published.
Question: How should I go about getting a book published?
Answer: Type your story neatly, double spaced on one side of each sheet of paper. Put a copyright sign beside your name. Then ask a bookseller or a librarian to recommend suitable publishers, and to give you their addresses if possible, or else find the addresses in the back of already published books. Send off your story with a covering letter and wait to see what happens. Because the only thing you ever have to pay for (in getting a book published) is the cost of a postage stamp, there is no reason not to send off a manuscript, no matter what age you are. The only problem is you should have read hundreds and hundreds of books and poems before you start writing yourself: only reading teaches you how to write.
Question: When you write for kids do you only write picture books?
Answer: Yes, except for my autobiography Memories published by Era, in Adelaide, South Australia.
Question: Will you ever write a kids’ novel?
Answer: Probably not.
Question: Will you ever write an adult novel?
Answer: No, no! I’m not interested in writing for adults.
Question: How long does it take for a book to be published?
Answer: It varies wildly. For example, the first draft of Koala Lou was written in September 1983. It came out in October 1988.
Question: Do you enjoy writing picture books?
Answer: I am passionate about writing anything except picture books! When I’m writing them I detest it every minute of the way, because I’m allowed so few words and it’s so easy to write badly! Writing them well means re-writing and re-writing. My hand gets tired. My brain gets tired. Even my bottom gets tired. I do it because I love it when kids say, “I love your books!”
Question: Where do you write and what do you use?
51. Answer: At the computer unless it’s an early draft. I often hand-write my early drafts with a pencil, and type my later drafts on to the computer. I work in total silence because writing picture books is like creating music. I have to the hear the words in my head. I read my drafts aloud, over and over again.
Question: Did you write all the stories you told on ABC television in Australia in the 1980’s?
53. Answer: No. Those stories were mostly fairytales and folk tales from around the world. Only Possum Magic and Koala Lou were my own.
Question: What is your favourite picture book?
Answer: I have many but let me name three that immediately come to mind: John Brown, Rose and the Midnight Cat, by Jenny Wagner, illus. by Ron Brooks; Owl Babies by Martin Waddell; and The Very Best of Friends by Margaret Wild, illus.by Julie Vivas.
Question: Which football team to you support?
Answer: None. I know absolutely zero about football, tennis, baseball, rugby, cricket, netball, tulip throwing, fence-leaping or cabbage kicking. Watching sport is not my thing. I prefer walking on the beach, gardening or reading.
Question: Do you have any pets?
Answer: Yes, old excitable little dog called Nellie-Belle.
Question: Do you have any unfulfilled personal ambitions?
Answer: Not really. I can’t imagine being any happier than I am today.