“Wombat loved Christmas. He loved the carols and the candles, the presents and the pudding, but most of all he loved the bush Nativity play. For as long as he could remember Wombat had wanted to be in the Nativity. Now at last he was old enough to take part . . . ”
When people ask, as they invariably do, ‘Where do you get your ideas from?’ I always reply: ‘From the compost of my own life.’
However, this wasn’t the case with Wombat Divine. My publishers at Omnibus Books, Sue Williams and Jane Covernton, asked me to write a typically Australian Christmas story. I told them I had never written a book to order and couldn’t do it They promised to help. So, over the next two years we struggled as a threesome to get the story together. In the end I said it was hopeless, I just couldn’t do it, it wasn’t working etc. They asked me to try one last time since they felt it was almost there. They suggested that I make a 32 page book and write the story in it. (Picture books are always 32 pages because of the way they’re folded in the printing process: in two, then four, then sixteen, then thirty two.) This suggestion worked. I was saved!
I feel hugely pleased with this book. Perhaps because it was such a sweat to write. It obeys my favourite maxims which are that in any good story ‘character is everything’ and ‘only trouble is interesting.’ As I read it I also feel that all the right words are, for once, in all the right places. I also like the slightly religious tone which is missing from many Christmas books. And I like the way I played with the two meanings for “divine”.
A new and adorable mini-edition of Wombat Divine appeared in Australia for Christmas 1997. And there also once existed a little gift pack edition with a tiny wombat but that’s probably long gone. (I am typing this information in 2009). I only mentioned the gift pack in case there are collectors who might be interested in tracking down a copy.