I’ve just had a lovely time reading some fantastic letters sent to me by the students of Class 3E at Yew Chung International School, Puxi! The letters were so well-written and neat, and some had really wonderful pictures too! But they also asked lots and lots of questions which I thought my blog-readers might like to know the answers too as well! So here are the answers and some really fun photos – enjoy!
Dear Cristina, Sean, Alexa, Nikolas, Franco, Max, Tessie, Noel, Saho, Luisa, Justin, Siena, Daniela, Sophie, Emma, Lydia, Caribe, Jasmine, India, Mikayla, Brian, Mabel, Gemma, Nwabueze, Richard, Pari, Bobby, William, Kookii, Soomin, Betty and Gigi,
Thank you for your lovely letters! I thought that your letters were beautifully written. The handwriting was MUCH better than mine, and I thought the way you set out your letters on the page was really neat and impressive! There were also some really brilliant pictures too!
I hope you don’t mind me writing to you as a group. But you’ve all asked me lots of questions, and some of them were the same or very similar to other kids in your class, so I thought that I would answer all of them in one go, so that you can all read the answers to all the questions!
1. QUESTIONS ABOUT MY BOOKS
Q1: How many books have you written altogether?
I have written 11 books altogether, including eight Chinese Calendar Tales, two Dirty Stories, and one funny book for mums called Dummies for Mummies! I’ve also just written my story for the Year of the Ram next year, but that’s a top secret one and I can’t even tell you the name yet!
Q2: What do you want to write next?
I’ve just written my story for next Year of the Ram (or Sheep or Goat), so the next story will be about the Monkey for 2016!
Q3: Are you going to write about the Horse this year?
Yes! I’ve written a story called The Tale of a Dark Horse, and I’ll be reading that to you all when I come in March! Here is a picture of him!
Q4: Why did you choose to write about the Chinese Zodiac animals?
I was visiting schools in Hong Kong with my first two published books, A Dirty Story and An Even Dirtier Story, but I felt a bit guilty because most of the kids I was reading to were Chinese or of Asian heritage, while the books were very European. So I decided to write a book for these kids about their own heritage. I wrote The Tale of Chester Choi, about a Chinese dragon who ate children by the side of the South China Sea, which the kids just loved, so then I wrote The Tale of Run Run Rat (since the next year was the Year of the Rat), and that became Hong Kong’s No. 1 kids best-seller ahead of Harry Potter for 6 whole weeks! So then I decided that I would write one book each year about that year’s Chinese zodiac animal!
Q5: Are you going to write a story about a dog?
Yes! The Year of the Dog isn’t until 2018 so I guess I’ll write that story towards the end of 2017! I already have some great ideas for it, but they are top secret I’m afraid!
Q6: Which is your favourite book which you wrote and why?
Kids ALWAYS ask me this question and I always give the same answer! When you write books, those books become your children! And you NEVER ask a mother which of her children is her favourite!! I am usually most protective towards the “baby” in the family, which this year is my new Tale of a Dark Horse. But I do love them all equally, for different reasons!
Q7: What will you read for Book Week?
I’ll be reading my latest story, The Tale of a Dark Horse! It’s a really exciting story, though a bit sad as well, and it has some FANTASTIC Chinese history in it, which I am sure you will find as fascinating as I did when I read about it!
Q8: Where did you get the idea for A Dirty Story?
When I was at university I used to babysit for a family of 8 children! They were very messy and I used to tease them, calling them the Little Grots! So when I later decided to write a funny story for kids about being neat and clean, of course I remembered the Little Grots, and how very messy they were.
2. QUESTIONS ABOUT WRITING AND BEING AN AUTHOR
Q1: Why did you choose to be a lawyer before you became an author?
I actually always wanted to be a writer, but my mum and dad, being wise people, said to me “Make sure you do a degree at university so you have something sensible to fall back on!” Because I loved debating and words, I chose a law degree, and then I thought I’d better get some work experience, and one thing led to another, and before I knew it I’d been a lawyer for almost 20 years and was a partner in a law firm in London! It was only when I came to Hong Kong with my husband that I stopped working as a lawyer and started writing again.
Q2: Why did you want to become an author?
I wanted to be an author because I LOVED playing with words, and I LOVED reading books, and I’d been writing poems and stories since I was 7 years old. I always wanted to write my own books, but until I came to Hong Kong it was all a bit of a “pipe dream”. I also love working with kids, which is why I just LOVE being a children’s author!
Q3: Do you still write books?
Yes of course! I’ve just written the story for next Year of the Ram, and I still need to write stories for all the remaining Zodiac animals! And that’s just a start! I hope I can keep writing until I’m a very old lady!
Q4: Why do you like writing books?
I like writing books for lots of reasons, which can be summed up by saying it’s huge FUN! I love playing with words, and writing in rhyme, because it’s a lot of fun and a great challenge to make things rhyme so it seems natural. I also love dreaming up my characters! Once I work out what they are like, they start coming “alive” for me and it’s great fun to give them things to do and adventures to go on.
I also love working with kids, and when I introduce them to my books and my characters it’s like sharing old friends!
Q5: How did you become an author?
I became an author when, after almost 20 years of being a lawyer, I moved with my husband to Hong Kong. When my second daughter started going to pre-school, I was asked by the head teacher if I would write for their in-house magazine. I wrote a funny column, and then the publisher of a parenting magazine asked if I would be their lead feature writer for the year. Then the publisher asked me and my husband to a Burns’ Night Supper on condition that we each brought a poem to read. I thought he meant write a poem so I wrote one about a “Feral Bagpipe” which roamed the Scottish hills searching for a home. The publisher liked my poem so much, he came knocking on my door the next day to ask if I had written any stories for children. I had a big pink plastic bag-full, dating back to my childhood! So I showed him “A Dirty Story” and he took it to Harry Harrison who did some amazing illustrations, and my first children’s book was born in 2004, and “An Even Dirtier Story” in 2005!
Q6: What is it like being an author?
It’s great fun, but a bit of a roller coaster ride sometimes! I’m always very busy and have to do a lot of work travelling and visiting schools and bookstores in different countries. Sometimes it can get a bit lonely in hotels at night, but then I Skype my family, and as soon as I’m with a whole lot of kids the next day I’m happy again! I love the writing, and I love the school visits, but I don’t like the business side of things some times, especially filling in forms and doing tax returns!
Q7: Where do you get your ideas from?
I grew up in the Tasmanian bush, with lots of different animals, so I get ideas from the animals I knew in my childhood. I also get lots of ideas from researching Chinese history and folklore. And sometimes I even get ideas from dreams!
Q8: Do you like writing chapter books or short books?
I’ve only ever written one chapter book, which is my funny parenting book for mums and dads called Dummies for Mummies. I’d love to write a chapter book for kids one day, but I’m a bit busy at the moment with my Chinese Calendar Tales!
Q9: Why do you like writing books about the Chinese zodiac?
I like writing books about the Chinese zodiac because I love animals, and I also think Chinese history is just amazing! So I can combine both of these favourite things at the same time by writing about the Chinese zodiac!
Q10: Can you write a dog story?
Have patience my friends! I will write a story for the Year of the Dog in 2018 – but you’ll have to wait till then!
Q11: Do you have a place you like to write?
I like writing my stories where I feel relaxed and away from the daily grind. So sometimes that’s when I’m away on holidays – The Tale of Sybil Snake for example was written on holidays in the French countryside, underneath a beautiful old willow tree – and sometimes that’s when I’m relaxing in the countryside in Hong Kong – like The Tale of Oswald Ox which was written in Hong Kong on Middle Island, sitting in the sun while my girls were learning how to sail dinghies one summer. Then at other times, it’s when I’m sitting on my old comfy sofa in my house, with Bobby at my feet, watching all the ships glide by on Victoria Harbour outside our balcony window.
3. QUESTIONS ABOUT ME
Q1: How old are you?
Now that is a question I get asked all the time, so I’m going to say what I always answer: I’m as old as my tongue, and a little bit older than my teeth!
Q2: When were you born?
Now that’s just a sneaky way of finding out how old I am! So I’m just going to say that I was born on my birthday!
Q3: Which Zodiac animal are you?
I am a Rat, which makes me just like Run Run Rat! I’m ambitious, on the go all the time and easily bored so I have to keep extremely busy to stay happy!
Q4: How many children do you have?
I have two daughters named Beatrice and Annabel who are 16 and 13 years old respectively. Annabel is on the left and Bea on the right!
Q5: How long have you been an author?
I’ve been a published author since A Dirty Story was published in 2004, ten years ago!
Q6: What was it like when you were a child?
I grew up in Hobart, in Tasmania, the island state in Australia, and we had a wonderful Alpine style house on the slopes of Mt Wellington, surrounded by a beautiful garden created by my parents, which itself was surrounded by bush land. We had all sorts of animals including goats and exotic birds, and there were also many wild animals including bandicoots, Tasmanian devils and even a platypus in the creek! I went to a Quaker School called The Friends’ School in North Hobart, but spent most of my spare time at home playing in the garden or staring into the creek or writing poems or collecting blackberries, mushrooms, pears and apples in a wild abandoned garden just near our house. I even played the bagpipes! Every day I had to do chores like feeding the animals or helping my mum with the cleaning, or caring for the vegetable garden, or hanging out the washing, or helping my Dad to carry logs of wood from the valley for firewood in the winter. It was a fantastic childhood, and I’m very grateful to my mum and dad for giving me such a magical start in life.
Q7: Is your platypus real?
Hmmm…. I think you must be referring to the platypus in our creek when I was growing up in Tasmania! Of course it was real – but I was the only person in our family ever to see it, so they always talked about “Sarah’s platypus” with a funny expression which meant they thought I might be making it all up! But it was a real platypus, which surfaced on the water one day when I was lying by the creek watching it flow by, looked at me out of its black beady eyes, then flipped around and disappeared in a flash under the water, showing its tail and its furry body and its strong little back legs. I was so excited I could hardly breathe!
Q8: How long have you been writing?
Since I was 7 years old, when I fell in love with Dr Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat and decided that I wanted to be a writer just like him!
Q9: Are you scared of injections?
I’m not really scared of them, but I don’t like them much either! I find the best thing to do is to watch the injection happening so I don’t get a nasty surprise – I like being prepared!
Q10: Where are you now?
Right now, I’m sitting on my sofa in my lounge room in my apartment in Pok Fu Lam in Hong Kong. Bobby our dog is fast asleep on the armchair opposite me, which is his special armchair, and he’s all rugged up in a cosy warm towel to keep him warm, because it’s chilly outside! He also has his favourite teddy to keep him company!
Q11: What do you do in your spare time?
I love reading books, going for walks with Bobby, cooking yummy dinners for my family and friends, watching good movies on TV or in the cinema and playing Scrabble and Monopoly or card games with my husband and the girls! I also love knitting because it’s very restful and I need to relax sometimes. And sometimes I play the piano (not very well) and draw and paint (not very well either but it’s fun!).
Q12: Where is your pink plastic bag now?
It’s sitting in my filing cabinet at work, still holding lots of old poems and stories! One day I will go through them to see if I can make any of them into books, but at the moment I’m just too busy!
QUESTIONS ABOUT MY DOG BOBBY!
Q1: Do you have any pets in Hong Kong?
Yes I do, and here he is! His name is Bobby, and he’s a 7-year-old golden cocker spaniel. He is very funny and affectionate and sweet, and we all love him dearly. He also speaks five languages: Chinese, Tagalog (a Philippines language with our helper or maid), English, French (with my husband) and …you guessed it…DOG language!
Here he is, speaking French!
Q2: Does Bobby read books?
Of course he does, but only if they’re pawfect and are woof reading 🙂! But he also loves playing on the podium of our apartment block:
And he HATES getting his hair washed!
Q3: Why did you name your dog Bobby?
It was my daughters who named him, when he was a new puppy. In Australia, we say someone is a Bobby Dazzler if they are very, very cute, so the girls decided that our new puppy was definitely a Bobby Dazzler and that’s why he got called Bobby! Here he is when he was a puppy:
Q4: Why does Bobby wear glasses?
To read books of course!