Why I Write

To Have Fun

I don’t know about you, but I love to crack open the shell of the ordinary and write about whatever comes oozing through.

To Have a Voice

Not every one of my books or stories addresses a topical issue – far from it. I find that if I try to write to an issue my pen drops as dead as a vampire with a stake through its heart. But topics I care about have a way of slipping into my writing. They’re there, simmering at the back of my mind, till they boil and flow over into an idea that I can’t resist.

To Question Assumptions

I like my writing to challenge the assumptions of my readers, but I like it even more when it helps me to uncover and challenge my own assumptions. I wrote a picture book about a family evacuating ahead of a bushfire. I put the father in the driver’s seat in the initial draft. In the second (or perhaps it was the third) draft I asked myself why I had done that. Men and women are equally capable of driving. I handed Mum the keys.

To Keep Learning

I think  there’s always more to learn about writing itself. Some resources I love include Girl and Duck and Writing Excuses. But my education as a writer strays into fields far from the art of writing. Some things I’ve recently researched for the sake of stories are: the diet of sea turtles, predicted sea level rises, imaginary friends in older children, the reign of Queen Marie Antoinette, attire and lifestyle on the Aussie Goldfields, prawning, Ancient Roman Baths, Australian Megafauna… I could go on. I love delving into different fields and writing keeps the questions coming. I believe as a writer it’s important to get your facts as straight as you can, which is great, because it means that as long as I write, I’ll never stop learning.

To Remember and Reflect

Even though I mainly write speculative fiction, a step (or a mile) removed from the ordinary, my life experiences come seeping through. Putting them on paper lets me see them in different ways. I become both the psychologist and the patient.

Andromeda Spaceways Issue #67

I was recently lucky enough to have the opportunity to co-edit an issue of Andromeda Spaceways Magazine. I worked with some fantastic writers, and was really proud of the stories Joel and I chose for the issue. There were some hard choices  to make and there were stories I was very sorry to let go. It’s given me new insights into how many really wonderful writers there are in the world. Check it out here to find alien worlds, flutters in time and dimension, curses, monstrosities and dystopias.



Preschoolers, Picture Books and Pre-programming.


‘Sharks are for boys,’ my daughter told me shortly after starting preschool. Adding insult to injury, she followed it up with: ‘Girls like fairies and mermaids and princesses.’

The next day we went to the library and (by no coincidence) borrowed several shark books, which returned her to her shark-loving status. The incident got me thinking about how early pressure to fit gender norms begins — and what the run-on effects throughout life might be. What is the influence of picture books and children’s TV on gender equity in the workforce down the track? Are women being put off from potential careers before they hit high school, or even primary school?

Maybe You Should Fly a Jet is a rhyming picture book by Theo LeSieg (Dr Seuss) on potential career paths. It was published in 1980. In the pictures, there are 89 men shown working and only twenty women. One of the occupations was ‘bride.’ There will always be plenty of books showing men in traditional roles—firefighters (firemen), police officers (policemen), farmers, scientists, doctors and dentists are all male dominated fields in traditional children’s fiction. Likewise, I’ve noticed that men in picture books are less likely to be caught doing the dishes or laundry than they are in reality.

I have challenged myself when writing, especially for children, to question every gender assignation. I let myself write what comes ‘naturally’, then see what happens when I reverse that. The resulting role changes are nothing dramatic, but it helps me to show the world in a different light, even if only for my own benefit.

Poem of the Day

Australian Children’s Poetry Website

The New Ssstudent

Slithering, whispering

A snake came to class

Brightly glittering

Its scales like glass

Short, thick body

Banded with grey

Wiggling lure tail

Tempting for prey.

Terrible, horrible

It gave us a turn

But Mrs MacWinkle

Said, ‘It may wish to learn.’

Snake failed English

Again and again;

Snakes are not built

For holding a pen.

Snake could not learn

To decipher a map,

Of history and science

It knew not a scrap.

But to our surprise

That snake was able

To complete with a snap

The seven times table.

At sums and fractions

It couldn’t be greater:

Its mind was just like

The best calculator.

When we realised the truth

We could hardly be gladder:

Mathematics comes easy

When you are an adder.

Jessica Nelson
  • Submitted in response to Poetry Prompt #4


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