Our very own autha from down unda, Lisa Kalma, joins us for a fabulous interview. (I couldn’t resist- sorry!-haha). But in all seriousness, we are incredibly happy for Lisa. Her debut picture book, MY LLAMMA DRAMA, releases this Spring. A big thank you to Lisa for opening up and sharing how she got her start as a writer. Congratulations! We wish you all the success in the world and can’t wait to get our hands on a copy of your book.
At what point in your life did you know you wanted to write?
I’ve written in one form or another since I was a little girl. I even still have some of my stories and poems from when I was in primary school! I’m also a primary school teacher so I’ve been in the spoilt position of reading many quality children’s books to my students and watching their faces light up with delight! I understand the power good books can have on children’s ability to learn to read and develop the magic of reading for pleasure. The seed for writing was planted during my time in the classroom.
It wasn’t until I had my son ten years ago that I thought maybe I could do something with my writing. I have written stories with and for him, have entered various competitions, and I have a folder full of stories, some finished and some half-finished. It wasn’t until I wrote My Llama Drama last year that I actually gathered the courage to put my work out there and publish to a wider audience. Taking the step to find an editor was huge for me, and has also given me the motivation to write more for children. This is only the beginning!
Where were you when inspiration struck for your story?
My ten-year-old son absolutely adores llamas and we also enjoy making up silly songs together. We were at home one day when we started making up a funny llama song, which then stuck in my head all day. That night while I was in the shower (where a lot of inspiration seems to hit!) I began adding to it.
At first I just added a few stanzas, as it was originally going to be a poem. Then it grew and I thought, “I wonder if I could make a story out of this?”. So, the silly ditty turned into a poem, which turned into a full-blown story. I could see the llamas doing pretty funny things in my head and I just had to get it onto paper!
Are you working on something new at the moment?
I’ve usually got a few things on the go at any one time. I’ve written the second book to My Llama Drama, which is in the editing phase now. I’m also working on a short story collection, and I am writing a fantasy YA story about zombies - eeek!
What jobs or careers have you worked in prior to becoming and author?
My first ever job was as a checkout operator in a retail store when I was still in school. I then moved on to be a receptionist and trades manager for a private company. From there I moved into secretarial work and accounts payable in a government agency.
My father passed away when I was 22 and this was the catalyst for me to take stock and reassess my career direction. Life was just too short to be doing something I didn’t have a passion for. I’d always loved being with children, but never had the courage to go to university to pursue my passions.
When my dad died, I decided to take some time off to go travelling overseas. I met two awesome primary school teachers from New Zealand on my travels, which really affirmed that teaching was for me. I returned from my travels and went to university for four years while I was still working casually at the government agency, along with babysitting and house-cleaning on the side. I’ve been a primary school teacher for the past 16 years and continue to work in the education field as I write.
Who is your favourite writer?
If we are talking picture and middle grade books, I can’t go past Australian author Aaron Blabey for his fun and entertaining body of work. From Pig the Pug to The Bad Guys - his stories are consistently fantastic! I also really enjoy the writing of Emily Rodda, and who can go past Roald Dahl? There are just so many wonderful writers to choose from!
What would you like readers to know about you?
I would like readers to know that I am an everyday person who loves to be with her family, write, draw, create and read. I have a wild and vivid imagination and sometimes that’s hard to turn off, but I’m not sure that I’d want to - it’s a very helpful thing for being a writer!
Some trivial facts about me: I love adventure and spontaneous travels with my family. I was the under 18’s pool (8-ball) female state champion when I was 17. I was born and raised in the capital city of Australia, Canberra, where I still live (I love this place!). My favourite colour is navy, and even though I come across as confident and energetic, I’m actually quite an introvert and enjoy my quiet time.