Janeen Brian

Janeen Brian

When did you first realise that you wanted to become a writer?

I know many authors who knew they wanted to be writers when they were young. I wasn't one of them. I wanted to be a teacher. (and I became one) Authors weren't even spoken about when I grew up, and I certainly didn't grow up in a household of stories or books. Our school had a small room of books, and my Year 7 class went in there once. I guess it was a library. But that was it.

So, I came to writing late and I didn't call myself a writer until I'd had a number of books published. That was in my late thirties.

Do you seek feedback or input from anyone else?

Feedback: Not generally, but I have had a couple of projects where I've asked a special, trusted writer friend to comment. In return for one lengthy assessment, I made a mosaic for her.

I now have a literary agent and I find she is very helpful in giving me astute feedback.

Input:  I often ask my grandson for ideas or thoughts or whether he thinks a piece of writing is working or not.

A nearby school also is keen for me to involve their students with input and feedback on my work. I must do it!

You have written a number of poems for The School Magazine. When exploring an idea, how do you choose between writing a poem or a story?

Chooks by Kerry Millard

Before I answer that question, I did a rough count of publications with The School Magazine. Just out of interest, here's the list:

47 poems (with 2 reprints)

33 poems (with 4 reprints)

4 articles (with 2 reprints)

2 plays.

Sometimes lines for a poem bounce into my head whereas I don't get that so much with stories. When I jot something down in my notebook, it's often because of some small observation, thought or emotional incident and I know that it is more likely to make a poem (one day!) than a story.

I really enjoy the succinctness of poetry and I'm very happy, like a pig in mud, when I'm writing poems. It's playtime-plus-work.

 Illustration by Kerry Millard from Janeen Brian's poem 'Chooks' (Countdown 6 2012)

Who or what has influenced your writing over the years?

There were several key people who gave me encouragement. One was an artist friend, who believed I could do and be much more than I'd ever thought. Another was a writer friend, who offered me the chance to write a book about South Australia's Colonial history. It was hard work, but I learned a lot. The thing was, he also believed I could do it. I learned to love the work of poets; fun poets like Ogden Nash, Michael Rosen and Jack Prelutsky and these days, poets like Australia's Lorraine Marwood, Steven Herrick, Sally Murphy and Michelle A. Taylor and more recently, Rachel Rooney from England.  I belong to a group of published South Australian Children's Writers and Illustrators called EKIDnas who've always given help, support and friendship over the years. I read books either for adults and children every day. I couldn't live without reading and I'm sure every word that's ever been written has influenced the way I think about my writing.

What type of texts do you like to read?

Poetry. Picture books. Historical fiction. Biographies. General fiction.

Do you have any advice or tips for young writers?

Always imagine your words as the tip of the iceberg. Choose your words carefully, so that the depth behind those words lies deep below the surface. Don't expect this process to be necessarily quick or easy. But your work will be stronger because of it and your reader, therefore, more engaged.