Review Blog

Mar 18 2015

Samantha Wheeler: The road to publication

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The path to getting a book published is long and arduous, but with the help of the Queensland Writers' Centre and a development program with Allen & Unwin, former science teacher, Samantha Wheeler was on her way. Her Agricultural Science degree developed an already strong focus on the environment and this is reflected in her two novels, Smooch and Rosie (2013), Spud and Charli (2014) and again is a theme within the book she is writing while staying at the May Gibbs Children's Literature Trust studio at Norwood. Samantha was awarded a May Gibbs Fellowship for 2015 and used her creative time residency during the month of February.
With themes of koala rescue, losing the farm to developers, horses and now the endangered cassowary, her work resonates with younger readers who take these ideas to heart. Following the tradition of Colin Thiele's wonderful adventure stories with a strong focus on the environment, Samantha has found a niche for that hard to satisfy middle primary reader.
Knowing she wanted to write, Samantha took a course at the Queensland Writer's Centre, where she listened, wrote and discussed her work. With a manuscript in hand she then attended a weekend conference where she was able to sit down with a publisher, an agent and an author to further refine her work and gain valuable advice. This advice she took to heart and attended a development program with Allen & Unwin. Samantha attended a workshop several years later and found to her great satisfaction that the editor reading her work noted that she had taken her advice and expressed an interest in her work. Leonie Tye at University of Queensland Press gave Samantha her start and Smooch and Rosie was published in 2013.
At the same time, the annual book, One story, many Brisbanes was published by the Brisbane City Council, containing one of her stories. She had noticed the ad in the paper for short story writers to submit and as the due date was only a few days away she set about writing a tale to send in. Again, the Brisbane City Council arranged for mentors to help refine and edit the stories submitted and her story was accepted for the 2010 edition.
Following the success here, she had another story accepted for publication at UQP, and both books have now had a second reprint.
Eager to please that hard to satisfy range of kids, she actively listens to what they have to say and is able to pass this on to her publisher.
The plight of the cassowary is her present preoccupation, as she writes a tale about a boy whose father is less than useful as a dad. The parallel with the cassowary makes for an interesting concept, as this bird, like the emu is responsible for bringing up his chicks. The cassowary's endangered status gives this story a strong environmental focus. See the link for information about this amazing bird.
Like many writers, Samantha is eager to gather resources, ideas and thoughts but networking is of prime importance. While in Adelaide she was the guest speaker at a May Gibbs Children's Literature Trust function at the Burnside Public Library and took in the cafes of Norwood Parade, and visited the cassowary at the Adelaide Zoo. Born in England, her parents moved to Zimbabwe when she was young, where she spent her early years having the freedom of always being outside and enjoying the environment. She has also lived in Hong Kong, Adelaide and Brisbane. Brisbane is now her home where she lives with her husband and daughter, and she is involved with many of the issues brought to the fore in her books.
To find out more about Samantha go to
http://www.samanthawheeler.com.au/
http://www.uqp.uq.edu.au/Author.aspx/1706/Samantha%20Wheeler
Fran Knight

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