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Saturday, February 27, 2021

Story time with Canberra’s newest children’s author Amelia McInerney

Recently returned Canberra resident Amelia McInerney has a scientific mind, but these days the prolific children’s book author spends most of her time dreaming up rhymes.

A humorous wordsmith, McInerney has two publications under her belt and another five funny titles on the way – four this year and one in 2022.

Next in line is My Bird, Bertie, illustrated by Shane McG,  which is set to launch on Saturday 30 January at Canberra’s newest independent bookshop, The Book Cow in Kingston.

McInerney’s first career was as a health professional performing ultrasounds, and although she’s well-versed in science, physics and maths, she’s had a love for the English language since school days.

The thought of writing her own stories popped into her head while reading a book with a flimsy rhyme scheme to her daughters.

“All of a sudden I had this idea to write picture books when my six-year-old was born, and it just used a totally different part of my brain,” she said.

Becoming a children’s author transformed her life, and these days McInerney finds it hard to believe there was ever a time when she wasn’t a writer.

Every new story begins with a brainwave, an exciting new idea to be brought to life.

“It might be the character that comes to me, or it might be a funny situation, it might even be the punchline in the end.

“There’s just something in the idea that makes me feel excited and I just get this feeling that I can’t describe, that I know I can turn this into a really good and unique book.

“I won’t even start writing unless I’ve got that feeling to start with.”

McInerney doesn’t plan her stories, she takes them one line at a time.

“You might invest many months and still not know what’s going to happen after the halfway mark.

“I sort of feel like I’m almost channeling a story that already exists but it’s not in the world yet, and I just have to keep sitting with it and keep letting it slowly come through.

“It’s this really weird thing for a scientific person to do, but it’s what I do!”

McInerney’s discovery of her untapped talent instilled a belief that all sorts of people could be good at all sorts of things they’ve never tried.

Although she’s full of good ideas, some stories take longer to become ink on paper than others.

Her forthcoming release took four months to write, another took four days, and her second published work, Bad Crab, which consists of one word repeated five times took six months to write.

McInerney believes a good picture book tends to work on a few different levels, so even a one-year-old can sit and enjoy a story aimed at an older audience.

She doesn’t write with a certain age group in mind; it all depends on how the story unfolds.

As a child, her preferences in picture books were much the same as her contemporary taste.

“I liked books that were clever, they were saying something or had a funny twist, humorous books.

“They’ve got something you’re really thinking about or a twist that’s really surprising.

“And they’re the books that I also like to write – books that have something different about them.”

McInerney said while she sometimes felt people looked down on picture books, or thought they were easy to write, she loved the challenge of engaging young children.  

“You don’t need to write down to kids, they understand so much, with humour and emotional things – so complex.”

In a world increasingly full of blue light and screens, McInerney believes her readership still prefers a physical book, to have and to hold.  

“There’s just something tactile and real about it, that they can touch it, they own it, they turn the pages, they can pore over it at their own pace.”

Amelia McInerney pictured at The Book Cow in Kingston with three of her published titles. Image: Kerrie Brewer.

She said picture books helped children slow down and connect with family and with themselves.  

“I don’t think that will ever go out of fashion.”

My Bird, Bertie launch details:

  • When? Saturday 30 January 10.30am
  • Where? On the lawn at Green Square, 27 Jardine St, Kingston
  • How much? Free
  • RSVP: The Book Cow on (02) 5100 2730
  • Follow: Amelia McInerney Author on Facebook for further information

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