Getting to know our shortlisted authors: Tamsin Janu

Over the next few weeks we’ll introduce you to the six shortlisted authors on the Readings Children’s Book Prize 2015. Who are they? Where do their ideas come from? What do they love to read? What do they love to snack on?

We hope you’ll share these mini interviews with your children.



Tamsin Janu is the debut author who is taking Australian children’s literary shortlists by storm with Figgy in the World. (Ed. note: Ahem, we were the first…)

Tamsin is originally from Sydney, where she studied law and international and global studies, but since January 2014 she’s worked as a youth worker in a remote community in the Northern Territory Central Desert.

Figgy in the World was inspired by her three-month stay in Ghana, West Africa, in 2009, when she worked in a school and orphanage and stayed with a local family.

1. What were you like as a kid?


2. When did you first want to be a writer?

I’ve loved writing stories since I was a kid. I don’t think there was a moment when I wanted to be a ‘writer’ as such, but I was 19 or 20 when I first began to write stories outside of a school environment, just for fun.

3. How did Figgy in the World begin?

When I returned home from three months in Ghana I wanted to write something that would help me remember my experiences there. I decided that Ghana would be an interesting and unique setting for a kid’s story, and that’s when I came up with the character of Figgy and her mission. I had written journal entries everyday during my stay in Ghana, so that helped to bring back memories, sights and sounds; I visited most of the places Figgy and Nana visit in the book.

4. What is your favourite scene in the book?

I like when Figgy and Nana visit the orphanage. It is quite a sad scene but it helps Figgy to understand how lucky she is to have a loving family. And every time I read the scene it reminds me of the orphanage I worked in when I was in Ghana, and the kids who lived there.

5. How did the book get its contract?

I sent the first chapter of the book to two big publishers, and the whole manuscript to Scholastic Omnibus. Scholastic Omnibus suggested some improvements I could make – I made them, and they offered me a contract!

6. What were some of your favourite books when you were a kid?

I loved anything by Morris Gleiztman (Two Weeks with the Queen, Water Wings, Blabber Mouth, Misery Guts), by Roald Dahl (Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The BFG, The Witches) and by Enid Blyton (The Faraway Tree, The Wishing-Chair, Malory Towers).

I also really liked horses as a kid, and the idea of owning one, so the Saddle Club series was a favourite. And – of course – I devoured Harry Potter every time a new book came out.

7. What was the last book you loved?

I recently read The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, which I thought was great. Sweet, funny, a bit sad but ultimately uplifting.

(Ed note: The One and Only Ivan is narrated by a silverback gorilla, and has won several awards.)

8. What is your ultimate ambition as a writer?

To write stories that are entertaining but also make kids think.

9. If you won the RCBP, who is the first person you would tell and how would you celebrate?

I’d probably tell my Mum first. And I’m not sure how I’d celebrate, maybe I’d have a nice dinner or something!

10. And finally, what is your preferred writing snack?

Chocolate and/or roasted almonds. Preferably chocolate covered roasted almonds!

The six books on the shortlist can be purchased together at a special discounted price by clicking here. Books can be purchased individually here. All the books are available in store.

Find out more about the Readings Children’s Book Prize here.

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Tamsin Janu

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