Pollyanna Darling began writing short stories, cartoon strips and poetry at age four and has a passionate love of high quality literature for children and young adults. She has four boisterous children (all boys) and lives on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. Back in the mists of time, Pollyanna was vigorously dissuaded from writing by a well-meaning careers officer. She dabbled in diverse and curious jobs before deciding that writing had her by the heart and wasn’t going to let go. Her intuitive life coaching work led to the publication of her first book in 2011, a self-help guide for adults: The Relationship Revelation, which won gold in the the Living Now Book Awards (USA) in 2012.
Pollyanna has since discovered that writing for children offers many opportunities for fun, mischief and magic. After a two year creative process with Victorian artist Kirsty Chalmers, she completed and published Heartwood (2013): a hand-illustrated, first chapter book for kids who are beginning to read independently.
Words on a Limb had a chance to sit with Pollyanna and learn her story.
About writing …
When did you first realize you wanted to become a writer?
I learned to read at 2 years old as my mother was very passionate about education. By the time I turned 9, I’d read all the children’s books I could lay my hands on, and began on the walls of adult books that lined our house. I have loved words for as long as I can remember – their power to hurt, to heal, to ignite imagination, to take the reader deep. I began creating poetry, short stories and
cartoon strips as soon as I could write. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a writer, but I was talked out of it by a well-meaning careers officer – too many writers, can’t make a living etc etc. I know now (regardless of income), that if you ignore the internal drive to create, life becomes flat and meaningless.
What book(s) has most influenced your writing?
As a child I loved the Narnia series and I devoured ghost stories, but I distinctly remember discovering Fear of Flying by Erica Jong, a book I sneaked from the shelf when I was 12. In those startling pages I found the edgy, fascinating world of feminist literature. My own writing has been influenced both by the heroic hope of the great children’s writers and the holistic world view of feminist writers. I also love the majestic Russian story-tellers (like Tolstoy and Dostoevsky) and the magical realism of Marquez and others.
When and where do you prefer to write?
As a mother of four, time can be a scarce commodity, so I seize the opportunities that arise. I have learned to be self-disciplined around this, it’s too easy to fritter away the time I could spend writing. If a couple of hours loom, I jump on them! My favourite place to write is my bed, but I feel wickedly indulgent doing that, so move around the house – my office, a table on the verandah gazing out at cows, or a cafe in town.
What was your biggest challenge in writing your book?
The biggest challenge in writing Heartwood was the time it took from inception to completion – almost four years. The creation of the book was a co-creative process with the illustrator, artist Kirsty Chalmers. I had to learn the intricacies of what it really takes to create a set of illustrations. You can read the backstory of Heartwood here.
What advice do you have for other writers?
I don’t like to give advice. Everyone has to discover a path through the creative process that works for them. What I do know is that it can be a bumpy ride! Writing isn’t always enjoyable. Some days I am elated by the story, the process, imagination, I write thousands of words, I feel ‘on purpose’. Others, it’s a mighty effort to grind out a paragraph, I feel inadequate and I think the story stinks. On other days I just get on with it. My relationship to it is never fixed, and I think that’s something we all have to come to terms with.
The best piece of advice I ever read though, was to treat yourself and your writing ‘professionally’, no matter where you’re at with it. To take it seriously. There is a wonderful funny book called ‘The War of Art‘ by Steven Pressfield that offers just the right kind of kick in the pants for those of us tempted to quit or procrastinate.
About you …
What do you like to do when you are not writing (other than reading, of course)?
I love love love to read, but it’s rather antisocial. I also love walking in the forest, reading to my kids, spending time with my family in Nature and laughing. I also love doing intuitive readings for people – it’s just like writing: I receive images and have to reach for words that do them justice, that describe the feeling, thoughts and beliefs that are being illustrated. It’s a deeply imaginative and absorbing activity.
Can you share something that is happening in your life that would surprise us?
I’m involved with a unique campaign to fund a 64 day ceremony in Borneo. The ceremony is the last resort of the Dayak people of Muara Tae, who are losing their lands to palm oil clear-felling. All the standard avenues (help from NGOs, legal action etc) to protect the land have failed. This campaign has touched me deeply because it is about heart, about possibilities that could arise outside of the rational, about bringing people together in truth.
Do you have any unique talents besides writing?
I’m psychic. The label makes me uncomfortable, but there’s no other adequate way to describe it. I’m also wickedly good at accents, although I can’t do Russian or Slovak!
What can we expect from you in the future?
I recently completed a spec fiction novel for 9-12 year olds and am working on the sequel, which will be for older teenagers. I’m also pondering a play, a couple of pictures books for younger readers and various short stories.
Quick hits …
Is there an author that you would really like to meet?
Neal Stephenson (and Ursula K. Le Guin, if I can have a bonus!).
What book are you currently reading?
Bellman and Black by Diane Setterfield and The Making of A Story by Alice LaPlante.
Who designed your latest book cover?
Kirsty Chalmers, the illustrator of Heartwood.
What is your favourite quote?
At the moment: “Happiness is not found in the things you possess,
but in what you have the courage to let go.” ~ Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Where can new fans can follow you?
Author website: pollyannadarling.com
By Pollyanna Darling, Illustrated by Kirsty Chalmers
Pollyanna’s Site | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
A motley group of forest creatures must find a way into the heart of an ordinary man to save their ancient forest home from the steely fangs of the Smashbasher, a huge bulldozer.
“Quarrelling erupted. The faeries bickered amongst themselves. The magpies and squirrels tossed spiteful comments at each other across the clearing. The mushrooms started to wilt in the nasty atmosphere created by the squabbling. And the Smashbasher crept closer, gobbling up the forest, chomping the old ones, crushing and crunching its way toward The Linney.”
Will the forest creatures find a way to save their homes? Can they put their squabbles aside and come up with a plan to stop the Smashbasher? You can find out by sitting down somewhere comfortable and reading this book.
Heartwood is a full colour, illustrated first chapter book for children aged between 7 and 9 years old. A magical story set in an ancient forest, Heartwood is a beautiful introduction to reading independently.
The book provides a useful stimulus for teachers and schools as part of a curriculum on environmental issues. Heartwood also explores conflict resolution, creating together and resilience.
Ask your local bookseller to order Heartwood through Ingram.
Also by Pollyanna:
Relationship rescue in simple, easy steps, to bring you closer to a relationship that makes your heart sing.
The Relationship Revelation is a practical, straightforward guide to getting out of your own way, neutralising your dysfunctional beliefs around relationships, and stepping into creating a relationship straight from the truth of your heart!
Words on a Limb would like to thank Pollyanna for sharing her story. We wish you much success with Heartwood and your novels to come. Reach out to Pollyanna if you are looking for inspiration-based story-telling … with practical, grounded advice. Sounds intriguing!
Have a great week everyone!
I love to hear about writers who were apparently BORN to write 🙂 This was very enjoyable to read, and I have to say, I get REALLY excited when I saw mention that Diane Setterfield has another book out! I didn’t know this! I absolutely loved her debut novel THE THIRTEENTH TALE and now this one has gone directly to my TBR list. I rarely read adult fiction, but HERS—I’ll read! 🙂 So glad you mentioned it, Pollyanna 🙂
One thing I wanted to mention, in case there are any aspiring children’s book authors reading this or actually reading my comment, is this, because it is a common misconception:
Typically a publisher picks an illustrator. If you are solely and author, unless you are going to self-publish, it is wise not to collaborate. When self-publishing—of course! 🙂
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