A former police officer with the AFP, Tracey Hawkins now writes for children in a variety of genre – often joyful but occasionally a titch scary. If you’re brave, you may wish to ask her exactly what she keeps hidden beneath her staircase. When she’s not working on her next book, you’ll more than likely find Tracey Hawkins aboard a cruise ship somewhere exotic, delivering a forensics lecture to a packed room of passengers. Alternatively, she’ll be captivating future young writers at one of her crime writing workshops, reading her stories to a room full of littlies or promoting literacy through her role as Ambassador for the ACT Chief Minister’s Reading Challenge. Tracey Hawkins can, and does, talk to kids and adults on a multitude of topics.

Tracey Hawkins-Max Meets A Monster

With her diverse experience and gift for telling a captivating tale, you’re sure to find much to motivate you in the answers Tracey Hawkins has provided below.

Where do you get your inspiration and ideas for your writing?

From everyday life and moments around me—the things I see, experience, and reflect on.

I like to watch people, children and animals just doing ordinary things and often have story ideas drop into my head.  I’m a visual person, and the trigger for the story comes to me in a visual format. I literally see spreads of a book, illustrated with characters. The lines of text run through my mind in a flash. I only wish I could take a screenshot of my mind.

Sometimes, my inspiration starts with a single line that I play with, expand on, and start mapping out a bigger idea.

What are your tips for students who might be struggling with ‘the blank page’?

The blank page is to be welcomed. It’s a canvas waiting for creativity. I love blank pages. (Really! I don’t write on lined pages.)

The blank page is a gift to my mind.

However, sometimes an idea comes to a halt unexpectedly and needs to be encouraged and teased out. It happens to the best writers too!

If this happens to you, try one of my suggestions:

  • Think about the topic, the idea, or simply the essence of what you have to do. Allow your mind to turn the thoughts over, much like stirring a pot and bringing ideas from the base to the top.
  • Do something that lets your mind relax. Maybe play with your pet, go outside, draw, read a book … anything that is not related to writing.

My best creative ideas surge from the depths when I’m near water, or in water—at the beach, swimming, showering, soaking in a bath, or even watering the garden. Water relaxes my mind and then it’s free to do its thing and sort ideas.

  • Make a list of things that may happen in your story. Go nuts and write down anything that comes to mind.
  • Ask questions about the characters or events that may happen. ‘What if?’… Such as—what if birds flew backwards? What if trees had feelings? What if broccoli tasted like chocolate ice-cream?
  • Read lots of books and ask yourself what would you have changed if the book had been written by you?
Which of your books is your absolute favourite and why? 

I love all my books! They each hold a special place in my heart. But, put to the test—Max Meets a Monster is my favourite. It was my first picture book and written about an idea that came from my youngest son. He was only a little boy when he insisted there were monsters making noises in the night. 

Max is brave and yet, fearful when he goes off exploring to find the monster in his Grandpa’s house.

Max Meets a Monster has been released in different countries, starred on television and is still loved by kids (and me).

Which of your characters is your favourite and why?

Of course, Max holds a piece of my heart, but I also adore Lola, from my newest picture book, Leaping Lola.

Tracey Hawkins-Leaping Lola

Lola is a delightful, daring, dance enthused brown Jersey calf. She wants to attend the Black and White Ball and has spent her time practising her dance moves. Lola is disappointed when she can’t go because it is for Holstein cows. However, she does get to go to the ball, chaos reigns but it has a happy ending. Lola is brave, true to herself and passionate about what she loves. How can you not want her as a friend?

How do you feel when you think about children reading your books?

It makes me unbelievably happy. To think that children somewhere in the world are enjoying my books, learning, discovering, smiling and laughing as they read. It is the very reason I write.

What do you want their take-aways to be?

I want my books to take children on an adventure, to explore their world, ignite their imagination, engage their emotions, and make them want to read the books again.

I also hope they think about the stories, love the characters—share the joys, fears, disappointments and journey the character experiences, and of course, to fall in love with the discovery of reading.

Reading opens our world, educates, informs and delights us and takes us wherever we want to go.

To find out more about Tracey Hawkins, her books and her workshops (and perhaps even ask about ‘you-know-what’ under her stairs) go to her website. You can get copies of her books through New Frontier Publishing or your local bookshop. Tracey is available for school visits and holiday workshops – go to her contact page on her website.

Picture books can be used to stimulate discussion and introduce a topic at all ages of schooling, not just with Kindergarten! And, not just for English. For example, you might be about to introduce a dance unit of work with Year 4 – why not use Leaping Lola to talk about performance and overcoming fear of judgement? Find out more about how Just Right Words can assist you to maximise the use of picture books in the classroom, or, if you’re an author, ask about having some curriculum-aligned teacher notes written for your next book.