Welcome to the blog of the Tasmanian branch of the Children's Book Council of Australia!

Friday 29 November 2019

Accidental Author

It was a treat to meet Sharon Booth at a recent local school library meeting and to listen to her speak about her work as an author and illustrator publishing under her pen name, Sharon J Yaxley. The Tasmanian settings for her stories provide a strong sense of place and her love of the Tasmanian landscape shines through her work.
People dream about writing a book, some start, some procrastinate, some finish.
I procrastinated for years not knowing where to start or what to write.
On the death of a dear friend, I thought I would write a little story for her great grandchildren to remember her by.  Among many talents, she was a pilot, a maker of bears, a traveller and storyteller. Dunstan is the bear she made for me and Theodore the stuffed dog who viewed the world from the rear console of the car and then the loungeroom floor. He ended up on the conveyor belt at the tip.
My characters were born. The rhyming verse woke up with me one morning and I captured it on a piece of paper on the bedside table. It was edited and beats counted on fingers and drummed on the desk numerous times. Written from the heart. That was easy… the illustrations took another 6 months. I procrastinated. Where to start?
It was my brother that said, “Just start. Draw a line on the page, draw what you don’t want the characters to look like. Just draw.”
I found the perfect Theodore character in a soft toy and with the purchase of chalk pastels, I started drawing. Having never used chalk pastels before it was trial and error and loads of fun layering colour and texture onto the page. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. Long into the night, chalk dusted fingers and table and clothes and cat’s paws. 
I intended on making a few photocopies when I had finished and binding them. By the time I had inundated my work colleagues at school with drawings and drafts the book had become popular and there was a demand for copies.
Through a family friend I was introduced to Warren Boyles who was the past owner of Forty South Publishing. He kindly offered to publish the book and introduced me to Cate Lowry to do the design work. I did a small print run of 200, sold out reprinted another 200, sold out and decided to do a big print run. By the time the reprint of Dunstan and Theodore was ready, I had written and illustrated Theodore Swims in the Sea. I wrote Hide and Seek next but had no confidence to illustrate it, so I put it aside. By the time Theodore Swims in the Sea was ready, I had finished Set Sail, an adventure with all the yachts I had sailed on from my childhood and recent past. It had been suggested that Forty South Publishing should take over the role of publishing as my enthusiasm for creating stories escalated. Lucinda Sharp and the team have also been wonderful.

Shelley Point, Scamander
There was no intention of another book but my love of photography and a surfing trip to Scamander one September found my imagination running wild with sea monsters and possibilities as I walked the windy, storm ravaged shore at Shelley Point. I loved the photos and put them aside. My subconscious must have been ticking away as I woke one morning in March with a verse in my head and when it was written down I saw the possibility of a book to inspire people to view the world differently, through shadows and shapes, turning the images upside down and around. Creating stories, drawing, using natural objects to create images…imagination and monsters. To look at the environment, explore and care for what is there. 

Hide and Seek in Launceston's City Park
I convinced myself to start the illustrations for Hide and Seek when I looked at all my past artwork which was architectural mixed media. Of course, I could draw the City Park gates and the conservatory and the rotunda, so I started, and I did. After a break from drawing the characters, maintaining the consistency was a priority, and my drawing hand kept going where it left off.
The literary journey is not for the faint hearted. It is costly, as a self-published author, but rewarding. After 3 years I have published 5 books!  Marketing the books and navigating through social media and retail outlets is time consuming, but there are many wonderful operators willing to take a chance on a local author with boundless enthusiasm and a product that has captured the hearts of many children’s bedtimes. My retail background in window dressing and visual merchandising management is helpful.
There is joy in hearing feedback from customers about how much the stories and illustrations are loved. Read and reread.
 I have discovered a new world of local talent and formed new friendships. Some are writing, some are procrastinating, some are published. All of them successful in having started.
The stack of cardboard boxes branded with book titles is slowly diminishing from my family room as my art desk, camera and imagination ponder the next literary adventure.
Sharon Booth
Tasmanian children’s book creator.
Discover Sharon’s books (published under Sharon J Yaxley) at https://www.sharonjyaxley.com/ where you will find teacher’s notes and activities for Sea Monsters and Dunstan and Theodore’s own website.


  1. Sharon thanks for sharing your creative journey with us. It is so inspiring to read your story as every creator's experience is different. There is so much we can learn from each other. Please consider participating in the Author & Illustrator School Program which is part of the Tasmanian CBCA grant. Contact tas@cbca.org.au for further details.

  2. Thank you for providing a platform to express my literary journey and love of sharing stories. I am so happy that I started, and persevered.