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Jackie French's writing career spans 17 years, 48 wombats, 132 books, 23 languages, 3,721 bush rats, over 50 awards in Australia and overseas, 6 possibly insane lyrebirds, assorted 'Burke's Backyard' segments, radio shows, newspaper and magazine columns, theories of pest and weed ecology and 27 shredded back doormats. The doormats are the victims of the wombats who require constant appeasement in the form of carrots, rolled oats and wombat nuts, which is one of the reasons for her prolific output: it pays the carrot bills.
Jackie wrote her first children's book `Rainstones' in a desperate attempt to earn $106.40 to register her car, while living in a shed with a wallaby called Fred, a black snake called Gladys and a wombat called Smudge. It was described by the editor at HarperCollins as the messiest, worst spelt manuscript they'd ever received.
The messiest was due to Smudge the wombat who left his droppings on the typewriter every night; the spelling was due to the fact she is dyslexic. She recommends all beginning writers to mispell their first book with a wombat damaged typewriter - at least that way it stands out of the pile!
The book was accepted (also shortlisted for the NSW Premier's Award and CBC Younger Reader's Book of the Year). In the same fortnight she was offered a regular column in a newspaper and a farming magazine and discovered that writing about flowers and fantasy was a heck of a lot easier than hauling manure in the old green truck to feed the peach trees. She has been a full time writer and wombat negotiator ever since.
She used to appear on 'Burke's Backyard' in a variety of disguises (but never sees the segment as she doesn't have TV) and does radio segments and writes magazine and newspaper columns.
Jackie is one of the few writers to win both literary and children's choice awards. Hitler's daughter won the 2000 CBC Book of the Year for Younger Readers, the UK Wow! Award, a Semi Grand Priz Award in Japan and has been listed as a "blue ribbon' book in the USA. It has also been made into a play by the wonderful people at Monkey Baa. Diary of a Wombat won most of the kid's choice awards, several awards in the USA, the 2003 ABA/ Neilson Data Book of the Year, was 2003 CBC Honour Book, plus a few other awards and will be galloping across the rest of the world this year and next. Other awards include an Aurealis (sci fi) Award for Cafe on Callisto. ACT Book of the Year for In the Blood and CBC Information book of the Year for To the moon and back. Her latest books include a War for Gentlemen (Historical novel for adults) Rocket Your Child into Reading (A book on reading difficulties) To the Moon and Back (a history of Australia and the journey to the moon), Tom Appleby, Convict boy, My Gran the Gorilla and the Goat that Sailed the World- the true story of the goat who sailed with Captain James Cook, Macbeth and Son, Pharaoh, the story of the young man who united ancient Egypt, the the wonderful Jospehine Wants to dance with its magic illustrations by Bruce Whatley.
Jackie and her husband Bryan live in the Araluen valley, a deep valley on the edge of the Deua wilderness area, in a stone house they built themselves , with a home made waterwheel as well as solar panels to power their house (and computers). Their garden rambles over about 4 hectares, with roses dripping from the trees, 800 fruit trees, and about 270 different kinds of fruit (not counting 125 varieties of apple) , so there is never a time when there aren't basketsfull of fruit to pick. Jackie also describes herself as a 'wombat negotiator' and has spent three decades studying the wombats in her valley.
Jackie is ACT (Australian Capital Territory) Children's Ambassador, and patron of Club Cool, an ACT library programme to encourage kids to read, At Home with Books, a programme to encourage reading with foster children, and the local Wildcare, which looks after injured wildlife and returns them to the bush. She is also a director of The Wombat Foundation, that raises funds for research into the preservation of the endangered northern hairy nosed wombat.
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