Where Did I Come From?
I was born in Bulli, on the south coast of New South Wales, in 1972 but grew up in the suburb of Peakhurst. In Peakhurst I lived in the perfect house because out the front was a cul-de-sac and a park with a playground and through a gate in our back fence was the infants playground of a primary school.
When I Was a Kid
My earliest memory is of being a toddler, all dressed up for a party, playing in a giant mud puddle in the middle of my parents' driveway.
A few years later, when I first started kindergarten, I had a terrible fear of the school toilets but I just couldn't hold it all day. So in class time, when my teacher thought I was going to the school toilets I would run across the playground and through the back fence to home. After I went to the toilet my mother would give me an ice-block and send me back to school.
It was on one of these visits that I first met Peanuts, a tiny, black and brown Sydney Silky Terrier puppy who furiously wriggled her way around my legs. It was very hard to go back to school that day.
Peanuts was just one of the many animal friends that I was lucky enough to have growing up. My dad worked at Flemington Markets so as well as 2 gorgeous cats there was always ducks, chickens, mice and rabbits.
School, School and then More School
I never had to travel to school until I got to High School. All of a sudden my jump through the back fence turned into a bus ride, train ride and then a walk from the station. I was so proud of my independence on the first day of high school until my brother told me that my parents' car was following the bus!
My mum soon got used to me travelling, though she might have had second thoughts when she got the phone call when I was in Year 10 that I had dislocated my knee while coming home on the train.
I had a really great English teacher in High School called Mr Morris and a fantastic teacher-librarian who once spent a whole lunchtime showing me every fantasy and science fiction book in the library. Together, they must have inspired me because after being talked out of being an archaeologist by a terrible school guidance counsellor I enrolled at UTS to study to become a teacher-librarian, a job which I still do today.
Becoming a Writer
My first inkling that I might like to write came in Year 6 when our teacher asked us to write a pirate story. I took great pleasure in writing that story, mostly because I could use big and gruesome words like 'decapitated'.
I didn't really think about writing during high school. I was too busy reading everything I could get my hands on.
Then, at university, as part of my teaching degree, we did a course on writing. In one of the first lessons we had to tell each other stories from our childhood. After my story a boy in my class who was nearly always goofing off and being silly was serious for a moment. He told me that my story had made him want to cry.
The idea that I could break through to someone with my stories and make them feel something that they didn't feel before was very powerful to me. It was the beginning of my journey as a writer.
It would be more than 20 years from that moment before a story of mine became a book, when I was writing for my own children as well as the child that still lives inside me.
But boy was it worth the wait! :)
I was born in Canada in the middle of winter. I always loved to paint and draw and read and thought I would be a writer and an artist when I grew up. At the same time I wanted to be a vet, and set up my first veterinary surgery when I was eight years old with blankets hanging over a clothes rack. It was disappointing when no customers came, but my little brother kept me company that day so at least I wasn’t lonely.
There have always been lots of animals in my life such as dogs and cats and rabbits and guinea pigs, mice, rats, a snake, tadpoles, goldfish, gerbils, axolotls, hamsters, budgies, a bat, a pigeon, duck, hens, hermit crabs, a yabby, cockatiels, a horse and a monkey, and we lived in the woods and near a river so I spent many hours walking and peering into ponds and following tiny tracks in the snow.
I’ve always loved science too, and making things (like “Kerry’s Mark 1 Shorter Stouter Mobile Marble Sorter-Outer) and wasn’t sure which direction to take when I finished high school. Artist? Writer? Veterinarian? Scientist?
Zoology (the study of animals) sounded great so I studied all sorts of fascinating things ( one time I lay on a dock at a lake all night to count how many bats flew over - I’m not sure if I got exactly the right number … I may have gone to sleep for a bit… ), then moved to Australia when I was 19 and trained, finally, to be a real vet.
Taking a short break to have a few babies I took my crazy dog to dog training classes, drew some cartoons for their newsletter, and accidentally fell into a completely new career as a cartoonist, an illustrator, and an author. I never got back to being a vet, but use everything I’ve learned all the time in my cartoons and drawings.
I’ve cartooned for lots and lots of newspapers and magazines and have had the fun of drawing for the children’s literary magazine, The School Magazine, for many years.
I have illustrated 31 books, including two which I wrote myself, Gordon’s Biscuit and Quincy and Oscar.
One great thing about being an illustrator is getting to read lots of books and stories and poems before they have been published, then creating the worlds and characters in them. Another great thing is getting to work with and meet lots of different and interesting authors and illustrators and kids in schools and teachers and a sea lion. I made the pictures for Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr and it was turned into a proper movie. Wendy and I got to be on the movie set for three days to watch how it was made and I ended up being in the movie for 1 1/2 seconds! I’m the lady with the bag, the first person you see in the airport. The sea lion who played the character Selkie was a bit cheeky and gave both Wendy and me a kiss.
The very latest books, which I have loved doing, are Daisy’s Quest and Daisy’s New Wings. It was wonderful researching the plants and animals for the Daisy books, and having discussions about how a fairy’s wings work. I thought the fairies would have antennae so had to figure out how they would work as well, so it’s a good thing I studied zoology.
Since 2009 I have been making lots of paintings under my other name, Kerry Thompson. Kerry Thompson has also written two poems which were published in The School Magazine, and Kerry Millard was asked to illustrate them! So, after studying zoology and being a vet, I’ve turned into a writer and an artist after all!