Interview: Carly Waddleton and the crazy dreams of a bird with no wings

Dreams of a Moa is a fun new picture book by debut author Carly Waddleton, illustrated by Megan Salole. Missbeecrafty asked Carly about her inspiration and what she hopes her readers will take away from this improbable story.

Missbeecrafty: This is your first book, isn’t it? Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Carly Waddleton: Yes this is my first book. Ever since I was little I would weave these strange and curious stories and read them out to my family. But it hasn’t been until the last few years that I’ve really started putting time aside to hone my craft and actually pursue becoming a published author.

MBC: I believe you’ve had many poems published over the years. In what ways was writing a picture book different--or the same—as writing poetry?

CW: I actually find there are a lot of similarities between poetry and children’s books, with both you have to find a rhythm to dance or bounce the reader through the story. Also, you need to be meticulous about your word choice and positioning, one wrong comma can crash a sentence or ruin an image that you have been building.

What prompted this fantastical story about moa?

It was actually triggered by my sons. When they were little they were fascinated by the moa. We always went to the Canterbury Museum and they would ask so many questions about it, that I would make up wild stories about what it was up to. We also liked to pretend that there might be one out in the bush somewhere still, which delighted them!

The ridiculous idea of ballet dancing moa really tickled my fancy! How did you come up with all the crazy things the moa did?

I’m glad you liked it, that is one of my favourites in the story too. To be honest, I had the image of a Moa trying to squeeze its giant feet into some ballerina shoes, and it just took off from there.

Can you tell us about any crazy, implausible dreams that you had as a kid? Or even as an adult?

For me, I was all about building a time machine – I desperately wanted to jump back in time and see what was going on, or skip forward to see where things end up. I haven’t got round to building one, it’s still on the to do list.

The fact page you included was really interesting! I didn’t know that moa were vegetarian. Was there anything that you were particularly surprised or interested to learn about moa?

I think it's crazy to know that they could be as old as 50!

Before working with the Canterbury Museum Natural History Curator, did you know much about moa?

I only knew what we had learnt and the museum! It’s such an awesome creature to learn about.

How closely did you work with Megan Salole on the illustrations? I noticed that the boy in the story has a prosthetic leg, but this isn’t mentioned in the text. Was that something you specifically wanted conveyed through the illustrations?

I worked really closely with Megan, and yes this was something I wanted to include. For me, its really important that boy conveys that you should always follow your dreams, no matter what challenges you have. Like the moa, a bird without wings – but that doesn’t stop it from going after its dreams!

What was it like seeing your story come alive through Megan’s illustrations?

It’s been really fun seeing my moa dancing and sailing through the pages.

Do you have any favourite children’s illustrators or authors?

I was a huge Jacqueline Wilson fan when I was younger…I felt like Tracey Beaker and I could have been friends. I also really love Peter Brown's The Wild Robot – it is magical.

What’s on your reading list right now?

I just finished Lessons in Chemistry, and before that I couldn’t put down Where the Crawdads Sing. Right now I’m actually re-reading an absolute favourite of mine – Wuthering Heights. There is something comforting returning to these old classics – especially Heathcliff in the winter months, it’s like you’re sitting alongside them.

Do you have any plans for more books?

I absolutely do! I have just finished a middle grade novel called Outside the Cage and I have another children’s book in production called I am Mammal.

Dreams of a Moa, written by Carly Waddleton and illustrated by Megan Salole $25 RRP (Little Love) is out now.

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