Dive in and Meet the Weedy Seadragon with Anne Morgan
Travel under the sea into the realm of the weird and wonderful weedy seadragon. In The Way of the Weedy Seadragon, writer Anne Morgan introduces us to this intriguing fish that swims in the waters around Tasmania, and reveals its weird and wonderful ways.
Anne trained as a Biology, Drama and English teacher, and has taught in Tasmania, the Northern Territory and China. She is the author of a number of children’s books and a volume of poetry and, as we found out when we spoke to her, always looks for inspiration in the world around her. She told us all about how she found her way to her career as a children’s book author, and the message in this book that she hopes will inspire children.
What made you want to become a children’s book author?
As the big sister in a family of eight children, I shirked the daily grind of domestic duties, wanting to be left alone to read and have adventures like the characters I was reading about. At home in Hobart, there was one big-sisterly task I really enjoyed – that was putting my youngest brothers to bed and reading them stories.
I trained as a teacher, specialising in Drama, Biology and English. After a brief teaching career, I became a professional actor, then a public servant. When I had children of my own, I not only revelled in the opportunity to read to children again, I started writing books for them and for the child that still lives inside me. The Way of the Weedy Seadragon is my first non-fiction picture book. Writing non-fiction for children allows me to indulge my own curiosity about nature and to introduce children to some basic science concepts in an imaginative way.
Where do you find writing inspiration?
I divide my time between a small cottage on the slopes of kunanyi/Mt Wellington, and my partner’s farm at Adventure Bay, Bruny Island, and find endless sources of inspiration in both places. I am inspired by mountains and waterfalls, and by beach walks, especially when I spot dolphins, seals, shells and sea birds. I find inspiration in the tracks of people, birds, quolls and other animals on sand. I find inspiration in driftwood and other curiosities that wash up on beaches. I am inspired by conversations with children and adults, by poems, prose, films and plays, and by information I find on the internet. These inspirations do not usually come to me as fully formed stories. They’re more like the fragments in a mosaic. My job is to cobble those fragments together in a way that might one day become a complete and satisfying work of story art.
Your latest book is about the weedy seadragon. What inspired you to write about this fascinating fish?
Nearly twenty years ago I worked as an information and education officer for the National Oceans Office in Hobart. At that time my children, like me, were becoming interested in snorkelling. I took them to the Tinderbox Marine Reserve, which has a stunning underwater snorkelling trail. My kids saw the seadragon first. It was so well camouflaged in its weedy habitat that it took me some time to recognise it. When my daughter, Miranda, was in grade six, she did a project on seahorses and seadragrons. Together, we learned more about this amazing fish family, the sygnathidae. I then wrote a poem called ‘Weedy Seadance’. Years later I found a piece of driftwood that reminded me of a seadragon. Soon afterwards, I began to rework that poem and turn it into a picture book for children.
What do you hope children will take away from this book?
I want children to care about seadragons and the delicate, complex web of life that exists in the sea. The information at the back of The Way of the Weedy Seadragon explains that climate change is warming the oceans and making them more acidic. Kelp forests are an important part of the Weedy seadragons’ habitat, but the kelp is rapidly disappearing due to climate change. I hope that the more children know about the sea, its marvellous creatures and their habitats, the more they will be inspired to protect the sea’s natural environments into the future.
Do you have any tips for aspiring children’s book authors?
Learn the craft of writing children’s books. Understand that children’s book publishers are operating in a highly competitive financial market, and that high-quality children’s books cost many thousands of dollars to publish, market and distribute. When you submit a manuscript to a publisher, you are asking them to take an enormous financial risk on your behalf. Don’t be despondent, angry or frustrated if they reject your work – they receive a vast number of manuscripts and can only publish a select few. To improve your chances of publication, study the publishers’ websites and the books they produce. Can you come up with a topic that has not yet been covered by the publisher, but seems to fit with their list?
Invest in your training as a writer. Attend industry conferences, on or off-line. Some conferences allow you to purchase a critique from a publisher – this is a wonderful opportunity to receive face-to-face feedback. Get involved in a writers’ group and have your manuscript critiqued by experienced writers and/or by credentialed literary assessors. You don’t need to accept all the advice you receive, but it is good to know what your readers are thinking. Join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and avail yourself of their trove of resources. And, most of all, keep writing!
The Way of the Weedy Seadragon is written by Anne Morgan and illustrated by Lois Bury, and is available to purchase from our website and from all good bookstores. To discover more about Anne’s work check out her website.