I was born in Masterton, New Zealand, in 1957 and have five children and eight grand-children who continue to be an inspiration to my writing. I spent last year in Wellington to finish my study(love that city!),a Masters degree in Creative Writing through Massey University. Now I’m living in the beautiful Central Otago. Before university I studied music performance and was a drummer in a woman’s rock band, Red Dress.
Winning the Highlights Fiction Award in America gave me the opportunity to travel to Russia and England, staying with writers and publishers for children, and a scholarship took me to New York State to study children’s writing.
I began my working life as a cub reporter on the Hawera Star and went on to become a lab technician, vet nurse, apple picker, musician, creative writing tutor – any job that could fit round bringing up children, writing and studying. Children and grandchildren are still a precious part of my life. I get to travel more now – teaching writing in New Zealand and for the Highlights Foundation in America. And I write in the tussock and mountain landscape of my new home town.
Jillian’s advice to young writers:
First, just do it! When I was a young mother and writing my first novel, I only had one afternoon a fortnight by myself, so I’d lock the door and take the phone off the hook. It took four years to write that book. I didn’t know how to write a book when I started so I learnt by doing it and reading good books other people had written. Then I took courses with other writers. I’m still studying now.
The next biggest thing I’d say is, never give up. Keep writing and keep learning and believe in yourself .”