A new writer’s journey … Sharon McGuinness

It’s my very great pleasure to welcome new writer, Sharon McGuinness to my blog. I say ‘new’ loosely, because Sharon has been involved with writing, reading and children’s literacy for many years. She’s also a well-loved teacher-librarian, with a website known as Mrs Mac’s Library Site

Welcome, Sharon, and congratulations on the release of your new book, Try. Tell us about how the idea for your book came about.

As a teacher-librarian in a primary school, I teach all the students from K-6. In my current school, that’s about 340 students, whose names I have to recall instantly! One of my roles is to foster an enjoyment of reading and this is one of my passions – I think it’s also how the seeds of Try! were first sown.

A few years ago when two of my students, Jack and Max were in Year 1, they would hound me every week for stories on rugby league. While there were rugby books for older primary students, there was nothing for the beginning chapter book reader. We had plenty of AFL and Rugby Union, but League was ignored.

My own life outside school was dominated by rugby league, as my son played for the local Thirroul Butchers’ team, his father was coach and three McGuinness nephews were league players. I also taught with the sister of former Roosters’  and International player, Craig Fitzgibbon. Craig told me his own story of being a ‘B’ grade junior player, who through his own determination and perseverance, developed into one of the best goal kickers in recent times. These influences went into the ‘cooking pot’ and Try! is the result. 

Where did you start submitting the story?

I submitted it to the NSW School Magazine, where it was accepted and published as a short story in June, 2010. I then reworked it as a longer chapter book and sent it off to publishers. While well received, its subject, rugby league was deemed not marketable on a national level, so a few months ago, I decided to go it alone, publishing it as an ebook, with Tom Jellet illustrating the book’s cover. Tom also did the original illustrations for the School Magazine.

Sharon, what other things influenced your writing?

I have always loved to write – whether it has been grant applications (in my former positions as a public librarian), letters to the editor or stories. My inspiration always comes from real life and this is certainly true of my first picture book ‘Coming Home’ to be published in October by Wombat Books.

My late husband suffered from clinical depression for most of his adult life and Coming Home is about a little girl trying to understand her father’s depressive illness. This was what my own two children were coping with and the story just came to me while I was on a train, coming home from visiting my husband. It had been a positive visit and one of hope  and so I scribbled the bones of the story on an envelope I had in my bag!

While there are very few picture books that have a mental illness as a theme, it was not the reason for its writing. I honed the story over a couple of years and secured an endorsement from the ‘Black Dog Institute’, which accompanied the manuscript on its journey to publishers.  Shannon Melville is the illustrator and we hope to release the book to coincide with Mental Health Week.

Sharon, you have another love besides writing. Tell us more….

Launching my writing during the National Year of Reading seems particularly satisfying to me as a teacher librarian. Libraries, reading and writing have dominated my life and while I’ve shared my passion for school libraries and teacher librarianship through my T-L site Mrs Mac’s Library Site, it’s the first time I’ve shared my narrative writing.

I wish you well on your new book’s journey, Sharon. And I’m always happy to support teacher-librarians. We need you all!

Viva school libraries!

Both the flipbook and ebook of Try!can be purchased from links on Mrs Mac’s Books site.

About Sharon’s chapter book, Try!  Jesse is a keen rugby league fan and is desperate to play with his local team. His Mum thinks he is too small, but Jesse is persistent. When Jesse turns up at his first training session, he realises he has another problem. Will he overcome it and be able to play?

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