Meet the writer – Cate Whittle

Every week I like to feature an Australian writer and illustrator in PASS IT ON.

Now with the illustrators, once they have been featured in the ezine, I upload their interview onto a blog.

The writers that I’ve interviewed don’t have a blog of their own so I thought I might upload their interviews here. I won’t be able to go back to the beginning but I hope to fill this space with interesting insights into some of our wonderful writers.

So here we go, please meet….


Cate Whittle

This interview first appeared in PASS IN ON on Monday 15th February 2016 – issue 573


When did you know that you were a writer?

Um… somebody gave me a pencil?

When did you first read your writing aloud or give it to someone to read and what was their reaction? How did it impact on you?

I was that precocious kid who insisted on boring my friends with stories I had written… think rainy days (there were a lot of rainy days) with a torch in a blanket cubby, or perched on a branch half way up a tree (on those not so rainy days)… I suspect they actually did like listening to them, though (they were often about us on Famous Five or Swallows and Amazons type adventures, and, eventually, visiting our own version of Narnia).

What and when was your first acceptance? How did you feel?

Do you mean the (dreadful, dark and dingy) poem in the local paper when I was 13?  Or the short story in Stephen Matthew’s Danger anthology?  Magazines?  All were fabulous, validating, and exciting, but my two most epic moments were when I received a call from Transworld in UK, which wasn’t exactly an acceptance but was a defining moment (one of my stories was shortlisted in a major competition – the Terry Pratchett First Novel Award, 2013), and when Omnibus rang to let me know they were going to publish Trouble.  Yay!

What is your favourite genre to write? Why?

I love the freedom that Fantasy affords to create a world and characters that step beyond the everyday.  Gosh, that sounds a bit dry, doesn’t it?  Actually, I love reading Fantasy, so writing it is natural.

How long have you been writing? And what have you written?

I took up the pen again (or recommissioned my keyboard) seriously about 15 years ago when our third child was born… I took what was supposed to be a year off teaching (but turned into a few more) and spent some time honing the craft and entering competitions. This led to publication of a few short stories in anthologies, which gave me the confidence to start submitting to the lovely, but now gone, Pearson magazines, where I had a few stories and articles see the light of day with Challenge, Comet and Explore – and got paid!  And then, eventually, my first very own book, Trouble at Home, found its way out into the wide, wide world… soon to be followed by three more books in the series.

Of your own work – do you have a favourite? Why is it your favourite?

Whatever I’m working on at the time is my favourite!

What is your favourite genre to read? Why?

Like most of family I grew up in, if there are written words in front of me, I will read them.  I like to read to escape, however, so I don’t like things to get too serious too often.  Thanks to reading CS Lewis’ Narnia books when I was about 8 or 9, however, I have been a confirmed Fantasy fan ever since.  I am still looking for the wardrobe.

I just like reading.

Do you have a favourite author?

I have lots of favourite authors… I can never decide!

Did/do you have any writing heroes or mentors?

I have to thank the lovely Aleesah Darlison for the encouragement she gave me as we walked back from lunch to the ACT Writers Centre, that cold and windy winter day, that led to Omnibus accepting the first four books of what has become the Trouble series.  And I have learned a lot from Kate Forsyth, too.

I don’t think they know they are my mentors, though…  I try not to stalk them.

Do you mentor others? What do you do?

I tentatively put my toe in the water and delivered a presentation at the Australian Writers Centre last year… does that count?

Do you write full time?

I wish!

What are your other jobs?

Teacher, Mum, Other Half, General Help and Bottle Wash…

Have you ever won an award/s or been shortlisted? What was it for?

I have a goodly list of competitions that I’ve either won or been placed in for writing short stories… Shadows of Annwn is my only full length novel to reach the heights, but, despite Sir Terry loving it, it still lies in wait for the right publisher (I’m actually rewriting it at the moment… tightening up the plot care of some great advice from Kate Forsyth, and renamed as Shades of Winter to avoid the difficult to pronounce Welsh word)!

Do you belong to any professional organisations? What are they and how do they help you?

I’m a member of the ACT Writers Centre, where I attend workshops and conferences to learn new skills and meet other writers, and I joined the ACT branch of SCWBI to be part of a group of like-minded people.   I’m also a member of the ASA, which keeps me up to date with the writing world in Australia, and I’m an author member of the ACT CBCA, which is a lot of fun, too!

Do you participate in writing workshops as a student? Which ones were memorable?

Gosh, yes.  I always feel that there is a lot to learn.  Memorable?  So many to choose from.  I think my biggest ‘aha’ moment, recently, came from Kate Forsyth’s  Building Castles in the Air workshop… and now I desperately want to head over to the Cotswolds with her to keep on learning.  Not just because I love that part of the world.

Do you run writing workshops? What do you include?

I’m still on my L plates, but last year I ran Characters that Count at the ACT Writers Centre.  It received some great feedback so I’ve also devised a number of other workshops, but they are still in development at the moment: one on descriptive writing, one on different styles of plotting and planning, and one on world building.  Other than that, I have done a couple of workshops over the years as part of Children’s Book Week, and last year I was part of a great panel with other CBCA author members… best fun!  Oh, and I ran a Creative Writing Club at my school which was amazing fun, too.

How might you be contacted in relation to running workshops or for school visits?

At the moment the best way to contact me is via email at cate@catewhittlewrites.com .

We all know that would be writers should read and write as much as possible – do you have any other advice?

Just do it!  And, to quote the song from Bridge to Terabithia, keep your mind wide open.  Read Stephen King’s On Writing.  Find other like minded people: join writer’s groups, get a tribe, read PIO!

How might people find you? Website, Blog, Facebook etc.

I’ve got two websites:

www.catewhittlewrites.com which is mostly for other writers and has my blog attached,

then there is Trouble is Coming at www.catewhittlewrites2.com which at the moment is just a launch page for Trouble at Home, but is more for my young readers and will grow as Trouble grows.

and I have both a facebook page https://www.facebook.com/AuthorCateWhittle, and a twitter account (that I will learn to use one day!) at @CateWhittle

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