PASS IT ON · Writing

Meet the writer – Heather Gallagher

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

The illustrators’ interviews, once they have been featured in the ezine, are uploaded onto this 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….

Heather Gallagher

This interview first appeared in PASS IN ON on Tuesday 26th April 2016 – issue 582


When did you know that you were a writer?

From the time I was about 8.

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 in Grade 4 and I’d written a whacky story about being trapped in a lift with a group of people. At the time I used to keep all sorts of weird stuff in my pockets. So in my story – I was the star, of course – I was able to throw stones at the window (of course lifts have windows – that’s a thing, right?) and smash it. Everyone was able to safely get out and I saved the day. My teacher Mrs Cunningham read this story out to the class and it was a big moment for me – it was when I decided to become a writer.

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

My first book acceptance was in 2012. We’d just got back from a family holiday and I was checking my emails. I remember seeing the title of my manuscript Ferret on the Loose in the header and thinking ‘here we go, another rejection.’ It took me a few seconds to realise that the email actually said ‘we’d love to publish your story’. I started screaming and running around the house. My family thought there was something seriously wrong. I could barely speak – I was ecstatic!

What is your favourite genre to write? Why?

I love writing crazy animal stories particularly for the 8 to 12 year old market.

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

I began professionally writing as a journalist in the late 90s. But prior to that I’d written diaries, stories and poems. I wrote for the (now defunct) school magazines put out by Pearson Education. My first short story was published in Challenge magazine. Since then I have had a short story published in blackdog books Short & Scary anthology, Ferret (as mentioned above) and the picture book Happy Pants – Why is Mummy so sad? 

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

I have a soft-spot for Ferret because it had such a long genesis and was my first proper book. But I’m also loving The Great Ape Escape which is my current work-in-progress.

What is your favourite genre to read? Why?

I love middle grade novels because anything is possible.  That said, I also love reading YA because like the protagonists, I guess I’m still figuring out my place in the world.

Do you have a favourite author?

Road Dahl and currently, David Walliams. I also love Kate Di Camillo and Rebecca Stead.

Did/do you have any writing heroes or mentors?

Hazel Edwards mentored me during the Maurice Saxby mentorship. I have also received informal mentoring from some of the people I met through that mentorship, namely Helen Chamberlin and Kevin Burgemesetre. Claire Saxby and many members of the First Tuesday Book Group have also been very supportive and encouraging.

How do they encourage you?

Hazel gave me some great nuts and bolts advice on improving my picture book manuscripts. Helen and Kevin advised me during a tricky time with one of my manuscripts, just before it went to print. Claire is a great role model and has really encouraged me to persevere.

Do you write full time?


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

Happy Pants – Why is Mummy so sad? was a recommended title in the Australian Family Therapists literature awards.
In 2009, I was awarded a special judge’s prize in the FAW Nairda Lyn Short Story awards.

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

I am a member of Writers Victoria and the Australian Society of Authors. Mostly, they help me to feel ‘in the loop’ in terms of industry news and opportunities.

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

I did a large part of the Diploma of Screenwriting at RMIT which has helped a lot with structuring my work. It also helps me to ‘see in pictures’ which I think helps with picture book writing. I have also done lots of short courses with Writers Victoria, a particularly good one I did recently was on Pitching with Melanie Ostell.

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

The best way to contact me is by email at

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

Glue your bum to your desk chair and just write. Remember CRAP IS GOOD – everyone has to write something not-so-great before they can write something brilliant J

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

Also I have just started a Mother-Daughter blog with my teenager. You can find us at

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