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Meet the Writer – John Tyrrell

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….

John Tyrrell

This interview first appeared in PASS IN ON on Monday 2nd May 2016 – issue 583


When did you know that you were a writer?
I had always harboured a desire to write and to be creative. I had my share of Corinella triumphs and I was quite successful at competitions in my youth (“In 25 words, describe why you’d like to win this bicycle trip to the Moon” etc). My early career was in advertising/PR admin but included copywriting for ads, brochures and drafting news releases. When I took a golden handshake at the age of 40, I figured ‘This is it, writing’s my new career!’ Oh, so naïve. Becoming a famous writer actually took real work and tenacity. I realised I had some publish-ability when the Melbourne Age accepted one of my features – 1000 words, mind you– and they wanted more of a series! I figured I’d made the big time – until my sympathetic editor moved on and there was a change of direction.

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 once wrote a whimsical article about “Shrink-wrapped Newspapers” and after I got no takers I rewrote it as a monologue. The piece was performed at a theatrical performance by an up-and-coming actor. I sat in my seat feeling uplifted that my words were floating around the audience as the performer brought them to life.

What is your favourite genre to write? Why?
Like a lot of writers, I’ve tried to be a generalist (‘Being versatile’ is the phrase for it!). When I undertook the Diploma of PWR, I enjoyed the challenge of having a go at all the genres. I’ve written for corporate and community applications, but I most enjoy children’s writing, in particular middle grade and picture books, and that is my focus.

How long have you been writing? And what have you written?
I’ve been at it for seventy nine and a half years which is hard to believe when you look at my photo. I believe that slow learners can get the cherries and I have enjoyed dabbling at a few things. I’ve had articles and puzzles published here and in the US. One of my picture book ideas was adapted for a web application (bragging rights but no $). Some years ago I wrote and edited a monthly children’s page for a local suburban magazine During 2014, I created ‘Jubilee Gems’, a series of community bulletins focussing on the works and deeds and triumphs of the people and their activities at a church parish.

Of your own work – do you have a favourite? Why is it your favourite?
Recently, I developed a non-fiction concept for School Magazine exploring people’s occupations. Two of these “Day in the life…” interview features have been accepted for Orbit – the most recent to appear soon. I have another two coagulating in the pipeline.

What is your favourite genre to read? Why?
I have a fascination for kids’ books. (I’m not sure if it’s because the fines are cheaper but the local librarian has given me an express queue.) I’m staunchly attracted to the quirky side of life and the humour associated with children’s material. I feel that I’ve come to a point in my life where I can get away with being juvenile.

Do you have a favourite author?
I often say that when I grow up I want to be Morris Gleitzman. I admire the amazing spell Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton have put on us all and their immense following, and I enjoy Wimpy Kid’s Jeff Kinney and the Timmy Failure books by Stephan Pastis.

Did/do you have any writing heroes or mentors?
In a world where rejections go unexplained, early on I was on the receiving end of acts of heroism (encouragement) from Doug McLeod and Sally Rippin, whose letters spurred me on. Also, as writers we rely on constructive feedback. I am part of a wonderful writing group in Blackburn which has met once a month for many years and, last year, when SCBWI promoted its On-line critique groups, I joined a JF and a PB group. All these groups have wonderfully creative, inspiring people who provide valuable, honest insight to one another’s work.

Do you write full time?
I get to write more having left full-time work, but having more time is a trap without the discipline. We always say: If I had more time I could write heaps. It’s a fallacy. It’s easy to fiddle around with emails, file renaming and googling (research, of course) but there’s no substitute for hitting the keyboard and churning out new words.

What are your other jobs?
My background is in adult learning and career development, which is a stretch from children’s writing! I conduct training and facilitation and short courses for a variety of organisations, including a Presentation and Public Speaking Skills course for Holmesglen TAFE. I also pretend to do communications consulting but don’t tell my clients that.

Have you ever won an award/s or been shortlisted? What was it for?
Apart from the Corinella certificates and a super-looking bear stamp in Grade three, I did win a nice set of drinking glasses in an ASA member competition last year.

Do you belong to any professional organisations? 
I am a member of SCBWI, ASA and Writers Victoria.

How might you be contacted in relation to running workshops or for school visits?
I’ve been dilly-dallying over a website/blog but am probably suffering information overload. I can be found on LinkedIn and Facebook and I have a Twitter handle somewhere. Cash advances and autograph requests can be submitted to my email address 🙂

We all know that would be writers should read and write as much as possible – do you have any other advice?
I think perseverance is a key. It’s too easy to give up after a few – or even a lot of – disappointments, but the literary world is littered with famous and successful writers who have wall-papered their rooms with rejection slips. Taking feedback on board, having belief and a practical optimism about succeeding are also deliriously important qualities.


Just quickly - I'm a children's author and poet. I'm an editor of rhyme and meter and I'm the owner of PASS IT ON - the Australian children's book industry ezine since 2004

2 thoughts on “Meet the Writer – John Tyrrell

  1. I missed this interview with John when it first appeared. Thanks for including the link in the latest Pass It On, Jackie. It’s nice to ‘hear’ John’s voice and humour once more time.

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