After leaving university, Paul worked as a teacher of disabled and socially deprived children for six years and then as a speech pathologist for four years. Following this he became a lecturer in special education and then Senior Lecturer in Language and Literature at the Warrnambool Institute of Advanced Education.
In 1989 he moved, with his second wife Claire and family to Melbourne and became a full-time writer. His writing has a distinctive style. It is fast moving, highly improbable, humorous and strongly plotted, and has very modern characters.
Paul had wanted to write since childhood as a result of happy escapism into the world of books. However, after the rejection of one of his stories which he submitted to Women’s Weekly at the age of 16, Paul shelved his ambitions until his late thirties, when his first book Unreal! was published in Australia in 1985. Since then, Jennings has not looked back and has published a novel, The Gizmo, and several other collections of short stories such as Uncovered!, Unbelievable! and Quirky Tails on which the Australian TV series, “Round the Twist,” is based.
Paul Jennings is particularly concerned with making reading interesting and fun for children instead of a chore. Apart from writing, Jennings spends a considerable amount of time and energy visiting schools and speaking at conferences and seminars, particularly on the subject of encouraging children to read.
Paul Jennings is Australia’s biggest-selling author, having sold 2.35 million books across 19 titles in Australia alone. In 1992 he received the Golden Puffin Award for being one of Australia’s largest-selling authors.
“Many people ask me, ‘What’s it like to be a writer, Paul Jennings?’ Well, it’s a great life. I don’t think I would want to do anything else. I get an enormous amount of mail from all over the world. I always think how lucky I am that people like my stories so much that they take the time to let me know. That’s really great.
“When I’m not writing, one of my favourite pastimes is classic cars. My friend Keith and I love taking part in events with classic cars and spend as much time as we can working on our cars at weekends. We meet some great people through the classic car clubs. Now Claire has become interested in hill climbs and races too — she drives her red Triumph TR6 at some of the events. It’s a fantastic hobby and a big contrast to being inside all day at my desk.
“I was born in England on 30 April 1943 — it was still wartime. We lived in a place called Heston, near London. I can remember that there was an airport over the road. When I was six I left England, with my parents and my little sister Ruth, to come and live in Australia. That was in 1949. In those days, people came to Australia by boat. The one we came on was called the Ranchi. We sailed for five weeks before arriving in Melbourne. I went to Bentleigh West Primary School — I can still remember my favourite teacher. He was Mr. Wheeler and when I put a nice teacher in my books I always think of him. I had a good childhood — I can remember all the good parts, like the holidays and my mother’s bread and butter pudding, very clearly. I can also remember all the fears and feelings of childhood that aren’t so good. Feeling very small and powerless. The guilt and the embarrassment. The monster that I was quite sure lurked in the shadows. These are the things that I write about in my stories and which make some children ask ‘How do you know what it’s like to be me?’ It’s because I haven’t forgotten those feelings — and nearly all children, even the bullies, have feelings like these.
“When I left school I decided to be a teacher and went to Frankston Teachers College. I taught for a while at Frankston State School and Kangaroo Flat State School. Then I taught at the Turana Youth Training Centre and the Royal Children’s Hospital State School in Mount Eliza. I went back to study at the Lincoln Institute and became a speech pathologist, then I worked as a Lecturer in Special Education at Burwood State College. I moved to the Warrnambool Institute of Adult Education in 1979, and worked as a Senior Lecturer in Language and Literature. I stayed there until 1989 when I decided to write full time.
“Unreal! was published in 1985. Most writers have to write in their spare time until they know if they can make a living from writing. So for four years I worked as a lecturer and wrote part time.
“Claire was a consultant and lecturer in language and literacy. She knows a great deal about books and stories and is always one of the first people to read my stories and tell me if they are any good.
“The other members of the family, who are all grown up and no longer live at home, are Tracy, Linda, Andrew, Sally, Bronson and Gemma. Tracy is a youth worker. Lyndu has three children, Anthony, Sarah and Jamie. Sally has two boys, Kyle and Sage, and Andrew has a little boy also called Andrew, another son called Jermaine and a daughter called Kayle. Bronson works in the hospitality industry — I named Bronson in “Round the Twist” after him. Gemma is a beautician and a spectacular dancer.”
copyright © 2000 by Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers. All rights reserved.
PLACE AND DATE OF BIRTH:
Middlesex, England; 30 April 1943
The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R.Tolkien
MOST TREASURED POSSESSION:
My TVR Griffith sports car
‘Danny Boy’, ‘Send in the Clowns’, ‘Imagine’
Shane, The Yearling (the version with Gregory Peck). These are both stories about boys trying to understand the adult world.
When did you start writing?I have enjoyed writing ever since my school days. One of my early attempts to get published was sending a story in to the Women’s Weekly when I was sixteen. They rejected the story and I was so upset by this that I didn’t write again until I was thirty-nine. This time I wanted to write stories that would make reading interesting for children; Penguin liked my work and published Unreal! in 1985. I wish I hadn’t waited so long.
Where do you get your ideas?This is the question which I am asked the most. The truth is that ideas come from everywhere. Everyone has plenty of raw material in their lives to draw on and a lot of mystories are based on my own experiences or those of people around me. Other sources areemotions (such as embarrassment or fear) or things that I would like to happen (such as being able to fly). Thinking of ideas is always the hardest part of the writing process but it’s also the most important. Once a girl told me that her tongue stuck to the freezing compartment on the refrigerator. I got a story called Ice Maiden from that idea.
Can you give your top three tips to becoming a successful author?1. Perseverance. If you don’t succeed at first, keep trying. This also applies to the writing process – writing can be a lonely and difficult occupation but you have to persist with it.2. Read. To become a writer it’s necessary to read constantly and widely.3. Don’t think that nothing interesting happens to you. It does. Value your own feelings and experiences.
Favourite memory?Going skiing with my wife and all six of my kids. We had such a lot of fun. Now they aregrown up it’s hard to get all of the family together and I miss it.
Favourite place in the world and why?The Great Ocean Road in Victoria, Australia. The cliffs and the pounding ocean here are just incredible. It is wild and beautiful and romantic. There are whales and wonderful wild spots. And a road which in the summer, in a sports car with the top down, is just magic.
What are your hobbies?Racing historic cars (I love English cars – MGs, Rileys, Jaguars and TVRs); parties andbeing with friends and family – a lot of my friends like Irish music so we like to get together to have a sing-along.
If you hadn’t been a writer, what do you think you would have been?A musician if I had the talent, or else an actor.