Talk

Hamilton Telling Tales: Deborah Ellis started to write when she was 11

Award winning children's author takes the mystery out of writing at the Telling Tales Festival.
Award winning author Deborah Ellis likes the Telling Tales Festival because it gives kids a chance to meet an author and take the mystery out of writing. (Supplied)

Award-winning author, Deborah Ellis started writing at the age of 11. That is the age of some of the thousands who are attending the Telling Tales Festival.

"I think if kids haven’t met a living writer before, the writing process can seem very mysterious and out of reach."

Author of more than 20 books for young people, Ellis enthused the reality of people assembling to discuss books, stories, reading and sharing of each other’s lives, the beautiful areas and surroundings people live in.

"Once they meet people who have written books and share stories, they realize they too have the ability to do the same, and have all kinds of interesting things to say."

Amazed by the possibilities in books from a young age, Ellis was inspired to become a writer, travelling to talk to as many people as possible to document their situations. Her works are often set in developing countries and examine the power of courage and how choices in the present affects the future.

"Sometimes we can make the decision to act with courage and sometimes we can’t. How do we make that decision? How do we learn to become more courageous in our lives?"

Ellis speaks from rich travelling experience to places such as Afghanistan and India, where she meets with incredibly courageous children that have had extraordinarily awful things happen to them.

"Things that are not their fault," she emphasizes, "War, refugees, all kinds of situations have happened to them... but they get up every morning and they are kind to one another and they do good things in their community."

And she gets to write about them. Her book No Ordinary Day follows the journey of fictional character Valli as she grapples with the difficulties of life in the coal town of Jharia. Ellis holds nothing back when illustrating social injustice such as poverty, war, public development, racism, and disease in her stories.

"Any time people are suffering because of other people’s stupidity and ignorance, it’s absolutely unsettling. But children live in that world. We put children in unsettling danger, horrible situations all the time and I think that should be reflected in our literature."

And she wants this to be a learning experience for her targeted reader audience between the ages of 9 and 12. She hopes some day, her readers will grow up and remember the books they have read when they were younger and think about current issues critically.

"I think the more we understand as a human species, that we have much more in common than what sets us apart, it could only be a good thing down the life."

While Ellis affirms that going further afield means a wider variety of stories, she recommends youth open their eyes and years to the stories that directly affects them in their own neighbourhood as well.

"I really applaud the City of Hamilton and the Festival for figuring out ways to get as many people out to the festival as possible."

And that will be the case for all attending the Telling Tales Festival. Festival-goers can expect Deborah Ellis reading from the fourth book in The Breadwinner Series, My Name is Parvana. Talking about No Ordinary Day, the struggle against and coping with leprosy. Her love for books in general and her adventures from around the world.

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The Telling Tales Festival is a celebration of stories for all ages. Families, educators, aspiring writers and illustrators, established writers and illustrators, storytellers, musicians, literacy champions, history buffs and lovers of stories will be gathering at Westfield Heritage Village in Rockton on Sept. 16. Admission is free and gates open at 9:30am. For more information, please visit www.tellingtales.org.