|Marguerite Hann Syme writes . . .
The trouble with my writing, I’m told, is that it frustrates the publishers in terms of marketing to particular age groups. Chickpea and Velvet ARE junior novels, though adults enjoy them. Centred around an Iranian family who escaped the Ayatollah regime, they touch on cultural difficulties while focussing on the children and their over-loved pets. Bushfire appeared from nowhere and contains beautifully evocative illustrations by David Cox—but it’s not a ‘kiddiwink’ book. More difficult are Burnt Out and The Wombat Chronicles. My penchant for all ages to enjoy the read causes the publisher anxiety—who to target? Everyone. Of course.
A significant slice of my life is recorded in Burnt Out, which relates my family’s experience of the 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires. The story doesn’t go beyond two weeks after the event because in real life it all got too mucky and awful.
Later the same year I sat for the university entrance exam three weeks before birthing my third child. In 1990, my father died just as I was on the final edit of the (BA) Honours thesis. Thus endeth a seven-year slice of mayhem and madness!
My writing life began at the South Australian Writers’ Centre. Inspired by numerous workshops I practised many genres—I had adult short stories published, a radio play broadcast on ABC Radio National and a stage play performed by a disabilities theatre group.
My favourite to date is The Wombat Chronicles. Too hard for me (or the publisher, which is confronting) to describe easily, it can be said the stories are really us but I’ve made us wombats because they’re the yummiest creatures in Oz. They try and fail, they love and get nowhere, they dance, conduct meetings and wear yellow hardhats for the earthmoving business.
Being a full-time author means being ‘true to my paws’ (The Wombat Chronicles). Rather than write of the forces of good and evil, I find gentle tales of human ordinariness more compelling—ones that encourage pursuing dreams, seeing humour in the struggle of simply living, and above all, valuing compassion and tolerance.