Monday, March 27, 2006

Guest Author - Maggie Lilleby on writing, travelling and cycling


Maggie is a children’s writer. She lives in Nelson New Zealand.
It’s often said that as kids, writers were always scribbling.
I certainly was. I didn’t keep any of the old stories, poems, songs, and plays I wrote – I wish I had, they’d have been funny and probably embarrassingly awful to read now.
I was always a great reader, too, my favourites being the Greek, Roman, and Norse mythologies, and the stories of King Arthur, Merlin, and the Knights of the Round Table. Mary Stewart’s Merlin quartet (The Crystal Cave, etc) still rank among my favourite books.
Although I’ve written adult short fiction and many non-fiction articles on travel, health and fitness, and cycling, I’ve focussed mainly on writing for children.
My first children’s book was published in 2002, a sporting novel about cycle racing.
I found it relatively easy to write as I’d long been a fanatical cyclist and had raced myself on road, track, and mountain bike. I represented New Zealand at the Oceania Games in 1986 – not a particularly successful exercise as I crashed after a few kilometres.
I enjoyed writing the book as I put a lot of my own knowledge, enthusiasm for the sport, and experiences into it. Currently I’m working on ideas for another children’s novel.
Much as I enjoyed cycle-racing, cycle-touring was always my first passion, especially in France. I have visited five times. France is an amazingly beautiful country, perfect for cycling – some fabulous countryside, and I love the medieval villages, castles, and churches, and of course the food and wine! And everyone is either a cyclist or a cycling fan.
Unfortunately, I don’t do as much cycling now, but I still love the sport. And I’m never happier than when I am whizzing around on my bike!
One of the highlights of my year is watching the Tour de France on video. I actually followed a couple of stages of the Tour in the Pyrenees several years ago – totally blew me away. As far as I’m concerned, those guys are super-heroes!
I also write a lot of children’s non-fiction, mostly for the New Zealand School Journal and other educational publishers, including the US/Canada market. I’ve learned an awful lot about such diverse topics as orienteering, sea-kayaking, belly-dancing, kite-boarding, mountaineering, tsunamis, the Bermuda Triangle, and extinct and endangered species.
Writing for and about kids is fun – you get to share in their enthusiasm, imagination, creativity, and energy.
Maybe I’m just a big kid at heart!
photo: Robert Dunn - 'The Remarkables', nr Queenstown, NZ (2005)

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