13 October 2023

Meet Jackie Merchant: The author bringing country life to children's literature

| Shri Gayathirie Rajen
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Jackie Merchant

Jackie Merchant will be at Junee and Cootamundra libraries next week for an author talk. Photo: Supplied.

Australian children’s author Jackie Merchant hopes her young country readers will reflect on their world and experiences when reading her stories.

Ms Merchant has published three young reader novels: The Pony Question, The Promise Horse and The Homecoming Horse.

The author is set to tour Riverina libraries where she will speak about her horses and the horses that inspired those in her books, and where she finds her inspiration.

Jackie said she had been “horse mad” since “day dot”, and according to her parents, she had been obsessed before she even had the language skills to articulate her passion.

Jackie’s book The Promise Horse. Photo: Supplied.

“My parents tell stories of having to distract me when I was in my booster seat, so I wouldn’t lose my lolly any time we passed horses in the car,” Jackie said.

“We weren’t a horsey family. Nobody in my family had horses, but when I was about 10, my parents bought a block of land that had previously been an old riding school.

“It had rundown stables and barns, and that was when I got my first horse.”

Jackie had noticed many of the horse-themed books read by Australian children were American. She wanted the kids to read about Australian birds, wildlife, and cattle and recognise the landscape and the language in her books.

Jackie combined her interest in writing and passion for horses when she was in her 40s and wrote her first draft during a brief stint between jobs.

Jackie’s book The Pony Question. Photo: Supplied.

While doing some marketing work for an author friend, she had to give a presentation to a literary agent, and through that serendipitous introduction, she got her first book contract.

“Some greater power was looking after me,” Jackie said. “Certainly, things haven’t always lined up like that in my life, but this time they did.”

Horses are a vital part of Jackie’s imaginative life. She finds their groundedness fuels her creativity.

Jackie wants young writers to know they can write about anything they are experiencing in their lives, and her advice to budding authors is to “just start” writing.

“Whatever they’re doing in their life, no matter how ordinary it seems, it’s remarkable enough to be in a book. You can write a book about anything that interests you,” she said.

Jackie’s book The Homecoming Horse. Photo: Supplied.

“You just have to start … keep going and make space for it because there will never be a time when you can just sit down and start and finish.

“I wrote my first draft before I started my job, but then I would get up and write from 4 am to 6 am, and then I’d do my horses, and then I’d go to work.”

Jackie will be at Junee Library on Wednesday 18 October, at 1:30 pm and at Cootamundra Library on Friday 20 October, at 3:35 pm. Both events are free of charge.

To find out more, visit Regional Riverina Library or contact your local branch.

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