28 October 2022

Son Aiden provides inspiration as Griffith preschool teacher publishes first children's book

| Oliver Jacques
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Aiden holds Tamara Floriani's book

Tamara Floriani with her inspirational son Aiden. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

Griffith preschool teacher Tamara Floriani has bounced back from tragedy to realise a lifelong dream of having her own children’s book published.

Her first work, The Lazy Lizard, which is about a reptile’s quest for survival during a bushfire, was released by Little Steps Publishing on 7 October and will soon be available for purchase at Collins Booksellers, after the first run of copies quickly sold out.

The publication represents a life transformation for Ms Floriani, who lost her husband and father of her children, Steven, just before Mother’s Day in 2016.

Back then, she struggled to drag herself out of bed, but for her then seven-year-old son Aiden.

“He used to sit me up, he would wipe my tears away and and say, ‘Get up’,” Ms Floriani said.

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Aiden is on the Autism spectrum. He’s highly intelligent but can struggle to communicate verbally. Now, mum has been able to give back to son.

“I wanted to show my children that they can do something with their lives. I wanted Aiden and my girls to see that goals can happen, it’s something I always talked about … Aiden was an inspiration behind me becoming an author. In the future if I’ve written a few books I’d could make sure Aiden can have a future when he’s older, to make sure he’s safe, that he has his own home and things like that,” she said.

Success for Ms Floriani, at 40, has come after a long journey.

“I’ve always wanted to be a children’s author, since I was young. I made an attempt thirteen years ago and my script was turned down. So I left it, my husband supported me but my life got too busy with kids and running a family business. Then, I went back to work as a preschool teacher and just after lunchtime I would sometimes come up with an improvised story for the children.”

Tamara and Aiden outside bookstore

Collins booksellers sold out of her first run. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

When the bushfires were ravaging parts of Australia during the summer 2019-20, Ms Floriani devised a story about a sunbaking lizard who gets caught in heavy smoke. Facing death, he’s helped by a koala and sheltered by a wombat.

“I emailed the story to a publisher and they got back to me quickly and said, ‘Yes’. I was absolutely over the moon. I didn’t realise at the time but I later found out the person who called me back was the same person who turned me down 13 years ago.”

Little Steps Publishing is a well-known brand that has released work by established children’s book authors such as Terri Rose Baynton and Laura Bridekirk.

“I could not be prouder,” Tamara’s sister Belinda Hayllar said. “We’ve always enjoyed writing but I never thought she’d be able to take it as far as she did.”

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Ms Floriani is doing readings of her book at various schools and early childhood facilities. She has also started work on a sequel, which focuses more on the koala who helped the lizard.

The teacher has advice for others who dream of being published.

“Don’t give up. Keep trying. If you’re turned down, try another angle.”

Ms Floriani’s book is dedicated to her children Reanna, Aiden, Natalia and Maleah, as well as the volunteers who took care of injured wildlife during the 2019-20 bushfires.

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