By Melissa Grant
North Warrandyte mum Penny Harrison always loved picture books, but it wasn’t until her second child was born that she thought she should actually write one.
Although Penny never had any real inclination to write creatively, she found herself enrolling in an online course with the Australian Writers’ Centre when her daughter, Olive, was about six weeks old.
“I was crazy – I think I might have been hormonal,” she said. “She wasn’t a great sleeper, so I’d sit up thinking up ideas.
“I’ve always loved picture books and I started buying them all again for her and kind of rekindled that love and I thought ‘oh, I’d really love to have a go at this’.”
Penny, who started her writing career as a local newspaper journalist, has had two children’s books published and another due for release later this year.
Her latest title to hit book shelves, The Art Garden, is inspired by the stunning gardens at the Heide Museum of Modern Art in Bulleen.
The gardens were planted by the late Sunday and John Reed, who supported many renowned Australian artists.
“It’s kind of my favourite spot, so it just got me thinking about gardening as a form of art,” Penny said.
The Art Garden, illustrated by Penelope Pratley, is about a girl who wants to be a painter but makes a big mess whenever she picks up a paintbrush. But one day she makes a big discovery about herself and her creativity while looking at things from another perspective.
“I guess Art Garden is a little autobiographical in that I always wanted to paint but I never really had the patience or inclination to learn and stick with it,” Penny explains.
You’ll also often find Penny in the garden, between writing and caring for Olive, now five, and son Finlay, 13.
Gardening is also the theme of her next book, Emily Green’s Garden. Penny is plotting some more titles but is no longer sitting up half the night thinking up ideas.
“My little girl has just started Prep, so I’ll have a bit more time to write,” she said.