Julie Murphy writes about animals in her work, because she loves them. As a shy child, she says she felt more comfortable around animals than people, but ironically, she grew up in Housing Commission flats in Melbourne, where she wasn’t allowed to have cats or dogs. She did have a pet budgie called Pierre. The featured image for this post shows her in one of her favourite places, Mallacoota, with her beautiful dog, Banjo.
‘I write about the natural environment because it’s an integral part of who we are. Being in natural spaces is calming and helps us feel connected – to ourselves and to our world.’
Julie writes picture books for the 4-8 age group and says that’s because this seems to be the age of her ‘inner child.’ She writes fiction, non-fiction and occasionally, poetry, saying she would feel boxed in writing in just one style.
‘I enjoy having fun with words. Writing picture book manuscripts using word play is the best.’
Five Things About Julie’s History
- I studied zoology at university, majoring in animal behaviour.
- I worked as a zookeeper for ten years, in departments including Mammals, Endangered species, Animal Care (the hospital) and Education – which is where school children come to learn about animals and the environment.
- I’m quite a homebody, and enjoy organic gardening, composting and maintaining a worm farm. There’s nothing like the taste of home grown veggies! I also love to visit local op shops in search of treasure.
- I am fortunate to have travelled to some amazing places as a young adult. I have watched safari animals drinking at a waterhole in Namibia, trekked in Nepal, camped by a Glacier in Argentina, slept under the stars in the world’s driest desert in Chile, saw a wild kea in New Zealand, and swam in the beautiful Ningaloo Reef off Western Australia.
- One of the ‘challenging tasks’ I carried out as a zookeeper was raising maggots, which was food for some of the animals.
Five Things About Julie’s Work
- My current work focuses on Australian old growth forests, because I believe they urgently need more attention and care. They are being chopped down at an alarming rate, for very little gain.
- My non-fiction picture books involve a huge amount of research. It sometimes takes many days to research something that may end up as one simple sentence in the finished book, if it appears at all!
- I hope my books will foster a love of both reading and nature in young readers. Reading opens up a world of information, education and entertainment. Reading helps you to learn information and to feel connected with the world. You need never feel alone with a book!
- I enjoy the challenge of conveying information in fun and interesting ways. I often find the hardest part about writing books, is working out the “hook” – that special thing that makes it different from other books on the same topic.
- Many of my books were published in the USA, because I entered publishing through work-for-hire projects, which were often for American publishers and packagers.
Five Things That Help Julie Keep Writing
- I want to see how the finished project turns out. The illustrator and publishing team (e.g. editor and designers) add so much to make the finished book the best it can be. A book is so much more than the sum of its parts!
- My critique group, who are so talented and knowledgeable.
- Daily walks with my dog are a relaxing time that seem to incubate new ideas and solutions to my writing problems.
- My file of picture book ideas waiting for my attention.
- Seeing the wonderful achievements and encouragement from the kidlit writing community, both on-line and in-person (e.g., at SCBWI meetings).
In the future, Julie hopes for invitations to speak at schools and conferences, and for more of her manuscripts to be published. She wants to see more worldwide conservation initiatives to save animals, their habitat and to tackle climate change. She hopes for solid support structures to be set in place for children as they negotiate the complex challenges of our world. Finally, but perhaps most importantly, she would love to see increased opportunities for all children to maintain their connection with nature.