Each month we shine our spotlight on a member of the NSW Writers’ Centre community to learn more about their writing journey, achievements and inspirations. This April, our Spotlight On features Catherine Pelosi, author of Quark’s Academy, an adventure story about science and inventions aimed at young readers.
Catherine has an exciting year ahead, with her debut picture book, Something for Fleur, being published later in 2018. She is also currently at work on her junior fiction book, Meet the Maniacs, to be published by Hachette in 2019.
Our Membership Intern, Lucie Towers, spoke to Catherine about her upcoming projects, passion for science and the power of storytelling for children.
You recently launched your first middle-grade book, Quark’s Academy, with Hachette Books. Congratulations! How did you celebrate?
Thank you! I had a launch at the Lindfield Learning Hub with family, friends and many young readers. There were cupcakes, bubbles and a science show – the perfect combination.
Quark’s Academy is about fifteen young inventors who are accepted to spend a week at a mysterious science camp. The story follows three of the students, Augustine, Oscar and Celeste. During the week, while trying to create their inventions, the three inventors also uncover a dark secret and quickly realise they we will need to band together if they are to get out of their alive.
What was the inspiration behind the secretive summer camp of Quark’s Academy?
I signed up to do an astronomy course at the Sydney Observatory. It was a fantastic course and I had a brilliant teacher who taught us about the universe, but we also spoke about the ‘what ifs’ of space. It got me thinking about science and the role of imagination. I love the idea of using logic and creativity to invent. I began to wonder what it would be like to like to go to a place where you could bend the rules, think big and create never seen before inventions.
If you could invent any kind of fantastic madcap scientific contraption, what would it be?
One of the young inventors at Quark’s Academy, Celeste, is trying to create a time machine. That interests me most. I loved the ‘Back to the Future’ movies growing up, so I’m sure that’s played a part! I would love to go far into the future to see what life is like. I’m so curious to see what has changed – and how. Will there be flying cars? Will we will still have jobs? Will chocolate still be available? Do we still have pets? I have so many questions!
Is there a secret to getting children interested in science?
I’ve always found science fascinating. It was never my best subject at school, but it never deterred me from trying to learn more. I think the key is to make it fun and accessible. All the science in Quark’s Academy is based on real principals and theories but there’s also a lot of fantastical and inventive science. I think this adds another layer of fun and encourages young people to think outside of the box and use their imagination.
Could you tell us about your upcoming picture book Something For Fleur?
Fleur the flamingo is having a birthday and her friend Bo the hippo is sending her a present. Bo sends Fleur clues to guess what the present is. It follows Fleur trying to guess the present and she has a very wild imagination!
Does your writing process differ when writing for different age groups (i.e. picture books vs middle grade)?
Great question. Actually, not really. I come up with an idea then I think about it for a long time before I start writing. I do this to make sure the idea ‘sticks’. I start writing, then put it away, come back to it, and keep writing until it’s finished. There are lots of rounds of editing as well.
Do you have a regular writing routine? If so, what does it involve?
I try to write whenever I can. I’m rarely without my laptop (I have a big handbag!). I like to write in cafes (and drink a lot of tea). I suppose I don’t have a regular routine as such! It’s more whenever I can fit it in. If I’m working on a new story I’m usually excited so may spend large blocks of time writing.
Any words of advice for aspiring middle grade authors?
Write what excites you. Forget trends or ‘what’s hot’. Writing what you love will motivate you to finish it. It’s a big commitment to write a book, so you want to make sure you’re enjoying what you’re doing.
In your opinion, what is the most inspiring: science, writing, music, location or the weather?
I’m going to go with the weather. Like one of the characters in Quark’s Academy, Augustine, I think weather is truly amazing. We never know what it’s going to deliver. It can affect our mood and the way we live. It can be frightening, amazing, surprising and even encouraging.
I think that’s pretty inspiring.