Monica Lizama was born in Chile, and writes children’s books from a dog’s point of view. She has a degree in Primary Education from Universidad de Chile, where she worked until she came to live in Sydney with her four children. She also has a Graduate Certificate in Writing from University of Technology, Sydney.
She has attended courses at the NSW Writers’ Centre. She is an active member of the Women’ Network and Blotch The Dog is the result of this journey. Currently Lizama is writing Blotch three of a series of five.
Which children’s book made the biggest impression on you and why?
Millions of books! Writers like Tom Sawyer, Roald Dahl, Oscar Wilde, Louise May Alcott, L M Montgomery, Mark Haddon. But thinking and thinking … The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. I found a copy under my grandfather’s desk, when I was six — just learning to read. I loved it then. I love it now. I think that I connect with the simplicity of writing since then.
What was the turning point of in your writing career? How did you get your first big break?
I started writing poems at age eight; plays at 12; short stories at 16; novels at 41. Yes, just by the time motherhood gave me a break. After on, I went back to uni and wrote Blotch!
It won the 2008 Fiction Openbook Prize.
The adventures of Blotch are now read by lots of people around the world. Kids and kids-at-heart follow his Facebook page and website.
What is the best piece of writing advice you have been given?
To write, write, write and non-stop writing.
Could you please tell us a little about your writing technique? Is your routine rigid or relaxed? Where you look for inspiration?
Usually, I start early in the morning and write for two hours nonstop. Then I walk my dogs around the park. Think. Rethink. Go back to work full on. Ideas pop up. My dogs always guide me through. Sniff, look up, down, around, above, inbetween, across, deep in, and out WOW! Cross my heart, I write from a dog’s point of view — ALWAYS!
How did the idea for the Blotch series take shape? Is there a real dog that Blotch is based on and is he she as much loveable scallywag as Blotch?
One night coming back home from work, I found an extra dog around our backyard. Blanco and Corey woofed at me, ‘She is a thief.’ They were right. The little Jack Russell stole my heart.
Do you dress up as Blotch when you go to readings and, if so, what kind of a response have you gotten from kids? Any funny stories (anonymous, of course!)
Dressed as Blotch makes my heart swirls. I kneel down and wag my tail and the kids around go wild. ‘Blotch! Blotch! Blotch!’ On one occasion a boy hid Blotch’s collar. If you find it, please give it back.
Before the sun cooked the water out of the grass, I jumped out of my basket and stepped on a seashell smelling of seagull’s poo. I cocked my left leg over it and pawrrific footsteps echoed by the gate.
‘Easy!’ Miss Lee ordered me, rushing into our stinky Bondi Beach garden.
Miss Lee is Isabel’s sport teacher and her carer. Best carer ever.
‘Miss Lee, Miss Lee,’ Isabel called out through her window. ‘Danny P has sent me a ticket. I’m flying to Chile!’ she ran out of the house, bolted toward the front garden gate, jumped over me and kissed Miss Lee on the tip of her nose.
‘Oh,’ said Miss Lee. She bit her sweaty lip and leaned on the round, garden table. ‘Darling, I don’t think Aunt Barbara would approve of that. She once told me that your extended family in Chile is a bit … odd.’
‘Odd?’ exclaimed Isabel. ‘Please come and take a look at Danny P’s emails.’
In a flash I followed them inside to Isabel’s room.
‘You see,’ she said stroking the keyboard. ‘Here is his latest message. ‘Cascabel dear, dear, dear,’ Isabel read aloud, her eyes shining as she went along.
‘He calls me Cascabel, which in Spanish means bell. My granddad likes to joke a lot.’
She went on reading. ‘Here!’ she said and pointed to the computer screen.
‘I have talked to Barbara about you spending this summer here with me, and some of your cousins. Of course Antarctica will be our coolest event.’’
‘Well,’ said Miss Lee. ‘But Barbara hasn’t spoken to me about it.’ She stood up. ‘I’m afraid you can’t go anywhere until I speak to your aunt.’
That’s the way that Tuesday started, and my big dilemma, too.