SLEEP deprivation from a newborn and a postgraduate degree on metafiction was the perfect mix for the publication of Devon Sillett’s first children’s book, “The Leaky Story”.
But it was a long time before Devon, of Gungahlin, thought she could be a writer.
“I wanted to be a writer when I was younger. English was my baby, I love reading and writing,” she says.
But back in secondary school, when her true passion was poetry, Devon was discouraged by a teacher and ended up believing she wasn’t going to write.
Now, three book contracts later, a graduate degree in education and nearly a PhD in creative writing under master poet Jen Webb – and Devon can confidently say she did it.
Devon, who was originally from Minnesota, in the US, before moving to Sydney at the age of eight and then Canberra in 2005, says her first book, “The Leaky Story”, came out of her research at the University of Canberra on metafiction, which means fiction that acknowledges it’s a story.
“I never really understood the connection between academia and creativity,” she says. “But now I totally get it.”
She was reading papers on metafiction when she was inspired to write the book.
“I buy so many books and don’t read them and see them as abandoned,” she says.
Which is what “The Leaky Story” is, a book that sits on the living room shelf while its family watch TV and play video games until the book starts to leak and the family is forced to go on an adventure to get the characters back inside.
Devon was also inspired to write the book through late nights created by her then first son, who would wake up 20 times a night for a year. She signed the book when he, who is now five, was six-months-old.
She now has a second son, two, but it was after her first when she noticed gender issues arise and decided she wanted to address it in her work.
“It’s been a really interesting experience seeing how a three-year-old boy experiences gender,” she says.
In her second children’s book, the “Scaredy Book”, Devon says she tries to touch on the issue of gender but it’s ultimately a fun story.
“I’m not looking to write didactic fiction,” she says.
But the character “Book” is portrayed as gender neutral, in a world where it lives in a library and desperately wants to go outside but is scared by what’s there.
“Book” eventually learns to take risks after a girl, Emma, who likes to go on adventures in books, hires him out.
“I wrote the book how it came to me, there’s definitely things, ideally, I’d change, but that’s how the story came to me,” she says.
“I wanted to write a fun book that doesn’t limit the way different genders behave. Something that children will enjoy and think about.
“Book is guided by a strong female character and I just love their relationship.
“Everyone needs a Book and an Emma in their life.”
Devon says her next few books will move away from metafiction briefly but then she plans on stepping back into the metafictional world.
More on Devon and her books at devonsillett.com