With today being the National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence in Australia, today is the perfect day to introduce you to author Karen Tyrrell.
Karen is an award-winning author who writes books to empower kids (and adults) and help them live strong and be resilient. After many years of classroom teaching experience, she continues to educate through sharing her own story of resilience as a survivor of bullying, through her words on the page, and through her workshops for adults that deal with writing, marketing, and funding, in addition to empowerment. She presents workshops for children in schools, libraries, and other creative spaces. With her flair for costuming and performance, she always conducts entertaining sessions with a splash of fun staring in her own scripted pantomimes.
In her first book Me and Her: A Memoir of Madness Karen tells of the bullying she experienced as a teacher, and of her remarkable survival story. Her second, Me and Him: A Guide to Recovery tells of the important role of her husband as support on her journey back to health.
From there Karen has gone on to write a number of children’s books, including Bailey Beats the Blah and STOP the Bully, both of which are endorsed by Kids Helpline. She won an RADF (Regional Arts Development Fund) grant for her picture book Harry Helps Grandpa Remember about memory loss and strategies for remembering.
Karen’s three Junior Fiction novels Jo-Kin Battles the It, Jo-Kin vs Lord Terra, and Song Bird Superhero share positive messages of self-belief, resilience, team building, problem solving and STEM science; each with a good dose of humour included.
It is Song Bird Superhero, a book for readers of about 7 – 10 years, that Karen and I are discussing today. The hero, Rosella (Rosie) Ava Bird is bullied at home and at school. When she discovers, and unleashes, her flying powers through song and a belief in herself, she saves her little brother Robin, and the school, from catastrophe.
Welcome to readilearn, Karen. We are looking forward to getting to know you a little better.
Thanks for inviting me!
Karen, when did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I became extremely ill when I was a bullied teacher. I wrote my personal story to help me heal. Now I write stories to help kids live strong.
Where do you write? Do you like to be by yourself in the quiet, or do you like to write in a noisy space?
Hiking outside in the bush helps inspire fresh story ideas. Then I like a quiet place to write it all down.
What do you use to write – pencil and paper or computer?
Pen and pencil to kick start a new story then I type up the words on the computer.
When do you write?
Soon as I wake up and then after I return from a brisk walk. Anytime during the day when I feel inspired.
When do you get your ideas?
When I least expect them. Story ideas come anywhere, everywhere, when I’m relaxed. I like my mind to wander, to see where a story idea leads. I always take a notebook along with me.
Do you think of the story in your head before you write it?
YES! I visualize the ending first and then work the story backwards. The story idea develops in my head for weeks before I write it down.
What gave you the idea for Song Bird?
My girl readers requested I create a book with a girl superhero.
Song Bird is based on my bullying experiences at school. Bullies ate away my self-confidence and self-esteem. Singing in the school choir inspired me to think positive and believe in myself.
What do you like best about Song Bird?
Song Bird is a FUN action-packed adventure that kids love. Rosie can’t do anything right. She shatters windows when she sings. Her flying machines crash.
Kids can’t wait to find out how Rosie overcomes her problems.
Do you like the illustrations?
I love the cover illustrated by cartoonist and illustrator Trevor Salter.
Inside I created FUN posters, signs and letters for kids to enjoy.
How did your feel when you wrote Song Bird?
I felt empowered, that I could write a story that allows a child to be anything, do anything, be anything.
How do you hope readers will feel?
Empowered and connected with the main character Rosella Ava Bird, her brainy side-kick Amy with a disability, or brave Ben with a stutter. I want to show even heroes have weaknesses.
How would you like teachers to present Song Bird to children?
Teachers read 2-3 chapters per day as an entertaining and proactive read-aloud book.
Are there any messages you would like them to discuss?
Bullied girl, Rosella Ava Bird, rises up to discover she can empower herself through singing, science, and believing in herself. She and two misfit friends, Ben and Amy, not only empower themselves but save their school. Song Bird has positive messages about believing in yourself, bully prevention, overcoming disabilities, smashing stereotypes, and girls can do anything especially science, engineering and maths.
Do you have any advice for teachers in their role as writing guides?
- Ask class to predict what Song Bird is about.
- Read 2 chapters to the class each day, following up with discussion on one of the theme topics; i.e. bullying, disability, self-belief, science fiction, STEM science.
- Guide children to complete activities downloadable from my website.
Do you have any advice for children as writers?
- Write every day.
- Scribble down ideas in your notebook.
- Day dream about your story: asking yourself what your main character would do next.
What is your favourite picture book?
I’m very proud of Harry Help Grandpa Remember with messages of hope for Alzheimer’s. I think the pictures by Aaron Pocock are gorgeous.
Who is your favourite author? What do you like about his or her work?
I love Roald Dahl, whose books are entertaining page turners, jam-packed with positive messages, humour, and a vivid imagination.
Thank you, Karen Tyrrell for sharing these insights about your book Song Bird Superhero and your writing process. We wish you success.
Thank you, and thanks for having me!
To find out more about Karen visit her website and blog: Karen Tyrrell – Author
Or connect with her on social media
Karen’s books are available for purchase on her website or from Booktopia, Amazon, and other selected bookstores.
A shortened version of this interview is available in Author Spotlight Literacy Resources Author Spotlight: Karen Tyrrell. The information may be displayed in your classroom or included in a class book about authors and illustrators.
Check out the readilearn resources for teaching about being friends and getting along in early childhood classrooms, including Extend the hand of friendship.
I hope you and your children enjoy using these resources. I’ll see you next week with a special delivery, just in time for Easter. In the meantime, enjoy the weekend.
Thank you for reading.
Happy teaching and learning,
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