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Episode 28

Join hosts Veronica and Darren for a truly special edition that features Japanese wind phones, exotic chicken birds, the birth of new magic realism in a beautiful Queensland town and an insight into inspirational items from forgotten dreams...

If that's not enough, we are so very proud to bring to book lovers around the world a super special interview with acclaimed author with a smile worthy of an Olympic gold medal none other than Tabitha Bird. Are you ready to be inspired?


When did you first admit that you were a writer?

I was very young, maybe three or four, when I discovered that I liked to tell stories. I would tell them to my little sister, to my dog, my teddy bear, to anyone who would listen really. I didn’t admit to being a writer until I was in my early 30s. A gifted counsellor who I was seeing at the time encouraged me to send her writing as a way to process my thoughts and she was the first person to tell me I could write.

What was your favourite book as a child?

Hands down, The Faraway Tree! Oh the joy of magic in that forest and the delightful folk of the Faraway tree! I adored them!

What inspired you to write/this book/these books?

My new novel, The Emporium of Imagination is based on the true story of ‘The Wind Phone.’ In 2010, 72-year-old Japanese garden designer Itaru Sasaki built a telephone booth in his garden. Inside he placed a disconnected, black rotary phone. He used it to ‘talk’ to his late, beloved cousin and process feelings of grief and loss.

In 2011 after the great earthquake and following tsunami, many people in his village and surrounding areas lost loved ones. Mr Itaru Sasaki opened the phone booth to the public and people began visiting. To date, more than 25,000 people have ‘spoken’ to loved ones on the phone and left messages in the visitors’ book. They are messages of heartfelt thanks to the man who gave them one last chance to say goodbye and process their emotions.

I was inspired by the big-hearted imagination of Mr Itaru as he sought to deal with his grief and asked herself, ‘What if there was a phone where you could actually have one last conversation with a lost loved one?’

The Emporium of Imagination began as a way to entertain that question but it was to become so much more. Tabitha says, ‘During the writing of this book my beloved Nannie, a woman who held my very being and always felt like home, was diagnosed with cancer. Sadly, in April of 2020, she passed away.’

Like so many of the people in this book who visit The Emporium, I needed a way to talk to my Nannie. A way to tell her what I was thinking, how much I loved and missed her. I also needed a place to work through my sadness. This book is my way of both holding my Nannie close and also letting my Nannie go.

Is there anything specifically Australian about your book/books?

When my family first moved to Boonah, Queensland, my debut fiction (A Lifetime of Impossible Days) had no setting. It seems a peculiar thing to say that a book had no setting, but I was very much homeless of heart and so was my book. When we bought our old Queenslander, I knew I’d found my first real home and I was keen to give it to the characters of my first book as well. The house is over eighty-years-old and has bumps in the floor boards and some nicks and imperfections in its walls. I told my husband that there was story in this house. I imagine the old girl knew a thing or two. So I moved the Willas in my first book into Boonah and into the house I live in on the pages of my novel. When I wrote my second book, The Emporium of Imagination I was taken by the magic and community of small rural towns and again set my novel in Boonah where we live. Both my books have a very Australian flavor as they are set among the people of small town Boonah.

Are there any secrets hidden in your writing?

Oooh! Yes! But if I told you then they wouldn’t be secrets!

Why do you think listeners should read your book/s?

If you love books that inspire your imagination and create a safe space to look at the mess and beauty of humanity in a different light then you might enjoy my novels.

What’s the best response you’ve ever had to your writing?

“This book made me feel love, grief and humanity. It’s a wonderful reminder that grief is a privilege, a precious gift and that our memories and stories of those we have loved are what connects us to them forever, and nothing can break that connection, not even death.” ~Tammy Klinger on The Emporium of Imagination.

What genre/s do you mostly read?

I enjoy magical realism, literary fiction and poetry. I also read middle grade and a lot of picture books.

How much research is involved in your writing?

I spend as little time as possible researching. Since I write magical realism, very little needs to be researched. Sometimes I will want to know more about something that I mention in my books but this is the exception and not the rule.

What’s your writing routine – if you have one?

My routine is more one of the heart. I listen to my needs and try to balance that with what has to be done. If I am feeling shaky then I will not push through to try and produce work. Creativity and ideas don’t hang around for harshness to be dealt out. And I have learnt too much about how important self-care is. I like to plan out what I need to write and plot dates in my diary for when a draft or an edit will be finished, but I always make sure there is time in there for me to have days where the writing isn’t flowing because I need to look after myself. Other than this, I know all good writing comes with drinking lots of tea, eating copious amounts of jam drops and having a chihuahua on your lap!

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Click below to learn more about this author's spectacular literary work!

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