Chrissie Junge on her writing adventures with Alfredo
I am delighted to welcome Chrissie Junge to discuss her journey to becoming a children’s author and her brand new title Alfredo, a happy book about the adventures of a small bird called Alfredo who thinks he’s a dog, for children 6-9 years.
Plus, thanks to Chrissie, I have a paperback copy of Alfredo to giveaway – entries open worldwide.
Disclosure: If you click a link in this post and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission.
Christine Junge on Becoming a Children’s Book Author
Five years old and passionate about my favourite book (Meg & Mog, a compelling tale of a witch and her cat), I created from scratch my own written and illustrated copy, complete with the ‘og’ in Mog taped onto the side of the cover on a scrap, having run out of space writing the title. When my mum was asked to bring Meg & Mog to the teacher’s lounge and it was admired, I didn’t yet understand why.
At ten, I placed in a children’s writing competition for my not-so-sophisticated title ‘I Hate Sardines’. I won a day learning with a real, live author and so began my goal of publishing a book. Immediately I began writing, smashing it out with impressive spend on my pre-internet fossil of a computer. Saved on a floppy disk, ‘Alfredo’ was born.
A domesticated parrot who thought he was a dog, Alfredo lived a normal life with his canine friends until being snapped up one day and smuggled abroad by thieves. A lover of parrots, I poured what I saw and loved in their personalities into Alfredo, and wrote what I would have wanted to read in a book. In the school library, I devoured Morris Gleitzman and Andy Griffiths, wanting desperately to be able to instil laughter and warmth in others as they did in me.
By fourteen I was on the cusp of not caring anymore. Teen rebellion is very consuming. The family computer had been upgraded with high tech dial up internet, and MSN and computer games were at my fingertips. By then I’d illustrated Alfredo, finishing all but one picture. Taking a local small-town art class my mum heard about, I sat doodling flowers with a room of 60 somethings and trying to match their conversations. The thing I took away most was from the instructor, who saw Alfredo and said I urgently needed to publish him, and that he could get it done for me. A huge regret; I said no.
Fast forward nearly twenty years…
… there’s me crawling from the rubble of an unfortunate (and unfortunately long) failed relationship, shaking off the fog. Curing a mild drug dependency, lack of career prospects and generally woeful lifestyle, I started to look after myself. I saw my friends, spent time outdoors and got a great paying job.
I also started to feel tied down to my location. Barely home, I felt like I only went back for clean clothes and to blow the dust off my dying plants. I started to get a zany thought and I couldn’t shake it. What if I… didn’t have to live in a stuck-in-the-dirt location? I envisioned a free lifestyle in an old van, travelling where and when I pleased, the sun in my face and my home with me anywhere I went. It turned out it was illegal, and everybody I knew pooh-poohed it, so naturally, I did it right away. I lived in a beautiful vintage Nissan, 40 years young and column shift manual to drive. Pop-top, bed, fridge, cupboards and windows everywhere. But she was mechanically a lemon, and in 9-months with her I spent a king’s fortune on repairs.
After living in the van’s finally dead carcass on a friend’s acreage for a couple of months, an old pantech truck in South Australia caught my eye. Big. Ex concrete truck, bare metal interior and not in any way ready to be lived in. ‘Can you drive it on a car licence?’, I asked. Affirmative. Sold!
Building a tiny house on wheels hadn’t been on my to-do list…
In fact, it was about as far from my life plans as I can have imagined, but I did it. Picking up power tools, YouTubing how to use them, cutting holes in the truck, learning wiring and plumbing and a little carpentry. It was empowering. Why do we women so often leave this stuff to the men, not having attempted? It was the first time I tried, and now I teach men this stuff at times.
The home came together and I spent four amazing years living in the pretty corners around Brisbane, sleeping by the river or beaches. It centred me and made me appreciate the little things. No longer did I have space for the clutter, physical or within.
Enter COVID. I won’t yammer on about all the miseries, but I’ll just say I’m grateful for the time it gave me to be creative. An essential worker in disability support, I worked harder than ever, but I was given big chunks of days off in between.
Alfredo began to creep into my mind and sat like a little egg waiting to hatch.
He’d been carried around in a blue display folder for 20 years, over a plethora of share houses, countries, units, homes on wheels and even once a hostel.
I typed the whole thing out, and edited it about ten times. I researched publishing, self-publishing, marketing and everything in between. A woman possessed, I stayed up for sixteen hours at a time working feverishly. I touched up my fading childhood illustrations with vibrant acrylic paints, then scanned them digitally and added elements from photos I’d taken around the world using Photoshop.
Next, I paid two professional editors, and each liked the book. A funny thing about writing a book – you love it but you worry everyone will hate it. But they didn’t, and one even said she could see it being a fun movie for children down the road.
I learned of and connected with my publishers, Ocean Reeve Publishing, who assist with self-publishing and marketing and ensure an industry-standard product. The book was edited again, formatted, made into an ebook and given a cover. Business cards, posters, banners, competitions were made; anything to get people seeing and talking about little Alfredo. By the time my first print run came, I was ready to be an author.
Today I sit in my office, bird paraphernalia surrounding me, and copies of my beloved Alfredo. It has just been launched, and I finally feel confident about his success. It’s been a long twenty years to get here, but it will all be worth it. They say it takes a nation to raise a child, so I think this book of mine may well be my firstborn.
“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”
Alfredo is a bird, but he thinks he’s a dog. His best friends are dogs, after all. He’s scared of water, and can’t work out why people call him Polly.
When he’s kidnapped by some hapless humans who lose him to some slightly less hapless pirates, he not only makes a friend in the form of a piratical parrot but learns to accept his true nature.
He learns to fly, befriends an eagle, plays Twister with a kingfisher, has a roller coaster ride through sewers and fantastic forest worlds, before landing back home with his human family.
Each sold book of Alfredo will raise money and awareness for Perth pet rescue sanctuary, Katie’s Birds, with hope for a better future for our feathered friends.
Get your copy of Alfredo from:
Amazon Book Depository Booktopia AU Chrissie’s Website
and several wonderful local Brisbane bookstores such as Mary Ryan Books (Milton), Mad Hatters Bookshop (Manly), Books@Stones (Stones Corner) etc.
* Note, original colour illustrations digitally scanned and then printed in greyscale.
More children’s books:
Amber Amulet by Craig Silvey / You’ve Let Them In by Lois Murphy / Simon and the Sad Salad by Teigan Margetts
Alfredo Book Giveaway
We have a paperback copy of Alfredo to giveaway. Entries open worldwide and close midnight 6 June 2021.
See entry form below. Ensure you scroll to the bottom of this form and press submit to register your entry. You can improve your chance of winning by:
- retweeting this Tweet (+2 entries)
- sharing this Pin with your followers on Pinterest (+3 entries); and
- sharing this Facebook post (incl. link) with your Facebook followers (+4 entries)
The lucky winners will be randomly selected and announced on our Facebook Page.
SORRY, ENTRIES CLOSED – See winners announcement.