This year’s Australian Survivor cohort is one of the most accomplished yet, with so many amazing achievements among the group of contestants, not to the mention stellar game play on display each episode. At KIDDO HQ we’ve been particularly taken with Wai Chim, who -in her real life outside the game- also happens to be an academic powerhouse, creative mastermind, digital producer, copywriter and acclaimed award-winning author of six children’s and young adult books to boot!
We chat with Wai about how being an author has played into her game strategies on Australian Survivor and how her experience on the show may end up on the pages of a new children’s book.
As an acclaimed award-winning author of six children’s and young adult books can you tell us where your love of writing first began?
I definitely loved books and stories from a very young age. I grew up in an immigrant family so we couldn’t afford much, so the library was where I spent a lot of time after school. And I loved to write creative pieces for class assignments like poetry and short plays to act out with my friends.
How do you determine the themes / storylines for your children’s books?
Writing for me is a way to explore ideas and feelings that are more challenging, like grief or shame. I write a lot about my Chinese heritage because those were the kinds of books that I wish I had more of when I was growing up with main characters that ‘looked like me’. My latest book, THE SURPRISING POWER OF A GOOD DUMPLING speaks to what it’s like growing up as an Asian-Australian and I tried to bring so much of my youth to the page. Plus, I love to write about food!
Do you have any authors you look up to and who may have inspired your writing journey?
I am greatly indebted to so many authors and mentors through my career but I would call out Alice Pung and Justine Larbalestier as ICONS who have really helped me understand what mattered when it came to writing for Australian kids.
Literacy is such an important part of a child’s development, can you provide some tips / pointers to encourage reading in the home environment? Or how to make reading “more fun’ for children that may not be as interested in reading?
Reading is SO important and I think there’s so many great ways to get kids into reading and falling in love with stories. I am a huge fan of graphic novels (and hybrid novels) that bring an illustrated element to the story so kids can engage more readily. I am also a fan of novelisations of movies and TV for the same reason, as long as kids are reading and loving the story on the page it doesn’t matter if it’s what we think of as ‘literary’ or not. So definitely let your kids be the guide for (age appropriate) stories they would love.
What was your favourite childhood book? Or favourite author?
As a child I loved Beverly Cleary and Wilson Rawles, Where the Redfern Grows which was the first book that made me cry and I realised how much power was in the written word.
How has your profession helped your strategic play for the game of Australian Survivor?
I think being a writer means I understand people and what their motivations are. Writers are good observers, so we stay under the radar and wait for the climax of the story!
What other projects are you currently working on? Do you have any plans to release any additional children’s books?
I’m part of an anthology called Hometown Haunts: #LoveOzYA Horror Stories that’s coming out in October which features some of the best young adult authors in Australia. I’m also hoping to bring some of my Survivor experiences into a picture book and a novel further down the track – this will be dedicated to my fellow contestants, the Cloncurry 24!
Catch Australian Survivor 7.30pm Sunday – Tuesday on 10