Ten Terrifying Questions with Davina Bell!

by |November 9, 2021
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Davina Bell is a writer from Western Australia. She is the author of several bestselling and award-winning picture books including her latest, Tomorrow is a Brand-New Day, illustrated by Allison Colpoys. For six years she was a Senior Editor at Penguin Books in the Young Readers Division, where she worked with some of our country’s most beloved children’s book creators. Davina now lives in Melbourne, where she still dreams about the Western Australian beaches while drinking a lot of very good coffee.

Today, Davina Bell is on the blog to take on our Ten Terrifying Questions! Read on …

Davina Bell

Davina Bell

1. To begin with, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born, raised and schooled in Perth, WA. Not a lot happened in Perth in the 80s and 90s, but there was a lot of bright sun and blue water, sea breezes and bucket ice creams by the Swan River.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

When I was twelve, I had only just given up my dream of becoming a marine biologist specialising in bottlenose dolphins. I was thinking about being a doctor and saving sick children. When I was eighteen, I had only just given up my dream of being a paediatrician. I was thinking about becoming a lawyer for an NGO and saving the world. When I was thirty, I was working in publishing and wondering why on earth I hadn’t pursued a career in science, law or medicine – or any field that paid a semi-decent wage. But secretly, all along, I was hoping that I might one day be a writer.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you don’t have now?

That the good guy will be rewarded in the end.

4. What are three works of art – this could be a book, painting, piece of music, film, etc – that influenced your development as a writer?

Anne of Green Gables – the Sequel, the 1985 Canadian telemovie. At the start, there is a scene when Anne is writing longhand by a beach and falls asleep with her manuscript beside her. A handsome fellow in a dapper cream suit/hat combo helps her retrieve the pages that have been blown along the sand. Anne tells him not to worry too much about it – it’s all filed away in her imagination anyway. Imagination, writing, beautiful beach, cream suit – it coalesced the first time I saw that scene. That’s where it all began for me.

The Weather Project by Olafur Eliasson. This was an installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern in 2003. Somehow (mirrors? Lamps? Magic?) they made it look like the actual sun was suspended above the hall, casting everything in moody orange light. It coincided with a long uni holiday that I spent in London helping out with a gaggle of small cousins, and I visited every chance I could. Looking back, I can see that witnessing how profoundly the experience affected people who entered that space influenced how I thought about the value of art and living a creative life.

The Red Hand Files by Nick Cave, which is his weekly newsletter. If you haven’t subscribed, do so immediately – it’s so full of life and pathos, humour and wisdom. One out of every two editions makes me cry. It is one of the best things about being alive in 2021 and a reminder to me as a writer to just keep going.

5. Considering the many artistic forms out there, what appeals to you about writing a children’s book?

As an author for children, you have the chance to reach out to kids early in their lives and say You are loved. You have worth. The world is better because you are in it. There is good stuff here to discover – funny and inspiring and beautiful things. Life will not always be fair or just, but hope endures. You can change the world around you and the one inside you. I think that’s an incredible privilege.

‘With this book in particular, I hope that every kid will feel seen and validated in their tricky moments and come away with the sense that, no matter what happens in a day, they are still treasured, just as they are.’

6. Please tell us about your latest book!

Tomorrow is a Brand-New Day is a picture-book collaboration with the brilliant Allison Colpoys – our fourth. It follows a day in the life of two kids as they navigate their way through a series of mishaps, misdeeds and misunderstandings. At its heart is the message that we are not the sum of our mistakes but that our mistakes make us who we are. Thank goodness for Allison’s luminous palette and joyous illustrations, which have turned my pretty basic rhyming text into an uplifting celebration of life in all its ups and downs.

7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

My only hope as a writer is that I provide kids and families with some combination of comfort, wonder and joy. With this book in particular, I hope that every kid will feel seen and validated in their tricky moments and come away with the sense that, no matter what happens in a day, they are still treasured, just as they are.

8. Who do you most admire in the writing world and why?

Zadie Smith for her talent, intelligence and clarity of purpose. And as someone who writes in rhyme, I would be lying if I didn’t say Taylor Swift. Think what you will about her music, but her internal rhymes are micro works of genius.

9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

I recently found a life plan that I wrote for myself when I was 18, divided up into five-year sections. It ended at ‘33-38: Appear on Oprah’s Book Club’. I haven’t set a goal since and that’s probably for the best – clearly not a forte.

10. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Having a book published will not change your life in the magical, past-erasing, future-shaking way that you might imagine – or at least that I did. But being a writer – sloshing your way through all the struggle and heartache and elation that entails – will change you as a person, and almost always for the better.

Thank you for playing!

Tomorrow is a Brand-New Day by Davina Bell and illustrated by Allison Colpoys (Scribble Kids Books) is out now.

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Tomorrow is a Brand-New Dayby Davina Bell, Allison Colpoys (Illustrator)

Tomorrow is a Brand-New Day

by Davina Bell, Allison Colpoys (Illustrator)

Good or bad, the things you do are all a part of being you - of learning how to take your boat on stormy seas and stay afloat.

From the creators of All the Ways To Be Smart comes a message of hope- hard days come and go, but love is with us always. A healing and uplifting tribute to learning and growing - to making mistakes and making amends...

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