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About Edel Wignell

Edel (right) and three sisters on a raft on the farm dam, 1940s.

Edel (right) and three sisters on a raft on the farm dam, 1940s.
Click photo for larger view.

Edel Wignell lives in the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges east of Melbourne, Australia. She enjoys visits to art galleries, seeing films and plays and taking trips to the country. For exercise Edel power-walks; she loves owls and aerial adventures, and is terrified of spiders!

Child and young adult

The farmhouse where Edel lived as a child.

The farmhouse where Edel lived as a child.
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Edel Wignell, who is the second-eldest of six girls, was born at Echuca in northern Victoria, Australia, and lived on a sheep farm seven miles west of town. The girls helped on the farm by milking three cows, feeding hens, picking fruit in the orchard and droving flocks of sheep at shearing time.

They rode a Shetland pony, went mushrooming in autumn and swam in a dam or an irrigation channel in summer. When a leach attached itself, Edel jumped out of the water, screamed and tried to pull it off. Everyone said, 'Leave it on. It will fall off when it's sucked enough blood!' 'If you drag it off, some of its teeth will be left behind, and you'll be poisoned.' Ughhh! Edel wouldn't go back into the water that day.

She attended a rural school of fourteen pupils for eight years, then travelled by bus to Echuca High

School until she had completed Matriculation (Year 12). At the age of 17, she left home and entered a three-year teacher training course at Toorak Teachers College, Melbourne.

Teacher

Photo of Edel at Toorak Teachers' College

Toorak Teachers' College Volleyball Team, 1955 – Edel, front row, right.
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Edel Wignell taught in city and country primary schools in Victoria and in England for eight years. In

those days, classes always had 40-50 pupils! Edel taught at a teachers' college for seven years.

During her teaching years, she spent two years overseas. On the first trip, she taught for six months in London and travelled by car for six months in the UK, Ireland and Europe with two young women. They had a tent for camping in fine weather and stayed at Youth Hostels when it rained.

Edel married Geoffrey Wignell and they spent a year travelling by Kombi van in the UK and all around Europe, from Sweden to Turkey. On Anzac Eve in 1966, they parked their van on the beach at Anzac Cove, and spent three days discovering more than 20 war cemeteries. They wrote the names of the 7th Battalion heroes for Geoff's Dad, Clarence William Wignell (MM and Bar) a veteran of World War I - Gallipoli and France. They saw no one except four Turkish gardeners who rode donkeys from cemetery to cemetery – rakes and hoes on their shoulders - to care for the gardens which were beautifully maintained. Anzac Cove is a pebbled beach, so they brought a bag of pebbles back for Geoff's Dad.

Writer

Edel (right) and a student teacher with her class at Caulfield North, 1959. (Ten children were absent!)

Edel (right) and a student teacher with her class at Caulfield North, 1959. Ten children were absent!

While Edel Wignell was teaching, she was invited to write a column for a monthly education magazine. Two years later she was invited to move to another magazine. It was a lucky way to start because she learnt how to write, and gained confidence and experience without rejection. She gave up teaching to try some of the arts: drawing, painting and gold and silversmithing. Gradually the writing took over, and she has been freelance writing full time since 1979 for both adults and children.

For children, she has 100 published books - fiction, non-fiction and picture-stories - as well as a television serial and dozens of magazine articles, stories, verse and scripts (print and digital). Some of these have been published in anthologies and online, too.

Her features, short stories and verse for adults have been published in more than 100 newspapers and magazines, on the Internet, and read on radio.

Inspiration

When someone asks, 'Where do your ideas come from?', Edel replies:

  • My grandmother told folk tales, and I loved them. I like to create scripts for magazines, based on them, and I have three collections, the latest being: The White Elephant: Drama based on Asian Folk Tales. I also compiled Tying the Knot: Folk Tales of Love and Marriage from around the World and wrote Long Live Us! which won a Fractured Folk Tale Competition and is now a picture-story book.

  • I'm interested in history and folklore, and my reading in these areas inspires much of my writing and compiling. Australia's pioneers expected to find the mythological bunyip (or water monster) of Aboriginal lore, so I gathered items and compiled A Boggle of Bunyips.

  • One thing leads to another! While I was searching for bunyips, I noticed many stories about swagmen and sundowners, so my next collection was A Bluey of Swaggies. The final chapter explains the creation of 'Waltzing Matilda' – the words and the tune. Most people know 'Banjo Paterson' who wrote the words, but few know Christina Macpherson who provided the tune, so I told her story in Christina's Matilda.

  • Sometimes I remember a feeling or an episode when I was a kid, and I change it and create a story set in today's world. My encounters with spiders as a child on a farm and my terror of them inspired two short stories, 'Arachne Returns' (Commended in the Mary Grant Bruce Short Story Awards), and 'You are Mine!' (Commended in the Midlands Literary Competition).

  • I'm inspired by things that happen to children I know. The shivery responses of two nieces on their first visit to a car wash led to the writing of the picture-story, The Car Wash Monster.

  • Every day when I read 'The Age' newspaper, I see information that could be starting points for fiction, non-fiction or poetry. For example, an article about cicadas inspired the award-winning poem, 'Insect Drummers'. A snippet in the 'Odd Spot' about a cat's death-defying antics was perfect for a segment in a short story of 5000 words, 'Catastrophe's Ninth Life' (Winner of the Mary Grant Bruce Short Story Award). The junior novel, Hands Up!, was sparked by reports of true crime – two prison escapees hiding in a National Forest. What if a blind girl and her father are on a fishing trip, the father becomes a hostage and the girl finds her way to their van and phones the police?

  • My fascination with fantasy and magic, folklore and superstition, stimulates wonder, 'What if?' For example, in Kitnapped!, a witch kitnaps a kitten, and a boy has three opportunities to rescue it. If eating carrots is good for the eyesight, it could result in a girl achieving mega-vision, as in Carrots for Cam.

  • I write both serious and humorous poetry for both adults and children. Serious poetry is usually inspired by things that happen to people, by observation of nature, and my interest in folklore and history. I like to play with words and ideas, so humorous and nonsense verses spring to mind when I hear the madness of the English language (for example, 'a frog in my throat', 'I laughed my head off', 'we're paying through the nose', 'toasting the bride'…) and tricky homophones, homonyms and homographs (see Poetry and Verse).

MAGAZINES and ON-LINE

Photo of Edel at her jewellery bench

Edel at her jewellery work bench, 1970s.
Click photo for larger view.

Edel's short stories, folk tale re-tellings, scripts, articles and verse for children have been published in the following magazines and on-line.

Alphabet Soup, Little Ears, Puffinalia, Lucky, Comet, Explore, Challenge, Pursuit, Countdown, Blast Off, Orbit, Touchdown, House of Sprouts and First Steps (all Australia); School Journal and Jabberwocky (both New Zealand); The Scumbler, Horse & Rider (UK); Popcorn, Cat Fancy, Cricket, Crystal Ball, The Friend, Hop Scotch, Nature Friend, Skipping Stones; Short Story International: Seedling Series, Hopscotch for Girls (all USA).

  • Scribbli Gum website: www.scribbligum.com
  • Rainbow Rumpus: The MAGAZINE for KIDS with LGBT parents (USA) www.rainbowrumpus.org
  • Ziptales Online Reading Project (Wizard Books, Australia: www.ziptales.com)
  • Story Station (Viatouch, USA)
  • SIRS (Social Issues Resource Series) Discoverer (database and CD-ROM, USA)
  • Paddy's Post On-line Newspaper
  • Broadcast on Ticklepot, ABC Radio
  • Bonzer! monthly journal: 'Edel Tells Tales' (2004-05) www.bonzer.org.au

ANTHOLOGIES

Edel's short stories, articles, scripts and verse for children have been published in the following anthologies.

  • Poem, 'Refugee', in Through a Child's Eyes: Poems from World War Two chosen by Moira Andrew, 2013, Poetry Space, Bristol, UK
  • Poem, 'The Athlete', in Donna Smith (comp.) Hopscotch (2011, Jelli-Beanz Publishing), a 'Packed Lunch' collection (Jelli Beanz Publishing)
  • Poem, 'The Ghost of R.O'H.B', included in Colin Carrington (ed), Burke & Wills: A 150th Anniversary Tribute, with foreword by Jack Thompson, 2010, Bendigo Goldfields Bush Poets Inc.
  • Kathryn Duncan (ed.), Short and Twisted: An Anthology of Stories and Poetry (2007 and 2009, Celapene Press, Knoxfield)
  • Zita Denholm (ed.), Celebrate! The End of Year Reciter (2007, Triple D Books, Wagga Wagga)
  • Dianne Bates (comp.), Out of the Blue, 'Chatterbox' series (2006, Pearson Education Australia)
  • Linsay Knight (ed.) 30 Australian Ghost Stories for Children (2004, Random House)
  • Stimulus English Modules (1999, Horwitz Martin) James F. A. Moore (ed.)
  • 200 Years of Australian Writing: An Anthology From the First Settlement to Today (1997, VDL Publications)
  • Animals Galore (1997, Rigby Heinemann)
  • Out of the Box: Blue Book (1994, Phoenix Education)
  • Michael Dugan (sel.) Hopping Mad and Other Stories (1994, Macmillan Education)
  • Tales of Survival (1994, Rigby Heinemann)
  • Marvellous Mumps: A Sunshine Collection (1993, Applecross/Wendy Pye, NZ)
  • The Tunnel and Other Stories (1993, Jacaranda Wiley)
  • Sue Machin (comp.) Stay Loose, Mother Goose: Stories and Poems to Read Aloud (1990, Omnibus Books in association with Penguin Books)
  • Michael Cavanagh (ed.) Reaping a Harvest (1988, Longman Cheshire)
  • Frightfully Fearful Tales (1987, Macmillan Education Australia)
  • Bushfire and Other Stories (1987, Macmillan Education Australia)
  • Stories to Share 4 (1987, Macmillan Education Australia)
  • Theodore E. Wade (ed.) Bubbles: Poetry for Fun and Meaning (1987, Gazelle Publications, USA)
  • Jo Goodman (col.) Win Some, Lose Some (1985, Fontana Lions, London)
  • Pam Chessell and Hazel Edwards, Do Frogs Wear Jeans? (1985, Longman Cheshire)
  • Jean Chapman (chosen by) Stories to Share (1983, 1988, Hodder & Stoughton)

BIBLIOGRAPHICAL LIST

  • Who's Who of Australian Women: Leadership and Beyond (2008 Edition, Crown Content, Melbourne)
  • Paul Collins, Book People: Meet Australia's Children's Authors and Illustrators, Book 7 (2002, Macmillan Library, Melbourne)
  • Dr Kerry White (comp), The Source - online bibliographic guide to children's literature (2000: www.magpies.net.au)
  • Victor Watson, The Cambridge Guide to Children's Books in English (2001, Cambridge University Press, Melbourne)
  • Who's Who in Australasia and the Pacific Nations (1996, International Biographical Centre, Cambridge)
  • Ozlit @ Vicnet (1995, 1997: www.vicnet.net.au/~ozlit.)
  • The Writers Directory (1995, St James Press, Michigan, USA)
  • Who's Who of Australian Writers (1995, D. W. Thorpe, Melbourne)
  • Who's Who of Australian Children's Writers (1992, 1996, D. W. Thorpe, Melbourne)
  • Kerry White, Australian Children's Fiction: The Subject Guide (1993, Jacaranda Wiley, Milton)
  • John E. Simkin (ed.), A Subject Guide to Australian Children's Books in Print (1991, 1993, D. W. Thorpe, Melbourne)
  • Donna Olendorf (ed.), Something About the Author (1992, Gale Research Inc., Detroit, USA)
  • Sally Farrell Odgers, interview in 'Write Australian' (www.suite101.com/article.cfm/professional_writing/113086)
  • Marcie Muir and Kerry White, Australian Children's Books: A Bibliography (1992, Melbourne University Press)
  • Walter McVitty (ed.), Authors and Illustrators of Australian Children's Books (1989, Hodder & Stoughton, Sydney)
  • Mary Lord (ed.), Directory of Australian Authors (1989, National Book Council of Australia, Melbourne)
  • Stella Lees and Pam Macintyre, The Oxford Companion to Australian Children's Literature (1993, OUP, Melbourne)
  • The International Authors and Writers Who's Who (annually, from 1989, International Biographical Centre, Cambridge, England)
  • Margaret Dunkle (ed.), The Story Makers II (1989, Oxford University Press, Melbourne)
  • Margaret Dunkle, Black in Focus: A Guide to Aboriginality in Literature for Young People (1984, D. W. Thorpe, Melbourne)
  • The Australian Society of Authors, Directory of Members, their Editors and Publishers (1986, ASA, Sydney)
  • Jonathan Appleton (comp.), Authorbook: Australian Author Profiles (1991, Sydney Church of England Co-Educational Grammar School, Redlands)
  • The Lu Rees Archives Collection of Australian Children's Literature (University of Canberra Library). All of Edel Wignell's works are held in the collection, as well as a complete set of her Children's Literature journalism (from 1979-)