Jan Juc children’s author Stef Gemmill.

Imagination comes alive through storytelling

March 26, 2020 BY

Jan Juc’s Stef Gemmill had a wild imagination when she was a child, and judging by the trajectory of her career, it has followed her into adulthood.

The published children’s author is awaiting the arrival of her second book In My Dreams, which will hit shelves on May 1.

Gemmill said she chose to explore where minds travel during sleep in an attempt to reflect on her own prepubescent fantasies.

“Dreams are an interesting subject and can be both exciting and terrifying for children. The story draws on snippets from some memorable dreams I used to have as a child.

“This book will help children learn that dreams are just a sensation and emotions from memory that play out in our minds that we do have control over, and they can inspire us to write stories and give creatively.

“The other thing I’d like children to take away from it is that dreams can help us escape from problems in our real world and take us to places in our imagination.”

The former music journalist was destined to work in the creative sphere, having written short stories throughout her schooling days.

Gemmill said some stories have been published, as well as various anthologies.

“In my 20s, I picked up music journalism because that reflected my love for both rock music and writing.

“There’s a lot of parallels between writing music gig reviews and picture books because you have to portray a lot of emotion, sights, smells and sounds in a short piece of work but you also have to write with a lot of energy.”

The birth of her son Oscar 11 years ago was the catalyst for Gemmill to finally put her adventurous ideas into practice.

In My Dreams by Stef Gemmill; illustrations by Tanja Stephani.

“I just loved using picture books as an art form because it is a great sensory introduction to children, not just to words and language, but also to developing empathy and understanding the world around them,” she said.

But in the era of iPads and handheld devices, Gemmill says it’s never been more important for parents and teachers to get children reading.

She also said the intelligence of children and their ability to show compassion shouldn’t be underestimated.

“The challenge now for parents and teachers is to keep children engaged with reading now that devices have been introduced as tools to learn from.

“It’s a different experience to hold a book, connect pictures with words and the satisfaction of finishing a chapter and that sense of achievement.

“Children can really grasp some big and complex issues at a young age and reading can help them understand these concepts and how they actually play out in real life.”

The author doesn’t shy away from tackling these concepts head on, with her debut A Home For Luna inviting discussion on change, homelessness and migration.

Gemmill said the book – which centres a feline protagonist – is now on the Victorian Premiers’ Reading Challenge list and soon making its mark on the United States.

“I wrote it at a time when the topic of migration and homelessness was so top of mind and how Australians can help people who are having to flee their countries and migrate here.

“It’s available nationally in libraries. I have facilitated school workshops with Grade 1 children and we’ve discussed the themes of the story.

“They really enjoy talking about their own experiences with change and leaving the country.”

Gemmill’s third book Toy Mountain will be released next year.

She was scheduled to speak at Torquay Library in early April, but the library is closed until further notice.

She has author talk events at Great Escape Books, Torquay Books and The Bookshop at Queenscliff in the coming months.

For more information about Stef Gemmill, head to stefgemmill.com.