Lisa Shanahan grew up in a small suburb of Sydney, near a river, with her younger brother and sister and a small tribe of lost and found cats. She had an ideal childhood for a writer—roaming the streets, the bush and the mudflats, with plenty of opportunities to read and daydream. She discovered early the magic of stories. At ten, she spent many absorbing months pretending she was the last human left on earth. She lingered each morning at the breakfast table, waiting expectantly for a large alien to come popping out of her mother’s body like a giant seed from a pod. At eleven, she learnt the hard way that stories are powerful, when she convinced both her brother and sister that Dracula and Frankenstein lived behind the green door at the bottom of their rumpus room stairs. Although they believed her for about thirty seconds, she spent the next ten years being unable to sleep at night, without the hall light blazing.
She didn’t discover until much later that she actually wanted to write for young people. That happened quite by accident, in her third year at acting school, when she wrote a play for a group of young drama students. It wasn’t a very good play—she’s not even sure she gave it a proper ending, but she loved the experience so much, that she gave up the whole idea of being an actor. She has since gone on to become an award-winning writer of picture books and novels and is published both in Australia and overseas.
Some of Lisa’s well-loved books for children include the picture books Gordon’s got a Snookie, illustrated by Wayne Harris,Bear and Chook and Daddy’s having a Horse, illustrated by Emma Quay and the junior novels Sweetie May and Sweetie May Overboard, illustrated by Kerry Millard. Her first novel for teenagers, My Big Birkett, was published to critical acclaim both in Australia, where it was short-listed for the CBCA Book of the Year for Older Readers and in the United States, where it was included in the New York Public Library Best Books for the Teen Age list in 2008. Her picture book Bear and Chook by the Sea, illustrated by Emma Quay, won the CBCA Book of the Year for Early Childhood in 2010.
Her most recent picture books include Daisy and the Puppy, illustrated by Sara Acton a CBCA Notable book for 2014 and the much-anticipated Big Pet Day, illustrated by Gus Gordon. Lisa’s most recent novel, The Grand, Genius Summer of Henry Hoobler, was published in February 2017. This story is about a young boy called Henry Hoobler, his summer holiday with family and making a new friend that helps him find his courage. Unexpected adventures turn him into someone new.
These days, Lisa continues to live in Sydney, with her husband and one woolly dog, not far from the river of her childhood. She still likes to linger at the breakfast table, but now under the watchful, expectant gaze of her three delightful boys.
Lisa is an experienced and flexible presenter. She toured the United States as part of the Random House Teen Voices Tour in 2007 and has spoken extensively at schools, conferences, seminars and teacher development days. She loves to explore the magic and power of stories with much humour, playfulness and sensitivity and absolutely relishes helping people of all ages see the world with a new freshness.
You can visit Lisa Shanahan’s website here.