Jacqueline Harvey has been a lover of storytelling all her life – a passion that saw her first become a teacher, then an author, and now a dedicated Patron of Somerset Storyfest. She shares her passion for introducing younger generations to the power of words – and how she came into that power herself. 


Jacqueline Harvey is one of Australia’s most acclaimed children’s authors, with bestselling series Alice-Miranda, Clementine Rose, Kensy and Max, and most recently Willa and Woof translated into various languages and winning multiple awards over the past decade.

Now a full-time writer, Harvey started her career as a teacher, before working her way up the ranks to Deputy Head of Junior School and then to Director of Development. By her own admission, the journey to teaching wasn’t completely linear. Experiencing a rather scary teacher or two in her early years, she wasn’t the greatest fan of school until at the age of nine her family moved, and she entered the class of Sally Hogan – a teacher who completely changed her life. Mrs Hogan made her want to be a teacher straight away.

“She taught me that every day in primary school should be fun. I went into my teaching career with her in the back of my mind, thinking, ‘no matter what we’re doing today, we’re going to have some fun.’

“She also read to us every day, and hearing stories read aloud made a huge difference to me as a kid. When I became a teacher years later, it was one of the things I loved doing most myself.”

From teacher to author

Teachers are an integral part of our society. They influence more than just how well we learn things – the type of teachers you get along with the most might have an impact on your interests in general and even your career choice in the long term. For Jacqueline Harvey, reading other people’s books aloud evolved into writing her own stories and reading them to her students. She enjoyed sharing her love of storytelling this way, but it wasn’t until 2003 that she took the leap from writing stories for her classes to writing stories for the world.

In the years since, Harvey has published 51 books – 49 middle grade and junior fiction titles and two picture books – which have brought joy to millions of kids across 11 countries. Still, Harvey gets emotional when she hears first-hand from children who love her books.

“I was signing books at Dymocks in Chadstone, Melbourne recently. A girl around 19 was lining up with her dad, obviously too old to be reading my books anymore. When she got to the front of the line, she told me that my books were what made her into a reader as a child, and that now she’s studying writing and journalism at university – because of me! At this point, I was really teary.

“There’s nothing more humbling than when kids tell you that something that came out of your head changed their lives. On the tough days, on the days when the stories aren’t coming together, I think about those kids. I’m always reminded then that this is not a hard job – it’s a pleasure and a privilege to do what I do.”

When asked other projects she’d like to do – if she had the time – Harvey reveals that she’s thinking of making a debut in the adult fiction world.

“I have been playing with the idea of writing an adult murder mystery – I only have the first page written but if I had the time, I’d probably work on that. At the moment though, I’ve got 12 books contracted, so I’m never bored.”

Jacqueline Harvey becomes the Patron of Storyfest

On top of her busy schedule as an author, Jacqueline Harvey has been the Patron of Somerset Storyfest since March this year. However, she has been involved with Storyfest much longer, since 2004 when it was still called the Somerset Celebration of Literature.

“Storyfest is the festival in Australia that every author wants to be invited to. It’s got such a great reputation, whatever they do, they do it really well. As an author, what you want is to be able to share your books and the joy of reading, and Storyfest enables authors to do exactly that.

“My favourite part of Storyfest is connecting with the children and having the opportunity to meet so many of them. It’s such a privilege to meet kids from all over Australia, both regionally and in bigger cities.

“Sure, we’re the storytellers and the writers, but you learn from the kids’ stories too. So much of it is the joy of sharing stories with children – not just sharing my own stories but hearing their stories as well.”

Storyfest goes international

Storyfest went international earlier in September, the New Zealand leg of the On the road… programme spearheaded by Harvey herself. During her sessions there, she shared what inspires her, why telling stories matters and what the future of books and storytelling is likely to look like.

“As a patron, I just want to raise awareness of Storyfest. I want to be able to help them raise more funds so that we can reach more children, and to share the incredible journey of what Storyfest has become over the years. Taking On the road… to New Zealand was incredible, and it proved that creating relationships and bringing people together is exactly what Storyfest is about. I enjoyed working with one of the local school librarians in Queenstown to bring my sessions to life.”

Storyfest children’s sessions

In her Storyfest sessions, Harvey talks about the process of writing her books, shares her favourite characters’ background stories, and encourages kids to express themselves through writing in different ways.

“Coming from a teaching background, I want my sessions to be highly entertaining and very educational. I want kids to walk away with something that they can take to their own reading or writing practices. Generally, I like to tell kids stories about my stories and how I make them come to life – so the tales behind the tales. I want to show kids how to take a grain of truth and turn it into a story – often funnier or sillier or more over the top.”

Surrounded by paddocks of sheep, friend’s chickens and goats, and pets of her own in her Queenstown home, Harvey is never short on inspiration when it comes to her own books. She had a picture book, That Cat, based on her own cat published earlier this year, with Kevin the Sheep, inspired by the sheep Harvey sees from her window, set to make his debut in the form of another picture book soon too.

As she tells kids at her many sessions, the basis of fiction can often be anchored in reality. Whether that’s the animals you see every day, research you do online, or places you travel to in person, anything can be written into a great story.

As Jacqueline Harvey says, one of the joys of books is that they can transport you anywhere in the world. And she’s here to make sure that more and more children know that too.

You can find out more about the On the road… programme here