Welcome to the wonderful world of Tabitha Bird! We're so excited to have partnered with Tabitha for our latest Date With A Book Gift Box. Tabitha is an Australian author, poet and true creative spirit. Tabitha hopes that through her words, she can champion others into wild acts of bravery and self-love. Keep reading to find out more about this wonderful woman and her latest book release, The Emporium Of Imagination.
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RO: Tell us a little bit about yourself?
TB: I grew up in a bayside suburb of Queensland, Australia. There I had a special garden. My story garden. It wasn’t much of a garden, botanically speaking but it’s where I learnt the joy of story-telling and the power of story to transport us. I told stories to my little sister, my chihuahua and all the ferns and weeds. But more importantly, I gave myself something to hope in that was bigger than I was.
Eventually, I left that garden and did unexpected things like growing up and teaching primary school in Hong Kong and the USA and becoming a mother. When my own children came along I read stories with gumption and wild joy but my dreams of storytelling were long buried with my past trauma. It wasn’t until I sat down with a wise counsellor that I remembered who I wanted to be. I worked hard to heal the things that had once kept me hidden. As I began to write I found not only my voice but also the way to my heart.
The first whispering of a story that I heard was from that forgotten child that lived in that long-ago garden. I began to write as if my life depended on it and to this day I am quite sure that lives do depend on stories and stories on lives.
Together with my family, I moved to Boonah in rural Australia in 2013 where both my novels are set. My books are heavily dusted with magical realism because I am a big believer in the impossible and the power of our imaginations to heal what hurts us. My Chihuahua, husband and three sons are all the reason I need to believe there is magic in this world.
My debut novel A Lifetime of Impossible Days was published in Australia, New Zealand and Italy in 2019. It went on to win the Queensland Literary Award- People’s Choice Book of The Year in 2020. It is also currently number 17 in the Better Readings / Big W top 100 books as voted by Australians. My second novel, The Emporium of Imagination is also heavily dusted with magic.
RO: We are super excited for your new book, "The Emporium of Imagination". Can you give us a little more insight into what it is about?
TB: The Emporium of Imagination is a fantastical shop that arrives in the small township of Boonah in the early hours of one morning. The shop offers vintage wares to repair broken dreams and extraordinary phones that offer people one last call with a lost loved one.
The store travels the world but always settles where it is needed most.
On arrival in the township of Boonah, the store’s long-time custodian, Earlatidge discovers that he is dying and that the clock is ticking to find his replacement.
What he doesn’t know is that he too needs the restorative magic of the shop to face up to his own tragedy.
Ten-year-old Enoch Rayne is also in desperate need of The Emporium’s help because he feels responsible for the recent death of his dad. Ann Harlow is a woman with her own guilt and secrets who also needs the shop. The Emporium is about to bring not only the township of Boonah together but also Ann, Enoch and Earlatidge in a way they never expected.
RO: What is your favourite childhood book? Did reading as a child have any bearing on your decision to become a writer?
TB: As a child, I was this tiny thing hiding under my covers, making a blanket-tent so I could read by torch light with my chihuahua. I was so taken with the way the children in THE FARAWAY TREE were free to explore and have fun. My home looked so different to this and it made me teary. My chihuahua and I spent many happy moments tucked up together having adventures in Faraway Trees and flying through the skies on Wishing Chairs. I read stories to my little dog and she snacked on my cheese and crackers. Thanks to stories, we’d found our place in the world. I think this early experience of how powerful having hope and believing in the impossible was, naturally shaped me into a writer who loved telling stories with an other-worldy twist.
RO: What are some of your favourite hobbies or pastimes outside of writing?
TB: I adore anything creative but am particularly attracted to drawing and painting. One of my other dreams is to become an author illustrator of children’s picture books.. When I’m not creating other worlds with words or paints then I can be found gardening. This pastime has also been profoundly healing after the passing of my beloved grandmother last year. With the help of my little Chihuahua who dug around in the dirt with me, we created a memory garden where I go to be close to my Nannie.
RO: We love that you spotlight your local neighbourhood! How long have you lived in the rural township of Boonah? What do you love about living in a country town?
TB: Rural towns are gorgeous places to allow yourself to breathe and dream. I’ve lived in Boonah for eight years and discovered that this place has what I call an ‘ordinary magic.’ The kind that can be seen with the human eye more readily. The townsfolk are an eclectic community where people care and stop and talk to you on the street. Our whole family has been embraced out here. Boonah performed the magic of not only giving us a place to live but so much more than that- this is now a place we call home. It takes a special township to muster up such magic. It seemed natural to me that extraordinary things might happen out here and so I set both my books in the town that I love and live in.
RO: Where do you normally write? Is it in the same place every day or are you an all over the place writer?
TB: I’m one of those messy writers who works all over the house and leaves her papers here, there and everywhere!
I work at the dining room table, from the comfort of bed, on the couch, even out in the garden. Wherever I am writing at home, I have had a small furry dog curled up on my lap, her head in the crook of my arm as I write. My husband gave me this tiny handful of fur when I was first dealing with the trauma of my past. I named the chihuahua, Lion. Her name is very fitting. She taught me that bravery was not is size of body but in size of heart. She also knows the value of simply staying close by and staying and staying and staying. And I love her for it.
RO: Where do you draw your inspiration from? How do you fill up that creativity well?
TB: I’m a big believer in giving out of a full tank. Since I work with words, constantly pouring them out into story, I believe in reading. Other people’s works fill me up, their stories letting me see how other creatives experience the world and what’s important to them.
I also love to draw or paint when I feel stuck for words. Moving to visual expression is another way for me to discover what I think but it’s also a break from having to define storytelling in word form. It’s another way of filling my tank with joy and creativity so I have something to give when faced with the blank computer screen.
Another equally important way to refill my creative well is to go and enjoy mother nature. Being outside in the fresh country air is immensely helpful. I think some of my best writing actually happens when I’m not writing at all. When I’m away from the page and have space to let my mind wander and make random connections. Some of my best ideas have come while gardening or taking my dog for a walk around Boonah. In the silence of just being I usually come up with all sorts of magic and mayhem!
RO: We are all about colour and how it can positively impact your mood and your life. What is your favourite colour, and how do you find it brings you joy?
TB: As an artist I find myself very moved by the power of colour. I think the one that most calls my name is BLUE! I love all the shades, from cornflowers to ocean mist to deep navy. From moody sky to the colour of mountains in the distance. To me it represents open spaces, freshness but also depth. Blue can be thought of as moody, cool, light, new but also bruised or sad. I find it a colour full of emotion and expression. It is after all the language that our sky and our seas like to speak in. A calming colour but also one that is volatile. Blue is used by mother nature to express everything from storms to the power of waves, from the proud peacock’s feathers to the sweetness of berries and the precious nature of sapphires. To me blue most closely represents the fickleness, richness and joy of being human.
Wow! What a fabulous read. Thanks so much for sitting down and chatting with us Tabitha, we can't wait to settle in with a cuppa and read The Emporium Of Imagination. Which Gift Box will YOU choose?
CONNECT WITH TABITHA:
Instagram - @birdtabitha
Facebook - @tabithaannbird
Website - tabithaannbird.com