Tuesday Writing Tips – It Wasn’t Me

Belinda Jeffrey  Author PhotoBelinda Jeffrey is the talented and popular Australian author of acclaimed novels, Brown Skin Blue, One Long Thread and Big River, Little Fish.

It Wasn’t Me is her first picture book – what’s even more inspiring is that Belinda has both written and illustrated this charming story.

Today Belinda speaks to us about the challenges and the fun parts of creating her latest release.


Belinda, what was the hardest thing about writing and illustrating your own picture book? Why?

There were a few difficulties in producing this book. The art work has been completed across six different houses and moves, and survived two floods. However I think the single hardest thing was believing I could finish it and accomplish my dream of illustrating my own picture book.

Was it difficult to make the transition from YA novels to picture books? If so, why? If not, why not?

I actually first dreamed of making picture books long before I wrote YA novels, although I never fully believed my artistic skills were good enough to bring my ideas to life. It took me many years of practise, and a lot of trial and error, before I thought I was ready. Although I still think I have a long way to go and am only just learning. For me it’s not exactly a transition, but rather just another aspect of my creativity I need to express. In fact I love writing novels and illustrating books. It’s the perfect life and balance.

Where did the inspiration for It Wasn’t Me come from?

My children were the biggest inspiration because they were such mischievous and creative boys when they were little. One day they were playing at the creek near our house and brought home a huge, old, white helmet. There was a note attached to the helmet saying that the owner had dreamed of being a famous racer but had to give up his dreams and he hoped whoever found the helmet would remember to follow their dreams no matter what. That helmet was old and beaten up, and the foam was peeling away from the inside, but my oldest boy insisted on wearing it. He also used to climb up on the silver roof of our house and watch the world go by.

What is your favourite thing about It Wasn’t Me?

Hmmm. That’s a hard question to answer. I think it would have to be Finnigan and his imagination. I’m also really happy with the balloon spread where they are floating down above the water. That was the part of the story where I realised that all the things that had taken Finnigan away were the things that would bring him home.

What was your favourite part of the creative process?

Discovering aspects to the story through doing the art itself. I remember when I had Finnigan in the birds nest and I had no idea where the story would go next. After a while I imagined that all Finnigan needed to get back home was right in his grasp. Therefore everything I needed, as the illustrator and author, was also right there on the page. I realised that the egg shells, when turned over, would look like space ships and the story went to another place.

Why will young readers engage with It Wasn’t Me?

I think young readers will engage with Finnigan and the stories within the story. I think they will enjoy finding all the little details and piecing the story together themselves because, like Finnigan, they can follow the story on their own. The simple, repeated phrases enable children to read the story independently and there is a lot to find on each re-reading.

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How many times do kids say, “It wasn’t me”?

There are so many mishaps in Finnigan’s life – the overflowing bathtub, the drawings on the wall, the messy bedroom – all those things that small children get into trouble for.

Finnigan proclaims his innocence to no avail – until Mum makes a discovery.

I loved the fun and colour of this adventurous picture book. The story is told with few words, through beautiful and detailed collage pictures.

Kids are going to love this book – particularly the twist at the end.

It Wasn’t Me is a great book to inspire imaginations and classroom discussion. There are so many questions to be asked and so many questions to be answered – and so much is left to the reader’s imagination – one of the special qualities of this book.

I’m kind of hoping there will be a sequel because I’d really love to see what Finnigan gets up to next.


Today is my second last day here, and I have mixed feelings about leaving Brisbane. I’ll be sad to leave behind some wonderful friends, but it’s only temporary. I will be back in Brisbane for the CYA Conference in September.

Now that I’ve tied up all the loose ends, I’m getting very impatient to be on that plane, and heading back to my family. Only one more sleep to go.

Today I have been making notes of things to include/lookout for in the next draft of the manuscript I have been working on since I’ve been here. I have quite a few pages. Being a three part series, I have to make sure I lay down all the right clues for the reader.

I have also been editing my YA novel. Having had a break from it for the last few weeks while I’ve been here, I can really see how great my editor’s suggestions are. Putting a manuscript aside for a while is a really good way to identify and understand its flaws.

It has also been a day of last minute catchups. I had a lovely morning tea with authors Sheryl Gwyther and Belinda Jeffrey. I was late…lost I confess. I’m sure the kings were Albert, Edward then George; but that’s not the order that the streets by that name run in Brisbane. Thanks to a kind policeman, I found my way. Had a great chat about all things writerly, and am really looking forward to reading Belinda’s new book when it comes out in September.

After that I walked across the bridge to the State Library where I caught up with Tammy Morley and Steve Bourne. They have been the wonderful people behind my school workshops; making sure that everything ran smoothly and according to schedule. Thanks Tammy and Steve for helping to make my workshops so much fun, and ensure that they finished on time – and for today. Tammy and Steve took me for lunch at the Art Gallery. It was lovely sitting outside watching water dragons scuttle up and down the trees.

On the way home, I visited Glen and wished him all the best, had one of his divine iced chocolates and took one last sandwich board pic. Just as well I can still follow his boards on Facebook.

Now I’m off to back and book my seat for the trip home.

Happy writing.