Johanna Bell

Johanna BellJohanna Bell is an education researcher in the Northern Territory. She lives in Katherine, and has recently teamed up with artist Dion Beasley to create the fun children’s picture book, Too Many Cheeky Dogs. (Don’t forget to enter our latest competition for your chance to win a copy).

Set in a remote Indigenous community, this entertaining book combines number and colour teaching with a cheeky story and Beasley’s famous illustrations.

There’s a great, inspiring story behing the creation of this enjoyable picture book, so I was very excited to welcome Johanna Bell to My Book Corner to tell you all a little bit more …

Tell us about you in 25 words or less.

Big hair, slightly perfectionistic, good at organising people, a bit of a bird nerd, rather shocked about being 32, mum to one very energetic little girl.

What makes you happy?

Getting things done. I love the moment when a project feels complete. That’s when I sit back and marvel at it. I also love getting lost in the moment.

Where have you always wanted to visit, but haven’t made it to … yet? 

Samoa. Apparently it’s the only place in the world where you can swim with humpback whales.

Where is your favourite place to write? 

Anywhere that’s quiet. With a one-year-old daughter time to concentrate is scarce so I can’t be too picky. I have been known to thumb sections of a manuscript into my phone while breast feeding and text it to myself!

What’s the best thing about being a published author?

Having a product that’s really tangible. Making picture books takes ages (Too Many Cheeky Dogs took over two years) so it’s lovely to have something that you can hold in your hands, read with your family and give away to friends at the end of the journey.

What’s the strangest question you’ve ever been asked?

What does it feel like inside a Kangaroo’s pouch?’ asked by a six year old girl in San Francisco who thought I rode kangaroos to school! I didn’t have the heart to interfere with her magical vision so my answer was ‘warm and fuzzy.’

Who or what inspires you?

People who have to overcome immense adversity to achieve their dreams and somehow manage to come out the other end without any chips (or other unhelpful junk food) on their shoulders. Dion Beasley, the artist who illustrated Too Many Cheeky Dogs is one of these people. As a young, deaf artist with muscular dystrophy, Dion has had to overcome more challenges than I could imagine, all the while maintaining a mischievous sense of humour.

What is your worst habit?

Forgetting people’s names. I live in a town of 10 000 and gee it gets me into strife. I tend to use ‘mate’ a lot!

Your favourite word(s)?

I like uncomplicated words. The ones we use everyday. And I love onomatopoeic words…Buzzzz…Snap…Whoosh….Whack!

Why did you choose ‘cheeky dogs’ … as opposed to any other little furry creature?!

I wanted to find a character that children across Australia could relate to. And everyone knows at least one naughty dog! It doesn’t matter if you live in downtown Melbourne or North East Arnhem Land chances are you have come across a few mischievous mutts.

In a way I didn’t choose cheeky dogs. Illustrator Dion Beasley chose them when at the age of 11, he first started drawing camp dogs. I was just lucky enough to chance upon his amazing work when I first moved to Darwin in 2009. His hilarious canine characters beckoned for a book to romp around in and I thought I was the right person to write it.

Did we forget anything?

I have a feeling that Too Many Cheeky Dogs might be the first book illustrated by a deaf artist and written by a hearing author. But if any of your readers know of other books created by deaf/hearing teams, please let us know via our Facebook page.

Just for fun

Tea or coffee? Tea in the mornings coffee in the arvo

Paper books or e-books? Both

Vegemite or Marmite? Oooh….hard….marmite (did you know it has caramel in it?)

Write or type? Write

Poetry or prose? Both

Beach or bush? Beach!

Hot or cold? Hot (although if you ask me during the Build Up, I’d probably say cold).

Johanna Bell’s latest children’s picture book, Too Many Cheeky Dogs, illustrated by Dion Beasley is published by Allen & Unwin. Make sure you check our their website, here, to discover more about the story behind this great collaboration.

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