Anjali Dutton was just 11 years-old when she wrote her funny, semi-autobiographical story 'Toffee' and won the annual NSW Pilot Pen short story competition judged by author Andy Griffiths, earning her $1000 in prize money.
I read the story, thought it was hilarious and asked Anjali if she would be interested in developing the story and characters further with the potential for it to be published in my new book My Life & Other Weaponised Muffins.
Anjali jumped in, did some brilliant work expanding and tightening the story, working with me and my editor Brandon VanOver and it's in the book. Here, Anjali, now thirteen years-old, shares her journey towards having her story published by Penguin Random House Australia.
Is 'Toffee' a true story?
Yes. It certainly is based on a true story. I was at a Year five gathering at school and my friend’s mum brought in this huge plate of toffee. I go to a Steiner school where sugar is scarce, and, suffice to say, the kids went wild. So, yeah, I guess I wasn’t exaggerating when I listed all the super-healthy ’snacks to share’. I am also vegan and many of my classmates are sugar-free, gluten-free, meat-free, dairy-free, raw and organic-only - all in one! I based all my characters on real people, parents and teachers that I know!
How did the story begin its journey to publication?
It’s actually pretty crazy. I wrote a short story about toffee, called it ‘Toffee’(desperate last minute title choice!) and entered in the 2014 Pilot Pen writing competition. One day, about a month or so later, I arrived home from school and suddenly my mum was telling me I’d won $1,000 and the NSW section of the competition. I was shocked. I couldn’t believe it!
Are there any particular places, people or things that inspire you to write?
For me, it’s true stories - stories I find funny, or meaningful. Stories about friends and family. Relateable stuff. Sometimes I’m inspired by things I feel other people should know about - like world issues and animal rights.
I don’t always write funny stories; I also love writing descriptive works that are subtle, so in that case, personalities and nature inspire me. I guess anything can, it depends how you see it. I read a lot, so different writing styles and genres influence me. But I think what inspires me the most is travel. To see different cultures and have new images in my mind is important for me.
|Illustration by Gus Gordon from Anjali Dutton's story 'Toffee' in My Life & Other Weaponised Muffins.|
Apart from travel, I love music: singing, guitar, listening to it, making it. I love to read – a LOT. I play sport – run, swim etc. I love to act. Hanging out with friends, family. I guess I like to do things that any other teenage girl would!
What's your advice for other young writers or creative kids / teens in terms of creating and getting their work out there in the world?
It sounds cliché, but I think it’s true: take the chance, be open to opportunities, and you never know what might happen – I certainly didn’t! So don’t doubt yourself, and JUST DO IT. Good luck!!
You can read Anjali's funny, embarrassing, kind of gross story 'Toffee' in My Life & Other Weaponised Muffins.