Swinging in Leaps and Bounds – the inspiration behind Ballerina Monkey by Nicole Madigan

Nicole Madigan

Just Write For Kids is thrilled to welcome our very newest contributor to the blog, journalist / news reporter-turned-children’s author, Nicole Madigan. It is with pleasure that we will be able to share in her talents and passions in the months to come, as Nicole continues to pursue her own journey with producing wonderful literature for kids. Thanks for joining us, Nicole, and for providing us some insights into your writerly life!


This is the story of how I made the leap from journalism to children’s writing, and the inspiration behind my upcoming release, Ballerina Monkey.

I’ve been in love with words since I was a little girl.

First, I used them to talk – as soon as I possibly could. Profusely, says my mum. And I believe it too. I could still talk anyone under the table. But if there’s one thing I love to do more than talk, it’s write. On paper (or computer as it most often is these days), is where the words really flow. The incoherent and excited babble, which usually takes over my speech, makes way for clean structure and creative dialogue; for thoughtful prose and – importantly – the effective delivery of information.

As much as I love to write them, I also love to read them. Words, that is. I always have, devouring books as soon as I was able. First it was picture books, then middle grade, YA and now, of course, books for grownups.

As a child, I wrote make-believe stories, creative and imaginative.

As I worked my way through school, I wrote dramatic diary entries and developed a love of information gathering, enthusiastically using my thesaurus to make my assignments more interesting.

So it’s probably no great surprise that I eventually became a journalist, where I could write and share information for a living. I started my career at a local newspaper, before spending a few years as a television reporter, then moving back into print after having my first child. It was at that time – the birth of my first baby boy – that my obsession with children’s literature really took hold. As a reader, and a writer, I naturally wanted to share this love with my baby, and stocked up on children’s books before he was even born.

I gave birth to my second son when my first was just 18 months, and I now have a little girl as well.

It was when my biggest boy was just 4 that I first dabbled in writing for children myself, and it was he who inspired me. At that time, he’d well and truly developed a set of interests outside what was considered typical for a little boy. He had an enviable collection of My Little Ponies, baby dolls and adored all things sparkly…  and I became quite strong in my belief that children should be free to enjoy anything they like, regardless of what others thought. I’d written feature articles on the topic, inspired by my son, and one day decided to try my hand at a children’s story. My aim was to write something that encouraged children to have the courage to be true to themselves.

This is how my upcoming release Ballerina Monkey was born.

I wrote the story quite loosely at the time, with no real idea of what I was doing. Since then, I have completed a picture book writing course, written several other manuscripts (some of which were rejected, some of which I ditched and some still being considered), and had one book published (Darcy and the Dinosaurs – out now!).  Of course, I was also writing other things, as is the nature of my day job. Funnily enough, the son that inspired the story has since done a complete 180. He’s now obsessed with sports – AFL to be precise, and refuses to step foot near anything resembling pink. It’s my younger son, my middle child, who is now more closely aligned with Ballerina Monkey’s protagonist, Malik.

A sensitive little soul, my middle boy is not remotely interested in sports, prefers dance and imaginative play and computers. Though his interests change by the day. My darling daughter is also a mixed bag, typical and not-so-typical all rolled into one. Regardless, my wish for my children is that they always be true to themselves, whatever that may be. Which is why the story of Ballerina Monkey is so dear to me.

I have returned to this story many times over the years, and it’s been chopped and changed and refined throughout the process. I was absolutely thrilled when Tracy at BlOOturtle Publishing said she’d love to publish this title and am over-the-moon about the result. The illustrations are just beautiful and I hope that the story itself resonates with and engages children and adults alike.

For updates on the availability of Ballerina Monkey, plus more, please sign up to the newsletter at www.blooturtle.com.

Read our fabulous #InterviewByBook with Nicole Madigan.

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