Welcome to #TheQuickSixInterview with Julianne Negri!

We’re thrilled to feature another wonderful author from the Aussie STEM Stars series for ages nine to twelve, because today, February 11, is International Day of Women and Girls in Science. We gladly welcome author Julianne Negri (The Secret Library of Hummingbird House) to discuss her fascinating research and non-fiction narrative on Veena Sahajwalla; ‘Green’ engineer and recycling champion.

‘Scientia Professor Sahajwalla, 2022 NSW Australian of the Year, is founder and Director of the UNSW Sustainable Materials Research and Technology (SMaRT) Centre and Director of the ARC Microrecycling Research Hub and Leader of the NESP Sustainable Communities and Waste Hub.’

‘One person’s trash is another person’s treasure! Veena is literally revolutionising the processes to transform waste into amazing products which she calls ‘re-forming’, and that goes way beyond recycling!’

Thanks for sharing Veena’s story, Julianne! 🙂

About the Author

Julianne Negri’s debut children’s novel The Secret Library of Hummingbird House was published in 2020 by Affirm Press and was a 2021 CBCA Notable. In 2018, Julianne was recipient of the Australian Society of Author’s Emerging Writer’s Mentorship Award.

Julianne works in children and youth programming for Public Libraries and has been variously a musician, eco-crafter, film maker, television host and mother of five children.

Visit Julianne at home | Julianne Negri and

Instagram and Twitter

WHO wrote, illustrated and published this book?

Aussie STEM Stars: Veena Sahajwalla: ‘Green’ engineer and recycling champion is the authorised biography of award-winning materials scientist, engineer and inventor Veena Sahajwalla written by Julianne Negri, illustrated by Mirjana Segan and published by Wild Dingo Press.

WHAT is it about?

The book tells the true story of how a girl called Veena, growing up in Mumbai, discovers the thrill of experimentation, develops a drive for engineering and ambition for achievement. Most importantly, along the way, she has to find the strength to go against convention and become a female engineer in a male dominated area. Her care for the environment and creative thinking revolutionised steelmaking. It’s about big ideas, overcoming obstacles and changing the world.

What is your favourite part of this book?

My favourite part of the book is Veena herself. What a character! She is creative, energetic, clever, funny, and determined! Her focus on transforming rubbish into products is revolutionary. Best of all, Veena’s optimism to face climate change challenges with innovating solutions is inspirational.

Scientia Professor Veena Sahajwalla is an award-winning scientist, innovator, entrepreneur, big thinking, big smiling, coffee drinking dynamo who wins awards so fast that it was hard to keep up with her while I was writing the book!

WHEN did you begin writing this book?

Way back in 2021, I was asked if I would like to write a biography of Veena Sahajwalla aimed at readers 10 + and I jumped at the chance! I had been a fan of Veena since her days as a judge on the television program The New Inventors. Then it was a matter of finding time in Veena’s very busy schedule to interview her about her life story. Then the more I got to know her the bigger fan I became! Yes I was hopelessly fangirling every time I spoke to her. It was a privilege to get to know her.

When is its release / launch date?

Aussie STEM Stars: Veena Sahajwalla: ‘Green’ engineer and recycling champion was released in October 2022

WHERE did the inspiration for this book come from?

Simple answer is Veena Sahajwalla! Veena is bursting with inspiration. Hearing her stories of childhood, studying, traveling a long way from family to pursue her career, showed such bravery and strength of character. Her determination to achieve in the male dominated scientific area of engineering and steel making made for a great story! Best of all, I found Veena’s particular skill in translating innovative thinking into hands on practical inventions was enlightening.

The other inspiration was in capturing the essence of Veena on the page – Veena’s wildly creative thinking, her energy and voice – and creating an entertaining story that would grip young readers. As a writer, it was an exciting new challenge to write a non-fiction biography.

WHY is this book meaningful to you?

If you can’t see it, you can’t be it! The Aussie Stem Star series gives kids fantastic insight into the lives of scientists and the journey, warts and all, to achievements. I especially love how the biographies are told as novels. It’s such an engaging way to hook the readers in and take them on a journey. The strength of the series is that these stories are relatable. The reader can see that people who become amazing scientists were once kids just like them! The books shine a light on a pathway for all of us to learn, persevere, aim and achieve. This series will change lives! It was wonderful to be part of that.

Why would its message resonate with readers?

Veena’s story is a culturally diverse experience about overcoming discrimination, working hard, persevering and being brave. Best of all, it is about remaining boundlessly optimistic in the face of our planet’s environmental challenges – something that we all need to be reminded of.

HOW do you feel about the illustrations / cover design? How do they convey the feeling or mood you envisioned?

The sparks are flying on the cover is just how it is with Veena Sahajwalla. Lightning bolt thinking! Big ideas sparking! The cover captures Veena’s hands on practical approach too, showing her in hi-vis safety wear and hard hat. And the look on her face! Wide-eyed with ideas and a smile about to break across her face with the thrill of the eureka moment. It’s perfect!

How have you promoted this book and how can we find it?

Veena Sahajwalla: ‘Green’ engineer and recycling champion is part of the Aussie STEM Star series published by Wild Dingo Books.

You can find this book in all good bookstores or online. Also, as a library worker, I also have to say to check out your local library!

I hope to do school visits and library talks about the Veena’s inspirational innovative thinking, recycling revolution and The Aussie STEM Stars series.

There is an Aussie Stem Stars website where you can find interviews with the authors and teacher notes. https://www.aussiestemstars.com.au/ 

OTHER information or experiences you’d like to share?

Strangely, even though we are from very different backgrounds, Veena and I discovered many things we had in common.

I am an avid recycler and rubbish collector (no not a hoarder!). I used to have a recycled craft business where I turned jumpers into felt through hot washing.

Veena avid recycler and rubbish collector (no not a hoarder!). She likes to transform waste into new products by analysing the elements. She had the genius idea of using old car tyres to replace carbon in steel making and created green steel.

I used to be on television as presenter of a show called Popcorn.Veena used to be on television on the show The New Inventors.

I have twin daughters and… you guess it! Veena has twin daughters.

I am addicted to coffee. Veena is addicted to coffee.

My favourite snack is plain potato chips. Veena’s favourite snack is plain potato chips.

I know, right? So much in common! However, that is where the comparisons end because she is a genius award-winning scientist and I’m a writer with pink hair who works at the library.

Teachers Notes can be downloaded from the publisher’s website.

Thanks so much for sharing and for your contribution to this amazing series, Julianne! What fascinating and valuable work Veena does for our world! 🙂

#thequicksixinterview #aussiestemstars #veenasahajwalla #greenengineer #recycling

3 thoughts to “The Quick Six Interview with Julianne Negri

  • Norah

    What a great series of books to inspire young people. I enjoyed reading about the things Veena and Julianne have in common.

    • Just Write For Kids

      Thanks, Norah! This is absolutely an inspiring series! It covers such a wide range of such remarkable people!

      • Norah



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