The picture book philosopher

Maura Pierlot

Maura Pierlot rediscovered her creativity after more than 25 years in business, and her career as an author and playwright is blossoming.

Her indie-published debut picture book The Trouble in Tune Town, has received several awards, and she has plenty more stories up her sleeve.

We sat down with Maura to find out a little more about her creative journey.

Why is The Trouble in Tune Town special to you?
The Trouble in Tune Town was inspired by our children and it touches upon the many challenges kids face when learning. Meg, the main character, represents the struggling student who wants to give up out of sheer frustration, especially when she makes mistakes, just like our kids did for piano and other lessons over the years. They loved playing their instruments but never wanted to practice — a challenge echoed by many other families — mainly because, in their eyes, the learning process often highlighted what they did wrong, rather than how far they had come.

Children have different personality types, learning styles, interests and abilities, and I think learning (in all subjects) needs to engage students so they can develop skills in a fun and enjoyable way. In my view, education focuses far too much on outcomes rather than process yet most of the personal development can be found in the journey, where important traits can be developed like resilience, self-belief, perseverance and belonging — themes explored in Tune Town.

Here are a few pictures from Maura’s book launch:

What has been the best thing, and what has been the most challenging thing about the process of indie publishing?
The best thing about indie publishing is the fact that I could help drive the process. I’ve been in small business for more than 25 years (real estate, marketing, property development, finance) and it would be hard for me to take the back seat and simply hope for the best. I had clear ideas for the look and feel of Tune Town (the many double-page spreads, glossary at the back, the tactile cover) and wanted an opportunity to offer input; with indie publishing, I could add my voice to the chorus.

The down side: even with hybrid publishing, the author is reliant on third parties so there are always potential issues with accuracy, quality, deadlines and so forth. Also, like with self-publishing, the hybrid author has to (virtually single-handedly) drive marketing, sales and distribution. The recent demise of Dennis Jones & Associates is very unfortunate and is not helping the plight of indie authors.

Kudos and many thanks to Suzanne Barton for promoting and supporting indie authors through Bluebell Books. I’m thrilled to have The Trouble in Tune Town featured on this very special site.

Could you tell us a little about your life outside of writing?
I was born and raised in the Bronx but have lived in Australia for nearly 30 years.

For years and years I studied philosophy, specialising in ethics; friends often joked that I should wear a robe and sandals and ‘pontificate’ in the marketplace like in ancient Greece. Despite philosophy not being a ‘practical’ degree, the training in logic, argumentation, analytical thinking and ethics has served me very well in business and in life.

I also have an active interest in health and medicine (I was a medical journalist for years).

I divide my time between Canberra and the coast, where we have a farm that produces walnuts and avocadoes — a great place for relaxation and inspiration, especially when cohabiting with lyrebirds, wombats, echidnas, kangaroos and other native animals.

What is your big creative dream?
My big creative dream is to have the freedom to write what I want for a loyal, growing audience, to write work that resonates with children and young adults, to continue to assume an intelligent audience and write accordingly, not to create work shaped mainly by market forces.

I used to dabble in film and video, and keep getting signs from the universe that should be pitching my YA manuscript for the screen (it would make a great series).

My play Fragments (a youth monologue project on mental health issues) has been performed in Sydney this year, and it will be performed in Canberra next year. I’d like to take this work to the next level, licencing and making it available for use by schools throughout Australia.

And of course, like many creators, I have countless projects on the go and would like to progress my work in a balanced, fun and enjoyable way… just like Meg in The Trouble in Tune Town!

Find The Trouble in Tune Town in the Top Indie Kids’ Books store.

Suzanne Barton