Jann Weeratunga was born in 1963. She has lived and worked in London, UK; Sri Lanka; UAE and Bahrain. Currently, she lives in Johannesburg, South Africa with her four fur babies. She was a Primary School Teacher and a Scout/Cub Leader for over 20 years, which she felt was a very good grounding for what Middle-Grade Readers enjoyed reading.
Her flagship – The Polly’s Piralympics Series was written and inspired by the closing ceremony of the 2012 London Paralympic Games. In his closing speech, Sir Phillip Craven told of how a young boy was reading with his mother. In the book, he saw a man with an eye patch, a hook for a hand, a parrot on his shoulder and a wooden leg. When asked who it was, he said: “Well he has only one leg, so he must be an Olympian.” Such was the strength of the London 2012 Paralympics that it changed peoples’ perceptions of disability forever. The speech made her both laugh and cry and gave her the inspiration for the Polly’s Piralympics Series of books which are both unique in concept as well as content and format – dealing with disabilities, bullying and cheating. The books also have a comprehension page at the end of each chapter, where the participants can answer questions and draw their own characters, etc.
In March 2018 she set up the Schools Reading Road Show – an NPO – with the aim of improving literacy for pupils in the Primary Sector in South Africa. Together with other authors she has visited schools, read to the learners and given motivational talks on anti-bullying and it’s okay to be different. She has also addressed a Head Teachers Conference (Embrace) and has been booked again for 2019; there she gave a workshop on the importance of reading. She has also given workshops for YA pupils on how to write a book and spoken on a panel at the JBBF (Jozi Books and Blogs Festival) 2017/2018 and South African Children’s Book Fair 2018.
Q & A:
- Tell us about your books.
I write across several genres, but mainly still for children.
Polly’s Piralympics Series (Middle-grade readers) – about pirates who hold their own Paralympics games, there are currently 5 books out in the series and another one out in about a month’s time. The books cover bullying, disabilities, global warming, animal trafficking and more. They have an interactive page at the end of each chapter for the reader to answer questions and draw their own pictures relating to the story.
Toucane Series for 5-8-year-olds: Currently, there are 3 in print with 2 more expected out this year. These are more stand-alone books with their own unique themes of rubbish, friends who are different to us and stranger danger. They have colouring-in pages throughout the book for the little ones to interact with when the book is read to them, and they should be able to read it for themselves by the time they are 8/9 years-old.
Hettie’s Series for the toddlers addressing issues like; we don’t push, punch or pinch as well as sharing our toys. Both books should be out by September.
I have a Poetry book out – Echoes from the Forest. Reflections on my life over the past 20 years or so and the various countries I have lived in.
Ethereal – I have 1 of the 7 short stories in this book, which was nominated for Best African Anthology by the African Speculative Fiction Society
- What is your favourite animal?
On land; dogs and in the sea; dolphins
- What are you passionate about?
Oh, many things. Our planet and what we are doing to it, the plight of the rhinos and other wildlife and educating kids to be kinder and more compassionate towards fellow humans as well as our planet.
- Talk us through ‘a day in the life of Jann’.
Typically, I get up at 5am every morning and the first thing I do is make coffee. Then typically wash, feed my dogs then feed myself and then start to write (usually by about 6:30am). By lunchtime, I usually then attend to household chores or go out for meetings, if I have neither I continue to write or sort out my blog/emails, social media etc. I’m usually back home by 5pm, watch tv, eat and go to bed by about 10pm.
- Is there anything you regret in life?
No, not really. If I had it all to do over again, I would face the same challenges, because they have led me to where I am now, and I am in a good space in my life at the moment.
- What do you like to do for fun?
I like going to the movies, having a flutter at the casino, going to the theatre, braaiing with friends.
- Where would you go on holiday if money wasn’t an issue and why?
I would like to visit Canada and New Zealand. Why? I’ve just always wanted to go to those two countries.
- If you could have dinner with anyone in the world, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
The Lord Buddha. I have had the privilege of sitting with many Buddhist monks over the years and I have always come away with a renewed sense of purpose. I am, I suppose, curious about the man who started it all, his teachings and what he learnt.
- Why did you choose the genre’s that you write in?
Well, as you can see, I write in several. They are just areas that I feel drawn to and I enjoy writing for the sake of writing and expressing myself, be it to tell a story to children or poetry or short stories, it all depends on what mood I am in as to what genre I write in on any specific day.
- Do you have a small piece of advice for any new writers out there?
Write, write, write. Even if you only write for yourself. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks, they are your words and therefore matter. Your writing will improve and you will find your voice. Find groups to help you, you are never alone.
Jann is one of the nicest people I know. She also helped start our Indie Authors Networking group, which we all love and learn a lot from. She is friendly and helpful and I am glad that I get to know her.
If you would like to find Jann, you can find her at the following places:
Facebook: Jann Weeratunga Author
Go and check Jann out on her social media above and see what she’s been up to lately.
That’s it from me for now…
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