|Children's author Gabrielle Wang spoke to Grade 5 and 6 girls during a closed session today.
Students from both DPS and St Peter's Lutheran School listened to Gabrielle speak about her childhood dreams and adventures, her becoming a writer in adulthood, and how one has influenced the other.
"I had lots of adventures in my childhood, with my friend Wendy," Gabrielle told the group, "she was very brave, I was not. A lot of the characters in my books are based on her.
"When we were about nine or ten years old, we snuck into a witch's mansion. We climbed over grand, wrought iron gates and into the yard. You couldn't see the house from the gate, just a long, winding driveway and tall trees.
"Wendy and I went towards the house. We were standing back, looking at the run-down building with its broken windows and thinking how no one would live in there.
"Just as we were about to go towards the house to walk in, an upstairs door opened and a woman, tall and thin, dressed in black with her hair pulled back into a bun at the top of her neck, walked out onto the balcony.
"We froze. We ducked down behind the trees and wished we could disappear.
"We watched her and noticed something crawling up from behind her and onto her shoulder. It was a crow. It stretched out its wings and flapped up onto the railing above her.
"We ran. I don't remember jumping over the front gate, but we did. We pedalled and screamed all the way home. Through the front door, into my bedroom, slamming the door shut. We waited, not sure if she or her crow would come after us," Gabrielle said.
"It was one of the best adventures I've ever had, but we swore we would never go back."
Gabrielle said that she did go back. The lady had died and the estate was being sold off. This time, the gates were open.
"When we went back to the house I could hear a crow calling a mournful, sad call. I was sure it was the same crow we had seen a few years before."
Gabrielle said that the gates they had climbed over during their adventure to see the "witch' are now at Entrance D of the Melbourne Botanical Gardens.
In her book The Pearl of Tiger Bay, a lady is featured. She is tall and thin, dresses in black and has her hair tied back into a bun at the top of her neck.
"When I was 12, I didn't think I would be an author. I wanted to be an archaeologist, zoo keeper or an artist. I treasured my set of Derwent pencils and now illustrate my own books."
Gabrielle sent her first book to a publisher at the suggestion of her mentor, Hazel Edwards, author of There's a Hippopotamus on the Roof Eating Cake. She was rejected six times before Penguin agreed to publish.
"It was the happiest day of my life," Gabrielle said, "except for having my kids, of course."
Gabrielle has written 16 books and has been published in several countries.
"I'm so glad I didn't give up."
Gabrielle is pictured with the students today after showing them how to draw the mythical Peng baby step by step.