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Lou Kuenzler

As a child

I grew up on a sheep farm in Devon. It was on the edge of Dartmoor, miles from anywhere, and there weren't many children around. I spent a lot of time talking to myself (and the sheep, ponies and chickens - but especially to my pet ferret, Matilda). Matilda was very patient and had to listen to all the stories I told her (even though they often tailed off without much of an ending and probably weren't about things which ferrets are interested in either!) Sometimes I wrote my stories and poems down (mostly they were about very sad or very funny things because I enjoyed the challenge of seeing if I could make myself laugh or cry). I was born left-handed but (even though it was no longer normal to change people over) I was forced to write with my right hand. I remember this experience very clearly and how angry it made me that someone could push me into being something different from what I really am. I can no longer write left handed at all but always play sports that way. I am dyslexic and found learning to read tricky as a child. But - slowly, gloriously - I got sucked into the secret world of books. Reading Geoffrey Trease's adventure story Cue for Treason, about two children who join William Shakespeare's acting crew, sparked a life-long passion for books and the stage. All through school I loved drama. I was hopeless at acting but loved working back-stage and directing. Directing plays is a bit like writing books really, you work with actors and a set designer (just as I might work with an illustrator now) and decide the very best moment for a character to appear and how they should look and sound when they do.

As an adult

I studied drama at University of Ulster in Northern Ireland. I then trained formally as a director for a year at Central School of Speech and Drama in London. I have worked professionally as a theatre director, university drama lecturer and workshop leader in communities, schools and colleges. I have had many other jobs too, including dinner lady (for one day until I dropped all the clean cutlery on the floor), barmaid and usher in a theatre (which meant I had to watch the same play eight times every week. It was a whodunit, so there wasn't much suspense after the first sixteen times I'd seen it!). I now live in London with my Swiss husband who is a music journalist and gets to interview lots of really cool people (although, they are often so cool that I haven't even heard of them). We have two children, two cats, one dog and about seventy-five garden newts. (The dog and cats and children have names, the newts don't.) I began writing seriously when I started reading to my children every night. I was so inspired by all the wonderful stories I was enjoying with them, I wanted to have a shot at writing my own!

As an artist

I always talk out loud when I am writing. It can be very embarrassing if people come into the house. My children often creep up on me just to catch me at it and giggle. I work at home, looking out onto the street, with two big trees in front of the window. Although I live on an urban London street, it is great to watch the changing seasons through the yearly cycle of the trees. One of the trees is a magnolia and has lovely white blossoms in spring. I often set stories at the time of year it is when I first start thinking about them and looking out of the window.

Things you didn't know about Lou Kuenzler

  1. I am VERY scared of rats (my older brother used to chase me with dead ones he found when we were growing up on the farm). But, if I see a picture of a rat, I HAVE to look at it. Why is that?
  2. The best thing about being married to a Swiss man is that he brings great chocolate back whenever he visits his family in Switzerland.
  3. I am really bad at riding a bike and wobble all over the place. If you saw me, you'd think I'd only just taken off my stabilisers.
  4. I love custard
  5. When I was 7, I pretended to everyone in my class that I could play the harp (I can't even play the recorder).
  6. I am REALLY messy but always know where everything is (unless I tidy up).
  7. I love jokes - especially puns and silly word association.
  8. When I was little and my mum was cross with me, I would read the sad parts in Black Beauty and make myself cry so she would feel sorry for me
  9. If I travel by double-decker bus, I always have to go up to the top deck.
  10. I really like walruses. I don't believe anyone can look at a walrus and not want to smile

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