Judy Wollin’s creative collaboration leads to her middle grade novel

When Judy Wollin heard young family members say they didn’t like reading, she decided to write something they would love! As an education professional, she knew that she could benefit from learning the practicalities of how to write a novel, and so she turned to the Australian Writers' Centre.

“I found three aspects of the courses helpful, including access to experts and experienced writers who know the industry, learning the craft, and being part of a writers’ group – my fellow students. Reviewing other people’s work is so valuable; it helped me hone my skills,” Judy told us.

Judy has now had her debut middle grade novel, Speed – The Haunted Island, co-written with Eman Alblooshi, published by Ebhar. After a successful launch in the United Arab Emirates, The Haunted Island has gone on for a second print run, and there are two more books in the series to follow. 

A passion for literacy

Judy had retired from a busy life managing a school of nursing in Brisbane and Abu Dhabi when she decided to write books for reluctant readers. She has always had a passion for getting people reading and wanted to do something to help reduce low literacy in young people.

“I knew I wanted to write but didn’t know how and had no links with writers’ groups or the industry. I appreciated that writing was like any art form where you had to understand and master the ‘how to’ elements to write a novel. I wanted to write for reluctant readers aged 8-12 years, action-adventure that they could relate to.”

Judy went on to complete Creative Writing Stage 1, Writing Children's Novels and Write Your Novel, then moved on to our courses focused on getting published: Inside Publishing and Pitch Your Novel: How to Attract Agents and Publishers.

“The courses gave me the skills and contacts to go forward, from idea to published story,” Judy says.

A creative collaboration

Judy co-wrote The Haunted Island with Eman Alblooshi, who is based in the UAE. 

“We worked together at Fatima College, and our friendship led to a shared dream of writing a book children in the UAE and Australia would want to read. The book has been published in Arabic and English.”

The Haunted Island follows two 12-year-old boys, Ali, a local Emirati and Dylan, an Australian expat living in the UAE. After becoming friends at school, Dylan joins Ali at his ancestral home in the Northern Emirates where they head off on a boating adventure with Ali’s cousin Tarek.

“The boys show off, race about in the boat, do everything silly they can think of and take far too long heading home and running out of fuel. They drift to Telegraph Island, which is, according to local folklore, haunted by Jinn. Ali, Dylan and Tarek spend a terrifying night on the island before being rescued.”

The two writers worked hard to make sure the book is culturally appropriate and properly reflects the experiences of the young boys and their respective cultures. 

“One cultural difference is meal times, and our character, Dylan, had to deal with lunch at 3pm, not midday, and houses full of family on Fridays with far more people than he’d experienced even at Christmas,” Judy says

They also made the story as bilingual as possible, while still being accessible.

“We incorporated transliterated Arabic into the story, mainly in Ali’s chapters, with simple words like shookran, thank you, being repeated throughout the story so that readers of all nationalities could learn Arabic. We developed a 1,000-word dictionary as we wrote the story. We spent days working together to find Arabic words we could include in the story that would work in English. Once we had a final draft of the manuscript, the publisher had the English version translated into classic Arabic, and Eman proofread it.”

Judy and Eman launched the book at Sharjah Book Fair, which was attended by thousands of people.

“The noise was amazing,” Judy recalls. “A brass band playing indoors struggled to be heard over the noise of thousands of people. Our one-hour book signing turned into three hours, and we staggered away with most of the books sold. Ebhar is currently preparing a second run.”

The Haunted Island is the first of three books with Ali and Dylan doing exciting things together. Judy has also published a collection of short stories and has more book ideas in the works. She is keen to get young people reading, one exciting adventure book at a time!

“Being a published author was a dream that motivated me to do courses, join writers’ groups and work with experts to craft the best books I could. Did I think I’d cross the line and be published? I wasn’t so sure about that,” Judy says. Doing courses made all the difference. “You may enjoy writing, but if you don’t learn the craft, you will not write the best book you can.”

Courses completed at AWC:

Browse posts by category
Browse posts by category

Courses starting soon


Nice one! You've added this to your cart