Dannielle Viera has just launched her new picture book, The Leftover Lemon Dilemma. She has been involved in the publishing industry for over 20 years and has received recognition for many of her manuscripts. In addition to the publication of The Leftover Lemon Dilemma, she has a number of works published in anthologies and collections such as The Creative Kids Tales Story Collection 2 (Creative Kids Tales, 2019), Fire Burn, Cauldron Bubble: Magical Poems Chosen by Paul Cookson (Bloomsbury UK, 2020), Once Upon a Whoops! Fractured Fairytales and Ridiculous Rhymes (Share Your Story, 2021) and It’s a Kind of Magic: Stories and Spells by Second-rate Sorcerers (Share Your Story, 2022).
Andrew: Hi Dannielle, welcome to the blog! Let’s start off by getting to know something about you. What were some of your favourite memories as a child?
Dannielle: Hi Andrew! I had an interesting childhood to say the least. My father was a stuntman in films, TV shows and live performances. One of my clearest memories is exploring the various sets at Smoky Dawson’s Ranch in Ingleside – including a colonial Australian town, a Wild West town and a jousting arena – where shows were held on weekends for the public. I was even part of the entertainment! At just four years of age, I played the princess’s pageboy during the jousting tournament. From then on, I relished using my imagination to create stories about the world around me.
Andrew: You just launched The Leftover Lemon Dilemma at Lalor Park Community Garden. What were the highlights for you?
Dannielle: My publisher, Sharon Baldwin, and I were eager to hold the launch in a community garden, because the book has strong sustainability, community and diversity themes. When Lalor Park Community Garden agreed to host the event, we were delighted. It is a magical space with lots of intriguing pathways as well as a doorway to a secret garden, and the cool shade was very welcome on what turned out to be a hot autumn day!
It was thrilling to read The Leftover Lemon Dilemma to a rapt audience of adults and children for the first time (I had only ever read the text to myself), and their immediate and positive response was uplifting. We also served the three main treats mentioned in the book – jalebi, shortbread and Turkish delight – which everyone raved about. Many people had never tried jalebi before, so it was fabulous that we could introduce them to this sweet Indian snack.
Andrew: Have you ever had a lemon tree? And if so, what did you use the lemons for?
Dannielle: The lemon tree in the book is based on the one that my mum had in our backyard when I was growing up. Every year, it produced hundreds of fat and juicy (but sour) lemons, and we could never use them all or even give them away. It seemed like such a waste. Now, I have
a smaller lemon tree in my backyard, but it’s actually a lemonade tree – the fruits are sweeter than normal. We squeeze the juice over fish and pancakes, and my youngest daughter likes to make traditional lemonade.
Andrew: Apart from enjoying the story, what will children (and adults) gain by reading The Leftover Lemon Dilemma?
Dannielle: The Leftover Lemon Dilemma shines a light on a simple way that children (and adults!) can help to reduce food wastage through the sustainable practice of crop swapping. But on a deeper level, it also celebrates the diversity of Australian neighbourhoods. Through the foods featured in the story, and the homes and clothing of the minor characters (researched in depth and presented with sensitivity and authenticity by illustrator Paula Deuber), readers young and old will develop a stronger appreciation for the multicultural nature of the community around them.
Andrew: Do you have a favourite part of your story or a spread that is particularly meaningful to you?
Dannielle: I adore the last spread in the book. The protagonist, Mandy, happily sees that her small idea of swapping her sour lemons for something sweet has turned into a huge and colourful street party, where her neighbours have come together to exchange foods and enjoy each other’s company. I also love the unique visual narrative that Paula has cleverly woven into the spreads.
A crested pigeon (which we’ve nicknamed Spike) spends the entire book trying to steal the treats that Mandy collects – he finally succeeds in grabbing a tasty morsel during the street party. When I tell kids about Spike’s adventure, they eagerly scour the pages looking for him!
Andrew: What is your favourite thing about doing author visits?
Dannielle: One of the best things about author visits is the reaction of the kids – they really enjoy listening to my stories, participating in my writing workshops and learning about my life as an author. I always get a buzz when a wide-eyed child comes up to me at the end of the session and tells me that they love writing, too – they can’t believe that it’s something they can do as a job when they’re an adult!
Perhaps the biggest thrill is when kids see me many months after a school visit, and they excitedly tell me how much they liked my story or my writing activity – I love that I had this profound impact on them.
Andrew: How can people find you and follow your work as you continue making and sharing your stories with the world?
Dannielle: I have a website where I list my books and anthologies, and also keep followers up to date with news about my writing journey each month. I’m also very active on social media, and I try to post different things on Facebook and Instagram. In addition, I’ve recently set up a YouTube channel, where I’ve started to upload videos of me reading my children’s stories, plus animated shorts of my children’s poems.
Andrew: That’s awesome! Thanks for coming on the blog to chat about your lovely new book, The Leftover Lemon Dilemma! All the best as you get your book out into the hands of kids all over the place.