Debbie decided at school to become a doctor, even though she found numbers grumpy and rude compared to the cuddly welcome of words. Perhaps that’s why her favourite childhood book was The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, in which the King of Words wages war on the Mathemagician. After two years of studying medicine, she changed to the more artistic science of geology.

Tip 1: When you leave school, do what you LOVE, not what you think you should do.

Debbie then trained as a BBC radio reporter and spent a few years sniffing out news stories and interviewing all sorts, from politicians to tattoo artists and an opera-singing parrot.

Tip 2: Always ask questions. You already know what you have to say. And most people (except spies and bank robbers) love to tell you how they’ve spent their day.

Debbie and her husband Steve lived in Bangladesh for two years where she worked in radio and for aid agencies. They moved to an exciting South Africa just after Nelson Mandela became president. Their three daughters were born in Cape Town.

Tip 3: Travel broadens the mind – but only if the mind wants broadening. It can be narrow while crossing the Sahara Desert and wide while washing the dishes at home.

Now living in Ireland, Debbie has written five children’s books (Dead Hairy, Jungle Tangle, Monkie Business, Class Act and My Secret Dragon). She travels all over the country encouraging children and adults to write for fun, and to build resilience and wellbeing. She uses creative writing to teach global education and to celebrate diversity. She’s the Writer in Residence at Crumlin Children’s Hospital and the Writer in Residence for the CDETB-JCSP project ‘We Write what We Like.’

Tip 4: Working with children and young people is the best. Best imaginations, best jokes, best embarrassing questions.  

Debbie is a director of the charity Nepal Leprosy Trust (nlt.ie) that supports people affected by leprosy in Nepal. Whenever she visits the project in Nepal she waves at Mount Everest, and it always waves back.

Tip 5: Meeting people in different circumstances and facing different challenges reinforces how much we funny little humans have in common. Doesn’t every single person want to be loved and valued? 

Contact Debbie Thomas

I’d love to hear from you. If you’re into crazy wigs, shrunken heads or creating stories from giant slippers, I’d love to come to your school or library for an hour of sensible nonsense. If you’re into creative writing, developing your own stories and conjuring heroes, villains and the odd sidekick, I’d love to help out. And if you’re into nothing at all except missing an hour of geography, you know where to find me…

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