Matt Zurbo: 365 kids books in 365 days

Bijal A Shah

Today I’m super excited to share my Q&A with Matt Zurbo, the author of various published young adult novels (two of which have been shortlisted in Australia for the prestigious Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Award)a nonfiction publication on an oral history of Australian-rules football and eight children’s books. Matt’s been working on a really cool project aptly titled Cielo365Stories where he’s been writing a story-a-day dedicated to his little baby daughter Cielo. And best of all? All the stories are FREE to read online.

The New York Times called it ‘ an unconventional labour of love’. When they heard about the project, they literally flew down to Tasmania (where Matt’s based) to interview him for the story.

He calls the project ‘ an ode to my little daughter, a love letter to her if you will’. It’s his way of giving back to the world. “ Imagination trumps ignorance and violence” he says, hopeful that some of these stories will inspire a love of reading in kids.

Q: The thing that has struck me the most as I’ve been reading your stories is how you’ve managed to keep up a daily practice of writing a story a day — what’s driving you and where do you get most of your inspiration from?

A: Inspiration is easy. I’ve already thought of five stories this morning. Making time to write them is hard, especially when you work full time in a strenuous, physical job, are a Dad, and play football (Australian Rules). But if it was easy, it wouldn’t be a challenge. That’s one of the messages to my little girl, as she grows up. Hopefully, the Cielo project might show her a thing or two about committing to a task.

Q: Tell me about your typical day — you’re an oyster farmer so when do you actually get to write?

A: My days start with the alarm at 4 or 5 am, depending on the work day. Oyster farming requires lots of lifting, while working as fast as you can, all day long. The mornings down south can be quite cold. Then, no matter what, I spend some quality time with Cielo and my wife, Elena, usually at one of the remote beaches down here, that are empty and beautiful in winter. Then I drive to Aussie Rules football training, a contact sport that involves a lot of running, and which I attend two nights a week. It’s about 40 minutes away, driving along bays, past dens and coves. I’m home between 8–9pm. I’ll have dinner with my wife, then I’ll write my story for the day. It’s hard when you’re tired, but so it goes. I usually finish the story at around 1am, then it’s bedtime. On nights without football training, my wife attends Spanish class and I’ll look after Cielo, taking her out to either a beach or bush track or go and explore an old convict settlement. We’ll have dinner as a family around 6–7pm, and I’ll start writing my stories at about 7.30pm when the baby’s asleep.

Q: Is the plan to eventually get the stories illustrated and published?

A: I’d love to see some of the stories illustrated and published. Of course! But first things first. The challenge. 365 kids books written and offered, with art direction, in case a family want to share the joy of stories together.

Q: What’s your favourite story out of all the ones you’ve written?

A: Of course a number of characters are inspired by people in real life. It makes them so much easier to write. The Cielo project is littered with characters of friends I know, their kids and the people that inspire me. I like the way they get a kick out of it, too. Especially the kids.

Q: Is there an order to your 365 stories or can they be read in anyway?

A: The stories of Cielo are all self-contained so they can be read independently. Occasionally, some characters reappear in other stories (100 stories later). A little nod and wink to the faithful fans that read them all.

Q: And for people who are interested in finding out more about your work, is the best place your website and/or social media channels?

You can explore more of Matt’s work at Enjoyed reading this post? Subscribe to the . and please do share which of the 365 stories you enjoyed reading the most!

Originally published at on August 5, 2019.

Bijal A Shah

Written by

Book therapist, author, poet & founder of Book Therapy - therapy using the power of literature:

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