Writers Inspiring Change feature author: Gigi Sedlmayer
Tell us about yourself!
I was born in Berlin, Germany, on 19 May 1944. Escaping to the West before the wall went up, we moved around, a lot, changing schools many times because my father had to go where he could find work after the war. It was not good for me, since I didn’t make any friends. Why should I? I would lose them anyway when we moved again. So, I crawled into a black hole, or into the shell of a turtle. Since I had to wear glasses from a young age, I was laughed at. That didn’t help to raise my confidence. So, I put my face into books, a lot of them. I was reading, mostly animal stories, or adventure. Finally, we settled in Munich, where my mum put me into a school to study architectural drafting, because she knew I was good with my hands. I met Albert there in 1965, marrying in December 1967. He must have seen something in me, and he still does. I was still in my shell and started to write short animal stories. I loved it. In May 1975 we moved to New Zealand and because of language challenges, I started a handcraft business. It was very lucrative with parrots, sleepy tigers and koalas. In 1988 we decided to adopt and became parents of twin girls from Fiji the year after. In September 1992 we immigrated to Australia. In 1993 I was diagnosed with cancer. Surviving, I started to write short stories. One of the short stories was about handicapped Matica and her giant condor, Talon. Since she faces a lot of challenges, Matica is the embodiment of me and my life.
Tell us what inspired you to start writing. Because of my own life, and surviving cancer, I couldn’t go to work any longer. Thinking back where I wrote some stories, when I was younger, I started to write again. I wanted to let the world see what damage can be done when a child is rejected. I wanted to put that in the story, but not in a boring way, just telling my experiences clothed in an adventure, so that children and parents could read the stories and see and feel the heartache that youth face when they are rejected. When you put your mind to something you love, you can change and see the world, not with dark eyes, but with the light.
Is there a message in your books? “Teaching Children Self-Confidence through Service to Others.” Children today face immense pressure to fit in with their peers. This pressure is leading to record rates of depression among pre-teens and teenagers and thus to suicide. Parents look for ways to build their children’s self-esteem; however, teens look to their peers and popular culture for acceptance rather than their parents. This puts parents in a challenging situation. Most children of this age group have issues with acceptance and this is explored and resolved in a positive manner within the story line of the Talon series, where Matica shows children and teens that they can overcome great obstacles with love, patience and a selfless attitude toward helping others and experience exciting adventures along the way. I wanted to let children and parents know that they don’t need to suffer more than they already have, because children suffer from all sorts of afflictions and through my book they can learn how to cope with it better, as Matica did, the main character in my TALON books. Children can find a “Condor” as Matica did. Not literally a condor, but every child or adult for that matter, who is battling with none curable afflictions, should find something that lets them forget what is happening to them. Finding a “Condor” would help them to overcome that. Parents can read my books to younger children so they can see that they are not alone, that they can overcome things in a positive way, not in a negative way. Children with special needs or with disability, or who are handicapped, don’t have an illness, so there is no cure and it’s not contagious. They want what we all want, to be accepted. My books are not only for children. As I said, adults face some illnesses as well, so my books are for adults as well. ‘Sometimes the worst and greatest problems in life cannot be solved. They can only be outgrown.’ And I have outgrown them, many times, I might say. I wanted to write a story about a handicapped or challenged girl to show readers what they can achieve if they focus their minds, not on the negativity, but on the positivity. Because I love birds, I decided to let Matica have a bird in my stories. But what bird? And what if she could fly on the bird? But to do that she would have to have a disability of some kind, something that made her smaller. And the bird had to be big. And there the condor came to my mind. I loved the condors. They are amazing birds. They are the biggest land birds (vulture) on our wonderful earth. And so the story about Matica and Talon came into existence. And then I had to set the scene in Peru, close to the great Andes, where the condors live. And so it came about that I decided to let her family move to Peru as missionaries from Australia.
What have readers said about your book(s). Most people just love my books and give me 5 stars. They see what is behind the story and what they comment on or notice is that her disability is her greatest strength. Some noteworthy feedback includes: “He taught me, that life is not ending, when something different is coming your way. One has to embrace the difference and life is going on.” “An inspirational, highly emotional and entertaining read for all ages. Matica, the heroine, is a strong, brave girl, who battles with her handicap and how others view her. But this isn’t a story only about her gaining acceptance or overcoming her challenges. Rather, it’s a tale packed full of exciting moments and tons of emotions.” “An absolutely delightful story for people of all ages. A story of friendship, love and acceptance. A very young girl named Matica moves to another country with her family and faces all kinds of challenges and emotional trials. She is amazing and inspirational. Hard to put down, exciting to get to the next adventure. Very well written.” Tell us about your book. I will let Matica, my main character, speak for herself: “My name is Matica and I am a special needs child with a growth disability. I am stuck in the body of a two-year-old, even though I am ten years old when my story begins in the first book of the Talon series, TALON, COME FLY WITH ME. Because of that disability, (I am saying ‘that’ disability, not ‘my’ disability because it’s a thing that happens to me, nothing more, and because I am not accepting it as something bad. I can say that now after I learned to cope with it.) I was rejected by the local Indians as they couldn’t understand that the condition was not a sickness and so it couldn’t be cured. It’s just a disorder of my body. I never gave up on life and so I had lots of adventures roaming around the plateau where we lived in Peru, with my mum and dad’s blessing. But, after I made friends with condors whom I named Tamo and Tima, everything changed for the good. I was finally loved and accepted by the Indians. I am their hero now. I had embraced my problem before I became friends with Tamo and Tima. I held onto it but I still felt sorry for myself and cried a lot, wanting to run away or do something worse. But would that have helped me? Would it have become better? Would I have grown taller? No, nothing of that sort would have happened. But, one day, when I looked up into the sky and saw the majestic condors flying in the air, I made up my mind. I wanted to become friends with them. I believed that if I could achieve that, all my sorrow and rejection would be over. And true enough, it was over. I was loved. I even became famous. (You can read all about it in the series) If you are in a similar situation, with whatever your problem is, find something you can rely on and stick to it, love it, and it to accomplish what you were meant to do.
Do you have any upcoming release that you want to mention to readers? A sneak preview? I have published 5 books up to now. 1. TALON, COME FLY WITH ME 2. TALON, ON THE WING 3. TALON, FLIGHT FOR LIFE 4. TALON, CONNECTED 5. TALON, ENCOUNTER 6. TALON, WINDSONG