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Paul Jennings

A Writing Life

Paul Jennings was born in 1943 in Heston, Middlesex and emigrated to Australia with his family in 1943.

After graduating, he became a teacher and speech pathologist and then a lecturer in special education. In 1985 his first book of short stories, Unreal! was published. In 1989 he gave up teaching to write full-time. His stories were adapted for the TV series Round the Twist.

Paul’s memoir untwisted was published in 2020 in Australia by Allen & Unwin and by Old Barn Books in the UK.

In this episode, Paul reflects on his writing life and the close relationship between art and life, referring to his three novellas A  Different Dog, A Different Boy and A Different Land.

A Different Dog
The child narrator of A Different Dog can’t speak – we assume it is from a disability or a reaction to a trauma in his past. He is teased by the other kids and is a loner. On a cold winter’s day, when everyone is participating in a fun run on the mountain, our narrator finds himself alone at the scene of a car accident where the driver has died.

But there is a little dog in the car… What follows is a moving story of survival and redemption (and somehow humour in the midst of all that), all told in a 96-page novella.

A Different Boy
The ship was a towering fortress looming over the pier. Anton stared enviously at the emigrants lining up in front of the wide gangplank. Heading off on a voyage to a land of peace and plenty.

Leaving the land of broken buildings and crushed hopes behind. Looking forward to sunshine and steaks. How he wished that he was one of the lucky ones.’Loosely based on Paul Jennings’ journey to Australia as a ‘ten-pound Pom’, the story of Anton, who escapes from an orphanage and successfully stows away on a boat headed for the land of ‘sunshine and steaks’ has a timeless reality of its own.

It is a tale of loss, guilt, mistaken identity and taking risks but also surprisingly heartwarming and heartbreaking. Perfect for reluctant readers in upper primary and lower secondary, it speaks of loss, migration, resilience and courage.

A Different Land
The final part of a series that started with ‘A Different Dog’, followed by ‘A Different Boy’, 

‘A Different Land’ continues to explore themes of family and displacement as our narrator seeks to find a home. Told with Paul Jennings empathy and gentle humour – and there is bound to be a twist in the tale!