-New South Wales, Australia
Debra Williams (formerly Debra Clewer), is an Australian children’s author, with three independently published Middle-Grade novels, and is a seasoned puppeteer and puppet builder. Storytelling and puppeteering have been a part of her life since she was a young child. Debra recalls that when she was a 10-year-old child, she would perform puppet plays in the street for the other neighboring children, from a makeshift theatre made of wooden fruit crates, using Punch and Judy puppets her maternal grandmother bought for her.
In 1991, she began creating puppets as a way to present school-based Bible lessons to children. She recalls she had always admired Jim Henson’s Muppets from the days of watching Sesame Street with her little brother, and then as an adult glued to the tube watching The Muppet Show weekly.
At the time, the only puppets available were too large and heavy for portable use in a classroom, and too costly. She found a small book with puppet patterns and began designing her own mouth-operated, portable, light-weight puppets using the patterns as a base.
Over time various people started to inquire where they could get the same type of puppets, and in 1999 along with her late husband John, they designed a web-based puppet business. Over time she branched out into making smaller hand puppets, along with filling custom orders for larger ones.
I saw Debra’s puppet-making mastery through a mutual children’s book author who utilized Debra in designing a puppet to go along with the author’s main character from her book series. I fell in love with the idea of having your own handmade, custom puppet to use for in person book events and reached out to Debra to claim my own. Within just a few short weeks of communicating with Debra about my vision for a Mommy’s Big, Red Monster Truck puppet, my very own puppet was on my doorstep mailed across the world from Australia to the U.S.A. It is now one of my most valued possessions.
It was only natural the lifelong storyteller and avid reader would eventually create beautiful books for children. When Debra was 8 years old a friend at her school would pass on her dad’s copies of Reader’s Digest to Debra to read. She also cherished her grandfather’s copies of National Geographic, as well as numerous children’s novels she says she read over and over.
In 2013, Debra had an idea for a Middle-Grade novel featuring an 8-year-old boy. She began making notes of ideas for the book and in 2015 she attended a free writing workshop at her local public library where she re-visited and further developed her manuscript which became a novel, Harriet and the Secret Librarian, released in 2018.
She then had an idea for another novel which was released first under the title Harriet and the Secret Rings in 2017. In September 2019, Harriet and the Secret Coins was released. Debra’s late husband John co-wrote a large part of the Secret Librarian with her, and provided ideas for development of the Secret Rings story. After his sudden death in April 2016, she re-visited and completed the Secret Librarian and released it with a dedication to him in the front. The books were published under her previous wedded name, also a dedication to him.
The basis of the storyline for the books involves Harriet Cooper, an 11-year-old girl who time-travels with her best friend Will Taylor. The friends travel to ancient Rome, Greece and Sherwood Forest in the first book. In the second book Harriet meets an old librarian who reads to her, and through the stories she and Will have some exciting adventures. The third book is based on the Australian gold rush where the two friends visit three gold mining places on a school excursion. Each book is based on historical fact, but with a fun fictional time-travel adventure. There is also a helpful character in the books- a Welsh dragon, Gruffyd, who is a character John and Debra developed. The books are popular chapter books for the 8-12 age group.
Along with creating puppets for others, Debra offers puppet-making workshops for children and adults. In October 2019, she ran her first children’s writing workshop. She loves to encourage children through imagination and reading, to help them become enthusiastic about books. She loves to teach a bit of history in a fun way. In addition, the creative person that she is, hopes to begin creating illustrations for a couple of picture books she plans to publish in the future.
Debra is currently embarking on a new venture in Tasmania, where she will be opening her own puppet and book shop, where she will sell pre-made puppets, her books and hopefully books from other authors, along with custom-made bags and gift lines. She is also continuing to take orders online under the name Debra’s Puppeteria and Booknook, which will also be the name of the shop.
To Learn More About Debra, Look Here:
Facebook: Debra Clewer @DClewerauthor