Lilith Norman

Lilith Norman (a.k.a. Lilith G. Norman) b. 1927

Lilith (pronounced Lye-lith!) Norman’s earliest writing success was winning 3rd prize in a newspaper poetry competition when she was 18 (for The Colour of Sorrow: a lament for the Aborigines).  She worked as a library, then bookshop assistant, travelled overseas, returned to formal library training and work, and was Children’s Librarian at Sydney Public Library from 1966 to 1970.  It was reading countless incoming titles that convinced her she could write as well and better as the material she was selecting.

Her first novel, Climb a Lonely Hill (1971), was commended in the Book of the Year awards, and set her on her authorial way.  She joined the editorial staff of the NSW School Magazine under Patricia Wrightson and wrote of that time –

‘I learned more during the 5 years Patricia Wrightson was editor at the School Magazine than would have in fifty years of fumbling on my own …There is no point in writing abstract waffle to bore the kids. It is not easy to make your writing lively and interesting and to make one article ten lines long, another twenty-six, one fourteen, one a full page. I learned discipline to write at length, to meet deadlines, to see my own writing clearly – and to stick glue on the seat of my pants and sit down and write – the hardest discipline of all.’

Lilith took over as editor on Patricia’s retirement in 1975 but in 1978 turned to writing full time. In 1980 A Dream of Seas was chosen as a Hans Christian Andersen Honour Book by IBBY, and in 1999 her picture book Grandpa received several awards for its warm and realistic portrayal of the loss of a loved one.*

While Lilith felt that a children’s writer must essentially be an optimist, she has never shied away from honest and realistic representation in her writing.  She never patronised her readers by obscuring their view of the world. Lilith wrote a number of children’s novels including The Shape of Three (Collins, 1971), The Laurel and Hardy Kids (Random House, 1989), The Paddock, illustrated by Robert Roennfeldt (Random House, 1992), and Grandpaillustrated by Noela Young (Margaret Hamilton Books, 1998). She also wrote The Brown and Yellow: Sydney Girls’ High School 1883-1983 (Oxford University Press, 1983).

*(Information drawn from Authors and Illustrators of Australian Children’s Books by Walter McVitty 1989, and The Oxford Companion to Australian Children’s Literatureed. Stella Lees and Pam MacIntyre 1993, as well as an interview with Lilith at the Bendigo Children’s Literature Conference in 1995).

 

Poems by Lilith Norman

 

The Sea

Deep glass-green seas

chew rocks

with their green glass jaws.

But little waves

creep in

and nibble softly at the sand.

© Lilith Norman

 

A Sad Song

Tom was very bad at sums –

He used his fingers, toes and thumbs –

Tom said, ‘I couldn’t be much badder,

I think I’ll try to use an adder.’

He went into the shop and tried

But the adder bit him, and he died.

© Lilith Norman

 

Hot Rod

Hot Rod gunned his car.

The roar shook up the street,

windows flew up,

people yelled, ‘Turn it off!’

Rod grinned,

Burned off with the noise of a jet plane.

Round the corner on two wheels

and

into

a bus

          at sixty miles an hour.

 

Hot Rod is under the ground now.

Cold Rod.

© Lilith Norman

 

Sea Horses

The cat-wind yowls.

The horses of the sea buck themselves to foam.

But my cat and my horse

lie safely at home.

© Lilith Norman

 

The Wheel

Round and round the wheel goes,   

Round and round and round;

I wonder how the feel goes,

Round and round and round?

 

Down the hill, along the track,

Whirling down and pushing back;

Spinning over, round and round

In my wheel, across the ground.

 

Round and round the wheel goes,

Round and round and round;     

That’s the way the feel goes,         

Round and round and round!

© Lilith Norman

The poems above are published in: A Second Australian Poetry Book, compiled by Barbara Giles, Oxford University Press, 1983, and Someone is flying balloons: Australian Poems for Children , selected by Heylen and Jellett, illustrated Kerry Argent, 1983, Omnibus.

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3 thoughts on “Lilith Norman

  1. Pingback: Weekly updates | Australian Children's Poetry

  2. Wow, Lilith Norman and Patricia Wrightson – two big names from my childhood reading – working together! What an exciting time. The Shape of Three and The Flame Takers were such powerful books. I was fortunate to have a mother who supported new Australian writing and bought us books every birthday and Christmas. I’m now a teacher librarian and delight in the flourishing world of children’s literature. Thanks Mum! Thanks Lilith!

  3. I worked with Lilith Norman for about six months on the NSW Department of Education School Magazine when she was editor. She was a very tough critic of my writing efforts but taught me ever so much. I agree, she was a superb author!

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