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Penny Tangey

Author, Storyteller/Performer

Penny is the author of three books for young people. Her first novel, Loving Richard Feynman was shortlisted for the 2010 CBCA Book of the Year (older readers).

Penny performed stand-up comedy for many years beginning by winning the Victorian final of Triple J’s Raw Comedy Competition. Most recently she performed a show about education and teaching, Chalk and Talk, in the Melbourne Comedy Festival.

Where were you born?

I grew up in country Victoria and moved to Melbourne to go to university when I was 18. It was tough growing up in a rugged rural community on the border of the central Victorian Goldfields/Spa regions. I once performed in a creative dance concert wearing a gold cummerbund, and one time I played the recorder in a baroque ensemble at a lavender farm. That’s how rugged it was.

What other jobs have you had?

When I was at university I had a lot of different jobs including in cafes, a cattery and a bacon factory. I tended to be really bad at those jobs and got shouted at a lot.

I now work at Melbourne Museum so I can visit Phar Lap at lunch times.

What themes are recurring in your work?

Winnie the Pooh reflected that, ‘although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better’.

I think part of growing up is having the sense that there are great things just around the corner. The experience of waiting for them can be frustrating and wonderful, and that’s what I often write about.

I also like to mention Phar Lap whenever possible.

What have been the highlights of your career?

I felt very honoured to be short listed for the CBCA award for Loving Richard Feynman. I didn’t even think my publisher would enter my book, so I was beyond excited when I saw my name on the list.

Earlier, It was a great opportunity to receive a Brian McCarthy Memorial grant (Moosehead), which allowed me to perform Kathy Smith Goes to Maths Camp in the Melbourne Comedy Festival.

What are you passionate about?

I’m really interested in girls doing more science. While some scientific fields have been successful in attracting more women, others are lagging.

I believe in public education. All the characters in my books go to public schools and I try to show their school experiences in a realistic and positive way.

Anything else you would like to share with us?

I did a double degree with majors in Indonesian Studies and Chemistry.

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