Fantastic Female Adventurers and The International Day of the Girl
- Friday 11 October 2019
This year UNICEF will be celebrating the International Day of the Girl with their theme GirlForce: Unscripted and unstoppable.
Just last week we published Lily Dyu’s Fantastic Female Adventurers, which celebrates fourteen ‘unstoppable’ females and is aimed at children aged 8 years+. I caught up with Lily to find out more about her own adventures and those of her chosen fabulous females.
What inspired you to write Fantastic Female Adventurers?
A couple of years ago I was looking for a book about modern-day female adventurers and explorers as a gift for a friend’s daughter, Francie. When I couldn’t find anything, I started to wonder whether I could write something myself, but I didn’t take the idea any further. Then, not long afterwards, I was out on a run while listening to a programme about gender stereotyping in children and I was shocked to hear that early in primary school many once-bold little girls start to experience self-doubt while some boys have learned to use ‘girly’ as a derogatory term (as we’ve recently seen in politics, that’s something that can long outlive the playground). That was the catalyst and the moment that I decided to write the book.
And the book isn’t just for girls. I very much hope that boys and grown-ups will enjoy the stories too. While I wanted to tell the stories of incredible female role models, there is also, at the heart of my writing, a wish to inspire everyone - young and old - to explore and marvel at the natural world, in the hope that they will fall in love with it and fight for it.
Happily, I’ve dedicated the book to Francie and it’s published the week before her ninth birthday, so she’ll get a little surprise in the post.
How did you choose the women to feature in your book?
I wanted the book to feature the adventures of modern-day women rather than historical explorers, to make it more relatable for readers. It was also important to include a range of voices from all sorts of backgrounds. After that, I wanted to showcase a variety of activities, geographies and environments. One exception to the ‘modern-day’ rule was Gwen Moffat, who is no longer climbing (she gave up in her seventies), but she’s still hill-walking in her nineties and is such a huge inspiration for living life completely on her own terms. And I was thrilled to be able to include Helen Sharman because her story shows how an ordinary girl can grow up to be Britain’s first astronaut … plus I did once harbour dreams to be an astronaut, so including her allowed me to vicariously travel into space.
What was the most inspiring moment for you while writing Fantastic Female Adventurers?
What inspires me in many of the stories is seeing how far you can get and what you can achieve if you 'just try' and give something a shot regardless of the outcome. Failure and mistakes, if they happen at all, are simply part of the learning process. I think many people would probably surprise themselves if they applied this thinking to things that they’re daunted by. And, as Sarah Outen’s story shows, sometimes the best things that happen in life were never part of the plan.
Who are your female heroes and why?
There's too many to name, so I’ll keep it to the world of books and writing. Dervla Murphy is my ultimate writer-adventurer hero. She’s passionate about politics and conservation and her wonderful travel writing is driven by her interest in people. I also love Rebecca Solnit for her activism and brilliant essays about issues facing the world. And finally, Katherine Rundell writes fantastic children’s books full of adventure and derring-do. Probably at some deeper level, I’d love to be all three of these women.
If I had to pick a book character, I’d choose Pippi Longstocking because she’s fearless, self-sufficient, quick-witted, generous and fun. And you’ve got to love a girl whose middle name is ‘Tea-cosy’!
What are your own "unstoppable" passions and traits?
I’ll pick three that have helped with my writing career. Firstly, I have a single-minded focus to get stuff done; secondly I’m happy with my own company (authors can often spend hours, if not days, at their desk with maybe an occasional chat with the postman!) and finally I’m innately curious about other people.
What has been your own favourite adventure?
I love going fastpacking (multi-day running) and one of my toughest but most rewarding trips was a four-day solo coast-to-coast crossing of Snowdonia, from Conwy to Barmouth, staying in bunkhouses and hostels along the way. I'm not great with heights or exposure and managed to scare myself silly a few times, but I hardly saw a soul and it was wonderful to spend all that time travelling through the mountains. And a spell of sunny autumn weather helped, of course the views were amazing.
At the moment, having spent the entire summer chained to my laptop writing my next book, I’m simply grateful when I can get out and run the loop through the woods behind my house and get my daily fix of nature!
But I think it's important to note that adventures really don’t need to be big. I’d encourage everyone to get outdoors and try something slightly outside their comfort zone because you never know where it may lead you. I first got published through penning adventure-travel features followed by a couple of running-related books. Who knew that lacing up my trainers all those years ago and jogging my first mile would set me on a long and meandering path to becoming an author!
Chellie Carroll’s glorious watercolour illustrations bring these fantastic adventurers to life, and readers are transported around the globe, from the peaks of mystical mountains to vast awesome oceans.
My own ‘unscripted and unstoppable’ girl gave us her own run down on Fantastic Female Adventurers
I loved this book! My mum read some to me as bedtime stories and I read a lot of them myself. Beth French's story made me really passionate about swimming and it was really cool that Helen Sharman became an astronaut after an advert on the radio and she's from Sheffield like me!
Ada - age 8
Whilst Fantastic Female Adventurers is aimed at 8+, older readers may be interested in Sarah Mussi’s The Snowdonia Chronicles trilogy featuring adventurous protagonist, Ellie Morgan, and her quests in the dramatic Welsh landscape and the Fae Lands. The first two books in the series, Here be Dragons and Here be Witches, are out now, with Here be Wizards due out next year.
Or if you're ready to go off in search of your own adventure a great place to start is The Adventure Toolkit where you'll find loads of practical advice and useful tips for family friendly exploring!
But even if school days are the dim and distant past you can still dive into the lives of wonder women:
Clouds from Both Sides by Julie Tullis
In her autobiography, the incredible Julie Tullis, recounts her tales of becoming the first British woman to climb an 8,000m peak, and the first to reach the summit on the world’s second-highest mountain, K2.
Adventures in Mind by Heather Dawe
Heather began running at 17 and started fell racing and competing in mountain marathons not long after. She was injured in a car accident that would crush the dreams of many athletes, but only served to push her harder into her training and she took on some of the toughest marathons and races.
All But One by Barbara Swindon
Barbara Swindin’s autobiography recounts her quest to climb the 52 highest mountains in the Alps. Whilst chronicling her own triumphs and shortfalls, she also reflects on those first women to break into the masculine world of mountaineering, the ‘petticoat pioneers’, and the strides that have been taken since.
Waymaking edited by Helen Mort, Claire Carter, Heather Dawe and Camilla Barnard,
Immerse yourself in this anthology of prose, poetry and artwork, that is inspired by wild places, adventure and landscape. The collection features contributions from over 50 women including Hazel, Findlay, Anna McNuff and Sarah Outen.
Read more from our blog
- Guest Blog: Helen Mort - Ten Things I've Learnt About Having Adventures With A Baby
- Our Pick: Top Three Inspiring Reads For Mothers Day
- Adventure Is Calling: Why Getting Outdoors Is So Important For Young People
- Book Of The Month: Adventures In Mind
- Heather Dawe: Athlete, Mum, Painter, Writer, Student, Data Scientist
- Bridging The Gap - Women And Mountain Storytelling
- Inspiring Women's Adventure
- Guest Post: Ruth Wiggins, Co-contributer To Waymaking
- Editor Interview: Camilla Barnard, Waymaking
- Book Of The Month: Here Be Dragons