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The Happiness Jar
By Samantha Tidy

Biography

Samantha Tidy is a Canberra-based writer of adult, young adult and children's fiction. Samantha is also a Director on the board of the ACT Writers' Centre, where she is able to use her passion for writing and publishing, to promote and support the careers of all writers in the Canberra region. She is also secretary to the Museums Galleries Australia Education National Network.

A Brief History

Samantha's first novel was originally titled The Goodbye Kisses. She entered it into the T.A.G. Hungerford Award for Fiction, in 2000 and received Runner Up. Promptly, she quit her day job and went and lived in a derelict caravan by the beach in Hamelin Bay, Western Australia, to write her next novel. After a few months, the West Australian winter crept in and she quickly realised that writers rarely get to quit their day job and she set about learning to balance her passion for writing, with more promising and regular income streams. She never did publish the novel that she wrote in that caravan, but it taught her a thing or two about learning to write when no one is watching.

Samantha re-titled that first novel, and it was published as Cappuccino Diva in 2003 by Black Coffee Press. The novel tells the story of a year (1997) in the life of urban Fremantle. This novel was listed on the WA ESL curriculum for several years, and is studied in some schools in Western Australia.

In October 2004, Samantha was invited to participate in the Inaugural Ubud Writers' and Readers' Festival in Bali Indonesia, where she presented a writing workshop and gave readings of her first novel.

In 2005, Samantha was commissioned by the NSW Government to write two children's picture books, The Flying Dream (illustrated by Connah Brecon) and The Blue Polar Bear (illustrated by Ian Forss) which were published in January 2006 by the Department of Community Services, NSW. Both books have a current circulation of around 30,000 each. These two texts help children understand when a parent has Dual Diagnosis (where mental illness is combined with substance abuse). The project won a major trans-Tasman award (Mental Health Service, Australia/New Zealand - Gold Award for promotion of Mental Health) and a Highly Commended in the 2006 NSW Premier's Public Sector Awards.

Interspersed with travel overseas, Samantha spent the first seven years of her career as an English and French teacher, which enabled her to live in several beautiful parts of Western Australia, including a remote Aboriginal community (which was the inspiration for the Kimberley desert setting for her novel, The Happiness Jar).

Her main career focus for the past twelve years has been in museum and arts education, developing a strong passion for Australian history and cultural heritage, notably at the Australian War Memorial, the National Archives of Australia and the State Library of Victoria, where she has led teams of passionate educators, towards communicating Australia’s heritage to young people, including as Head of Education at Australia's national touring company, Bell Shakespeare.

In 2008, her professional contribution in this field was acknowledged and she lived and worked in Paris for 4 months, as the recipient of a research fellowship, at the Bibliotheque nationale de France (BnF). She wrote a 20,000 word paper on how international libraries can learn from each other, when catering for youth and future generations within the changing world of information. Samantha now consults to the library/museum sector, on education resources and programs.

Along the way, Samantha has also freelanced in writing non-fiction for magazines and newspapers, with work published in Australia, Ireland and Indonesia, and she has been commissioned to write pieces for major international publishers such as Dorling Kindersley, UK.

In 2009, Samantha completed her Masters in Creative Writing at The University of RMIT, Melbourne, titled "In Heaven as it is on Earth: Created Heavens in Contemporary Literature, focussing on The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold."  Her most recent novel, The Happiness Jar was the project text to her Masters degree.

In March 2011, the unpublished manuscript of The Happiness Jar received Commended (3rd place out of 81 entries) in the 2010 FAW National Jim Hamilton Award for an unpublished manuscript.

In June 2011, it was shortlisted for a Penguin Varuna Scholarship and also shortlisted in November 2011 for a Harper Collins Varuna Award for Manuscript Development.

The Happiness Jar was published by Storytorch Press in September 2013, whereupon it received Highly Commended in the FAW Christina Stead Award, 2013. The Happiness Jar also won the ACT Writing and Publishing Award for Fiction in December 2014.

In 2014, Samantha presented at the Southern Highland Writers' Festival in July and at Corrugated Lines: a festival of words (Broome Writers' Festival) in August, which included some very wonderful workshops with primary students on cultivating and capturing happiness. She has continued to deliver workshops such as this in 2015, including at the Jugiong Writers' Festival and at Libraries ACT in 2016. 

In 2015, Samantha was shortlisted for the National Library of Australia Creative Fellowship (for 2016). 

Her forthcoming children's picture book, The Day We Built the Bridge, illustrated by Fiona Burrows, will be published by MidnightSun Publishing in 2018.