Author, Professional Speaker, Teacher, Ceramic Artist
M Ed (Honours), Cert IV Youth Work, Cert IV TAE, Life Coaching Certification, Professional Speaking Certification
Advocate for inclusive education, disability awareness and equality (particularly facial differences, mental illness, visual impairment, Down syndrome)
Mentor – Queensland Writers Centre
Facilitator – Moreton Bay Region Writers
Founder – International Crouzon Syndrome Support Group
Founder – Our Faces Australia
I was born in Brisbane, Australia, with a rare craniofacial syndrome, called Crouzon syndrome. Growing up I was bullied constantly, suffered from anxiety and depression, and felt very misunderstood. In the 1970s I underwent pioneer craniofacial reconstructive surgeries which left me with low vision. I taught in the primary school setting for 25 years leaving in 2014 due to anxiety and depression. After teaching I studied writing, youth work, training and assessment and life coaching. In 2020 I began to learn ceramics. My first marriage was coercive control which I eventually was able to escape from. in July 2020, I separated from my second husband of 20 years, due to his escalating addictions and domestic violence. He passed away in early 2021.
I have three beautiful children. My eldest two children have my craniofacial syndrome and my youngest has Down syndrome.
Having three children who have needed surgeries and therapies, and constant hospital appointments, has given me a unique perspective on life and has led to my advocacy and speaking work.
I am an advocate and global influencer for people living with facial differences, low vision or blindness, mental illness and for the inclusion of children with disabilities in mainstream schools and out in the community. With my stories and speaking I aim to help people who feel different to embrace who they are and live their best life. Through my ceramics I pose the question, ‘What is a face?’
Before I became an author…
I enjoyed writing and learning as a child and teenager, and followed this passion into primary teaching, for 25 years in the classroom where I loved caring for the children, seeing them learn something for the first time, or achieve something that they had been struggling with. In 2014, a severe bout of anxiety and depression abruptly brought my career to an end. I grieved for my loss and sought a new path. While recuperating, I started to write again.
Why do I write now?
I write to help people, particularly children. I has been through a lot in my life and if I can assist others in the same situation through my writing, then that makes me feel happy and content with what I have been through. It’s been a tough road.
The children’s books are fictional but have an element of reality in them. They are aimed at helping children who are different; children who feel they don’t fit in the world; for children with mental illnesses and fears; and for children who are being bullied.
I write about what would have helped me as a child and teen.
I have also been branching out into adult short stories and have been included in many anthologies. All my stories fit into my disability, difference and mental wellbeing theme.
My writing journey…
As a child I loved to write. In fact I have vivid memories of spending my lunchtimes writing stories in Year 3 and 4. In high school I turned to poetry and journaling to release my frustrations with the world. In Year 12 I won a regional writing competition.
When my children were young I started writing her blog: Crouzons, Downs and Me…Love and Life. This blog was a way of documenting what my family was going through with the children, and also as a resource for others to access. It was around this time that I also set up the International Crouzon Syndrome Support Group page on Facebook. 2014 saw me leave classroom teaching and gave me time to go back to my childhood passion. I began to write and learn the craft. In 2016 I began the blog, Jenny Woolsey – The ABCs of Life which became Be Weirdly Wonderful!, which is a reflection of how I see the world.
My debut children’s novel, Ride High Pineapple was launched in July 2016. The story is about Issy who has my craniofacial syndrome, is bullied and suffers from anxiety. It follows her journal as she learns through skateboarding to be an overcomer. I was fortunate enough to have the Children’s Craniofacial Association in the USA write the foreword for me and endorse the story. This story has been my best seller and sold internationally.
- 2016 – Ride High Pineapple – endorsed by Children’s Craniofacial Association
- 2016 – Brockwell the Brave
- 2017 – Land of Britannica
- 2017 – Short stories in Redemption and Like a Woman anthologies
- 2018 – Daniel Barker: By Power or Blight
- 2019 – Amy and Phoenix
- 2019 – Short story in What an Adventure! ebook with an Honourable Mention; Short story in From the Edge anthology
- 2019 – Short story in Allsorts anthology and long listed for the Sydney Hammond Memorial Short Story Competition
- 2020 – Daniel Barker: Journey to Egypt
- 2020 – Short story in Change Makers vol 5 – 21 Transformational stories from women making an impact in the lives of others – this was an Amazon best-seller
- 2021 – Short story in 2020: Year of COVID-19 Stories of Lockdown vol 1
- 2021 – Short story in Short Stories of Science and Space anthology
- 2021 – Short story in Once Upon a Whoops! anthology
- 2021 – Simon Sees – endorsed by Guide Dogs Australia (coming out soon!)
My ceramics journey…
My ceramics journey began after I started accessing Guide Dogs Queensland for help with my low vision. This was at the end of 2018 after having some falls and scares when being out on my own. I decided it was time to see if I was eligible for a long cane. I was.
My long cane journey has been one filled with a myriad of emotions compounded by childhood triggers (with being stared and pointed at). But I have continued to use the cane and other assistive technology, as I am now safe, independent, I don’t have to pretend to see when I can’t and people help me without me being embarrassed to ask.
Upon receiving NDIS funding I began the clay program at Guide Dogs. This opened up a whole new world of creativity for me. It also gave me a way to work through my childhood trauma of being born with a facial difference and explore what faces are. In 2019 through to 2021 the clay has also been therapy time for me as I dealt with my husband’s increasing addictions, their traumatic effects on the family, separation, filing for a protection order, him passing away, and being a sole mother.
In 2020 the clay members were asked if we would like to be part of the Art from the Margins Alterations Exhibition in Brisbane. I entered 3 pieces – two for sale. Those works sold within the first fifteen minutes of the exhibition opening and I received a lot of positive feedback.
I absolutely love working with the clay and am always trying new techniques and experimenting. At the moment apart from my fun pieces, I have decided for exhibitions to concentrate on my ‘faces’ theme which explores facial differences and low vision.
Jenny belongs to the following speakers agencies:
Jenny belows to the following professional writing organisations:
• Queensland Writers Centre
• The Alliance of Independent Authors
• Book Links Inc. & Write Links
• Omega Writers
• Moreton Bay Arts Council
• Fellowship of Australian Writers Queensland
- Channel Nine Interview: The Real-life Wonder Living with Crouzon syndrome
- News.com.au: Family with Crouzon syndrome fighting bullies
- That’s Life Magazine: Beautiful Inside and Out Online Edition (also published on New Idea online)
- Kidspot: My family was bullied and stared at because of our faces
- She Society: Growing up Different
- Guide Dogs Queensland: Be Weirdly wonderful
- People with a Passion: Born to Stand Out Podcast
- Pods with Posh & Pool: Being Weirdly Wonderful Podcast
- CCA Kids Blog: Ride High Pineapple Review
- Carly Findlay: Seven Books to Help Kids
- Karibu Anawim Blog Post for Face Equality Week 2020
- Just Kids Lit Interview
- Ellen Read Interview
- Big Sister Blogs Maria Parenti
- Good Reads
- Amazon Author Page
- Australian Authors Marketplace
- Christian Writers Downunder