Nicky Johnston wears many different hats – an artist, a primary teacher and a children’s book author and illustrator, this busy Mornington Peninsula mama of four boys loves nothing more than to be writing and illustrating in her home art studio.
Nicky’s books aim to help children understand and manage their emotional feelings, worrying thoughts, anxiety, fears and insecurities through the means of pictures and stories. They are also a fantastic tool for us parents, to be able to explain and demonstrate to our children why they might be feeling a certain way and how they can best deal with those feelings.
As someone who suffers from anxiety (Lisa), I was especially excited to interview Nicky and hear all about her journey.
MLTS – Thank you so much for sitting down and having a chat with us Nicky! To start, can you tell us a little about yourself and your family?
Nicky – I am a busy mum with a hubby and four boys (ages currently ranging from 6-18years!). I am also a primary educator and a children’s book author and illustrator. I have done a lot of speaking about mental health issues in children and I love doing school visits where I get to present to the children about being an author/illustrator.
MLTS – Wow! Four boys! You are a busy mama! I’m sure it’s been both rewarding and tiring being a mum of four! How different are they all, tell us about the boys.
Nicky – I am very surprised just how different each of my children are from each other, yet they can also be so similar in many ways also. Having a large family means we are always on the go, its busy, its noisy and I seem to always be juggling things. I love it!
MLTS – Aside from being a busy mama, you are also one super talented lady! When somebody asks you what you do for a living, how do you answer?
Nicky – Depends on how much time I have! I am sure some people don’t believe me when they find out all the things I do for a living! Most often I say I write and illustrate children’s books, then add ‘Oh and I do this….and this…. and this….’ but only if time allows!
MLTS – When did you realise you had a passion for art? Can you tell us when you started to illustrate?
Nicky – I have been creative since I was a young child. In all of my jobs growing up, I seemed to thread creativity into it, painting murals, designing t-shirts, teaching art. My first published book as author and illustrator was in 2008.
MLTS – Your books are so thoughtful and educational, tell us about your first book “Go Away, Mr Worrythoughts” when was it published and what is it about?
Nicky – Go Away, Mr Worrythoughts! was first published in 2008. It is about a young boy who worries all the time until he discovers he has superpowers and he can beat Mr Worrythoughts to force his worries away.
MLTS – I’m sure many children have thoughts like this, what a brilliant idea, helping them to understand in such a beautifully written and illustrated format… how did it feel when you held the first copy of your published story?
Nicky – When I first wrote Mr Worrythoughts, I really didn’t intend on it being a published children’s book. I wrote it as a tool to help my son deal with his worries. It was a two year process to finally hold a copy of Go Away, Mr Worrythoughts! in my hand. It was quite surreal.
MLTS – Did you always want to write books which have strong, meaningful messages for children as well as helpful information for parents?
Nicky – I love children’s book and as a teacher I know what a valuable resource they are in our world of education – I want to write books that can impact children and bring them joy. Beating worries certainly brings joy!
MLTS – So true, I know even as adults, when we are worry free we certainly feel happier! You are a primary teacher and have 20 years experience in the education field, so, we’re guessing you would have come across children with anxiety throughout your time?
Nicky – Anxiety in children has only been a topic for parents/teachers over the past few years. As a sufferer of anxiety myself, I could identify it in some of the children I taught many years ago. I have always had a drive to help support these children even before it was recognised as a debilitating condition. Anxiety in children can display itself in a huge variety of ways and can often be overlooked, or not acknowledged. Many behaviours are driven by anxiety and the need to control a situation or run from the fear of it.
MLTS – I, myself, have a little worrier. She worries about anything from a pet butterfly dying to being excluded from games in the school yard. What are the warning signs to help us differentiate between what is normal childhood worries to something more serious like an anxiety disorder?
Nicky – I think what we need to remember is that anxiety in children is very normal and essential for their safety as they grow up. Anxiety heightens our awareness to be alert and prepared for danger. Anxiety becomes a problem with this heightened level of alertness takes control inhibiting a child to do/perform normal day to day activities, robbing them of fun. When it starts to have a negative impact on a child’s daily routine, it is time to seek some support.
MLTS – In your experience, how do we, as parents, approach the situation when our child is telling us they are having worrying thoughts about something?
Nicky – As parents we need to take the time to listen to our children. Sometimes they are unable to use words to communicate their anxiety, sometimes they communicate through their behaviours. Different strategies can be used to help them work through their worries such as using a worry box (writing worries down and posting them into the box to talk about later), flying a paper plane (drawing/writing worry thoughts down and flying them away) and trying to focus on happy thoughts – changing their thoughts can change their feelings, helping them to see and feel things that make them happy.
MLTS – Somehow, while being a mum of four, you’ve managed to maintain your career AND blossom your artistic passion too; a balance many of us dream of. How did you have time to juggle it all?
Nicky – I think like every mother, life is just one big juggle! I don’t think I do anything special. Sometimes I feel like I have things in control, and other times it feels like everything is tumbling down around me. As my children are getting older, some things get easier (while new challenges arise) and I think I am constantly evolving in everything I do.
MLTS – Such great advice Nicky. And what about some “me” time, when you need to escape, where do you go, what do you do?
Nicky – I usually escape to my art studio – I find drawing and painting helps my own anxiety and stress levels. I can go out there and lose all track of time!
MLTS – Do you have a favourite place to visit on the Mornington Peninsula?
Nicky – There is nothing better than a lovely walk along the boardwalk at Frankston Beach!
MLTS – Oh we totally agree, so peaceful down there. What would advice would you give to other women/mum’s who are thinking of following their aspirations but are unsure if they can?
Nicky – There is no hurry. There is no finish line. Celebrate every success no matter how small because it is the journey of these milestones that generate your constant growth.
MLTS – Again, sound advice Nicky. Lastly, you’re currently working on a new book with author Dimity Powell called “The Fix It Man”. Sounds intriguing, can you tell us a little about it?
Nicky – The Fix-It Man is a beautiful story written by Dimity Powell. It is about how a young girl copes with the loss of her mother. By sticking together with her dad, she is able to strengthen her resilience to cope with her grief. It is a touching story with a message of love, loss and hope.
It’s handy having a dad who can fix just about anything. A young girl believes her father is the king of fixing things. He even knows how to make her ailing mother feel better. However, after her mother passes away, she discovers that broken hearts are not as easy to repair as damaged toys. Together she and her father find a way to glue back the pieces of their lives.
That sounds amazing Nicky, I’m sure it will help many young readers whilst coping with grief. Nicky, thank you so much for chatting with us, we wish you the best of luck with your future publications and look forward to seeing what you are working on in the future.
To find out more about Nicky and her fabulous range of childrens books visit –