Introducing author, illustrator and passionate Mandurah advocate Xanthe Turner

"I don't feel like I should be an adult yet but here we are," Xanthe Turner laughs as she considers her upcoming 18th birthday.

Yet, in her short time on this earth, the young Western Australian south west coast teenager has achieved more than most of us ever will in our entire adult lives.

A talented writer and illustrator, Xanthe, of Mandurah, is forging a new path with her own publishing company, Turner Books.

She is also a dedicated volunteer and is shining a light on her lifetime of unschooling experience

And, to top it off, Xanthe is a passionate advocate for the Mandurah community and everything our seaside city has to offer.

She is an inspiration, and after our meeting in the local library practicing our drawing and talking about everything from cool words to her exciting future, I couldn't help but also feel motivated to keep trying to make the world a better place.

Xanthe is the latest profile in the Mandurah Millennials on a Mission series, as we meet the young people from around the region helping to shape a new narrative.

The series aims to provide an insight into some of the fresh talent who have grown up in our great city, and are just getting started making a name for themselves.

A life of 'un-schooling'

The Turner family moved around a lot when Xanthe was young.

Xanthe said Mandurah was actually the first place they lived for more than six months.

"We moved really frequently - I've lived in at least 20 houses by now," she said.

"But then we moved here... and just never left.

"We love it here - it's got everything we need and everyone is just so welcoming."

[Mandurah's] got everything we need and everyone is just so welcoming.

Xanthe said Mandurah had been particularly welcoming for families that homeschool, or in the case of the Turners, unschool.

"I love unschooling," Xanthe said.

"It gives me an opportunity to explore the facets of learning that I'm really passionate about.

"When I was 10, I was really interested in maths so I took a year 11 and 12 tertiary maths course online.

"It means that when I do focus on something, it's something I have a vested interest in learning not something that I have to learn and just forget.

"I notice with my friends that go to school, a lot of what they learn they forget quickly because it's not something they wanted to learn. It's just something they just repeat back and then their brain goes 'I'm done with that knowledge'.

"And they don't get as much time to pursue the things they actually want to learn."

Photo: Supplied.

Photo: Supplied.

Xanthe did try traditional schooling for a few months after living next door to a school when she was eight years old.

" I would hear the bell ring and the kids playing and I thought it sounded like fun," she said.

"It was a novelty to begin with but it started to wear off - there were school bullies and when I had the choice of going or not going, I preferred unschooling.

"Now, no one 'school day' looks the same... but it's very busy. My only down day during school terms is like a few hours on a Friday afternoon."

At the moment, the subject that has caught Xanthe's attention is marine biology.

"I've been learning a lot about ocean life - it's so interesting, so cool," she said.

"It's like learning about this alien world where they follow different rules of how their bodies are structured because they aren't bound by gravity the way we are."

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Xanthe went on to tell me a bunch of cool facts about marine creatures. She just rattled them off one-by-one and you could see her eyes light up with every word she spoke.

Did you know humans usually have three kinds of colour cones in our eyes but mantis shrimp have between 12 and 16?

"They can see things that we can't even fathom," Xanthe said.

"Isn't that cool?"

"That is cool," I laughed.

Xanthe presses pause on our conversation.

"Sorry this is off-topic but if you like cool things, I learnt a cool word the other day - defenestrate," she said.

"It literally means to throw something or someone out of a window.

"That is such a specific word isn't it? You don't really need it because who is ever using that context but I love that it exists."

This girl is simply the best.

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Mandurian Stories

I am not exaggerating when I say Xanthe does it all.

The girl fills every second of every day with things - and not just any ol' things but very productive things.

She is currently studying towards a Bachelor of Fine Arts at Curtin University. She runs her own publishing company. She illustrates picture books and writes stories. She volunteers at Peel Zoo.

Did I mention that she is 17 years old?

But everything Xanthe loves to fill her time with revolves around art.

"I've always loved art - ever since I could hold a pen, a paintbrush, anything I could get my hands on," she said.

"I'm always drawing or writing so when I discovered that you could just draw for a job, it was basically a dream come true.

"I started making my own books to illustrate - I've got a lot of folded or stapled pieces of paper at home that I did as a kid with pictures all over them."

Photo: Supplied.

Photo: Supplied.

From that passion came a side hustle - Turner Books Publishing Company.

When Xanthe was just 14 years old, she illustrated and published her mum's book, Zany Circus: Paradox, based on the Turner family.

Now, she has seven books available under the Turner Books umbrella, including Mandurian Stories.

"Mandurian Stories started as non-for-profit anthology I created for the purpose of having an outlet for people to send in their works and creations to get their stories out there," Xanthe said.

"I got a small grant from Community Soup because people liked the idea, but I never planned on the project being something that would earn me any money, so I decided to give the money back after I sold the books.

"I actually earned more than the grant so I gave them back several hundred dollars which I was so happy to be able to do. I don't think they expected that."

The first story was so well received, Xanthe is already working on a second one.

"I wanted to use it as a way to show where our community was at at the time and then, over the years, look back and see all the changes," she said.

"It's been great fun reading everybody's stories and seeing people's poems and pictures because I can get into their heads and I love seeing different perspectives."

A love for art, and a love for animals

Besides science-fiction, Xanthe loves to draw animals.

If you couldn't already tell, she loves animals as much as she loves art itself.

"Animals have been my passion for as long as I can remember," she said.

"Every Sunday, I volunteer for Peel Zoo and I wish I could spend more time out there but I don't have any other free days during the week.

"I'll help to sweep the paths, clean out the enclosures - just general upkeep and I do face painting for kids sometimes too."

Photo: Veronika Sajova.

Photo: Veronika Sajova.

For a while, Xanthe was sure she would grow up to be a veterinarian, but quickly learned it wasn't the right job for her.

"I did a tertiary veterinary course a few years ago which I really enjoyed," she said.

"I realised I couldn't be a vet though because I couldn't physically look at the pictures of animals' hearts."

Eyes on the future

Speaking of the future, Xanthe already has big plans for the rest of her life.

So many plans, in fact, that she can barely decide which path to pursue first.

She wants to be a marine biologist, or maybe an artist, and she definitely wants to create a book series about mermaids and mermen, based on real sea creatures.

But whatever project, or career, she decides to jump head-first into, she wants it to combine her two greatest passions - animals and art.

"They go hand-in-hand," she said.

"So if I can combine my two passions, I think that would work surprisingly well.

"This is the first time I'm talking about this but I'm working on sort of encyclopedic books categorising all of the different merfolk and how they relate to the animals they are based on.

"It's going to take me a few years to do all that research but I'm really looking forward to it."

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For now, Xanthe isn't totally sure what her destiny holds

"I don't know where I see myself in five or 10 years," she said.

"I have this really bad habit that whenever I see something I might want to do or could possibly do, I want to pursue it.

"I could either be doing what I'm doing right now or something so completely different," she laughed.

Whatever it is, we know Xanthe's future is bright, full of continuous excitement and will make the world a better place.

To learn more about Xanthe's publishing company, Turner Books, visit www.turnerbooks.com.au/.

This story Introducing author and illustrator, teenager Xanthe Turner first appeared on Mandurah Mail.