When students ask about my ‘writing process’, I sometimes tell them about spending three months in a shed to finish the manuscript for Game as Ned. No Internet, no email, no music. Phone switched off. Very quiet. Very productive.
When I describe this regime, I see teen audience members recoil. ‘That must have been torture’, their frowns say to me. ‘Why would you put yourself through anything so gruelling?’ Social media deprivation would appear to be more dastardly than water-boarding.
Truth be told, many an author would beg shamelessly for regular access to a quiet space with minimal distractions and the chance to listen, uninterrupted, to the voices in their head. These moments are golden. Silence is when the imagination is best able to flex its muscles.
That’s why there’s an element of relief when the peak public speaking period of the year is over and normal writing routines can be resumed.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had an excellent month sharing in Book Week and other literacy events. Getting out and talking about writing and the power of story is an important part of my job. But when I’m immersed in a manuscript and nearing the end, part of me just wants to lock myself away and get the job done.
Assuming the planets align, the cat is not having a bad fur day and those ninja assassins don’t uncover my whereabouts, my plan for tomorrow is to plunge back into my fictitious universe. That’s why I need to report back to you all now – before I return to the bunker.
Book Week (Month) throws up all sorts of incidents but I’ll leave you with three that made an impression on me:
1. I watched as a boy was suspended indefinitely from a school after being caught wielding a knife at another student. I didn’t see the incident, only the aftermath. But, studying the face of the alleged offender, I couldn’t help wondering what led to him taking a weapon to school. My gut feeling is that his back story would be very powerful indeed.
2. A student who had been studying Game as Ned was asked to write an epilogue or extra chapter for classwork. She shared it with me after a writing workshop and it was fantastic. I was blown away by the life she’d given characters after the story I gave them ended. Kudos, big time.
3. Schools are complicated, sometimes chaotic places and the bane of the teacher and public speaker has to be the regular mid-class public announcements along the lines of, ‘Excuse me, staff and students, would George Thessaloniki please attend the office at recess because his mum has dropped off his cardigan’ or, ‘Would the following students attend the vice principal’s office immediately for post-camp tattoo removal.’
My favourite PA interjection of the month went as follows: “Attention staff and students! I apologise for the following interruption.”
And that was it. No news bulletin. No fire drill. Just a random, but polite, interruption. Job done. You’ve got to laugh.
Many thanks to all the librarians, English teachers and students who have hosted me, not just in the past month but throughout this year. I’ve had great fun.