Tag Archives: Booked Out

Book Week and the twin thing

5PD_cover

Book Week is fast approaching and my dance card is full. I’m truly grateful to the team at Booked Out given that a) I haven’t had a book published since 2010; b) I didn’t get a callback after my audition for the new Indiana Jones film; and, c) I’m not known for my dance moves. (Apparently I’m in good company, though.)

This week I begin a month-long (part-time) residency at one Melbourne school and have visits scheduled at seven others.  I’ll be sharing my highly secret tips for better creative writing; possibly pounding out a Bruce Willis-style Hollywood blockbuster plot (or two); and retracing the twisted path that led to my becoming an author. However, speaking for myself, the highlights usually flow from the unpredictable nature of students’ questions.

One of my favourite classroom moments so far in 2014 came during a residency with students studying Five Parts Dead. The main character in 5PD and his sister are twins. I’m often asked about this so it’s a good thing I did a decent amount of research into the bond between twin siblings.

Sometimes there will be twins in my classes and I’ll ask them if they share anything like the mystical connection between my characters, Dan and Mel. Usually the answer is a guarded, “not really” but this particular residency provided powerful evidence for the prosecution.

A staff member who is an identical twin said her link to her sister was so intense that, “I feel sorry for people who aren’t twins”. Then the piece de resistance. Two Year 10 male twins approached me and said I’d nailed the ‘twin thing’. They said they’d regularly been accused of plagiarism because their homework invariably, unconsciously ended up sounding the same.

They said that one of them might be humming a song at one of end of the house, then move to the kitchen and discover his twin singing the same line of the same song. That’s good enough for me. Dan & Mel were an exaggeration of the stories I found in my research but that’s the fun of fiction – we authors get to decide how far we push the boundaries in our stories.

Bring on Book Week and stay tuned for the best of my student questions.

 

 

Leaking lists

Newspaper editors around Australia must be besides themselves with joy that the WikiLeaks story has broken during the silly season when news can be hard to come by. We do have the Poms belting us black and blue at cricket but that can only fill so many pages. Other perennial summer yarns include the road toll (tick) and wild weather (tick, tick, tick). In the bygone era of aggro industrial relations you could usually count on a beer and/or postal strike to liven up the pre-Christmas period, too.

Without such staples, newspapers, magazines and current affairs shows fill up with Top 10s and Best Ofs. Many blogs do, too.

Before I conducted my 2010 autopsy, I delved a little to see what influences have lingered. Here are the 2009 and 2008 entries. Hey, at least I can show I listened to Angus & Julia Stone before they became mainstream cool.

Ms Adele at Persnickety Snark suggested 11 Top 5s to countdown to 2011 but I’m going to have to settle for this mutated selection from her list, because I clearly haven’t read as quickly or widely:

5 Great Covers: Kirsty Murray’s India Dark, Leanne Hall’s This is Shyness, Cath Crowley’s Graffiti Moon, Karen Tayleur’s Six and, dare I say, my Five Parts Dead (thanks to Chong at Text Publishing).

5 Great Series: Based on reading these with my son, Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant Series, Sandy Fussell’s Samurai Kids series, Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series. Based on my own reading of the first book in the series – Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, and Joseph Delaney’s The Spook’s Apprentice.

5 Great Re-Reads (books you’ve LOVED so much you went back for more): These aren’t YA fiction but this year I found myself re-reading Peter Temple’s The Broken Shore, Neil Gaiman’s Instructions, Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, Dav Pilkey’s The Dumb Bunnies and lots of Dr Seuss with my daughter. I am planning to re-read Markus Zusak’s The Messenger real soon, though.

Most Anticipated (2011 titles): Sheesh, I’m still working my way through a backlog of titles. Books I can’t wait to consume come from 2010 and even further back and include Rachel Cohn and David Levithan’s Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares, Scot Gardner’s Happy As Larry, Kirsty Murray’s India Dark, Cory Doctorow’s Makers, Lian Hearn’s Heaven’s Net is Wide, Justin Cronin’s The Passage, Kate Constable & Penni Russon’s Dear Swoozie, Fiona Wood’s Six Impossible Things, Paul Kelly’s How To Make Gravy and Kevin Keefe’s Paddy’s Road: Life Stories of Patrick Dodson. Sally Rippin’s Angel Creek is a genuine 2011 title I’m keen to read.

But that’s just the tip of the bedside table stack. One of the apps on the iPad that makes me feel 11 all over again is the ComiXology store where I have already downloaded enough graphic novels to keep me going until next summer.

5 Great YA Bloggers
Authors – Cath Crowley, Kate Constable, Kirsty Murray, Penni Russon, Simmone Howell. Passionate book people – Book Gryffin, InkCrush, Miffy, Persnickety Snark, ReadPlus. There are countless others – but these snare me most frequently.

5 Books I Thoroughly Enjoyed in 2010 (but could have been published any time): Cath Crowley’s Graffiti Moon, Chloe Hooper’s The Tall Man, Craig Thompson’s Blankets, Joel Deane’s The Norseman’s Song and Simmone Howell’s Everything Beautiful.

The funniest thing I’ve read all year was a chapter in Rene Goscinny’s Nicholas about a teacher doing yard duty at a boys’ school after several days of wet-day timetable. Absolute gold.

Favourite Films from 2010: Up In The Air, The Social Network, Animal Kingdom, Toy Story 3, The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town. (Runners up: Scott Pilgrim Vs The World, The Hurt Locker, HP7, Inception.)

On Regular Rotation in 2010: Clare Bowditch, The Jezabels, Angus & Julia Stone, Arcade Fire, Whitley, Ben Folds and (still) Bon Iver.

On The Idiot Box: This year I bought a box set of The Wire and became a wirehead whenever free-to-air failed to grab me. Great stuff.

One show that entertained, upset, challenged and inspired me was The United States of Tara. The most recent series of Skins faltered somewhat but I’m still stunned it’s getting re-made in the US. Cue wail of anguish. Nooooooooo! Australian Story is consistently good. Channel 9 desecrated Top Gear.

Thanks list: In a year when I’ve had a new book released, I am acutely aware of the support I need from booksellers, reviewers, Text Publishing, speakers’ agency Booked Out, teachers, librarians, fellow authors, friends and family. Thank you all for being in my corner. I appreciate it.

Have a safe, jolly Christmas and may 2011 see your dreams come to fruition.

UPDATE: Whoops, I’ve added some titles that slipped my foggy mind first time around. And FYI, here’s the New York Times list of Notable Children’s Books of 2010.

Learners

I’ve just finished a two-day booking for Booked Out at Emmanuel College in Warrnambool, a provincial city about 3.25 hours west of Melbourne.

When I departed mid-afternoon Tuesday, it was with a mix of excitement and trepidation. Excitement to be on a road trip through rugged volcanic country I hadn’t visited for a decade or so. Trepidation at how nearly 200 Year 9 students might respond to this far-from-established author. Concern over leaving my family behind when my wife had received unsettling news about her unemployment that morning – and her favourite colleague was laid off. Throw in a seasoning of other emotions after a lunch meeting discussing my latest manuscript with a generous children’s publishing mentor.

Driving solo into the sunset was a chance to listen to my choice of music (no kids’ demands) and enjoy being back in the bush. West of Colac, the landscape changes. It’s almost like travelling through the windswept heath-lands of the Bronte stories. I felt enlivened. The country boy in me clearly needs to get away from the city to defrag.

My brief for the college visit was to “inspire the kids in their writing” and lead practical sessions with seven Year 9 classes. Hmmmm. I’ve done plenty of public speaking over the years but workshops are still reasonably new for me. Year 9’s can be a tough bunch, too. Not quite ready to morph into Year 10 seriousness but often flexing their muscles after finally escaping junior school. My personal Year 9 recollections feature plenty of detentions, usually following over-exuberant smart-mouthed quips. (There was clearly no speed-limiter on my mouth back then… Some might argue it still fails me today.)

Anyway, first up was a talk to the entire year level. I guess I treated it as a chance to establish my bona fides pre-workshops – and hopefully show where a passion for reading and writing can take you. Some of the gags fell flat but maybe it’s tough to warm an audience at 9am on a frosty morning. I certainly don’t have the comedy training of an Andy Griffiths.

My workshops aimed to show that by applying a little forethought and planning to the basics of fiction (characters, voice, setting, plot), it becomes much easier to write a story. They seemed to work.

The students were great. Good listeners with a healthy serving of sass once the ice was broken. They came up with some sensational story sketches. I enjoyed watching their ideas emerge.

I don’t know what they learned or whether they approach writing or reading any differently now. I do know I’ll approach Year 9s differently. They reminded me that 15 is a fun age, even with the occasional detention. Thanks.