Tag Archives: Premier’s Reading Challenge

Ambassadorial moments

Much to my surprise, I was asked to be an ambassador for the Premier’s Reading Challenge this year. Last week was Education Week and I found myself speaking at three schools to audiences comprising three Grade 5/6 classes, one Grade 6 class and a Year 8 class.

I don’t plug Game as Ned to primary school kids (because it contains some non-graphic violence and sexual references). I do talk about reporting for newspapers and other creative writing projects I’m tackling, including two YA stories and an idea for a children’s picture book. Without fail, the highlight for the kids is when I read to them Kate Stone’s Glasses, which I wrote back in Grade 4.

It’s not a great story but kids love it. I’m guessing that’s because it’s not that different to what they’re writing – and possibly shows that if they keep on reading and writing they could end up an author too. (Or perhaps I’m over-romanticising and it’s just they prefer something I wrote more than 30 years ago to what I’m doing now… which doesn’t really bear thinking about.)

Anyway, here are some of the exchanges from the previous week:

Grade 5/6-er: “I think you should have the magic glasses story published.”
Another Grade 5/6-er: “I think you should merge your (children’s book) idea with the magic glasses story. That would be better.”

Me to a classroom of grade 5/6s: “I can’t really recommend Game as Ned to you because it contains … some violence.”
Response from the front row: “Ohhhhh. But we love violence!”

Comment from a Grade 6 student: “I think you were destined to become an author when you wrote that story in Grade 4.”
Me: “Wow… Thanks.”

Me to Yr 8 students: “How many of you have read a book from the Twilight series?” Half the students in the auditorium stick their hands up.
Me: “OK. I’m going to set some homework. When you get home I want you to take those books and put them in the bin…” (the other half cheer raucously,) “and then read books by Australian authors instead.” (More cheers.)
Me: “OK, OK, I’m joking. As an ambassador I’m glad you’re reading. Read whatever you like. Books help us understand what we have in common beneath our skin – even if it is vampire blood.”

Thank you speech from a Grade 6 student: “I thank you for visiting and contributing.”

Good fun.

Secret lives of a book

In a previous post, I mentioned that a book takes on a life of its own once it is released. In part, this is because every reader brings their own world experience to the words they read and they respond accordingly. 

Indeed, the first time a publisher read a manuscript of Game as Ned, I was encouraged by her response because she said she shed some tears at key moments in the book. I would have picked the same two moments – one sad, one happy – as most likely to make me choke up. That said, I’ve had other readers contact me to say they cried (or laughed or smiled) at entirely different moments. Truth be told, I’m chuffed to hear that the story is triggering any emotional responses as this suggests readers are identifying with the characters or events I tried to portray.

A book also takes on its own life in the commercial world. I’m gobsmacked (and grateful) that Game as Ned has been purchased for publication in Poland, for instance. If I’d had to hazard a guess as to potential international readers, I would have picked Ireland as first cab off the rank. GAN has also been turned into an audio book (more on that in another post), read by professional actors.

Critical acclaim is another aspect of a book’s life that is difficult to predict. I was rapt that GAN made the Children’s Book Council of Australia Older Readers Notable Books list for 2008 and amazed to be mentioned in such high-powered company. GAN was also long-listed for the Ned Kelly Awards 2008, as judged by the Crime Writers’ Association of Australia. As a first-time novelist, I’m flummoxed just to be on the same page as these wordsmiths.

GAN is also listed for upper secondary students as a Premier’s Reading Challenge book for 2008, which is also fantastic.