Tag Archives: public speaking

Book Week and the twin thing


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.



Back online

I recently learned Thunder Road has been offline for a while and that, sadly, data was lost during this period.

If you subscribed to my feed prior to May 2014, chances are that you may need to do so again. I apologise for this inconvenience.

If you’re browsing the site you might also find broken links and missing images. If you do, feel free to let me know. I’ll be plastering up the cracks as I find them.

On the upside, the enforced makeover has given me new incentive to keep a watchful eye on the site and keep the content ticking over.

The period of down time was particularly inconvenient as I’ve just enjoyed a very busy period of school visits and public speaking. To all those who hosted me, listened to my stories, laughed at my jokes, asked questions or came up for a chat, thank you – I was fortunate to spend time with you.


A leap of faith

I’ve done it. Quit my job. Listened to all my responsible eldest child instincts and entreaties … and ignored them. So far, that decision feels good.

For several reasons, the timing of this rash, sorry, bold decision felt right. I have a couple of projects on the drawing board. I have ideas clamouring to be heard and friends raising the possibilities of future collaborations, if only I had more time available.

Well, here I come. My plan is to work in my wife’s business two days a week, make myself available for more public speaking, cycle more and actually have a red hot go at being an author. That means writing more words, more frequently, something I’ve only ever threatened to do.

While I might have agonised over the pros and cons of cutting myself off from a regular income, there was one sign it was the right thing to do. The day I made the decision, I felt lighter. Relief like a cool change after a heatwave. I sat down and wrote 2000 words as if the Muse had shattered her shackles.

Let’s hope that’s a sign I’ve made the right choice.

“A dream deferred is a dream denied.” – Langston Hughes

Practising vs preaching

Not many authors are lucky enough to work full time at their writing. Most of us need part time jobs or take every opportunity that arises to visit schools, lead workshops, judge writing competitions and so on. That’s the reality for any artist who hasn’t hit the big time.

In my case, I work four days a week editing a website, speak at schools and libraries thanks to the fantastic team at Booked Out and fit in writing in my ‘spare’ time.

Understandably, peak time for public speaking and writing workshops tends to be around the release of a new book. It helps marketing (and, hopefully, sales) and you’re more likely to have something fresh to talk about when there’s a sparkling new title in bookstores.

Five Parts Dead is nearly two years old now. Between this and my coming to grips with new management at the ‘real job’, I have been doing less public speaking than usual. Perhaps that’s why I had somewhat of an epiphany during a recent set of workshops with Year 8 students.

I keep things simple in my writing workshops. (Perhaps I let the students off too easy.) I tell stories, explain how my brain works when seeking inspiration and explore how to get inside characters’ heads. Lately I’ve also been focusing on writing with all your senses, not just being visual. Now that I think about it, the current workshop could be called Jump Start Your Imagination.

Time for a secret. In past workshops I’ve been the classic example of, ‘do what I say, not what I do’. While I preach, ‘plan, plan, plan’, my writing is often substantially organic and seat-of-the-pants-ish. When the muse is singing, I’ll sit down and write/rewrite until I have a first draft. The poor prose and plot potholes can be sorted out during subsequent drafts.

On my current project, I’m practising what I preach. I’m sketching characters, writing scenes and building the story piece by piece. It’s slow going. It will be fascinating to see if the end result is different in any noticeable way.