Tag Archives: workshops

Book Week

There’s a parental saying I recall from childhood that arose whenever I asked/proposed something apparently unrealistic, unreasonable, inconvenient or inappropriate. The reply was along the lines of, “What do you think it is, Bush Week?” I quickly came to interpret this as meaning there was no chance of my request/idea eventuating.

Today I Googled the origins of the expression. Seems it refers to a week when wide-eyed bushies visited the city and fell prey to unscrupulous urban scams and rip-off merchants. My parents clearly cast me in the role of the scammer, despite my rural origins.

I’m reminded of the expression mainly because it sounds similar to Book Week. And, yes, this is a time when authors (often introverted and naive like bushies) venture, blinking, out of their garrets and into the wide world to proselytise on the magic of reading and creative writing. For those of us writing for children and young adults it can be the busiest week of the year.

My Book Week kicked off early, chatting to Yr 7 students in Pakenham on Friday. Yesterday I was in Wyndham Vale, as the (kind of) local storyteller accompanying Melina Marchetta, Elizabeth Honey and insideadog.com.au’s Adele Walsh. Tomorrow I’m in Fitzroy, followed by Greenvale (Thurs) and Berwick (Fri).

The following week I’m chatting in Mentone and also chuffed to share a Melbourne Writers’ Festival stage with Alice Pung. Last but not least, I’m trundling down the Western Highway for the Ballarat Writers’ Festival – a brilliant line-up focused entirely on literature for children and young adults. (Think Kirsty Murray, Penni Russon, Kate Constable, Steph Bowe, Leanne Hall, Karen Tayleur, Gabrielle Williams, Maureen McCarthy, Corinne Fenton and many others.)

September promises some other big adventures (details another post) but I’ll round off the month with the A Thousand Words Festival where I’m doing a couple of sessions including, gulp, the keynote address. As I blog this, I’m still open to suggestions on what folks would like to hear about. (At the moment I’m thinking about tackling ‘risk’.) This fledgling festival also puts writing for children and young adults in the spotlight and has some sensational sessions in store. If you’re interested in mingling with authors and illustrators it’s an opportunity to meet the likes of Sally Rippin, Cath Crowley, Fiona Wood & Michael Pryor. The Little Monkey and I attended in 2009 and had a great time.

Come the end of September I reckon I’ll be ready to self-medicate and/or become a hermit. Actually, I’m expecting to be overflowing with ideas and inspired by all these creative encounters. Locking away some rare writing time should be a must.

Speaking of which, folks keep ask me what I’m working on and I give necessarily vague answers. I’m not sure where the current ideas will go when they find water, fertile ground and fresh air. What I can say is my latest piece of published work arrived in the mail last week – a short story in a collection called The New Paper Trails. I was rapt to be asked to submit a story for this textbook and was honoured to find my work surrounded by tales from established authors like Garth Nix and Carole Wilkinson. The book is designed for English teachers with students aged approx 10 to 14. Hopefully it will find its way into teacher resources and a library or two.

Have a great Book Week and watch out for scammers.

Freelance, part time, no time

Regular visitors might not have noticed the lack of action on these pages lately and I apologise for that. This week is unlikely to be different.

Much as I’d like to say I’ve paused by the side of Thunder Road to camp and enjoy the view, the truth is I’ve been in my writer’s cave juggling deadlines.

Last week’s task list included an Internet trade show, a training course, a real estate brochure, a mortgage broker’s newsletter and a health bulletin. Throw in a mate’s book launch and some lobbying work on behalf of my kids’ school and the week was crammed.

This week looks… even more intense. I’ve just received final mark-ups on the manuscript for Five Parts Dead, due Friday. There’s still quite a bit of work to do and the book will benefit from the extra spit and polish. I’m learning a helluva lot about writing from this process. Wax on. Wax off. (Think I just exposed myself as a child of the ’80s.)

I’m also co-writing an online stress management course (need to practise what I preach) and documenting my role as a website editor for my new employers at my main freelance job.

Best of all this week, I’m spending three days leading writing workshops with students at Manor Lakes Specialist College. I’m looking forward to checking out this shiny new school and wallowing in creative chaos with the students.

Busy, yes. Under pressure, sure. But that’s the life of a freelance, part time writer. It’s rare that you can plan your workload and common for deadlines to overlap. It’s also why blogging and Twittering have had to take a back seat.

Interestingly, there’s been recent coverage of the value in writers stepping away from online distractions. Check out this LA Times blog and author article on going cold turkey on Twitter.

I’ll resume trudging down Thunder Road as soon as humanly possible.

In the meantime, here’s further proof of my ’80s leanings.

The biggest fan

Moment from a great day when I joined several authors, illustrators and storytellers to lead workshops with children from numerous schools out west:

Boy, maybe 8 or 9 years old: “Hello. You’re my biggest fan.”

Me, spluttering orange juice everywhere: “I am?”

Boy: “Yep, you’re the best. I love your Undys books.”

Me, penny dropping: “Oh. I think you’re after Michael Wagner. He’s the next door down the corridor.”

Turning the page on Book Week

Book Week has been and gone and authors everywhere are … self-medicating. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fantastic fun and a real privilege to be spruiking the pleasures of reading and writing but hey, I’m not teacher-trained and soon learned I lack stamina. After four consecutive days of workshops, I was totally Jatz Crackered. I’ve got to say I have the utmost respect for educators who are committed, clever and energetic at what they do, day-in, day-out.

I also feel for those struggling with the enormity of their daily duties. Flicking back through the diary I’m reminded of one educator who looked to have lost control of their class. It reminded me of a scene I witnessed in India, a pack of vultures tearing apart an injured lamb. The daily stress for that teacher must be nigh-on unbearable.

The Melbourne Writers’ Festival has also wound up for 2009. I didn’t get to any sessions this year because I was workshopping in schools. I did score an invite to the launch party hosted by Text Publishing – because I’m teaming up with Text for my next novel! It was a top night, a good chance to meet the Text team and to introduce myself to some great wordsmiths. Hopefully I kept the faux pas to a minimum. Hopefully.

I was also chuffed to attend the YA Muster – a delicious dumpling dinner with some of Australia’s gun authors for young adults. It was reassuring to hear that we’re all on the same page, if you’ll pardon the pun, when it comes to issues such as book signing tables, school visits and juggling author time with other duties.

Other recent highlights included selecting prizewinners for writing workshop activities at Overnewton Anglican Community College (and seeing their eyes light up) and a reader-to-writer-to-journo-to-author talk to Year 10 at Aitken College, where they actually laughed at some of my gags.

This week I helped relaunch a library at Kilvington Girls’ Grammar, which was a first for me. On Friday, I’ll be be workshopping out west with young storytellers.

I’m also filling in again as Younger Readers’ book reviewer for the Sunday Age. And, in another first, some of the books on my desk are by authors I have met. Will that influence my reviews? I don’t think so. As I have written previously, 150 words doesn’t leave much room for bias.

On top of all this I have 10 days left to get in sufficiently good nick to survive a 120 km bike ride through the Kinglake hills, four weeks to help my wife set up her new business and four months to edit/redraft what will become my second novel. Not that I’m counting… or freaking out. Much.

For the record, I’m also jumping on the Bulldogs bandwagon for the footy finals. Personally, I reckon my team, the Kangas, should merge with the Dogs as they have similar histories, colours and cultures and traditionally struggle for cash. I say solve the money and membership issues and create a western suburbs superteam. Unlikely, I know. So, this September, go Scraggers!