Tag Archives: Writing

Young writers

I’m always telling young/aspiring writers that they should enter competitions. Why? Because not only can you attract accolades, gain experience and sometimes get published, there can be some BIG BUCKS up for grabs, too.

I recently received an email asking me to promote the State Library of Queensland Young Writers’ Award 2012. I’m only too happy to do so. You have to be a Queenslander aged 18 to 25 to enter. You could win up to $2000. That’s got to be worth a crack, right?

Given that the newish Queensland State Government couldn’t wait to axe its Premier’s literary prizes, other Sunshine State initiatives that promote writers and writing should be sung from the rooftops.

For all of you lucky young Qld writers, the competition details can be found here. There are some valuable tips for writing short stories on the page, too. Good luck.


Last week I found myself presenting 16 grade 5 and 6 students with copies of books they wrote and illustrated last year. Their principal organised for the stories to be published in triplicate, with copies of each title going to the student, their class and the school library.

Each book looked great and there were some ripper titles. The students beamed, receiving their work in front of the school community.

Best of all, the thrill of seeing their writing turned into a real book sparked the creative embers anew. Several of the students told me they couldn’t wait to start a new manuscript.

I’m not writing much at present, due to work commitments, so I felt almost wistful watching young minds with the time and freedom to throw themselves into another project. That’s a great space to be in.

Flemington Primary School and guest author and mentor Kath Lockett are to be congratulated for the countless hours committed to this project. It looks to have inspired far more than 16 budding writers. I reckon every child at assembly was watching on with envy and wondering if they could write a story too.

*Disclosure: The Little Dragon was one of the published authors. He’s now telling me that if he writes a book a year through to the end of 2012 he’ll have more titles published than me…

Book Week questions

Here’s a belated sample of the questions I answered during Book Week – and my answers, as best as I can recall.

Q: Who are my heroes?
A: Corny as it will sound, my heroes are the folks out there helping people, not for fame or money, but because they can and want to.

There are many authors I admire (generally influenced by what I’m reading) but a stand-out in recent years is Markus Zusak who uses words and tells stories in such unexpected ways (and sells oodles of books doing so).

I also admire His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, who embraced the role assigned to him as an infant and became a true world leader, emphasising the importance of tolerance, empathy, compassion and arguing for the independence of the Tibetan people.

My Dad deserves a shout-out here, too. He’s a selfless man of peace who has followed his beliefs for a lifetime.

Q: Which superhero do you think would be funniest to write a spoof story about?
A: Now that’s my kind of question. I’d have to say the Hulk because he’s green and only has superpowers when he’s chucking a tantrum.

Q: How can I improve my vocabulary?
A: Wow. Read widely, then read some more. Use a dictionary when you find a word you don’t recognise or understand. And listen to people, too. Listening to how people speak is a great way of learning A) new words* and B) how to write dialogue. (*You probably won’t need everything you hear.)

Q: How do I make a short story longer?
A: For starters, short isn’t necessarily bad. I don’t believe in ‘padding’ – writing extra words just to meet a word count. Your story should determine the number of words you require. If you’ve written something that isn’t important to the story, define and delete it. If in doubt, cut it out.

However, if you want to enhance your story, rather than pad it, think about the characters? What do they want? What’s stopping them getting what they want? This should open up new ideas to explore.

Q: Do I ever feel embarrassed writing about myself/putting my own life into stories?
A: (Smiling) I’ve never deliberately set out to write about myself although bits of me and my life do creep into stories. In Game as Ned the story settings were based on places I had lived, worked or visited on holiday.

In Five Parts Dead the lighthouse setting was inspired by a family holiday and the five near-death experiences were built from things that actually happened to me. I think authors are like bowerbirds. We shamelessly take/borrow/pilfer bright and shiny ideas from all around us and use them in stories. Some of those things might just be from our own lives.

Q: Do I believe in ghosts?
A: I’m not entirely sure. I do believe in places where a sense of history lingers close to the present, so we can almost feel the people that lived before us. I’ve also had people tell me ghostly tales of things they have seen, things I can’t explain. I used a couple of these spooky stories in Five Parts Dead.

Pretty good questions, all of them. Thanks to the students who were brave enough to pick my brain or approach me for a chat.