Tristan Bancks | Australian Children's & Teen Author | Kids' & YA Books


Thursday, April 20, 2017

Tom Weekly Mask


In the My Life & Other Weaponised Muffins book trailer I was savagely attacked by a masked, muffin-wielding fiend claiming to be Tom Weekly.

You can now download and print your own Tom Weekly mask and stage your own devilish muffin attack or wear it to your school book parade. Just click the image above.

Good luck!


Monday, April 17, 2017

Room to Read World Change Challenge 2017

Join me and our amazing team of Room to Read Writer Ambassadors to help reach our 2017 goal. We aim to enable 300 students in some of the poorest countries in Asia and Africa to change their lifetime opportunities and create real changes in their families and communities.

For $70 we can teach one child for one year to learn to read and write.

What Can You Do?

1. Between now and International Literacy Day, Friday 8 September, set a fun personal challenge and get your friends, family, class or school to help raise funds for your goal and global education.

2. Download Our Info Pack and Donation Form.

3. Or donate direct to our secure World Change Challenge Everyday Hero page. It doesn't matter if you donate $2 or $200. Every dollar takes us closer to our goal of literacy for 300 students for a year.

4. If you have any questions, please post a comment below, Like and Comment on our World Change Challenge Facebook page or email Jodi Mullen from Room to Read Australia.

FUNdraising Ideas

★ Book Swaps at school are also lots of fun. Kids can swap their pre-loved books with other kids and, for just $1 per book, everyone walks away with a new story to read and you help a child in a developing country.
★ Sponsored Silence: Teachers and parents sponsor their noisiest kids to be quiet for an entire hour.

★  Trek, Ride or Run: Do the City2Surf, Spring Trek or another physical challenge in your town or city, gain sponsors and donate the proceeds of your achievement to kids' literacy.
★ Book Fair: Lots of schools donate a portion of their school book-fair profits to the World Change Challenge.
★ Embarrass Your Teacher: Sponsor teachers to come to school dressed in super-embarrassing outfits.
★ Lattes for Literacy: Have a school coffee morning to make all those poor, caffeine-starved parents happy and donate the profits to the World Change Challenge.
★ School Sponge Throw: Get active AND get revenge on teachers for all that homework! Last year Nareena Hills Public School in NSW ran a profitable school sponge throw.


Deborah Abela, Tristan Bancks, Jesse Blackadder, Pamela Cook, Sarah Davis, James Foley, Kate Forsyth, Susanne Gervay, Gus Gordon, Jacqueline Harvey, Libby Hathorn, James Knight, John Larkin, Frané Lessac, Emily Maguire, Christine Manfield, Melina Marchetta, Sophie Masson, Belinda Murrell, Oliver Phommavanh, Alice Pung, Sally Rippin and Dianne Wolfer.

Girls' Education is a major priority for Room to Read. 


Room to Read is an innovative global non–profit which seeks to transform the lives of millions of children in Asia and Africa by focusing on literacy and gender equality in education. Since it was founded in 2000, Room to Read has:

* Over 18,000 Literacy Program Partners

* Trained over 9,000 teachers and librarians

* Published over 1300 new children’s books in 27 local languages

* Supported more than 38,500 girls in its Girls’ Education Program

Currently Room to Read has impacted 11.5 million children. The next goal is to impact 15 million children by 2020. Room to Read believes that World Change Starts with Educated Children®.

In recent years, the Room to Read World Change Challenge has raised $100,000 to fund a school library in Siem Reap, Cambodia, books and education for kids who might otherwise go without.  Get active and help us make 2017 our biggest year yet.


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

How to Make a Children's Book #2: Interview With Book Designer Astred Hicks


How do you make a book? I get this question all the time when I visit schools. How does it go from being a fuzzy idea in someone's mind to being a thing we hold in our hands that has the power transport us into another world or into someone else's life? 

I'm doing a blog series to answer those questions, interviewing the creative and publishing team being my new book My Life & Other Weaponised Muffins (and the entire My Life series). Last week I interviewed Brandon VanOver, my amazing editor. This week, Astred Hicks, book designer.

Astred, what, exactly, does a book designer do? Do you just create the cover or other stuff, too? Do you actually make the book? (Don’t be modest.)
Technically a book designer creates a visual interface for information, which is a fancy way of saying a book designer creates a space that allows the reader to understand and enjoy the author’s work. From the cover to the layout a designer is involved. But in most cases we don’t physically create the book, like print it and stick it together and send it to the book shop (I say most cases because there are some very small run independent books that the designers have done just that on, so never rule it out!).

Things I personally do are design the book cover, which is a HUGE job. HUGE. Because yes, people judge a book by its cover and you need people to get a sense of the story at first glance and think ‘yes that’s my sort of book’ or ‘hrmm that looks interesting I wonder what it’s about’ or ‘OMG it’s the new TRISTAN BANCKS, take my money!!’

I also design the insides of books and in some cases lay them out (typeset). Which is what I do for the My Life series. Some novels are pretty straightforward and you can design a sample (i.e this is the typeface, this is how big the margins are and this is what the chapter opening titles look like) and send it to a typesetter, but other books need a designer’s eye for the whole thing, like illustrated books and cookbooks.

My Life Designer Astred Hicks with cherry blossoms.
Have you always designed books or have you designed other things, too?
I’ve been designing books for about 14 years, which is most of my design career but I haven’t always exclusively designed books – in fact lately I’ve been working with a company called The Electric Canvas who do cool building projections (like Vivid) and I’ve illustrated a bunch of things for them, like scenes that were projected on buildings for the White Night Melbourne festival and White Night Ballarat, as well as the Perth and Sydney Christmas lights specials.

I do other bits and pieces for myself and other clients occasionally but my focus is books, books, books. I love 'em and can’t get enough of 'em.

What were your favourite books as a kid?
My all time favourite books as a little kid were The Tiger Who Came To Tea by Judith Kerr and Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. And I can remember being obsessed with a picture book called Little Dracula, in fact one year I dressed as Little Dracula for the book week parade (green skin and all), I do remember loving Fungus the Bogeyman as a kid so I got very excited when you mentioned Tom Weekly borrowed it from the library!

As an older kid I would read books by authors like Morris Gleitzman, Paul Jennings and Roald Dahl. I got a lot of hand-me-down books from my older siblings like The Secret Diary of Adrian MoleThe Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and Red Dwarf. There is still a collective chuckle amongst us when someone mentions needing peril sensitive sunglasses for something.

Book designer Astred Hicks dressed as Little Dracula in her school book parade.

What were your influences when you designed the My Life books and all the delicious grease-stains and squashed flies inside?
Boys! Or really kids and being a bit messy and careless with their belongings was my initial inspiration. I wanted the books to look like they had been carried around in school backpacks and swapped on the playground so many times that they were dirty, messy and completely loved. Because while a lot of adults feel keeping things pristine and clean is a sign of love, I feel from a kid’s perspective something that is battered and grimy shows signs of love for stories read and re-read.

That and also as Tom Weekly is always getting in trouble and making a mess the grot has seeped out from those stories to stain the pages around them.

Can you share any tips that could help kids create their own good-looking books from the comfort of their own homes?
Covers are about getting people to notice them, so you don’t have to put the whole story on the cover. The main elements of any cover should be:
- Title of the book
- Name of the author (you don’t have to write ‘by’ when you are putting your name on your book either, it’s a given that it’s by the person who’s name is on the cover)
- Image

Out of those three things what is the most important? Title? Image? You decide, then that should be the biggest thing on the cover. All three elements should balance each other, but there should always be hierarchy (that’s a term we in the biz use to describe the most important element being the biggest,  then the next being slightly smaller, then the next etc. They decrease in size as they get less important). This is a useful tool that helps to direct the viewer’s eye.

When you are designing the inside of your book the margins are important, so make sure you give your design a generous margin. Again the white space (margin) around the edge of the page directs the viewer’s eye to the important text. And not having long lines of text is easy on the eye and doesn’t make the reader tired.

Choosing the right typeface also helps the reader. Make sure it’s readable! Don’t use scribbly, rough fonts for pages and pages of text. It will be too hard to read and people will just put down your book and pick their nose instead (or some other form of entertainment that isn’t reading your book).

Thanks Astred. Over the next few weeks there'll be interviews with illustrator Gus Gordon, Penguin Random House publisher Zoe Walton and a top bookseller. Let me know if there are any other links in the bookmaking process you'd like me to explore. ;)

You can buy a signed copy of My Life & Other Weaponised Muffins in my online store. Or you can pick up a copy from this list of fine online retailers.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Your Life and Other Stuff You Made Up #1

Hi! Over the past few years I've been sent lots of cool artwork, wacky ideas, insightful book reviews and funny feedback from creative kids. All of which are locked away on my hard drive, but I think it's time to fling open the gates and share your work with the world, so I'm starting a section on my blog / site focused on YOUR LIFE (and Other Stuff You Made Up :)

So, send me your drawing of Tom Weekly - watch out Gus Gordon - a photo of you dressed up as your fave book character or tell me about your own Weaponised Muffins food fight. And you might just end up on the blog with my homemade badge of honour.

Here's some funny stuff I recently received. I hope you like these as much as I do.

Dear Isla, That is gross. 
I hope you didn't put the ice in your friends mum's drink 
(and I hope your toe is better now). You should definitely develop this story.

Thanks Asger!

Click on this one to read it more clearly. Great writing Irene. 
I'm glad it's Ben eating the roast rabbit and not me!

Read Varsity College's collaborative story Switchin' In The Kitchen here.

Wow, Dave. I think the not dying option is the one I'm leaning towards. :))

Thanks Liam! Keep shining :)

p.s. You can also read my post about thirteen year-old published author Anjali here. Her funny story 'Toffee' features in my latest book My Life & Other Weaponised Muffins

Thanks Meg. Byeeeeeeee!

P.S. Don't forget, you can also get your name in the back of the next My Life book by contributing ideas to my work-in-progress Guinea Pig Hostage story.


Friday, March 24, 2017

How to Make a Children's Book #1: Interview With Editor Brandon VanOver

People always ask me how a children's book is made – the writing, the editing, the illustrating, the cover design, the publishing. So I've decided to share a series of interviews with the amazing team of humans who helped take my new book My Life & Other Weaponised Muffins (and the entire My Life series) from original idea to bookstore shelves. Over the next few weeks I'll interview illustrator Gus Gordon, designer Astred Hicks, publisher Zoe Walton, a children's bookseller and, here, Brandon VanOver, Managing Editor at Random House Australia.

Brandon, what, exactly, does a children’s book editor do?
There’s that expression of not being able to see the forest for the trees – the job of the editor is to help the author see the forest (the story), and sometimes that means you need to cut down a few trees (things that stand in the way of telling that story). Not that I’m advocating cutting anything but words and wayward ideas/characters/plotlines. I love trees; I’m a tree-hugger. The editor helps the author reach clarity in their writing, and fix up the occasional rogue comma, misspelling or gratuitous adjective.

How is it different to working on a book for adults?
Working on children’s books is different because I’m no longer a kid. There’s an authenticity you need to tap into or be aware of – and if you and the author miss the mark, it makes a reader want to throw a book across the room (or simply put it down if they’re less moody). They’re called ‘dad jokes’ for a reason. But there’s a great freedom in being a kid, so as an editor you can let your hair down too and sojourn with the author into refreshingly absurd realms. I also laugh more editing books for kids.


Am I annoying, as an author, to work with? How so? What about Gus? He has to be annoying, right?
You are not annoying as an author or a human being, because you care so much about getting the story right. You know when things aren’t quite working and will keep scratching away until it clicks. That’s it! You’re annoyingly good at revising a joke until it works. Gus is the golden child.

Does that mean you like him better than me? Brandon? Nuts. You edit lots of very serious adult work throughout the year. What do you like about working on the My Life books?
I was a shy kid, a closet nerd, and Tom and Jack are fun characters to work with because they’re so uninhibited and mischievous (in a good-hearted way). It’s fun to work on gags and funny storylines about things I wouldn’t have had the nerve to do as a kid, like trying to monetise my nits or do a runner at the dentist’s office. It’s fun also to remind yourself how funny the adult world looks from the child’s side of the lens. 

Can you share three things that could help young writers create better stories?
1) Write as much as you can – it’s the only way you can get to know your unique voice. The other side of this coin is to read as much as you can – your creative well will be deeper.

2) Don’t fear the weird – follow your imagination wherever it takes you, even if it’s weird or silly or embarrassing. You can revise a story later (with a talented editor!); get everything onto the page first.

3) Walk more than a mile in the shoes of others – keep your eyes and ears open to the world around you and the unique lives and experiences of others. If every character is a version of yourself, then the story will feel narrow. (Not that you’re particularly narrow, but you know what I’m sayin’.) It will also show how alike we all are despite being our own unique beasts, which is one of the aims of great stories.

You can buy a signed copy of My Life & Other Weaponised Muffins in my online store. Or you can pick up a copy from a range of online retailers.

© Tristan Bancks | Australian Children's & Teen Author | Kids' & YA Books. All rights reserved.
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