Australian Author of Children’s Books and Teen Books: 2010

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Varuna The Writers' House

Last week I was lucky enough to spend the day at the beautiful Varuna Writers' House in the Blue Mountains. I ran a workshop for year twelve students from Springwood High School, a talented and creative bunch who seemed really supportive of each other's work. The house is warm and old and has lots of great nooks to tuck yourself away for reading and writing purposes. I took some pics on my iphone using the MoreLomo app and here they are.

There are writers' studios covered in vines dotted around the gardens. It was an inspiring place dedicated to writers and writing, to seeing dreams realised and stories told. It was sad, winding down the driveway from that magical place. I vow to return, hopefully to work on a book that I have brewing in my mind right now.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Author Talks

Half of a children's author's life is spent at the desk and the other half is spent on the road meeting and interacting with the peeps that we write books for. We pry ourselves out of our garrets and actually speak and talk to real humans. I've spent a lot of the last three months touring around and writing on the road. Here it is in pics and stats.

The theme for Children's Book Week was 'Across the Story Bridge' and I saw some amazing bridges in libraries. I was tempted to eat this one at St Aidan's Brisbane.

Number of schools visited: 37
Number of kids visited: 7756 (I made this up but not far off.)
Number of kilometres travelled: 10342 (I made this up, too but close.)
Flights taken: 10
Enviro-guilt over flights and kms: Reasonably high.
Places Visited: Brisbane, Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast, Toowoomba, Mackay, Sydney, Mudgee, Port Macquarie, Blue Mountains, Newcastle
Number of pieces of cake consumed at morning teas: 37
Kilograms gained: 33
Number of times I was asked in a session if I like pie: 2
Number of times I was asked how much cash I make: 4
Number of panels I got to be on with Thomas Keneally: 1 (woohoo)
Number of items lost along the way and posted by librarians to my next destination: 5

I spent Book Week in beautiful Brisbane visiting lots of schools.

This is at Wauchope Public School where I had a ball with super-creative kids coming up with lots of wacky story ideas. They live in a fine part of the world. (Pic: Annette McCudden)

I brainstormed a tonne of cool inventions and story-starters in the Mac Slater sessions.

In the holidays I ran a workshop with some excellent young writers at Beecroft's amazing Children's Bookshop. Paul MacDonald, the owner, is a forward-thinking, motivated man doing good things for kids' literacy.

I made it along to the opening of the Brisbane Writers Festival to beat bongos with the audience. This pic is with WordPlay director Molly Palmer and UQP publicist Meredene Hill.

In downtime I took in a cool kids' art exhibition at Sydney's Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation in conjunction with Brisbane's GOMA.

I wrote in motel rooms at night. Two deadlines looming!

This is stencilled on the skate ramp at Bondi Beach. Sometimes, in the whirlwind of touring, I felt a bit like this.

Coffee made it all better again.

The thing that really drove me, though, was the kindness and creativity of kids. I currently have this letter on my work-desk, reminding me of why I do what I do. 

Friday, August 20, 2010

Head Lice Treatment

Nit Boy Original Concept Sketches by Heath McKenzie

Over the past year, touring my Nit Boy books up and down the East Coast I have spoken to thousands of primary school kids about their adventures with these six-legged, blood hungry mini-beasts. I also recently trialled five alternative nit cures on TV series, The Shak

I always ask kids to tell me the weirdest things their parents have used to get rid of their nits. The responses are funny, surprising and sometimes shocking. So, here it is… The top ten weirdest head lice cures in no particular order. Don’t try these at home.

  1. Wasabi
  2. Mayonnaise
  3. Truck wash
  4. Peanut butter
  5. Kerosene (an old-school farm remedy)
  6. Orange juice
  7. Dog Shampoo
  8. Ice Cream
  9. Honey
  10. Frontline (yep, the dog flea treatment. Seriously.)
Conditioner and nit comb is still the number one proven method. Admittedly, not as fast as Frontline or as tasty as nit ice cream but slightly better-suited to humans.


Monday, August 16, 2010

Mac Slater Vs the City Cover!

Woohoo! I just received the uncorrected proof copies of the next Mac Slater book for the US - Mac Slater Vs. The City. The thrill never wears off. I even read the first chapter (in spite of having already read it two million times) and I was super-happy to have had another chance to refine it for the US release.

Anyway, here's the cover, designed by Chloe Foglia, illustrated by Gianluca Fallone. (Thank you guys.) I like the colours, the font, the city, the sense of possibility. It's out Feb 2011, I believe, set in New York City, full of things that I love.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

What Kids Think is Cool

Some new magazine mashup artwork created by students at Kuraby State School, Queensland, showing what they think is cool. They created these just ahead of my visit to the school. Also, a link to a new Mac Slater Glog / Review created by a student that I think looks very cool.


Monday, July 26, 2010

5 Things I'm Loving Right Now

Blog or do tax. It was an easy decision. Here are five things I'm loving at this moment in time.

1. Being Amongst an Incredible  Community of Kids' Authors
Whitsunday Voices Youth Literature Festival Authors 2010
Pic thanks to John Danalis.
Children's and Young Adult Publishing is a truly great corner of the world in which to work and play. I just returned from Whitsunday Voices Youth Literature Festival where I hung out with a bunch of cool, creative humans - Gus Gordon, James Roy, Deborah Abela, John Danalis, Michael Wagner, Ruben Meerman, Jackie French, Ghostboy and P.D. Martin. Lots of fun dinners, funny bus rides and successful book signings and sessions. I find children's authors to, invariably, be supportive, funny, loose, creative, intelligent, free-spirited and community-minded people and I'm super-proud to hang out with these cats and others in the industry. Below, I'm riding a 'Green Machine' that we discovered some kids riding in Mackay. We asked if we could go for a spin and they 'fessed up their wheels.

Pic thanks to John Danalis

2. Jumping Castle Art
Today I donned a yellow zebra striped suit and hit 'The Cell' by Brook Andrew, a giant jumping castle artwork at The Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation space in Paddington, Sydney.

Pic by Amber Melody

3. Proactive But Conscious Web Use
Pic by Thirsty in LA on
I'm trying to use the web as a tool rather than letting it be my master. When the web takes over I get twitchy, fragmented in my thinking and I waste crazy amounts of time surfing around for mindless stuff. Recently I did a week-long web diet. One hour of email responses per day. No surfing. It's led to a ten-fold increase in my quality of life. I now refuse to get sucked into the vortex. I use the web rather than it using me. For inspiration, check out these interesting links:
Zen and the Art of Twitter: 4 Tips for Productive Tweeting at Mashable
20 Strategies to Defeat the Urge to do Useless Tasks on the Zen Habits Blog

4. Room to Read and Camp Quality
Back: Sarah Charles, Linly Goh, Susanne Gervay, Deborah Abela, Ian Mclean
Front: Gus Gordon and Tristan Bancks.
Photo thanks to
Susanne Gervay.
I'm involved with two really cool organisations: Camp Quality and Room to Read. CQ uses giggle-power to get kids with cancer smiling and R2R empowers and funds local communities in the developing world to build libraries, schools and to support girls' education.

This week I met and interviewed an amazing 13-year-old cancer survivor, Sinead, and her mum, Pauline, at the CQ national conference, as well as Steve, the main camp leader. Their stories were happy-making and inspiring. It felt so good to be in a room of people who dedicate their lives to kindness and doing positive work.

The Room to Read Sydney Chapter meeting saw the launch of Zak the Yak With Books on His Back, John Wood's (RtoR founder) brand new children's book. Deb Abela read the book to a rapt crowd. I'll be launching Zak in Brisbane with a ton of fun games and quizzes for kids:

Wednesday 25 August
Coaldrakes at The Barracks
Petrie Tce, top of Caxton Street
4 - 4.45pm

At the Sydney Meeting I also shared my Top Ten Room to Read Actions For Kids and Teens, a call to action for first-world children and teenagers to reach out a hand to their peers in developing countries by giving them the gift of books and education. I'll post the top ten here soon!

5. Being Here Now
Tristan Bancks throwing frisbee on beach. Pic by Amber Melody

Right now my life is the best it has been in years. Finally, I'm letting go and being present right here, right now. I'm no-mind guy, refusing to let chronic thinking strangle my life. I work pretty hard, writing, managing my biz and speaking about kid's lit. And when I'm not working I often find myself thinking about it, non-stop, every moment - in the shower, when I'm driving, eating, sleeping. But not anymore. I'm working on the idea that, 'You are the space between your thoughts' and it's working. I'm alive. Sweet justice.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

My Writing Process

Recently I've been posting short pieces on my writing tools and process over at the Simon & Schuster author page. You can go directly to the posts via the links below. Nice. (Have spent all day today poring over street artist, Banksy's book, Wall and Piece. Loving it.)
The Beverly Hillbillies and Telling the Story From the Inside Out
The Vision Board
Why Writers Write
The Importance of Noise to the Writer

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Sydney Writers Festival 2010

Looking forward to Sydney Writers Fest, 16-23 May. I have a really varied slate of sessions to take part in. Lots to prep but should be fun, and some very cool people to connect with.

I'm doing a kids' session for Varuna at the Carrington in the Blue Mountains. James Roy, Andy Griffiths, Kim Gamble and Anna Fienberg are on the bill, too. I've been loving reading Fienberg / Gamble's Tashi books. I also love the way Griffiths pushes his stories to the very end of the line and beyond. James Roy is an excellent writer, a funny man and a good friend.

I have a digital kids' publishing panel with David Levithan (Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist), Wendy Harmer (I Left My Mobile at the Mall) and Laura Harris (Penguin Children's publisher). The future of books is something I spend lots of time thinking about and it'll be good to be challenged and pushed to crystallise my ideas.

I'm reading Judy Nunn's Maralinga right now and I'll be hosting an evening with Judy at the fest. She launched my first trade book, Mac Slater Coolhunter, at Byron Writers Fest a couple of years ago and we go way back to my early days in TV when I was 17 or so. I learnt a lot about professionalism from Jude and it's an honour to be asked to speak to her about her book. It's a great read.

I'm on a Behind-the-Scenes on Children's Publishing panel with Kristina Schulz and Zoe Walton, my publishers at Random House and UQP, as well as Deborah Abela. They're all cool cats and hopefully it'll be a good session for all those looking to get published.

Finally, I'll be hosting a School Days session with 1200 primary school kids at Sydney Town Hall. Should be loud and loose. I love that age group. Their enthusiasm is so infectious.

Hope you get along to the fest. I'm hoping to catch a whole bunch of great sessions.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

5 Things I'm Loving Right Now

I'm excited about environments that stimulate fun and creativity at work (like Pixar HQ above, as well as Skywalker Ranch and the Googleplex). Over at Alexander Kjerulf's Chief Happiness Officer blog you can check out 10 Seriously Cool Work Spaces.

2. iPhone Camera Apps

Hipstamatic App Shots above taken by me (Luna Park) and Amber Melody (self-portrait).

Lomo App Self-Portrait above

Can't wait to read the new children's novel by John Boyne (The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas), illustrated by Oliver Jeffers (The Incredible Book Eating Boy). It's just been announced at the Bologna Book Fair. Looking forward to getting hold of a copy. I love both Jeffers' and Boyne's stuff.

4. Designer, Gianluca Fallone

Gianluca is a 24-year-old Argentian designer living in London. Fallone has designed the cover for my new book, Mac Slater Hunts the Cool (US release April 6) and his stuff is really worth a look.

5. Banksy's Sketchbook over at SlamXHype

Monday, March 29, 2010

Mac Slater Hunts the Cool Site Hits the Web

We've just put up the site for my new book Mac Slater Hunts the Cool (April 6, Simon & Schuster US). I love the look of it (designed by Amber Melody, based on book design by Chloe Foglia and illustration by Gianluca Fallone).

At the site you can read the first action-packed chapter, watch a two-minute vlog intro to Mac and I, see the book trailer, buy a book, link to my Simon & Schuster page and soon there'll be downloads and other fun stuff.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Mac Slater Hunts the Cool

Hey, here's a peek at the US cover of my book, ‘Mac Slater Hunts the Cool’, which comes out in April. Exciting to see it out there in the world. I love the illustration by Gianluca Fallone.

Tonight I’ve put up a 2-minute video intro to me and ‘Mac Slater’ at . Check it out and leave a comment. (Unless you hate it. Then maybe don’t leave a comment.)

Here are some other 'Mac Slater' links:

My Author page at Simon & Schuster.

My new Amazon author page.

And the Mac Slater site is coming very soon at! Watch this space.

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