Australian Author of Children’s Books and Teen Books: March 2011

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

New York City Tour

I’m heading to NY very soon as my book, Mac Slater Vs The City, is unleashed on the US 5 April. Mac Slater is a kid coolhunter, a trendspotter so he discovers lots of fun, weird, wacky and delicious things. I have set myself the task of visiting as many locations from the book as I can in a single day while I'm in NYC and I’ll shoot the whirlwind tour and stick the highlights up on my Youtube channel.

Here are some of the places I’m gonna go:

Peanut Butter and Co - I've been drooling over the Marshmallow Fluff and wacky peanut butter flavours at this place for many moons. Ever since I dreamed a scene where Mac and an inventor girl called Melody go there to eat.
Buy Marshmallow Fluff at

Doughnut Plant - check out the beautifully-shot 2-minute homage to head-sized doughnuts.

MetroNaps - Sleep is the new awake. Pay around fifteen bucks for twenty minutes of gourmet napping at this place in the Empire State Building.
The entire length of Broadway: In Mac Slater Vs The City a group of teen inventors attempt to ride a perpetual motion machine the entire length of Broadway at night, in the rain, without stopping. Above is a map of Mac Slater's NYC (cartography by Amber Melody).

Inwood Hill Park: A wilderness at the northern tip of Manhattan island, featuring caves with Indian carvings. It's home to The Hive, an abandoned warehouse where kid and teen inventors come up with fresh ideas which blow Mac's mind. These include an environmentally-friendly jetpack that they test-fly over the Hudson River. Check out the Jetpack Man vid above that helped me to write the jetpack scene.

Above is one of the Times Square Earth Cams that helped me write the book. I would play one of these live web cams in the corner of my computer screen as I wrote. They made me feel as though I was in New York City and they were especially helpful for the big Times Square finale. Earth Cam and Google Maps Street View were my best friends as I wrote.

I'll post the vid of my one-day whirlwind NYC tour here or check my Youtube channel after mid-April.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Children's Author Ian Irvine - The Writer's Studio

Children's Author Ian Irvine at work in his writing space.
I am fascinated by where writers write and how the space influences the story. I am starting a semi-regular series here about the writing spaces of children’s authors. The first to welcome us inside their cave is marine scientist and author of 27 novels, including the new Grim and Grimmer series, Ian Irvine.

Where did you write your new book, Grim and Grimmer: The Desperate Dwarf? How important to you is the space that you write in?
I wrote this book in my lovely office, upstairs at home, where I’ve done most of my writing for the past twenty years. I call it my office, rather than study, because I’ve been a full-time writer for the past eleven years. But also because I’m a marine scientist and I’ve run my consulting business at home for twenty-five years. Despite being a full-time writer, I still enjoy doing some scientific consulting, which has to do with pollution in rivers, harbours and the ocean.

I have a large, idiosyncratic office which I designed, with views of countryside in three directions, and not another house to be seen. The south half of my office is the literary part, where I write my books. The north half is the scientific side, where I do work related to marine pollution (and some writing). Originally the two sides were evenly balanced, but over the past decade writing has steadily encroached into my work office, which is where I’m writing this post. Soon writing may take over completely.
Children's Author Ian Irvine's Office

Do you transform your space into Wychwold, the setting for Grim and Grimmer, in any way? Do you 'get into character'?
Not really. I do a lot of planning for my books these days; I draw maps and create fairly detailed worlds. I work out the plot in considerable detail, and sketch the character arcs, but then I just start writing. If I get into character at all, it’s only in my head as I’m writing. The bulk of my character development comes in the rewriting.
How has your writing space evolved since you first began writing novels?
I love my office, and it’s the place I work best, but over the years I’ve written in all kinds of places – cars, airports, coffee shops, the hammock in the backyard – in fact, wherever I happened to be with some spare time, back in the days when I was unpublished and had a burning urge to be a writer.

I wrote the whole first draft of one of my big fantasy novels, The Way Between the Worlds, in my spare time on a consulting assignment in Fiji. I’ve also written in a sweltering mine site donga on Horn Island in Torres Strait, at the top of a mountain in Papua-New Guinea, in Mauritius, Indonesia and the Philippines, and on long jobs for the World Bank in Korea. But that’s all long ago. I don’t travel nearly as much, thankfully, and most of my writing is done in my office these days.

Ian Irvine, Author
Do you keep regular writing hours? What are they? If not, when do you write?
I write seven days a week, when I have the opportunity. Writing is a job, but one I love so much that being unable to do it is a torment. I usually get to my office at about 7.30 am, work though until after lunch, then have a bit of a nap in mid-afternoon, read a book for a while and go back to writing. Unless the sun happens to be shining (which is rare where I live, in one of the wettest parts of Australia) in which case I go out and try to tame several acres of grass around the house.

Occasionally I’ll sleep in until 8.30. When I’m working to a furious deadline, I’ll often begin at 5 am or even earlier. I love that hour of the day, when the whole world but me is still asleep. When a deadline is really pressing, I find that the faster I write, the better the first draft is and the less editing it needs. Sometimes, in the madness of desperation facing an impossible deadline, I’ll write 50-60,000 words of first draft in a week, and those are wild, wonderful times because I’m in the zone the whole time and the story just flows from my fingers. But no one can work that like all the time. It has to be a desperate deadline.

Do you write on the computer or longhand? What combination of these do you use?
Almost entirely on computer these days. I wrote the first drafts of my first 6 novels in longhand (they averaged about 200,000 words each, so that was a wrist-aching effort), then typed them into Word, printed out each draft and did all my revisions on the printed page. But typing up the first draft became so dreary (I’m neither a fast or nor an accurate typist) that I began writing directly on computer ten years ago. I did corrections on printed drafts for another five years, until a time came when I was so overloaded with deadlines that I decided to edit directly on screen. These days I print virtually nothing, though I still keep each of the six, eight, ten or more drafts as a separate file. But I do miss the more leisurely method of working on the printed page. Some day, when I’m less busy, I may go back to it.

Grim and Grimmer: The Desperate Dwarf by Ian Irvine

Do you have a morning ritual? Roald Dahl was said to sharpen pencils. What settles your mind for writing?
Get up at 5 am, 7 am or whatever time is required for current book deadlines. Make large pot of coffee and small bowl of muesli. Eat muesli in front of computer on the scientific side of the office and drink black coffee. Briefly check email, news, weather, and reply to questions on my Facebook author site, Tweet a few lines of one of my kids’ books,!/ianirvineauthor, then go across to laptop on the literary side (no distracting internet here), and start writing. Sometimes effectively, sometimes not.

Thanks Mr. Irvine. Good luck with the book. Next on Ian's blog tour: Kid's Book Review blog


Sunday, March 20, 2011

I Remember…

One of the most powerful storytelling tools for kids, for teens, for humans, is to tap your own life experience. I just completed a writer-in-residence stint in Townsville, Far North Queensland. I worked with students from years two to nine over the course of a week and encouraged them to tap their own life experiences and then mash them with fiction. We began with an exercise called ‘I remember…’ (from John Marsden’s book, Everything I Know About Writing) and did five minutes of freewriting. The only rules were ‘Don’t Think. Just Write.’ This is what I jotted during one of the sessions…
I remember the house.
I remember its whiteness.
I remember the smell of the long red shagpile carpet.
I remember my cousins riding Daisy the dog around the living room.
I remember Daisy hating me, hearing that low growl from under the table as I ate.
I remember my nan and her poker machine.
I remember when my nan could walk.
I remember when she sat with me on the back step one cold night and we looked at the moon and she told me that my Pop was up there. I wasn't sure if that meant he was an astronaut.
I remember the paintings in the back room. I wish they’d been saved.
I remember the lounge chair hanging out of the tree from where my dad had built a cubby as a kid.
I remember the giant pine tree, our fort, in her back yard and collecting pine cones.
I remember drawing our cartoon characters, Molong Mick & Jugglo Joe
I remember being alone a lot.
I remember going fast on my bike down Luke’s driveway.
I remember him crashing his mum’s car.
I remember wrecking the BMX track when we tried to make it better.
I remember Amb’s budgie dying and Michael freezing it and giving it
to her as a present, wrapped in foil.
I have decided to embark on a Creativity Project, inspired by Gretchen Rubin’s ‘Happiness Project’. My project will be an entire year dedicated to pushing my own creativity into new areas and facilitating the creative flow of other people. More on this soon…

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