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

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Galactic Adventures & My Life and Other Stuff I Made Up on Channel Ten's 'The Circle'

Galactic Adventures: First Kids in Space and My Life and Other Stuff I Made Up were featured in Cheryl Akle's kids' book segment this week on Network Ten's 'The Circle'. They said some very nice things.

Also reviewed, books by Libby Gleeson, Anthony Horowitz, David Melling and Susannah McFarlane.

'The Circle' is hosted by Denise Drysdale, Chrissie Swan, Yumi Stynes and Gorgi Coghlan.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Children's Author, Tristan Bancks: The Writer's Studio

I've recently been interviewing lots of super-cool children's authors including Wendy Orr, John Boyne, Michael Pryor, Deborah Abela and many others on where they write. I'm fascinated by writers' spaces and how the space impacts on the writing. This week, with the release of my book Galactic Adventures: First Kids in Space, I have turned the lens on myself and answered the five questions, with lots of pics of the weird places that I write.

Where did you write your latest book? How important to you is the space that you write in?
I wrote Galactic Adventures: First Kids in Space in many, many different places. I am a roving writer. I always have a desk set up, a home base, but I can usually be found at the dining table or at a cafe or in a hotel room or on some form of transport. My current favourite is to write outdoors on verandas and beaches and in parks.
My desk last year. Ganesha statue and Buzz Lightyear mug are regular fixtures.
Veranda where I work for a period most days.
Do you transform your space in any way for each book? Do you 'get into character' at all?
My desk space is usually plastered with images and quotes and ideas about the book that I'm writing. I listen to different music for each book with a soundtrack playlist in my iTunes. That music drops me into character each morning. I mutter to myself a lot, especially with dialogue, trying to 'hear' each character. I try to visit the places that I'm writing about or get as close as I can to them by digital means.
Pictures, notes and quotes around my workspace.
How has the place that you write evolved or changed since you first began writing novels?
I started out writing at a table in the corner of my bedroom but I realised that I was spending 18 hours a day in that room and it disturbed me slightly so I moved. Now it's a desk in a sunroom turned office space. It has good light, warmth (apart from at 6.00 a.m.) a view of the hills (above) in the distance and a door that opens on to a veranda. Other assorted places I have been caught writing are below in pics:
Me, years ago, working on a screenplay while camping in Joshua Tree National Park.
Caught last year in Sydney sitting on a plastic tub, writing in the garage.
Every now and then I spend a day at the beach writing and walking and writing and walking.
Do you keep regular writing hours? What are they? If not, when do you write?
In theory I keep regular hours. In reality, not so much. Currently I handwrite three pages in my 'Morning Pages' book at 6.00 am, before moving on to my manuscript. I stop at about 7 for breakfast and then write from 8-11 (I'm usually late getting back into it). I do email and web stuff and meetings and business from 11-3. This changes when I have to go out to speak but I return to this ritual whenever I am home. Like most children's authors, I also spend 60-70 days a year on the road talking about books and bringing them alive.
I always keep some of my favourite books close at hand. It's inspiring just to see the spines.

Do you have a morning ritual? Roald Dahl was said to sharpen pencils. What settles your mind for writing?
Trying to start at the same time each day, freewriting in my morning pages book, drinking green tea, listening to the soundtrack for the book, looking at pictures that relate to my story. I try to stay away from the web if I can because I quickly disappear down rabbit-holes and it devours writing time.

Here's a short video on how I wrote my book Two Wolves / On the Run:

Next Wednesday, Gus Gordon, the illustrator on my upcoming book My Life and Other Stuff I Made Up is in the Writer's Studio, sharing his very cool space and quirky approach to creating.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Galactic Adventures: First Kids in Space

‘This is the perfect book to recommend to reluctant middle-school readers, especially boys who aren’t interested in fantasy or vampires.’
- B+P (Bookseller + Publisher) Magazine

A gripping and inspiring space adventure for kids of all ages.

‘A galactic journey that will have you spinning through Space!’ - DMAG
'I loved it. A great balance of action, characters and unexpected elements. Is this the first in a series? I hope so.'
 - Paul MacDonald, The Children's Bookshop, Sydney

Dash Campbell has only ever had one dream. To go to space.
Now he and four others have been given the chance to become the first kids ever to leave our planet. From building rockets behind his family’s laundromat in Australia to attending a hardcore Space School in the US, Dash is a long way from home. And he still has an intense month of training ahead before he can even think about that glorious moment of blasting out of Earth’s atmosphere and living his dream.
But does Dash have what it takes to survive Space School? Gruelling physicals, fierce competition, media attention, medicals, the Vomit Comet, a skydive from 4000 metres and an instructor who despises him. Can he push through his deepest fears and make history? Does he have the right stuff to go to space?

>> WIN Cool Prizes (Coming soon!)
Anatomy of a Novel: Click Above and Go Behind-the-Scenes on the writing and research of Galactic Adventures: First Kids in Space at Simmone Howell's blog.

Cool Space Travel Links and vids
This video gives a taste of the gruelling space training that the first five kids in space must endure in order to live their dream.

Vomit Comet – Zero Gravity Classroom:

NASA Kids' Club
Cool Article on Civilian Space Travel at Wired Magazine
Space Tourism Wiki

Why I Wrote the Book

When I was seven years old I built a spaceship with my friend, Luke. It was made out of chipboard and u-nails and we planned to attach an outboard motor to get us into space. One of my strongest memories of childhood was, on my first day of year six, watching the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster on TV. Then, as an adult, one of the greatest days of my life was visiting the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. I walked away filled with a sense of hope and possibility. I love stories about kids forced to face their greatest fears, be resourceful and discover great strength within themselves. That's what this story is about.
The first book I ever wrote was about Space Stations. I’ve always been fascinated by space travel and I can’t wait for the day that I am looking back at Earth from high above. Then my journey will be complete. Or maybe it will be just the beginning.

Click to read! Galactic Adventures: First Kids in Space Review - B+P (Bookseller + Publisher) Magazine

Click to Read! Galactic Adventures: First Kids in Space Review - Good Reading Magazine 2012

‘Many fascinating facts revealed with wonderful Roald Dahl-style humour that children will love. Bancks understands his audience and delivers an emotionally engaging adventure story that manages to be engrossing without leaving earth’s orbit – that is until (fingers crossed) the next book.’ Bookseller + Publisher ‘Four-star Review’

‘Loving the concept of this book plus the additional addendum – a must–read handbook on how to become a space kid. This is not only a lot of fun but a priceless way to engage kids in the story post-read.’ Kids Book Review

‘A high action page turner that tells the hard truths.’ Buzz Words

‘Filled with fascinating space facts and true-to-life methods of training astronauts, this is an engaging and, at times, heartfelt journey about a little boy who is doing his best to make his ultimate dream come true.’ Deborah Abela, ABC 666 – 7 August 2011 (and Pass it On – Issue 351)


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Wendy Orr, Children's Author: The Writer's Studio

Children's Author Wendy Orr
Wendy Orr is a fascinating character. She lived in many parts of the world as a child and survived a life-changing accident as an adult. She writes books about 'the resilience of the human spirit; finding the courage we need to face adversity'. Wendy is the legendary author of Nim's Island, turned into a feature film starring Jodie Foster, and the new book Raven's Mountain. Here, Wendy invites us into her writing space, giving an intimate portrait of her writing environment and process.

Where did you write your latest book?
Mostly at this desk, but also at my parents’ house on an island near Vancouver, hotel rooms in New York and Boston and waiting at the hairdressers.
How important to you is the space that you write in?
Having my office the way I want it is important to me – but the actual writing I can do anywhere, as long as it’s quiet and I can sit in some comfort.
Wendy Orr's Writing Space
Do you transform your space in any way for each book?
I put pictures and small objects etc. up on my windowsill and the desk, maps and larger pictures on the door and collect photos for a screensaver. So for Raven’s Mountain, I had pictures of mountains, waterfalls, bears etc.
Do you 'get into character' at all? 
Mostly in an inner way, going inside myself to find what the character is feeling, but I also work out some things physically – like actually climbing in the kitchen window. It’s surprisingly awkward to get in and out of the sink!
Wendy Orr's memorabilia from life as a children's author.
How has the place that you write evolved or changed since you first began writing novels?
This is our fourth home since I started writing – so I started on an old laminex table that the previous owners of our farm had left behind, on a built-in verandah. Our next farmhouse had a strange, skinny office, where I had an IKEA desk and faced a brick wall, which I completely covered with pictures to set the scene for each book. So when we built this house, I put a lot of care into designing the office. And as I’ve now been writing for over 20 years, the office is now crammed with book and film souvenirs, awards, book covers etc – all things that make me happy.
Do you keep regular writing hours? What are they? If not, when do you write?
I read my emails before breakfast and answer the urgent overseas ones immediately, so I can catch people before they leave work for the day. Then I walk the dog and start work after that – I’ve got into the habit of checking twitter and facebook as well as emails before I actually start writing, but try to then switch those all off while I’m working. I try to make sure I stand up and stretch (or hang up washing etc) every half hour, and then walk the dog again around 4:00, then work through till about 6:00. In theory that’s when I do emails, but often I continue writing. On the weekends I try to catch up on emails and readers’ letters.
For more on Wendy, check out the her FAQ with lots of readers' questions at or swing by Wendy's blog Another author in The Writer's Studio next Wednesday.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Voices on the Coast 2011

Wild and crazy students at Voices on the Coast Youth Literature Festival. I asked them to cheer and then we launched into a series of Mexican waves.
Here are some pics from Voices on the Coast 2011 – a very cool youth lit-fest held each year at the University of the Sunshine Coast, run by Immanuel Lutheran College. Voices was the first fest that I spoke at as an author three years ago. Thankfully, since then, I've had many opportunities to hone my craft. The sessions were lots of fun.
This year the fest hosted tons of great authors including (are you ready?) - Oliver Phommavanh, Lili Wilkinson, David Stavanger, Mark Wilson, Katherine Battersby, James Phelan, Richard Newsome, Pat Flynn, Julie Beveridge, Kate Forsyth, Melaina Faranda, Julie Fison, Caroline Magerl, Marianne De Pierres, Aleesah Darlison, Lyndon Davis, Pascalle Burton, Steph Bowe, Michael Gerard Bauer, Rebecca Byfield Kennedy, Serena Geddes, Judy Barass and Deborah Abela.
My feet at the skatepark one day before the fest. Pic by Amber Melody using Camera+ iPhone app
Big thanks to Kelly Dunham, legendary fest director, her husband Clint who can turn his hand to just about anything and all the volunteers and kids who made it a cracking festival.

Local skater ready to launch. Pic by Amber Melody using Camera+ iPhone app
Article and image in the Buderim Chronicle. Click to read.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

My Life and Other Stuff I Made Up

#1 Bestseller Dymocks Older Readers Chart 
Top 10 Bestseller Bookscan Children's Fiction Chart
Shortlisted for 2014 & 2015 YABBA & KOALA Children's Choice Awards

'Fans of Griffiths, Gleitzman and Jennings will be thrilled to have this in their collection ... 
What a great book.'

'Like Dahl, Bancks is passionate about inspiring a love of reading in the young by placing fun at the centre of his storytelling.' - Andy Griffiths, Sydney Morning Herald

'Delightful and funny. Bancks has beautifully captured the essence of boyhood. Tom is a typical 21st-century schoolboy, following in the fine tradition of Ginger Meggs.'

'A serious dose of pant-wetting, cringe-worthy short stories 
and we love 'em!'
- DMag

Synopsis (What's It About?)

Have you ever been kissed by a dog? Ever had to eat Vegemite off your sister's big toe? Have you had a job delivering teeth? Has a bloodthirsty magpie ever been out to get you? Ever woken up to discover that everything hovers? And have you eaten 67 hot dogs in ten minutes?

I have. I'm Tom Weekly. This book is full of my stories, jokes, cartoon characters, ideas for theme park rides and other stuff I've made up. It's where I pour out whatever's inside my head. It gets a bit weird sometimes but that’s how I roll. 

Watch the Book Trailer

Read a Free Sample of Short Story, The Dog Kisser


Buy a copy of My Life & Other Stuff I Made Up, signed by the author Tristan Bancks

Listen to 'The Dog Kisser', an Audio Short Story'

Learn to draw My Life's Tom Weekly in this 41-second masterclass with illustrator, Gus Gordon.

Download 3 Colouring-In Pages


Author Note From Tristan Bancks

All stories are part fact and part fiction. Even history is part fact and part fiction. Many of the stories in My Life and Other Stuff I Made Up sprang from things that have happened to me. I then supercharged those stories to make for a series of (hopefully) funny and surprising tales. 

I grew up reading Paul Jennings books like Unreal, Unbelieveable and Quirky Tails. I loved these books. Nobody else, at the time, other than Roald Dahl, was writing surprising, funny, odd tales for children quite like these. I have used my love of those stories to inspire my own writing. As a kid I always jotted my ideas down in exercise books and notebooks. I didn’t know what I would do with them but I just had to get them down. 

I encourage all kids, in fact all humans, to get your ideas down – ideas for stories, movies, inventions, video games, jokes, cartoon characters and just general thoughts on life. You never know when they might come in handy. This book looks and feels a bit like one of my notepads as a kid, with pictures and weird, funny stories and things that would make me laugh. A book like this is a space for you to make their own, to come back to, and to feel safe to explore. As soon as you can write, get yourself a book like this where you can be bold and adventurous without needing to be ‘right’ or having to prove anything to anybody.

Illustrator note From Gus Gordon 

Tom Weekly reminded me very much of my 12-year-old self. It wasn’t too difficult a task to channel the random thoughts of that younger, fantastically naïve, enthusiastic, imaginative boy as it is pretty much how I am today. I still, like Tom, daydream about incredible situations and still have the propensity to think in a random, fractured manner, jumping from thought to thought with no real segue as if I am picking my thoughts out of a hat. Drawing for me was the most efficient way of communicating these unorganised ideas. Off-kilter illustrations and pointless list writing were a speciality of mine. I drew in every class, in every margin on everything and anything I had in front of me. This kind of fervour – the need to express myself through drawing – was how I approached the illustrations, or more specifically, how I saw Tom drawing them – a natural extension of his rambling imagination.

The subjects (awkward encounters, girls, gross bodily functions, eating) were also all too familiar to me. Whether it was a panicked list about an operation, escaping false teeth or a drawing of a floating poo, it all felt disturbingly normal. Obviously it was the same for Tom!

What Kids and Critics Are Saying:

'These bite-sized bursts of fun are inspired by Paul Jennings, Andrew Daddo and Andy Griffiths, the sort of stories that will keep kids enthralled.' - Oliver Phommavanh in Buzz Words Books 

'A sort of Aussie tall-tale version of Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Bancks' latest features stories with a high-level gross-out factor.' - Booklist (US)

'Are you ready to laugh? Yes? Good. Because you won't be able to help yourself once you open this cover ... Boys will love this book. Fans of Griffiths, Gleitzman and Jennings will be thrilled to have this book in their collection.' -

'Tristan Bancks books are really funny and I love them! My favourite book that he made was My life and other stuff I made up. In fact I was at his writers workshop at Warrigal Road State school. I definitely recommend his books for everyone.' - BJ, reader.

Check Out The Other Books in the Series

Monday, June 13, 2011

Oliver Phommavanh, Children's Author: The Writer's Studio

Children's Author Oliver Phommavanh in the The Fairfield Advance.

I spent last week at Voices on the Coast children's literature festival with author Oliver Phommavanh. Oliver's sessions were a massive hit with kids, a fusion of his work as comedian, children's author and all-round madman. Here, we're lucky enough to get an insight into his process (a surprising mix of Red Bull, shock jocks and Avatar) and an invitation into his writing space.

Where did you write your latest book?
I wrote Con-nerd mostly at home, in my nerdy dungeon aka my bedroom. I also write with my uni friends and haunt libraries around Sydney. My favourite is the state library. I also did a bit of writing when I travelled interstate, squeezing in an hour here and there.

How important to you is the space that you write in?
I’m not too fussed to be honest. I chuck in my earphones and listen to music or talkback radio, drowning any outside noise anyway. As long as I have my laptop or notebook, any space is a good space to write. Except on transport or I’ll get sick!
Do you transform your space in any way for each book? Do you 'get into character' at all?
I stick articles, quotes or ideas on sticky notes and scatter them around my desk. They help inspire my characters when I write. When I switch into writing mode, I slip into my character’s head, sort of like Avatar I guess. I let the characters roll around in my head and when I go do other stuff, they speak to me and tell me where the story’s headed. No, I’m not crazy, I’m just a little unwell.

How has the place that you write evolved or changed since you first began writing novels?
It hasn’t changed too much, I have upgraded my laptops but that’s about it. Piles of paper rise and fall. A messy desk means that I’m too engrossed in my story to notice.
Do you keep regular writing hours? What are they? If not, when do you write?
If I have a writing day at home, then I write 9 to 12 and then again at 2 to 5. If I’m out and about, then I try to squeeze in an hour. If I have a deadline, then I write pretty much all day and night. It’s uni all over again.
Oliver Phommavanh's latest book Con-Nerd
Do you have a morning ritual? Roald Dahl was said to sharpen pencils. What settles your mind for writing?
It sounds really bad but after breakfast I drink a can of V/Red Bull/Monster/whatever energy drink is on sale. Yeah, I don’t drink coffee or tea but I need my caffeine hit. I listen to a lot of talkback radio so when the shock jock starts his show, I begin to write. Some days it’s slow, other days my fingers can’t keep up with my mind. I’ve learnt to ride the rollercoaster of writing, but I make sure that I have something to show for it, even if nothing can be saved in the next draft.

Next week in The Writer's Studio: Nim's Island and Raven's Mountain author
Wendy Orr

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