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

Monday, August 29, 2011

Children's Book Week 2011

Over the past week Australian children's authors and illustrators have been hitting the streets and the schools, taking their stories to the peeps, enthusing kids on writing and reading and creativity. I was among them and it was good.

I am constantly amazed and inspired by the wacky ideas, questions and mindful meanderings of kids. We have so much to learn about present-momentness from children. The more time I spend brainstorming, sharing stories and chatting with kids the greater respect I have and the more informed my stories are. So, thank you for a fun Book Week and thanks to the CBCA for promoting the value of children's books.

Here is my week in pictures and a few words.
1100 boys from 100+ different nationalities in the hall at Patrician Brothers Fairfield for a Book Week chat and reading.
At Sydney's Shore Prep they did 'book busking' to raise money for Room to Read - - a seriously amazing charity building libraries and providing girls' education in developing countries. Book busking involves students reading from fave books while other students wander and listen and toss coins into the hats of the readers. 
I travelled to schools north, east, west and south of Sydney throughout the week.
Modelling clay sheep and snail created by students at a workshop I ran at Voices on the Range festival, Toowoomba, the week before Book Week.
A series of pop-up displays created by students at Moriah College , based on my 'Nit Boy' books.

I finished the week fittingly with a visit to Sydney's amazing 'Art of Dr Seuss' store. Inspiring to read about the good doctor and see some of his 'secret' artwork.
This week it's Melbourne Writers Festival. Will post some pics soon.
The view from the 47th floor of the hotel in Melbourne. This is a seriously fantastic city. Like a mini New York.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

My Life and Other Stuff I Made Up reviews

The reviews are in... Some recent reviews of my book of short stories My Life and Other Stuff I Made Up.

    (Highly recommended)
'What an exhilirating ride it is to follow the misadventures of Tom Weekly ... 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... Best of all, it made me laugh.'

Are you ready to laugh? Yes? Good. Because you won't be able to help yourself once you open this cover.
Tom Weekly loves to write and draw, so he puts together lots of short stories and drawings and other crazy stuff that comes to his imagination.
With a passion for funny stuff, the big questions (like, why do dogs eat poo?), lists and quirky captions, Tom is kind of weird - but in a good way. And a bit of a gross way, too.
Boys will love this book. Fans of Griffiths, Gleitzman and Jennings will be thrilled to have this book in their collection.
Author Bancks doesn't skip a beat as he writes from his character Tom's perspective, and illustrator Gordon adds his usual funny and clever drawings to it all.
What a great book.

DMag review excerpt:
'A serious dose of pant-wetting, cringe-worthy short stories and we love 'em! Just don't read it if you like the taste of Vegemite. It'll never taste the same again.'
Reading Time review:
**BANCKS, Tristan (text) Gus Gordon (illus.) My Life & Other Stuff I Made Up Random House, 2011 200pp $15.95 pbk ISBN 9781864718171 SCIS 1513192
The cover of this book of nine short stories is reminiscent in design of the Penny Pollard series, with cartoon ink sketches, bandaids and a sticker on the cover. There are wide margins, ink sketches and varied fonts to break up the text and appeal to emerging young readers. The comic style illustrations and ideas lists throughout extend and enhance the text and make it a visual experience rather than a series of stories to be read. Each story involves Tom’s family and friends and most have indefinite endings that allow the reader to visualise several alternate endings. The topics are slapstick, funny and gross in places, with a hot dog eating competition, tough nans in battle, an evil swooping magpie and a gruesome scab story to mention a few. The voice of Tom is convincing and conveys a good sense of family and pets in each story. The themes of the importance of friends, coming to terms with girls, mothers who go on dates and dealing with bullies are explored. There are website details and an email address for readers to send their own stories, messages and ideas. Suitable for 8-12 year olds. JL

And here's Author Oliver Phommavanh's review in Buzz Words Magazine


Monday, August 22, 2011

Children's Author Libby Gleeson : The Writer's Studio

Libby Gleeson is one of Australia's most respected and awarded children's book authors. She has written everything from picture books like Amy and Louis to Young Adult novels like Mahtab's Story. Libby is a great advocate for children's authors and Australian children's literature so it is very fitting to celebrate Children's Book Week by having her in The Writer's Studio. Here is a little peek into Libby's process and writing space...

Where did I write my last book?
All done in the small space left after papers and junk have taken over my desk. All done on computer.

How important is the place where I write?
I write best at my desk. Sometimes when it's not going well I migrate to the kitchen table or to the sunshine outside but it never works.
Children's author Libby Gleeson at work in her office.
Do you get into character at all?
Not physically but very much mentally. I try to take on the persona: thoughts, actions, voice of whoever I'm writing about.

How has the place where you write evolved or changed?
I wrote my first novel on a tiny desk in a London flat. Then my second on the kitchen table in Newtown and then a number of desks in our house in Petersham. Now it's on my fabulous huge desk here (in Petersham) but gradually books and papers from everything else I do keep invading and reproducing all over the place. Now it's the equivalent of that tiny desk in London.
Do you keep regular writing hours?
Theoretically yes - 9 to 5 but the reality is that's only sometimes. It's any time in the day- usually about 9 to 3ish - and never at night.

Do you have a morning ritual?
Coffee, the Sydney Morning Herald, stretching at the gym so I can sit down for hours without a crook neck and then I start.
Check back next week for another children's author in The Writer's Studio.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Tweets on Writing and Creativity #2

I tweet a lot on writing and creativity. Here are eleven interesting links, ideas and inspirations that I have come across in Twitsville in recent weeks. Hope they're useful.

'If you don't jump, the wings never come.' - Bruce Coville  (via @drydenbooks)

 guest Alice Pung on writing: 'Keep on keeping on & let go of fixed ideas' 

myleejoseph Mylee Joseph by tristanbancks
: Fabulous piece about the state of publishing in Australia from The Oz. Featuring  

Kate DiCamillo & Bagram Ibatoulline take us behind-the-scenes on writing / illustrating Edward Tulane 

Noisy kids, stacks of books, Darth Vader & computer games. Inside 's writing space: 

How Writers Work. I was lucky enough to be interviewed for 's series on creativity 

Important piece via : Bruce Coville: at the intersection of plot and character:  

Great Ocean Rd, Taiqi, ironing. Author/illustrator  on writing space & process 

Nice collection of digital storytelling apps:  (via  )

Children's Book Journey: Author, Publisher, Editor, Illustrator, Designer perspectives on my new book 

A 9-yr old girl removed her own tooth in front of me with a piece of string yesterday. I love school visits.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Children's Author Kate Forsyth: The Writer's Studio

Kate Forsyth's lifelong dream has been to write, to be an author, to bring fantasy worlds to life. She lives that dream every day, writing in her study, on planes, trains, automobiles and in hotel rooms. And, occasionally, in the Italian Alps. Here, she smuggles us inside her writing world, giving insights into her life and creative space and shows us how she has made her childhood fantasy a reality.

Where did you write your latest book? 
Most of the time I write in my study, but I also have been known to take my notebook with me to bed, to the beach, to a cafe, or while I’m travelling. This year I was lucky enough to go to France & Italy for research, and so I wrote in my notebook in Paris, Florence, Venice, in the Italian Alps and in Bordeaux.
How important to you is the space in which you write?
Its very important to me, but not always something I can control. My preference is to write in my study, which looks over the garden to the harbour and the ocean. Its painted pale green and is lined with bookcases and framed prints of my covers or illustrations from my books.
Do you transform your space in any way for each book?
I put all the research books for the last book away in my library (yes, I’m lucky enough to have a library!) and then I start to collect books for  the new book. I have them all together on a shelf in my study. For example, when I was writing The Puzzle Ring my bookshelf was laden with books on Mary, Queen of Scots and Scottish fairy lore. I had photographs of Scottish castles and mountains and lochs on my wall and on my computer, and maps of Scotland everywhere. All those books and photos and maps are put away now, and new ones have taken their place.

Do you 'get into character' at all?
Only in my imagination.
How has the place that you write evolved or changed since you first began writing novels?
My first novel was written on a rickety old table in the corner of the living room. Then we renovated and I got a room of my own which was very exciting. However, I kept having babies and so I had to give up my study for a nursery. When Baby No 3 came along, I told my husband I wasn’t giving up my study again and that we had to move. Now our house is big enough for all my 3 kids to have a room of their own, and I have a study AND a library. Life is good.

Do you keep regular writing hours? What are they? If not, when do you write?
I’m very regular indeed in my work hours. I take my kids to school at 9am, walk the dog until 10am, then turn on my computer and have a cup of tea. I work steadily till 12.30pm, have lunch and read a chapter or an article about books or writing, walk around my garden, then have another cup of tea and get back to work. Three afternoons a week, I work through until 5.30pm. The other two afternoons, I pick up my daughter from school at 3pm. Quite often I’ll go back to work till 5.30 or 6pm, when I start cooking dinner and helping my kids with their homework. If I’m really excited about the book I’m writing, I’ll start work again at around 8.30pm and work till late. Usually, though, I read or do some research instead. This happens every day I’m at home, but you must remember I do spend a lot of time travelling, talking about books and writing, or appearing at festivals and so on. During those times, I take my notebook and my laptop with me and work whenever I can i.e. on the plane, in the airport, in my hotel room. Usually I only get a few hours' work at a time done then.
Do you have a morning ritual? Roald Dahl was said to sharpen pencils. What settles your mind for writing?
I love my morning walk. I always think through what I want to do that day, so I’m all keen and eager to begin. I usually have a cup of tea and a banana before I start work – does that count as a ritual? The other thing I always do is read through what I wrote the day before, and edit and polish it. It gets me back in the swing of things.

Thanks Kate! Check back next Wednesday and climb inside the world of another author.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Children's Author George Ivanoff: The Writer's Studio

George Ivanoff is a wonder to behold – children's author, prolific blogger (Boomerang's Literary Clutter) and stay-at-home-dad. Here he shows us how and where he writes, surrounded by noisy children, piles of books, Darth Vader statues and computer games.

Where did you write your latest book? How important to you is the space that you write in?
The bulk of Gamers’ Challenge was written in my little corner of the office that I share with my wife (a graphic designer). It’s cluttered and rather closed in and cosy. I’m surrounded by bookshelves and piles of books and movie memorabilia and… stuff. I like the feeling of being surrounded by the things that I like. It’s fairly daggy. It’s quite a contrast to my wife’s side of the office, which is open and tidy and bright… quite stylish, in fact.
Do you transform your space in any way for each book?
No, I don’t transform the space. But while writing Gamers’ Challenge (and Gamers’ Quest before that), I would take regular computer game breaks. I found a great website with retro games like Asteroids and Space Invaders. Given that the Gamers books are all set inside a computer game world, I figured that this was legitimate research. ;-)

Do you 'get into character' at all?
I certainly do. When I’m creating characters I test them out — I do the voices and even act out their mannerisms sometimes. It helps me get a clear picture of them in my mind. It also helps me keep the dialogue consistent. I always do read-throughs out loud in character (much to the amusement of my wife and kids) and, if anything doesn’t sound right, I know I have to re-write it. This means that when the book is finished, and I’m doing readings, I find it really easy to slip into character, do the voices and perform them.
Gamers' Quest by George Ivanoff
How has the place that you write evolved or changed since you first began writing novels?
When I first started writing I had a small study, cluttered and cosy and full of ‘stuff’. I was very protective of my space and I didn’t share it with anyone. I had to have complete silence (not even background music) while writing. But then I had kids and everything changed. Since then I’ve learned to write under any circumstances. I no longer need silence (in fact, I can write while surrounded by screaming children) or solitude. When my wife and I had our current home built, we included a joint office. My space is now bigger, it’s shared and it’s never quiet (my wife always has music playing). And I like it a lot better than my old study.

Do you keep regular writing hours? What are they? If not, when do you write?
As a stay-at-home dad, regular writing hours are a luxury I don’t get all that often. In fact, only once a week. Every Tuesday my youngest daughter goes off to day-care and my eldest gets picked up from school by her grandparents — so I get a complete, uninterrupted day in which to write. The rest of the time, I fit my writing in around the schedule of my kids (who have much busier social lives than me). So I’ll write during nap time, after the kids are in bed, on weekends, late into the night, etc.
Gamers' Challenge by George Ivanoff
Do you have a morning ritual? Roald Dahl was said to sharpen pencils. What settles your mind for writing?
Ha. I am so not a morning person! My morning ritual involves hitting the snooze button several times, stumbling out of bed, tripping over toys, then getting daughter #1 ready for school. On Tuesdays, after she’s at school and #2 is at day-care, I’ll make myself a nice, strong cup of coffee (like any true caffeine addict I have my own espresso machine), get myself a piece of chocolate (like any true chocoholic, I keep a large supply in the cupboard) and settle down at the computer to read email, Twitter and FaceBook. Then, when the coffee is finished, I get stuck into the writing!

Gamers' Quest is out now and Gamers' Challenge hits stores September 2011. More on George over at Another children's author will be in the Writer's Studio next week.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Journey of a Book: My Life & Other Stuff I Made Up

Ever wondered how a children's book is made? Here you can discover how we made My Life and Other Stuff I Made Up, my new book of short stories. I recently interviewed the publisher, editor, illustrator and designer of the book as well as giving my own insights over at the Random House Australia blog. Link to each of the short pieces below. I hope this is useful.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Children's Author Gabrielle Wang: The Writer's Studio

Author / Illustrator Gabrielle Wang

Author / illustrator Gabrielle Wang has worked as a sales girl, abalone sheller, dishwasher, waitress, graphic designer, English teacher and Chinese teacher. She says she wasn’t particularly good at writing  at school but is now the author and illustrator of lots of books for young people. Here she gives an intimate insight into where and how she approaches the creative process.

Where did you write your latest book? 
My latest series of books are the Poppy books published this year. They were written in my writing room in Melbourne. I liken this room to a bear's den. It’s dark and a bit gloomy, but it does have a lovely view out onto a bed of camellia trees, which are in full bloom at the moment.

How important to you is the space that you write in?
When I first started writing I took over a small corner of our bedroom, propped my laptop on an old cane table and wrote my first two books there. Later, as my writing grew into a profession, I set up the office I use today. But I also enjoy working on the kitchen table, or in the back room where the sun streams in, or in a noisy cafe. It all depends on what stage I'm up to in my WIP, and how I’m feeling.
Gabrielle Wang's Writing Room
When I’m writing the very first draft of a new book, I like to sit in a cafe with a pen and notebook. That way I won’t be tempted to do housework. Even the ironing is more enticing than working on my novel sometimes. I find writing such hard work that I need to take myself away. I often go down to a friend’s beach house on the Great Ocean Road. I love it there. It’s just me and my dog, the koalas and the kookaburras. It would have to be my favourite place to write.

Do you transform your space in any way for each book?
My actual writing room is very messy. But the space inside my head, where the story is written, is tidy. That is where my writing space really exists. I turn my eyes inward and let the story play out at the back of my mind. I always begin a new novel with the setting because that is where my characters will act out their story. Perhaps it’s because I was a graphic designer and illustrator that I tend to see the story like a movie.

The Poppy Books by Gabrielle Wang
Do you 'get into character' at all?
If I’m writing dialogue I might put on a certain voice in order to hear the dialect of my character. Or if I’m writing an action scene I sometimes role play the action to see how the characters would interact with each other.

How has the place that you write evolved or changed since you first began writing novels?
As I mentioned before, I began writing in a corner of my bedroom and used my bed to spread out various drafts of my novel. But as my writing life took over, I needed to file things away. I needed bookshelves, a space for all the printed drafts and editor’s notes and reference books. And I also needed a filing cabinet for the business side of writing. And because I still illustrate I have taken over the dining room as my painting studio.
Gabrielle Wang's Painting Room
Do you keep regular writing hours? What are they? If not, when do you write?
During the week, I keep very regular hours. I begin around 8.00 am and write until about 2.30. I’m always best in the morning. A few weeks ago I lost my dog of 14 years. I would take her for walks everyday and gather fresh ideas or sort out plot problems. A dog will always be a part of my life. On the weekends I’m a bit more flexible when it comes to work, but I do like to write everyday.
Do you have a morning ritual? Roald Dahl was said to sharpen pencils. What settles your mind for writing?
Sometimes I practice taiqi, which is a great way to calm the spirit. Before I go into my writing room, I have to tidy the kitchen. If there are dishes lying around I feel quite unsettled. After that I make a pot of Dragon Well Tea and begin my writing day.

Thanks Gabrielle. I was lucky enough to be interviewed over at recently as part of the How Writers Work series. Next week, another children's author will be here to take us inside their world. Meanwhile, here's a link to previous authors and illustrators in The Writer's Studio.
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