Tristan Bancks | Australian Children's & Teen Author | Kids' & YA Books: September 2011

Monday, September 26, 2011

Children's Author & Illustrator Tohby Riddle : The Writer's Studio

Tohby Riddle is a genius. Well, he's really smart. I mean, he knows everything about stories and publishing. He should. He's done it all. After art school he started out in the proverbial mailroom, was cartoonist for The Good Weekend for nearly ten years, he has edited The School Magazine, written and illustrated award-winning picture books and published a YA novel. He also has a spectacular space in which to create. Here, he shares it with us and gives insight into his process.

Where did you create your latest book? How important to you is the space in which you write and illustrate?
I created my latest book in my studio - which is a fancy-sounding word for a small attic space with skylights. My studio is important for my creative process in that all my books and equipment are there - and it's my personal space - but I also do good thinking work in cafes and on trains and other such places - and also while walking. Basically anywhere where I have some time to get going on a thought and that is relatively peaceful.
'This pic of the studio captures it mid-project with piles of books and papers everywhere ... it's also hard to show the whole studio in a photo but this at least shows the two desk spaces: one with a computer for writing and digital image-work and the other for creating artwork by hand.' - Tohby
Do you transform your space in any way for each book? Do you 'get into character' at all?
No, the only transformation, which is actually very important, is a big clean up that leaves no signs of the previous project. Then I can fully focus on the next book. Occasionally I might have an image or object out on my desk or nearby that is relevant to the project or just fun and pleasing at the time - like for My Uncle's Donkey I had a little brass donkey on my desk which was kicking its back legs up. Currently I've got an old iron clown money box that you can feed coins to.

Do you keep regular writing hours? What are they? If not, when do you write?
Since my family commitments arose, I'm much less of a night owl and more a diurnal kind of bird like a pigeon or a galah. That means I more or less keep to business hours (9–5), though I often do an hour or two in the evenings after the kids are asleep (and before I get tired). That's not to say that I'm not thinking and problem solving at any hour of the day or night - for me, creating a book is often completely preoccupying.
Do you have a morning ritual? Roald Dahl was said to sharpen pencils. What settles your mind for writing?
I often go to a cafe to start the day (after dropping the kids off at school) - and after a skim of the newspaper, start scribbling thoughts in my notebook. Then I return to my studio, choose music which will create the right emotional space to work within, and get to work.


Tohby has a very cool website here and a fun illustrated profile of himself here.

Next week, another author in The Writer's Studio. In the meantime, you can sneak inside the creative spaces of previous guests here.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Children's Author Pat Flynn : The Writer's Studio

Pat Flynn is an ex-pro tennis player and prolific author of children's books with awards and honours in Australia and the US. Here, he takes us inside his creative space during the writing of his new book The Best Ballgirl.

Where did you write your latest book? 
In my office near the beach on the Sunshine Coast.

How important to you is the space in which you write? 
It’s very important as I can’t seem to write anywhere else. It’s a decent size and comfortable, with everything I need within rolling distance on my chair such as filing cabinets, bookcases and the back door to let in those summer breezes. Having a comfortable work environment is really important because I got RSI in my neck early in my career and I learnt the importance of screen height and posture.

Do you transform your space in any way for each book? 
Not consciously. Although my latest book – The Best Ballgirl – is about tennis and right now I can count 5 rackets and about 50 tennis balls in my writing space!

Do you 'get into character' at all? 
Only in my head. I do like to look at pictures on the Internet of the places that I write about, but I don’t dress up like my characters.

How has the place that you write evolved or changed since you first began writing novels? 
I now have a much better chair, a bigger screen, and one of those clipboards that hangs up next to your computer. Otherwise it serves the same purpose – a place to tell stories using words via a computer. I find the biggest difference is being connected to the Internet all the time. This can be much more distracting than the old days. However, when I get stuck with my story I tend to now stay in my chair, flick over to the Internet, and flick back to my story a few minutes later. Before, I’d get up and walk to the fridge!

Do you keep regular writing hours? What are they? If not, when do you write? 
Not really. There are large chunks of the year when there seems to be no time for writing. However, I always seem to write a book over the summer period. When I’m writing I aim to do 1000 words per day until the first draft is done. I seem to get more done in the afternoon and at night. Perhaps I’m still half asleep in the morning?
Do you have a morning ritual? Roald Dahl was said to sharpen pencils. What settles your mind for writing?
In the winter a hot chocolate. In the summer, a surf. I try and get a hundred words done before I check the online newspapers but it doesn’t always happen.


Thanks Mr Flynn. Next week another author will take us inside their story world.
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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Ipswich Festival of Children's Literature

This week I'm at Ipswich Festival of Children's Literature and Brisbane Writer's Fest. Lots of fun sessions. Looking forward to Thursday at Ipswich doing My Life and Other Stuff I Made Up sessions with Gus Gordon and Friday's Book Trailers session at BWF with YA writer, Maggie Stiefvater.

The pics in this post are from this afternoon at Ipswich City Hall. I was following Andy Griffiths which is a tough gig but the audience were super-attentive and had some interesting ideas to share. We were brainstorming a sibling rivalry story and these were some of the things that their brothers and sisters had done to them! Definitely going into the story. Did your bro's and sisters do anything weird or mean to you when you were a kid?
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Sunday, September 4, 2011

Young Adult and Middle Grade Author James Roy : The Writer's Studio



James Roy is a generous, funny and dedicated man. He is also one of the most respected and awarded authors of Young Adult and Middle-Grade fiction in Australia. His book Town is currently up for a major German literary prize and, this week, he will appear at the Brisbane Writers Festival. Here, James takes us inside his writing space and sheds light on the quirks of his process.

Where did you write your latest book? How important to you is the space in which you write?
I wrote most of it in the space that I usually work in, although some of it was written in airport lounges and cafes, some was written in the car on a long drive to Canberra (I wasn't driving the car at the time) and some was actually written on a sick-bag on a Jetstar flight to Geelong, when the muse arrived just as the cabin crew asked us to turn off our computers. I think a quiet space is fairly important, but when all's said and done, if you're determined to write that book, you'll find a way, no matter where you are.

Do you transform your space in any way for each book? Do you 'get into character' at all?
I don't get into character through my space, although I do transform it a little by wiping away the planning notes from the last books and starting again. I don't use a white-board - I use whiteboard markers on the big front window of my study. It's a fairly big space, and it makes me feel like that guy from A Beautiful Mind.

How has the place that you write evolved or changed since you first began writing novels?
I used to write in a tiny study at the back of the house. I built a floor-to-ceiling bookcase, which made me feel very studious, but it was still a very small, rather claustrophobic space. But then my wife stopped working from home, and the front room that she'd used for her business became available, and I moved into a more common area. My family is out for most of each day anyway, so it's still quiet, but I can see the bush and the horizon, I can hear when the mail comes, and I don't feel like I'm in exile every time I go to work.

The other way it's changed is that I carve the name of each book I complete on the front edge of the old kitchen table that I use as my desk. It means that just by glancing down, I can see that what I'm doing isn't wasted effort - there is a final goal that is worth striving for.

Do you keep regular writing hours? What are they? If not, when do you write?
I travel so much now that I find it quite tricky to get into any kind of regular routine. Also, three hours of work will feel like work (emails, invoices, 'researching') but I won't have any writing done. So now I set myself a minimum word quota of 2,000 words a day, five days a week. That way, if I get it done by lunchtime, that's good, and I can have the afternoon off, or I do it again. But if I'm still sitting at my desk at 1am with no words written, that's no one's fault but mine.

Do you have a morning ritual? Roald Dahl was said to sharpen pencils. What settles your mind for writing?
A cup of tea and some breakfast, and then I'm into it. I recently decided that I was best able to discipline myself if I got my words out of the way first, then did the other stuff like the emails and invoices after I'd written my words. So far that's working for me.

I also like to read a page from one of my favourite writing motivational books, Walking on Alligators, by Susan Shaughnessy, which encourages me to get into it.


Thanks Mr Roy. Next week, another children's / young adult author will be here, sharing their space.
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