Tristan Bancks | Australian Children's & Teen Author | Kids' & YA Books: February 2012

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Chris Morphew, Children's Author : The Writer's Studio

Chris Morphew is the author of the popular Phoenix Files series and a number of Zac Power titles. He spent his childhood drawing comic books and writing stories about dinosaurs and time machines and now he spends his adulthood doing similarly. Here Chris shows us how and where his books are written between part-time teaching, Mario Kart marathons and the lure of his iPad.

Where did you write your latest book? How important to you is the space in which you write?
I do have a writing desk at home, but I find that I can't be alone in an empty house for too long before I start to lose the plot a bit. So a lot of my writing time is spent at the local cafe. I spend so much time there that one of the baristas recently decided I must have been unemployed and offered me a job. Nice to know they're looking out for me, I guess!
Ready for work at the local cafe.
Do you transform your space in any way for each book? Do you ‘get into character’ at all?
My desk at home has stayed more or less the same as I’ve worked on The Phoenix Files: laptop, books full of notes, a growing pile of the previous books in the series... As for getting into character, I will occasionally get out of my chair to physically act out a scene I'm having trouble capturing in words. My housemates are getting used to becoming reluctant participants in these exercises ("Okay, put your arm around my face like this and then let me see if I can hit you...") I also sometimes catch myself taking on a facial expression I'm trying to describe. Not the greatest habit when you write in public places.
Chris Morphew's writing space.
How has the place that you write evolved or changed since you first began writing novels?
I've recently moved to a new apartment which has granted me a space with actual sunlight to write in! I also have a rotating wall of posters and photos and kids’ drawings that has migrated across from the old place. The window in front of my desk is another welcome addition, although I do find myself getting distracted by the birds flitting around in the trees outside (did I mention I’m not so good at working from home?)
Chris Morphew's office wall.
Do you keep regular writing hours? If not, when do you write?
Last year, I was writing full-time and my hours were all over the place. I'm a pretty fantastic procrastinator, so my scheduled writing time became unscheduled social time (or housework time or Mario Kart time) more often than it probably should have. This year, though, I'm working part-time at a local school, so my week is a lot more structured: my writing times are Tuesday mornings and all day Thursday and Friday. Theoretically, this newly-structured work week will result in the extremely efficient writing of my next draft... but so far that's only a theory!
The Latest 'Phoenix Files' by Chris Morphew, set for release May 2012.
Do you have a morning ritual? Roald Dahl was said to sharpen pencils. What settles your mind for writing?
I usually start my mornings by grabbing for my iPad and checking my email, Facebook, YouTube subscriptions, etc. By the time I’ve done that, my brain is usually switched on enough to start thinking about the day’s writing.

Next week Young Adult author Jack Heath is in The Writer's Studio, sharing his passion for doughnuts and thesaurus.com.
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Thursday, February 23, 2012

National Year of Reading – Mem Fox on Literacy


I saw this Mem Fox quote on literacy in a library elevator recently and then stumbled upon it again over at the most excellent Jen's Book Page. I think it's brilliant and very fitting for Australia's National Year of Reading 2012.

“If every parent understood the huge educational benefits and intense happiness brought about by reading aloud to their children, and if every parent- and every adult caring for a child-read aloud a minimum of three stories a day to the children in our lives, we could probably wipe out illiteracy within one generation.”
Mem Fox, (Reading Magic)

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Byron Bay Writing Safari

I have taken to writing outside whenever I can, breathing energy into the work and freeing me from the evil clutches of the desk. I head to parks, beaches, verandas, wherever I can find a breeze and a view. It has totally changed the feeling of my latest work-in-progress, a Middle-Grade novel. To me the story feels more raw and true (but I may be humouring myself. No one else has read it.)
I recently pitched a Writing Safari workshop for kids to the Northern Rivers Writers Centre in Byron Bay and they were kind enough to let me run it. The workshop was based on my own outdoor writing practice so, with 18 kids and teens, I hit the parks and beaches and we let shipwrecks, kooky characters, the ocean and our own sand creations flow into our work.

Here are a collection of images (by Nat Caldwell) from that memorable two-day beach writing safari. (NB to writer's centres in Noosa, Port Douglas, Bali, Hawaii, Fiji and the Maldives, I am available to run this course again.)








While writing this post I discovered a whole world of outside writers. Here is a particularly Great Post on writing outdoors with kids on 'I'm a Teacher, Get Me Outside Here' blog
http://creativestarlearning.blogspot.com.au/2011/02/creating-writing-friendly-outdoor.html

Get outside and let the world seep into your work.
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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tania McCartney, Children's Author : The Writer's Studio

Tania McCartney is an energetic and versatile author and kids' book blogger. She is the author of the Riley the Little Aviator travelogue picture books and she runs Kids Book Review, the go-to site for books to read your small-fries. Here, she invites us into her beautiful writing space and shares the objects and ideas that inspire her.

Where did you write your latest book? How important to you is the space in which you write?
My latest book – Australian Story: An Illustrated Timeline (National Library of Australia) – was written in two chairs; the one I’m sitting on now and one at the National Library. I spent a huge amount of time researching this book, and much of it was spent scouring the NLA’s massive digital collection online. Thankfully I could do much of this from home – and this is where I work best.
For me, having an ideal space to write really helps with creative flow. I can pretty much write anywhere but I do prefer my study. It faces north onto our front garden and is flooded with sunlight. I think it’s so important to have items around to inspire you, and so I have photos, artwork, kids’ drawings, objects from my travels, and of course – lots and lots of books. I really love the silence of my study. Just the clack of the keyboard and me. I rarely play music unless I’m working on visual elements of a book, and if I do, it’s either classical, vintage jazz or movie soundtracks.
Do you transform your space in any way for each book? Do you 'get into character' at all?
The only transformation that really goes on is the paperwork shuffle. I often do mock-ups of my books as I write them, so I have layouts, sketches and research books around me.
How has the place that you write evolved or changed since you first began writing novels?
It’s such an efficient study, it hasn’t really needed improvement. It has evolved to include a treadmill for that dreaded writer’s curse – extra padding on the nether regions! Of course, I’ve added more of my books to the shelves as each one is released, and I’m always adding new things that inspire me – notes and drawings from my kids, friends or school students. My collection of picture books and magazines has also piled up somewhat and I do need a new chair but, otherwise, I love it just the way it is.
Do you keep regular writing hours? If not, when do you write?
I write every weekday, from around 8am to 4pm and perhaps half the weekend. If I’m on deadline, I write into the night but, generally, I try not to. I’m trying to strike a better balance this year between ‘work’ and life, but for the most part, these two sides of my life combine pretty seamlessly. I couldn’t imagine a day without writing something. I write whilst travelling, eating, having my hair done . . .
Tania McCartney's latest book: Australian Story, An Illustrated Timeline.
Do you have a morning ritual? Roald Dahl was said to sharpen pencils. What settles your mind for writing?
Coffee! And I always have a really high-nutrition breakfast. Through the day, I find little bouts of yoga really relax my body and mind, helping me ‘settle’ into things. And if I do get stuck, I just push on through. It’s miraculous what can happen when you push on through.
Thanks Tania. So good to have you in The Writer's Studio. Next week Chris Morphew's (Phoenix Files, Zac Power) in to share his space.
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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Galactic Adventures First Kids in Space Review – Good Reading Magazine

A great review for Galactic Adventures: First Kids in Space in this month's Good Reading magazine. 
Click to Embiggen and Read!
Thanks for the kind review Good Reading and Wendy Noble.
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Monday, February 13, 2012

Michael Gerard Bauer, Author: The Writer's Studio

There are several very interesting things you should know about Michael Gerard Bauer
1. He is not only a highly respected author, he's also a very nice man. 
2. His books for kids and teens have been translated into Dutch, German, Italian, French, Korean, Norwegian, Czechoslovakian and Hebrew. 
3. He is a grown man (with a beard) and still plays with Batman, Buzz Lightyear and Homer Simpson toys.

There are, of course, other interesting things about Mr Bauer. A number of those are revealed in the following interview and pictures in which he invites us inside his creative spaces.
Where did you write your latest book? How important to you is the space in which you write?
I wrote my latest book Ishmael and the Hoops of Steel at home alternating between a study we have upstairs (image above) and a small computer nook downstairs (image below). For me the important thing about the space in which I write is that it needs to be quiet, away from people and free from distractions. I can't even write with music. I tend to do all my writing when I’m at home. Rarely, if ever, do I write in places like hotel rooms or cafes or libraries or planes or while trekking through the Siberian tundra. Although I’d like to because it sounds rather romantic.
Do you transform your space in any way for each book? Do you 'get into character' at all?
Transform my writing space? Absolutely! I push all the rubbish and food scraps into the bin so I can see the keyboard. Sometimes I go the whole hog and don’t stop till I can see the entire desk top as well! As for getting into character, I don’t dress up at all if that’s what you mean. But I do try to get into my characters’ minds so I can see the world from their perspective. And I often read dialogue out loud so I guess sometimes I act out the characters as well.
How has the place that you write evolved or changed since you first began writing novels?
We moved house a few years back, so my first book The Running Man and next couple were written at our previous home. Back there we had a fabulous large study area with desk space and shelves all built in by my wife’s father Ben (image above). You can see by the photo that if you want to be a writer you need a bare desk to work on, with no distractions around you. There was also a small room upstairs that the previous owners used as a nursery. It looked over the backyard. I wrote most of my novel Dinosaur Knights there (image at top). So no, the writing spaces haven’t really ‘evolved’ much, they’ve just changed out of necessity. I’m hoping one day that my writing spacewill evolve however - into a cabin overlooking the mountains around Maleny would be nice!

Do you keep regular writing hours? If not, when do you write?
I’ve tried to become more regular. (I’m talking about my writing here, ok?) But it’s tricky sometimes balancing school visits, talks and Festivals with time for writing. If I’m in the middle of a project my writing time does becomes more consistent and organised. I mostly write in the morning and through to the afternoon, but not often at night. I watch too many Reality TV programs!
Ishmael and the Hoops of Steel by Michael Gerard Bauer
Do you have a morning ritual? Roald Dahl was said to sharpen pencils. What settles your mind for writing?
You mean besides rolling out of bed, groaning and listening to my joints cracking? Well apart from that, the one thing I really find helpful for my writing is an early morning walk. Depending on the season I like to get up at around 6 am and go for an hour’s walk. Walking helps me sort things out in my mind. I see things more clearly when I walk and it’s when I often come up with story ideas and plot developments. For example the novel Just A Dog started because the name ‘Mr Mosely’ came to me while I was walking. I don’t know where that name came from, but I thought, “That would be a cool name for a dog.” Up until that point I had no intention of writing a dog story. After a walk, a shower and breakfast I feel primed to attack some writing. Another ritual used to be cups of coffee, but now I’ve given up coffee altogether. There's no guarantee my will power will hold when the weather gets colder.

In coming weeks children's / YA authors Christine Harris, Nicki Greenberg, Jack Heath, Paul Collins, Sherryl Clark, Chris Morphew and others will be in The Writer's Studio.
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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Ursula Dubosarsky, Children's Author - The Writer's Studio

Ursula Dubosarsky has won zillions of awards and honours for her books over the past twenty years. She is the author of a diverse range of fiction and non-fiction from The Word Spy to The Red Shoe to The Terrible Plop. For budding wordsmiths The Word Spy Activity Book illustrated by Tohby Riddle will hit stores in April. Right here and now you can take a look inside Ursula's writing space and her simple, unadorned approach to getting down to the business of putting words on the page. 

Where did you write your latest book?

It’s a terrible thing but I honestly can’t remember. I suppose I wrote it sitting at my desk in my daughter’s old bedroom but I really don’t have a memory of where I wrote it, but it must have been there. It’s just that I can’t picture myself doing it.
How important to you is the space in which you write?
Looks like from my last answer – not very! Lack of interruption is the main thing for me – a couple of hours alone, that sort of thing. Even an hour will do. I don’t write for very long each day.

Do you transform your space in any way for each book?
No. It’s all in the head I guess. I haven’t really thought about it. Sometimes I might put up a picture on the wall, but not really, that’s just me trying to think of something to say. (!) 

Do you 'get into character' at all? 
Again, not really. Just being alone and thinking. Like daydreaming. Once I start it just seems to happen. It’s the most enjoyable part of it all, I think, being inside the character.
How has the place that you write evolved or changed since you first began writing novels?
Well since my daughter moved out of home I’ve had a room for a kind of “study”. Before that I wrote in the bedroom or the living room. Or in the local library or the park. Not cafes, though, they don’t appeal to me, don’t know why. Maybe I think people will look at me. (!) I wrote my book “Abyssinia” at the very top of the house – I remember that. There were all these awful big black birds on the telephone wire outside looking at me with their beady eyes. I don’t like being watched while I’m writing… 
Do you keep regular writing hours? If not, when do you write?
Yes, I can answer that question – I’m a morning writer. I like the feeling of getting it over and done with. Like doing yoga or something (not that I’ve ever done yoga.)

Do you have a morning ritual? Roald Dahl was said to sharpen pencils. What settles your mind for writing?
No, not really. I mean I have to drink coffee when I wake up, but that has nothing to do with writing, that’s just an addiction. For me it’s just a matter of the solitude and a chair and the laptop. 

I loved reading Ursula's responses. In coming weeks authors Michael Gerard Bauer, Christine Harris, Tania McCartney and graphic novelist Nicki Greenberg will be in The Writer's Studio. Hope y'all check in for a nosy around their writing spaces.
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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Children's & YA Writer Steven Herrick : The Writer's Studio

Steven Herrick wanted to be a professional footballer. Instead, he became a poet. The two careers aren't usually interchangeable but there is much about Steven Herrick that is surprising and interesting. He has been making a living as a poet for more than fifteen years with his poetry collections, picture books and verse novels for children. He also visits more than 200 schools annually, getting kids excited about poetry and stories. Here we look inside Steven's creative space and he shares a personal story of how his mother kick-started his career.

Where did you write your latest book? How important to you is the space in which you write?
When I was eighteen, I told my Mum I wanted to be a writer. The next day, she went out and bought me a desk and a chair from a second-hand furniture store - a chair that swivelled and had a back that tilted when you leaned on it. A professional's chair. The desk was painted black and had six legs and three drawers. It was big and sturdy and could take the weight of all the books I was going to write.
Thirty-five years on, I still write all my books at that desk. Mum died a few years ago. I like writing at her desk. It brings us closer.

So, the first draft of Black Painted Fingernails was written at this desk. However, a large chunk of the final draft was written while staying at a kiwi-fruit farm in Portugal. The characters of the parents in this book were heavily influenced by being so far away from my two sons.

Steven Herrick's writing studio.

Do you transform your space in any way for each book? Do you 'get into character' at all?
My first sixteen books were written at Mum's desk in our living room, so I had to wait until my family weren't around to write. Now I have a studio, I just close the door and devote my time to my characters. I like having my sofa next to my desk, if I want to take a break. And my bicycle is beside the door, always ready for a quick getaway if I'm stumped for ideas! My characters live with me wherever I go, so the physical space matters less than how content I am with the writing.

How has the place that you write evolved or changed since you first began writing?
The studio used to be my son, Joe's bedroom. But, when he moved away for Uni, I quickly claimed it! As for my desk... for my 40th birthday, my wife paid a craftsman to remove the black paint from it. He did a fine job, exposing the timber below, polishing it until glowed a golden honey colour. Mum was very pleased when she saw how beautiful it was, under all that paint. She had shown good taste, all those years ago. After twenty years of use, the chair was so rusty and creaky and worn, it was a danger. Mum insisted on buying me a new one. While she was at it, she bought Joe one as well. Just in case.

Do you keep regular writing hours? If not, when do you write?
I usually write in the morning, up until lunch. Then I eat and go for a bike ride. I may edit in the afternoon, if I'm in the mood. I usually write the first draft of my books between November and February, when I'm less likely to be visiting schools for talks and performances.

Do you have a morning ritual? Roald Dahl was said to sharpen pencils. What settles your mind for writing?
No ritual as such, although the mid-morning coffee is nice on the back deck.

Thanks Steven. An honour to have you share your space in The Writer's Studio.
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