Australian Author of Children’s Books and Teen Books: July 2012

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Book Week 2012

This Book Week, be a reading champion and change the world. Help me build a school library for kids in Cambodia, one of the world's poorest countries.

I have joined forces with Room to Read and Stubbies Schoolwear to challenge schools and classes all over Australia to raise money in fun ways to reach our $20,000 target. This money will be used to build a school library in Siam Reap, Cambodia, and stock it with local language books. We have already raised around $11,000 but we REALLY need your help to hit our target by 31 August.

For inspiration, watch the 3-minute World Change Challenge video above that I filmed with kids at Ocean Shores Public School. Then hit for the sign-up details. 

I have seen schools do ‘Book Busking’ and ‘Embarrass Your Teacher’ and ‘Lattes for Literacy’ and ‘Sponsored Silence’ and ‘Drop Everything and Read’. There are lots of fun, bookish ways to get involved.

WIN! The class that raises the most money gets a free writing workshop with me and every student gets a copy of my book My Life & Other Stuff I Made Up.

This National Year of Reading, please help me to give the gift of reading to kids with little or no access to books.

Spread the word!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tempany Deckert in The Writer's Studio

Tempany Deckert is a Los Angeles-based author and actress, my co-writer on teen novel it's yr life recently released in the US and on kindle. Tempany and I wrote the novel via email between Byron Bay and L.A. She is the author of twenty books for children and young adults as well as being widely-known for her work in television. Here, take a peek inside her writing space and creative process.

Where did you write your latest book? How important to you is the space in which you write?
I wrote my last book, DIS THIS, right before Christmas vacation. It was a story that had been rolling around in my head for a long time so I was excited to sit down and let it be born. The space in which I write is very important - it must change! I cannot write in the same place every day. So I use my desk one day, the kitchen table another, the couch the next, different cafes constantly and sometimes I'll even go write outside. I need the environment to change so that I'm mentally stimulated in different ways for the story to fully form.
Tempany Deckert's creative pinboard.
Do you transform your space in any way for each book? Do you 'get into character' at all?
I do often put up pictures that are related to the story. DIS THIS is set in New Orleans, so I even went to visit the Big Easy to make sure my location details were accurate. I'll often play music that I think suits the story as that often changes the pace and tone of how I write. One of the characters in the book listens to jazz, so I played lots of Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis. I'll also eat the same things as the character and try to explore the character's hobbies and interests. For DIS THIS, the character loves all New Orleans food, so I've been eating beignets (famous New Orleans donuts) and chicory coffee. It's a great excuse to eat yummy stuff! When I write, I feel like I am the lead character, so I definitely get into character. When I'm finished writing I feel sad that I have to say goodbye to such a close friend. It's strange but true!
Tempany Deckert with Cosmo the Wonderdog
How has the place that you write evolved or changed since you first began writing novels?
I am much more organized. I have folders for all the different projects I'm working on and a pin board to post up any pictures, ideas and inspirational images that I need to get me through the process. I also buy a heap of cheap notebooks and store all my notes in them and NEVER throw them away. I've found I often need to go back into those books for little gems of genius. I disable the internet while I work (otherwise I end up 'researching' - i.e. procrastinating) and I don't check emails until I'm done. When I first started writing I was traveling around the world and always living out of a suitcase. It was very hard to keep track of all my drafts, outlines and character breakdowns. I would constantly be losing stuff and getting things mixed up. It was, in a word, chaos. Writing is like putting together a puzzle and if you don't keep your puzzle pieces in one box, you are bound to never get the picture completed. One of those small pieces will surely get eaten by your cat or accidentally thrown into the recycling bin. So organization is key!
Tempany's fave cafes to write in.

Do you keep regular writing hours? If not, when do you write?
I write better in the morning so I get up, have breakfast, feed my dog, meditate, walk to a cafe or my couch and begin work. I break for lunch around 12.30 and then I get back into it. I aim to write at least four pages a day. If I write more, great, but I'm not allowed to write less! The emphasis is on getting the page minimum achieved and not a certain number of hours. Sometimes I can write four pages in an hour. Sometimes it takes me six hours. Once the afternoon and evening rolls around, my creative brain shuts down and I'm useless. So I've learned to make sure I start writing as soon as I get up and get those four pages done. I try to write five days a week and I never write on the weekend. 

it's yr life, written via email between Byron Bay and LA.
Do you have a morning ritual? Roald Dahl was said to sharpen pencils. What settles your mind for writing? 
 I dress up as if I'm going out to work. I put on a nice outfit and do my hair and maybe even some makeup. It makes me feel like I'm in 'work' mode and I seem to get more done that way. If I just sit down in my PJs, I'm not as efficient and productive.

Thanks, Temp. Next week, check back for another writer sharing their space and process in The Writer's Studio.

Friday, July 20, 2012

All Saints Anglican Livewire Festival

I recently ran 16 x 45-minute Story Scrapbook app workshops in four days at All Saints Anglican School's Livewire Festival. Here are some of the digital story brainstorms created by grade 3-6 students. We created stories based on our deepest fears (and other things).

Our deepest fears. 

To play with Story Scrapbook app yourself, hit the SS page and download it for for free.


Monday, July 16, 2012

Story Lab

I was lucky enough to spend two days of the school holidays at the amazing State Library of Queensland running Story Lab digital storytelling workshops with 9-16 year-olds. We used digital cameras, Story Scrapbook app and Shaun Tan's Odditoreum exhibition for creative inspiration. I worked with some seriously talented young writers who took on their role as story scientists with energy and diligence. Here are the pics...

The Odditoreum is a collection of unusual objects retrieved from the bowels of Sydney's Powerhouse Museum, an exhibition curated by author /illustrator Shaun Tan. We used the exhibition for writing inspiration.

We embarked on a digital photography adventure, gathering images for story inspiration.

Photographing a Band-Aid.

We also used Story Scrapbook app to gather images, video, music web grabs and text in the brainstorming of our stories. (App available free here.)

Digital art using Story Scrapbook markers.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Meet Story Scrapbook Developer Ben Train

Ben Train is a forward-thinking new media developer and advocate of creativity in education. He is responsible for programming Story Scrapbook, our free multimedia story brainstorming tool. Here he gives insight into the motivation behind Story Scrapbook and his hopes for the future of education.

How would you describe what you do for a living?
In my day job I am an Interactive Media Developer for an educational publisher. In this role I am responsible for finding ways to bring existing paper-based material into the digital world and also the development of brand new interactive education apps utilising the latest technologies.

Why did you want to develop the Story Scrapbook app?
I have always been interested in using technology as a creative tool. I had been working on a simpler app which allowed you to cut out content from a web page and store it on pages. One night you and I had a great brainstorming session about the future of books and how storytelling would evolve over the coming years. Our shared passion for creativity in education led to the idea to initially build a simple app that allowed kids (and adults) to create 'story scrapbooks'. This app would be an extension of the physical vision boards you had been using, a place where kids could bring together ideas and visually brainstorm stories. I think there is a lot of scope to develop Story Scrapbook into a full interactive story telling tool and not just a place for gathering ideas. 

Story Scrapbook in Action in a Recent Teen Workshop
Why did you want to offer the app for free download? Are you crazy?
Ha! One thing that is particularly important to me is removing barriers for people to be creative. Too often one of these barriers is money. Sometimes you can't afford the equipment, the materials or the software. I hate to think of all the great ideas that never saw the light of day because of these barriers.
There is a real movement at the moment towards promoting openness and giving away content. Digital distribution has enabled and, in some cases, forced these new business models and I think this is important and exciting. I believe if you have a good enough idea or product you can use a model which involves giving all or part of it away and still be rewarded financially if that is your motivation. In the case of Story Scrapbook I know, first hand, the struggle to find extra funds in schools for software and, as this product was initially for the school market, it was important that it be available for free.

The latest version of SS allows users to add music, video, images, text and maps
as they develop their story.
What would you love to achieve in your own creative work?
I have always been obsessed with stop-motion animation and have always fiddled around with pieces of my own. I would love to combine my love of this and other traditional arts with new technologies to produce interactive story books. There is so much potential in these new mediums, I really think we are on the cusp of a 'Golden Age' of story telling and I would love to be part of that in some way.

What is your message for kids and teens who might use Story Scrapbook to develop their own stories?
Storytelling is one of the most important aspects of the human experience. I think in the modern media world it is easy to be swamped by sound bites and hollow content. It is more important now than ever to tell good stories and be creative. The place to start to encourage this is with kids and teens. Hopefully SS offers an easy environment in which kids and teens can express themselves and get those creative juices flowing. Often, as adults, we get caught up in our nine-to-fives and we forget how to be creative. Great people like Sir Ken Robinson are leading a movement to bring back an emphasis on creativity in classrooms. This is so important. These guys are solving the challenges we collectively face for the future. But the main thing I would say is, keep telling stories, even if no one ever hears them.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Aleesah Darlison, Children's Author, in The Writer's Studio

Aleesah Darlison is appearing at this week's All Saints Literature Fest on the Gold Coast. Aleesah writes the Unicorn Riders series as well as reviewing books for The Sun Herald. This year she has joined forces with Taronga Zoo to deliver a series of talks and workshops on Aussie animals, protection of species and the environment. Here, she invites us into her own habitat, sharing her writing space and process.

Where did you write your latest book? How important to you is the space in which you write?
I write all of my books in my study. It’s not a HUGE space, but it’s all mine. Everything I need is within easy reach and if I need peace and quiet to write I can shut the door.

Do you transform your space in any way for each book? Do you 'get into character' at all?
I always put up posters, photos, maps and props related to the writing. With Unicorn Riders, I have unicorn images and figurines everywhere as well as character illustrations and avatars. These things help keep me focused and on track and also provide inspiration. The Unicorn Riders series has 4 main characters, so I tend to let their conversations flow through my mind then my fingers and onto the page.

Do you keep regular writing hours? What are they? If not, when do you write?
I write whenever I can, which is usually when the kids are at school or asleep. I can be working all hours of the day or night (I have the black circles under my eyes to prove it!), but I love writing, so it’s never a chore. It’s a joy.

Do you have a morning ritual? Roald Dahl was said to sharpen pencils. What settles your mind for writing?
After the rush of getting three small children off to preschool and school, the things that settle me down to writing are a hot cup of ginger tea and a quite house. That’s all I need...

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