Australian Author of Children’s Books and Teen Books: February 2014

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Singapore Tour

My week-long Singapore schools tour has been an explosion of colour, creativity and fine humans. I think that this city, at the collision-point of the world, is uniquely positioned to breed young storytellers with a truly international perspective. I have visited a wide range of schools talking about Room to Read, writing techniques and the new books. Here are some pics...
At the Singapore Cricket Club with Overseas Family School librarian Kate Stanley.
Ned Kelly Pop Art at the Australian International School
I found the students in Singapore, both international and local students, respectful, creative, enthusiastic, funny and hardworking. In workshop sessions I  was treated to many snippets of finely observed detail and wildly imaginative writing.

The centrepiece at United World College South-East Asia East campus.
Overseas Family School has almost 4000 students from 75 different nations and United World College SEA East has 2500 students from around 95 countries.

On a Story Safari in the wilds of the UWC SEA East  campus.
UWC SEA East students creating with our Story Scrapbook transmedia brainstorming app
(Web version to be released soon).

With primary school librarian Debbie Diaz and a soon-to-be-named English teacher at UWC.
Not too sure why I felt compelled to pull a face in both of these shots. Must be nervousness around librarians. ;-)

With Meg Johnson at Australian International School.
Test-driving new stamp with extra 'Blam' courtesy of Gus Gordon. ;)))
My previous experience of Singapore was Orchard Road, East Coast Park and Chinatown. This time, I was lucky enough to be taken by friends and colleagues to neighbourhoods like Tiong Bahru, Holland Village, Duxton Hill, Marina Bay, Sentosa and Little India, which has massively broadened my understanding and appreciation of the 'Pore.

Was forced to tour the city for the weekend in a friend's old rust bucket. :)
Foul-looking, yet strangely tasty Singaporean dessert.
Wacky Egyptian-t house, Sentosa Island.
Looking like a goon on my maiden Segway voyage.
Looking forward to returning to this hot, uber-efficient, constantly surprising city in 2015.

A huge thank you to Jennie Orchard, Linda Twitchett, Meg Johnson, Jo-Anne Ward, Kate Stanley, Tamara James-Wyachai, Debbie Diaz, Shelly Dee and Yibing Quek who made the tour happen.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Connect to Reading

The 2014 CBCA Book Week theme is 'Connect to Reading' and I think it's the best theme in years. There are so many different contemporary tools to plug into reading and bring stories and literacy to life that I've decided to make it my 2014 mission to connect as many kids to reading as I can.

Here's my three-pronged attack:

a) Use a 360-degree approach to inspire kids and teens to pick up or download a book – live talks, online video, music, games, apps, competitions, TV and website to bring stories alive in myriad ways. (And using the #connecttoreading handle on Twitter.)

b) Connect children in the developing world to the thrill of reading by inspiring Australasian kids and teens to raise money through the 2014 Room to Read World Change Challenge. I'm launching it in March at Somerset Celebration of Literature.

c) Read a record number of books myself. On my hitlist: Morris Gleitzman's After, Paul Jennings' Don't Look Now, Itch by Simon Mayo, Neil Gaiman's Fortunately the MilkThe Giver by Lois Lowry, Watership Down by Richard Adams, James Roy's City, Muchamore's Cherub series, Michael Pryor's Machine Wars and Flora & Ulysses the Newbery winner by Kate DiCamillo.

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Gate Way Trilogy, Book One: The Night Gate by Isobelle Carmody

My 10 y.o. son reviews Isobelle Carmody's The Night Gate:

Rage Winnoway’s closest friends are her four dogs (Billy Thunder, Bear, Mr Walker and Ella who all change to human-like things when they go through the Night Gate). Rage’s mother is sick in hospital and may die. When Rage and her friends are tricked into entering the Night Gate they go into another land that was pulled out of time itself. There they are lured further into the mysterious trap of the Firecat. The Firecat gives Rage an hourglass that has a riddle on it. The riddle reads 'Bring me to the shore of the Endless Sea, step through the door that will open for thee', so Rage and her friends set of on a perilous journey to the city of Fork which is ruled by the strict High Keeper, an evil ruler.

I loved reading The Night Gate, having met Isobelle Carmody in Prague. I was very attached to Billy Thunder because I felt he was a real model character. I also liked the bumbling goat they called Goaty who was always making things worse than they already were. I think that if you like fantasy you should definitely read The Night Gate.

More by this author: The Winter Dock, book 2 of the Gate Way trilogy, Red Wind and Cloud Road.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Family Work-Travel-Writing-Photography-Homeschooling Adventure

‘Travelling with children is not really a holiday. 
It’s just surviving in a different place for a period of time.’ – Unknown

You have to be slightly mad to spend five months travelling the world with your kids while trying to write a book. But, also, slightly mad not to.

We (my wife, two boys aged 8 & 10, and I) have been on our dream work-travel-writing-photography-homeschooling adventure across Europe, the UK and South-East Asia. In the UK we saw A Midsummer Night’s Dream from the yard of The Globe Theatre in the rain, Arsenal beating Stoke City on home turf, Matilda on the West End, the Roald Dahl Museum and the Harry Potter Studios Tour. We’ve stayed in a London clocktower, a gypsy caravan in the Cotswolds and a beach house in Cornwall and it all sounds extremely civilised. But, of course, it is not. 

Copenhagen street art.
We have discovered that life in Berlin or Prague or Copenhagen is just as mayhem-filled as everyday family life. Only there are more late nights, strange foods, expectations, hungry humans, epic meltdowns (the kids have had a couple, too) and, in the middle of it all, my wife and I trying to equate this rather more expensive, busy and nerve-jangling form of travel with its spontaneous, distant relative of eighteen years ago. But, somehow, it kind of works. 

Florence, Italy.
I’m writing a new children’s book as we travel and the words are emerging. Constant movement frees up word-flow for me. Even at home, I like to walk and write, to shift locations and physically wrestle the ideas out of my gut and onto the page, so writing on the road with fresh inspiration every day works well. Now, instead of shoes off at the beach, it’s scarf and jacket on while walking beside the freezing Seine with thumbs so stiff they can barely tap the iPhone keys.

It is sometimes a feat to carve out time to write but by the time I make it to the page or screen I am so excited to have peace, so filled with fragments of inspiration, that the words come more easily than the straining and wringing and procrastination that often goes on at home.

Shakespeare & Co Bookshop
Here, life seems to be physically happening, sweeping me out of my head and into the world while, at home, the Web is the only thing flowing and I dip my toe into its stream far too many times a day in a desperate attempt to feel alive. Children, too, keep it lifey. They are so excited about everything they see that it brings you back to ‘beginner’s mind’, a good thing for both travel and creativity.

Before you consider an adventure like this, I highly recommend that you marry someone extremely patient and understanding, Saint-like if you will, who is prepared to homeschool the children while you write. Also, try to put aside about nine months of late nights and weekends before the trip to budget, book everything and to read every travel book in the library while whittling your possessions down to two suitcases and four small backpacks.

Long-term family travel is pure madness, but everyday family / creative life is crazy anyway, so I figure you might as well be in Paris. 

Rodin Museum, Paris.
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