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

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Story Scrapbook Instructions

New, easy-to-follow instructions for Story Scrapbook, our transmedia brainstorming tool. The site, allows you to bring video, images, music, maps and any other embeddable object together in the development of a story.

Good luck and leave a comment below with any questions or feedback!


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Susanne Gervay: Room to Read Writer-Ambassador

There is no one more compassionate, generous and hard-working on the children's literature scene than Susanne Gervay. She is a dedicated, action-oriented Room to Read writer-ambassador (check out her achievements here). She is throwing her weight behind the 2014 Room to Read World Change Challenge, a mission to raise $20,000 for 20,000 books for kids in the developing world. Today, she shares what drives her to support this extraordinary organisation.

1. Out of all the charities in all the world, why did you decide to become a writer-ambassador for Room to Read? 
How do you change the world to make it safer for our kids? Without literacy and reading, how do you even make the first step out of poverty? Room to Read reaches the most disadvantaged children who are born into generational poverty. They have little hope of leaving the slums, where survival is the best they can expect. With a dedication that I have rarely seen, with an organisational structure that has integrity and is collaborative with families and communities, Room to Read changes the future of kids trapped in poverty. What a privilege to be a Writer Ambassador.

Susanne Gervay with Room to Read staff, supporters and writer-ambassadors.
2. What do you most love about Room to Read’s work and approach to what they do?
So many people in 1st world countries want to help 3rd world kids out of poverty. There is huge good will, but often it becomes lost in bureaucratic costs, corruption, failure to work with communities, lack of organisation. I love Room to Read because it works, because the money raised builds libraries that has meaning for its community, educates girls, partners communities in education, provides literacy programmes that work. It’s nearly reached 9 million kids in 10 years in Asia and Africa and it’s going to reach more and more children. Education changes the world and Room to Read makes that happen.

3. What makes you care about education and literacy for children in other parts of the world? 
My parents were refugees, who survived war and communism. My father loved the land and was a farmer in Hungary. My mother was a ‘princess’ whose father was a Professor of Engineering in Budapest. She was beautiful and played the violin. They fled with nothing to Australia, not even language. They didn’t speak English and were grateful to find jobs in factories. They worked very hard so that their children would have education and be all they could be. My parents were very proud that I became a writer. To honour them, I advocate for all children wherever they are, so they can also have the gift of education and literacy.

4. You are a literacy hero. What kinds of things have you done to show your support for Room to Read over the years?
Literacy hero – what a beautiful accolade. I love it. As a children’s author, we have opportunities to reach thousands of young people through festivals, talks, endorsements on our website and promotional material.

As head of the Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Australia East and New Zealand, I established Room to Read as our charity. As a director of The Hughenden Hotel in Sydney, and home of SCBWI Australia and New Zealand, The Hughenden proudly sponsors Room to Read events. The Book Fair at The Hughenden was wonderful, where a huge Room to Read banner was draped across the hotel front fence on prestigious Queen Street Woollahra - home to Prime Ministers, Banjo Patterson, opera star Dame Joan Sutherland, writers, artists and Barzillai Quaife Australia’s first philosopher. It’s the right place for a Room to Read banner.

I am hoping to create awareness among young people about Room to Read through my much loved anti school bullying I AM JACK series. When John Wood co-founder of Room to Read, one of the most inspiring leaders I have ever met, stayed at The Hughenden, we talked about I AM JACK and its reach into schools. The result was that the Room to Read logo sits on the back cover of I AM JACK. That was the beginning of a very special relationship between I AM JACK and Room to Read.

The fourth and final book in the series, BEING JACK in a rare act of faith by my publisher HarperCollins Australia, allowed me to include Room to Read in the body of the text. In I AM JACK, Jack’s whole school supports Room to Read with posters, cake stalls, radio interviews. Supporting Room to Read is a two-way gift. The gift to the kids in the developing world, of education and literacy and the gift to our kids of giving and changing the world.

The launch of BEING JACK will be a BENEFIT for Room to Read raising awareness at Darling Quarter Theatre Darling Harbour Sydney 5 p.m. Sat 23 August 2014. It includes a performance of the play I AM JACK and great fun.


5. What actions can schools and students perform to show their support?
Join Tristan’s Destination Literacy World Change Challenge campaign!!!!!!
A cake raffle is cool. I love lamingtons. 
A gold coin day. It’s just $1 for each book. 
Put up posters. 
Connect with your Room to Read chapter – mostly volunteers, they’re fantastic. It’s part of Civics and Citizenship in our national curricula and it’s about engaging in Asia too, but more importantly, it’s about all of us caring for our global community.

Welcome on board Room to Read!

I would LOVE you to get your class, school, business or yourself involved in our 2014 Room to Read World Change Challenge to raise $20,000 for 20,000 local language books for kids in the developing world.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

My Life 3 Title Shortlist

I've sifted through dozens of suggestions for the title to the next My Life book and come up with a shortlist. What do you think? What are your top three? Talk to me here. (NB: Still coming up with a prize for the winning title but I'm pretty sure it's going to be incredible. [Probably not a car or anything so don't get too excited.])

My Life & Other Practical Jokes

My Life and Other Massive Mistakes

My Life. Let This Be a Warning To You

My Life and Other Stuff Ups

My Life. Totally Dumb at It.

My Life & Other REALLY DUMB Stuff I Did

My Life & Other Catastrophes

My Life - An Exploded Diagram

My Life & More Dumb Stuff I Made Up

My Life – Battle Ground

My Life & Other Stuff That Blew Up

My Life & Other Stuff I Threw Up (Now with Extra Carrot and Chunky Bits!)

My Life & Other Pie Charts I Ate (NOW 100% Fact Free!!)

My Life & Other Exploding Chickens

And how about the following for a tagline (by the annoyingly talented Raph Atkins, who also came up with a bunch of the titles above.)?

These books are all 100% Gluten FREE, 100% FAT FREE, 100% ORGANIC and 35% FACT FREE. They have no ADDED Sugar and contain absolutely NO NUTRITIONAL BENEFITS AT ALL! May contain traces of NUTS!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Interview With Illustrator Gus Gordon

Gus Gordon is one of the best-known and most talented illustrators in the country. No, the world. His latest book as writer / illustrator, Herman & Rosiehas been nominated for awards in Australia, Japan, Germany and France. I have lots of fun working with Gusto on the My Life series. Here, I grill him with some extremely challenging questions, accompanied by illustrations his My Life illustrations.

Tristan: Name just a few of the life lessons you’ve learnt from me and my stories over the years that we have worked together...

Gus: Gosh, there are so many… but if I was to narrow it down to my top three it would be:
(1) I’ve learnt that all of your stories are completely made-up (which is kind of convenient since you write fiction but I was still disappointed).

(Note from Tristan: Not true above.)

(2) I’ve learnt that you take note-taking far too seriously - like it’s ridiculous! Here’s an example I saw you write in one of your note books recently: ‘Just had a ham and cheese sandwich. I like ham and cheese together in a sandwich. It’s an interesting combination of flavours. Maybe I should write a story about a ham and cheese sandwich that leaves home in search of the mysterious mustard man. Wow! I can’t believe this isn’t a book already! It’s going to be SO good! Where’s my apple juice?’

(3) I’ve learnt that you have no idea what the average person regards as gross. I’d hate to guess what you think is normal! Really dude, what you think is a mild kind of grossness is really bordering on criminal. I have actually been physically sick on a number of occasions while trying to illustrate your stories. Ease up a little mister.

Tristan: You’re a pretty strange guy. What are the three weirdest illustrations you’ve done for the My Life books?

Gus: Well, thanks buddy. Boy, this really is a tough question as all my stuff is weird. Here are a few that come to mind:

(1) ‘Hover poo’ (that’s self explanatory). 

(2) ‘3 things I’d rather do than eat Vegemite off my sister’s toe’ (I had trouble drawing Tom sucking the pus out of Lisa Crabapples’s zits).

(3) ’Nan acclimatising for Everest’ (I had fun drawing nan with just her legs hanging out of a freezer. I made my wife Ali pose for that illustration. She spent three days in hospital afterward with frostbite but it was worth it).

Tristan: My Life & Other Stuff I Made Up was nominated for YABBA & KOALA children’s choice awards. Do you think we deserve it or do you agree with my contention that kids don’t know much about stuff?

Gus: We better win that award or I’m going to be really angry you made me draw all that stuff!

Tristan: Tom Weekly, the main character in the My Life books is part me and part you. Which bits of Tom, do you think, are you?

Gus: All the cool bits are me and all the freaky stuff is obviously you.

(Note from Tristan: Again, clearly not true above.)

Tristan: I hear you're going to Paris to work on your new book, the follow-up to Herman & Rosie. Why didn’t you invite me to come with you?

Gus: Geez, I specially told everyone not to tell you. I would’ve invited you to come but you really need to address your hygiene issues, like we discussed. Remember, the first step is acknowledging you have a problem. Then we can progress from there. See you after Paris!

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