Australian Author of Children’s Books and Teen Books: February 2017

Monday, February 27, 2017

Interview About the My Life Book Series

My new book My Life & Other Weaponised Muffins, illustrated by genius funnyman Gus Gordon is out today. To celebrate, here's a hard-hitting interview featuring questions sent to me by year 3 / 4 students from a primary school in Bellingen, NSW.

We have just enjoyed your 'Dog Kisser' story. Is the story real?
Yes, it’s based on a real guy that we used to encounter every afternoon when we’d take our dog for a walk. I’m not a dog kisser so the trauma of watching a grown man be licked on the neck, face and mouth by a dog was very difficult to recover from. That’s why I wrote the story. And The Dog Kisser makes an appearance in the new 'Weaponised Muffin' book, too. Who, in your class, is a dog kisser?

Do you have any other books?
Yes. There are four other My Life books. ;) And a book for upper primary / early high-schoolers, Two Wolves.

Why did you decide to be an author?
I couldn’t help it. I love stories so much. I started out in film and TV as an actor and TV presenter and writer and I directed some things, too. And then I had an opportunity to write my first children’s book. I loved it so much that that’s what I’ve focussed on for the last ten years. As an author you get to be the writer, director, production designer, cinematographer and to play all the different characters in the story.


It looks like you have such a fun life.
Non. Stop. Fun. Heehaw. Not really. I have lots of fun writing and then touring the books around the country and speaking to lots of kids, but there are many days when the words won’t flow and I have to try every trick in the book to get my 2000 words written. Go for a walk, drink coffee, read another book, stand on my head, eat a whole raw pumpkin … I’ll do anything to get the words on the page.

How old are you?
I'm 70. But I borrow my wife’s eye cream, which is why I look so youthful. You should try it. If an eight or nine year-old used this cream it would make you look like you hadn’t been born yet.

Where did you go to school? We go to school in Bellingen NSW.
I’ve heard lots of great things about Bellingen. I’ve been part of Bellingen Readers and Writers Festival but all of my events were outside Bellingen. I went to school in the Blue Mountains outside Sydney.

A special, limited-edition illustration of the Dog Kisser drawn by Gus Gordon at a live event we did together in QLD. ;)
Where do you get your ideas from?
Everywhere! In the strangest places. If I sit down and say, ‘Right, I’m going to come up with an idea,’ my mind becomes a desert. Instead, I do other things and the ideas seem to fall out of the sky. I had an idea when I was swimming yesterday afternoon. And I wrote a first draft of that short story for the next My Life book this morning. And another story idea for the next book about a grandmother committing a robbery in order to win a fruitcake bake-off came to me three years ago when I was travelling in the south of England. I’m just getting around to writing it now. So get a notebook, jot down your ideas and when you need an idea, go back and raid it for the best stuff.

Good luck! And thanks for being such fine journalists.


Friday, February 10, 2017

Thanks to Education – Room to Read World Change Challenge Top Fundraisers 2016

Thanks to the following schools for being our top five fundraisers in the 2016 Room to Read World Change Challenge. Since 2012, school children in Australia and Hong Kong, in partnership with children's and teen authors, have raised $100,000 through the World Change Challenge to build libraries, educate girls and buy local-language books for children in the world's poorest countries.

Room to Read believes that World Change Starts With Educated Children. So do I. Check out the short video above and see how Room to Read and the annual World Change Challenge initiative is empowering young people in more privileged countries to help those with little or no access to books and education.

So, thank you to the top five schools below, who will be receiving their prizes from the major Australian publishers very shortly and to all of the schools, teachers, librarians and students across Australia who took part in the 2016 World Change Challenge and I hope that you will help me and the rest of our writer-ambassador team to help change the world through literacy again in 2017.

1. Somerset College on the Gold Coast who raised $2300

2. Hunter Valley Grammar School who raised $1456

3. St John’s Anglican, who raised $1000

4. Pottsville Beach PS who raised $750

5. Shore - Sydney Church of England Grammar School (total funds raised TBC)


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Children's Book Week 2017

The Australian Children's Book Week theme for 2017 is 'Escape to Everywhere'. It sparks lots of ideas for me. It  invites wonder about the world and the wide variety of humans who live here. The theme also captures why I read – to escape – to live inside someone else's mind for a while and to see and feel what they do. That's why they say reading makes you more compassionate and empathetic (see articles in Time, The Guardian and Better Reading on this). And we need that now more than ever.

Children's Book Week runs from 18-25 August and here are 10 ideas to help make 2017 the best Book Week ever.

Escape to Everywhere through reading.
1) Plan Your Escape Start the conversation about reading escapes. Where do you escape from the world to read? What are the best books about Escaping to Everywhere. What is the greatest Escape novel ever written? How many different ways can you Escape when you're reading – into the imagination, to another country or  into a fantasy land? How else? What can you build or create on the theme of Escape to celebrate this year's Book Week? Ask friends, colleagues, students and start the debate now.

2) Escape Into a Book Try reading some of my Top 5 'Escape to Everywhere' Books:

- The Boy at the Top of the Mountain, a companion novel to John Boyne's The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. (This was one of my favourite reads of last year. It made me feel as though I was a kid living up there in the Berghof, the home of Adolf Hitler.)

- Somewhere Else, an inspiring picture book for dreamers, wanderers and wonderers by Gus Gordon (my partner in crime on the My Life books). This book makes you appreciate simple things about everyday life, but it also makes you want to strike out and see the world.

Somewhere Else: A big-hearted book about overcoming fear and Escaping to Everywhere.

- The Fall (see how I cleverly squeezed my new book into the middle of the list without you knowing. The Fall involves a literal escape from a very dangerous man in an apartment building, but it's also an escape into the world of Sam Garner, a kid in trouble at school and with his mum, who's trying to connect with his father for the first time in his life.)

- Icebreaker by Lian Tanner. (This tightly plotted, beautifully characterised adventure story totally immerses you in the rusted, icy, mechanical world of Petrel, who lives aboard an icebreaker in the Arctic. )

- Where the Wild Things Are - Maurice Sendak (the ultimate 'escape' book, for kids and adults)

3) Change the World  Join my 2017 Room to Read World Change Challenge (the theme this year is 'Get Active For Education') and help me and a host of other Australian authors change the world by educating children in the developing world. We have, so far, in partnership with Australian school students, raised over $100,000 to buy books, build libraries and educate girls in ten of the world's poorest countries.

Illustration by Gus Gordon.
4) Book Parade Start planning your Book Week Parade outfit. You can go to the parade dressed as the main character in the My Life books by downloading and printing a free Tom Weekly mask, available soon on this here site! Or maybe you want to dress as a Library Ninja, inspired by my story 'Fungus the Bogeyman' in My Life & Other Exploding Chickens (and Gus Gordon's most excellent illustration above). 'Fungus' is about the time I had a book overdue from the public library for five years as a child and was arrested by a gang of Ninja Librarians when I attempted to return it. (Totally true.)

Download and print a free Tom Weekly mask like the one below, also worn by the pesky kid who attacked me in the Weaponised Muffins book trailer.

I love this Tom Weekly mask from last year's Book Week. You can download and print a mask just like this for yourself! Thanks for the photo @Tan_79 on Insta!

5) Book Trailers Make a video book trailer for your favourite book and screen it in the school library. Check out my post on How to Make a Book Trailer and send me a link to the trailer you make. Below is the trailer for My Life & Other Weaponised Muffins and the winning student-made trailer in the recent My Life book trailer competition for inspiration:

6) The CBCA Keep an eye on the Children's Book Council of Australia's Book Week activity ideas page as it is updated during the year and also on the Teacher-Librarians' Children's Book Week wiki. The brilliant Book Chook blog always has fantastic Book Week resources, too.

7) Author Talks You could book an author (or harass your teacher-librarian to book an author) to speak at your school. Here's a list of agencies. Many authors are already booked for Book Week but if your celebration falls outside the official Book Week dates, you might get lucky. (I'm booked for Book Week '17 but next year or other times of year can be booked through Speakers Ink (QLD) or Booked Out (other states).

Story Inspiration. How can books and movies inspire and influence your own story, novel or movie script?

8) Get Creative Watch my 5-part video series inspired by my new thriller novel for middle-graders The Fall (May 2017). Above is a sneak peek of one of the videos on Finding Story Inspiration. I will share the others soon. They include tips on Outlining a Story, Creating Characters and Rewriting. A perfect way to get inspired for the day, add to your writer's toolkit and open up discussion about key areas of creating an amazing story. If you have an idea for a future video on creative writing, drop me an email or leave a comment on this post.

Or you could try:
- Writing activities in the My Life& Other Stuff I Made Up teachers' kit
- Checking out the visual / aural creative ideas in the Two Wolves teaching materials.
- Getting outside to write. Watch my Story Safari video on how I wrote my novel Two Wolves for inspiration.
- Visiting the CREATE page.
- Using my Story Scrapbook transmedia brainstorming tool to gather videos, images and music as you dream up a new story of your own.


10) Make Your Escape Social Talk about Book Week and 'Escape to Everywhere' on social media. Connect with me on TWITTER , INSTAGRAMFACEBOOK and YOUTUBE throughout the year. Let's talk stories, create things, share the best books we've ever read and the most amazing places we've escaped to through reading.

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