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

Friday, March 31, 2017

Your Life and Other Stuff You Made Up #1

Hi! Over the past few years I've been sent lots of cool artwork, wacky ideas, insightful book reviews and funny feedback from creative kids. All of which are locked away on my hard drive, but I think it's time to fling open the gates and share your work with the world, so I'm starting a section on my blog / site focused on YOUR LIFE (and Other Stuff You Made Up :)

So, send me your drawing of Tom Weekly - watch out Gus Gordon - a photo of you dressed up as your fave book character or tell me about your own Weaponised Muffins food fight. And you might just end up on the blog with my homemade badge of honour.

Here's some funny stuff I recently received. I hope you like these as much as I do.

Dear Isla, That is gross. 
I hope you didn't put the ice in your friends mum's drink 
(and I hope your toe is better now). You should definitely develop this story.

Thanks Asger!

Click on this one to read it more clearly. Great writing Irene. 
I'm glad it's Ben eating the roast rabbit and not me!

Read Varsity College's collaborative story Switchin' In The Kitchen here.

Wow, Dave. I think the not dying option is the one I'm leaning towards. :))

Thanks Liam! Keep shining :)

p.s. You can also read my post about thirteen year-old published author Anjali here. Her funny story 'Toffee' features in my latest book My Life & Other Weaponised Muffins

Thanks Meg. Byeeeeeeee!

P.S. Don't forget, you can also get your name in the back of the next My Life book by contributing ideas to my work-in-progress Guinea Pig Hostage story.


Friday, March 24, 2017

How to Make a Children's Book #1: Interview With Editor Brandon VanOver

People always ask me how a children's book is made – the writing, the editing, the illustrating, the cover design, the publishing. So I've decided to share a series of interviews with the amazing team of humans who helped take my new book My Life & Other Weaponised Muffins (and the entire My Life series) from original idea to bookstore shelves. Over the next few weeks I'll interview illustrator Gus Gordon, designer Astred Hicks, publisher Zoe Walton, a children's bookseller and, here, Brandon VanOver, Managing Editor at Random House Australia.

Brandon, what, exactly, does a children’s book editor do?
There’s that expression of not being able to see the forest for the trees – the job of the editor is to help the author see the forest (the story), and sometimes that means you need to cut down a few trees (things that stand in the way of telling that story). Not that I’m advocating cutting anything but words and wayward ideas/characters/plotlines. I love trees; I’m a tree-hugger. The editor helps the author reach clarity in their writing, and fix up the occasional rogue comma, misspelling or gratuitous adjective.

How is it different to working on a book for adults?
Working on children’s books is different because I’m no longer a kid. There’s an authenticity you need to tap into or be aware of – and if you and the author miss the mark, it makes a reader want to throw a book across the room (or simply put it down if they’re less moody). They’re called ‘dad jokes’ for a reason. But there’s a great freedom in being a kid, so as an editor you can let your hair down too and sojourn with the author into refreshingly absurd realms. I also laugh more editing books for kids.


Am I annoying, as an author, to work with? How so? What about Gus? He has to be annoying, right?
You are not annoying as an author or a human being, because you care so much about getting the story right. You know when things aren’t quite working and will keep scratching away until it clicks. That’s it! You’re annoyingly good at revising a joke until it works. Gus is the golden child.

Does that mean you like him better than me? Brandon? Nuts. You edit lots of very serious adult work throughout the year. What do you like about working on the My Life books?
I was a shy kid, a closet nerd, and Tom and Jack are fun characters to work with because they’re so uninhibited and mischievous (in a good-hearted way). It’s fun to work on gags and funny storylines about things I wouldn’t have had the nerve to do as a kid, like trying to monetise my nits or do a runner at the dentist’s office. It’s fun also to remind yourself how funny the adult world looks from the child’s side of the lens. 

Can you share three things that could help young writers create better stories?
1) Write as much as you can – it’s the only way you can get to know your unique voice. The other side of this coin is to read as much as you can – your creative well will be deeper.

2) Don’t fear the weird – follow your imagination wherever it takes you, even if it’s weird or silly or embarrassing. You can revise a story later (with a talented editor!); get everything onto the page first.

3) Walk more than a mile in the shoes of others – keep your eyes and ears open to the world around you and the unique lives and experiences of others. If every character is a version of yourself, then the story will feel narrow. (Not that you’re particularly narrow, but you know what I’m sayin’.) It will also show how alike we all are despite being our own unique beasts, which is one of the aims of great stories.

You can buy a signed copy of My Life & Other Weaponised Muffins in my online store. Or you can pick up a copy from a range of online retailers.


Friday, March 17, 2017

WIN the Complete Signed My Life Book Series

THANK YOU to everyone who entered this competition. The winner has been randomly selected from the 250 entries. Drumroll... It is Belinda Anderson, a fine Tasmanian. We have messaged Belinda and will send her prize out very soon. ;)

I'll have to give away some more books soon. It's been fun chatting to everyone. Thanks for all the support and kind comments about the My Life books. I hope you and your kids still get a chance to read the new 'Weaponised Muffins' book!

To celebrate the launch of my new book My Life & Other Weaponised Muffins (illustrated by the amazing Gus Gordon) I'm giving away a complete signed set of the My Life book series with an iTunes gift voucher and a bunch of fun stuff to prank friends with.

Prize Pack

+ My Life & Other Stuff I Made Up (signed)
+ My Life & Other Stuff That Went Wrong (signed)
+ My Life & Other Massive Mistakes (signed)
+ My Life & Other Exploding Chickens (signed)
+ My Life & Other Weaponised Muffins (signed)

+ $20 iTunes voucher
+ Whoopee cushion
+ Creepy rubber baby hand
+ Prank chewing gum
+ Toilet slime
+ LOL ball

Ways to Win!

1) Follow me on Instagram + like this post + tag two people in comments.


2) Like my page on Facebook, then like and share the competition post.


3) Follow on Twitter, retweet this post.


4) Subscribe to my Monthly (NB: actually 2-3 times per year) eNews. Here's the latest edition so you know what you're getting yourself into.

Four possible entries per person. The winner will be chosen from those who complete one or more of the four actions above. Good luck!

Competition ends and winner announced Thursday 25 March. Winner posted here and on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

My Life & Other Weaponised Muffins Book Trailer

To celebrate the launch of my new book My Life & Other Weaponised Muffins, Tom Weekly, my own character, my own flesh and ink, ambushed and attacked me while I was trying to make a book trailer. My feelings were very hurt. I hope the result amuses you as much as it amused him. The kids of today...

You might also be interested in my post, How to Make a Book Trailer.

You can buy a signed copy of My Life & Other Weaponised Muffins in my online store. Or you can pick up a copy from a range of online retailers.


Monday, March 13, 2017

Thirteen Year-Old Published Author

Anjali Dutton was just 11 years-old when she wrote her funny, semi-autobiographical story 'Toffee' and won the annual NSW Pilot Pen short story competition judged by author Andy Griffiths, earning her $1000 in prize money.

I read the story, thought it was hilarious and asked Anjali if she would be interested in developing the story and characters further with the potential for it to be published in my new book My Life & Other Weaponised Muffins

Anjali jumped in, did some brilliant work expanding and tightening the story, working with me and my editor Brandon VanOver and it's in the book. Here, Anjali, now thirteen years-old, shares her journey towards having her story published by Penguin Random House Australia.

Is 'Toffee' a true story?
Yes. It certainly is based on a true story. I was at a Year five gathering at school and my friend’s mum brought in this huge plate of toffee. I go to a Steiner school where sugar is scarce, and, suffice to say, the kids went wild. So, yeah, I guess I wasn’t exaggerating when I listed all the super-healthy ’snacks to share’. I am also vegan and many of my classmates are sugar-free, gluten-free, meat-free, dairy-free, raw and organic-only - all in one! I based all my characters on real people, parents and teachers that I know!

How did the story begin its journey to publication?
It’s actually pretty crazy. I wrote a short story about toffee, called it ‘Toffee’(desperate last minute title choice!) and entered in the 2014 Pilot Pen writing competition. One day, about a month or so later, I arrived home from school and suddenly my mum was telling me I’d won $1,000 and the NSW section of the competition. I was shocked. I couldn’t believe it!

Are there any particular places, people or things that inspire you to write?
For me, it’s true stories - stories I find funny, or meaningful. Stories about friends and family. Relateable stuff. Sometimes I’m inspired by things I feel other people should know about - like world issues and animal rights.

I don’t always write funny stories; I also love writing descriptive works that are subtle, so in that case, personalities and nature inspire me. I guess anything can, it depends how you see it. I read a lot, so different writing styles and genres influence me. But I think what inspires me the most is travel. To see different cultures and have new images in my mind is important for me.

Illustration by Gus Gordon from Anjali Dutton's story 'Toffee' in My Life & Other Weaponised Muffins.

What else do you love to do other than write amazing stories?
Apart from travel, I love music: singing, guitar, listening to it, making it. I love to read – a LOT. I play sport – run, swim etc. I love to act. Hanging out with friends, family. I guess I like to do things that any other teenage girl would!

What's your advice for other young writers or creative kids / teens in terms of creating and getting their work out there in the world?

It sounds cliché, but I think it’s true: take the chance, be open to opportunities, and you never know what might happen – I certainly didn’t! So don’t doubt yourself, and JUST DO IT. Good luck!!

You can read Anjali's funny, embarrassing, kind of gross story 'Toffee' in My Life & Other Weaponised Muffins.


Thursday, March 9, 2017

Guinea Pig Hostage Story

In every My Life book I include a story that I've brainstormed with kids as I travel around to schools and festivals. I thank all the brainstormers in the back of the book. I love the idea that kids can influence the course of a story before it's published. In the new book, My Life & Other Weaponised Muffins, kids helped brainstorm the story 'Runaway Car'.

In the next book, which I'm writing now, I want you to help me with a chilling guinea pig kidnap story called 'Hostage'. Here's the setup...

Tom Weekly comes home from school one day to find his evil sister Tanya (who is definitely not based on my sister, pictured with me, above) in his bedroom holding Gus, his pet guinea pig, out the window. She says, 'Give me all your money or the guinea pig gets it!'
      'What?' Tom asks.
      'Give me all your money or I drop your guinea pig out the window onto the concrete.'
      'But... I don't have any money.'
      'LIAR!' she screams. 'What about your birthday money?'
      'Okay, settle down.'
      Tom puts down his school bag and rolls back the rug in the middle of his bedroom floor, revealing the trapdoor where he hides his lollies, comics and cash. As he unlocks the padlock Tom looks up at Gus who stares back at him with eyes like small black marbles, pleading with Tom to follow her instructions. A couple of little round poop nuggets fall from the guinea pig's bottom.

Tom needs to hold onto his money while saving the guinea pig's life. How does he do it?

Leave a comment at the bottom of this blog post with your first name and your idea and I will thank you in the back of the next book, out March 2018. I'll try to include as many ideas as I can!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Who Is Tom Weekly?

Tom Weekly is the main character in my kids' book series, My Life & Other Stuff I Made Up, illustrated by funnyman Gus Gordon. Tom Weekly has been with us since 2010. Now, five books, 50+ stories, and 125,000 words into our journey, I wonder if I really know him. I mean, can you ever truly know a weird dude like Tom?

To celebrate the release of My Life & Other Weaponised Muffins I asked Tom to interview himself in a bathroom mirror. Over to you, Tom.
In My Life & Other Weaponised Muffins Tom Weekly and his best friend Jack decide to crush a few world records.

Thanks Tristan. Since I’m going to be rich and famous and stuff, I figure I’d better get used to being interviewed. And who better to interview me than . . . me? I often talk to myself in the mirror using a toothbrush as a microphone. So, this time, I recorded it.

Me: So, tell me, Tom, do you have any pets?

Me: ‘Bando, a dog.’

Me: Fascinating. Can Bando do any special tricks?

Me: ‘He can roll over.’

Me: Really?

Me: ‘No. He can’t do anything.’

Bando involved in another one of Tom's harebrained schemes.

Me: Favourite food?

Me: ‘Meaty Bites.’

Me: No, I mean your favourite food.

Me: ‘Oh. Mexican. Tacos. Fish tacos. And Ben & Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk ice-cream.’

Me: Colour?

Me: ‘Always inside the lines.’

Me: No, I mean, what’s your favourite colour?

Me: ‘Um. Blue.’

Me: If you could be any animal, what would you be?

Me: ’A hippo. Kind of cute-looking but unexpectedly deadly.’

Me: Have you ever kissed a girl?

Me: ‘Yes, but not by choice.’ 

Me: Do you like pie?

Me: ‘Yes, I do like pie. And please stop asking such weird questions. Blueberry pie, by the way. And 


Me: What’s your favourite joke?

Me: ‘I have four.

1) What’s invisible and smells like carrots? 

Bunny farts. 

2) Why did the toilet paper jump off the cliff? 

It was desperate to get to the bottom.

3) Where do you find a tortoise with no legs? 

Right where you left it.

4) Why did the student eat his homework? 

Because the teacher told him it was a piece of cake.’ 
Tom practices for his first kiss with the love of his life, Sasha.
Me: Tell us about your new book. 

Me: ‘Well, it has an interview in it where I interview myself in a bathroom mirror.’ 

Me: Wow, very original. What did you ask yourself?

Me: ‘Oh, you know, just stuff.’

Me: What sort of stuff?

Me: ‘Stuff like, “Do you have any pets?”’

Me: Yes, Bando, a dog.

Me: ‘Fascinating. Can Bando do any special tricks?’

Me: He can roll over.

Me: ‘Really?’

Me: No. He can’t do anything.

Me: ‘Favourite food?’

Me: Meaty Bites.

Me: ‘No, I mean your favourite food.’

Send me an interview with yourself and maybe I can put it on my blog or in my next  book:

P.S. Learn more about Tom Weekly here.
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