Online Literature Festival

Image from Byron Bay Writers Festival 2013

I recently ran a session for the Online Literature Festival organised by the State Library of QLD. Nine hundred students from thirty-five schools took part and I spoke to them via the Interwebs from the comfort of my own laptop. There were a few questions that went unanswered so here are some responses accompanied by a few slimy pics from this year’s Byron Bay Writers Festival to break up the text.

Andergrove SS: When writing books, which genres do you enjoy writing most and is there a particular reason? 

I seem to write Action-Adventure or Weird-Funny-Gross.

Cooran State School: Did you say where we could get ‘Story Scrapbook’ from?
Story Scrapbook is a free download on my website. It allows you to brainstorm story ideas using Google Images, Google Maps, Youtube and text. It’s at

Victoria Plantation SS: What persuaded you to get into writing?
I couldn’t stop. It’s how I make sense of the world. It chose me, somehow.

Group H Glenview SS: Whats your biggest fear?
Falling. Same as Dash in Galactic Adventures: First Kids in Space.

annelies: what is your favourite food?
Good Mexican food. Spicy Asian noodle dishes. Field of Dreams burger from Grill’d. And Pie. I like pie.

Rosedale: How much time each day do you spend writing?
From October to March, 5-6 hours a day. Sometimes all day. Other times of year, however much I can squeeze in as I travel around talking about the books.

Byron Bay Writers Festival 2013

Tewantin State School: do you have a favourite comic book character?
Ginger Meggs and Tintin.

Claudia: did you want to be a writer when you where a kid?
I wanted to be an actor and to make movies but I always wrote alongside those things. I wrote plays, short stories, little films, movie reviews.

Group H Glenview SS: Who is your favourite book character of all time?
Maybe Huckleberry Finn. I want to be out on a raft on the Mighty Mississippi.

Jamie: What do you do when you get writers block?
If I’m stuck I gather images and video and music and maps and I feed my creativity. I also get out into nature. I walk and write on the beach. I try to relax and then the ideas flow.

Tewantin State School: when did you start writing?
As soon as I could form words on the page. When I was five or six I guess. And I remember writing short skits to perform onstage in 2nd and 3rd grade.

3HF: How much time does it take to brainstorm?
As long as you have. Five minutes, an hour. The story will tell you when it’s ready to write. But try not to use research and brainstorming as an excuse not to start on the story.

Jinibara 5/6E1: Have you used all your ideas from when you were a child?
No, still lots of untapped childhood stories. I’m always brainstorming memories from my childhood. In the next My Life book out April 2014 I write about a playground freak show that my friend and I ran.

Tewantin State School: how did you get into writing?
I just began. Pen, paper. My first paid work as a writer was writing short articles for magazines. Then short films and TV segments and newspaper articles and, eventually, books.

Loren CHAPLIN: What is your favourite medium for writing texts? Digital or Hard Copy?
I use both. Anything to get my ideas down. Notepad, iPhone, serviette, laptop, Voice Memo. Sometimes the best ideas come at the most unexpected times. The ‘perfect’ writing setup is not really the answer to good writing. The creative mind is fickle and will try to outwit you at every turn.

3HF: Do you write bubble writing or normal writing?
Um. Normal, I think, but bubble writing sounds like fun.

Russell HORNSBY: Daniel asks “How many of your books are horror stories?”
None but that’s a brilliant idea. I loved horror stories as a teenager. I might start writing some in the background while I do my other work. Thanks. (In fact, I have an idea for a short ghost story set in an apartment I am staying in at this very moment. You’re a good kid, Daniel. 😉

Michael CORCORAN: Do pictures come first and then words?
All at once. I see things, I gather images, I write words interchangeably throughout the process. I don’t stick to rules. It’s better when it comes from the gut and you go with what feels right at the time.

mrs Cahill: Do you do anything other than being an author?
I just write books and speak about them. Sometimes I go to the beach but nobody pays me to do that, sadly. I also like watching movies and going to theme parks. I love travelling and I think it’s important to make sure you live a full life alongside writing or the work becomes stale and you repeat yourself.

Tewantin State School: DO you like doctor who? Do you like minecraft?
I haven’t watched Doctor Who in a loooooooong time. Minecraft is an awesome creative tool. Great way to build a setting for a story.

traci: How long does it take to write a novel?
Some take a year, some take two. My book Two Wolves for release in March has taken four years!

Emma: 1111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111
Um. 222222222222222222222222222? 

Byron Bay Writers Festival 2013

Bri: where is your favourite place to write? home, the beach?
Everywhere. Wherever I am is good enough. Unless I’m on a rollercoaster. Or in a back-alley fist-fight with another author. Or in a giant crushing and mashing machine, moments from death. I never write in those places, but everywhere else is fine.

Dakabin SS: how many pages were in your first book?
Around 200? My first book in book stores was the first Mac Slater: Coolhunter book, five years ago.

Emma: sorry accidently left my finger on the key
That’s okay. 333333333333333333333333333. Me too.

Claudia: did you always want to be a writer?
And an astronaut and rock star and pilot and filmmaker and actor and pet detective.

MB1: Have you ever wanted to become an illustrator?
Not really. I love to draw but that was never my talent. I love seeing how a brilliant illustrator like Gus Gordon or Heath McKenzie interprets my stories.

Loren CHAPLIN: What is the book you liked the least?
I have liked writing all of them. The most difficult was Galactic Adventures because of all the research on space training: centrifuges, vomit comets etc.

Loren CHAPLIN: At our school we publish to our website. We use Book Creator and iBooks Author to create our stories.
Nice. iBooks Author is excellent. It’s incredible how many opportunities we all have to get our work out there in interesting ways now.

3HF: whats your favourite film?
Hugo is fun and I love a movie called Stand By Me.

Claudia: did you always want to be a writer?

I always wanted to tell stories and be involved with stories. Writing was a side-effect of that. I like telling them verbally and on film and lots of different ways but writing is something I’ve always done.

MB1: Have you ever been scared of anything in the books that you have written? 

Only that the story will never be good. About three drafts in I worry that it is never going to make sense or be interesting. But after five drafts I usually feel better. I am also a bit scared to write about things that I don’t want to happen in real life. For instance, I don’t think I’ll ever write about a… I can’t write it because it may happen.

Russell HORNSBY: “Which is your favourite story you have written”

It’s difficult to say but, in terms of funny stuff, I think I like My Life & Other Stuff I Made Up. In terms of adventure-type stories, I like Two Wolves, the book I have coming out in March.

3HF: Is it easy to write a thick book? 

Well, you start off with short stories of 500 to 1000 words and slowly you develop longer and longer work. If you’re used to writing 500-word stories and you want to write a book, perhaps you could write chapters of about 500 words. The book becomes a series of 500-word units.

Andergrove SS: Why do you have a fear of heights? 

It’s more a fear of falling. I don’t mind being up high. I just don’t want to fall off the very tall thing.

Byron Bay Writers Festival 2013

Prince of Peace Lutheran 150: Is it better to write your book on paper first? or straight onto the computer? 

Whatever feels best for you. I move between them. Early in the morning I try to write on paper and then I move to computer later on. Paper often seems to capture the most creative ideas.

Prince of Peace Lutheran 150: Is you Storybook app available on the app store?
No, just on my website but programmer genius guy Ben Train is currently developing an HTML version so that it’s useable on iPads and Pods.

Prince of Peace Lutheran 150: Have you read any Michael Grant books?
I’ve read Gone. It’s a page-turning story. I think I need a dome in my next book. It seems that a dome is an essential element in any bestselling novel right now.

Prince of Peace Lutheran 150: Have you ever written a comic? 

Lots when I was a kid. I had a character called Jugglo Joe when I was about eight or nine. Comics are a good way to learn storytelling. They are economical. Legendary Sci-Fi writer Ray Bradbury says that he learnt to tell stories by reading comics between about the ages of eight and twelve. Steven Spielberg and Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson also learnt to tell stories partly by reading comics. As a kid I loved Ginger Meggs and Gumdrop and Andy Capp and Don Martin’s stuff in Mad Magazine.

Prince of Peace Lutheran 150: Are you going to keep writing forever? 

I think so. Till the dusk of time. Even if I wasn’t a ‘writer’ I would still write.

Prince of Peace Lutheran 150: Do you ever get scared people won’t like your books? 

Well, not scared because I have no control over what people will like. But I do write the stories to be read. I write what I enjoy, stories that I love, and I just have to trust that if they entertain me that others will like them, too!

Byron Bay Writers Festival 2013

Prince of Peace Lutheran 150: Have you ever started a book and not finished?
I have a few first drafts on my hard drive but parts of those first drafts have ended up in other stories that I have published. I have borrowed characters or scenes or plot twists and mashed them into other stories.

Prince of Peace Lutheran 150: Do you do a lot of editing? 

Heaps! Usually seven or eight complete drafts of the story (going through it a number of times for each draft) and I throw out more words than I leave in, so tens of thousands of words end up ‘on the cutting room floor’.

Prince of Peace Lutheran 150: How many books have you read? 

Thousands. The better the books you read, the better your writing becomes. Right now I’m reading Stay Where You Are and Then Leave by John Boyne and The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. I recommend both.


1 Comment

  1. March 8, 2015 / 8:36 am

    Hey Tristan Banks I am phoebe smith and I am a fan of your books so here is some ideas i have,

    A boy named Tristan was only 11 he has a fish the fish was tropical but is fresh water the fish never lasted long but he was very sad wen he died work on that story and make it funner and funny and I reakan it will be a great funny chapter you visited my school Summerdale primary school and you ansed won of my questions ok you the best

    From phoebe

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Close Me
Looking for Something?
Post Categories: