I was excited to hear that Detention is a finalist in the QLD Literary Awards. The Griffith University Children’s Book Award is an annual prize of $15,000 to celebrate a work of fiction for young people. I have never been a finalist in this award before and I’m so glad that Detention has made the list. My twelve years of school visits to the Gold Coast and Brisbane made a huge impact on the writing of this book. From listening to interactions between staff and students, hearing feedback on the story from groups that I’ve spoken to, seeing some extraordinary literacy teachers in action, right through to the fire drill that sparked the story.
Inspiration for Detention
Standing out on a school oval with 1200 kids one afternoon, the fire alarm still echoing off nearby buildings, a teacher told me a story about a lockdown that she had been in at her previous school – an escaped prisoner on the loose from a nearby prison. The prisoner didn’t enter the school but I wondered, What if he had? A lockdown would provide a high-pressure situation to put a group of kids and their teacher in and to explore the characters in the room and how they react.
Asylum Seekers in Australia
I wrote many notes on the possibilities for the story but it wasn’t until seven years later when my wife sent me a link to an article about a group of teenage asylum seekers on the run from community detention that I realised what the spark would be for my lockdown. And that spark allowed me to explore and research and to hear first-hand, the stories of people seeking asylum in Australia and the extraordinary challenges they face. The book is a work of fiction but I hope that I have done justice to the stories of people that I read about and interviewed and those who advised me during the book’s development. (The acknowledgements section at the back of the book is longer than the story itself. Not really, but long.)
QLD Literary Awards Announcement
I hope you have a chance to read Detention and the other books on the list. I’m looking forward to reading the work of Tamsin Janu, Jess McGeachin, Caroline Magerl and Penny Tangey in the lead-up to the awards announcement online at 7pm on Friday 4 September at State Library QLD.