NOTES FROM SOMERSET CELEBRATION OF LITERATURE 2015
When I go to Somerset, I listen, I write copious notes, I soak up the atmosphere like a sponge and reflect on what makes a successful author and what doesn’t. This year instead of putting said notes and notebook on a shelf to occasionally refer back to, I thought it would be better to share some of the authors comments and insights.
Christine Bongers 9.15am to 10 am years 7 – 9
This was a thoroughly enjoyable session. The students filled the seats and their anticipation was palpable.
I’ll give an ‘in a nutshell’ wrap up of her very accomplished oration.
Firstly, being born in the middle of nowhere in central Queensland isn’t the end of the world. Even having 6 brothers can work as they made everything a competition, and they played cricket. Cricket, especially for Christine, who was the wicket, was boring. Boring gives you time to daydream. Her daydreaming led to a desire to be something so she did journalism, then discovered she loved radio, then got a job with ABC radio, which led to ABC television, which was even more fun.
Her main tips for budding writers:
1 read a lot
2 write – Write about what you love, and topics you are passionate about
3 live an interesting life
George Ivanoff 10.15am to 11 am grades 4 to 7
George admitted to being a reluctant reader at school but is now an avid reader. The turning point was when he found books he really liked – science fiction. Once he discovered Doctor Who in about grade 5 he was hooked on watching obsessively and creating an ongoing (to this day) collection of books. Then he found the ‘Choose your own’ Adventure books, which he read obsessively also. He thought these would be fun to write.
George went on to explain about his ‘Gamers series’, which I’ve read and reviewed and loved. Then about his own ‘Choose your own’ books, how he covers many genres from pirate adventure, fantasy and scifi, in the ones already published and in his next series, horror, alien invasion, sports and again computer games.
His writing tips which became an exercise in writing a story and planning on a white board were these key elements.
Story structure – think about every story you’ve ever read and work out a basic structure, main points.
1 Every story is a journey – the physical journey, the emotional journey, coming of age journey etc
2 Problems – the main character must have a goal and the author puts obstacles in his way, that makes the story more interesting
George said every writer eavesdrops and that’s where they pick up ideas.
Yvette Poshoglian 11.15 am to 12 noon Years 4 to 7 http://yvetteposh.com/
Being a teacher Yvette pitched straight to her audience and there was a lot of interaction. She asked the kids questions they eagerly answered while delivering invaluable tips on how to become a writer.
Yvette began by saying she has written the Ella and Olivia series. Then said reading is great, discovering things in an imaginary world. Her first writing was in Year 7 when she wrote The Cricket Diary, as she loves cricket.
Her writing tips were
1 write a little every day, keep on writing
2 make the characters people you want to follow on their journey, the reader cares about
3 give the character motivation to keep the story going
4 listen to other people, spy on people
5 use all the senses, touch, taste, sight, hearing, smelling and the sixth sense – sensing
Yvette explained how she loves kayaking, and the boat houses on the Sydney Harbour gave her the idea for the Frankie Fox books. Then she discussed what makes a good spy because Frankie Fox was a trainee spy.
She said her father speaks five different languages and can slip in and out of crowd unnoticed. That would be an important part of being a spy.
Yvette said she loves books and that book lovers have the power to change things. Movies of books are good too, the book is often better.
James Moloney 12.45pm to 1.30pm Grades 7-9
James Moloney has been writing for young people for more than 20 years. Once a teacher and a librarian, his books have made him one of Australia’s most respected authors.
He went on to explain the different genres he writes in.
Adventure – History gave him the idea for 1844 Do you dare, about Brisbane in the very early days, wild horses would race down Queen Street, and this book is about the last race.
Fantasy – lighthearted books – He talked about Book of Lies a Young Adults book exploring what it would be like for a book that could read peoples thoughts and detect if they were lying, and record them.This was when the book was nearly full and it became it’s own version of the truth and manipulated what was happening. The original book created by the wizard was to encourage a peaceful and just world, when the book became full it changed the magic.
James explained that he often tries to get into characters that are very different to himself as a challenge, examples being Aboriginal Dougie, or the main character in Silvermay as a female.
He said writers are observers. They need to tease the reader to show whats going on, to trick the reader trying to second guess them.
His writing tips throughout the talk
1 Think like a writer
2 Always read
3 Make the story work – have a hero or heroine save the day
4 Write what you know
6 Show don’t Tell
7 Planing is essential, chapters, characters, especially to know the end
Again, at the end of his talk James answered questions by the audience and the questions were cleaver and insightful.
Michael Gerard Bauer resigned from teaching in 2000 to pursue his writing dreams. His first YA novel, The Running Man, was named the 2004 CBCA Book of the Year and he has been short-listed on three further occasions. His other works include the popular Ishmael trilogy and Just a Dog.
His most recent publications, the very funny Eric Vale and Secret Agent Derek ‘Danger’ Dale series for younger readers, are fully illustrated by his film-maker son, Joe Bauer. Currently Michael’s books are sold in over 40 countries and translated into 12 languages.
Michael began by saying he was shy and didn’t want to get a job that included public speaking,
He became an English teacher, then a writer. Both require public speaking. He started with a serious book ‘The Running Man.’
The Ishmael series was based on him facing this is greatest fear. How could he get a boy attending an all boys school St Daniels, to face this fear, simply put him in the school debating team. The Ismael series starts in year 9 with ‘Don’t Call me Ishmael’, with ‘Ishmael and the Return of the Dugongs’ and going through to year 12 in Ishmael and the Hoops of Steel.
‘Dinosaur Knights’ is a sci-fi based on the idea of pulling something through time, naturally it had to be a meat eating dinosaur. Changing facts to suit the story, the creature he bought forward was a plant eater, but there would be no fun in that.
Michael then explained that ‘Just a Dog’ was created because of a typing error that became a joke. This story is like a diary of a boy and his family and how ‘Mr Moseley’ was more than ‘Just a Dog’. I loved this book.
Then the group of students and the few adults in the room were treated to a power point presentation of how the Eric Vale series were created. Michael wrote the text and sent it to his son Joe to do the illustrations. The spin off from these books is the Secret Agent Derek ‘Danger’ Dale series.
2 stories are all around us
3 he had to learn to speak in front of people, and practice made him better
Again the students asked great questions and Michael happily answered.