Posts filed under ‘Inspiring Authors’

What is made from straw, has a carrot nose and is feared by large black birds?

A scarecrow, of course! And yesterday I had the opportunity to meet the amazing Matthew Reilly, author of the Scarecrow series among others. Now, I am (allegedly) a children’s writer, so I feel the need to stress here – these are probably not books you want to read to your children. Unless they’re in high school… preferably upper high school.

But for adults, these books are amazing. Seriously, they’ve been described as action films in book form (but unlike many action films, these have plots!). They are gripping and addictive, and all of the research that Matthew puts into these books really comes through.

I love them for a bit of wild escapism, because let’s face it – the closest my life has come to an action movie was rushing my dog to the vet when she started sneezing blood and subsequently cleaning blood out of the car (that part was more like a crime show).

I was SO EXCITED to have the chance to meet one Australia’s best authors and even get his new book in the Scarecrow series, Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves, signed. He wrote my name!!!

Now that I’ve gotten that fangirl moment out of the way, meeting Matthew was really cool – he is absolutely delightful. We had a chat about George R R Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice series (I just finished A Storm of Swords and he’s reading A Game of Thrones) and he talked about Martin’s talent for following so many stories and characters all at once. That’s another great series for adults, by the way.

I could have stayed and chatted to him for hours (actually, I could talk to anyone about books and reading and writing for hours), but I felt bad for the people in line behind me, so I took my (signed! with my name!) book and wondered off to do some other shopping.

Oh, and not only is Matthew Reilly a super talented writer and really nice guy, he’s also good looking! Want to see? Well, here is a photo of the two of us together. Yep, that’s right, I GOT MY PHOTO TAKEN WITH MATTHEW REILLY!!

So, what did I get out of meeting The Man, The Legend himself?

Book signings ROCK!

While book signings d0 look like hard work (especially for your wrists), they also look like a lot of fun! How good must it feel to meet such a range of people who are all brought together by a love of the books that you have created?

Bring a snack

Those lines can be LONG, and as someone who gets hypoglycaemic (low blood sugar) eating regularly is important. I had a late breakfast, so was not even thinking about the fact that the signing started at 11, and could possibly run into lunchtime. Mistake #1.

When I got there I felt a little low, but was so excited to queue up I didn’t want to wait any longer… until I saw the length of the line. I decided to visit the nearest cafe and grab something to keep me going. They didn’t have any low GI, easy to eat while standing up juggling a large book, a handbag and my phone (so I could tweet my excitement), so I grabbed a blueberry muffin and vanilla latte. Mistake #2.

That snack got me through the meeting with Matthew (I put the shaking hands down to pure excitement) but after that I crashed badly enough that I had to get dad to pick me up because I didn’t trust myself to drive. He fed me and let me rest a while and then we came back for the car.

Still, if I hadn’t had someone close by who was available to get me, that could have been scary, and not in the “hey look, is that a scarecrow in that field?” way, but more of a “Oh no, I made the Scarecrow mad and now he and his super-tough team are out to get me” way.

So seriously, bring a trail bar or something (preferably nut-free, since anaphylaxis is a very real issue and you don’t want to risk making another fan sick – that’s not a great way to make a first impression) to keep you going. Even without health issues it’s a good idea.

Organisation is key

From an author’s perspective, organisation makes things run a lot smoother. A young lady (yes, I feel like a grandma writing that) from Dymocks, which was hosting the signing, came down the line writing down the attributions people wanted on post-its and sticking them in the correct page. That eliminated any issues with oddly spelled names, which not only made his life easier (can you imagine if he’d written Chrissy instead of Chrissie? I might have cried…) but also means less time spelling names and more time chatting!

The extras count

A couple of people (I think Dymocks staff, although they could have been part of Matthew’s entourage) were dressed up as characters out of his book, complete with plastic weaponry.

The signing table itself was set up in front of some army netting stuff (that’s the technical term) hanging from the outside wall of the shop, and there was a funky looking military machine-type whodacky (again, technical terminology here – try to keep up!) which I failed to take a photo of – I was too excited to see Matthew! Those little touches were really cool and made the whole thing feel more personal than just a table and chair.

Photos are awesome

They just are. I was there by myself since my Matt was at work, but the lovely lady accompanying Matthew and overseeing the signings was happy to take a photo of us together.

Sorry, I have to show off one more time. This is me… WITH MATTHEW REILLY!

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November 27, 2011 at 8:00 am 7 comments

A novel idea

OMG! OMG OMG OMG! Okay, everybody just stay calm, there’s no reason to go crazy… except that SHIRLEY HUGHES HAS WRITTEN A NOVEL! I know, OMG right?

Wait, you’re not sure who I’m talking about? Well maybe this picture will evoke some fond memories:

 

 

If you’re still not sure, Shirley Hughes is a children’s writer/illustrator. She started out as an illustrator before turning to writing stories as well (I’m totally not jealous that she can do both… even though she’s probably better at both of them than I am at just writing… nope, not at all. Well, maybe a little).

But after years of creating picture books (including Dogger, a childhood favourite of mine), she has written her first novel!

You can read about the novel, along with her views on why fantasy literature is so popular, in her interview with The Independent. (It’s a very well written article, with the one slight exception of “koala bear”, which made me break out into “Please don’t call me a koala bear, ’cause I’m not a bear at all” – please tell me I’m not the only one who remembers that song!)

I know it’s meant to be for children, but I will definitely be getting my hands on a copy of this when it’s released.

I think she’s a really interesting lady, and a wonderful writer and illustrator, so go and check out the article… then come back here and tell me what you think!

xo Chrissie

ps, I am so digging out my old copy of Dogger from my parents’ house next time I’m there. If I can’t find it, I may cry.

Picture found here.

October 3, 2011 at 6:21 pm Leave a comment

Happy Roald Dahl day!

A gift, from me to me!

Roald Dahl is probably my favourite author in the world. Even as an adult I love the worlds and characters he created, where the good characters are wonderful and the bad characters are truly hideous, inside and out.

Today is, indeed, Roald Dahl day, the day which would have been his 95th birthday.

This year Roald Dahl day celebrates the 50th anniversary of James and the Giant Peach – a book which, I am very ashamed to admit, I have never read.

Well, that will change shortly, seeing as last week I purchased the Roald Dahl Phiz-Whizzing collection, a pack with 15 of his books which includes James and the Giant Peach.

So happy 95th birthday to a true creative genius, a man whose way with words inspires both awe and envy in me. I raise my book to you, sir.

xo Chrissie

PS, What’s your favourite Roald Dahl book? Mine would have to be either Matilda, the lead character of which I strongly identified with (only because of her love of books, fortunately, my parents are actually lovely people) or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for its vivid imagery, particularly in the Chocolate Room.

Check out the website dedicated to the great Mr Dahl here: http://www.roalddahl.com/

September 13, 2011 at 9:59 pm Leave a comment

Reading

This may come as a surprise to many of you, but I am a BIG fan of reading. Ok, I lied – that’s not surprising at all.

What is surprising is that, despite all of the access we have to stories from myriad authors covering all of the weird and wonderful subjects you could ever imagine, literacy standards in the western world are still not looking that great and in some areas are falling.

As a child who was read to from before I can remember (possibly even before I was born) the idea that some people see no benefit whatsoever in reading to their children blows my mind.

Reading is more than just about imagination, it’s more than a nice quiet activity for a rainy afternoon (curled up in a big chair with a hot chocolate… sorry, I got off course), it is also vitally important for our children’s future.

Illiteracy and low literacy really do have a devastating effect on people’s lives. I have seen it first-hand, meeting teenagers who, despite their teachers’ best efforts, are falling through the cracks because what they can be taught in class time cannot make up for a lifetime of discouragement at home.

When I think about all of the tiny things we read each day, from bus timetables to texts from friends to street signs and house numbers, I can’t imagine how anyone could survive in this modern world without the ability to read.

Reading can also have a wider impact on our abilities in other areas of education. Mother and teacher Megan blogged her observations on the subject among her own students here. The results (as Megan says in her blog) are not surprising, but it is saddening to see that so many things can be put before the future prospects of our children.

Renowned Australian author Mem Fox is a passionate advocate of reading aloud to children, even providing a spoken tutorial on the subject on her website (which is organised into chapters with a contents page – how awesome is that?!).

But how young is too young to start reading to your children, and what should you be reading?

The answers: never and everything!

One close friend of mine started reading to her daughter while she was still baking. This friend read the entire Harry Potter series to her  growing bump, which the bump seemed to enjoy greatly – the baby would wriggle about like mad at every reading session.

Now that she’s out into the world, coming up on her second birthday (where does the time go?) this special little girl’s favourite toys are her books, and she is already beginning to grasp the basics of letters just by seeing the words that are being read aloud.

Another mother I know, a talented journalist who I had the good fortune to work with, would read anything and everything to her eldest daughter when she was a baby, from books to the ingredients on the side of the laundry powder box.

Stories are great for entertaining and engaging kids, but when they’re really little they are learning at such a fast rate that you can say almost anything and they will find it fascinating.

What exactly is the difference between hearing words spoken from a page and words spoken on television? Well firstly you can see all of the words, and hear the interaction between the letters on the page and the way they sound out loud. Secondly, when you read with your child you are engaging with them. Think of the difference between a lecture and a one-on-one conversation with a professor – you will always learn more when you are actively engaged.

So the benefits to our children are pretty clear, but what about benefits to us? How much can we gain from reading children’s stories?

For one thing, it’s a great opportunity to bond with your kid/s – as well as the cuddling and reading together it’s a great way to get to know their likes and dislikes, which makes birthday and Christmas shopping a whole lot easier!

It’s also a good way to take time out from all of the stuff – you know, working, studying, cleaning, cooking, shopping, all the things that somehow seem to fill up our days and make us feel drained. Put a priority on reading with your children at least once a day and you can escape from all of that stuff for a little while without feeling guilty.

It keeps your inner child happy – especially if you attempt character voices. When reading children’s stories you can be as silly as you like and the only possible consequence is making your children roll their eyes at you. As my father always says, it’s a parent’s duty to live long enough to be an embarrassment to their children. I often narrate things in character voices in my head, it makes life a lot more entertaining. Though, I do recommend not accidentally breaking into character voices in normal conversation, it does tend to score you some odd looks…

So break out your favourite books from your childhood and read! Read to any child within your reach, tie them down away from the television if you have to, and READ UNTIL THEY LOVE IT!

Some awesome links:

Define Crazy – Megan’s blog about life as a mother, wife, teacher and rebel. Well worth a look!

Mem Fox – since finding this site I have greatly expanded my “must read” list.

Offbeat Mama – a really interesting article about getting teenagers back into reading. If you read the comments you’ll see where I found Megan’s link to her blog! There are lots of interesting comments as well, so check it out.

April 30, 2011 at 10:08 am Leave a comment


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