Nothing like phoning in for an interview and discovering that your phone card has mysteriously emptied overnight! However that was quickly s...
With filming having wrapped on the Gold Coast for action adventure feature film Nim's Island 2, The Post Lounge have launched into pos...
A couple of schools have asked me for a study guide for Peeling the Onion, so it's now up on my site: http://tinyurl.com/7lttbl4. A...
Thanks very much to wolftyrs, a home schooling mom who says: I'm preparing to read my children Nim's Island, and weave their home...
As an author, it's sometimes easy to be so caught up in a book that I forget that the other people involved also care passionately abou...
Young, and not so young new writers, often tell me that they’re determined to have a book published with their name on it. Goals are grea...
This post is for Megan from Singapore, who wrote to me last week about doing Nim's Island in her book club. My email to her has bounced ...
Return to Nim’s Island comes to the big screen in Australia five years to the day after Nim’s Island ; five and a half yea...
Much as I love puppies, they're hard work, and often destructive. (Yum, shoe! etc) So I've always admired people who are willing ...
Following last week's blog, a friend wrote to ask my advice – “I’ve been writing for years, without success. Is it time to give up?” ...
Saturday, May 18, 2013
I'm very excited to be going to Singapore next week for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content. I first heard of the festival when I met R. Ramachandran, head of the Singapore Book Council, at the Bookaroo Festival in New Delhi – another extraordinary event. After seeing one of my sessions he said he’d like to invite me to the AFCC, and so now I’m busy preparing talks and handouts, looking forward to catching up with friends, meeting authors only known through facebook or twitter – and browsing through the Lonely Planet Guide to Singapore! (Though I have a feeling that the latter may be wasted, as the Festival itself looks too good to stray from.)
Sunday 26th at 2:15 I’ll be speaking to children about “An Author’s Creative Journey –Imagining Nim’s Island”.
In the Authors & Illustrators’ Festival,
I have the pleasure of speaking with Susanne Gervay about our books Butterflies and Peeling the Onion in Challenge, Trauma and Recovery in YA Fiction, with Shirley Lim moderating. Susanne's done a great post on the festival and participants: http://www.sgervay.com/blog.
WA writer and friend Dianne Wolfer will be moderating my session from Book to Blockbuster. To go along with the talk, I’ve been busy preparing a handout of hints for what to expect if your work is optioned.
Finally, I’ll be joining Vatsala Kaul Banerjee, Renee Ting and Kathleen Ahrens in the writing critique: First Pages.
But wait, there’s more: On Tuesday 28th, at 8:50 am I’ll be interviewed on Channel News Asia, and at 11:00 am I’ll be be on 938 Live.
It sounds like a busy and exciting week. Thanks very much to the National Book Development Council of Singapore www.bookcouncil.sg R. Ramachandran, Kenneth Quek, Stephanie Tanizar and everyone else involved for making it all possible.
(And a week from now, I'll be on the plane...)
Sunday, May 12, 2013
Once upon a time, two schoolmates used to go horse riding together through the hills and dales of Nova Scotia's beautiful Annapolis Valley. One grew up to become a writer, an unusual enough profession - and the other became a town crier! (I must also add that the last time they met, long before they'd turned to those eccentric careers, the town crier was the best man at the writer's wedding.)
Now, Gary Long, town crier for Berwick and Canning, Nova Scotia, Canada, answers my Artists and Animals questions:
Have you ever been inspired by an animal, or animals in general, in your life or art?
Animals have always inspired me to be a more compassionate, caring person. I tend to have more feelings for animals then humans sometimes.
What pets did you have as a child?
Do you have an animal companion now? How did it get its name? Does your pet have a story to share?
Recently we had a cat for 19 years. She was all black and I named her Panther. A very intelligent cat and would sleep under the covers, curled up beside me, but only with me, never my wife. We now have a 13 month old Border Collie X named Tori. We got her from the local SPCA shelter. She had been left by the side of the road and someone brought her in. She still looks at specific vehicles as they drive by on the street, and I think she is wondering if that is the people who abandoned her. The SPCA had named her Victoria, but that was to much .... so Tori she became.
What would your pet tell us about you? Tori would probably tell you that she is very happy in her home (and a little spoilt), is loved by me and accepted by Sara ;). This is the very first dog for Sara.
A horse, of course!!
Any advice for people wanting a pet?
Do research before buying any pet. If you are buying a dog, go to a reputable breeder, consider your lifestyle and family situation - a pet, any size, shape form is a commitment and responsibility, just like a child.
Favourite animal books?
Does Nim's Island count? :)
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
‘Poppie,’ Megan asked, at a Sunday lunch not long before her tenth Anzac Day, ‘were you in the war they’re talking about?’
‘One of them,’ said Fred.
‘Which side were you on?’
Three months later, on Megan’s birthday, Fred presented her with a notebook: Poppie in the Army.
Small figures – ‘me’; ‘Jack’; ‘Corporal Butler’ parade outside their tents in the training camp at Trawool; the Ile de France wends its way to the Middle East; a flea hops across the desert from a camel to the unsuspecting ’me’, who on the following page is standing on a rock in front of a Red Cross hut – in the nuddy, the caption says - while a medico lances his flea boils and small girls giggle. ‘I closed my eyes so they couldn’t see me,’ Fred told Megan, and she giggled too. There are battles with the French Foreign Legion, glamorous pyramids, mosques, and another ship, the Orestes, pointing towards Fremantle, with a question mark thought bubble of Dulcie and two babies, one pink, one blue. ‘That’s your dad,’ Fred explained. ‘The last letter I’d had from Gran said the baby would be coming soon – I reckoned soon was past and the baby must be there, but blow me if I could work out if it was a boy or a girl!’
‘If Daddy was a girl,’ Megan began, starting her next month’s agonising what if series, ‘he’d be my mum…’ She looked at Jane and changed tack. ‘Then you found out he was a boy!’
‘And my word, what a day when I got that letter! But it was some time coming, and I thought, ‘A bloke could go crazy wondering if the baby’s born yet and what it is. So I made up his birthday – February 4, I said, but I was three days early, that was the day your Gran wished he’d been born. Then I thought – ‘A bloke’s got to get to know his kid somehow!’ So every night when I lay down on my mat I said to myself, ‘Now I’m in Coburg again,’ and I said goodnight to your gran, and goodnight to a boy baby called Ian and a girl baby called Sandra. Every February 4th I wished them happy birthday, and in between I talked to the men who had kids and some of the doctors – ‘What do you reckon,’ I’d ask, ‘about what a kid can do when it’s six months old, or one year old?’ ‘Oh, it’ll be crawling,’ they’d say, ‘and laughing, or starting to walk,’ or whatever it was, and I’d think about Ian laughing, or Sandra learning to walk.’
‘What happened to Sandra?’
‘She never got born - I had to wait a long time for my little girl! It was queer when I found out, not saying goodnight to her any more, or happy birthday next time February came around.’
Megan clambered onto his lap, giving the others a chance to blink or surreptitiously wipe eyes.
‘But you should have seen your Poppie smile when that letter came! I still know it by heart: ‘Ian is walking well now; he is a lively little chap and everyone says quite big for eighteen months.’ I carried the letter around with me all the time, till it was all holes from being folded and opened again; you have no idea how I read it! It’s a poor look-out when a bloke’s son is two and a half years old before he even knows it’s a boy, but that’s how it was.’
Megan stared accusingly at Dulcie. ‘Why didn’t you write before?’
‘Don’t you blame your poor Gran! Prisoners didn’t get much mail, it wasn’t her fault.’
‘You weren’t in prison!’ Megan squealed, but calmed on seeing the adults’ faces. ‘Were you very bad, Poppie?’
‘Must of been!’ said Fred. ‘Now let’s get on with this story or your dad’s cows will never get milked tonight.’
The ‘me’ is now on another ship, waving goodbye to his machine gun on the pier; mortars explode in jungle; friend Jack has shrapnel pulled ‘out of his bum’, said Fred, with a wicked look at his grand-daughter, but though Megan knew he’d like her to giggle again, she’d caught her parents’ mood and was still. The pages that they would study later: a prison camp in Java, a railway built through rock and jungle, a hospital hut with skeleton patients and staff, the dark tunnel of a mine – Fred turned as one, saying Megan was too young for that now but he’d thought he might as well put it all in while he was at it.
Over the next few years something opened – not a floodgate, but a trickle of memories that Fred was finally ready to share: snapshot snippets of an unimaginable life. ‘The night before the Japanese invaded Batavia,’ he’d say, ‘Jack and me were billeted in this native hut, made of bamboo. It was fairly pissing down outside, pardon the French, and we were sleeping in muddy straw and duck manure. Jack woke me up and said, “You know, Fred, I have a feeling we mightn’t get out of this.” Then he pulled out his whisky flask: “We’d better have a drink; it could be the last chance we get.” He was right too; it was the last drink we had for a bloody long time. Which reminds me – how about a cold one?’
And Ian would know that the time for probing had passed.
An edited excerpt from The House at Evelyn's Pond, copyright Wendy Orr
Image from a booklet that a former POW, interviewed for the book, drew for his granddaughter.
Thursday, April 18, 2013
Hate can start in small ways. Last Sunday, at a community group’s meeting, I met a member of another local group trying to recruit support for more radical action. “These people are useless,” he said. “They’re funded by (the enemy.)”
Depending on your point of view, he was mistaken or lying. The specifics are irrelevant. What’s relevant is the disgust, and the dismissal of anyone not prepared to follow his lead, let alone their right to a point of view. His supporters were apologetic, but: “He’s not really a bad guy, just passionate,” “It could be true of other groups,” and “It’s just such an important issue.” In other words, the end justifies the means.
The incident was small, upsetting rather than traumatic. But I came home feeling that I could understand how civil wars happen, as a difference in point of view escalates into a denial of others’ humanity. How belief in a cause can grow until it overwhelms friendship and dissolves empathy.
I kept thinking, “These people need to read more fiction.” Fiction draws us into other worlds, other lives – other points of view. It lets us live in someone else’s skin. The more we do that, the harder it is to deny that other people have the right to their own beliefs, thoughts and feelings.
The next morning was the Boston Marathon. A sense of helplessness rolled over me: what was the point of devoting my life to writing books for children when this sort of hatred was loose in the world?
Writing to a friend in Boston – an author, editor and passionate advocate of children’s literature – I only intended to say, “Thinking of you,” because what else is there to say? Instead I found myself returning to the thought that people need to read more fiction.
Maybe writing children’s books is a step in combating hate. Maybe every time a child feels empowered by identifying with a character, or dares to dream because of a story, they are less likely to feel so powerless that they see violence as their only alternative. Maybe every time a child lives a parallel life through the course of a book, they are more likely to remember that other people have the same needs, emotions and rights that they do. Maybe the more fiction they read, the more empathetic, reasoning, and positive adults they will become. Maybe it’s important to remember every child who’s written to me to say, “Your book got me through a terrible time in my life.”
I’m not naive. I know that children’s fiction can’t solve all the world’s ills. But it can help, and it’s one thing that I can do. I’ll go on doing it.
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
I've just discovered something I didn't know: that Nim's Island was featured in the very first issue of Alphabet Soup! (I did know that Nim had some fans in the Alphabet Soup editor's household, because I met one of them in a writing workshop in Perth a year or two ago.) So I am especially pleased to have done this interview, even though I really had to think about some of the questions!
Here's the start of it:
Nim’s Island and Nim at Sea are definitely in our pile of favourite books. (Nim’s Island was featured in our first ever issue of Alphabet Soup!) You probably know that Nim’s Island was made into a movie starring Abigail Breslin, and now the second Nim book has also been made into a movie called Return to Nim’s Island — and it’s out in Australian cinemas this school holidays. We asked the author Wendy Orr if we could talk to her about what it’s like to have your book made into a film. And here she is!
Paula Mazur, the producer of the first Nim’s Island, wanted to do it as soon as she read the book when it was published in July 2007. However there were complications with the Hollywood studio and so three years ago she took it to an Australian company. They worked very hard to organise everything and in May 2012 we knew that it was going to be filmed. (Though I think everyone still had fingers crossed!) The filming started in August 2012.
There is a different Nim (Bindi Irwin) cast in this second movie. Were you allowed to choose the actors? Did it feel strange to see a different Nim?
Sunday, April 07, 2013
An Australian film, from an Australian book – if you live in Australia, that’s something to be celebrated.
In fact, I think the birth of every book and film should be the occasion for a party.
|thanks to Meredith Costain for photo|
What a lovely night. My only regret is that, thanks to Readings Books, I was so busy signing copies of The Nim Stories that I didn’t get a picture of the crowd in the lobby. (Just to be clear – I’d never regret signing books! Just wish I’d got a picture too.) Friends came from as far as Ballarat and Bendigo, Ocean Grove and Gippsland; friends from different periods in my life. My editor, Sue, whom I’ve worked with since 2000, and the editor for The Nim Stories, were both there. Editors are never honoured enough; it was lovely to sit with Sue as to watch the movie that she’s been nearly as excited about as I have.
Seeing the film in the darkness of a big cinema was a different experience from the fun of watching it outdoors on the inflatable screen at the Australia Zoo’s Crocoseum. Seeing it for the second time also meant I was less emotional and could watch it more logically - and liked it even more And so did the audience. The buzz going out was much stronger than going in, when people were simply happy to be celebrating with a friend.
Then some of the girls realised that Toby Wallace was in the audience. I don’t know what the word is for buzz to the power of 10, so I’ll share a text I received on the way home from a 13 year old friend.
'The movie was terrific. I loved everything. It was such an experience to meet Toby!!!!!!! All the girls loved it and there is non stop talk about Toby and Bindi.’
Tuesday, April 02, 2013
So I may have mentioned that Return to Nim’s Island had a lovely, fun red carpet launch at the Australia Zoo? And everyone knows that walking the red carpet needs a new dress. But until I had one made, I’d never realised how much dress design had in common with writing.
I went to ArgyroGavalas for my dress, because five years ago I walked into her factory and immediately saw the dress I wanted for the Nim’s Island premieres, one at Sea World in Queensland, and the other at the Graumann’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood. (My husband claims he saw it first, but I’d spotted it too, and was simply finding a couple of others to try on, because I refused to buy the very first dress I saw for something like this.)
This time Argyro, better known as Roula, said she would design me one especially. She said it had to be the opposite of the first dress; blue instead of red, and a different material. When I went to see her, I could see that her thoughts were taking shape the way a story does in my head. The fabric was the character, the pattern the plot, and the style was the tone. We found the fabric that matched what she was thinking of. When I got home I dropped my sample onto my newly arrived copy of The Nim Stories, and saw that it also exactly matched the sea on the movie-poster cover.
It didn’t go to quite as many drafts as most of my books, but there was a second of the real material, cut, partially stitched and pinned in place as I wore it. Sleeves were altered, recut, repined. Then a third, which was like a copy edit: it was all put together, but there were final adjustments, a bit to unstitch and redo, a dart to adjust. Then trying it on for the final time, like receiving your brand new book in the mail, when it’s too late to alter but still private. And, like the gift of seeing that new book with the shiny cover looking so much more beautiful than I’d imagined, there was the gift of the tulle petticoat, almost a crinoline, to swish underneath the skirt.
But two days later I wore it on the red carpet it was intended for, and, like the test of reading a book aloud to an audience at a book launch, knew that it worked. I felt relaxed, happy, and totally myself – and although I never thought I’d say this about a dress, the experience added something to my life. Which is exactly what I hope my readers say when they explore my books.