blog 117: In which the end of June stares me in the face – and I blink!

The end of June is rapidly approaching and by now I had planned that I would have completed the first draft of the 50-60,000 word YA novel that was the basis of my Queensland Writers Fellowship application.

Well, as it stands, I’m not quite there yet, but at least I think you’d have to agree, I have made a very promising start …

Of course there have been many other things that have filled my time and occupied my mind since my last post in April.

These included, but were not restricted to:

# READING and enjoying these books …

# ATTENDING a May Gibbs Childrens Literature Trust talk by resident Brisbane Fellow Shivaun Plozza (Frankie; Tin Heart) where she informed and entertained us all explaining her current YA writing projects …

Left to Right: Some random dude; Josie Montano; Pamela Rushby; Shivaun Plozza.

# SPEAKING to a bunch of lovely teachers and teacher-libarians about The Things That Will Not Stand at a RIVERBEND BOOKS Bookclub evening …

# SIGNING copies of The Things That Will Not Stand at AVID READER’S Where The Wild Things Are bookshop …

# ATTENDING the launch of Megan’s Daley’s wonderful book Raising Readers at St Aidan’s College and meeting up with Chris Bongers (Intruders, Dust) and Trisha Buckley (Children’s and YA literature Guru) …

# HAVING Rodney Loses It! being shortlisted for the 2019 YABBA/KOALA/KROC Children’s Choice awards in the Picture Storybook category and also having it secure a future publication in CHINA …

# POSING with various forms of vegetation in various locations …

# BECOMING a Reading Champion for HOOK INTO BOOKS an initiative of the Youth+ Foundation which is a charitable trust focused on supporting vibrant and innovative responses to provide equitable educational access for some of Australia’s most diverse and complex young people.

# AND FINALLY and sadly, fare-welling the first friend I ever made outside my own family.

It was a friendship that started on my first day of grade one when I was sitting alone on the edge of the playground at morning tea break because I was shy and didn’t know anyone and a pixie-faced boy with sticky-out ears just like mine, tapped me on the shoulder and said, “You can play with us if you want.”

There are some moments in your life that you never forget.

Cheers and thanks Kenny.

X Michael

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

blog 116: In which three months of 2019 somehow flashed by.

Well I woke up yesterday only to discover that it was April the First already. Is this some kind of a sick joke?!? Where did a quarter of 2019 go?

I’m supposed to be deep in writing the serious YA novel which was the focus of my Queensland Writers Fellowship but it seems instead …

  • I’ve been Axe-throwing with some of the wilder members of my tribe.
  • I had the pleasure and honour of launching two great new books at the wonderful RIVERBEND BOOKS at Bulimba. 1.Stella the Unstoppable – by Richard Newsome

… and 2.Squish Rabbit’s Pet by Katherine Battersby.

  • I visited some terrific schools – Padua College, Mitchelton State School, Mt Gravatt SHS, Marist College Ashgrove and Taabinga State School (below) – and spoke to lots of great kids.
  • I went to Melbourne with my wife where we spent a wonderfully varied few days with our daughter and son-in-law going to Aami Park to see the footy (next time Broncos!), having a close encounter with giraffes, taking in the amazing Escher exhibition at the NGV and flying to the moon and back at Science Works.
  • I had a fun time and caught up with some fabulous authors and illustrators at Somerset STORYFEST on the Gold coast. (Below with Felice Arena, Oliver Phommavanh, Bren MacDibble, Cath Crowley, Jane Caro, Kim Kane and Fiona Wood.)
  • I managed to find time to read and enjoy these books.
  • And I started an ambitious breeding program for dinosaurs.


Of course, what I SHOULD have been doing all along is writing that serious YA novel for which I received a Queensland Writers Fellowship, and so that’s what I am going to do RIGHT NOW …

… after I make myself a sandwich for lunch.


… hey I wonder what’s on Netflix … … … …

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

blog 115: In which I take a trip on a few TARDIS SONGS.

Are there certain songs, that when you hear them, they magically transport you back to another time and place?

If your immediate response to that question is – ‘What? How did you know that about me? Are you some kind of a mind-reader or possibly an habitual Peeping-Tom? – then READ ON!

(NB: If your immediate response to that question is – ‘Huh? No way! What sort of a clown would even say such a thing? Are you on drugs?” – then ok, maybe this post isn’t for you.)

Well the thing is, there are quite a few songs that do that to me. I like to call them TARDIS SONGS after the time machine/space craft thingy in Doctor Who.

Now Tardis Songs don’t have to be your favourite tunes. In fact, you might be heartily sick of them. But still, every time you hear one, they temporarily remove you from where you are and transport you somewhere else, where the hearing of that tune is permanently embedded in your memory.

Sometimes it’s to a very specific place or incident. Sometimes it’s to a more general ‘time’ or period in you life.

Anyway, here are FIVE OF MY TOP TARDIS SONGS in no particular order. (Although I just know that I’ll think of heaps more, and better ones, the second after I hit POST on this blog!)

  • ITCHYCOO PARK – Small Faces

Watch the video here.

Over bridge of sighs
To rest my eyes in shades of green
Under dreaming spires
To Itchycoo Park, that’s where I’ve been

(What did you do there?) I got high
(What did you feel there?) well, I cried
(But why the tears there?) tell you why
It’s all too beautiful, it’s all too beautiful
It’s all too beautiful, it’s all too beautiful

Time travel destination: This song just drips of the 60s for me and that’s exactly where it takes me. Back to a time when I was on the verge of becoming a teenager and it was all about peace and love, hope and change, flowers and psychedelic colours, flares and long hair. (Except for those unfortunate sods like me who attended a strict ‘short back and sides’ Catholic boys school! See photo below.)

Whenever I hear this song I’m back there, when the world seemed to be heading for a bright future … and it was ‘all too beautiful’.

Photo: Sadly no fashionably-long 60s hair for me in this shot taken in front of our famous Monstera deliciosa. Or for the next 8 long (except in terms of hair of course) years as it turned out. Had to wait till the 70s for that.

Don’t know what I’m smiling about in that shot! One day I might work up the courage and strength to blog about this traumatic hair-deprived period in my life. (Is my bitterness still showing?)

66 Mike School Uniform - Backyard
  • HEY JUDE  – The Beatles

Watch the Video here. (They finally get around to singing it at 0:56)

So let it out and let it in, hey Jude, begin
You’re waiting for someone to perform with
And don’t you know that it’s just you, hey Jude, you’ll do
The movement you need is on your shoulder

Time travel destination: This song takes me right back to when I first heard it. It was a time when music wasn’t instantly available like it is these days, a time when the only way you could hear a song is if you actually bought the record or knew someone who had a copy of it or it was played on the radio.

It’s a Saturday morning, I’m probably 12 or 13 and I’m hanging around our old radiogram excitedly waiting for the DJ to keep his promise and play the Beatles’ new record for the first time on Brisbane radio. The Beatles were like Gods to me. Still are.

Then finally it starts and Paul’s beautiful, clear voice kicks in and for the next seven minutes or so, my mind is officially blown. (I had a similar ‘mind blown’ experience when I first heard Dylan’s Like a Rolling Stone come blasting out of those same speakers.)

Because the station was playing Hey Jude on high rotation every fifteen minutes or so, I hung around our radiogram all morning. Could not get enough of it.

I’m remain a Beatles’ tragic to this day. I still think that the world was a better, more exciting and more hopeful place when those four guys were together.

Photo: You can see the radiogram I’m talking about in this early photo of me with my mum Elsie (holding our vinyl copy of Oklahoma) and my two big sisters Cath and Helen. (Don’t know where big brother Rob got to.)

This is in the corner of the lounge room of our family home. That spot was later taken up by our very first TV and the radiogram was shuffled off to the dining room to the left. And that’s where it was the day Hey Jude first flowed from its speakers and implanted itself forever in my heart and brain.

13 Family in front of radio

And just to complete the Hey Jude circle, many years later in 2017 at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane I finally achieved my dream of seeing at least one Beatle live and I got to sing along with Paul McCartney performing this

  • LONG AS I CAN SEE THE LIGHT – Creedence Clearwater Rival

Watch the Video here.

Guess I’ve got that old travelin’ bone 
‘Cause this feeling won’t leave alone
But I won’t, won’t 
Be losin’ my way 
Long as I can see the light.

Time travel destination: It’s the 70s now and I’m sitting opposite my cousin Steve who is also my best friend at the time and we’re downstairs in the rumpus room at his parents’ house playing our guitars and singing together.

Whenever we played guitars, either just by ourselves, or with family members as an audience, this Creedence song from their Cosmos Factory album, always gets an airing.

Photo: Sadly I don’t have any photos of Steve and me playing guitars when we were young but here’s a shot of us about to depart on a (very bizarre and eventful) road trip from Brisbane to Albury/Wodonga on the NSW/VIC border.

We would have gone further but that’s as far as we got before we ran short of money. Then when Steve started seriously considering hunting water-fowl with a sharpened stick for food, we figured it was probably time to quickly head home before we started recreating scenes from Lord of the Flies.


As you can see, after I left school I was finally able to grow my hair longer. I just wasn’t able to stop it! (Loved that Datsun 1000 with the column gear change with all my heart!)

(And just a little music-trivia about that trip. The car had no radio and all we had to play music on was a small portable cassette player which we balanced on the front seat. We only had two cassette tapes which we played constantly. One was a Blues tape the other was The Beatles White Album. The White Album was a double album but we only had the first cassette.

It was years later that I finally discovered that the famous Beatles White Album had a whole second half I wasn’t aware of!)

  • DRIFT AWAY – Dobie Gray

Watch the Video here.

Thanks for the joy that you’ve given me
I want you to know I believe in your song
And rhythm and rhyme and harmony
You’ve helped me along, makin’ me strong

Oh, give me the beat boys and free my soul
I wanna get lost in your rock and roll and drift away

Time travel destination: I’m a student at the University of Queensland in the 70s. The watering hole of choice for me and my friends is the beautiful Regatta Hotel. And this is where this song transports me.


Usually we’re somewhere out on the street-level veranda, but sometimes we gather in the indoor lounge area where there’s a jukebox. I think it cost something like 40 cents to play a song. Being impoverished uni students, money is tight and must be invested wisely.

So what you want when it comes to choosing a tune from the jukebox, is not just a good song that everyone likes and can sing along to, but one that gives you value for money i.e. is reasonably long. At 4.15 minutes Drift Away covers both criteria and is a popular and regular choice.


Watch the Video here.

See her how she flies
Golden sails across the sky
Close enough to touch
But careful if you try
Though she looks as warm as gold
The moon’s a harsh mistress
The moon can be so cold

Time travel destination: This always takes me back to being a young father when my daughter Meg and son Joe were little in the late 80s and early 90s.

At night when they were tucked into bed this was one of the songs my wife and I often sang to them as a lullaby. Another favourite was Joe Cocker’s You Are So Beautiful. I doubt either of us ever quite matched Joe Cocker’s standards, but Meg and Joe never complained so that’s something at least.

Of course I sometime wonder if Meg and Joe just pretended to go to sleep in order to stop us singing …

But seriously, what are the chances of that?

meg joe bed
Joe doing his famous tongue poking routine. Never not funny. 

Got any Tardis tunes and destinations of your own you’d like to share with me?

Love to hear about them.


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

blog 114: In which I build it and then some of them come and some of them don’t.

Towards the end of every year I write down in my journal an extensive list of WRITING HOPES & DREAMS for the following year on the misguided belief that writing stuff down helps it come true.

My Writing Hopes and Dreams range from things that I have a high expectation will happen, through things that would be fantastic if they happened, but are unlikely to happen, to things that only a delusional optimist with no appreciation or understanding of reality would ever really expect.

So for example, one of my Writing Hopes and Dreams could be to finish my current WIP and I might have high expectations of actually achieving this.

Another one of my WH&Ds might be something like getting an invitation to an overseas literary festival. This clearly falls in the highly unlikely category. Not quite totally impossible since it has happened before. Still, I’m not holding my breath.

Then if I have a new book out, a third bunch of WH&Ds might be for that book to be long-listed, short-listed and then go on to win every conceivable literary prize for which it might be even vaguely eligible any place on the planet. This of course is a perfect example of the ‘delusional’ category. (Having one of my books get a movie offer, is another excellent example of this.) (As is having Ryan Gosling play the lead role in my biopic.)

Anyway, in 2018 my Writing Hopes and Dreams list numbered 32 different items ranging from the ‘probable/possible’ to the ‘have you been sleeping with your head in the micro-wave again?’.

I ended up achieving 17 out of the 32 and I was really happy with that.

Getting over the halfway mark is always a terrific result. It usually means that as well as the things I had high hopes of achieving, some of those ‘unlikely’ and ‘delusional’ dreams must have somehow also come to fruition.

In 2018, the ‘unlikely’ and ‘delusional’ included Rodney Loses It winning the CBCA Early Childhood Book of the Year as well as the Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year in the 3-5 years category …

Don’t Call Me Ishmael: The Musical becoming a brilliant, joyous reality …

… and being awarded a Queensland Writers Fellowship.

I’ve already written up my 2019 Writing Hopes and Dreams list. There are 48 items on it. Only about a dozen of them would I put into the ‘possible/probable’ category, and some of those, not very confidently.

That of course puts a lot of pressure on my unlikely dreams and delusions, but as they say, you may as well aim high. To infinity and beyond, right Buzzy?

And so thus endeth my first official blog of 2019!

Thanks so much to everyone who took the time last year to read any of my ramblings and rabbiting ons. Thanks too if you left a question or comment for me. It’s so lovely to get some feedback. Please let me know if there are any topics you’d like me to cover in future and I’ll try to oblige.

Happy 2019 everyone! I hope the new year is everything that you expect it to be and that many of your dreams and even some of your crazy, optimistic delusions end up coming true.


ps: And my favourite read for 2018? This beautiful, surprising and challenging novel by an extraordinary writer. I’ll be reading it again in 2019.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

blog 113: In which I share some school coffee cups etc

I’m very fortunate to get invited to visit quite a lot of schools and occasionally I’m given a small gift when I leave which is lovely, but considering that I’m already well paid for my time, it’s certainly not something I expect.

Towards the end of last year I decided to take photos of some of the gifts I’d received from schools in the past (mainly coffee cups) and over a period of a few weeks I shared one a day on Facebook.

I had a lot fun trying to be a bit creative with the shots, so here they are, for the very first time, all in the one place. (Sorry that in most cases, you probably won’t be able to make out the schools’ names.)

Enjoy! (Or not, depending on your preference.)

First (proper) blog of 2019 coming soon!


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

blog 112: In which the end of the year is in sight.

It’s been a bit over two months since my last post and these are my sins as always, it seems quite a bit has happened.

  • A few days ago I completed my last school visit/author event for 2018. Yay! This year, as well as being invited to a few festivals, I spoke to kids from just over 40 schools in Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia. I always feel privileged to get these invitations and I can honestly say that I enjoyed every visit and talk.


  • While there we spent time underwater and also chanced upon a seal colony. Unbelievable!

  • On October 23rd at the Queensland Literary Awards I was thrilled and humbled to receive a $15,000 Queensland Writers Fellowship along with Laura Elvery and Jackie Ryan. It was lovely to share this exciting night with my wife and my daughter Meg who was up from down South.
  • My Fellowship project is for the writing of a YA novel tentatively titled Gaps and Silences. While certainly not a prequel to my first novel The Running Man, it will be similar in style and will also be set in the Brisbane suburb of Ashgrove but at an earlier time. There may be some slight links or connections between the two stories. Still pondering that possibility.

IMG_1216 (2)



Max Landrak reads his wonderful picture book Danny Blue’s Really Excellent Dream.

  • After the excitement of the awards we spent a relaxing day with daughter Meg and husband Ryan at the Organ Pipes National Park in Keilor North VIC.



And I think that’s about it.

Cheers until next time!

Oh. wait! One more thing. If you live in or around Melbourne and Adelaide and you’re interested in a school visit next year, I’ll be in your wonderful cities on the dates below. Contact Booked Out Speakers Agency for bookings, further details and all inquiries.


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

blog 111: In which I explain where some things stand.

On September 1st my new young adult novel THE THINGS THAT WILL  NOT STAND was released.

It’s always an exciting time, as well as nerve-wracking, when a new story goes out into the world. It’s a bit like your child leaving home. You hope with all your heart the world will welcome them, treat them kindly and love them just as much as you do. But of course, there are no guarantees.

TTTWNS is told in the present tense by Sebastian a year eleven student attending a University Open Day for schools with his best friend Tolly. 

As the events of the day unfold Sebastian encounters Helena and then Frida and wishes that for once his life could play out like a feel-good rom-com.

Unfortunately as Sebastian explains, that’s not the way life usually works.

That’s the trouble with Life. It’s never just one type of thing, is it? Not like films. With films, you sort of know what you’re in for. If it’s a sci-fi film, you get space, the future, or aliens. If it’s action, you get gun fights and car chases. Horror, you get monsters and ghosts and basically shit-scared. Comedy, you get laughs and happy endings. Romance, you get the girl. Or the guy. Depending on your preference. See what I mean? But it’s not the same with life … Oh no. With life it’s all over the place. One minute it’s tears. Next minute it’s laughter. Then, just when you think you’re headed for a happy ending, the monsters turn up. Or the aliens. Or someone with a gun. And sometimes there’s a car chase. With a crash. And someone dies. Yeah, films make a lot more sense to me than life. Plus, they’re a lot easier to walk out of or turn off.

The story is different from anything else I’ve written before, as it all takes place over just one day and in just one general setting.

I based that setting on my old Uni, the University of Queensland, a place I happily attended for 5 years until I finally left with a B.A. Dip Ed.


To help me write the story I went to a recent Open day at UQ to soak up the atmosphere and get a feeling for where certain scenes would take place.

Scenes like these:




From the bench we have a wide view of the lake. It’s ringed with reeds and water lilies and dotted with ducks and other waterbirds. Over near the far bank a series of fountains spray misty columns of white water into the air. In the middle of the lake is an island draped over by a clump of large weeping willows. A flock of white birds are gathering in and around the branches. In the sharp afternoon light they glow like they’re lit from inside. Frida and I take our time to soak up the scene before us. She is the first to comment.

‘It’s beautiful.’

I look at her. With her bleached hair and white clothes, she’s glowing like the birds. I agree with her about the view.

(TTTWNS page 136)




We both look inside. It’s a big space. We’re right at the back of the room and curving rows of padded red and black seats slope down to an elevated stage area with a long bench, a lectern and two massive screens. A few people are still coming in through the lower entrance but the room is almost full. There must be close to three hundred people waiting for a talk to begin.

‘Which one is he?’ Tolly asks.

I spot him about halfway down.

‘There. Red shirt. Black hair. Mucking around with the guy beside him.’

I watch Tolly’s eyes zero in on his target.

(TTTWNS page 114)




I follow the girl I now know as Frida into the darkened cinema. We enter at the back on the right-hand side. There are plenty of empty seats. Up on the screen the credits of the black and white short are rolling to the sound of a tinny piano. It looks like we’ve actually timed it perfectly. Frida trails a hand on the brick wall as she takes some careful steps down the aisle. She stops a few rows from the back.

‘Well,’ she says, casting her eyes around, ‘do you want to sit together or do we sit separately and run the risk of looking like the kind of loner-losers who would go to see a film all by themselves?’

Frida’s scratchy voice carries to a girl sitting alone just a couple of seats away. She freezes with half her arm lost inside an enormous carton of popcorn and aims a death-wish stare at us.

Frida holds up a hand and grimaces at her. ‘Only joking,’ she mouths.

The girl seems unconvinced.

(TTTWNS page 27)




Frida and I stare at the old-fashioned scientific apparatus inside the glass cabinet.IMG_20170806_095332

‘Pretty incredible, eh, guys?’ Tolly says, wedging his way in between us.

Maybe I’ve missed something here. I take a closer look.

Inside the cabinet is a tall bell-shaped jar. Inside the jar is a glass funnel held in position by a metal tripod. The wide mouth of the funnel contains a black substance. A column of the black stuff fills the narrow section of the funnel and a blob of it is hanging off the end. There are also blobs of the black stuff in a bowl sitting directly below the end of the funnel. The whole thing looks like some kind of weird still-life art installation. There’s quite a bit of detailed information on a number of panels behind it, including one entitled The story so far, but all I take in is the main heading.

THE PITCH DROP EXPERIMENT – the world’s longest running laboratory experiment.

‘Tolly, nothing’s happening, man.’

(TTTWNS page 100)





IMG_20170806_100603IMG_20170806_100303It only takes a few minutes to walk to the Great Court. The name says it all, really. It’s a massive, grassy courtyard area dotted with big trees, right in the centre of the campus. Surrounding it are sandstone buildings and a walkway flanked with sandstone columns and arches. It really is pretty great.

Normally it would just be a wide open space with a few benches sprinkled about, but today, for the Future Students program, there are food vans, and rows of stalls and tents promoting a whole heap of uni clubs, societies and student services.  There’s also a local radio station giving away prizes and pumping out music from the top of a double-decker bus. 

And of course, plenty of people.

(TTTWNS page 76)



If you do ever decide to spend the day and visit these places with Sebastian, Tolly, Helena and Frida, I really hope you enjoy the experience.

And I’d love to hear what you think.


Scan_20180922 (2)TTTWNS3

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

blog 110: In which I bring you up to date with some recent and some not-quite-so-recent goings on.

I haven’t really posted much about what’s been happening over the last five months or so, and as it turns out, there’s been quite a lot!

Such as …

SCHOOL VISITS: I’ve had 25 or so great school visits including a week of bookings in Melbourne and four days in Perth.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I was especially pleased that I got to finally visit my old primary school St Finbarr’s Ashgrove  for the very first time and be part of their inaugural LITFEST day along with Morris Gleitzman, Christine Bongers, Sheryl Gwyther and Josie Montano.

On the day I had the pleasure of talking with the lovely Preps and Grade 1s and reading them Rodney Loses It.

Thanks to librarian extraordinaire Dom Gardiner for making the festival possible.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

AWARD: Of course the big news was Rodney Loses It! actually winning the CBCA Book of the Year in the Early Readers category! Such a huge thrill for Chrissie Krebs (illustrator) and me. Unfortunately I couldn’t be at the big announcement ceremony in Brisbane because I was down in Melbourne doing school visits.

If you’re a glutton for punishment, you can view my embarrassing acceptance speech featuring a Special Guest Appearance by my wife Adriana, below.

A big thank you to the CBCA and to the judges for this wonderful award.

(And can I just point out that I was only joking in my previous blog 109 when I boldly proclaimed that Rodney would win because the Judges just wouldn’t be able to pass up the enormous irony of having a book called Rodney Loses It actually winning it. When I wrote that I had absolutely no idea that we were going to get the gong.)

Also thank to all the teachers and students who have embraced Rodney so enthusiastically. Special mention must go to the awesome teachers of Carnegie primary school (below) for going above and beyond the call of Rodney!


And a second special mention to QLD MP Leanne Linard. Thanks to Leanne, free copies of the book where given out at a couple of local Brisbane schools and Rodney even got a mention in Queensland Parliament!

Screenshot (31)

BOOK LAUNCHES: In other news, it was lovely to attend the launch of my good friend and close neighbour Sheryl Gwyther’s new book for middle grade readers SWEET ADVERSITY. A terrific story for all young readers!

And it was a great honour and thrill for me to do the Brisbane launch of Caroline Magerl’s beautiful new picture book MAYA & CAT. I’m a huge fan of Caroline’s books and her amazing artwork.

NEW BOOK: The other big thing that happened since my last blog was that my latest YA book THE THINGS THAT WILL NOT STAND was officially released on September 1st.

I’m very excited to have this story out in the world. I know it won’t appeal to everyone but I’ve got my fingers crossed that there might be other readers out there like Elyy who had this to say on Goodreads, “Absolutely amazing, I could not put this book down. Sincerely hope there will be a series because I am just so in love with the characters.” Can’t ask for much more than that. 🙂

Scan_20180901 (2)

MISCELL: Besides all that, things just carried on pretty much as normal at Chez Bauer. For example, my wife got savaged by a macaw …


… and I transformed into a butterfly.






Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

blog 109: In which I man-splain to the CBCA Judges How They Should Vote in the 2018 Early Childhood Category as only a Middle-aged White Male who has a book on the Short-list, really can.

As you may have heard RODNEY LOSES IT! written by me and illustrated by the awesome Chrissie Krebs has been shortlisted for the 2018 CBCA awards in the Early Childhood category and obviously we’re both thrilled and honoured!

Now some of you might recall that back in 2011 when my book JUST A DOG was up for a CBCA award in the Younger Readers category I wrote a blog entitled: blog 17: In which I give some helpful advice to the CBCA Judges. And you might also recall that in that blog, mainly as a result of youthful enthusiasm, I may have attempted to boost my chances of winning, by engaging in some very minor character-assassination of my fellow shortlistees.

Obviously, with the benefit of hindsight, this was UNACCEPTABLE CONDUCT.

So first up, I’d like to apologise whole-heartedly for suggesting as I did on that occasion, that some of Australia’s greatest children’s authors might be Voldemort sympathizers, large-scale tax evaders, mentally unstable, notorious Scrabble cheats or International Arms Dealers.

Honestly, there’s just no excuse for those outrageous, unsubstantiated accusations. (Although in my defence I’d just like to point out that none of those outrageous, unsubstantiated accusations have since been disproved either. Which really makes you wonder, doesn’t it?)

Anyway, I’m sure you’ll be pleased to hear that this time around, I have abandoned my previous cynical, grubby and underhanded approach because (a) over the years I’ve become a much more mature person, and (b) last time it didn’t work.

So what follows is my calm, logical and balanced analysis of the six shortlisted books in the Early Childhood category of the 2018 CBCA Awards, concluding with an objective and honest assessment of whom I feel  the ultimate winner should be.








1. BOY written by Phil Cummings, illustrated by Shane DeVries.

PROS?: Beautiful and clever story about a gentle hero and the importance of communication. (Plus Phil is one of the loveliest of lovely men and as you can tell by the photo below, he also thinks highly of me.)


CONS?: Nothing comes to mind.

VERDICT: Would be a very worthy winner!


2. THE  VERY NOISY BABY by Alison Lester.

PROS?: A delightful and charming story that’s sure to become a family favourite from one of the giants of pictures books in Australia – or anywhere!

CONS?: Can’t think of any.

VERDICT: Would be a very worthy winner!


3. THE SECOND SKY written by Patrick Guest, illustrated by Jonathan Bentley.

PROS?: A wonderful story about dreams and the courage and determination needed to pursue them, as well as the awareness needed to achieve them.

CONS?: Yeah, nuh.

VERDICT: Would be a very worthy winner!


4. I’M AUSTRALIAN TOO written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Ronojoy Ghosh.

PROS?: A timely and much-needed story about inclusion, acceptance and the celebration of difference by the Queen Bee of children’s picture books. (The photo below shows me with the marvelous Mem discussing an idea I had for a picture book called I’M A QUEENSLANDER – AND YOU’RE NOT!)


CONS?: What’s not to like?

VERDICT: Would be a very worthy winner!


5. HARK, IT’S ME, RUBY LEE! written by Lisa Shanahan and illustrated by Binny.

PROS?: A quirky and funny story about strengths and weaknesses and about the importance of being yourself.

CONS?: Nope, all good.

VERDICT: Would be a very worthy winner!


RODNEY LOSES IT! written by Michael Gerard Bauer and illustrated by Chrissie Krebs.

PROS?: Chrissie Krebs’ fabulously expressive and hilarious illustrations really bring Rodney and his antics gloriously to life.

CONS?: Are you serious? Where do I start? It’s a story about a highly strung, possibly unhinged, drawing-obsessed rabbit who loses his favourite pen and then goes ballistic.  That’s it! It has no redeeming social values at all! Honestly I tried to look beneath the surface for deeper meaning but all I found was the bottom of the surface. And as for different levels, forget it. It’s all basement, rising damp and exposed plumbing! And to make matters even worse, the disgraceful tantrum that the main character throws is almost directly responsible for him finding his precious pen. What sort of message does this send to children? Lose control, throw a tantrum, go berserk and everything will work out just fine? It’s a disgrace I tell you! And then there’s that ending! Has the world gone completely mad? Surely a kiddies’ book should provide some kind of hopeful and happy resolution? But no. I mean, what sort of a bitter, empty shell of a human being would even consider writing such a thing for impressionable young minds? Seriously, if it wasn’t for the wonderful illustrations I wouldn’t have had the strength to drag myself kicking and screaming through to the final page.

VERDICT: What do you think!


CONCLUSION: Having examined each of the six shortlisted text closely, it’s clear to me that the WINNER of the 2018 CBCA Book of the Year for Early Childhood should definitely be:



(a) Chrissie Krebs deserves an award for her brilliant illustrations, and

(b) even though each of the other nominees were found to be more worthy of the prize, I think it would be a sin for the CBCA Judges to pass up the delicious irony of having a book called Rodney Loses It actually winning it!


Well that concludes my calm, logical and balanced analysis. I hope it proves helpful and edifying for the CBCA judges, as well as deeply, deeply persuasive.


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

blog 108: In which the characters from Don’t Call Me Ishmael discuss their weirdest dreams.

In 2013 I wrote a short story based on the Ishmael series that was included in an anthology created by my German publishers Carl Hanser celebrating 20 YEARS OF HANSER CHILDREN’S BOOKS.

The piece was called Ismael und das Team seiner Träume or Ishmael and the Dream Team.

In the story the characters of Ishmael, Razz, Bill, Ignatius and Scobie share their weirdest ever dreams and maybe at the same time reveal something of themselves and their unique personalities.

For anyone who might be interested, it went like this …


It was before school one morning in Grade Ten when Orazio Zorzotto, more commonly known as Razz, Razza or The Razzman, told us all about his ‘totally weird’ dream.

James Scobie, Ignatius Prindabel, Bill Kingsley and I were sitting at one of the lunch tables in the school yard. James and I were discussing the English homework Miss Tarango had set us. Across the table, Ignatius was hunched over a copy of an Extreme Mathematics magazine while Bill was sucking on a large carton of low-fat low-cal sugar-free vitamin-enriched chocolate milk and staring into deep space.

Until Razz dropped in and exploded among us like a hyperactive bomb.

‘Yo dudes! Man you gotta hear this! Come on. Shove over you guys,’ he said as he straddled the bench, elbowing himself in between Bill’s large body and Ignatius’s thin one and splitting them apart like bowling pins. While Razz made himself comfortable, Bill wiped chocolate milk from his chin and Ignatius glared at the half page of Extreme Mathematics that Razz’s elbow had caused him to tear off.

‘I had this totally weird dream last night. Man it was weird! Totally weird. You are not gonna believe just how totally weird it was.’

Everyone looked at Razz. His eyes were bouncing around the faces at the table like a ricocheting bullet. We said nothing. We weren’t going to make it too easy for him.

‘I’m telling you guys, this dream – you know the one I had last night – well it wasn’t just normal weird. It was weird weird. Totally weird weird!’

Once again Razz searched our faces for any flicker of interest that he could fan into life. All he got was a few semi-raised eyebrows and a couple of half-hearted nods.

‘I mean, seriously, if they held a Weird Dream Olympics, then this dream, would win the Weird Gold Medal every time for sure! That’s how weird it was. Really!’

Razz jerked his head from Scobie to me, from me to Ignatius, and from Ignatius to Bill.

Man it was weird,’ he said shaking his head, ‘Like totally!’

It was Scobie who finally responded. He pushed his glasses back up his button nose and  twisted his mouth to one side and then the other before asking, ‘So Orazio. This dream you had last night … what was it like?’

Razz’s eyes lit up like spotlights.

‘IT WAS TOTALLY WEIRD SCOBES ALL RIGHT! Hello? Hello? Testing. Testing. Is my microphone on? Can you hear me? What is wrong with you people? Do you want to hear about my totally weird dream or not?’

‘Is there any possible way we can avoid hearing about your totally weird dream?’ Scobie enquired politely.

‘Not a chance.’

‘Well in that case, why don’t you tell us all about your totally weird dream Orazio?’

‘Finally!’ Razz said slapping the table and rolling his eyes. Then he leaned in eagerly.

‘Ok. Listen up. I had this dream last night …’

Really. What was it like?’

The others smiled. Razz just eyeballed me like a psychopathic drill-sergeant but kept going.

‘Right, as I was about to say before I was interrupted by Ishmael’s microscopic and tragic attempt at humour … in my dream I’m in this massive stadium thing, full of people. Then I see that at one end there’s a big stage and it’s packed with heaps and heaps of totally hot chicks in swimming suits!’

‘Wait,’ I said holding up my hand. ‘You’re telling us that you had a dream about good-looking girls with not much on? Wow, that really is amazing!’

‘Earth-shattering,’ Scobie agreed.

‘Unprecedented,’ Ignatius added flatly without lifting his eyes off his magazine.

Bill just lowered his chocolate milk and smiled.

Razz held up both hands like he was fending off a hail of rotten tomatoes.

‘All right, all right, all right. Just wait, ok. I haven’t got to the weird part yet. You see, in my dream, I’m actually at the Miss World Beauty Pageant. But here’s the most awesome bit. Apparently, I’ve been selected as the sole judge on account of my intimate and detailed knowledge and expertise when it comes to hot chicks!’

Scobie, Ignatius, Bill and I exchanged some very doubtful glances, but decided to let it pass. Razz continued.

‘Well of course, I’m super excited about being a judge ’cause there’s like thousands of chicks up there and I’ll be getting up close and personal with every one of them. Naturally, I will also be open to bribes.’

Ignatius Prindabel’s head jerked up.

‘One hundred and ninety-six,’ he said.

Razz twisted around to face the tall, wiry form hunched beside him.

‘Huh? What? You say something P-bud?’

‘One hundred and ninety-six.’

‘One hundred and ninety-six? What’s that supposed to be? Wait, wait, let me guess. Is it you’re new very favourite number? How many A’s you scored for assignments and tests last week? The number of chicks who’ve turned you down for a date? Or are you just suffering from some weird nerd form of mathematical Tourette’s Syndrome.’

‘None of the above,’ Ignatius said. ‘It happens to be the number of countries in the world. You said there were thousands of girls in the Miss World competition. That’s incorrect. If there’s one contestant from each country, there would only be 196 because there are only 196 countries in the world. Of course, I admit there is some disagreement over the exact figure since the independence of some countries is open to question and debate. Therefore some reliable sources might state it at a few more or a few less. However 196 contestants would be a very acceptable figure to most people and very close to the mark. In any case, there certainly wouldn’t be thousands.’

Razz rested his chin in the palm of his hand, squinted his eyes and studied Ignatius closely.

‘You know P-bud, I’ve often wondered. What exactly did your personality die from? Lack of use?’

‘So what happened? You know with the judging and everything?’

Razz twisted around to his other side.

‘Billy-boy! Good to see that you’ve finally beamed down to join us. Welcome to planet Earth! An excellent question from our interplanetary visitor here. Well, all the – one hundred and ninety-six – drop-dead gorgeous chicks are lining up on stage and I’m getting ready for the judging, when someone taps me on my shoulder. But not just any someone. It’s Pele himself! I’m not kidding. PELE!’

A frown wrinkled its way across Prindabel’s high, narrow forehead.

‘Pele?’ he said. ‘Wasn’t he a famous clown?’

Razz grabbed his head with both hands. ‘No! No! Must stay together. Do not explode! I repeat DO NOT EXPLODE!’

Then he swung back around to face Ignatius.

‘Well Iggy, the good news is that I’m pretty sure you’ll be the unbackable favourite to scoop the pool again this year at the Golden Nerd Awards. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if they give you the Life-Time Achievement Award for Services to Nerdism. Oh and for your information, Pele just happens to be the greatest football player who ever lived.’

Ignatius frowned.

‘Well it would be hard for him to be the greatest football player if he hadn’t lived.’

Razz’s eyes narrowed.

‘Annnnnnyway … as I was saying before the motherboard in P-bud’s head short circuited. Pele – not to be confused with Bozo or Chuckles (insert a Razz dagger stare at Ignatius here) taps me on the shoulder and says that I have to come with him because … wait for it … I’m playing in the World Cup Football final! Me! Can you believe it?’

We all shake our heads. We literally cannot believe it.

‘And get this. Apparently I’m Captain of the team from Razzland and we’re playing Brazil in the final!’

‘Girls and football,’ Scobie said. ‘You’re two favourite things. It’s your dream dream.’

‘Absolutely!’ Razz agreed. ‘But there’s this one big problem. The Miss World Final and the World Cup Final are on at exactly the same time! I can’t do both. One hundred and ninety-six hot chicks versus playing in a World Cup Final. And I have to choose between them. It’s a nightmare!’

Now it was getting interesting. I asked the question that everyone at the table was pondering.

‘So what did you do?’

‘Well, I applied the totally rigid, incredibly awesome, super-sized Razzman brain cells to the problem and I came up with a killer solution.’

‘Which was?’

‘Which was … to ask if I could sort of join the two finals together so that I’d get half of each. And the Official dudes said yes!’

I thought about that for a second.

‘So … in your dream … you ended up interviewing and judging ninety-three Miss World contestants and then playing in the second half of a World Cup Final?’

‘Not quite young Ishmael. It seems the Official dudes and me weren’t exactly on the same ebook screen. What I ended up doing was judging an entire Miss World Pageant where all the contestants were famous World Cup football stars dressed in women’s clothes. Like I said, it was totally weird … especially the swim suit section.’

Razz gazed blankly ahead for a while before snapping out of his trance with a full body shudder and a quick head shake. Then he elbowed Prindabel’s arm and another page of Extreme Mathematics was set free.

‘Come on P-bud. Your turn. You must have had some weird dreams. What’s your weirdest one ever? Was it the one where you discover your real mother was a smart phone and your father a laptop? Or was it the one where you magically turn into a human being?’

Ignatius kept his eyes lowered as he attempted to align the words on two torn pieces of Extreme Mathematics.

‘Haven’t got one,’ he said. ‘Hardly ever dream. Or don’t remember them if I do.’

‘What? You must remember some. Come on, think about it.’

‘No I definitely don’t.’ There was a pause, then Ignatius lifted his head slowly like one of those Galapagos turtles and held up a long, bony index finger. ‘Correction … there was this one …’

‘Cool! Now you’re talking. Let’s hear it then Iggy my main man. Come on, blow our minds!’

‘Well, in the dream I must have been at a fair of some kind because there was a man selling balloons and he was pumping them up using a large cylinder of propane gas. While I’m watching him, he fills up a big red balloon, ties a string to it and hands it to a little girl and she runs off with it to show her parents. BUT, on the way the little girl trips and falls and she lets go of the string and the balloon floats off into the air. Then the little girl starts crying.’

Ignatius stopped. He was bobbing his head and grinning at us like a demented hyena.

And?’ Razz said spreading his arms wide.

‘And what?’ Ignatius asked.


Ignatius frowned. ‘Nothing. I woke up.’

‘What? That’s it? That’s all there is? That’s your weird dream? ’

Ignatius nodded and looked around at us excitedly. ‘Yes. It’s completely mad isn’t it? I mean, everybody knows that propane gas is heavier than air and there is no possible way that balloon would have floated away.’

Ignatius shook his head and broke into one of his disturbing hissing laughing fits while Razz stared at him like he was a ticking time-bomb.

‘Have you had your internal hard drives checked for viruses recently Prindabel? You can’t even do ‘weird’ normally.’

Razz puffed out a big breath and looked across the table.

‘Ok Scobes. We desperately need help here. You of all people must understand weird. What’s your best weird dream?’

Scobie did an impressive series of facial gymnastics before his eyes stopped blinking and his mouth settled down into a thin line.

‘Was that it Your Scobeness? Were you giving it to us in mime? Did it have something to do with a sucker fish?’

Scobie ignored Razz.

‘Remember how I told you that I had that operation to remove a tumour from my brain?’

How could we forget? We nodded.

‘Well after the operation I kept having this one dream over and over again. It would always start off with everything completely normal but then after a while I’d realise that the top of my head was missing.’

Razz frowned. ‘The top of your head was missing? Well that would be … inconvenient.’

‘Yes it was,’ Scobie said. ‘because if I didn’t keep my head absolutely level stuff would fall out.’

Razz screwed up his face. ‘Stuff?’

‘Yes. But not what you’re thinking. Real stuff – toys, pictures, books, shells, clothes, even tiny people. They were all things and people from my life. And when something fell out it turned to smoke and disappeared, so I had to try to keep my head level and still. But the longer the dream went on, the harder it got. The ground became more and more rocky and uneven and there would be big holes everywhere for me to step in. Sometimes the ground just gave away under my feet like ice. And if I tried to just stand in one spot and not move, everything would start shaking and jumping around like an earthquake. The dream always ended the same way. Eventually something would make me trip and fall and then everything in my head would spill out and disappear in a puff of smoke. When I stood back up I couldn’t remember anything, not even who I was.’

Scobie pushed his mouth to one side and left it there. Four sets of eyes were fixed on him. Finally Razz broke the silence.

‘Riiiiiiiiiiiight. Well on that cheerful note gentlemen, what say we move on and see what Billy Boy has got for us.’

Bill shrugged his big shoulders. ‘There’s this one weird dream I have all the time too.’

Razz held up his hand.

‘Wait. Does it involve an amazing floating balloon or a partial decapitation?’

Bill gave the question far more consideration than it deserved before replying.


‘Awesome. Let’s hear it.’

‘It’s like I’m in Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit or something because I’m on this long journey. Anyway, at one point I’m right at the top of Mount Doom and all I have to do is throw the One Ring into the fiery pit in order to save the Shire and defeat the forces of darkness. But then I look down and the One Ring isn’t a ring anymore – it’s a super jumbo-sized cream doughnut. And I’m starving. So before I throw it in and save everyone and become a hero, I just take a few tiny nibbles from around the edges. But when I do, I can’t stop and I end up eating the whole thing! Then Mount Doom erupts like a volcano except that soft serve ice-cream comes out instead of lava, and I have to start swallowing it to stop from drowning. Then everything gets mixed up because all these spaceships fly in only they’re really giant pizzas and when they land, chocolate-coated Star Wars storm-troopers charge out and start firing French-fries and tomato sauce at me and I end up catching them all in my mouth …’

Razz’s hand was now clamped over that very mouth.

‘Ok. Ok. Ok. Thanks for coming Bilbo. I think we get the picture. Seems to me that dream could only mean one of two things. Either you have a slight issue with food or you’re a total nut case. Personally I’m leaning heavily towards “total nut case” at this early stage.’

Razz looked across at me.

‘Well that just leaves you Ishmael. What’s your weird dream or do you spend all your time drooling on your pillow over Kelly Faulkner.’

I gave Razz a pained look, but to be honest, I have had my fair share of Kelly Faulkner dreams including one where I was a ninja and I ended up saving her from a dangerous gang of evil peg-people. Once I even had a dream about Barry Bagsley. He wasn’t a bully in the dream like he is in real life. He was a really nice guy and we were good friends. I was kind of sad when I woke up. But I didn’t feel like sharing either of those dreams so I picked a different one.

‘Sometimes I have this dream where I’m stuck on the side of a really high mountain and I’m trying to hold on but my fingers are slipping. It’s pretty scary. Then I start to wonder what in the world I’m doing way up there and I realise that of course I must just be dreaming it. So I decide that all I have to do is jump off and let myself fall and nothing will happen to me. The only trouble is, I’m not one hundred percent sure it actually is a dream because it still seems really real. It takes me ages and ages to finally let go and drop. When I do, I wake up.’

Razz pushed out his bottom lip. He didn’t look that impressed.

‘Well if that’s the best you can all come up with, I think it’s pretty obvious to me and to anyone else with half a brain, that I, the Razzman,  am the clear winner and undisputed champeeeeeeeeeeen of the Inaugural St Daniel’s Totally Weird Dream Dream-Off!’

That’s when the bell rang and we all headed off for homeroom with Miss Tarango.

But do you want to hear something really weird?

Well, here it is. That very night I had a dream that I think could have topped even Razz’s.

When it started I was inside a big, white dome, and the walls of the dome were covered with millions and millions of words. I even found my own name ISHMAEL LESEUR in amongst them in big letters. Then the words started peeling off the walls and they began swirling around everywhere like a snow storm. Some of the words joined and clumped together and they formed into shapes like statues and then the craziest thing happened. Those statues turned into Scobie and Razz and Bill and Ignatius and Kelly Faulkner and lots of other people I know! Then I saw that there were two oval-shaped windows at the front of the dome and I went over and looked through them and there was a whole world out there. And that’s when I realised that the windows weren’t actually windows at all. They were eyes. Which meant that the dome wasn’t just a dome. It was a head. And we were all inside it! It was like Razz, Scobie, Ignatius, Bill and I were running around in someone else’s mind. And that someone had dreamed us all up!

See what I mean? Talk about weird! Way too weird to ever share with the Razz and the guys. Too weird for words, as they say. But then again, who knows?

Maybe not.


Artwork by Peter Schossow

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments