blog 106: In which I’m talkin’ on SUNSHINE.

Last October my wife and I came down from Brisbane to spend a month in Melbourne bunny-and-house-sitting for our daughter and son-in-law while they were away on their belated honeymoon in America. Our daughter’s home is in a new housing estate in the suburb of SUNSHINE.

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Basically all I knew about Sunshine was that it was in Melbourne’s West and that over the years it probably had more than its fair share of problems and critics. But we really enjoyed our time there and what we experienced during our stay was a vibrant, multicultural community with a range of great facilities and resources and a ton of potential.

So if you’re ever in SUNSHINE, here are TEN things I recommend you do.

  • 1. Make a pilgrimage to Sunshine Marketplace on Harvester Road to see the amazing and iconic Millennium Man statue and while you’re there check out the shops and take in a movie at Village Cinema Sunshine‘s surprisingly extensive 20-screen complex. Even the restrooms are impressive!

And if you’re keen to learn how about why Millennium Man was created (and who wouldn’t be?) watch this VIDEO.

  •  2. Have a picnic and enjoy all the terrific modern playground equipment and wonderful facilities at Buckingham Reserve. While you’re there take a stroll along the scenic trail by Kororoit Creek.

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  • 4. While you’re in the library ask one of the attendants to direct you to the original Sunshine Harvester which is suspended from the ceiling in the council building and after which the suburb is named.
  •  5. A short distance from the library is Devonshire Road. Take a walk down it till you come to a plaque beside a beautiful and imposing set of wrought-iron gates. These are the original gates to the massive Sunshine Harvester Works that once dominated the suburb. They are probably the most significant gates in Australia’s history. That’s because the events surrounding the factory that stood behind them would eventually impact on the life of every Australian worker and their family. In a decision handed down by the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration in 1907 called the Harvester Judgement, the owner of the Sunshine Harvester Company  H. V. McKay was ordered to pay his employees a wage that guaranteed them a standard of living which was reasonable for “a human being in a civilised community”, regardless of his capacity to pay. This ruling would lead to the establishment of a MINIMUM WAGE for Australian workers. Sunshine should be very proud of its crucial role in Australian history.

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  • 6. Need some exercise? Have a hit of tennis at the Sunshine Park Tennis Club. Easy to book online and three surfaces to choose from – clay, hard court or synthetic grass. Other sporting facilities for cricket and football are also close by.

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  • 7. After a hit at the courts take the opportunity to go solo with the silos! These big boys are so impressive and are just screaming out for some epic artwork that would celebrate the character and the unique history of the suburb. What do you say Brimbank Council?

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  • 8. While you’re actually in Sunshine make sure to watch (or re-watch) the excellent SBS drama series Sunshine (winner of the 2017 AACTA Award for Best Mini Series) which is set in … wait for it … Sunshine! As well as enjoying the great story I’m sure you’ll have as much fun as we did shouting at the screen whenever you recognise a familiar landmark.

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  • 9. Of course you can’t visit Sunshine without indulging in the delicious food available at the wide range of multi-cultural cafes and eateries. If you’re lucky like we were, your visit might coincide with the annual Lantern Festival and you’ll be able to experience a cultural and culinary smorgasbord!
  • 10. And lastly, generally take the time to explore the suburb and discover all the little and big and quirky things that make it so unique.

Well that’s it for my Sunshiny review. Of course there’s much more to the place than a brief month’s stay could uncover, but if you ask me, I think this historic and often unfairly maligned suburb has a huge, bright and exciting future. (Did I mention that it’s only 12 km from the CBD, handy to the airport and has a flash new train station?)

Anyway, I’m pretty sure that a lot more people like my daughter (below) and son-in-law  will be happily ‘walkin’ on Sunshine’ in the years to come and thinking to themselves, ‘Don’t it feel good!’

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Cheers (and keep up the good work Brimbank City Council!)
Michael

 

 

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blog 105: In which I tidy up some 2017 loose ends.

Hi All

It’s January 25th and my Resolution to do a blog a week in 2018 is off to a shaky start. Ok let’s face it – the starter’s pistol has sounded, the medals have been distributed, the winner’s anthem has been played and everyone’s gone home while my resolution is still back in the dressing shed, struggling to tie the laces on its running shoes and wondering who stole its performance enhancing drugs. (I’ve really got no idea why people accuse me of using over-blown metaphors.)

IMG_20171022_074337Be that as it may, I am pressing on undeterred. So here is a brief history of things I should have blogged about at the end of last year, but obviously haven’t. So, if you will, come with me on a journey back in time to October 2017 …

Except for a brief trip to Monto in Queensland (which I actually DID blog about HERE) my wife and I spent all of October in MELBOURNE bunny-and-house-sitting for my daughter and son-in-law while they had a belated honeymoon in America. See aforementioned bunnies on the left – Basil (top) and Luna (bottom).

In Melbourne we stayed in the suburb of SUNSHINE. The suburb itself has had its fair share of critics and problems over the years (like everywhere I guess) but we really enjoyed our time there and found it to be a vibrant multicultural community, handy to the CBD, with some fantastic facilities and resources and a ton of potential. (More detail on our stay in Sunshine will follow shortly in Blog 106: In which I’m walking on Sunshine!)

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During our month long stay in MELBOURNE we got to do a number of great things.

~ We caught up with the awesome Monty Boori Pryor – friend, writer, story-teller, inaugural Australian Children’s Laureate 2012-13, plus heaps more besides, and had the pleasure and honour of getting a sneak preview of his exciting new project. Always love spending time with this guy!

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~ We took a trip to town to see the Wallace and Gromit and Friends Exhibition at Federation Square.  Just wonderful with so many incredible displays.

~ We went along to see Blade Runner and The Book of Mormon both of which were great.

~ We had a lovely day at St Kilda including coffee and cake at the old Kiosk at the end of the pier.

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At the end of October we returned to our home town of BRISBANE where …

~ Joe and I decided against the pet rats.

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~ My wife and I took a lovely visiting English couple to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary to see the local wildlife and feed the rainbow lorikeets.

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~ I had a great time with lots of lovely writer and illustrator friends when I was guest speaker at a Christmas Luncheon for the Queensland Branch of SCBWI.

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~ I may have slightly over-reacted to someones’s negative review of one of my books.

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~ The covers of the German hardback (Hanser) and audio (Hoercompany) editions of The Pain, My Mother, Sir Tiffy, Cyber-Boy and Me were revealed.

~ And I finally fulfilled my lifetime dream of seeing at least one Beatle live in concert when I was there when Paul McCartney performed at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane. Unbelievable.

Then in late December it was back again to MELBOURNE for a visit which included trips to the wonderful Healesville Sanctuary and  the National Gallery of Victory.

But the purpose and highlight of the trip back to MELBOURNE was to spend a beautiful first Christmas with our daughter and son-in-law in their new home.

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And just to finish off, one final piece of good news for 2017 was that the YA manuscript I submitted to Scholastic Australia/Omnibus Books in October was accepted. YAY! That never loses its thrill. I’m hoping for a publication date sometime in late 2018.

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And thus endeth 2017 and this post.

Cheers and a belated Happy New Year!
Michael

 

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blog 104: In which I spend a couple of great days in beautiful Monto.

In October this year I had the good fortunate to be invited by Monto State High School to be part of their fantastic Growing Young Literary Artists in the North Burnett project.

On Wednesday Oct 11th around midday, I flew from Melbourne (where my wife and I were house-sitting) home to Brisbane and from there caught another flight to Bundaberg.

At Bundaberg airport I was picked up by the amazing Kylie (my guide, minder and travelling companion for the next few days) and driven around 175 kilometres to Monto where we rendezvoused at around 8 pm with some of the local teachers for a lovely meal and a chat at the Family Refreshment Cafe & Restaurant.

After dinner, there was a final 20 km drive to my accommodation at the Cania Gorge Tourist and Caravan Park.

The shots below show the view at the start of my journey compared to the view at the end from my cabin at Cania Gorge. Massive improvement!

Right from the start, the organisers of the visit and the great people from Monto made me feel very welcome.

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IMG_20171012_084842The next day, Thursday, I had three sessions at the beautiful Monto Community Hall presenting  to grade 4 – 10 students from schools within the local region. IMG_20171012_084827IMG_4426IMG_4423 (2)

Attending schools included Monto SHS, Monto Primary School, Burnett State College Gayndah, Mundubbera SS, St Therese’s Catholic Primary School Monto, Abercorn SS, Mulgildie SS. All the students were fantastic to talk to and it was a fun day

Following the sessions, after negotiating the local traffic …

… I had the chance (thanks again to Kylie’s generosity in chauffeuring me around) to take in some of the beautiful sights and scenery of the local area …

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Lake Cania.

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… and to also learn some of the history, including the Legend of the Three Moons.

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That night (Pizza Night YAY!) and on the following morning at the Cania Gorge Holiday Park, I had the pleasure of spending time with some members of the local writers community and around 30 young keen and talented writers from Monto SHS, Burnett State College and Mundubbera SS who were there on a Writers Retreat.

We were also joined by quite a bit of bird-life!

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The students taking part in a Young Writers Retreat were each working on a writing piece that needed to encompass a location, event or identity from within the beautiful Burnett region.

It was terrific to hear these enthusiastic and talented writers discussing their projects and hopefully I was able to provide some advice and writing tips that were useful to them. The students’ completed pieces are to be published in book form and online. A great thing for these young authors and for the local community.

After spending Friday morning at the Writers Retreat it was time to start the long reverse journey back to Melbourne.

A big thanks once again to Monto SHS for the invitation to be a part of this great project and to and all the teachers, volunteers, local people, students and young writers who made the trip so enjoyable for me. Much appreciated.

Look, even the Mulgildie Bunyip was friendly!

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And thanks too for the lovely gifts to remember the visit by!

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Cheers
Michael

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ps: There are two wallabies in this photo although you can only see a tiny bit of the second one.

 

 

 

 

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blog 103: In which I say ‘Cheers & Thanks’ to Germany and post a video.

Apart from at home here in Australia, my books have been most successful in Germany.

As well as having nine books presently published in the country, there has also been a radio broadcast of the complete Ishmael series, short-listings and an award win for The Running Man, stage productions of Don’t Call Me Ishmael and The Running Man and both those novels have also been used as class texts and in state exams.

The Running Man, The Ishmael series, Dinosaur Knights, Just a Dog and the Eric Vale series were all published by the wonderful Carl Hanser company. In January 2018 they will add the German edition of The Pain, My Mother, Sir Tiffy, Cyber Boy and Me to their list. I am so grateful for the support and friendship of this fantastic company over the years. See below.

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On top of that there have been terrific German audio versions of the Ishmael series, Dinosaur Knights, Just a Dog and Eric Vale produced by the wonderful Hörcompany. Now they have just finished recording their audio edition of The Pain, My Mother, Sir Tiffy, Cyber Boy and Me. 

Below is a brief video from Hörcompany of the very talented German theatre actor JULIA NACHTMANN recording the audio version of The Pain etc and Me. I love how expressive Julia’s voice and face are in the reading. Even though I couldn’t understand the German it didn’t take me long to work out that what she was reading was the scene where Maggie is being asked out on a date by a boy but at first doesn’t realise it. I’ve added the English text below the video.

 

For some reason Jason was still there when I’d finished. And still talking.

‘So you’re thinking of doing Film and Television next year?’

‘Ah, yes, probably. If I can convince my mother. I want to go into acting and maybe directing. Thought it would help.’

‘Yeah, I’m doing it too. Figured it’d be a bludge.’

‘Right. Cool. You’ve thought it through then.’

I was about to walk off but Jason still hadn’t finished.

‘So … then … maybe we could … catch a movie together sometime.’

I was confused. ‘Catch a movie together’? What a strange thing to say. I mean really, what were the chances of Jason Price and I ending up at the same place when a movie was screening?

Then something clicked. Wait a minute. Is he? Was he? Did he? Have I … just been asked out? OMG, I think I had. I think Jason Price had just asked me out. Do something. SAY something. SPEAK!

‘A movie? What? You mean … you … and me? Us?’

‘Yeah. If you want to. I can’t do much this weekend ’cause I’ve got football on and then I have to help my brother with some stuff. But next Sunday would be good. Unless you’re doing something already.’

Doing something? Let me think. Does disinfecting my room of cat urine count?

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So cheers and thanks to all my German friends and readers.

Or should that be prost und danke!

Michael

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blog 102: In which I try to remember what happened in the 3 months since I last posted.

It’s been quite an eventful few months since my last update.

August and September are usually the busiest months for school bookings because of BOOK WEEK and this year was no exception for me.

During that time I visited 24 schools in 6 cities (Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide, Ipswich, Toowoomba, Ayr/Home Hill), presented around 55 sessions, took part in 2 festivals and launched one book. Phew!

As always, a big thank you to BOOKED OUT SPEAKERS AGENCY for making most of that happen (and happen so smoothly) and to the staff and students of all the schools for making me feel so welcome.

Here are some random shots from my week in MELBOURNE:

(Schools visited: Simonds Catholic College, Ivanhoe Grammar School, St Bernard’s College, Camberwell HS, Emmaus College, Toorak College, East Doncaster S College)

One of the highlights of the Melbourne tour was my visit to Toorak College where I had the thrill and honour of presenting for the first time with my good friend Barry Heard. The year 9 girls there had studied my book The Running Man which contains a Vietnam vet character and Barry’s powerful and important book Well Done Those Men tells the real life story of his experiences as a nineteen year old country boy thrust into the horrors of the Vietnam war and the terrible impact of that experience on his life. A wonderful and moving experience for the students and for me to hear Barry talk.

 Some random shots from Book Week spent in Brisbane and around QUEENSLAND:

(Schools visited: St Matthew’s School Cornubia, Wilsonton State School Toowoomba, Ashgrove State Primary School, The Springfield Anglican College, Ayr?Home Hill Schools – Home Hill SS, St Colman’s, St Francis Primary School, Burdekin Christian College, Burdekin Catholic State High, East Ayr State Primary & High School)

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With Lance Balchin

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Burdekin – Ayr/Home Hill

Some random shots from post-Book Week in ADELAIDE:

(Schools visited: Immanuel College, Prince Alfred College, Tatachilla Lutheran College, Glenelg Primary School, Walford Anglican Girls, Endeavour College, The Heights School)

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Near Tatachilla College McLaren Vale

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Something fishy about this library!

Apart for school visits and festivals a big highlight that occurred since my last blog was the release of my first picture book RODNEY LOSES IT illustrated by the very talented Chrissie Krebs.

So far Rodney has received some lovely reviews …

Rodney Loses It! is a fun book, with text from Michael Gerard Bauer that is perfect for a read-along with any young reader. The illustrations by Chrissie Krebs are gloriously colourful and funny, in line with the fun text from Bauer. Rodney with his glasses, his floppy ears and his own artwork are sure to be a hit with any young reader still learning the fun of reading and rhyming.

Reading Time: Reviewer Verushka Byrow

Unlike some picture books this book can be enjoyed multiple times and different themes can be explored. Tantrums, hobbies, favourite things and boredom to name a few. This is Michael Gerard Bauer’s first picture book and let’s hope it is the first of many. A tantrum is a part of the life of young children and Rodney does it well with the help of illustrator Chrissie Krebs. The book is in verse and a pleasure to read out loud. It’s great!

Bug in a Book: Reviewer Megan Stuart

A wonderfully funny story.

Pass It On: Reviewer Jackie Hosking

Highly recommended. Anger, Drawing. Rodney loves to draw, so much so that he draws just about everywhere. He has a range of pens with which to draw, but one is his special favourite. This pen is so special, that he has given it a name, Penny, and has even been known to kiss Penny, so thrilled is he by his favourite pen. One day while sitting at his desk, drawing, Penny disappears. He has lost things before: his bow tie, his rubber duck, his keys but he has always found them. Losing Penny causes him great distress, and the path of his distress is revealed through this very funny picture book. 
Bauer cleverly shows readers the steps they should take when trying to find something, and the outcome when the thing being searched for cannot be found. 
Krebs’ illustrations add another level of humour to the tale, showing Rodney at the highs and lows of the problem of having, then losing something precious. Children will see the problem illuminated before their eyes in illustrations full of life and movement, and learn a lesson from the tale.

ReadPlus: Reviewer Fran Knight

Always great to get such positive feedback so here’s some pictures of me losing it with Rodney. (Brilliant plush Rodney toy created by the amazing Chrissie Krebs!)

And finally back in August I had the pleasure of launching Darren Groth’s new book EXCHANGE OF HEART at Where the Wild Things Are in Brisbane. It’s a great read and I highly recommend it. Also if you haven’t read Darren’s previous novel ARE YOU SEEING ME well, you’re being a fool to yourself and a burden to society! It’s wonderful. Both books are funny, intelligent and poignant. A bit like big Daz himself!

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Two of the worlds biggest Big Lebowski fans. Am I right or am I right?

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With Darren and Chris Bongers (Intruders, Henry Hoey Hobson, Dust)

Well that about takes us up to the end of September. My wife and I spent most of October in Melbourne house and bunny sitting for our daughter and son-in-law. What happened while we were there, plus a great couple of days I had in Monto in Qld, as well as happy news on my Work in Progress, I’ll leave until the next blog which is coming SOON.

No, it really is.

Seriously.

I promise!

Cheers
Michael

 

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blog 101: In which I say something (but not much) about my WIP.

I was thinking the other day (yes, it does happen occasionally) that every new thing I’ve written has been different in some fundamental way from everything else that has gone before it.

For example …

My first published book The Running Man was a very serious YA novel.

This was followed by the Ishmael books which were comedies.

Then came Dinosaur Knights which was an action-adventure story with a touch of sci-fi and history.

Next was You Turkeys which was my first chapter book for early readers and also my first illustrated book thanks to Nahum Ziersch. Hi Nahum!

Just a Dog was different because it was my first book for middle-grade readers plus it had an 11 year old boy as the first person narrator

The Eric Vale series and their spin offs the Derek ‘Danger’ Dale series were different again because they were in a cartoon/comic book/graphic novel style and they were the first books I shared with my son Joe as illustrator.

My most recent book The Pain, My Mother, Sir Tiffy, Cyber Boy and Me is a light-hearted teenage novel like the Ishmael books but it’s different from everything else I’ve done because for the first time it features a female character Maggie Butt as the first person narrator.

And in September 2017 I’m happy and excited to say, my first children’s picture book Rodney Loses It! will be published by Scholastic Australia with fabulous illustrations by Chrissie Krebs.

All of which brings me to the current WORK IN PROGRESS – my unauthorised autobiography with each copy personally handwritten in crayon on recycled butcher’s paper!

Wait, wait, wait.  Calm down.  Don’t get too excited. It was all just a cruel joke that went too far. I apologise without reservation. (and next time I promise I’ll book ahead with my apology.)

I never really like to talk much about what I’m  currently working on until it’s all finished. I’d be hopeless in a writers’ group. But what I can say is that my WIP is a semi-serious teenager novel with a 16-year-old boy as the narrator. So in that respect it’s similar to the Ishmael books although not with as much exaggerated humour.

The two main points of difference for the WIP from everything else I’ve had published, are that firstly, it’s  written in the present tense and secondly, all the action takes at one place on the one day – around eight hours to be more precise. The setting is a university open day for future students.

Here’s one I visited earlier this month for background research and inadvertently got myself enrolled in three university courses …

               

So far I’m on about my fourth draft. I think it’s getting there. Maybe 75+% of what I feel it could be. So there’s still a bit of improvement to go yet before I’m ready to let someone else read it (after my wife Adriana who is always my first reader) and pass their judgement on it.

And the next project after that?

Well I guess, ironically (or is it paradoxically) given the theme of this post, if all goes to plan, the next project actually won’t involve me doing something different.

Instead it will be a return to something I haven’t done since my first novel The Running Man was published in 2004 – and that is, to write a completely serious dramatic story. A story that might be set again in my home suburb of Ashgrove and could even contain some slender plot threads that link it ever so slightly to The Running Man.

Well that’s the plan, but of course there’s no guarantee that will actually happen because I’ve been going to write that serious YA novel for about the last six years now, and every time I’ve thought that I was ready to start, some other story has always managed to push its way in ahead of it.

But that’s the way it goes. You don’t find stories. They find you. And often they can be determined and stubborn little buggers who demand to be heard.

So while I think my next project will be a serious YA novel, you know what they say about the best laid plans of Mike and men …

Cheers
Michael

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blog 100: In which I post the stunning conclusion to my 2 week odyssey in WA WA Land!

(* If you missed my blog about Week One or you want to recap go HERE.)

Author’s Log: Star Date Saturday June 3/Sunday June 4.

PREVIOUSLY on my Western Australian trip with Lesley Reece presenting writing workshops on behalf The Literature Centre, I had just returned to Fremantle to stay in the Centre for the long weekend.

You can read all about the wonderful work of the Centre here but as mentioned in the last blog it is housed inside the walls of the Old Fremantle Prison in what used to be the hospital section. This is the view from the back veranda of the Centre.

 

I’m pleased to say that I handled my time inside the Big House with ease. I mean it’s not like I became obsessed with locks and walls and stuff…

If you ever go to Fremantle a tour of the Old Prison is well worth taking. Although I must admit I found their advertising below terribly misleading.

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Seriously, I searched both sides of the prison and for the life of me I couldn’t see the Pyramids of Giza or The Great Wall of China anywhere. Quel disappointment!

While released on weekend parole for good behaviour, I checked out the beautiful buildings and sites of old Freo…

…including the statue located between the football ground and Fremantle Markets which commemorates the best mark ever taken on a roundabout while dislocating an opponent’s neck…

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…and this iconic Freo street art which clearly depicts ‘some kind of an animal’…

…as well as this sculpture which I think marks the site of Fremantle’s grizzliest ever murder.

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Back at the Centre I prepared for the week ahead by successfully doing all my washing – once I figured out which way the clothes line drying thingie went.

I also spent time perfecting my justifiably famous Shadow Art Performance entitled “One-Armed Man with Llama”.

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Author’s Log: Star Date Monday June 5 – Wednesday June 7.

Lesley and I flew from Perth airport and arrived at Port Hedland around 6.00pm. Checked in at the Esplanade Hotel.

Port Hedland is the world’s largest bulk tonnage export port, exporting 372.3 million tonnes per annum. World’s largest! Bet you didn’t know that. I’m pretty sure it’s also the home of the longest trains in the world.

P.H. is a heavy industry town of course but during our stay the weather was lovely and mild, and the  skies were crystal clear, so it had a stark, eerie beauty – especially at night.  

They tell me it’s salt but I’m not convinced. Over the two days we were there that already huge mound doubled in size.

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At Hedland SHS we had great writing workshops with Yr 7/8 and Yr 9/10 students from the Centre’s Talented Young Writers Programme as well as afternoon sessions with junior and senior indigenous students taking part in the Follow the Dream Programme.

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Author’s Log: Star Date Thursday June 7.

We left Port Hedland and were transported around 400 kms through the magnificent Pilbara to Newman by our fantastic Taxi driver Mick who is originally from Romania.

The ever-changing landscape was spectacular and check out that sky!

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Author’s Log: Star Date Friday June 9.

The final day of writing workshops with small groups of Yr 7/8s and Yr 9/10s at Newman SHS. A great way to finish the fortnight.

Left Newman airport at 4.05pm and arrived in Perth at 5.50pm. Spent the night back at the Literature Centre.

Author’s Log: Star Date Saturday June 10.

 

Left The Literature Centre and the beautiful clear skies of WA early in the morning and flew back home to Brisbane and the Sunshine State.

Where it was raining. And still is, as I write this.

A big thanks goes to Lesley Reece for inviting me on the Talented Young Writers Programme for a second time and for her guidance, support, companionship, good humour and sheer hard work  over the two weeks.

Thanks too to the teachers and librarians at the various school for their support and friendly welcome.  And of course a huge congratulations and thanks to the awesome kids in all the workshops whose enthusiasm, co-operation and love of writing made my job a pleasure. 

The Literature Centre does an amazing job supporting Australian authors and in encouraging and nurturing young writers right around WA. None of it would exist in the first place without Lesley’s foresight or continue without her passion and dedication and that of her wonderful support team at the Centre. If you know anyone with spare cash looking for a good cause tell them about the Literature Centre. They are in desperate need of funding to continue their wonderful work and programmes. 

Cheers
Michael

ps: I had the great pleasure of spending some time at the Literature Centre with the super-talented writer, artist, musician and composer Matt Ottley. He even played some flamenco guitar which he has done professionally in the past. He was brilliant.

I am not brilliant, but I leave you with a brief video of me attempting some simple 12 bar blues on Matt’s expensive flamenco guitar in front of a wall of Matt Ottley artwork. (Naturally I never played a note in his actual presence.)

All my life I’ve suffered for my music. Now it’s your turn.

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blog 99: In which I visit WA WA Land – Part the First.

This is a log of the first week of my two week trip to Western Australia presenting writing workshops as part of The Literature Centre’s Talented Young Writers’ Programme.

Author’s Log: Star Date Sunday May 28.

Woke up dull and early Sunday morning. Departed Brisvegas 8.40am. Crossed the wide, brown land. Views from window confirm both width and browniness of Australian landmass. Arrived Perth WA approx five and a half hours later. My decision to fly rather than undertake the journey on foot seems totally vindicated.

Three hour wait at Perth airport before next flight to Albany. Spent the time eating, relaxing, reading and navel-gazing. Ceased navel-gazing after third warning from airport security that navel gazing must be limited to my own navel. What’s the fun in that?

Eventually joined at the airport by Lesley Reece – Founder and Director of the Fremantle Literature Centre (TLC), champion of Children’s Writing and Australian Children’s Authors for over twenty years, Order of Australia recipient and all-round remarkable woman. We fly to Albany arriving at 5.15pm.

After eating at a nearby Indian Restaurant, we call it a night. (Although to be fair, we probably weren’t the first ones to come up with that description.)

Author’s Log: Star Date Monday May 29.

Youth Literature Day at Great Southern GrammarAll day writing workshops with approx 60 Yr 9-12 students from various schools. Lovely kids. All goes well. Great way to start the week.

In the afternoon I walk around Albany town centre and down to the harbour. The water is like a mirror. Only wetter. And much more difficult to hang on a wall.

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Author’s Log Star Date  Tuesday May 30.

Second day of workshops at Great Southern Grammar. This time with around 110 Yr 6 – 8s from a variety of schools. Awesome kids. Great day.

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Important toilet and fire drill info being imparted.

Depart Albany by plane 5.40pm. Arrive Perth 6.50pm. Stay at Hotel near airport overnight.

Author’s Log: Star Date Wednesday May 31.

Leave Perth 7.00am. Fly to Geraldton . Arrive 8.00am.

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They really shouldn’t have gone to all this trouble. It’s embarrassing!

At John Willcock College for a Young Writers’ Day with 45 Yr 6 students.

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Lesley casting a spell on the children.

During the day I discover to my horror (but not surprise) that my ‘friend’ and fellow author Barry Jonsberg who has presented writing workshops with these same students a few months earlier has attempted to poison the kids’ minds against me by telling them that I ‘sucked’! BUT in a totally unexpected counter move, I somehow manage to turn the tables on him by actually ‘not sucking’!

As evidence of my suck-less status I’d like to table two short extract from the student feedback sheets.

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Perhaps this could be my epitaph. “He wasn’t great, but at least he didn’t suck.”

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Take that Baz! As you can see from the second comment it’s obvious that my talent can only  be adequately encompassed by the use of double superlatives! From now on I will be referring to Barry as Mr Ninety-five Percent.

Once again the kids were beautiful and it was a pleasure to work with them.

At night I made Lesley Reece AM watch some of State of Origin 1.

It was the first time in her life Lesley had ever watched a Rugby League match. She assured me it would never happen again and in future if she wished to witness a no-holds-barred contest she would stick with Master Chef. (Secretly though I think that Lesley, like me, was just heart-broken that the Mighty Maroons didn’t win. I’ll be sending her an email just before the second game to remind her to get her Queensland supporter’s jersey on.)

Author’s Log: Star Date Thursday June 1.

Second day of writing workshops at John Willcock College. This time with about 35 yr 7/8 students.

Yet another bunch of wonderful, inspiring young people (except at the start maybe when they were super keen to inform me that Barry Jonsberg told them to tell me that I ‘sucked’!) Baz is the gift that keeps on giving!

Thanks to the lovely library staff for the author display and for the masses of delicious homemade food they forced me to eat. In the sessions I attempted to put the students nerves at rest by doing a writing activity based on FEAR.

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Author’s Log: Friday June 2.

Youth Literature Day workshop at Geraldton Senior College with 45 yr 9-12 students.

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Caught up with the school’s librarian and fellow author and friend, Dr Glyn Parry  which is always a lot of fun. Glyn’s a terrific storyteller with some wonderful and at times eye-popping stories to tell!

Another really enjoyable day of sessions.

I feel so fortunate to get to work and spend time with so many enthusiastic, friendly, funny, dedicated, co-operative and talented students. Have not got a single bad word to say about any one of them. Great, great kids and a real treat and honour to get to  hear their words and stories.

A big thanks and shout out also to the magnificent, over-worked and often under-appreciated (by some) teachers and the more-than-worth-their-weight-in-gold librarians and TLs who help and support all the students.

Thanks too to Geraldton (and Albany) for turning on the beautiful weather and for the gorgeous sunrises and sunsets.

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Departed Geraldton by plane 6.10pm. Arrived Perth 7.15pm. Taken in our driver Peter’s very comfortable taxi to The Literature Centre which is housed inside the Old Fremantle Prison.

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And that’s where I am now and will be until Lesley and I fly out on Monday afternoon for another week of talks and workshops this time in Port Hedland and Newman.

More about all that and my two and a half days in Freo in the next blog.

Cheers
Michael

ps: A lot of authors I know who have stayed here at The Literature Centre inside the Old Fremantle Prison say that it’s haunted and have posted messages on my Facebook page obviously trying to scare me.

But seriously, do I look scared to you?

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blog 98: In which I tell of some things that have happened.

DISCLAIMER: Ok from now on whenever I start a new blog, I’m not going to even mention that in the previous blog (and every blog before that) I apologized for the long time between posts, made a firm and sincere promise that I would definitely blog more frequently, and then … well obviously didn’t. Let’s just take that as a given in future so we can all move on.

Right. So since my last blog, here’s SOME THINGS THAT HAVE HAPPENED …

# My wife and I have gone on a bit of a fitness and diet kick to lose a few kilos and get fitter. It’s going well so far. I’m just a shadow of my former self and my wife is so slim I haven’t actually seen her for weeks. At least I’m assuming that’s because of the diet …

Anyway, here’s a recent picture of trimmed-down me on the day I auditioned for the lead role in the live action version of Kung-Fu Panda. Sadly I didn’t get the gig because apparently there wasn’t enough light and shade in my performance. Can you believe it? And of course, that’s my svelte wife standing beside me.

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# I’ve had some great school visits recently at Mt Gravatt SHS, Brisbane State High, Marist Ashgrove, Ambrose-Treacy College, Emmaus College Jimboomba and St Aloysius College Sydney. Thanks to all the students and staff for making me feel so welcome.

They are all terrific schools of course, but for views it’s pretty tough to beat the one below from the library windows of St Aloysius in Sydney. Hi to Serena and all the team there!

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# I attended the Romancing the Stars event organised by Book Links Qld at Nudgee College. As always it was a lot of fun and on the night I also had the honour of launching Brian Falkner’s exciting new book Shooting Stars.

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At Romancing the Stars with author Ben Long (Ready, Steady, Hatch!)

# I had the pleasure of being one of the Book Slammers (along with Megan Daley, Chris Bongers, Trish Buckley and others) at an event put on by the CBCA Qld branch. For the Book Slam you are required to choose a book from the 2017 CBCA Notables List and spruik it for 3 minutes in any way you like. At first I considered bringing my guitar and singing my slam, but then I thought, “These poor people have never done anything awful to me. They don’t deserve that.” So in the end I presented it in poetry form.

My chosen book was Glenda Millard’s beautiful The Stars at Oktober Bend. There were 20 verses in my slam poem. You’ve never done anything awful to me either (that I’m aware of!) so here are just the last 10 verses.

Deep within Oktober Bend
The Nightingales are hiding
A family shattered by the past
Their secrets not confiding.

A father dead, a mother gone
And papa locked in jail
A loyal brother armed with love
A grandma sick and frail

So goes this tale of broken lives
Of shameful deeds and malice
Of courage, love, of letting go
All told by broken Alice

A girl whose words die on her lips
From things once cruelly taken
A poet with a shattered voice
By brother not forsaken

Until inside the poet’s world
A running boy appears
Whose secret past is sad and harsh
Awash with guilt and tears

Can poetry set them both free
And ease their pain and sorrows?
Can yesterdays be held at bay
By hope of shared tomorrows?

Will broken boy and broken girl
Find healing in each other?
Can broken sister learn to share
The love of loyal brother?

Could it be true that we can’t mend
Until we show we’re broken?
And are the words that scar us most
Those ones we leave unspoken?

All these answers you might find
Upon the tale’s unfolding
But lose your heart you will, like me
Within the book you’re holding

And so, I recommend to you
This story, true and tender
My vote goes to Oktober Bend
My heart belongs to Glenda

# My wife and I spent a few lovely and relaxing days with some good friends at beautiful Caloundra Beach on the Queensland Sunshine Coast .

# I continued my daily walks around the neighbourhood – except for the days when the creek ate my bridge …

… and on my walks I continued to take random photos.

# My wife Adrie (95% of the work) and I (5% of the work) did catering for our son Joe and daughter-in-law Rita’s month-long film shoot of six new episodes of their hilarious You Tube comedy series THE VOID. They finished up doing the final green screen shots at our place last night.

You can watch lots of Joe and Rita’s fantastic ARTSPEAR productions HERE  including the entire first season of THE VOID and their hugely popular (215,000 subscribers and over 20 million views) TOON SANDWICH MOVIE TRAILER SPOOFS.

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# As far as writing goes, I’ve been busy working on a new teenage novel (male narrator this time) where the action takes place over just one day. I’m into my 4th draft and each draft has made me a little happier so that’s a positive sign. I’m also really looking forward to the release of my first picture book with Scholastic Australia in September.

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This is a shot of me not working at my desk.

 # I was really pleased to see The Pain, My Mother, Sir Tiffy Cyber Boy and Me make the Older Reader’s Shortlist for the WAYBRA Awards. Thanks guys! Also really happy to learn that the book will be published in Germany by Carl Hanser and translated once again by the amazing Dr Ute Mihr. She has already worked her magic on eight of my books. Speaking of Germany, it was great to receive copies of the hardback German edition of Eric Vale 3 from Carl Hanser/dtv.  Joe and I love these editions.

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# And lastly, following on from my previous blog where I foolishly gave into the enormous pressure and posted a picture of myself with a giant fruit ice block that so many people had been demanding for so many years, I now find myself inundated with bizarre photo requests!

So this time I’m posting these two photos in response to the countless requests I’ve had for shots of me with Bruce Lee and me pointing at a sign that says, ‘The revolution will not be televised’.

Enjoy.

And keep those photo request rolling in!

Cheers
Michael

Apart from all those trivial things above, I just want to end by saying that all my love, thoughts and prayers, and that of my wife and family, go out to Megan Daley (Children’s Books Daily) and her beautiful family in a time of incredible loss and sadness. 

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blog 97: In which I wake up and realise that 2017 has started already!

Hi All.

Well 2017 is already well underway so I thought I should blog something before I missed it completely.

In terms of writing, it’s been about half a year since my last book The Pain My Mother Sir Tiffy Cyber Boy and Me was released and I’m really happy with the way it’s been received. You can see some great reviews HERE.

Of course these are just the really favourable reviews (or the best bits carefully edited from the luke-warm ones). The ones that accused me of committing crimes against literature, I shredded, raked together in an enormous pile and incinerated in what my neighbours described as “a very tasteful and moving ceremony”.

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Currently I’m writing (in between watching tennis) a semi-serious YA novel. Haven’t decided yet what it will be called, but the working title is My Current Semi-Serious YA Novel. I like to think of it as a boy meets girl romantic comedy with a dark heart. I also like to think of it as a Nobel Prize winner, but that’s probably going too far.

Here’s a photo of where my Work in Progress is being progressively worked on.

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One of the exciting things for me about 2017 is that my first PICTURE BOOK will be released!

I think.

I haven’t heard an actually released date yet. Can’t say too much about it except that it may or may not involve a furry animal and that I really like the illustrations that I’ve seen so far. (Not by Joe Bauer this time.) They’re even better than my alternative Eric Vale illustrations!

scan0085This year as always I’ll be visiting schools and attending a number of festivals and literary events. (Just in case you were wondering, yes, I’m always happy to get paid to travel to exotic locations. So don’t hold back on those invitations!)

You can check the current state of my bookings by going to this page of the blog: BOOKINGS 2017.

You can contact BOOKED OUT SPEAKERS AGENCY and inquire about booking me at any time of the year. But if you’re particularly interested in a booking in AUGUST, which is usually a busy and packed month for authors, I will be in:

MELBOURNE from AUGUST 14 -18

BRISBANE (Book Week) from AUGUST 21-25

ADELAIDE from AUGUST 28 – SEPTEMBER 1

There are already a few dates taken so it’s best to get in early if you can. (Of course I could just be saying that to panic you into booking. But I’m not. Truly. Come on, is it really that hard for some of you believe that there are people out there who are keen to have me visit? Oh … I see … well that’s pretty depressing.)

Anyway, I’m also looking forward in May/June to visiting Femantle, Albany, Geraldton, Port Headland and Newman in Western Australia as one of the guest authors in the Talented and Young Writers’ Program which is run by The (fabulous) Literature Centre in Fremantle.

And just a reminder that in February BOOK LINKS will be running THREE of their very popular and fun ROMANCING THE STARS evenings. You can check out the details of all three HERE. (In case you wish to avoid it, I’ll be attending the one at Nudgee College on Feb 23 where I’ll also be launching Brian Falkner’s new book Shooting Stars.)

As far as my own reading goes I’ve started off the year with a series of autobiographies.  I really enjoyed Jimmy Barnes’ and Bryan Cranston’s books and now I’m running with The Boss.

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And finally to all those people who have repeatedly emailed me asking why I’ve never posted a photo of myself with a giant fruit ice block – here you go.

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Now stop harassing me!

Cheers
Michael

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