blog 93: In which I play catch-up yet again.

It’s been quite a busy few months since the last update, so very briefly here are some things that happened.

  • My awesome daughter the Meg- star married a man whom we also love.

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  • I spent a terrific week in Perth at St Mark’s Anglican Community School.

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  • Along with many other authors, publishers and supporters of the Australia Book Industry  – including Morris Gleitzman – I spoke at the Productivity Commission hearing in support of maintaining the present Parallel Import Restrictions.

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  • Along with my wife and other members of my family I travelled overseas to stay with my sister at her beautiful home in London and to attend the wedding of her elder son in southern France. Despite a few missed trains, a fantastic few weeks!
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Wherwell Village

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Anne Hathaway’s Cottage

  • Son Joe (illustrator for the Eric Vale and Derek ‘Danger’ Dale series) and daughter-in-law Rita’s hilarious independent sci-fi comedy AUSTRALIENS was released in the USA in July by Midnight Releasing and a special limited Blu-ray edition was also released in Australia by Monster Pictures who are distributing the Australian and UK dvd version. The film has been receiving a lot of great reviews which it certainly deserves. Congratulations to everyone who contributed to the making of the film. See ARTSPEAR ENTERTAINMENT for all of Joe and Rita’s other projects.
  • As for my writing, I had some good news regarding the official ‘go ahead’ for my next publication. I’m excited by this because it’s different from anything I’ve done before. More on that later.

 

That’s about it as far as highlights go. I have a quiet couple of weeks ahead of me before a busy 5 weeks or so of school visits around Brisbane, up in Rockhampton and Townsville and down in Melbourne. I also have three days at the Brisbane Writers Festival and a brief appearance at the Melbourne Writers Festival where I’ll be chairing a panel for the Wilderness Society featuring Graeme Base and Aunty Joy Murphy.

As far as writing goes I hope to start on a new YA novel soon. My only problem is that I have the skeletons of three possible story ideas fighting it out for attention in my head – a serious drama, a romantic comedy and a dystopian adventure. Not sure which one to commit to. Any thoughts?

Till the next blog.

Cheers
Michael

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blog 92: In which I put on my serious face and talk about PARALLEL IMPORTS

What are Parallel Import Restrictions (PIRs)?

At present in Australia, the UK and USA, an author owns territorial rights to their work. This means that they can sell their book to one publisher in Australia, one in America and another in the UK, and those publishers have an exclusive right to sell that book within their market only. Booksellers can therefore only buy bulk copies of a title from the publisher who has rights in their own territory, so Australian booksellers purchase from Australian publishers.

Once again here in Australia the PRODUCTIVITY COMMISSION is recommending that these rules be abandoned, allowing bulk copies of books to be sourced from any market in the world, at any time, thus removing the Parallel Import Restrictions (PIRs) that currently exist.

So why does the Productivity Commission want to remove PIRs?

They claim it will make books cheaper for consumers even though in the last Productivity Commission report on this issue they admitted that firstly, they couldn’t guarantee book prices would actually fall, and secondly, if they did fall, they couldn’t guarantee the booksellers would pass those possibly lower prices on to consumers!

So in summary the big benefit of removing PIRs is –  lower prices that may or may not come, but if they do come you may not get them anyway.

(I think you could also question whether books are really that expensive in the first place. My first book was a year or so in the planning, two and a half years in the writing and another year before publication. You can buy it for the price of a few coffees or a cheap meal. You can also read it for free from your local library. I get less than two dollars if you buy it, substantially less again if you borrow it.)

What are the COSTS of removing PIRs for authors, publishers,the industry in general and all Australians?

I’ll use a personal example. My book Don’t Call Me Ishmael was published by Omnibus Books/Scholastic Australia in 2006. Even though they bought the World Rights my publisher only has the territorial rights to publish in Australia and NZ. I was very fortunate that the book was subsequently sold on to other publishers in the USA and UK. Under the present rules, copies of those overseas editions can’t be imported in bulk into Australia for sale, but individuals can still order copies via Amazons etc.

So what would happen in this case if PIRs were removed like the Productivity Commission wants?

Well first of all my Australian publishers would now face competition from those imported overseas editions. So what’s wrong with that? Isn’t competition fair and reasonable? Well I don’t it is in this case. My Australian publisher is the one that has taken the greatest risk in publishing my book in the first place. They have devoted their time, resources and money to the development and thorough editing of the story from the original manuscript to get it to the highest possible publishing standard. Is it fair that overseas companies should be able to just jump in and take advantage of all that work and then undermine the local publisher’s hard-earned profits by having free range to sell their overseas version back into Australia?

And another problem arises from this. Since removing PIRs would substantially erode local sales and profits, it would act as a strong disincentive for Australian publishers to pursue and sell overseas rights in the first place.

I have been able to move from being a full-time teacher to being a full-time writer, because of income earned through royalties, PLR & ELR and payment for school visits and festivals. A big factor in making that move possible was gaining those royalties from overseas sales in countries such as the USA and UK. I am very grateful to the International Rights Department of Scholastic Australia for their efforts in selling on these rights. But why would they want to continue to do this if it just came back to bite them through a flood of competing imported editions? In the case of DCM Ishmael, the American edition didn’t sell as well as expected so it’s likely without PIRs that copies of this edition would have been dumped cheaply on the Australian market to the great detriment of the successful Australian edition.

Another important reason why I wouldn’t like to see the UK or USA edition of DCM Ishmael  sold in bulk here, is that they are not the same as the Australian version. In both the overseas editions, uniquely Australia words and expressions have been removed and replaced, and in the case of the US edition, boys in an Australian school now play a game of American Football instead of Rugby Union!

Surely it’s important to all Australians that our kids see themselves, their country and their language in texts they read? I feel honoured that DCM Ishmael is set as a text for middle grade classes in lots of Australian schools. Occasionally I visit a school and I see a student with the US or UK edition which must have been ordered online. I think it’s sad that a student will not be reading an Australian story as it was originally written. If PIRs were removed, whole classes or year levels could be doing this.

I totally reject the Productivity Commission’s recommendations regarding removing PIRs. I don’t think unfairly undermining Australian Publishers’ profits will make them more productive. I think what it will do is force some out of business and cause widespread job losses in what is at present a very efficient and successful industry. And I also fail to see how reducing the opportunities for authors to get published or for published authors to earn a living (average author income = $12,900) will make them more productive either.

Cheaper books would be nice, but not if the real price you pay ends up being far too high.

And finally, as for the suggestion in the Report that authors should retain copyright to their work for a measly 15-25 years after its creation (rather than the 70 years after their death which is presently the case), well at this stage I’ll give the Productivity Commission the benefit of the doubt and just assume that that’s some kind of a very sick joke.

Cheers
Michael

PS: Read what Tim Winton and Richard Flannagan and Jackie French have to say (so much more eloquently and powerfully than me) on this issue. You can also read what the ASA (Australian Society of Authors) have to say and more importantly, sign their petition HERE.

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We’ve been fighting this for years.

 

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blog 91: In which I travel to the Nation’s Capital to be there when the Dugongs returned.

Recently I happily accepted an invitation from Daramalan College in Canberra to come to talk to their Yr 8s who had read a couple of my Ishmael books …

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… and also to attend a sell-out performance of their school stage show based on the second book in the Ishmael trilogy – Ishmael and the Return of the Dugongs.

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Loved all the awesome posters created by the Year 8s.

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What a wonderful visit. The Year 8s were a great group to talk to and the performance of The Return of the Dugongs was fantastic. The production adapted by Jo Turner and directed by talented Year 12 student Pip Carroll was very professional and loads of fun. Among many other amazing things, it featured a great live band and vocalist performing classic hits from the 80s (particularly appreciated Mickey by Tony Basil) beneath a fabulous dugong-shaped mirror ball!

Best. Thing. Ever.

My heartfelt thanks and congratulations to the talented cast and crew and everyone involved in the show for bringing my story and characters so vividly to life. I loved it! Special thanks to the awesome young actors for the skill, passion and energy of their performances. It was a terrific night’s entertainment and a great team effort. ‘Totally rigid’ as Razz would say.

These guys definitely rock!

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With the cast and crew before the show.

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Pip with pre-show warm up.

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And of course I couldn’t pass up the chance of getting my photo taken on the night with some of these future (and present!) stars.

To the hard-working cast thank you again for the energy and enthusiasm of your inspired performances. It was a thrill to see characters that mean so much to me presented with such skill and sensitivity. Love your work! You really did ‘squeeze the day’.

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Finally thanks to everyone – teachers, parents and students – at Daramalan College for your hospitality and super-warm welcome. Special thanks to Joe Woodward for making the visit possible.

I hope one day, just like the Dugongs, I might return.

Cheers
Michael

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blog 90: In which I blatantly promote my new book!

I’m happy to say that I have a new YA book coming out in MAY.

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Wooohoooo!

It’s called THE PAIN, MY MOTHER, SIR TIFFY, CYBER BOY and ME and it will be launched at RIVERBEND BOOKS in Brisbane on TUESDAY MAY 3rd by my good friend and wonderful fellow writer Christine Bongers (Dust, Henry Hoey Hobson, Drongoes, Intruders).

Here’s a picture of Chris and me* with two people suffering the after effects of having read one of my previous books.

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(*If you want to read a shocking, behind-the-scenes exposé of my adventures with Chris Bongers in outback Charleville, go HERE. Warning: Some images and attempts at humour might offend some readers.)

Basically The Pain etc and Me is the (humorous and at times serious) story of the narrator – 15 year old Maggie Butt – who is trying to get her life back on track after the upheaval and disasters caused by her parents’ divorce a few years previously. In order to do this she has set herself three specific goals to achieve in Year Ten before she heads off to a new senior school. The goals are 1. Make at least one good friend 2. Find a partner for the Year Ten Graduation Dance and 3. Reclaim her lost A grade in English. But with only around two months of the school year now left, Maggie appears doomed to fail on all fronts. To make matters worse Maggie’s mum’s new boyfriend (christened The Pain) seems intent on single-handedly destroying any last flicker of hope Maggie might have had of success. The question is, ‘How will it all end?’.

I really hope you like it.

Maybe some of the amazing and mind-blowing pre-release reviews that have been pouring in, will encourage you to at least try it.

They really are unbelievable.

Totally.

Unbelievable.

REVIEWS: The Pain, My Mother, Sir Tiffy, Cyber Boy and Me – Michael Gerard Bauer

If you only read one book this year make sure it’s Michael Gerard Bauer’s The Pain etc and Me. If you do, I guarantee it will be the best book you read all year! (Old York Times)

I just read Michael Gerard Bauer’s new book from cover to cover in one sitting ! I found that skipping all the pages in between made it go soooooo much faster. (The Nightly Planet)

If you loved Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief. Congratulations! You have very good taste in literature. (The Monthly Weekly)

As I read Michael Gerard Bauer’s The Pain etc and Me, the words just flew off the page!  I think it had something to do with the cheap ink they used in the printing. (The Tuesday Paper – friday’s edition.)

Once I started reading Michael Gerard Bauer’s new book, I couldn’t put it down! (Note to self: Clean hands more thoroughly next time after working with Super Glue.)  (The Sunday Harold)

Michael Gerard Bauer’s The Pain etc and Me stayed with me for a long time after I’d finished reading the final words. (See previous note re Super Glue.) (The Wally Street Journal)

Once in a while a book comes along that changes your life forever. For me, it was Michael Gerard Bauer’s new YA novel. It’s my own fault of course. I should never have been reading it while driving … (The Washingboard Post)

I laughed! I cried! I cheered for joy! Then, after the Football finished, I started reading Michael Gerard Bauer’s The Pain etc and Me. Review to follow. But I might just watch a replay of the Footy first. Or trim my toe nails. Or do something else. Anything. Else. (The Chicago Trombone)

When you read Michael Gerard Bauer’s novels you can’t help but think of writers like Hemingway, Vonnegut and Steinbeck. And how much better they were. Still, he tries and I suppose you have to give him some credit for that. (The Curious Mail)

Engrossing. Captivating. Uproarious. Enriching. Luminous. These are all words I found in my Thesaurus when what I really should have been doing is reading Michael Gerard Bauer’s new novel. My bad! – awful, terrible, dreadful, appalling, shocking, ghastly, horrific, dire. (The Mercury Poisoning)

And finally for those who like playing SPOT THE DIFFERENCE. How many changes can you see from the UNCORRECTED PROOF* cover on the left to the FINAL cover on the right. Apart from subtle changes of colour that is. Maybe about 9?

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(*If you have happened to have read the Uncorrected Proof version, you might be interested to know that in the final version, the last chapter was quite substantially rewritten.)

That’s about it for now. I’d LOVE to see you at the launch if you are in the neighbourhood.

Cheers
Michael

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blog 89: In which I say ‘see ya’ to February and March.

Well somehow we’ve arrived at April so here are some things that have happened in the two months since I returned from my three weeks in China in January. (see blog 87 and blog 88 for details re China)

I’ve had a number of very enjoyable school visits around Brisbane and S/E Queensland. I visited Varsity College at Robina, Brisbane State High, Mt Gravatt SHS, Ambrose-Treacy College, Marist Brothers Ashgrove (my old school!) and Durack State School (where I got to hand out lots of books to the Preps and Grade Ones as part of the Books in Homes Program). A big thanks to all the students and teachers who made me feel so welcome.

At Mt Gravatt SHS I got to sign my first whale and I also encountered a few peg-people. (Readers of the Ishmael series will understand why.)

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Towards the end of February I was one of the lucky authors and illustrators who attended the Romancing the Stars event at Immanuel Lutheran College on the Sunshine Coast. Always a fun night.

It was great to catch up with fellow writers Caroline Magerl (Hasel and Rose), Christine Bongers (Intruders) and Prue Mason (Camel Rider).

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Unfortunately during the author speed dating, I kept dozing off listening to myself talk.

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The highlight of the night for me was being presented with an original drawing (based on Hasel and Rose) from my favourite illustrator, the amazing Caroline Margerl.

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Early in March I attended the Kids Lit Quiz with Samantha Wheeler (Mister Cassowary) up at Ipswich Girls Grammar. This is an amazing annual international book competition which you can read more about HERE. Sam and I formed a two person Author team competing against the kids and in the end we came a very creditable ‘somewhere that wasn’t last’.

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Also in March I was one of a bunch of authors and illustrators who traveled to the TULLY region of Queensland to present at schools there. The trip was arranged by Elaine Ouston of Morris Publishing Australia. My fellow travelers also included Ron Day, Samantha Wheeler, Aleesah Darlison, Paul Collins, Meredith Costain, Josie Montano, Sheryl Gwyther, Kevin Burgemeister, Gabrielle Wang, Marjory Gardner.

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It was a fun (and hot!) trip. As well as meeting and talking to lots of lovely and enthusiastic kids and teachers, we had plenty of laughs and saw some beautiful scenery along the way …

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… and got stay a couple of nights at Mission Beach. It’s a hard life sometimes.IMG_20160322_185459

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March concluded with a trip down south for a day at the Newcastle Writers Festival . I presented three sessions to school groups in the beautiful old City Hall building.

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Apart from the sessions and meeting the wonderful organisers, volunteers and presenters at the Festival, another highlight of my trip was going to see Batman V Superman with illustrator Tony Flowers (Samurai Vs Ninja) and being given this awesome memento of the night …

scan0009 Perhaps the only low light of the Festival was my unfortunate encounter with one of these giant statues in the foyer of the Newcastle library.

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Somehow I managed to head butt one of their hands in a rush to get to my next session. Not too surprisingly, in the battle of SOLID METAL HAND versus SOFT HEAD, the hand won.

Here I am with the lovely Karen Hughes just moments before she led me into the HAND OF DEATH. I’m sure I can see an evil glint in her eyes!

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And here’s the result.

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For a moment after the collision, all I could see were THESE 

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Luckily with the aid of tissues and an ice pack I managed not to bleed too much on the audience. Of course it goes without saying that it probably would have killed a lesser man!

In the photo below with Katrina McKelvey and Tony Flowers you can clearly see the cut and lump on my head and the fact that I’m obviously still suffering from the after effects of concussion. (Thanks to Katrina for the great selfie)

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Well, that’s about all for the more exciting things that I’ve been up to. Apart from that I’ve been going for my regular walks. Still not losing any weight, but strangely enough I think my legs might be getting longer.

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In May, I’m looking forward to the release and launch of my next book. I’ll be saying more about all that in the next blog.

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But for now, CHEERS …

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blog 88: In which I’m STILL in CHINA – PART THE SECOND.

In my previous blog I had reached the end of my time at the Nansha College Preparatory Academy and had covered my first 10 days in China.

AND YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!!!!! (And I must say I find your lack of faith in the accuracy and legitimacy of my blog disturbing and offensive.)

Anyway … I had a day and a half left in the Nansha district before I moved to the next school, so on the Saturday Dianne (Librarian at NCPA) and I visited the huge park and gardens just down the road from the campus. It contains the Nansha Tian Hou Temple and the Nanling Tower that can be seen from the school. So glad I finally made it there before I left.

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In the Temple I rang this bell. I’m sure you heard it from where you were.

SAM_2446 The next day I left Nansha and was driven for about two hours to the city of DONGGUAN. I was pretty happy to finally arrive at my lovely room in the Haiyatt Garden Hotel.

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View from my hotel room.

And for the first time since arriving in China I had a TV to watch. Ummmmm …

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It was a lovely room and I particularly liked my free-range bathroom.

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The room service was pretty impressive as well.

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The next morning I set off with these wise words from the book of Jing Si Aphorisms that was in my room, ringing in my head.

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Carefully watching my tone and facial expressions, I spent two enjoyable days (Monday and Tuesday) at the International School of Dongguan (ISD) where I gave workshops to the Grades 4 – 8 and 10 & 11. Once again the students and their teachers were great, with a special thanks to Dora in the library for all her organisation and hospitality.

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It was fun having lunch with this enthusiastic bunch of readers.

On the Tuesday afternoon it was another long taxi ride, this time to the big smoke of central Guangzhou (previously Canton) to commence my final school visit – five days at the American International School of Guanzhou (AISG).

I stayed here at the Grand International Hotel and caught the Faculty bus every morning to school at 7.00 am. Luckily it stopped right in front of the hotel. (And thanks to Elisa who made sure I never missed it or the bus home!)

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At AISG I met with each of the four Year 6, 7 and 8 classes for two lessons. Once again the students were great to work with – willing to act things out, try the writing activities, share their work and generally get involved.

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Also during my time at AISG I had the pleasure of having lunch with these awesome book-lovers …

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… and being interviewed by these intrepid and intelligent junior reporters …

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… and these intrepid and intelligent senior ones.

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A big thanks yet again to all the students and teachers who made me feel so welcome at AISG, as well as the good folk who took me sight-seeing and out to dinner. A special thanks to Darlene in the library (and her  wonderful library co-workers Elisa and Kitty) for her friendship, good humour and for all her planning and organisation .

IPADMINI 009 CAM04470 IPADMINI 010 On my weekend off in Guangzhou I was kindly taken by a teacher and her husband to the top of Baiyun Mountain via cable car. I was a bit worried by the scrolling sign that said ‘drunkards and psychopaths’ shouldn’t ride the cable car, but I got on without any problem.

It was wet and very cold day but we still had a lovely time and there was a great (although misty) view over the city from the top. And you’ll be pleased to know that my hands did thaw out. Eventually.

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In the gardens at the top there were also these interesting figures …

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… but of course I had my photo taken with this one …

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Afterwards to warm ourselves up we went to a very modern and high-end underground shopping mall and had a beautiful meal including these …

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… made by these guys.

CAM04484During the weekend I got to see a bit of this very modern city.

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Including the impressive Guangzhou Library.

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And just for my Australian friends – look, apparently Joe Hockey must have visited Guangzhou at sometime as well.

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On Sunday morning I caught a taxi to the Guangzhou Museum.

IPADMINI 097It was the coldest morning Guangzhou had experienced for many years. I noticed some flakes of ice falling on me but apparently in some parts of the city that morning (possibly while I was inside the museum which incidentally was just as freezing as outside) they witnessed their first snow fall in 87 years.

This is me wondering why I can’t feel my face any more.

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Luckily the Museum was wonderful. So many amazing carvings in wood, ivory and jade along with beautiful pottery and other artwork from over the centuries. (NB: against my better judgement I’ve even included a cat here for some of my Facebook friends.)
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And then, as if to counterbalance all those gorgeous and amazing creations, over in the Underwater World section, there was this shark. No comment.
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That’s about it, but before I finish off, I should mention that of course not everything on my trip was plain-sailing.

My phone decided to go crazy shortly after I arrived in China and began sending me multiple text messages – and when I say multiple I mean for example that I eventually received the same one from my wife around 80 times! Now I know I’m a little slow on the uptake, but seriously, was that really necessary?

Then to add to the excitement and spontaneity of the trip, my phone also decided to randomly change the date and time without telling me. (I now have a new phone.)

Also my newly downloaded Windows 10 killed my notebook just before a presentation at NCPA and I quickly had to restore it to a previous setting. Unfortunately that setting ended up being from some time in the Pre-Cambrian period and as you can see below it required a little catching up.

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My very last session at AISG, and the final one of my China trip was a combined assembly for the year 6, 7 and 8s which was a lot of fun. As it turned out, my school visits concluded appropriately enough on Australia Day (although we really do need to change the date) so I got to wear the last of the Made-in-China koalas and kangaroos that I had been giving away throughout the trip.

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That definitely is it! If you made it this far, you’re an absolute legend! (Either that or easily amused.)

All that remains now is for me to wish everyone at NCPA, ISD and AIGS a happy, fulfilling and prosperous YEAR of the MONKEY …

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… and to thank you all (but especially Dianne Salminen) for spoiling me and making my three week journey such an enjoyable and memorable experience.

Wait, that’s not the end! A final, FINAL thanks to BOOKED OUT SPEAKER’S AGENCY who always do a great job in helping arrange and organise all my school visits including this one.

Cheers & thanks China!
Michael

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blog 87: In which I go to CHINA – PART ONE.

I’ve been very fortunate in recent years (with the expert help of BOOKED OUT SPEAKER’S AGENCY ) to have had the chance to do overseas school visits at the Jakarta International School (twice), The British International School of Jakarta and The American Community School of Abu Dhabi (see blog 33).

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In January this year I was given the wonderful opportunity to do talks and workshops at three schools in Southern China.

These overseas visits first started when I met Dianne and Kate in 2006, two lovely librarians from the Jakarta International School, at a CBCA conference in Sydney. After hearing me talk, they asked if I’d ever thought about doing school visits overseas. I said I hadn’t, but I certainly would!

That conversation resulted in two  very enjoyable and rewarding trips to Jakarta. A few years later when Dianne got a new position in Abu Dhabi she contacted me about going there and then last year she emailed me from her new location, the Nansha College Preparatory School in China and asked, “Are you still doing overseas school visits?”. To which I replied, “Only when you contact me!”. So I owe all my school globe-trotting to Dianne and for that, and our friendship,  I am very grateful.

Dianne at NCPA

Dianne at NCPA

Anyway, what follows (along with of course some poetic and writerly licence) is the first part of how my China trip went …

Well I left Brisbane bright and early on the morning of January 5th. So lucky to have all the family at the airport to see me off!

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After an 8 hour flight (see blog 20 for helpful plane travel advice!) I arrived in Changi Airport in Singapore. I passed the next 5 hours there by visiting London and the butterfly house …

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… and trying not to stare for too long at the carpet.

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After another 4 hour flight and then an hour’s taxi ride from Guangzhou airport, I arrived at the Nansha College Preparatory Academy teachers’ apartment just after 2 o’clock in the morning. I was tired but looking forward to the weeks ahead.

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My apartment was on the second floor of the middle building.

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View from my apartment looking towards the school.

After a late sleep in, I had the rest of my first day in China (Wednesday 6th Jan) to relax, find Dianne, meet people and check out the library and the school.

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I started the next day with a presentation on the morning assembly to the years 9 to 12s. It mainly covered my incredible life’s journey from being raised by a pack of wild wombats right through to my ascendancy as a modern Australian icon. I think they were duly impressed!

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Overall I had 7 days of presentations and workshops at NCPA with classes ranging from year 7 through to 12. All the students and teachers were very welcoming and great to work with.

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NCPA was different from the other two schools I was visiting, in that basically all the students there are Chinese with English as a second language which did make communication slightly more of a challenge on occasions.

The subjects at NCPA are taught in English to prepare the students to go on to English-speaking Universities in England, the USA and Australia.

When students enroll at the College they automatically give up their right to ever attend a University in China, so it’s quite a decision and commitment that they and their families make particularly if they enroll in year 7.

I have to say that I think the students coped remarkably well with having a crazy Australian with a strange accent in the class with them.

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All the classes went well but one of the highlights of my time at NCPA were the sessions with the Years 7 & 8s on Writing Funny. The challenge I gave them was to take a normally very serious situation (eg a Bank Robbery) and turn it into comedy by adding the element of surprise to Characters, Action and eventually Language Use.

First we needed to make sure the students understood the fine art Robbing Banks (I hasten to add that I did urge them not to put their new-found knowledge into practice and never to play with real guns!)

To help out, Dianne and the wonderful Year 7 and 8 teachers and teacher aids acted out a typically serious robbery scene for me (which the kids of course found hugely hilarious and entertaining. As did I).

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Sadly, all the attention eventually went to the teachers’ heads and they started making excessive demands for increased pay as well as ridiculously unreasonable requests for things like luxury trailers, gourmet catering and personal assistants. So after three outstanding performances for three different sessions, it all came to an end.

Then it was the students turn to transform serious into funny – and they were seriously funny! Every group came up with a scenario the was unique, clever and contained laugh out loud moments. ( Disclaimer: no students were injured in the performance of these robbery scenes.  And a huge thanks to JEREMIAH for the use of his terrific photos – as well as for his company and conversation.)

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But of course, all my time wasn’t spent in the classroom. Back in the apartment I’m proud to say I managed to successfully break the code on the washing machine instructions. Although I do admit that my first attempt at random button pushing resulted in my clothes starting to be spun dry before any water had actually entered the tub. Almost immediately I realised that probably wasn’t right.

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I also want to thank Dianne and all the teachers at NCPA and the two other schools who invited me into their homes or took me out to wonderful restaurants and who in many other ways were so kind and generous. A special thank you to Janet at NCPA who had the apartment below me for the beautiful dinners, for supplying the iron/ironing board and other items, and for constantly loading me up with food supplies, including the odd Budweiser. Much appreciated.

Speaking of food, my lunches from the school cafeteria at NCPA were pretty special too. And as for chop sticks, by the time I left China I could pick an ant up by his little toe with those babies!

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On my days off at Nansha I managed to get in some great sight-seeing thanks to Dianne and other staff members.

On my first Saturday I went with Dianne, Raymond (IT) and Karen (library assistant) to the Xiqiao Mountain about an hour’s drive from the school.

First stop was the Wong Fei-hung Lion Dance & Martial Arts School. A place with an amazing history. The origin of Kung-fu I believe.

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After that it was on to the bronze Nanhai Kwan-yin Statue – at 62 metres tall and sitting on top of a mountain 290 metres above sea level, it is the biggest seated Buddha statue in the world.

On the way to see it, we passed lovely gardens.

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The Buddha statue itself was spectacularly impressive.

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This is the view from the Buddha statue. If there was a little less pollution you would be able to see the city in that white background.

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Before we left the mountain top I wrote some wishes and threw them into the Wishing Tree. (You can see where the tree is in the photo above. It’s that smudge of red colour at the top centre/right.)

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After four failed attempts I changed my wish to, “Please let me get this thing to stay in the branches sometime before I die!’

I eventually succeeded and the proof is in the photo below. Mine is the red and yellow one around top centre, just next to the two yellow and red ones.

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Our last stop before heading home was beautiful Tianhu Lake …

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… where we saw quite a few of these cute little guys …

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… and we didn’t do this because … well … we are.

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An awesome day and I was so lucky to get to spend it with these lovely people.

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The next day (Sunday) Dianne took me to the markets in the old section of town. I loved it. Such an interesting, bustling place with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and other products.

However, the meat and fish sections were no places for vegetarians or passionate animal lovers like my beautiful daughter. Avert your eyes Meg!

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And with those images of a whole skinned goat and a bag of live frogs, I think I’ll end PART ONE of my CHINA blog.

I’ve covered the first 11 days up till Friday 15th January. I have a day and a half left in Nansha before I head off on Sunday 17th for my next destination – the International School of DONGGUAN.

Sorry about the overload of photos, but considering I did take hundreds, I’ve actually let you off easy.

PART TWO coming in a few days.

Cheers
Michael

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Eric gives Just a Dog a very generous thumbs up.

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blog 86: in which I farewell 2015

Hey, it’s December 31st and you know what that means. Yes, time for my annual shower! But apart from that, it’s also the last day of 2015. So I thought I should do a final blog to see off the year.

The last time I blogged was mid-November. Shocking and pathetic, I know. I resolve to be much more consistent and frequent with my blogging next year! Which is the same resolution I had this year and the year before and the year before that, so I’ve sort of got that ‘consistent’ thing going already, right?

Anyway, how did the year end for me, I don’t hear you ask.

Well, I had my last author booking/school visit in mid-November.

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Overall, I spent around 60 days at schools or festivals which took me to Sydney (twice), Canberra, Hobart, Melbourne, Gippsland, Ipswich, Gladstone, Emerald, Biloela, Leeton and many places around Brisbane and SE Qld.

A big thank you to all the schools, teachers and students who made me feel so welcome and special. It’s an honour and a privilege to be invited into schools. A big thanks also to the great folk at BOOKED OUT Speakers Agency who handle all my bookings in such an efficient and professional manner. They are an awesome group of people to work with. Check them out if you’re ever in the market for an author/artist/illustrator/inspirational speaker visit.

After my author visits had finished I had the final editing to do on my new YA novel which is due out in April 2016 with Omnibus Books/Scholastic Australia. (See work-in-various-stages-of-progress below.)

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The new book is a light-hearted story with some serious bits told by a 15-year-old narrator named Maggie. Originally I was going to call it Star Wars: The Force Awakens but apparently someone else stole that title. Bummer! (Same thing happened with my War and Peace picture book.)

Anyway the working title of the new novel is The Pain and Me. The actual title that appears on the cover is about three times longer than that. Hopefully I’ll be able to show the cover design sometime early in the new year. I’m really looking forward to this one coming out. After all the fun of the Eric Vale and Derek Dale books for younger readers it will be great to have a YA novel hit the shelves.

By the time I’d sent in the last edit of The Pain and Me, Christmas was fast approaching so I got a tree …

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… which really came up a treat once it was decorated!

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Soon I was totally into the nightmare before Christmas spirit.

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We had a lovely Christmas with family at our house and the next day headed to the Gold Coast and beautiful Burleigh Heads Beach to spend the last days of 2015. Not that hard to take.

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While we were at Burleigh we went for a number of walks in the National Park where we came across trees that were even older than me …

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as well as shy, cute, woodland creatures …

 

All in all we had a wonderful time at the beach, apart from the day we went to see The Force Awakens and my wife joined the Dark Side and threatened to leave me for a Storm Trooper – and not a very handsome one at that!

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And that’s about it for 2015.

So on behalf of Joe and Meg …

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and me and Ard …

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I’d like to wish all my long-suffering, patient, obviously not very discerning and certainly easily amused readers, a very Hoppy New Year and a roo-ly wonderful 2016 .

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I’m grateful for anyone who has taken the time throughout the past year to read any of my rabbiting on and super grateful to anyone who has left a comment. Much appreciated.

Cheers
Michael

(PS: In 5 days time I head off to China and will be away most of January. During that time I’ll be visiting three schools, so I should have some interesting blogs to start the year.)

 

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blog 85: In which October and a bit of November get the once over.

Here’s a quick recap of some of the major happenings in my life over the past couple of months.

  • You may or may not know it (it’s sure to be one or the other) but I’m a big fan of the 60s TV series The Samurai and the main character (Character? No way, he’s real!) Shintaro. I even dedicated one of the books I did with Joe Eric Vale Super Male to him. So what a thrill it was for me to attend a gathering of beautiful, like-minded (crazy?) people and to get to hold what is the Holy Grail for Samurai fans – the actual, only-one-in-existence wig that was warn by the actor who play Shintaro in the series!!!!!! ( At this point I understand you will either be mightily impressed, completely lost or reaching slowly for the unfriend/unsubscribe/get-me-out-of-here buttons.) The other big highlight of the day was that the group received a personal email from Koichi Ose the star of the show himself – now 78 yrs old.

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  • As part of the Read Around Gladstone tour organised by the Brisbane Writers Festival, I spent a very enjoyable 4 days visiting schools in Emerald, Biloela and Gladstone along with David Burton author of the teenage memoir How To Be Happy. We also dropped in on the great ladies of Gladstone Council Library. At Emerald State School the students had designed their own awesome super heroes after reading Eric Vale  Super Male while at Biloela State School they had created a colourful You Turkeys displayThe kids’ smiling faces were even better than their pictures but unfortunately I can’t shown them here.

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  • I spent a few lovely days in the Riverina area of NSW giving talks and a workshop at the Leeton library, Leeton State School and Coleambally State School as well as giving a keynote address at the Riverina Professional Association of Teacher Librarians (RIVPAT) Conference. Terrific to catch up with the very talented and entertaining Sarah Davis who was there too. A big thanks to Peta Newsam for the invitation and organisation, and to everyone I met for their wonderful friendship and hospitality.
Created by the library staff at St Francis College Leeton.

Created by the library staff at St Francis College Leeton.

The fabulous Roxy Theatre in Leeton opened in 1930 and still operating.

The fabulous Roxy Theatre in Leeton opened in 1930 and still operating.

Heading home.

Heading home.

Weird propeller shots from my window seat.

Weird propeller shots from my window seat.

Cheers
Michael

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blog 84: In which I say WHAM, BAM thank you SPAM!

I get heaps and heaps of SPAM sent to my Blog.  Spammers are by far my biggest and most vocal fans. They love me! I know this because they are always so complimentary. I regularly read their comments just to make myself feel good and to boost my confidence.

Sadly though, I’ve been unforgivably slack about responding to their messages. Time to address that glaring oversight forthwith.

Here’s just a handful of correspondence from this month’s Spam File. (Note: Spam messages copied verbatim.)

  • From Betclic: Thank you for the auspicious writeup. It in fact was a amusement account it. Look advanced to far added agreeable from you!
    By the way, how could we communicate?

Dear Betclic, I don’t know about me, but if I had to hazard a guess, I’d say you could definitely communicate ‘MUCH better’.

  • From autolabeler.com: What a stuff of un-ambiguity and preserveness of precious experience concerning unpredicted emotions.

Thanks Autolabeler, your email is the very stuff that un-ambiguity is made of! I think you’ve summed up beautifully what I’ve been attempting to achieve with my blogging!

  • From ??????: â€œä»–是飞天星盗的首领, «æŒ‚在这里,是因为帝国决定要大规模杀星盗了,这个只是第一个。外面大大小小的星盗团有七八百个,è

Dear ????? €Œä¸”å…¨éƒ¨å„è‡ªæœ‰å„è‡ªçš„é¢†åœ°ï¼Œå¬è¯´ä»–ä»¬æƒ¹åˆ°äº†å¤§äººç‰©ã€‚çŽ  :)

  • From Sherita: I think that everything posted made a bunch of sense. But, consider this, suppose you wrote a catchier post title? I am not saying your content is not good, but suppose you added something to possibly get a person’s attention? I mean Blog 72: In which I quickly recap 20 highlights of July, August and September, is a little boring.

Hi Sherita. Bunch of sense? Is that the right collective noun? Are you sure it’s not a herd of sense or possibly a flock of sense? Anyway, thanks for the great piece of advice as well as the heartless criticism of my pathetic title-creating ability. You’ll be happy to know that I’ve now re-named blog 72 as “He quickly recapped 20 highlights of July, August and September, and you WON’T BELIEVE what happened next! Warning: contains NUDITY which might excite some readers and which you also probably WON’T BELIEVE!

  • From Latest Social Media Technology in Education: Year 2014 is expected to bring new awareness in users. If your business products or services are ones that people like to talk about yoou will hwve a much easier time acquiring social media interest, fzns and followers.

Dear LSMTIE,  do you think that the ‘new awareness in users’ might be the awareness that it’s actually 2015 – and has been for some time? Also I think yoou might hwve more fzns yourself, if you turned on your Spellcheck occasionally. Just saying.

Ards phone 001

Every time you miss a TYPO, the ERRORISTS win!

  • From Digital Photographer: Exploring in Yahoo I finally stumbled upon this website. Reading this info So i’m satisfied to express that I have an incredibly just right uncanny feeling I discovered exactly what I needed. 

Thanks Digital Photographer. I’m satisfied to express that I have an incredibly just right uncanny feeling that you probably haven’t.

  • From Vehicle Accident Lawyer: So, they outcome to basing it on what is the typical compensation for the kind of injury.

Thanks so much for your moving and generous message Vehicle Accident Lawyer. This is why I write books!

  • From AEOkylegokxb: Hello admin, do you need some fresh content on your
    website? Daily fresh content will rank your blog higher in google, if you are too lazy to write everyday, search in google for: Elmit’s Essential Tool

Thanks AEOkylegokxb for that helpful tip regarding Elmit’s Essential Tool. But what do I search for if I’m even too lazy to write every month?

  • From Computer Support Fort Lauderdale: Thanks for any other great article. Where else may anyone get that kind of info in such a perfect method of writing? I have a presentation subsequent week, and I’m at the search for such info.

Dear CSFL, who are you kidding? Do you really think you’re going to find another example of a perfect method of writing like mine somewhere else? Get a grip CSFL. I’d expect much better of a Fort Lauderdale-ite. You’re being a fool to yourself and a burden to society! You know that don’t you? You should be banished to the edges of society and repeatedly poked with a stick! If you maintain this attitude, your ‘presentation subsequent week’ will be an unmitigated disaster!!!!!
I hope I haven’t come across as being too harsh. 

  • From Click Here: Thanks for sharing such a fastidious idea, piece of writing is pleasant, that’s why i have read it entirely.
  • From Susanne: If some one wishes expert view concerning blogging afterward i advise him/her to pay a quick visit this blog.
    Keep up the fastidious job.

Dear Suzanne and Click Here. Thank you so much for your emails. I often feel that the fastidious nature of my blog goes totally unappreciated! ‘Fastidious’ was my middle name at school. I’m pretty sure it was used as a term of endearment. Anyway, as the old saying goes, ‘Fastidiousness is next to (or to be precise, ten point two centimetres to the left of, and ever so slightly behind) Godliness’.

Well that’s it. A big thanks to all the Spammers who are continually amazed and grateful that my wondrous blog exists, as well as all those good folk who send me slabs of either indecipherable or totally irrelevant text. Keep the emails coming. I do it all for you guys!

Cheers
Michael

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