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.

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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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blog 83: In which I recap August and September and where some of the things I say are actually true.

August and September have been very busy but very enjoyable months for me. They were packed with school visits, as well as a festival and a conference which took me from Brisbane to Melbourne to Ipswich to Hobart.

Here are some of the things that happened.

  • I had a birthday! (Never too late to send presents!) Strangely enough, the same thing happened to me on the exact day last year. Of course I immediately requested a recount because obviously some gross error had occurred in the tallying up of the years.
  • This was the mixer my wife had to use to bake a birthday cake big enough to support all my candles!

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  • On the plus birthday side, news of my rapidly approaching use by date, did make a newspaper in Frankfurt Germany. I really liked the fact that they used a photo of me from 2003. (For those of you who don’t read German the article mainly goes on about how young I look and what a tragic loss it was to the fashion industry that I gave up my stellar modeling career to become a writer.)

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  • Speaking of all things German, the recent German radio plays of the Ishmael series were released on CDs by the wonderful HÖRCOMPANY.

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  • I had lots of school visits in and around my hometown of Brisbane, including one to St Williams Primary School where grade 5R put together this great display for Eric Vale Off the Rails.

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  • While taking out the garbage one night I spotted a pair of rare mutant radio-active zombie possums watching me from the telephone line. True story.

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  • I had a terrific two weeks of school visits down in Melbourne including a couple of days in Sale as Writer in Residence at Gippsland Grammar – see below.

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  • While in Melbourne we had a lovely weekend away at Wye River where we took in the beautiful scenery …

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  • … and met the very friendly local wildlife, which as well as the feathery guys below, included spotting 4 koalas.

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  • My daughter Meg even managed to photo-bomb my bird selfie!

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  • Back in Brisbane there were more school visits followed by a week up at the wonderful Story Arts Festival in Ipswich where I spoke to more than 1500 primary kids over 4 days and got to do three session with my awesome son Joe Bauer – illustrator of the Eric Vale and Secret Agent Derek ‘Danger Dale series.

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  • While at the Festival Joe and I got to catch up with a fantastic bunch of authors & illustrators including …
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Tony Flowers and Valanga Khoza

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Barry Jonsberg and Oliver Phommavanh

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Mark Greenwood and Terry Denton (thanks for showing me the hand Terry!) Thanks to Janeen Brian for the photo.

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Joe with Terry Denton

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With James Moloney.

While in Ipswich we attended the brilliant and hilarious theatre performance of Eric Vale Epic Fail staged by the amazing THAT Production Company complete with wonderful songs by Liz Flynn.

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Joe and I join the Q & A with cast and crew on stage after the Opening Night performance.

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  • For my last trip away I went to Hobart to join the Scholastic Australia team for a couple of days to promote books and reading at the Australia Primary Principals Association (APPA) Conference . We gave away 500 free copies of Just a Dog and Eric Vale Epic Fail!
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The beautiful view from our hotel room. Thank you to Murray and the team from Scholastic Australia!

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  • While in Tassie I caught up with very talented author/illustrator Christina Booth in Salamanca Place where she spoke passionately at a Refugee support rally.

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  • Before returning home my wife and I did many fun touristy things but I was really disappointed that I didn’t manage to spot a Tassie Tiger.

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  • Thanks to Paul Collins I received my copy of Rich and Rare, a fabulous collection of stories, poems and artwork by a host of Australia’s best children and YA writers  – plus me. Highly recommended!

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  • Eric Vale made it to Poland under an assumed name!

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  • And finally, this video came for me from the wonderful folk at Carl Hanser in Germany and it shows why I am so lucky and blessed to have them as my publisher there.

Cheers
Michael

 

 

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blog 82: In which I don’t really blog at all.

It’s been a busy past five weeks packed with one or two school visits just about every day including a two week tour down in Melbourne and Gippsland. I have another busy two weeks coming up where I’m at the Story Arts Festival in Ipswich and then down in Hobart Tasmania speaking at a primary Principals Conference and signing books on the Scholastic Australia stand.

After all that is done, I’ll have time to blog about some of it in more detail.

In the meantime, here’s a video I made for a school on this year’s Book Week theme of ‘Books Light Up Our World’.

 

Cheers
Michael

 

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blog 81: In which I journey to the Nation’s Capital (or What happens in Canberra doesn’t stay in Canberra!)

I’ve just returned from a very enjoyable week in CANBERRA with my wife.

There wasn’t quite enough time for me to set all the Nation’s affairs in order, but you know, I did what I could.

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Here’s how it all went.

I spent the first five days visiting schools.

On Monday I went to St Edmund’s College and had great sessions with the boys from grades 4, 5 and 6. St Edmund’s was only about 800 metres down the road from our hotel, so I walked there early in the morning.

That day’s minimum temperature was -5 degrees.

It was a very refreshing and pretty walk, particularly seeing all the bare trees, fallen leaves and the grass dusted with frost. Sure, I lost the feeling in my face for two days and a few of my fingers may have to be removed, but such a small price to pay for beauty, I say!

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On Tuesday I spoke with the awesome grade 5s and 7s at Burgmann Anglican School who created these lovely displays.

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Wednesday and Thursday I had a terrific time with the 4s, 5s, 6s and 9s of Marist College Jnr and Snr Colleges.

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On Wednesday night I had the pleasure of joining Tania McCartney to address a gathering of teachers and librarians at Marist Snr College on Reading.

As you can see below, they didn’t quite get my name right on the original poster advertising the event. (Sorry Tehani – just too good not to share!).

But it all turned out for the best, because they were only expecting a crowd of 50 or 60 people and over 3,000 signed up to attend! Of course it was made clear on the night, that I was in fact NOT Gerard Butler.

But many people still left unconvinced!

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I finished the week of school visits at Palmerston District Primary School speaking with three groups of lovely 5/6 students in their very colourful and inviting library.

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I also received some lovely letters from one of the classes. The letters said some very nice things about my books and the talks. I was particularly fond of this observation from one very perceptive and intelligent student.

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After all the school visits were over, my wife and I had a few days of free time in Canberra.

We took in the sights (and I pretended to be a tree).

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We saws plenty of birdlife.

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We visited the National Portrait Gallery where I was insulted by this poster …

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… but was happy to find this guy lurking secretively undercover in the Portrait Gallery Bookshop!

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We visited the War Memorial and experienced the amazing new high tech Gallipoli and WWW 1 displays.

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And finally, because of my services to the Nation during my visit to the Capital, I was immortalised in bronze with ex-Prime Ministers John Curtain and Ben Chifley.

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Yes, it was quite a week!

A big thanks to the good folk at Booked Out Speakers Agency who organise all my visits so brilliantly and especially to all the amazing teachers, librarians and students whom I had the absolute pleasure of meeting during the week.

Cheers
Michael

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blog 80: In which JOE BAUER says, ‘Welcome to Jurassic World!”

My son Joe Bauer the illustrator of the Eric Vale and Derek ‘Danger’ Dale series has a new project underway creating animated trailers which take off  some of the upcoming big blockbuster films.

He’s kicked it off with this JURASSIC WORLD trailer (some Parental Guidance Recommended for younger viewers). Enjoy!

If you did enjoy that and want to see more trailers as they are released, you can LIKE Joe’s facebook page TOON SANDWICH.

And don’t forget, Joe and his wife Rita are independent filmmakers specialising in the comedy genre. You can see all their projects on their ARTSPEAR WEBSITE.

As we speak Artspear’s  most recent comedy feature film AUSTRALIENS has been accepted and will be showing in 12 film festivals in the USA this year. For a taste of the comedy action check out the awesome trailer.

And finally if you want to know how Joe creates some of those amazing special effects, take a look at Joe aka FEX from The Void lets you in on his movie magic!

Cheers
Michael

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REBLOG #7 (a blog from the backlog!) blog 16: In which I speak out of school

A question from a teacher as we made our way through a school playground narrowly avoiding riots and food fights.

Teacher: Michael, do you ever miss full-time teaching?
Me: Would it be rude and insensitive if I just laughed hysterically about now?

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I’d just like to make it clear that the above response was more about how happy and how blessed I feel now, for being given the chance to be a full-time writer, rather than a criticism of the teaching profession.

I love teachers. They are probably my favourite people – along with librarians and children’s authors and illustrators.

The vast majority of teachers are remarkable and inspiring – and they are paid less than half of what they are worth in my opinion. I have taught with amazing people who I can say without exaggeration were doing the equivalent of three normal full-time jobs.

I felt very proud the day I graduated and was able to say I was a high school teacher. It is a noble and important profession.

My first teaching job.

Teaching has given me some of the best days of my life and many of my most treasured memories and dearest friends. But as the song says, ‘Some days are diamond. Some days are stone.’ And some days even make stone seem appealing. I guess like any teacher worth his or her salt, I had my fair share of ‘hard’ teaching days.

Many mornings I remember waking up and absolutely dreading the day ahead and having to fight to convince myself to face up to it. Sometimes I failed.

These days, I don’t think I could survive a year of fulltime teaching. Maybe not even a Semester. I’m spoilt by the school visits I do as an author. I even have the hide to refer to them as ‘work’. I’ve gotten soft and I know it. I don’t have the stamina and strength anymore to teach fulltime. Or the dedication. Or the courage.

I wouldn’t choose to go back to it now, but I wouldn’t have missed my teaching experience for the world. I may have found it a tough, hard slog at times, but magic happens in schools.

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Here’s just one example of many magic moments from my teaching experience:

Back when I was still trying to write my first novel I took a semester full-time teaching contract at an all girls’ school in Brisbane. Along with other classes I had two Grade 8 English groups. I loved them. So full of life and energy. And talk about talk!

At one point we were doing Oral Presentations.

There was a girl in one of the classes who really hated speaking in front of people. It terrified her. Let’s call her Susan. She was very shy and sat by herself. She didn’t seem to have any close friends. I tried to help her as much as I could with the preparation for her speech and to build up her confidence but when the day came for her turn she was petrified.

Susan made her way to the front of the class with her notes trembling in her hands. She didn’t look up once. Any words she manged to squeeze out were so quiet and shaky you could hardly hear them. As she stumbled her way agonizingly through her speech she unconsciously shuffled back from the class until she had literally hidden part of herself behind a curtain.

Then, when she lost her place, it all got too much and she just broke down and cried.

It was heart-breaking to watch, particularly for someone like me who also hated public speaking when I was at school. (I gave the character of Ishmael my fear in Don’t Call Me Ishmael.)

Of course I did my best to comfort and reassure Susan. I told her to forget about it, that it didn’t matter and that she could have another go the next morning.

When I headed off to that same English class the next day, I was dreading a repeat performance and I was wracking my brain to come up with ways to help Susan get through her ordeal.

I needn’t have worried. There were others who had it all under control.

Before I got to the room I was ambushed by three girls from Susan’s class. They had bought one of those monster ‘Good Luck’ cards and they’d gone around before school and got everyone in the class to sign it and write Susan messages of encouragement and support. I was the last one. They wanted to present the card to Susan before she made her second attempt at speaking.

So that’s what they did and lots of the girls came up and gave her a hug as well.

Susan cried.

Happy tears this time.

How do kids get to be that beautiful? That’s a question I’ve asked myself many times as teacher and again these days as a regular visitor to schools.

Armed with the love and support of her classmates, Susan managed to survive her second go at the presentation.

I gave her a D+.

I know that sounds terribly cruel, but had I graded her honestly according to the criteria on the marking sheet, both that letter and the degree would have been even lower.

I don’t think it mattered anyway.

Of the two items – my assessment sheet and that Good Luck card – I’m fairly certain I know which one Susan has kept and treasured more than gold to this day and which one she would have tossed aside and forgotten long ago.

Magic happens in schools.

Cheers
Michael

PS: If you’d like to read another example of magic happening – this time in a boys’ school – go HERE.

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blog 79: In which I discover that April actually wasn’t the cruelest month and so far May hasn’t been too bad either.

Yes it’s catch-up time again because as per usual I have failed in my commitment to blog more regularly.

So looking back to APRIL …

My wife, daughter and I had a lovely holiday with some good friends, here at Euramella Shores, Noosa Lake on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland.

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During our stay we were visited by the local wildlife.

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The views around Noosa Heads were beautiful.

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Except when some clown stood in front of them!

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I was part of a QWC celebration of Queensland authors at a West End Bar where I read from Steven Herrick’s lovely verse novel By The River (which I highly recommend).

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I drove 250 kms to visit Tiaro, Bauple, Gundiah and the surrounding districts where my ancestors settled after they arrived in Maryborough by ship from Germany in the 1860s.

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While there I attended the Tiaro Dawn Service commemorating 100 yrs  since the Gallipoli campaign. My grandfather Arthur whom I never met came from Tiaro and was part of the Light Horse Brigade that ended up at Gallipoli.

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I spent a morning in Maryborough where I visited the fountain and plaque dedicated to my Great Aunt, Nurse (Cecilia) Bauer and Nurse Wiles.

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I also bumped into Mary Poppins and found her to be practically perfect in every way!

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I decided to tidy up and re-organise the book shelves in the study. It took me two days to finish it but only two hours to regret ever starting it in the first place! Still, the Happy Dogs seemed happy when it was all done and (literally) dusted.

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In MAY I was part of the Newington Literature Festival in Sydney which was a great experience as always. I got to catch up with lots of writerly friends and colleagues there including (below) Brian Falkner, Tony Thompson, Barry Heard, Jack Heath, Arnold Zable, Mandy Ord, James Roy, Richard Harland and Scot Gardner.

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I also got to stay at Susanne Gervay’s beautiful Hughenden Hotel which is filled with lots of lovely things including stunning original picture book illustrations.

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New Eric Vale covers came out in Spain and Poland.

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I read the final book in the exciting Pandora Jones series by my good friend Barry Jonsberg and the wonderful Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil who I met at the Somerset Festival. Thoroughly enjoyed both books.

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I made friends with the wildlife sharing our house.

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My wife and I had our first game of tennis for quite a few years. I didn’t play that well mainly because I’m pretty sure there was something wrong with the court, and my racquet, and the balls … oh and the sun was in a bad position too, and there was a bit of a breeze as well, and I think I might have been suffering from multiple cramps because my legs didn’t move anywhere near as fast as they used to, and the grip on my handle didn’t feel right, and apparently someone has stolen all the cartilage in my knees, and …

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And finally I watched the whole season of My Kitchen Rules and was shocked that in all the times they went on about various food combinations being a ‘match made in heaven’, not once, NOT ONCE, did they mention the perfection that is the peanut-paste and banana sandwich.

And they call themselves a cooking show!

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Cheers
Michael

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