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Saturday, November 23, 2019

Of Women In Science, And A Play About Rosalind Franklin

Back in the 1990s, I wrote my second book, Potions To Pulsars: Women Doing Science, a children’s book about the history of women who have made a difference to discovery and invention over the centuries. Many of them had to do it in secret or in surroundings that didn’t give them the equipment they needed. Some of them - like Rosalind Franklin, the heroine of the play I’ve just gone to see - were hidden from history while males got the credit. It’s not that there weren’t books that included them. In fact, when I was researching Rosalind Franklin for my own book, I read a bio of her, written by a cousin. But you had to know what you were looking for. If you were an ordinary reader, especially a child, you might be under the impression that Marie Curie was the only woman scientist in existence. I’ve recently come across a new children’s book on the history of science and it still only featured Madame Curie! It didn’t even mention that her daughter Irene was also a Nobel Prize winner, or her granddaughter Helene a nuclear physicist.

Fortunately, I’m a librarian. I did know how to look it all up.

 I wrote this book in the early days of the Internet, way before Google, so I used the State  Library for most of my research. The children’s section of my local library supplied me with general books about science, which I needed as a layman, because you can’t just write biographies without explaining what these women achieved. And yes, I used the Internet about once a week. You had to buy an hour of use at the Internet cafes which were springing up in those days. My book did pretty well, even getting a Notable in the CBCA awards, a shortlisting in the Clayton’s awards and even a short but positive review in New Scientist, plus I got an invitation to speak to a group of high-IQ kids at their Friday night meeting. It was only about a year ago that someone’s children’s book on women in science ended up on the New York Times bestseller list. I admit to grinding my teeth in envy. My book sold about 6-7000 copies in Australia, a respectable number, but hardly  NYT bestseller status. If it had been written in the last few years...who knows? It would certainly have been possible to give it more promotion.

Rosalind Franklin. Wikimedia Commons

Ada Byron Lovelace, the world’s first computer programmer, now has her own international day in October, and most have heard of Caroline Herschel, astronomer sister of William Herschel, George III’s Astronomer Royal, but even now, when we should know better, we are told all about James Watson and Francis Crick, the “discoverers of the structure of DNA” and not a word about Rosalind Franklin, whose work they used to finish their own and rush into publication ahead of her, gaining them the Nobel Prize, along with her colleague Maurice Wilkins, who showed them the notes they needed to correct the glitch they had made. According to the bio written by Dr Franklin’s cousin, the problem was that she was so careful in her work that she refused to publish till she was absolutely certain. So she died of cancer at the age of 37 and they got the prize, and the only one of the three who bothered to mention her at their Nobel presentation was Wilkins. They don’t give Nobel Prizes posthumously; we’ll never know if she would have been recognised if she had been alive. I’d like to think she would, but possibly not. 

So this afternoon I went to see Photograph 51, a play about Rosalind Franklin by Anna Ziegler, at the Fairfax Studio in Melbourne. I see from the play’s Wikipedia entry that the role was first played by Nicole Kidman - wow! This afternoon, however, it was played by local actor Nadine Garner, best known within Australia, and a fine actor. The characters were Rosalind Franklin, Watson, Crick, Wilkins, Ray Gosling, her PhD student, and Don Caspar, an American scientist and admirer who asked her for photographic help in his PhD and came over to work with her. He and Watson are both still alive, as of this writing. I hadn’t realised how very young Watson was at the time, but it explains why he is still around. He is shown as a brilliant but annoying boy child; you just want to stomp on him, especially when he spends a lecture of hers commenting on her appearance instead of listening to her(I think those comments were in his book). Of course, I was biased... 

Rosalind Franklin University Of Medicine And Science, US. Wikimedia  Commons

It was a wonderful afternoon at the theatre and my sister also enjoyed it, though she wasn’t familiar with the story. And I enjoyed it because I was familiar with it! 

My book Potions To Pulsars is out of print now, but I recently unearthed several copies. I’ll give away one precious copy to one commenter, using a name-out-of-a-hat method. If you are commenting below, let me know if you’re interested in winning a copy, by saying “Yes, please.” I’ll give it a week before announcing the winner, and as it’s a slim volume you can enter even if you are outside Australia. 

Good luck! 

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

A (Writing) Day At A Seaside School!

On Tuesday I went with Ford Street to a school writer’s festival in Mt Eliza, a rather beautiful suburb by the bay. It was a long trip, so I met my friend George Ivanoff  on the way, at a railway station along his route, and he kindly took me there and dropped me off on the way back. Poor George was suffering from a cold caught while presenting at schools in Sydney. He said most of those were air conditioned and that’s what got him. He was, according to him, carrying enough medications to open a pharmacy, just to help him cope with the day. 

We all had three sessions, except George, who was doing an extra presentation in the afternoon, but that was really a promotion for his new non fiction book The Australia Survival Guide, after all, even if the kids did enjoy it. 

The day was organised by the (teacher?) librarian and I have to say I’m impressed. Checking the web site, I noticed that she does quite a bit outside of the usual checking books in and out. Well, we all do, but she, like me, has to do it all as a challenge, getting the most out of minimum resources, though at least I had a library tech once a week or sometimes twice. She has no help except student volunteers, her library monitors, who do shelving, check out books and help her process them at lunchtime. I’m sure my “nerd pack”, Dylan, Selena, Ryan and Thando would have helped if I asked them but  I had Lucy, my tech, and when there were a lot of books to do for our literacy program I would sit in the library at lunchtime and do them. We managed. 

Anyway, she and I talked library shop for a while, which was nice. They have a pleasant library with soft comfy chairs, but it’s rather small, with not many books. There isn’t room for many more anyway. The librarian had had her library monitors do a poster for each of us, with our picture and pictures of our books and any of our books the library had propped up by them. I really should have taken a photo of it.  

They had Crime Time, but also an unexpected copy of Starwalkers: Explorers of the unknown, my history of the space program. It doesn’t look much, just a slim volume written for kids, but it was shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s History Award, and when I met my old editor from Allen and Unwin one day, she said she had read it and loved the passion I’d put into it. 

After an assembly at which Meredith Costain introduced us with quirky facts and Katherine Canobi’s Mindcull was launched (again!), we got to work. I had a Year 7 and two Year 8 classes. I’m quite comfortable with that level as it’s what I taught, but I had to remind myself that I wasn’t there as their teacher - their teachers were in the room - and it was not for me to discipline them. If a student was doodling instead of paying attention to me, as long as they weren’t disturbing anyone else, I let it go, but it was hard to hold back the teacher stuff after all these years! If they were disturbing others I did ask them to let classmates have their say, but asked it very mildly. They generally did. I did quite happily let the first group investigate the contents of their goody bag before we got started. I would certainly have wanted to do that if I was them.

My workshop this time was on the theme of villains, which Paul and Meredith asked me to do. I was a bit jealous of George, getting to do his on the subject of research, something I can do in my sleep, but I did understand they were trying to sell copies of my book, so I gave what I hope was an interesting session on the notion of fictional villains versus real ones, who were taken from my book. I experimented with different beginnings to the workshop, and may try something else altogether to get them intrigued if I’m asked to do some more next year. That was, of course, the last school visit for this year, as schools will have run out of money and be busy with exams and report writing and last week excursions. But with year? 

I did sell some copies of Wolfborn and Your Cat Could Be A Spy, which was nice, not sure how many copies of Crime Time. Paul offers to sell your books without asking for a cut, which is nice; booksellers at these events usually ask for 45%-50%, so I have to ask full RRP. 

We had all three sessions done by lunchtime. We were fed well in the library, with sandwiches and small hot things and fruit, though I avoided the cakes. After lunch, we returned to the hall for another assembly. Kids who had entered a quiz competition got a prize. More kids, keen writers, were taken on stage to do a verbal round robin story, much to their friends’ amusement. 

Andrew Plant and his creation, with permission of the artist

Finally, George went up to present about his new book, with a couple of YouTube book video trailers which he did himself(before he started writing full time, he was a web site designer, so he knows his tech). These included him getting menaced by Bruce, a drop bear with fangs, and snakes. While this was going on, artist Andrew Plant, who, among other things, has done a beautiful book called The Poppy, about the Great War, was busy drawing a Bruce the drop bear, climbing a wall with a scribble of pink meant to be the hair of a certain US President, because he had no orange markers. Then we had a group photo on stage and the day was over. I was asked to sign a bookmark for a book I hadn’t written and then the young man suddenly remembered he had a copy of Crime Time in his goody bag, so I signed that. 

A good day in all! 

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

On Authors Behaving Unprofessionally!

Recently there have been online discussions about a young woman in the US who got on a committee that was choosing books for study at her university specifically to prevent a YA novel from making it on to the curriculum. She said it was a good book, but they should be studying adult books instead, because you know, leaving childish stuff behind or something along those lines. Hmm... I’d have something to say about that, but I’d say it politely, unless she got abusive, however rude I felt like being. And it would be a debate, not a personal attack.

But the YA author who was no longer going to get royalties from that particular college had no hesitation in getting personal, and got some of her YA author friends to do the same. I won’t name them, but they were some big names who should have known better. As far as I’m concerned, they were behaving very unprofessionally, especially as the fans who were following them would be influenced by whatever they said.   I was very disappointed in them, because there were some whose work I had read and loved. One was a young author who had probably become way too successful way too soon in her career, and consequently thought more of herself than she was worth. 

However, the Guardian article about this was not so much about the unprofessional behaviour of these big name authors, but about how dare they attack her when she was right! Adult books were so much more worth reading and why would any adult be reading a book for teenagers in the first place? I saw red when the smug journalist declared that while she had loved To Kill A Mockingbird, for example, let’s face it, it was a children’s book! 

Someone once said that adult books were about important issues such as divorce, while children’s books were about unimportant stuff such as the battle between good and evil. So, maybe she was right and it is a children’s book? 

At the Melbourne Writers Festival recently, crime novelist Val McDermid, who has judged the Booker awards before said drily that there were an awful lot of dinner parties in a North London happening in the entrants she read. And this is one of the world’s major awards, with huge prizes and lots of sales for anyone who got even on the long list, while here in Australia the CBCA awards for children’s books were nearly closed down some years ago for lack of funds. Nice, eh? 

The actual discussion on Twitter that inspired this post was about whether or not you would keep reading work by authors whose behaviour had disappointed you. Some said no, others said that there were a lot of nasty pieces of work out there who had, however, produced wonderful books and where did you draw the line? 

I rather think I’m with them on that - there are some dreadful people producing works of genius, and have been throughout history. Beethoven? You wouldn’t want to be his nephew, but his soul was in that glorious music. 

And Thomas Malory, author of the Morte D’Arthure? He wrote that immortal piece of storytelling in jail. While it’s probably true that he picked the wrong side in the Wars of the Roses, that’s not why he was serving time. He was in trouble for robbery and maybe for rape. 

I have to wonder, would I be put off him if he was around now, with a Twitter or Facebook account, being called out by the #metoo movement for what he had done, and no doubt denying it? 

Probably, though with great sadness. 

I should add that I’m no fan of Wagner, though admittedly not only for his antisemitism, but because I consider his music loud and vulgar. But that’s me, and I’m in the minority here. Until recently, I thought that I at least could enjoy The Mastersingers Of Nuremberg, more tuneful than his most of other work, but saw it again during the Australian Opera’s recent season and decided it was just as flag waving and awful as others I’ve seen. And antisemitism is there even if it doesn’t specifically mention Jews. But even when I did think I liked it, I was always a bit uncomfortable with seeing anything by Wagner.

So - I guess my reply would be “It depends.” More recent work is easier to feel uncomfortable with.

What would you do? 

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Rejoice! John M Ford Soon To Be Back!

Well, not John M Ford himself, who died some years ago. But his wonderful books have mostly been out of print since he died, and now they are soon to be back in print.

The story I have heard is that his family allowed them all to go out of print, but apparently this is not so.  This guy I found on Twitter, Isaac Butler, did an 18 month investigation on it, after discovering The Dragon Waiting, Ford’s gorgeous novel of alternative history, set in England during the Wars of the Roses, but - an England in a world where paganism survived and Christianity is just some minor sect. Also, fantasy. Magic exists and vampirism is a disease, not a matter of being undead. I have a copy rescued from my school library when the school closed down.

If you are a Star Trek fan, you might be interested in his Klingon novel, The Final Reflection. I remember when it came out and all my fannish friends who were into things Klingon used it as their “Bible”. And I’m pretty sure a lot of other Klingon fans around the world did the same.

Anyway, Isaac Butler went around contacting Ford’s family members, who said no, they hadn’t deliberately suppressed the works and were only too happy to see them come back into print. He wrote an article about it for Read it here. Not only will his existing works be reprinted, but some which were unpublished at the time of his death.

An interesting comment was that if The Dragon Waiting had been a five book series, he might have been as successful as George R R Martin. I guess we will never know about that, but I can see why he thinks so. If you haven’t read it yet, you can look forward to reading it late next year. If you have, there will be plenty more of his books to enjoy.

I’m so delighted by this! 

Friday, November 15, 2019

On Romantic Comedy!

A chat on Twitter the other day gave me the idea for this post. A lady who writes romantic comedy was bemoaning the fact that she was sneered at for her genre. As a writer of children’s, YA and speculative fiction, I could relate to that. We, too, get sneered at, and people who have no idea what it involves ask you when you are going to write a real book, or think that they could do it too if only they had the time. 

I sympathised with the lady and we agreed that sometimes you just need to know that all will be well at the end of the book. I added that Pride And Prejudice was a rom com. 

While romance of the Mills and Boon variety is not my cup of tea, I do respect the authors and their skills that I know I will never possess - a pity, because a friend of mine who did write it years ago told me that, whatever her arguments with her publishers, she stuck it out,  because it paid! You could live very comfortably on two books a year! 

You do have to love what you write and take it seriously, or your readers won’t. Of course, that applies to all writing. Even when I write an education book, I just write a story, fiction or non, that I would enjoy reading, and learn something new each time. I’ve just done a phonics reader aimed at kids in their first year of school, but it had a story, and the editor described the storyline as “adorable”. I got all that into 250 words. In a 150 word reader I got the story of a family taking their pet goat to compete in the Goat Cup. It was short but over the top in humour.

The thing is, though, while people without any real interest in children’s books will tell you their idea and that their own children loved it, they expect you to write it for them, because “I don’t have time right now.” People who don’t enjoy romance fiction assume it must be easy, all they have to do is use some formula and bang! Bestseller! 

Well, I don’t think so. Readers of romance expect to be entertained from the very beginning, just like young readers. Not everyone can do that, and certainly not if the author doesn’t read the sort of thing they are writing. By the way, I believe vampire romance started in the regular adult romance area, along with the erotic and the adventure romance, and now it’s a regular part of YA fiction. 

While I’m not a fan of mainstream romance, I do enjoy romantic comedy. For those who think it’s all light, fluffy stuff that doesn’t deserve respect, I’d like to talk about some rom coms that people do respect, even those who think it’s nothing important. 

I’ll start briefly with the YA rom coms of Aussie author Lili Wilkinson, who, alas, has given up the genre in favour of Serious Stuff. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with what she is writing now, but I can tell you the girls I worked with as a teacher librarian loved the gentle, humorous romances she used to write and were disappointed when she stopped writing them. 

Lili’s romance books were so much borrowed in my library that they were rarely on the shelves. They were sweet and, above all, funny - over the top funny.

A Pocketful Of Eyes, for example, features a girl who is doing a part time job at a museum of natural history, helping with the taxidermy(hence the eyes of the title). When her supervisor is found murdered on the premises, she and the cute boy she is working with investigate. She also has a wacky mother who is into online gaming and D and D. It’s hilarious! 

The last one I read, which may have been her last rom com, was Green Valentine, reviewed on this site, involving a couple of teens, a nerdy girl with a passion for the environment and the school “bad boy” doing guerrilla gardening late at night, challenging the developers. Thing is, they first met when she was in a lobster costume, handing out leaflets, and he doesn’t know there is a connection.

Guess what? Shakespeare wrote rom com. A Comedy Of Errors featured twins separated as young children, when their ship was wrecked. One went home to Syracuse with his father, the other was brought up in Ephesus. The Syracuse twin turns up in Ephesus, where he is mistaken for his (married) brother and falls in love with the wife's sister... That was turned into a musical, The Boys From Syracuse

Twelfth Night?  Very much a rom com! Like A Comedy Of Errors, it has twins in it, a girl and a boy, also shipwrecked. The girl, Viola, disguises as a boy and gets a job with the local Duke, Orsino, with whom she falls in love. The Duke, however, is courting a lady called Olivia, who says she is not interested because she is in mourning. That doesn’t last long, of course, when Olivia falls for the Duke’s handsome young messenger - Viola. When Viola’s brother, Sebastian, turns up, Olivia grabs him and marries him on the spot... you can probably guess what happens with Viola and Orsino. Oh, and this one was updated as a YA movie, She’s The Man, set in a boarding school, where Viola has disguised as a boy to play soccer, after her own team is scrapped. I used that film as part of my Year 8 introduction to Shakespeare. 

My favourite, though, is Much Ado About Nothing. Two strong, intelligent people, Beatrice and Benedick, are always making wisecracks at each other, acting as if they hate each other, when anyone else can see they are crazy about each other, including their friends, who decide to get them together. 

So, if even the Immortal Bard could write romantic comedy, why should we disrespect the genre? 

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Remembrance Day And Great War Books

So, 101 years ago today, World War I finished. It was a horrendous war, with a lot of deaths, and afterwards there was the Spanish Flu epidemic, with plenty more deaths.

I thought, as this is a book blog, I’d mention some books on the theme of what was then known as the Great War, the war to end war. 

I’ll start off off with Aussie novelist Pamela Rushby’s YA novel Flora’s War, published in 2013 by Ford Street Publishing. I reviewed it on this web site when it first came out, and enjoyed it very much. 

The heroine, Australian girl Flora Wentworth, is an archaeologist’s daughter who has been coming to Egypt for the digging season for years. She knows her way around and is more comfortable with the Egyptians than are other Westerners. But the year is 1915 and Cairo is being flooded with wounded soldiers from the Gallipoli campaign. Not really the best time to be thinking about archaeological digs! Time, perhaps, for Flora to volunteer her help... 

Despite the cover art of a nurse, Flora has a different job,  learning to drive and ferrying the wounded soldiers to hospital. This novel doesn’t play around; war is hell. 

Aussie children’s and YA novelist Jackie French has also written a series of adult books in a series beginning with Miss Lily’s Lovely Ladies, also reviewed on this site. This, along with With Love From Miss Lily, a Christmas Story, is set before and during the Great War - the others continue the story afterwards. The heroine, Sophie, is a wealthy Australian girl whose father runs a profitable business. When she wants to get married at eighteen, her father feels - rightly - that she is too young and sends her off to England, to stay with the mysterious Miss Lily and a group of girls of her own age at an Earl’s estate. There, Sophie and her new friends learn a lot, before the war begins. Sophie uses her understanding of business and her father’s goods to help soldiers  living through its horrors. She eventually discovers something unexpected about who Miss Lily really is. 

This novel is set in the same universe as this author’s A Rose For The Anzac Boys, in which a group of girls set up a canteen in France, to feed passing wounded soldiers. These girls turn up in this book and the next, The Lily And The Rose

Finally, in this overview of a few Australian books set in this era is Kerry Greenwood’s Murder In Montparnasse

Murder In Montparnasse is in the Phryne Fisher series. You probably know about this 1920s Melbourne sleuth already. In this novel, we learn something about Phryne’s past, from the time when she had returned from the war to live in Paris as an artist’s model. Phryne ran away from home to France and became an ambulance driver on the battlefields. Now, ten years later, her friends Bert and Cec come to her to ask for her help, when the friends with whom they had a good time one day in Montparnasse, just after the war, have been getting killed off one after another, something to do with a murder they may have witnessed on that day... 

I enjoyed it very much, as I did all the Phryne Fisher novels, although I have to say there were some oddities about the chronology that made no sense - you really have to read it to know what I mean, but never mind, do read it anyway. I suspect that by the time this one was published the editors were not saying “Hang on, this doesn’t make sense...” any more. Fans like me would enjoy it whatever. There are long flashbacks to Phryne’s experiences post war in Paris, which are relevant to the solving of the mystery. 

They did film it for Season 1 of the TV series, but it was not very good. I do suggest reading the book, because if you’ve only seen the episode, you don’t know this story! 

So, what favourite Great War stories can you suggest? 

Friday, November 01, 2019

A Week In My Writing Life!

This was a busy week for me, writing-wise. Well, not so much writing, but about being a writer. 

Sadly, there was one rejection slip, for a Pirates anthology, but it was a personalised one, saying they had actually liked the story and found it one of the more original ones they had received, but they had had so many submissions... I guess that however much they liked it, there were others they liked better. However, they did say they really loved my universe and how about doing one set entirely in that one - it was a portal fantasy - and submitting it for a planned alternative universe anthology they had in mind for next time. And I just might do it, if only to have another story to submit somewhere. I will have to send a thank you email and ask to be put on their mailing list for future anthologies. It’s not often you get publishers these days sending personalised rejections and such kind ones at that. 

I wrote the story, originally, for a Monsters of the Mediterranean anthology, but missed the deadline. Time to look again at the market guides...

On Tuesday I went to the YABBA Awards ceremony, which was hosted this year by Camberwell Girls’ Grammar. Fortunately that school was in easy reach of public transport, two trams from where I live, but easy. However, not wanting to take a chance, I got up at 5.30 a.m to catch the tram along Chapel St near where I live and then a connecting tram, and I was still early, so sat in the sun, working on my notes for the second event of the week. 

The YABBAs are child-nominated and voted awards, like the State Library’s Inkys. There are a number of levels, for picture books, younger readers, older readers and Year 7-9. Other states have their own equivalent awards - these are Victorian, though the authors don’t have to be living here, and some do come from interstate.

 I’ve never been on this shortlist, alas, though I know my own students nominated my books several times. However, they do invite authors to come along for the ceremony and the signing, and you can bring books to sell. So I go when I can. I have only taken students once, when we could get to the school by train and tram, but they were Year 10s, because I could meet them at the station instead of going all the way to school and collecting my younger kids, then making our way to some distant school. And the year I took the Year 10 students, all the rest were from primary schools and were sitting on the floor! A bit undignified for teenagers - there were only five anyway, so I begged chairs for them, and afterwards I told them to go and get their autographs and chat with their favourites while I signed, then meet me in an hour. Afterwards, we had lunch in the city and I gave them some books from a goody bag I had been given, but which I didn’t think were of use to our library. A great day! 

So, this year the awards were handed out - check the winners here at the YABBA site - one by Aaron Blabey(my great nephew Jonah is a big fan!), one by Andy Lee, Morris Gleitzman’s wonderful Once series book, Maybe, and, as usual, the latest Andy Griffiths/Terry Denton Treehouse book. Andy Griffiths was overseas and Morris Gleitzman was also unavailable, so both sent videos and Terry Denton accepted on behalf of both him and Andy. This year’s Graham Davey Award, judged rather than voted by kids, went to the wonderful Melbourne writer/illustrator Gabrielle Wang. I have read pretty much all her books, except the picture book. They are sweet, gentle children’s fantasy novels and one of them, A Ghost In My Suitcase, has been adapted for the stage. I went to see that when it was being performed in Melbourne and loved it - it really caught the spirit of the novel. The Graham Davey Award is recent - last year’s went to Meredith Costain, the partner of my lovely publisher Paul Collins. Meredith doesn’t make a huge fuss about her writing and doesn’t appear in glossy magazines, but she gets a lot of work and recognition within the industry - and kids read her books and love them. Graham Davey was the guy running YABBA for some years and was a storyteller by trade. When he passed away they started thinking about an annual award for authors who were special in one way or another. Both Meredith and Gabrielle deserved it. 

After all that was over, the signings began. I only signed one book, though plenty of autograph sheets, and my bookmarks and mini posters for Crime Time were certainly appreciated! However, one young man said, “My brother has Crime Time.” I asked where his brother was, and the boy next to him grinned and put up his hand. “I loved it!” he said. Happy tears from me... I gave him a bookmark, which he didn’t have. 

Yesterday the temperature soared when I did a Ford Street Publishing gig at Emmaus College, a Catholic school in Vermont South, another suburb on the tram route. It was further than Camberwell, but I got up at 5.00 a.m this time and caught a tram to Richmond, where I got the connecting tram to Vermont South. Even that early in the morning it was too warm to wear long sleeves. Fortunately there was air conditioning at the school. If there hadn’t been, it might have been hard to get the kids to focus. Even as it was, my last session was less attentive than the first two, but there were kids participating. 

The introductory sessions were, first Year 7, then Year 8. The Principal(I think) made a speech to the kids and then Meredith Costain introduced us one by one and we had to introduce ourselves, along with what we were going to do in our sessions. Last time I had a gig I did story outlines, which worked very well. In 50 minutes or less, you really can’t ask kids to write much, or at all, the simplest thing is to do something together. 

This time, though, I was asked by Paul and Meredith to do something about villains, which would give me the excuse to talk about some of the stories from my book. Talking, discussing and making lists on the board with the kids’ help was about all I was able to do, but I chose some of the weirder, wackier stories from Crime Time to share. The first two sessions the kids laughed heartily, and one boy said, twice “Oh, that is hilarious!” I told the same stories in the third session, and got silence, so went on with other stuff. It was the only group that I had to ask a couple of times to not talk while I was, though it was only a small group of kids within the class. The teacher had to ask them too. I’m a teacher, which helps me do these events comfortably, but they aren’t my students.  

I think they sold a couple of copies of Crime Time, I even saw a child carrying one, though nobody asked me to sign it, and I brought my own books to sell. One copy of Your Cat Could Be A Spy was bought by a friend of mine who turned up for the event for some reason and then kindly drove me home afterwards. And someone actually bought a copy of Wolfborn! I brought three copies, but suddenly realised that two were the stained copies I had withdrawn last time. I think I may see if I can do a “special” on those next time, just so someone can enjoy them, even if I lose money on them. 

Someone right now is curling up with my novel and someone else with my book on crime, and my friend with my book on spies. I do hope they enjoy them! 

There was an after-session, then kids were given the chance to buy another book at the stall before the day was over. We were asked to stay where we were to sign. I only signed kids’ autograph booklets, and some from one of my groups had already asked me to sign theirs. But my books were bought anyway. 

I have another gig on November 19, at a school in Mt Eliza. I have a lift for that, because public transport is impossible for that school, but I still have to get up super early and meet my lift at a station near his home, as the school is in the other direction. Hopefully I can find a way, in the time till then to make my villains session more like a writing workshop than a discussion!