Archive for March, 2011

With Sean and the littlies

March 27, 2011

26th March
Yay! Finally posted up the blog. Not easy—WordPress doesn’t like text direct from Pages, so I had to work out a way around that. They were closing up the wifi hotspots cafe just as I finally managed to do it. I didn’t have time to add anything for the day, but there was nothing much to add anyway. Today was a rest day, totally uneventful.

Good moment to put up those piccies of Mariann’s cats – and the view from her studio window –

27th March

Phew! Death-defying escape! Today was the day for me to interview Sean Williams at the Come Out festival. I’d realized it was essentially a kids festival, the sort of event that teens wouldn’t attend, and the only adults would be parents of young children.So I’d had some ideas for a lively sort of interview, more entertainment than serious.

But as I stood waiting for Sean to turn up, I realized I hadn’t re-thought far enough. The kids were really young, 6 and 7 and 8, and the act before us was getting them to join in songs like the Wiggles or Bananas in Pajamas. So when Sean appeared, I suggested performance instead of interview–some readings from his books, and mine too.

Had a copy of Worldshaker with me, but Sean had nothing. Luckily there was a bookseller at the festival, who had copies of Sean’s Star Wars book, his four Omnibus books, and -surprise!- my four Wolf Kingdom books. Obviously the booksellers had calculated he age of the audience better than us. So we instantly found some passages to read – then I remembered one particular passage I’d done with audience involvement at a couple of primary schools.

It didn’t look good early on; by the time we had our headset mikes on and got up on stage, the audience from the previous act had almost totally disappeared. Fortunately the numbers grew, gradually, when we started reading. Sean first–he read and I filled in the voices. We stayed standing for a bit of talk and exchange between readings, but we kept that short.

For my reading, I got the kids–and parents–to fill in the sound effects while I read about Tam and Nina pursued by wolves (second chapter of the first book). Some to do the wolf-howls, some to do the snarling and barking, some to do the panting. Went down v well. Then, since we were getting the five minutes left signal, Sean had the idea of asking for questions. Could have been risky, could have been an awkward silence, but no, the kids were great and came up with plenty of questions.

We left the stage with huge sighs of relief, feeling that we’d pulled off a total switch of strategy–just! We signed books afterwards … An unexpected plus that I’d never expected, and volume one of Wolf Kingdom sold out quickly. Sean sold at least as many of the first book of his quartet, though no copies of Star War–too big and heavy for the age of the audience.

We celebrated after with drinks at a pub, then out for dinner at a nearby restaurant. Almost a disaster, but in the end a very successful day.

Adelaide trip – half way through

March 26, 2011

20th March

The endless drive! 11 hours from W to W, Wollongong to Wentworth. I measured it off in CDs –
every two CDs I stopped for a break and a walk around the car, every 4 CDs I had drink,
something to eat, longer break.

I went from the spotted hills of the slopes to flatter and flatter land – by the time I
approached Mildura it was like an endless aerodrome. Grasshoppers kept swooshing towards the
windscreen, then soaring away at the last second – only individual grasshoppers, though, not
plague numbers, not locusts. There was standing water alongside the roads, after all the
rains and flooding.

When I looked at the map, Mildura and Wentworth were side by side, so I booked the cheaper
motel in Wentworth (I do almost all motels through wotif these days). Trouble was, it was a
large scale map, and they were half an hour apart. So I’ve driven on way past Mildura,
and I’ll have to double back to tomorrow.

21st March
First school visit, to St Joseph’s in Mildura. I was almost late, because my Navman
didn’t have the street number in the street – when I went to the middle of the street,
it turned out that the part of the street I needed was split off, and I had to get
directions for a big detour.

I reckon that if 80% of things go to plan, I can cover the rest. I have a USB drive to do a
PowerPoint slideshow while I talk, but I want the images to click over every minute or so,
automatically. If only it could be so easy! At least the human element—me—doesn’t
break down.

I did talk, hour’s break, talk, hour’s break, workshop. The kids were really good,
and the library people were great—best people on earth, I really believe that!

I tell myself I ought to branch out into other readings from Worldshaker, but my two
favourites work so well, I don’t want to give them up. I hardly need to read the words
any more, I have them almost by heart.

I drove on for four hours after the school visit, to the Barossa Valley. Driving long
distance is like writing a novel … you go for ages, and nothing seems to happen,
you’re as far away from your goal as ever … so you just keep going, and suddenly
realise how much you’ve completed almost without noticing.

I’m now in my motel, and it’s started raining. It torrented down last night in
Mildura. Don’t know when I’ll get to post up this blog. I didn’t expect the
motels I’m staying in to offer wifi connection, and they haven’t. I’m going to
get pizza and a bottle of red for dinner.

22nd March
Whoo! the things I have been doling to my stomach! Last night it was a super spicy pizza,
with jalapeño chillier and the Lord knows what … today it was a monster sete if German
apple cheesecake. OK, take it in order …

Today’s school was Trinity College in Gawler, outside of Adelaide. Over three and a half
thousand students, the biggest school in SA and possibly all Australia. Karen—the voice in
my Navman—directed me to one part of the campus, but it was the wrong part. Can’t
blame her; the college has north, south, east and possibly west schools, each with their own
sub-principal, plus other extra schooly bits too. I finally found the way to Central Admin,
then to the main library.

It was a brilliant set-up, with a kind of theatrette, just the right size for an audience of
90. I unfurled and hung up my super-size posters. The USB drive caused problems again—no
big deal. Even the human element—me—had a lapse, because I couldn’t find the cards I
give out to decide the winner of the giveaway book—I’d forgotten where I put them—so
I asked a question instead. Which was much quicker, and fitted with the fact that I had 15
minutes less for the talk than I expected. One of the teachers came up to tell me there was
a general assembly that students had to attend in five minutes time. Oh well, quick
adjustment .…

Another talk to another 90 students, then I headed off for an afternoon’s R & R, touring some wineries. I changed plan and went round the Adelaide Hills rather than theBarossa—much smaller, but I only got to visit two wineries anyway, and much prettier country. I only visited two, but I tasted their while range—and swallowed too, can’t bear to just spit wine out! I got a couple of bottles I particularly liked, plus a half bottle of a quality pinot noir free because they couldn’t keep it for next day. It was fun talking to the guys who pour the tastings—those guys really care about their wines, and they don’t just carry on like salesmen.

Here’s where the cheesecake came in, because I knew I’d be in trouble if I got
breathalysed—what better way to soak up alcohol than a huge wodge of cheesecake? Felt a
bit icky afterwards, though.

Now I’m at Mariann’s—an old friend and a lovely person. She occupies most of the
8th floor of a massive building close to Adelaide’s CBD—the biggest room is like a
studio, all glass windows along one side, looking out on the Adelaide hills. Pity it just
keeps raining.

23rd March
Sitting in Mariann’s big studio, with her two Abyssinian cats sniffing and canoodling
all around. Today’s school visit was in the afternoon, to Pedare College. I slept in,
then spelt the whole morning doing nothing much at all. By afternoon, it had turned really
cold, and since the college is up high on top of a hill, the wind and cold and rain together
were brrrr!!

I enjoyed doing the talks—I haven’t had a bad school yet. I’m almost out of the
oldWorldshaker cards I use for doing the giveaways. (I give away one free copy to every
class of more than fifty students). I’ll soon be onto the new Liberator cards,
business-card-size, which also include a Worldshaker cover on the back.

Tonight I get to meet with Liz Christie, who’s the Allen & Unwin rep in Adelaide,
plus some bookshop and publishing people.

24th March
Smart move, Richard. Not! I brought my camera, I’ve had photos taken along the way, and
I have the iPad camera connect so I can feed them into my iPad. But I forgot the USB cable
that goes with the camera and links to the camera connect. My new resolution to blog my
tours as I go is breaking down on every point.

Last night’s dinner was great. As well as Liz, there was Marion from Dymocks, Catharine
who does reviews, Louise who distributes to school libraries, and Beryl who’s a
consultant on children’s/YA writing. So I guess you could say they were important people
for an author—but even more, they were fun people. So great chatting over food and wine! I
really enjoyed the evening.

Today’s school was Cabra Dominican College. Great kids, great library staff, great teachers … I know this is sounding like a broken record, but I really have been lucky. We got the PowerPoint ticking over automatically from slide t slide, and I think I know how to
make it happen at future schools.

Now, after taking some display material in to Marion at Dymocks, I’m relaxing … just took photos of Marian’s Abyssinians and the view from her studio window—but I can’t do anything with them till I get back to Figtree.

March 25th
Another day, another school … St Peters Girls in Stonyfell. I enjoyed doing a couple of
workshops as well as a talk to a v large audience. One problem I always have—packing up
afterwards. Posters to roll up, books, cards, laminated pictures and all sorts of odds and
ends to fit into my carry bag … and it can’t be done in a hurry. Today, After the
talk, I was still packing up when twenty or thirty girls came out on stage and began
practicing their dance routines.

I went round a few shops afterwards. I love chatting to bookshop people—there’s so much to learn from them! And Adelaide people are so friendly and willing to make time for you.

This evening, I’m going to cook up a dinner for Marion and myself—that’ll be for
Monday, hopefully. Tomorrow looms as a relaxed, do-nothing Saturday … Or rather, one
important thing to do, namely, get this blog posted!


March 19, 2011

Hi! The publication date for LIBERATOR is approaching – May in Australia – so I’m gearing up to do some promotion. Starting with Adelaide, where I’ve never visited schools or bookshops before. I head off this weekend for 2 weeks away; it’s a long long drive, but I’ll need the car when I’m over there. Plus I get to take in some schools on the way: Mildura, Gawler, Narrandera, Leeton. It’s great to visit places like that, because they normally never have the chance of an author visit.

As for Adelaide – one of my favourite cities, and I’m looking forward to catching up with old friends. Next weekend I’m doing an ‘in conversation’ with Sean Williams – somewhere between an interview and a chat between authors – at the Adelaide Festival Amphitheatre. Should be fun!

Here’s one of the posters printed for Liberator publicity;

I’m going to blog the whole trip, using my iPad – that was one of the reasons why I bought it. I bought a camera connector too, so I can transfer images from my camera. (All I have to remember is to take photos, or get someone else to take them – always the potential weak link in a great plan!)

Talking of apparatus, I made out a list of bits of electrical equipment that I’ve been recharging today, ready for the trip. Namely:

1. iPad

2. iPod shuffle

3. camera

4. electric razor

5. Navman GPS

6. mobile

I reckon I should recharge myself too!

I wish it would stop raining, so I could start loading the car. I have to make an early start, because I’ve been told it’s a 12 hours drive to Mildura.

Cheers, Richard