Author, Actor and Audience

Late in the day of our BookWeek celebrations, there was anticipation as years 5 and 6 waited to hear from this year’s invited author. Anticipation too, for the author – for Tim Harris had taught at this school for 10 years before embarking on his writing career.

No-one was disappointed – students, staff and author all delighted in the events of the day – especially the stories and ideas Tim presented, at different levels, to our Junior School students. He captivated the audience, inviting their response; he also told true tales, sometimes revealing real school or family connections.

Lots of stories and ideas were shared. Tim skilfully combined the two to outline some of the tricks of the (writing) trade. This included when he shared tales of situations which inspired an idea (the mosquito that caught fire – his son’s perception of a laser pointer; classroom situations – escalated by thinking ‘what if’). Our students were totoally enthralled and engaged.

Other author hints included:

  • writers look for ideas & join them together
  • take ideas from a photo
  • use things from strong memories
  • then use those memories & EXAGGERATE!
  • trust your editor
  • read, read, read.

Tim Harris now has a great list of titles which are selling globally. His new series, Toffle Towers, is also bound to be a new success.

However, Tim reflects that elements of success to him also includes:

  • returning to a school he loved, but in a different role
  • hearing from an ex-student, now reading his books to her students
  • connecting to young readers as he performs his works
  • recognising the authors he began to introduce to his students
  • engaging with the wider community of fellow authors, booksellers, publishers, and of course, teacher librarians and their students – promoting and loving his work.

To future writers, Tim says:

“Ideas are everywhere. Consider the ‘what if’.”

To readers, Tim says:

“Toffle Towers: Fully Booked is the first in the new series – more to come!”.

And Tim has even hinted that he may yet have some non-fiction tales to tell – stayed tuned, stay alert for more!

Till then, you can find Tim introducing his new characters on social media, and investigate reviews of  his current works at:

Tim Harris currently writes for a slightly younger age group than YA (young adult) – his inspiration follows on from reading Paul Jennings stories to his classes. Which writers currently inspire you? Are there others you have read in your younger years which you remember fondly?

He’s a poet, who knows it! Steven Herrick

herrickWriters watch

and observe

and create. 

Scratchy notes

scribbled on a serviette 

or in a tattered notebook

become a story through their crafting.


This week, Steven Herrick shared his observations, transformed into poems, with students at school – in a time of performance art and great merriment. He explained the ways in which his ideas come together, from simple beginnings, daily events and everyday life, while the audience hung on his every word and action. (Thanks for your visit, Steven.)

‘Another Night in Mullet Town’ is also like that. In his typical form of verse novel*, Herrick portrays the life of friends, Manx and Jonah, as they move through days of school, and nights with friends, in a lakeside town facing change. As Manx bemoans:

People like you and me, Jonah,

we drag down the price of everything we touch.

Conflict exists in several predictable but realistic forms – between male student rivals, between rich and poor, and between the locals and new residents aiming to develop the town for ‘bigger and better things’. Friendships and evolving love interests are also handled genuinely and delicately, as are the sometimes strained relationships of Jonah’s parents, and thus, his family situation.

In simple but succinct language, Herrick wastes no words at all – and in his usual finely-honed manner, so this should appeal to many teens. Australian teens, in particular, will enjoy visiting the coastal town he depicts, acknowledge the school situations he describes and may even stop to ponder some of the community and family issues ‘Another Night in Mullet Town’ presents.

And, once you enjoy ‘Another night…’, there are many other award-winning verse novels from Herrick to read – ‘Love Ghosts and Nose Hair’, ‘A Simple Gift’ and more.

For a taste of Herrick’s poetry performance, watch ’10 things your parents will never say’:

*A verse novel is a type of narrative poetry in which a novel-length narrative is told through the medium of poetry rather than prose.


Richard shakes our world

worldshaker2It was a privilege for our students to have a visit from the author of ‘Worldshaker’, Richard Harland, to our school this week. With his visit, he brought an understanding of the steampunk genre, tips for writers, and inspiration from his workshops with small groups of our writers.

‘Worldshaker’ has had worldwide success, being published in many different languages, and has now been followed by a sequel, ‘Liberator’. It tells the tale of Colbert Porpentine, as he embarks on a journey towards becoming the next Supreme Commander of the juggernaut, Worldshaker.  In a divided world, he lives on the upper deck in a state of privilege (rising from his family inheritance), while down many levels below, a contrasting state exists for the ‘filthies’.

As Col moves toward learning about his future role, he also learns of the world below which he had surprisingly little awareness of. Through his unexpected exposure to an escaped ‘filthy’, Riff, his understanding of life is challenged and impacts on his developing education for his future leadership role.

By examining his book, which many of students had read earlier, Richard was able to focus on some of the elements needed to create a great story. One of his strongest messages was to write from your own experiences rather than from what you have read or seen in movies. ‘Use and adapt your own experiences’: demonstrated, as students worked through episodes in the story, vividly creating their own descriptions.

The enthusiasm displayed by students in the writers’ group reflected inspiration from an enthusiastic and successful writer. Not only were they informed of the workings of the Steampunk genre, but of the rigour required for a solid body of work, the ways to capture the imagination of the reader, and methods for beginning the writing journey. Who knows what works were inspired by this visit.

Richard also spoke about his involvement in a collaboration with other fantasy writers, developed by Isobelle Carmody, in the book ‘The Wilful Eye: Tales From The Tower’ – a collection of retold fairytales. This enabled writers to consider, in a workshop exercise, aspects like where to begin a short story, how to reveal important details and from whose perspective the story might be told. Lots of food for thought for aspiring writers.

As several people also bought copies of ‘Liberator’, I’d also be interested in hearing reviews of the next in the series – any comments? Or any comments about how an author visit impacted on you…