John Marsden, Chris Bongers, Wendy Orr, and David McRobbie

When asked if I’d like to chair a Page to Screen panel with John Marsden, Wendy Orr and David McRobbie in front of 400 local and international librarians, my enthusiastic ‘Hell, yeah!’ almost blew the eyebrows off conference organisers.

Who wouldn’t want to pick the brains of such a trio?

John Marsden is best known for his Tomorrow series of novels, which has sold some three million copies in Australia alone, making it the most successful young adult series ever written in this country. Now, seventeen years after it was first published, Tomorrow, When The War Began has made it onto the big screen, introducing the books to a new audience.

Wendy Orr’s fairytale journey onto the red carpet began when one of her children’s novels made it onto the LA Times Best Books of 2001. A Hollywood producer borrowed it from the library for her eight-year-old son and fell in love with the story. Seven years later, Nim’s Island was released as a Hollywood motion picture starring Jodie Foster, Gerard Butler and Little Miss Sunshine’s Abigail Breslin.

David McRobbie has adapted his own novels into three television series that have screened in 54 countries, and has also had the BBC adapt his novel See How They Run into a six-part mini-series.

For those who dream of following in their footsteps, read on, for the secret to their success may be as simple (and as difficult) as writing an award-winning, best-selling novel.

Television and movie producers routinely cherry-pick the best seller lists for future screen projects.

Why should they take a chance on an unknown story when Diary of a Wimpy Kid has been on the New York Times bestseller list since 2007?

Why take the risk when there is a ready-made audience of millions of children world-wide clamouring for their favourite book to be made into a movie?

It seems to me that books are now and always will be, portals into new worlds. As children, we learned to read so that we could enter into a thousand places we might never go, and live a thousand lives we might never know.

As writers, we take that journey one step further, creating new worlds for others to enjoy. And if like John Marsden, Wendy Orr and David McRobbie, we become very good at what we do, then our stories might indeed travel, around the globe, and onto the big and small screens, capturing the hearts of a whole new generation of readers.

  1. Lynne the Lurker says:

    What brilliant company you are keeping. Remember what our mums said…water finds its own level. Your level must be getting very high, my dear.

  2. mgbauer says:

    I heard from people in the know (and in the room) that you were brilliant Chris and it was a wonderful panel.

    • chrisbongers says:

      Michael, having an erudite and entertaining panel makes the chair’s job pretty easy. Glad I redeemed myself after an uncharacteristic attack of the nerves on the Wednesday!

  3. Wendy Orr says:

    I’ll guarantee that you were brilliant and it was wonderful to be on the panel!

  4. chrisbongers says:

    It was fun, wasn’t it, Wendy? I was just emailing you the photos when I saw your message pop up. Expect them forthwith!

  5. Tracey says:

    How delightful for you, Chris. Did you feel in awe or was it like coming home to old friends? Either way, you deserve it after the work you have put in. Like many others, one day I hope to join you in such rarified company. Cheers Tracey

  6. chrisbongers says:

    At first I was a little in awe, Tracey. But then I did my research and spoke to Wendy and David on the phone, and met John at his Dymocks event in Brisbane, so the panel ended up being very relaxed and entertaining. All four of us unanimously voted it best panel ever (easy for me to say, seeing it was my first!)

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