Posts Tagged ‘Christine Bongers’

Not all the cool kids were at the Brisbane Writers Festival’s Word Play for young readers, writers and illustrators this week.

Some of us – er, I mean, them – took a mosey down Waterworks Road to the inaugural Mater Dei Writers Festival at Ashgrove, where they heard tall tales and true from award-winning authors like Michael Gerard Bauer, Narelle Oliver, John Danalis, Josie Montano, Julie Fison and of course, yours truly.

It was a fabulous end to Book Week for this little black duck. After quacking away to nearly two thousand students in three dozen sessions over the past three weeks, I was delighted to shake my tail feathers closer to home for my last official school visit of the term.

My littlest guy was in the audience, just one of the gorgeous Year 4-7 students from Mater Dei, St Ambrose’s, St Peter Chanel, St Finbarr’s, Holy Rosary, Windsor and St Joseph’s.

Thanks to Dominique Gardiner for organising what we all hope will become an annual event. Watch out BWF, MDWF is stealing your thunder!

It’s been all hands on deck for the hard-working crew of the Queensland Writers Centre.

While extreme flooding in Brisbane’s Southbank area has closed the office, staff continue to man the writing pumps at home.

Writing Queensland Magazine, QWC’s flagship publication and compulsory reading for those interested in the craft of writing, has gone to the printers, according to WQ’s newly appointed editor, Jason Nahrung.

The February Craft issue of WQ will feature an article on Shaping the Story Arc, where I interview Bill Condon, winner of the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Young Adult Fiction, Anthony Eaton and Kate Forsyth.

You can subscribe to WQ here or click on the next link if you’d like to read an article I wrote for WQ last year on Creating your own distinctive writing voice.

I’m thrilled to see Jason at the helm of WQ. Not only is he a talented writer with twenty years journalistic experience behind him, he was also one of the creative inspirations behind Henry Hoey Hobson. (Check out his website Vampires in the Sunburnt Country and see if you can guess which character he inspired.)

Caleb and VeeOK, this has never happened to me before, so I just have to share it.

When I rocked up to Brisbane’s Somerville House this week to talk to 250 Year Seven and Eight students, the last thing I expected was to be greeted by two of the characters out of my latest novel, Henry Hoey Hobson.

Somerville’s inspirational and enthusiastic librarians, Lucia and Jannine, not only transformed themselves into Caleb and Vee, HHH’s mysterious coffin-owning neighbours, they also recreated the chili fizz cocktail served to Henry by the broken and scarred Manny.

Thank the high heavens, as Vee would say, for librarians everywhere.  And a special thank you to Lucia and Jannine, for bringing my characters to life and making my visit to Somerville so memorable. 🙂


Dali at the age of six when he thought he was a girl lifting the skin of the water to see the dog sleeping in the shade of the sea

For me, this extravagantly titled 1950 painting by surrealist Salvador Dali captures the absurdity, the innocence and the complexity of what writers do.

Writers look at the world with fresh eyes, with all the curiosity and wonder of a child.

We peel back the skin, peer beneath the surface, to discover the unexpected delights and beating heart of a subterranean world that those who coast lightly on the surface may never know.

We walk naked, exposing ourselves alongside our discoveries as we share them with the world.

We do this knowing that not everyone will like, or even understand, what we do.

As Kate Grenville writes in the excellent Griffith REVIEW:

‘Each of us brings our own experiences, memories and prejudices to a work of art and looks at it through that unique lens. We all read the same words…but we all see different things.’

I look at Dali’s painting and I see myself, a writer, doing what writers do.

What do you see?


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.

So we’re up the coast.

It’s another blustery day. The beagle’s snoring and the kids are making a pink and yellow toadstool cake covered in edible fairies.

I’ve finished my jigsaw of Haleakala Volcano, and am demolishing the sudoku when I notice the date on the newspaper.

Sixteen years has taught me not to play cute with the knowledge.

‘Wedding anniversary this Friday, sweetie. Where do you want to take me?’

He looks up from the paper. ‘Ken’s on his own Friday night. I thought maybe we should do something with-‘

Whatever he’s about to say is drowned out by by the jeers from the eleven and thirteen year olds. Even they know you can’t take a mountain biking buddy out on your anniversary.

Even they know that would be a terrible way to end a sixteen-year dream run. I make this clear in single syllable words.

‘I’m going to tell Ken you said that,’ he says.

You do that, I tell him, and go back to my soduko. I’m sure that Ken will understand.

People love to know where we writers get our ideas.

They seem to think that ideas are elusive, and that we find them in secret places where others never think to look.

The truth is that ideas spring at us from all directions.

Like hungry cats, they clamour for our attention, rubbing up against our legs, jumping onto our laps, and whingeing till they get what they want.

Some inevitably drift off, bored with our lack of response.

Others are more persistent, digging in their claws and refusing to let go till we give in to their demands.

Henry Hoey Hobson was a clawer. He arrived unannounced, when I was busy working on a crime novel, and waiting for my novel Dust to come out.

A likeable kid that nobody liked. How was that even possible?

I felt for him, even pulled out a pen and jotted down his details, then shooed him away so that I could concentrate on my work-in-progress.

But he was a persistent little begger, sneaking into my thoughts, and into my dreams, until finally I got out of bed and started writing his story.

Now there’s another one clawing at me.

I’ve been pushing Intruder away with my foot, while I got through the month of Book Week, the school visits, the festivals and conferences.

It’s shredded my pants up to the knee, and if I don’t get to it soon, there will be blood.

This morning I shoved it, hissing and spitting, into a hold-all, to take it up the coast for two weeks.

There’s no internet. No telephone. No mail deliveries. And they’re predicting rain.

Wish me luck. It’s time to feed the beast.

As a kid, I loved reading Zane Grey westerns and Jack London adventures

I’d ride horses bareback and fight boys with sticks, then retire to my room with my uber-Barbie (the one with the swivel waist and the bendable knees).

I devoured Jane Eyre, Ann of Green Gables and Little Women with the same avid obsession as Reach for the Sky, the true story of Douglas Bader, the legless World War II fighter pilot.

In my dreams I was Black Canary from the Justice League of America comics, but it was Green Lantern’s motto that I would chant when alone:

In brightest day and blackest night

No evil Shall escape my sight

For those who worship evil’s might

Beware the power of Green Lantern’s light!

My childhood idols included Catwoman, the Lone Ranger, Emma Peel (for her lethal elegance) and Jane Russell (for her smart mouth).

I grew up to fight with girlfriends over my right to watch Diehard over Passage to India (which admittedly I still haven’t seen). But it didn’t stop me sobbing convulsively all the way home from Driving Miss Daisy.

I read Robert Ludlum and Wilbur Smith long before they became franchises, and would segue seamlessly from John Le Carre to Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen.

I’ve never preferred male authors to female authors, or female protagonists to their male counterparts; my lifelong preference is for well-written, strong stories with engaging characters.

So clearly I am the wrong person to ask “Are you books for boys or for girls?”

My novels – Dust, Intruder and Henry Hoey Hobson – are for anyone who ever missed out on the A-team, anyone who ever feared that they might not fit in, anyone who would love to be accepted for simply being him or herself.

And in my book, that would be just about all of us, wouldn’t it?


Feels like I been everywhere, man – Biloela, Rockhampton, Bracken Ridge, Toowoomba, Newmarket, Springfield, Ascot, and Sunshine Coast (for an online festival)… I barely had time for a breather after Book Week and now Brisbane Writers Festival is upon us.

Word Play, the kick-ass program for kids and lovers of youth literature kicks off on Wednesday with a host of international, award-winning, and best-selling authors and illustrators including Kate Forsyth, Morris Gleitzman, John Danalis, Leigh Hobbs, Gabrielle Wang and Dave Hackett.

I’m there Wednesday and Thursday introducing Henry Hoey Hobson to Years 6-9, trying not to look like a naughty school girl with my scraped knees and band aids.

Seriously, I’ll be hobbling rather than hobnobbing, after not one, but two nana falls in the past week.

I tripped over my Birkencrocs on the way to school last week. Tore my tights and looked like a right scrag when I fronted up at St Margaret’s for my Book Week talks to Years Six and Seven.

Then I opened up the same knee a few days later, crash-tackling my runaway beagle after he rifled my visiting brother’s suitcase and stole his socks.

I came away with an egg on my forehead, bent glasses, a tear in my brand-new jeans and a sliced open knee.

The beagle, of course, got away with the socks.

We writers are a sadistic lot.

We know that true character is revealed under pressure, so we force our protagonists to confront their deepest fear, then we crush them, just to see what they’re made of.

Well, what goes round, comes round… I’m about to find out if there’s any iron in my own filings.

On August 13, look for me amongst the rigging of Brisbane’s Story Bridge, where I’ll be joining a shortlist of CBCA Notable Authors to promote this year’s Book Week theme, Across the Story Bridge.

I said yes to the climb, despite the fact that I’ve been backing away from precipices, anything higher than the teacup ride at the Ekka, and the windows of high rise, for more than thirty years.

My dislike of heights dates back to my teenage years when a cousin dangled me over the edge of London Bridge on Victoria’s Great Ocean Road (in the days before it collapsed into the sea).

‘Hysterical’ does not do justice to my reaction.

Years later, I suspected I might have a problem with heights when I froze on Ayers Rock … at the beginning of the chain.

I’m improving with the years, after giving abseiling a go, hurtling down the odd flying fox, and most recently, taking all the really big chair lifts on the ski fields of Niseko.

I figure August 13 will be my Acrophobic Graduation ceremony.

I will climb the Story Bridge, and finally kiss my fear of heights (or my ass) goodbye.