About Me

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Hi, welcome to my blog. I'm a writer of poetry, prose and plays but my best known work is children's fiction. My most popular books are the Selby series and the Emily Eyefinger series. This blog is intended as an entertaining collection of thoughts and pictures from here in Australia and from my travels in other parts of the world. I hope you enjoy it. (For more information have a look at my website.)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Book Week

Book Week for many authors is not just a week - it's usually many more because we get asked to speak at a lot of schools and libraries. This year I was busy for about six weeks and I still have more schools to visit.

I was invited up to Port Macquarie and talked in some schools there and in Kempsey. I had a great time meeting the kids and reading from my Selby and Emily Eyefinger books. It was also a chance to read from my latest book of funny poems, My Sister has a Big Black Beard.
Here I am at a little country school near Kempsey. With me are Georgia and Samuel, a couple of great school captains.

Below I'm talking to kids and parents at the Port Macquarie Public Library. I hope you enjoyed Book Week at your school.

Friday, August 20, 2010

A trip to a museum

I'm just back from a trip to the United States where I was visiting friends and relatives. It was a wonderful trip and one of the best parts of it was seeing a museum that I used to visit when I was little. The museum is at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

In it are rooms and rooms filled with stuffed animals. I found some of these quite scary when I was a kid and there were parts of the museum I used to tiptoe through for fear that animals would suddenly come to life and attack me. But it was a delicious kind of scariness like the kind you get from reading a scary story that isn't too too scary.

In another wing of the museum there are floors of exhibits about the Indigenous peoples of North and South America: American Indians and Eskimos. My favourites were the little models of villages with tiny people in them.

There was one in particular that I loved - a diorama of Native Americans from the American West, doing a dance. I remember pressing my face to the glass and trying to imagine what life must have been like for them. On my visit I found this diorama again and relived a bit of my childhood.

Another favourite part of the museum is the glass flower collection. It may sound boring but they are most fascinating and real-looking flowers all made from glass. Years ago before photography, science students used these to study plants. Glass-makers in Germany made these life-like models for Harvard University. You can see from the photos how fine the work is and how real the flowers look.

Here's a link to the Glass Flowers collection at Harvard, and the Wikipedia entry on them.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Perils of Prince Percy of Pomegranate

There wouldn’t be many Australian writers who have had one of their plays performed in Cree. This has recently happened to me so I’m feeling very special at the moment. Cree is the language of many of the indigenous peoples of northern Canada and a group of kids in northern Saskatchewan recently performed a play of mine, “The Perils of Prince Percy of Pomegranate”. Admittedly the play remained mainly in English but it was re-written to incorporate a lot of their cultural language as well. And this is how it came about:
Some years ago I wrote a book of plays called Comedies for Kids. Some copies of the book were distributed in various countries, including Canada. Since then I’ve occasionally had requests from teachers for permission to perform some of the plays.

In my September 2009 “Duncan’s Diary” entry on my website I wrote about a wonderful drama teacher in Canada, Lana Patterson, working with indigenous kids in Saskatchewan. The kids had put on a play, “Murder at Muck-up Mansion”, from my Comedies for Kids. Thanks to her work and all the wonderful actors it was a huge success. The production won many awards at regional level which qualified them to compete at the provincial level where they came home with their first provincial trophy!
And this year it’s happened again! Lana re-worked another of the plays from my Comedies for Kids, “The Perils of Prince Percy of Pomegranate”. She added the Cree words and renamed it “The Perils of Chief Cimagasiw of Ciciganihk”, and the kids once again won many awards both in their region and in the Saskatchewan provincial awards. Well done, Lana! Well done, kids!

This book of plays is now out of print now so I’m continually surprised when I hear that the plays are still being performed. There must be some very tattered copies out there. And “The Perils of Prince Percy of Pomegranate” seems to be the most popular play in the book, perhaps because it’s got such a large cast so it's good for school groups. In my “Duncan’s Diary” entry for March 2010 I reported on a production of the same play by kids at Golden Grove Primary School in South Australia.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Walking around the city

I'm a walker. Whenever I have a chance to do so, I walk. Occasionally I do some bushwalking but if I don't have a chance to get out of the city I just walk around where I live which is in Sydney. And Sydney is a great city for walking. I will never run out of new places to go but sometimes just a walk around the inner city is the most rewarding. On the weekend I walked to the Art Gallery of New South Wales which is about one hour's walk from where my wife and I live. While the collection of paintings isn't anything like the great art galleries of Europe and the USA it has a wonderful collection of Australian paintings. It also has special exhibitions such as the two that are currently on show: one of photographs by the American photographer, Alfred Stieglitz, and another of English Victorian paintings and sculpture. One of the wonderful things about the Art Gallery of NSW is that it's free. Sometimes there's a charge to see the special exhibitions but you can skip those and see everything else for free. The Art Gallery also has lots of special events such as the concert that was happening when I was there on Sunday.

And when I go to the Art Gallery I often go to the Botanic Gardens as well. This time was no exception. In addition to the huge collection of plants and flowers there are always other things to see. This time I spent a while watching a colony of stingless Australian bees going in and out of their nest in a log. Australia has a huge variety of insects that don't exist anywhere else in the world.

The Botanic Gardens has a big problem with grey-headed fruit bats, or "flying foxes" as we usually call them. There is a big colony in the trees in the gardens and it's not good for the trees or the plants below the bats. They're beautiful animals and they are native so no one would want to get rid of them but, at the same time, the people who run the Gardens wish the bats would find somewhere else to live.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

June 18, 2010

Hi everyone, I'm in the process of designing this blog and it'll be a few days before I've got it the way I want it. When I'm not playing around with things like this I'm working on the next book about Selby, the talking dog, and another one about Emily Eyefinger, the girl who was born with an eye on the end of her finger. I'll tell you more about my latest book, a book of funny poems called, "My Sister Has a Big Black Beard", later.

Here's a photo of my cat, Jasper, who likes to help me with my writing.

Read more about me and my books at my website.