Ever wanted to be a sports commentator? Let Andy Griffiths show you how.
You can read Andy’s story Just Commentating, from The Age Summer Kids pages.
Archive for the “What I am reading” Category
Ever wanted to be a sports commentator? Let Andy Griffiths show you how.
You can read Andy’s story Just Commentating, from The Age Summer Kids pages.
Apr 15 2009
Marc Jarvis is fifteen. He lives in Camberwell, a leafy Melbourne suburb. And like many boys, he spends a lot of time dreaming about girls and the future. When work experience brings him into contact with Electra, a brilliantly gifted runner, his quiet suburban life will never be the same. Jarvis 24 is a novel that hits the funny bone and the heart. Author David Metzenthen talks about the origins of Marc Jarvis.
What was the spark for Jarvis 24 ?
The spark that really got Jarvis going was a conversation that I had with a friend of mine about his two boys. One of the boys is super-confident about himself and the impact he has on the world, the other son worries about just about everything. I immediately wanted to write about the kid who worries, as I was always worried when I was at school – although I was a functional, left-wing type of a kid, who hid it pretty well. I’d already started Jarvis, but scrapped the first attempt, as it had no life in it until I heard about this under-age worrier….When I discovered Marc’s voice, and his way of thinking, I felt I could write his story with a real sense of truth. I also heard of a girl who won an inter-school 200 metre race by such a huge distance, a chant went up around Olympic Park…’How much she did she cost? da-da da-da da-dah!’ I’ve always been interested in sprinting, although I couldn’t run out of sight on a foggy morning, so it was great to write about someone who can really fly.
So, in my experience, it takes two sparks to make a story: and Marc and Electra provided them for me.
Jarvis 24 is a very funny story, but there’s also a lot of emotion beneath the surface, isn’t there?
There’s emotion below and beneath everyone and everyone’s story; everyone’s thinking, thinking, thinking – but generally they’re not telling, in my limited experience. I really wanted to tap into Marc’s ways of thinking, and his views on the world. Hopefully I could present an authentic young guy. I really turned the bullshit detector onto him (and onto myself) to give his world view… and although some of the things might not appear to make sense to some readers, they seemed to make sense to me and Marc…so they’re in, meaning if Marc’s thoughts don’t seem straightforward or rational, the reader (and my editor!) will just have to navigate them as best they can.
Did you do any research for Jarvis 24?
I did do research for Jarvis 24, although it wasn’t all that scientific. I walked up Glenferrie Road at dusk every Wednesday while my daughter was at basketball practice, and drank a coffee. I read Cathy Freeman’s life story and was truly inspired by photographs of her running; she was like a swallow and a hawk, totally focused, so graceful and powerful and fast. I also re-visited myself as a sixteen year-old maniac sitting under a tree in the dark thinking about stowing away on a ship or jumping onto a moving freight train… and meeting the girl of my dreams. I also spoke to quite a few car sales people about their work, which was really interesting…but generally I just tried to lock into my characters, and let them proceed.
Marc is a pretty easy-going guy. He doesn’t really have a particular goal or aim in life. Was that you as a teenager?
Marc isn’t that easy-going and neither was I. When I was young I was stubborn, pig-headed, had strange expectations of the world, and refused to listen to good advice. My goal in life then was to live some kind of adventurous life. I wanted to hit the road, but at the same time, I loved farms and animals and the country and ships and rivers. I misunderstood the world; I thought there were no consequences for people who wanted to buck the system, that you had forever to do whatever… you don’t! And then, because I wasn’t great at working for other people, I decided I wanted to write about this kind of imagined world of mine – and so live out these adventures one by one. Yes, I’m a mess!
Marc and his friend Trav are pretty obsessed with girls, aren’t they?
Marc and Trav are obsessed by girls. They love them, like them, and they are mystified by them. Marc sees each girl as a separate solar system, complex and intriguing, to be wondered at, and to hopefully be understood. He is fascinated by every thing about girls, and the very best of luck to him!
What’s the difference between reading about sport in a novel and in the newspaper?
Writing about sport in a novel allows me to control the outcome! Reading about sport in a paper is someone’s attempt to recreate the facts or analyse someone or some situation. I find writing sport scenes difficult, but when I watch sprinters, or great football teams, or someone playing something well, or with great passion, it offers a challenge to try and capture some essence of it. Sport can be utter rubbish or it can reach great heights; you just have to work out what you’re seeing!
You are well known for historical novels like Boys of Blood and Bone, Black Water and Wildlight. Is Jarvis 24 a conscious change of direction?
Jarvis 24 isn’t really a change of writing direction for me, as I simply do whatever project that seems to offer a trajectory. I’ve never intentionally concentrated on historical or contemporary settings; I simply write the story that I feel strongly about, and that might be interesting to other people. Let me just say, though, that I won’t be writing anything mythological or fantastical soon! I’m a realist writer. I love the real world. It’s the best place I’ve found, so far…if you combine it with your own imaginings.
What did you enjoy most about writing this novel?
I liked writing very much from Marc’s perspective; I liked it that he had a misinformed idea of his own self, that he didn’t really know what he was going to do next, or actually how he felt about things until he’d done them – but he was honest!
(David Metzenthen was an early supporter of the Boys, Blokes, Books and Bytes project. Thanks, Dave!)
Mar 23 2009
A cool hunter is someone who discovers and then spreads the word on what is cool. Could be the way some people are wearing their clothes. Could be a new kind of dance, or an old dance done in a new way. Mac Slater is a cool hunter. And he’s also an inventor, an innovator.
Mac lives in Australia and along with his best bud Paul, flies to New York for a wild week-long adventure in cool. They have to find the coolest stuff possible and blog about it every day to stay in game. In New York they meet the kids at The Hive, a workshop of kids creating wild one-off inventions.
This book has wicked plot twists, it’s funny and it’s smart. Catch the style of Mac Slater in these short, tasty videos. And more cool stuff besides.
The Mac Slater books are a fast, easy and massively entertaining read.
The Finn Family Moomintroll books and comic strips are the kind of stories that you are never too young or too old for. The characaters, including Moomintroll, Moominmama and Moominpapa, were created by Finnish writer and artists Tove Jannson. They appear in books and comic strips and are among the world’s most famous stories. Philip Pullman, creator of the Golden Compass (or Northen Lights series if you prefer) says the Moomintroll are among his favourite stories ever.
Recently, the comic strips have been reprinted. But you can also read them free online. Here’s the first panel of a story. See what you think. Do you do Moomin?
Jan 06 2009
While you have been away (reading at the beach I’m sure!) we have been beavering away, on the lookout for great new reads. Top of the pile is a new book by the brilliant Jonathan Stroud, he of the Bartimaeus trilogy.
We recently spoke to Jonathan about his new book Heroes of The Valley and asked him what it’s about.
Tell us a bit about Heroes of the Valley. HotV has a very different feel to the Bartimaeus trilogy. What do you see as the differences, and were they conscious decision on your part to do something different, or were you just sick of wizards in London?
Well, the Bart books are fantasy with a capital F: right from the start you get zillions of imps, djinn and afrits running about, magicians casting spells in pentacles and magical mayhem of one sort or another. So when I finished Ptolemy’s Gate I was keen to try a different sort of fantasy, where the whole supernatural side wasn’t central, but on the margins instead. And that gives HotV its own tone and tension: we have ordinary human characters in an essentially non-magical world, while on the fringes (literally as well as figuratively) we’ve got the stories of the Trows, these legendary monsters who may or may not lurk underground, and the tales of the Heroes, who may or may not have done great deeds. Part of the problem for Halli and Aud, the two main characters – and it’s a problem for the audience as well – is: does the fantastical actually exist? It was fun to play with audience expectations in this way!
Did you ever want to serve Halli a Bartimaeus smackdown? Do you miss footnotes?
I think Halli certainly deserves a bit of a Bart-style thumping early on, though hopefully he becomes a more admirable fellow as the book goes on! Having said that, part of the interest for me was that I couldn’t resort to the wild scraps and chases that go on when Bart’s around. Halli himself daydreams about having epic fights and doing outrageously unlikely heroic deeds, but when he actually encounters violence for the first time, it is NOT funny or over-the-top, but nasty and murderous and short. He has to adjust to reality, just as I had to adjust as a writer to a story where I couldn’t have my hero turn into a gargoyle and run away.
I do quite miss footnotes now, having not written any for three years, but it was good to do without them when I began HotV: I wanted to avoid becoming stale!
HotV is a fresh take on a traditional story, harking back to Norse Viking stories, and the more recent hero-quests of Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain series. Can you tell us a bit about your influences?
Right from the start my main influences were Norse Sagas – specifically the Icelandic Sagas written in the medieval period. They’re well worth reading – a wonderful mix of the mundane and the fantastic. Basically they’re about real-life farmers in Iceland, who do ordinary things, such as arguing with their neighbours, arranging marriages and gathering to settle legal disputes. But every now and then a bloke will go up into the hills on his way somewhere and have an encounter with a troll, or wrestle with a ghost. Then he’ll dust himself down and carry on with the ordinary stuff. It was this mixture of domestic and supernatural that I wanted to play around with. Another motivation was that the Sagas have already influenced modern fantasy massively via Tolkien etc, so it gave me the opportunity to subvert a few of the traditional fantasy clichés along the way!
Did you have to do much research?
I read a lot of the Sagas and a bit about Iceland’s history, but that was pretty much it. I decided early on that my story would be set in an unknown, fictional land, so I could do with it as I wanted. I stole all the names from the Sagas, to give it a coherent feel, but everything else is more or less made up. I think too much research makes books heavy and cumbersome…
Both HotV and the Bartimaeus series are very anti-authoritarian. Is this something you do on purpose or is it instinctive?
I suppose my books are rather subversive in this way, though in reality I’m tediously law-abiding! Partly I guess this is a function of the fact that stories about rebels are inherently more interesting than ones about people who fit in – but it’s the friction between the individual and their society that really interests me. Neither Halli nor Bart is an out-and-out good guy: both have chips on their shoulders, both behave badly, both have far too much energy and are generally v. annoying for those around them. But they also have great potential to harness that energy to something good that will benefit society: the question is, will they find that out and will they want to?
HotV in particular seems to focus around the idea that we shouldn’t be living our lives in a certain way just because some ancient story tells us to (I feel like Richard Dawkins would approve). What part do you think storytelling plays in shaping who we are and what we do?
Yes, one of the main things explored in HotV is the power of storytelling, and how sometimes that power is used to keep societies together, and make individuals conform. I think this is pretty relevant to all of us, wherever we are, and whenever we live, and it’s worth writing about, even when it’s buried deep in a Norse-ish fantasy. But more importantly than that, it’s just fun to write good stories, and I really enjoyed putting together the web of legendary hero tales that Halli grows up believing. I guess I’m trying to have my cake and eat it: I like the whole heroic legend thing, and get a sneaky pleasure in undercutting it too!
Tell us there’s going to be a movie of the Bartimaeus trilogy. Please.
Well, it’s been very quiet for a long time, but in fact only last week I heard that there’s some movement on the Amulet movie at last. At the moment the screenplay is out with some directors, so they’re looking for someone to helm the project. That must be good news!
What’s next? Are we going to see more of Halli and Aud?
I always thought HotV would be a stand-alone title, so I think that’s the end of Halli and Aud’s adventures. I’m now working on a couple of new ideas which are a bit secret at the moment. I’ll certainly keep you posted, though, via my website, which is www.jonathanstroud.com and also at www.heroesofthevalley.co.uk .
Thanks very much for the questions – I loved answering them!
You might have caught the news today about Australia’s climate change policy.
So maybe it’s time to look into The Down-to-Earth Guide to Global Warming by Laurie David and Cambria Gordon. BBBB has one copy to give away.
Tell us what Australia’s minimum carbon reduction target is and win this book. First correct answer wins.
Dec 12 2008
That’s the advice from illustrator Heath McKenzie. Heath did the illustration at the top of this blog.
More wisdom of Heath at his spiffy new website and blog.
Have a great weekend!
Aug 11 2008
I have been dying to tell you about The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. The book has won nearly every award going in the United States and has just been released in Australia. It may be my favourite book of the year, and it’s August already…
The writer Sherman Alexie is a Spokane/Coeur d’Alene Indian and he grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. When Sherman was about fourteen he moved from the reservation school to another, 20 miles away at a town called Reardan. This novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian, is about that time in his life. It has more fist-fights, basketball, jokes and heartbreak than anything else you will ever read. There’s some really cool comics and drawings, too.
For more about this brilliant book, click here. Or listen to Sherman Alexie read from his book by clicking here.
Back in 2003 AFL player Sam Mitchell came to the State Libray of Victoria to talk to about reading. Sam spoke about the difference reading made to him as a player and a person. Back then Sam was new on the Hawks list. He didn’t get selected in the draft: too small, too slow, couldn’t kick far enough. He did it the hard way.
Sam Mitchell, Hawthorn captain
Five years on, Sam Mitchell is Hawthorn captain and one of the AFL’s elite players. And reading? He’s still at it. You can find out more about Sam Mitchell in this profile published in the The Age today.
Jun 23 2008
Did you know that the Ranger’s Apprentice series has now sold over 1 million copies worldwide? Erak’s Ransom, the seventh in the series has just been released in Australia.
Author John Flanagan, who lives in Sydney, recently toured in the United States (where they are only up to book 3, The Icebound Land). He appeared on Good Morning America. You can watch the interview by clicking in this link:
Erak’s Ransom was also announced as the winner of the Australian Bookseller’s Association Book of the Year for Older Readers. And there’s a movie in the works.
You can sign up for the Ranger’s Apprentice newsletter. Visit the website by clicking on this link.
Have you read these books? What do you think?