It’s 12:12pm, I’m at work, and I’ve just returned from taking my class to a session at The Byron Bay Writers Festival.
(Before you freak out about my terrible teaching skills, there are no children in here right now, so it’s okay that I’m writing at school. They’re locked in the storeroom.)(Okay, no they’re not. They’re locked in the shed.)
(Okay, for real this time. I left them at the festival.)
(…It’s lunchtime, and I don’t have a playground duty until later. Huzzah!)
I wanted to start writing this now (even though it won’t be finished until tonight) because I feel inspired. Inspired to write and inspired to read. Inspired to get out there and actually make this dream a reality.
So to begin with, here is a brief rundown of the morning's festivities:
The session started with Libby Gleeson, author of YA novels RED and MAHTAB’S STORY. I haven’t read either of those, but after today, I want to read RED, which is (from her description) the story of a young girl in Sydney who loses her memory after a cyclone destroys the city. I’m a sucker for amnesia tales (and have one in the works myself), so I think I would really enjoy it. MAHTAB’S STORY is about a family of asylum seekers fleeing from Afghanistan, and while it also sounds quite interesting, it’s not the kind of book I’m into at the moment. It’s been placed on my ‘To Read’ list for the future.
Next was Judy Horacek, author and illustrator of the children’s book GROWL and illustrator of WHERE IS THE GREEN SHEEP? I’m not an illustrator (largely because I don’t have any talent, as you’ll see in a minute), but I found it absolutely fascinating to listen to her talk about her creative process. One of my favourite things she said was this:
“[Talking about how she developed the concept for GROWL] It’s amazing, really… It started with this phrase in my head: ‘My name is Growl and Growl is what I do.’ From just those few little words, I made up a whole story.”
[Paraphrased as I can’t remember her exact wording, as much as I was frantically scribbling down everything she said]
I love that sentiment, and it reminded me a lot of something that a certain person* said in an interview once…
“I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of an idea, because everything starts from just an idea. It’s a minor miracle, really.”
It’s pretty amazing, when you think about. One day these characters and story ideas are just bouncing around your thoughts, and the next thing you know, they have literally taken on a life of their own. They almost become real people living inside your head, each with their own voice, own opinions, and own set of annoying habits. I’ve been known to get frustrated with my characters because I’m annoyed with their choices or angry at the way they’ve been acting, but I actually feel powerless to do much about it because that’s just who they are. I know how crazy that sounds…But it’s true. Changing their annoying habits or correcting their stupid (STUPID! Hear me, Noah??) decisions would change who they are, which would change the entire story. So you sit, and you write, and you roll your eyes as things get steadily more complicated, until eventually you help them muddle their way out of the mess they have created. Then you pat them (and yourself) on the back for sorting things out, before, if you’re anything like me, tossing them back in for round two. And maybe once in a while...Once in a while you marvel at the fact that once upon a time this character, this personality that you’ve come to know almost as well as you know yourself, was just a name you wrote on a page. Because that’s pretty freaking cool.
But I digress…
After Judy Horacek, it was finally time for Leigh Hobbs to take the stage. As soon as his name was announced, the change in atmosphere was electric. Now I don’t want to take anything away from Libby Gleeson and Judy Horacek, but I get the feeling that Leigh Hobbs was the one who everyone wanted to see. And it wasn’t hard to understand why.
When you’re speaking to a large audience at an event such as this writers’ fest, you have to be engaging. HAVE to being the key phrase, especially when dealing with children. Not everyone is good at this.
Leigh Hobbs is fantastic.
From the moment he stepped onto the stage, every eye in that auditorium was trained on him. My class were elbowing one another (and me, little buggers) whispering “It’s him! It’s Leigh Hobbs!” If you don’t know who Leigh Hobbs is, he is the author and illustrator of various children’s series such as OLD TOM, MR CHICKEN and HORRIBLE HARRIET, just to name a few. Within a few minutes of listening to him I found myself thinking ‘This is it. This right here…This is my dream.’ Every child in the auditorium (roughly 600) knew who he was, and every child had heard, read or watched Old Tom (did I mention that’s a cartoon series, as well? Genius.) When it came to the end of his presentation – in which he taught us to draw Old Tom and Mr Chicken – the children were asked if they’d like to line up to get some autographs. Now our school didn’t stay for that, but as we left I’d say that Leigh Hobbs’ line was at least double the length of the other two. It seemed like everyone wanted to meet the man behind the stories that they love so much…And to be perfectly honest, I wanted to meet him, too. His whole session was incredibly motivating.
(Side note: Lunch ended, I went back to class, and now it’s recess and my brain has taken its knapsack and gone for a wander. Darn it.)
Going to the Writers’ Festival today just re-confirmed my drive to do whatever it takes to make this dream a reality. Seeing those three amazing authors sitting up there on the stage made it abundantly clear to me that THAT is where I want to be. That is what I want to do with my life. That is what I need to do with my life. I want to spend every waking hour writing, reading, and teaching specialised writing lessons to children and teens who love writing as much as I did when I was their age. I know it’s ambitious as hell, but if you’re going to be dreaming anyway, you may as well dream big. I have fantasies of returning to schools that I’ve previously taught in and being able to say to the children, “dream as big as you want to, because if you’re dedicated and you work as hard you can, you can achieve anything you desire.” Of course I tell my class that anyway, largely because I was brought up to believe I could be anything I want to be (thanks, Mum and Dad!) but it would have so much more weight if I could back it up with my own personal experience. Although as I type that I can’t help but think…but teaching WAS your dream. I guess ‘was’ is the operative word there. It was my dream. I achieved it (yay me!) and I do really love it, but now I want more. I definitely still want to teach…But what I want to teach has changed. What I want out of my life has changed.
I know that it’s highly unlikely that things will happen this way. I’m perfectly aware that my chances of being published, let alone getting to the level of Leigh Hobbs, Libby Gleeson or Judy Horacek are somewhere between How About No and Not Even A Little Bit. But as long as I never give up, I can never fail, right??
Besides…Leigh Hobbs was a teacher once, too.
*/cough/ Jared Leto /cough/
You’re probably just going to have to get used to my endless Jared quotes. He’s a very inspiring man.
TITLE LYRICS: ‘The Fantasy’ by Thirty Seconds To Mars
I swear I’ll stop using Mars lyrics as my titles soon…
Okay, I probably won’t.
Tehe, I said ‘SOON’
Ps...As promised, here are my terrible renditions of Old Tom and Mr Chicken. Apologies to Mr Hobbs.