One Minute’s Silence

David Metzenthen admits that his latest picture book came out of a series of failed manuscripts.

David and me at the launch

David and me at the launch (thanks to Pip for the pic)

One – unpromisingly about a raindrop – made it to the discussion table at Allen & Unwin.

He had a meeting with the editors where the concept of time came up – he was keen to write about the lost hour in daylight savings. And then one of the editors said ‘What about the One Minute’s Silence?’OMS

Hearing this ‘was like being punched in the face’ – a moment of inspiration that sent David’s brain whirring. Later, walking the dog, he thought about the Gallipoli campaign and the significance of it – ‘because we got on with the Turks, even when we were killing them’.

‘I wanted to look at the Turks because this is the only war we’ve been in that brought two countries closer together,’ he said.

David and his illustrator Michael Camilleri gave a ‘behind-the-scenes’ peek into the making of One Minute’s Silence at Deakin University library in Geelong last night.

Michael said he became obsessed, drawing hundreds of illustrations in a bid to find the best way to tell the story.

Illustrator Michael Camilleri

Illustrator Michael Camilleri

He researched by reading other books about Gallipoli and looking at archival photos.

‘No one wants a picture book full of blood and guts but at the same time there was a responsibility to talk about killing and death and murder if we were going to do it justice,’ he said.

He worked with the theme of time – clocks and cogs feature in the illustrations – and thought about the 100 year anniversary and this idea that ‘there but for the Grace of God…’

And then he had the idea of using modern teenagers as a basis for peopling the book. He photographed students in his partner’s Year 12 English class and used their faces to represent the horror of the 1915 campaign.

‘The point of the book is to grab something out of that dusty past and bring it into the present,’ he said.

Michael showed us a photo of his work station, with pictures stuck up all over the walls. He likes to show this photo to school groups as proof that ‘you can be messy and still make something’.

I want that on a bumper sticker!

The Enemies Within

My shadow side is making an unwelcome comeback.

I try to console myself that this is part of the creative life – dealing with inner demons – but you really have to keep on top of these little blighters or they can overwhelm you. What am I talking about? Well, the first and by far biggest issue for me is:

(1) JEALOUSY. Oh dear. I have spoken about my green-eyed monster Jellybefore, but it is a terribly ugly monster who must be kept at bay for fear of throwing super-hot lattes at unsuspecting fellow scribes.

Every time I go on social media, I discover yet another author I know or know slightly has won an award, sealed an amazing publishing contract, got a new book out, etc, etc. (Note to self: stop going on-line!) On the bright side, this shows how well connected I now am in the writing world – yes? On the not so bright side, it’s like – hello world, why wasn’t that me?

Ahem. I told you it wasn’t pretty. I constantly tell my children:

Whatever you do in this life there will always be someone better than you, and there will always be someone you are better than. The moral – you can only be your best self.

Taking my own advice however, is not always easy.

(2) SELF-DOUBT. Yes, following hot on the heels of jealousy comes self-doubt. Hmm, why wasn’t that me – winning the publishing deal, etc, etc. PooCould it be that my first two books were published by mistake? Was that my flash in the pan? Am I now designated to the eternal purgatory of the literary slush-pile where I will be found old and decrepit existing on peanut M & Ms and marvelling at my own brilliance (which was never discovered).

Self-doubt sure is ugly and the worst thing about it – no one cares! Everyone else is too busy having their own existential crisis, marital woes, health scare – whatever – living their own lives to care about you and your insecurities. So my advice on this score is suck it up. Oh, and remind yourself of previous successes. Previous times where you felt despair and then, boom something good fell into your lap.

(3) DEPRESSION (or is that PMT?) Seriously, depression is bad news – crippling, crappy stuff. And that’s why I’m so wary of the first two monsters listed here because if you’re not careful they can lead you to this horrible dim dark pit of despair and it’s a long way back. (Being an author of a book on depression I should probably mention it here 🙂 )depression_monster_by_sebreg-d3ldaaa

How to ward against depression? Make something. I’m serious – make some muffins or a heat bag or a paper plane – just make something small and cool so you can say, you know what, I made that. Then, contact a friend, meet for coffee or just have a phone call and a mutual whinge. Sing! Singing is great therapy. Dance! My beautiful friend Robyn made me a 6 o’clock dance mix. It’s filled with 80s dance music and is designed to chase away the grumps and get me jiving in the kitchen while cooking dinner – it works!

So that’s probably enough metaphorical airing of dirty underwear in public for one day. Make me feel better and tell me about yours…please?

The Melbourne Writer’s Festival

In a classic example of don’t try this yourselves kids! research, YA author Justine Larbalestier once followed a shady looking guy wearing a hoody who worked out at her gym.

Would you follow this guy?

Would you follow this guy?

“It’s not stalking,” she told a Melbourne Writer’s Festival school group. “It’s active research.”

The gym Justine frequents in Surrey Hills is a ‘crim gym’ and she’d been watching this guy for a while because he resembled the kind of stand-over man she wanted as a character in her novel Razorhurst. Sort of dead in the eyes. Continue reading