Goldie Alexander's Blog

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OUR BARRIER REEF

From:  Dr David Lloyd. Associate Professor,  Protected Area & Coastal Management. Academic Integrity Officer for the School of Environment Science and Engineering. Southern Cross University

Dr. Lloyd was my student way back when I was a secondary teacher. Please read what he says because it is VERY important.

Twenty years ago a report on the State of the Great Barrier Reef said that the great majority of the Marine Park is still relatively pristine when compared to coral reef systems elsewhere in the world. These findings were also supported by two major workshops to which over 100 scientists and management experts contributed  (Both these workshops were summarised in the report titled State of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area 1998, released in November 1998). At the time there were those who warned that taking a reductionist approach was wrong. We did not understand the parameters of the system we were dealing with, let alone the interactions within it. The 35 million hectares of coral, seagrass, mangrove, soft bottom communities and island communities were too big to fail.

The first big bleaching events of the 1990s was a novelty, we could not dream that it would become an almost annual event affecting over 90% of reefs in the far north and many in the south, and, as I write this, we are sending students out to quantify the bleaching damage off Coffs Harbour and even down to Sydney. Bleaching is the last ditch attempt by coral to survive high temperatures by expelling the algae that contributes sugars through photosynthesis while safely cocooned by the coral. The algae, zooxenthallae, also gives the coral its wonderful colour which is why the corals look so bleak when they are gone.

At the time we were looking for the enemy within, crown of thorns, over fishing or pollution. Never thinking that a mature ecosystem, which has evolved over hundreds of thousands of years, would fall victim to a simple carbon atom, hooking up with a couple of oxygen atoms – but on a grand scale. The Great Barrier Reef is falling victim to our consumer society through global warming. We think of a few degree temperature rise as the difference between a warm 25 and slightly hotter 27  degree day. Perhaps the summers will be a little longer, the winters more pleasant. But what happens when your body temperature rises 2 degrees, you are sick. And, so are the more than 300 species of hard, reef-building corals corals.

The Great Barrier Reef is more than just corals. It also provides habitats for many diverse forms of marine life. There are an estimated 1 500 species of fish and more than 4 000 mollusc species and over 400 species of sponge. All living within a tightly controlled temperature range that affects breeding cycles, metabolism and food supply. The delicate balance is lost. At the same time carbon dioxide acidifies the oceans causing the calcium carbonate, the skeleton of the reef, to dissolve.

Warm oceans also fuel cyclones and storms. Without the reefs to slow them down the effect on the extensive seagrass beds, which are an important feeding ground for the dugong and turtle, is lost. As are the islands and cays that support several hundred bird species, many of which have breeding colonies there. Reef herons, osprey, pelicans, frigate birds, sea eagles and shearwaters are among the numerous sea birds that have been recorded- most at risk and all potential victims of the catastrophe that is unfolding.

So what have we learned? Nothing and no-one is too big to fail. Unfortunately the environment does not appear on the balance sheet. Loose one small part and who knows what is next.

 

 

 

 

USING SCIENCE FICTION TO EXPAND ON THE CURRICULUM

 

 

 

Science and science fiction! Placing these together may seem like a contradiction.

Science encompasses the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment. Science looks for layers of reality.

But Science fiction is imaginary. Made up. It is fiction thatdeals with the impact of imaginary events upon a society or individuals. If it describes a world or an event hard to imagine. Nevertheless, to be any good, it must have a consistent internal logic and contain sustained and believable characters. Most importantly, it draws on the reader to visualise a vastly different world from the one around us. At its best it can throw up a mirror to the real world around us.

 I am not a science teacher. But it occurs to me that using science fiction could be an effective tool in the teaching of science. Fiction above all calls on a student’s imagination and creativity. Good science also demands creativity and imagination to find ways to prove or disprove hypotheses.

To complete the present curriculum, primary students are expected to be made aware of short-term changes on this planet. It demands that they note changes in the sky, observe and record environmental changes that occur over a long time, identify seasonal changes, note the appearance of the moon, be aware of landscape changes and the importance of our resources. But what if one, only one of these factors, was to change? What might happen then?  What are some possible outcomes? It would take only one small happening to throw everything as we know it off kilter.

This is what science fiction does. It changes the known and familiar to produce imaginary yet perfectly logical consequences. But to understand the unfamiliar, the familiar must first be observed and recorded. If students are trained to identify some resource such as soil, minerals and water, and note how are they presently used, science fiction posits the question: what would happen if this resource became scarce or even disappeared entirely?

Let’s use water as our example. Students are expected to note the various way water is used in their daily lives. But what would happen if fresh water became scarce? We are presently watching this happen in many parts of the world. We have yet to control changes in our climate brought on by human activity, though there is much talk and even some planning. But if fresh water becomes even scarcer, how will this alter our lives? How will we handle it? In ‘Cybertricks’,  a novel aimed at upper primary readers set five millenia in the future, water has become the scarcest commodity in the universe.  These children use sonar waves to keep clean. Can this lead to class discussion of what action can be taken to use water sustainably: turning off dripping taps, take shorter showers, encouraging parents to design gardens that use recycled water and avoid planting high water usage plants?

Instead of tapping on a laptop, knowledge buttons controlled by a giant computer known as ConCen are implanted into these future children’s skulls, their everyday needs handled by holo-tutors. Students can be asked to draw parallels by exploring ways in which present day people use science and technology in their daily lives.   Can children be encouraged to imagine a future where humans carry so many implants they virtually become human/androids? Currently, work is being done on glasses that allow interactive action between the user and a cyber world of holos. If something has been invented, it is very likely that sooner or later it will be used.

We are presently changing the planet from what it possibly would be if humans hadn’t evolved. That means that we have interfered with nature and its delicate eco systems. Take our Barrier Reef. Though a world heritage treasure, global warming is killing a huge percent of the coral through whitening and thus destroying the tiny creatures that nurture it. We have to find a decent solution to what is happening so rapidly, or our future becomes dystopian. Perhaps this is why so many science fictions describe such a bleak prospect and often end up by finding a back-up planet.

What if our children were to be plunged into a world where all our technology disappears? Cars. Elecricity. Running water – and it is sobering to realise that the greatest saviour of modern times has been the invention of clean drinkable water. What if they are plunged into a medieval world? How dependant are they on their phones and laptops? In ‘Cybertricks’, the characters, who have so far depended for their very basic needs and survival on ComCen, are placed into this exact situation. How would contemporary children cope? It’s not just a week’s school camp where they are expected to rough it. It is through thinking these problems through that they might become more aware of how dependant we are on technology.

“It is the year 200,043 AD.  Pya, Zumie, Jafet and Trist live in tiny Cells, cared for by their tutor-holos, only communicating via their avatars.  Pya narrates how the giant computer ComCen sends their real bodies back to the mid 21st Century where they meet the twins, Rio and Charlie. Even if these six youngsters manage to survive in a very dangerous world, they must also achieve Independence and Co-operation. But can they?”

 

Cybertricks' cover‘Cybertricks’ can be bought from www.fivesenseseducation.com.au,

many good bookshops or ordered through Goldie.

ISBN 978-1-74130-888-4 RRP $14.95

 

 

 

 

 

  USING SCIENCE FICTION TO EXPAND ON THE AUSTRALIAN CURRICULUM

 

“It is the year 200,043 AD.  Pya, Zumie, Jafet and Trist live in tiny Cells, cared for by their tutor-holos, only communicating via their avatars.  Pya narrates how the giant computer ComCen sends their real bodies back to the mid 21st Century where they meet the twins, Rio and Charlie. Even if these six youngsters manage to survive in a very dangerous world, they must also achieve Independence and Co-operation. But can they?”

 

Science and science fiction! Placing these together may seem like a contradiction.

Science encompasses the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment. Science looks for layers of reality.

But Science fiction is imaginary. Made up. It is fiction thatdeals with the impact of imaginary events upon a society or individuals. If it describes a world or an event hard to imagine. Nevertheless, to be any good, it must have a consistent internal logic and contain sustained and believable characters. Most importantly, it draws on the reader to visualise a vastly different world from the one around us. At its best it can throw up a mirror to the real world around us.

 I am not a science teacher. But it occurs to me that using science fiction could be an effective tool in the teaching of science. Fiction above all calls on a student’s imagination and creativity. Good science also demands creativity and imagination to find ways to prove or disprove hypotheses.

To complete the present curriculum, primary students are expected to be made aware of short-term changes on this planet. It demands that they note changes in the sky, observe and record environmental changes that occur over a long time, identify seasonal changes, note the appearance of the moon, be aware of landscape changes and the importance of our resources. But what if one, only one of these factors, was to change? What might happen then?  What are some possible outcomes? It would take only one small happening to throw everything as we know it off kilter.

This is what science fiction does. It changes the known and familiar to produce imaginary yet perfectly logical consequences. But to understand the unfamiliar, the familiar must first be observed and recorded. If students are trained to identify some resource such as soil, minerals and water, and note how are they presently used, science fiction posits the question: what would happen if this resource became scarce or even disappeared entirely?

Let’s use water as our example. Students are expected to note the various way water is used in their daily lives. But what would happen if fresh water became scarce? We are presently watching this happen in many parts of the world. We have yet to control changes in our climate brought on by human activity, though there is much talk and even some planning. But if fresh water becomes even scarcer, how will this alter our lives? How will we handle it? In ‘Cybertricks’,  a novel aimed at upper primary readers set five millenia in the future, water has become the scarcest commodity in the universe.  These children use sonar waves to keep clean. Can this lead to class discussion of what action can be taken to use water sustainably: turning off dripping taps, take shorter showers, encouraging parents to design gardens that use recycled water and avoid planting high water usage plants?

Instead of tapping on a laptop, knowledge buttons controlled by a giant computer known as ConCen are implanted into these future children’s skulls, their everyday needs handled by holo-tutors. Students can be asked to draw parallels by exploring ways in which present day people use science and technology in their daily lives.   Can children be encouraged to imagine a future where humans carry so many implants they virtually become human/androids? Currently, work is being done on glasses that allow interactive action between the user and a cyber world of holos. If something has been invented, it is very likely that sooner or later it will be used.

We are presently changing the planet from what it possibly would be if humans hadn’t evolved. That means that we have interfered with nature and its delicate eco systems. Take our Barrier Reef. Though a world heritage treasure, global warming is killing a huge percent of the coral through whitening and thus destroying the tiny creatures that nurture it. We have to find a decent solution to what is happening so rapidly, or our future becomes dystopian. Perhaps this is why so many science fictions describe such a bleak prospect and often end up by finding a back-up planet.

What if our children were to be plunged into a world where all our technology disappears? Cars. Elecricity. Running water – and it is sobering to realise that the greatest saviour of modern times has been the invention of clean drinkable water. What if they are plunged into a medieval world? How dependant are they on their phones and laptops? In ‘Cybertricks’, the characters, who have so far depended for their very basic needs and survival on ComCen, are placed into this exact situation. How would contemporary children cope? It’s not just a week’s school camp where they are expected to rough it. It is through thinking these problems through that they might become more aware of how dependant we are on technology.

If science is about proven actualities, science fiction is all about imaginary possibilities. Before science can ever explain what makes us human creatures capable of great nurture and torture, fiction can attempt to explore these concepts by postulating situations where they are played through.

www.goldiealexander.com

‘Cybertricks’ can be bought from www.fivesenseseducation.com.au

ISBN 978-1-74130-888-4 RRP $14.95

 

 

 

 

 

Reviving Old Ideas

Cybertricks' cover Cybertricks final COVER_v3

I am writing this so disheartened authors can take heart from my story. Sometimes it can take a decade or two before a novel finally emerges into the public eye. Sometimes the market is poor and publishers, more and more ruled by their marketing departments, are wary of taking on untested, untried ideas. Sometimes the novel still doesn’t work and needs expert editing. Sometimes, as in the case of my Middle Grade novel ‘CYBERTRICKS’ it needs to sit awhile in our computers before being pulled out, reviewed and rewritten.

 There’s a limited number of themes for our writerly pickings. What isn’t fixed is how we combine them.  Fifteen years ago the effects of climate change made little headlines. The deniers were promoting their own theses and the public, if not the scientists, were too shaken by 9/11 to worry about melting polar icecaps and strange rain patterns. Back then I was part of a social group who enjoyed arguing philosophy and world events. But even more, they loved nothing more than a quarrel. Friends were won and lost in the twinkle of an eyelid. Gossip abounded. What these sophisticated adults reminded me of was a bunch of mischievous kids left to their own naughty devices.

 Science fiction deals principally with the impact of actual or imagined science upon a society or individuals.  Even if the story describes something hard to imagine, it must contain a consistent internal logic and sustained believable characters with whom the reader can identify, though extraordinary characters and situations are acceptable.

 I suppose it was then that I thought of putting those two ideas together: that of a post apocalypse future almost impossible to imagine, and the quarrelsome kids living in it. I’m not going to argue that my concept was so innovative, publishers simply didn’t recognise it. If I had found a publisher who liked the idea, it may have appeared, but only with a great deal of help and anyway, until ‘Harry Potter’ appeared, fantasy and science fiction were both out of favour. My problem was that I didn’t know how to combine those separate concepts. Thus the novel languished, locked away in my computer as yet another failure. It was only many years later that I considered it worth a total rewrite.

 Though I had the bones of a story, my four major characters needed far more development. Though these children are identical in appearance, Zumie is self-centred, Trist teases her unmercifully, Jafet talks non-stop and never listens, even the narrator Pya, takes little responsibility for her own prissy behaviour. Their characteristics had to be fleshed out through dialogue and action. And given they are sent back in time to a future some thirty years hence, they had to learn how to be children. And I have to boast that I wrote about avatars long before the film of the same name appeared,

 After a number of rewrites www/fivesenseseducation.com.au the company that has published three of my other middle grade novels: eSide, Neptunia, and The Youngest Cameleer, was happy to take it on. But then they produced a cover I honestly hated. When nothing much happened and the book was shoved aside, and it seemed as if still it might never appear, I said ok to the previous cover. 

A week later I did a rethink. A decent cover is essential. A poor one can damn a book from the outset. The immensely talented artist Aaron Pocock had achieved a wonderful cover for my Young Adult ‘In Hades: A verse novel’. I approached him with the idea and he came up with an illustration I truly loved,

This is what the book is about:

It is the year 200,043 AD.  Pya, Zumie, Jafet and Trist live in tiny Cells, cared for by their tutor-holos, only communicating via their avatars.  Pya narrates how the giant computer ComCen sends their real bodies back to the mid 21st Century where they meet the twins, Rio and Charlie. But even if these six youngsters manage to survive in a very dangerous world, they must also achieve Independence and Co-operation. Can they?

 

‘Cybertricks’ can be bought from www.fivesenseseducation.com.au or goldie@goldiealexander.com

ISBN 978-1-74130-888-4  www.goldiealexander.com  RRP $14.95

BLACKBERRYING: From the MY BUSH HIDEAWAY series

 3722_NotesFromABushHideaway-copy

Some years ago I wrote a series for the ABC I called ‘My Bush Hideaway.’ They were intended to record life in a coastal village These  21 stories were later recorded by Kim Dodsworth for a CD.

This is one episode:

#####.

Frankly, I’m ambivalent to blackberry. It’s an opportunist plant that seeds and grows in any nook and cranny it can find. At the same time I have to admire its ability to thrive in poor soil, drought and heat. Some of my most unpleasant moments are when I’m trying to dig it out or cut it away. As if this plant is the plaintive in an unwinnable lawsuit, or an Indian beggar desperate for help, it latches onto my clothes to dig its thorns into my hands, arms, sometimes even my face.

Bull-ants, those smart insects, find it expedient to nest beside blackberry roots where the soil is looser. They stay cunningly hidden until one false move on my part threatens them, and then their soldiers scuttle up my legs and into my boots. Oh, the indescribable agony of a bull-ant bite and the unbearable swelling and itching that always follows.

But there is also happiness standing in front of a blackberry patch in late summer when the boughs are illuminated by dark red berries ready for plucking, and our fingers and mouths are scarlet stained with sweet fruit. A good season means blackberry pies, blackberry jam, frozen packets of blackberry, and even blackberry cordial liberally laced with brandy.

Birds love blackberry even more than us humans and we end up in a tussle as to who gets to them first. Of course the birds have the upper hand as they fly above the bushes to spy out the best berries while we find it hard to reach the innermost branches.

When this village was almost unknown, when most houses were fibro and only inhabited in summer, blackberry was allowed to grow unheeded on surrounding horse paddocks. Droppings those horses left behind nourished the ground, and thus when birds evacuated their seeds and these seeds took root, the result was the most succulent fruit I have ever eaten. Maybe this proves that even out of droppings, good things can result. Maybe when things are low, when we’re feel truly despondent, or ‘in the shits’ maybe we can hope for some serendipitous happening.

 

 

21 HEALTH WARNINGS FOR PUBLISHED AND UNPUBLISHED AUTHORS

cybertricks

 

These very clever hints come from Hazel Edward’s ‘AUTHORPRENEURSHIP” ,  an excellent introduction for new and published authors

  1. Never write too close to home, or family and friends may be upset, disown you or sue. However, if you don’t  care and you want to issue some payback, it gives you the last word.
  2.  Keep your author photo within 5 years of your real face and shape.
  3. Murphy’s Lore- the cost of  Bank exchange fees to convert from foreign sales may exceed your income from obscure currencies with lots of zeros.
  4. Readers often assume fiction is autobiography, especially the sexual parts. You may or may not want to disillusion them.
  5. Use different signatures for autograph and credit cards to avoid being  scammed.
  6. A ‘thesis’ does not a  novel make…
  7. Research thoroughly but  don’t include it in your novel. You will end up with a long and tedious bore. Make it seem as that world you are writing about is what your characters take for granted.
  8. Beware of pirates, of the on-line intellectual property kind, and of vanity publishers who are only after your money.
  9. ‘Prolific’ is a put-down so when you are asked for a bio, find other adjectives.
  10. Avoid using adverbs unless  quite necessary. Same goes for adjectives. Use verbs instead.
  11. If you can find one word where two previously existed, use it.
  12. If you use a pseudonym, remember it.
  13. Show don’t tell, is still the golden rule.
  14. Back up! Your computer will crash on deadline and the technician will earn more in 15  minutes than your entire royalty period.
  15. Be wary of flattery! What  have you written? Anything I might have read? Are you famous? Or – I loved your book. I got it for 10 cents from the op-shop.
  16. I carry a card that lists some of my most recent books. It stops people in their tracks when they ask, ‘What book have you written?’
  17. When children ask how old  I am, I say ‘That, and a bit more.’
  18. When they ask ‘How much money do you make?” I say, ’Not enough.’
  19. When strangers ask if you will  read the picture story book they are thinking of writing because it will be short and therefore easy, advise them to take a creative writing course. Same goes for their memoir.
  20. When you are asked for free books or free speaking time, mention that you also have  to make a living.
  21. And in the same vein, when you are asked for too many favours from family and friends that takes  your writing time, remind them that this is work time for you.

Despite these warnings, the creative health of most authors is enriched by the imaginative satisfaction of their work. Retirement is rarely an option and however hard the going, never recommended.

 

 

POSSUM MAGIC AND OTHER THOUGHTS

possum hiding in pipe

This possum was found under our house today. I guess like emus, possums believe if they can’t see you, you can’t see them.                             

With great respect to that classic picture book, I say Pooh to Possum Magic. My point being that the animals we celebrate in fiction have little to do with reality. Beatrix Potter’s rabbits might be lovable pets but we don’t want them roaming around our back yards or prowling our bush blocks. No one wants to find a real Pooh Bear or Mr Toad in their living room.

The thing is, I defy anyone to find anything magical in possums. That’s because of all our native fauna, they are the most irritating. Total exhibitionists with no sense of propriety, they mate outside my bedroom window in the early hours of the morning. I wouldn’t mind if, whilst they were doing it, they didn’t create an ear splitting din. Sometimes in their sexual ecstasy they run up and down my fly wire screen. One day I know they’re going to crash right through.

More annoyingly, they dine on my favourite trees in the process reducing them to leafless skeletons. One in particular figures large on their menu. A shady blackwood bearing a pretty purple flower in Spring, it’s supposed to shade our balcony. So far we have tried every possible way to protect the foliage from those pillaging plunderers. So far nothing has worked. We’ve chopped any branch a possum can possibly reach, placed perspex sheets around the trunk and sprayed the foliage with anti-poss. Remember that saying ‘everything but the kitchen sink?’ Desperate, we once tied a discarded laundry trough to the trunk. The possums giggled like mad as they climbed over it.  When we trapped and carried the offenders to a more possum-friendly destination, it turned out that another generation had been waiting to move in.

Not everyone has this negative attitude. I have a friend who all summer has one living in her wood stove. Her Christmas cards feature this critter in a Santa Claus hat. Come winter she gently ushers it outside. In this country possums are protected and we’re not allowed to destroy them. But clever New Zealanders know how to process possum fur. Enough said?

 


 

 

Fighting Ageism

Because I have been a published author since the late 80’s my hackles rise when I recognise something untoward. I am of course talking about the ‘Book Business’ because that is my territory.  What I am saying may pertain to other areas. I’m sure it does.

Publishers these days are mostly run by marketing departments who seek ‘fresh young new voices’  easy to promote.  Finding that new face, whether male or female, is as important as the actual ms.  It is assumed that a young person is familiar with TV, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. No problems there. But there is also the assumption that older writers will find social media too difficult to handle. And there’s all that hectic activity surrounding the promotion of a book older writers mightn’t be able to handle.  By all means don’t ask for trouble and choose someone fresh and young. Preferably, someone photogenic.

So why do certain publishers  request that a date of birth be filled in on their submission forms?  The answer is obvious. Knowing the age of the writer removes those who have been around too long.  Are too old. Or are not considered media worthy. Above all, it removes ‘midlisters’.

What seems to have been forgotten in this ever diminishing publishing market is that older lesser known writers have a wealth experience behind them. They deliver on a due date and most of the time they know what they are doing. Most handle social media quite expertly. Most have had years of experience dealing with distributors, festival organisers, booksellers. librarians, schools, and the public.

Ethnicity and feminism have long been recognised and  fought.  But ageism hides under a multitude of umbrellas. Ultimately all a publisher needs to know is that the entrant is over 18.  For far too long we have lived with the idea that age should stand aside for youth, that growing old is something to be feared. That is why we spend so much money on trying to look young. But we are living longer healthier lives and those wrinkles tell interesting stories. The Chinese have long respected their aged as repositories of wisdom. In our society they either become invisible or dismissed as ‘out of date’. I recently came across a 90 year old woman who still works as a  check-out chick. She was wealthy and certainly didn’t need the money. What she wanted was to still feel useful.

Thus having joined the war against feminism and racism, I am now fighting the final battle.

 

 

MY WEEKEND HIDEAWAY OR LOCALS VERSUS TENTCITY

At the risk of sounding curmudgeonly, my least favourite time are those months between Christmas and the end of Easter. The rest of the year this rural area is totally mine except for those few locals who have the decency to stay out of sight. Winter is when our bush tracks are home to echidnas, blue tongue lizards, snakes, wombats and a trillion ants; when seagulls and herons roosting on our rock-shelves hang out their wings like washing to dry; when our deserted beaches welcome any walker who doesn’t mind being blown about by an Antarctic wind.

Boxing Day however, our foreshore turns into Tent City. Now don’t get me wrong. I have nothing per say against caravans, tents, annexes, barbecues, four wheel drives and suchlike. Not if they stay in their rightful place. It’s just that they are so pervasive, so unavoidable, so in your face. Walk along a bush track and sooner or later you’ll blunder into a stranger. Then it seems churlish not to exchange a greeting and maybe a few comments about the weather. At least that’s all. Thank heavens for Anglo-Saxon reticence.

Or try jollying yourself down to the beach where, in exchange for gulls, short tailed shearwaters and other birds too numerous to mention, our stretch of sand is filled with surfers, surfing equipment, sunbathers, fishing boats, children, beach umbrellas and dogs. My jaundiced eye picks up caravans perched high on the hill overlooking the beach. Settled onto a cliff with a million dollar view, they cost their owners a few dollars where we locals must pay squillions in rates for our bush blocks.

Even our local post office undergoes some metamorphosis. From a sleepy little shop where everyone has time to chat, it turns into a gung ho establishment where, if we don’t turn up at sparrow fart, our daily newspaper has been sold out.

If you think this is merely a selfish desire to keep this place sacrosanct, you’re right. If too many people become entranced by it, they might buy in and then where will we be? Not in any hideaway, that’s for sure.


CHARITY BEGINS AT HOME

            Hanna-sm   

Aussies are great donators.  Per head of population we support more charities than any other country.

Authors are often asked to donate books. And we do. It is often obvious that the person requesting the donation believes we get our books ‘for free’. Publishers will give an author ten copies of their latest book to use as promotion. The rest we buy ourselves, though at a small discount. Not only must we pay for the book, but the added cost of postage. It’s also painfully obvious that too many people believe writers earn millions (like the Harry Potter series) and can afford to support every charity because after all, we write for kids and therefore we are ‘nice’. We are also expected to talk and work with kids for free, because we are so ‘nice’.

Which brings me to why sometimes we go along with this. It’s because we believe that all children should enjoy reading. Not only for the pleasure a well written book will give them but because reading cultivates imagination. Without that part of the brain extending and growing, potential in almost every area becomes stultified.

I am always amazed at how many households don’t own books. Or if they do, they are usually not the kind of book that will attract a young reader. Parents complain that their children aren’t reading. But if I ask them if they read themselves, they tell me they don’t have time. Yet they might spend hours on their mobiles or watching TV. Youngsters learn by example, and if they don’t see their parents reading, they don’t see what’s in it for them.

Fortunately there are organizations determined to overcome some of these liabilities. Last week I visited a small school on the Mornington Peninsula as a representative of ‘Books In Homes’. This is an area where many families have been out of work for generations and there are no books. ‘Books in Homes’ arranges that each child is given a small bag with their name printed on it containing three books, these aimed at the child’s reading age.

My other favourite is the ‘Children’s Charity Network’, a group that through a massive network of donations allows children from all over Australia to enter their stories, poems, illustrations and photos to a magazine published four times a year. The children with the best entries are flown to Melbourne to with their families attend a celebratory dinner.

 

GETTING ‘CYBERTRICKS’ PUBLISHED HAS BEEN A LONG HARD ROAD

 

in-hades-thumb

I am writing this blog so disheartened authors might take heart from my story. Sometimes it can take a decade or two before a novel finally emerges into the public eye. I think the concept for ’Cybertricks’  began at least fifteen years ago, long before the subject of Climate Change became the focus of so much controversy.

My idea for this older children’s novel was to have four kids from a very distant future return to a time some fifty years from now to see the results havoc climate change have wrought. The other was that these children could only communicate via their avatars, and therefore had to learn how to behave in normal circumstances.

No publisher was interested. Climate Change hadn’t as yet hit any headlines and science fiction for young readers tended to be fantasy. Also, it is true that this novel needed a lot more work. After a number of rewrites www/fivesenseseducation.com.au the company that has published three of my other novels: eSide, Neptunia, The Youngest Cameleer, was happy to take it on. But then they produced a cover I honestly hated. When nothing much happened and the book was shoved aside, and it seemed as if it might never come out, I finally said ok to the previous cover. Then a week later did a rethink. The immensely talented artist Aaron Pocock had achieved a wonderful cover for In Hades: A verse novel. I approached him with the idea and right now he is working on it.

If anyone is wondering why this cover could be difficult to tackle because the story is very complex, this is what it’s about:

“In a far flung future Pya, Zumi, Jafet and Trist, live in tiny Cells cared for by tutor-holos, and only communicate through their avatars. Pya narrates how the giant computer ComCen sends them back to 2043 A.D where they meet Rio and Charlie. But to survive in an increasingly dangerous world, six quarrelsome youngsters must come together as a team.”

Right now I am looking forward to Aaron’s final result. If you are interested in this amazingly talented artist who exhibits widely, why not google him?

 

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