Goldie Alexander's Blog

goldie-alexander

MY WRITING CAREER

 

tuesday bookclub

My lovely group who reads children’s books.

I am often asked questions about my writing career. Here is one I filled out earlier this year. Perhaps emerging authors can learn something from it, even if not to make all the mistakes I have made in the past,

When did you know that you were a writer? I only became serious about becoming a professional author when I was in my forties. But I was a very serious reader from the age of three. I believe this is what creates the writer, apart from imagination and perseverance.

When did you first read your writing aloud or give it to someone to read and what was their reaction? How did it impact on you?I had a cousin who was a famous writer and I gave him one of my short stories. He was totally scathing abut it without being helpful. I might have been totally put off except I decided to ignore him. But it’s wise to keep in mind how vulnerable inexperienced writers can be. The cousin’s attitude never changed, no matter how many of my books were published. He always pretended I was that novice.

What and when was your first acceptance? How did you feel? Tremendously excited. I was fortunate enough to be commissioned to write four ‘Dolly Fictions’ and because the instructions were very precise they taught me a lot about the craft. Back then there were no creative writing classes. I wrote those 4 novels under a pseudonym so when the first book under my own name ‘Mavis Road Medley’ appeared that was a great cause for celebration.

What is your favourite genre to write? Why? I’m a jack of all trades. I write in almost every genre (except horror, eroticism or film scripts) for both adults and kids of all ages. I like to float between genres, viewing each new take as a challenge.

How long have you been writing? And what have you written?  I have written over 85 fictions and non fictions, many short stories, scripts and about a million articles. Just kidding! If anyone is interested most of longer works are on my website. These include 3 collections of short stories amounting to 30 stories condensed from longer work I wrote when the market was down and publishers taking very little. The secret is to be adaptable.

Of your own work – do you have a favourite? Why is it your favourite? The last thing I wrote. Then none of it because I never feel that anything is quite good enough.

What is your favourite genre to read? Why? I am a voracious reader. However, I tend to stick to literary work these days. I’m probably the last of a dying species. I belong to 2 bookclubs, an adult and a children’s and both meet monthly. That means 4 books every month, plus whatever others recommend. I have become lazy about finding hardcopy and read just about everything except picture story books on my kindle. It’s soooo easy to just download!

Do you mentor others? What do you do? I taught part time Creative Writing at Holmesglen TAFE for fourteen years. I have also over the years mentored young authors for the Australian Society of Authors  and I run classes for adults in memoir writing.

Do you write full time? Most writers write full time even if they don’t sit at their computers. We constantly mull over possibilities and observe our surroundings for inspiration. Does that man on the tram look as if he takes good care of his kids? Does that bunch of schoolboys bully others? Using public transport is an excellent way of creating convincing characters. At my age I have become invisible. If age has its drawbacks it is also very useful for observing people’s idiosyncratic behaviour.

What are your other jobs? Boring housework. Is that still considered a job? My family are all grown and where my contemporaries are babysitting grandchildren, ours are either grown or live interstate.

Have you ever won an award/s or been shortlisted? What was it for?   Yes. Please check my website for details. My awards in 2015 are for the verse novel ‘In Hades’ shortlisted for an Aurealis Award. And a 1st prize for the Rolfe Boldewood short story literary award.

Do you belong to any professional organisations? What are they and how do they help you? These days I only belong to ASA, SCBWI, Writer’s Victoria. They tell me what is going on, provide legal protection and have me knowing I belong to a fellowship. Writing can be a very lonely game.
Do you participate in writing workshops as a student? Which ones were memorable?No, I ran them. I had wonderful students. Some became well known and celebrated authors

Do you run writing workshops? What do you include?  Yes I do run workshops on all aspects of writing for young readers. In particular, fictionalising history, writing science fiction and fantasy, writing mysteries and creating convincing characters. For adults I run writing memoir workshops that are extremely popular.

How might you be contacted in relation to running workshops or for school visits? I do this quite frequently and happy to be asked. I can be emailed on goldie@goldiealexander.com

We all know that would be writers should read and write as much as possible – do you have any other advice? In one word: perseverance. Don’t let anyone or any situation put you off.

Lionel Shriver, Political Correctness, and my addition to the furore

The Youngest Cameleer

This is a conversation about political correctness and the Lionel Shriver affair.  If you haven’t heard of Lionel Shriver, she is a well-known established author who was invited to give the keynote address at the Brisbane Writer’s Festival. In her speech, she bemoaned the push by certain academics and less well known authors to ‘only stick to what you are’ in your books. In short, to never try to fictionalise anyone of a different gender, ethnicity, religion and, we assume, age.

Apparently she got into trouble with some hardliners by writing about a black woman with dementia and the novel was viewed as racist. She also caused an enormous upset at the festival by not sticking to what she was told to talk about. Other, lesser known writers walked out. Do I dare suggest that this is an excellent way for them to get media attention because it sure worked!!! What is most upsetting according to all reports (but as I wasn’t there and only gleaned this from the media} the festival organisers were uncertain how to handle the situation.

If this swing to what and what characters we can create is taken seriously, it doesn’t leave much for authors to write about. The whole point of fiction is to get into someone else’s shoes. The challenge is to see the world from a different point of view.

I suppose that over the years I have sinned in many ways. My novels for young readers include a fourteen- year old Moslem cameleer, a first fleeter, a badly disabled young woman, a street kid teen, a girl dying from anorexia, several dragons and monsters (if these characters are made up are they ok or am I impinging on Disney?) a Chinese boy, even aliens, and lots and lots of young people of both genders whose lives I only dreamt up. In the 80 plus books I have written only three can be levelled as truly belonging to my own life: ‘That Stranger Next Door’ where the protagonist’s life style is based on some of my early memories of that affair, ‘My Holocaust Story: Hanna’ though I was never a victim and certainly never lived or fought in the Warsaw Ghetto, and ‘Mentoring Your Memoir’ self-explanatory as it is a memoir of my first thirty years. What a load of poppycock. But the resultant flurry is exactly what Shriver was talking about and in this way her point is fulsomely made.

 But I should add that it is only too easy for writers to get unwittingly into trouble. I have done so at least twice. The first time when I made a joke about a Canadian singer also called Goldie Alexander, the second when I wrote an article about my early days as a music teacher. In a way it’s good to know someone is reading what I write, if only to get angry with me.

WRITERS HAVE TO BE READERS

 

“You have to read widely, constantly refining (and redefining) your own work as you do so. It’s hard for me to believe that people who read very little (or not at all in some cases) should presume to write and expect people to like what they have written, but I know it’s true. If I had a nickel for every person who ever told me he/she wanted to become a writer but “didn’t have time to read,” If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time to write. Simple as that. Reading is the creative centre of a writer’s life.” -Stephen King, On Writing

When I was a child I read every day. I read everything including billboards and other advertisements. I just needed to read. I was lucky enough to have a mother who believed in the wealth of literature and we belonged to a ‘sixpenny a book’ library.

I never stopped reading. If I started with AA Milne, ‘Milly Molly and Enid Blyton, as I grew older obviously my tastes changed and developed. Out of that love of reading, I developed a love of writing though I didn’t start writing professionally until I was in my forties.

I meet people regularly who want to be writers.  They tell me that they don’t read because they don’t have time, or that it will negatively impact their own personal style of writing. They say they can only be original if they are not influenced by other people’s writing.

I have been teaching creative writing in one form or another for over thirty years. When I ask students who is going to read or buy their book they have few answers.  The main issue with claiming that you are not going read because your personal writing style might become tainted or overly influenced by reading other writing styles is the fact that even if you never read another book, or form, or even an email for the rest of your life you would still be influenced by other people’s writing.

When you watch a TV show it is written by someone. When you listen to a song it is written by someone. When you see a move, it is written by someone. So these written things are already influencing you. There is no way to avoid being influenced by others.

The other response I get is that the plan is to write a picture story book as that is so much shorter and therefore easier. In my opinion these five hundred word stories are more difficult to write than a long adult novel. They have been described as ‘haiku for children’.

So the first question I ask any students regardless of age is what they read? The most popular genre presently tackled is Young Adult, possibly because this can be thinly disguised autobiography, and because so many YA books have been serialised on TV. Often the original books have never been read. These are not fantasy genre readers. They just liked the show and wanted to write more like it, completely unaware of the original work.

Besides, it really is impossible to avoid reading. If someone is only reading error riddled emails, and casually written Facebook posts, but not actually reading well edited novels and thoroughly researched non-fiction books, their writing will not be influenced for the better. No matter what one does, one is going to influenced by outside sources. But the quality of writing will be much better if influenced by the same medium that they are producing.

The more you read books the more you can understand the elements that go into them, and the better your craft can become. To be a good writer I believe that one has to read a lot of books. Fifty a year would be a good place to start.. I also think that the kind of books one reads should vary. Even though I primarily write fiction, I also read a lot of non-fiction

I have read entire books that I did not like, that have still helped me improve my skills as a writer. I belong to two bookclubs which means that every month I must read four books – an adult novel, a young adult novel, a middle grade novel, and a picture story book. As well, I read more, often the latest ‘big event’ in publishing so I will have some idea of what publishers were looking for a year ago (it takes at least a year to produce a completed novel) and help my own writing. Often the books I read I don’t like, or they are poorly edited, or simply overlong and boring. But I needed to read widely to develop my writer’s toolbox.  Besides, reading is my passion.

 

Some suggestions that will encourage your youngsters to read

child reading

So often I am told by parents that their children are not interested in reading. What a shame that is, because we know by now that the more a child reads the more literate he or she will become. and the more they will achieve in the future.

If I am cheeky enough to query the parent on his or her reading habits, far too often I am told that he/she doesn’t have time. Children learn from their parents. If the parent can’t find time neither will the child. So when I am asked how to improve a child’s reading skills I suggest some of the following tactics:

1) Read to them! Not just when they’re babies. Continue reading books together. It will encourage their reading habits and surely encourage parent/child closeness.
2) Read with them! (as above)
3) Let them see YOU read! And not just newspapers and magazines. Let them see you reading ‘proper’ books. They don’t have to be fiction. If the child is interested in accumulating ‘facts’ or learning more about science and technology, there’s lots of non fiction out there.
4) Help them find books that they WANT to read. Just like they can’t eat unless you keep food in the pantry, they can’t read unless there are books on your shelves.5)Make sure those books are within their reading ability and interest. No point leaving ‘War and Peace’ on your bookshelves if your child wants to read Andy Griffiths or The Hunger Games.
6) If there is a movie or a TV version, read the book, too! Sometimes the movie helps clarify plot and characters.
7) Listen to talking books. Either in the car or maybe before bed. Don’t just stick to DVD’s

8). Talk about books as a pleasurable experience, not something one should do like swallowing vitamins. Books are fun. We learn about life from books.
8) Don’t just give them books and be done with it. Ask them questions about that book. Talk about the book. Maybe it is a book that you read as a child?  And if you didn’t. there is nothing wrong with reading children’s books. Often they are better written, their plots more intriguing and their characters more interesting than those found in adult novels.

 

 

TIPS FOR EMERGING WRITERS

1. What is your writing process like?

Do you write consistently or only when inspired? Do you write many drafts quickly, or have an early draft that’s almost perfect?

I admire splurgers like mad. My writing process is more ‘snail like’. Sometimes it seems that I have to squeeze out every word. Then it needs lots of re-editing. Mark Twain once said that he spent a whole afternoon putting in a comma, and another afternoon taking it out. No early draft has ever been perfect.

3. Can you tell me a bit about your inspirations and what drew you to writing in the first place?

In one word: reading. I learnt to read when I was three and I have never stopped. Books take me far away from my present reality to other worlds.

As for what inspires me: what I read, what I see, what I hear. I am one of those strange people who actually enjoys listening to people talking on their mobiles. In a word, the world around me is my inspiration.

4. Is each novel you write easier than the last? Or is every one challenging? Where there any specific points at which you struggled with this novel?

Each novel is as difficult as the last. Because I write in so many genres (otherwise I get bored) I am always challenging myself. For example, in the last two years I have had two middle grade novels written and published: ‘My Holocaust Story: Hanna’, (historical fiction) and ‘Cybertricks’ (science fiction), and completed the first drafts of two YA novels: ‘Ferdie & Miranda’ (science fiction) and ‘Gap Year Nanny’,(contemporary fiction)

5. Is having a book published exclusively as an ebook a different experience to having a book in print? Do you prefer reading either format? Do you think the print book is on the way out?

I adore my Kindle. I adore being able to download within minutes. But ultimately what format a book appears in, isn’t all that relevant. What matters are the words, the characters and the narrative drive. I think hardcopy might gradually disappear. What will remain are story picture books for little readers, and maybe elegant coffee table books. Of course this is a time of transition and who can predict the future? The monks who illustrated all those wonderful bibles must have felt the same way when they first caught sight of a printing press. ‘Never catch on,’ they must have told each other. Same as when Penguin decided to produce soft covers.

6. What tips do you have for other writers?

I have a blog where I post lots of tips, both for very beginning writers, and those that are trying to promote their work. Social networking is important, so I recommend using facebook, tweeting, and logging into other blogs. Promoting on You Tube is useful though I have to confess I’m technologically too stupid to do this. My major piece of advice is to never give up. A book may be rejected many times before it takes off. Sometimes it can take many years, and of course this has happened to me many, many times. After I lick my wounds at yet another rejection, I remind myself that it might be the wrong time, the wrong publisher, and probably needs another draft. Now the book revolution is on us, perhaps it’s useful to think of self publishing. But be warned: too many self-published books are badly edited or frankly, need more work.

7. Imagining you could travel back in time and give advice to your teenaged self about writing and life, what would you tell her? And would she listen.

I would tell her to start writing very much earlier and not leave it all so late. For some years I lived next door to Elizabeth Jolly. While she was writing I was swanning about.  If I had been writing alongside her, maybe I would now be as good and famous as she was?
8. What tips can you give for writing fantasy?

All fantasy must have certain common elements. They take place in a consistent, if imaginary world, and have exciting and convincing protagonists. Their major theme, much like the fairy story, is good versus evil, with good eventually winning out against what seems like insurmountable odds. The reader is asked to suspend disbelief with a completeness that is not required in more traditional genres.  If the best fantasy is written with flair and imagination, it can also be used as metaphor – coping with climate warming, protecting the environment, ensuring endangered animals survive, and overcoming totalitarian rule. They all offer the hope that everything can and will turn out for the best. My next blog will concentrate on historical fiction.

9. What is the most important thing to remember when starting a new work?

In my opinion, a character must become a living breathing person easily recognisable. I always recommend writers create a character profile to start with. Once your character is living at a specific time and you know his/her likes dislikes/conflicts/ family etc. you already have half your plot. I can’t emphasise this enough. In ‘Cybertricks’ set so many years in the future, my characters might look odd, but they behave like normal youngsters with disparate personalities.

10. What other advice can you give beginner writers?

Perseverance is what counts. It’s said that inspiration is only 10% and hard work 90% . I am often approached by people who tell me they ‘have a book in them’ as if I can give a magic tip. Wish I could.

THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE DIFFICULT.

MY FAVOURITE BOOK WHEN i FIRST STARTED TO READ BY MYSHELF

 

When I first learnt to read, this was my favorite book.

It seems to me that every second person I meet ‘has a book in them’. Unfortunately, far too many want my help, which I always politely reject explaining that I am far too busy writing stuff others might reject. Many of these emerging authors believe that picture story books must be easiest because they are so short. I mean, only five hundred words. Surely that must be easy. So it is salutary to remind these would be authors that these texts have been described as writing ‘haiku for kids’.

Thus here are a few tips about how complicated this process is, even once a publisher has been found. Given this process also works for self-publishing, and picture story books are VERY expensive to produce, it is worth considering this lengthy process mentioned below. All this is discussed in the how-to text I co-authored with Hazel Edwards and is now up on line as ‘The Business of Writing for Young People’ Our collective words of wisdom can be bought as an ebook on her website. www.hazeledwards.com

THE PROCESS OF CREATING A STORY PICTURE BOOK.

All in all, as it is basically a costing exercise, the writer must decide on:

  1. Content. Kind of book. Number of pages. Any special finishes.
  2. Illustrator chosen
  3. Taken to publishing meeting
  4.  Page up story to convince marketing where concept is pitched
  5. Taken to designer
  6. Take designer and illustrator to meet sales/marketing
  7. Submissions offer a pitch. What is the story really about?
  8. Illustrator introduced
  9. Pitch. Where does it sit in the curriculum (Both Victorian and Australian)
  10. Rough drafts sent in by illustrator
  11. Spreads rejigged
  12. Cover taken to a meeting
  13. Final decision on cover. Sales may want to change it if it is too similar to another publication. Also shown to reps.
  14. Marketing includes –bookfair catalogues and sales catalogues
  15. ISBN and printer contacted. Cover checked
  16. Anything from 3 months to 12 months later, reps start selling book
  17. 6 weeks later copies come into the warehouse

But if you are still determined to put out that story your child, grandchild, niece or nephew just loved, please accept my best wishes.

Ps Before you go ahead, first dive into a library or bookshop and do some serious browsing.

I have now discovered to my delight that at least half a dozen people read this blog. Please put up your hands and tell me who you are. Sometimes I think I might be writing into a wilderness.

MY FAVOURITE BOOK WHEN i FIRST STARTED TO READ BY MYSHELF

MY FAVORITE BOOK WHEN I FIRST LEARNT TO READ.

It sometimes seems that every second person I meet ‘has a book in them’. Unfortunately, far too many want my help, which I always politely reject explaining that I am far too busy writing stuff others might reject. Many of these emerging authors believe that picture story books must be easiest because they are so short. I mean, only five hundred words. Surely that must be easy. So it is salutary to remind these would be authors that these texts have been described as writing ‘haiku for kids’.

Thus here are a few tips about how complicated this process is, even once a publisher has been found. Given this process also works for self-publishing, and picture story books are VERY expensive to produce, it is worth considering this lengthy process mentioned below. All this is discussed in the how-to text I co-authored with Hazel Edwards and is now up on line as ‘The Business of Writing for Young People’ Our collective words of wisdom can be bought as an ebook on her website. www.hazeledwards.com

THE PROCESS OF CREATING A STORY PICTURE BOOK.

All in all, as it is basically a costing exercise, the writer must decide on:

  1. Content. Kind of book. Number of pages. Any special finishes.
  2. Illustrator chosen
  3. Taken to publishing meeting
  4.  Page up story to convince marketing where concept is pitched
  5. Taken to designer
  6. Take designer and illustrator to meet sales/marketing
  7. Submissions offer a pitch. What is the story really about?
  8. Illustrator introduced
  9. Pitch. Where does it sit in the curriculum (Both Victorian and Australian)
  10. Rough drafts sent in by illustrator
  11. Spreads rejigged
  12. Cover taken to a meeting
  13. Final decision on cover. Sales may want to change it if it is too similar to another publication. Also shown to reps.
  14. Marketing includes –bookfair catalogues and sales catalogues
  15. ISBN and printer contacted. Cover checked
  16. Anything from 3 months to 12 months later, reps start selling book
  17. 6 weeks later copies come into the warehouse

But if you are still determined to put out that story your child, grandchild, niece or nephew just loved, please accept my best wishes.

Ps Before you go ahead, first dive into a library or bookshop and do some serious browsing.

I have now discovered to my delight that at least half a dozen people read this blog. Please put up your hands and tell me who you are. Sometimes I think I might be writing into a wilderness.

 

 

 

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

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