July 20

Oliver Phommavanh visits Aquinas

Guest author Oliver Phommavanh visited Aquinas College on Tuesday 24 July 2012. A stand up comedian and teacher, Oliver writes funny books for Middle School students. His books Thai-riffic, Con-nerd and Punchlines are available in the Aquinas College Library.

On Tuesday, Oliver shared a non-Thai pizza lunch with about 30 students, then he told some of his literary adventures to Year 8 students in two sessions before meeting Gold Coast teacher-librarians and English teachers for a Thai dinner.

Students learned some Thai language, that not all Thai people like Thai food, the boys learned that they wear the Thai flag on their socks everyday, that it’s OK to be different and even a little bit random! Oliver talked about being a stand up comedian on the Footy Show, being a writer, how he first got published and even about which parts of his books are based on his life.

A big thank you to Oliver for making Aquinas his only stop on the Gold Coast. We’re really looking forward to reading his next two books!


July 10

Paul Griffin visits Aquinas

In July 2012, U.S. author Paul Griffin visited Aquinas College. Now the winner of many awards for his writing, Paul wrote 24 books over 20 years before being published! In the meantime, he gathered life experience as a builder’s labourer, a cook and even a dish washer/kitchen hand beside Vin Diesel. In an absolutely inspirational talk, Paul told our students that it was at times hard going, sleeping rough in buildings he was working on and facing challenges in self belief. His best job, he said, besides training dogs, has been being a teacher, working with teens in trouble, or in prison, trying to prevent violence and the spread of AIDS/HIV.  He told students to set goals for themselves; have something to aim for that will see them through the tough times. Paul’s books are very authentic because his depth of real life experience provides a lot of source material for his writing. We’d like to thank Text Publishing for bringing Paul from New York to Aquinas! Thank you SO MUCH! It was huge!

Paul sent this message to Aquinas students after his visit:

“Thank you all for letting me hang out with you. You’re remarkable, each of you, and my dream is to see your dreams come true. When you finish up your years at Aquinas, you’re going to confront not problems but challenges. On your journey to living out your dreams, people are going to try to knock you down. This much is certain. To pretend otherwise is unwise. Keep your eyes, ears and most of all your heart open, and don’t get down. Get up. Pick yourself up and ask yourself if you still feel your dream in your heart. If you do, then you must go forward and pursue that which makes you happiest. You can do it. You will do it. The scene that I read you from Stay With Me is an example of letting your passions get away from you; letting somebody knock you off your path. Feeling passionate is a gift, but channeling that passion to your purpose is the greatest gift. Every day, do something to bring yourselves a step closer to your dreams. Even ten minutes a day put toward your dream will, after even just a few months, add up, and you will find yourself closer to your goal. I’m keeping the Aquinas crew in my heart, and I’m wishing you peace and light. Your friend, Paul Griffin”

Here’s a clip about one of his novels, ‘Stay With Me’:

Read more about Paul Griffin on his website, and borrow ‘Stay With Me’ and ‘Ten Mile River’ from our Library – F GRI.

Here’s another clip of Paul Griffin visiting a school in the US:

October 13

Richard Newsome talks about writing…

Writing is easy. Ideas are hard.
For me, the act of writing is really just describing. I get a notion in my head of how a scene is going to play out, sort of like having a video playing in a loop on the back on my eyeballs. Then I just describe what I see. Person A runs from here to there; they say this thing to person B; person B reacts really badly; A and B argue; some issue is resolved.
The really difficult part is coming up with the ideas in the first place. I was once asked how I managed to cram so many different ideas into a book. I wasn’t consciously aware that I had, but I guess I like to know how things work and why people do the bizarre things they do. So when it comes to writing a book, I need to have an explanation for every character’s motivation. Someone can’t be bad just for the sake of being bad. There must be a reason underlying that badness. So I like to explore what that reason might be. That leads to more rounded characters but also to a more satisfying story. And it helps generate ideas along the way.
Most books are based on one very simple idea, which the author then teases out and explores in depth. Take Harry Potter. It’s a story of good versus evil, of vengeance and of choices. Harry could easily have gone across to the ‘dark side’ very early on in the first book. But he didn’t. Why is that? JK Rowling then spent the next six and a half books exploring that question, and some amazing ideas were generated in the process.
So if you’re writing your own stories, start with a simple set-up. Say, computer geek is selected to play on the football team. Think of the back-story for all the characters who are likely to inhabit that tale. Think why each character acts the way they do. Then mix it up and have some fun.
Best of luck!
Richard Newsome
Check out Richard Newsome’s books here. His trilogy –  The Billionaire’s Curse, The Emerald Casket & The Mask of Destiny – is available for loan from the Aquinas Library. It’s a rollicking adventure story that’s lots of fun! Mrs O.
September 6

Maggie Stiefvater visits Australia

Maggie Stiefvater, one of our most popular authors, is visiting Australia at the moment. She is in Brisbane for the Brisbane Writers’ Festival. Maggie is writing a ‘Live Journal’ about her visit, which you can access here. Her visit coincides with the release of the third book in the ‘Shiver’ series: ‘Forever’, available in our Library now. Reserve it here.

Part of Stiefvater’s site deals with how to write a novel. Her fabulous writing tips can be found on this page:     http://m-stiefvater.livejournal.com/tag/how%20i%20write Mrs O.

May 30

Kate Hunter talks about ‘Mosquito Advertising’

home_kateMrs O: How did you come up with the idea for your series ‘Mosquito Advertising’?

Kate: The idea behind Mosquito Advertising had been swimming around in my mind for many years, but it only took form as a book in 2008.

Six years before that, though, when I was home with my first baby, I thought a show about ads being made by non-advertising people would be fun, so I wrote up the idea and took it to the Seven Network. They agreed it had potential and made a pilot (a test episode). But the concept was not appealing to advertising agencies, because the show revealed all their secrets!
So my idea morphed into a story – which was great because I realised that a story doesn’t need a network, or a production company or anything but an idea and some time. And no matter what anyone says, there is always time for something you really, really want to do.mosquito advertising

At first, writing Mosquito Advertising was difficult because I was unaccustomed to writing anything that takes longer than 30 seconds to read aloud, but I had a keen publisher and a serious deadline, so I kept going.

It’s been a long time since I was thirteen, but I remember that time clearly and mostly with happiness. I also remember the books I loved – Enid Blyton made a huge impression on me – particularly The Naughtiest Girl In The School series. I read the first one when I was eight but was probably secretly re-reading them for years. In the end, I just wrote the kind of book I would have liked to read. The characters are mostly hybrids of people I met and worked with. Some I just made up. No one is based purely on a real person.

My main motivation to write a sequel to Mosquito Advertising, The Parfizz Pitch was that I’d said I would. There was no getting out of it. Like Katie Crisp, I’m a big one for imagining things are easier than they appear.

But once I was into it, it seemed that the characters I had created became real, and I was curious about what they would do next. Advertising agencies grow, change and even shrink over time and Mosquito Advertising is like any other agency. Only with its office in a backyard.

Overnight success does funny things to people – I wanted to explore how Katie would handle it. How it would affect her relationships – both with her family and her mates and how she would juggle her passion for advertising with the pressures of school.

It’s also fun for me to write ads as Katie and the rest of the gang; to imagine what I would do if I had the opportunity to work on a dog food account and an airline. What would the people who ran those businesses be like? Why would they do what they do?

As a writer, I wanted to create a bigger book – not in terms of word count but in terms of action and relationships. There’s a death. A romance. A fight. In many ways, it was a challenging book to write, but I think because of that it’ll be a fun one to read.
Visit my website: http://www.katehunter.com.au/
May 9

Christine Bongers talks about ‘Henry Hoey Hobson’


Henry Hoey Hobson is for anyone who ever missed out on the A-team, anyone who ever feared they might not fit in, anyone who’d like to be accepted simply for being him or herself. It was inspired by kids (and some grown-ups) who make me laugh, who never give up, who show courage in the face of adversity and kindness to strangers.

When I wrote it, I used all kinds of experiences from my own life: the little Catholic school at the end of my street, the local swim club, and even a Halloween party celebrated by Brisbane’s fantasy writers with drinks around a coffin! The story came together in my head as a three-way collision between close-knit groups with seemingly nothing in common, and a boy who doesn’t fit in.henry hoey

When kids go through tough times, funnily enough, humour helps. So when I wrote Henry Hoey Hobson I quite purposefully used humour to explore serious questions around what makes kids resilient. It’s about never giving in, having supportive family and friends, and the courage to be yourself and accepting of others (even if those Others move in with a coffin …)

Forget the A-team – read Henry Hoey Hobson and join Team Triple H – it’s heaps more fun!

Cheers, Chris B

October 27

Susanne Gervay talks about ‘Butterflies’

Susanne GervayMrs O: “Susanne, what was your inspiration for writing ‘Butterflies’?

Susanne: I found teen and young adult years hard sometimes. I was searching for who I am, felt insecure, easily crushed inside, but tried not to show it. My parents were post war refugees and  I couldn’t speak about my real feelings to them. They worked so hard and did it for me.

I was approached by a girl who had serious burns. She asked me to write about growing up with burns. I didn’t want to do it. However I kept thinking about it. I ended up talking to kids, parents, community, medical teams. I visited the Burn Unit in the kids’ hospital. Tnen I  knew I had to write  ‘Butterflies’. Although it’s about burns, it’s more than that. It’s about growing up, my family, about all of us meeting challenges, finding identity, fighting for our dreams.  It’s my story, your story, our story.

I risk myself when I write. I put who I am inside the pages as a girl, a teen, mother. I cry when I write some parts, laugh at others. It’s an emotional roller coaster that I’m often scared to jump onto to. However when I get emails like this, it’s a roller coaster that I’m glad I went on:-

This is truly an amazing book, so moving and inspiring. I read it many years ago and an assignment just came up in English, I knew straight away this book was going to be perfect for it. It is so hard to put down and really made me realise that my life really isn’t that bad. I would have to say this would be one of my all time favourite books.

babestar88 1 week ago

From youtube channel for Butterflies:  www.youtube.com/user/sgervay

Website: www.sgervay.com

Blog: www.sgervay.com/blog

Susanne Gervay

Aquinas students review ‘Butterflies’:

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have been burnt all down one side of your body? Well Katherine from the book ‘Butterflies’ has… Katherine was severely burnt at the age of three and she is now 18 and is trying to get through her life without having the luxuries of skin, hair and features… the things that most people take for granted. After having boys thinking they’re cool by bullying her and having a great time with friends, she becomes self-conscious. She has had so many operations and she wants more? This book is filled with joy, laughter and great times, as well as sadness and terrifying stories. The author’s style is different; she shows you what has happened in the past, after something happens in the story to trigger it. I am only half way though ‘Butterflies’ and I don’t want to put it down. It’s one question after another; you never know what will happen next. Nikkia Year 9

‘Butterflies’ is about a seventeen year old girl who was in an accident at a really young age, causing her to look a bit different. It is about her challenges through life and the challenges that are yet to come.  The book is inspiring, leaving you thinking about what is important, and that it is true beauty is on the inside of a person and not how we look. I recommend this book for 13 years and up because some of the subject matter is for the mature reader. Shona Year 9

The book ‘Butterflies’ is a bit slow to start off but it’s getting better as I read on. Katherine the main character seems like a strong fighter because she has overcome her severely burnt body when she fell down a hole full of fumes when she was young. Katherine has always cared about her appearance and what other people think of her since the accident. The book ‘Butterflies’ is very interesting to read but when you hear about someone who was so severely burnt, it makes you realise this happens to a lot of people and you understand how much pain and therapy they go through. I would recommend this book for teenagers because we would be able to understand it more. Courtney Year 9

September 22

Steve Cole – ‘Thieves Like Us’

Steve ColeI had the opportunity recently to meet the fabulous Steve Cole (AKA Stephen Cole) author of the ‘Thieves Like Us’ and ‘Wereling’ series, AKA author of Dr Who books, voice of the Dialects, imaginative and witty lunch guest…
I asked how someone who looked so young could have accomplished so much! And where did he get his brilliant ideas from? So here’s his reply:

“I’ve been a full-time writer for eight years now, but it still surprises me how stories come together. There’s that famous saying – one idea leads to another. But I find one idea leads to another and then goes on to find another couple of ideas and drags them along to the party too.

It certainly worked that way with THIEVES LIKE US, a YA novel I dreamed up a few years back. I was thinking about master-criminals (as you do) and wondering how they manage as they get older. You don’t often find old age pensioners robbing banks, escaping down the street on crutches. Then I imagined that sensible master criminals would employ younger crooks to do the jobs for them. And of course, they’d need specialists in different fields, depending on the crime in hand. I had lots of fun dreaming up five characters and the unfortunate things that had messed up their lives to put them in this position.

A band of teenage criminals working for a mysterious master planner sounded like fun, but I wanted them to be likeable characters, so that suggested they couldn’t commit nasty, petty offences. They’d have to do big crimes against even bigger criminals. And maybe there could be a supernatural twist to their capers? I remembered reading that there are actually 13 signs of the zodiac, not 12, but that no one ever mentions the 13th sign, named Ophiuchus (if you’re born between November 29th and December 18th you are NOT a Sagittarian – you’re actually an Ophiuchun!). That sounded a bit
spooky and exploring the shadowy reasons why became the basis of the first adventure for my gang of thieves.

So the idea of an old looper doing over banks led in the end to the creation of some of my favourite characters and three of my favourite books. So be kind to an idea when it pops into your head, no matter how silly it might seem at first. If you can just work out what to DO with that idea, it could change your life!” Steve Cole

May 8

‘Don’t Call Me Ishmael’ – reviews and author comments

Michael bauerHi to everyone at Aquinas College!
Michael Bauer here and I’ve been asked to tell you a little bit about my book Don’t Call Me Ishmael!
I guess the first thing I could tell you is that the whole story started because I had an image from the old movie Moby Dick on the noticeboard beside my desk where I work. It showed Captain Ahab (actor Gregory Peck) on the side of the great white whale. When I looked at that picture one day (while I was still trying to write my first novel The Running Man) I thought of the famous opening line of Herman Melville’s book Moby Dick which is “Call me Ishmael.”
Then for some reason I imagined a boy saying the opposite, “Don’t call me Ishmael”. I started to wonder who that boy was and how he got the name Ishmael and why he didn’t like his name and that’s how the whole story began. It’s weird to think that if I didn’t have that picture on my noticeboard I probably wouldn’t have written the Ishmael stories. All my books have started like that – from little thoughts or ideas that have made me wonder and ask questions.
I really enjoyed writing Ishmael and the sequel Ishmael and the Return of the Dugongs. The characters seem very real to me and I like how they have very different personalities so I get to write and say things that I normally wouldn’t – particularly when I’m writing as Razza! All the boys in the story were based on ‘types’ of boys I’d known when I was a teacher. James Scobie was the only one who started out based on a particular boy, although he ended up quite different in the novel.
I based Ishmael a little bit on me. I really hated speaking in front of the class or groups of people when I was at school just like he does. I didn’t get over that until I was at university and I got more confidence. Sadly I also had more than my fair share of unrequited love like Ishmael does with Kelly Faulkner! Some things that happen to Ishmael in the book are similar to things that have happened to me – like fainting before an audience (more than once!) and strange incidents with pegs! If I ever visit Aquinas I’ll tell you all about those.
One of the more unusual things about the Ishmael books is that my son Joe designed and created both covers. He did the first one when he was in Grade 12. He does all the art work and makes all the props (like the Ringo peg doll) and takes the photos. If you look on the front cover of Ishmael you can see a symbol representing Joe’s initials just above Ringo’s head. You should be able to find it on the Dugong’s cover as well. Also check out the picture of the band on the Dugong’s cover. One of the Dugongs is me. Of course I’m a bit hard to recognise because I’m quite a bit younger in the photo and purple!
At the moment I’m writing a third and final Ishmael story which will cover grades 11 and 12 and get the boys all the way through school. It will be a sad day for me when I write the final page. I’ll really miss those guys!
Anyway if you do read Don’t Call Me Ishmael! I hope  gives you a few laughs and maybe something to think about after you’re done.
ps In Chapter 3 Thar She Blows it mentions that the date of Ishmael’s birth is August 1st. Ishmael has the same birthday as someone famous who is mentioned in the novel. Can you guess or google who?

Don't call me ishmaelI’m about half way through the book and it is very interesting and funny. My favourite part of it so far is when Barry Bagsley and his gang put insects and spiders in James Scobie’s desk. When James opened his desk all the insects and spiders came out and went crawling through the room. Things were flying around the room and people were screaming but James was sitting in his chair and didn’t even move when they came out. I suggest you should read this if you really enjoy a funny book. It has a lot of quotes from Moby Dick. It is very interesting and I suggest you read it. Alana, Year 8.

‘Don’t call me Ishmael’ is definitely a comedy book which I would recommend to someone if you are into a joke. At the start of the book it was a bit hard to understand but as I got up to about Chapter 6 it started making a bit more sense. The story is about how the main character has got Ishmael Leseur’s Syndrome, but that’s not going to stop him from his journey in his new school. This is a good book to read and is fun and enjoyable for all ages.  Maeana, Year 8

So far I haven’t read far into the book but I have already enjoyed reading it. It is a humorous book and every sentence you read you are guaranteed to laugh. Barry Bagsley is a very interesting and funny character and he keeps the story going. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a laugh and likes an interesting and adventurous story. I am really looking forward for the end of the book. Brent, Year 8

‘Don’t Call me Ishmael’ is definitely a comedy book. I have always found funny books boring and not all that funny, but this book I actually find interesting. I like this book because of the characters: I find Miss Tarangoa an interesting character as she tricks Barry into thinking he’s going to win the day off school but ends up making him wait until she wants to finish the game (which could be the next day or the next year etc.). I would recommend this book to people who like a book that has comedy in it. I think that by the end of the book I will want to keep reading more. Emily, Year 8

May 5

Letter from John Marsden about ‘Tomorrow, when the war began’

John MarsdenHi to all the Aquinas readers!

Ms Kirkland has asked me to say a few words about ‘Tomorrow, When the War Began’. So here are my few words. When I was growing up I read a lot of stuff about World War II, and kept wondering what would have happened if Japan had invaded Australia. For one thing, I probably would never have been born, but I did wonder how I would cope if someone invaded us. In real life, probably not very well, but my fantasies were a different story. That’s the whole point of having fantasies of course!

I was also interested in writing a story set in the bush and on farms, as those settings seemed to have disappeared from books in recent years. And I was interested in writing a book that showed teenagers as (I think) they really are, instead of the unpleasant ways they are usually depicted in tabloids and on those boring current affairs television shows.

Once I started really caught up in the action, but also in the development of the characters. I never knew what was going to happen next, and it was fun trying to find solutions for the problems and traps I had created for Ellie and her friends. I realised more and more as I wrote the books that the essence of all novels is that they pose problems and then attempt to solve them. And of course neat slick solutions are never satisfactory, because in real life there are no neat slick solutions…

Anyway, I hope you enjoy reading the book, and even some of its sequels perhaps.

All the very best,

John Marsden

May 4

‘The Secret Life of Maeve Lee Kwong’ by Kirsty Murray

maeve lee kwongI really liked this book because it was very realistic and I could relate to the book. The main character, Maeve, is a very strong person, she has had some hard times in her life but she is still happy. She is a loving person towards her family and friends and is a great person to count on. The book is a great book I would give it a high rating and I would definitely recommend this book to ages 10+. Amber, Year 8

‘The Secret Life of Maeve Lee Kwong’ takes you into the world of a teenage girl whose world comes crashing down when tragedy strikes. Maeve’s family and friends try to comfort her but the only thing on Maeve’s mind is her Irish dad who doesn’t even know she exists. Determined Maeve sets out to find her dad. I think this book is perfect for young girls or boys who are in the mood for something heartfelt.  Chantelle, Year 8

Beginning this book had me confused in some key areas, one being that I wasn’t sure which characters were which. The second reason is I wasn’t quite sure what the problem was and lastly I didn’t know what was generally happening. Once I read about a quarter into the book it all cleared up. I understood what was going on and who was who. Maeve, the main character of the book, seems like a really sweet girl who has some very kind and supportive best friends. Maeve has never met her dad and when disaster strikes she feels she needs to fill that part of her which is missing.  Alisha, Year 8

Even though I have only read up to Chapter 17, I have thoroughly enjoyed reading the book ‘ The Secret Life of Maeve Lee Kwong.’  I think Maeve is a very interesting character. The way she pushes people way and brings others even closer really drew me in. So many times throughout the book, tears streamed down my cheeks. I would definitely recommend this book to both boys and girls but I do think that girls in particular would probably get more out of the book. In order to read the book and enjoy it, you must be able to like sad stories and stories that make you stop and think about all the good things you have in your life. All in all, this has been a really good book to read. Alana, Year 8

Kirsty Murray1Kirsty Murray comments:

Great comments, Amber, Chantelle, Alisha and Alana. It’s always exciting to hear about the things a reader finds in one of my books. I’m really touched that you were moved by Maeve’s story. Lots of what happened to her is based on what happened to real people that I have known. It took a long time to write her story because it’s the last book in the series ‘Children of the Wind’. By the time I’d finished writing the novel, I felt as though Maeve was a real person that had become very special to me. I’m glad she’s found you guys out there in the world to appreciate her story. Kirsty Murray http://www.kirstymurray.com/