Ep 144 5 things you can learn about writing every day. And meet children’s author Oliver Phommavanh.

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podcast-artworkIn Episode 144 of So you want to be a writer: Find out 5 things you can learn by writing every day and 7 steps to help you write your novel. You’ll meet children’s author and standup comedian Oliver Phommavanh. Plus, discover why your author newsletter is so important and much more!

Click play to listen to the podcast or find it on iTunes here. If you don’t use iTunes you can get the feed here, or listen to us on Stitcher radio.

Review of the Week
From Hannah:

Unfortunately, I now find myself in an even worse quandary than just how to categorise my library. The recent earthquake in NZ happened virtually under our home. We were able to escape but our house has been irreparably damaged. Luckily we have managed to get nearly all of our belongings out and into storage. The library that I had the delight of enjoying for an all too short five months has now been shoved willy nilly into banana boxes and probably won’t see the light of day for a number of years. I can’t tell you how relieved I was however, to see those boxes being hauled out of the house at all! At least I can look forward to honouring my rescued tomes by designing a new study that can neatly house the collection when our future home is built. Many wistful hours on Pinterest are likely to follow… I can’t wait to get back into my writing routine as things settle down and have been listening to the podcast as ever which has been a reassuring dose of normality. So herein lies a reason not to procrastinate over that which you most want to do in life. Write for today, because tomorrow may never come! All the very best and keep delivering on my ‘normal.’

Thanks, Hannah!

Show Notes

5 Things I’ve Learned by Writing Every Day

What will help me write a book? 7 steps

Cover Reveal! The Mapmaker Chronicles: Beyond The Edge Of The Map (#4)

Writer in Residence

Oliver Phommavanh

Oliver Phommavanh is a funny children’s author, comedian and primary school teacher.

He has been shortlisted for the ‘Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices’ book award and presented at the School Library Association Conference, Brisbane Writers’ Festival, Sydney Children’s Festival amongst many others.

His books include Thai-riffic!, Con-nerd, Punchlines, Thai-no-mite, and The Other Christy.

You can visit Oliver’s website

Or follow Oliver on Twitter

Platform Building Tip

Why your author newsletter is so important.

Competition

WIN two true-blue rural lit books from Karly Lane and Fleur McDonald!

Your hosts

Allison Tait

Valerie Khoo / Australian Writers’ Centre

Connect with us on twitter

@altait

@valeriekhoo

Email us

podcast at writerscentre.com.au

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Interview Transcript

Allison

Oliver Phommavanh is a children’s author, comedian and primary school teacher. He is the author of six funny books for kids, including his latest work The Other Christy, as well as appearing in many anthologies. Welcome to the program, Oliver.

Oliver

G’day Allison, how’s it going?

Allison

It’s going very, very well so far. I think we’re off to a great start. All right. Let us go back to the beginning. Let’s talk about your first novel, Thai-riffic, I believe. How did that come to be published? When and how did that come to be published?

Oliver

Well, I used to be a primary school teacher after having done a writing degree. And after one full year of teaching I thought, you know what? I’m going to quit, and I’m going to pursue writing. So I took that risk. I decided to take a couple years off, do part time teaching, part time writing. And I kind of had a vague idea of Thai-riffic in terms of writing short stories about myself as a kid. And so it took me three years. I joined a writer’s group. I got some really good feedback. I started to get involved with the Children’s Book Council of Australia and other sort of groups where I could meet other kid’s authors and kid’s writers. I attended a whole lot of festivals. And then I managed to bump into someone who is now my agent. And so we were just having a conversation and he liked what I was doing and I gave him my work. And Thai-riffic was sort of born from there.

Allison

So did you meet, so your agent, who’s your agent?

Oliver

My agent is Brian Cook.

Allison

So did you meet Brian at a writer’s festival? Is that where you bumped into each other?

Oliver

I did. I met him at the Festival for Writing for Kids and YA, at the NSW Writer’s Centre. And we just had a conversation and I told him about the book that I was working on, Thai-riffic, and he said, oh I’d be interested in having a look at that. So I gave it to him.

Allison

So your background is obviously Thai, and you’ve based the book on your experiences of growing up here in Australia. Is that correct?

Oliver

That’s right, yeah. So a lot of the stories are semi-autobiographical.

Allison

And funny.

Oliver

And funny, yeah. That’s right. So, you know, as a kid, I’ve always been a bit of a class clown. Pretty much always running around. Very fidgety. The only time I was really quiet was when I was reading books or when I was writing stories.

Allison

So did you go to do your writing degree directly out of school? Did you leave high school and go into a degree at uni in writing?

Oliver

I did, yeah. So I went into Western Sydney University. So I did a Bachelor of Communication (Writing). And there were parts of that degree that I enjoyed, but I guess that degree wasn’t really creative writing. It was more like creative and technical writing. So there was a lot of other stuff, like writing for manuals, writing documents, all that kind of stuff.

I realised that there is no guarantee of success in being a writer and all, so I did a backup. So I decided to do a master of teaching. And I chose primary school because I’m still a big kid myself, so I thought I don’t want to get bashed by high school kids. So I went into primary school teaching. And funnily enough, I just loved it. I fell into it. And you know, during my uni days I was writing for adults. And that was okay, but it wasn’t really going anywhere. And then I thought, you know what, I should have a go writing for kids. And so that’s where the idea of becoming a kid’s author came up.

Allison

All right. So you said you went into teaching for a year and then you decided that you were going to pursue writing. And just judging by what you said, you really were quite – not clinical about it – but when you say pursue it, you joined a writer’s group, you went to the festivals, you’ve obviously gone out and tried to soak up as much of the industry knowledge as you could. Would you sum it up like that?

Oliver

Yeah, absolutely. And that would be a tip that I would give to anyone who wants to get into the writing industry. The fact that, you know, first of all, children’s authors are so, we’re a very nice close knit community. We’re pretty nice, we’re pretty supportive. And even back then I had, starting out, I had authors like Kate Forsyth, Belinda Murrell, Deb Abela, just treating me like I was already an author in that sense of giving me advice, being supportive. It was really good to see.

Allison

It is a great, I can vouch for that too, it’s a great group of people. And I like the fact that, as you say, it’s such a welcoming group. You kind of turn up feeling like a total imposter, and everyone just goes “I loved your book! I read your book! It was great!” And you suddenly feel like you’re one of the gang. And I think sometimes people think that writers are very scary and that writers festivals will be a really scary thing, but in actual fact they’re fantastic. And Valerie and I often say, go to writers festivals. And not just to talk to the writers who are there, but also the people that are around you who are also writing. Would you agree with that?

Oliver

Yeah, for sure. I actually still keep in touch with a lot of friends who I actually met at writers festivals. I was that guy going to festivals and sitting in the front row with like a giant notepad, taking down notes. So you know, I’m putting pressure on the author on stage. And I’ll be chatting to people as we’re waiting in line to get a book signed, and just seeing where they’re coming from. I love talking to people who are into writing just like me. And so that sort of gives me a chance to not only hear what they’re doing, but also gain some tips, as well. Because nothing is ever wasted out there. Any little bit of advice I will take and absorb in my head.

Allison

Yeah. So when you were writing for adults, when you were at uni, were you writing comedy then? I guess my question is, have you always written funny stories? Because your books for kids are very funny, and both of my boys love them. And are always telling me about the funny bits in your books, which of course is highly entertaining second hand. But have you always written funny stuff? Or was your stuff for adults quite different?

Oliver

No, it’s always been funny stuff. When I started writing for adults, that went hand in hand with my starting to do stand-up comedy. You know, a love of Jerry Seinfeld in high school sort of propelled me to do stand-up comedy. But in all honesty, though, I wanted to be a writer first and foremost. So I only did stand-up comedy to test out my writing. Because when you’re on stage, you find out very fast if a line is funny or not. So it’s the best kind of feedback you could ever do. And that’s also another piece of advice. Just go to an open-mic night, doesn’t have to be comedy per se, but one of those poetry/performance nights and just say it out there, see what the feedback’s like. You know, I love stand-up comedy, so my writing was essentially a reflection of the stuff that I do on stage.

Allison

Okay, so that’s a baptism, I mean, that’s a brave… Let’s just go back a step here. Because you say go and read it out loud at an open mic night. That is a really brave thing to do. Like, you getting out there and testing your stories and your lines on an audience that is potentially going to sit there and look at you like, seriously mate, you think this is amusing? That is a pretty brave thing to do. How do you get up enough courage to do that?

Oliver

You know, I guess being a geek in high school, I was already used to being rejected. By girls and the cool kids and all that kind of stuff. So I built up a resistance to that. But essentially, I’ve been that class clown, wanting that spotlight. And I guess, when it comes to comedy, there’s always a risk that it’s going to fall flat. And I’ve had nights where I’ve got no response, just silence. And those nights kind of eat you up. But days after, you pick yourself up and you go up again. Because, I think that’s the beauty of comedy. You know, like Jerry Seinfeld has this great quote. If you find they’re not laughing, just smile and move on to the next joke. And try to get them at the next bit.

Allison

Right. Because I guess being a writer is also a risk. You put it out there. You’re waiting for the comments, the rejection, the whatever, aren’t you? If it falls flat like a stone, you’re like, oh, okay. I remember reading somewhere that writing funny books is like waiting two years to find out if the punchline was funny. Because you write it and put it out there and then you’ve got to wait to see if anyone actually thinks it’s amusing. Is that difficult, or not?

Oliver

I guess one of the things I did was I just read a whole lot of kids’ books. In my first year of starting writing I read about maybe 350 books. I just went to the library and just smashed anything and everything that was a kid’s book, especially Australian books and especially funny books. So writing funny books is quite hard, but then there are so many stunning examples of when it does work. And I find that because you can hide your funny things through descriptions and through intention and, for myself, especially dialogue, I love writing funny dialogue. So I learned a couple of skills through reading those books and realising that it can be done.

Allison

Okay. So if I was going to say to you, Okay Oliver, what is the secret of writing funny stories for children, you would say…? Because you know, what I find funny and what you find funny and what my ten-year-old finds funny are quite different things. And what my ten-year-old finds funny just honestly astounds me at times. But anyway. So you know, you’re writing for a specific market. How do you know that what you’re writing is funny for them?

Oliver

I guess I’m pretty lucky in that as a kids author I get to visit a lot of schools, I do a lot of talks and workshops, so I get a kind of gauge at what they find funny. I also have some nephews as well that are roughly around the same age of upper primary, so that helps me as well. But I guess when it comes down to it, it’s just the opposite of normal, I guess. Like saying something that’s going to surprise them or shock them.

You know, comedy, there’s always got to be a fall guy, somebody has to get hurt. And so I try to build up an environment where things can be made fun of. I guess with Thai-riffic I was making fun of Asians, I was making fun of all those kinds of stereotypes. And I must admit I could say things that if other people said that it would be called racist or whatever. But because I could say it, I can get away with it.

So I suppose, I think, one of the things that you need to do I suppose is just to be authentic to yourself, I think. There’s no point trying to chase trends or trying to see what the kids are into. I think if you can find what you find funny and just sort of put that into your characters, I think that would be a good start.

Allison

So making fun of yourself is a good place to start. Because that’s essentially what you do, isn’t it, with a lot of your stuff?

Oliver

Yeah, that’s right. Because you know you’ve got to offend someone, so why not start with yourself, I find.

Allison

Now, you’ve made, it has to be said, you have made a real brand out of being a nerd. And I know that the two readers that you have in my house respond to that. Do you think that your readers respond to that? Like in the sense – and also, I’d like to thank you for your Instagram feed, because my oldest son now his life ambition is to eat as many burgers as you do.

Oliver

Oh nice.

Allison

Because you seem to have a new one every day. So his life’s ambition is to eat as many burgers as Oliver Phommavanh. Anyway, is that just you being you? Or is that a conscious thing? What do you do with that?

Oliver

Yeah, it’s kind of funny. You know, I’ve always been a nerd. It’s funny now, in this day and age, being a nerd it’s kind of okay now. You’ve got things like “The Big Bang Theory”, all those Marvel films. You know once upon a time if you wore like a SpongeBob shirt or a shirt with a superhero on it you would get laughed at. But now every second shirt you see out there is a Star Wars shirt or something a little bit nerdy. So I guess all the things that nerds used to like are now becoming more mainstream, which is really cool.

But, you know, I don’t know. I always find that I’ve still got a heart of like a 15-year-old gawkish nerdish kid still. And that hasn’t changed. I haven’t really grown up in that sense. I’m just being myself. And even though nerds could be cool now, I always find a way to really make nerds uncool by just saying some really awkward things or doing some really weird things. Like collecting a whole lot of Plushies.

Allison

Oh, the Plushies.

Oliver

Yeah. Like, I could write essays on why I love Nintendo so much. And you know, I guess, with my burger thing, even as a kid, being forced fed – well, not forced fed – but being fed Thai food all the time kind of made me crave things like McDonald’s and KFC. And so even to this day I still get so much joy out of eating burgers. I think it’s that childhood thing of revisiting all your childhood pleasures again.

Allison

Yeah. Yeah, fair enough. So let’s talk about your writing process. Do you write every day? Or do you only, like, how does that work? Would you only write when you feel like it? Or are you writing every day?

Oliver

Yeah, I try to write every day. So on a day like today when I’m at home I try to do six hours of writing.

Allison

Six hours? Wow.

Oliver

Which sounds impressive, but essentially when you break that down maybe I might get three or four hours of writing, maybe. I guess, I don’t know, I’m not one of those authors that waits for inspiration. I find that, you know, there are some days when the words are flowing, and I’m writing up a storm and pages and pages are being written. There are other days where the lure of Facebook or reading up about games and stuff takes over. Funny enough, the inspiration to wash the dishes or clean the bathroom comes to hand. So you have those days too. But the main thing is that I’m in front of the keyboard, I’m in front of the screen. And so whether it’s twenty pages or two paragraphs, I’m still there writing.

So I think for me, just getting into that zone, and just riding that wave. It’s almost like surfing, I guess. Some days you’ll be surfing up and down, other days will be calm waters. But you just have to paddle through.

Allison

Okay. And do you plan your stories out before you begin? Like, do you have an idea of what’s going to happen? Or how does that work?

Oliver

Yeah, sometimes. It depends on the book. For Thai-riffic, it was all kind of let loose. I just kept writing stuff. And for me the main part of the process would be the second draft or the editing of that, where I start to trim down. So I just basically blab it all out and then I start mixing that around in the second or third edit. Other books like Con Nerd or The Other Christy I kind of just map it out so I have an idea of where I’m going. But that said, even though I’m following that plan, when I’m writing it I’m like, oh you know, I think this is a better idea. It kind of depends on the story, I think.

Allison

And are you still working as a teacher? Did you say you’re still working part time as a teacher? Is that correct?

Oliver

Yeah, I think I haven’t taught for, well, last year was the first year where I didn’t teach at all as a primary school teacher. Because in the past, early term one and late term four would be the time where I would do a bit of teaching, casually, because the school visits would dry up. But these days I’ve managed to have enough school visits that will keep me going.

Allison

Well that was, I was going to ask you about that. Because I see you across your social media feeds, I see you a lot. You travel a lot. And you do a lot of author talks and things like that. How many author talks do you think you would have done last year?

Oliver

I’m not sure how many visits, but I spend about maybe seven or eight months visiting schools.

Allison

Wow. That’s a lot, isn’t it?

Oliver

Yeah. It’s a lot of travel. So I basically, over the year, spend a whole month in Melbourne or a whole month in Brisbane, driving to all these places and things like that. It’s a lot of visits. It can weigh you down, especially in term three after Book Week and Book Month and all that stuff. But at the same time, I never take it for granted. I guess, it’s kind of like riding the wave again. While I’m still releasing all these books I might as well take advantage of it and just keep doing it.

Allison

Yeah. I think it’s amazing. And you have made a real art of the author appearance. Obviously, with your stand-up comedy background and your primary school background, and all of that sort of stuff. And you mentioned the Plushies earlier, and of course the Plushies feature, well they featured in the talk that I saw, and my boys talk about them still. Do you remember your first author appearance? Do you remember the first one you ever did?

Oliver

Yeah, I do. It was very awkward. It was me being the awkward nerdish kind of guy, again. And it was before my book came out. I went to one of those school holiday reading programs at the library. And just a lot of blank stares. People don’t know me, kind of thing. And I’m kind of there trying to validate my existence and saying that, there is a book, it is coming, it is funny, you should read it.

But I don’t know, it’s kind of weird. I know that I’m not famous. I’m not big in that sense. I always go into schools or I always go into places thinking that nobody knows me and I’ve got to win them over. So by that, I try to get them hyped up about the book. And I don’t know, I always find myself being like Jerry Seinfeld in that sense of, a lot of my talks are really about nothing per se. Sometimes they’re about the book, but other times I’m just trying to make them laugh for whatever reason. And if they like my talk and they like laughing at my jokes then maybe they’ll pick up my books.

Allison

So it’s not so much a hard sell as, look how funny I am, you’re going to love my book.

Oliver

Yeah. I think it’s just trying to capture them with my voice. And if they’re into then perhaps they’ll then pick up my books. Which most of the time it works. Other times, you know, it may not work. It’s like doing a stand-up gig. Sometimes you’ll get kids all hyped up and really impressed. Other times you’ll get a very muted response, but that’s okay.

Allison

And have you found that your style and your talks have developed a lot? Because obviously, if you’re travelling seven or eight months last year, you’ve done a lot of talks. How have you found that that’s impacted on what it is that you do when you are confronted with a group of sixty kids?

Oliver

I guess I’ve gotten to a stage now where I’ve got like three or four talks in my head, and then I kind of tinker with it depending on the audience and depending on if they’ve read my books or not. So essentially, I’ve got a core talk with jokes that I always use. And then I try some new ones, or try to do things that I haven’t done before, just to put in between to sort of see how they work. So for me, I would go crazy, and a lot of authors can probably relate to it, too, in terms of if you do three or four talks every day for five or six weeks, you pretty much almost become like a robot in that sense. So I try to spice things up by doing other things, by using things around me. I always go into a room or a school and I try to take out random things like a hula hoop or some weird statue or whatever, just try to do a bit of improv on that.

Allison

Do you find, particularly if you’re doing a few back to back, in one session, do you find that you forget whether you said that in the last talk or you’ve said it in this talk and where you’re up to? Do you ever sort of lose place of where you are with your talk?

Oliver

Yeah, for sure. Especially when you’re doing, where you have to do the same talk or the same workshop three or four times in a row. So there are times when I’m like, have I said that to you? And you know, my worst fear is when I go back to a school that I’ve been to before, and the librarian says, oh, these kids loved you last time you were there. And I’m like, oh man, they’ve probably seen me, so I’ve got to come up with some new stuff.

Allison

You’ve got to change it up.

Oliver

I’ve got to change it up. And so those are the times when I’m really tested. But it’s kind of funny. Even though the kids have seen me, one kid said to me it’s kind of like watching an episode of “Adventure Time”, which you’ve probably seen before, but you still laugh anymore because you know the dog’s going to come up or you know this is going to happen, so you still enjoy it.

Allison

That’s a very nice insightful comment from that child.

Oliver

Yeah. So with that in mind, I always go into a talk thinking that, okay, it’s kind of like doing stand-up comedy as well, hoping that at least half the audience or some people haven’t watched me. So I sort of still try to pitch it at them. But if I know I’ve been to that school before, I make note of that and then I try to chop and change things up.

Allison

So what tips would you give a new children’s author who is about to undertake their first appearance? What advice would you have for them, as an old stager at this now, Oliver?

Oliver

You know, even before I started writing, like I said before I went to all these festivals. I saw Andy Griffiths at a festival up in the Blue Mountains. And he was just like, wow, he pretty much is a stand-up comedian.

Allison

He is a stand-up comedian. Absolutely.

Oliver

And he was like – well, he’s still my idol now – but he was my template of what I wanted to do. And I just learned, you know. It took me a couple of years to get into that mode of holding a show. I guess it will take some time. And also being authentic as well, I find. If you’re trying to be someone, if you’re trying to be cool. Because you know kids, they can see right through that. And unlike adults, they don’t hold back.

Allison

No.

Oliver

They kind of will tell you to your face or with their friends or sometimes non-verbally. They’re just like, what are you doing mate? You’re trying too hard. You’re not going to try and impress me. I always find that if you be yourself, if you can amuse myself first and foremost, that way you feel more comfortable up there. And also, I guess trying to find your knack. Don’t be afraid to try out a whole different variety of things. Try a slideshow, try props, try bringing things from your childhood or that inspired you for the book. And I guess the more you do it the more at ease you’ll feel about it, and then things will sort of slide into place.

Allison

I think what I’ve had to learn is to ignore the one kid, there’s always the one kid, who sits there with the blank face and their arms folded the whole way through.

Oliver

Oh yeah.

Allison

And I think what I had to do, when I first started out, was learn to ignore the kid that does that. Because you’re never going to impress that kid. And what I found really interesting about that kid is that that’s often the kid that comes up to you at the end and says, can you sign my bookmark? And you go, really? You just sat there with a blank face the whole way.

Oliver

I know how you feel. You know, I did talks up until year nine and year ten. Even though my favourite talks are basically primary school up to year seven, maybe year eight. And year nine, especially year nine, year ten, they are some of my worst or best talks. And I don’t know if it’s going to be a good talk or a bad talk until ten minutes into the talk. And then I’m like, okay, this is going to be a hard slog. Or they’re going to be with me. And it’s so true. They’ve got their arms folded, they’re looking at you with this, try to impress me kind of thing. And then at the very end they’ll be like, yeah, that was good. And then they just walk off. And I’m like, okay, see you. That’s good.

Allison

I remember we interviewed Tristan Bancks earlier in the podcast series and he was telling us about one of the most memorable talks he’s ever done, which was a class of year nine boys, boys only, on a Friday afternoon last period. And when he said that to me, I was just like, oh, you are the bravest man in the world. Because I just think that would be awful.

Oliver

Yeah. And you know what? Sometimes, you just have to throw yourself into those scenarios. And I’ve got to keep telling myself that even if they’re not laughing, because I guess I take it personally when people don’t laugh at my jokes, because I try to make my talk funny so if they’re not laughing I’m kind of panicking on the inside. But at the end of the day, if they’re sitting in their seats and they’re looking at you, I don’t know, you have to keep reminding yourself that hopefully some of it will seep through for those kids who are interested. And sometimes you just can’t control it.

You know, I’ve had my fair share of disasters with the kids who are loud, the kids who fake laugh, those are the worst. The kids who go HAHAHA at the most inappropriate times. And you just have to cop it on the chin and move on to the next talk or the next school and I try to get them on the next bit.

Allison

Just like stand-up comedy.

Oliver

Yeah, it is, that’s right. Because if you carry those feelings of being disheartened or being discouraged or even being angry over to the next school, you’re kind of punishing them for no reason. Because it’s a new school, it’s a fresh start, kind of just imagine that yesterday didn’t happen and go on.

Allison

Move on. Okay. So given that most of your readership is mostly middle grade, do you do much in the way of social media, that platform building kind of stuff at all? I know you do Instagram, because I do see you there. Where do you focus your efforts in that area?

Oliver

It’s kind of funny because even though kids are not meant to be on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram per se, primary school kids, they’re still on there. That can’t be helped. So I guess it’s kind of a funny scenario. Because I know a lot of YA authors really excel with social media because they can actually really stay in touch with their readership, which is really cool. So I’m in that funny position where a lot of my followers are teacher-librarians or teachers or adults, mostly, with a couple of kids sprinkled in. So I usually try to have my Facebook fan page as my quasi-website, I suppose, putting up things that I’ve done. And then I use Twitter for more of the writing professionally kind of stuff. Anything to do with writing or being an author I try to put on Twitter.

And then Instagram is just mostly just the other side of me. In terms of like writing stuff, burgers, Nintendo stuff, Plushies, stuff for your job. So that’s kind of another aspect of my personality. Of course, with the occasional shameless plug in between as well. But mostly it’s just there for fun.

Allison

Fair enough. So what’s next? What are you working on at the moment? The Other Christy came out last year and was very well received as far as I can see. So what happens now?

Oliver

Yeah, so I’m actually editing Super Con Nerd, which is the sequel to Con Nerd which came out like six years ago. So that’s going to come out in June. And I’m really hyped to bring it out, because Con Nerd has resonated with so many of my fans. And they keep asking me, the kids keep asking me, oh is there going to be a sequel to Con Nerd and I kept saying no. And originally, I didn’t think there was going to be a sequel. And then this idea just came in my head last year and it just kept going and going. And so I just kept listening to Connor and he came back and I wrote the sequel.

Allison

Fantastic. And that comes out when?

Oliver

It comes out in June.

Allison

Terrific. All right, we’ll be looking forward to that. All right, so let’s finish up today with our last question we ask everyone. Our famous top three tips for aspiring writers. What have you got for us, Oliver?

Oliver

Of course, you’ve got to read books. Just keep on reading.

Number two, is to carry a notebook. Because I find I always tell people living life is kind of like half of your writing inspiration. In that sense of, anything you see or do, anything you hear or have a talk to someone can be used for an idea. So I always carry a notebook with me for jokes and also story ideas. So if I see something funny or if I hear something funny on the radio or if I read an amusing newspaper article, I just jot it down, and they could be used for ideas.

And my third tip is to play lots of video games. Even if you’re not into video games, even though you’re 65 plus or whatever, buy a PlayStation 4 or an Xbox or Nintendo and just play games. And by that I mean, maybe not play games, but just play. I find that when I’m playing, when I’m being just chilling or relaxing, that’s when some of my ideas come as well. So when I’m switched off, when I’m just relaxing, or doing something fun, I find that sometimes ideas can just come to me in that sense as well.

So I guess in other words, don’t try to take it too seriously. Especially with kids writing. Kids are not reading all the time. I mean, some of them do, but a lot of the time they’re reading, but they’re also playing, they’re also mucking around. So the best way to get into kids writing is to try to get into that aspect as well. Do a bit of writing, be serious for some of the time, but other times just play, have fun. Because I find that if you’re not having fun, then there’s probably a great chance that the kids are not going to have fun with the book as well. There needs to be a sense of playfulness with your writing, no matter what genre you’re writing.

Allison

Fantastic. Well, that’s one of the most interesting and unusual tips we’ve ever had, is play video games. All right. Well thank you so much for your time today, Oliver, I really appreciate it. Good luck with the sequel to Con Nerd, and hoping The Other Christy will also go gangbusters for you. And good luck with the 7,000 author appearances that you do this year.

Oliver

Thank you very much. And thanks for inviting me over, and I feel like a burger now, so I’m off.

Allison

I’ll look for it on Instagram. That’s great. Okay, bye.

Oliver

Okay. See ya!

 

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