Thanks for visiting. I hope you have an enjoyable voyage of discovery through my books. With a few peeks at my life and creative habits along the way.
If you've got an assignment due in twenty minutes, whiz down to the bottom of the page where you'll find all my books neatly arranged. You can read the first chapters, and listen to them, and check out how and why I wrote each story.
If you’re not quite so short of time, and you're after some news and information and gossip, take it more slowly because there’s a fair bit on the way down. You’ll also find details about booking a talk, a link to my biography, a signpost to teachers’ notes, and a few other things every author website should have, including a bit of boasting.
First though, I’d like to share with you my very latest and/or fairly recent news, and a couple of apologies.
If you tried to visit this site during the last few weeks, you might have noticed a technical glitch getting in the way. I didn't notice it myself until recently, for which I'm very sorry.
There's a simple reason I didn't spot it. For the last two years I've been neglecting this website shamefully. I've barely visited it, not posted anything on it, not even dusted or vacuumed it. When I finally paid it a visit recently, there was moss growing on its south side.
I'm very sorry for that too.
An explanation, though not an excuse, is that I spent 2018 and 2019 on the road as the Australian Children's Laureate. It was a great opportunity and I was happy to get carried away with it, having all sorts of conversations about young people's reading and writing and why those things are so vital and important. During that time dedicated members of the laureate team did things for me I'd never dream of attempting myself. They made sure news about my activities found its way to scary places like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. What a luxury, not having to worry about all that in person. I'm afraid I went a bit Beyonce and got used to it.
Silly mistake. My two years are up and the laureate robes are now gracing the shoulders of the new Children's Laureate, Ursula Dubursarsky. (You'll find her superbly showcased by the laureate team on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.)
Me, I'm back to DIY online communications here on my trusty website. If you're reading this, thank you for your patience, your forgiveness, and/or your uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time. I promise I won't desert you again.
In fact if you keep an eye on this site, you'll soon notice some extra bits being bolted on. A page called Stories Make Us is in development, where eventually you'll find some of the ideas I was banging on about as laureate, and some of the conversations that grew out of them.
I'm also planning to share a lot of practical story-writing tips. We need more good writers and more good stories, and it's never to soon to start that journey. I'll do what I can to help.
It's looking like most of us are going to be spending a lot of time at home over the next few months, and like many of my writer colleagues I'm thinking about things I can offer to make that time a bit more fun, a bit more creative, and a bit more better than school. (Joking, of course.)
And of course, there'll be plenty of that most essential part of any author's website, news about what I'm writing, what I plan to write next, what I might end up writing without planning to, what I wish I hadn't ended up writing without planning to, and what I wish I had.
Starting right here and now with news about a certain book you might have heard was going to be published last August, then this February, then this August, then this September, and now I must shame-facedly reveal, not until early next year.
I'm talking of course about Always, the final book in the Once series. About which I must also say, I'm very sorry.
When I started out as laureate, people warned me I wouldn't get much writing done. Because I can be very stubborn and what I think psychologists call a dill, I was sure they were wrong. But they weren't. And I didn't.
Which I know has tested the patience of a lot of loyal readers of the series, possibly including you. So the least I can do is let you know where things stand with the book at the moment.
Early last year I wrote a first draft of Always, the story of Felix's last and perhaps biggest challenge. Into his life comes a boy called Wassim. A boy with huge problems in his life. This gives Felix the opportunity to pass on to Wassim some of the precious things he was given himself as a boy. Felix grabs that opportunity, even though along with it comes large amounts of life-threatening danger. But the way Felix sees it, if you can't take a few risks when you're 87, when can you?
After I finished that draft, my laureate duties took me away from the writing desk for about eight months. I tried to continue working on the book many times, but you know what country motels are like. There aren't many places to plug your computer in, and when you do get settled on the floor in the corner, the sixteen wheeler parked out the front keeps revving its engine and a chenille bedspread wrapped round your head only blocks out so much noise.
I got back to work on the book late last year and had one of those experiences authors hate and love in equal amounts. I read the first draft and by the time I got to the end, a new idea had gripped me and I knew it wouldn't let me go. I realised I had to write this story again, but from the point of view of Wassim. A boy who doesn't know Felix at all at the start of the story, but who has to get to know him as well as well do because both their lives end up depending on it.
I finished the new draft a few weeks ago, just as the entire world was commencing a new adventure of its own. The publishing industry has risen magnificently to deal with the challenges it finds itself facing, but for the rest of this year, looks like books are going to take a bit longer to reach the shelves. So we've decided to give Always a bit more breathing space and publish it early next year.
No book I've ever written has tested the patience of readers like this one, and I apologize again. I'm disappointed too, though I think you'll agree that as problems go, it's not in the same ballpark as a lot of what's happening around the world at the moment.
And there is an upside. I get a few extra months to explore further possibilities for the story. A journey I'll be sharing with you right here.
For now, thank you again for your patience, and I hope you enjoy the rest of my no-longer-neglected public home.
I visit as many schools as I can each year. Bookings are organised by the following very capable and nice-to-chat-with agencies. For the time being, of course, visits will have to be online.
The Children’s Bookshop Speakers’ Agency
for school visits in New South Wales, the ACT and Queensland.
Phone: 0407 414 261 or 02 9481 8811
Booked Out Agency
for school visits in Victoria and the rest of Australia.
Phone: 03 9824 0177
Fax: 03 9824 0677
Mail: PO Box 580, South Yarra, VIC 3141
If your school is in the UK, my school and festival visits there are looked after by
Authors Aloud UK
Phone: +44 (0)797 608 2049
All these lovely agencies will happily give you any information you need about fees, expenses, which colour Smarties in the dressing room, etc. Festival enquiries will be warmly responded to as well.
If your school is outside Australia and the UK, please don’t be deterred. I’ve visited schools in many other countries. To start with, best to contact me direct via firstname.lastname@example.org because there'll be a few important things to discuss like airfares and who's going to pay them and travel shots and whether you're prepared to have them for me.
Please feel free to use these for all legal and nice purposes. There’s a full-length one and a short one for schools with small notice boards.
Morris Spills The Beans
Authors are asked a lot of questions (if they’re lucky), but not everyone can be there to hear the answers. Just in case you and I never get to have a cup of tea together, here are some of the questions I thought you might have asked.
Letters to Governments
Sometimes we have questions we want to ask the Federal government, but they won’t have a cup of tea with us so we have to write them a letter.
These expertly-prepared teaching aids are a boon for busy hard-working teachers. They’re pretty useful for lazy ones too. And please, individual readers with enquiring minds (is there any other kind?), feel free to make use of them as well. Absolutely no formal educational qualifications or a mug with your name on it required.
And here we are, at that literary patchwork-quilt of delight that is my book covers. A click or tap on any one will take you to a page attractively decked out with my thoughts about that book – why I wrote it, how I wrote it, what it may or may not really be about, etc.
From each book page, another click or tap will allow you to read the first chapter of the book, and, if you like, hear me read it. (That last bit can be switched off if you prefer the sound of your own voice.)