Tuesday, August 21, 2012

First Day of Book Week

I love Book Week when schools turn their focus to celebrating books. Even in this National Year of Reading, Book Week remains a highlight, expecially for primary and younger readers. And their authors. Like me.

I spent the first day of Book Week at Moriah College in Bondi Junction. Wonderful school. Wonderful kids.

The day had an unusual start. Moriah College is a security-gated campus and the security guard wasn't quite sure what to make of an author toting a wooden practice sword. "Is it a weapon?" he asked. "It's a bokken. It's used for weapons practice but I use it as a prop for my talk," I explained. "I think we need to show this to the principal," he said.

Source: Moriah College Website
The great Japanese 17th century samurai Miyamoto Musashi wielded his bokken as a formidable weapon but in my hands it really is just a big stick. The principal had no concerns and the business of books began.

The kids laughed. I laughed. Great fun was had and excellent questions were raised. After I explained that Samurai Kids began as a stand-alone book and almost book-by-book evolved into a series, one boy asked: Wasn't that hard to do? When you write a series you need to have a problem at the start that isn't resolved until the end." Spot on! When a second book was mooted I had to search through White Crane looking for a thread I could weave through the subsequent books.

Luckily, I found one waiting for me! The teacher, Sensei Ki-Yaga is an ancient and eccentric, very wise man. A retired samurai warrior of once legendary fame. An almost magical figure - some people think he is a wizard. But I didn't want him to be too perfect so I told how the old women of the village muttered he might be Tengu - a samurai forced at night to assume the guise of a goblin mountain spirit until a terrible past misdeed was redeemed.

The greatest challenge in writing Samuari Kids has been taking this small thread and helping it grow and strengthen as it weaves through the books that followed. And I also had to answer the difficult question I had never intended to address - what could such a good man have once done that was so terrible. I think I have succeeded in pulling the thread tight. I get lots of emails asking me to reveal Sensei's secret.

Just before I left the college, the librarian (hello Chelsea) showed me a photo of one of the boys, listening to me talk. He looked enthralled. I felt thrilled to be able to connect like that, even more so when she said he was a student who was usually not interested in anything about books or reading.

Did I mention I love Book Week?

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