Hey cHEwY gum gums Yes, I had an awesome book week, thanks for asking hehe. It’s been a mix of Sydney and Melbourne schools in August, making kids laugh, selling books and more importantly spreading the magic of reading (specifically mine hahaha) I’ve been in Ipswich for the StoryArts Festival and it’s been a wonderful past couple of days. I’ve had fond memories of my first SAFI back in 2011, so I was looking forward for eight days away up in Sunny Queensland! I didn’t get a chance to stalk Andy Griffiths this time (missed him by a day haha), but I did manage to hang out with the other half of the TreeHouse duo, Terry Denton, who kept us laughing in between sessions and at dinnertime too. That’s the thing about these festivals, it brings authors and illustrators together over meals 🙂 I also got to do some jogging along the river too (I’m doing the Sydney marathon next week). Another highlight was being able to see Eric Vale, Epic Fail on the stage. Not only was it really funny, the songs were borderline clever ‘comedy’ songs, like Flights of the Concords kinda style. The five actors and actresses were fantastic. I really hope the show does get to tour around Australia. This weekend started the adults program. Sometimes talking to adults can be a little harder than kids, but SAFI is filled with keen beans who want to be there to learn more about our books. On Saturday, I was part of a panel about diversity in children’s books, from an asian perspective. I was joined by Sally Heinrich, author and illustrator who used to live in Singapore. We all agreed that while things are slowly changing in terms of diversity, more needs to be done. Publishers need to take risks! We also discussed incidental diversity, where someone’s culture is not in the spotlight but they are there in the background, in the classroom, being normal kids. Last night, we had a dinner celebration with entertainment provided by the authors and illustrators. This was capped off by an illustrator draw battle, something that Tony Flowers and I have done for the Sydney Writers Festival. I wish I can tell you what they drew but what happens at dinner, stays at dinner haha. Surprisingly, there were many people who rocked up early for breakfast and the ‘Make Em Laugh’ panel with fellow funny writers Michael Gerald Bauer and Barry Jonsberg. I admire both authors, not only because of their award-winning books, but because they do serious and funny books. I don’t know if I have a serious book in me (not yet anyway haha). Finally, I went to see some other authors, Suzy Zail spoke about her holocaust stories and Josie Montano and Archie Fusillo were chatting about their latest collaboration, a book called Veiled Secrets. Josie was the MC from last night’s dinner and she is a parallel to mine; she writes about her embarrassing family in her earlier books and she is a bit of a comedian too hehe. Archie also mentioned that he doesn’t like to be known as just a multicultural writer, he’s a writer who writes more than just characters with Italian backgrounds. I can see where he’s coming from, but I don’t mind called a multicultural writer. It gives me a niche to get into schools and festivals, plus I suppose all my books will have lead characters who are from an Asian background. Yes it puts me into a box, but if you look at the whole literature landscape, I’m still in the minority here. O.W

About the author

I'm an author, stand-up comedian and teacher. My books include Thai-riffic!, Con-nerd, Punchlines and The Other Christy. I'm a massive Nintendo fan and love eating burgers. Follow me on Twitter or Instagram @oliverwinfree