Keep on Puffin’

Hey cHEwY gum gums

Last week, I was invited to a Puffin Party. It was Christmas (party) come early, a chance to eat, drink and mingle with the Penguin Random House crew and booksellers. Plus I caught up with authors and illustrators from the PRH stable, fresh from the end of ‘bookweek’ season.

In case you didn’t know, Puffin is Penguin’s children books brand, and it’s about to get a massive marketing push in the lead up to its 80th birthday in 2020. We got a taste of it at the party, everything was black and yellow, black and yellow (c’mon, who isn’t a Wiz Khalifa fan?) from the photo booth, cupcakes, candy buffet and cute library bags.

I’m not going to lie, this is one of the perks of being in a large publishing company, to be a part of a legacy brand that resonates with readers across many generations. I remember when I was first signed to Penguin, it was so cool to be joining a place that housed some of my childhood classics like the Mr Men series, Spot, Paul Jennings’ Un-books and Morris Gletizman’s Blabbermouth. Oh, and who could forget the legendary Roald Dahl.

I got reminded of this again when I was watching the quick video that went through Puffin’s history, as many book covers from the 8 decades dazzled across the screen. Julie Burland, local head of PRH boldly mentioned that she was looking forward to Puffin’s 100th birthday in 2040 too. Fellow funny author Tim Harris, who was standing next to me (and suggested that I blog about this party, thanks for reading Tim haha) joked about how we may be here for that too, being a little older wiser of course.

I quickly did the math. Forget 100 years, if I make it for Puffin’s 80th birthday party, Thai-riffic! will be 10 years old and that means I would have been an author for a decade too. That would be something worth celebrating. Yeah, I said if, because who really knows how long before my reign is over?

I say reign because I’ve been listening to Eminem’s Kamikaze on repeat for the last 2 weeks, and his whole album is about defending his legacy against people who think his best days are behind him. While authors and rappers are different in many ways, I’m sure every creator hopes that their works will stand the test of time. I’m not holding my breath for the Thai-riffic! 50th anniversary edition, but who knows right? If I hang in there long enough, it could happen. I bumped into Melina Marchetta at the party, and Looking For Alibrandi is nearly 30 years old. Yikes. I am getting wiser by the second hehe.

I’m in this game for the long haul, but it largely depends on if I can stay relevant. I can name a whole bunch of authors who were big when I first started, and now they’re not. So yeah, it’s another reminder not to take this journey for granted.

Luckily, there are legends out there who have been constantly reinventing themselves and still produce fresh and exciting titles. Who would have thought Morris Gleitzman would be known for an epic collection of books based around World War Two, whilst hopping in and out of a Toad series? Or that Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton would be scaling new heights with their Treehouse books? Emily Rodda hasn’t slowed down. I haven’t read her latest book, Her Name is Walter yet, but I’m sure it’s another hit. I caught up with Andrew Daddo, who continues to dip in and out of the book scene, and seriously it’s like he never left (I remember reading his old Hodder books like I’m sprung or you’re dumped, back in the day too haha).

I wonder where I’ll fit in all of this. On one hand, I can keep telling myself to keep churning out those cHEwY creations, so I can still hold on this dream job. I’ll be that Puffin’s Author in the 00s and 10s haha. Or I can look at it from a wider angle, and realise that any legacy that I may leave behind is a little more than just pure sales and building up a catalogue. Who knows if I’m paving the way for any future voices, the ones who will place Con-nerd and Thai-riffic! as stepping stones to a path to becoming an author. I spoke to Deb Abela about Solli Rapheal, a slam poet champion who’s just realised his first book, Limelight at 13 years old. He was actually in one of Deb’s writing workshops. Wowee. I can’t wait to see what’s next.

I think Tim Harris said it best when he said that it’s classics like Hungry Little Caterpillar that gives authors like us a job. It’s true, I’m just happy to cling onto Puffin’s wings as he continues to soar towards another milestone. I hope I get invited to that 100th Puffin Party, if only for the cupcakes 🙂


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


  1. Tim says:

    18/09/18 @ 6:42 am 

    I hope to share a cupcake with you in twenty years, Oliver. 😊

  2. Oliver says:

    21/09/18 @ 6:55 pm 

    Haha I’ll hold you to that man 🙂

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