All through October, Alphabet Soup is celebrating turning three. We have heaps of writers and illustrators stopping by to answer THREE QUICK QUESTIONS and today we are thrilled to hear from Oliver Phommavanh, comedian and author of Thai-riffic and Con-nerd.
1. Where do you like to write?
In libraries, surrounded by books and other nerds who are studying.
2. Can you name a book you’d recommend to our readers?
Northwood by Brian Falkner— a wonderful adventure book with weird things going on.
3. Can you offer a word or phrase that kids could use for inspiration if they have writers’ block?
In every issue of Alphabet Soup magazine we interview an author or illustrator. The trouble is, we can only fit some of their answers in the magazine. So we print the full interviews on the blog—we wouldn’t want you to miss out!
In issue 10 we talked to Oliver Phommavanh, author of Thai-riffic!
What do you love best about being a writer?
I never have to grow up hehe. I really love creating quirky characters and cramming in as many funny jokes as I can. Plus I enjoy visiting different schools and making kids laugh.
What was your favourite book as a child?
I was a bookworm so I have many favourites. I loved Paul Jennings’s ‘Un’ series and Morris Gleitzman’s Blabber Mouth and Sticky Beak books. Hating Alison Ashley was also pretty cool.
Was it easy to get Thai-riffic! published?
Not really. I knew it was going to be tough so I prepared myself for lots of rejections and setbacks. But I also had this belief that there was nothing like Thai-riffic! out there yet, so that kept me going. It was going to be a matter of time until I saw Thai-riffic! on the shelves.
What do you like to do when you are not writing?
I love playing video games and reading (still proud to be a bookworm). I’m a primary school teacher and stand up comedian so my days are jam packed!
What made you become a writer?
I always wanted to be one, ever since I started getting awards for writing in Year 1. It took me some time to find my audience and style though. I tried my hand at adult fiction in my uni days. Then I tried teaching and realised that I was destined to write for kids.
Where do you get your ideas?
Most of my stories start off with a core moment or feeling from my childhood. Some of my characters are based on kids that I’ve taught. Teaching can be wonderful market research hehe. I carry a notebook with me everywhere I go, soaking up funny lines, come backs and any striking language and descriptions of the classroom. I’ve also trained my brain as a stand up comedian to squeeze out jokes from any situation.
Do you have any advice for young writers?
Get yourself out there in the writing community. I joined a writers group and other organisations such as SCBWI and CBCA, meeting lots of writers and authors. I’ve been lucky to get my breaks through festivals and conferences, where publishers are so approachable, in other words, they can’t escape hehe. There are heaps of competitions to enter, if you win then you gain some cred and assurance that you’re on the right track. And just keep writing, let those words flow. If you’re enjoying the process, then you’re halfway there.
Are you working on a book at the moment?
I’ve just finished my second book Con-nerd, coming out in June 2011. It’s about a nerd (me, surprise surprise) who has a knack for drawing cartoons that suddenly makes him cool and popular. I’ve just started writing my next book about a teenager doing stand up comedy, which should hit the shelves in 2012.
Do any of your family or friends recognise themselves in your writing?
I hope so because I love using their names as characters in my stories. Thai-riffic!‘s eccentric parents are based on Mum and Dad. Everyone’s grateful to find their names and/or personalities in print. It’s a simple way of thanking them for supporting me on my ‘cHEwY’ journey.
You can find out more about Oliver Phommavanh and his books on his website and blog.