Morris Gleitzman on his secret friends and how they inspire him

We caught up with former Australian Children’s Laureate Morris Gleitzman to learn about inspiration, humor and his new book, digging up dad.

Where did you get the ideas for the stories in digging up dad?
They came to me slowly, thanks to a creative technique that has served me well over the years. The one where you do slow meditative circles with a sponge in a sink full of dirty dishes and let your mind wander.

As I waited for the burned bits to soften, I found myself thinking about how everyone’s problems seem a little bigger these days. And more complicated. And harder to fix. And when I say everyone, I’m including the planet that allows us to park our cars on it.

I also found myself thinking about how many of us adults don’t feel as confident as we once did to make things better. And how young people are probably realizing this. And perhaps wondering if they themselves could do a bit to make things better. Not only in their own lives, but also in the lives of their families, pets, teachers, neighbors, local merchants, members of parliament, etc.

Which made me hope that I could meet some children like that in my imagination. And then when they found out they had a partner with a laptop and a big sink, they might feel hopeful enough to give it a try. And along the way, even if they didn’t plan it, inspire us adults to be our best selves too. Somewhere between three and seven thousand words with not too many adverbs.

the stories in digging up dad They have certainly made me feel more hopeful, which is why I put the word in the extra part of the title. I also did it to remind young readers that if they come across an adult who isn’t having a very hopeful day, sharing stories with them might help.

How do you incorporate humor into serious topics?
The stories are always about characters struggling with problems. So, as their author, you want to equip them with as many believable personal strengths and qualities as possible. Especially when the characters are young.

Empathy, bravery, optimism, resilience, creative thinking, the ability to have loyal and loving friendships, the ability to stay up much later than adults think they can – you can make your own list. If young characters can start with at least some of these, the problem-solving journey helps them develop further.

It’s never easy for young characters, bombarded with new experiences, beside themselves, sometimes desperate, so they often use what they have in unconventional ways and not always allowed by parents. And this is where humor usually comes in.

But, an important note. No matter how much humor is on the page, every story is a serious story. Although at first glance it may not seem so. Don’t stop laughing from start to finish though. And that includes the stories in digging up dad.

I would like to point out, however, that no pool swamp grass, flared stretchy leotards, federal politicians, nervous speed bumps, giant sloths, lumps of fuzz on toes, garbage cans playing rugby, agent teeth real estate, terrifying moves. trucks, very naughty sixth-year dance and theater groups or inflatable bouncy couches were injured in the writing of this book.

What inspired you to start writing?
My secret friends. As a child, like most young children, I spent countless hours with secret friends in my imagination having unsupervised adventures. In the fifth year, when we had to start writing stories, I realized that I already had everything I needed. And I still do. Thanks, secret friends. I’m sorry you’re not so secret anymore. (Actually, they don’t care. I know they don’t because their publicists tell me so.)

How do you know what kinds of stories people want to read?
It’s actually quite easy. Because there is only one kind of story. Character, problem, laughter, tears, physical journey to try to solve or survive the problem, emotional journey so that we can all share the experience. The rest is packaging. And while packaging can be fun, every teacher knows that you can’t keep a class frozen and staring for an hour on packaging alone.

If you could choose just one, what is the main message you would like young readers to take away? digging up dad?
Sorry to be of no help, but there is no message on digging up dad. Stories cannot have messages. It is illegal under the Federal Telecommunications Licensing Act. Stories can only have richly immersive visual and emotional components that remain inert until they enter the infinite realm of the reader’s imagination and there gloriously come to life. I am sorry.

Morris Gleitzman grew up in England and came to Australia when he was sixteen years old. After college, he worked for ten years as a screenwriter. He then he had a wonderful experience. He wrote a novel for young people. Now, after 43 books, he is one of Australia’s most popular authors. He was named the Australian Children’s Laureate in 2018-2019.
Reproduced with permission from Puffin Books. Stay tuned for our KBR review digging up dad by Elizabeth Vercoe – Coming this Wednesday!

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