"It is a good divine that follows his own instructions; I can easier teach twenty what were good to be done than to be one of the twenty to follow mine own teaching."
Portia, The Merchant of Venice, Act I, Scene II.

Friday, July 11, 2014

NZATE CONFERENCE Keynote 4: Ted Dawe

Ted Dawe doesn't need any introduction to any NZ readers of this blog (does anyone read this blog?) but if you aren't aware of his work you can check out his website here: http://www.teddawe.com  or the Ted Dawe page on the Random House website: http://www.randomhouse.co.nz/authors/ted-dawe.aspx Ted's book Into the River won the 2013 New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards Margaret Mahy Book of the Year.

Ted tells us he belongs to two vocational 'tribes': writers and English teachers, and that he regards the English teachers as the more important. At teachers' college he was told by Bernie Gadd that the new intake were the 'successes' of the education system and that they would spend their time trying to help the 'failures'. Ted found this challenging as he did not regard himself as a success and had gone to teachers' college for lack of anything better to do.

He spent his first two years teaching at Auckland Grammar and went to the UK intending never to teach again, but ended up supply teaching in London. Then relieved in Sydney for 3 years and came back to Auckland, teaching at Aorere College and then as HOD English at Dilworth. He is currently at a school for international students in a non-teaching role.

"It's a funny business being a writer." It wasn't until he went to England that he discovered what being a writer was about by writing to his grandmother. He had promised to write to her every week so every Sunday evening he sat down and did so. At first it was hard but after a while it got easier and he began to look forward to it and enjoy it. 

Now he says, "Not having a novel on the go is like being a bird trapped inside a room."

He began to write the kinds of books his students might like. He wanted an S.E. Hinton for NZ. His first book, Thunder Road, was written over the summer break one year. 42 days, 2000 words a day. "It's doable." Sometimes it didn't work, so I would go mow the lawns or something; the next day I would open the laptop and it would happen.  "I'll write till the day I die."

He made his students read chapters of his manuscript for homework and they gave him critiques (e.g. "You can't do a donut in a Mazda 323, it's front wheel drive, man! You need a Nissan Skyline.")

"When you carry a novel around in your head, you don't have a lot of space for anything else. Not enough RAM."

Captain Sailorbird and other stories - intended to address the question students always asked: "Where do your ideas come from?"

Ted told us about self-publishing Into the River - his publishers turned it down because it was too long. This story extended into the controversy about it and the eight pages of all the dirty bits, sex and drugs, from throughout the whole of the novel, which the NZ Herald published under a QR code, on the basis of which many people formed an opinion of the entire novel. Family First submitted it to the NZ Censor.  Ted explained that the previous book to be referred to the censor was 50 Shades of Grey, which passed with no conditions. Three of the four judges thought Into the River was fine, but one published a dissenting opinion and got it rated R14. This is an issue because of the way it is not displayed on public libraries shelves, for example. 

At this point I have to admit I have not read Into the River but I am about to go and do so and if it is any good whatsoever (which presumably it is, since it won the Children's Book of the year), then I am going to buy a class set!!!

You can buy it here! http://www.fishpond.co.nz/Books/Into-River-Ted-Dawe/9781775536048

Read about the controversy:

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