Thursday, January 21, 2010

Paul Jennings

The first time I heard of Paul Jennings is when we stayed at my friend's house in Tasmania. Her teenage daughter had a bunch of his books; likely left over from her younger years.

Since then I've read one of Jenning's short story collections. Uncanny. I'd say Jennings is the Australian version of our R.L. Stine. For Australians who've never heard of R.L. Stine... He's the American version of Paul Jennings. If you've never heard of R.L. Stine OR Paul Jennings, there's not much I can do for you.

I guess I shall start my research.

Lord Wiki doesn't have much to say about Jennings. He just says Jennings is a best-selling author of children's books. Then he has a bunch of lists. It's a bit overwhelming. I think what I'll do is look at the blue stuff because that means it's a link to more Lord Wiki info. I'll see if I can find anything exciting.

There was a TV show based on some of his work. It was called Round the Twist. It was on from 1989 to 2001. That's a pretty long time. Lord Wiki says the show had to recast the characters a few times because the child actors got too old. This wasn't about the producers wanting cute young children. It was more about the characters needing to stay a certain age.

Wait. I think I had things wrong. The show wasn't on for twelve years straight. What happened is that within those twelve years, they had four different series: one in 1989, one in 1993, one in 1998, and one starting in 2000.

The first two series were based on Jenning's work. The last two were not.

IMDb says that in 2001 and 2002, the show won Logie Awards.

Okay, onto another blue link thing.....

Jennings wrote the Wicked series with Morris Gleitzman. I remember that a little bit from when I researched Gleitzman. Lord Wiki says the story was about step-siblings trying to fight an illness that turns people into animals. There was a TV show based on the series. Lord Wiki doesn't have much information about it, and neither does IMDb. Maybe I'll learn more later from elsewhere.

Jennings and Gleitzman did another series called Deadly. It involves a character who likes to play with other people's poop.

From what I'm seeing on Lord Wiki, all of Jenning's solo projects were short story collections until 2005. In 2005, he wrote a novel with a very long name. It's How Hedley Hopkins Did a Dare, robbed a grave, made a new friend who might not have really been there at all, and while he was at it commited a terrible sin which everyone was doing even though he didn't know it.
Wow. That IS a long title. Lord Wiki says it's revealed in the afterward of the book that it's somewhat autobiographical. The novel is about a boy who moves to Australia. I guess I can assume then that Jennings migrated to Australia.

I think I'm tired of Lord Wiki. Learning about Jennings this way is confusing me.

Here is the Paul Jennings website. It takes a long time to load, but that's okay. There's a cute dragon here to stare at me while I wait.

La la la la la. I'm waiting.......

It might just be my computer. My Internet has been acting up lately.

I'm still waiting......

Ah. I'm finally here. It's very complicated and fancy.

There are dragons and books falling.

I'm wondering if this Cabbage Patch series is connected to the dolls that were so popular here in America. I saw it listed on my copy of Uncanny. I doubted they were connected. But now I see the cover on the website. The characters kind of look like Cabbage Patch Dolls.

I'm heading over to the biography section. It provides me with a birthday. He was born on 30 April 1943, in England. He came to Australia when he was six via a boat named Ranchi.

This awesome website has photos of the ship. They even have a copy of a children's menu. I wonder if little Paul ordered something from it.

Jennings said it took five weeks to get to Melbourne. I wonder what that would be like being on a ship for that long. And I wonder what the conditions were like. I'm guessing they had it better than the convicts on the First Fleet, but maybe a bit worse than we had it on our Disney Cruise.

Jennings says his favorite books as a child were Rubert the Bear books and the William books. I've heard of the William books before. I guess someone else I researched liked them.

I just found this video about Rupert the Bear. I don't think I've heard of him before today. I'm feeling all culturally enlightened.

Project Gutenberg has some William stuff online. Maybe I'll read it someday. Although I hate reading fiction online. Maybe I'll find a used copy of it.

For school, Jennings attended Bentleigh West Primary School. His favorite teacher was Mr. Wheeler.

He says he had a good childhood, but remembers the fears and negative feelings of childhood. He uses these memories when writing his books.

Jennings initially went the teaching route. He went to the Frankston Teacher's College which has been now sucked up into Monash. He worked at the Frankston State School, and the Kangaroo Flat State School.

I'm looking up Kangaroo Flat. Lord Wiki says it's a suburb of Bendigo. It's about two hours north of Melbourne.

Next Jennings worked at the Turana Youth training Centre. Lord Wiki says this is now known as the Melbourne Youth Justice Centre. It's basically a prison for children. It's located in a suburb of Melbourne called Parkville. That must have been an interesting and difficult job. I wonder what it was like for Jennings. I imagine for some it's a positive experience. Maybe they can feel they're helping to make a difference. But for other people, I imagine it just leaves them feeling hopeless.
Link

After that, Jennings worked at the Royal Children's Hospital State School in Mount Eliza. I've forgotten where Mount Eliza is, but it sounds familiar. I'm guessing maybe this was a school for sick children.

I'm looking at Google Maps. It's about an hour south of Melbourne. It's on the Mornington Peninsula.

After all this teaching, Jennings decided he wanted to do speech pathology. He went back to further his education at The Lincoln Institute. Lincoln sounds like it should be an American thing. But it looks like there was one in Australia. This website says that these days it is merged with La Trobe University.

This resume stuff is getting to be exhausting. I'm going to just speed this up. Most of the schools he learned at and/or taught at seem to be gone. It's too much school history for me.

I'm just going to say that Jennings did the speech stuff and then did some more teaching. If I'm reading this right, he did more teaching of special ed teachers than special ed students.

I guess while all this learning was going on, Jennings was also writing. By 1985, he published his first book: Unreal. In 1989, he gave up the teaching world to become a full time writer.

Now I'm wondering if writing is what he always had wanted to do. Was teaching a back up career for him? Or did he truly want to be a teacher, but then got tired of it, and wanted to write instead.

Jennings has four children and six grandchildren.

Okay. Here we go. This page has information about his writing. He says he DID want to be a writer early on. When he was sixteen, he sent a story out to a magazine. They rejected him. He was so upset that he didn't write again for years. Jennings says, I always tell people now ‘never be hurt by being rejected. Just keep on trying and most of all don’t give up’.

I don't think that advice is very helpful. Rejection hurts. What's wrong with allowing yourself to feel the pain? Why are we so avoidant of negative emotions? My advice would be to feel sad, cry if needed, then brush yourself off, and remember that all good writers deal with rejection. I'd also say if you're unlucky like me, you'll get rejected so often, you'll be used to it, and will feel hardly any sadness. After awhile, you'll start to grow a very thick skin. But the first several rejections are likely to be very hard.

Wow. It looks like Jennings really took that rejection to heart. If I'm reading this right, he didn't write again until 1985. That's over twenty years! Yikes. Well, I'm glad he got back into it. What did this rejection letter say? Was it incredibly harsh?

Jennings says the hardest part about writing is coming up with the ideas. He says that part takes him the longest. I've never been in that situation. I mean he's a successful published writer with children waiting for his books. That means he's forced to come up with something. When I was writing novels and screenplays, the ideas would just come to me. And at the times they didn't come to me, I wouldn't write. I didn't really have that come-up-with-an-idea pressure.

I like what he says here about enjoying his job: I love my job. It's an obsession, a way of making your dreams come true, a way of dreaming. It's also a way of exploring your inner feelings and its fun.

That's pretty much how I feel about this blog.

He doesn't like to go back and read his books. I enjoy reading my own books. I don't do it very often though. I think sadly I'm in a minority when it comes to liking my books. Not many people want to read The Dream Games. I'm guessing it's pretty damn awful to most people besides myself. Or maybe people are like me and don't want to read online. It might boost my self-esteem if I imagine it's the latter.

His favorite singer is Roy Orbison. That's interesting.

He says he started writing when was sixteen and didn't get anything published until he was thirty-seven. That's pretty inspiring. If I hadn't already given up hope for myself, I'd be totally inspired. I think I've reached a point of feeling settled though. I used to read about successful writers, and I'd feel extremely jealous. Now I'm reading about Jennings and thinking. Wow. I'm glad that's not me. All the fan letters would give me a nervous breakdown. I'd be so afraid of disappointing someone. I wouldn't want to do book signings. And I wouldn't want the pressure of having to come up with ideas when I don't feel like it.

For so many years, I desperately wanted something to happen. I hoped for it. I wished for it. I prayed for it. I never got what I wanted. But I guess something out there was doing what was best for me. Because if it all had truly happened....I'd probably be very unhappy right now.

There is ONE aspect of a writer's life that still gets me jealous. That's the opportunity to move around, and not be tied down to one place. I get very envious when I see little author bio blurbs saying stuff like She splits her time between Manhattan, Sydney, and Hawaii. I would love that! Hey, maybe Tim can become the writer! He's written some children's stories that are pretty good. That way he'll get the fan letters and the book signing events. I'll just come along for the ride...and blog about it.

Jennings likes walking along the beach. I do too. But honestly...are there that many people out there who DON'T like walking along the beach? I'm guessing that most people like it.

This page has Jenning's awards. There's a LOT of them.

Here's all his books. I'll see if anything looks particularly interesting to me. And I want to see about the Cabbage Patch ones.

He has a book for adults....parents. It's supposed to help us get our children to love books. Maybe I need it. Jack recently declared on his blog that he no longer likes books. He still likes to read though. He just doesn't like books. He prefers to read stories on the computer. I explained all this recently on our homeschooling blog. It's not a big deal really. The kid is literate. He reads very well. He writes very well. I guess that's what matters. Like all parents though, I sometimes wish my child to follow in my little footsteps. I'm a bookworm, so I want Jack to be a bookworm too. What can I say..... Maybe someday it will happen, and maybe someday it won't. Either way, I love the kid.

Here's the cabbage patch stuff. And it looks like it has nothing to do with the dolls.

There's a blog-like thing on Jenning's website. I like what he wrote for 2008. It talks about how our mysterious negative feelings about something may have originated in our childhood. In his story, he gets very stressed out about having to pick his favorite music for an interview. He realizes that this nervousness comes from when he was asked the same question as a child and was embarrassed by his display of ignorance.

This Australian government page has some stuff about Jennings.

He's the first author to sell a million books in Australia.

His favorite book is Lord of the Rings.

He's into classic cars.

I don't like Lord of the Rings or classic cars.

It looks like it was his son who brought him back into writing. The eleven-year-old was reading a book and complained it was boring. Jennings decided to write a book that would be fun for him to read. The funny thing is though, the author of the "boring" book may have written it for his/her child because that child thought other books were boring. What's boring to one child might be very interesting to another child. Some children may even find Jenning's books to be boring. Although since he's been so successful, I'm guessing those children are very rare.

This British website has an interview with Jennings.

He says it's important for reluctant readers to have illustrations. That's an interesting point. I kind of recall Jack saying something about liking illustrations. He likes books that have some pictures. I think maybe the Judy Blume books we read didn't have illustrations. So he loved looking at the cover repeatedly. I'm wondering....why do books for adults and older kids have less illustrations? I mean there are exceptions. Harry Potter has an illustration at the beginning of each chapter. Anyway, now that I'm thinking of it....most of the books that Jack HAS liked had illustrations in them. He loved the Junie B Jones series, and he loved Captain Underpants. Those all have frequent illustrations.

I'm guessing at some point, for some children, there might be a stigma to reading books with illustrations. There might be this idea of books with pictures are for babies.
In the interview, Jennings said it was very difficult to write book with Morris Gleitzman. It's kind of funny. What they did was write alternating chapters. Jennings identified more with the boy character, and Gleitzman identified more with the girl chapter. Jennings had his boy making the moves on Gleitzman's girl. And Gleitzman wasn't too happy with that.

It was a struggle for them to work together, but Jennings insists that they're still friends.

Jennings says that his house is right near the ocean. He can see whales from it. Wow. He's very lucky. I look out my window and all I see is construction. No, that's not true. I see beautiful things sometimes....cardinals, bees, lizards, etc. They're not as grand as whales, but they're still lovely. Actually, I'm a little scared of whales, so probably best I don't see them out my window.

Jennings doesn't write at home. He has an office. Oh, I can't imagine ever wanting to do that. I love the idea of working at home. Well, I AM at home. But if I was getting paid to write, I'd definitely want to be at home to do it. That way you can relax, and stay in your pajamas or house clothes.

Jennings says he works at an office because he gets lonely being in his house all day. With the office, he takes a break every so often and talks with other people working there. That makes sense...especially if he's an extrovert. Although if I got lonely, I'd just talk to people on the Internet. No, maybe not. Sometimes when Tim and Jack go out for a long time, I start to get lonely. At first, it feels wonderful. Then I'm eager for them to come back.

He prefers to do his writing in the morning. I'm this way too. Although sometimes I'll end up writing EXTRA blog posts in the evening or afternoon. And this week, for the first time, I started one of my research posts in the afternoon rather than the morning.

Jennings says he allowed someone to write a biography about him. It was a very negative and difficult experience for him. It seems what happened is that Jennings gave him access to private stuff. And the book turned out to be somewhat negative, and too intrusive. Jennings says, The other thing is that everyone else came out of it like angels living with this chaotic, black character.
Yeah. That would be hard to deal with. It's all about perspective. Through out my life I got the sense that my family saw themselves that way...angels having to live with my chaotic black character. I felt they thought Well, we'd be such a happy and NORMAL family if it weren't for Dina. Feeling that way was a bit rough on my self-esteem. Or maybe I should say I felt that way BECAUSE I had low self-esteem. Who knows. But whether the idea is real or perceived, it's hard to think of yourself as a darkness forced on others.

Anyway, on that cheerful note....I'm going to end this. I want to go play my Wii Fit. That thing is SO much fun. Before that though, I'm going to stop at Powells and see if there are any Jennings books I can add to my wish list.

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