• Rebecca Fawcett-Smith

‘Pie Rats’ Author, Dr Cameron Stelzer, Returns to Narangba


International award-winning author and illustrator, Dr Cameron Stelzer, is heading to Narangba this month for his third annual visit to Narangba State School.

Creator of the popular ‘Pie Rats’ series, ‘The Stroogle’ series and three how-to-draw books, Cameron is one of Australia’s most exciting and inspiring authors and illustrators. On November 23-24, Narangba State School (NSS) students will once again have the chance to not only be inspired, but to inspire.

“It has become a bit of a collaborative approach,” explains Cameron. “There’s a lot stuff in the ‘Pie Rats’ series that’s been driven from kids in the school workshops. They’ll get excited about a particular concept or they’ll want to see a certain animal featured, so I’m trying to bring in a lot more of those ideas to my books.”

Unlike some author visits that consist of a book reading and a short question and answer session, Cameron uses exciting visuals, captivating stories and humorous anecdotes to explore story planning, character creation and writing and illustration.

“I always try and give the kids something to do and to come away with, so they don’t just feel like they’ve met an author and learned about his story. It’s more like… I’ve drawn, I’ve created, I’ve got my own things; I can do this as well.”

The most common question students asks Cameron is where his ideas come from. In his drawing and illustration workshops, Cameron shows students how his drawings are often based on everyday objects, real animals and people.

“It’s this very organic process where the kids can see how you can create things from your own environment. You can look around at your desk and see a pair of scissors, and realise that if those scissors broke in half, you’ve actually got two swords for the pie rats. Those connections make it real for them.”

Cameron’s writing workshops, designed for students in middle to upper primary years, are hands-on sessions that explore practical ways to enhance students’ writing and planning.

“Results nationally are showing that writing and reading aren’t at the standards that the government would like them to be at. Books are competing with technology, social media and other things, and kids reach a certain age where they lose interest in books. That then shows in their writing and communication.

“Having authors in schools gets the kids excited, and one of the biggest things we’re finding is that, with the hands on interaction, kids and teachers can see that it is achievable.”

Cameron’s 2017 visit to NSS follows the success of his cluster writing camp the school hosted with the local primary and high schools in 2015, and the workshops held for all NSS students in 2016.

NSS Acting Principal, Mr Kerry Lofgren, says, “Dr Stelzer’s presentation style and his ability to thoroughly engage students is the reason we have invited him back this year. The work he does extends our literacy program and gives both struggling writers and talented writers something to work on.

“The visit is also professional development for teachers as they participate in the workshop and take ideas away to implement into their classroom work. After the visit, the library is always a busier place and students are eager to borrow more books and inspired to write more stories.”

Students will be clamouring to borrow the new ‘Pie Rats’ spinoff series, ‘Scallywags’, due in mid-2018. Readers who have expressed a desire for more of the sea dog characters featured in ‘Pie Rats’ will be delighted to meet a dog main character, while fans of the candy land adventure in ‘The Stroogle’ series will enjoy the candy catastrophe.

“There’s lots of things in ‘Scallywags’ that kids have liked or I’ve heard them describing in their own little adventures,” explains Cameron. “There’s volcanic candy, and we’ve developed a massive rollercoaster ride.”

So put on your thinking caps and ignite your imaginations NSS students, for Dr Cameron Seltzer and his band of pie rats are setting sail for you!

Q & A With Dr Cameron Stelzer

What do you read for pleasure?

Adventure series by authors such as Emily Rodda, John Flanagan and Matthew Reilly.

If you could ask one author one question, what would the question be and who would you ask? I would ask C.S. Lewis what he would change if he wrote his ‘Narnia’ series in 2017.

Who is your favourite literary villain and why?

Miss Trunchbull from ‘Matilda’. She is such a bully and so totally wrong as a headmistress she is comical.

Which are the five words you would like to be remembered by as a writer/illustrator?

Passionate, imaginative, inspirational, entertaining, unique.

What is your favourite word?

Archipelago.

When you write a book, do you think of the pictures or the story first?

Both. Every book is different. The stories often play in my mind like a movie and the words and pictures are simply a way to get the ideas out there.

Do you have any unusual writing quirks?

I often write dialogue and action sequences in my head while running in the forest.

What are the ‘can’t live without’ items you use as an illustrator?

Black waterproof pens, Pacer, watercolour paint, and ARCHES watercolour paper.



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