Robert Paul Weston's Blog

January 19, 2015

CreatureDepartment_hardcoverHappy 2015, everybody. The year has started well for the crew of The Creature Department, one of the books shortlisted for this year’s Silver Birch Award, part of the Forest of Reading Festival.


As ever, it’s an honour to be selected, and to appear on a list alongside so many wonderful children’s authors. But wait, it gets better.


The awards ceremony is in Toronto in May and guess what—I’ll be there! I’ll be in southern Ontario in the first couple of weeks in May. While I’m there, I’ll be available to present at schools and libraries (for more on that, please contact the Authors Booking Service).


Needless to say, I’m looking forward to seeing old friends and perhaps making some new ones! Congratulations to all the nominees; in case you missed it, here’s the full list.


Gugor is good at waving

Gügor is happy to be considered.

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Published on January 19, 2015 10:45 • 10 views

January 12, 2015

Webcam_IconBecause I live in London, England and much of my professional life as a children’s and YA author happens in the North America, I often do virtual school visits via Skype and Facetime.


Regardless of what a technophile may tell you, I wouldn’t quite call virtual visits a perfect, painless substitute for an in-person presentation (nothing’s as good as interacting with readers in person), but that doesn’t mean virtual visits don’t work. In fact, they can be great fun and allow to connect with readers you would never otherwise meet.


The important thing is making them run smoothly. Here’s what I’ve learned to help make that happen…


1. Test Your Connection Beforehand


By this point in the millennium nearly all of us have had at least one epic struggle with the technical requirements. (Shudder. If anyone reading this craves writing a modern update of Dante, make Meeting the Technical Requirements a circle of hell. I’ll read it.)


Hellish or not, it’s true that if your visuals and especially your audio aren’t clean and crisp, everything falls apart. So let the host organisation know you want to do a separate, advance test of your connection as early as possible.


I usually try to arrange a test one week prior to the actual visit, at around the same time of day, so as to mimic the approximate web traffic for that period.


2. Screen-Sharing = Blegh


When I present in person, I often use slide projection to show the relationship between text and illustrations, or how the freedom of poetry lets words move across the page—as they do in Zorgamazoo, like this:


Zorgamazoo pp 74-5


It is possible to screen-share via Skype and Facetime, allowing your audience to see your own computer screen, but I’ve found this is a risk. Depending on their size, images can take a while to transfer, which can fiddle with your audio and make communication difficult. Worse, when you screen share, your own image vanishes. Vanishing is also blegh.


Better to have the images printed out, along with a prop or two if necessary, ready for when you present. All you have to do is hold them up to the webcam and interact with them physically. Trust me, it works better than screen-sharing.


3. Expand the Q&A


When I did my first virtual presentation, I thought I could something very similar to what I do when I visit a school or library in the flesh. I figured I would give my talk, lead a simple activity, and then have 10 mins at the end for questions.


I quickly learned that what readers want from a visit—especially a virtual visit—is you, the author. The reason for this is obvious: You’re far away. Why else are you doing a virtual visit in the place? But when you’re just a talking head on the wall, some of your ability to interact is lost.


This means you ought to maximise interaction, and the simplest way to do that is with direct questions and answers. I’ve found it goes a long way to making up for the lack of physically sharing the space. Finally, if you’re worried there won’t be enough questions, arrange for students to pre-prepare questions in advance.


***


That’s it. If you’re also an author with experience presenting your books in virtual school visits, please share your experiences, and if you have tips to add to these, please feel free leave them as a comment below. Thank you! RPW

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Published on January 12, 2015 04:55 • 3 views

November 13, 2014

Gobbled by Ghorks Full Cover med


NEWS! NEWS! Today is the day the sequel to The Creature Department hits the street. The books is called Gobbled By Ghorks! and that’s precisely what will happen if Elliot, Leslie, and the incredibly strange creatures of DENKi-3000 can’t find a way to amuse the most humourless ghork of them all.


Believe it or not, this book is even stranger (and possibly sillier) than the first one. But that’s creaturedom for you.


Inside, you will find weird creatures and weirder inventions, gigantic flying beetles, daredevil record-breakers, jazz ballads for the electrombone, a dollop of romance, many more dollops of snot, great heaps of food, and the most bizarre all-singing, all-dancing dinner-theatre style cabaret ever produced!


Once again, the book features artwork by the special effects firm, Framestore, the mad minds behind visual effects in Guardians of the Galaxy, Where the Wild Things Are, Gravity, the Harry Potter films and many others.


Bon appétit!

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Published on November 13, 2014 08:17 • 5 views

Gobbled by Ghorks Full Cover med


NEWS! NEWS! Today is the day the sequel to The Creature Department hits the street. The books is called Gobbled By Ghorks! and that’s precisely what will happen if Elliot, Leslie, and the incredibly strange creatures of DENKi-3000 can’t find a way to amuse the most humourless ghork of them all.


Believe it or not, this book is even stranger than the first one.


Inside, you will find weird creatures and weirder inventions, gigantic flying beetles, daredevil record-breakers, jazz ballads for the electrombone, a dollop of romance, many more dollops of snot, great heaps of food, and the most bizarre all-singing, all-dancing dinner-theatre style cabaret ever produced!


Once again, the book features artwork by the special effects firm, Framestore, the mad minds behind visual effects in Guardians of the Galaxy, Where the Wild Things Are, Gravity, the Harry Potter films and many others.


Bon appétit!

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Published on November 13, 2014 08:17 • 11 views

September 15, 2014

Vancouver Writers FestivalGood news everyone! Next month, I’ll be appearing (live and in the swarthiest of flesh) at the Vancouver Writers Festival!


Having once called Vancouver home I have a heap of wonderful memories of that most pristine of coastal cities, so it’ll be great to be back after quite a while away. If you’ll be in Vancouver around the 21 to 23 of October then please do come out and welcome me back to the old stomping ground!


In no particular order, I’ll be there to talk about: harnessing your imagination (or just riding bareback), the writing process, do-it-yourself musical instruments, mad science, secrets, lies, knucklecrumplers, fictional rock stars, and what happens when an Irish fairy falls in love with a Parisian vampire.


The usual.


Even better, I’ll be sharing the stage with the amazing likes of Marie Lu, Mariko Tamaki and Jocelyn Marthe!


The details:


1. Imaginations Run Wild

Tuesday, October 21, 2014 – 1:00pm to 2:30pm

Waterfront Theatre


2. The Real Deal

Wednesday, October 22, 2014 – 6:00pm to 7:15pm

Studio 1398


3. Secrets and Lies

Thursday, October 23, 2014 – 10:00am to 11:30am

Performance Works


Yay!

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Published on September 15, 2014 16:08 • 13 views

August 18, 2014

Vintage trams give Nagasaki a sense of being a city slightly out of time.

Vintage trams make Nagasaki feel like a city slightly out of step with modern times.


It’s been quite a while since my last post. I’ve been busy with new writing projects, editing work, travelling, moving to a new neighbourhood (south of the river, baby!), and a host of other things too trivial to mention. Some things, however, weren’t trivial at all. They were fascinating. In the spring, while visiting my wife’s family in Japan, the two of us slipped away for a couple days in Nagasaki.


The city is on the coast of Kyūshū, the most southwestern of Japan’s four main islands. Sadly, it’s best known as the world’s most recent victim of a nuclear attack, but I can assure you there’s much more to the Nagasaki of today. I found it a brilliant, quirky, endlessly fascinating place to visit.


First of all, it’s a surprisingly multicultural city by Japanese standards, its proximity to mainland Asia giving it strong influences from China, Korea, and southeast Asia. Then there are the old signs, the vintage trams, and the dense architecture piling into the hills, all making the city still seem as if it has one foot in the early twentieth century.


What initially drew my attention to Nagasaki were a pair of islands I had first read about ages ago, in a Japanese guidebook. At last I had the opportunity to see them for myself:


Gunkanjima


Nagasaki Hashima 2

It was only abandoned in the 1970s. Now look at the place.


If you’ve seen the James Bond film, Skyfall, you may remember Javier Bardem’s villain holds Séverine and 007 prisoners on a crumbling island, which (of course) serves as his secret lair. The setting was inspired by Hashima, a small island about 40 minutes into Nagasaki Bay. The island is nicknamed Gunkanjima, which means “Battleship Island.” At the end of the 19th century, it became one of Japan’s first coal mines, dug straight down into the sea.


For nearly a hundred years it provided a steady supply of coal until, in 1974, it suddenly ran dry and was abandoned. For much of the twentieth century it was the most densely populated place on Earth, with more than 5000 people living on a little over six hectares. That works out to over 216,000 people per square mile!


Such a fascinating place.


This is why they call it

And here’s why they call it “Battleship Island.”


Dejima


Nagasaki Dejima

Dejima. Only for the Dutch.


For around 300 years prior to 1868, Japan’s government placed the country in self-imposed isolation from the rest of the world. During that time, the only people who had formal relations with the Japanese were the Dutch, and their relations were severely restricted. Only a small number of traders were permitted to live on a tiny manmade island called Dejima. It was barely the size of a 400m running track and, if you had a decent set of throat muscles, within spitting distance of the actual city.


Nagasaki Dejima 2

A scale model of Dejima, on Dejima. An island on an island.


Dejima means “Exit Island,” but in those days, departures of any kind were tricky. The penalty for crossing the bridge that separated the Dutch from the mainland was death. During the Napoleonic wars, when France annexed Holland and dissolved the country, Dejima was the only place on Earth still flying the Dutch flag.


Mind you, present day Dejima isn’t entirely authentic. Most of the original buildings were destroyed by fires and rebuilt. Today, most of them are replicas, catering to tourists. Even still, there’s little doubt it’s a rare and fascinating place to visit.


On a side note, for a moving and astonishing fictional account of the island, I highly recommend David Mitchell’s 2010 novel, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet.


Now then, if a couple of unusual islands doesn’t interest you, here are some other reasons to visit:


Nagasaki A-Bomb Memorial

The underground memorial for the victims of the atomic bomb.


DSCF2078

Nagasaki champon, the Chinese-inspired regional dish.


One of the

One of the “three best best night views on Earth, along with Monaco and Hong Kong”—and something the Nagasaki tourist board won’t let you forget.


DSCF2257

May I offer you some floral ice cream?


Rock and roll!

Also, rock and roll!

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Published on August 18, 2014 03:43 • 6 views
Vintage trams give Nagasaki a sense of being a city slightly out of time.

Vintage trams make Nagasaki feel like a city slightly out of step with modern times.


It’s been quite a while since my last post. I’ve been busy with new writing projects, editing work, travelling, moving to a new neighbourhood (south of the river, baby!), and a host of other things too trivial to mention. Some things, however, weren’t trivial at all. They were fascinating. In the spring, while visiting my wife’s family in Japan, the two of us slipped away for a couple days in Nagasaki.


The city is on the coast of Kyūshū, the most southwestern of Japan’s four main islands. Sadly, it’s best known as the world’s most recent victim of a nuclear attack, but I can assure you there’s much more to the Nagasaki of today. I found it a brilliant, quirky, endlessly fascinating place to visit.


First of all, it’s a surprisingly multicultural city by Japanese standards, its proximity to mainland Asia giving it strong influences from China, Korea, and southeast Asia. Then there are the old signs, the vintage trams, and the dense architecture piling into the hills, all making the city still seem as if it has one foot in the early twentieth century.


What initially drew my attention to Nagasaki were a pair of islands I had first read about ages ago, in a Japanese guidebook. At last I had the opportunity to see them for myself:


Gunkanjima


Nagasaki Hashima 2

It was only abandoned in the 1970s. Now look at the place.


If you’ve seen the James Bond film, Skyfall, you may remember Javier Bardem’s villain holds Séverine and 007 prisoners on a crumbling island, which (of course) serves as his secret lair. The setting was inspired by Hashima, a small island about 40 minutes into Nagasaki Bay. The island is nicknamed Gunkanjima, which means “Battleship Island.” At the end of the 19th century, it became one of Japan’s first coal mines, dug straight down into the sea.


For nearly a hundred years it provided a steady supply of coal until, in 1974, it suddenly ran dry and was abandoned. For much of the twentieth century it was the most densely populated place on Earth, with more than 5000 people living on a little over six hectares. That works out to over 216,000 people per square mile!


Such a fascinating place.


This is why they call it

And here’s why they call it “Battleship Island.”


Dejima


Nagasaki Dejima

Dejima. Only for the Dutch.


For around 300 years prior to 1868, Japan’s government placed the country in self-imposed isolation from the rest of the world. During that time, the only people who had formal relations with the Japanese were the Dutch, and their relations were severely restricted. Only a small number of traders were permitted to live on a tiny manmade island called Dejima. It was barely the size of a 400m running track and, if you had a decent set of throat muscles, within spitting distance of the actual city.


Nagasaki Dejima 2

A scale model of Dejima, on Dejima. An island on an island.


Dejima means “Exit Island,” but in those days, departures of any kind were tricky. The penalty for crossing the bridge that separated the Dutch from the mainland was death. During the Napoleonic wars, when France annexed Holland and dissolved the country, Dejima was the only place on Earth still flying the Dutch flag.


Mind you, present day Dejima isn’t entirely authentic. Most of the original buildings were destroyed by fires and rebuilt. Today, most of them are replicas, catering to tourists. Even still, there’s little doubt it’s a rare and fascinating place to visit.


On a side note, for a moving and astonishing fictional account of the island, I highly recommend David Mitchell’s 2010 novel, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet.


Now then, if a couple of unusual islands doesn’t interest you, here are some other reasons to visit:


Nagasaki A-Bomb Memorial

The underground memorial for the victims of the atomic bomb.


DSCF2078

Nagasaki champon, the Chinese-inspired regional dish.


One of the

One of the “three best best night views on Earth, along with Monaco and Hong Kong”—and something the Nagasaki tourist board won’t let you forget.


DSCF2257

May I offer you some floral ice cream?


Rock and roll!

Also, rock and roll!

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Published on August 18, 2014 03:43 • 7 views
Vintage trams give Nagasaki a sense of being a city slightly out of time.

Vintage trams make Nagasaki feel like a city slightly out of step with modern times.


It’s been quite a while since my last post. I’ve been busy with new writing projects, editing work, travelling, moving to a new neighbourhood (south of the river, baby!), and a host of other things too trivial to mention. Some things, however, weren’t trivial at all. They were fascinating. In the spring, while visiting my wife’s family in Japan, the two of us slipped away for a couple days in Nagasaki.


The city is on the coast of Kyūshū, the most southwestern of Japan’s four main islands. Sadly, it’s best known as the world’s most recent victim of a nuclear attack, but I can assure you there’s much more to the Nagasaki of today. I found it a brilliant, quirky, endlessly fascinating place to visit.


First of all, it’s a surprisingly multicultural city by Japanese standards, its proximity to mainland Asia giving it strong influences from China, Korea, and southeast Asia. Then there are the old signs, the vintage trams, and the dense architecture piling into the hills, all making the city still seem as if it has one foot in the early twentieth century.


What initially drew my attention to Nagasaki were a pair of islands I had first read about ages ago, in a Japanese guidebook. At last I had the opportunity to see them for myself:


Gunkanjima


Nagasaki Hashima 2

It was only abandoned in the 1970s. Now look at the place.


If you’ve seen the James Bond film, Skyfall, you may remember Javier Bardem’s villain holds Séverine and 007 prisoners on a crumbling island, which (of course) serves as his secret lair. The setting was inspired by Hashima, a small island about 40 minutes into Nagasaki Bay. The island is nicknamed Gunkanjima, which means “Battleship Island.” At the end of the 19th century, it became one of Japan’s first coal mines, dug straight down into the sea.


For nearly a hundred years it provided a steady supply of coal until, in 1974, it suddenly ran dry and was abandoned. For much of the twentieth century it was the most densely populated place on Earth, with more than 5000 people living on a little over six hectares. That works out to over 216,000 people per square mile!


Such a fascinating place.


This is why they call it

And here’s why they call it “Battleship Island.”


Dejima


Nagasaki Dejima

Dejima. Only for the Dutch.


For around 300 years prior to 1868, Japan’s government placed the country in self-imposed isolation from the rest of the world. During that time, the only people who had formal relations with the Japanese were the Dutch, and their relations were severely restricted. Only a small number of traders were permitted to live on a tiny manmade island called Dejima. It was barely the size of a 400m running track and, if you had a decent set of throat muscles, within spitting distance of the actual city.


Nagasaki Dejima 2

A scale model of Dejima, on Dejima. An island on an island.


Dejima means “Exit Island,” but in those days, departures of any kind were tricky. The penalty for crossing the bridge that separated the Dutch from the mainland was death. During the Napoleonic wars, when France annexed Holland and dissolved the country, Dejima was the only place on Earth still flying the Dutch flag.


Mind you, present day Dejima isn’t entirely authentic. Most of the original buildings were destroyed by fires and rebuilt. Today, most of them are replicas, catering to tourists. Even still, there’s little doubt it’s a rare and fascinating place to visit.


On a side note, for a moving and astonishing fictional account of the island, I highly recommend David Mitchell’s 2010 novel, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet.


Now then, if a couple of unusual islands doesn’t interest you, here are some other reasons to visit:


Nagasaki A-Bomb Memorial

The underground memorial for the victims of the atomic bomb.


DSCF2078

Nagasaki champon, the Chinese-inspired regional dish.


One of the

One of the “three best best night views on Earth, along with Monaco and Hong Kong”—and something the Nagasaki tourist board won’t let you forget.


DSCF2257

May I offer you some floral ice cream?


Rock and roll!

Also, rock and roll!

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Published on August 18, 2014 03:43 • 17 views

May 8, 2014

Enchantium Gas

Enchantium Gas, the square root of -1 on the periodic table of elements. A discovery I made way back in 2008.


This morning I read a recent article about a “quiet revolution” in theoretical physics. According to Max Tegmark, a physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, consciousness may in fact be an undiscovered form of matter, as in a solid, liquid or gas. He even gave the new element a fancy new name. “Perceptronium.”


Now, far be it from me to accuse a highly decorated theoretical physicist of scientific plagiarism, but you really have to wonder…has this guy read my book?


In Zorgamazoo, I very clearly laid out the principals not only of human thought as an element (ahem, Enchantium Gas anyone?), but I also went one step further, postulating how an entire civilisation, power system and energy cycle could be derived from something as intangible as psychological boredom.


This was way back in 2008, so this guy Tegmark—if that’s his real name—is waaay behind the times. Seriously, physicists, chemists, people of science: Do try to keep up.


(Sigh.)


Enchantium Gas

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Published on May 08, 2014 03:18 • 37 views

April 12, 2014

YA Literary Salon


On 7 May 2014, the Canadian High Commission is hosting an event to celebrate Canadian authors of youth fiction living here in the UK.


I’m very pleased to be part of the line-up, where I’ll be appearing alongside the wonderful Moira Young (Blood Red Road) and Jeff Norton (Metawars), two other Canadian authors based in the UK.


A lot of fine people came together to make this possible and they all deserve a hearty thank you. The event is part of Social Book Week, organised by Bookomi, and is in support of The Reading Agency. Last but certainly not least, the panel will be chaired by the Guardian’s children’s book editor, Julia Eccleshare.


What did I tell you? A lot of fine people. Thanks to all of them.

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Published on April 12, 2014 03:55 • 31 views