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Sunday, 10 April 2016

James Moloney: An Appreciation

A further treat for those who did not make it to the 2016 Tamar Valley Writers' Festival as Lyndon Riggall shares some wonderful experiences and reflects on the role of literature and authors throughout our lives.

Following on from Johanna's post to this blog a few weeks ago about her session with Justin D'Ath, I also wanted to offer some thoughts on a writer I encountered at the wonderful Tamar Valley Writers' Festival. The particular panel I was attending at the time was on the subject of Young Adult literature and included Erin Gough (The Flywheel) and Alice Pung (Laurinda), as well as James Moloney. Erin and Alice were wonderful speakers who are making some fantastic contributions to our literary landscape (go get their books!), but there is a reason I would like to talk about James Moloney as my focus.

Even after years surrounding myself with the industry in a number of different ways, moments still take me by surprise. It wasn't until James Moloney was there, in front of me, in person, that I realised what a constant figure he has been in my childhood. It starts in Grade 3 with Swashbuckler, and Buzzard Breath and Brains. Then in high school we move through most of his work across the grades – Dougy, Gracey, A Bridge to Wiseman's Cove, The Book of Lies and Touch Me. I can remember in Grade 10 when Lost Property won the Book of the Year for Older Readers. It was a matter of some debate across the school; everyone, after all, has their favourites. But there was no question for me. Of course it won, I remember thinking, it was the best.

What startled me most about James in person, however, was his very evident energy. After a long and varied career writing for all ages he shows absolutely no signs of slowing down. He is as excited about his published work as he could ever have been expected to be when it first came out years ago, and he appears to have plenty more stories in him. This is why we need festivals like the Tamar Valley's. They remind us that authors are people too – wonderful people that we join in the act of storytelling with if only we have enough grit about us. I left thoroughly appreciative of the single man that links a chain of literature through my years of schooling, and fired up to get writing. Here's hoping I have a lifetime of stories in me – and, for that matter, that James Moloney has plenty left in him, too.

Lyndon Riggall

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