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Teen turns in-class daydream into publishing opportunity

BRIGHT IDEA: Raph Atkins, 13, had his story, Morris, published in a book called My Life and Other Stuff that Went Wrong.Photo : Mireille Merlet-Shaw/The Northern Star
BRIGHT IDEA: Raph Atkins, 13, had his story, Morris, published in a book called My Life and Other Stuff that Went Wrong.Photo : Mireille Merlet-Shaw/The Northern Star Mireille Merlet-Shaw

DAYDREAMING in class has led to an international publishing opportunity for a talented South Golden Beach teenager.

Raph Atkins, 13, has had one of his short stories published in Tristan Bancks' latest book for children, My Life and Other Stuff that Went Wrong, which will be officially launched next month.

The Year 8 Mullumbimby High student is now on his way to achieving his dream of becoming a writer and illustrator with a story about his pet sausage-dog, Morris, who escapes into the wetlands and eats the last remaining (imaginary) Jagrofest birds on earth.

He said the idea came during a class discussion about nesting boxes in the protected wetlands around the school.

"We would be able to see little birds and possums in the boxes with special cameras that were being set up in there ... I thought that was going to be the coolest thing and then I began to think 'what if?' and my story, Morris, sort of just appeared in front of me," Raph said.

"I write and draw all the time, so random ideas and characters just pop into my head.

"I couldn't take part in the class discussion because the whole story was just playing out in front of me like a movie and so I got in trouble for daydreaming in class."

That daydream blossomed from a doodle on a page to a fully-fledged short story that so impressed local author Tristan Bancks that he pitched it to his publisher at Random House.

"Raph is a natural storyteller, a brilliant cartoonist and has incredible comic timing in front of the camera and on the page," Mr Bancks said.

"If he would just stop being so good I could stop including him in my projects and we could each go our separate ways," he joked.

"But now I see him as the Di Caprio to my Scorsese."

The book, My Life and Other Stuff that Went Wrong and another new Bancks novel, Two Wolves, will be officially launched in Byron Bay on April 17.

The launch will follow a writing workshop for young people called: Your Life and Other Stuff You Made Up, which aims to help young writers see the events in their own lives as fertile ground for story ideas.

At a glance

The workshop will be held from 10am to 1pm, with the book launch at 1.15pm at the Byron Community Centre.

For workshop bookings and enquiries contact The Northern Rivers Writers Centre on 6685 5115. The book launch is a free public event.

Topics:  authors children's books writing



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