Author Talk – Oliver Phommavanh

Oliver Phommavanh standing and talking to kids
Oliver Phommavanh’s presentation to Brunswick Heads Girl Guides & Scouts involved toys

Byron Bibliotherapy was very excited to sponsor an author event with Oliver Phommavanh last month, hosted by the Brunswick Heads Girl Guides and Scouts.

He was a hilarious speaker, keeping the children enthralled, and the adults had tears of laughter too. I honestly laughed the most I had for ages and found him funnier than a recent well-known comedian I saw.

Comedian/Teacher/Writer

It shouldn’t have been a surprise. Despite looking like a quiet 20-something (he’s mid-30’s but looks much younger), he has worked as a stand-up comedian in between teaching and writing gigs. He delivered gags about his inability to make friends in the playground, which could have had something to do with his opening line of “Can I eat your face? Please?” He was in a long-standing dinosaur phase at the time and was pretending to be T-Rex. He was friendless until he saw a boy swooping around with outstretched arms, who introduced himself as “Peter-o-dactyl”!

The presentation was also full of tips for young writers, such as:

Oliver Phommavanh's writing tips
Writing Tips

It seems he has achieved the best of three worlds now, combining his teaching, comedy and writing backgrounds to reach children and tell stories that resonate with them. These include his comedies about being a migrant kid trying to fit in at Australian school. His first novel, Thai-riffic, was a bestseller.

Natural Born Loser

His latest book is called Natural Born Loser and is about Filipino-Australian Raymond’s journey from follower to leader, and his mission to air-condition his school. As a parent involved in our local P&C, I can say the struggle for air-con fundraising is real. Phommavanh’s teaching background stands him in good stead, as both the characters and setting are ultra-realistic. The kids are shown coming to terms with politics, democracy and getting things done. All things real kids are pretty interested in, given a chance.

An audience member asked which book Oliver prefers out of the ones he has written, and he said The Other Christy. Possibly because she had an inkling of this, but more likely because she gravitated to the picture of two girls on the front, my daughter had bought this book at the Byron Writer’s Festival Schools’ Day the previous day. Here is a picture of her devouring it:

Girl reading "The Other Christy" by Oliver Phommavanh
Devouring a book

 

Thanks to Oliver, Brunswick Heads Girl Guides & Brunswick Heads Scouts

 

Girl Guide with full mouth of fruit salad
Devouring healthy treats

Thank you to Oliver, for kindly giving up one of his evenings to visit us in Brunswick Heads. He was in the area for the Byron Writers Festival, and was already booked solidly through the days for school visits and the Kids’ Big Day Out on the Sunday of the Festival.

Since I’m a Girl Guide Leader, I initially wanted to have him speak to our girls at our Guide Hall, but he could only do a Wednesday night. I knew the Scouts and Cubs meet on that night, so I contacted them and we arranged a combined function, held at the Scout Hall. It all worked out for the best, as his books are for all kids who may feel like the outsider at times, but they’re particularly great for boys ready to move on from Andy Griffiths, and Anh Do’s Weirdo series.

Thanks to the Scouts for hosting us in their den and for providing a most delicious supper.

 

Much healthier than the Krispy Kreme doughnuts we gave to Oliver in appreciation!