x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Writer John Danalis sees stories as sources of healing, adventure

Abu Dhabi International Book Fair: The Australian author, designer and illustrator will discuss storytelling at multiple events this weekend.

John Danalis says authors should never compare themselves to others. Courtesy John Danalis
John Danalis says authors should never compare themselves to others. Courtesy John Danalis

I got my big break when ... Riding the Black Cockatoo was chosen as a General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) text for schools in the United Kingdom only a couple of weeks after it was published. It was like being awarded a seal of approval that helped make readers in my home of Australia sit up and take notice.

The book that inspired me to write was ... I wore an eye patch as a youngster to correct a turned eye. One day the school librarian handed me a copy of Treasure Island, no doubt thinking my self-esteem would be buoyed by the eye-patch wearing swashbucklers within those crimson covers. I've been searching for adventure and treasure through story ever since.

The author I'd most like to meet is ... the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. A true "people's poet", he fought, inspired and loved through words.

The advice I'd give to any writer is ... not to compare yourself to others. I do all the time and it's a crippling affliction. Just looking at the other names in this programme made me wish I'd been born braver, smarter and fluent in more languages than one.

The place I work best is ... my bicycle is not the best place to get the words down, but it's certainly where many of my little breakthroughs come - sometimes in torrents. Last year I spent a week riding across Oman; I filled a small notebook with sunstroked prose and manic little diagrams, which are the basis of my next novel.

The art of storytelling is all about ... awakening the reader to some truth, however small.

The thing I hope people take from my work is ... the realisation that the story is the great healer. We all have wounds that we can spin into words, and in doing so heal not only ourselves but also others.

What I most hope to see in Abu Dhabi is ... a frankincense merchant. I purchased some on my last visit and dab a little on my wrist every morning. Sometimes, the merest hint of the scent hyperspaces me across the 12,029 kilometres between Brisbane and Abu Dhabi.

John Danalis will host a workshop for young readers on Thursdayat 10.30am. On Saturday, talk about The Alchemy of Story at 7.15pm in the ADIBF Tent and on Sunday he will discuss Storytelling and Riding the Black Cockatoo at 10.30am.

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