Oliver Phisher

Since 1972 Michael has been visiting Australian schools; in which he focuses on developing students own creativity through humorous, fun, interactive, and entertaining sessions. He's spoken to thousands of children, talking about the importance of creativity in their lives. And has journeyed to the Gulf of Carpentaria Savannah Schools and to the remote Aboriginal community Schools on Cape York Peninsula, as a guest of EDU QLD.

What are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?

1. C S Lewis: Chronicles of Narnia
2. J R R Tolkien: The Hobbit, and Lord of the Rings trilogy

What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months (or in recent memory)? 

Went and bought some canvases to start painting again. For many years I’ve produced book illustrations on watercolour paper. Getting back to creating a ‘one-off’ piece of artwork was a novelty. It had been a long time since I’d worked free-hand, without having to replicate characters and story scenes from page to page. A release!

How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success?

Over the years, there have been many occasions when I’ve put together my own concepts for marketing or have been approached to create children’s concepts in both script and art rough form ... both here and in the USA. Some worked, many didn’t. It’s a long road to travel and you get to know the comfort stops along the way ... where you can pause to review the overall picture. There’s nothing like experience ... and (hopefully) learning from it.

Are there any quotes you think of often or live your life by?

All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.
It's a dangerous business going out your front door.
Never laugh at live dragons.
.... Tolkien.

What is one of the best investments in a writing resource you’ve ever made?

Buying lots of notebooks ... for jotting down new ideas and dashing off quick sketches. All whilst sitting out on exotic Asian hotel balconies, early in the morning. Looking through palm trees out to sea whilst the night critters go back to bed ... and another day in paradise begins..... + lots of strong, local coffee and a duty-free, Cuban cigar. All great investments!

What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you love?

In younger days I played at tighthead prop in a rugby union scrum for 20+ years (New Zealand DNA) and thoroughly ruined the body. I now repent at leisure whilst fixatedly watching the game at all hours on television.

In the last five years, what new belief, behaviour, or habit has most improved your life?

I started professionally (i.e. making a living) at eighteen years old with my first exhibition of psychedelic paintings (1967). I had no training or experience in that field, I just did it!

The show sold out within a day. I immediately booked another showing for a few months later. Work in professional theatre (stage management & trainee set design) followed soon after, a most illuminating apprenticeship.

Writing and illustrating books started in 1972. My first book was: ‘The Monster that ate Canberra’, very amateur, privately published.... but it all worked well, touching funny bones in the Nation’s Capital!

In six months’ time I turn seventy years old. I really haven’t changed my ways, behaviour, habits or belief from those days or at any other stage in my career. I’ve stuck to what I know works best. I usually work solo, independently of other creators in the publishing and
general arts business. Lone wolf syndrome ... ‘Stick to your guns’.

What advice would you give to a smart, driven aspiring author? What advice should they ignore?

Trust your instinct. Have faith in your creations.

If you seek it, listen to professional advice on your work, consider what is said. If advice ‘feels good’ and does improve the project at hand, by all means employ it. If advice given‘doesn’t apply’ as far as you can ascertain, ‘put it in a box’ and leave it for consideration at another time (or never).

What are bad recommendations for aspiring authors that you often hear in your profession?

I really do not hear about bad recommendations for aspiring authors. The professional authors and illustrators that I know are always willing to pass on good advice.

In the last five years, what have you become better at saying no to (distractions, invitations, etc.)?

No, I haven’t become better at saying ‘NO’.
I always say ‘YES’ and if necessary, try and get out of it at a later date.

What marketing tactics should authors avoid?

Avoid calling yourself a ‘bestselling Author’ ... immediately signifies ‘unoriginality’, a lack of creativity. Think of something surreal, something from leftfield to describe how good you know you are.

What new realisations and/or approaches helped you achieve your goals?

As water passes under the bridge, experiences fill the brain cavities, confidence will grow.

Confidence to trust those creative instincts: If I’m in my studio in the quiet hours of the morning and start laughing at an entertaining concept that has just ‘appeared’, the chances are that an eight year old will also find it humorous. The ‘little kid’ element inside one’s self is of paramount importance for children’s literature and youth entertainment.

When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do?

Have a siesta, lose myself totally in my 10 Facebook pages, annoy the dog, check out the latest bug invasion in the garden ... open the refrigerator door and eat!!