Last week we were fortunate to have Robert Newton, author of the novel Runner, visiting OLMC. We are studying this novel in Year 8 English.

Student Reflections

The author shared many stories of his childhood and how he became a writer. Although, Robert Newton didn’t know what he wanted to do beyond high school, he showed us that it is never too late to pursue your interests. His love of stories came from his parents who were great storytellers and told him stories from a young age. Although he didn’t consider reading or writing stories as a child, he always liked listening to them.

Robert gave us the opportunity to learn about the creative ways that he immersed himself into his planning and writing process in his book Runner which is set in Richmond, 1919 when the infamous gangster Squizzy Taylor was at large. Robert took time to look at old letters, diaries and newspapers to find out how Australians talked in 1919. He also researched places that the runner, Charlie Feehan, would have grown up around. He ran through these places at three different times of the day and put himself into Charlie's shoes. He thought to himself, “What would Charlie be thinking?” He also formed his characters creatively by drawing portraits and asking them questions about themselves to form believable characters.

Robert also draws ideas from his life experiences as a firefighter to get inspiration for his writing and shared some anecdotes that made us all laugh. Our guest speaker’s talk was very informative and enjoyable. We all walked away with some useful advice for our writing, and also a deeper understanding of the novel Runner.
Alexis B. (8JSE) and Gracie R. (8JSE)

When Robert Newton visited the Year 8s last week I was surprised to learn he hadn’t aspired to be an author whilst growing up. However, after he completed his schooling, his brother made the decision to move to Switzerland. Unfortunately, Newton was hopeless at writing letters and often made things up to make them more interesting. Following this, the letters he wrote began to morph into stories. His brother called him one night and said; “You need to do this for real”. Newton quickly gained an audience for his writing in Switzerland, motivating him to pursue a career in writing.

During his presentation, Newton offered a powerful insight into his writing process and tips for upcoming authors. Newton described the idea for Runner as originating in his fascination with Squizzy Taylor. When he was young, his mother told him stories about the Melbourne gangster, which always interested him. He explained his writing process begins as a small seed that continues to grow into ideas. He considers the elements of a story such as a plot, but places more emphasis on the characters; aiming to trust his instinct and make the characters relatable and genuine. He begins asking questions about his characters and answering them. He also enjoys researching the era he is writing about. For instance, for Runner he went to Richmond and observed the main setting of the novel and also looked at past letters from the working class in England and Ireland to attain an understanding of the colloquial language that he could use when writing. In addition to this, he considers his own experiences in life such as his job at the fire station, and develops them into stories. Newton claims that when he begins writing he never knows how the story will end, but instead lets his imagination take over. Newton’s visit overall was very inspiring and real. It offered the Year 8 cohort a powerful insight into the life of an author and helped us receive an understanding of the background of the novel Runner that we are studying in English.
Tiffany M. (8MKY)

Last week, the Year 8 cohort had the extraordinary opportunity to attend a live presentation with Robert Newton, author of the study novel, Runner, designed to gain information and see the benefits of author visits at our school. One key asset was that students got a rare experience where they could explore the novel from an author’s perspective. Robert shared unique aspects from his life that influenced him into writing novels, and seeing this personal relation to the book gave the Year 8s advantageous insight of the story to add to their assessments.

In addition, Runner is set in Richmond, 1919, and talking to Robert Newton helped the Year 8s learn who these characters were and what those times were like by discovering how the author perceived them. He gave the example that he ran through current Richmond to summon his impression of the cold, darkened streets that the plot was set in. Therefore, students gained a better grasp of how the characters would have lived in a poor suburb in Australia 1919, unlocking a new viewpoint to Runner.

Robert Newton also shared some personal experiences from his journey to becoming a writer. Overall, it was an enjoyable session that was constructive and intriguing.
Lacey M. (8KWS)

Anne Morrison
English Learning Leader