Danny Katz talks about the Sydney Writers Festival

“Ladies and Gentlemen…. please welcome to the stage… international rock legend….. Dannnnny KATZZZZZ!”    That’s the imaginary introduction I always give myself before I bound onto my imaginary stadium-stage in my mind, and perform before thousands of imaginary fans, like the imaginary Lord o’ Rock n’ Roll that I am.

How many nights over how many years over how many decades have I dreamed of being a Marshall-amped Red-Hot-Chilli Rock-Star?  Well now….. after decades of patience, persistence, preparation … my fantasy has finally come to fruition.  It may not have been Wembley Stadium, it may not have been to an ocean of screeching fans, it may not have even involved any semblance of musical expression, but it was enough for a 45 year old speccy goose with extremely low expectations.  Last month at the Sydney Writer’s Festival I took part in a three-day tour of Sydney theatres, performing in front of bussed-in batches of schoolkids – and by “performing” I mean standing completely still on stage with my illustrator wife Mitch Vane, both of us chatting for half an hour about our Little Lunch books.

AND IF CHITCHATTING TO CHILDREN ABOUT KID’S BOOKS WITH YOUR WIFE DOESN’T SCREAM RAUCOUS REBELLION, THEN I DON’T KNOW WHAT ROCK N’ ROLL STANDS FOR ANYMORE, MAN.

Yeah, the tour was just how I’d always imagined a rock tour to be: we got driven to gigs in a fancy decked-out limo  – an Audi people-mover with Sydney Writer’s Festival written on the side and Morris Gleitzman stuffed in the back.  And we performed at Australia’s most grungy rock venue: the Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Theatre in Penrith, where legendary rock-acts like Barry Crocker and the New South Wales Police Band regularly do their Morning Melodies shows.  And we got mass-adoration from hundreds of kids in the audience, all  of them cheering and chanting and jumping up and down, mostly because it was 3:30 p.m and they really needed to go pee.

Then after our gigs we got to do that whole rockstar backstage autograph-signing-thing, with all our young fans queuing up to meet us – the Brad and Angelina of children’s publishing.   And as we signed notepads and boogery bits of tissue, we got talking to these kids and they all told us the same thing: that they LOVED reading.  All kinds of books.  Any kind of book.  Young kids, older kids, tough kids, nerdy kids, they all read every night and went to libraries all the time and even made up their own stories –  one 5th grade boy told me that he’d permanently unplugged his Wii and was spending most of his time writing his novel.  He’d just finished the first chapter about how much he was missing his Wii.

It was very cool and reassuring that book-reading was still so cherished by young kids, that’s what made our tour most inspiring.  Though coolest of all was being introduced before each show like the rock-gods that we are…. a school librarian would shuffle onstage and softly say “Now boys and girls, please be well-behaved and quiet while we hear a very interesting talk from Mitch Vane and Danny Klatz.. I mean…. Katz.  Sorry.”

All photographs are courtesy of the Sydney Writers Fesival and Jamie Williams

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