John Marsden was born in Melbourne in 1950. His father was a bank manager, and the family moved frequently, to country Victoria, Tasmania, and then to Sydney. John's secondary schooling was at the famous quasi-military The King's School in Sydney, where cadet activities and rugby took precedence over literature, music or art. However, John survived, and went on to a variety of jobs and university courses... everything from working in a mortuary to studying Arts and Law at the University of Sydney, from delivering chickens to caretaking Australia's oldest building.
In 1978 however, John began a CAE course in primary education, and soon realised that teaching was his true metier. Upon graduation he was offered a position as a secondary teacher of English and PE. He took a special interest in students with reading difficulties, recognising the risk of alienation and emotional damage that was often associated with failure in school. In 1983 he went to Geelong Grammar School, to teach English, and was soon offered the position of Head of English at the Timbertop campus.
In 1987, noticing that his students had little interest in reading fiction, and quietly appalled at the limited range available to them, John wrote his first novel, So Much to Tell You. Aimed at teenagers, the fictitious diary of a physically scarred girl who attends a boarding school won the 1988 Australian Children's Book of the Year Award.
This successful beginning meant that John's writing career was well and truly launched, and he has been writing for teenagers ever since. His works include Letters from the Inside, Hamlet, Dear Miffy, Secret Men's Business and Everything I Know about Writing. However he is best known for the seven volume Tomorrow When the War Began series, and the three volume Ellie Chronicles, which have achieved a level of success previously unknown in Australian young people's fiction.
John's worldwide sales amount to more than five million books. He has won every significant award for Australian young people's writing, as well as awards previously reserved for writers for adults, such as the Australian Book Association's Book of the Year, and the Lloyd O'Neil award for services to the Australian book industry. He has also won many overseas awards, including the Buxthede Bulle, awarded in Germany for the best teenage novel published anywhere in the world in the preceding two years.
John has however continued his passionate interest in education. In 2006 he fulfilled a long held ambition when he opened his own school. Candlebark is on 1200 acres north of Melbourne, not far from Hanging Rock and Mt Macedon. An alternative school, it has 100 students and long waiting lists, and is attracting widespread interest for its innovative approaches.
John and his partner live in an old nunnery with their six sons, chocolate-brown labrador Lola, cat Holly, guinea pigs, chooks and any other animals that happen to pass by.
Client Comments for John Marsden
John Marsden travels from AustraliaAustralia
- John ensured that his talk was relevant and presented in a stimulating and entertaining manner. His story was riveting.
- Thank you for speaking at our luncheon. Your address challenged us to review the way we speak and write—we need to always be conscious of how effectively we are communicating with our customers and staff.
Trustee Corporations Association of Australia
- He was just brilliant - the children loved him. They laughed at his jokes and stood outside like fans around a rock star. The teachers also really enjoyed this talk - gave them a lot to think about.
Batey Kazoo Advertising, NSW
- He challenged, informed and entertained participants. On our own evaluation forms John was considered as one of the most outstanding and informative speakers at our 3 day conference.
NSW Primary Principals' Association
"The staff from Saxton were incredibly accommodating and responsive. Both Caroline and Samantha were thorough and prompt when responding to me questions, and also always polite and professional."
Hume City Council
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