About Me

Attention students, especially those who want to do an assignment on me…I’m really honoured 🙂 Check out my Q and A page and ask me a question too and I’ll add it to the page.

Oliver Phommavanh loves to make people laugh, whether it’s on the page writing humour for kids or on stage as a stand-up comedian. He also shares his passion for writing with kids, using his experience as a primary school teacher. Oliver’s books are packed with laughs, but also carry a lot of heart and authentic characters living in a multicultural Australia.

As a comedian, Oliver has appeared on stage, and on national TV (The NRL Footy Show) and radio. He has also appeared in numerous anthologies such as Growing Up Asian in Australia, Funny Buggers, Trust Me Too and more recently in the 2016 CBCA Notable Book, Rich and Rare.

Oliver is a fresh, positive voice for cultural diversity in children’s literature and has appeared in countless writers, arts and comedy festivals across Australia. He has also travelled overseas, appearing in the Festival of Asian Content in Singapore in 2016, Bookaroo Children’s festival in India and Auckland Readers and Writers Festival in 2014. He will be in Hong Kong for the Young Readers Festival in March.

Oliver’s first book Thai-riffic! was published in 2010 and has made an impact on the literature scene, winning the hearts of many kids and adults alike. It has been on the shortlist for the Young Australia Best Book Awards (YABBAs) and Kids Own Australia’s Literature Awards (KOALAs) for five years straight, earning a place in the KOALA Hall of Fame. Thai-riffic! has been adapted for stage, which will make it’s premiere in Sydney’s Seymour Theatre and Monkey Baa Theatre in July.

Oliver followed Thai-riffic! up with Con-nerd, which has also resonated with readers, shortlisted in both the YABBAs and KOALAs for the last three years running. It was also included in the NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge. In 2012, Oliver released Punchlines and the sequel to Thai-riffic, Thai-no-mite. Last year, Oliver brought out a book for the Stuff Happens series called Ethan. His latest book, The Other Christy was released in June. Oliver’s next book will be Super Con-nerd, which will be released this year.

Oliver is also proud to be a Room To Read Author Ambassador, a non-profit organisation that brings literature to kids around the world. This year, he will be an ambassador for the NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge.

In my own words…my HIStory

When I was a kid, I used to be a class clown.

I just loved making people laugh.

Teachers would tell me that I needed to grow up. But I had a better idea. Why don’t I choose a job where I can act like a kid and make jokes for a living!

I grew up in Western Sydney and I’m still proud to be westie today.

When I was little, I would write about dinosaurs because I wanted to discover one and be famous. But then I realised that most of the dinosaurs had been discovered and looking for bones sounded lame. But I still dream about reading about an Oliversaurus someday 🙂

I loved to read as a kid. My favourites were Jennings and Gleitzman books. My teachers read those cool short stories from the ‘Un’ series, and they still freak me out, like ‘Sheep Eyes’ and the one about the flies. Fantastic stuff! I also loved Andy Griffiths’ Just series too.

In high school, I had fun mucking around with English speeches and debates. I used to have up to 200 cue cards (most of them blank) and chuck them up in the air at the end like Paul Mc Dermott does on Good News Week. Another highlight was going to a school excursion to Old Sydney Town (an olden days theme park that is no longer around) and I got picked to in a short play with a judge. I didn’t follow the script and just made up lines on the spot! Even the cool kids came up to me and liked my zany jokes. That’s when I knew I wanted to be a comedian.

I still kept reading and writing because I’m proud to be a nerd…I mean bookworm. I went to the University of Western Sydney and completed a writing degree. But I also wanted to be a teacher, so I did a teaching degree at Sydney University. I really enjoyed my teaching days, because I get to use my imagination and the kids gave me so many ideas.

I reckon kids are little masters of comedy, and the characters in my stories explore the wacky side of everyday life.

Books

I got my first big break by appearing in the anthology, Growing Up Asian in Australia in 2008. It was edited by Alice Pung (who I’ve always admired) and got me a spot at the Sydney Writers Festival! I wrote a short story called Hot and Spicy, which would be the first of many about a crazy Thai kid named Albert…

I spent the next year working on Thai-riffc! I captured an agent’s attention of an agent and signed with Penguin books! *gimme a penguin slap*

When Thai-riffic! came out, people said that I must have been happy that my dream came true now. They’re wrong. I’ve been living my dream since I was a kid, making people laugh. I’ve met so many people who have become my fans (I call them cHEwY gum gums) and they keep me going.

My second book Con-nerd came out in 2011. It’s a book that I’m really proud of because I want to celebrate nerds, they’re cool…okay, sort of cool. It’s based on my own childhood, about following your dreams. Many kids have written to me, saying that they can relate to the pressure that Connor’s family puts on him.

I’ve had two books out in 2012. Punchlines, came out in March and it’s about stand up comedy (see how these books revolve around my life?). I was able to draw out my own awkward experiences in high school for laughs, it’s another story close to my heart. The other book was the long awaited sequel to Thai-riffic!, called Thai-no-mite. Lengy fans have lapping up his funny adventures and I can’t wait to write another one soon.

After a short break, I returned with Stuff Happens: Ethan in early 2015. It was a lot of fun, working this cool series for boys. Each author got to write about one boy in a school. It was nice to be part of something with the likes of James Roy, Will Kokastis and James Valentine! My new book The Other Christy came out in June 2016 and it’s a tender sweet tale about 2 girls who share the same name, but nothing much else. But eventually they’ll become friends!

I’m currently working on a sequel to Con-nerd, called Super Con-nerd (Nintendo reference haha) which will come out this year in June. I’m also working on Nothing’s Prefect and yes…that third Thai-riffic! book.

Short stories

I’ve also had many short stories published over the years, starting with Growing Up Asian in Australia in 2008.

I’ve had ‘The Reunion’ featured in the ‘Trust Me Too’ anthology, published by Ford St Publishing; ‘Introducing Wendy’ in Places a Map Won’t Show You and various jokes in ‘Funny Buggers’ (both published by Penguin). ‘First Dog to Mars’ is now available in the Sydney Story Factory’s collection, ‘I met a martian and other stories’.

More recently, I’ve had ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ published in another Ford Street Publishing anthology called Rich and Rare. It’s now a CBCA notable book in 2016!

I’m working on some more short stories, so stay tuned for more news.

Author visits and festivals

Ever since my first writers festival appearance in Brisbane in 2010, I’ve been lucky to have featured in many of the major festivals across Australia. I’ve done the writers festivals in Sydney, Perth, Brisbane and Melbourne. I’ve also done many inter-school literary festivals like the WhitSundays Festival, Somerset Festival and Voices on the Coast, entertaining cHEwY gum gums with my funny, irrelevant and inspiring talks.

I’ve also branched out across the world, doing Auckland Writers Festival in 2013, the Aussie Writers Week in China and the Bookaroo Festival in New Delhi in 2014 and the Asian Festival of Children’s content in Singapore in 2016.

I spend more than half my year, visiting schools across Australia and the world. I love making kids laugh and getting them pumped up for reading. I also do creative writing workshops, with a focus on humour.

I also do Teacher PD sessions, focusing on getting reluctant writers to create stories. I’ve been featured at Pearson’s Teacher Conference in 2014. I’ve also spoken at countless teacher-librarian conferences, talking about my love of books and how to gets kids engaged with reading.

If you’d like more information on how to get me to your school or group, contact me.

Writing Groups and Good Causes

I’m proud to be a member of the Australian Society of Authors (ASA), Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) and Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).

I’m also on the committee of the CBCA Northern Sydney Sub branch.

Through many awesome authors and illustrators, I’ve joined their worthy causes, such as Room to Read and Books in Homes. 

Comedy

When I’m not writing or touring for my books, I do some stand up comedy. I’ve been lucky to be on shows like Stand Up Australia and the NRL Footy Show, doing comedy. I’ve also performed across Australia, but mostly in Sydney. I still love comedy so it’s a real treat to still be on stage making adults laugh.

Teaching

I don’t teach as often as I used to but every now and then, I strap on my teacher’s hat and become Mr Phommavanh! I guess I get to be a teacher through my writing workshops that I conduct at various schools and festivals across Australia. If you’d like me to do a workshop for your school or group, contact me.