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Authors: Morris Gleitzman

Two Weeks with the Queen

BOOK: Two Weeks with the Queen
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Morris Gleitzman grew up in England and came to Australia when he was sixteen. He was a frozen chicken thawer, sugar mill rolling stock unhooker, fashion industry trainee, student, department store Santa, TV producer, newspaper columnist and freelance screenwriter. Then in 1985 he wrote a novel for young people. Now he's one of Australia's favourite children's authors.

Other books by Morris Gleitzman

The Other Facts of Life
Second Childhood
Misery Guts
Worry Warts
Puppy Fat
Blabber Mouth
Sticky Beak
Gift of the Gab
Belly Flop
Water Wings
Wicked! (with Paul Jennings)
Deadly! (with Paul Jennings)
Adults Only
Teacher's Pet
Toad Rage
Toad Heaven
Toad Away
Toad Surprise
Boy Overboard
Girl Underground
Worm Story
Aristotle's Nostril
Doubting Thomas
Give Peas a Chance



About Morris Gleitzman

Also by Morris Gleitzman

Title Page



Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

This book was written with the assistance of a Writer's Grant from the Australia Council.

All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

First published in Great Britain 1989 by Blackie and Son Limited
First Piper edition published in Australia 1990 by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Limited

First Pan edition published 1996 by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Limited
Second Pan edition published in 2001 by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Limited
This Pan edition published in 2010 by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Limited
1 Market Street, Sydney

Piper edition reprinted 1990, 1991 (twice), 1992 (twice), 1993 (three times), 1994 (twice), 1995, 1996

Pan edition reprinted 1996, 1998 (twice), 1999, 2000, 2001 (three times), 2002 (twice), 2003 (twice), 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 (twice), 2008, 2009

Copyright © Gleitzman McCaul Pty Ltd 1989

The moral right of the author has been asserted.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted by any person or entity (including Google, Amazon or similar organisations), in any form or by any means, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, scanning or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher.

National Library of Australia
Cataloguing-in-Publication data:

Gleitzman, Morris, 1953–
Two Weeks with the Queen.

ISBN 978 0 330 4 26220

1. Title.


Typeset by Midland Typesetters Printed in Australia by McPherson's Printing Group

Papers used by Pan Macmillan Pty Ltd are natural, recyclable products made from wood grown in sustainable forests. The manufacturing processes conform to the environmental regulations of the country of origin.


These electronic editions published in 2010 by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Limited
1 Market Street, Sydney 2000

The moral right of the author has been asserted.

All rights reserved. This publication (or any part of it) may not be reproduced or transmitted, copied, stored, distributed or otherwise made available by any person or entity (including Google, Amazon or similar organisations), in any form (electronic, digital, optical, mechanical) or by any means (photocopying, recording, scanning or otherwise) without prior written permission from the publisher.

Two Weeks with the Queen

Morris Gleitzman

Adobe eReader format: 978-1-74262-000-8
EPUB format: 978-1-74262-001-5
Online format: 978-1-74262-003-9

Macmillan Digital Australia

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This book was almost about fruit-bats.

In 1988 I lived next to a large suburban bush gully which was home to many of Sydney's flying-foxes. I quickly discovered they were the most interesting neighbours I'd ever had.

Each evening at dusk the sky darkened dramatically as thousands of them, little furry bodies suspended from huge leathery wings, swooped off to claim their share of Australia's export fruit industry.

I had an idea for a story about a girl who discovers the bats are under threat. It seemed a good choice for a young author who'd read all the writing manuals and was struggling to obey the rule that said write about what you know. The problem being that outside of his backyard he didn't know much.

The notion of a feisty young character defending her furry leathery friends from disapproving adults and their even more disapproving dogs, all in familiar surroundings, appealed to me a lot. It was an idea I was happy to spend a few months exploring in a book. Or so I thought.

I spent several weeks planning the story. With each draft of the plan, the characters and their predicaments revealed themselves a little more. Soon I'd be ready to start writing chapters. As a veteran of two previous books, I knew that's how it worked. Step by step, month by month, the story slowly unfurling.

And I felt good about this story. Fairly good. Most of the time. Until finally one afternoon I couldn't squash a nagging feeling. Was this the story I really wanted to write? Yes, I told the feeling, now go away and let me write it or I'll report you to the Australian Society of Authors.

But the feeling stayed. And an hour later something happened that had never happened to me before. Another story, a totally different one, complete and fully-formed, landed in my imagination like the spaceship from
Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
I gazed at it, awestruck, for about three seconds. Then I started scribbling notes. By the end of the afternoon I had an outline. The next day I started writing chapter one and, a month later, I was finished. That first draft, with a few gracious editorial interventions, is what you're holding now.

Boy, was I excited. Talk about a brilliant career development. Forget step by painstaking step. Forget slowly unfurling. From now on I could write a book a month. I was 36 years old. I calculated the thousands of books that lay ahead of me. (Maths was never my best subject.)

Alas, and probably thank goodness, it was not to be. As time passed and my next story revealed itself with the speed of a geological era, I came to realise that probably I wasn't ever going to write a book in a month again.

So why did I get this once-in-a-lifetime book? During the twenty years since
Two Weeks with the Queen
was published, I've often been asked where the story came from. While words like genius and unique talent sometimes try to escape my lips, the truth is I don't know. It's not autobiographical. Neither of my own younger siblings was ever diagnosed with a terminal childhood illness. Consequently I've never crossed the globe and tried to break into Buckingham Palace to borrow the Queen's family doctor.

Stories are rarely what they seem to be at first glance. A long time ago somebody invented metaphors, and our stories have been extra interesting ever since. Over the years I've had some inklings about
Two Weeks with the Queen
, some fleeting notions about its meaning for me. I was struck at one point by Colin's dilemma. He has the obligatory problem that every main character must have for a story to exist, and he also has a second problem, and the nature of his dilemma is that he can only solve one. Whichever one he solves, the solving of it will guarantee he can't solve the other. I certainly know what that feels like.

But beyond that I haven't probed and analysed
Two Weeks with the Queen
. I've been busy writing other books. And discovering that readers, teachers and librarians are much better at deciphering metaphors than I am.

One thing I'm sure of is that Colin, Luke and Alistair's story was growing inside me for a long time, without me knowing, and suddenly it needed to come out and no fruit-bats were going to stop it. I'm very grateful they didn't. As well as putting me on the map as an author,
Two Weeks with the Queen
taught me a crucial lesson. Much as we authors might think we're special because we can make up stories, there's a mystery at the heart of what we do. Sometimes ideas take wing, and fill our imagination with their glorious swooping flight, and we don't know why.

So if we're sensible, and fair, we share the credit with that mystery. Fortunately, though, mysteries don't have legal rights, so we don't have to share the royalties.

A story by an unknown author needs help to find readers, and it needs luck.
Two Weeks with the Queen
had a lot of both, thanks to a series of benefactors.

In the early 1980s I wrote scripts for a producer in ABC-TV's education department, Sandra Levy. When Dr Patricia Edgar started the Australian Children's Television Foundation, she asked Sandra to help produce a series of telemovies for young people. Sandra commissioned me to write one. While my original screenplay,
The Other Facts of Life
, was being filmed, McPhee Gribble offered to publish the story as a novel.

I loved rewriting my screenplay as a book, but I didn't see how books could provide the income I needed to support a young family. So I went back to screenwriting.

In 1987 at a conference in the US, I met British TV producer Anne Wood (the future creator of
). She noticed my copy of
The Other Facts of Life
, asked to read it, and passed it on to Philippa Milnes-Smith, an editor at Blackie publishers in London.

Months later, out of the blue, a letter arrived from Philippa offering me a contract to write a children's novel for Blackie. The advance was tiny, as befitted an author who'd never written a novel from scratch. But I didn't care. Suddenly I knew. That evening, while the sky filled with soaring neighbours, I confessed to my partner Christine that I wanted to spend the rest of my life writing books. She kindly agreed not to leave me.

A year later Blackie published
Two Weeks with the Queen
in the UK. But I lived in Australia and I needed an Australian publisher. My agent, Tony Williams, was friends with James Fraser, publishing director at Pan Macmillan. James read the book, and despite the difficulties in 1990 of putting out a story for young people in which a child is dying of cancer and an adult is dying of HIV-Aids, he and his team published it, and let people know about it, and persuaded them to read it.

Twenty years later
Two Weeks with the Queen
has been published in a dozen or more countries, adapted brilliantly for the stage by Mary Morris and Wayne Harrison with productions in Australia, New Zealand, the US, Canada, Japan and the National Theatre in London, championed as a possible movie for fifteen years by the irreplaceable Verity Lambert, and even turned into a stage musical in Minneapolis.

Help and luck indeed. Thank you, dear benefactors. Thank you, unforgettable neighbours. Thank you, precious mystery. And thank you to everybody who has ever opened
Two Weeks with the Queen
and taken Colin, Luke and Alistair into their hearts.

Morris Gleitzman

For Christine

Chapter One

The Queen looked out across the Mudfords' living room and wished everyone a happy Christmas.

Colin scowled.

Easy for you, he thought. Bet you got what you wanted. Bet if you wanted a microscope you got a microscope. Bet your tree was covered with microscopes. Bet nobody gave you daggy school shoes for Christmas.

BOOK: Two Weeks with the Queen
4.6Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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