Max and the Metallicans … it's a world of his own

EVERY morning, as his mother nags him to eat his breakfast and get ready for school, young Max Sillitoe, 11, turns himself into a girl called Olivia and goes to war … on the page.

His tale about Olivia stumbling into the battle-torn world of the Metallicans has been three years in the making. By April, Max reckons he'll be ready to send A New Arrival, as the take is titled, to market.

''I've written 29,000 words so far, and it's almost at the editing stage,'' he says. A New Arrival is the first in a series called Future Wars - but it's not Max's first book.

When he was nine, he published a collection of poetry called Time to Rhyme. It's now selling at Amazon.com

When he isn't in the zone, tapping away at the keyboard, Max is workshopping his ideas with other young writers at kidpub.com, a US online writing forum for children that claims to receive 1000 new stories a month.

''We mostly chat about our books,'' says Max. ''Most of the kids on kidpub really care about their word count and how long the story's going to be. Some random members talk with their characters to make their characters speak.''

Max's mother, Narelle, says her son is ''obsessed''. She has to remind him to ''eat and brush his teeth and make sure his socks are matched''. The poet Yeats had the same problem.

''Every available moment he's writing the book or on kidpub talking about it,'' says Narelle. ''We have a video of him opening the box when his first book arrived. It was a milestone.''

Max chats frequently with a New South Wales girl, Melissa, who posts under the name Tygerblossum. ''She's writing a novel all about magic. She's 12 or 13 … we talk to each other, we're like best friends.''

He doesn't know any other writers from Victoria but is in touch with a number of young Americans.

Perry Donham of KidPub Press was putting together a list of ''Aussie authors'' and answers to set of emailed questions, but he didn't get back to us by publication. However, according to the website, KidPub published its first story in February of 1995. ''We only had a few visitors a week back then, but the site got bigger and bigger until finally we were receiving over 1000 new stories every month,'' says the site. There are now more than 72,000 stories in the site's database.

Membership is $12 a year, which covers the cost of verifying that the authors are, in fact, children and have their parents' permission. For about $250, KidPub edits, designs, publishes and promotes child-author books via its own online store and on Amazon.

Max says he doesn't ''watch sci-fi movies, so I really don't know where the ideas come from''.

He writes in the morning ''because I wake up feeling fresh. And the day before I've worked out what I want to write, so I have a plan.''

So far, he has posted 15 chapters on to the forum. His first chapter was read more than 1000 times. ''I didn't know people would like it,'' he said.

Future Wars is about 12-year-old Olivia ''who lives a normal life. She's got everything she needs. A nice home and a group of friends. And then her grandma dies in the prologue and she stumbles into a world called Metallica and finds out it is a world of spaceships and there is a war going on. She can't find a way to get home.''

However, a Metallican has gone to earth and is now living Olivia's life. ''So she gets to learn all about humans.''

The story Max and the Metallicans … it's a world of his own first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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