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- author Jackie French

Monday 30 July 2018

Guest Post: Oliver Phommavahn on Natural Born Loser

We're delighted to welcome Oliver Phommavahn and his inimitable wit back to KBR. Today he reveals the (sort of) real life inspiration behind his latest release, Natural Born Loser.
Natural Born Loser is another story based on my life. Surprise, surprise! I mean, all of my books have been inspired by a part of my life, whether as a child or primary school teacher. 

Natural Born Loser is a little bit of both. When I was a kid, I had these dreams of being a school captain or prefect back in primary school. 

How cool would it be to host assemblies, greet special guests and enjoy some of the perks like wearing a badge or blazer, skipping the canteen queue and making hot chocolates in the teachers’ staffroom (okay, so the last two perks are not true haha).

The thing is, I was not leader material. Sure, I was a class clown but would they take me seriously? I can imagine that they won’t listen to me or respect me. I was only good for a laugh but that was it. I was a little bit like Raymond, reluctant to step up and just happy to let someone else be the leaders at the school. 

Now when Raymond gets his chance from his principal, Mr Humble, he’s still a little unsure why Mr Humble picks him. I guess you’ll find out why when you read the book haha. 

The second part of my inspiration comes from my days as Mr Phommavanh. 

When I first started out teaching, I did a lot of casual work at some rough schools. You could tell that when you first step into the school that it was going to be one of those days, where the kids are ratty, bratty and chatty. The teachers look shot and downcast. The staffroom was a ghost town. It was very easy to pick up on these little clues that the school had seen better days. 

Barryjong Primary School is inspired by a mix of rough schools, a place where the bullies can’t be tamed and rule the playgrounds. 

Not all these kids are rotten apples. Raymond’s friend and fellow prefect Randa says that there are so many kids like her who are genuinely good and want to see some positive changes at Barryjong. 

I’ve been back to some of these rough schools later on, and now they’ve thriving. There may be a variety of reasons for the turnaround. It may start with a great principal, like Barryjong’s new principal Mr Humble. It may be an initiative or drive that the school can get behind, like fundraising for new air conditioners. It could even be something cool like soccer superstars coming over for a visit. All these things can raise up the morale and really help the kids feel happy about their school.

I wanted to write a story that explores this shift from the very start. Raymond may believe that he’s a natural born loser, but he finds out that he may be a pretty good leader too. Raymond and his friends have a few crazy ideas for their fundraising, and I had a blast creating these crazy scenes. So I hope you enjoy Raymond’s adventure, who knows there may be a little bit of Raymond inside you too. 

Oliver Phommavahn is the author of Thai-riffic! Con-nerd, Punchlines, Thai-no-mite, Stuff Happens Ethan, The Other Christy and Super Con-nerd! He's also proud to be a Room To Read Author Ambassador www.roomtoread.org

Visit him at:  www.oliverwriter.com