IC Blog Tour

Thanks to Lyndal at Delia Writes for inviting me on the IC Blog Tour. I have been following “Delia Writes” for some time now and her exciting journey to self-publication. “Delia’s Perfectly Pink Earmuffs” has now been published and printed and is a gorgeous children’s picture book.

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The IC Blog’s focus is ‘A great way to elevate meaningful conversation and connections!’  For more information about Insightful Communications Publishing click here.
Below is a set of questions I have answered, that I hope will assist in the writing journey.

Here are the questions:

1. What are your tips for creating meaningful content?

I have a little notebook that I write down quotes, ideas, things that I read or hear on the news or in a movie or things that my friends/family say that might fit into one of my stories one day.

A few years ago I participated in Katherine Battersby’s How to Write a Children’s Book and I also participated in Blogging 101 where I learnt new skills about blogging and writing.  Every year I attend the CYA conference in Brisbane to listen to authors tell their story of what/how they write and their journey to publication and as well as meeting lots of lovely authors, I always pick up lots of tips and new ideas.

2. Books: Everyone has a story, some a book. If you’ve written a book, what was your creative process? What encouragement would you give others just beginning their book writing journey?

After I’d written a couple of children’s picture book manuscripts I sent them to an editor for a manuscript appraisal and she was very helpful, informing me about the structure of a picture book and what she liked/disliked about my stories.   She said, “You’ve got some really good ideas, you just don’t know how to write.”  I was horrified at first but these were my first attempts so I worked hard to improve them.

I then started entering stories in writing competitions – the feedback is invaluable and after a few years it was great to achieve a first place, second place and third place – built up confidence and encouraged me to keep on going.   I also submitted stories to anthologies and magazines.  There’s always somebody looking for flash fiction, poems, short stories and there are loads of writing competitions out there too.

I try to attend writing courses, book launches and author talks whenever I can.  I have found that a lot of these are free through my local libraries.  Following other writers’ blogs is another way to learn new things and stay in touch with what’s going on in the world of writing and publishing.

I’m also a member of  Creative Kids’ Tales and they have competitions, tips for writing and highlight emerging authors and illustrators.

Lastly, every year I submit one or two stories into the ASA Mentorship Program Award, hoping to be allocated a mentor to help me get my story up to a publishable standard.

3. What advice would you give your younger self?

Don’t give up – keep on writing.  Even if nobody else ever reads it, it’s still fun and creative and I know my kids love my stories anyway!!

4. What are you working on now, and how can we, as a community, help?

I am still working on my junior fiction chapter book that I started 3 years ago and I’m also having a go at writing a YA novel (started it last November during NaNoWriMo) and hope to finish it this November.

I’ve been thinking about applying for a grant so I can do a paid mentorship program so if anyone has any tips about applying for a grant I’d love to hear about them.

Thanks for reading.  If you’d like to join the tour and inform people about your writing please do and link back here.

Have a great weekend.

Blog Tour Award

Thanks to Millie Thom for nominating me for the Blog Tour Award.  Check out her blog as she is a fantastic writer and participates in a lot of writing events which I enjoy reading – Friday Fictioneers, Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers, Word of the Week (WOW) and Mondays Finish the Story.

This award involves answering four questions about writing.

Here are the rules:

  • Compose a one-time post on a specific Monday (date given from your nomination – I was given either April 6 or April 13)
  • Give them the rules and a specific Monday to post by.  My nominees can post on Monday 27 April.
  • Pass the tour on to up to four other bloggers.
  • Answer four questions about your creative process which lets other bloggers and visitors know what inspires you to do what you do.

Here are the four questions and my answers . . .

Q.1. What are you working on at the moment?

At the moment I am still working on my junior fiction chapter book that I started about 3 years ago.  I first wrote the story as a  1000 word children’s story for a writing competition but then decided I wanted to turn into a chapter book.  It’s now over 7000 words and I’m up to my 9th draft.  However, I still have a couple of more chapters to add to it before I then read it again and again, no doubt changing and adding more adventures along the way.

My goal was to complete it and have it ready to send in to an agent by the end of June 2015 (before I go back to work) but I’ve been a bit obsessed with blogging and writing flash fiction lately that I haven’t even looked at it!  Doesn’t matter.  Every bit of writing is good practise and I will just aim to have it finished by the end of the year instead.

I am also working on a number of children’s picture book manuscripts – some to enter in competitions and some to send off to publishers.

Q.2. How does your work differ from others in your genre?

My children’s chapter book is about a group of boys who love books and reading.   They are on a mission to find the best book ever written.  However, after finding an ancient book of spells and accidentally unleashing a torrent of spells, the five friends set off on an adventure through the fun fair.  They must work together and use their wits and imagination to find clues and solve riddles in order to banish the curse.

The story is for all kids but I wrote it with the idea of encouraging boys to read.  I’m hoping that they will enjoy reading about all the magical adventures and fun that these boys have.

Q.3. Why do you write or create what you do?

I love writing stories for children.  Picture books only have a small amount of words and you really have to make them count. I like the challenge of trying to show, not tell, letting the illustrations tell a lot of the story.   I started writing stories just for fun to read to my children.  I enjoyed it so much that I decided that I wanted to learn all the ins and outs of writing a children’s picture book so I got an editor to look at some of my stories, I googled lots of information, I went to a number of writing conferences and I continued writing stories every spare minute I had.

When I sent my first story off for a manuscript assessment, the editor said, “You have interesting ideas and your stories have potential… What lets you down is your writing.”   Her words encouraged me to improve.  I also found entering competitions very useful as the feedback is incredibly helpful.

Q.4. How does your writing/creative process work?

I do a variety of things:

*  Jot down the main story line (beginning, middle and end) and the characters.

*  Make a story web with the problem in the middle and the solutions/adventures branching out from it.

*  I have a sheet for each character with their name, appearance, strengths, weaknesses, quirks, fears, desires etc.

*  I write chapter by chapter, editing bits and pieces as I go, but also going back after a few chapters to add or rearrange.

*  I have a notebook ready to write down any funny sayings or things that I might see or read about that I think would be good to add into my story.

*  Once the whole story is finished I will read over it again and again and again – probably proofreading forever!

*  Over the years I have been trying to win a mentorship program whereby a professional would work with me to get my story up to a publishable standard.   This year I would also like to have a go at applying for a grant to have an editor assess my work.

Well, that’s enough about me…

I nominate:

Vanessa at Romance Done Write

Az at Tastyniblets

Ameena at Randoms by a Random

Claire Fuller

Perfect Picture Book Friday – The Day the Crayons Quit

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Title: The Day the Crayons Quit

Author: Drew Daywalt

Illustrator: Oliver Jeffers

Age Group: 4-8 year olds

Themes: colour and creativity, feeling loved, writing letters, expressing yourself, equality.

Opening Lines: One day in class, Duncan went to take out his crayons and found a stack of letters with his name on them.

Synopsis (blurb from inside jacket): Poor Duncan just wants to do some colouring.  But when he opens the box of crayons, all he finds are letters, each saying the same thing: we quit.  Beige is tired of playing second fiddle to Brown.  Blue needs a break from colouring all that water, while Pink just wants to be used.  Green has no complaints but Orange and Yellow aren’t talking to each other.  What is Duncan to do?

What I like about the book: This story is colourful and humorous. FullSizeRender (23) Each crayon has written a letter to express how they feel: tired, worn out, second best, empty, not used enough, happy.  In the end Duncan uses all the crayons to create a beautiful piece of artwork.  I love Oliver Jeffers’ illustrations, made to look like a child has drawn them.

Resources:  Lots of fun activities can be found here.

*  Pretend to be one of the crayons in your pencil case and write a letter to yourself expressing their thoughts and feelings.

*  Write a letter to a friend or family member telling them your favourite colour and why.

*  Create a colourful piece of artwork using all the crayons in the box.

Visit Susan Leonard Hill’s blog to see all the other Perfect Picture Books.

Stories that Stick

I love it when I come across stories written so beautifully and so full of emotion that, when I read them out loud, my voice falters and tears spring to my eyes. Stories like that stick in my mind forever. Stories like Peter Carnavas’ “The Imprortant Things”, Oliver Jeffers’ “The Heart and the Bottle” and Nick Bland’s “Twinkle“, to name a few. I came across two more of these memorable books a couple of weeks ago and without knowing anything about the stories or reading the blurbs, I ploughed right in. Both of these books had been shortlisted for the 2014 CBCA book of the year award. It was during my year one library lesson that I read “Banjo and Ruby Red” by Libby Gleeson, illustrated by Freya Blackwood, a story about a farm dog named Banjo and a chicken named Ruby Red and the importance of friendship. Having not read the blurb, I had no idea what to expect so when we reached the part where Ruby Red falls ill I was not ready for it. I had to take a quick deep breath and keep on reading as the children were sitting there wide-eyed waiting to hear what was going to happen next. Thank goodness for its happy ending! Then the following day I read “The Treasure Box” by Margaret Wild, illustrated by Freya Blackwood, a story about a boy named Peter and his father who flee their home due to war, taking with them a treasure box holding something more precious than jewels. The first sentence drew us in straight away: When the enemy bombed the library, everything burned. There was so much to talk about with the children throughout this poignant story. The children discussed their most precious objects, that treasure isn’t just gold and jewels, how Freya Blackwood used drab, dark colours for her illustrations during the war and when the war ended her illustrations were bright and colourful. “The Treasure Box” was a beautiful story from beginning to end. I will endeavour to read more of these shortlisted books. I’m glad I’m not one of the judges. I would not be able to choose! If you haven’t already seen the 2014 CBCA book of the year award shortlist click here. What stories have you read that really stood out and stuck in your mind? Have you read any from this year’s shortlist?

Favourite Rhyming Picture Books – Picture Book Month

Some of our favourites are Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy and Slinky Malinki Catflaps by Lynley Dodd.  With fabulous characters like Greywacke Jones, Butterball Brown, Mushroom Magee, Grizzly MacDuff and Scarface Claw, funny storylines and lots of great rhymes and alliteration, who wouldn’t love these books.  The vocabulary is spot on and paints the perfect picture.

Here’s a page from Slinky Malinki – “From nooks and from crannies, from mischief and game, from every corner and crevice they came.  They sat in the moonlight’s silvery glow, hobnobbing happily, ten in a row.” 

Unfortunately the camera on my phone isn’t working anymore due to a leaking waterbottle in my handbag, so I can’t post up any photos of these books. 

Here’s a couple of others that caught my eye by Lynley Dodd  – Hairy Maclary and Zachary Quack and Slinky Malinki’s Christmas Crackers.

What’s your favourite rhyming picture book or Lynley Dodd book?

Kids’ Book Review

If you love books, reading and writing then Kids’ Book Review is a great blog to follow.  I’ve also signed up to receive their monthly newsletter which is full of information about upcoming workshops, events and other book-related/writing activities, write-ups about events that have recently occurred (like Book Week and The Reading Hour), book reviews, writing competitions and book giveaways (thanks to generous Australian authors and publishers).

I have been entering all their book giveaways and was lucky enough to win Sofie Laguna’s new book “Where are You Banana?” a humorous story about a little boy named Roddy and his quest to find his best friend, Banana.

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And also,  “Where’s Wally?” Book 1 (remember him??!!) by Martin Handford.  We’ve had hours of fun searching for Wally amongst the hundreds of people in each scene.  Definitely a good one to take on our long trip to Melbourne!Image

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Ahoy There!

Ahoy there me hearties, get ready to walk the plank!  Did you know that it’s International Talk Like A Pirate Day tomorrow (Thursday 19th September)?  Don’t believe me 🙂  Then have a look here.

Surely you’ve got a pirate hat, eye patch, stuffed parrot and cutlass buried somewhere in your dress up box.  I know I have.

Here’s a few tips I got from a “talk like a pirate”  website. Start practising now ready for tomorrow:

How to talk like a pirate

  • Start right away by dropping your “g’s” – as in sailin’ or drinkin’.

  • Also avoid any pronunciation of “r’s” so that “ever” becomes “e’er”, and “never” becomes “ne’er”.
  • If all else fails, begin every other sentence with a scowl and a hearty… “aarrgh.”

Pirate Lingo The Short Course

Ahoy! – “Yo!”
Avast! – “Check it out!”
Aye! – “Yes.”
Arrr! – “That’s right!” (often confused with arrrgh…)
Arrrgh! – “I’m VERY miffed.”

 

Finish off with a verse or two of “What shall we do with the drunken sailor?” and read a couple of pirate related picture books.

 

Here’s a couple of stories you might like:

 

Tough Boris  by Mem Fox

The Fierce Little Woman and the Wicked Pirate by Joy Cowley

The Man Whose Mother was a Pirate by Margaret Mahy

Missing Treasure! by Giles Andreae

 

So, will you be dressing up tomorrow and talking like a pirate?  Feel free to share your pirate adventures.

 

Rudy Toot!

Last week I was down in Melbourne (in the sunshine – I was expecting cold wet days!) visiting my family and two gorgeous nephews.  My 2 and a half year old nephew loves books so on the day before we left (I think I left it a bit too late) I was out at Dymocks trying to find him some books.  I had three in mind – Sebastian lives in a Hat by Thelma Catterwell and illustrated by Kerry Argent about an orphaned baby wombat who is raised in a brown knitted cap.

The Children Who Loved Books by Peter Carnavas – just because I love this book.

And Rudy Toot!, written and illustrated by Chris Kennett.  With hilarious rhymes and bright colourful illustrations my daughters and my nephew loved this story.  We already owned the book as Miss 3 chose it earlier in the year at the school book fair.  The story is about three little elephants who love to make music together. Judy goes BLOOT! Trudy goes FLOOT! But stinky little Rudy does a great big TOOOOOOOOT!

In the end, only The Children Who Loved Books was available so I bought that one and we left our copy of Rudy Toot! in Melbourne.

My nephew loved both books but I think you’ll be able to guess which one he wanted to listen to over and over again!

Have you come across any funny picture books lately?

Writing Rhyming Stories

After reading a number of blogs I have come to the conclusion that writing a rhyming picture book is quite difficult to perfect.  Today I read a post on Tara Lazar’s blog Writing for Children (While Raising Them) about writing in rhyme which was interesting and helpful.

Here’s a few excerpts:

“Many kidlit writers hear “don’t rhyme” from picture book editors. It’s not that editors hate rhyme (well, maybe SOME do), it’s just that they see badly-executed rhyme so often in the slush, it’s easier to discourage it. Common rhymes like “me, see” and “you, two” and other one-syllable predictability can kill the joy of a story.”

“Editors also see a lot of rhyme with flawed meter. Meter is a tricky thing. There’s stressed and unstressed syllables…  If you read your own rhyme aloud, you might not even hear how off it is, because you are forcing yourself to follow the pattern [you think] you created.”

“Then there’s the near-rhyme mistake, when the words don’t really rhyme at all, unless you twist your tongue or alter your accent. Like “hat” and “what” or “hat” and “back”.”

Tara then interviews Lane Fredrickson, author of Watch Your Tongue, Cecily Beasley (a rhyming picture book) and creator of RhymeWeaver.com – a great website about writing in rhyme.  If you like writing rhyming stories have a look at her website – it’s got all the information you need about meter, stressed and unstressed syllables, stressed and unstressed words, metrical feet, metrical lines and all the different types of rhymes!  Wow, I’ve got a lot to learn!

Of course there are authors who do get it right as there is a huge amount of wonderful rhyming books out there.  This afternoon I read “Cowzat!” by Bruce Atherton and Ben Redlich,  a very funny and creative story about a group of cows playing cricket.

I then scanned our bookshelves and came up with a number of rhyming favourites – “Olga the Brolga” by Rod Clement, “Wombat Went A’ Walking” illustrated by Lachlan Creagh, “Marmaduke Duck and the Marmalade Jam” by Juliette MacIver, illustrated by Sarah Davis and who could forget the legendary “The Eleventh Hour” by Graeme Base!

We’ve also enjoyed “Ella Kazoo will not Brush her Hair” and “Ella Kazoo will not go to Sleep” by Lee Fox, illustrated by Cathy Wilcox.

Have you written a rhyming story?  How did you work out all the syllables, meter etc?

What’s your favourite rhyming picture book?

Rachel 🙂

Twinkle

On a recent visit to the library I came across a terrific book by Nick Bland.  I had already read The Very Cranky Bear and The Very Itchy Bear (we have the interactive Ipad app which the girls love) but didn’t know of any of his other books.  Twinkle, has now been added to our list of favourites.  Nick Bland’s creative text, heartwarming storyline and beautiful pictures with loveable characters roll  together to create a wonderful children’s picture book.

Twinkle is all about friendship, wonder, surprise, helping others and having fun.  There’s also some problem solving and a few goodbye tears.

Here’s the cute little blurb from the back of the book – “Little Star lands in Penny Pasketti’s backyard, and in a twinkle the night is filled with fun.  Eventually, though, it is time for Little Star to go home.  But how do you make a star fall up?”

Have you discovered any dazzling picture books lately?  What’s your favourite?