Writer's Group this month was hosted by my good friend, Jacqui Johnson. She is a primary school teacher and emerging author. Jacqui is my guest blogger for this month. Welcome, Jacqui.
Easter weekend, the perfect time for a writer’s group get together! As it was my turn to host, other than making sure we had adequate chocolate, cheese and plenty of coffee, I had organised a couple of readings to share as we sat down to chat about dialogue.
As emerging authors one of the biggest challenges in creating engaging fictions texts is balancing narrative, dialogue and action.
In his blog, ‘The 7 Tools of Dialogue’ James Scott Bell gives a mechanics analogy of how dialogue should work in a text.
“My neighbour John loves to work on his hot rod. He’s an automotive whiz and tells me he can hear when something is not quite right with the engine. He doesn’t hesitate to pop the hood, grab his bag of tools and start to tinker. He’ll keep at it until the engine sounds just the way he wants it to.
That’s not a bad way to think about dialogue. We can usually sense when it needs work. What fiction writers
often lack, however, is a defined set of tools they can put to use on problem areas.”
He then goes on to discuss his favourite dialogue tools which include:
A second helpful article we discussed was ‘Writing Really Good Dialogue’ which emphasized dialogue as needing to perform specific roles within a narrative text including; firstly, to reveal characters’ relationships to one another, secondly, to move the story forward and finally dialogue should increase the tension. This article not only gave practical examples but also provided a useful list of dialogue tags other than ‘said’ to use in writing.
Using the information that we discussed, we then applied these tips and tools to write a scene of dialogue that reveal a plot twist in a current piece.
Below is a sample of my current work in progress.
“It’s good to see Nora,” Ruth began as she eased herself onto a seat besides Anabella. “It has been an age since she’s been to the palace. Not since the prince took responsibility to raise her daughter. The laws of hereditary service aren’t usually honoured anymore but in her case the prince chose to recognise her husband’s contributions and sacrifice in his service. She visited her daughter every day in the kitchens after the initial separation, if I could smuggle her out form the dancers’ quarters. But being raised in the palace changed Petra and after a few months she refused to come.”
“Petra! As in Petra?” Anabella felt the hot flush of anger colouring her cheeks as Ruth sadly nodded. “As in Head of the princes’ dancers Petra?”
Anabella looked over towards Nora on the other side of the room tending to Brayleigh and was dumbfounded why she hadn’t recognised the familiarity earlier.
“She wasn’t always as she is now you know” Ruth replied softly.
“Oh, so not always a completely paranoid violent psychotic!”
“Anabella,” Ruth chided. “Until you know what it was like for her, what her life has been like all these years, you shouldn’t judge her.”
“Oh I know enough of her to know she shouldn’t be trusted. How do we know that Nora isn’t just the same? Just another snake in the grass?”
“Both Cailan and I trust her. That will have to be enough for now.” Ruth got up from the table signalling the end of the conversation, leaving Anabella tormented by the uncertainty this new knowledge gave. In Anabella’s mind the journey out of the princes’ realm just went from challenging to impossible.
After sharing this scene with the group, I found using the advice from the articles was helpful. Continuing discussions within the group included critiquing aspects, continue to help me improve my writing style. All of which demonstrates the equal importance of the drafting, sharing and revising processes.
When reading back through a story, you can see better when a scene is top heavy with dialogue, narrative or action.” (Gloria Kepton, 2011, ‘How to balance Action, Narrative and Dialogue in your novel’).
I hope the articles will help encourage and inspire you to use dialogue effectively in your own texts so that your pieces ‘runs as smoothly as a hot rod’.
Thanks so much Jacqui, for being my guest blogger. For further tips, head over to Jen Storer's website at Girl and Duck for her blog on Dialogue: the five main uses.
Saturday 19th March was International Read to Me! Day. The initiative supports children's reading, improving literacy across Australia and encourages parents to read more with their kids. It is a day when children from all around the world were encouraged to ask someone to read to them. If you hadn’t heard of it, it is because this year, 2016, was the first year it has been held.
The brainchild of Emma Mactaggart, founder of Boogie Books and the Childwrites Foundation, the day is recognizing that not every child has someone that will read to them. It also recognizes the importance of being read to actually increases learning. Emma wants children to be encouraged to ask different people to read to them. Even making yourself available at a local school for children to ask to be read to, would go a long way in your own community to help the local children.
In the immortal words if four year old Charlotte, who I recently interviewed when I asked, “Why do you like books?” Her answer: “Because they are good and when people read to you, you can learn how to read. You can look at pictures. When you are older it helps you to read.”
So here is my roundup of what I saw of the day on social media:
So what did I do for International to Me! Day? Due to some ill health through the last couple of weeks, I was unable to organise anything with anyone. So I had to wing it. If I had had more time, the local bookstore was interested in holding a community event to promote it. My children are adults, so no young children were readily available. So instead, I turned up unannounced to my local library, hoping that there would be some random child to read to.
Did I find any children? No. I did not. Not one child! And I was there for nearly two hours. It seemed as if all the local children had disappeared. Even the neighbourhood children, who are normally running around outside at some point through the day, did not surface for the entire day.
So what did I do? I called on the family that I interviewed a couple of weeks ago. “Would your kids like me to read to them?” It was a resounding, "Yes please!" So that is what I did. It was so much fun.
Charlotte asked me to read, 'The Pirate who had to Pee.' It is hilarious.
And when was the last time you read Fox in Sox? For that is what Emily asked me to read to her. That book is a tongue twister that left the girls in stitches. Yep. I have dyslexia and still get my p's and b's and d's confused.
When Kaitlin brought out, 'The Monster at the End of the Book - Starring lovable, furry old Grover,' I got all excited. I love this book and it is so much fun to read.
I am so thankful for the girls asking me to read to them.
Next year, now that I know about this very special day, I will be helping to organise something special in the community. I am looking forward to it. In the meantime, I am making myself available as a reader. I love books. I love stories. And I love reading them and sharing them with others, especially children.
Feel free to share your day here and what you did to celebrate.
Many of us take reading for granted. But for so many people, adults and children alike, reading is difficult. Another problem that so many children face is they have no-one to read to them, ever. It is a sad fact, but a fact nonetheless. Emma Mactaggart, speaker, author, publisher and passionate literacy advocate, has created International Read to Me! Day to be held on March 19th.
International Read to Me! Day? What is that? In a recent post on Facebook, someone actually said, “Read to me! Isn’t that everyday?” If only that were true for every child.
Emma Mactaggart saw that not every child is read to and how it is contributing to our falling literacy rates. She is now sounding the call for all those who want to give a child a voice to ask someone to read to them. She is a great promoter of “giving children the megaphone they need so they demand to be read to regularly!”
The follow is an extract from an interview by Tony Briscoe from Valley FM.
“Literacy is a gateway skill for us all. If you can’t read you get left behind in so many ways. This has a major impact on your opportunities in life. Reading and writing create social connection and this creates opportunity for all; this is key to Australia’s future success. We can all help children with their reading and I want to encourage children to ask you to help through dedicating a special day to this all round the world” – Emma Mactaggart"
She wants to change the dynamic and empower children to ask for more support, not just from their birth family but also from their community. Marking a day when kids can ask to be read to is a key part of this strategy.
A recent study analysed by researchers at the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economics and Social Research backs up Emma’s belief about the the power of being read to. Professor Guyonne Kalb wanted to test whether it was the reading itself that lead to better outcomes or if there were other factors.
“No matter what else we tested for the results show that being read to is the single most important factor. Children of 4 – 5 years old who are read to 3-4 times a week have reading ages 6 months ahead of children read to once or twice a week. Reading to children nearly every day almost doubles their progress to one year ahead of the group.”
The research is shocking. The Australian Bureau of Statistics 2006 Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey (ALLS) revealed that Australian language, literacy and numeracy levels have shown little improvement in the decade since the 1996 International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS).
Approximately 7 million Australian adults (46 per cent) had literacy scores below the minimum level needed to function fully in life and work and 7.9 million (53 per cent) had numeracy scores below the minimum needed.’
Now you can’t argue with statistics like those, now can you?
In a recent blog post I interviewed a family. The mother and the two oldest daughters have Dyslexia. Please read the whole post here. In the interview, the mother, Leanne, said there have been some definite strategies that have helped her children. Number one was the girl’s dad, Stephen, has read to all the girls since they were babies, every night. Two, she has made sure that she has surrounded the girls with books of all types since they were babies.
I have friends that are teachers. I just shake my head when they tell me what children say to them.
“I don’t own a book.”
“There are no books in our house.”
For me it would be unheard of and incomprehensible. Though, I myself have dyslexia, and so does my daughter, we love books of all types and are always reading. We read to each other nearly everyday, and my daughter is nearly 21. I've read to her since she was a baby and we just never gave it up. Admittedly, these days they are mainly picture books. As an emerging picture book author, I need to 'read in the genre I want to write.' Besides that, they are so much fun. Though, we have mixed it up and got our hands onto a Shakespearean version of Star Wars.
According to Emma, “Why we may not read to our children – parents are human too:
• Exhausted parents / carers
• Inability to read themselves or no books available
• Too busy with the night-time routine
• Shift workers – and mismatched routines
• Other family members demanding what little time is spare
This is by no means a definitive list, but it is realistic. The most dedicated parents / carers in the world will not have a 100% reading rate – routines buckle, time constrains are a truism, and sometimes, you just don’t feel like it!
If a child comes to school and says:
‘Everyone was too tired’
‘We don’t have any books at home’
‘It was so busy at home last night’
‘My father works nights’
‘My baby brother was crying’
Then it is simply the way of the world and this merely identifies a gap to be filled the following day. After all, it takes a village to raise a child!”
IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO
RAISE A CHILD
33% of children ages 6 to 17 say their class has a designated time during the school day to read independently, but only
17% do this every or almost every school day.
(ids and Family Reading Report, 5th Edition, Scholastic)
AND IT TAKES A CHILD TO INSPIRE A VILLAGE
83% of children of all ages surveyed say they loved or liked a lot being read aloud to and 40% of kids ages 6 to 11 whose parents have stopped reading aloud to them say they wish their parents had continued.
(Kids and Family Reading Report, 5th Edition, Scholastic)
Empowering Children to take the initiative…
We want children to understand they can ask to be read to.
Picture this: a classroom teacher asks ‘Who read to you last night?’ and there are various responses from classmates, ‘My mother / my brother / my aunt / the lady next door / no-one!’
The teacher can then identify those children who may have their reading buddy (a senior) / a school volunteer to visit them in the classroom during the day to read to them.
So what will you be doing this Saturday to support International Read to Me! Day? Some ideas are:
Together, we can make a difference
For more information: http://www.readtomeday.com/
Quotes from http://www.valleyfm.com/blog/international/ and http://www.childwrites.com.au/childwrites-international-read-to-me-day
Please feel free to share what you are doing this Saturday, or any day for that matter, to empower children and make sure that they are being read to today.
Are you new to the writing world? Not sure what all those acronyms mean. Then I hope that this post will shed some light on the subject.
A few months ago, a friend and I attended the Geelong Writer’s Group on the night of their 2016 Anthology book launch. My friend, who is a talented children’s book illustrator, and I, were chatting to another writer. The following was in response to a question I asked about what she was currently working on.
“So my current YA MS WIP is going well. I started it NaNoWriMo. It was a good way to start it off. What about you?”
“I’m working on a couple of ideas for a picture book MS. I did think of taking part in PiBoIdMo. I started my list while travelling up on the train up today and got a bunch of ideas.”
Around this time I glanced at my friend. She had the most dumbfounded look on her face; as if we were speaking another language.
“What are you two talking about?” she asked.
So I proceeded to translate for her. In the ensuring conversation, I realised that we can become so used to the acronyms in our writing world, that we forget that to most, it is another language. Yet, it is a language that can be learnt. So I’ll break down what I know so far.
YA: Young adult
Pic Book: Picture book
MS: Manuscript, the story
WIP: Work in Progress
MC: Main Character
NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month. On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30.
12 x 12: 12 Picture Books in 12 Months. The challenge is to write 12 picture books manuscripts, to draft stage, in 12 months.
As I write children’s picture books, I have discovered terminologies that can leave others perplexed as they sound like one thing but they may not be unsure if what they think it, is really what is meant. Examples are: the page turn, and page breaks, dummy books and storyboards.
This week’s post is a short one as I am getting ready to submit two pic book MS to a publisher for assessment. I also needed to do an author bio; a synopsis of each MS; format each MS according to conference submission guidelines; discover a half decent recent photo of myself to include and then email once ready. It is leading up to the KidLitVic2016, Meet the Publishers Melbourne – a conference for YA and Kids Lit writers that I will be attending. (Did you manage to decode all of that?)
It’s all exciting times and lots of fun.
I am sure that there are heaps of other acronyms and industry specific words and phrases that we use that I have not included. Feel free to let me know in the comments of any that I may have left out.
Approximently 10% of Australians suffer from some form of learning difficulty including Dyslexia. According to 'Dyslexia Australia: 'Dyslexia literally means 'trouble with words'. It is the term used to describe difficulties with spelling, writing and reading. The challenges can come in many different forms and are not limited to reversals of letters and words, a common misconception.
Dyslexia Australia's Definition: Dyslexia is the capacity to process information differently, enabling innovative thought and perception.'
I have dyslexia. I was one of the fortunate ones that had the right early intervention from my mum. Not everyone is so fortunate. I recently interviewed a family where most of them have Dyslexia. The mother, Leanne, has Dyslexia, as do her two eldest daughters. The youngest is four and they won't know until she goes to school if she has Dyslexia or not. I asked each them about their experience with Dyslexia, and why they love reading and books so much.
I'm sure that their answers will surprise you as much as they did me.
This is Emily.
How old are you and what grade are you in? I’m 10, nearly 11 and I’m in Grade 5.
Do you enjoy reading? Yes. I love reading.
Why do you like books? Some books are interesting or funny. Others help with my studies.
You have problems reading. It’s difficult. What makes you keep trying? I love reading even though it is hard. It takes me a while to finish. I read chapter books. I just get stuck into it.
What have been the main things that have help you improve your reading? I have reading sheets. Having coloured paper is helpful. It makes it easier to read.
What would you say to someone else your age that is finding it difficult to read?
Never give up. Push on even though it is hard. Persistence pays off.
"Never give up. Push on even though it is hard.
Persistence pays off." Emily Lade, 10 nearly 11.
What makes a good book? Adventure, mystery, comedy and facts.
What makes a bad one? Boring stuff. A boring novel that makes me go to sleep reading it.
What is your favourite book? Why? That's Quite Enough! by Emilie Vanvolsen The pictures are funny and it is told from the point of view of the cat. The cat really stresses like I do.
What is one thing that you really good at? Painting and craft.
Fun facts: I love reading. I love collecting antiques. I love collecting acorns and decorating them.
Extra bits: It was good that Mum always bought me books even though for years I never read them. Now I do.
How old are you and what grade are you in? I am 7 and in year 2.
Do you enjoy reading? Yeah!
Why do you like books? Some books have pictures. I like the ones with funny jokes or activities in them.
You have problems reading. It’s difficult. What makes you keep trying? So I can get better at reading and read stories by myself.
What have been the main things that have help you improve your reading? Sounding out words.
What would you say to someone else your age that is finding it difficult to read?
Keep on practicing and you’ll get better.
"Keep on practicing and you’ll get better." Kaitlin Lade, aged 7.
What makes a good book? Simple words. Nice words and a good story.
What makes a bad one? If people die.
What is your favourite book? A chapter book. The Kitten Club: Ziggy's Big Adventure by Sue Mongredien. I get Mum and Dad to read it to me.
Why is that one your favourite? It’s about kittens and it has pictures.
What is one thing that you really good at? Making people laugh.
Fun fact: I own a guinea pig called Nemo.
How old are you? I’m four and I go to Kinder.
Do you enjoy story books? Yes!
Why do you like books?
Because they are good and when people read to you, you can learn how to read. You can look at pictures. When you are older it helps you to read.
What is your favourite book? Where is the Green Sheep? (by Mem Fox)
Why is that your favourite? Because you have to say, “Where is the green sheep?” It is fun to say, “Where is the green sheep.”
Is there a book you don’t like? No. I usually like books a lot.
What are you really good at? Drawing.
One fun fact: I own a funny Buddy (their dog).
Mum’s notes: Charlotte loves all books. Even chapter books.
"When people read to you, you can learn how to read."
Charlotte Lade, aged 4
When did you find out that you had dyslexia?
I was 15. A tutor picked the dyslexia up. My parents went to the school and the information was disregarded. The school advised my parents that I had received all the learning that I was going to get. I was was just kept getting told, "Try harder." So my parents sent me to another school and I repeated year 9. It was a better year. Year 10 was good too. But I didn't want to be helped. I didn’t want to be different or anything. I wanted to fit in. So, I didn’t acknowledge it (the dyslexia)or anything. It went downhill from there.
How did having dyslexia affect your schooling from that point on?
It smashed my confidence and self-worth. I was never good enough. Even though my mum and dad said that I could be anything I wanted to be. That I was smart. If on every report you get, "You are not trying hard enough," you give up. Alcohol and drugs gave me confidence, a way to fit in. We all had something in common. The alcohol and the drugs. Still, I ended up feeling suicidal. Art was one way that I used to deal with my feelings, especially when I was at home.
What is it like having dyslexia as an adult?
It’s much the same as when you are child – frustrating as all heck! You struggle to do basic things like paperwork, or even reading notes from the school, or even reading street names, phone numbers and reading maps. For me, I avoided glasses until I was 39. Having the glasses makes a huge difference.
Did you own a book that you always wanted to read and never could because the thickness of it was too overwhelming?
Yes! Shelves and shelves of them. I just wanted the words to fall into my head, wishing that I could read them. I dreamed of reading War of the Worlds and Lord of the Rings. Though I could manage the Choose Your Own Adventure books.
What do you think would have helped you read those books?
Knowing what I know now (about dyslexia). It would be great if the books were printed on cream paper and double spaced. Listen to audio books. Fact books are easier as you can guess by shapes of words what the word is. Also covering the text below the line you are reading. I surround myself with books. My dad always said that books were important and to respect them.
"Books are important. Respect them."
Mr Belcher. Leanne's dad.
What challenges do you face as a mum with school aged children?
A lot of misinformation in the community about what dyslexia is. It is real and we are not making it up. Sometimes I feel like such an idiot when I am talking and I mix words up in a sentence and I don’t make sense. I also found it a real challenge to do the girls readers with them. I actually tried to avoid doing the readers with the girls like I avoided reading at school. It seemed to come down to effort. I felt I was slack. But the reality was that I just could not do them.
What has helped?
Validation: that what is happening to me is real. I have found that educating myself about dyslexia has been liberating. Also, facing that I have dyslexia and doing something about it. I do it for my girls. I think another thing has been having a supportive network; having a supportive school, a supportive community. Having a husband that is not dyslexic has helped too. He has read to the girls since they were babies. I have always made sure that the girls have had books, and lots of different types of books.
I want to honor the girl's school, the teachers and the various people who have taken an interest in the girls and have helped them. They wouldn't be where they are today without them.
What advice would you give to other parents/caregivers that are worried about their children, either because they seem to either:
a) be struggling at school or b) they have been diagnosed with Dyslexia or another learning disorder?
Please, lay the pressure off your kids. Don’t say, “Try harder!” They are trying very hard. Keep in contact with your school. Be persistent. Think outside the box (when it comes to learning). Make things fun. Play games. There is more than one way how to do things. Find out what way that you learn. Then find out what way your child learns and learn that way. Recognise that it is not their fault. No one is to blame. They are fine. Push for help. Don’t rule anything out. Get your child’s eyes checked by a behavioural eye specialist.
"Think outside the box (when it comes to learning).
Make things fun. Play games.
There is more than one way how to do things."
What is one thing that you really good at? Looking at things differently to others.
Fun facts: I love lego. I love Star Wars. I love board games and sharing them – from UNO to strategy games to co-op games. I have learnt over 150 games in the past sixteen months.
Extra: Eighteen months ago, I wanted to feel connected with my husband, my kids and to connect with other people. I discovered board games. Not the usual games. Games that build and not destroy. Games that encourage, not dominate. I am now sharing and teaching these games to anyone who will listen. Encouraging people to connect with each other and have fun as family and friends. I'm just started helping out the kids school, teaching them basic games and having fun. It's been a pleasure and assuring a new beginning of a lifetime of learning, dyslexia or no dyslexia.
With International Read to Me Day coming up on the 19th March 2016, this family has shown the importance of reading to your children daily from the time they are babies. Stephen and Leanne have instilled the love of reading and the love of learning in their children. It shows in the way they speak about the difficulties they face and the way they are overcoming them, and in the way the speak about the books they love. (Don't ask them to pick one. It ends up a pile)
I hope that this has given at least one person who has Dyslexia or another learning disorder, hope. And in the words of a very wise 10, nearly 11 year old, Emily Lade, "Never give up. Push on even though it is hard. Persistence pays off."
If you think that either yourself or a family member may have dyslexia, or you would like to know more, contact Dyslexia Support Services.
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