by Ester de Boer
Children's picture book illustrator. I also drink copious amounts of tea, and eat chocolate.
Do you want a writer's group activity with a difference? An activity that will stretch you in ways you wouldn't believe? Then you may want to try this interesting, and fun activity that will have you painting, and then writing with music.
Recently I ran a weekend art workshop in Canberra in which I used a synesthetic (Synesthesia) approach to teaching the elements of drawing through responding to sound.
Since our little writers’ huddle is on the artsy side I thought I would adapt it to the art of the written word.
We warmed up with some basic drawing and painting exercises and experiments, and I scattered a variety of art materials all over the table for us to choose from, and yes it was merry chaos!
Those of you who know a bit about art history would be familiar with Kandinsky. He was a Russian painter who is credited as having produced some of the first truly abstract paintings. One of the inspirations for the way he painted was an amazing ability called synaesthesia: Kandinsky could actually hear the colours he painted with!
It’s an enviable gift for any artist, but I think we all have a bit of it, and it comes out in our everyday expressions, for example “Feeling blue”, “black humour”, “green with envy” or “white noise” for the colours. Or how about texture, with expressions like “gravelly” or “velvety” to describe a voice?
I selected four different pieces of music, each with very different mood, texture, variations of dynamic and pitch, and we responded to each piece visually, describing the sounds into visual representations.
After sharing our artworks, I replayed the four pieces. This time, we responded both to the music and our visual representations through any kind of short, free-form writing.
Just as music and art have texture, rhythm, pitch/tone and tempo, so does writing. What was very interesting was how writing in direct response to music actually influenced our individual writing styles.
(To make this work properly, it’s important not to be given information about the music, use music with recognisable words or be able to see any video clips as they can obviously influence the outcome. The only recognisable piece is Flight of the Bumblebee, but I am happy to say that none of us drew a beehive!)
Stomp break dance with me
Boom! BANG! explode collide
Whiiiirl… BANG! fly……. land
c-runch—lift, glide… drop
Dancing. Joyful carousing.
Off to the markets.
Full of life. Laughter.
Slowly the day ends.
The sun sets into the horizon.
Ready for a new day.
Silken smoke drifts through the lattice, twists and writhes in the perfumed air… Its phantom fingers reach across the empty room and,
As we touch, it grasps, encircles around like cords,
Impossible to unbind.
Sadness. Love is lost.
All is lost.
There is no hope.
All is gone.
The voices all tell me
it is all gone.
But is it really?
I’m more determined to
live for life, for life
Each day slips by.
How will we live it?
Lose a day?
Gain some life?
Like a leaf blowing in the wind
blown by the storms of life?
Or rising like an eagle
to fly far above
Upon the pond, plipipipipop!
Spit! Spat! Raindrops drip-drop... dripipipipip!
Making puddles that splip and splap!
Drip. Drip. Pelting helter skelter.
Ssssshht-t BEEP Spaceport 9 canyouhearmeoverandout BEEP… ssshhhhht -t-t cracklesshhhhhtt-t-t-t. . … . . … .no noise. . . . U N K N O W N w h i t e r o u n d m e s s a g e .. . . number 9 receiving…. re ceiving… . re ceding. . .. . re ce d i n g … into the white round void that is s i I e n c e… silent .. sssilent over-over-over-over and out.
A cold fist in my belly.
Fear traces its icy fingers down my back.
It says, ‘I will get you!’
Safe? Am I?
This thing is pursuing me.
Will I get away…this time?
Long arms reach for me.
The thing I feared the most.
Megan's Two Cents
I found this a fascinating exercise to do. I was amazed at who much the music influenced what we painted, and not only what we wrote, but the language, the tempo, even the theme.
Let me know if you give this a try and how you go.
If you enjoyed this post feel free to like and share.
And if you want to keep up-to-date, you can subscribe to my email.
I’m excited to welcome Cameron Macintosh to my blog today on his book blog tour for his new book series, Max Booth Future Sleuth.
Cameron Macintosh was born in Melbourne and has lived there ever since, apart from overseas backpacking jaunts whenever he’s been able to fund them. He studied Psychology and Italian at Melbourne University, and Professional Writing at RMIT. Worried that no one would ever publish any of his own books, he became an editor so that he could interfere with the books of others.
Then, in 2008, a lovely publisher asked him to write a book about the Beaconsfield mine disaster. This was an excellent introduction to professional writing.
Since then, he has written more than 80 books for primary and early secondary students. He has also honed hundreds of books for teachers and students in his other life as an editor for high quality educational publishers. In the few minutes per week that he isn’t wrestling with words on the laptop, he loves singing and playing the guitar, and reading music biographies.
Cameron: Good morning Megan!
Megan: How are you today? Are you ready to be interrogated...? I mean interviewed?
Cameron: Thanks very much for making the time to chat - I hope I'll have a few brain cells working - anything could happen.
Megan: Hehe. We shall soon see. It should certainly make things interesting. Let's begin.
You have more than 80 titles in print throughout the world, which is incredible. I’m keen to hear what your journey into publication looks like.
Cameron: Thanks Megan, it’s been a long journey and I definitely took the scenic route! Like most aspiring authors, I have a ream of rejection letters and emails to prove it. But I finally got a break into publishing by doing a work placement for an educational publisher – doing proofreading and photocopying (mostly photocopying, truth be told!)
But… they were wonderful people and they eventually gave me a job as an editor, which I used to worm my way into authoring books for the educational market. And now the Max Booth books are my first foray into mainstream publishing, which is extremely exciting.
Megan: Was this after you did the Creative Writing course at RMIT?
Cameron: That's right - I actually did the work placement as a unit of the RMIT course. I'd really recommend aspiring authors and editors take any chance they can to do work placements. The personal contacts and experiences have made a huge difference. Although of course there are so many other interesting paths to publication - that one just happened to be a great springboard for me.
Megan: That must have been an amazing opportunity that has certainly lead to many open doors for you, and it must have given you a lot of insight into the publishing industry. I read that one of your first books was to cover the Beaconsfield Mine disaster. How did you go about researching and writing it?
Cameron: That was a really interesting and challenging first commission. The publisher wanted as much of it as possible to be based on primary sources and media coverage from the time of the incident, which allowed me to weave in a lot of authentic detail. But I felt the need, very strongly, to tread very carefully, as so many lives were impacted by the disaster and are still living with its aftereffects today.
Megan: That must have been difficult, and you achieved it. What are some of the lessons you learned while researching and writing that particular book that has helped you since?
Cameron: In terms of the research, I definitely took away a strong message about the need to double- and triple-check sources when writing non-fiction! And to do my utmost to respect the people who are being written about.
As far as writing goes, that was my first experience of writing to a strict brief - which is standard in educational publishing - and to leave any hints of ego on the doormat. The goal in that situation is to give the publisher what they need, and that usually means producing a manuscript that will sit neatly alongside other books in the same series.
More broadly though, it was a very practical way to learn the value of drafting and redrafting. I still have the ream of paper I went through to get that manuscript in order!
Megan: You really took many valuable lessons away from that experience.
So, you got your publishing break writing for the education market. You have written a lot for them. What is it like? For instance, do you choose the subjects that you write about? Or do you get a brief?
Cameron: I really enjoy the educational writing. It's very much brief-driven, but all of the publishers I've worked with have been fantastic in their willingness to allow as much creative input as possible.
I've definitely noticed some big differences between fiction and non-fiction commissions. With fiction, usually I've been asked to come up with my own story idea, but one that works with a particular theme or area of study. The trickiest parameter to deal with is the levelling - trying to stick to word lists and sentence lengths without suffocating the story!
Non-fiction tends to be more prescriptive - the publisher will usually have a very specific idea about what they need from the manuscript - often with a bookmap - and I'll mostly be fleshing it out and trying to find interesting details to add. Both present their challenges but it's a fantastic industry to be a part of.
Megan: That is really fascinating.
You have a book that came out in July this year, Max Booth Future Sleuth: Book 1 - Tape Escape. It’s been illustrated by Dave Atze and is published by Big Sky Publishing. Can you give me a little spiel has to what the story is about?
Cameron: Certainly! The premise of the story is that it’s the year 2424, in a city called Bluggsville. Our hero Max is an 11 year-old street kid who sleeps in a packing case in the city museum’s storeroom. He survives by identifying ancient artefacts that the museum staff haven’t been able to identify themselves, and gets paid some pocket money for each artefact he identifies.
The objects he identifies are from the 20th and 21st centuries – things that the reader would know about but that are now mysterious to people in the year 2424. In Tape Escape, Max is given a weird lump of plastic to identify – a cassette tape from the 1980s. He discovers that it contains lost recordings by a still-famous rockstar. The recordings are so valuable that when a dodgy musicologist finds out about them, Max’s discovery suddenly gets him into all sorts of trouble (DOT DOT DOT!)
Megan: It certainly sounds exciting, Cameron. I love hearing the stories behind the stories. Where did the idea for this particular story come from?
Cameron: Thanks Megan. Well the spark of the story definitely came from a visit to Pompeii and the amazing archaeological museum in Naples. Seeing so many everyday objects that had survived a catastrophic volcanic eruption and centuries of burial was a real mind-blower.
Cups and spoons that probably would've been quite uninteresting to the people of Pompeii were completely spellbinding to me - and this made me wonder how people of future generations might look at items that we commonly use today.
This thought seemed to offer a lot of potential for story ideas, and I was eventually able to tease the idea out into a solid concept about a future detective, Max, who investigates objects from today, or recent decades, and is completely fascinated by them - even things that might not seem so interesting to us in the here and now.
It's great fun choosing the present-day objects, and I must say that the illustrator, Dave Atze, really understands and manages to amplify the wonder, and humour, of Max's discoveries.
Megan: That is so cool. I love how you didn’t just think about it and dismiss it, but continued that train of thought until a story emerged. Did the experience of writing your own novel prove different from writing to a brief? If so, in what way?
Cameron: Great question! It was definitely a very different experience to writing to a brief. Just being able to let the story take its own shape and length was quite liberating after having written for the same age group, with so many limitations.
At the same time, I think subconsciously it probably benefited from all of that brief-driven writing too - I really wanted the Max stories to engage both enthusiastic and reluctant readers, so it was helpful having a few parameters at the back of my mind in terms of vocab and sentence length. I really hope they've helped make the stories as accessible to as many readers as possible.
Megan: That is really wonderful. I have dyslexia and it is one of them, as you say, perimeters, in my mind as well as to make sure that my book is accessible to as many readers as possible. I could seriously go off tangent here and start an in-depth discussion about engaging reluctant readers, but maybe another time.
Back to your Max Booth book. How was it working with the illustrator? Did you have much input into the whole process?
Cameron: That would be a really enjoyable discussion to have. I'd love to see your book!
It was a real treat to work with Dave Atze on the two titles we've produced so far. He's incredibly versatile and really brings out the humour and pathos in the stories. I included illustration ideas in the manuscript (way too many!) but was more than happy for Dave and the publishers to work out which ones were worth pursuing.
I was lucky enough to see Dave's roughs and throw in a few comments, but he's such an intuitive artist who really 'gets' the characters, so I was happy to keep out of the way as much as possible and let him work his magic - which he did incredibly well.
Megan: That would be great to have another conversation, Cameron. I’d love to have a chat about my book, and writing fun and engaging stories to encourage children to read.
I’m a huge sci-fi fan so I couldn’t help noticing that a few of your books have the sci-fi theme. What draws you to writing Sci-fi?
Cameron: It's funny because I haven't read a lot of sci-fi as an adult, but I find it a really rich source ideas for kids' books.
I think that's because it offers limitless possibilities of setting, in terms of time and physical location, as well as imagined technologies that you can use to shape and colour your stories. And who doesn't enjoy a bit of speculation about how the world might look in the future, as scary as that can be?
And you can also get away with much more craziness - story wise - than you can in a story that requires realism or strict historical accuracy. A lifelong fascination with robots has definitely been an influence too!
Megan: That’s so true. I think that’s why I love sci-fi and fantasy. The pure escapism into other worlds; other realities.
So, Cameron, what do you think makes a good story?
Cameron: Boiling it down to the simplest level, I think it comes down to interesting character/s, dealing with an interesting, and seemingly insurmountable, problem. As a reader, I love seeing how characters react when thrown into the deep end, and learning from how they sink or swim!
I don't mean to imply that a good story needs to deal with high drama - the problem at the heart of the story can just as easily be an internal, emotional conflict. It's all worth sharing with the world.
Megan: Those are really great tips, Cameron.
What advice do you have for emerging authors? As you worked as an editor, could you please tell us from an editor’s point of view, and then as an author.
Cameron: Wow, really interesting question. As an editor, I'd advise aspiring authors to look very carefully at publishers' submission guidelines and make sure you tick all of their boxes, as most publishers who accept unsolicited submissions deal with a huge volume of manuscripts - make sure you give yours every chance of being read.
I used to do a bit of 'slush pile' reading (as much as I hate that term!) and found that so many of the submissions didn't match what the publishers had requested. And obviously, take the time to polish your work as much as possible before you send it out. One of the best ways to do this is to join or start a writing group with people whose opinions you can trust.
As an author, I wish there was a magic formula but really, it’s all about persistence and self-belief, and humility is a useful attribute too – because you’re going to need it! I’ve known so many brilliant writers who faced a few rejections and gave up.
I can't state strongly enough the need to have some kind of supportive writing community around you, too. I've been in a small but wonderful writing group for more than five years and the mutual encouragement and kind criticism has helped each of us beyond calculation...
Megan: Thank you so much for being so candid about the submission process. As an author, you certainly need to be persistent and not give up in the face of rejection. And finding a supportive writing community is super important.
So, Cameron, what’s next for you?
Cameron: Well, I'm currently drafting the third Max Booth adventure and enjoying that very very much. I've just started scribbling down the bones of a 'grown-up' book too. I'll find out find very soon if I'm grown-up enough to see it through!
Megan: That’s brilliant, Cameron. I’m sure you’ll learn a lot about yourself in the process.
Okay. I always do three fun facts. So, what are three fun facts about yourself?
1. I love toy robots from the 1980s, especially Dingbots and Omnibots (definitely worth Googling!)
2. I spent so much time in my teens and early 20s listening to the Beatles that I still consider Beatle-ologist as a viable fall-back career.
3. I cook at least two curries a week but will never refuse an invitation to dinner at an Indian restaurant!
Megan: Where can we find you?
You can find more about me and my books on my website: www.cameronmacintosh.com , and on Big Sky Publishing website, and on Facebook as Cameron Mactosh author.
You can check out the book trailer for Max Booth Future Sleuth: Book 1 - Tape Escape on my YouTube Channel.
Max Booth Future Sleuth - Selfie Search is also now available.
Megan: Thanks for taking the time to chat today, Cameron. It's been wonderful.
Cameron: Thank you so much Megan! It's been a real pleasure.
Follow the Book Blog Tour:
Boomerang Books: Interview with Cameron Macintosh. Max Booth Future Sleuth
If you enjoyed this post feel free to like and share.
Point of view is often difficult to write and maintain, especially when, if you are like me, you’re starting out and getting your head around all the sorts of things you have to learn when writing a novel. (I've just finished the first draft of my first YA Sci-fi/fantasy novel).
When done well, deep point of view draws the reader into the story. When done badly, it’s like getting a cold dead fish slapped in your face and you can’t close the book quick enough. Or is that just me? I recently came across this blog post by Peter Summersby, ‘Notice what they Notice,’ about noticing what your character notices and I found it fascinating and decided to conduct a workshop around this idea with my local Writer’s Group, Dribbles and Scribbles.
In Peter’s article, he discusses the fact that men and women will notice different things, as would a thief and a doctor. He acknowledges that writers should use all the senses while writing, but for this demonstration he focuses on just what they see. Peter shows a picture of a female elf laying on a bed of moss with a knife held loosely in her hand. He demonstrates what he means by what two different men observe, and what that may reveal about them and their character.
In the first account the man notice her breasts under the green dress, this could indicate that the man has feelings for her, he might be in love with her. It could also indicate that he is wanton and actively seeks out sexual encounters.
In the second account the man notices her clothing too but instead notices what they are made of. He also notices what the knife is made of but finally he notices the small coin pouch hanging on her belt. This indicates two things he is trying to assess her wealth and steal from her, or notices that she might have rich friends with which he could become friendly with to gain even more money.'
'In both situations the woman hasn’t changed, their view is different, this was done to illustrate that the character has their own values that should differ from character to character. If they all notice the same thing it becomes harder to separate the characters in your readers mind. If the reader is truly invested in your characters this approach is a good way to drop the reader into the characters mind and assists with maintaining deep point of view.’ Peter Summersby, Notice what they Notice.
Writer’s Group Activity
For the activity, we thought of a scene in our current Work In Progress (W.I.P.), we picked two characters, and then we rewrote the scene from the two different perspectives. I've included mine as an example.
The original scene from my novel, The Gateway Chronicles: Keystone Quest. (Working title)
Jake found it mind-numbing sitting at the back following the herd, eating the dust that was kicked up by a couple of hundred head of cattle, and Grandma Andy going on and on about her earthworms.
‘Did you know that there are over 600 species of Earthworm in the world and at least five are giant. We have one here in Australia. The Giant Gippsland Earthworm is one of the few left. They are very special. Even David Attenborough, the naturalist, knew they were special.’ Grandma Andy turned to Jake, ‘I have one of the last known pockets of the GGE’s in Australia on my farm. And I’ve discovered some giant worms around here. New species I reckon!’
Jake rolled his eyes. He’d heard it all before. How they were special and endangered. How they were unique and needed protecting. Seriously, they were worms. How could they be so special?
A sudden disturbance ahead, a shimmer of light against the horizon, and the cattle went from plodding along and having to be harried by whip and dog, to stampeding in every direction. It happened so quickly. Within minutes, he was by himself with only dust and his grandmother’s last words hanging in the air for company.
For this exercise, I've choosen 13 year old Jake, and his 60 year old scientist grandmother, Grandma Andy. I’ve also tried to include the rest of the senses as well to make a more interesting read.
1. ‘I’m sick of eating dust at the back of the herd,’ said Jake, spitting red dust and wiping his mouth while sweat trickled down his face. He had never gotten used to the heat of the Queensland outback and longed for the coolness of Melbourne. Cows mooed to one another. The smell of cow dung was everywhere. He wished he was back home with his Mum playing video games, or with his mates at the skate park.
Jake heard his Grandma Andy speaking but it just sound like, ‘Blah! Blah! Blah! Worms.’ On repeat. He rolled his eyes. Man she was interesting when she talked about her travels, but worms! Seriously. They were so boring. He rolled his eyes, hoping at the same time Gran wouldn't catch him at it. He spat again. And another thing, he couldn’t understand why he was always left at the back of the herd.
‘Why can’t I…’ The words barely had left his mouth when the cows went from quiet mooing and dogs yipping at their heels to keep them moving, to loud bellowing and thundering of hooves as the cattle scattered in every direction. Briefly he glimpsed his grandmother among the chaos, then she disappeared, leaving him. As the swirl of dust settled, only the smell of fresh cow dung hung in the air. Silence fell and Jake was alone.
2. Andy looked over at Jake and could see boredom written on his face. Every so often he would smile, nod politely, and then spit the dust from his mouth, wipe the grit from his eyes and slap at the flies buzzing around his face.
Andy turned her face to the sun and let the warmth penetrate the coldness of southern Victoria that seemed to settle in her bones and only the warmth of the Queensland sun would chase it away. The gentle lowing of the cattle, the cracking of whips, the yips of the working dogs, and the feel of her horse beneath her were like a balm to her soul.
Andy turned to Jake and could see him slump further in the saddle, ‘I have one of the last known pockets of the GGE’s in Australia on my farm. And I’ve discovered some giant worms around here. New species I reckon!’
‘Why can’t I…’ said Jake, rolling his eyes. But, his words were cut off. Andy caught a glimpse of a familiar flash of light up ahead in a clearing. ‘No! It can’t be. Not here,’ she said more to herself than anyone else.
Andy urged her horse into a gallop, just as the usually docile cattle started bellowing panic. Whatever it was up head, sent the cattle stampeding in all directions, kicking up a dust cloud which obliterated the view. Glancing behind Andy saw Jake sitting like a sack on Dodger, who stood docile among the bedlam. What? Did Dodger just wink at her? And then they were gone from sight.
Through this exercise I discovered that in the first draft, though I have tried to write third person close point of view, I have really just been looking over my various characters shoulders and noticing what I would notice if I was looking at the same scene, experiencing the same activity.
This exercise was an eye opener for me. I found I had really get into my characters’ skin, so to speak, in order to pay close attention to what they would notice, what my character would be feeling, thinking, smelling. The smells in themselves would be different for different people, depending on past experiences and what they would associate those smells with. This means I really have to know and understand my characters.
I have a lot of rewriting to do, but I know my stories from now on will be written differently. Two recently released books that I have read, and I highly recommend, does this very thing of noticing what your character notices in deep point of view: Dragonfly Song by Wendy Orr, and The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon.
Let me know how you go with your own stories and if this post helped you in any way.
If you enjoyed this post feel free to like and share.
I recently had the privilege of meeting Leigh at a recent visit not far from where I live. He was on his whirl wind tour of the various schools and libraries across Australia, as well as overseas. He delighted the audience with his tales of being an art teacher, and pursuing children’s book illustration, as well as other artistic pursuits.
Today, I welcome Leigh to my blog.
You’ve been asked this a lot, but how did you get started in illustrating and writing your own books?
Around 1992, when I’d been illustrating other people’s stories for a couple of years, I began to lose interest. Primarily because I felt disengaged from the characters I was being asked to illustrate. Then an editor suggested that I create my own character which turned out to be Old Tom. He’d been hanging round and taking shape in my head subconsciously for a while. Originally, he looked like a gangster but I toned him down a tad, without making him look too goody – two – shoes. Naughty rather than nasty. Four publishers rejected Old Tom before an eagle-eyed editor at Penguin nabbed him.
You say your stories are character driven. Who are they inspired by?
I don’t think my characters are inspired by any person or ‘persons’ in particular. They’re a mixture of characters who I’ve met, or taught, even aspects of my family. There’s a bit of me in each one I suspect.
How do you road test any new characters you create?
I showed a couple to my mother earlier on. She was appalled, particularly when it came to Mr Chicken. I knew at that point I was on to something. I have an aversion to ‘cute’. I’m simply not interested in cute books, not that I pay too much attention to children’s books in any case. However, I admit I am a bit of a romantic at heart, hence the underlying good heartedness of my characters and the relationships between them…. or most of them. I never road test characters with kids. Every kid is different and ultimately a writer or artist needs to rely on their instincts. Well I do anyway.
I had the privilege to attend one of your talks at my local library in Gippsland. During your talk, you said that you write from the heart. Does what come out ever surprise you? If yes, can you give an example?
Yes. I’ve surprised myself on a few occasions. The first time was when, about twenty years ago I was asked to give a lecture to fine art and graphic art students at my old art school (Caulfield Tech. now Monash University) I’d only written a couple of books at that point and some students asked me to select a few pages and read them from my first book ‘Old Tom’. My voice cracked at a certain spot and I realised that I’d strayed into autobiography. The students picked it up as well.
Your illustrations are so loose and immediate. What do you do to create that effect?
It’s just how I draw. The drawings evolve on the page. I work hard to make it look effortless. I feel I’ve failed if a drawing looks laboured. I’ve always had better eyes than talent. Which means I’m nowhere near as good as I wish I were. My limitations all too often stare back at me from the page.
That can be a healthy thing for an artist. To keep striving for ones own idea of perfection even though you know it’s all too often unattainable. My primal goal when drawing is to get to the essence of the subject, be it a character or a building.
How long does it take you to complete an illustration?
It varies. Sometimes a drawing works straight off and it looks fresh and spontaneous and it’s done. However, there’s usually a spoil sport part or illustration where I have to battle to get it right….and then disguise the considerable effort along the way. Then it might take a day or days to finish. Often in this case I rip it up and start again, in a sort of frenzy because by then the deadline is looming.
I noticed in your books that you include well known buildings in the illustrations. I’m aware that you have a passionate interest in architecture and history. How important is it for illustrators to create from the heart?
I’ve no idea what’s in anyone else’s head, I just know that the enjoyment and satisfaction I get from creating these books comes from creating a genuine sense of place. An authentic sense of the atmosphere in London, Paris, or Rome.
You are working on your art in its various forms all the time. How do you feed your creativity?
I read a lot. Books about architecture, History, Baroque, Georgian, Tudor. English or German architecture interests me most. I read history books often. Biographies too. At the moment, I’m reading David Marr’s biography of Patrick White. As well as a history of London. I travel quite a bit too. I’ve been to London over thirty times.
Horrible Harriet has been made into a stage show. How did that come about?
I was approached by the producers who were, in consultation with me, offered the stage rights by my publishers. I had some input but stepped back after a point. I have learnt not to get too emotionally involved in the translation into other mediums of my books or characters.
What is it like to see your work interpreted in that way?
Unnerving and strange. My ‘children’ have left home. It’s ultimately flattering in spite of a degree of anxiety I inevitably feel.
I’ve watched a lot of interviews of you. Some show you going into schools and talking to the kids, engaging with them, and the students totally engrossed in every word, especially when it comes to the drawing segment where you show them how to draw Old Tom. What do you like most about school visits?
I enjoy engaging kids, especially when I sense that they are loosening up and creating for the pleasure of it. It’s satisfying too when kids who may not be used to drawing or writing creatively end up being completely engaged.
You are the Australian Children’s Laureate for 2016/2017. What does that mean for you?
It’s been a great honour and is and has been a wonderful experience.
What would you like to see change in the schools of Australia, and why?
Every school needs a Library and school Librarian. Misguided schools are, or have already done away with their school Library. I’ve heard dreadful stories about Librarians retiring or being put in excess and the school library, carefully built up over many years completely emptied with books thrown out or delivered to op shops. Libraries, good ones are carefully calibrated to the needs of the students and teachers at the particular school. They are more than just books. And I’d like to see art and music as a ‘definite’ on the primary school curriculum.
What’s next for you?
Mr Chicken’s next adventure: ‘Mr Chicken all over Australia’
Would you tell us ‘Three Fun Facts’ about yourself?
Well, here’s just one…. I’m allergic to cats.
Australian Children’s Laureate 2016-2017
“Leigh Hobbs, best-selling author of more than 20 books, including the iconic Old Tom, Mr Chicken Goes to Paris and Horrible Harriet is the Australian Children's Laureate for 2016 – 2017.
His subversive humour has delighted children for more than two decades.
Leigh Hobbs was born in Melbourne, grew up in Bairnsdale and has lived and worked in Sydney, Sale and London. He is an artist who works across a wide range of mediums, as well as writing and illustrating his children's books.
Many of his cartoons have appeared in the Melbourne Age newspaper. He is best known, though, for his children's books featuring his characters Old Tom, Horrible Harriet and Fiona the Pig and Mr Chicken, as well as the Freaks and their teachers in 4F for Freaks and Freaks Ahoy.
Old Tom has been adapted into an extremely popular TV series. Leigh has three times been shortlisted for the CBCA Picture Book of the Year Award (for Mr Chicken Goes to Paris, Horrible Harriet and Old Tom's Holiday) and his books have won every major children’s choice award in Australia. Leigh’s books are published by Allen & Unwin.” Quote from Children's Laureate website.
You can find more information about Leigh Hobbs on his website, about his role as the 2016-2017 Children's Laureate here, and his books and toys (you can buy Horrible Harriet, and Mr Chicken soft toys) through Allen and Unwin.
If you enjoyed this post feel free to like and share.
Fear can hold you back from so many things, but especially from following your dreams and becoming all who you were meant to be. How can you face those fears and move forward in your life?
‘I would love to write and illustrate my own picture books.’ This was something that I said to myself a number of years ago when my kids were small. I don’t know what it is but so many authors and illustrators discover/rediscover a love of picture books when they are reading them to children. Either their own children or someone else’s.
For me, I always wrote but never called myself a writer until recently. I always drew, but never progressed beyond feeling that my pictures were terrible. The thing is, they were not good, but I could not break through that ugly stage to get them to be any better. So I stagnated in both my writing and my drawing.
Four years ago I had a breakthrough with my writing. I started taking courses and investing in my passion for writing and telling stories. I still drew and painted but never seriously. It couldn't get any better than I was, and I couldn’t get past it, especially when it came to drawing people. I compared myself to others. I listened to the little voice, the critic on my shoulder, who had said I’d never be good enough; I’d never measure up so why bother?
I compared myself to others and listened to the voice, the inner critic on my shoulder, who said, 'You'll never be good enough. Why bother?'
Why bother indeed? Because, like with my writing, I couldn’t leave it alone; I had to pick up a pen and draw. I had to try to capture a moment, tell a story. It was a part of me as far back as I can remember. That feeling was always there but never acknowledged. My father, Pop and Nan were all artists.
Though I did not have much to do with my Pop, and my Nan died when I was a baby, their art was always around, inspiring me that maybe someday I could do the same. My parents separated and later divorced when I was 13. And, as my father was violent, we had to go into hiding. Though in years later I did meet up with my dad and have a small amount to do with him, it was not a lot and he no longer was doing any art. He has since passed away.
My big breakthrough with both my art and my writing (which I thought I was all good with) came when I picked up a copy of, The Artists Way by Julia Cameron at the beginning of this year. It was first published in 1992 and, as Ali Stewart has so aptly put it in her recent blog post, Three Important Insights from The Artists Way, ‘with umpteen reprints, several spinoffs, and numerous nips, tucks, and facelifts, the perennial title continues to unstick stuck creatives.’ It has certainly unstuck me.
I first heard Valerie Khoo on the podcast, So You Want to be a Writer, talk about the book, The Artists Way at the beginning of the year. Next thing she was going on ‘artist dates, learning the mysterious rope art formally known as macramé, Japanese Book Binding, and going to musicals. This opened a new world to her, and she seemed so much happier. Then, I read a blog post that mentioned The Artists Way, and the same week walked into a second-hand store, and there, in a stack of books lay The Artists Way. Its spine was highlighted to me and my gaze immediately drawn to it. Curious about the fuss, and figuring God had his hand in this somehow, I took it home and began my journey of healing, acceptance, and discovering a sense of play.
So, what was it that unstuck me and helped me overcome my fears? A lot of hard work and commitment for the full 12 weeks of The Artists Way program, and committed to stretching and challenging myself ever since, that’s what. Each week of The Artists Way program, especially at the beginning, you have to work through questions and activities to find what is keeping you stuck. I was amazed how the very act of WRITING an experience down and seeing it black and white could unblock something within. Do it! It will amaze, shock, and surprise you.
For me, it was a combination of having my classmates laugh at my stories. I was a shy kid with very poor self-esteem. Looking back now I can see that my stories were funny. At high school, I would write stories straight out of left field and have a totally different take on the assignment. This also caused my classmates to burst into laughter and for me to wish I could just sink into the floor and disappear.
My art was different. I had one great art teacher for three terms in year eight. But, the rest of the time my art teachers were interested in Abstract Art which I hated. I wanted to learn to draw and paint nature, people, and animals. As I said at the beginning, I couldn’t get past the ‘yuk’ stage. I didn’t know how.
About five years ago I got hold of Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards. This was my first breakthrough. Going through the exercises and then trying to draw later I was amazed at the difference. As you can see below, there is a remarkable distinction between the two drawings.
However, I still stagnated — until this year and The Artists Way.
In The Artists Way there is a section of affirmations. One spoke to me and has made one of the biggest impacts. I can nurture my artist. Up to this point, because I felt my artwork was no good, I didn’t need to invest time and/or money on courses or good materials. Oh. My. Goodness. The change that happened when I gave myself permission to invest in good quality paints, paint brushes, paper, liners, as well as online courses was incredible.
So, what did I do after The Artists Way?
I drew. I painted. I continued to take myself on Artists Dates. I spoke with illustrators like Giuseppe Poli and Katrin Dreiling and picked their brains. You can read what they told me here and here. With Giuseppe’s encouragement, I joined the 52 Week Facebook Illustration Challenge and started putting up my work online, not just in that group but everywhere on my social media pages.
My illustrations aren’t great. But, the very act of having to come up with a new piece every week is a wonderful discipline. These were my Artist Dates as well as going to the art store for art supplies. And I can see the improvement already. I often sit in amazement of what I just completed. I also signed up with Skillshare and started taking Nina Rycroft’s illustration courses, as well as any other courses that I felt could help me learn how to use the different mediums.
For me, putting up my art on public display is about conquering my fear of not being good enough and feeling afraid of never measuring up. I have changed my thinking. I no longer compare myself to my friend Ester, who is an amazing artist, and an incredible illustrator. Nor do I compare me to anyone else. I am me. I look at the world differently to anyone else. I am discovering my own style. And, most of all, I am having fun. I experiment all the time. I now compare myself to myself and how far I have come in such a short time.
And do you know what has surprised me the most? This release, this freedom I have found in my art has found its way into my writing. I play with words. I have fun with them. I have fun in my stories. I especially noticed this in the Sci-fi/fantasy novel I just finished. I had an absolutely thrilling time writing the last part of my novel. Each time I sat down I felt exhilarated.
As for my art, I have signed up to take Nina Rycroft’s illustration Masterclass e-course. And my friend Ester is taking it with me. We’ll be doing it together. How cool is that?
So, what about you? What can you do to become all that you can be and start understanding your fears, overcome those that hold your back?
Valerie Khoo is now getting commissions for her rope art AND her artworks. Katrin Dreiling has just had her first book come out. It’s written by Michelle Worthington and illustrated by her. It's called, The World's Worst Pirate.
As for me, people are liking my illustrations and watching my journey. One day, I will realise my dream and write and illustrate my own picture book.
You can find out more about Julia Cameron and her book: The Artists Way
Betty Edwards has a website. Find out more here and read her book and do the exercises. It’s amazing.
If you enjoyed this post feel free to like and share.
Michelle Worthington is an international award winning children's author. She released her first children's picture book in November 2011. Since then she has released ten picture books, two within the last six months. Michelle is also the founder of Share Your Story Australia.
Persistent and tenacious , Michelle joined me for a chat about overcoming rejection, what’s her ‘why’ and how that impacts all she does, and how now she is available to help and mentor aspiring, and emerging authors .
Megan: Can you give me a brief overview of you journey to publication of that first book in 2011?
Michelle: Goodness me, that seems like a million years ago. After ten years of trying, I had all but given up on my dream of getting my picture book published. I had made every mistake, got a contract that was cancelled during the GFC and not had any clue there were people out there that could have helped me.
It was timing that got me my first contract in the end. I found a local publisher who had just finished an Australian animal book when I emailed my manuscript and were looking to use the same illustrator. Timing and luck, I'm not sure how much talent had to do with it, but I hope a little bit too!
Megan: I'm pretty sure talent had a lot to do with it. So much has happened since then. What publishing experiences have you had over the years since? What publishing experiences have you had over the years?
Michelle: I have had the absolute pleasure to work with some amazing publishers and illustrators and learned so much along the way. I'm still learning. I think you always do as a creative in such a dynamic industry. I love working as part of a team so the publication process suits me, both traditionally and independent. I am mostly traditionally published, except for The Pink Pirate.
That makes me what they call a hybrid. I really don't like that term. It shouldn't matter what pathway to publication you take, as long as you have something to say that makes a difference.
Megan: That's so true. Do you think that it is because for a long time self-publishing had a bad name because of a lot of not well made books were put out? Though that has changed so much now. These days you often can't tell traditionally published books from many of the self-published books
Michelle: I think so, but times are changing. Opinions are taking longer to change but the focus has to be on quality and author branding, no matter what publishing channel you choose.
Megan: You have had your share of rejection letters and emails. What have you learnt from those experiences?
Michelle: Over 300 to date. It showed me how passionate I was about doing this. Each rejection was an opportunity to learn and improve my writing or figure out what sort of writer I wanted to be. I still get down about rejections, especially when I really thought my story would be a good fit for that publisher, but it won't stop me. My motto is, "not this story, not them, not now" and move on.
Megan: And that is the key to the whole journey in the end, isn't Michelle? Digging deep and discovering and articulating your 'why.' And your passion for what you believe comes out in everything you do too.
Michelle: Absolutely, if you don't know your why, stop right now and figure it out for two reasons. to keep you going when times get tough and to make your life so much easier when it comes to marketing and promotion, a very tricky element of being an author.
It’s easier to market your why than yourself. I don't like talking about myself, but I can talk about my books until the cows come home. I think a lot of authors miss the point when it comes to marketing, especially via social media.
Megan: That is so true. One of the first things I did before I set up my website, and my Facebook pages was to articulate my why. This helps steer every conversation, and everything I get involved in. It has certainly helped me avoid some nasty virtual reefs.
Speaking about being able to talk about your books... as authors, we often put aspects of ourselves in our characters who we write about. What character do you identify with the most out of all the books you’ve read, and those you’ve written?
Michelle: Of the books I have read, I am Anne of Green Gables, Laura Wilder, Silky from the Far Away Tree and a hobbit, but the only book I have ever written with myself as the character was Hootie the Cutie. It was the trickiest book to write. All my books have elements of my upbringing, my beliefs, and my experiences in them. That is what children connect with, authentic stories.
Megan: I love Hootie the Cutie. One of my fav's.
You’ve mentioned a couple of times about you as an author having something to say, and finding a way to say it. How important is it for us to share our stories with the wider community?
Michelle: It is how we have passed down knowledge from generation to generation from the beginning of time. It is what makes us human, the ability to share stories with each other in order to teach, inspire and create. Everyone has a story to tell, and sometimes you have to show real bravery to tell it.
Megan: Telling stories is a wonderful way to communicate a message, to pass on a story that happened long ago, or yesterday. All sorts of things. You’ve recently started Share Your Story. Can you explain what it is, and how it came to be, and why you started it?
Michelle: It started out of my desire to help aspiring authors have an easier journey to publication than I did. There is so much amazing talent in Australia right now and so many stories that can inspire change for the better in our community.
But with the publishing industry becoming more and more daunting, I wanted to create a tribe of new writers and experienced authors who could work together to bring a new voice to the Australian arts scene. We are not a writers group. We are an organisation aiming to educate, inspire and empower writers to publish their stories and grow their author business. My goal is for authors to outgrow us and come back as guest speakers and mentors.
Megan: Wow! That is amazing. I love your heart Michelle. And you are right. It is daunting these days. I find it difficult in that, for someone unpublished like myself, I hear so many conflicting bits of advice. It is wonderful you have someone, like yourself, being willing to show and to guide aspiring and emerging authors, to help them grow their brand, their business, and to grow as a writer too.
You’ve been so giving of your time today. Thank you so much. Are there any final words you have for any emerging authors that are looking to get published?
Michelle: If you know in your heart that your story matters, never give up. I'm always here to help if you need me. My email inbox is always open.
I think that about wraps it up. Thank you so much for today. I've thoroughly enjoyed our chat.
Michelle: Thanks for having me.
3 fun facts about Michelle:
I love wearing old socks
I'm allergic to dust
My next husband will be Jamie from Outlander, that's why my current husband won't let me go to Scotland
If you enjoyed this post feel free to like and share.
In the second in my series of conversations with authors and illustrators, I am pleased to welcome illustrator, Katrin Dreiling.
Megan: Hi, Katrin. I just wanted to say that I am so pleased to have found you on social media. I think I first saw your illustrations on Facebook. I love your quirky, fun style. And I am rapt to have met you in person at KidLitVic2017 this year too.
Katrin: Oh, wow thank you Megan I'm very happy I have met you personally and online, too. It's always fantastic to meet the people behind their profile pics in real life...
Megan: So true. So, maybe we should start at the beginning, as that is always a good place to start.
Has art always been an influence in your life? If so, in what way?
Katrin: It certainly has. Since I was really little I would always draw or craft things. I have always been very interested in music, too. Not so much making music myself but listening to it and trying to understand the musician's mind and his/her work.
Megan: I have been reading your blog. In your first post, Eins, you shared briefly about your childhood and teen years. Would you share just a little bit with me, and what has helped you overcome your fears of following your dreams?
Katrin: My teens and even twenties were marked by emotional and some physical abuse by my parents and sibling and they pretty much had planned out what was accepted for me to do and what not. Even regarding my job choice. I broke free from most of that when I moved out, and later on moved to South Africa for three months to help teaching English at an orphanage.
The wounds of such abuse last for a life time, though. To various degrees. I also stepped away from that past in a big way when I met my husband who helped me become 'myself' again. But it still took me a long time to come back to art because in my mind I still listened to what my parents wanted.
Megan: I can understand that, especially the emotional and psychological abuse. It can take a lifetime to change your thinking, and is certainly a work in progress. What would you say was the catalyst, the reason that you turned to art again as an adult?
Katrin: So, it was always there but very much in the background. My children then brought me back to it and my husband encouraged me to keep going.
Megan: It is wonderful that you have had the support of your husband. It is so important to have a cheer squad cheering you on and encouraging you. I read on your blog that you were a teacher. What made you give up teaching and go into illustration?
Katrin: It's really tricky to pinpoint a moment when that happened. I think I stopped putting more effort into building up my teaching career and increased working on my art simultaneously. It was a gradual process. I guess I could feel how much illustrating fulfilled me and that my work steadily improved... it was going somewhere and that encouraged me to keep going. At some point, I actually had three jobs - mum, teacher and illustrator and one thing had to go.
Megan: Woah! That sounds full on.
Katrin: Interestingly enough the money that I earned as a teacher versus the complete lack thereof in illustrating didn't stop me. It's an import message to my children, too, I think. My husband had the same idea unfortunately. Just around the same time when I stopped working actively as a teacher, he quit his job as a university professor and founded a tech startup. It's going well and somewhere, but in the middle of it all we sometimes look at each other and think we are completely nuts—with three children, a dog and a mortgage.
Katrin: We still like to think that we inspire our children… even if finances are tight sometimes.
Megan: I don't think that there is anything wrong with that. In fact, it might teach them something about what it takes to follow your dreams, do what you are good at, and what fulfills you.
So, at some point you decided to go into illustration. What was the first thing you did?
Katrin: Do you mean career step wise or the kind of illustration I focused on first?
Megan: Good point. They are both different. Let's take your second question as I was going to ask you about the style of illustration you do. I love it. How did that come about? And did it come about before you decided to make illustration your career?
Katrin: I'm glad you like it Megan, thank you.
So, I've always had this thing that I would 'outline' things I drew first with a black pen. It's still how I work mostly. I use ink fine liners for outlining and then I fill it with any kind of paint or even (digitally) with paper collages.
When I was young, art teachers at school, or especially an 'artsy' friend of mine back then tried to convince me it looked 'wrong' and that in reality things are not outlined like that.
They only made me more stubborn I think.
I admire everyone who can draw things realistically so that it looks like a copy. But it's not for me. If I wanted that I would use a camera. I'm interested in the things one cannot see and that tickle a child's imagination. The results are often wonky and quirky but I'm working on this idea and hope that it will be obvious to see and get better every day.
Megan: I'm with you on that point. Realism is amazing, and I also admire people who can do that. But, I'm the same mind when it comes to illustration. I like how you say that you are, 'Interested in the things one cannot see, and that tickle a child's imagination.' Beautiful. Okay, I've said this a few times, but I do like your style. It makes me feel like I don't have to be perfect and realistic in developing my own style. I can make things a little wonky, a bit different. You have inspired me.
Katrin: Yay! (Cheering Minion)
Megan: So, what was the first step you took in making illustration your career?
Katrin: First, I've created a picture book 'on the side' while still teaching. It's called 'How to get a fat fairy flying' and I self-published it. I think the 'true' moment of making it a career, though, was stepping into the 'public' with my work - posting it on Facebook and joining the Brisbane Illustrators Group. Both set a machinery of things into motion. You meet people and hear and learn things and everything just 'grows'.
Megan: That's true. It's not something you can do alone.
'I'm interested in the things one cannot see and that tickle a child's imagination.' Katrin Dreiling
Katrin: Then I started going to conferences. I did the CYA competition and won second place in 2015....I think? (I'm so bad with dates and numbers).
Megan: Wow! Congrats on the win. Conferences are great for connecting with others. You have illustrated a book written by Michelle Worthington, The World's Worst Pirate. Can you tell me how that came about?
Katrin: I met Kathy Creamer and later on her husband Peter on Facebook. They run Little Pink Dog Books and Kathy approached me about submissions for their brand new publishing business. They were also my first ever clients who bought an original art piece from me and I really appreciate all their support and that they believed in my work from an early stage on.
Megan: That is so wonderful. Your experience really shows the importance of getting to know others in the industry and getting your work out there.
Is there anything else that you'd like to add? What advice do you have for an emerging illustrator, such as myself?
Katrin: I think the most important thing is that your illustrations 'tell' something that goes beyond just the visual. Have a message. The rest will follow
(I hope this made sense...)
Megan: Can you elaborate? Do you mean that each illustration tells a story?
Katrin: Ideally illustrations in a picture book don't just show what's in the text but tell their own little tale. They also carry an emotion and atmosphere that adds to the story told. At least that's the kind of illustrations I always go back to when I look at picture books.
Megan:That is what I have learnt too. Thank you so much for your time today, Katrin. I think that about wraps it up.
Katrin: It was a pleasure Megan Thank you for the opportunity to talk about my work!
Three Fun Facts about Katrin:
1. I'm scared of birds. If they swoop me or come too close to my head it sets off a ridiculous presentation of running, screaming, and arm-waving...
2. I can't get enough of watching Golden Retriever puppy videos.
3. I love to recycle art supplies and use the tiniest scrap of leftover paper for my work.
If you want to find out more about Katrin, or would like to follow her on social media, head over to her website. www,katrindreiling.com
If you enjoyed this post feel free to like and share.
Emerging author, teacher, and child wrangler
After coming back from the KidLitVic Conference I was challenge to re-look at my current writing project and edit for chapter length as there were some inconsistencies within the text. So as a topic for this month’s session, I chose to research articles which discussed both ‘chapter length’ and ‘dialogue length’ in fantasy fiction. I felt that this would suit our group as we all write in this genre.
The articles presented discussed a variety of texts and the differing lengths of chapters. As I am currently working on a fantasy fiction, we looked predominantly at Jefferson Smith’s articles.
Article One, Analysing Chapter Length in Fantasy Fiction looks at popular fantasy fictions texts using a more mathematical approach plotting chapter lengths from individual texts to see what patterns they form. We were surprised to discover that the longest chapter was The Last Unicorn with 23,000 words.
Article Two, Analysing Dialogue Length in Fantasy Fiction by Jefferson Smith, discusses the total percentage of dialogue in a variety of popular fantasy texts also noting the amount of characters which are given ‘speaking’ roles within the texts.
It shows the longest utterance, the shortest utterance, and the average amount. It goes into dialogue density, how many speaking characters there are, etc. So, if you want a new and different way of looking at dialogue, this is for you. Sorry, it won't help you write great dialogue though.
Article Three: We then looked at another more general article by Brian Klem on the Writers Digest , How Long Should Novel Chapters be? which examined a broader approach to chapter lengths in novels. According to Brian, ‘There are no hard-and-fast rules on how long or short a chapter needs to be. It could be three pages. It could be 22. It could be 40. You shouldn’t set manuscript guidelines for yourself on chapter length.
'Each chapter in your book tells a mini-story that forwards your overall plot.’ Brian Klem
So there you have it, Overall the general advice was that there is fixed rule about specific chapter length targets, although the important thing to keep in mind is pace and flow of the text. You need to ensure you are using chapter lengths to enhance and compliment tension and the events of the text.
Using your chapter breaks much like a TV show would use ad breaks either to encourage the reader to read on, as you have left events when tension is high or once a problem has been resolved, allowing the reader to sit back and absorb significant events.
These articles gave the group some interesting approaches to the question of chapter length in texts. With this in mind, we should always remember that through texts we are telling a story. By using the tools of chapters or breaks effectively, we can regulate pace and tighten tensions thus enhancing the experience for our readers.
Megan's two cents: Personally, as a reader, I enjoy short chapters. It allows me the ease to say to myself, 'Just one more chapter before I go to sleep,' when I look ahead and see only three to six pages in the chapter. But, I will still read a book with longer chapters, and bookmark my spot as my eyes begin to close. As Jacquie said, it is about the pacing of the story itself.
If you enjoyed this post feel free to like and share.
Karen Tyrrell Author is a Brisbane award-winning writer of empowering books for children and grown-ups.
Karen’s books are inspirational page turners, often humorous, showing how to live strong and be resilient.
Karen’s childrens’ books Bailey Beats the Blah and STOP the Bully are endorsed by Kids Helpline.
Harry Helps Grandpa Remember won a RADF grant.
Jo-Kin Battles the It, Jo-Kin vs Lord Terra and Song Bird Superhero share positive messages. Her messages include self-belief, resilience, team building, problem solving and STEM science.
Karen has just released Song Bird 2: The Battle of Bug World: Can Song Bird stop the bully, save her sister, the bees and environment … before it’s too late?
Welcome to the blog today, Karen. I’ve had you on the blog a few times now, and yet I always have new questions for you. This time around I would love to get your thoughts on writing junior fiction.
1. What drew you to writing junior fiction? And what do you enjoy most about it?
I loved reading junior fiction to my primary school classes, watching how engrossed they became with child-centred stories and characters they cared about.
I love creating humour and fast-paced action for my superhero, Song Bird AKA Rosella Ava Bird. She’s faced with dramatic challenges to save her sister from the bully … and save the environment and the bees.
Well, you’ve certainly achieved a fast paced book with lots of action with Song Bird Book 2.
2. What is the hardest part of writing junior fiction?
Combining all the layers of the story into one cohesive whole. My favourite layer is adding humour into the final storyline. I love watching the hero trip over and crack jokes about his dorky parents. I weave the child-centred humour into the final draft of the hero’s journey.
3. What are the most important elements to include in a junior fiction novel?Humour. Action packed adventure. A relatable kid hero and his/ her side-kicks. Yummy, delicious food.
We can’t forget the food, can we?
4. When did you get inspired by the idea for your latest book, Song Bird 2: The Battle of Bug World?
In 2016, I created version #1, Song Bird 2: The Battle of Hero World with a stop the bully and hero theme. Then I changed up the story line to add an extra plot line about saving the bees and the environment as well as the original bully theme. Bug World is a unique fantasy world, existing on two levels: the visible Bug World theme park and the mysterious world below the earth’s surface.
There’s certainly a lot going on in such a short book.
5. So, what are your top tips for writing junior fiction?
A: Junior novels or junior fiction: Primarily for 8-12+ years. Generally, a paperback with very few line illustrations (B&W) and the word length from 10,000 to 25,000 words depending on the series it suits. Books for young readers who are confident.
B: Create brick wall challenges, struggles, and conflicts for the relatable hero character to solve.
C: If your book is humorous, add hilarious humour to the very last draft. Think up crazy names. Create scenes to show-off slapstick humour and nerdy dorky parents who do ridiculous, embarrassing things.
D: Make the story child-centred with loads of delicious food, tons of action-packed adventure and dialogue that is punchy and creates tension.
Thanks for coming on the blog today, Karen, and sharing your tips for writing junior fiction. And don’t forget to check out the special prizes and giveaways that Karen has for readers at the end of the post. It’s some pretty cool prizes that you don’t want to miss out on.
A superstorm destroys Rosella Ava Bird’s flower garden.
All the bees are disappearing.
A giant sink-hole cracks open beneath Rosie’s school bus, and mysterious voices rise up from the depths.
A tornado blasts the house of Frank, Rosie’s sinister next-door neighbour, threatening Rosie’s family.
And Rosie’s sister, Raven, has gone missing.
Should Rosie lead a mission into Bug World to rescue Raven?
Or stay home and save her family?
You can find Karen on:
Facebook: Karen Tyrell
You Tube: Karen Tyrell
Instagram: Karen Tyrell
Check out the rest of the Blog Tour to win some AWESOME prizes:
From Mon June 26 AMAZON LAUNCH Battle of Bug World Amazon Releasewww.karentyrrell.com/amazon-release-battle-bug-world/
From Mon June 26 Battle of Bug World AMAZON LAUNCH
From Tues June 27 CURLY Q’S Kids Book Review
From Tues June 27 REVIEW Just Write For Kids. A New Eco Adventurefrom Karen Tyrrell
From Wed June 28 REVIEW Georgina Ballantine review
From Thurs June 29 Writing Junior Fiction with Megan Higginson
From Fri June 30 REVIEW & interview http://www.readilearn.com.au/blog/
Just leave a comment on any of the posts in the blog tour, to win a copy of The Battle of Bug World (Song Bird 2). Add initials SB2
FREE Children’s Book Assessment!
Win a free children’s book assessment (up to 10 pages) by the author Karen Tyrrell. Just comment on any of the posts in the blog tour and add the initials CBA
Win signed artwork by illustrator Trevor Salter. Add initials AW
Remember the more you comment, the more chances you have to win The Battle of Bug World. Good luck 😊
If you enjoyed this post feel free to like and share. And don't forget to comment to go into the running to win a prize.
Guest blogger Michelle Lewry
Author | Story Time and Baby Rhyme Time presenter | Master miso soup maker.
So you’re a writer?
What’s so special about your writing?
Can you sum up what you write in a sentence? No? How about three words? Nope?
In her Building Your Brand workshop at the KidLitVic2017 Conference, editor extraordinaire Lisa Berryman asked a room full of rapt writers these same questions (only she wasn’t so thug-like) because ladies and gentlemen, whether we like it or not, today’s publishing world demands authors (emerging or established) to create their own brand.
A brand can be described as a "unique and CAREFULLY designed IMAGE which DIFFERENTIATES your product from your competitors.” Sorry about all the capitals but it’s important you understand you are now officially a product, just like a box of cereal on a supermarket shelf.
So, are you the earth-friendly oats in the compostable khaki box or the crunchy, punchy, choccy puffs with the goofy gorilla on the front? Let’s find out.
Grab some pens, (coloured ones), some paper (a big piece), and put on your best advertising exec suit (or twin set).
Write down what you think are your Unique Selling Points — we’ve all got them, the trick is not to take a backward step, don’t be modest, write ‘em down loud and proud. Weed out the daggy bits then write yourself a spiffy one-liner about what you do.
Now take your spiffy one-liner and condense it even further into about 3 or so words. This is the essence of your brand. Kinda scary but exciting at the same time, isn’t it? Build your brand around these words, always be true to them and don’t diss them by acting unprofessionally.
Well done, you!
You’ll know you’ve got a good brand thing going when your writer’s conference conversations go something like this--
Editor: So, what do you write?
You: YA coming-of-age stories with rock’n’roll street cred.
Editor (raises an eyebrow): Uh-huh. Working on anything at the moment?
You: I’m writing about the sexual misadventures of an over-privileged, under-parented, 16-year-old in 2017, Tokyo.
Editor: Really. Can I have a look at it?
You: I’ll have it to you tomorrow!
Please, if you see one of Lisa Berryman’s workshops advertised at a writing conference near you, GO! Lisa is responsible for publishing and growing the brand of Australia’s top writing talent. You will learn heaps!
Since reading her first book, (about a bear bouncing on a bed) Michelle’s always had a book in her hands or a story running through her head.
Surprisingly, Michelle studied painting at university but found awful artists don’t make a living so she travelled to Japan seeking adventure and employment as an English teacher.
During her 10 years stint in Japan, Michelle didn’t read any books or write any stories but she did learn how to make a ripper miso soup and offend people with her manly Japanese. She won the 1999 Western Tokyo Karaoke Championship and a second place for the Best Tamborine Solo by a Female, 2001.
When Michelle returned to Australia, she went on a book-reading binge. One lonely night, she wrote a picture book manuscript. The manuscript won a prize. Encouraged, Michelle kept writing her stories. Now she writes picture books, middle-grade fiction, plays for children and YA Fiction (so she can swear and talk about rude things).
By day, Michelle is an energetic Story Time and Baby Rhyme Time presenter at her local library. She relishes her role in creating excitement around reading for young children. She’s passionate about early literacy, especially for underprivileged families.
You can find out more on Michelle's LinkedIn page.
For previous guest blog posts by attendees to KidLitVic:
KidLitVic2017 Lessons by Pamela Uekerman reflects on the conference as a whole.
Full Steam Ahead. KidLitVic2017 by Karen Hendriks covers the various panels on the day.
KidLitVic2017: A Reflection by Juliet Sampson chats about her observations and the changes in publishing trends.
Learn How to Master Manuscript Assessments with Carole Lander.
For another perspective and further information on the author branding workshop, please read the guest post, It’s All About Your Brand by Penelope Pratley.
For more coverage and different perspectives:
From an organiser's perspective: The KidLitVic 2017- Meet the Publishers Conference Wrap-Up by Nicky Johnson
Tania McCartney gives her view of KidLit, along with what she is up too, on her blog, Works-in-progress, KidLitVic and Crystal Kite!
Romi Sharp reflects on her experiences on her blog, KidLitVic2017 Reflections
Tabitha Page talks about her first KidLitVic experience and how AWESOME it was.
Kris Sheather gives an informative overview of the entire conference in her blog, KidLitVic - In Melbourne.
If you enjoyed this post feel free to like and share.
On my blog you will find:
You can find more about me, and read my children's stories at Creative Kids Tales
Click to set custom HTML
The content on this website and blog is information only and the author is not liable for what you, the reader, do (or not do) with that information.