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.
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An Australian author, multi-award winning singer/songwriter and musician, a mother, a wife, and a grandmother.
‘The two most important days in your life are the day you are born, and the day you find out why.’ Mark Twain
‘Like the bobo doll is weighted to enable it to bounce back up, understanding my ‘why’ is what weighted me and enabled me to rise after every fall. I’m not saying it was easy, but it gave me strength to keep going.’ Daniel Flynn (Co-founder, Thankyou TM – from his book, You Have the Power to Change Stuff – Chapter One
‘When you discover your Why? it opens the doors to also discover your Who? What? and How? Who am I? What am I meant to do in this world? And How am I going to go about it?’ Merelyn Carter
We wander around in life searching for our place – how do we fit in, what are we supposed to do with our lives, what is the point of our existence – ultimately, we ask ourselves, ‘Why are we here?’
Even when we get some sense of the bigger picture — why we are here, what life is all about, how some things work in the universe, we can falter on the day to day purpose. Finding our why to all facets of life, both big and small, propels us forward to really living. Living with purpose, having the courage to face the difficulties, seeing the sense in the circumstances of our lives, finding meaning in the darkest times, rising above the hopelessness and greed that permeate so many of the decisions being made in the world. Knowing what’s your why, is a key to living life in abundance.
‘The key to abundance is meeting limited circumstances with unlimited thoughts.” Marianne Williamson
We need to lose our victim mentality.
Being a victim gives us an excuse to procrastinate and avoid finding our purpose.
Being a victim allows us to blame others for our misery and not take responsibility for our own happiness.
Being a victim stops us from finding our Why?
I can honestly say I have found true, deep, and lasting peace, joy, and love.
That’s a pretty big call, but it is true.
My life experiences and situations have shown me that knowing true peace, joy and love is utterly a matter of perspective. It’s about how you view the situations that you are in, owning your own decisions to get you to that place and seeing the bigger picture. Does this mean I never feel sad? Does it mean I haven’t known loneliness or never feel alone now? Does it mean that I am happy, ‘together’, sailing through life with ease – all the time? No.
Do I ever get frustrated, agitated, angry? Yes. Do I have to face my fears? Yes. Do I get tired of the stupidity that is so inherent in human nature? Yes.
Do I have a firm belief to bring me back to moving forward? Yes. It is knowing ‘What’s My Why?’
It is about having an inner belief system that supports the peace, joy, and love. It’s about knowing strategies to help us live through and rise above the hard times, gaining perspective as to the bigger purpose of our lives.
Megan's two cents...
Knowing your why is so important to gaining focus in your life, no matter what you are doing. If you are feeling lost and want to find out more, please check out my blog post on, How to Know Your Why, over on Just Write For Kids.
More about Merelyn:
Her love for the creative, and her desire to connect with others has led her to tell her story through her autobiography ‘The Deepest Part of Me’, encourage and motivate through her book ‘Inspire’ and tell her stories in song with her husband David through their music as ‘Carter & Carter’ (www.carterandcarter.com.au).
Writing stories for her children and grandchildren has led to the teaming up with IPPY award winning Illustrator Ester de Boer to create her latest gloriously illustrated children’s book ‘To the Moon and Back. Grandma’s Rocket Ship Adventure’. Merelyn and David live in Kinglake, Victoria, Australia on a small farm with 60 animals. Faith, family, and friendship are her life priorities, bringing together people and communities to share the journey of life.
To the Moon and Back
Grandma's Rocket Ship Adventure.
A gloriously illustrated children's book celebrating the relationship between a grandparent and child that explores imaginative storytelling and celebrates the extended family relationship. Be transported on an adventure to the moon on Grandma's Rocket Ship. It's a wild ride. Collect rainbow moon dust and search for the elusive man on the moon.
We can empower ourselves to live to our full potential simply by knowing who we really are…
The Deepest Part of Me
Every now and then someone takes the chance to reveal the deepest part of their soul to the world. Taking away the masks, barriers, and filters, removing the fear of not being liked. Opening their heart and allowing themselves to be vulnerable. Giving of themselves without regret, all with the hope of reaching out to other hearts and souls and making a difference. Merelyn Carter is one such person with her book, The Deepest Part of Me.
For all book and music go to http://carterandcarter.com.au/books.html or call 0416 075 638
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Writers' Group Announcement by Ester de Boer
Only two of us for writer’s group this month! Megs and I met up at the Redbook Café in Traralgon. Why? Because the coffee is great and, well, it’s a book café- so it doesn’t get better than that. My favourite seats were occupied by a couple of latte-sipping yuppies, whom I eyeballed to discomfort while circling like a shark, waiting for that split second when their designer bums released contact with the upholstery and – BAM! In I Leapt!
While they minced indignantly out the front door, I claimed my territory, spreading out my belongings- bike helmet, notebooks, laptop etc. onto every free surface of table and pouffe within a square metre of my seat, before strutting to the counter and saying airily “I feel like something different… surprise me”. (Yes, I am one of those people, but I promise it’s my one pretentious tendency). Megan had her own complex, allergen-free caffeinated concoction, and we both settled back smugly, occupying the only two lounge chairs in the shop.
It’s been a fascinating evolution of an original idea of Megan’s story, Raymund and the Fear Monster, from the first story and sketches, to editing, reediting… while I’ve sketched and put my own two-bob’s-worth into every version of the text. I’ve felt like the nervous dad, pacing helplessly back and forth outside the maternity ward for our “baby” to emerge.
Megan and I are polar opposites in way of approaching things. She’s an organiser and is great at making connections, using social media for promotion, etc. My brain is a creative idea factory badly in need of a floor manager. While I usually make it my policy not to do projects with friends, somehow this combination seems to work. By December, I’ll finally be able to plan the illustrations. I’m working in just black and white, so I can lean on my strongest skill- drawing.
Raymund is more than just a funky picture book idea. It’s designed to introduce kids to some simple strategies for managing stress and anxiety. They’re methods which I have used effectively with children for close to twenty years working kids with special needs, so you could say that it’s a “social story” in the guise of a super-fun, cool picture book. So keep watching this space!
My two cents by Megan Higginson
Yes! Finally! After much talk and discussion, Raymund and the Fear Monster is getting published.
I tried for an Art Grant last year to obtain the funds to self-publish my story, Raymund and the Fear Monster, and did not get it (I was up against published authors). I looked into crowdfunding (it is a lot of work and I was not sure that I had the energy to put into it to make it work). By mid this year I was not sure if I would ever get Raymund published.
However, each perceived setback I looked at as an opportunity to hone and refine Raymund. I took him to school, teacher friends have read them to their respective classes, and I have read Raymund to various people that I have meet around the creative writing field. Everyone loves Raymund. I’ve taken various suggestions on board to make Raymund as good as it possibly can be. And now, Ester and I are taking the plunge together into the world of self-publishing.
I love Ester's work and I know that the illustrations for Raymund and the Fear Monster are in fantabulous hands.
I am thrilled that it is finally happening and I know that Ester can’t wait to make a start on the illustrations. So, this week, I will be sending Raymund off to my editor for a final look over, before sending the manuscript on to Ester to get started. I am so excited.
So, people, watch this space. Raymund will be arriving (barring any unforeseen circumstances) late next year. Yay!
A monster that eats fear, is terrorising Raymund’s village. Raymund is small and not very brave. Will Raymund be able to overcome his fear, defeat the monster and save his village?
This book has proven strategies to overcome fear.
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Thank God May is almost over!!! What a mad ride in the centre of a spin dryer of a month! There's a stereotype that says that, in order to create, every writer (or artist) needs that haven from the rush and pressure of life- a little cave of solitude. I, personally, thrive on the squash and energy of a crowd. This month, however, has been all squash, rush and chaos- and- shizmik! I am all out of energy!
So when Saturday arrived, I just wanted to have a really chilled out writing session with my friends. Please please please... let's keep this cheerily shallow and silly, huh? Cos I'm really not up to taking anything serious right now!
It could be the after affect of dancing to the Wiggles all week in the Preppy room (while all the kids stood, staring at me as if to say “wow... poor Miss B has finally lost it!”) but I had the sparky little notion that we could have a go at song writing.
I arranged two piles of papers- one with the names of songs, the other with well known fairy tales. We chose from both piles, and then set about rewriting the stories to the melodies of the songs.
Megan composed the story of the Three Little Pigs to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle; Jacqui sang a dramatic glam-rock Red Riding Hood to Bohemian Rhapsody “It's the WOLF!... wolf wolf wolf wolf … mamamia let me go!” (can't quite remember how it went now, but you get the gist!); and Verity sang a great “We Will Rock You, Cindy!” (Cinderella).
I drew out that sweet, timeless classic, Bluebeard, and fit it to the tune of The Lonely Goat-herd (as in “High on the hills was a lonely goat-herd... yodeleyi yodeleyi yodeleyi-hoo!”) from The Sound of Music.
So here goes – feel free to sing along:
Once far away was a pretty girl who
hadn't had a date for a year or two
her folks set her up with a weird divorcee
saying “he's a freak, but hell- he's well to do!”
He showed her her room at the top of the tower
-designer clothes and diamonds with a hundred shoes...
Then turned to her sternly, his face a-glower
“Here's the deal – I tell you what to do!
“Under the castle's my secret man cave
where I keep my secrets.” (She replied “Oh, my!”)
“If you go in there, you'll cause me great rage.
If you disobey me you will die!”
But she bored of her life as a housewife
Yearned for adventure – to be free
Crept down into her husband's man-cave
And to her horror she did see...
Hanging on a meat-hook all skinned and gutted
were the butchered bodies of his former wives.
She knew from village gossip the divorces were messy
But for their disobedience they'd lost their lives!
She thought, “this guy's whacked! Better put the key back!”
But the key was covered with the victims' blood.
Though she doused it in bottles of stain remover,
the evidence remained- it wouldn't budge.
This lovely tale has cradled many a shivering child to sleep over the centuries. (Strange how Disney hasn't made an animated film yet...)
Thanks Ester, for hosting our writer's group. It was a fun challenge, that made us think of how we could fit the story into the melody of the song. It had us in fits of laughter, as well as sitting in amazement (well me anyway), hearing what everyone came up with.
So give this activity a go at your next writer's group, or when you just need to wind down and have some fun. Let me know what you come up with.
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.
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