For their November text, the Younger Sun Bookshop Kids’ Book Club, in Melbourne, read ‘Too Many Friends’. After the reading and discussion, they sent me some questions – not just about ‘Too Many Friends’, but about some of my other verse novels, as well. I thought I’d include them in a blog post, in case other kids have similar questions.
Ella (right) wrote; We have just finished our Kids’ Book Club where we were discussing ‘Too Many Friends’ and the kids all LOVED it! They thought the poems looked a bit scary at first, but once they started reading they really loved the story and found it was just as easy to read as a regular novel.
I thought it was important to include this, because it’s something I hear often. The verse novel format looks intimidating… but isn’t! It’s not until you pick up the book and start reading that you discover this for yourself. That’s why wonderful booksellers like Ella are so important! I’m so grateful you supported these kids with such a rich introduction to verse novels, Ella!
Now – the questions…
Tori – Was ‘Bully on the Bus’ based on your life or someone who you knew?
(They are very excited to read your other two verse novels)
‘Bully on the Bus’ was inspired by some things that happened to my boys on their school bus when they were very little. I realised that what is scary for a small child sometimes isn’t seen as scary by adults. I wanted to write about a situation that makes kids feel sad or unsafe – and write it in such a way that the adults could understand their fear. Writing Leroy’s story sparked a whole lot of memories of things that happened on my school bus as a child – the words spoken and the tone of voice, the looks on the bullies’ faces, and the way they made me feel. I’d forgotten them for many years – but they were still tucked away deep inside.
Eliza – Why do you write about young people and not about adults?
(Eliza thought it was pretty incredible that you could write a young person so well when you’re not one yourself anymore! You must have a really good memory, she says.)
This is pretty special to hear, Eliza. Great observation! For the record, I remember feelings and atmosphere. But I’m not so good on precise details!
As to your question … I write about young people because they’re the stories that touched my heart with a need to be told. Being surrounded by kids has probably helped to give me the voice of varied child-characters. Many of the characters in ‘Too Many Friends’ were a blend of kids who have come through my classes over the years – with a little bit of me-as-a-kid in some of them, too. Maybe I never grew up. 🙂
Ruby – What got you into writing?
I fell down the writing hole when I was at home with my two young boys. I wanted to be a stay-at-home mum, but I needed something for myself, too. (Otherwise, I might have gone a little bit crazy!) We’d been reading heaps of kids’ books – but very few of them were FUN reads that accurately reflected our rural Australian way of life … so I started writing them. As my boys grew, so did my writing.
Rory – Why do you write verse novels and not regular novels?
I started writing picture books, and poetry. (What was I thinking?! They’re both very hard to sell!) Picture books are usually 600 words, maximum, though many of my PB manuscripts are 250wrds. Any time I thought about writing a novel, I’d panic. So many words!! How would I fill a book, without listing everything they ate for breakfast, lunch and tea?
Then I discovered verse novels. And loved them. And started writing them … and loved them even more! They’re not as overwhelming as a novel. Each poem is complete within itself. I can do that!
The first verse novel I started to write was ‘On Track’ – but I only wrote 139 words before I got overwhelmed and put it away … for 9 months! Then over the course of a month, it grew to 653 words … and was put away again for another long stint. It took 6 years to write ‘On Track’. I’m very relieved to say I have got much more confident and productive with my writing, since then! But I don’t know that I’ll be writing novels any time soon. Certainly not for adults! (I’ve still got too many verse novels in the works.)
Sebastian – Why are you scared of cows?
I think that saying, ‘Once bitten, twice shy’ was written just for me. I learn from my mistakes. And never forget …
Thank-you Ella, for co-ordinating the Kids’ Book Club, and introducing young readers to a new genre, then helping them unlock the treasure of a verse novel. I’m delighted you included ‘Too Many Friends’ – loved hearing the feedback and answering the questions.
I’m so glad you bookclub kids are keen to read my other verse novels, too. Sally Murphy, Lorraine Marwood and Sherryl Clark also write beautiful Australian verse novels, that I’m sure you’d enjoy!
For the full Poetry Friday round-up for the week, head over to Carol’s Corner. Thanks, Carol!