Lorraine Marwood is one of Australia’s great poets. It is always a privilege to read her works, and enlightening to hear her insights. With the release of Lorraine’s new book, ‘Celebrating Australia – a year in poetry’, I asked Lorraine what brings a collection of poems together – looking at the challenge of variety in poems, balanced with editorial expectations. This is Lorraine’s fourth poetry collection for children, so I think she’s well qualified to answer that question. :)
Wise and wonderful Wendy Orr, tagged me for a blog post about one of my characters. She followed it up with that evil laugh – but when I skipped across and checked out her blog post on Nim, I was quite excited to be asked. What a great way to get a bit of perspective on your character! (Be sure to read Wendy’s post for lots of fascinating insights into Nim.)
But here I am. I’m ‘It’. Continue reading
I’ve been tagged again – this time by talented picture book author and beautiful, supportive friend, Katrina Germein.
The challenge is to share 7 lines from page 7 or 77 of a current WiP. Then tag other writers to continue the game.
Here’s 7 lines from page 7 of my current WIP – another verse novel.
My hand hurts and the
harder I try the more
those blue lines
squeeze my letters
out of place
. out of
Now to tag the next writers to share a sneak-peek of their work…
Looking forward to seeing where you’re all at with your current WIPs! (And congrats Sam, on your beautiful new UQP book, Spud & Charli. xx)
I’ve been tagged and today I’m ‘it’ in the Author Process blog tour. My friend Chris Bell caught me, and I confess to being a little surprised that she could drag herself away from her research long enough to answer the questions last week… and play tag too! (I think that’s how she caught me. Unawares. :P )
Chris Bell is a historical writer and she loves research – so much so that occasionally she forgets she’s supposed to be writing, as she journeys back to life a century or two ago. She’s currently working on a YA historical novel set in convict Tasmania. Chris has written over thirty published books for children, including picture story, chapter and YA. Her contemporary YA novel, Jumping Through Hoops, won the CYA Published Author Prize 2011 and was longlisted in the international 2012 Mslexia Writing for Children Competition. Next month, she’s excited to be heading to Katoomba to take up a Varuna Retreat Fellowship to work on her YA novel. That’s exciting, Chris! I’m sure you’ll enjoy being pampered and inspired.
You can read more about Chris as she takes you from Hook to Book at christinemareebell.wordpress.com – including her post last Monday, where she talked about her writing process.
But now I’m ‘it’, so today I get to answer four questions about my writing process. Here goes…
1. What am I working on?
I’m currently working with the lovely Michele from UQP, putting final finishing touches on Bully on the Bus, my verse novel for younger readers, which is coming out in July. This is my first verse novel, and it’s a story that carries a huge chunk of my heart, so it’s all very exciting!
During the Month of Poetry in January, I started a new verse novel (my third) – something completely different for me, as it’s YA. I’m equal parts inspired and nervous. The story drew an encouraging response from participants in the MoP, so I’m hoping I can sustain it! That’s where the nerves come in …
And of course, there’s always a couple of picture books in the mix, too. Though they have taken a bit of a back seat in the last 12months, as I’ve worked on three different verse novels…
2. How does my work differ from others in my genre?
The rural flavour that comes across in much of my writing would be one signature trait. It’s subtly there in a lot of my writing – a background to the story, not THE story.
In my rhyming work, I think it would be the integrity of rhythm and rhyme. That tenacious desire to get it right – not compromise with near rhymes and forced rhythms. The tricky bit is to be true to good poetry, but not at the expense of story. Sometimes I get it right, and other times … Well, I’m still working on those stories!
3. Why do I write what I write?
Lots of my picture books are purely for fun – the enjoyment of playing with words and story in a lively reading experience.
The rural-ness comes into my writing because that’s what I know. I was born and bred on a farm, and then married a grazier … which does not mean I’m a farmer by any stretch, because cattle and horses still scare me witless. BUT – I am surrounded by farming stories from my hubby and sons. So much inspiration. (So much that can go wrong!) And it’s good for Australian farm kids to see themselves in stories, too.
More recently, I’ve been exploring the verse novel format, and these have all been emotive heart-stories that leave me feeling vulnerable – but also filled with hope. These stories are really resonating with others, giving them words they might not otherwise have been able to share.
4. How does my writing process work?
I am not a planned or methodical writer. I usually jump in and write and then when I’ve found my rhythm/voice, I step back and think about where that story could go, and start to jot down possible scenarios – adding to this as the story unfolds.
The writing process can be a little fraught with tension along the way – with doubts in both my ability and the story – but the euphoria when things click perfectly into place is unmatched. And no-one is ever more surprised than ME!
Because I’ve spent so long writing picture books, I tend to get speed wobbles when I’m working on longer projects. I usually hit my first bump at 600wrds. Last year I surprised myself with my Bully edits, writing 2000 words in less than two weeks. I never knew I could do that! It was very empowering when I started writing my YA verse novel – which will require so many more words than anything I’ve ever written.
When I’m on a writing roll, my tweets stream out – and you’d be forgiven for thinking I’m procrastinating or distracted – when in reality I’m actually writing HEAPS, and just letting off a little bit of creative steam. Crazy, I know. But it seems to be the way it is.
I’m also a very polished draft-writer, which I think comes from writing so much in rhyme – when you need to get it right, before you progress, or the whole direction of the story could unexpectedly change. I can’t write a sloppy first draft, no matter what I write – and some days I may only write 100 words a day – but they’re generally GOOD words. I know you’re supposed to switch the internal editor off and just write … but I haven’t found that switch, yet!
Now it’s time for me to get snappy on my toes, and tag some authors to be ‘it’ next week…
Kayleen West is an online buddy who I met more recently, via twitter. Kayleen’s childhood dream was to write and illustrate for children. But first she ventured into a career of an exhibiting fine artist, where her work won many awards and now hangs in private and corporate collections, in the Australian Embassy in Ireland, and in Australian government collections. Kayleen returned to her original passion in 2009. She is now the author/illustrator of the picture books, ‘Without Me?’ and ‘Adoptive Father’, and has illustrated the soon-to-be-released ‘Better than a Superhero’, written by Belinda Francis. Kayleen is working on two more picture books for 2014 publication. She also writes content and illustrates for editorials. See more of Kayleen’s work at; http://kayleenwest.com.au
Sandra Peut is one of the lovely writers I meet up with on an irregular regular basis, sharing writing sessions and chit-chat at the Bundaberg Library. Sandra began writing stories for her school friends when she was a young girl. Growing up she was a voracious reader, with friends and family describing her as always having her face buried in a book. Her first novel, ‘Blue Freedom’, received third place in the 2009 Rose & Crown New Novels competition, and was subsequently published by Sunpenny Publishing in 2010. It was also shortlisted for the 2011 Caleb Awards. Her second novel, ‘The Guardian’ (a YA paranormal romance) is in the final stages of editing. Watch her website for more details; www.sandrapeut.com
And now, it’s over to you, girls. You’re ‘it’!
I first met Michelle Dennis Evans through #pblitchat – a twitter-based chat I co-convened at the time, for those who loved or created picture books. Michelle has also been a participant in January Month of Poetry, which I co-ordinate each year – and we continue to interact on Twitter. Michelle has recently indie-published her YA Contemporary novel, Spiralling Out of Control – her first published work. Exciting times!
Given our connection through both poetry and picture books (and the fact that they’re the focus of my blog), I thought I’d ask some questions that stem from these commonalities.
But firstly, welcome Michelle, and congratulations on the release of Spiralling Out of Control. I imagine it has been a busy and exciting week for you, launching Stephanie’s story into the world.
Hello!!! I’m so excited to be here and not just chatting on Twitter or frantically punching out another poem in MoP! And, oh boy, yes! This week has been crazy, daunting, exciting and fun.
Has your experience in writing poetry and picture books influenced how you approach your novel writing?
Absolutely. The discipline needed to write concisely in picture books is also needed in novels. And when I found I just couldn’t get the beginning of my novel to work – I wrote a poem… and that poem is now the intro to Spiralling Out of Control. In fact, I have included several poems throughout this novel. Poems help me get my head around how the characters are really feeling.
Poetry and picture books are both genres that are very often read aloud. Do you read your YA writing aloud during the writing or editing process? How is this beneficial?
Yeah, I would probably read my manuscript out aloud at least three times -once while I’m making sure the story works, then a couple of times when proofreading. I pick up so much more when I read word for word out loud, and I also listen for some kind of natural rhythm to my sentences and paragraphs.
Picture books are very visual – the epitome of show, don’t tell – with illustrations to bring a character to life. While writing Spiralling Out of Control, how did you bring your characters to life and keep them real in your mind – so this could then be portrayed through your words?
I do keep a notepad in front of me with a page of notes and a very messy mind map to help me remember the basic details. I guess I keep the characters alive because I know their personality and their actions and reactions flow from my knowledge who they are. When I first drafted Spiralling Out of Control, I distanced myself from the main character Stephanie, because what she goes through is quite painful, but with each revision I understood her more, loved her more and found myself wanting to rescue her.
Given our shared Month of Poetry history, I think it’s only fitting to ask you to write a poem (any form, any length) in some way inspired by Stephanie’s story. It may be one you’ve included in the book, it may be something completely new… but it has to be a poem. (The taskmaster is here. :P)
So, I wrote this when I was in Stephanie’s head…
Get Me Out Of Here
The music pounding in my head
This place too wretched to find a friend
I’ll never ever find my place
I’ll never ever show my face
I’ll let this music blow my mind
It’s loud and fierce to steal the time
I know and want too much now
I won’t find it in this town
Just let me head south
Words stuck in my mouth
I want to scream
I scream in my dreams
I want to yell at you
Don’t tell me what to do
How could you misplace me?
I tell you and you don’t see
I’ll show you that I can
I’ll go and live with my friend
I’ll rule my own life
I’ll keep out of strife
Play this music
To hide my emotion
I don’t want your attention
Get me out of here
Never leaving is my fear
To you I have nothing to give
I want out, I want to live
There’s a lot of anger and angst in Stephanie’s voice there, Michelle. A real cry for help…
Where can people buy Spiralling out of Control and read more of Stephanie’s story? Is it only available electronically, or is it also available in book form – or is that something that is coming soon?
At this point in time Spiralling Out of Control is only available as an ebook.
At only $1.99 you can buy one for yourself and a couple for your friends… hehehe
Thank you so much for having me here on your blog, allowing me to share a poem and promote my novel today Kat. I can’t wait to hang out with you again in January with MoP … I have another verse novel idea bouncing around in my mind…
Thanks for visiting, Michelle – and for reminding me how fast January is approaching. ;) All the very best with your writing endeavours, and new book promotions. Enjoy!
Last year on the katswhiskers blog, we got a bit catty, with Alison Reynolds and Heath McKenzie, for the launch of their picture book, A Year With Marmalade. (You can click back and read it here; CattyPost.) Today I welcome Alison and Heath back to the blog, with The Littlest Bushranger – the brave and imaginative main character in their newest picture book collaboration. And … we have a MONSTER competition for YOU!
I also welcome the Busy Bees - a class of Year 1/2 students who enjoyed a sneak-peek at The Littlest Bushranger. They had these fantastic questions (and observations) for Alison and Heath.
Thank you Busy Bees. Fantastic questions!
Alison, we loved your descriptive language. It made it more interesting and made the story stand out in our minds. You have very clever alliteration.
Why did you choose a bushranger as your main character, rather than a pirate, or a cowboy?
The publisher, The Five Mile Press, wanted a picture book about bushrangers and asked me to write one. I really liked writing about a bushranger as they are very Australian.
Aah. *sighs wistfully* What a beautiful position to be in, Alison. They obviously recognise you for the talented writer that you are! And you’ve woven it into a wonderfully entertaining story that will delight kids the world over.
Did you have the idea of the hose for the slithery snake, and the crow for the villain, or were they Heath’s idea?
When I was little I used to pretend the hose was a snake, or a river or lots of different things. Before I wrote the book I watched a bird hopping near our little dog and thought “What if” and in my imagination the bird turned into a villain. It was interesting to see Heath’s illustrations. He used his imagination to come up with his own ideas, and created illustrations that I love!
Did you know that the illustrations would show that Jack was in his back yard – and that the adventure was in his imagination?
I set the story in Jack’s back yard as I used to spend a lot of time in my back yard when I was Jack’s age. I also really like thinking that a day can turn into an extraordinary day with lots of adventure.
By using his imagination, Heath turned the rescue of Lil’s telescope into a wild, rollicking adventure!
He thought of lots of clever things! I love seeing what he transformed into what.
I did too! But each time I read the book I discover new things. I love that!
Did you talk with Heath to plan the story before you wrote it – or did you write the story and then Heath had is own ideas for the illustrations?
I didn’t talk to Heath before I wrote the story. I wrote the story and suggested illustrations. But on the spread where you first see the outlaw I wrote, “Heath, go wild”. I trusted him to come up with an amazing creation, which he did. For the spread that shows the fight, I wrote “fight sequence” and couldn’t wait to see what Heath did.
What is your favourite page spread – and why?
I love the whole book, but if I had to choose I think the spread of Jack galloping after the villain and the last page with the bike leaning against the fence.
My children like the spread with the bunyip best.
Heath, we think you’re a talented illustrator. We thought it was very clever that the dog bowl became the villainous crow’s eye. And we noticed that the bike got hungry at the end of the story!
Where did the idea for the pencil squiggles (we even called them ‘scribbles’) come from?
They are scribbles! They came from the roughs I did. They gave a good sense of looseness and motion to the roughs so wanted to keep that feeling in the final art – hence the scribbles featuring!
I love reading this Q&A, because you definitely achieved that, with your scribbles. ;)
Why did you choose such a mean colour and shape for the horse’s eyes – especially on the cover photo? Weren’t you worried little children might be scared?
I guess I wasn’t going for ‘mean’ in the eyes and more ‘serious and determined’! This is a horse of action, charging into battle, afterall!
I chose the eye colour because that’s what colour horses’ eyes are!
Why isn’t there a streamer on the bike, like a horse’s tail?
I guess just because I’ve never seen a bike with a streamer at the back like a tail! We didn’t want to give away that the back was imagined into a horse later in the story so kept things as subtle as possible.
When the crow was perched on the tower, was it on the clothesline? Or the yellow umbrella? We just aren’t sure!
The clothesline! As the umbrella was the sun.
It looks like the clothesline, in a sinister, imaginative way, and it makes a fantastic tower. Clever!
Were the bunyips based on toys in the pool… or frogs?
As the horse gallops through the wading pool toward the very end of the story, you’ll see on the ground a flowerpot with some tennis balls sitting on it and a few weeds growing out through some cracks…
What is your favourite page spread – and why?
The billabong one! I like the action and the bunyips!
Charlotte, Sydney, Hayden and Ethan shared these ‘favourite things’ about The Littlest Bushranger.
Charlotte: I like how Alison has used big words because it makes the text stand out a bit more.
One of the best things is how Jack uses his imagination – how he was pretending his bike was his horse. I want to ask, why did Heath use the horse’s shadow on the bike – and feed the bike hay?
It’s really just some grass that got caught in the front of the bike as Jack wildly chased the outlaw round the backyard.
Or is it?
Is it, indeed. I for one am not convinced it isn’t hay… ;)
Sydney: I like the picture when Lil said, ‘You’re too little to go to school.’ I like that she is looking after him nicely.
Hayden: I like when they hurdled the slithery tiger snake. I like snakes – and it looks scary.
Ethan: I like the words because they were telling us where he was going. They were interesting words. The pictures matched up with the words and helped us imagine new things.
Thank-you to the Busy Bees for the awesome help. You are obviously great little readers, and it was wonderful to read your observations, and learn from your questions. Also a huge thank-you to Alison and Heath for dropping by my blog again. Always a pleasure to have you both!
There are a couple of monsters in The Littlest Bushranger. One’s a bunyip, and the other an outlaw/monster who steals Lil’s telescope.
What sort of monster do you like? Send along a painting/drawing/model of a monster and you could win a piece of Heath McKenzie’s amazing artwork for The Littlest Bushranger.
Upload your own best monster to https://www.facebook.com/alison.reynolds.524 or email it as a low res jpeg file to email@example.com and we’ll upload it. If you don’t have a scanner, take a photo on a smart phone and email that!
Two categories. Under 12 and 12 plus including grown-ups. Entries close 25th June!
Saddle up for The Littlest Bushranger blog tour.
June 11 Kat Apel https://katswhiskers.wordpress.com/blog/
June 12 Chris Bell http://christinemareebell.wordpress.com/
June 13 Angela Sunde http://angelasunde.blogspot.com.au/
June 14 Boomerang Books Blog http://blog.boomerangbooks.com.au/author/dpowell
June 17 Ask the Sales Rep. Interview with Melinda Beaumont www.alisonreynolds.com.au
June 18 Dee White http://deescribewriting.wordpress.com/
June 19 Kids Book Review http://www.kids-bookreview.com/
June 20 Ask the Editor. Interview with Melissa Keil. www.alisonreynolds.com.au
June 21 Heath & Alison interviewed by Juliet Chan, Marketing & Publicity Executive. www.fivemilepress.com.au
Watch out for PRIZES including; a piece of Heath McKenzie’s artwork from The Littlest Bushranger, a picture book assessment by Alison Reynolds, 2 free passes direct to an editor’s desk (you get to skip the slush pile), and copies of The Littlest Bushranger.
Today I welcome Dimity Powell to my blog, to talk about her FIRST book – the newly-released, PS: Who Stole Santa’s Mail?
Congratulations, Dimity. Such an exciting time for you! What a wonderful Christmas YOU will be having this year – if no-one steals Santa’s mail, that is. ;)
Today Dimity is going to be talking about the writing process – and how this first published book has inspired her to continue writing…
Over to you, Dimity.
I began writing when I could properly master the pencil grip. It’s been a continual exploration and accumulation of words and wisdom since that momentous day in kindy. I remember jotting down kids’ book ideas whilst on watch on a super motor yacht as we cruised across the Atlantic, thinking, I’ll write about these properly one day. One day, began around 2008 when I decided to equip my writing satchel in earnest. This is when I really committed to the whole ‘process’ of writing. I did courses, attended workshops, seminars, submitted work, entered competitions, listened carefully, read more, gave up paid employment and last year even learnt how to use Face Book! It’s been a good trip so far. But the training never ever ends.
Hearing the words sing in perfect unison and being moved either to laughter or tears by them is my greatest joy in writing. This is what I want to improve on and most importantly share with children.
Getting it right is the hardest part of writing for me. And finding time for it. I can’t seem to clock on and off to write. I have to write when I can but also when the words want to be written. The two don’t always want to play together.
I don’t think writing is that easy, even when you’re good at it. It involves discipline, skill and technique, and remembering when best and how to use them. But it is easier than most sports for me…I have no eye hand coordination!
The publication of P.S. Who Stole Santa’s Mail? has encouraged me to get on with a second chapter book I began a couple of years ago. I need to reacquaint myself with the characters and their saga before I know if it’s going to ever see the light of day. Creating picture books is my passion. I would love to see a picture book of mine on a shelf somewhere someday. I enjoy writing them and can produce one in days when the fancy strikes, but it takes me ages to perfect them, sometimes years. I am currently polishing a few picture books and short story ideas.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts – and joy – with us, Dimity. Wishing you wonderful sales, and many more exciting publishing opportunities.
PS: Have a Merry Christmas!
In conjunction with this blog tour, you can go in the draw to win one of three copies of the book PS: Who Stole Santa’s Mail. Send the answer to this question: ‘What do you think Santa wants for Christmas?’ to firstname.lastname@example.org In the subject line put, PS: WSSM entry. The competition will close at midnight on November 30th 2012. All entries will be assigned a number, and that number will be put in a draw. The winners will be notified by email.
To follow Dimity on her blog tour, click the links below;
Kids Book Review 17 November
My Little Bookcase 18 November
Sheryl Gywther 19 November
MPA Australia 20 November
Kat Apel 21 November
Elaine Ouston 22 November
Renee Taprell 23 November
Alison Reynolds 24 November
Buzz Words 25 November
Christine Bell 26 November
Dee White 27 November
Jackie Hosking PIO 28 November
Alphabet Soup 29 November
Angela Sunde 30 November