I was asked to speak to a group of parents about what inspires me to write. The talk was being organised to educate pre-school parents of 0-5y0s about the value of reading to young children. Unfortunately given distance and timing, it wasn’t possible to be at the meeting, but I shared a few written thoughts about the inspiration for my books for younger readers, This is the Mud! and Bully on the Bus – and I also pondered why I, as a Mum, valued reading. Continue reading
The Somerset Festival of Children’s Literature was an extravagant celebration of literature by a whole school community, shared with a much wider community. It was a blast and I was thrilled to be involved in this wonderful event.
These pics don’t begin to capture the festive atmosphere or the fun had by all. But they do bring back wonderful memories for me.
Love this gorgeous photo with the kids at Binjour State School. A warm and welcoming little school family and a delight to visit!
I attended rich and varied sessions at the 2014 CYA. And I’ve got notes on all of them. But I thought I’d share these little gems, since everyone always wants to know what publishers are looking for!
Katrina Lehman – Penguin
- Not just theme. It’s the magic also.
- Multiple submissions are fine nowadays. Submit to multiple publishers because the lead time is so long. Send to all the publishers you can!
- 5 editors at Penguin. They do try to mentor an author each, each year.
- Personally, Katrina Loves Fantasy. Dystopian, supernatural, dark fairies.
- Junior Fiction Series.
- Trilogy is hard because publishers need to commit a lot of money to a trilogy. Try to complete it in one book!
- Don’t send presents. (Everyone affirmed this, and some shared horror stories of messy (and expensive) gifts they’d received.)
Karen Tayleur – Five Mile Press
- Very early 0 – 6 & Adults
- Early learning, picture books & novelty books.
- ‘If anyone has a great idea for novelty, we’re the one you come to.’
- ‘What I’m looking for is picture books, really. I’m just looking for picture books.’
- ‘Picture books are the hardest thing to do, so if you don’t have a strong will, leave now.’
- Collaboration of ideas.
- Takes email submissions.
- Six month waiting list.
- MENTION if you attended CYA – to jump up the pile.
- ‘Never say never. We (FMP) are doing naught to six. But if it’s so amazing, we might look at it, anyway. (But at least acknowledge you know what our style is.)’
- Happy for you to check in via email after a couple of months to see how things are going.
- Reading submissions is outside of 9 – 5. We get to read your work in our time. But it’s worth it, because we get to read some beautiful stuff.
Leonie Tyle – Tyle & Bateson Publishing
- Publishing Poetry and YA (In partnership with Catherine Bateson)
- Write from the heart. It’s the indefinable that highlights your writing. It has to sparkle/shine of the page. The language has to be lyrical.
- Offering agency representation for picture books and YA.
- The world’s your oyster.
Suzanne O’Sullivan – Lothian Hachette
- Lothian is the Australian imprint for Hachette childrens.
2) sense of character. As author and illustrator you need to show a sense of character.
3) Stories where stuff happens. A lot of action. Not description. I want action.
- The number 1, 2, 3, 4 … thing I look for is ‘damn good writing.’
- Kids are the only readers who are more important than editors.
- Keen to develop ongoing relationships with authors.
- Work out what your strongest area is and then deal with that. Find your niche and stick to it to build a name and profile.
Rochelle Manners – Wombat Books / Rhiza Press
- Produce stories you’ll want to share – to pick up and read over and over again.
- Family oriented – not too edgy.
- If the message is the main thing, it won’t work.
- Wombat Books – picture books
- Rhiza Press – Readers 14 +
Sue Whiting – Walker Books
- Produce quality books.
- Stories with heart. Quirky characters. Unique voice.
- Do everything you can to work on your craft. Make your story sing!
- The kind of author/illustrator I’d like to work with. Without YOU we don’t exist. WE NEED YOU! We need authors/illustrators to exist as editors.
- ‘The Real Deal’ – You don’t always have to agree with what they suggest. Know your stuff.
Alex Adsettt – Agent
- Now also looking at middle grade fiction/chapter books. Has one PB author. Blew me away and knocked me off my feet.
- Wants everything that’s all been said, because they’re the people she’s submitting your work to.
- Don’t write to a trend. The minute you do, you aren’t writing from your heart. AND you will miss the trend! Making it the hardest thing to publish.
- DIgital submissions. Don’t use comic sans/coloured fonts. DON’T write the cover letter from the POV of your character.
Sue Whiting later took a workshop talking specifically about endings – and I’m so glad she did, because I know from my own writing, and critiquing/judging others, it’s the ending that’s the hardest to nail!
Endings Matter (Sue Whiting)
- Your opening will sell this book, but it’s your climax & ending that will sell your next.
- Endings are your gift as an author to your readers.
- Readers may not remember what the ending was, but they will remember how they felt.
- Rushed ending – runs out of steam
- Flat ending – So what?
- Never-ending ending – Cut the last three chapters.
- Random ending – Off on a tangent
- Several-endings ending (Closely related to Never-ending. Cut. Cut. Cut.)
- Dangling ending – Doesn’t answer all the Qs
- Lame or disappointing ending – A letdown.
How to Nail Your Ending;
- Lay sound foundations in the beginning to create a satisfying resolution.
- Know the problem.
- What drives your story?
- Know in a nutshell what your story is about.
- Threads/themes/plot lines should be linked to protagonist achieving (or not) their goal.
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 week I had a skype visit with the Reception class at St John’s Grammar School in Belair, South Australia. They had only started school four weeks earlier, and I was very impressed with their beautiful listening and excellent questions!
I usually have props that kids can use when I read ‘This is the Mud!’, but South Australia is a long way away, so I had to be a little bit silly and get into the act myself this time. Which is why I’m wearing cow horns/ears in that photo.
Thank-you Ms Germein for inviting me to visit your class, and for having your group so beautifully prepared in advance. It’s always lovely to talk to a class that has already read and enjoyed your book!
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.
Bundaberg East State School was very much affected by the Burnett River flooding in the wake of Cyclone Oswald. Many classrooms were inundated and the school grounds and play areas were covered in mud. There is still a lot of work to be done, and lots of enthusiastic people who are stepping up to do it. I was in Bundaberg on the day school started back at East – almost 2 weeks late. I spent the day helping Year Ones settle into their classroom, and I read my muddy book with one of the classes. The kids have seen a lot of mud around Bundaberg in recent days – many through their homes. It was good to be able to share a bright, colourful story with them, that looked at mud from a different perspective. Warren, your gorgeous illustrations were greatly admired and appreciated!
As a part of International Book Giving Day – and just because I wanted to from the depth of my heart – I donated copies of This is the Mud! and Fencing with Fear to the East State School, to let them know I care, and to give them a book with a FUN muddy experience. The fact that Year One is ‘On the Farm’ during this first term made it doubly triply appropriate to their class.
International Book Giving Day is 14 February 2013 – but the giving can take place any time in February. Anyone can take part – and it’s not too late to register, or to gift a book. Your gift will help a child feel loved – and maybe even start a love affair with books. Click on the poster below for more information. I have more muddy books I’m giving to other flood-affected community groups. Because reading is fun and reading takes you places. And sometimes we all need a little escape from reality.
Troggle the Troll is a delightful story about a would-be vegetarian troll. The story has a touch of grim, with the Troll family devouring people… every single night! But the alliterative menu sounds divine, and the illustrations are so bright, colourful and cutesy-fun, that I’m sure kids will have a real giggle from the Troll family’s meals.
As for the ending… it was delicious and wholesome, and though a little deceptive, I’m sure it will delight child and adult alike.
Publisher: Random House Australia
Author: Nick Falk
Illustrator: Tony Lowe
Released: December 2012
Review copy supplied by Random House Australia
The lovely Tania McCartney asked me Five Very Bookish Questions over on the Boomerang Books Blog last week. You can read them here; http://blog.boomerangbooks.com.au. It could be that I talk about picture books – and what I think makes a good PB. And there may even be some favourites from my childhood… and now.
Pop over and have a read!