Two Aussie Verse Novels – and Picture Book NEWS!

How lovely to be with you all again – and have you gathering at my blog for the Poetry Friday link-up.

Today I wanted to share two recent Australian verse novels with you, both published by UQP – and both written by friends.


 

‘Leave Taking’ was written by Lorraine Marwood, whose earlier verse novels, ‘Ratswhiskers and Me’ and ‘Star Jumps’ (which won the Australian Prime Minister’s Literary Award for children’s fiction) were amongst the earliest verse novels I read and loved. I’ve known Lorraine online for more years than I can count – and finally met in 2014.

‘Leave Taking’ is a story about grief and farewells; letting go – of places that are a part of the fabric of our lives; of people, forever in hearts and memories. Leaving any home involves a tearing away, but a farm that has been in the family generations surely leaves a bigger hole. And a farm where your little sister once played with you … that your Mum and Dad need to leave, to make new memories … Such a bittersweet letting go.

‘Leave Taking’ is a quiet, story about a country kid called Toby – but the underlying grief constantly tugs at your heart. We never had a chance to know Leah – but through Toby’s memories, and Lorraine’s words, we do.

‘Little Wave’ was written by Pip Harry, her first verse novel – and foray into the younger market. I connected with Pip in 2014, when our UQP books released the same day, and it is always lovely to cross paths online. Even lovelier to meet in real life in Singapore last year, when we celebrated the announcement of our books on the CBCA Notables list. Pip mentioned ‘Little Wave’ during our catch-up, and I was eager to read it.

 

‘Little Wave is the story of Noah, Lottie and Jack – and a city school’s endeavours to bring a country class to the city for a beach visit. Each child has challenges they are dealing with – but as the story ebbs and flows, beautiful friendships are formed, and characters stretch and grow.

‘Leave Taking’ and ‘The Little Wave are two very different verse novels that I highly recommend.

Never give up on your dreams!

To close my week of hosting, I am so excited to share some good news!

More than 10 years ago, my rhyming picture book, ‘This is the Mud!’ released … and this week we signed the contract on my second picture book – another rural rhymer featuring … beef cattle! (And a bird in the herd.) I’m super-thrilled to be working with the talented and lovely illustrator, Renee Treml, and the beautiful team at UQP. There is a CYA connection … but that’s for another day! (Yay, CYA!)

It’s been a long hard road to a second picture book contract – with some lovely verse novel diversions along the way. This cumulative tongue-twister story was written for my toddler farm boys, way back in 2002. (They’ve grown a bit, since then.) Maybe one day they can read it to their own kids – with illustrations! (Those kids might be down the track a bit, yet.😆)

If you’re joining in the Poetry Friday Party, please leave your link below. I’m looking forward to doing the rounds and seeing where you are all at.

Have a great Friday – and into the weekend.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

https://fresh.inlinkz.com/js/widget/load.js?id=d1626941e732cbb79b50

CYA 2019 – Conference & NEWS!

Part Two – CYA Conference Notes

Following on from last week’s post about the three-day CYA Event recently in Brisbane…

The actual CYA Conference started with a buzz! Competitions winners were announced and I was thrilled (and even relieved) to find that my trio of rhyming PB manuscripts won the published author competition, judged by Luna Soo (Hardie Grant) and Alyson O’Brien (Little Hare). A CYA win is a massive injection of confidence and affirmation, and I was so thrilled! It was wonderful to later have time one-on-two with Luna and Alyson, discussing my work, and hearing their thoughts/feedback. (They are both so lovely!) Thank-you to Alyson and Luna for their belief in my work, and to the whole tribe of CYA organisers and volunteer judges who bring this competition to fruition!

Photo credit: Peter Allert/CYA Conference

From there I went to my first editorial one-on-one, which was insightful, but also discouraging. It was a story I heard from a number of publishers throughout the conference – and have heard often before – about a reluctance to publish in rhyme. Rhyme is lost in translation – so it’s hard to ‘sell’ to Sales & Marketing. But kids (and parents!) love rhyme! And there are a lot of English-speaking countries in our world! And having written rhymed and unrhymed picture books, I know the time and tenacity taken to get rhyme right! I loooong for a Sales & Marketing department who will love (and value!) rhyming PBs like I do.

Then onto the sessions of the day – when I wasn’t popping out for one-on-one editorial interviews…

Dee White – Pitch Perfect

I have had the benefit of Dee’s attention to details in pitching. She knows her stuff – and nails it!

Elements of an Effective Pitch:

  • Hooks the reader
  • Connects the reader with MC
  • Hints at what’s to come
  • Sets context – genre/readership
  • Shows where it might sit in a bookshop / comparative titles

Do’s and Don’ts

  • Don’t introduce too many characters.
  • Hint at story arc.
  • Don’t try to tell the whole story – MC, story problem & why it’s getting worse.
  • Include themes.
  • Clear & coherent
  • Why it’s unique and appealing to readers
  • Establish personal connection – why you and why now?
  • Be proud/passionate
  • Be prepared for questions
  • Practise your pitch
  • Be prepared to take on feedback
  • Try not to read too much if asked to read a sample. (Start at the start – and edit the text so that it is punchier than the actual start to the novel.)

Photo credit: Peter Allert/CYA Conference

Belle Brooks – Self-Publishing
This was the most enabling presentation I have seen about self-publishing. I took pages of notes, and started to see how it could be a viable option for me and a number of manuscripts I believe in, if I run out of options (or heart) with traditional publishers. Much of my notes would only make sense in context, but here are some takeaways…

• You must have a professional editor, who hears your voice and doesn’t try to change it – but helps you bring the story out.
• Don’t fluff your book with ‘content’.
• Know your strengths. Accept your faults.
• Not everyone loves your stuff. And that’s ok. Everyone judges.
• There’s a market for every book.
• Own your voice. Own your style. You are YOU.
• When you get bigger, Amazon works harder for you – because you make them money.
• Always work on your backmatter … Leading them where they need to go. Constantly leading them to your best work.
• Three stars is a good review.

Belle’s tips on blurbs:

  • A blurb is critical to success – You can change your blurb on platforms.
  • Appeal to your reader – not yourself. (Belle writes the blurb before she writes the books – which means there is no temptation to include too much detail.)

Photo credit: Peter Allert/CYA Conference

Isobel Carmody – Writing YA

Isobel spoke freely, with no notes. Some of the gems gleaned:

To write is to be. We are a tapestry of everything we’ve ever written.

  • Or job is not to be constrained, but to stretch out beyond the edges.
  • What do you want to give the world? Nothing.
  • How do I write like a child? The child in me it’s still there. Same for YA.
  • A relief to let go of the adult world.
  • Write to your deep-seated questions.
  • Write about the ideas that are in you!
  • In children’s books, children grow – but they don’t grow up! (Margaret Wild)
  • The choices we make as children/young adults inform the choices we make as adults.
  • Writing is an attempt to believe that humans can get better.
  • Issues books – Approach your craft/subject with a humility. Don’t use it to push an issue.
  • Write your first draft. Then look for themes/issues.
  • Write inwardly. Write the book. Worry about where it lands afterwards.
  • If the story’s not working for you, don’t push through. Step away. Give your mind the fallow times.
  • Editing is an essential part of the creative process. Dig down into it for themes, nuance, etc… Create the sense of reality.
  • If you’ve written deeply from yourself, you will not get bored during editing.
  • Go deep. Into yourself. Into the moment. In your writing.
  • A great book will make it through.

CYA Closing Panel

General Takeaways:

  • Market down 2.6% but children’s writing up 1.2%.
  • Middle grade has been booming for 4-5yrs. Is doing really well.
  • YA is down. Publishers trying to bring YA down to your middle grade.

Alex Adsett (Agent):

  • It’s not an easy industry for author/illustrators. It’s not an easy industry for agents/editors either.
  • Always write what’s in your heart. Let us worry about how to fit it into the market.

Debbie Lee (Ingram – Sparks)

The Bundy Connection!

  • Wherever you’re at, work with professionals.
  • You are a business.

Davina Bell (Affirm Press)

  • Looking for more junior fiction.
  • Trends: girl power / child activism/climate change / diversity

Mary Verney – Sydney office. (Penguin Random House)

  • Lots of buyers are asking for good non fiction for kids.

Lucy Bell (Pantera Press)

  • Has mostly acquired from the slush pile.
  • Looking for activism/climate change. Haven’t published many PBs, but possibilities with non fiction/activism books.

Indie is often a stepping stone. It’s not an us and them. We’re part of the same conduit and can coexist.

Thank-you to the Bundaberg RADF committee that made attendance at all these conference events possible. There is still one day of notes to catch you up on – from the Everything is a Genre day of conference. Tomorrow (Saturday) from 10-11am I will be feeding-back in person at the Bundaberg Library. You can register here.

Margaret is collecting Poetry Friday links a Reflections on the Teche – with a teaspoon and a bit of string.

CYA 2019 – Bootcamp Notes

Part One – Bootcamp

The first weekend in July, with thanks to an RADF Grant from Bundaberg Regional Council, I attended the 14thannual CYA Conference in Brisbane, for authors of Children’s and YA books. I attended the first CYA Conference, in 2006 – and it has grown a lot since then. Not just in numbers, but in duration. This year it transitioned from a one-day conference, to a three-day event – expanding into the adult market, with one day devoted to ‘Everything’s a Genre’ – and writing Bootcamps offered over three days. I am mightily thankful for the Bundaberg Regional Council RADF committee for awarding a grant allowing me to attend the full three days, and meet one-on-one and in small groups with publishers and editors. It was the best professional development I have ever received and I am sincerely, heartfelt thankful!

On Friday, I took part in the inaugural bootcamp – authors working with an editor in small groups to gain feedback on a manuscript; editing suggestions, and opportunity to rework the manuscript, to then receive further feedback. I was in a picture book group with Lisa Berryman, children’s publisher at Harper Collins. Over the course of the day, we shared in our small groups, but also came together for two large panel discussions, hearing insights from all the editors in response to questions posed by ‘head ranger’, Dee White.

Friday’s Bootcamp editors: Clare Hallifax (Omnibus), Elise Jones, (A&U), Lisa Berryman (Harper Collins), Kristy Bushnell (independent), Maryann Ballantyne (Will Dog), Sarah Davis (Walker) and Lauren Clarke (independent).

DW: What makes you want to read further?

CH: I need to fall in love with a character. (Author voice is character, as well.)
LB: Very much the idea – setting/genre.
EJ: A book with heart.
LC: Proactive characters
SD: Narrative. Storytelling in an image. Potentiality. What happened and what is going to happen?
MB: Always looking for the bigger story.
KB: Character and personality onto the page. The emotion. Show (don’t tell) straight away.

“Voice is a writer who is in control of his craft.”

There was some discussion about author voice. And what makes it distinctive. And if it could be taught/developed. Someone shared a Paul McDermot quote, “Most things are fixable – except voice.” Nearly everything about this discussion sparked thoughts of poetry, for me. You want to develop your voice? I say play with poetry!

Other Takeaways:

SD: Your first idea isn’t usually your best. It’s too obvious.
SD: Write an evocative text that creates atmosphere.
EJ: Place the reader – at the start of the book and at the start of each section break.
CH: Write a story – not a list. And read it aloud.
KB: Know your characters and your problems and feed them in as necessary. (Not TMI too soon.)
LC: Set the scene and give need-to-know. And a hint of tension. Peril or dissatisfaction.
KB: Personified settings. Sets the mood and tone of story. An emotional connection. (And again I was thinking … poetry!)
?: Stage directions moving the characters around. Write it subtly. (Writer in control, with the help of their publisher and editor.)

On Submissions:

LB: Stating similar titles is helpful for Sales & Marketing – and how to pitch it. Compare for things like tone/feelings.
MB: Doesn’t want illustration notes.
LB: Illustrator notes are often helpful/necessary.
CH: If the narrative hinges on illustrations, include notes.
LB: Likes an elevator pitch – the essence of the story, like a mantra.
LB: Feedback is a gift. It’s not personal. It’s not about you.

Brittany, Kat & Meredith – the Dorothea Mackellar Poetry Awards connection.

Friday Night was the first of the Networking Dinners, with kidlit creatives converging from all over the country. Networking is so important! And also so much fun! I did a double take when I thought I recognised the face across from me at dinner… and first name matched… and indeed, it was Brittany, Poetry Awards Officer for the Dorothea Mackellar Poetry Awards, who I have had much email/phone contact with in recent months, in my role as judge. (Another reason why I have been very busy of late – reading almost 5000 poems and judging across four categories! Almost finalised. And what a task – a joyful task – it was!) Brittany and I had never met, (had seen photos) and needless to say, we each had no idea the other would be at CYA! Also in attendance was the Secondary School’s judge, Meredith Costain.

Day One done! Watch for more blog posts to follow, including … my exciting news!

If you’re in the Bundaberg Region, I will be sharing fast facts from CYA in a one hour session at Bundaberg library, on Saturday 27th July, at 10am. I’d love you to join me!

For now, head across to Carol’s Corner and muscle up on poetry… or melt on puppy love. Thanks for hosting Poetry Friday today, Carol, and sharing Rooney (and your poem) with us.

A Weekend With Dame Lynley Dodd

Last weekend I had the pleasure of meeting Dame Lynley Dodd, at three different events at the Bundaberg Art Gallery.

Friday night was for educators and parents. In a relaxed conversation with curator Penelope Jackson, Lynley shared snippets of her life story in a chat that was both entertaining and enlightening. Some little treasures I took away;

On language and word choice: “It’s about introducing them in the right place and having fun with it. Context makes meaning. And I’m not at all repent about that.” (Hear, hear!)

Lynley shared two anecdotes where children have adopted her rich vocabulary. When out at the shops, and asked what he would like for tea, one young lad replied, ‘A snippet of veal.’ In another instance, a couple were having a disagreement, when their child piped up, ‘Stop that cacophonous noise!’

“Unless your name is Julia Donaldson, Lynley Dodd or Dr Seuss, never write a story in rhyme.” Mem Fox

Between 1982 and 2010, Lynley completed one book per year. (Hairy Maclary has got to be a bit big for his boots, and now takes some managing – and time –  which has meant a drop in productivity.) In January, she starts perusing her ideas folder, for inspiration. During the ‘writing’ process, she balances words and illustration – visualising what the artwork could be. By August she has a small dummy to send to her publisher. September she starts final artwork for a December completion.

To be honest, I was most impressed (and encouraged) by that first six months! We all know how effortless Lynley Dodd’s rhythm is – but perfect rhythm and rhyme is a craft and it takes time to get it right. Even Lynley Dodd has to work at it!

On Saturday the families were out in force, for a festival fun day in the gallery park. There were so many there, when Lynley moved inside for the book signing, the queue meandered throughout the whole lower floor of the gallery.

On Sunday Penelope Jackson lead a small group Writing Masterclass, with Lynley adding the following snippets of wisdom throughout the afternoon.

What Makes a Good Story?

  • When writing a PB, you have to go down one road to the end, with no diversions.
  • A read-aloud needs to have flow and resonance – it needs to be singable.
  • Everyday stories are often the best ones – relatable and realistic.
  • Five Comfort Elements of a good story:
    1. Rhyme
    2. Rhythm
    3. Humour
    4. Suspense
    5. Home

Lynley says all writers need an ideas notebook/folder. A lot of Lynley’s inspiration is drawn from newspaper clippings. When discussing the legality of writing other people’s animal stories, Lynley said, ‘change them – make them your own.’

Lynley emphasised that her stories always start with 6mths thinking/tinkering time; marinating ideas. ‘I’m a firm believer in putting things aside and coming back to them.”

Illustration:

  • The last picture is very often the one Lynley thinks about first.
  • Visualises images whilst writing text.
  • Sends a detailed dummy in August – doesn’t change much after dummy stage.
  • Pencil rough at final stage – including the cover. (Lynley does her own lettering.)
  • Uses a lightbox to transfer pencil roughs to final artwork.
  • There was a discussion about the difficulty in finding good quality paper these days, that doesn’t dry too quickly and take the colour and life out of an illustration.
  • Uses gouache pens and fibre-tipped waterproof pen.

“It can be a bit soul destroying, sometimes, when the proofs come back and they’re not the colour you’d envisaged.”

We were all delighted when Lynley read her latest picture book, ‘Scarface Claw Hold Tight!’ – with beautiful pausing and expression.😻

To view this week’s #PoetryFriday link-up, (and some lyrical pi-ku) visit Margaret, at Reflections on the Teche.

World Penguin Day Poem – Adélies

Technically yesterday was World Penguin Day – but since yesterday was ANZAC Day, deserving of its own reflective contemplation and gratitude, I’m running to American time and posting my penguin poem for Poetry Friday.

A number of years ago I was given Irene Latham’s name in Tabatha’s Yeatts’ Poetry Swap – which absolutely thrilled me, because not only is Irene such a beautiful person, but we also share a love of Antarctica – and we had in fact just done our own little book-swap earlier that year… with Irene sending me her picture/poetry book, ‘When the Sun Shines on Antarctica’. (I just hunted up the post I did at the time of receiving Irene’s book, and funnily enough, it was just-on two years ago.)

My favourite poem from the book was, ‘Adélie Seeking Adélie‘… so when I was given Irene’s name in the poetry swap, I knew what poem I was choosing for my mentor text. For whatever reason, I never did get to share it on my blog – so I’m sharing it here today.

Irene’s poem runs down the left. The photo is just one of my (many!) faves, taken from our time in Antarctica, earlier that same year. (You have no idea how much that holiday has influenced my writing – or how much I still yearn to go back… (It is like a physical tug inside me, I tell you!))

Carol Varsalona is hosting Poetry Friday at Beyond Literacy Link. I’m sure she will have a whole bunch of poetry treasures for us. And don’t forget to get up-to-date on the Progressive Poem, with Linda @Write Time. Not many days left, now!

In the meantime, scroll through some penguin hashtags and enjoy these shuffling, sliding, soaring, sleek little characters. Like these two!🐧🐧 (I would include the original @AusAntarctic post, if I could find it, but alas…)

Even More #MoPoetry

I do love diarising January in poetry – and have been especially enjoying the dual creativity of picture and poetry. (And the process of combining the two! Such fun.)

Here is this past week’s #MoPoetry2019 for your perusual of the week-that-was. Ending rather excitingly, too, I must say!

Day 18:

Day 19:

Which sparked this little conversation with @annashop_cronulla;

Day 20:

Day 21: If I thought it was bad posting a poem that doesn’t feel finished, it is worse to look back on a poem you’ve posted and find a BLATANT MISTAKE!!! Urgh! This is what happens when you become too obsessed with design and layout. (Though this is the least creative of all my Insta-Poems – but I was playing with two pictures, so… #stilltooktoolong)

I have inserted an edited version into this post – because it’s bad enough looking at the mistake every time I open my insta-page. (I decided to leave it as it was there (with a blushing comment!)… because of course I didn’t notice it until late in the day…🙄 #nobodyisperfect #iaintnobody…🙃)

I was asked if I wrote limericks. Not many – but here’s one, for a bit of fun. I don’t follow cricket – so if there is a Matt or a Gina playing, this is not about either of them! #justforfun #playingwithwords#betterthanplayingcricket😉#watchinggrassgrow #cricket#backyardcricket #summerfun#MoPoetry2019 #InstaPoetry #poemaday#authorsofinstagram #poetryofinstagram#poetrygram #poetry #rhyme #wordplay

Day 22:

Day 23:

Day 24: (Why, hello Good News!)

This week we’re going to Walden with Tara Smith, so join the #PoetryFriday excursion for more great posts. And pop back here next week for the final instalment of #MoPoetry2019! Looking forward to seeing what the week produces. Have a great one.

Picture Books and Poetry

This week I’ve been super-productive with my picture books. I put the final polish on a picture book manuscript inspired by this little bird on our trip to Antarctica, then shared it with the lovely, talented and passionate children’s librarian, Kim Yeomans, who delighted me when she described it as, ‘a ‘quiet’ story with depth and light and shade. It ebbs and flows with tension and emotion.’

For a complete contrast, I then worked on a rhyming picture book I’ve had in my head for some time – well, I’ve had a four-lined repeating stanza, but that was all. I was thrilled when the rest of it romped out midweek, pure silliness and fun, and exactly the riot I was hoping it would be.

Alas, this then happened … Continue reading

Writing on the Rocks

The last month, I’ve been alternating between polishing (and submitting) picture books, and writing poetry. I’m busily at work on my Antarctic historical verse novel – trying new poetic forms and realising all over again how beneficial poetry is for writing. Truly seriously, if you are a principal, literacy coach, or classroom teacher (if you value writing muscle and creativity), you NEED poetry in your classrooms. Regularly! I know I say it often – but after an extended period of time fashioning facts into strict poetic forms I’m going to say it again – nothing builds writing muscle better than poetry. Nothing sparks creativity, wordplay and experimentation with literary devices better than poetry. It’s a challenge. It’s invigorating and rewarding. It’s valuable. It’s FUN!

Why aren’t we encouraging and enabling more kids to write more poetry?

Why do we clutter their curriculum with so many persuasives that kids can’t even be persuaded to want to WRITE!?  Everything feels so prescribed. Actually, I had a little rant about something similar on Twitter last week. So maybe I should just combine the two, and do the job properly! In the hope that someone who writes curriculum might one day stumble on my blog, I’m just going to include a couple of the tweets here…

To illustrate my point, about the muscle, creativity and economy of poetry, I’ll include a little snippet from my Antarctic WIP. And a picture. From Antarctica… (Any excuse to revisit Antarctica!!)

The poem is a tetractys, (or in this case, a double tetractys) and follows a specific syllable count.

Line 1 – 1 syllable
Line 2 – 2 syllables
Line 3 – 3 syllables
Line 4 – 4 syllables
Line 5 – 10 syllables

The double tetractys reverses the syllable count in the second half. A tetractys  can rhyme. Often mine do – but in this one I was focused on the facts and wordplay. And so many details! (Read more about the tetractys.)

The process. Early versions of a tetractys draft – though I know there were many other combinations that don’t seem to be in my document. #Ooops  There are ERRORS in the above, btw. Can you spot them?

The portion of text that shaped the poem.

Current version (after three days of tweaks) – which I can’t guarantee won’t change… but I’m feeling pretty chuffed with!

Dark
hill slope,
blinding snow,
slick, too-smooth ice,
frozen obstacle course and push-pull squalls.
Do not snuff the lantern! Record results.
Face and fingers
frostbitten;
wind has
teeth.

Tetractys © Kathryn Apel 2017 – All rights reserved

Different bay, different season, different era, different character, but… Antarctica! (So that’s okay – right?) #breakingalltherules

There are so many different forms of poetry – something for every reader, writer and situation. Some forms have ‘rules’, like the tetractys, while others offer freedom. Poetry is a wealth of creativity just waiting to be unleashed!

Irene will help you Live Your Poem (Yay!) as she collects the links for the #PoetryFriday round-up today. Thanks, Irene. Whether you’re a reader, a writer, an educator or a student, (anyone, really) I’m sure you’ll find good stuff there!

My Shadow – and A Rock

I recently borrowed ‘My Shadow’ from the library – a picture book version of Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem that I adored as a child. (Anyone else?) For some reason, it was very hard to find the illustrator’s name (?) but I finally did – low on the back cover. Robert Louis Stevenson (who was credited on front cover and title page, as well as back cover) did such a splendid job on the poem, so many years ago – but Sara Sanchez did a fabulous job illustrating it!

I especially love what Sara Sanchez did with the so-tricky last page. 🙂

This blog is a quick shoutout to Sara Sanchez! And of course, the master, Robert Louis Stevenson.

My Shadow

I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,
And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.
He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head;
And I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed.
The funniest thing about him is the way he likes to grow—
Not at all like proper children, which is always very slow;
Read more at PoetryFoundation

.

Day 251

Watch Day 251 of 365 Days of Reading (video version).

.

Laura is hosting Poetry Friday this week. And what a thrill I had recently when I was walking through my small-town library and discovered this!

What a gorgeous book! Who knew the humble rock could be so many things? Personally, I love the food grinder. 🙂 I’m so thrilled that someone on the other side of the world threw a rock … and it landed in my library. Just perfect.

Needless to say, I love my local libraries! (Yes – I love them so much, I have multiple. :P) Happy Poetry Friday!

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSave