New Verse Novels – In Progress and In the Hand

Hi all. I just had to pop in quickly and BE amongst the PoetryFriday tribe. Which means, I have to share something poetic!

Something that’s making me smile is a new verse novel I started working on last Friday. Mid-June, at my first post-lockdown catch-up with a friend, (also a writing buddy) we somehow ended up talking about one of the best units of work I’d taught (with a wonderful teaching partner) and my friend looked at me and said, ‘There’s your next book!’ … I’d never even considered it… but the more I did, the more I thought she could be right. After six months of picture books, I have been itching to get into a verse novel. 

When I started working on it last Friday, I didn’t know I’d be gifted with this week alone to write. 3,650 words say thank-you very much to husband and son for important work elsewhere. What has been especially lovely is that the main character in this verse novel is a minor character from a previous verse novel, so I feel like I’ve been meeting old friends again!

It’s still a long way from finished – but I’m excited.

Speaking of verse novels, I have just started reading our friend Sally Murphy’s latest, ‘Worse Things’. I say, ‘just started’ because I started this afternoon, and thought to just peep inside… but it seems I read for a little longer than I had planned, because my marker says I’m not quite half-way through.

Poetry helps us rest in small moments – like this definition poem Sally wrote. I love it for itself(!) – but it also resonates beautifully with the main character in my new WIP.

 

Lonely

[lone*ly] (adj.)

To stand apart
sit apart
be apart
but not a part.

© Sally Murphy 2020

 

I am also loving Sarah Davis’ artwork throughout, that adds so much to the text. And the variety of styles employed! Needless to say, my bookmark (errr… old docket) will not hold this place for long!

Hoping that you too have been dipping into wonderful word-works, and spreading your own creative wings. Thanks Heidi for hosting us. Back to School; Poetry Friday is Here! (And so is the Poetry Friday round-up!) I’m thinking of all my American friends as you head back to school – however your district is balancing that act!

‘Too Many Friends’ Video & DIY Mother’s Day Gift Sorted!

My goodness! Life has been busy! I can’t believe it’s been so long since I’ve linked in for Poetry Friday. I’m just thankful that I’ve connected to lots of you through Twitter or Instagram, so I’ve not been completely out of your loop. It’s been wonderful to catch snippets of what everyone is doing with poetry and life – and so reassuring to see/hear from you! Keep keeping well … and keep sharing your joy and hope. The world is a better place for it!

I’m sharing a video for today’s post, hoping it’s helpful for educators and carers in this difficult time. I read a poem called ‘I Don’t EAT My Friends‘, from my verse novel, ‘Too Many Friends’, and I briefly chat about lollies, friends, pet-friends, then quickly share a poetry project for young listeners/writers … to connect them to their friends. You’ll find a friend template (and more crafty activities) under the Too Many Friends Stuff tab, above. Continue reading

American School Visits

November passed by in a blur for me, with three weeks in the USofA cram-packed with school visits and catch-ups with friends. I have a ToDo list the size of Mt Everest that I am still chipping away at, but I am determined to post for Poetry Friday – so here I am with pictures! And some words…but there are not enough words to express how wonderful those three weeks were! Continue reading

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.

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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.

Raising Readers

This week I’m sharing a wonderful new book that all Australian parents and carers need to get their hands on. (Teachers too, because you’ll learn heaps – and also have an excellent resource you can recommend.)

Rather chuffed to be asked to write a segment about verse novels.

Raising Readers‘ is an ambitious project, inspired by the lovely Kristina Schultz, at UQP, and undertaken by award-winning children’s librarian, and queen of kid-literature, Megan Daley, aka Children’s Books Daily. I cannot believe that they’ve pulled it off – not just in compiling the information, but making it so user-friendly and easy to navigate. They amaze me! It looks gorgeous (Jo Hunt has designed my three verse novel covers – and this one is almost as beautiful.😉) and it truly is an interesting and effortless read. You get the sense you’re sitting down for a chat with Megan – without the gourmet food. (And you get to absorb her wisdom at a slightly less frenetic pace than IRL. (Megan is a dynamite and everyone who knows her loves her.))

Megan writes;

“I find being a parent a very hard job at times and every stage of child-rearing seems to be filled with guilt. I do, however, feel confident that I will be able to look back and say, ‘But I read to them and gave them the joy of books’ and know that I did my best.”

‘Raising Reader’s is Megan’s gift to other parents, to help them unlock that magical world of books with their children.

At which point I will insert the Table of Contents, and my job is done. Because how you can read through these topics and not NEED this book!


Such a brilliant resource, as you can see! I was rather chuffed to be asked to write the segment about verse novels. (There’s even a mention of me in the section about author visits.😊)


From the section on Poetry, by Natalie Jane Prior;

Nothing enriches a child’s understanding of how language works more than poetry. Reading it teaches children to think outside the square, to see things from unexpected angles.

I can’t argue with that.

‘Raising Readers’ will be released in Australia in April. As author Rebecca Sparrow says, “This is not a book. It’s a magic key which will unlock a love of stories and reading within your child.”

I recommend it! #thatisall

You’ll find this week’s Poetry Friday round-up at Carol’s Corner.

And don’t forget to follow the Progressive Poem, organised by Irene Latham, and kicking off on Matt’s blog on 1st April. (He’s no fool!) Day Two will be right back here again. What fun! Can’t wait to see what Matt throws out for me to play with.

Bystanders and Bullying – Longford Primary Presentation

The Northern region of the Tasmanian Reader’s Cup used ‘Bully on the Bus’ as one of their set texts this year. A creative response component required readers to prepare a creative response to one of the books. The D’Reados, from Longford Primary School, chose ‘Bully on the Bus’ for their creative response, and not only did they achieve a perfect score for their dramatic presentation (Well done!) but they also had a strong impact on audience members, and later, online viewers, with their take on bullying – and the role of bystanders. Not a retelling of the book by any means – but a powerful presentation on the theme. I am so thrilled with what they have produced – and blessed/amazed by the fact that something I wrote has inspired such a thought-provoking representation!

Click the pic to view the video on Longford Primary’s Facebook page.

By being a bystander, you have the power, and the opportunity, to do something about the bullying.

Take that truth and spread it wide in the world, D’Reados! 

This post is a part of the Poetry Friday link-up around the blogosphere. You’ll find more posts at Poetry for Children when the round-up is collected on Friday.

Video Link; https://www.facebook.com/LongfordPrimarySchool/videos/2236538019696632/

Have Wheels, Will Travel

Good news! I’m rather thrilled to share that ‘Bully on the Bus‘ is chugging across the oceans, to Kane Miller Books. #PoetryFriday peeps, it will be coming to a store near you! After all this time. (Picture my very happy face. ☺)

Already reviews are starting to pop up like bus stops across the interwebs…

Like this review from https://heightshappiness.com;

And in a world where too often fists and weapons are used, Beth Sluzewski (heightshappiness.com) also noted;

How beautiful is that? I’m touched and honoured that something I wrote, prompted that beautiful assessment.

I’m hoping there has been joy in your week.

To read more great poetry posts, putter across to Carol’s Corner, (Thanks, Carol!) for the Poetry Friday link-up.

A Door Opens

The Burrow

Welcome to the Burrow, where I am as snug as a wombug, cosied up with my laptop, working on my Antarctic verse novel.

After much trepidation about the weather, (How many times can you repack a suitcase?) late Wednesday night I arrived in Adelaide for my May Gibbs Creative Time Fellowship. (#MGCTF)

I have long wanted to visit Adelaide. I thought it would have a ‘big country town’ feel to it like Bundaberg, though from the little I have seen, I was very wrong – but I like it lots! The lights and buildings driving along North Terrace were magical. I’m torn! I want to get out and explore … and dig deep and squirrel away words. Hoping there is time for both! And time to catch up with the funtabulous Adelaide kidlit peeps, too!

For now, I have work to do!

Happy Poetry Friday!
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This post is a part of the Poetry Friday link-up.
You’ll find more poetry posts at Sloth Reads.
Thanks, Rebecca!