Tagged – Blog Tour

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 BellChris 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?

Calves

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.

Both bogged!

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…

Lorraine MarwoodLorraine Marwood is an author I have enormous respect for, but we’ve never met – though we’ve corresponded for 5 years. Lorraine writes poetry but also writes stories too. She has just written her sixth book for Walker – which will come out in 2015. Her verse novel ‘Star Jumps’ won the inaugural children’s literature section of the Prime Minister’s awards in 2010 – and I (Kat) remember the excitement of that day well! Lorraine takes lots of writing workshops using her own poetry techniques. She loves polishing the ordinary into something extraordinary. Lorraine lives in Bendigo with her husband and new puppy and often babysits one (or more) of her seven grandchildren.
.

Kaylene WestKayleen 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 PeutSandra 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’!

Clockwork Holidays – a poem

Clockwork Holidays

The clock has stopped. The bus has run.
School bags lie in wait, lunchboxes packed,
while uniforms hang about in dishevelment
and kids run free!

School bags lie in wait, lunchboxes packed
and stacked
away at the back of the cupboard.

While uniforms hang about in dishevelment,
waiting to be pressed into shape,
rumpled, crumpled comfy clothes are donned,

and kids run free!
No HW. No bedtimes. No alarms.
Unwinding as the clock… ticks… down… to… school.

 

My trimeric, for Day 23 Month of Poetry. We love the freedom of school holidays, and always feel a large slice of regret when the school year starts again.

The Littlest Bushranger – and a Competition!

Bee

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

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.

Thank you!

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.

Littlest Bushranger

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

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!

Monster Competition.

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 alrey@msn.com.au 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.

Month of Poetry 2013

It’s January – and this is the sixth year I’ve started with a poem a day – the fourth I’ve co-ordinated a Month of Poetry. It’s also the first year I’ve been able to wear the co-ordinator’s hat and work on my WIP at the same time. WIN! I love the progress I’ve made, also the poetry that has inspired me on the #MoP13 blog. Such a diverse group and so talented! The daily collections on the blog are locked, but I’ve selected a couple of my poems to share below.

Stone the Phone!

If ever something
makes me groan
it is the wretched
mobile phone,
that rings attention
with a tone,
dispelling thoughts
of time alone.

In the change room,
on the throne,
at play, at ease,
when lying prone,
its shrill demands
are soon made known;
a body’s heart
and soul to own.

Inspired by David Harrison’s post about Careerhymes;

1.
Grazier; a cow cocky –
not a blocky
always on the go
watching grass grow.

2.
Patient: one who waits
as sickness abates.

A spot of cooking in the country prompted this tongue-in-cheek poem;

Moist Date & Carrot Muffins

There’s weevils in the flour.
Have they eaten much, you think?
And the sour cream is mouldy,
with a more-than-sour stink.
The egg has hatched a chicken
though it’s only just a speck.
Should I use a shriveled carrot?
Cause I’m thinking, what the heck.
We haven’t any dates, of course;
that’s really such a shame!
I think I’ll substitute with prunes
and hope they taste the same.
Use ½ a cup of oil they say…
Well there’s no need for that.
The oil might make the muffins moist;
it’ll only make me fat!
The oven’s on the blink again;
I cannot shut the door,
and those flames around the element…
Have they been there before?
The timer hasn’t rung yet.
I wonder if it’s stopped.
My muffins. Oh. The wretched things.
I do believe they’ve flopped!
I googled for a recipe
but Google makes mistakes!
These moist date carrot muffins
would be better called rock cakes!

My first sestina was a stumble… not worthy of sharing… but thankfully it didn’t break my brain like last year’s first sonnet did. And doubly thankfully, this year I wrote two sonnets in a day – and it hardly hurt at all!

And finally… Just a tiny snippet from my latest WIP. This is written from Shaun’s POV – though in fact much of the work is written from Toby’s POV. In a-maz-me news, my verse novel (which hasn’t even scored a working title as yet) has this month shattered the 10,000 words – which for me was a major milestone! *Insert party poppers and fireworks here.* It’s currently sitting at 10,450wrds… and I’m stoked! :D

Monkey

Toby is a klutz – can’t keep
his hands on anything;
drops the ball
trips over his feet
and bumps and slumps
the day away.
I wish people didn’t know
he’s my brother
but it’s a bit hard to hide that
in a small town small school
where everyone knows
everything about
your mother’s brother’s
monkey.

I wonder what the rest of January will produce…

.

All poetry on this page is © Copyright Kathryn Apel 2013

Five Very Bookish Questions

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!

Nutty Zucchini Chocolate Cake

When the cupboards are bare and cake is needed…

My fridge held a lot of zucchini – but not many eggs. And I stood in need of a cake! Having tried zucchini bread and zucchini in coconut bread, I googled ‘zucchini chocolate cake’ to see what I could find.

I found this No Egg Chocolate Zucchini Cake, but because I love a wholesome cake, and I did have ONE egg (and every other zucchini recipe used 3 eggs) I made a few modifications… and came up with this scrummy Nutty Zucchini Chocolate Cake. It was a hit with a bundle of boys – especially my KitKat who has a very strong aversion to zucchini – and a great love of chocolate!

Nutty Zucchini Chocolate Cake

Ingredients;

  • 2 cups zucchini – finely grated
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 3-4 tbsp milk
    (guestimate – add more if dry.)
  • 2 cups SR Flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup cocoa
  • sprinkling of shredded coconut
  • sprinkling of slivered almonds
  • 1 tbsp LSA (Ground linseed, sunflower & Almond – optional)

Method:

1. Mix zucchini, oil, egg, milk & vanilla.
2. Mix dry ingredients in a separate bowl.
3. Add moist ingredients and combine. Mixture will be paste-thick!
3. Spread into 2 x round greased & lined round tins.
4. Bake at 180 degrees for 25 – 30 minutes.
5. When cool, spread one cake with jam and frosting. Sandwich cakes together and top with frosting.
6. Serve with whipped cream.

Frosting:

  • 3tbsp vanilla yoghurt
  • 1 1/2 cups icing sugar
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 3 – 4 tbsp milk

Moist, dense and decadent delicious! Definitely one to bake again. So good, that in fact, I just did! :)