Introducing Janet Turner

Jan is hosting the Poetry Friday roundup today at Bookseedstudio with the optional theme: Sing!  Does it work that I am singing Janet Turner’s praises? (I’m pretty sure you all know I’d also like to be signing in the rain…💦🙃) Janet Turner is the illustrator of ‘Up and Down on a Rainy Day’, published by the State Library of Queensland. I thought it would be fun to get to know a bit more about Janet, and her work.

Welcome to the blog, Janet. It’s been fabulous sharing the creation and launch of our picture book – your first book! I remember the arrival of my first book. It involved screaming. Lots of it. Can you give us a sneak peek into Janet Turner’s new book moment?

Well, mine is on record, so a little more reserved!! I first saw the finished book while doing an interview. (You can see the interview here.) It was so wonderful to see it full size and in print rather than through an iPad screen! My favourite part was sharing with my loved ones. I didn’t tell my partner Brandon that I’d dedicated the book to him, so it was very special seeing his reaction to that and the book as he’d seen the whole process.

You’ve worked on some other exciting projects prior to ‘Up and Down on a Rainy Day’. Can you tell us about some of them?

I sure have worked on some amazing projects! My favourite would have been while I was still studying at uni having the opportunity to create the visual identity for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games Village. This included designing the logo and additional icons that were used for signage, information materials and merchandise across the village! The design took inspiration from the natural beauty of the Gold Coast (and Queensland). Thongs on the beach, a pandanus for rainforest, an Akubra hat for the outback, snorkel and flippers for the reef, a surfboard for the ocean and a sunset.

What was your medium/process illustrating this book?

I create my work digitally using an iPad. The process began by sketching out our main characters (including my favourite – the excitable pup). Once we settled on those, I worked to create small thumbnail sketches to map out the story, then turned them into final sketches. The fun bit came next… adding all the colour and really bringing the story to life!! A lot of inspiration came from my own childhood, growing up on the farm, and some gorgeous photographs from Kat’s farm! Kat and I both had Jack Russells in our lives, Jonty and Buddy, so the pup in the book was a tribute to them.

Have you spent much time on a Queensland farm? Can you share your favourite farming memory?

I haven’t spent much time on a Queensland farm, but I did grow up on a farm just outside of Inverell, inland northern NSW. I have so many fond memories of the farm, most of them spending time with dad feeding stock, fixing leaky dams or hunkering down in the wool while he sheared the sheep. I did love raising poddy lambs though, so that’s probably one of my favourites, especially when they remember you once they are back in the paddock.

What is your favourite thing to do on a rainy day?

Depends on the day… When it’s a cold rainy day, there’s nothing better than curling up in a blanket with a hot chocolate. I’ll most likely be illustrating away! If it’s a summer storm, I love nothing more than watching nature’s light show! I have a particularly good spot to watch them back on the farm on the veranda.

What is your favourite spread in the book – and why is it special to you? 

Argh, they are all so wonderful. I do love the family, dripping wet and muddy, coming home after a long day of fun on the farm. There’s just something special about seeing the family together like that. Honorary mention in the dam spread. There’s so much fun and it always makes me chuckle.

What is one thing you remember from Janet Turner’s first five years?

I’ve always been creative (even at a young age) and there was this one time I may have gone just a little bit overboard. I would have been 3 or 4 and found myself some blue paint. Not only did this paint end up all over me but also our front verandah. Needless to say, my parents weren’t too impressed! I sure had fun though.

Where can we find you online?
You can check out my Instagram @justjanet_creative or visit my website janetturnerdesign.myportfolio.com

Thank-you so much for sharing, Janet – and especially for those adorable photos! It was a lot of fun working on this book with you, and I look forward to seeing what you create next! (I’ve heard that blue verandah’s are making a come back! 😹)

If readers are looking for activities to go with ‘Up and Down on a Rainy Day’, don’t forget to check out the Rainy Day Stuff on my blog, where you’ll find finger puppet templates, a colouring page of the adorable Jack Russell dog Janet mentioned, and much, much more!

Collating an Anthology – with Kenn Nesbitt

oneminuteOne Minute Till Bedtime is an impressive collection of children’s poetry compiled by former American Children’s Poet Laureate, Kenn Nesbitt. Whilst I wouldn’t encourage my students to drop off to sleep in the middle of class, we have been sneaking a few-more-than-a-few poems into our school days, and I speak from experience when I say this book is a brilliant classroom resource –  because it celebrates the FUN of poetry!

I had a few questions about the process of compiling a poetry collection, and I’m delighted to share Kenn’s insights with you…

Kenn, with One Minute Till Bedtime, you have put together an anthology that touches five countries. How did you know where to start – to draw poets from so far afield?

Kenn NesbittI’ve been writing children’s poetry for more than 20 years, and have met many, many poets during that time. Years ago I started keeping a list ofchildren’s poet I knew, and those I hadn’t met yet. When the opportunity to create this anthology came up, I was able to reach out to nearly 200 published children’s poets. I received submissions from over 160 of them.

What is the breakdown of poets/countries, as included in the book?

There are 132 poets in this collection. 100 of them are from the US, 15 are from Australia*, 13 from the UK, 3 from Canada, and 1 from Italy.

What sort of things (aside from being less than 60 seconds) were you looking for, when making your selections?

I was looking specifically for poems that would evoke an emotion. I am of the opinion that good poetry makes you feel something when you read it, so this was my key criterion in choosing the poems. Additionally, I was interested in poems that I felt were particularly well-written, regardless of style or form.

I love the diversity of the poems. There are some that could be considered almost a risk, going so far out on a limb … and that’s what makes you laugh out loud at the success of the poems. (Like April Haplin Wayland’s, ‘Rolling down the Hill’, and James Carter’s ‘What to Yell When You’re Trapped in the Belly of a Whale’. Delight!)

In addition to sharing the work of so many children’s poets from around the world, I wanted to show the diversity of poetry being written for kids today. That includes concrete poems like these, as well as poetic forms such as pantoums, haiku, abecedarian poems, free verse, humorous rhymes, and more.

How did you decide on the order of the poems, to balance length, type, themes?

With over 140 poems, I thought it would be a good idea to break the book up into sections, each with about 20-30 minutes of reading. This makes a book with seven sections, one for each day of the week, and each with a reading time of less than 30 minutes.

I also decided to begin each section with more realistic poems (e.g., poems about nature, seasons, etc.) and progress toward more imaginative and dreamlike poems, and poems about bedtime and sleeping. The idea here was to somewhat mimic the process of falling asleep.

With this in mind, I selected the actual order by printing out all of the poems and spreading them out on my kitchen table where I could easily see them and shuffle them around. I also wanted to pair poems together so that similar poems could share a common illustration on each two-page spread.

How super-talented and diverse is Christoph Niemann!? I love the quirky extra dimension his illustrations bring to each poem. Were there poems where Christoph submitted more than one possible illustration to consider? Can you give us a short insight into this collaborative process?

I agree. Christoph’s work is so clever and whimsical that you can spend as much time with the illustrations as you do with the poems. There were indeed a few poems where Christoph provided two illustrations for me and my editors to consider. For the most part, though, he worked with the publisher. I didn’t have any direct contact with him during the illustrating of the book, but I did get to see the early sketches and watch as the illustrations progressed.

You yourself have seven poems in the collection. Do you have a favourite amongst your own contributions?

If I had to select just one, it would be “Have I Told You?” I’m also fond of “Whew!,” “How to Fall Asleep,” and “What Do You Dream?”

And finally, what are some of your tips, to make bedtime reading a success?

I think the best thing a parent can do to make bedtime reading a success is to do it consistently as part of a child’s bedtime ritual, beginning at birth. Also, use it as an opportunity for discussion and learning. Children will have lots of questions as you read to them. It’s okay to stop and explain as you go along. This is a great way to expand a child’s vocabulary and their knowledge of the world.

Thank-you so much for the insights, Kenn, and congratulations on a job done exceptionally well!

…oooOOOooo…

* Links to Australian poets in One Minute Till Bedtime

Homograph Tetractys

Last week I created a tetractys page, with how-to and examples. Such a versatile little poetry form. I particularly like the double tetractys, and included a couple of my own variants, including the homonym, and homphone tetractys – but discovered I didn’t have a homograph tetractys. But I do now. You will perhaps recognise numerous clichés, cut and confuddled to create the poem.

katapel_leadhomographtetractys

Lead Homograph Tetractys

Sometimes it feels like there are lots of empty gongs clanging loudly in life – filling the silence of those who are quietly, consistently putting words into actions. Sometimes my heart sinks like lead, listening…

You can read more about the tetractys under the ‘Whisker of Poetry’ drop-down tab. I think my favourite has to be the ‘War’ homophone tetractys. Perhaps you’d even like write one yourself. Feel free to share in the comments.

.

This week I’m visiting Alphabet Soup Blog, to kick off the Pass the Book Baton series. I’m responding to Joseph, who says;

I really enjoyed Bully on the Bus and On Track, both verse novels. But you’ve written other books, too. Why did you decide to write those two books as verse novels?”

Click on the link to read that interview. And visit  Violet Nesdoly | Poems where you will find all the Poetry Friday links for the week. Enjoy!

** To answer Brenda’s question in the comments, this is how you have some control over the formatting in your comments. By typing this, when it’s posted as a comment it looks like my response to Brenda, below.

html code formatting.jpg

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.

Hi Five

Click on pic to read.

This week I was interviewed by Christie Wild as a part of her Hi Five series for PB authors. Here are some of the Qs she threw at me.

Question ONE: How has reading picture books to your children made you a better parent?
Question TWO: What are three of your favourite picture books?
Question THREE: What was your road to publication like?
Question FOUR: How might teachers use your book in the classroom?
Question FIVE: What are some writing tips you can offer to writers seeking publication?

How did I answer? Come and see… Click here to visit Christie’s blog.