Meet our September Star Author – Mary McCallum

Our super September Star Author is Mary McCallum.  As well as an author Mary has worked as a creative writing tutor, a bookseller, book reviewer, broadcast journalist and television presenter.  Mary’s first children’s book, Dappled Annie and the Tigrish was published earlier this year.

Thanks for joining us Mary!  We look forward to hearing all about your book and your writing.

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Get writing, with a little help from your friends

My first blog post was about daring to start writing. My second – about how I get inspired (and giant moons). Number three was the top three questions I get asked about writing.

And my last one? This post is about carrying on writing, even when it gets hard. And asking for help.

I’m working on my sixth edit of my fifth story at the moment. Yes, you heard me right – the sixth edit!

This story is 60,000 words long, and I’ve read every one of those 60,000 words over and over, tinkered and played with them, rearranged them, changed them … then started the whole process all over again. Six times in a row.

And it’s still not quite ready to send to a publisher. Before I do that, I’ll ask two clever friends who love words as much as I do to read my story too. They’ll notice things I don’t, and give me advice about ways I can tweak my book to make it even better. Plus they’ll spot the odd word that’s spelled wrong or any words I’ve put in the wrong order too.

So, if you’ve got the writing itch, hitch up your determination, find some clever friends to go on the journey with you, and get writing. It’s worth it – I promise!

Bye for now,

Juliet

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Top three questions kids ask me about writing

Hi all,

I’ve been doing a few school visits lately (which I love!) so today’s blog post is a hit-list of the top three questions I get asked by the kids I’ve been talking to.

Plus I’ve squished in another Storylines shout-out at the very end :)

What made me decide to become a writer?

I’ve wanted to write for as long as I can remember, in large part inspired by my love of Margaret Mahy’s stories – in particular her young adult books. In addition to adoring Mahy, I come from a family of writers, bookworms and crossword fanatics, so escaping the call of writing would have been hard. Despite all this, I managed to put off doing anything about it for several years. I was terrified I’d be terrible. I finally got brave enough to try writing a story when I took a year off work after having my first daughter.

What is a typical writing day for me?

I don’t really have a typical writing day. My husband and I have two preschoolers and we both work full time. I write whenever and wherever I can – but most often on the couch at night after we’ve got the kids off to bed. I’ve written in lots of odd places though – in the car, in parks, in supermarket car parks, in cafes, on the waterfront, in spare meeting rooms at work … generally wherever I can find five spare minutes when I’m not doing something else. If I get stuck I go for a walk – that’s when I do my best writing by far.

What do I enjoy most about writing?

I love it when my characters surprise me by doing or saying unexpected things – it’s like they come to life. I love playing with words too, and it’s a wonderful feeling when my writing flows, in contrast to the opposite feeling when it’s like I’m wading through a puddle of glue.

I get really excited when I start thinking about new story ideas. Other authors have made me laugh out loud, get mad, or burst into tears. I love the idea that the more stories I write, the better I might get at moving my readers, just like other authors have inspired me.

Then here comes the Storylines shout-out bit – the Wellington Family Day was AMAZING! If you like reading and writing, make sure it’s on your agenda for next year if you didn’t make it this time around … and if you’re in Auckland or Northland, go check it out this weekend!

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Meet your favourite authors, illustrators and storytellers!

I’m going to be one of many authors, illustrators and storytellers at the Storylines Festival Family Day in Wellington this weekend.

These free family days are great fun. It’s a chance for you to meet writerly types and listen to magical stories. Plus there are fun competitions to enter too.

So come along and join in the story fun. There are family days being held in Wellington, Dunedin, Christchurch, Whangarei and Auckland. 

Find out more about Family Days at the Storylines website.

Talk more soon :)

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Can maths ever be fun? With Britannica SmartMath Practice it can!

Cover of Britannica SmartmathsWhen I was a child they made you stand up in front of class and recite your times tables. It was horribly scary and did not make me look forward to maths class! The idea was that possible embarassment in front of your peers would make you learn – and it did! There are though less terrifying ways to learn math. Let me introduce you to Britannica SmartMaths Practice which aims to help in all areas of maths using games, activities, quizzes and your own make believe character. It covers topics such as:

  • Numbers: addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions and percentages;
  • Shape and Space: curves, angles, quadrilaterals, triangles, circles and symmetry;
  • Algebra: elementary and complex equations;
  • Measures: length and distance, time, money, perimeter, area, volume and speed;
  • Data Handling: pictograms, block graphs, charts, statistics, probability, coordinate geometry.

It is aimed at those aged 6-14 years of age and so covers a variety of levels. You pick what level you are comfortable at. No need for public embarassment. You can even earn badges and points that can be used to choose a different character to cheer you on. I don’t think maths would have been half as traumatic if I could have worked my way through a bright happy place such as this. Have a play with SmartMaths – you will be amazed at how quickly you will learn without even meaning to!

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Get set for super (duper) perigee moon!

Guess what? This year, there will be not one, not two, but three perigee supermoons. The first happened in April. The next is due early morning Monday 11 August, and the third will happen in November.

Which begs the question, what is a perigee moon, and why on earth did I end up with one in my book about Tilly Angelica, The Night of the Perigee Moon?

A perigee moon is when the moon is at its closest point to us here on earth. A supermoon is when the full moon and perigee happen together. Because it’s so close, and it’s the full moon, it looks amazing. Big, golden and HUGE. You can read more about supermoons here.

And a perigee moon ended up in my book because I happened to go stand on my back doorstep one night and saw one staring back at me. I was so taken with it that it ended up in my story.

That’s how I find my stories come together. I settle on a central idea, and then all sorts of other funny everyday events and happenings end up bossing their way in too.

When I started writing my book, I had no idea that a supermoon would end up being central to the story. That’s one of the things I love about writing – it’s an unfolding surprise, with moons, stars and all sorts of other enchantments wrapped up in it.

Now, go check out that moon!

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How to become an author – start writing!

Hi, Juliet here – star author for August. Writing that sends a shiver down my spine, because:

  • skip back five months ago – I wasn’t an author
  • skip back four years ago – I wasn’t an author, although I had started writing stories
  • skip back five years ago – I wasn’t an author, or a writer … although I *loved* to read (and I secretly, desperately wanted to write).

But I was too scared.

And distracted.

Plus I was convinced I wouldn’t be any good if I tried it anyway.

So it’s probably no surprise that my heroine Tilly and me share a similarity or two. Tilly starts off at the beginning of my first published book Night of the Perigee Moon petrified she’ll inherit some bizarre-o magical talent on her thirteenth birthday – she doesn’t want to turn into a weirdo.

Just to clarify, I’m not saying I’ve always been afraid of being overtaken by some strange, magical talent. Rather, what Tilly and I do have in common is getting distracted by the wrong things.

I’ve known for the longest time that I wanted to be a writer – since I was eight or nine – but I got distracted by the idea that this was impossible.

Writing stories was hard.

Hardly anyone gets published.

What if I didn’t have the imagination for it, anyway?

Still, whenever I sat down and read a book – Margaret Mahy in particular, whose writing I adore – I’d feel the whisper and pull of all those beautiful words. And this insistent tap on my shoulder. This voice saying I want to do that. I want to be that.

Just like Tilly, I had to work out that you’ve got to push past the distractions, and that when you do, you can transform yourself into anything you want to be. Even, it turns out, into a published author.

So, if you’re like me, and you’ve been feeling an itch or a tap on your shoulder to do or try something, but you’ve been ignoring it – try a Tilly on for size, and push past the distractions. Turn around and give that itch or nudge a good shove back.

It’s amazing where it can lead.

Talk more soon :)

 

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