I promised I would tell you a bit more about some of the fabulous children’s writers who appeared at Word Café with me. But before I do that, I have to put right a terrible oversight…
I woke up in the middle of the night last night and realised I had forgotten to mention something, or rather someone very important in my last post. Can you guess who?
Winnie the Pooh of course! Now the Winnie the Pooh story’s not about poo at all, but Pooh Bear himself has got to be the all-time most famous poo of all, and terribly lovable and funny to boot, so I was sorry that I had forgotten him.
But now that I’ve remembered him, I might just reread his story, and his second story The House at Pooh Corner, and also some of his poems, my favourite of which goes:
Wherever I am, there’s always Pooh,
There’s always Pooh and Me.
Whatever I do, he wants to do,
“Where are you going today?” says Pooh:
“Well, that’s very odd ‘cos I was too.
Let’s go together,” says Pooh, says he.
“Let’s go together,” says Pooh.
Do you know it? It’s called ‘Us Two’ and it’s from A.A. Milne’s book Now We Are Six. A.A. Milne is the author of all of the Winnie the Pooh books, but the stories will always belong to Pooh.
Speaking of authors, I had the good luck at the Word café festival to present a workshop with a very talented author called Andre Ngapo who also lives in Raglan, like me. Andre won the Sunday Star Short Story Competition in 2008 for his story ‘Te Pou’. The story isn’t a children’s story as such, but it is about a child. After that, Learning Media contacted Andre and he has been writing stories for the School Journal ever since. Keep an eye out for him. He has a story out this month, and several more in the pipeline.
I also did a reading with another clever Raglan local, Margery Fern. Although she was reading her books, Margery is the illustrator, rather than the author. The author is her sister Jennifer Somervell who lives in Oxford in Canterbury (they’re the ladies in the picture: Margery is on the left). Together they produce a series of picture books, called Tales From the Farm about their amazing childhood growing up on a farm in the Hawkes Bay.
There’s a funny one about their father blowing up the cowshed with gelignite (a true story) and another about an old truck that they had in shed, which is now the only working truck of its kind in the world. Their next one, Josephine, is about an amorous pig (I hate to think) and then they have a book planned about an eel hunt. Now I happen to love eeling (I don’t kill them; I just haul them up on a piece of string to get a closer look at them), so I’m really looking forward to that.
The last children’s author who was there was Tui Allen. Tui doesn’t live in Raglan, but she lives in Te Pahu at the foot of Mount Pirongia, which is close by. Tui’s written lots of books for children, but her best known is probably Captain Clancy and the Flying Clothesline, about a city clothesline that escapes its city existence to live on a tropical island. Although Tui published it nearly 20 years ago, the story is still a favourite on National Radio’s story time.
For Word Café we asked all three of these wonderful storytellers what their advice was for aspiring writers and illustrators (that may be you). Here’s what they said:
Write from your experience, from what you know, where you’ve been — not necessarily physically — cover the emotional landscapes you’ve traversed. Write from the heart.
Practise, practise, practise! Team up with a writer, trial create a book together and just give it a go!
Find a great critique group. Either in the flesh or online. Make full use of it. Do your share of critiquing and develop trust within the group. Listen to them, especially their criticisms. The most important thing you want to hear is what’s wrong with your work – not what’s right with it.