Posts tagged Star Author

Childhood and its influence on my writing.

Now that’s an interesting topic!  I know that what I liked as a child, I still like now.

One thing I loved to do was explore.  We lived near the bush and near the abandoned workings of one of Bendigo’s famous gold fields.

I walked through some paddocks and into the old mining area.  It was very dangerous when I look back now, because many of the mines were uncapped and so deep and so full of water , way down.

But I could feel the history, the untold stories, the drama, the hardships, the excitement of finding gold.  I also began to read about the gold fields.  So many thousands of people came to Bendigo from all over the world to find their fortune.  Many Chinese came too and you can still see the re-workings of abandoned mines by the Chinese, they made the mine shaft circular, different to the Cornish miners.

I began to imagine.  For years an idea ran through my head.  I even have the draft of a story I wrote before my goldfield story ‘Ratwhiskers and me’ was published by Walker books.


The story is written in a different way, as a verse novel.  I realised that particular genre was just what I needed to complete that story.

I remember begin ‘stuck’ half way through the writing.  So I took a thermos and sat just in a little park near an abandoned gold field.  My characters began to breathe easy and as I soaked in the atmosphere, my writing had a new direction.

This was a story I had to write.  I love finding snippets of history and breathing new life into them.


Here is a photo of the graves of many Chinese miners who died on the Bendigo gold field.  A cemetery is often an interesting place to walk through.

So this is one aspect of my childhood that lives on in one of my books.

What do/did you like as a child and are you still interested in those things?  I’d love to hear about them.

Lorraine M

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Gathering Ideas for writing

How does an author gather ideas?

How does a poet gather ideas?

My answer:

We look and observe, capture a tiny detail, embroider it

look at it from a different angle, then surprise the reader and ourselves.

I use exercise books like this to keep all my ideas together:


I always write the date in, I jot down a thought, a sight, a little treasure of a word, or a sudden idea.

(or even the complete poem)

If I don’t write it down straight away it goes away never to return.

Here is a suggestion for you to begin your own ‘ideas’ book.

Try keeping an ideas book each day for a week.

  1. Just write down a conversation that was funny or unusual you were a part of or overheard.

Here’s an example:

While on a walk recently  I overheard these comments:

‘I bet a thousand dollars…’


‘It’ll make you dizzy.’


‘But then you would never…

These fragments could become part of a story, or a poem or lead to more ideas.

2.  Just write down a few words about what was happening in your world, even the weather.

3.  Even a quick sketch of your pet and a few words about what they like to do best.  Sketching and writing is a great idea.

For my latest collection of poetry ‘Guinea Pig town and other poems about animals’ Walker books, I was able to observe animals and then write from this.  Taking a photograph to look back later was great also.

Here are two photos of two animals.  Both were in London and both are the subjects of poems in my book.



If you are able to look in a copy of ‘Guinea Pig town and other Animal poems’ then look up:

‘A big bathroom’


Then you can see the finished poems.

What do you like to write about?  I’d love to hear from you.

Lorraine M

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The All Important How Question and What question

I am often asked, ‘How did I become a writer?’ Just last week I was asked this question as I went into a remote school to teach poetry.

I looked at the boy who asked me and asked him in turn, ‘how old are you?’  Luckily he replied with the age I was looking for.  He said , ’eight’.

‘Well that’s the age I can remember thinking that’s what I really really want to be when I grow up, to be an author,’ I replied.

But I didn’t add that though I’d never meet an author, or knew anything about the journey to becoming an author; I still knew in my heart that was what I had to be.   I also loved reading.  Reading all sorts of books is a great start to becoming an author.

I didn’t know that at the time, but already I was embarking on my writer’s journey.

So that leads to another question, ‘what books did you like to read as a child?’

Well I’m not sure if you have ever heard of this very old book called ‘The Princess and Curdie’ by a famous author called George Macdonald.  He wrote this book many years ago, in fact it was very old when I was a child!!!

I loved it.  The thrill of a fabulous, loving and altogether magical grandmother, a princess alone and under threat by  dreadful goblins and a poor ordinary miner’s son called Curdie.  Wow!  I was hooked and today that book still has pride of place on my bookshelves.

So here’s a question for you?  What book has stirred your imagination, has transported you to another world, one that you’d keep through all your growing years and into adulthood?  I’d love to hear.

Next time I’ll show you a little bit of how I work ; my secret writing books and even share a way for you to start your own writing book.

Lorraine Marwood


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Walking the dog


I had a visit yesterday afternoon from Indigo, a lovely year 9 student who’s doing a project on writers – and at the same time, she’s writing a novel herself. She asked me lots of interesting questions about how I wrote and where I got my ideas from and what advice I had for writers. It was good timing, because I planned to write on just those things on the Christchurchkids blog today.

I could be really silly, and answer “How do you write?” by saying that I sit at my desk and  tap away at the keyboard with my fingers.

Well, actually, that IS what I do, but other stuff comes first. One thing I do before I start writing most days, and definitely before I start a new project, is lots of walking. A walk around the park with my dog Gus is good because I find thinking and walking go really well together.
I don’t make lots of notes; I tend to work things out in my head. I play out scenes as if my mind was a movie screen. I try out ideas and (because I like an insanely complicated plot) I try to make twists and turns and figure out “what if?” as if I’m playing a game or doing a jigsaw. Gus is a great help because he needs to walk every day and he comes and reminds GUSme if I don’t take him.

Could you resist those doggy eyes?

Where do I get my ideas from? The answer is everywhere. I am like a magpie, collecting bits and pieces. News items, conversations that I overhear, people I see in the street, pictures, paintings, photos and places all go to making a story. In Verity Sparks Lost and Found, there is a strand of the plot about spirit photography. That got there because a friend was throwing out old books and there was one on the supernatural she thought I’d like. In the early days of photography, people were easily fooled by double exposures and other tricks, and there were some great pictures with “ghosts ” in them. So I used them in my book.

My main piece of advice for writers is simple. Finish that story! Don’t leave it half-finished or just started. When you’ve got it finished, then you’ll have something to work with. You can edit, rearrange, change, cut, add and polish to make your story much, much better. But only if you finish it first.

All the best,


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Listen the the Voices

All books have got their own voice. It’s partly the voices of the characters – especially if they’re the narrators – but it’s the author’s voice too. If you’re writing a story, listen to the voice you use. Read your story out loud to yourself (it seems like a funny thing to do, but it really helps!)

Here are a few opening paragraphs from different books – listen to the voices!

My name is Verity Sparks, and I’ve got itchy fingers. The Professor calls it teleagtivism. Sounds like a disease, doesn’t it? But it’s not. It’s more like a talent. A gift. I’ve always had it, but I didn’t know I had it until the summer of 1878. It happened the day I finished the yellow hat.

The hat was mostly feathers, with one poor little bird left whole and stuck onto the brim.
“Like a dead duck on a plate, ain’t it?” I said as I held it up.

That’s from The Truth About Verity Sparks.  Did you notice how Verity seems to be speaking?  I was trying to make it seem as if she was talking straight to you, the reader. Verity is a very straightforward girl, so that’s how I wanted her to come across. And at the start of the story, she’s not very well educated – that’s why she says ‘ain’t’ instead of isn’t.

Here’s another opening.

Marlie and I lived at the Overhang, near the place where three roads met. One road went west to the Badlands. No one ever passed that way. It was the same with the road to the east – if you followed it you’d end up in the marshes, which stretched forever. Nobody went in that direction, and you’d never expect to see anyone coming from there. Only the road from Skerrick was used, and that was the one I watched from high up on my ledge.

“Peat, get down! You won’t make her come any faster by looking!”

from Song for a Scarlet Runner by Julie Hunt. It’s a new book, published just this year by Allen&Unwin. In this opening, Julie Hunt is setting the scene, and creating a sense of mystery. Why is Peat watching the road? You’ll just have to read on.

And this last piece is from an old favourite of mine, Smith by Leon Garfield. It was first published in 1966, so you might not be able to get hold of it.

My father is put in the stocks again! Oh! The injustice of it! My father is a genius – as are all of we Treets. A grand man, as great in mind as he is in body, for he’s a large man who bears himself with more dignity than all the Justices in Kent put together. Except when the Stranger calls: and then his spirit seems to flicker and sink somewhat…as if the Stranger was something dark and devilish, and there was an unwholesome bargain eating away at my father’s soul…

Can you tell that the book is set in past times by the “voice”? You might have to look up “the stocks” – a hint; they were used as a punishment! The writer here tells us there’s a mystery from very first paragraph! Who is the Stranger? And why does he come to visit Mr Treet?

Next time, I’ll post a little bit about how I write, and how important my dog is to my writing routine.

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Hello from Susan Green

Hello Christchurch kids – thanks for inviting me to visit you. I hope you are keen readers and keen writers, because during the month of September, I’m going to write about both.

Perhaps some of you have read my book The Truth About Verity Sparks? Or the sequel, which came out in May. It’s called Verity Sparks Lost and Found. I am due to start writing the next Verity book and so at the moment my mind is buzzing with all things Verity. I love Verity. I am very proud of her – she is brave, clever and very sensible. If I was going to give you my five top tips for writing stories, at the top of the list would be “Create a character you love”. Verity is such a real character to me that she’s almost like an actual person. So this week I’ll be thinking about the things that make Verity seem real to me – and hopefully, to my readers as well.

Verity first came to me when I was walking around the streets of Melbourne, looking up at the tall, grand buildings built in the Victorian (named after the Queen, not the state!) era around a hundred and fifty years ago. They have carved decorations and big columns and huge doors and if you get a peek inside, often marble halls with more columns and more doors. They seem designed to make a person feel very small and insignificant. I imagined wealthy gentleman wearing suits and top hats strolling in and out…and I started wondering what it would have felt like, to have been little, poor and powerless in those days. And somehow Verity came into my head.

When you’re creating a character, you have to give your character a setting. You have to be clear about where and when the action is happening. Verity’s story starts in 1878 in London, where she is employed as a milliner’s apprentice. You also have to create a backstory. Backstory means the character’s history; his or her past. You might not use it in the story, but you use it to help you understand your character.
I made Verity an orphan. Unlike in real life, in fiction it’s always quite useful to have no parents! After her mother and father died, she went to live with her Uncle Bill and Aunt Sarah. They ran a used clothes stall in the East End of London, but it didn’t work out (mainly because her uncle was a cruel, drunken bully) so Verity was apprenticed to Madame Louisette, who owned a hat shop in a post part of town. As it turned out, Verity’s past is very much part of the plot of the story, but even if it wasn’t, working out your character’s backstory is a good idea.
Some authors keep files on their characters, or write detailed biographies. I don’t go that far, but I think you should do whatever is helpful to make a good story.

That’s all I’ve got time for today. Next post, I’ll write a bit more about creating characters – especially getting their voice right.

See you next time!

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Meet our August Star Author – Maria Gill

Our awesome August Star Author is New Zealand author, Maria Gill.  Maria is our first Star Author who writes non-fiction books for children and adults, so we’re really excited to hear about her writing.  She writes books for children and adults that draw on her interest in birds and conservation, but she writes about a variety of topics.  Her books include Bird’s Eye View, Operation Nest Egg, Rangitoto, and 50 Remarkable Kiwis: New Zealand Hall of Fame.  Maria’s new book, Running the Country: a look inside New Zealand’s Government, is due out this month.

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

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A Writer’s Life

Hi all
I write children’s non-fiction books on a lifestyle block in North Auckland. For the next month, I’m going to share what I get up to, as a full-time writer.

I have two teenage children so as soon as they disappear on the bus I’m tapping away at the keyboard either on a freelance writing project (I’m currently doing a big writing project for Girl Guides) or writing my own books (a follow-on from New Zealand Hall of Fame, and a digitally enhanced book). I’ll also be promoting a new book of mine that is fresh out in the shops and libraries today so do look out for it. It is called ‘Running the Country‘ – all you ever wanted to know about what those politicians are doing at the Beehive, how you vote, your rights, along with caricatures by Malcolm Evans, a timeline that goes throughout the book on the political history of New Zealand and other interesting stuff.

Tomorrow, I head off to the New Zealand Family History Fair at the Vodafone Centre in Manukau to talk to Intermediate and High School students about my research process. Now, some of you might yawn at the thought of doing research but I love it. It’s like being a detective; finding clues and doggedly staying on the trail until I find what I want. I’ll be sharing how I’ve overcome research problems with them.

On Saturday, I’m speaking at the Bookrapt Conference in Tauranga along with children’s authors’ Lynley Dodd and Chris Gurney. I’m talking about why New Zealand children’s non-fiction books are important and how we could celebrate them.

On Monday, I fly to Wellington for the LIANZA awards. I’ll put on my best frock and catch up with other shortlisted authors and illustrators who have travelled from all over the country for the award ceremony. My book ‘Eruption! Discovering New Zealand Volcanoes’ has been nominated along with Te Papa’s book ’100 Amazing Tales from Aotearoa’ and Ned Barraud and Gillian Candler’s book ‘At the Beach’.

On Wednesday, I’m visiting school children at Goodwood School in Cambridge. They’re studying sustainability so I’ll be sharing my environment books with them. I’m taking my puppets (I have 20 of them) for kids to act out just how vulnerable our native birds are (yes, you guessed it they’re native bird and predator puppets).

I’ll be home for a few days so I’ll catch up with you again then. I’ll tell you a few tales and share what I’m doing with the Storyline Festivals around the country. (Check out where they are on )

Ka kite ano

Maria Gill (see inside my books on this website)


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A perfect weekend to write

Phew the end of another crazy busy week at school and the weekend is in front of me. What to do? With the weather having put a ‘Spring into Winter’ I feel a bit of a walk coming up. It is great to have some of the Port Hill tracks reopening after their post-earthquake repairs so I may head to the hills.

My little orange car is very dusty and needs a wash but when I know it’s just going to get covered in dust again the next time I head out it hardly seems worth it.

The most exciting thing about the weekend for me is that I will make sure I have some writing time. I have a story that I’ve been leaving to settle. Over the last week a couple of new directions have been fizzing away in my mind. I’m excited to be getting back to it to find out where things might head if I change a single character’s experience.

Tierney asked me what I like most about writing ( thanks Tierney) and the answer is very simple. I love the discovery! I write to find out what’s going to happen next. I find it very easy to get started from a jumble of ideas that I’ll have been mulling over but once I start to write the story very much takes off as if it has a mind of its own.

When I was writing Nest of Lies I had an ending in mind for Ika, he was a character I really loved, but as I was writing the balloon scene it dawned on me what Ika had in mind for himself. I sobbed my way through writing it because it was all happening for me in real time. More often I laugh out loud in surprise at what characters do or the way plot lines will twist or merge. I love it when I discover why I’d written something earlier that had seemed random at the time. Sometimes I stand up and stretch and realize I’ve been lost in the story for hours. That’s an experience that psychologists call ‘flow’. It’s one of the best feelings you can have.

My writing studio is at the top of a spiral staircase (isn’t that such a lovely notion) and when things have been going well I skip and slide down with a sense of satisfaction. I write first and foremost for myself. I’ve been lucky that other people have like my writing enough to make it into books. It’s a very selfish pursuit.

More later


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The month of July!

It’s July already? You’re kidding!

That means I’ve just had another birthday and should be another year wiser and closer to realizing what I want to be when I grow up.

At the moment I’m a teacher, a writer, a reader, a thinker, a walker, a doodler and a dreamer. I’m trying to be a poet too.

In the past I’ve been a mother, a juggler, a dog-owner and a worrier. But now my boys have turned into men, I still juggle in the privacy of my own home, I don’t own a dog anymore ( that’s a sad story) and I’m not quite as much of a worrier as I used to be.

I saw a post on the internet a while back and it said, “Worry is a misuse of the imagination.”

Imagination can be a bit of a wild thing to control at the best of times and worrying can get quite out of hand. What I have been trying to do lately is that when I find myself starting to worry I redirect that imaginative energy by putting different characters into my worries and finding out what they’d do.

Worried about not getting some work finished on time?

Imagine what a Time Lord like Doctor Who would do. Maybe he’d zap in and out of the time frame in his TARDIS and get a bit done very now and then, between battling cybermen and daleks, until it was all done

Worried about having to meet a whole new bunch of people?

Just imagine that it’s a princess who is meeting them, she would smile and listen with her head to one side and everyone would be charmed by her grace and beauty.

Worried about writing a blog for kids you don’t know?

Just assume the cloak of someone with great wisdom and dispense wise words, stand back and watch as they nod and bow to your greatness and humility. Oh, and invite questions because that way ideas for the next blog will be sparked and you won’t have to keep digging deep to excavate wise gems.

Please send questions. :)

And by the way, I had a lovely birthday complete with flowers, books and a carrot cake that was filled with walnuts, just the way they should be.  I’m thinking  that I should supply Zac with a more up-to-date photo!

Take good care of yourselves,


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Meet our July Star Author – Heather McQuillan

Our fantastic July Star Author is New Zealand author, Heather McQuillan.  Heather is the author of Mind Over Matter (the winner of the 2005 Tom Fitzgibbon Award) and Nest of Lies.  Heather is a local Christchurch author and when she’s not writing Heather is a primary school teacher.

Thanks for joining us Heather.  We’re looking forward to hearing all about your writing and your books.

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The Last Post

Okay, it’s goodbye from me. My new website went up this weekend, so feel free to take a peek  -

Well, it’ s been fun!

By the way, I see Nanny Piggins is the giveaway this week. I’ll be on tour soon with the author, as part of the Storylines Tour. I picked up a copy and it is FUNNY. Too funny. I don’t know how we’re going to manage in that small bus. I’ll be sending jealous glares in her direction every ten seconds. I may have to shield my face with a book. Trouble is it will be a copy of Nanny Piggins, which kind of deflates my point. Oh well.

Hope you guys have put your name in the draw, it’s not too late.

Soooo … that’s it from me.

Happy Reading!


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Star Author Lied. Again

I said I wouldn’t give you any writing tips.  I didn’t need the competition. I swore black and blue not to aid you on the path to glory, knowing I’d be the one sweeping up leaves and weeding the cracks.

But I lied.

Tomorrow is my last day on the blog, (and lo, the internet was filled with the sound of weeping) so I thought – hey, I should go out with a bang. But being shot from a cannon while writing a blog seemed extreme, and my insurance won’t cover it.

So, I decided to give REAL tips, instead.


1. It’s easy to give up. So go on, give up. Please?

Like I said, I don’t need the competition.  If you have even a dash of talent, the ability to take criticism and a ton of determination you WILL get published.  There’s nothing I can do to stop you. Sigh.

By the way, I used to do workshops. There was always someone more talented than me. But I doubt many were more stubborn. Mt writing gets better and better with practise.

(For any kids reading this, yes, I’m joking about not wanting competition.  I had one kid ask me why I made stuff about myself in bios. They said, ‘Do you like telling lies or just disappointing kids!’ Oh dear … as I explained, I prefer writing fiction, even about myself. But I digress.)

2. If you have not heard the term ‘show don’t tell’, google it. You’ll thank me one day.

3. Adverbs are very, very bad;  sort of like viruses that might infect your entire story and cause it to suffer heart failure. You can use a few, but when in doubt – vaccinate.

4. Also beware of words like ‘is’ and ‘was’, sometimes even ‘a’. Can’t really explain why, but it sounds flat. Look at this –

A mouse was looking at a piece of cheese.


The mouse eyed the piece of cheese.

5. If everyone writes vampire novels you should write one too.

Nothing wrong with a good vampire novel. Of course it won’t sell because there’s a million others out there. Oh, unless you’ve found a unique angle, in which case you’ll be a millionaire.

6. If everyone writes vampire novels you should NOT write one.

So, you read number two, huh? Are you insane? Why would you listen to me? I’ve only written two books, for crying out loud. I don’t know ANYTHING.

Look, if you are genuinely passionate about vampire novels, write one. Sure it will be a hard sell, but stranger things have happened and if you follow tip number one, anything is possible. Especially if you’ve found a new angle. After all, there were stories about wizards before Harry Potter, you know …

7. Have you ever considered, I don’t know … reading?

Um, here’s something I haven’t told anyone.  I read a book that I loved called Millions and then I read and re-read that book. It taught me about voice and I read until the voice slipped inside my head. I literally carried it with me to the library when I was writing.

I didn’t copy, that’s pointless and well, downright illegal. I can’t afford to be sued, unless the plaintive is willing to be paid out in marshmallows. Anyway, the tone of the book helped me a lot.

(I would like to point out l also got my big ‘aha’ moment after reading a book in first person, present tense called Castlecliff and the Pea Princess by Elizabeth Pulford.  The tone stayed with me and I experimented with the voice. It worked! My first piece was accepted shortly after that. Of course this might not be YOUR style, it would be boring if everyone wrote the same way.)

8. A real writer always …

Anyone who uses this phrase in ANY shape or form deserves to be shot out of a cannon, which I just happen to have in the back yard … ‘if you don’t do X, you’re not a real writer.’ You will hear it, in one form or another. I promise. I did, sweeping statements on how real writers thought, plotted and acted, which struck me down with fear. Only one thing is true – there are no absolute rules.

Not even these tips.

Wait – what does that mean? Are these even real tips? Perhaps I’ve gone back to my old tricks. Am I trying to convince you NOT to write books?

You decide. In the meantime, take up needlework. The world needs more embroidered cushions.

No, honest. It really does.


Leonie Agnew

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Star Author Won’t Stop Complaining

I’m exhausted.

It’s been a big week.

First we had the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards. I bit my nails all night. I cheered at the laptop screen. I booed when my internet connection went down and I was forced to throw marshmallows in frustration. Then I had to clean them up, including the one I stood on. I had to scrape that puppy.

See? Exhausting. No one knows how I’ve suffered.

Anyway, it was so DIFFICULT trying to decide who was best. I completely wore myself out thinking about it. Everyone was genuinely fantastic, although I’d like to give a Star Author’s shiny Gold Star to Red Rocks. I will never look at New Zealand seals in quite the same way … please read it! Unless you already have, in which case … read it again!

So where was I? Oh yes. Tired. Doom with a hint of gloom. Darkness with lashings of despair, faintly offset by maniacal laughter from a ruined castle.

You get the idea, right?

And then the Carnegie winner was announced. I really must read Maggot Moon. So I added that to my list, right next to Wonder which is clearly an amazing read. The effort of picking up that pen, finding my list, using valuable calories to scribble down letters … you can see my life is difficult. Of course now I’m forced to buy more books, knowing that nothing I write will compare … oh, woe.

Sick of me yet?

I am.

So let’s change the tone.

I saw the light on Wednesday and became ESCTATIC. Yes, skyping those home school kids put me in a good mood. And then I went to George Street Normal School and they did another fabulous job at lifting my spirits. They were friendly, asked good questions and they even remembered my name. Life was peace, love and jellybeans.

However the biggest boost came from Wednesday night. I got to chat with librarians about BOOKS at UBS in Dunedin! (I’m not joking, that really is my idea of a good time. It’s not swinging from the chandeliers, but it makes for great conversation and no one gets cuts on their fingers.) I also got to chat with fabulous illustrators David Elliot and Robyn Belton. They talked about their work, Robyn showed us her art, I explained that I couldn’t draw stick figures and everyone laughed  – well, no. They were very kind. But I suspect they were smiling on the inside.

Anyway, it’s been a great week. And I’ve been blogging you, fabulous people! So life is good.

There, I’ve stopped complaining. You’ve cured me.

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Star Author Reaches New Lows

Um, two typos in my last blog post. I hang my head in shame. I don’t know how to fix them, not once the blog is posted – my head hangs a little lower. My old students might read this, the ones I harassed about proof reading. My head is now touching the floor … wait?

What’s that under the couch? A long lost marshmallow? Or could it be by missing words … hurrah!

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Well …

Err …

Yes, I’ve lost my words.

Sometimes this happens. Maybe they’ve fallen down the back of the chair or rolled under the bed. Either way they’re missing. It’s a little hard writing a story without them.

So here it is …  I’m offering a REWARD. (No, don’t get excited, I’m a penniless author. You will be repaid in good wishes and smiles from afar. And you can’t take that to the bank, trust me. The lady behind the counter will look at you funny and push the little red button under her desk. In case you’re unsure, that’s a very bad thing.)

So, if you find my missing words, let me know. I expect they’re trying to start sentences somewhere, hoping to rally enough troops for an adventure.  I just hope they’re not getting mixed up with numbers. It only leads to trouble. Those wayward numbers lead them astray, whispering things like – ‘hey, hang out with us. We’ll make you into chapter!’

But they’re not ready for the big time. They’re too small and need time to grow. They can’t even tie their own shoes, they’re still using Velcro . Oh for the love of all that is good – little words come back! Let me take care of you!


I may be a tad dramatic. Today was a slow writing day and my brain feels like porridge. Yesterday was good. Tomorrow will be better. At least, it will be once I’ve laid out the word trap and hunted down my best ideas. Perhaps they’re lurking in the garden shed? I could lure them out using M&Ms, just like that scene in the ET moves … yes, I’ll tip-toe out there now. They’ll never see me coming.

Unless they read my blog.

No, of course not. That’s ridiculous. And I wouldn’t want to get ridiculous, would I?


Leonie Agnew

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Okay, today I talked to the coolest kids ever. They know who they are. That’s good because I can’t remember the name of their group … don’t take it personally. I have holes in my memory. (Nothing I can’t fix with a piece of blue tack and tissue paper. Although I’m not sure that medical procedure is legal in New Zealand.)

Anyway, there were all home schooled.

Lucky bunnies. They seemed so intelligent and SO well read, I’ve decided to become home schooled myself. That’s right, from now on I will read at home, write at home, check my dictionary in the living room, organise projects on my computer in the bedroom … oh wait, I already do that. Hear that guys? I already AM home schooled. I’m one of you!

Well, sort of.

Tomorrow I visit George Street Normal in Dunedin. They also seem very cool but let me tell you – they have a LOT to live up to!

Okay, I’d better go and write something. It’s expected. I could do something different … but publishers don’t want misshaped pottery bird baths or hand knitted jumpers with three arms and no hole for a head. They just don’t.

Guess I’d better write something, instead.

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Star Author Turns Green with Envy

I can’t draw.

I can’t paint.

But Trevor Pye can.

He illustrated my brand new book, The Importance Of Green and he’s done a fabulous job. I’m downright furious.  Who cares about my writing when they’re dazzled with such visual mastery? How dare he outshine me with his artistic brilliance and fabulous flair for detail? (Sigh.)

Look. I’ll include a double page spread from my book, just to show you. See? The nerve of the man.


Yes, I’m literally green with envy.

Oh, what’s the book about? So glad you asked. It’s about a boy who paints with green until one day, he runs out of his favourite colour. Painting becomes a disaster, like his line of cars that turns into a traffic jam, because there’s no green for the lights.

Disaster looms and he needs to find a solution. I can’t give it away … but he finds an interesting solution to a colourful problem.

Right, that’s it from me. I’m off to buy a maths compass. It’s the only way I’ll ever draw a perfect circle … maybe I can ask Trevor for tips.

If he’s still speaking to me, of course.


Leonie Agnew

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Star Author Still Being Difficult – Sigh.

Oh, the pressure.
If I was willing to share tips with you (which I’m not, remember? I don’t want you all becoming bestselling authors and stealing my book space on the shelves) well, if I was willing I would probably suggest a brainstorm.
But I won’t.
Another thing, I would probably say … look at newspaper headings for inspiration, write lists like ‘the five most embarrassing things that ever happened to me’ or start with a picture that sparks your interest.
Hmmm, my most embarrassing memory, story book related … I dressed up as Heidi and got stage fright. I had to be taken off the stage in floods of tears. (I was seven, just to be clear. This wasn’t last week visiting schools, I don’t care what you’ve heard. How do these rumours get started?)
Oh wait. I just wrote something. That counts as a blog post, doesn’t it? And I didn’t share any valuable information. Excellent, I really do enjoy being so completely unhelpful. I am the world’s worst star author and I’m loving it.
(Cue evil laughter and the silent screams of shocked librarians. What does silent screaming sound like? How should I know? It’s silent.)
Now, how about a list of the ‘five worst things I ever did’? Let’s see, did I tell you about the time I blew up the science lab … oh wait, I’m all out of time.
Maybe in the next blog.

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Star Author Refuses To Comment

And then, there was me.

Yep, I’m Leonie Agnew, the next Star Author for June and I’ve nothing to say. I’m not giving you a single writing tip. Not one. Why?

Because you might learn something useful.

I can’t have that. You might write your own book. And when you’re sunning yourself by the pool outside your billion dollar mansion, sipping drinks from diamond studded goblets and snap chatting with J K Rowling … guess what you’ll be? MY COMPETITION!

I will be extra grumpy because I drink out of plastic cups, don’t own a tent, let alone a mansion and well, J K keeps ignoring my tweets. Can’t imagine why.

Anyway, the point is, my lips are sealed. I won’t tell you about the children’s writer’s conference in Christchurch. I certainly won’t mention the workshop on editing with Joanna Orwin. Instead, I will take her tips to my grave, written in microfiche and encased in glass, worn around my wrist and disguised as a friendship bead. Why should I tell anyone about the importance of editing and taking out adverbs, even if it does avoid unnecessary description and make your writing sharp?

She also told me something so top-secret, I’m thinking of writing it down with heat sensitive ink. That way, when historians dig up my body and find the bead (and they will, mark my words), the warmth from their breath will make the words evaporate. Clever, right?

No one will ever know Joanna said take words out and add words in – necessary if you haven’t milked the crucial moments in your chapter. That’s like, after the big moment in each chapter, you need to show the main character’s emotional reaction, not just the physical. So if your character wants to run away, it pays to make them think about it first. Understanding character motivation helps the reader to care and keeps them turning pages.

Yep, wild horses couldn’t drag that information from me. Oh … darn.


Well … give J K Rowling my best, okay? I will come to all your book launches and eat the free food. Mostly because I’ll be unemployed and starving.

Bye for now,

Leonie Agnew

P.S. I think I was supposed to tell you stuff about me. I’m the author of Super Finn and The Importance of Green. That’s a start. Stay tuned and I’ll tell you facts about my life that may or may not be true.

Usually I tell the truth, until I get bored. But it’s not telling lies. When you write lies down it’s called writing fiction, and that’s completely okay.  Just ask your librarian.

Comments (8) »


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