Archive for May, 2013

Goodbye from Raglan and thanks

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Well it’s Wednesday and I’ve already had a busy writing week. On Sunday, I went to a writer’s meeting, expecting to hear a talk by a local bookseller, and was delighted to find he had been replaced: not because I didn’t want hear him, but because the new guest speaker was children’s author Janice Marriott.

Janice is one of those clever writers who writes everything. Novels, school readers, non-fiction, plays, and TV and radio scripts (she was one of the writers for the award-winning TV programme ‘The WotWots’, produced by Weta Workshops).

It was very inspiring to hear her talk, especially about her belief that writing is something that happens on top of life, and how important it is for writers to have another life, other than writing. This cheered me up, as fitting the time to write into the rest of my life is something I struggle with constantly (as I know do lots of other writers).

It was also very exciting to hear that she thinks her best book is Thor’s Tale (which won the junior fiction category of the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults in 2007), and then to go home and find it on my eldest son’s bookshelf. The story is about an 11-year old boy, Thor, who works on a sub-Antarctic whaling station where he encounters Shackleton and his fellow explorers as they set out to explore Antarctic. I am looking forward to starting it tonight.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of talking (on Skype) to a wonderful group of kids from Dyer Street School in Lower Hutt. They are all part a book club of keen readers that meets once a week to discuss and research books and writers. And they found out about me on the Christchurch Kids Blog!

We had a lovely chat (even though there was an enormous thunder storm going on in the background here) and they asked some great questions, such as: Why do I like poo so much? (oh no!); Who is my favourite author? (a tough one, but in the end I said Margaret Mahy and Kyle Mewburn); and Why hadn’t I written more books? (which made me think I need to get on with it).

Tomorrow, I am off to Golden Yarns, the biennial children’s writers’ and illustrators’ hui in Christchurch. I will be attending workshops with some of New Zealand’s top children’s writers and listening to publishers and booksellers talk about what’s hot and new in New Zealand book publishing.

I’m really looking forward to it, although it means this will be my last post as Star Author. So I wanted to say, thank you very much for having me. I’ve really enjoyed the blog, especially because, as with all writing, it has opened up new paths and ideas for me to ponder and explore.

Happy reading and goodbye for now from Whaingaroa Raglan (in the picture).

Sarah

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Kids’ Books: picks from our latest newsletter

Here are some great picks from our May Kids’ Books newsletter:

Cover: Information EverywhereCover: The Wrath of the GodsCover: Hold FastCover: My Grandma's KitchenCover: White Fur FlyingCover: Mistakes Were MadeCover: Little Kitchen Around the WorldCover: Eat Your Math Homework

Did you know that you can subscribe to our newsletters and get our latest titles and best picks straight to your inbox? It’s easy and you get to be first to see our new goodies!

For more great reads, check out our Fun to Read page – it links you to reading lists, if you likes, interactive quizzes and lots more.

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Carmangling storyscrunching divvytrips

Our car broke down a couple of months ago.

Between Raglan (where I live) and Hamilton (which is the nearest city), there is a range of large hills. To get from Raglan to Hamilton (or the other way) you have to go up and over a pass in these hills. People in Raglan call this “going over the divvy”. (Divvy by the way, is short for deviation. I assume the Raglan deviation is called that because there used to be another, older road, and when they built the new one it followed a different path, so it was a deviation.)

Anyway, our car, which was rather old and very decrepit, made it all the way up to the tip top of the deviation, then died.

This was OK. Raglan is a small and very friendly place and lots of lovely people stopped to help. Our car was towed away to the scrap yard and we got a new one. The new car is just the same as our old one, except that it is even older, but rather less decrepit. This makes things a touch confusing, as it means our new car is actually our old new car, or our new old car, and our old car was our new old car, or our old new car. It’s a good thing it’s been scrapped!

But the best thing about our new old, old new car is that it has a CD player. So now when we’re making the long drive over the divvy and back, we can listen to stories, and this week we’ve been listening to Roald Dahl.

Now I love Roald Dahl’s stories, and the reason I love them is that they are so BIG. Everything about them is big. They have fabulous fantastical plots, tons of action, wacky language, amazing ideas and larger than life characters. It is as if he has taken a normal story (beginning, middle and end) and crammed as much as he can in. Then a bit more. And then an incy-wincy bit more. Then he’s sprinkled on a handful of fun and craziness, just to be sure, and he’s slammed the story shut.

So far, we’ve had The Witches, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Enormous Crocodile (with his cunning plans and clever tricks), Esio Trot, Danny the Champion of the World, and The BFG.

I have especially enjoyed The BFG, because somehow I have managed to get all this way through my life without ever having read or heard it. (If you haven’t read it yet either, BFG is short for Big Friendly Giant.) Also because it is very funny and full of huge (literally) characters. Not only is there the 24-foot high BFG, who catches and bottles dreams, then blows them into the bedrooms of children who need them, but there are nine other revolting people-eating giants (Fleshlumpeater; Bonecruncher; Manhugger; Childchewer; Meatdripper; Gizzardgulper; Maidmasher; Bloodbottler; Butcherboy). There is also Sophie, a little girl in her nightie who helps the BFG stop the people-eating giants, and the Queen of England.

Fantastic! My kids have been so inspired by the stories they have drawn some great pictures. Here’s a selection; perhaps you’ll add one of your own?

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W.A.R.P.: The Reluctant Assassin book trailer

The reluctant assassin is Riley, a Victorian boy who is suddenly plucked from his own time and whisked into the twenty-first century, accused of murder and on the run. Riley has been pulled into the FBI’s covert W.A.R.P. operation (Witness Anonymous Relocation Program). He and young FBI Agent Chevie Savano are forced to flee terrifying assassin-for-hire Albert Garrick, who pursues Riley through time and will not stop until he has hunted him down. Barely staying one step ahead, Riley and Chevie must stay alive and stop Garrick returning to his own time with knowledge and power that could change the world forever.

If you’re a copy of Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl series you need to grab a copy of The Reluctant Assassin, the first book in Eoin’s new W.A.R.P. series.  Reserve your copy at the library now.

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My Brother’s War by David Hill

My Brother’s War by David Hill is a finalist in the Junior Fiction category of the 2013 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards.  This was one of the books that I hadn’t read at the time it was released, but I read it recently as part of my challenge to read all of the 2013 finalists. 

My Dear Mother,

Well, I’ve gone and done it. I’ve joined the Army!

Don’t be angry at me, Mother dear. I know you were glad when I wasn’t chosen in the ballot. But some of my friends were, and since they will be fighting for King and Country, I want to do the same.

It’s New Zealand, 1914, and the biggest war the world has known has just broken out in Europe.

William eagerly enlists for the army but his younger brother, Edmund, is a conscientious objector and refuses to fight. While William trains to be a soldier, Edmund is arrested.

Both brothers will end up on the bloody battlefields of France, but their journeys there are very different. And what they experience at the front line will challenge the beliefs that led them there.

My Brother’s War is a compelling story about two brothers who have very different opinions and experiences of the First World War.  William feels very strongly that he needs to play his part in the war and so he enlists in the army.  The people in his town commend him for being brave and doing his part.  He believes he is doing what is right to protect his country and the people he loves.  He can’t understand his brother and thinks that his refusal to enlist is ‘wrong and stupid.’  His brother, Edmund, is a conscientious objector who believes it is wrong to go to war and kill other people.  The story switches between their two points-of-view so you see the huge differences in their experience of war.  The story is mainly told in the third person, but each of the characters write letters to their mother which gives more of an insight into their thoughts and feelings.

You experience the build up to the fighting and the horrible conditions of the battlefield through William’s story, but it was Edmund’s story that shocked me.  I knew a little about conscientious objectors before reading this book but Edmund’s story really opened my eyes to how horribly they were treated.  Conscientious objectors like Edmund were labeled cowards and treated like second-class citizens.  Edmund constantly refuses to obey army orders, but in the end really has no choice.  He’s put on a boat and taken to France where he is forced on to the battlefields.  In the training camps he is locked away with little food and water, and he also faces excruciating punishment for not following orders.  Edmund is incredibly strong-willed though and stands by his principles.

A quote from Edmund towards the end of the book sums up war perfectly , ‘I never knew some men could do such dreadful things to one another, and I never knew some men could be so kind and brave.’

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House of Secrets by Chris Columbus and Ned Vizzini

Chris Coloumbus is the writer and director of some of my favourite movies, including Gremlins, The Goonies and Home Alone.  He’s a gifted storyteller for the screen who has now delved into the world of children’s books.  His first children’s book is House of Secrets, co-written by Ned Vizzini, and I was interested to see if his books were just as good as his movies.

A secret history… A mysterious family legacy… Dark magic of untold power… And three kids who will risk everything to bring a family back together. The Pagett kids had it all: loving parents, a big house in San Francisco, all the latest video games … But everything changed when their father lost his job as a result of an inexplicable transgression. Now the family is moving into Kristoff House, a mysterious place built nearly a century earlier by a troubled fantasy writer with a penchant for the occult. Suddenly the siblings find themselves launched on an epic journey into a mash-up world born of Kristoff’s dangerous imagination, to retrieve a dark book of untold power, uncover the Pagett family’s secret history and save their parents … and maybe even the world.

House of Secrets is an action-packed blockbuster of a book about three children who are transported into the world of fiction.  There’s something in this story to appeal to all kids – adventure, mystery, magic, witches, giants, warriors, pirates, and fictional characters coming to life. Most readers have wanted to actually be in the world of a story at some stage, and this is exactly what happens to Cordelia, Brendan and Eleanor (even if it was the last thing they wanted).

Chris and Ned have said that the story was originally going to be a screenplay for a movie, but they thought it would be too expensive to make so they adapted it into a book.  I thought this came through quite clearly as the story really reads like it should be a movie.  It’s quite fast-paced and there is lots of action so it will definitely keep kids’ attention.  I can see why it would have cost so much to make this story into a movie, because it’s quite epic and there would be huge special effects involved.  The house that the children find themselves transported in is much like the Tardis (‘it’s bigger on the inside’), with lots of hidden passageways, and it gets battered about by witches, giants and pirates.  There are many different fictional worlds, filled with different creatures and characters.

The plot races along right to the end and leaves the story hanging for the next book in the series.  I’ll be looking forward to discovering what comes next for the Walker children.

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Some wonderful Waikato authors and an equally wonderful bear

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.

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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.

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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:

Andre

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.

Margery

Practise, practise, practise! Team up with a writer, trial create a book together and just give it a go!

Tui

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.

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Book magic (and poo)

What a fantastic time I had at the Word Café Raglan writers and readers festival at the weekend. Books are so much fun! And so interesting. And so are the people who read and write them.

3 Image of Andre NgapoAround 35 people came along to the workshop that Andre Ngapo and I ran on getting started in writing for children. (Andre’s in the picture, doing his stuff on the day: I’ll tell you more about him in my next post.) That’s 35 avid writers and readers of children’s fiction all in one room. It was electric.

We had a wonderful discussion about what makes a great children’s book. It reminded me why I love them so much (and also of all the things I should be doing in my stories to make them even better). Everyone agreed that there needed to be:

  • lots of humour – kids (and the adults reading with them) love to laugh
  • a great story – that’s a beginning, a middle and an end, with lots of twists and turns in between
  • plenty of action – whizz, pow, bang, uh-oh, ah-ha, ahhhhhhh…that sort of thing
  • fabulous characters – no dull and boring please
  • not too many messages – the aim is to entertain
  • a pinch of amazing – that special something that makes a story zing.

Can you think of anymore?

Personally, I think there is one, and it’s a bit of a magic ingredient when it comes to stories. That something is poo.

In the 20-ish years that I have been writing stories, I have noticed that, along with humour, kids love poo. Look at all the books that have been written about it.

For starters, there’s Baa Baa Smart Sheep by talented New Zealand author and illustrator duo Mark and Rowan Sommerset, about a bored sheep that tricks his mates into eating, you guessed it, poo.

Then there’s the hilarious Poo Bum by Stephanie Blake (she’s not a new Zealand author, but her publisher Gecko Press is from here) about a little rabbit who will only say one thing: “Poo bum”. That is, until he gets eaten by a wolf, at which point he changes his tune to…read it and find out.

Then there’s Captain Underpants by Dave Pilky about all things to do with undies, wedgies and toilets (that’s got to count poo). And the all-time poo-topping favourite, The Little Mole who Knew it was None of his Business by Werner Holzwarth, about a mole that is poo-ed on (it lands on his head) and runs around trying to find the culprit (and encountering many and varied poos along the way). It even has a plop-up version!

That’s just off the top of my head (the list that is, not the poo). There’s no denying poo is popular.

So at the moment I am busy writing my own story about poo. I can’t give too much away, except to say that it’s a picture book and it’s about a dung beetle who spends his nights rolling endless little balls of poo (well dung, but it’s the same thing). Until one day he looks up and discovers…

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Festivals, workshops and bookish events

Hi,

I am busy this week getting ready for Word Café, Raglan’s first ever writers’ and readers’ festival. It is happening this weekend (10 and 11 May) and there is going to be an amazing line-up of writers.

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I have been helping to organise the event, and am also presenting a workshop and reading some of my stories. I’m really looking forward to it, but am also a bit nervous. Like a lot of writers, although I love words, I am more comfortable writing them, than speaking them!

Still, getting out and promoting yourself seems to be part of a writer’s job description these days. And I do find that going along to writing festivals, workshops, readings and other bookish events is really good for my own writing.

Hearing other writers talk is very inspirational and gives you a real creativity boost. I always find that my mind is humming with ideas for new stories and ways to improve my old ones after I’ve listened to someone else talking about their work.

There is an American writer, Julia Cameron, who writes books for artists and writers about how to access and boost your creativity. One of her ideas is that you have to pamper your inner-writer (the place where your ideas comes from), so that it remains happy and creative. You have to give it treats and take it for days out to fun places: like writer’s festivals.

I like this idea, especially as the treats can involve fancy stationery (which I love) and chocolate (no comment needed).

I also think it’s important to go along to writing workshops and events, if you can, so you can improve the craft side of your writing. Part of writing is inspiration, but a much larger part is craft (learning how to make and structure a story, the best words to use, how and when etc).

You can learn this, just like any other skill. One way is practice. The other is by seeking out and learning all there is to know, so that when you sit down to write your story, your writing toolbox is full.

This weekend, I am going to be working alongside and listening to some very inspirational children’s writers at Word Café; I’ll tell you a bit more about them next week. After that, the next writing event I’m going to is the Golden Yarns: Children’s Writers and Readers Hui 2013, which is happening down with you, in Christchurch, at the beginning of June. I can’t wait! I wonder when I’ll find time to write?

Talk soon. Sarah

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Winner of the Andy Griffiths Writing Challenge

Thanks to everyone who entered our Andy Griffiths Writing Challenge last week.  You all wrote some wonderful stories, poems and lists and we loved reading them.

The winner of the Typo prize pack and a copy of Andy Griffiths’ book, Once Upon a Slime, is Ben Somers.  We loved all the wonderful and creepy things that were behind your Twelve Doors.

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The Twelve Doors by Ella Somers

Check out this awesome story that Ella wrote using Andy Griffiths’ Twelve Doors writing exercise.

THE TWELVE DOORS

Good morning, stranger, and what brings you to my door?
Ah, you need not say anything, I can guess where you are heading.
How, you ask? I have seen many young people pass my door, all with the feverish look in their eyes, all heading the same way.
But I can see in your eyes, stranger, that you are still not sure about your choice, were you pushed into this, stranger, called a coward, because you were not sure? How do I know this, as well, stranger?
Ah, I am what people call a Reader. No, I do not read books, I read people. I can read their desires, their fears, their deepest regrets, yes, I can see right in to you soul, stranger. No, I do not know your name, my gift, does not allow me to see that. Nor do I wish to know it, for it makes me remember the people who walked past my door, to their deaths.
Now, stranger, tell me the real reason, you are walking this path.
Ah, wait. Close your mouth. I am a Reader, remember. Wait, I am looking into your heart, yes… yes… It is a women, isn’t it, stranger? You are deeply in love with her, you would walk the ends of the earth for her, so deep is your love for her. Now, what has she done, to make you walk this path, hmm? Ah, now I see, it is her father, yes? I thought so.
So this is why you are walking this road to your death, you are poor, your job does not supply you much money, you have a little sister who you love dearly, but she is sick, and one day soon, you fear she will die. And this women you are in love with, she is a rich, isn’t she? And even though she loves you, and you love her back, her father, doesn’t agree to the match, yes? He does not want a poor peasant marrying his beautiful rich daughter. He thinks she should marry someone else and he has someone in mind who is very, very rich but is also cruel, yes?
And this father, he is scared that you will runaway with his daughter, makes a bargain with you. If you go to The Twelve Doors, and come back with the prize, he will let his daughter marry you and even make you a knight, so you have a position in his household. So you agreed to come on this quest.
So that is your story, stranger, and a strange one, too. I knew as soon as I saw you stranger, that there was something different about you, and now I know. You tread this path, for the people you love, not for greed, which is all the other poor souls who came this way have fallen too.
And for that stranger, I am going to give you a word of advice for what you face ahead. Now, come closer, so I may whisper in you ear.
Now, are you listening, stranger? Good. What you need to face the horrors ahead is not a weapon, but your wits. Yes, stranger, your wits. For the horrors that hide in the eleven doors, are actually spirits, evil spirits, that are desperate for fresh souls, but they can only kill the souls that are already tainted. That is why the greedy travellers that have gone before you have never came back, for their souls have been tainted with greed. Now, you, stranger, Your soul is pure, I can sense it. As the spirits try to take you soul, fight them with your mind. Think of all the good things you have ever done, and most of all think about the love you share with the women. The spirits can not battle against love for it is to pure and beautiful for them. They will slowly weaken and grow transparent and then disappear.
In each of the eleven doors, their is a spirit, and the more doors you grow through, the more evil they are…
When you reach the twelfth door, and that is if, you survive up to the twelfth door, take your treasure, and begone from that evil place. Go home and marry your lady and forget The Twelve Doors.
Now go, for I have helped you in all the ways I can.
What is it, stranger?
What is the treasure, you ask? Ah, I can not say, for it is supposedly different for everyone. Now go.
Farewell, Stranger. And… good luck.

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Louie by Ella Somers

Check out Ella’s ‘Louie’ that she wrote using Andy Griffiths’ writing prompt, 50-word Pet Story.

LOUIE

Golden gold,
wagging tail
spoilt rotten
steals the mail!
Sniffing this,
sniffing that,
finding the scent
of a dirty rat!
Snoozing by the fire,
where it’s nice and hot
jumps up barking,
when he hears a knock!
Wet pink tongue,
big brown eyes,
and big happy grin,
that doesn’t lie.

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Angus by Tierney Reardon

Check out Tierney’s ‘Angus’ that she wrote using Andy Griffiths’ writing prompt, 50-word Pet Story.

Angus

Five foot tall,
emerald green,
my dog Angus is
easily seen.
Neighbours complain
when they lose
their mail;
it blows away because
our Angus
constantly wags his tail.
His puppy fat
is so much that
I carry him in a wagon.
Everyone’s scared,
because they think
Angus is a dragon!

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A Study in Custard by Tierney Reardon

Check out Tierney’s ‘A Study in Custard’ that she wrote using Andy Griffiths’ writing prompt,Make the unbelievable believable.

A Study In Custard

“Scientific studies show that eating custard three times a day with fish fingers will minimize your chance of catching yellow fever; a disease cured by eating liberal amounts of custard,” says Dr. Gloopicus.

“I heard on the news that there are 154 ways of making a custard pie,” 73-year-old Mrs. Splatt explains, “but I know this to be wrong. I tried every method ever heard of, and there are actually 155.”

“Recent research findings prove that custard will withstand large shocks without being destroyed, making it a perfect substance for building houses,” says Prof. Dratsuc, who works at the University of Custard. “We are currently working on the first custard skyscraper.”

“Statistics show that 78 percent of people prefer their custard hot.” These poll results were published in Custard Monthly, a popular magazine. However, some disagree.

“Experts say that cold custard is fantastic on rough skin around areas such as heels and knees,” says supermodel Clarisse Ustard, who launched her nail polish brand this year; C. Ustard Nails. “I use custard on my skin once a week- and look at me!”

“It’s a well-known fact that lying in a bathtub full of cold custard improves your chances of passing exams by 35%,” claims mathematics teacher Ms. Yellow. Ms. Yellow gives out cartons of custard for her students to snack on while studying.

Nine out of ten doctors reccomend keeping a 2-litre carton of custard in your fridge for first aid emergencies. Custard can cure sore throats, paper cuts, headaches and hunger.

Sir C. Cream was unable to give his opinion on the matter, as he was tragically killed when he was sucked into a patch of custardsand while studying foreign custard recipes in Africa. May he rest in custard.

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Andy Griffiths Writing Challenge #5

Andy Griffiths, the author of Just Crazy, Just Tricking, Zombie Bums from Uranus and The 13-storey Treehouse, has just released his book about writing, called Once Upon a Slime.  In this very cool book he gives lots of tips about writing and some activities to help you become a better writer.  You’re probably looking for something to do in the holidays so why not try an Andy Griffiths writing challenge.

In the box below there is a writing challenge from Andy’s book, Once Upon a Slime.  Why not try it out and post your writing here on the blog.  Just post your piece of writing as a comment at the end of this post, along with your name and email address.  At the end of the week we’ll choose our favourite piece of writing and the author will win a prize pack of goodies from Typo.

Make the unbelievable believable

Add a made-up piece of nonsense to the end of each of the following sentence beginnings.

  • Scientific studies show…
  • I heard on the news that…
  • Recent research findings prove that…
  • Statistics show…
  • Experts say…
  • It’s a well-known fact that…
  • Nine out of ten doctors recommend…

For more great writing ideas check out Andy Griffiths’ new book, Once Upon a Slime.

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Lovely to be here

Hello and it’s lovely to be here. Well, not exactly here, as I am writing from my desk in Raglan, a little town half up the West Coast of the North Island, but still it feels as if I am down there in Christchurch with you.

I really am very pleased to be part of this wonderful book-fest blog, and especially pleased to be following hot on the heels of David Hill, who is a wonderful and very funny author, in my opinion. So, a double treat.

Unlike David, I am not an established children’s author, but just a beginning one. That’s exciting in itself, as (other than a brief time between the ages of 6 and 9 when I wanted to be a pony), being an author is the only thing that I have ever really wanted to be. So it is wonderful now to have written a couple of books and to be able to do proper author things, like take part in this blog.

I don’t always find it easy, at the moment, to find time to do author things, as I have four small children who are very, very messy, and very, very noisy. Now I know you’re thinking, “oh yeah, everyone says kids are messy and noisy”, but I’m telling you the truth; my kids are extremely, excessively, rampageous-ly messy and noisy.

I think this might be because they have quite a lot of Scottish blood in them, and they have seen too many of those movies where the highland warriors run around the hillsides, wearing kilts and brandishing swords and yelling “Arrrrrgggghhhh”, for extended periods of time. I think they may now be using these as a model for their own behaviour. But I am having difficulty proving it.

Anyway, this shortens my writing time a bit, as I spend quite a lot of the day running around the house with my hands over my ears, tripping over things and dodging sword thrusts.  But I have managed to do another writerly thing this week, and that is launch my new website.

I am very pleased with the website, as it is very beautiful, with lots of amazing pictures (taken by a friend of mine) of Raglan, the fabulous place I live. So why don’t you take a look: www.sarahjohnson.co.nz. It also has some information about my books. And if you send me an email to let me know you’ve visited, I’ll post you one of the bookmarks I had printed to celebrate the launch.

Talk soon.

Sarah

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Andy Griffiths Writing Challenge #4

Andy Griffiths, the author of Just Crazy, Just Tricking, Zombie Bums from Uranus and The 13-storey Treehouse, has just released his book about writing, called Once Upon a Slime.  In this very cool book he gives lots of tips about writing and some activities to help you become a better writer.  You’re probably looking for something to do in the holidays so why not try an Andy Griffiths writing challenge.

In the box below there is a writing challenge from Andy’s book, Once Upon a Slime.  Why not try it out and post your writing here on the blog.  Just post your piece of writing as a comment at the end of this post, along with your name and email address.  At the end of the week we’ll choose our favourite piece of writing and the author will win a prize pack of goodies from Typo.

50-word Pet Story

Tell a story about – or describe – a pet you have owned (or would LIKE to own) in exactly 50 words.  See how much of your pet’s personality you can convey in those 50 precious words.

It may help to write the story first and then subtract any words that aren’t strictly essential until you have 50.  Your title can be any length.

For more great writing ideas check out Andy Griffiths’ new book, Once Upon a Slime.

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The Red Stilettos by Bailey Reardon

Check out this awesome story that Bailey wrote using Andy Griffiths’ ‘Write a Story Starring You!’ writing exercise.

The Red Stilettos

I looked over my shoulder. Miss Andrew, my new teacher, was looking down at me.
”What are you doing, Bailey?” she said in a sharp voice.
”Um, not much,” I replied, turning the page of my maths book and hiding my doodles. Miss Andrew clip-clopped in her bright red stilettos over to the grubby blackboard.
”Right, for homework you can copy out the twelve times table ten times.”
A muffled groan came from the children. They started to pack their things up. ”I will meet you at music class,” she smiled, showing off her shiny white teeth. But there was something wrong
with her teeth. They were unusually pointy, and had little red specks on them.
She stepped forward to my desk and looked around. She walked behind the desk. I could feel her breathing over my neck, then I remembered her pointy teeth and spun around. She shrieked then her eyes went black. A tall crumpled collar was supporting her head. Her black cloak was smothering the paint-stained ground. She was still wearing her red stilettos. She screamed again, then swished her cloak and was gone in a puff of black smoke. Now I know not to trust my teachers.

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The Twelve Doors by Tierney Reardon

Check out this awesome story that Tierney wrote using Andy Griffiths’ Twelve Doors writing exercise.

The Twelve Doors

The Doors. Most people haven’t heard of them. Perhaps this is a good thing. After all, everyone who hears of the Twelve Doors is sure to go searching for them…and each journey ends in the same way.
Traveler, I don’t know who you are, or what your life is like. But I do know that it is for the better if you leave. Go- return to your life, to your family and your home. One day, you will forget all this. You will be happier knowing nothing about the Twelve Doors. You insist. I thought you would. Very well…I will tell you.

The Twelve Doors are hidden in the darkest corner of the earth, concealed in a thick jungle in South America. You will never find it on any atlas. If you wish to find the Temple of the Twelve Doors, you must use this map. Here- take it. Don’t ask me how I got it. By following the instructions on the map, you will lead yourself into this jungle, through the humid air and thick vines. Finally, if you have been careful, you will enter a large clearing. In the centre there will be a large temple, with hundreds of steps leading to the top. The climb is long, but if you wish to find the Cup, you must be willing to do anything, least of all climb these steps.

If you reach the top, you will find twelve doors, each rising up from the ground like gravestones. Inside each one is a spiral staircase, leading down into the labyrinth of horrors within. Eleven of these doors will lead you to certain doom. Only those with strength, courage and wit can escape. However, the twelfth door contains the Cup- and the Cup is the thing that tempted the unfortunate adventurers that came before you, traveler. What is the Cup? It is described only by legend, as no-one has seen it but the person who put it there, so many centuries ago. According to the myths, it is a large silver chalice, studded with precious gemstones. If you fill the Cup with water, the water will turn into a powerful elixir that can heal all wounds. When sprinkled on the ground, the water makes trees grow that bear apples of solid gold. Who-ever finds the Cup will gain a never-ending supply of this water, which brings fame, fortune beyond compare, even immortality. Of course, the odds are that you will first have to face at least one of the booby traps laid out for you.
One door leads to an empty chamber. When the adventurer enters, the door is locked, and they are entrapped until their bones turn to dust. Another door conceals a bowl of poisonous fruit, so ripe and beautiful that even the most strong-willed can’t resist taking a bite. Another door takes you to a room full of venomous vipers. The other eight hold many more horrors, from wasps to trapdoors to ancient Aztec beasts, that supposedly remain only in myths. However, traveler, if you manage to survive these eleven tombs, the Cup is yours.

You seem speechless, traveler. You have a decision to make, although I already know what you will choose to do. Oh? A question? How do I know so much about something so secret? When I was young, traveler, I accompanied several adventurers on their quest for the Cup. I refused to enter any of the Doors, choosing to watch as my friends succumbed to their greed. I will not tell you any more. There is nothing I can do to help you. You must go now. Your fate awaits you, traveler.

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Andy Griffiths Writing Challenge #3

Andy Griffiths, the author of Just Crazy, Just Tricking, Zombie Bums from Uranus and The 13-storey Treehouse, has just released his book about writing, called Once Upon a Slime.  In this very cool book he gives lots of tips about writing and some activities to help you become a better writer.  You’re probably looking for something to do in the holidays so why not try an Andy Griffiths writing challenge.

In the box below there is a writing challenge from Andy’s book, Once Upon a Slime.  Why not try it out and post your writing here on the blog.  Just post your piece of writing as a comment at the end of this post, along with your name and email address.  At the end of the week we’ll choose our favourite piece of writing and the author will win a prize pack of goodies from Typo.

Write a TO DO list

Make a list of all the things you HAVE to do in a typical week.  Now make a list of all the things you would LOVE to do instead.  Combine both lists to create your ultimate TO DO list.

For more great writing ideas check out Andy Griffiths’ new book, Once Upon a Slime.

Comments (5) »

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