Archive for June, 2013

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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The 2013 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards winners

The finalists in the 2013 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards gathered in Christchurch on Monday night for the awards ceremony. The awards night is always themed and this year the organisers went for a ‘Witch in the Cherry Tree’ theme in honour of Margaret Mahy.  The book of the year was also renamed the ‘New Zealand Post Margaret Mahy Book of the Year’ this year.  I was  nervous myself, hoping that my favourites would take out the award, so I’m sure the authors and illustrators themselves were incredibly nervous.  Overall, I was pleased to see a couple of my favourites win awards, but I was disappointed that others missed out.  I think that Red Rocks and The Nature of Ash are amazing books and if I could give Rachael King and Mandy Hager an award I would.

Read below to find out who won each category, as well as the Honour Book and Children’s Choice Award.

Best Young Adult Fiction and New Zealand Post Margaret Mahy Book of the Year

Into the River by Ted Dawe

Best Non-Fiction

100 Amazing Tales from Aotearoa by Simon Morton & Riria Hotere

Best Junior Fiction

My Brother’s War by David Hill

Honour award, Junior Fiction

The Queen and the Nobody Boy: A Tale of Fontania series by Barbara Else

Best Picture Book

Mister Whistler by Margaret Mahy & Gavin Bishop

Best First Book

Reach by Hugh Brown

Children’s Choice

Melu by Kyle Mewburn, Ali Teo & John O’Reilly

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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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Kids’ Books: picks from our latest newsletter

Check out the great picks in our June Kids’ Books newsletter:

Cover: Best Friends ForeverCover: FearlessCover: The Secret TreeCover: Write This BookCover: Ophelia Wild, Secret SpyCover: The Silver DreamCover:  Art Lab for KidsCover: Sneaky Art

Subscribe to our newsletters and get our latest titles and best picks straight to your inbox.

For more great reads for kids, 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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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.

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Meet our June Star Author – Leonie Agnew

Our fantastic June Star Author is New Zealand author, Leonie Agnew.  Leonie is the author of the award-winning and very funny Super Finn.  She has worked, a primary school teacher, and is currently the University of Otago College of Education Creative New Zealand Children’s Writer in Residence. She owns a ridiculous amount of children’s books and could start her own library. She loves dogs, kids, chocolate and writing her own bio, because she gets to talk about herself in the third person without sounding ridiculous.

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

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