Archive for July, 2013

The challenge of poetry

I’ve been learning a lot about writing poetry lately and have set myself a challenge of composing one a week. It is quite a different process to writing a novel!

While writing a novel is a bit like having a movie running in my head, a poem is very different. It’s not even like a still photo. It’s smaller and more refined even than that. It’s capturing a moment or a feeling and distilling it down to just a scent or a colour and then showing that with words.

I have found it very hard work and have very few poems where I can sit back and go “that’s it” yet.

 Writing this has reminded me that my first book Mind over Matter started with a poem and developed into a book. I wonder if any of the poems I have now will do that!

When Mind Over Matter was being published my publisher asked me to write a poem to start the second act. I had about 24 hours before the book went to the printers. Talk about pressure!

I was very pleased with the poem that bubbled up to introduce Glia.:

In Hadal zones where light won’t reach

where darkness starts

where eyes don’t seek

where particles and tiny specks

mingle in the murky deep

 came the beginning of something new.

A scratch, a twirl,

a pearl, it grew.

A treasure hidden.

We never knew.

Do you write poems?


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Kids’ Books: picks from our latest newsletter

Our July Kids’ Books newsletter has some great new titles:

Cover of The Natural World.Cover of A Tangle of KnotsCover of ThornspellCover of Breadcrumbs.Cover of FroggedCover of Wildwood.Cover of Life Below the City.Cover of Mouse, Bird, Snake, Wolf.

Did you know? You can subscribe to our newsletters and get our latest titles and best picks straight to your inbox.

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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Kid’s help needed – count your stuff!

Imagine that you could only own fifty items in total.

You’d need  quite a few clothes, shoes, a backpack, a toothbrush, dishes and cutlery, a mug, two towels, a bed with sheets, pillow and blankets, a chair and a few other essentials. So after all that was counted you’d only be able to own five or so personal choice items. What would they be? 

The reason I’m asking is because this is a situation in a book I’m writing. I want to know if I’ve got it more or less right.

Try counting everything you own!

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Letting others read what you have written.

I’ve been in a really interesting reversal- of- role situation lately. As a teacher I encourage my students to read out their writing. “After all,” I say, “Writing exists for readers. It calls out to be shared!” But now I’m the pupil my thoughts are a bit different! 

I’m taking  poetry classes and a few weeks ago it took a lot of courage for me to  share some of my poems. I felt my intestines twist up and my heart beat extra fast as I waited my turn. I read way too fast in my haste to get it over with. Then everyone started to give me feedback. Some laughed, some picked out words or phrases they liked and then…( insert Jaws movie soundtrack) …some of them challenged my choices and asked questions. “What did I mean by….?” ‘Why did I choose to …?” 

I had to whisper to myself that it didn’t mean they hated my work, that it was help. They made me really think about what I’d written and how I could make changes to improve it. It wasn’t easy though. Just as it isn’t easy sending away your writing to a publisher who very politely turns you down. I’ve decided that’s not a reason to stop writing, only a hint to keep getting better at it.

So to my pupils, I’m not taking the pressure off you to share what you’ve written because it’s for your own good. Also because I love hearing what kids write and I get so many ideas from you!




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School for Good and Evil book trailer

Every four years, two girls are kidnapped from the village of Gavaldon. Legend has it these lost children are sent to the School for Good and Evil, the fabled institution where they become fairytale heroes or villains. Sophie, the most beautiful girl in town, has always dreamed of her place at the School for Good while her friend Agatha, with her dark disposition seems destined for the School for Evil. But when the two are kidnapped they find their fortunes reversed

Reserve your copy of The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani at your library now

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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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