Archive for Fun

Write Stories. Win Prizes.

The Fabo Story challenge is back!   What’s Fabo Story you ask?  It’s an ongoing competition where you can enter stories for the chance to win prizes!

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Fabo Story is Fabulous!

✭ Here’s the website link: http://fabostory.wordpress.com/

✭ There’ll be a new story contest to enter every couple of weeks. (Or longer if it’s over the school holidays). Each time the judge and the story’s opening paragraph changes, you can enter again for another chance to win.

✭ It’s free and fun!

Meet The Judges

Fabo Story started four years ago when a group of ✭C✭R✭A✭Z✭Y✭ children’s authors got together and asked, “How can we encourage more kids to write stories?”  It’s been a wild four years, but we’re still here!

Here’s a little bit about us:

fifi-colston-smlFifi Colston

Fifi Colston is an artist, author and all round creative person who has a motto: ‘If you can’t draw it, write it- and if all else fails, get out the hot glue gun!’

She often does all three.

You can read about her latest novel ‘Glory’ here: www.florencebright.blogspot.com

maureenMaureen Crisp

Maureen loves being a writer. She says “You can spy on people, write down what they say and make up characters in books that look just like them… but they will never guess. And reading all the time is research so I have to do it. (really!)”

Website for kids: www.bonesbymaureencrisp.blogspot.com

elenaElena De Roo

When she was growing up Elena went to seven different primary schools all around NZ but has lived in Auckland since she was eleven. She likes chips and ice cream (far too much and occasionally together) and writes poems, rhymes and quirky stories.

tania-hutleyTania Hutley

Tania’s favourite snack is avocado and peanut butter on toast. In a perfect world Tania would spend all her time writing, but she’s only able to afford all those expensive avocados by working for a company that makes computer games. Though she gets to play games a lot at work, she thinks making up stories is even more fun.

She’s written a book for kids called Tough Enough, another called 99 Flavours of Suck, and a few short stories too. She doesn’t hold any official world record, but her friends are convinced that she is actually the worst singer who ever lived.

www.taniahutley.com

johannaJohnanna Knox

Johanna Knox writes The Fly Papers – a mystery-adventure series about mutant carnivorous plants (illustrated by the wonderful Sabrina Malcolm).

Johanna is also the editor of Wild Things – Forest & Bird’s science and nature mag for kids. If you haven’t seen it – take a look: http://www.kcc.org.nz/magazine

kyle-posterKyle Mewburn

I’ve always loved writing. Unfortunately my handwriting has always been horrendous. No matter how hard I try it always comes out looking like a cockroach has stepped in some ink and crawled across the page. Luckily some smartypants invented the computer. There was no stopping me after that! I’ve now written more books than I count without taking my socks off. When I’m not writing I’m either in my garden singing to my vegies, in the creek swimming or off exploring the strange land I’ve discovered at the back of my wardrobe. (OK, that last bit may not be completely true…)

I’ve also got a website – www.kylemewburn.com

michelle-paintMichele Powles

Michele Powles has been a dancer and arty type all of her life. Without realising it, she discovered she was much better at writing and decided that was what she wanted to be when she grew up. She’s still working on the growing up part.

Most of her writing is for adults but sometimes a story will come up that is too awesome so she saves it for kids only. She thinks reading is cool.

www.michelepowles.com

melinda-szymanikMelinda Szymanik

Melinda can often be found glued to the television, tapping away on a computer keyboard or with her nose in a book. She has a cat and a dog, some children and a husband, and lives in Auckland. Melinda loves movies and hates driving on motorways and thinks it should be okay to wear pyjamas to work. Writing stories is her favourite thing to do and you can find some of her best stories on the shelves in bookshops and libraries, like Clever Moo, Jack the Viking and The Were-Nana (winner of the 2009 NZ Post Children’s Choice Award). Melinda is currently looking for the answer to the question ‘Who would win? Were-wolves or Gorillas?

www.melindaszymanik.blogspot.com

kathy-white-smlKathy White

If I wasn’t a writer, I’d be a wildlife photographer. My favourite things are animals and words. Pictures come next. In my book called A Hairy Tale my favourite character has a haircut that makes her look like a baby gorilla called Lulu. I had no way of knowing back then that gorillas would turn out to be so significant in my writing. I’ve written 13 books and about 130 stories, articles and plays.

www.kathywhite.co.nz

So why are you still here reading, when you could be writing a story and entering the Fabo Story challenge? Go on, do it now!

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Hello From Me!

Thank you for having me as guest author this month!  I’m very glad to be here.

By way of introduction, for my first post I thought I’d share a couple of pics and also a story I wrote so you can get to know me a little.

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The first thing to know about me is that I’m crazy about animals. I have three cats, which doesn’t help at all when it comes to writing. Here are two of them on my desk. Where’s my keyboard? Good question!  It’s days like this I don’t manage to get much writing done.

As well as writing, I work for a company that makes computer games, which means I get to play lots of games… which doesn’t feel like real work, but hey, who’s complaining?  The main game I work on is a virtual world called SmallWorlds.  Here’s a picture of my avatar in the game firing a toilet paper gun at someone. Yes, I am working hard!

smallworlds

So to finish off my introduction, do you want a story? Here’s one I wrote that won a prize but hasn’t been published anywhere… except right here, right now! So you’re probably the only kids anywhere in the world who get to read this story.  I really hope you like it!

Chemistry in a Yellow Dress

(A short story by Tania Hutley)

Being good at sport doesn’t make me dumb. I can write an essay that makes my English teacher rave. But chemistry’s another thing. All those stupid element names!

Jamie’s top in chemistry and I think that’s why Mr Black paired me with him. “There’ll be no final exam,” Mr Black said. “Instead you can present a project on anything you want. But you have to do it in pairs.”

While everyone else was talking about their projects, Mr Black drew me aside. “This is your last chance, Max. Fail this and you fail the whole subject.”

Feeling sick, I slunk back to my seat next to Jamie. “What project are we going to do?” I asked.

He just stared at me with his arms folded. “I’m not going to do anything,” he said. “Why should I help you? I’ve already done enough this year to get Merit.”

I couldn’t believe it. He couldn’t still be mad, could he? “I said I was sorry, okay?”

“You said it, but you’re not.”

He was right. Just remembering the trick I’d played on him made me want to crack up. His expression when he went to get changed after PE and found his uniform stapled to the ceiling was so funny the whole class killed themselves laughing. “It was just a joke,” I said. “You can’t still be mad. If I fail chemistry they might make me repeat the whole year.”

“So?”

“It wasn’t personal or anything, I was just being funny. And I had to do all that detention.”

Jamie thought about it. “I’ll help you on one condition,” he finally said. “You get your sister to go to the social with me.”

My sister? She was a year ahead of us and so tough I swear she ate small children for breakfast. And she hated me. No way was she going to do me a favour.

I asked her anyway. She made me beg for a while, then laid down her conditions. “You gotta go to the social too,” she said.

“No problem.”

“Let me finish.” Her grin was pure evil. She opened her wardrobe and whipped out a yellow polka-dot dress with frills on it. “You gotta go wearing this.”

“No way!”

“And a wig.”

“You’re crazy!”

“High heels.” She rubbed her hands together. “And makeup. I think bright red lipstick would suit you.”

“NO WAY!”

She smirked. “That’s the deal. Take it or leave it.”

Then it struck me. The social was the night after our project was due. I could just pretend I was going to go through with it until our project was presented, then pull out. Sneaky. I got guilt pangs thinking about it. It would be too late for Jamie to ask anyone else, but he already hated me, so he probably expected me to betray him. At least, that’s what I told myself.

I nodded slowly. “Alright, I’ll do it.”

When Jamie heard, he laughed like a maniac. “In a dress?” he kept saying, then laughing some more. “This is going to be great!”

“Why do you want to go out with my sister?” I had to ask.

He shrugged. “I don’t like the girls in our year.”

“Not even Mandy?”

“Mandy’s a friend,” he said. “But she’s not my type.”

I couldn’t believe it! You’d have to be blind, deaf and totally dumb not to like Mandy. “I didn’t know you were friends with her,” I said. “I’d have asked her to the social, but she won’t even talk to me.”

He grinned. “Mandy’s got taste. She doesn’t like bullies.”

“I’m not a bully!”

I thought he was talking rubbish. But later I started to wonder. Was I a bully? I’d never done anything really nasty; I just liked joking around. My mates thought I was hilarious. But I guess some gags might have seemed mean. I decided maybe I should give the tricks a miss for a while. I’d still clown around, but I’d try not to make anyone else the butt of the joke.

Jamie kept his end of the deal. “Our project should be about Ernest Rutherford,” he decided.

“Who?”

“He was from Nelson. Got a Nobel Prize in Chemistry.”

“Boring.”

“Boring? He was the first person to split the atom.”

“So?”

He stared at me like I was dumb. “The first to get a nuclear reaction.”

I imagined a mushroom cloud over Nelson. “That’s kinda interesting,” I admitted.

“And he was the first person to figure out how old the Earth is.”

“How old is it?”

“Find out for yourself. This is your project too. I’m not doing all the work.”

When I googled the guy, I found out heaps more stuff. “Did you know Rutherford invented smoke dectectors?” I said to Jamie.

“Great, we’ll put that in the project too,” he said. “Want to draw diagrams of his experiments?”

“Sure.”

By the time it was due, our project looked awesome. And I was proud of myself because I hadn’t played a single trick on anyone, even though I’d thought of some really funny ones. I hadn’t told anyone about my resolution, so I got no credit for resisting. But I told Jamie that I really was sorry for the joke I’d played on him, and this time I meant it. He didn’t say much in return. I was hoping he might admit I wasn’t a bully, but he just changed the subject.

When we presented our project we blew Mr Black away. He asked me a million questions, trying to catch me out, thinking Jamie had done the whole thing. No way! I answered everything right and pointed out the diagrams I’d done. His grin when we finished told me I’d passed.

So that was that, right? All I had to do was pull out of that stupid deal I’d made with my sister, and everything would be great.

Just one problem. I couldn’t do it.

Jamie was a mate now, even if he was still mad with me. I couldn’t let down a mate, could I? And he’d been looking forward to the social. If you ask me, having a crush on my sister was like fancying a poisonous snake, but he acted all goofy when she was around. So lame, but I felt sorry for him. Of all the girls at our school, he had to fall for my sister!

So on the day of the social, I pulled on that awful yellow dress. My sister had her fun painting colours on my eyes and lips, and putting a blonde wig on my head. She’d even found a pair of high heels in a thrift shop that would fit me. I told you she hated me!

Five million times I almost pulled out. But I didn’t.

Walking into the school hall wearing a dress was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Word had got out about the deal I’d made, but no-one thought I’d go through with it. The spotlight was on me as I walked in. I almost drowned in the sea of laughter. My so-called mates were on the floor laughing. Then wolf whistles started coming from all directions. I would have turned and run, except for those stupid high heels. I could hardly even walk in them.

Jamie came up to me, grinning. “Joke’s on you,” he said. “Your sister was coming with me anyway. We cooked this up together.”

Sure enough, my sister hooked her arm through his and the two of them sniggered.

I swallowed. Everyone thought of me as a trickster. Getting mad would make me look like I couldn’t handle it when the tables were turned.

“Good one.” I forced a smile onto my face. “You got me, alright.”

I left them looking surprised and hobbled over to the drinks table. I’d have one glass of punch, let everyone have their laugh, then get outta there.

I’d just drained the glass when I felt a tap on my back. It was Mandy, in a white dress, looking so pretty I thought angel wings might suddenly sprout from her back.

“Hi Max.”

“Um. Hi.”

“Nice outfit.”

“Um. Thanks.”

She tilted her head to one side. “You know, I used to think you were a loser,” she said. “But Jamie said you were okay.”

“Did he?” For some reason I’d lost the ability to string more than two words together.

She smiled. “And you look quite pretty in yellow.”

Pretty? My face caught fire.

“Wanna dance?” she asked.

Was she kidding? I glanced around to make sure it wasn’t another joke and saw my mates staring. They weren’t laughing any more; they looked like they wished they were wearing dresses too.
I managed to grin at Mandy and my brain started to reboot after its initial melt-down. “Promise you won’t step on my high heels?” I asked. Not much of a joke, but she laughed anyway.

“It’s a deal,” she said.

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Drawing mutant carnivorous plants: a chat with Sabrina Malcolm

How do you turn ordinary looking plants into walking, talking mutants? That’s what the wonderful illustrator Sabrina Malcolm has to do in The Fly Papers books. I asked her a bit more about how …

sabrinaWhen you start coming up with ideas for turning particular carnivorous plants into sentient mutants – what are some of the things you think about?

Sabrina: I always need to think about how the creature will move around, and how it will perform whatever actions are required by the story. Dion’s roots, for example, became his way of getting around; and his traps came in handy for things like opening louvre windows.

The eyes have always been particularly important, because they’re one of the most important ways of showing the creature’s thoughts and emotions. Other parts of the creature can be helpful with that, too — for example, Dross’s leaves can look bedraggled, or lively and excited; and similarly with his eye stalks.

Of course, these things are always decided in consultation with the author and designer!

dionDo you use real plants or photos for reference (or both)?

Sabrina: I use real plants when I can, but photos can be useful too, especially if I’m drawing while a plant has died down for the winter. Venus flytraps, for example, can look very poorly during the winter months.

How do you make the plants’ eyeballs express emotion?

 Sabrina: Eyelids are the crucial thing: without them, it’s much harder to show emotion. They can take on some of the job of eyebrows — pulling down for a frown, narrowing together to show suspicion, or rolling right back in fear.

The eye stalks can be helpful, too — if they’re rearing back, it can convey fear, and lunging forward can show aggression.

Okay, if you were Bette Noire – and you could create a mutant plant or animal in your lab – what might it be?

 Sabrina: A cow with cheesecake-flavoured milk. Oh, and edible brussels sprouts.

 

Sabrina is the illustrator of all The Fly Papers books, and also an author. Last year she wrote and illustrated a beautiful picture book: Blue Moon Bird.

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Competition: Guess the book name!

When all eight books of The Fly Papers are released, the names, listed, will form a sort of poem. Books 1 and 2 are out already, and we’re working on Book 3:  The Aldrovanda Turns. 

Dion-EB2(An aldrovanda is an amazing carnivorous waterweed – like a floaty Venus flytrap. Sadly we can’t get them in NZ.)

So. Here’s the poem so far:

The flytrap snaps

The sundew stalks

The aldrovanda turns ….

 

What do you think the next line in the poem might be? In other words – what do you think book 4 will be called? 

Here are some other carnivorous plant names to give you ideas:

Pitcher plant

Bladderwort

Butterwort

Cobra lily

Byblis

Pinguicula

Heliamphora

Sarracenia

Cephalotus

Nepenthes

 

Have a guess what Book 4 will be called in the comments, and you’ll go in the draw to win the first two books in The Fly Papers – as well as go on our list to receive a free copy of Book 3 as soon as it’s out.

You don’t have to be right! It’s going to be a random draw. Have fun!

 

 (Illustration by Sabrina Malcolm.)

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How to edit a magazine (part 3)

Writing isn’t part of every editor’s job – but it’s part of mine. For each Wild Things magazine I write an episode of Owl Kids plus at least one article. I also write word puzzles and devise a board game.

Here’s how we make the game:

First, I think of an idea. Then I draw a rough draft and start testing it on my family. I test it over and over, each time making small changes to the rules until it all works. It’s fun at first, but after several days my kids are begging me please not to make them play the game again!

Once the game is devised, there’s still plenty to do. The game wouldn’t be the game without Rob Di Leva, the designer. So when I’ve settled on the final instructions for it and made a draft layout, I send it all to him. At this stage it doesn’t look much fun to play!

This was my draft layout for the September 2013 game:

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Rob spends a lot of time and imagination turning each game into something that people would actually enjoy.

Here’s what he did with the plan above.

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Notice that he’s not just a fantastic designer, but a wonderful illustrator.

In fact, if you think Wild Things looks interesting and fun in general – that’s all thanks to Rob. While I’m writing and editing, he’s spending hour after hour taking care of the visual side. Behind every good-looking magazine (or book) is a great designer!

Okay. Once everything is written, illustrated, edited, and designed, and the whole magazine is almost ready to be printed – one last task begins. Proofreading.

This takes ages, and involves the editor and several others going over and over every part of the magazine to try and make sure it’s absolutely, perfectly, incontrovertibly correct – while the designer fixes all the spotted errors.

Now, let me tell you a secret that all editors know. No matter how well you think you’ve done your proofreading, at least one mistake will somehow creep through and end up in the printed magazine.

You just have to hope it’s nothing serious …

For example, you wouldn’t want a single dot left out of an email address so that everyone sends competition entries to the wrong place, causing great panic and an urgent phone call to tech support, who have to drop everything to get all the emails redirected from the wrong email address to the right one …

You wouldn’t want that.

But that is just an example, of course.

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How to Have a Movie Night

There’s nothing better then sitting on the sofa with some friends, some popcorn and some free DVDs!

Kids DVDs

1.   Choose a day and a time that will suit a lot of people. If you choose a Friday or Saturday night, people won’t have school the next day. Think about how many movies you want to watch, if each one is about an hour and a half, you’ll need at least four hours to watch two movies (once you include time for eating and talking).

2.   Invite people. Give people lots of notice so they (and their parents) can organise things. The more the merrier! Get everyone to bring a small snack or drink so there is heaps of yummy stuff to eat.

3.   Choose some movies! Did you know the library has heaps of kids movies on DVD? And they are all free for you to take out? You can even reserve the ones you think look good and get them send to the library closest to your house! Here are some great picks:

Epic
M. K. is shrunken to the size of the tiny citizens of a forest that is in deadly danger. Can M. K. help save their Queen, their tiny world, and save our world too? This is a very exciting movie with great animation.

Lost Medallion: The Adventure of Billy Stone
Two friends uncover a long-lost medallion that transports them back in time. They must survive the perils of the past as well as outwit the evil Cobra!

Cover of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 3Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2
Inventor Flint Lockwood thought he saved the world when he destroyed his machine that turned water into food causing cheeseburger rain and spaghetti tornadoes. But Flint soon learns that his invention survived and is now creating food-animals! A sequel to the awesome Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.

Monsters University
When Mike and Sulley first meet at university they are sworn enemies, but when their mutual dislike gets them thrown out of the School of Scaring, they join forces to compete in the school’s annual Scare Games and become friends.

Mr StinkMr Stink Book Cover
Chloe invites Mr Stink (a stinky, neighbourhood tramp) to secretly live in her garden shed. Chloe must keep this secret from her family, while her Dad is keeping a secret and Mr Stink is keeping an amazing secret too. This movie is based on a hilarious book by David Walliams.

The library is getting new DVDs all the time so check out the full list on our catalogue.

4.   Arrange some comfy chairs, bean bags, cushions and blankets around the TV.

5.   Have fun!

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How to edit a magazine (part 1)

Have you ever made a class magazine?

I love working on magazines, so I couldn’t believe my luck when I got a job editing Wild Things. That’s the magazine of KCC – the Kiwi Conservation Club. KCC has members all round the country – kids like you – who get together to have fun and help save the environment.

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So. What does the Wild Things editor do?

I start planning each issue about three months before it has to be printed.

First I talk to four important people:

  • Tiff, the manager of KCC
  • Rob, the graphic designer and art director of Wild Things
  • Marina, who edits the Forest & Bird magazine (the adult’s version of Wild Things), and
  •  Mandy who’s in charge of the KCC website.

These four are always having brilliant ideas, as well as hearing important news, so I have to figure out the best way to fit all their ideas and news into one issue.

I ask myself: What could we make a puzzle or game or skit out of? What should have an article written about it? How long should the article be? What might we have to leave out, or maybe put in a later issue?

I have to remember we have only 24 pages in an issue. Sometimes I wish I could cram in a bazillion and six things – but then the writing would be so tiny you’d barely read it.

After much scribbling and typing and deleting and retyping, I have a plan I’m happy with. Part of it looks like this. See what it shows? (Enlarge it by clicking on it.)

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Yes – you just got a sneak peek at what will be on each page in the next issue.

In publishing jargon, that’s called a ‘flat plan’. I’m not quite sure why, but I suppose it makes sense: it is a plan, and it is flat (usually … unless it’s spent too long in my messy bag, or our cat Smoofie has been sitting on it.)

The next step is to see what Tiff, Rob, Marina, and Mandy think of the flat plan.

Hmmm … I haven’t shown this one to them yet – you’re the first to see it!

I better go show them now. More about how to edit a magazine soon.

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