Archive for New Zealand

Star Author: Barbara Else – How is The Volume of Possible Endings different from the first two Tales?

This third Tale of Fontania is another stand-alone novel. Some of the characters from the first two come back into it. But the main character, Dorrity, is new. So is the other important character, Metalboy. I like to have new main characters each time because that means there is an interesting (I hope) new story to be told even though it is set in the same fantasy world.

This time, there is another difference too. In The Travelling Restaurant and The Queen and the Nobody Boy the characters left home and went on an adventure. With this third one, I wanted to explore the place the novel started. It’s set mostly in Owl Town on the edges of the Beastly Dark, a great forest in the south-west of Fontania. It seems a fairly ordinary place at first, where life always goes on in the same sort of way. But there is only one child in the whole town. That’s odd. And there is a lot more going on than the child, Dorrity, realises. I wanted to find out what lived in the Beastly Dark.

I also wanted to figure out what King Jasper might have invented next. In The Queen and the Nobody Boy, he has only recently invented message birds. But that is five years before the story of Dorrity and Metalboy. What would Jasper have invented by now?

Though I’d had great fun writing the travel adventure stories of the first two novels, this time it was a change to ‘stay put’ and make the story a different sort of adventure that happens exploring pretty much one place.

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Star Author: Barbara Else – How cool are maps?

I feel very lucky to have an artist as clever as Sam Broad to do the cover and maps for the Tales of Fontania.

What are the best things about Sam? He has an amazing sense of fun and drama. I don’t think he could do a boring picture no matter how hard to tried. His illustrations almost zoom off the page with energy. The other thing I really like is how he adds in his own little details.

The Volume of Possible Endings is in five parts and each one is headed by an illustration. The one on page 158 is a fabulous raven soldier. See how his foot rests on the toadstool. See the feather dropping off his hunky arm. And take a look at the can of army rations on p 98. It’s pretty disgusting. I love it.

The inside covers of The Volume of Possible Endings have a map of Owl Town where most of the action takes place. While I’m drafting a novel, I have to do maps myself to make sure I’m sending the characters in the right directions. I’m very grateful that Sam can look at my scrappy scribbles and turn them into versions that are so much fun and – well, I’ve already said clever. But when it’s about Sam Broad, it is worth saying clever at least twice.

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Star Author: Barbara Else – How things happen to surprise you when you’re writing

At the back of The Volume of Possible Endings you’ll find the Anarchists’ Marching Song – words and music.  Anarchists are people who don’t believe in having rules, so the very idea of them marching in step is kind’a ridiculous. But these particular anarchists are rather ridiculous. They’re the guys on the motorbikes on the cover.

I didn’t set out to give them a song, but when I was rewriting the novel I thought – hmm, people camping out in the wild often sing around their camp fire in the evenings. So I could give the anarchists a guitar or a piano accordion just for some extra detail. I also find it very funny when people yawn so loudly that it sounds like shouting and gives you a fright. So I put those ideas together. Now, in the finished novel, the anarchists start yawning and it turns into their marching song.

By the time I’d written the words for the song, a tune had come into my head. I can’t write down music but I sang it into the recording programme on my laptop and emailed it to Jane Arthur, the very clever Assistant Publisher at Gecko Press.  She was able to write the tune down. She even, very nicely, said my singing was all right. But I know she was fibbing.

If you happen to be a musician you’ll be able to play the Anarchists’ Marching Song for yourself. If you want to try singing, it will help if you have a very deep gruff voice.

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Star Author: Barbara Else – How much research do you do when you’re writing a fantasy story?

Really annoying answer: it depends.

Sometimes you need the exact facts about something in your story. Like, if you want to set a story in the real Paris or an imaginary version of it, you might need to know the name of the river that flows through it (the Loire), what the French call their money (the lire) and those sorts of practical details. It never hurts to check facts or tiny details. For example, I did some research about ocean currents when I was writing The Travelling Restaurant. After all, I figured that sort of thing would be true whether it was the real world or a fantasy.

Other times, doing some research can help your fantasy ideas get bigger and better. When I was writing The Queen and the Nobody Boy I wanted an unusual flying vehicle so I looked on the internet for the history of air travel. I learned that one early inventor thought that a plane would never be able to get off the ground so he imagined it being attached to a tower. People would climb up the tower into the plane, then the engines would start and off they’d go. I used that information as a basis for the wind-train that Hodie and Sibilla use to escape the Um’Binnians (except it gets them into more trouble).  For The Volume of Possible Endings I wanted to have the first submarine built in Fontania. So I looked up the history of submarines and found heaps of fascinating stuff that happened in our own real world.  For instance, centuries ago someone invented a submarine that used oars – underwater!  It wasn’t a great triumph.

The not-so-annoying answer to today’s question is: no matter what you’re writing, it doesn’t hurt to find out what is possible and use the facts however you like to help your own story.

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The Best and Worst Children’s Books of 2014

Cover of the song of the kauriThe end of the year is approaching and that means it’s time to evaluate the best and worst of 2014’s crop of children’s books. Hosted by Christchurch City Libraries, in conjunction with the Canterbury Literacy Association, the Best and Worst Evening is a Christchurch literary tradition. 2013’s event was so popular the event has been moved to the larger venue of Upper Riccarton Library.

Speakers include Bob Docherty (children’s book guru and renowned promoter of reading and literacy for kids), Kirsten Smith (Kaitakawaenga – Ngā Ratonga Māori at Christchurch City Libraries) and a kids-eye-view from Briana.

Our annual Holiday Reading list will also be officially announced on the night. Holiday Reading is a recommended selection of new titles added to Christchurch City Libraries in 2014 and includes picture books, chapter books, young adult and non-fiction titles.

Come along this Wednesday night (19 November) to Upper Riccarton Library, 7pm. Bring a gold coin for refreshments and early Christmas raffles.

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Star Author: Barbara Else – Where do the ideas for stories come from?

Answer: ideas come from everywhere and anywhere. The first idea for The Volume of Possible Endings came from a fairy tale. It isn’t one of the best known ones, but I’d been interested by it since I was about ten or eleven. It’s a story of a girl who has either six, seven or twenty-one brothers depending on which version of the story it is. A wicked witch changes all the brothers into swans and the spell can only be broken if the girl sews shirts for them all. I remember thinking what a lot of work that would have been – especially if it was twenty-one brothers. She didn’t have a sewing machine, either. It all had to be done with a needle and thread. Yikes. What really grabbed my interest was how much she must have loved her brothers.

But of course, it would have been hard work for me as well to manage twenty-one brothers in a story. I decided that three brothers would be plenty for my story, thanks. And – this isn’t a spoiler – the brothers in this novel don’t get turned into swans. But there is magic involved, and magical wickedness.

Anyway, maybe there’s an idea here that you could use for writing one of your own stories. In fairy stories you never get a lot of information about how the characters feel. They just do things, or things just happen to them. So why not start thinking about why the characters in a fairy story come to do whatever it might be. How do they actually feel? Choose a fairy tale you especially like, say, Red Riding Hood. Why would a mother could send her precious child into a forest all by herself? Does Red Riding Hood really want to go into the forest? Or, think about how the wolf feels. For instance, how long is it since he had a good dinner? Or is he just a greedy-guts? Or a bully and a show-off? Could you tell the story from his point of view? That might be fun.

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Star Author: Barbara Else – Titles

Titles are important, aren’t they? A book need one that makes a reader intrigued as to what the story will be about. But if you’re writing a story, you don’t have to have the title right away. Sometimes the right title will just pop into your head at some stage while you’re working on the piece.

When I was writing the first Tale of Fontania, the title was pretty obvious as soon as I decided to have a sailing ship as a restaurant a sailing ship. ‘The Sailing Restaurant’ wouldn’t have sounded quite right, but The Travelling Restaurant sounded good to me. It’s at least a bit intriguing, to think of how a restaurant would travel about. (And apologies to American readers who spell travelling with only one l – traveling.)

With the second Tale, at first I thought the title would be ‘The Queen and the Elephant Boy.’ That idea soon got tossed aside when I realised it was going to be tricky having an actual elephant in the story. How could my characters have the wild adventures I wanted if they had to take an elephant along? So I made the elephant one that had died and been buried years ago. ‘The Queen and the …something … Boy’. Hmm. I had to choose a good opposite word to queen. Well the boy in the story had been ignored by everyone, treated like a nobody. So there it was: The Queen and the Nobody Boy. Opposite ideas in a title that can catch a reader’s interest.

I had no idea what I would call the third Tale. The novel opens with a boy as the main character in the first chapter. Then chapter two moves to a girl, Dorrity, who is the only child in Owl Town on the edge of the Beastly Dark. The citizens boast that their town is magic-free. But Dorrity discovers a book on her teacher’s table. When she opens it, the title page is blank at first. Then words appear on it – ‘The Volume of Possible Endings.’ Pages continue to turn on their own and stop at a list of five endings headed ‘Dorrity’s Tale.’ Magic most certainly exists in the town! She’s scared and offended at being lied to by grown-ups.

I was still wondering what to call the novel when I thought – ‘Du-uh! There’s a perfectly good title already there in the story – the title of the book in my book!’ Just as the title of the magical book revealed itself to Dorrity, the title revealed itself to me.

If you happen to be struggling to find the right title, have a look at what you’ve already written for your tale. Maybe it is lurking in a paragraph just waiting to be found.

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Meet our September Star Author – Mary McCallum

Our super September Star Author is Mary McCallum.  As well as an author Mary has worked as a creative writing tutor, a bookseller, book reviewer, broadcast journalist and television presenter.  Mary’s first children’s book, Dappled Annie and the Tigrish was published earlier this year.

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

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Meet your favourite authors, illustrators and storytellers!

I’m going to be one of many authors, illustrators and storytellers at the Storylines Festival Family Day in Wellington this weekend.

These free family days are great fun. It’s a chance for you to meet writerly types and listen to magical stories. Plus there are fun competitions to enter too.

So come along and join in the story fun. There are family days being held in Wellington, Dunedin, Christchurch, Whangarei and Auckland. 

Find out more about Family Days at the Storylines website.

Talk more soon 🙂

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Get set for super (duper) perigee moon!

Guess what? This year, there will be not one, not two, but three perigee supermoons. The first happened in April. The next is due early morning Monday 11 August, and the third will happen in November.

Which begs the question, what is a perigee moon, and why on earth did I end up with one in my book about Tilly Angelica, The Night of the Perigee Moon?

A perigee moon is when the moon is at its closest point to us here on earth. A supermoon is when the full moon and perigee happen together. Because it’s so close, and it’s the full moon, it looks amazing. Big, golden and HUGE. You can read more about supermoons here.

And a perigee moon ended up in my book because I happened to go stand on my back doorstep one night and saw one staring back at me. I was so taken with it that it ended up in my story.

That’s how I find my stories come together. I settle on a central idea, and then all sorts of other funny everyday events and happenings end up bossing their way in too.

When I started writing my book, I had no idea that a supermoon would end up being central to the story. That’s one of the things I love about writing – it’s an unfolding surprise, with moons, stars and all sorts of other enchantments wrapped up in it.

Now, go check out that moon!

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Meet our August Star Author – Juliet Jacka

Our awesome August Star Author is Juliet Jacka.  Juliet is a New Zealand author, whose debut novel, Night of the Perigee Moon, was published earlier this year.   Biography for author Juliet Jacka.   Juliet has wanted to write for years, in large part inspired by her love of Margaret Mahy’s young adult books. Escaping the call of writing would have been hard, as she comes from a family of bookworms and crossword fanatics.

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

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How fast the world can change

This is my last post on the Christchurch Kids blog. Thanks so much for hosting me – I’ve had lots of fun putting together my thoughts and pictures. I hope you’ve enjoyed them as much as I have writing them!

No one in Christchurch needs to be told how the world around them can change within minutes.

1. Sumner library The Press

But for some reason, we assume ancient ruins fall to bits really slowly. Sometimes that’s true, but often it happens much faster. The Parthenon, perched on the Acropolis in Athens, was incredibly well-built. It looked like this for over 2000 years.

2. Parthenon replica Wikipedia

Then the Turks conquered Greece. In 1687 the Venetians attacked the Turks, and the Turks stored their ammunition inside the Parthenon. When the Venetians shelled the Acropolis, a cannon ball hit the magazine and the whole temple blew up.

3. The Parthenon explosion httpict.debevec.org

Since then, the Parthenon has looked suitably ruined, but not because of the ravages of time.

4. The Parthenon today httpwelshmattsmith.blogspot.co.nz

Here’s another example – the great hall at Mykenai, where Atreus pardoned his murderous brother Thyestes in Chapter 11 of Murder at Mykenai. This is what it looks like today. You can still see the round pillar bases and the central hearth.

5. Mykenai great hall today  Cath photo

Compare it to this artist’s impression of King Nestor’s great hall at Pylos. Compare the four pillars and the central hearth with the previous photo. Atreus’s hall would have been every bit as glamourous.

6. Nestor's great hall reconstruction Piet de Jong

The palace of Mykenai burnt down in about 1200 BC, because of a massive earthquake like Christchurch’s. In one night it went from being a fabulous building to a pile of ashes. Nestor’s palace was destroyed around the same time, through enemy invasion.

War and earthquakes have ruined much of what people built in ancient times. But we tend to assume the land has stayed the same. Geology measures change in millions of years, right?

Yes and no.

In 1991, 12-14 million cubic metres of rock and ice fell of the top of Mt Cook/Aoraki. Our highest mountain is now 10 metres lower than it was, the rockfall probably triggered by an earthquake. This kind of event is more common than we realise. Often it’s big, catastrophic events that shape our countryside.

7. Mt Cook Aoraki rockfall Bob McKerrow blog

Here’s something similar that happened in Greece. In my last blog, I mentioned I was staying in a fishing village. It’s called Korfos and it’s one of the few good harbours on a mountainous coastline. I was searching for the ancient Mykenaian port nearby, because I’m planning an enemy invasion on this coast for my next book.

I assumed the port would be on Korfos harbour. Instead I found it way over the hills overlooking a funny little headland. That’s it on the right of the picture, with Korfos on the left.

8. Korfos harbour area Google Earth

I was really puzzled till I found out that, in the Late Bronze Age, Korfos harbour was a swamp. About a hundred years after the ancient Mykenaian port was built, an earthquake lowered the swamp into the sea and turned it into a harbour. And part of the Mykenaian port disappeared into the sea too, like the lost city of Atlantis, taking its own harbour with it.

9. Lost city of Atlantis lukzenth via Photobucket

There’s lots more I could write about. The lake in The Bow has vanished. The town round Tiryns fortress is buried under 10 metres of flood debris. The Narrows, where Laertes’s ships held the evil king Thyestes at bay, is the gap between two tectonic plates that are moving apart … the list goes on.

If you want to know more, you can email me on cath@catherinemayoauthor.com  or visit my website www.catherinemayoauthor.com.

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Same but Different

Same but different

When I arrived in Greece at the end of May, I expected some things to be different but other things to be much the way they are back here.

Different:            Ruined temples
Everyone speaks Greek
The street signs look weird
They drive on the other side of the road

1. Athens street sign

The same:           Jeans and tee shirts
Motorbikes and cars (lots of motorbikes)
Coca cola
Cell phones

But then I got some real surprises. Like thunderstorms.

I love thunderstorms. When I was a kid, I’d stand on the dirt road outside our cottage on Waiheke, with the rain pelting down and the mud squishing up between my toes. After each flash, I’d count the seconds till the thunder came – BANG!-rumble-BOOM-BOOM-bump-thud-grumble-mumble. Then silence for ages, apart from the splish of the rain in the puddles.

In Greece last month, I was chased through the hills by a thunderstorm as I searched for an ancient road to Mykenai. I stopped the car and got out to watch. I soon realised this was different to any thunderstorm I’d ever experienced.

2. Thunderstorm over Limnes

For a start, I couldn’t see any lightning. But for the 15 minutes I stood there, the thunder never stopped. It groaned and muttered and growled away without a break, as if the sky god Zeus and his wife Hera were having an argument, with both of them insisting on having the last word.

And then there were the seagulls.

NZ seagulls drift through the air crying gkeee gkeee, when they’re not strutting about screaming Kaar Kaar Kaar at each other. That’s what all gulls do, right?

3.  NZ seagulls

Wrong. After I’d finished searching for my ancient road, I returned to the fishing village where I was staying. By now I was hungry, so I walked along the waterfront to a taverna. As I sat there, I heard a mewing sound. I looked about for the cat – Greek tavernas always have at least one cat and often about six.

5. Cat in a Greek taverna

But there was no cat to be seen.

After a while I realised the noise was coming from the seagulls sitting out on the water – you can see them as white dots out beyond the fishing boat. Close up they look just like NZ gulls.

4. Greek fishing boat and seagulls

Then I remembered reading some English story or poem, years and years ago, which talked about the “mewing of gulls”. The phrase had passed me by – it was so unlike anything I’d heard gulls do and I put it down to poetic fancy (ie: silliness).

This morning I decided to look up the Oxford Dictionary and there it was: “mew n. the characteristic cry of a cat, gull etc.” In fact, in England, another word for “seagull” is “sea mew” or just plain “mew”.  So European gulls are not the same as ours after all.

Sometimes it’s the big, obvious things that take you by surprise. But it’s just as much fun when some small unpredictable thing happens. It makes you look at everything in a fresh way, even the things that are the same.

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Stranger and Stranger

A few weeks ago I was wandering through a Greek olive grove, searching for a 3300 year old city (as you do). The first thing I came across was a herd of goats.  Soon after that I came across the goatherd, and when I asked him – in my very bad Greek – about the ancient city, he beckoned to me and set off through the trees.

Goatherd

I decided he must be leading me to some spectacular ruins, but instead we ended up at his camp, an untidy clearing with a rickety tin shed, some goatskins over a pole, a very friendly dog and her two young pups. By now I was starting to wonder what was going on.

Goatherd's camp

I soon found out. The goatherd produced a battered saucepan into which he poured some white liquid from a 20 litre plastic container. When he handed it to me, I knew I had no choice but to drink. It was fresh goats’ milk and it was absolutely delicious. This from a man who had almost nothing – by our standards. But because I was a stranger, he wanted to give me something.

What I’d just experienced was a Greek tradition called xenia that goes back thousands of years. In Ancient Greece, kindness to strangers was a sacred duty. The sharing of food and shelter bound people together almost like family. In Homer’s Iliad, the Greek hero Diomedes and his enemy Glaucus, a Trojan ally, stop fighting and swap armour because they find out their ancestors were guest friends.

Diomedes and Glaucus

And early on in my new book The Bow, Odysseus and Diomedes know they can trust each other for the same reason.

My Family and Other Animals book coverIf you’ve read Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals – surely one of the greatest (and funniest) books ever written – you’ll remember how Durrell was plied with food and wine by the peasants he met .Tourism is eroding this deeply embedded tradition, but you can still find amazing generosity in Greece if you travel off the beaten track – as I did.

These days, we’re increasingly careful around strangers.  A famous Dame Edna Everage quote goes: “My mother used to say that there are no strangers, only friends you haven’t met yet. She’s now in a maximum security twilight home.”

Dame Edna Everage

I think my goatherd would have agreed with Edna’s mum.

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Hi from Catherine Mayo

Hi! I’m really pleased Christchurch Library has asked me to share some of my writing adventures with you this month.  Writing – and reading – can be an incredible adventure, even when most of it happens inside your head.

I should say, because most of it happens inside your head. How else can you go back in the past or forward into the future or sideways into another world? How else can you “become” someone else and experience all their fears and dramas and successes, and wake up safe and sound in your own bed the next morning?

Just occasionally we can actually travel to that other place and experience it face to face. I have just come back from a couple of weeks in Greece, where I visited some of the places I wrote about in Murder at Mykenai and The Bow – the fortresses of Mykenai and Tiryns, the site of the lake and the river in Argos, and the secret cave that occupies the middle of The Bow.

Mykenai, even in ruins, is huge and rather spooky. The fortress walls are made of enormous blocks of stone, some of them longer than me, and a good deal heavier. ImageHere I am standing in the entrance – it makes you wonder how people 3300 years ago ever put that huge capping stone over the gate without modern cranes and machinery. The Classical Greeks later thought it must have been built by giants – by  Cyclopses.

Even the doorways to the tombs are huge. Image

The lake my heroes hide in, in The Bow, has silted up, and people now live on it and grow their crops. But the river is still there, and the reeds. Image

The shingle spit is there too – it was pretty freaky to find something I thought I’d made up – though the weather was too calm to make lots of waves.

The big excitement of the trip was going down into the cave, which was explored in 1893 but forgotten about since. I met up with a bunch of Greek cavers and we had a fantastic time exploring it. Here’s a photos of me and Elissa at the far end, just before the crevice which … but I’d better not say any more, so I don’t spoil the story for you.Image

In the next blog, I’ll tell you what we found down there …

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Meet our July Star Author – Catherine Mayo

Our fantastic July Star Author is Catherine Mayo.  Catherine’s first book, Murder at Mykenai, is a Young Adult book all about the early life of Odysseus, the hero of The Odyssey.  The sequel, The Bow, has just been released and is available at the library now.  Catherine is one extremely talented woman, not only is she an author, she is also a musician and a luthier (a violin maker and restorer), she loves gardening, horses and she’s been to Greece 3 times!

Thanks for joining us Catherine.  We look forward to hearing all about your books, your writing and your other interests.

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Saffron calling from Uruguay again!

Hola again,

Remember Saffron’s story from Uruguay? Here is what happened next…by Saffron

 

This is what happens when I take my two little sisters for a walk in Colonia del Sacramento:

‘Why is everything so old?’ Sage asks

I tell her that Colonia is very old and precious and that that’s why it needs to be preserved.

But Sage is not listening and keeps complaining about everything being really old. She keeps saying that there is no one around and that she feels scared.

We start walking around the block. Then we stop. Then we try to walk. Then we stop again.

‘Saffron, I told you this place is all broken,̕̕ Sage says.

The street is all made of sharp pointy stones. Star Anise’s pram is completely stuck. I can’t move it. She starts crying. Sage starts whining. I tell Sage and Star Anise to be calm. I tell them that we are just stuck in a charming street. I also tell them not to worry because we are definitely protected by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization.’

 

‘Saffron, are you sure you are all right? Your little sister seems very distressed.’ Lovely lady says on the phone.

‘Yes, I am quite excellent at the moment. Mum’s uncle Bonifacio is meeting us in an hour to take us around the tourist attractions in Colonia del Sacramento. Bye now. I might call you later.’

 

Star Anise’s crying is getting really loud now and Sage is saying she needs to go to the toilet straight away. I keep pushing the pram but it’s still not moving. I think my little sisters need me at the moment so chau, chau for now.

Oh, forgot to explain: chau chau means bye, bye in Spanish.

Image

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Lovely children

Hola again!

One of the cool parts of my job is going to schools as a guest author and illustrator. Last week I was lucky enough to visit Al Madinah School in Auckland and what a lovely group of children they are! The best thing was that they were celebrating their book week so every day they were having a different activity to do with books.

From the moment I arrived teachers and children welcomed me into their school. Have a look at this:Image

I am the author on the right, the one on the left is lovely Sally Sutton who had visited the school the day before. I was so impressed with the children’s enthusiasm for books and for the craft of writing and illustrating. A real treat for me to see!

Do you have Book Weeks at your school? If so, what kind of activities do you do?

Victoria M. Azaro

http://www.victoriamazaro.com

http://www.saffron-sage.com

 

 

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Hola again!

Last night I was deeply asleep when the phone rang at midnight. It was Saffron. We had a nice chat and this morning she sent me this photo and this note. Have a look:Image

 

Right now I am in Uruguay.

This is what happens when I call Victoria at 3 p.m. my time:

‘Hello… This is Saffron, calling from Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay!’

‘Oh yes, yes, hello,’ she says

She sounds really sleepy. I am sure this is not a problem. So I just start telling her all these really interesting things.

This is what I tell her:

I am quite excellent at the moment. I am speaking perfect Spanish and doing all the right things. Mum is so impressed with me. I don’t think she is impressed with Sage though. Sage keeps complaining about having to travel all this way for Star Anise’s Baptism.

We are baptising Star Anise in the same church that I was baptised at. It’s a very special occasion for the whole family.” Mum says.

All of Mum’s cousins and relatives have come from Argentina.

They are all practicing this very high pitched song for the baptism and they are all hugging and kissing each other, ’specially Mum. Dad is also hugging and kissing everyone. He keeps checking his little notebooks for things to say.

I tell Sage to come to the corner to avoid all this kissing. I also tell her that UNESCO has declared Colonia a world Heritage site and that it is full of history. I tell her that UNESCO is very important. I am not exactly sure what UNESCO is but it sounds really interesting.

Sage says, ‘Dad says UNESCO is the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization.’

Of course I already knew all of that..

We are staying at a charming hotel in the historic quarters and I decide that I should take Star Anise and Sage for a walk to make sure my little sisters appreciate all the history and to stop Mum’s relatives kissing me all over my face.

OK Victoria, I will write you again later to tell you what else is going on.

Bye, Saffron

Image

Hopefully Saffron will contact me really soon and I can share it with you here.

Chau

Victoria M. Azaro

 

 

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Five ways to have an adventure

Hello again. Any violin players out there? A little piece of sad music if you please, because May is almost over so this is my final blog post. Okay, one, two, three and off you go … oh this is too much, pass the tissues.

For my final post I’d like to ask you a question: have you ever had an adventure? What do I mean by “adventure”? My dictionary says: “an usual or exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity.” Well let’s just skip past the “typically hazardous” part, shall we? It is perfectly possible to have an adventure without falling off something or getting lost. (I quite appreciate that you Christchurch children might be thinking, “Actually, Sue, we’ve had enough of adventures thank you very much!” Point taken. We can all do without shaky-rumbly adventures. But please do read on – my suggestions are hazard-free!) (Okay, you can stop playing the violin now. Very nice thank you.)

When I was your age I read a lot of adventure stories and could never understand why the houses I stayed in on holidays didn’t have secret passages; why, when we went for walks on moors, we didn’t see mysterious lights; why, when I dug a hole in the sand, my spade didn’t chink against something that turned out to be a box with, at the very least, a message to be decoded inside. Do you sometimes feel that way?

Image

Well it is possible to make your own adventures, if you use a bit of imagination. My basic adventure recipe is:

1 x activity, preferably outside

1 x active imagination

A friend or two

And here are five ways to use your adventure mix:

1.  Build a den. In a forest is best, but in a garden will do (or even under the table if it’s pouring with rain). When it’s finished, decide where you would like it to be, e.g. on a desert island (do you need rescuing? are there poisonous fruit? do you need to catch fish to survive?), or halfway up a Himalayan peak (is there a yeti? are you lost?), or in the jungle (poisonous snakes? a rampaging rogue elephant?). Now have an imaginary adventure.

2.  Go for a bike ride (for older children only – and ask your parents first!). Get a map of your area and identify something that looks interesting, then work out a route. Check it out with your parents first. When I was a child in England, my friends and I spent many days searching for what was marked as ‘Old mill’ on a map. We never found it, but we had some great adventures searching.

3.  Go for a bush walk – this one you should do with your parents or a caregiver, but that doesn’t have to spoil your fun. Ask them to let you navigate – if you really want to impress them and every single person you meet coming the other way, then learn how to tell which direction you’re going in using a watch. It’s quite simple (click here for a simple guide) – this will dazzle the socks off everyone.

4.  Turn unusual situations into adventures – be on the lookout for adventure opportunities. A power cut? Don’t moan that you can’t use your computer or watch the TV. Instead, gather everyone round and have a ghost story telling session by candlelight. I guarantee that after an hour of that, going to the loo by yourself by candlelight will be a proper adventure!

5.  Get to know nature. No, I’m not trying to turn you into a tree-hugger – think about this, though. If you were out in the bush and you saw a bird that was really rare, as in maybe only 100 left in the world, would you know? Or would you think, ‘Oh look, a bird’. Being outdoors is much more of an adventure if you know what you’re looking at, and New Zealand’s natural world is awesome. Learn the difference between a town pigeon, which does nothing much other than poop all over nice buildings, and the beautiful kereru, New Zealand’s native wood pigeon. Is that really a stick, or could it be a stick insect? Have you ever seen a lizard in the wild? An adventure playground doesn’t have to be a jumble of steel at your local park, it can be your local forest reserve.

Well guys, my time is up, but if just one of you goes out and learns their NZ birds and how to tell where north is just by looking at your watch, then I am a happy bunny. The children in my stories have adventures, and I’d love you to get to know them sometime. And I’d absolutely love to hear from any of you – tell me about your pets, your favourite books, your latest adventures. Click here to visit me! It’s been a blogging blast, Christchurch kids – thanks for having me!

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