Archive for writers

Derek Landy talks about The Dying of the Light

Check out these videos of Derek Landy talking about the final Skulduggery Pleasant book, The Dying of the Light.  Derek Landy is coming to Christchurch on Thursday 2 October and you can meet him.  Read our post about Derek’s tour to find out all about it.

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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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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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Star author for June – Victoria M. Azaro

Hola! I am Victoria M. Azaro and I am so happy to be the Star Author blogging this month!

I am supposed to talk about my books, my writing and my illustrating….hmmm…where do I start?

I guess I can say that I am a writer that writes about things that have happened to me, or to my friends or to my children. I also have this need to laugh every day. At least a minimum of 20 times a day. I would also add that I really need to feel very strongly about something to write about it.

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Last month I launched “Super Saffron”, which is the fourth book in the “Saffron” series. It’s a compilation of the three previous books plus a lot more new material at the back. The series has been in the market for the last 5 years so I have had a chance to talk to many children, teachers and librarians and discover exactly how they were using and enjoying the books in the classroom and at home. I found out that children were eager to learn more about Geography.

Like Saffron, children told me that they wanted to know what country was in what continent and what city belonged to what country. They also told me that they were really interested in some of the foods that Saffron ate in the stories and they all wanted to learn a bit of Spanish, just like Saffron too.

So, with all this in mind I created a section at the back of the book.

One of the pages looks a bit like this:

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When I look into what really grabbed me to write this new book, it’s very clear to me that I am passionate about children learning about other cultures, their foods, their dress, their customs and traditions through a humorous and fun approach.

We are so lucky to live in New Zealand at this time in history, where different cultures are embraced and celebrated. I have a son that is at Intermediate School and in his classroom alone there are at least 14 different nationalities. It’s not always easy to accommodate and celebrate customs and traditions that are foreign to us but the more we learn about them and the more we discover about them, the more tolerant and open minded we will be.

Sometimes little Saffron is not as open minded as I would like her to be. Have a look at this:

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Throughout June I will be sharing with you different little adventures that my character Saffron has had to overcome in different parts of the world. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them!

Chau

Victoria M. Azaro

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Meet our May Star Author – Sue Copsey

Our fantastic May Star Author is New Zealand author, Sue Copsey.  She is an editor and an author who writes for both children and adults.  Sue’s books include Children Just Like Me, Our Children Aotearoa and The Ghosts of Young Nick’s Head.

Thanks for joining us Sue!  We look forward to hearing all about your writing and other roles.

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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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An Interview with NZ Post Children’s Book Awards Finalist Melinda Szymanik

wintersdayThe NZ Post Children’s Book Awards finalists were announced this week, and I was thrilled to see Melinda Szymanik’s wonderful book A Winter’s Day in 1939 was on the list.

“Adam is 13 years old and lives with his family on a small farm in rural Poland. It is 1939 and the war has just broken out. Russians invade Poland and confiscate Adam’s family’s house and farm. They are sent to live with another family nearby, but are then moved on and put on a train for a Russian labour camp as refugees, prisoners of Russia.”

If you haven’t read this book, you should rush to your library or bookstore now! You’ll be gripped by Adam’s story, which is based on what actually happened to Melinda’s own father. So while you’re getting engrossed in what happens to Adam, you’ll be amazed to know that it’s all based on truth and the things described in the story really did occur!

I asked Melinda a few questions about her writing, and this is what she told me:

TANIA: Congratulations on being a finalist in this year’s NZ Post Book Awards! A Winter’s Day in 1939 was also named as a Storylines Notable Book this year. How are you feeling, and did you have any idea your book would be so widely acclaimed?

MELINDA: I am feeling beyond thrilled. And I am so happy that I have had this opportunity to introduce readers to a little known side of World War 2. You always hope people will like what you have written but this kind of response is like a dream come true.

TANIA: How did you research the book and how long did it take?

MELINDA: My father made about 20 pages worth of notes which I referred to continuously – these provided the main underlying structure of the story. Details were added by referring to books, information gathered off the internet or from my parents. I was keen to focus on a single experience and I think this makes ‘Adam’s’ story a more personal one for the reader to connect with. Research was an ongoing process throughout the writing and the book took me roughly 18 months to two years to write.

TANIA: A Winter’s Day in 1939 is based on your father’s real experiences during the war. How do your family feel about the book? Are they pleased his story is being told?

MELINDA: My family are very happy with how the book turned out. My mother was always telling me to write my father’s story. In the end I saw it as an opportunity to honour his experience and his bravery and they feel the same.

TANIA: Have you visited any of the places mentioned in the book?

MELINDA: No, but I would like to.

TANIA: What new books have you got coming out, and what are you working on now?

Melinda Szymanik

Melinda Szymanik

MELINDA: I have a new picture book coming out in July (The Song of Kauri, Scholastic) which is a little like a Maori myth and is about a Kauri tree. The illustrations by Dominique Ford are stunning. There is also a Maori version of this book. And I am currently working on several new stories at the moment – another historical story based on the Polish orphans who came to New Zealand in 1944 (it’s the 70 year anniversary of their arrival this year) for an intermediate aged audience, and a young adult fantasy story.

Thanks a lot, Melinda, for answering my questions, and good luck with the awards.

If you want to know more about Melinda and her wonderful books, check out her blog site by clicking here.

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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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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 edit a magazine (part 2)

In my last post I talked about planning each issue of Wild Things magazine. That’s fun – but here’s what’s MORE fun:

Deciding who to invite (or beg) to contribute.

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Who are your favourite authors and illustrators?

Imagine you could create a magazine and invite them all to do something for it. Who would you ask to do what?

Who would you ask to design and draw a beautiful maze?

Who would you ask to write an article about your favourite animal?

Who would you ask to write a hilarious skit? And whose illustration might go brilliantly with that skit? You can team them up.

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I can hardly describe how exciting it is to send off emails to writers and illustrators I admire, enquiring if they’d do a particular job for Wild Things, and then waiting for their reply.

Occasionally they’re too busy, but usually they say yes. (Yay!) Then I send them more details about the job, so they can get going. I try not to give  TOO MUCH detail – it’s better if they have loads of freedom. Because what’s the point in asking creative professionals to do a job if they can’t be creative?

Here’s the most brilliant thing of all:

The finished work that they send back is ALWAYS different from how I thought it would be – and way better. I’m in awe of how these people’s imaginations work. New Zealand has many amazing professional writers and illustrators!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter this exciting bit, I have to do boring stuff: make sure the contributors send in invoices so they can get paid, and sometimes ask them to fill in tax forms.

Strange things can happen …

Have you seen the book, Watch Out, Snail!? It’s about Powelliphanta – incredible, rare, giant snails that live only in New Zealand. They’re way more awesome than the common garden snails that eat your precious vegetables.

The book’s illustrator is Margaret Tolland, and for one issue of Wild Things, she made us a beautiful maze where you have to help a Powelliphanta snail find its food.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWell, I think the common garden snails that keep trying to live in our letterbox must have been jealous, because when she sent me her tax form, they ate it! All they left were a few shreds of holey paper.

I had to email Margaret, apologise profusely, and ask her if she could send another tax form, because snails had eaten the first!

More about editing a magazine soon. In the meantime, keep your eyes peeled for your favourite NZ authors and illustrators in any Wild Things issues you see. (And beware the letterbox snails.)

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Ideas are everywhere

I’m sitting here at lunch time in the library surrounded by thousands of books and wondering what they all have in common. And do you know what it is. It’s an idea!

They all had an author who started off with an idea and poked and prodded that idea until it became a story.  I suspect that some ideas took lots of pushing and shoving to get just right, while some ideas might have been a little easier to form. However,  I can almost guarantee that each and every author, when they finally sat down to write, wrote their story idea over and over until it was just the way it needed to be.  A story ripe and juicy just waiting for you to read.

That’s fine, I hear you say, but where do authors get their ideas? They get ideas anywhere and everywhere. Things people say and do, the night sky, a wintery cold night, the smell of popcorn cooking are just a few things to think about when you are wanting ideas. I know that I get ideas from silly things that happen at school. Once we had a teacher who was very embarrassed  when his wife popped in to class with his lunch after he had left it at home on the bench. I thought this was so funny I turned that idea into a play and it was published in the School Journal. I had to change things of course or I would get in to trouble but it just shows you that ideas really are everywhere.

What ideas will you have today? Just make sure you write them down in a notebook so you don’t forget and let a good story get away.

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February Star Author – Desna Wallace

Desna WallaceOur Star Author programme is back for 2014 and we have some great authors for you this year.

Our first Star Author for the year is Christchurch author Desna Wallace. Desna is a school librarian from Christchurch who is passionate about children’s books. Desna has had a number of plays, poems and stories published in the School Journal.

Cover of Canterbury QuakeHer first novel is being published this month  My New Zealand Story: Canterbury Quake. It is the latest book in Scholastic’s My New Zealand Story series and focuses on the Canterbury earthquakes of 2010 and 2011.

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

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Your turn!

Your turn to write a poem

I find lots of people think that poetry is so hard to write.

Yet a poem can be written with rhythm, strength and strong feeling by just using two words for each line, a bit like a ladder, all the way down that page

Here are some photos that might help you to have a go.

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Here’s an example:

Brown towers

cobble stones

sky paving

giraffe tall.

(c)  Lorraine Marwood

See if you can write ten lines like this- after all that is only a 20 word poem.  Have a go.  Post your poems in the comments section.  I’d love to read them.

This type of poem cuts out all the unnecessary words and allows the poem to breathe.  It also makes us use the strong words of writing like nouns and verbs.

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Gathering Ideas for writing

How does an author gather ideas?

How does a poet gather ideas?

My answer:

We look and observe, capture a tiny detail, embroider it

look at it from a different angle, then surprise the reader and ourselves.

I use exercise books like this to keep all my ideas together:

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I always write the date in, I jot down a thought, a sight, a little treasure of a word, or a sudden idea.

(or even the complete poem)

If I don’t write it down straight away it goes away never to return.

Here is a suggestion for you to begin your own ‘ideas’ book.

Try keeping an ideas book each day for a week.

  1. Just write down a conversation that was funny or unusual you were a part of or overheard.

Here’s an example:

While on a walk recently  I overheard these comments:

‘I bet a thousand dollars…’

 

‘It’ll make you dizzy.’

 

‘But then you would never…

These fragments could become part of a story, or a poem or lead to more ideas.

2.  Just write down a few words about what was happening in your world, even the weather.

3.  Even a quick sketch of your pet and a few words about what they like to do best.  Sketching and writing is a great idea.

For my latest collection of poetry ‘Guinea Pig town and other poems about animals’ Walker books, I was able to observe animals and then write from this.  Taking a photograph to look back later was great also.

Here are two photos of two animals.  Both were in London and both are the subjects of poems in my book.

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If you are able to look in a copy of ‘Guinea Pig town and other Animal poems’ then look up:

‘A big bathroom’

‘Flamingos’

Then you can see the finished poems.

What do you like to write about?  I’d love to hear from you.

Lorraine M

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The All Important How Question and What question

I am often asked, ‘How did I become a writer?’ Just last week I was asked this question as I went into a remote school to teach poetry.

I looked at the boy who asked me and asked him in turn, ‘how old are you?’  Luckily he replied with the age I was looking for.  He said , ’eight’.

‘Well that’s the age I can remember thinking that’s what I really really want to be when I grow up, to be an author,’ I replied.

But I didn’t add that though I’d never meet an author, or knew anything about the journey to becoming an author; I still knew in my heart that was what I had to be.   I also loved reading.  Reading all sorts of books is a great start to becoming an author.

I didn’t know that at the time, but already I was embarking on my writer’s journey.

So that leads to another question, ‘what books did you like to read as a child?’

Well I’m not sure if you have ever heard of this very old book called ‘The Princess and Curdie’ by a famous author called George Macdonald.  He wrote this book many years ago, in fact it was very old when I was a child!!!

I loved it.  The thrill of a fabulous, loving and altogether magical grandmother, a princess alone and under threat by  dreadful goblins and a poor ordinary miner’s son called Curdie.  Wow!  I was hooked and today that book still has pride of place on my bookshelves.

So here’s a question for you?  What book has stirred your imagination, has transported you to another world, one that you’d keep through all your growing years and into adulthood?  I’d love to hear.

Next time I’ll show you a little bit of how I work ; my secret writing books and even share a way for you to start your own writing book.

Lorraine Marwood

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Walking the dog

Hi,

I had a visit yesterday afternoon from Indigo, a lovely year 9 student who’s doing a project on writers – and at the same time, she’s writing a novel herself. She asked me lots of interesting questions about how I wrote and where I got my ideas from and what advice I had for writers. It was good timing, because I planned to write on just those things on the Christchurchkids blog today.

I could be really silly, and answer “How do you write?” by saying that I sit at my desk and  tap away at the keyboard with my fingers.

Well, actually, that IS what I do, but other stuff comes first. One thing I do before I start writing most days, and definitely before I start a new project, is lots of walking. A walk around the park with my dog Gus is good because I find thinking and walking go really well together.
I don’t make lots of notes; I tend to work things out in my head. I play out scenes as if my mind was a movie screen. I try out ideas and (because I like an insanely complicated plot) I try to make twists and turns and figure out “what if?” as if I’m playing a game or doing a jigsaw. Gus is a great help because he needs to walk every day and he comes and reminds GUSme if I don’t take him.

Could you resist those doggy eyes?

Where do I get my ideas from? The answer is everywhere. I am like a magpie, collecting bits and pieces. News items, conversations that I overhear, people I see in the street, pictures, paintings, photos and places all go to making a story. In Verity Sparks Lost and Found, there is a strand of the plot about spirit photography. That got there because a friend was throwing out old books and there was one on the supernatural she thought I’d like. In the early days of photography, people were easily fooled by double exposures and other tricks, and there were some great pictures with “ghosts ” in them. So I used them in my book.

My main piece of advice for writers is simple. Finish that story! Don’t leave it half-finished or just started. When you’ve got it finished, then you’ll have something to work with. You can edit, rearrange, change, cut, add and polish to make your story much, much better. But only if you finish it first.

All the best,

Susan

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Listen the the Voices

All books have got their own voice. It’s partly the voices of the characters – especially if they’re the narrators – but it’s the author’s voice too. If you’re writing a story, listen to the voice you use. Read your story out loud to yourself (it seems like a funny thing to do, but it really helps!)

Here are a few opening paragraphs from different books – listen to the voices!

My name is Verity Sparks, and I’ve got itchy fingers. The Professor calls it teleagtivism. Sounds like a disease, doesn’t it? But it’s not. It’s more like a talent. A gift. I’ve always had it, but I didn’t know I had it until the summer of 1878. It happened the day I finished the yellow hat.


The hat was mostly feathers, with one poor little bird left whole and stuck onto the brim.
“Like a dead duck on a plate, ain’t it?” I said as I held it up.

That’s from The Truth About Verity Sparks.  Did you notice how Verity seems to be speaking?  I was trying to make it seem as if she was talking straight to you, the reader. Verity is a very straightforward girl, so that’s how I wanted her to come across. And at the start of the story, she’s not very well educated – that’s why she says ‘ain’t’ instead of isn’t.

Here’s another opening.

Marlie and I lived at the Overhang, near the place where three roads met. One road went west to the Badlands. No one ever passed that way. It was the same with the road to the east – if you followed it you’d end up in the marshes, which stretched forever. Nobody went in that direction, and you’d never expect to see anyone coming from there. Only the road from Skerrick was used, and that was the one I watched from high up on my ledge.

“Peat, get down! You won’t make her come any faster by looking!”

from Song for a Scarlet Runner by Julie Hunt. It’s a new book, published just this year by Allen&Unwin. In this opening, Julie Hunt is setting the scene, and creating a sense of mystery. Why is Peat watching the road? You’ll just have to read on.

And this last piece is from an old favourite of mine, Smith by Leon Garfield. It was first published in 1966, so you might not be able to get hold of it.

My father is put in the stocks again! Oh! The injustice of it! My father is a genius – as are all of we Treets. A grand man, as great in mind as he is in body, for he’s a large man who bears himself with more dignity than all the Justices in Kent put together. Except when the Stranger calls: and then his spirit seems to flicker and sink somewhat…as if the Stranger was something dark and devilish, and there was an unwholesome bargain eating away at my father’s soul…

Can you tell that the book is set in past times by the “voice”? You might have to look up “the stocks” – a hint; they were used as a punishment! The writer here tells us there’s a mystery from very first paragraph! Who is the Stranger? And why does he come to visit Mr Treet?

Next time, I’ll post a little bit about how I write, and how important my dog is to my writing routine.

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Meet our September Star Author – Susan Green

Our super September Star Author is Australian author, Susan Green.  Susan has written two books featuring the charismatic Verity Sparks, The Truth About Verity Sparks and Verity Sparks: Lost and Found.  She always wanted to write and illustrate books, but gave away her art studies and teaching to concentrate on writing when she won a short story competition. The Truth About Verity Sparks was short-listed in the Book of the Year for Younger Readers category of the 2012 CBCA Awards.

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

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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

Heather

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