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 November Star Author – Barbara Else

Our wonderful November Star Author is New Zealand author Barbara Else.  Barbara is an author of books for children and adults, an editor, agent, and was a judge for this year’s New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.  She has edited several collections of children’s stories, including Great Mates and Hideous and Hilarious.  Barbara’s latest novels for children, The Travelling Restaurant, The Queen and the Nobody Boy and The Volume of Possible Endings, are set in the Land of Fontania.

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

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Final blog

Good morning from our Rome Hotel.  I was thinking this morning at breakfast what would be in the last blog and when should I do it!  Well today is the day!  I am packed and waiting for David and Amelia to finish their packing.  Its always a little challenging.  You need to  think and  pack, in such a way, to meet the requirements of the airline.

So we are off to Hong Kong today before heading back home.   I will leave you with some wise words from Amelia.

Amelia’sl Shopping Questions:

Do I want it?

Do I need it?

Will I use it?

Will it help me with anything?

Can it make my life easier?

Is it good quality?

Will MUM buy it for me?

____________________

Her list made me smile.

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Rome Summary

As I look out the window from our hotel I see tour buses; walking tour groups; people rushing here and there; tourists looking at maps; motorbikes; push bikes; parked cars in every spot; local buses; police cars – everything that makes this a busy city.

Can you guess what we did with 30,000 other people today.  We have sore feet and are all happy to have some relaxing time. Have you guessed?  Yes we went to the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel (not the 16 Chapel someone in Amelias class said it was called),  St. Peter’s Basilica and St. Peter’s Square.  We went with a tour to skip the line entrance which was a long line when we got there.  After the tour we decided that we should take the opportunity to go up in the Dome.  Amelia was unimpressed with the time it took us to line up move forward.  The thought of walking up 320 steps after 3 solid hours of walking around was not exciting Amelia.  I promised the biggest gelato we could find at the end.

We found a nice restaruant for lunch and a refreshing glass of beer.  Arriving home to our hotel at 4.15 – a very full on day.

So packing, dinner and early night and we will be on our way to Hong Kong.  We will sleep well tonight even though I dislike the bed here. It is far to hard for my liking.

You might remember we were getting back here to the hotel in central Rome on Friday night.  So the weekend was full of walking with Margaret and visiting lots of sites.  So many photos were taken and there was lots of gazing at marble and granite and  battling thru 1/2 of the world’s population at places like Trevi fountain, the Pantheon & the Spanish Steps.  Both David and Margaret proved that their navigational skills need upgrading. Often walking in a direction other than where we ought to have been. Amelia to her credit just kept on walking and there was no complaints.

We bused to  our Saturday night dinner with Margaret’s familly.  Nigel cooked us a great meal of pasta with wild boar sauce, the meat with bitter broccoletti (didn’t enjoy that) and peas.  Isalena  had made pameir biscuits with fruit salad  and Amelia said homemade  ice cream was better than the expensive bought stuff.  Nigel took us high up on the roof and we saw all the major icons at night.  St Peters had singing and it was magical to hear it.

Sunday’s was another feast all cooked on the BBQ;  lamb, veal ribs, peppers,potatoes, and very long beans.  Isalena had been up early and  made lemon slice (we now have the receipe).  Phillipa (varsity mate of Nigel’s – lives in Perugia) brought pinenut biscuits.  As Margaret said we were still at the table at 5 pm; all quite memorable. It was a beautiful calm day,  perfect for sitting on the terrace.

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Rome – Naples – Pompeii — Sorrento – Capri – Positano – Rome

Good afternoon – message coming to you from our hotel in Sorrento.

We had our first day in Rome (Tuesday I think) with our own personal tour guide.  David’s cousin Margaret is visiting Rome to see her daughter and her family.  She had the day to be with us and it was amazing the things she could point outto us and the stories she could tell Amelia. Amelia is like a sponge soaking up the history and lucky we have a few more days in Rome as we have some biggies to do!

After four hours solid walking we stopped for lunch and then Margaret showed us whichbus stop to get off at for our hotel.  I had to push through many people to get off I did say excuse me but don’t think anyone understood.

So Wednesday morning with a 6.00am wakeup call we were checked out and waiting for the tour bus to collect us.

YES we were joining a tour for the first time on our trip and we were not sure how we would go with that.  By 7.15 David was back inside and asking reception of our hotel to ring and find outwhere they were.  They said they would send a taxi.  On arrival the taxi driver asked wherewe were going and we showed him the address.  He could not work out where to take us.Thankfully he was able to ring his office and we got on the bus and were on our way toNaples.  A highlight was seeing so many policemen and women around waiting forsomeone to come.  I asked who was coming but they didn’t have English and my Italianis not the best!

Next stop lunch and a drink before we toured Pompeii.  This buried city is  amazing and Ameliawas able to remember her year 4 learning.  If I remember correctly, 22,000 escaped and4000 were buried alive.  It was heart wrenching to see the Mother that laid over her baby for protection.  The ancient Roman city was destroyed by the eruption of ‘Mount Vesuvio in79 BC and buried it in stones and ash.  4-6 metres.

From Pompeii it was to our hotel in Sorrento.

Day two – picked up and taken to the ferry to Capri.

Marco our super Italian guide gave us instructions to be the first off the ferry.Stay down the back.  Following instructions. We all did what we were asked and thatenabled us to get on to our waiting boat and make our way to the Blue Grotto.We were going “grotting” – that is what David called it – a new word.Anyway, into little boats in fours we waited a short time and entered into a magicalplace.  This is very much a weather permitting activity and we learnt no one got through the next day.

Visited the Augustus Gardens and had free time to meet up again.The Spanish speaking people (3 in toal) ruined our guides day.  We waited forty-five minutes.  Missed our bus and had to get another one andmissed our lunch slot.  Got on the ferry to return and still no sign of the 3 people.Everyone knows Marco and he left heaps of messages trying to find them.

Day 3 – the 3 of us caught a local bus and went to  Positano, a town on the Amalfi coast. Spectacular road carved ito the cliffs.Caught the bus back and had lunch and cruised the shops of Sorrento,

Here we are waiting to do a few pickups of people and transfer back to Roma.

POSTSCRIPT – late into our hotel  9.15pm.

Long story.

 

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SANTORINI

Quiz question:  Where in the world do churches and buildings have blue domes?

Answer: Santorini

That was apparently a question Amelia was asked as a part of a classroom quiz during the third term.  Amelia was able to tell her team members because she was coming here.  The schools are now on holiday in New Zealand and it will be Monday when you read this.  I find it interesting that Amelia is the only child here on holiday.  She gets more than her share of double takes.

Amelia  is now over us taking her photo.  It was to be expected as David and I are having an undeclared competition with our new cameras who can get the best photos.  Don’t tell him, but he is winning as my camera has a little time delay and I sometimes miss that opportunity and in real life you cannot go back and say do that again.

Like this morning a bus wanting to turn into a narrow one way street in Thira.  Some foolish driver had parked with hazard lights on and left the car in the way of the turning bus.  Yesterday seeing a bride rushing down a little road.  This is the get married and have your photos taken in the Greek Islands place to be.  Seeing a group of donkeys walk up the path.  Another blue dome and another ice cream with Amelia having it all round her mouth.

We have had a car so we have been able to get around.  We have explored the prehistoric settlement of Akrotiri at the southern end of the island of Thera.  This is where the city whose ruins can be seen by the modern vistor dates from the first phase of the Late Bronze Age (1650-1500 BC). Finds discovered in the earlier levels of the dig indicate that the site was continuously inhabited from the Middle Neolithic period (that is the middlfe of the 5th millennium BC).  Earthquakes and a volcanic eruption over the different periods of time has seen it damaged and burried under the mantle of pumice and volcanic ash, which have preserved it for posterity.  The part they have unearthed is covered in a huge building and there is many years of work ahead of them to unearth the entire 1.2 hectare area.

We walked last night to the Pyrgos Tavern and Restuaruant for dinner last night.  Very nice and back to our hotel before dark.  You really don’t want to be walking along two way roads here in the dark – far to dangerous with tourists  from many countries driving cars and quad bikes.  More than once we have seen a close call and had a driver driving at us over the centre line.

We have of course driven to Oia for the recommended sunset views.  We went early and found somewhere to sit down for a drink and made a booking on their rooftop for dinner.  We then wandered along the narrow little alleys and admired the best Oia had to offer.  Amelia told me everytime I picked up something – what do you want that for.  David much to her disgust purchased a fridge magnet with the water and blue domed buildings.  Its probably good that we are challenged by having no room in our bags so it is easy to say lovely but no can’t take that home.

Oh by the way the sunset was not particularly good and the next night we saw an impressive sunset from the restauruant in our hotel.

The highlight for David would be the day  we went out sailing.  There was 4 Australian’s; 3 Kiwis (thats us) and the two sailing hosts – Greeks.  It was a five hour sail and were shown the major points of interest and learnt about how the Vulcano had created the caldera and Islands.  We were taken to a little bay where a man lives in isolation.  We donned life jackets and swam around into an area where the water was warmer and it is heated from the gases from the volcano.   it was smelly because of the sulphur. We were laughing and all agreed that we would be swimming fast back to the boat if it suddenly got very hot.

We moved to another spot and Amelia and two others went snorkelling and saw small fish.  Back on board we were shown a ship wreck underneath us, and Amelia steered the boat.  A very nice day.  Oh and a wonderful lunch on board!

Off to Rome in the morning.

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