Posts tagged Johanna Knox

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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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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March Star Author – Johanna Knox

Johanna KnoxOur marvelous March Star Author is New Zealand author, Johanna Knox.  Johanna has had an interesting and varied career as a writer.  She has written books for children and adults, edited magazines, worked as a manuscript assessor, created exhibitions for museums and visitors centres, and she now runs her own publishing company.

The Fly Papers is Johanna’s fantastic series for children, and the first two books are available in the library, The Flytrap Snaps and The Sundew Stalks.

Thanks for joining us Johanna!  We look forward to hearing all about your books and your writing, and maybe a little about carnivorous plants.

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The Sundew Stalks by Johanna Knox.

Danger, wrestling, mutant plants and epic adventure; welcome back to Filmington. The Sundew Stalks is the sequel to The Flytrap Snaps, continuing popular NZ author Johanna Knox’s The Fly Papers series.

Tora de Ronde has been a BodySlam wrestler all her life; she trains every day after school under the proud gaze of her father. Little does her father know that Tora lives another secret life only she knows about. When Tora’s secret leads her to a laboratory full of carnivorous plants, she stumbles upon a complex mystery that will show her who the bad guys are in Filmington…

I was very pleased that The Sundew Stalks was written from the perspective of Tora de Ronde, as she is clever, brave and a strong heroine. Having the second book written from a different point of view is also quite refreshing. Johanna Knox has very cleverly made The Sundew Stalks match up with The Flytrap Snaps- the second perspective makes everything start to fit together; questions are answered and mysteries are solved.

The book also introduces one new character in particular; Dross, the mutant sundew. Dross is just as moody and hilarious as his relative Dion in The Flytrap Snaps- you will instantly fall in love with this charming carnivorous plant.

The Sundew Stalks is even funnier and more addictive than the first novel. Readers won’t be able to put it down as they begin to unravel the mystery of Filmington, Jimmy Jangle and the Fly Papers.

Reviewed by Tierney Reardon.

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The Flytrap Snaps by Johanna Knox

The Flytrap Snaps is the first book in The Fly Papers series by Johanna Knox. It is an quirky yet cool tale. I even found the dedication page unique:

Dedicated to all the carnivorous plants that sit on our window sills and inspire us (you know who you are).”

Spencer Fogle is the hero of this story: he lives in the town of Filmington, which is famous for its variety of landscapes. For this reason it is used by producers all over the world to film movies, ads and videos. Spencer is used to hearing screams on his way to school. One day, Spencer hears a scream, and something tells him that this is not special effects in a horror film. He goes to investigate…and so begins a mysterious adventure, involving carnivorous plants, hench-women, wrestling and shampoo ads.

Dion is Spencer’s friend, and meets Spencer during the story. Dion is very theatrical, and dreams of becoming a movie star. He also happens to be a Venus Flytrap with four eyes. Yes…I think that Dion Horrible (his stage name) is definitely the most original element of the book!

I think that Johanna Knox has done a wonderful job of fleshing out the characters. I imagined each one very vividly…from Tora, a wrestling expert with amazing hair, to Spencer’s parents, who own a business that sells stuffed food, such as sardine-stuffed lemons. I also admire the way she writes in such a consistently humorous and strong way. There wasn’t a dull moment in the book, nor a moment when I wasn’t smiling at Dion’s antics.

The mystery gets darker as the book progresses. You will find yourself rooting for Spencer and Dion, hating Jimmy Jangle and his salami-breath sidekicks, Sybil and Cassandra, and turning the pages faster and faster as the pace of the adventure quickens. Will Jimmy Jangle find Dion? What is Tora’s secret? Will Dion get his change at fame? You will find the answers to these questions- and more- by reading The Flytrap Snaps.

By Tierney.

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Fast Five with Johanna Knox

1. Why did you want to be a writer?

When I was about 20, it dawned on me that it was the only thing I could truly spend hours on end doing, week after week, month after month – without getting too bored or frustrated.

2. What’s the best thing about being a writer?

I especially like the thinking stages – where you dream stuff up before you get it down in writing. It feels exciting. I love research too, so I gravitate towards writing projects where I have to do some detective work, or learn about new things. Fun in a different way is going over and editing what I’ve already written. When it’s going well (which it isn’t always), it’s very satisfying.

The other great thing about being a writer is that you have a reason – that no one can argue with – to spend a lot of time reading. (Since everyone knows that to get better at writing you have to read a lot.)

3. What’s your favouriteNew Zealandbook?

It changes almost every day, but today it’s The Native Trees of New Zealand by JT Salmon. Every time I open it I go on a mini bush adventure without even leaving my seat.

4. What do you love aboutNew Zealand?

Lots of things. Most importantly, almost all my friends and family are here.

5. What book changed your life?

So many books have in different ways. I was upset and shocked reading books about World War 2 when I was 11 and 12. They changed the way I saw the world.

More happily, when I was younger, the books that coloured my outlook vividly and permanently were often books of fairytales, folk tales, and mythology … For example I adored my Mum’s books of Greek mythology. (She was a classical studies lecturer.)  When you read those ancient, great tales over and over again, you can’t help it – you start to see the themes and story-lines and character types popping up all over the place in your own real life.

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