Posts tagged Kyle Mewburn

Illustrating the great Margaret Mahy

Over the years I’ve had many manuscripts offered to me, from short School Journal stories to picture books and a few novels too. It is always the most exciting (and often scary) part of my work – imagining for the first time all the different ways this manuscript could be illustrated. But there are manuscripts and then there are MANUSCRIPTS. Earlier this year I illustrated Margaret Mahy’s Dashing Dog. I’d never been offered a picture book manuscript like it. Being my final blog post for the Star Author programme, I thought I’d discuss why I think Dashing Dog is so unique – and also why I made some of the decisions I made and what I was trying to achieve as an illustrator.

It’s a very subtle art that Margaret Mahy practiced – one that seems deceptively simple to outsiders – and it can be a bit difficult to decribe exactly how she does what she does. Well here’s my perspective from an illustrators point of view … sometimes, when I’m given a manuscript, I feel like the author is telling me what to do. The words can seem like they’re giving me a list of instructions, like … “Kevin sat over there, in a red chair, with orange hair, with his teddy bear, did we care?” (that’s not from an actual book by the way). However, in Dashing Dog we hardly get a sense that much is going on at all – there IS a lot going on, perhaps more than in some other books, but it’s going on in a different way.

When I first read the manuscript for Dashing Dog I couldn’t figure out just why I liked it so much, or what made it so different. The only thing I could come up with was that this was real poetry – not just some rhyming words. Dashing Dog was like a list of ingredients as opposed to the aforementioned list of instructions. Like all great writers, Margaret uses lovely evocative words that are great to roll around in your mouth, and like my friend Kyle Mewburn, Margaret’s words are very sparse. She was keenly aware of the fine relationship between author and illustrator, and like all great picture book authors, she leaves lots of gaps for me to fill in.


Possible Dashing Dogs?

For example …

Most obviously, Margaret doesn’t prescribe what kind of dog Dashing Dog is, or what colour or what size for that matter. Margaret only gives one clue as to what dog I might choose to illustrate – the word “curlicued”. I did lots of character sketches of all kinds of curly, long haired dogs, trying to find one that would be just right for the story. Eventually I settled on a large blue/grey poodle – why? because Margaret takes our hero on a journey from la-de-da dashing to heroic dashing savior. I thought that a poodle would be the perfect dog because you could have a lot of fun visually with the contrast between a manicured poodle and the disheveled heroic dog at the end of the story. Also, Margaret’s stories always have a wonderful streak of crazy ridiculousness, and I thought that the poodle matched her fun story-telling.

So I had my poodle, why make hime roan blue? I had decided early on that I didn’t want to illustrate yet another New Zealand story where I had to do page upon page of blue skies (and yet another blue sky cover to sit on the bookshelves) – instead, the tone of Dashing Dog was going to be a summery yellow. I envisioned the cover on my first reading of the manuscript – and leaping across this yellow sky would be a roan blue dog (at that stage, of undetermined breed).


the cover for Dashing Dog was the first vivid picture that lodged in my brain.

So here’s the funny part … after I had completed Dashing Dog I got a phone call from the mother of a boy I went to school with. She told me that her son, now living in Christchuch, owned the brother of Margaret Mahy’s dog – and this dog was … a large poodle. Black to tell the truth, but a large poodle none-the-less. So Margaret also had poodles in mind when she wrote this story. It just goes to show what a great writer she was, because she writes a story that is so obviously about a poodle without ever once mentioned the breed of the dog. I related this story to someone and they replied “Didn’t you know it was supposed to be a poodle?” – which completely misses the point – which is, the author (contrary to popular public belief) does not tell the illustrator what to do.

While I was working on Dashing Dog I was also working on a book about Shakespeare. Actors love to play Hamlet because during the course of the play he portrays almost every possible human emotion. In a fun and simple way, I decided to make my Dashing Dog the canine children’s version of Hamlet. Aside from a fun story and the simple pun on ‘dashing’, Margaret takes our Dashing Dog on an emotional and character-developing journey with a subtle secondary message of not judging by appearances. As an illustrator, it was fun to try and convey all the different doggy emotions and it became my mission to make ‘dogginess’ the focus of the story.


Some of the many moods of Dashing Dog

It’s no surprise then that Margaret also doesn’t describe the environment of Dashing Dog. It’s simply a beach somewhere. The mission I give myself is to expand and fill in the spaces she leaves for me. I know there will be people out there who think that is the wrong approach – that my pictures are overdone and perhaps I should just have pictures on blank backgrounds and leave something to the reader’s imagination (someone said words to that effect somewhere). There is always a place for ‘white space’ – but here’s what I’m trying to achieve… Usually, somewhere near the start and again at the end of the book, I like to set the scene – pop in a big double page of colour and excitement that sets the tone of the story and describes the environment and the world that this book inhabits. In Dashing Dog I blended all my favourite beaches: it is part Devonport boardwalk; part Napier waterfront; part Mount Maunganui; and part Whangamata (what’s the point in being an illustrator if you can’t be self-indulgent every once in a while?). My other aim with these big spreads is to expand the story beyond the pages. I want the readers to feel that this world continues outside the edges of my illustrations – that it could be a REAL fantasy world and is full of life.

I have a very vivid imagination, and as a child these were the type of illustrations I liked – especially books like Graham Oakley’s Church Mice series, which are jam packed with amazing detail. Even as an adult I can pore over them for hours. So – counter-intuitively it seems – for me, more detail, not less, lets the reader’s imagination run wild.


I want readers to imagine the world carries on beyond the edges of the page.

Detail CAN be problematic though. I can understand the reader, or publisher, who finds detailed illustrations are a distraction from the story flow (especially in rhyming books). This is quite a fashion in American books. It’s a fine line to choose what, and how much, detail to put into a picture. Sometimes I pick up a book and feel like I’m assulted by an illustrator who has stuck in all manner of unrelated rubbish. Sometimes the detail becomes the main focus of the image may be totally distracting rather than a nice little background aside. In Dashing Dog there are all sorts of things going on in the background, but hopefully they all relate to the story – either characters and items that will appear later on, or funny in-jokes (if you look closely you might find a certain young boy wandering to the seaside with a shark fin attached to his back). In the spread above is an array of ugly dogs – which simply stand to contrast our heroic poodle.

All this detail is a common trait in my work. Kids are like little sponges and if you don’t give them stuff to discover within a book, then there’s not much reason for them to go back to that book over and over (let alone the parents who might have to read it night after night). I find an entire book full of simplistic illustrations boring, and they miss out on opportunities for kids to latch on to weird little background items. In one of our Dinosaur Rescue books, author Kyle Mewburn wrote a tiny aside about Roman fire brigades. It was a great pleasure to get an email from a boy on the other side of the world who read that aside and became fascinated with Roman history. This is the type of thing I did as a kid (and still do as an adult).

At the end of the day, I can’t second guess what everyone else in the world will like, I just try to do books that I would like. I have taken to heart Elizabeth Taylor’s quote “if you do it for yourself, at least ONE person will be happy”. It seems like a lot of hoohah when you write it all down, but these are all things I do instinctively. Really I’m just trying to emulate my heroes. I pick out parts of their work that I like the most and slowly form some ideas about what I’m trying to achieve. I try not to over think what I do. I know what I like. And I know what I don’t like. As Brian Eno said – “you have to be opinionated, that gives you a basis for your artistic choices”.

Picture books are often children’s first experience of the written and painted arts, and in the best books, words and pictures each complement the other with what they do best. I’ve had the pleasure of illustrating some of New Zealand’s finest writers and it’s my greatest joy to be able to make a full time career out of something that I am so passionate about. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading some of my Star Author blogs about my thoughts and processes. Even if you DIDN’T – that’s great – go and form your own opinions and do something different!

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Dinosaur Rescue: Dako-snappysaurus by Kyle Mewburn and Donovan Bixley

Arg and his brainless family are back for another adventure.  Arg’s dad and the rest of the men are going out hunting and Arg is desparate to join them.  Even though he’s the brainiest cave man around, his mum says he’s not old enough to join the men.  Out of nowhere Arg’s dad invites him to come along on the hunt, so Arg gathers packs everything he needs into his empty mamtress and they set off on the hunt.  Being smarter than everyone else, Arg doesn’t eat everything that he sees, so when all the other men become violently ill Arg has to stand guard throughout the night.  When a huge Dakosaurus attacks, it’s up to Arg to save his Dad and Krrk-Krrk before they become fish food.

Dako-snappysaurus is the sixth disgusting and hilarious book in Kyle Mewburn and Donovan Bixley’s Dinosaur Rescue series.  In this adventure you can learn about the history of time, some Stone Age weapons that didn’t catch on, some delicious Neanderthal foods, and learn about the huge crocodile that was a Dakosaurus.  This book contains Donovan Bixley’s most disgusting illustrations so far in the series (beware of pages 65-67!) so they may make you feel very ill.  The thing that I really love about the Dinosaur Rescue series is that you’re never really sure whether Kyle and Donovan are telling you the truth or whether their crazy imaginations have made up the information in the stories.

Get your hands on Dak0-snappysaurus and the rest of the Dinosaur Rescue series at your local library these school holidays.

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Fast Five with Kyle Mewburn

1. Why did you want to be a writer?

I never really thought I “want to be a writer”. Mainly because I was always told being a writer wasn’t a “proper job”. Besides, I knew most writers never made much money, and for a long time I believed making money was very important. (Because that’s what nearly everybody said.) Writing has always been like a bloodhound on my trail. Over the years I tried all sorts of other jobs, trying to throw it off the scent, but I never quite managed it. In the end it caught up with me. Now I realise there are much more important things than making lots of money. Like doing something you love. Or bringing wild and crazy ideas to life.

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

Getting to hang out with other writers. They are such an entertaining bunch. If I wasn’t a writer, I’d probably have to become a stalker. Or a librarian.

3. What’s your favourite New Zealand book?

I didn’t grow up in New Zealand, so I don’t have any all-time favourite New Zealand books. It kind of changes every year. At the moment my favourite books are Northwood by Brian Falkner (which is just such an original thrilling story) and Stomp! by Ruth Paul (because it’s delightfully simple and beautiful).

4. What do you love most about New Zealand?

I could say “that it’s next to Australia”. haha (I am, after all, originally from Brisbane.) Otherwise, I’d have to say its size. There’s so much variety packed into a small space. Two hours drive and I can be swimming in the ocean, skiing in the mountains or tramping in the wilderness. It’s unique and slightly magical. Though the flipside is you sometimes have to drive two hours to find like-minded people, too.

5. What book changed your life?

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. It’s deservedly a classic. My Year 7 teacher gave me his copy on the last day of school and I’ve read it every year since. If, like me, you love word games and puns, there’s no better book on the planet. It set me off on a life-long quest to write (or invent) the perfect pun. I haven’t done it yet, but boy I’ve had enormous fun trying!!

Kyle Mewburn is the award-winning author of Kiss, Kiss, Yuck, Yuck, Old Hu-hu, Hill and Hole and the hilarious and disgusting Dinosaur Rescue series.

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Dinosaur Rescue: Velocitchy-raptor

Velocitchy-raptor, book 3 in the hilarious Dinosaur Rescue series by Kyle Mewburn and Donovan Bixley, sees Arg trying to escape the clutches of a hungry Quetzalcoatlus (pronounced Kwet-zal-ca-AT-lus).  Arg is trying to keep himself dry in a storm using his dried devil frog when a Quetzalcoatlus swoops down and snatches the frog, with Arg still attached.  He’s taken to the dinosaur’s nest where he meets a baby velociraptor.  They escape from the nest and Arg takes the baby home to hide it safely in his cave.  Unfortunately Arg seems to be allergic to velociraptors and breaks out in itchy sores.  If that wasn’t bad enough, his sister would have the velociraptor for dinner if she found it.  Can Arg get the baby to safety?

Velocitchy-raptor is another hilarious and disgusting addition to the Dinosaur Rescue series.  Kyle and Donovan once again introduce us to snippets of prehistoric life, from the bizarre leisure time activities of Arg’s family and how to talk to stone age people, to the not-very-useful guide to dinosaur names and the many uses of Old Drik’s toenail goo.  Velocitchy-raptor will leave you with a sore stomach from laughing or a very sick stomach from this snot and pus-filled adventure.   Recommended for 7+   9 out of 10

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Watch out for T-Wreck-Asaurus!

Do you like Dinosaurs?  Do you like to be grossed-out by all sorts of disgusting things?  If you answered yes to both of these questions then I’ve got the perfect book for you – T-Wreck-Asaurus, the first book in the hilarious new Dinosaur Rescue series by Kyle Mewburn and Donovan Bixley.

Arg is a caveboy with a really big brain.  He doesn’t really fit in with the rest of his tribe who are really, really stupid.  Arg doesn’t know why he was born with a bigger brain than anybody else, and sometimes it can be quite lonely being this smart.  Thankfully, he has his pet microceratops, Krrk-Krrk to keep him company and join him on his adventures.  When an angry T-rex starts destroying his village it’s up to Arg to come up with a plan to stop him.

T-Wreck-Asaurus is a gross, hilarious book and it’s perfect for fans of Andy Griffiths, Captain Underpants, and anyone who likes stories with dinosaur farts and Brontosaurus poo.  The story and the illustrations had me laughing out loud.  There are lots of little added extras throughout the book, including notes about Arg’s clothing, interesting facts about Brontosaurus poo and a diagram of Arg’s family cave.  You may want to hold your nose as you read, because the stench from these dinosaurs is deadly!  Look out for book two in the series, Stego-Snottysaurus.

Recommended for 7+    10 out of 10

Come along to the Storylines Family Day in Christchurch to meet the creators of Dinosaur Rescue, Kyle Mewburn and Donovan Bixley.  Make sure you also check out the T-Wreck-Asaurus book trailer too.

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Dinosaur Rescue: Stego-Snottysaurus book trailer

Dinosaur Rescue is a hilarious new series by Kyle Mewburn and Donovan Bixley.  The first two books, T-Wreck-Asaurus and Stego-Snotty-Saurus are out now and you can reserve your copy at the library.  Kyle and Donovan are officially launching the series at the Christchurch Storylines Free Family Day on Sunday 21 August so make sure you come along and meet them and get your book signed.

We are giving away 5 sets of the first two books right here on the blog soon so watch this space.

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Win Dinosaur Rescue books by Kyle Mewburn and Donvan Bixley

The Storylines Free Family Day in Christchurch on Sunday 21 August is only 1 week away.  There are lots of amazing author and illustrators coming, including the very cool, Kyle Mewburn and Donovan Bixley.  Kyle and Donovan have created a hilarious and disgusting new series called Dinosaur Rescue.  You can read our review of the series and watch the disgusting book trailer here on the blog.  To celebrate the release of the first two books in the series and their appearance at the Christchurch Storylines Family Day, we have 5 sets of the first two books to give away, which include:

To go into the draw to win one of these books, all you have to do is answer this question – What is your favourite dinosaur and why? Add a comment on this post with your answer, your name, and email address (so we can contact you if you win).  Entries close Friday 19 August at 5pm.

See below for terms and conditions     Read the rest of this entry »

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What’s the fart danger today?

Check out the brand new super-stinky T-Wreck-asaurus trailer for my new series coming out in August.

Kyle Mewburn

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The secret to my success

Hi again … for the very last time!

I just realised, right at this very moment, that today is the last day of June! Which means it’s the last day I’m the Star Author. That’s not fair! How come I get one of the months with a missing day?

Never mind. It’s been fun. Hope you’ve enjoyed my posts. If there’s anything you want to ask me after today, or want to keep up-to-date with my new books and stuff, you can still contact me through my website – or you could join my Facebook  fan page – Kyle Mewburn children’s writer.

But now I’ve come to my last post, I guess there’s only one thing left to write about – What is the secret of my success?

Well, lots of writers will tell you the secret of success is perseverance or stick-at-it-ness. No matter how many rejections you get (and you WILL get rejections – I keep all mine in a giant box in the basement), you have to keep trying and keep writing. The main thing is not to take rejections to heart. It doesn’t necessarily mean your story is bad, it just means the person who read it didn’t think it was right for them. BUT you should also try to listen to any reasons people might give for not liking your story. Even if you don’t always agree, you can always learn something from criticism.

Some writers will tell the secret to success is to READ READ READ. The more we read, the better understanding we have of how a good story works. But you have to read with a writer’s brain, really. Don’t just read the story, keep asking yourself questions – like why do I like this paragraph so much? Why does this scene make my hair stand on end? Why did I get bored in the middle of the story? Once you start to understand how other writers work their magic, you can try to use the same techniques in your own writing.

Other writers might tell you the secret to success is more about figuring out the type of story you are really meant to write. Sometimes the kind of stories we write aren’t the stories we SHOULD be writing. (If that makes sense?) Often when we start writing, we want to write the kind of stories we like to read. When I started I wanted to write adult stories. Publishers always said my writing was good, but they never published my story. Luckily I wasn’t pig-headed enough to think I knew better than the publishers. So I didn’t keep writing the same kind of stories, I kept trying out totally different stories. I wrote a science fiction novel, then a “literary” novel, then a sort of non-fiction story, then a historical drama before finally trying to write a story for kids. I was as surprised as anyone when the publishers wanted my story! And even today, when I think about it, I’m very surprised to discover I’m pretty good at writing stories for kids. I never dreamed that’s what I’d be doing!

Anyway, my time as Star Author is rapidly ending and an exciting new Star Author is banging on my door, anxious for their turn. So I better hurry and finish. It’s been great fun. And thanks to the amazing Zac for making this blog such an exciting place to hang out!!

OK, so the real secret to my success is ……………………………….

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Happy Moooooooooooooo-nday!

Hi again!

Well, I don’t normally like Monday mornings much. Do you? But I’m liking this Monday, because I arrived in my office to find the drawings for my next picture book sitting in my Inbox. The book’s called Mooncow, and the amazingly beautiful illustrations are by Deidre Copeland who lives in Cromwell. Deidre has drawn the MOST BEAUTIFUL cow IN THE WORLD. At least I think so. What do YOU think? Have a look and let me know.

I like cows. Even though they’re pretty clumsy sometimes. And Icertainly DON’T like them when they walk across my creek and start trampling my vege garden! My wife, Marion, thinks cows are her favourite animals. She even likes it when they lick her hand, too. But I think that’s totally gross!! What’s YOUR favourite animal? I think mine’s a kangaroo. It would be great to be able to hop a long way and carry all your stuff in a pouch on your belly. Hmmm, but it might all start falling out if you jumped really fast. I wonder what kangaroos keep in their pouches? Maybe a mobile phone and an iPod. Any ideas what you might find in a kangaroo’s pouch … especially if it was an imaginary kangaroo.

Anyway, my story, Mooncow is about a cow called Milly who wants to be friends with the moon because she thinks they are very similar. Like Milly is big and round and pale, and so is the moon. And Milly is a bit lonely, too, just like the moon. (Or at least she imagines it must be pretty lonely floating in the sky.) So Milly tries to get the moon to like her by keeping it company, and talking to it, and even juggling cowpats to entertain the moon. And it seems to be working, too, because the moon is getting closer, and closer each night …

OK, I won’t tell you what happens. The book will be in the shops in November, I think. In the meantime, let me know what your favourite animal is, and I might just write a story about it. If I DO, I might even name it after YOU!!

In the meantime, if you’re looking for a new story to read, check out my brand new FaBo mystery story (and a couple of cool stories by this week’s winners) at  This week the challenge is to write a thriller with a clone as the main character! Hmmm, not sure if I’d like to have a clone. Though it might be useful if I have to do something boring, then I could send my clone along instead. And ideas what you’d do if YOU had a clone? Or 10 clones??

Have a lovely Mooooooo-nday!


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Winners of the June Star Author Competition

Thanks to everyone who entered the June Star Author Competition.  You all had lots of interesting ideas about what you would do if you saw a big red button that said DO NOT PUSH.  Kyle Mewburn judged the competition and here’s who he chose as the winners:

  • Aliyah – I liked Aliyah’s idea that a dragon would appear and she’d panic so much she’d end up pushing another button and ANOTHER dragon would turn up.  That sounds very scary and SUPER exciting.
  • Alana – And I liked Alara saying if she saw a big red button she “would so push it!” She sounds like she’d make a great hero for one of my stories!

Congratulations!  You both win a copy of Do Not Push by Kyle Mewburn.

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The dinosaurs are coming!!

Hi again!

This morning I was walking to work and saw a poster for the amazing “Walking with Dinosaurs” show that’s visiting New Zealand. They’ve got lots of life-size robot dinosaurs. WOW! It would be so amazing to see that. But unfortunately it’s in Auckland. That’s too far to go, even to see a dinosaur.

But seeing that poster made me remember when I was in North Dakota in the United States last year and got to PAT A REAL DINOSAUR!! OK, it wasn’t an alive dinosaur. I don’t think I’d be brave enough to pat a live dinosaur. Would you? Hmmm, maybe I would pat a microceratops or something really tiny… Anyway, the dinosaur I patted was the only mummified dinosaur in THE WORLD!! They found it a few years ago just inside the border. It had been caught in a mudslide and was buried for millions of years. But because the mud stopped the air getting to it (or something), the dinosaur got turned into a mummy. The only problem is, the mud slowly turned to rock, so the dinosaur is locked inside a giant boulder. Experts at the museum put the whole boulder through all sorts of special scanners and managed to see inside. They were very surprised to find they could see EVERYTHING like its organs and bones and everything else. That’s how they know what sort of dinosaur it is, and exactly what it looked like.

Dinosaur experts all around the world are very excited. Because nobody has ever been able to look inside a dinsoaur before. Now a team of people with tiny drills is slowly uncovering the dinosaur. They have been working for four years, but have only uncovered a small bit so far. It’s slow work because they have to be very careful not to damage anything.

Anyway, while I was in North Dakota, I met someone who was working at the museum, and he took me into the basement and let me pat the dinosaur’s scales. I was very surprised that the scales were so small. The dinosaur was at least 4 metres long, but its scales were smaller than my thumbnails. It was very exciting!!! And I started to imagine what it would be like to live when the dinosaurs were everywhere. It would be very scary, I think, but very exciting, too. What do YOU think it would be like?

That made me think about writing a book about dinosaurs. I didn’t want to write a true story, because that would mean researching all about dinosaurs and what it was like at that time. And I HATE research. I don’t read non-ficiton unless I really have to!! So I decided to write a funny and very GROSS story instead. I also decided it would be funny if dinosaurs and people lived together.

So my idea was to write about a boy called Arg who has a much bigger brain than the other cave people. He feels a bit lonely sometimes because there’s nobody to talk to that understands him. But one day he meets a talking T-rex called Skeet. When Skeet tells Arg the dinosaurs are becoming extinct, Arg decides to help save them. The story was so exciting, I couldn’t stop writing them. So now I’ve written FOUR books in a new series callled DINOSAUR RESCUE. The first book is called T-wreckasaurus, and is coming out in August. I think the stories are very exciting, and they have lots of totallly GROSS things happening. There’s also a lot of poo, vomit and snot … oh, and Arg’s mum likes pipcking her nose and eating it, too.

I was very lucky that the amazingly talented illustrator Donovan Bixley wanted to draw pictures for the series. He is a total dinosaur NUT!! Every page has got amazing cartoons, and there’s lots of really useful information about brontosaurus poo and stuff.

What’s YOUR favourite dinosaur? If you let me know, and tell me why, I’ll get Donovan to draw it in the next book! Wouldn’t that be cool?

OK, enough dinosaur talk. I better do some proper writing.


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Writing an exciting narrative

Hi again!

So did anyone notice last night was the longest night of the year? I didn’t. I went to bed very early and slept right through until 7.30 this morning.  I love sleeping. It’s my third favourite thing after eating and writing. What’s YOUR favourite thing?

Speaking of writing, Alara asked yesterday if I could give some tips on writing a professional narrative. So here are my top tips.

  1. Start off with a BANG!! The library is full of books. (If you haven’t noticed!) So, as a writer, you have to hook your reader from the first few lines. Your story might be the most exciting story in the world, but if the first page isn’t exciting, only your mother or teacher will keep reading. So before you start writing, you have to figure out the most exciting starting point for your story. Writing the first few lines is usually the hardest part.
  2. And then … While writing your story, keep asking yourself “and then what happens?” Once you think you know what’s going to happen, stop for a second and ask yourself – “Is that really the most exciting thing that can happen?” or “Is that the best thing that can happen to make my story the best story it can be?” When I’m writing, I have hundreds of ideas whizzing around in my head. The hard part is choosing which one of my ideas is the best idea for my story. Like when I was writing DO NOT PUSH, I didn’t know what was going to happen when Cam pushed the button. All I knew was he WAS going to push the button. Anything could have happened, really. And I could probably write a thousand different stories about it. (Especially if I stole some of YOUR ideas! hehehehehehe) But in the end I had to choose just ONE idea – the idea I thought would make the best story.
  3. Remember your characters are NOT ZOMBIES! I bet you can all write amazingly exciting stories with lots of action. But to make your story even better, try to remember that your characters are always THINKING and FEELING. Every time something happens, ask yourself  – “What is my character thinking or feeling?” The readers don’t need to know everything your character thinks and feels, but YOU DO! By adding a thought or feeling sometimes, the reader gets to know your character a bit better. And the more your readers like your characters, or understand them, the more likely they’ll not only finish your story, but like your story!
  4. Learn to be a reader! I don’t read boring books. Or books that are badly written. I bet YOU don’t either. And when I write a story, I always think MY stories are brilliant!! Even when they’re not. So I have to put my story away a while then read it again, this time pretending I DIDN’T write it. I pretend I just found the story lying around and don’t know who wrote it. Is it a story worth reading? As I read my story, I try to be super-critical. I try to find every mistake, every bad sentence and every bit that isn’t totally exciting. Then I go back and re-write my story.
  5. Re-write!! Re-write! Re-write! Keep writing your story until it’s as good as you can make it.

Oh, and there’s one more important tip – MAKE SURE YOU FINISH!! Once you start a story, you have to finish it!

OK, so those are a few of my tips. Every writer has their own tips, and their own way of writing. In the end, you have to figure out how YOU write best. Good luck!


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Setting sail!

Hi again from a very, very, VERY drizzly miserable Dunedin! I don’t actually mind the rain, because I don’t have to leave the house all day (or all week, even) if I don’t want to. That’s one of the best things about being a writer. The OTHER best thing, which is actually a million times better is having a new book published!!

I’ve been very lucky getting my stories published, I must say. This year I’ve got TEN books coming out. On Thursday night we had a very nice party at the Teacher’s College in Dunedin to launch my latest two new books – Hester & Lester and DO NOT PUSH! Zac has already told you all about my DO NOT PUSH book. But I’d still be very interested to hear what YOU think might happen if you pushed a big red button that said DO NOT PUSH.

My other book is called Hester & Lester. It’s about a big sister trying to make her little brother happy using her imagination. They build a castle out of things they find in the forest, then make a moat and find a platoon of soldiers in dashing suits of armour (who are snails, really). When I was growing up, my little sister and I were always building cubby-houses out of all sorts of stuff. We’d pretend they were castles or secret hideaways and we’d have battles in the back yard. Because I was the older brother, I always had to come up with ideas for our games. Sometimes it was hard thinking of new games all the time. But I could always think of something new and exciting. That’s what I do today, too.  Except now I write down my stories … and I don’t build castles anymore.

Do you have a little brother or sister? If you do, who comes up with the best ideas? What sort of games do you play? Let me know and I might use one of them in a story.

OK, I better get back to work. Until next time, have an imagination-filled day!!


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Do Not Push by Kyle Mewburn

If you found a big, red button in the middle of a forest, would you push it? Even if it said DO NOT PUSH?

Cam likes to explore the forest behind his house.  He feels like it might change and move around when he’s not looking because there’s always something new to explore.  One day, he decides to check out the pond to see if the tadpoles have legs yet, but he falls down a bank and finds himself in a gully surrounded by steep cliffs.  One of the cliffs is covered in vines, but he notices that there is a large, red button behind the vines, with the words DO NOT PUSH written underneath.  Cam doesn’t think anyone will notice if he pushes the button and he doesn’t think anything has happened.  As he turns to leave he sees a green lever that says PLEASE PULL, but he leaves it and runs home.  When he gets home, he realises that something strange has happened, all because he pushed the button.  Suddenly there are no rules and everyone is acting really weird.

Do Not Push is the hilarious new book by our June Star Author, Kyle Mewburn.  He shows you that a world without rules would be fun but also a little embarrassing.  Who really wants to see their mum sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor in her pajamas, eating icecream with her hands?   I also really liked Sarah N. Anderson’s illustrations, especially the one of Cam when he’s in town watching all the chaos.  If you like short and funny stories, Do Not Push is perfect.  Recommended for 7+   8 out of 10


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Quakes, shakes and rattlesnakes

Hi Christchurch!

What a terrible time everyone must be having up there with all the earthquakes. I was really sorry to hear about it on the news the other day. I hope everyone managed to get through it all safely … again. I’m not sure what I’d do if I lived in Christchurch. I’ve only felt 2 earthquakes in my entire life. And they were just mild shakes, really. I can’t imagine how it must feel to have shakes like that all the time, and you never know if, or when, there’s another big earthquake coming. It must be terrible.

Whenever bad things happen to me, I write a story about it. It always helps me put things in perspective and get things clearer in my head. Not just what happened, but how I feel about it, what I think about, and what has changed both in me and my world.  In a way, I feel lucky to be a writer. Because I know that experiencing bad things gives me good ideas for my stories. And, more

importantly, because I can remember how I felt during those bad moments, I can use those emotions and memories to make my stories a lot more powerful.

You might have heard the expression that experiencing bad things makes us stronger. I think it also makes us better writers. I also think it makes everyone better people, too. At least I hope it does!

I know you’ve all got more important things on your minds at the moment, so I’ll finish my blog now. I really just wanted to send you all my best wishes and good luck!

I’m sure lots of you have written stories about the earthquakes as well. If you’d like to share them with me, you can send them to

Best wishes from a rainy Dunedin!


PS If you haven’t checked out the FaBo blog, there’s still time to submit a story for this week’s challenge. Just go to

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Finishing is everything

I’m supposed to be writing my Young Adult (YA) novel, but it’s becoming a bit of a struggle, I must say. Mainly because I had to stop halfway through to write two more episodes of my new Dinosaur Rescue series. And if there’s one thing this writer hates more than anything, it’s trying to kickstart a stalled project. Especially a novel.

While you’re writing it, you almost lose yourself in the world you’ve created. There are so many threads of the story to keep hold of, it needs a lot of concentration and focus. My wife, Marion, often gets a bit annoyed at me when I’m in the middle of a novel because I’m often off in my own little world instead of listening to her. I know I should be listening, but my fictional world is often just as real as my real world. And the characters in my fictional world have much more serious things going on. Resolving their issues becomes very important to me, and so takes up a lot of my brain.

But if you have to STOP writing a novel for any length of time, everything starts falling to pieces. You lose your grip on all those story threads. You lose interest in your characters, too, because they’ve become mere characters again, not almost-real people. They’re no longer important people in your life, they’re just words on a page. And sometimes, you lose interest in your whole novel. When you read it again, you wonder why you ever started it. It’s a terrible thing.

Sometimes your loss of interest is simply because of all the above. Or because you suddenly realise you were never too sure where your story was going anyway. (Which is what happened to my last YA novel which I got halfway through about 3 years ago …) And sometimes it’s because you’ve got new, bigger, better ideas knocking on your imagination. Why finish the OLD story when there’s a more exciting NEW story crying out for attention? Oh, and there’s one more reason – because finishing it suddenly just seems TOO HARD.

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Holidays for a writer

Did you have a fun holiday? I did, even though it wasn’t a holiday, really. I wrote all morning as usual, then worked in my garden all afternoon.

Actually, I don’t have normal holidays. Not the same holidays as other people, anyway. I work every day until I finish whatever I’m writing. If I’m writing a novel for older kids (like right now), I don’t have any holidays for 6 months at least, sometimes a whole year.  But it’s such fun, usually, that I don’t mind.

In fact, even when I DO go on holidays, I like to write for a few hours every morning. Writing is my job, but I also write for fun. Sometimes on holiday I play around with writing rhymes or poems. It’s like doing exercise, except it helps keep my brain fit for writing. What do you like doing on your holidays?

If you haven’t guessed already, I LOVE my job. It doesn’t even feel like a job most of the time. (Except when I have to re-write a story 17 times – THEN it starts to feel like a job. The worst job in the world. Have you ever seen the movie Groundhog Day? Well, THAT’s what it kind of feels like to be re-writing the same story over and over again…)

On a normal day, I get up around 7 o’clock, make a pot of tea, then go straight to my computer. I check emails and Facebook, and reply to any letters etc. Then I re-read what I wrote the day before. Usually I have to spend the next hour or two re-writing to make it better. When I think it’s ready OK, I write some more.

My brain normally gets tired around 2 o’clock, so I finish. It’s hard to write when your brain’s not working. After lunch, I work in my garden if it’s fine. If it’s raining, I read or sometimes write some more. Or sometimes I get in my helicopter and fly down to Antarctica to visit my penguin friends. They always bake a lovely fish cake for me. Yum!

OK, I better get back to work. If you have any questions, just ask!!

Catchya lata alligata!


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The Queen’s birthday?

So this weekend we get an extra holiday because it’s the Queen’s birthday. I wonder what the Queen does for her birthday? It must be hard to buy a birthday present for the Queen. Any idea what YOU would buy the Queen? It’s very nice of her to give us all a holiday.

I’m going home to Millers Flat for four whole days. Hopefully it’s nice weather, because my garden is slowly becoming a jungle, and I’m hoping I can get it looking a bit tidier by the end of the weekend. Or maybe I should give up and let it grow into a jungle. It would be pretty cool to live in a jungle. Except the monkeys would probably keep sneaking into my house ans stealing my bananas. And it might be hard to sleep with elephants trumpeting all the time.

Speaking of elephants, my new book (well, it’s kinda new, because it only came out in February) is about an elephant with little ears. The book’s called Three cheers for No-ears. In the story, No-ears gets teased by all the other elephants because he has tiny ears. But in the end he discovers that small ears can be useful sometimes, too. I don’t know what I’d do if I had tiny ears. OR huge floppy ears!! But I think it would be very useful to have a tail… or maybe not. Hmmmm, do you think having a tail would be cool, or not?

OK, I better get back to work.  I’m visiting the Balmacewan Intermediate school writing group this afternoon. It’s always fun meeting keen young writers. Have a great weekend!!!

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Check out our June Star Author – Kyle Mewburn

Our Star Author for June is New Zealand author, Kyle Mewburn.  Kyle lives in Otago has been writing full-time since 1997.  He has written lots of books for different ages, including Kiss, Kiss, Yuck, Yuck, Old Hu-Hu, Hill and Hole, A Crack in the Sky,  and the Pop Hooper’s Perfect Pets series.  His latest book for younger readers comes out this month, called Do Not Push and we’ll be giving away copies of it here on the blog.

When he’s not writing, Kyle says he’s “either in my garden singing to my vegies, in the creek swimming or exploring the strange land I discovered at the back of my wardrobe…(OK, that last bit may not be completely true).”  Make sure you check out Kyle Mewburn’s Star Author posts in June.

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