Posts tagged March 2014 Star Author

Competition: Guess the book name!

When all eight books of The Fly Papers are released, the names, listed, will form a sort of poem. Books 1 and 2 are out already, and we’re working on Book 3:  The Aldrovanda Turns. 

Dion-EB2(An aldrovanda is an amazing carnivorous waterweed – like a floaty Venus flytrap. Sadly we can’t get them in NZ.)

So. Here’s the poem so far:

The flytrap snaps

The sundew stalks

The aldrovanda turns ….

 

What do you think the next line in the poem might be? In other words – what do you think book 4 will be called? 

Here are some other carnivorous plant names to give you ideas:

Pitcher plant

Bladderwort

Butterwort

Cobra lily

Byblis

Pinguicula

Heliamphora

Sarracenia

Cephalotus

Nepenthes

 

Have a guess what Book 4 will be called in the comments, and you’ll go in the draw to win the first two books in The Fly Papers – as well as go on our list to receive a free copy of Book 3 as soon as it’s out.

You don’t have to be right! It’s going to be a random draw. Have fun!

 

 (Illustration by Sabrina Malcolm.)

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Solving The Fly Papers mysteries

character1 If you’ve been following the adventures of Spencer, Tora, and their friends in the first two books of The Fly Papers, you know that the kids still have a lot of mysteries to figure out. Luckily they’ve got six more books to do it in!

People often ask if I’ve planned what’s going to happen all the way through to the eighth book.

When I first started writing book one, my answer was, ‘Mmmm … kind of.’ I had a vague resolution that I aimed get to at the end of book eight, but that was about all.

character2The wise and generous author Fleur Beale took me in hand and told me (nicely) that I needed to do better than that. She warned that if I didn’t have a very clear idea what was going to happen throughout the whole series, then writing it would be dangerous. I might get to a point later in the plot where I was stuck and would suddenly realise I should have written things differently earlier on.

So I came up with a few paragraphs of plot description for each book, but deep down, I knew it might not be enough to save me from a plot tangle.

Luckily – after the first book was published – something exciting happened. We got approached by a  producer working for quite a famous British film and TV company. This company was interested in maybe turning The Fly Papers into a TV series! (I didn’t believe it at first. I didn’t even reply to their email for about a month, because I thought it was someone scamming me. But nope, it was legit.)

Well. First they wanted to know more aboutcharacter3 every book’s storyline. So I began feverishly developing the plot in more detail than I’d ever tried to do before.

As it happened, no TV series eventuated. (Such is the uncertain nature of the film and TV industry.)

I was a bit disappointed, but not horribly, because I’d been trying not to get my hopes up. I was also grateful. I now had pages and pages of plot information to work from, all the way through to the end of The Fly Papers.

character5So now, when people ask me if I’ve planned what’s going to happen the answer is, ‘Yes – everything!’

(But no, I’m not telling.)

P.S. All these lovely character illustrations from The Fly Papers are by the marvellous illustrator Sabrina Malcolm.

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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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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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The lure of mystery

Hi everyone – I’ve been looking forward to being your March author.

Do you like mystery?

I do. Growing up, my favourite book series was The Three Investigators. I longed to discover this gang was real and join them as investigator number four –  I mean, they really did need a girl.

I also loved those mysteries you have to solve yourself, like the Encyclopedia Brown stories – except I got impatient and looked up the answers. Then I’d feel angry at myself and try to brainwash myself into believing I’d worked them out on my own.

ImageThe stories I love writing are also mysterious ones. The Fly Papers is full of mystery.

Another series I’m working on is The Owl Kids. It’s for a magazine called Wild Things and has wonderful illustrations by Adele Jackson. (Like the one on the left right!ahem, 45 years old and I still get my left and right mixed up sometimes.)

I’ll talk more about it soon, but you can read the first episode here – and solve the first of its mysteries.

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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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