Posts tagged March Star Author

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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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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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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