Posts tagged writers

Meet our August Star Author – Juliet Jacka

Our awesome August Star Author is Juliet Jacka.  Juliet is a New Zealand author, whose debut novel, Night of the Perigee Moon, was published earlier this year.   Biography for author Juliet Jacka.   Juliet has wanted to write for years, in large part inspired by her love of Margaret Mahy’s young adult books. Escaping the call of writing would have been hard, as she comes from a family of bookworms and crossword fanatics.

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

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Meet our May Star Author – Sue Copsey

Our fantastic May Star Author is New Zealand author, Sue Copsey.  She is an editor and an author who writes for both children and adults.  Sue’s books include Children Just Like Me, Our Children Aotearoa and The Ghosts of Young Nick’s Head.

Thanks for joining us Sue!  We look forward to hearing all about your writing and other roles.

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Festivals, workshops and bookish events


I am busy this week getting ready for Word Café, Raglan’s first ever writers’ and readers’ festival. It is happening this weekend (10 and 11 May) and there is going to be an amazing line-up of writers.


I have been helping to organise the event, and am also presenting a workshop and reading some of my stories. I’m really looking forward to it, but am also a bit nervous. Like a lot of writers, although I love words, I am more comfortable writing them, than speaking them!

Still, getting out and promoting yourself seems to be part of a writer’s job description these days. And I do find that going along to writing festivals, workshops, readings and other bookish events is really good for my own writing.

Hearing other writers talk is very inspirational and gives you a real creativity boost. I always find that my mind is humming with ideas for new stories and ways to improve my old ones after I’ve listened to someone else talking about their work.

There is an American writer, Julia Cameron, who writes books for artists and writers about how to access and boost your creativity. One of her ideas is that you have to pamper your inner-writer (the place where your ideas comes from), so that it remains happy and creative. You have to give it treats and take it for days out to fun places: like writer’s festivals.

I like this idea, especially as the treats can involve fancy stationery (which I love) and chocolate (no comment needed).

I also think it’s important to go along to writing workshops and events, if you can, so you can improve the craft side of your writing. Part of writing is inspiration, but a much larger part is craft (learning how to make and structure a story, the best words to use, how and when etc).

You can learn this, just like any other skill. One way is practice. The other is by seeking out and learning all there is to know, so that when you sit down to write your story, your writing toolbox is full.

This weekend, I am going to be working alongside and listening to some very inspirational children’s writers at Word Café; I’ll tell you a bit more about them next week. After that, the next writing event I’m going to is the Golden Yarns: Children’s Writers and Readers Hui 2013, which is happening down with you, in Christchurch, at the beginning of June. I can’t wait! I wonder when I’ll find time to write?

Talk soon. Sarah

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A Study in Custard by Tierney Reardon

Check out Tierney’s ‘A Study in Custard’ that she wrote using Andy Griffiths’ writing prompt,Make the unbelievable believable.

A Study In Custard

“Scientific studies show that eating custard three times a day with fish fingers will minimize your chance of catching yellow fever; a disease cured by eating liberal amounts of custard,” says Dr. Gloopicus.

“I heard on the news that there are 154 ways of making a custard pie,” 73-year-old Mrs. Splatt explains, “but I know this to be wrong. I tried every method ever heard of, and there are actually 155.”

“Recent research findings prove that custard will withstand large shocks without being destroyed, making it a perfect substance for building houses,” says Prof. Dratsuc, who works at the University of Custard. “We are currently working on the first custard skyscraper.”

“Statistics show that 78 percent of people prefer their custard hot.” These poll results were published in Custard Monthly, a popular magazine. However, some disagree.

“Experts say that cold custard is fantastic on rough skin around areas such as heels and knees,” says supermodel Clarisse Ustard, who launched her nail polish brand this year; C. Ustard Nails. “I use custard on my skin once a week- and look at me!”

“It’s a well-known fact that lying in a bathtub full of cold custard improves your chances of passing exams by 35%,” claims mathematics teacher Ms. Yellow. Ms. Yellow gives out cartons of custard for her students to snack on while studying.

Nine out of ten doctors reccomend keeping a 2-litre carton of custard in your fridge for first aid emergencies. Custard can cure sore throats, paper cuts, headaches and hunger.

Sir C. Cream was unable to give his opinion on the matter, as he was tragically killed when he was sucked into a patch of custardsand while studying foreign custard recipes in Africa. May he rest in custard.

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Andy Griffiths Writing Challenge #2

Andy Griffiths, the author of Just Crazy, Just Tricking, Zombie Bums from Uranus and The 13-storey Treehouse, has just released his book about writing, called Once Upon a Slime.  In this very cool book he gives lots of tips about writing and some activities to help you become a better writer.  You’re probably looking for something to do in the holidays so why not try an Andy Griffiths writing challenge.

In the box below there is a writing challenge from Andy’s book, Once Upon a Slime.  Why not try it out and post your writing here on the blog.  Just post your piece of writing as a comment at the end of this post, along with your name and email address.  At the end of the week we’ll choose our favourite piece of writing and the author will win a prize pack of goodies from Typo.

Twelve Doors

Imagine that you are standing in front of twelve doors.  Behind one there is a fabulous treasure.  Behind the others are eleven of the most dangerous things in the world. Describe what lies behind each one.

For more great writing ideas check out Andy Griffiths’ new book, Once Upon a Slime.

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David Hill – Author Blog 4

I’ve spent quite a lot of time this week working on TWO novels. Does that sound impressive??

First, I’ve been going over the page proofs of a novel that’s coming out in June, called Brave Company. It’s about a teenage NZ seaman, who is on a NZ frigate during battles in the Korean War of the 1950s. Page Proofs are the final stage before the novel is actually published. Everything is set out exactly as it will be on the pages of the book, numbers and illustrations and all, and the author has to go – very carefully – through them, seeing if any mistakes have been made. There hardly ever are any; editors are a very efficient lot. But a final check is always a good idea.

The page proofs come after a series of stages in the making of a book. First, the author writes it. (Easy! Simple!) Then, if the publisher likes it and agrees to publish – and this often doesn’t happen; please don’t think that everything I write gets published – the editor will make suggestions on how to improve the book (add details here; cut bits out there; stop describing so much; stop the feeble jokes, etc) and author/editor work on these till they agree. This part can take weeks. After that, the designers make suggestions about cover, set-out, illsutrations / maps / diagrams, etc. And then come the page proofs.

The second book I’ve been working on is one I wrote over the winter / spring / summer. It’s about a NZ teenager in the 1970s who somehow gets involved in French nuclear tests in the Pacific. How? You’ll have to read the book – if it ever gets published. If that does happen, it won’t be till next year. I researched it, I wrote the first draft. I wrote the second draft. I wrote the third…..   And now I’m going over and over it, taking out a sentence on Monday, putting half of it back on Tuesday, getting the book as good as I can before I submit it.

So that’s what the author’s life can be like. It can also be full of pleasure. When you write anything – a book, a story, a poem, a letter – you make something that never existed in the world before. It’s special. It’s unique. And that’s something that nobody can ever take away from you. So the very best of luck with your own writing and reading.

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The thot plickens…

I’m up to my armpits in plotting at the moment.

Some writers adopt the headlight approach to their novels. American author EL Doctorow is credited with saying, ‘Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.’

I’m sure that’s comforting for some.

I need to know where I am at every stage of my journey. So I take the obsessive military planner approach to my books. That is, I need high-res satellite imaging of every inch of the way and don’t bore me with diverting side trips to that picturesque lake back at the turnoff. My troops are massed and they have a plan to follow. The logistics are in place; the supply line is organised. We march at dawn!

I plot. A lot.

It always starts the same way. With a 240 page A4 spiral-bound notebook, and my lucky mechanical pencil (a LAMY scribble Druckbleistift that I picked up at a stationers in Auckland about ten years ago, if you must know.) I’ve used that pencil for all my books and would be lost without it.


I always have a firm idea of where the story is going to go before I begin. I crack open the notebook and start, very simply, with the prologue. And I write. In pencil. For about three months. I average about three chapters a week. So over twelve weeks I can complete an 80,000 word novel. At least, the first draft of that novel. Once I’m done, if I have the luxury of time, I put it away for a month or so and let it fester in its own juices. Then I crank up the laptop and start the task of typing it up, embellishing and polishing as I go. At this stage some characters blossom and others wither. Various plot twists are crinked and action scenes are choreographed in minute detail. I can often be found prancing around the house, trying to recreate a chase sequence or a fight scene, just to make sure it’s feasible. It will take about six weeks to complete that second draft. Then the editing kicks in. I’ll go through the manuscript at least a half dozen times, making it perfect, before I submit I to my editor, who will then show me just how far from perfect it actually is. By the time the manuscript is ready to be typeset it will be on its tenth draft. The whole process — from notebook to bookshop — takes about a year.

Then I start again.

I’m up to Chapter 27 of my next book. There’s about six chapters to go. It’s a fairly involved mystery and it has taken a long time to set the dominos in place. I’m just about to push the first one, and it will be action all the way to the finish line.

And I know exactly where that finish line is — I have a satellite image of it seared into my brain.

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Get writing and win awesome prizes!

Writing handDo you love to write?  Would you like to get your story published?  Would you like to win an amazing prize just for writing a story?  If you answered yes to all of those questions, then you’re in luck.   There is a very cool writing competition that you can enter at the moment to win some awesome prizes

  • 2012 Puffin Short Story Awards –  to enter you have to write a story of up to 500 words.  Your story could be about anything you want, just let your imagination run wild!  There are three categories – junior, intermediate and senior.  The winner of each category will receive an Apple iPad for themselves and 50 Puffin books for your school library (that’s such a great prize even I want to enter, but I’m too old).  Check out the Penguin Books website for more information.

What are you waiting for? Get writing and you could win some of these awesome prizes.

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Interview with Charlie Fletcher

Charlie Fletcher is the author of one of my favourite reads of 2011, Far Rockaway, as well as the Stoneheart Sequence.  I caught up with Charlie to ask him a few questions about Far Rockaway, classic characters and writing.

  • Cat and her grandfather Victor, plan to go to Far Rockaway at the end of the subway line.  Is Far Rockaway based on an actual place?

Absolutely, Far Rockaway is based on an actual place. If you’re in New York you can jump on the subway, and take the A-line train all the way eastwards, under the river, through Brooklyn and across Queens on to a long sand spit sticking out into the Atlantic and then you’re on The Rockaways . Then you just stay on the train until it literally runs out of track and America too, and that’s Far Rockaway.

Of course the other Far Rockaway in the book is an imaginary place, but it’s based on two very real landscapes, Solas Beach on the island of North Uist, and the uninhabited island of Mingulay, both in the Outer Hebrides where we go every summer to recharge the batteries. They’re among my favorite places in the world.

  • Cat meets some of the best characters from classic adventure stories in Far Rockaway.  Was it difficult to make those characters sound authentic?

If I did get the voices of say, Long John Silver or Alan Breck right, it’s entirely because I’m a writer, and thus a thief, and I stole from the best, for example,  Robert Louis Stevenson. He’s such a tremendously good story-teller and  he created magnificent heroes and anti-heroes in such a well-crafted and distinctive way that their voices just can’t help but live on in your head. And if their voices live in your head, you can then imagine how they might say things the original author never made them say, which makes reviving them such a pleasure.  I can often be found striding up and down my office having imaginary conversations with myself in the guise of my characters, and doing the voices at the same time. It’s a lot less dangerous than the other times when I’m acting out sword fights or bits of action in order to be able to describe them accurately, but it’s MUCH more embarrassing if any of my family walk in and catch me at it.

  • The main character in Far Rockaway, Cat, is a strong, independent girl who doesn’t need anyone to save her.  Is Cat based on someone in particular?

My daughter thinks I was inspired to write the book FOR her, which is generally true, because I write books for both my kids first. And it’s specifically true in this case because when she was about 12 she fell for a certain series of vampire related books but then suddenly un-fell for them a year later .  When I asked her why, she said well, she’d kinda liked the girly romance thing and everything first time round, but on a re-read realized that the heroine was always hanging about moping and waiting for the glamorous guys to rescue her. She thought that on reflection this was ‘a bit wimpy and old-fashioned’, and that she wanted books with stronger heroines…I could have stood up and cheered. If you want to know how a Real Girl defines herself, there’s a big clue in the last four words on p.403.

  • If you could meet one book character in real life who would you choose?

If it was a female character, it’d be Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice. Or Scout Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird. Or any or all of Terry Pratchett’s witches – Granny Weatherwax, Magrat or Nanny Ogg.  Or Eowyn from Lord of the Rings.  If it was a male character, then it’s Long John Silver from Treasure Island or Alan Breck Stuart from Kidnapped. Or  Mahbub Ali from Kim. I was going to say Gandalf from Lord of the Rings, but then I thought that Merlin from The Sword in the Stone might be more fun, since he’s not only a wizard, but is also living backwards in time. It’d be interesting to see what he had to tell us about the future.

  • What were the books that got you hooked when you were a kid?
Going from my earliest recollections, in order: being read to: Dr Seuss and Winnie the Pooh.  And then reading for myself, pre-teen? Tintin. Paddington. Asterix. Any comic I could find, especially The Eagle, Victor, Hotspur or The Trigan Empire strip off the back end of a mag called Look and Learn.  A book called Mary Plain, also about a bear. Biggles. Enid Blyton. The Borrowers.  The Rescuers. Alan Garner. Geoffrey Treece. Rosemary Sutcliffe. Ian Fleming.
  • If you could give one piece of advice to young writers, what would it be?

Read everything and anything you can lay your hands on. If you want to write: do it. Don’t let anyone discourage you about writing – LEAST OF ALL YOURSELF. Keep at it. Pay attention to everything, because everything matters. So does everyone. Keep writing, even when it’s hard. Don’t be discouraged because what you write sounds like something else you’ve read. That’s not a bad thing. Every writer began like that, and the ones that didn’t are lying.  Good luck and enjoy the ride.

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Dressage Day and Writing Tips

After a whole week of brilliant sunny days, on the actual day of the dressage competition it was absolutely hosing down! All the same, I decided to ride and so I took Ash along in the horse float in torrential rain to Woodhill Sands where the competition was being held. By the time I’d tacked him up both of us were soaked to the skin. We were also so over-excited about doing our first dressage competition in almost a year that Ash entered the ring with a giant buck!  He settled down after that and we managed to get two rosettes – one for third place and one for fifth. I liked the fifth place one the best because it was a very pretty shade of pink! It wasn’t exactly a stunning effort on our part, we could have done much better! But I’m sure we’ll improve for the next show and we had lots of fun!

It is school holidays at the moment so I’m planning to go riding in the forest with my daughter tomorrow. I love the forest! The woods are full of deer and the stags are in the roaring season at the moment and they sound like lions when they make their mating calls!

Meanwhile I have work to do! I  need to get started on my new book – Pony Club Rivals: The Prize.

Starting a new book is always hard and first chapters are the most difficult ones to write. I thought I might give a few tips on getting started for all you keen writers out there.

My Top 5 Writing Tips:

  1. Make a map of the plot before you begin to write. I often draw myself a map of all the chapters before I begin. I don’t usually stick to the plan, but it helps me to get my ideas sorted so I can start. I keep the map pinned to the wall above my desk.
  2. Figure out the key themes for your story. Who are the main characters going to be? What’s going to happen to them? What lessons will they learn in the course of the story?
  3. Set yourself achievable goals for writing. Try writing a page a day or a chapter a week. Goals are important because if you don’t have a ‘deadline’ or a target then it is hard to motivate yourself.
  4. Don’t ever give up because you have ‘writer’s block’. This is no excuse! Sit down and make yourself write something – anything! If I am having a bad day I still force myself to write – there’s always something worth keeping in the rough draft and you can go back and rewrite it up later.
  5. Be your own writing critic. Once you’ve done the rough draft go back and read it and think about how you could make it better. Then rewrite, rewrite and rewrite again!

I hope those hints help you. As for me – I should really go and get started on that novel right now!

X Stacy

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Writing Tip of the Week – Andy Griffiths

This week’s writing tip comes from the very funny Andy Griffiths, author of Just Tricking, Just Stupid, The Bad Book, The Big Fat Cow that goes Kapow, and many others.

“[Get a cheap exercise book] and start writing in it every day… five minutes a day to start with, and gradually increase to at least thirty minutes a day. You get better at writing like you get better at everything else: constant practice.”

Check out Andy Griffiths website to find out more about the author and his books, and watch some cool videos.

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Writing Tip of the Week – Eoin Colfer

This week’s writing tip comes from Eoin Colfer, the creator of Artemis Fowl, Holly Short, Foaly and LEPrecon.

“Practise – write every day even if it’s only for ten minutes. Remember, nothing is wasted. Eventually your style will emerge. Persevere!”

Check out Eoin Colfer’s cool website where you can find out more about the characters, watch videos and play games.  Get your hands on a copy of Eoin Colfer’s latest book, Artemis Fowl and the Atlantis Complex, from your library now.

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Meet great NZ authors at the Storylines Free Family Day

StorylinesIf you’re looking for something to do this weekend, why don’t you come along to the Storylines Free Family Day at the Christchurch Town Hall from 10am-3pm.  It’s a chance for you to meet some fantastic New Zealand authors and illustrators, including:

You could get your favourite author’s autograph, listen to them talk about their books and read some of them, make a cool mask or bookmark, or learn about the world around you in the Factopia Zone.

Who’s your favourite New Zealand author?  What question would you ask them if you got the chance to meet them?

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Writing Tip of the Week – Carole Wilkinson

This week’s writing tip comes from Carole Wilkinson, author of the Dragon Keeper series, and the Ramose series about Ancient Egypt.

“Don’t think you have to write a novel first off. And never try to make a story longer once you have got to the end. There is no set length for a story. A story can be six lines long or it might be 600 pages. A story is as long as it takes to tell.”

Visit Carole Wilkinson’s website for more information about the author and her writing.

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Writing Tip of the Week – Louis Sachar

This week’s writing tip comes from Louis Sachar, the author of Holes, There’s a Boy in the Girl’s Bathroom, the Wayside School series, and his new book The Cardturner.

I start really knowing the story, rewriting it to make it better, that it turns into something.”not untilto show them to anyone.  It’s  “The best advice I can give is what kids don’t like hearing, and that is you need to rewrite.  I understand; I used to hate rewriting when I was your age.  But my first drafts are absolutely awful.  I would be embarrassed


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Writing Tip of the Week – Rick Riordan

This week’s writing tip comes from Rick Riordan, author of the Percy Jackson series and his brand new series, The Kane Chronicles about Egyptian gods in the modern-day.

“Read a lot! Read everything you can get your hands on. You will learn the craft of writing by immersing yourself in the voices, styles, and structures of writers who have gone before you.

Write every day! Keep a journal. Jot down interesting stories you heard. Write descriptions of people you see. It doesn’t really matter what you write, but you must keep up practice. Writing is like a sport — you only get better if you practice.”

Visit Rick Riordan’s website for more writing tips, information about the author and his books.

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Writing Tip of the Week – Jacqueline Wilson

This week we have 3 writing tips for the price of 1 from the marvelous Jacqueline Wilson, author of Candyfloss, Girls in Love, Jacky Daydream and many, many more.

” Persist in your dreams. “My mum and dad didn’t believe I could make a living out of being a writer. But I kept on trying,” said Jacqueline.

Don’t be scared to use your imagination.

When creating a character it is all about getting that character to do what will make sense and show what kind of person they are. That means much more than the name you give them.”

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