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READ WRITE INSPIRE. Welcome to my Words, a place devoted to making Reading and Writing for children more Inspired.


Friday, 17 October 2014

Review - Snap Magic - It's more than hocus pocus


Little Witches ~ Angela and sister Nadia Sunde
at Snap Magic's Launch
Tweenhood is a terrifically testing time. One I remember of intense scrutiny when everything about you; the way you look, the way you dress and the friends you avoid suddenly becomes big deal. You find yourself navigating that mystical ground twixt ‘little kid’ and ‘fully fledged adolescent’, feeling as though your every move is being examined under some humongous magnifying glass for humiliating broadcast. It’s a time to loosen grip on your childhood beliefs while at the same time search for new vessels of magic in which to float your maturing soul. Complicated concepts at any age, but utterly bewildering at age twelve. Yet Lily Padd, star of Angela Sunde’s inaugural Pond Magic, is about to set sail in another tale of pre-puberty angst to prove to us all that tweenhood really is ‘a snap’.

Snap Magic snaps, crackles and fizzes from the moment Lily plunges into the girls’ toilets to escape the painful inflictions of Rick Bastek, a lad with limited like-appeal and tarnished intelligence. Aside from the awful daily avoidance of being ‘snapped’ by Rick, Lily is also at odds with an embarrassing secret of her own which threatens the childhood confidence she shares with her long time bestie, Maureen.

Things slide further down the gurgler when the two girls realise their whispered bathroom exchanges have been overheard by Ellen Middleton, the meanest, prettiest girl in school, who’s so feminine she makes you want ‘to puke’; you know the type.

Lily is distraught beyond words. Ellen threatens to divulge every lurid detail about Lily to the whole school which could easily ruin any hope of snagging a friendship with the staggeringly charming new boy, Storm. 

Maureen is convinced witchcraft is to blame again after she notices long black hairs sprouting from her best friend’s face. She might well be right when Lily’s bewitching neighbour, Mrs Swan becomes involved. It isn’t until the eve of the school’s Halloween Dance that Lily realises that if magic can cause such colossal chaos, perhaps it can overcome it too. 


Snap Magic is a book young girls and boys will instantly warm to. Angela Sunde has magicked a spellbinding story that showers readers with more sparkling moments of silliness than there are hairs on a yeti’s chin, which by the end of the story, are many.

Lily is a lovably verve-loaded girl with a wry sense of humour whose desire for obscure normality is at conflict with her knowledge of things of a more Wiccan nature. Sunde has crafted a cast of non-obnoxious characters easy to read and laugh along with, my favourite being Maureen; pumpkin-haired, brazen tempered, self-assured and faithful as a puppy.

With gossamer fine references to Cinderella floating throughout, Snap Magic reinvents the twist in twisted fairy tales with frequently funny injections of parody. Nothing escapes Sunde’s wickedly wacky observation of our humble suburban lives: snap and store party plans, frozen bras and spectral pumpkin soup; it’s all there to be snapped up, now.

Snap Magic is the perfect bookshelf companion to Pond Magic yet reading it first will in no way diminish the magic of either.

Terrific for tweens, lovers of pumpkin soup and budding little witches everywhere.

Red Pedal Press October 2014 You can locate Snap Magic here.

Follow Angela as she zaps around on her Blog Tour broomstick. Check out the dates and places by clicking on the Snap Banner.

http://angelasunde.blogspot.com.au/2014/10/the-snap-magic-blog-tour-schedule.html
Want to talk to a real witch? I chat with Angela about Snap Magic and casting spells over at Boomerang Books Blog. (OK, so she’s not really a witch but boy can she cackle and looks super fetching in witches’ britches.)

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

What Are Your Dreams Worth?

A week or so ago I rambled on about the whys and wherefores of seeking out grants and how to go about securing one for yourself. You can read all about how and when the penny dropped for me here.

Now that I have successfully acquitted my first grant, I have time to reflect on exactly what it meant, what I gained from it and whether I'd do it all over again. So here we go, my top reasons for granting yourself permission to shine:

What did it mean being awarded a grant?
  • Freedom.To expand on my writing goals and bring more of them closer to fruition.
  • Resources. To perfect my picture book projects. I undertook a structured mentorship with Dee White to facilitate this.
  • Choice. To use funds to make decisions that positively influenced, affected and improved my craft.
It meant I could afford a mentor. It meant I could afford to attend conferences and workshops that not only enriched my writerly soul but skill box as well. It meant I had available finance to validate the existence and worthiness of a writing project, which in turn meant I had ruddy well get on and make it work. Knowing this meant I could get up everyday and actually feel like I was going to work. Psychologically, that was wonderful for my creative mojo.

What did I gain from funding?
  • A sense of acknowledgement. Somebody was willing to take a punt on me. That's an awesome feeling. It drives you to deliver.
  • Pride. I was financially better armed and more determined than ever to perfect (picture book) manuscripts that had for too long languished about in files and second place, just out of publishers' cross hairs. It felt like I was taking (better) ownership of them again.
  • Accessibility. I was able to actively participate in and attend festivals and conferences that had erstwhile been just out of my reach.
  • Intensive mentoring. This was a marvellous rite of passage for me as a writer. To work one-on-one with a mentor who gets you and your work yet still strives to push you beyond your comfort zone is not always as fun as eating cake but I personally found it just as moreish. It raised the challenge of self-editing, writing harder, thinking smarter and remaining honest to myself to exhilaratingly new levels. This was something I hadn't always got from writing group appraisals or buddy critiques alone.  Mentoring meant I had somebody permanently there, watching my back, ready to lend a supporting hand whenever my words fell into a pot hole and needed pulling out.
  • Achievement. I feel I have really learned something after another year of workshops and exposure to industry professionals. Perhaps I would have attended those courses anyway in due course, but through mentoring, I've been able to consolidate that knowledge; really get to know it and apply it in a way that feels more akin to second nature than ever before.
  • Publication. Well, not quite but ever closer. One manuscript is still with a prospective publisher as a result of months of rewriting and work on it. Maybe they'll be the next 'somebody' willing to take a punt on me...
So would I do it all over again?

You betcha. While the whole process of tracking down the best funding opportunity for you and your project and subsequently applying for it does chew into a fair chunk of your writing time, it is at the same time a liberating and gratifying experience, similar to getting your stories on the page in the first place.

Many other grant recipients I know have gone on to produce and or publish fine works with the monies (and time) they've received through funding bodies. Having dreams is fine. Relentlessly pursuing them is great. Not being afraid of asking for help when your dream pool dries up now and then is simply a sensible (and not uncommon) business decision.

Regardless of what direction my personal publishing success takes, I will continue to apply for further funding. And I remain compelled to connect with my (young) reading community, because I feel this is a crucial component of my job as a writer for children, and therefore a patron of children's literature.

In the words of Yann Martel:


If we citizens do not support our artists, then we sacrifice our imagination on the altar of crude reality and we end up believing in nothing and having worthless dreams.

Make your dreams count.



Monday, 22 September 2014

Granted - Writing a Picture Book ain't easy

Around winter a year ago, I was blessed to be awarded a  CAL Creative Industries Career Fund grant. There was much rejoicing and disbelief then more rejoicing. This was duly followed by quiet hand clapping, frantic paper shuffling, pencil sharpening and then excited conference booking. Several spread sheets, dozens of workshop notes, zillions of manuscript drafts and one grant acquittal later, I am happy to report that I am creeping ever closer to the conviction that granted, writing a picture book is not as straightforward as a walk in the park even when that walk includes the most beguiling, fluffy-eared, impeccably behaved pup displaying all the necessary attributes to make passersby stop and swoon with delight, but it is one hundred per cent worth it.

In fact this is a notion I've been clinging onto for some years now, rather like a the proverbial dog with a bone. But as any progressing author (I tend to shun the term 'emerging'. I mean I've been born, already.) will tell you, without the merchandising funds of your latest, in fact your only, published work to sustain you, finding replacement leads for your pencils, let alone inspiration to continue writing gets a bit tricky.

http://www.copyright.com.au/cultural-fund/apply-for-funding-career-development/projects-supported-by-the-creative-industries-career-fund/copy_of_projects-supported-2012
So I decided to step up my speed and purpose and ask for a helping hand. I applied for many funds and fellowships with the same commitment and determination as I had when entering competitions and awards in the past. And I lucked out. How to go about choosing and applying for grants is an art unto itself. Getting the timing right can be as exacting as submitting a manuscript. But the fact is, there are many organisations, associations and funding bodies that offer regular opportunities for you to seek financial assistance for your writing or illustration project no matter what it might be.

For those ready and interested, this re-blogged post of Charlotte Wood's is an extremely useful and detailed look at how to go about the grant writing process (for literary funding). The article hits every nail on the head. Of course I happened across it after already applying for mine. But nonetheless, it provides great reminders for the next time and time after that.

So what have I learnt?
  • Know exactly why you want a grant. Have a clear project goal with attainable objectives but don't be unrealistic.
  • Invest in your self and your work, put in the hard yards first. In other words, commit to your craft. It pays to accrue some industry experience, credentials and publications. I waited several years before applying.
  • Cultivate your author persona and almost as important, be aware of those around you.
  • Do your homework. Study what's on offer and determine which fund, grant, award or fellowship will best suit your project requirements at this stage of your career.
  • Be prepared, ordered and methodical when completing grant applications. Follow application guidelines to the letter.
  • Details matter. Take time to work on a realistic budget (they may want to see how you intend to spend the money they offer you). Work on supplying quality support material, this may include samples of your own work and or letters of recommendation from those in the industry.
  • Acquit your grant in a timely and professional manner. This is when you report back to the funding body at the completion of your grant period, once you've been awarded it. Because you will get one. It's only a matter of time...
Why did I seek funding?

Because I'd been walking around that park with my picture book pup (actually a whole pack of them) for a long time. Enjoyable as that was, I felt like I was going in circles. Structured mentorships had been unattainable to me before but with the CIC fund I finally had the opportunity, impetus and (great sigh of relief), resources to embark on one. This I did with the awesomely patient and wise, Dee White. The year that followed, attending conferences, stockpiling information and working with Dee one-on-one on my manuscripts was the most incredible rite of passage.

So what did I gain?

Well, you'll have to tune in again next time when I outline what a grant did for me and how you could benefit too.

Granted, you may not quite be at this stage yet, so simply file this information away safely. You will be one day.
http://deescribewriting.wordpress.com/mentoring/

Thanks to Sheryl Gwyther for first bringing Charlotte's wonderful blog post to my attention.


Thursday, 18 September 2014

Sparking ideas with Melissa Wray

Almost two years ago fellow author, Melissa Wray and I shared a marvelous first. We published our debut novels for children with Morris Publishing Australia. Each story grew from very different beginnings. Her's Destiny Road, is a story about decisions and consequences, walking the right path and growing up. A raw, non-comprising look at a young girl's coming of age, suited to older teens.

But from where did the seed of this idea originate and how did it germinate within Melissa's writing realm? If you have ever wondered about the inside stories, the stories behind the stories of great writing, read on. It's goosebumpy good.

What sparked the idea to write Destiny Road?
Recently Melissa Wray was asked this question by Uncommon YA. Here is her very personal response.
We moved to North Queensland when I was 14. After a year or so Mum could see that something about Townsville and I did not mix. Strangely enough it was her suggestion to ring my dad and ask if I could move back south.


So I did. Then I packed my bags and moved 3,000km away to live with him. This decision is what sparked the idea for Destiny Road.


Now I never set out to write this story, let alone have it published. It just kind of happened. It came about because one night I was lying in bed and couldn’t sleep. There was an unspoken conversation going on in my mind. It was a conversation that I regret not having and has played on my mind over the years. This particular night it got the better of me so I got up and began to write. It wasn’t until after I read through those mad ramblings a couple of weeks later that I thought hmmm … I could create a story from this. So I began writing. I passed my 10,000 word milestone. Then 20 then 30 then before I knew it 50,000 words had been typed.


You see I think about that one phone call I made all those years ago sometimes. I have often thought about how that decision, that one pivotal moment that is talked about in Destiny Road, really did change the course of my life. I’m sure as you're reading this you can look back over your life, and pinpoint one moment that has shaped it in a big way. I truly believe that Dad saying yes when I asked was a determining factor in how things have turned out for me.


One afternoon I was sitting with him. He got to talking about his philosophy on life and death. Dad had been fighting a battle against cancer for a while at this point and I was kneeling next to him as he sat on his reclining chair. He was holding my hand as he shared these ideas on life and death. He said to me "It’s cool. Whatever happens, it’s cool." My dad used cool a lot when he spoke. He was pretty cool. He was also a big believer in God. So that afternoon he said "It’s cool if I die because I get to meet my maker." ‘Then he said "But it’s cool if I live because I get to be with the ones I love." This was his philosophy. Either way was cool with him.


I remember kneeling there, holding his hand and wishing I could say thankyou to him. Thanks for saying yes all those years ago. Thanks for that pivotal moment in my life. I wanted him to know how much that meant. But I couldn’t. I just couldn’t get those words out.


That night he passed away.

I never did get to tell him and have regretted that for the past 10 years. So you see once the spark to write Destiny Road was lit, it had to finished. It was my tribute, my thankyou and I am beyond thrilled it was published.

Now I’m not going to bore you with my views on life and death but I can’t help but wonder something, because anyone who knew my dad, Rod Morris, and anyone who knew his sense of humour ... well I can’t help but wonder if there wasn’t a helping hand when Morris Publishing (no relation) chose to publish Destiny Road. I like to think so.


It's hard to believe two years has passed since the launch of Destiny Road. To celebrate there is a chance to win 2 x $20 Gift Cards, ENTER NOW!



To connect with Melissa;

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Blasting off with Tottie and Dot and Tina Snerling

Today is special. Today we welcome two new girls to the neighbourhood. They are Tottie and Dot and they grace the pages of Tania McCartney's and Tina Snerling's latest creation, Tottie and Dot. To celebrate, the girls are having a BLOG BLAST party guaranteed to have you screaming with delight.


 Here's a snippet of what I thought of this yummy picture book.


Tottie andDot is the latest picture book deliciousness doled up by Tania McCartney and Tina Snerling. As with their previous bestseller, An Aussie Year, Tottie and Dot effortlessly teams McCartney’s delectable dream-like story line with Snerling’s candy-luscious illustrations. Sweetly simple statements are anchored on full double page spreads with divinely drawn detail, right down to the tiny-tarred paw prints and gumball pebbled paths.

You can read the rest of my review of Tottie and Dot here. Meanwhile, I've just spotted illustrator, Tina Snerling. If I can keep her away from the apricot sandwiches for a moment, I might be able to ask her a few arty type questions. Hope you can hear us over the screaming...

Hi Tina - fantastic party. Tell me...
 

Q. Who is Tina Snerling? Describe your illustrative self.

My life is immersed daily in illustration, vibrant colour and intense patterns. There is rarely a day that passes that I am not drawing, brainstorming or dreaming of what will be illustrated next. It is my day job, my night job, my hobby, my passion and my dream.



Q. How long have you been illustrating kids’ books? What do you find most gratifying about it?

I have been illustrating kid’s books for nearly 5 years – wow, I can’t believe it’s been that long! My first illustration was creating the characters for ‘An Aussie Year’, with Tania.  The most gratifying part of illustrating children’s books is creating characters from my own imagination and watching the children connect with each one on their own level.  It is like a thousand Christmas’s come at once when you see your book in print for the first time!

Q Your illustrations seem to use a truncated palette of colours yet come across full of colour-popping detail. How do you achieve this?

Colour is my passion, and one of the most enjoyable processes of illustrating is creating the colour palette. I am drawn to intense, complementary colours – and kids respond so well to it too! It wasn’t until I began illustrating my third children’s picture book that I even realised I have a particular style when it comes to colour -  I don’t do anything in particular to create this, I am just naturally drawn to a succinct, vibrant colour palette. 


Q. What look were you trying to achieve with Tottie and Dot? Why?

I wanted two recognisable characters that were very clear with their identity. Given the intensity of the story line, I knew it would become chaotic, so I loved the idea of creating characters that stood out amongst the chaos. I wanted ‘Tottie and Dot’ to be a maze of illustrations that kept their reader interested long after they had read the words. I hid little details in each page, waiting for the reader to find them.



Q. This is the second time you have partnered your pictures with Tania McCartney. Was this a deliberate choice to collaborate or just happy chance?

Deliberate choice – absolutely! Tania and I are actually currently working on our third picture book! We both work so well together, and hope to continue to work together for many years to come. Our partnership is a team effort – there is no Author and Illustrator in our case – we want our books to be recognisable as a collaboration rather than separate artists working together. 



Q. What media are you most comfortable illustrating in? What medium did you use to create Tottie and Dot?

I am a digital illustrator, and I work very differently to many traditional artists. I generally don’t sketch using a pencil and paper – all my ideas are drawn directly onto the screen using my graphics tablet and Adobe Illustrator. I am a perfectionist with my illustrations, and I love using digital as I can easily re-draw an incorrect stroke or change a colour at the touch of my pen. Tottie and Dot was drawn digitally.




Q Which colour best represents you and why?

The colour that best represents me is probably 'yellow' I tend to be drawn to this colour in all aspects of my life. It's a happy colour that's hard to be depressed around and it evokes thoughts of brightness and energy - I would like to think that's how people think of me!



Q. What’s on the drawing board for Tina?

Many, many things!!! During the day, I am a Graphic Artist for a children’s stationery company – on my days off/at night when I should be sleeping -   I illustrate children’s books. In the very near future I will be concentrating even more on illustration and am working on illustrating my own book, among other things!



Q. Just for fun question (there’s always one) If you could make up any flavour tea, what would be your favourite concoction?

Oh, this is a hard one for me as I don’t actually drink tea (or coffee for that matter!) If I did, it would definitely be sweet – strawberry, vanilla and anything chocolate!!!

Fabulous Tina. Thanks for the chat and the chance to party with Tottie and Dot.

But don't leave yet - this party is ALL DAY. Check out the Blog Blast Schedule for more awesome pit-stops, interviews, give-aways, reviews and tantalising tip bits on  Tottie and Dot. Or just click on the poster. It's that easy.



EK Books September 2014
#tottieanddot

Monday, 11 August 2014

SCBWI Sydney Conference 2014 - Lasting Impressions

It's the last month of winter. Almost four weeks since I had to dig out my gloves and wraps for the first time this year. They accompanied another 'first'. An experience I had been secretly yearning for, aspiring toward for years...my first SCWBI Conference. And, unlike a few other 'firsts', it exceeded all expectations.

Much of what went down, who was there and what we got up to has been magnificently covered both on the official SCBWI Australian/NZ web and blog sites, and featured in several sensational personal accounts, not least of which is Tania McCartney's SCBWI Wrap Up post. Be you author, illustrator, industry professional or just interested passer-by with a fondness for Kids Lit, you're bound to unearth some awesome insights on your favourite artists, books and literary gems.

Here are a few recollections and choice tip bits of my own, along with the mandatory blurred snapshot to seal the moment.

Feeling like a kid allowed to go to her first big party by herself, I rugged up, boarded up and headed off to sunny Sydney.

Had to stifle slight alarm after sliding into the taxi and was promptly asked by the driver how to get to The Hughenden Hotel. Hmm but get there, we did.

The cosy lounges and corridors of this charming boutique hotel soon bubbled with conversation and old chums. A veritable cauldron of new faces and old, some connecting for the first time in spite of years of cyber friendship. It felt like a magnificent homecoming in many ways.




First task: to register. Met these two bear-skinned cuties in the marquee. Poor little mites must have misunderstood the brief and filled out themselves instead of the forms provided. Oh dear.







Kick-off at 3.00pm Opening remarks were lost as a rabble ensued thanks to one boisterous baby brolga and some unruly banana-benders.

Rachelle Sadler, Rebecca Sheraton, Yvonne Mes, Peter Taylor & Tracey Lennon




Fortunately the unflappable Christopher Cheng was there to lend a hand and restore calm.



Things settled down and I settled with the idea of sharing digs with these three ratbags - Sheryl Gywther Head of the Rovers, Jacque Duffy minus her bear and the effulgent Kaz Delaney.



Meal times were quite memorable. Scott Chambers and Peter Taylor seen here with their unfortunate Freundian choice of table number.
Deb Abela, Mark Greenwood, Frane Lessac and DianneWolfer.



Feeding time fun at the Woollahra Hotel.







Dianne Wolfer encouraging a frail looking Wendy Binks to wolf it all down.













Sessions Away!

Room to Read's Wendy Rapee inspired and moved, by reminding us that 'the ripple effect is world changing'.

Connie Hsu















'Publishing is Conversation and Collaboration' Maryann Ballantyne Black Dog Books

'Be the next you!' Karen Tayleur The Five Mile Press

'Give readers a visceral reaction' Connie Hsu Roaring Brook Press

'Visual elements in books are a HUGE draw card for older readers.' Connie Hsu

'You can get a hole in one depending on how many times you want to hit the ball'  Tania McCartney

'Books are static. We need to make them real for people' Kathryn Otoshi KO Kid's Books

'Encourage, support. Start small and grow organically. Stay true to yourself and give back' Tania McCartney

'Remember your eight year old self' Tania McCartney

'Even back cover Blurbs need a resolution' Melina Marchetta


'Look for your pot of gold but don't be unrealistic. Study which fund, grant, award or fellowship will suit you and your project best and stick to the application guidelines' regarding tips on seeking grants.

'How do you move 250,000 books? Use boxes' Louise Park Paddlepop Press

'Never orphan your product for what you think is a good marketing plan. Have a contingency plan and invest YOURSELF in it to the very end' Louise Park





'Focus should be on excellent books to increase the pleasure of reading' Professor Ernst Bond

'Provide diverse experiences so kids can connect' Professor Bond

Master class with Bruce Whatley, Christina Booth, Tania McCartney, Nicky Johnston and me. Photo courtesy Tania McCartney.
'Common Core Standards can increase visual literacy, critical thinking, better writing and an understanding of literary elements' Professor Bond







'If an illustrator can find their own visual narrative, they will add multiple layers to the book and enhance the text rather than simply duplicate it' Bruce Whatley 


'I never feel I'm quite 'there' because if I get there, I may stop.' Bruce Whatley



Then things started to slide when they let publishers from Walker Books Australia, Harper Collins, Black Dog Books and Scholastic Australia up on stage to 'assess' a couple of outstanding but as yet uncontracted book concepts pitched by our own efficacious Susanne Gervay and Frane Lessac.

They had every chance to make it as shown here by Sue Whiting's display of a fart making picture book.




The Budgie Smuggler pitch met with wild applause and generous feedback.



However Frane was advised that her artwork need more refinement.

Scott Chambers, Frane Lessac, Meredith Costain, James Foley

Fortunately she was recompensed with Mark Greenward's booty thanks to the award winning efforts of The Beatnickers.

Susanne Gervay Extraodinarie with Frane Lessac
Already fat on fun, fabulous facts and friendships, we rewarded ourselves with group shots, dinner, wine and a bit of choralling of course to the wonderful groove of The Beatnickers. Have a peek at the video below for a glimpse of authors and illustrators behaving...quite well actually.
Queensland SCBWI members
SCBWI Sydney Roving Reporter Team headed by Sheryl Gywther


The SCBWI Sydney Conference was a fantastic meeting of minds, kindred spirits, ideas and shared dreams and in some ways, of a realisation of ourselves as valued members of a truly tremendous industry. Just in case anyone didn't realise who they were, I requested they all hold up their name tags. What a self-aware bunch.

The Delegates - a fraction of

And so, as the halls emptied and the ink dried on the limbs of another set of SCBWI bears, I headed back to my writing nook, to bask in the warm afterglow of my inaugural Sydney conference confident it would not be my last.

What did the SCBWI conference mean for me?

Apart from a few days respite from making school lunches...

It was more than the absorbing and enriching presentations and workshops.

It was more than the chance to mingle with contempories and pitch my work.

It was like attending a big family reunion. Hundreds of people, some you may not know intimately, some you have never met before but there pervaded a powerful sense of being part of something greater, an extended family, of belonging.

As dawn goes down today...on Sydney
If you are a published or self-published children's author or illustrator and want to find out more about the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators and exactly what it offers, have a look here. Consider becoming a member. You could do far worse than listening to the Beatnickers once in a while...