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

Friday, 4 March 2016

Review: Madeline Cain: The Adventure Begins

Madeline Cain: The Adventure Begins Madeline Cain: The Adventure Begins by Emily Craven
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm comfortably well acquainted with many of the stories set in and around Brisbane here in SE QLD. It's a climate and people and ethos I can relate to being my birth-state. I'm even better acquainted with Rundle Mall's balls, Glenelg's beaches and the quintessence of North Terrace having grown up in Adelaide, which is perhaps why Emily Craven's Madeline Cain Adventures reeled me in in the first place. I was keen to revisit the city of my youth and the breeding ground of a trillion new experiences and life long mind-images; a bit like those of maturing teen, Madeline Cain.

In this introductory episode of her adventures (there are three books in total thus far), this almost 18-year-old and her tight ball of buds share their last few fraught post matriculating months with the world at large as Gen Y is wont to do...on the world wide social web. Madeline is stuck in a lime-light saturated spot between the rocks of 'Just because I'm super savvy with school work, the world expects me to go to Uni and love it' and 'I can't commit to a career choice because I have no idea what really rocks my boat'.

This novel trends well thanks to it's entreating format. Now while I'm a fan of fictitious epistolaries and admit I'm more addicted to social media than my Luddite tendencies profess, I did harbour a smidge of reservation about this. Most of me jumped with enthusiasm; surely this was going to be one fun read, the ultimate serve of social media funk. But a small part of me (that obstinate 19th C bit) thought, hang on, I get bored with inane social-media commentary at the best of times. How the heck was Craven going to maintain my voyeuristic verve for the length of an entire novel?

She did it with style and a gangbusters' attitude to keeping it real, that's how. Unless you live off grid, by yourself, with more than one cat and no inclination to boot up anything other than your wellies, you are more than likely to feel at home with the layout of this tale; told in genuine Facebook style through a series of posts and PMs. Never in my wildest moments would I have become this engaged and involved with a bunch of teenagers' trials and tribulations, not even when I was one. The tone is 200% conversational (of course) but rings so true and clear, it's alarming (pardon the pun).

Craven has delineated sharp, winning characters out of virtual drivel. Her intimate knowledge of Madeline's hometown also creates cutting-edge authenticity although you need not be a crow-eater to appreciate the setting in which Madeline first discovers her new passion and potential career path: photography. Madeline's online intercourse between her school mates, family and friends afar is so heavily spiced with wry witticisms, it made my eyes water - with laughter.

Madeline Cain makes the whole internet doctrine somehow more acceptable (for me) and a darn sight funnier. The only trouble with re-living my youth adventures through Maddie is that I want to see how she ends up...must-get-next-book, kind of want. A highly appealing, easy to scroll through, chuckle-worthy read for media savvy tweens, teens, NAs and ex-Adelaidians like me.
In short - I like LIKE it enough to SHARE. :-)

View all my reviews

Monday, 22 February 2016

Magic Fish Dreaming - Kickstarting a Dream

The sun shines with forcible brightness here in SE Queensland most days but at times, the radiance of those that I meet in my quest to fill pages for young people with my inner most hopes and dreams, outshines it all. Two such luminaries within my tribe are author, photographer, June Perkins and fine artist and children's book illustrator, Helen Magisson.

Together, they have embarked on a adventurous and exquisite project, creating a lusciously illustrated book of poetry for children, Magic Fish Dreaming. To float this dream collaboration, a Kickstarter funding campaign is underway. Whilst we can not always support every worthy project and needy cause, I urge you to have a look at this project that not only encapsulates the work of two very gifted artists but showcases the very essence of Far North Queensland, my birth place and one of the most richly diverse places on earth. Read on for information about Magic Fish Dreaming's creators, the Kickstarter crowd funding project and how you can become involved.

June Perkins, a recent ASA mentorship award recipient, is planning to self-publish her very first full colour illustrated poetry book for families and children Magic Fish Dreaming.   Brimming with the themes of nature, family and environment, Magic Fish Dreaming is inspired by the North Queensland, Australian, community, environment, and creatures it shares.

After eight years of writing, and sharing poetry for families and children in the Cassowary Coast, June, a long time poet now resident in Brisbane, felt the time had come for this poetry and the place and people it represented to be shared with the world for its beauty, diversity and inspiration.

Award winning, Brisbane based illustrator Helene Magisson, was captivated by June’s poetry when asked if she would like to come on board as the illustrator.  She has done some wonderful initial water colour illustrations which represent her interpretations of the text.

This book is designed especially for reading aloud with your nieces, nephews, children and grandchildren, and if you are a primary school teacher, students.  MagicFish Dreaming encourages readers to search for poetic inspiration in their everyday surroundings.

Poetic techniques are varied beyond rhyme and include: personification, address, metre, simile, metaphor, lyrical language, and repetition. Some of the forms in the book are: address, narrative, apostrophe, lyric, ballad, question and answer and haiku.

But it’s not just for children, June feels you will enjoy Magic Fish Dreaming if you are any age and curious about the Cassowary Coast, North Queensland and love illustrated books.

June is using Kickstarter to fund this venture.

Kickstarter is a crowd sourcing site designed to fund creative projects. It's not about donations. If you contribute, you get exactly what you pay for and if you opt for it some delightful rewards to make your day.

June is using Kickstarter as poetry books for children are an extremely difficult genre to have any mainstream publisher pick up unless you are an already established poet and have an agent.  But she feels that poetry has just so much to offer the world especially a poetry celebrating environment, peace and diversity and is proud of the works she has crafted and had professionally edited.  Some of them have been previously published in other anthologies.

The book is written and edited and almost ready to print.  The Kickstarter will assist in paying for the rest of the illustrations, the prepress layout and some of the printing costs.

Amongst the Kickstarter rewards there are native animal soft toys, prints, stickers, bags, totem inspired creations, and a beautifully hand crafted cassowary. There are also a few workshop options, done by skype, email or in person.

The top level rewards are strictly limited.  So head over to the campaign and find out more and if you love the book - make your pledge.

June, Helene, and the rest of the Magic Fish Dreaming Team would love it if you can spread the word on Twitter or Facebook or Google+ and by word of mouth to the many people, schools, family and friends you know would love this book!

Details of the Book

A 36 page, 210mm X284mm, full colour poetry book, inspired by the diverse people of Far North Queensland and their tropical environment. This book is written by poet June Perkins and Illustrated by Helene Magisson. 

Magic FishDreaming is for lovers of nature and language, children, family, teachers, educators, parents, grandparents, and just anyone who delights in illustrated words. 

It will appeal to those who love people of all cultures and want to support multiculturalism and the creation and distribution of diverse books. 

It is for every person who loves to go hunting for poems and aims to encourage many more children to become poets.

#magicfishdreaming #kickstarterbooks #kidslit #poetry4family

Live the Dream - Meet the Legends - An Invitation

Original artwork by Ken Best
You've seen my last post telling you all about Story City, the exciting new FREE APP that takes you, the reader, to the very heart of the story, and allows you to quite literally smell the roses, or tread the pavement or in some harrowing cases, stave off mutant zombie cockroaches...well of course you have. Well, wait...there's more.

Story City is based on choose-your-own adventure style storytelling that has been re-imagined specifically for the digital age. Not only are the stories compelling, entertaining and informative with something for all ages to enthuse and drool over, they also encourage exercise, curiosity and discovery. Families can do the adventures together, as can tourists or those less familiar with the public spaces they reside in.

Tim Baker
An eclectic collaboration of local artists, musicians, voice-over talent and writers produce these amazing adventures and now you have the chance to MEET THE LEGENDS in person.

Here's some of the line-up:

Surfing Guru:                            Tim Baker
Comic Artist:                             Ken Best
Verbal Disc Jockey:                    Ben Brown
Cool tunes maestro:                   Jed Walters
Obligatory female kids author:    ME 

Jed Walters
Pop along to the: REaD Cafe, inside the Paradise Island Resort, 1 Paradise Island QLD.
Around:               6.00 pm
On the :               24th February
For the :              STORY CITY GOLD COAST LAUNCH
It'll set you back: Nothing. This is a free event but it's best if you could register your intention to come on the Facebook Event page so we can get the catering right. REaD Cafe boasts a full bar and extra yummy things can be purchased on the night if our nibbles don't fill the spot.

Art by Ken Best
This launch is to mark the advent of our Gold Coast stories going LIVE.
If you can't make it, don't worry...tune into ABC Gold Coast Radio 91.7 Drive Time with Matt Webber next Wednesday from 3 - 6 pm to hear me wax lyrical (with much waffling and spluttering) about all things Story City.

Or...you could tune into Dim's Write Stuff. Over the next few weeks I'll reveal a bit more about the hows, whys and what fores that made up my Story City experience. It promises to be riveting stuff.

Can't wait to share the adventure with you.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

The Day is nigh!

Accredited artwork of Ken Best
No, not Christmas...well yes that is a nigh as it gets, too.

But I'm talking about D-Day. In the most incredibly nutty fun - Story City way.

Here's what you have to do to be able to smell the roses, join the adventure and become the hero (or villain) of your dreams.

  1. Jump on to Story City.
  2. Download the FREE Story City app to your smart phone or tablet device.
  3. Use the list or map section to browse through the stories until you find the one you’re most excited about. (I'm excited about my story, The Chapel of Unlove set on the Gold Coast in Sanctuary Cove but you can choose from stories in Brisbane, Adelaide and the Gold Coast.) Remember you must be in that location to activate that story.
  4. Select your story according to preferred genre, author, location: there are stories ranging in genres from fantasy, urban mystery, sci fi, comedy and historical romance to name but a few. 
  5. Start listening / reading your story and choosing YOUR ADVENTURE.
Simple. Colossal. Fun.

Gold Coast stories are now live.

Try them these holidays. Walk off those Christmas calories while experiencing an exciting digi story telling  adventure.

Add bonuses: 
  • You get to discover your local environment on a deeper level.
  • You may discover a hitherto unknown new eating spot (okay, time to slap the calories back on) or activity or holiday location or point of historical interest.
  • You may meet a new friend or two as your adventurous paths cross...
  • You may (in The Chapel of Unlove's case) hit on the perfect location to host your next social gathering, family fun day, or dare I say it...Wedding. 
Story City...the possibilities are endless.

The official launch for the Gold Coast Story City tales will take place early next year. Stick around for dates and details and your personal invitation.

Meantime, I wish all of you a sensational Silly Season and safe, exciting New Year. May words inspire you in great and wonderful ways. Thanks for reading me.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Living in the Moment

Some months ago, in a flurry of over-sharing and passing on information to those within the Lit Industry, I happened upon an exciting opportunity. After duly sharing it with all and sundry, the tiny soul named, Do It who perches on my left shoulder and is in constant opposition with the joker on my right shoulder called, Don't Do It, suggested I 'give it a go', too.

So very much along the same line of thinking as the awe-inspiring, Dee White (you can read about her quests to expand her writing prowess, here), I submitted a proposal to become one of three Gold Coast writers to join the Story City team.

Story City is an exciting interactive online storytelling experience that allows the reader to become fully immersed into the story. Like the perennially popular choose your own adventure style of books, where the reader makes the decisions and picks the paths the story takes, Story City users are in complete control of their destiny and thus, the story's outcome. The unique thing about this experience is that it uses Geo-caching techniques that allow the reader to choose not only the direction of the narrative but also literally the actual direction to the next location the story takes place in. Several stories by a gamut of uber talented Aussie authors are already operating in Adelaide and Brisbane.

The application was straightforward enough albeit exacting. The idea was captivating. The time frame for completion insanely tight. The execution...well I'd worry about those technicalities later. I mean, it wasn't like I was going to land the prize or anything, was it? Besides, I had plenty to occupy my storyboards with. In fact I was just approaching that lead-boot-sinking feeling stage with the writing commitments I had on the go at the time.

Therefore when the exuberant, Emily Craven announced I'd made the cut, I was suitably chuffed and equally mortified. What did I know about writing locative fiction - creating digi stories - crafting choose-your-own-adventure-style tales to appeal to young and old? I normally struggle to produce one plausible ending let alone eight. (The fact that I began with 13 endings and an impossibly convoluted number of story branches is a whole other story.) Wisely, Do It advised me to keep these concerns to myself and just get on with it.

So, many, many long (really) long nights and days later, here is the result...well an invitation to experience the result once it goes live in December 2015.

My story, The Chapel of Unlove is a spoof-inspired satirical romp around Sanctuary Cove, northern Gold Coast, in search of a pair of missing wedding rings and a way to avoid ending up with Elvis as your father. Fun and frivolous, one thing is for certain, it's YOUR adventure. I encourage you to live it, like I did.  

Do It girl and Dee were right; taking a chance, having a go, stretching myself (and my family) beyond breaking point and back again was not only immensely challenging, it was also hysterically the best fun ever. Would I 'choose' to do it all over again? You bet.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Two Birds on a Wire - Balancing with Heidi Cooper Smith

Balancing the extremes of childhood dreams, real-life realities and the myriad of other little collar-jerking moments that prevent you from ever walking a perfectly straight line is no mean feat. You'd be forgiven for feeling a little doo-lackey at times and having a laugh at yourself. 

Debut picture book illustrator, Heidi Cooper Smith is someone capable of doing just that so today in celebration of her  launch of Two Birds on a Wire, along with author, Coral Vass, we uncover 5 Fun Facts about Heidi (+ one if you're counting, because I obviously can't. It's why I write.)
  1. When I was eleven, I wrote a series of picture books (unpublished!) called ‘Matilda Mouse and the War between the Cats and the Mice” and won a school award for them.
  2. I once played bass clarinet in a quartet with my principal, vice principal and senior mistress.  Yes, I was that cool.
  3. I have the worst sense of direction of anyone I know and am appallingly messy.  I often end up buying art materials twice because something I really need is lost in the rubble! 
  4. It didn’t occur to me to use my glass drawing table as a light box until AFTER I’d traced every single spread the old fashioned way (tracing paper, shading on the back then tracing onto the final sheet) – next time I’ll save myself many hours, a perpetually cramped hand, and 2 whole pencil's worth of shading!
  5. I used around 200 reference photos to assist in the illustration process as well my children’s plastic farm animals and a toy truck to work out the tricky perspectives in the background scene.  
  6. My 6 year old took my advance copy of Two Birds on a Wire in for ‘Show and Share’ at school one day.  I told him to look after it because I still needed to take it to show the library in order to book my launch and to playgroup for a practice reading.  He rolled his eyes and said ‘You’re not going to show the book to EVERYONE are you Mummy?
Two Birds on a Wire is a sweet humorous tale that hums pleasantly along in rhythmic rhyme making it a prime go-to choice for reading aloud, over and over again. Two instantly recognisable characters, literally fill the pages, Little Bird Blue and Little Bird Black and as it transpires, one overhead wire which in turn leads to a rather flustered and heated debate about who should leave and who should stay.

By sundown the showdown is all but over. Ruffled feathers billow about on a mellow breeze and the two former rivals embrace a newfound friendship. Siblings and playground friends will warm to this tale of sharing and eventual caring. 

Smith's use of close up perspective places readers in the crow's nest as it were or rather, on the wire. We are granted dizzying views from above of the farm fields below and are able to witness Blue and Black's dispute first hand. It's a simple yet impressively effective viewpoint from which to enjoy this picture book. Fun and full of colour, Two Birds on a Wire is worth tweeting about. 

Coral and Heidi are launching Two Birds on a Wire simultaneously in Melbourne and Brisbane, 12th September 2015. Visit if you can or stay on line for the Blog Blast commemorating the launch.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Creative Life Celebration - Writers in the Park

When I lived in London, what seems like a lifetime ago, I had the good fortune to observe many ritualistic ceremonies, one of them being Speakers' Corner in Hyde Park. This public-byo-soapbox-forum, dating back from the Victorian times was an eclectic gathering place to share one's view point and generally have a bit of a rant. It was and still is a melting pot of political debate and more importantly, a symbol for a free and democratic society. And with the need to expound arises the necessity to create, something people of the pen know only too well.

To better celebrate creative life, the good folk of the Centennial Parklands Foundation, Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators SCBWI, and the historic Residences Centennial Park have joined forces along with dozens of writers, storytellers, publishers, arts associations, performers, illustrators, poets, and literacy advocates to present Writers in the Park.

This one day festival is choc-block full of writer and illustrator encounters (over 50 attending), literary inspired talks, book launches, illustrating duels, guest readings, scrummy eats and treats, market stalls and I'm told, a goat. Co-ordinated by festival director, Susanne Gervay, Writers in the Park promises to be a sensory sensation for book lovers and creative addicts alike. There is something for young, old and everyone in between. And the best part? It's in a park too - Centennial Park, Sydney. And it's FREE

Get yourself down there if you can - Sunday 27th September - 10 am - 6 pm.
Check out their website for the full program of events and the who's who who'll be there.

Writers in the Park  http://writersinthepark.com.au/

Too good to pass by.