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

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Showcasing Storytelling with Kindergo and Puppies

The single most important thing in cultivating a love of reading in children is to engage them in the story. How this is done, through which ever medium, is almost inconsequential for the key to full engagement, I believe, will always lie within the story itself.
Kindergo Avartar excited about being in my Pet Island blog post
If the heart of the story is strong and purposeful, if it reads true and speaks directly to the age group it is written for, then it will be a winner no matter how it is relayed. Forever mindful of this, I have been adapting a few picture book stories, written over the last decade or so, as creative content for the Kindergo app found at Kindergo Kids.
Kindergo Avatar brought to life with AR
Kindergo Kids is a safe, curated digital storytelling platform that delivers enhanced reading experiences for 2 - 5 year-olds. They provide quality, immersive, entertaining stories grouped on a variety of themed islands. These archipelagos of creative content offer youngsters and their parents, unlimited learning opportunities through self-navigation and discovery.

I have a number of digi picture books included on future islands, but am puppy-dog-ecstatic to see Have You Seen My Spots? released on the newly discovered, Pet Island. Download this app for free to experience Dash the Dalmatian's dilemmas and joys.

There's nothing like having a new puppy to bring a smile on your face. I hope my stories do, too.

This week, Kindergo invited me to visit Pet Island and reveal a little more about my love of kids lit and ... pets. Click on the image below to read all about it.


Monday, 16 October 2017

Kids Book Review - Revamp

When you go down to the woods today...


It's spring time and we've been having a bit of a spruce up at Kids' Book Review. I can bearly contain my delight at having these beaut little bears (and one Koala) on board as our logo and on our new look banner.

We owe our furry new look to KBR founder and editor-in-chief, Tania McCartney

And even though KBR now has a bear or two in there, we are still the same superlative, one stop reviewing site for all things in Kids' Literature. So why not pop in one day and visit me* and my fabulous team of contributors to discover what the bears are reading.

* I am Kids' Book Review's Managing Editor and therefore the biggest kid on the team who loves to while away her days in the wonderful, wacky, written world of words for kids. 

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Mystery, Mayhem and Magic! Blog Tour with Marion Martineer

I've been tootling around writers' groups for over eight years or so now. They are always seeping with new knowledge, eager scribes and unbridled passion to pen something wonderful which often spills over into exciting writing projects.  

The Ten Penners is a group of dedicated writers that encompasses all these elements of story telling and more. Today I welcome one of the founding members of this group, Marion Martineer to discuss more about their latest project, Mystery, Mayhem and Magic! 

Ten Penners Co-ordinator and children's author, Marion Martineer
Come with us as we launch into their Blog Tour.  

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Death and Dying with Matt Webber ABC Gold Coast Radio

I was chuffed as monkeys with brass bells on to have been invited along to the studios of ABC Radio Gold Coast to chat with Matt Webber.

Matt Webber courtesy ABC Radio
I was also six weeks into a bout of this season's awful flu onslaught and feeling less like a chipper little monkey ready to chatter as I did something someone might find in their kitty litter tray. But chat I had to so off I hauled myself to ABC's delightfully located Gold Coast studios.

ABC Radio GC Headquarters, not quite beach front but a short amble from here

My stories were not complete strangers to Matt's weekly Drive Time shows; my digital narrative for Story City, The Chapel of Unlove being featured there back in 2016. This time I was able to discuss the inspirations and motivations behind my picture book, The Fix-It Man and its implications with death and dying, this being a segment series topic featuring regularly on Matt's Drive Time.

I could not have asked for a better host to banter with about a book I love cover to cover. Seems he loved it too. Click on the radio image below to hear what we both had to say.

The Fix-It Man Podcast with Dimity and Matt Webber

Not only was this a great opportunity to share my story and Nicky's (illustrator) art with the wider community, I also hoped it served to broaden our perspectives on death and dying and provided a deeper appreciation of just how children's picture books can dramatically increase emotional understanding at times like these in a safe and non-judgemental way.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Bibliotherapy - It's Place in Children's Literature AFCC Sessions Part 9

As weeks slip away into months I want to share one last session round up from my time in Singapore at the Asian Festival of Children's Content. It is the session I was asked to present on Bibliotherapy as part of the Writer's and Illustrator's Conference.

My objective was to: Explore the value of creating bibliotherapy themed diverse picture books (PBS) and debate their usefulness in combating various social issues affecting children. To discuss what works, what doesn't and why.

This sounds straight forward enough but past experience has shown me that when you add the word therapy to anything relating to Kids' Lit, it has an immediate polarising effect; people either love the term and what it infers or they are vehemently against its implications. So what exactly is Bibliotherapy and its implications?

Melissa Tan's impression of my session - she tells me, she was too involved in the topic to illustrate profusely.
I first introduced delegates to the notion that this term relates to the expressive therapy of reading certain texts with the purpose of healing, but that those specific texts do not necessarily have to have a self-help, non-fictional content, they can in fact be texts of any description.

My argument being that I read to find solace, entertainment, joy, understanding, enlightenment and so on, in other words, I read to experience and feel something. Reading in turns allows me to relate, connect and feel, thereby ultimately altering the way I might have felt prior to embarking on that story journey. Oftentimes, this change increases empathy, understanding and yes, a general sense of well being, even if I have read something shocking and emotional. Is this not what we seek when searching for therapeutic comfort?

After exploring the concept of Diversity in Kids' Lit and it's many social benefits, I then described how these two ideas correlate, namely by illustrating examples of picture books. We discussed those shown below plus many others.

Picture books offer a beautiful, artistic, non-judgemental, universal platform from which children can explore and use to safely jump from into further discussion about a range of topics considered too taboo, sensitive and heavy. One thing I emphasised at the outset of our conversation was that throughout the conference I noticed how we termed such topics as death, divorce, grief, depression, adolescence and sexual identification as 'taboo' subjects. From my session onwards, I encouraged participants to think of such topics no longer as 'too hot to handle in kids' books' subjects but rather as 'normal' subjects because that is actually what they are; things that happen to kids everyday or to those they know around them.

Once this was acknowledged, we explored just how picture books deliver diversity in ways that make them appealing both on an entertainment level and from a therapeutic point of view. I used examples of my own recently released picture book, The Fix-It Man, which of course focuses on the grief and loss and emotional repair of one little girl and her father following the loss of the girl's mother.

Using my next picture book release (about domestic violence) as an example, I tried to illustrate the various techniques authors and illustrators use to portray emotion, reflect real life situations and project a sense of hope, all with the intention of creating connections with their readers. These included allegorical connections by writing the story metaphorically; use of colour and perspective in visual narrative; the inclusion of objective correlatives (symbols) and more.

I concluded with a look at some of the best ways to tackle sensitive 'normal' subject matter in order to make it appealing to both publishers and to the world at large. It is a matter of balance; a delicate harmony of marketability and integrity, neither of which should be compromised if, as a creator, you are serious about sharing your great and meaningful stories with as many people as you can.

And so, my position on Bibliotherapy? I think nearly every book a child picks up or is read has some degree of therapeutic value that should not be dismissed or categorised into 'one of those books' compartments. Not all books that can help a child recognise themselves, their place and worth in this world or of that of others around them is a dry, didactic dinosaur of self-help and nor should they be.

Picture books have the potential to unleash the possibilities of increasing mental and emotional resilience, social understanding and tolerance and an improved sense of self-esteem in a way few other forms of entertainment can. That is why I love them so unconditionally and urge you to discover their magic for yourselves.

For full notes on this AFCC session, please visit, here.

For an brilliant account of Libby Gleeson's recent lecture on the Power of Story and how it relates to releasing the possibility for change through reading, visit the Book Links QLD blog, here. Libby's discussion highlighted the need to allow children to explore through reading, linking bibliotherapeutic type texts and their usefulness in creating connections.

Visit the rest of my AFCC experiences, here.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

What's a Postmodern Picture Book? AFCC Sessions Part 8

Me and Dr Ruth Wong
Perhaps one of the most stimulating sessions I moderated was Dr Ruth Wong's Interactive Narration: Having Fun with Postmodern Picture Books. 

Now although I consider myself a voracious and reasonably well-informed reader of picture books, the term 'postmodern' did befuddle me a little. It wasn't until I delved a little deeper into definitions that I realised, I had been savouring this style of picture book narrative for years. So what exactly is a postmodern picture book and what value do they represent for young readers. Ruth was on hand to explain.

Characteristics of Postmodern picture books:
  • Directly addresses the reader, thus acknowledging readers as active agents of the reading process
  • Offers an overt invitation to interact and play or involve the reader with the book, not just the story
  • readers become participants (good for one on one reading)
  • Emphasis on implications for teaching and allowing educators to appreciate learning through FUN
  • Non-linear in design
  • They are 'aware' of themselves as books and often include self-referential elements
  • They can distance readers from the text, often frustrating traditional reading expectations, forcing readers to utilise more interpretive strategies in order to make sense of the text. 
  • Often sarcastic and cynical in tone
  • Contain overly obtrusive narrators
  • Contain narrative framing devices e.g. stories within stories
  • May feature illustrations of a pastiche style
In short, a postmodern picture book is the paper equivalent of an interactive story, one that most Gen Z children associate with some type of device to bring to life.

With the emphasis on fun and reader involvement, creators of this style of narrative are able to educate children in a surreptitious, engaging and entertaining way. Dr Ruth provided plenty of examples, many you probably already love, for example, Wolves by Emily Gravett. One of the more recognisable is the recent Do Not Open This Book by Andy Lee, the premise of which has of course been done several times before, but is a joke in the eyes of youngsters that never grows old.

To ensure the audience understood the jokes and meaning behind this narrative style, Ruth then enlisted yours truly to demonstrate with an ad hoc reading session. They results were illustrated by David 'Wolfie' Liew, below (I was Little Red Riding Hood).

Another favourite homegrown example is Deborah Abela's just released, Wolfie An Unlikely Hero - outrageously funny and one hundred per cent interactive. 

Not every postmodern picture book embraces each of the above characteristics of course but the minute you open one, you'll immediately recognise what sets it apart from its neighbours on the bookshelf. Use them to supplement your diet of picture books for the sheer joy of it. Their attention grabbing qualities speak for themselves, as it were 😝

For the final chapter on the Asian Festival of Children's Content 2017 and my own presentation, come back soon.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Books Shaping the World - AFCC Sessions Part 7

Robyn Soetikno and Dimity
One of the highlights of the Asian Festival of Children's Content 2017 for me was the honour of moderating a number of sessions for other conference presenters. Through the pre-requisite to understand their topics and their associated backgrounds with Kids' Lit better, I was able to forge some truly rewarding relationships with people from Thailand, Singapore and, in the case of Robyn Soetikno, Indonesia.

Robyn's session - Books for Indonesian Girls by Indonesian Girls: How Children's Books Shape Perspectives of the World focused on her new series aimed at young pubescent Indonesian girls.  

The I Am Me series is a rigorously researched and thoughtful set of bilingual picture books designed to educate, inform and empower young girls with realistic expectations and useful information about their changing bodies and feelings. Bright, bold and unashamedly unambiguous, Robyn drew on her extensive health care industry background to develop this concept.

It was a delight to behold this young, exuberant, focused individual describe the creative process that resulted in this series and how she plans to tackle a similar one for boys. Equally gratifying was the positive reception received from the packed room of delegates, males and females alike.
Robyn prepares to deliver the stories behind her I Am Me series

Coming soon, more picture book love and interactive storytelling.