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

Sunday, 28 August 2011

New Page for the Young Ones

Kids keep me teetering along that fine line of complacency and wanting to do better. Their sense of logic, realism, fantasy and tender pragmatism somehow weaves into rich, satisfying life tapestries in ways I could never create with mere words, but try constantly to emulate. Their raw enthusiasm breathes life into art the same way coffee kick starts my tired brain. I simultaneously marvel and envy their crafty naivety. This also happens to be why I adore writing for them.

During recent Book Week Writing Workshops, when I asked students why they thought I might enjoy writing, the reply was often, "Because you like having fun." Yes. Who doesn't? Writing for kids is truck loads of fun.

One of the frequently asked questions I got asked (being not quite as well known as JK Rowling) was, "What have you written?" I garbled on about short stories for school magazines, picture books etc.

Hindsight being 100% correct and 100% useless meant I'd completely overlooked bringing along a copy of one of my published short stories to read to them. D'oh.

So with along with thanks to all the kids who helped highlight my shortcomings and strengthen my writing mojo, here is a page especially for you, Kool Kidz Stuff. It includes excerpts of An Eggspensive Venture, a short story which was in NSW The School Magazine Blast Off. Enjoy.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Dear Budding Authors & Illustrators

One of the serendipitous side effects of conducting school workshops, is the enthusiastic emergence of creative talent. Following a week of Writing and Illustrating Workshops conducted by Angela Sunde and myself, many students of Coomera Rivers State School, have approached us keen to develop their ideas and launch their stories and illustrations upon the world at large.

Angela was able to assist with various suggestions where kids from 6 - 18 years of age can indulge in the art of creative story telling, poem writing and illustrating. We both strongly encourage children with a creative flare and a burning desire to take it further to check out these sites. They offer kids information about Writing events, Conferences and Workshops, Festivals and Competitions, all designed to show case and promote the work of young writers and illustrators.

If you know of any people who want their stories heard please feel free to pass these onto them.

This is merely a start. Keep an eye out for more and keep on Loving Books!

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Writers' Workshop Book Week 2011

Day Three of National Book Week 2011 and I've well and truly set sail on my Inaugural Writers' Workshop sojourn. I've always been thrilled to be part of workshops on anything of a literary nature, inevitably walking away with some new precious gem of knowledge on the craft of writing and renewed desire to continue turning pages.

Now the pencil is in an other's hand or rather hands. Who would have thought that conducting Writing Workshops could be so utterly enjoyable? Fun, is the best way I can describe my first foray into imparting to primary aged students of Coomera Rivers State School some of the finer nuances of Picture Book writing. Gruelling would be another. Six classes in under six hours was certainly not for the faint hearted but I would not hesitate to repeat the experience.

Any concerns about them not 'liking' the subject matter were quickly dismissed. All grades from Preppies to Year 7 sat enraptured as they were guided through typical picture book:
Storyboarding ideas

- Structure
- Idea creation
- Character Development
- Story Arc
- Story boarding

With the main aim of showing them that a love of stories will lead them to want to read more and more. And maybe even write or illustrate their own stories.

Heads down, tails up. CRSS Preps scribe away.

The Preppies aged 5-6 years, especially impressed me partly with their inherent malleability and partly because their imaginations are still so fresh and unfettered that ideas simply spilled out of their mouths straight onto the page.
Together we were able to create some incredible picture book story ideas.

Some of the older kids were so stimulated to develop ideas inspired by the workshops and the illustrating sessions by Angela Sunde that they have teamed up with fellow students determined to produce their very own book.

Admirable ambitions, which Angela and myself will endeavour to help them maintain by providing info on Literary Competitions designed especially for kids.

Should we be worried? YES. Should we be garnering yet more competition for ourselves. DEFINITELY YES. These young inspired writers SHOULD be our audience today and our welcome contemporaries in years to come.

I'm just grateful to have been part of this wonderful voyage.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Book Week at Coomera Rivers

Coomera Rivers State School launched itself into National Book Week today with all engines blazing. Enthusiastic teachers and volunteer parents transformed the recently opened school's i Centre (library) into a vibrant journey of countries around the globe in keeping with the One World, Many Stories theme.

A tour of the World

Each class put together fantastic displays depicting all corners of the world including the Arctic, Africa, Asia and Australia.

To promote a love of all things literary, a Galaxy Book Fair is also running all week courtesy of Scholastic Books. Kids can browse through the hundreds of titles on display and purchase their favourites as well as participate in some fantastic competitions.
Angela shows grade 4s how easy it is

 Last but by no means least, to celebrate the art of story telling and the magic of reading, local, well known and talented children's author and illustrator, Angela Sunde was on hand to guide students through the secrets of illustrating picture books. Work shops from 5 to 12 year olds covered the Visual Narrative component vital to creating spell binding picture books. She covered the power of the illustration in telling the story and how colour can influence and change the mood of the story.

Students were introduced to the finer arts of storyboarding, perspective and perhaps most interestingly, how to draw; how to hold one's pencil, how the sweep of one's arm makes all the difference.

I found the notion to draw what you see, not what you think you see, a fascinating one. Angela impressed upon the children that it's not how good or bad your first effort or sketch is, but more importantly how repeatedly you try to improve on that first sketch. In other words, practise makes perfect. As with all things in life. The kids were shown some of Angela's own utterly charming illustrations and 'dummy books' before setting out on creating illustrations for their own future tales. They were thoroughly entranced as she drew characters for their class rooms and, I suitably encouraged to make something more of my own stick figures.
In the coming days I will be offering the same students complimentary workshops on writing picture books and will endeavour to let you know how it all goes. Who knows, we may even unearth the next Mem Fox...

Tell us a story

Thursday, 11 August 2011

One World Many Stories

That's the theme for this year's Children's Book Council of Australia Book Week and it's on soon ~ 20 - 26th August 2011.

For me it's a time to not only promote children's literacy but a chance to celebrate and embrace the joy of reading. If children are our key to the future then the power of written information in its multifarious forms is the vehicle they must learn  to operate. With it they can venture anywhere, anytime and achieve anything.

There could never be too many stories to fill up this world. Don't be afraid to share yours, write one, enjoy one, draw one with a young person you know..... at any time. I'll be conducting fun workshops on writing picture books at a local primary school. Can't wait. Check out The Book Chooks ways to Celebrate Book Week. It's chock full of fantastic ideas and novel activities to get kids involved with the fun of fabricating with words, weaving new worlds and exploring their imaginations.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Everything Old is New Again

You might know him or her as Mr Whippy, Super Soft Server, the Ice cream Man. What ever your moniker for these wickedly delightful interruptions to your Sunday afternoon, one thing is for certain; the Mr Whippy Van is a prime example of how the more things change, the more they stay the same.

I remember waiting, barefoot and singleted, at the fence of our front yard in Townsville many dozens of moons ago, for the Mr Whippy van to appear. I'd been listening to the plaintive peel of Greensleeves for what seemed like hours, gradually getting louder and no less doleful as the van crept through suburban streets closer and closer to our front yard. The mere sound of  of the melancholy tune sent the neighbourhood kids into frenzied rapture. Mum. Mum. Dad. HURRY, Mr Whippy is coming. No body wanted to miss out on a soft serve ice cream.

I can't remember if flake bars were around in those days. They might have been. I do recall the sometimes choking exhaust fumes which wafted around the van and the way it gurgled and gasped as though glad for a break as it sat like a fat pink Pied Piper of Hamelin surrounded by excited kids and hot flushed parents.

My soft serve never last very long on those steamy tropical afternoons but the memories endured. And now, over four decades later, my own daughter is experiencing the same unremitting joy every Sunday afternoon. Her ability to hear Greensleeves tinkling away (they've sped up the track a bit) in some far off street of our estate is owl like. She thinks the exhaust fumes are a bit stinky, but her reward, a super soft, drippy, sprinkle bedecked ice cream drowned in topping erases all other reasonable thought and is definitely worth lining up on the hot tarmac for.

It's become a bit of a Sunday ritual, already. And while I marvel at the Z Generation's ability to take on every new nuance of their modern world (I spied a picture book about computers, texting on mobiles, laptops etc. the other day) I am quietly thankful that some things don't ever change.

Yes, as writers we need to be alert to today's world and the way in which our readers live in it. But it is refreshing to know that sometimes it really is the most simple of pleasures, be they the saccharine sweet pinkness of the good old Mr Whippy Van or the way a soft serve ice cream melts down your fist, that give us the most enjoyment. And these are most certainly worth writing about too.

The downside to Mr Whippy's regular visits (if there could be a downside to ice cream) is that at today's current rate of exchange and rising cost of sprinkles, we'll be broke by Christmas.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Imagination Sparks Blogfest Exercise

Charmaine Clancy's Blogfest, Imagination Sparks, has jolted me into blogging action this week. OK I can't offer an exercise everyday thus illustrating why I need to exercise (my creative brain) more. So here is my BOOSTING CREATIVITY EXERCISE. It involves no arithmetic, very few scientific formulas, and your favourite snack can be easily incorporated into the routine.

Step 1: Understand Your Mind
I'm not 100% certain but I reckon the mind's capacity to take in and store data has got to be pretty huge; at least 1 Tbs worth. At least it feels like that some days in my head. And often all that info forms into a thick claggy cloud of bewilderment, stress and inactivity.

Step 2: Hit the Shut Down Button
You need to do this to avoid data overload. De frag, reorganise, unclutter, minimise. Call it what you will just don't fill up your precious head space with anything for a while. If this means missing the social pages so be it. The world will get on without you. There are actually programs you can install which prevent you from surfing the Net and thus getting tempted and tangled. So what do you do instead of being chained to the keyboard? Maintain empty space is what.

Step 3: Get Dirty
I choose dirty but sweaty or hot works too. My preference is gardening (naturally). Getting a bit of dirt and compost under the nails, working the muscles out with a bit of rigorous pruning, assuming the smell of a cow byre not only keeps the garden under control but gives me a sense of being grounded, vacant of thought save for the immediate task at hand and open to inspiration. Lying on the grass staring at the clouds and world beyond achieves the same sense of serenity (and is not as dirty). Jogging, vacuuming, sun baking poolside, or painting the house might be more your thing. The idea is that the more inane and physical the activity the more liberated your mind will become simply because it is being left to its own devices and not called upon to perform.

Step 4: Nothing
Time to incorporate favourite snacks, and let your mind enjoy its new found simplicity and peace.

Step 5: Clean Up
Well we can't do nothing forever. And no one really appreciates the smell of dynamic lifter for very long. So shower off and prepare for enlightenment...

Step 6: Reboot
Before you fill up your newly created space with creativity, take time out re stimulate your neurons. My preferred method to do this is to read. Luxuriate in the pleasure of reading whatever you want; books similar to your writing genre, books on your must read list, comics, it doesn't matter as long as it's satisfying and enjoyable; in other words not something on the 'have to read list'. Alternatively or concurrently go to the movies. Allow yourself to become completely immersed within another world. (more snacking opportunities here). For example: treating yourself to the latest Harry Potter flick can achieve the same sense of being on a really exciting overseas journey (at least for me-I'm easily pleased). Point is, it's providing you with a change of scenery and reality which is different from your everyday ones and those you write about.

Step 7: Write
Alright, I've had too much sugar, smell a bit pooey, seen a terrific movie, the face book page has gone mental and have wasted several hours buried in middle school readers but was it all wasted? NO. For me, somewhere between Step 2 and 6, inspiration and imagination usually start sparking. Ideas ignite and creativity begins to crackle and pop. If this happens before your exercise is over be careful to jot them down for later use and resume as planned. Don't over fan your fire and extinguish it before it has a chance to fully take hold.

Before you know it you'll be writing up a fire storm...or at least hopefully have a few more bright sparks than before. Good luck.