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

Friday, 31 August 2012

Book Week Wrap Up

Another couple of weeks of brutalising the vocal chords, getting lost on school grounds, and forcing the breakfast routine at home to hurry along to ensure I make it on time to the next gig are drawing to a close. Ask any (children's) author or illustrator what compels them to make so many back to back engagements during various literacy promoting weeks like CBCA's Book Week and the National Literacy and Numeracy Week and you'll probably get a different answer every time.

  • Their agent asked them to.
  • Book Week is THE time to make school visits count.
  • It's a nice change to presenting at Festivals and Industry Seminars all the time.
  • It's a golden opportunity to reach out and connect with your actual target audience - The Kids.
  • It pays well - I actually made enough to cover the cost of a new magenta ink cartridge, once you subtract the chemist bills for all the medications needed to retain my voice.
  • They like the sound of their own voice (if they don't lose it) - reading their own words, because it sounds different reading in front of an audience as opposed to just reading out loud in front of a computer screen. Only computer screens don't break wind and fidget quite as much.
  • They like the daunting challenge of navigating their way around a never before visited school's car park, campus, reception area, IT set up.
  • They like the dimension school visits add to their author/illustrator profiles. I mean who wouldn't like being asked for their autograph. (must remember not to guffaw and look so surprised next time)
  • It helps accrue points on their frequent fliers program (if they're willing to visit schools outside their home turf)
  • It gives them a truly ultra special buzz to hear children react openly and honestly to their words, witticisms and wisdoms however ludicrously they may be portrayed.
  • It perpetuates the hope that they are making a difference to a child's life, their way of thinking, or their aspirations through the simple art of story telling.
I for one can vouch for these last two points. Because that is, after all, why I write for children. Here's a peek at what made my last two weeks so special.

Storyboarding ideas with pre Preppies always elicits a laugh or two...and not always because of my shoddy drawings. Thanks Bethlehem C & K.

Reading session on my home turf at Coomera Rivers State School for Literacy and Numeracy Week was made more fun thanks to some fantastic art work provided by creative genius James Picton.

Stay tuned for more great pics and stories to match...

Candice Lemon-Scott and yours truly celebrating the book.

Book Week at Queensland Independent College with fellow children's author Candice Lemon-Scott proved a huge hit with every student from 5 to 12 years.

We developed story streams and plots from our 5 Ideas Generation Exercise and came up with some outrageous stories.

I popped into Varsity College as well and was honoured to read in front of an enthusiastic gathering of Grade Three's. We were too enthralled with story telling and story swapping to get any happy snaps I'm afraid.

A couple of weeks well spent. If you have any special Book Week moments that you'd like to share or relay any that your child might have encountered, I love to hear them.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Champions Read ~ And look at the Pictures

Have you read a book today? For yourself, or even better with someone else. If that someone else is a child, then Bravo. You're a Champion and like the motto for this year's CBCA Book Week, Champions Read.

However in the sometime chaotic race to excel these days, the simple things in life are often given scant attention in favour of achieving the BIG GOAL. I'm speaking of the shelves of picture books that may have been jettisoned now that your child or grandchild has moved out of the first grades of their education and are busy piling the seas of literacy.

Throw out a life buoy and reel them back in I say. The importance of picture books can not be ever underestimated, in my estimation and that's not just because I love to write them and read them still.

Some months ago I attended a master class by respected children' author illustrator Angela Sunde. Apart from some very illuminating insights on the making of picture books, Angela highlighted an equally salient notion that FICTION teaches EMPATHY. Without diminishing the extreme importance of non fiction books, she pointed out that a 5 year old is better able to understand the world outside their own better through the reading of picture books than from what they could learn from a non-fiction book.

The facts in both may be the same but the way it resonates with them is completely different. Fiction and namely that found in picture books, should therefore not be regarded as frivolous or secondary or beneath us in value. It should be prized and cherished.
How do Picture Books make a Difference?

  1. They are a beautiful expression of Art and Literature in one neat little package.
  2. Kids love Art. What young person do you know who doesn't like to scribble, sketch, colour, design or make things?
  3. The illustrations in a book help guide the reader through the story, they give clues sometimes not always shared in the text. They entertain and charm. They add depth and texture to the words.
  4. Chapter Books are not always necessarily more complex than picture books. PBs are often written on a higher literary level to challenge understanding and introduce new vocabulary.
  5. Language is enhanced in PBs. They allow children to hear and feel new sentence structures. Rhythm and Rhyme are explored. Words can sound like music when read out loud. A good PB, even a non rhyming one, can be poetry in motion.
  6. Picture books can deliver an huge array of themes, emotions, ideas and relationships for children in an entertaining, non didactic way. Relationships such as cause and consequence may be better understood and discussed when viewed time and time again in a PB.
  7. PB allow children the luxury of Repetition: of story, comedy, and meta language.
  8. PBs are sensory. Children can hear, see, feel, smell the story. They can develop a strong sense of story structure, time and place from PBs
  9. PBs are FUN. They are a perfect vehicle for allowing children of all ages to enjoy the pleasure of reading without the feeling of being burdened by the 'must do' mentality which is often associated (pityingly) with reading.
  10. PBs allow for the most intimate and interactive relationships imaginable between an adult and a child. The sharing of these reading experiences builds comprehension, trust and a sense of achievement which are key to ensuring children enjoy smooth sailing through their sea of literacy.
Enrich your child's literature with Fiction and Picture Books, this week, this Saturday during The Reading Hour and at any other available minute of the day.

Of course encouraging reluctant readers to read the jokes on your cereal packets is no bad thing either. Whatever they read will ultimately help them to Champion Literacy.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Resounding Success

As a debut emerging author, I take the utmost pleasure in regularly soaking up as much information as I possibly can. Attending literary events such as the Gold Coast Literati Festival, not only allows me to occupy the same room as my peers and other revered authors and illustrators, along with prospective readers but also puts me in prime position for collecting new insights and clarifying old wisdoms.

Resonance was one such session I recently sat in on during which fantasy writer Rowena Cory Daniells, discussed what resonance was, what it meant for the writer and to the reader and how it was acquired.

She explained how Resonance was the unique feeling the reader took away with them when they finished reading a book. For the Writer, it was that special affinity you try to instill in your writing, the mindset you need to be in in order to write true to your story.

Resonance comes in the most part from past experience. For others on the panel, Steve Irwin (author of The Dead Path) and Nerida Newton (author of the Lambing Flats), their experience stimuli included recalling their own past events and fears to add authenticity to their writing. Visual stimuli such as photos of events or places also contributed.

But if you're like me, music has a profound influence on the way you feel, think and are at any particular moment. It can transport you to another time, setting, and place, instantly triggering a set of emotions unique to the way you felt at that precise moment when you may have first heard the tune.

I associate many memorable songs with scenes, smells, sounds, even the weather at the time. And to this day find it difficult not associating how a particular song or melody resounds with that memory. Most of us have these sorts of musical reminders, songs which resonate a moment intensely personal and special; our wedding waltz, what ever was playing on the radio the first time you tasted champagne...you know the ones.

But how does this improve our writing style? Quite simply. By drawing on these images and feelings conjured by such resounding stimuli, you are adding more than a bit of reality to your tales, more depth of emotion, which allows the reader to enter your world willingly, and enables them to suspend their own beliefs and reality for a while.

And what are some of those tunes which still resound strongly with me today? Here are The Top Five of my Musical Impressions from the Resonance File. And yes, I had to double up, I mean really who can stop at just five...

  1. Streets of Philadelphia - Bruce Springsteen. It transports me instantly to a top floor apartment in downtown Istanbul on a heavily overcast, languid morning. On the streets below water trucks clank by, men smash their backgammon chips down onto well loved boards and the scent of the Bosporus competes with the smell of humanity.
  2. Everybody's Talkin' (at me) - Harry Nilsson. Convertibles cruising through fields of swishing, swaying grass. Wind in my hair, freedom in my veins.
  3. Spanish Steps - Morton Harket (of A-Ha fame). Yes this one is a little out there but I used to play this one hard during my time working on a luxury super yacht in the Caribbean. I was developing cabin fever at the time, working endless shifts and used to play this at max volume whenever there were no guests aboard as I cleaned the staterooms below decks, away from other crew. It reminded me of Europe, licking gelato under the sunshine on the Spanish Steps, missing my freedom.
  4. Riding Home for Christmas - Chris Rea. OK, I admit, I have a great Resonance with the 80's but every time I hear this gooey little ballad, I'm on a bus, deep in the dry Turkish interior, covering miles and miles before the next bowl of lentil soup and feeling like I'd reached Nirvana.
  5. Khe Sahn - Cold Chisel equal tie with Land Down Under - Men at Work. Show me an Aussie that doesn't go a bit doolally whenever either of these two are played anyway in the world outside Sydney and you're not showing me a real Aussie. Images of roof top Raki parties in Turkey...ah...youth.
I could go on and on about the Sound of Music score, but you're probably feeling slightly nauseous already. So what about you? What do you use to gain Resonance in your writing or illustrations? How do past tunes, events, and memories affect how you feel when they reoccur years later? What are your Top Five Most Impressionable songs? You'll probably be amazed at where you end up...