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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.

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.