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Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Delving Deeper into the Art of Story Telling - AFCC Sessions Part 3

My conference triage is reasonably simple:
  • if I manage to glean a new sliver of information that enables me to improve my craft or 
  • happen upon a revelation that deepens my understanding of story telling or 
  • experience affirmation of a belief or method I am already practising, then I feel I have gained something useful.
The following round-up highlights some of the sessions I attended while swanning around the Asian Festival of Children's Content this year.

Deep Point of View (DPOV): What is it and How to Write It with Kathleen Ahrens 

Kathleen encouraged us to first re investigate our Intention - why we write. Knowing that then allows us to engage with the readers' emotions and therefore establish, DPOV.

She introduced us to different POV Characters and the tenses and view points they can be portrayed in for example, first person, third person, second person etc.
  • as narrator
  • omniscient
  • multiple viewpoints 
  • single major viewpoint

Deep Point of View

A way to connect with the main character through DPOV is to make them MOAN.
Making your characters MOAN avoids POV violation (telling not showing)

Delegates then had to learn to analyse text, their own included, for MOAN qualities.

An immensely useful exercise for writers of every genre.

Painting with Lines and Language with Briony Stewart

I'm not the world's best drawer. I mean, some days even I find it difficult reading my own handwriting but Briony calmly described how I and others can improve our linguistic paintboxes with figurative language, examples of which can be found in her beautifully evocative, Kumiko and the Dragon Series.

Briony outlined how exciting language is what kids love best. Not only is it fun, it can add to the richness of the text and expand imagination and vocabulary in the same ways vivid, detail laden illustrations can enhance the emotional tone of a story.

 As writers and illustrators, Briony's take away advice was to BE OBSERVANT. Create a Visual and Verbal Word Bank
Picture Books as Theatre: Creating Drama in Illustrations with James Mayhew

James Mayhew paint-forming for the Opening Night Ceremony of the AFCC
This was an entrancing session presented in theatrical style by a man who is not just a gifted illustrator but also a story teller with an innate sense of what works visually and viscerally for readers and viewers. 

James married the art of stage building with picture book writing when seeking to create a sense of anticipation and entertainment, maintaining that authors (and illustrators) are in essence, set designers, scriptwriters and story borders all in one. In being so, they must consider and research details involving:
  • costumes
  • setting
  • lighting (mood / colouration)
  • timing (when to hold things back and when to build momentum)
  • fit (when less is more, utilising space to get the story told properly)
As a picture book creator and addict of this exceedingly exacting art form, I hung on his every word.

Afterwards, during a quiet spell in between book signings, I was fortunate enough to sit with James and chat in more detail about the various staging aspects of the much studied, Where the Wild Things Are? We poured over it's many nuances, announcing suppositions as to reasons for and why things appeared as they did in this book. Only one thing may have improved our vigorous discussion, Maurice Sendak himself.


Come back soon, for even more session round ups.  I'll be highlighting moments from the Cross Media Platform conference.

Death, Divorce & Other Difficult Topics - AFCC Sessions Part 2

Petra Nagyova Dzerengova
Slovakian author, Petra Nagyova Dzerengova apologised for the excruitiating pronunciation of her name but offered no apology for her choice of subject matter for her Asian Festival of Children's Content presentation.

As Deridre Hanna of Paradise Kids taught me, one thing in life is certain, 10 out of 10 people will die. There is no point trying to hide it. Petra reasoned there is also no reason not to share discussions about these types of issues with young children.

Despite the fact that more and more authors are tackling so called 'difficult' subject matter in children's books, yours truly included, there is still a reluctance to openly share them. Debate on their usefulness continues to circle like a pack of wary hyenas. Petra examined the salient reasons for busting through the doubts, which she supported with examples of a number of picture books that handle the subject (of death) well.

On Death...
  • We try to ignore it in most, but not all, cultures
  • If adults don't talk about it, then they cannot discuss it with their kids
  • Death is being separated from life more and more nowadays 
  • Discussing death and its implications after it happens is often too late
  • We don't need all the answers, just open honesty
Literary examples that portray the concept of death:


  • Death is irreversible
  • Beginnings and endings are normal
  • Love, in death, does not end (this made me think of my own story about loss and grief, The Fix-It Man


  • You don't have to worry about death
  • Become friends with Death when you are full of life 
Again, this was an intensely thought-provoking and emotive session which induced a fair bit of reflection. It also instilled a deep sense of relief and satisfaction that Nicky Johnston and I have gone some small right way in providing children with the very means of guidance and education that Petra described.

For the writers and illustrators out there, more session updates on the way. 😊