Sunday, 19 May 2013

Book magic (and poo)

This is a bit of a cheat's post, as it's the same as one I posted on the Christchurch Children's Blog last week, where I'm blogging this month as their star author. But the post's about poo, and poo is a topic close to my heart (in a creative, not literal sense), so I thought I'd repeat it again here... 
What a fantastic time I had at the Word Café Raglan writers and readers festival at the weekend. Books are so much fun! And so interesting. And so are the people who read and write them.

Around 35 people came along to the workshop that Andre Ngapo and I ran on getting started in writing for children. (Andre’s in the picture, doing his stuff on the day.) That’s 35 avid writers and readers of children’s fiction all in one room. It was electric.

We had a wonderful discussion about what makes a great children’s book. It reminded me why I love them so much (and also of all the things I should be doing in my stories to make them even better). Everyone agreed that there needed to be:

·        lots of humour – kids (and the adults reading with them) love to laugh

·        a great story – that’s a beginning, a middle and an end, with lots of twists and turns in between

·        plenty of action – whizz, pow, bang, uh-oh, ah-ha, ahhhhhhh…that sort of thing

·        fabulous characters – no dull and boring please

·        not too many messages – the aim is to entertain

·        a pinch of amazing – that special something that makes a story zing.

Can you think of anymore?   

Personally, I think there is one, and it’s a bit of a magic ingredient when it comes to stories. That something is poo.

In the 20-ish years that I have been writing stories, I have noticed that, along with humour, kids love poo. Look at all the books that have been written about it.

For starters, there’s Baa Baa Smart Sheep by talented New Zealand author and illustrator duo Mark and Rowan Sommerset, about a bored sheep that tricks his mates into eating, you guessed it, poo.

Then there’s the hilarious Poo Bum by Stephanie Blake (she’s not a new Zealand author, but her publisher Gecko Press is from here) about a little rabbit who will only say one thing: “Poo bum”. That is, until he gets eaten by a wolf, at which point he changes his tune to…read it and find out.

Then there’s Captain Underpants by Dave Pilky about all things to do with undies, wedgies and toilets (that’s got to count poo). And the all-time poo-topping favourite, The Little Mole who Knew it was None of his Business by Werner Holzwarth, about a mole that is poo-ed on (it lands on his head) and runs around trying to find the culprit (and encountering many and varied poos along the way). It even has a plop-up version! 

That’s just off the top of my head (the list that is, not the poo). There’s no denying poo is popular.
So at the moment I am busy writing my own story about poo. I can’t give too much away, except to say that it’s a picture book and it’s about a dung beetle who spends his nights rolling endless little balls of poo (well dung, but it’s the same thing). Until one day he looks up… 

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Having fun as a Star Author in Christchurch

This month I’m also blogging as the Star Author on the Christchurch Kids’ Blog. It’s a great blog about books, reading, music and movies for all children living in New Zealand, especially those in Christchurch and Canterbury.

I’m really pleased to have been asked, especially as I’m following hot on the heels of David Hill who is such a talented and funny author.

I’m reading his junior fiction novel at the moment, My Brother’s War, which has been shortlisted for the NZ Post Book Awards 2013. The story follows the fortunes of two brothers, William and Edmund, who both go off to the First Word War: one as a soldier, the other as a conscientious objector. I’m thoroughly enjoying it. It would be great if it wins.

I try to read as much junior fiction as I can. Not only because there are so many great stories, but also because it helps me with my own writing. There is so much to learn from a talented author like David Hill: it’s a bit like having a private tutorial (but from the comfort of your couch).  

Friday, 3 May 2013

Word Café is here

This week I am busy getting ready for Word Café, Raglan’s first writers’ and readers’ festival, which is going ahead next weekend (10 and 11 May). Check out:

I have been part of the organising committee and am involved in two events on the Saturday:

·        First Steps in Writing for Children – a workshop on getting started in the exciting world of children’s writing, which I am hosting with fellow Raglan writer Andre Ngapo (a talented writer who won the Sunday Star Short Story Competition and appears regularly in the School Journal)  

·        a children’s storytelling session – with Andre again, and another talented Raglan local, Margery Fern, who has illustrated two gorgeous (and amusing) books about growing up on her parent’s farm in Central Hawkes Bay. Margery’s sister, Jennifer Somervell is the author, and she will also be there to talk about the books. You might like to look at their website:

There’s lots of other great events over the weekend too, including music and a ‘real’ writers’ café at the Old School Arts Centre. So it’s busy, busy and I’m a bit nervous, but I’ll let you know how I get on.