At our last Write Links meeting, we had our first collaborative writing session with a specific purpose; to create two children's stories for The Big Draw to be illustrated by the children of Brisbane on Saturday the 22nd of August during Children's Book Week.
This This unique event is a collaboration itself between members of the Brisbane Illustrators Group, the State Library of Queensland, Book Links, Write Links and of course the QLD branch of the Children's Book Council Australia.
Most of us at Write Links were new to writing a collaborative story but were lucky to have among our group the talented Children's Writer Angela Sunde who helped us on our way.
Angela Sunde's team Prana Writers, won the open division National Award and Eastern States Award for the Write-a-Book-in-a-Day competition in 2011.
After several seemingly crazy warm-up exercises we formed two groups to create two stories, one for older children and one for younger children.
Thanks to Angela's warm-up and experience it was relatively easy to come up with the main character, problem and how the story would be resolved. As the stories are for children they had to be action-filled, fast-paced and with a fun topic and in a setting allowing for visual expression.
I was part of the story for younger children. A picture book has 32 pages of which 14 spreads (or 28 pages) will actually be used for the story and for our collaboration we had eight writers! Some of the pages were left purely for illustrations which meant we had one or two spreads each and only a short paragraph to write as word count was to be no more than 500 words. We also benefited from illustrator Anil Tortop perspective during the process ensuring there was enough room for an illustrator's perspective.
During The Big Draw the stories will be spread out along several long tables and children will be able to illustrate the story directly with the text with the help of Brisbane illustrators including the award winning illustrator Lucia Masciullo.
Using Dropbox for collaborative editing sessions Write Links created two fun stories lending themselves well to illustrations. I can't wait to see the result on the 22nd of August.
I hope to see you at The Big Draw, make sure you share the link to this free event!
It is about time I wrote a blog post in honor of my local writer's group, Write Links.
The group started a little more than a year ago as a collaboration between Book Links and our local SCBWI after they identified a need for a writing group specifically for emerging children's writers. I was there from the start and haven't missed a meeting since.
Our group has grown considerably since that first meeting, our Facebook group has 88 members, and we have around 25 members show up for our meetings each month. I get requests from new members on a weekly basis.
Our members are emerging or established writers, as-of-yet unpublished, traditionally published and self-published.
In addition to the networking and professional development, there are three motivated critique groups; Picture Books, Junior Novels and Young Adult.
Over the last year, the formidable and knowledgeable Sam Sochacka, has educated us, overwhelmed us, or introduced us to all things Social Media for writers. Jenny Stubs from Book Links is our fairy godmother, coaxing us on, and sharing the latest and hottest news and opportunities. Jenny is also a walking encyclopedia on anything related to children's books. Mia Macrossan, CBCA (Qld) Book of the Year Judge is a strong supporter, so is Sheryl Gwyther from our local SCBWI, Peter Taylor, Pamela Rushby and many others. I have slowly grown into the role of coordinator, which I share with Sam Sochacka and it has been a rewarding experience.
The most rewarding aspect of Write Links is the friendships and supportive network this group has created. I now have superhero writing and illustrating friends for life! Why are they superheros? Trying to fit in writing with or without having to look after families, working full-time or part-time in another profession or trying to make a living out of writing or illustrating, is REALLY is not easy to achieve. This group of superheros keeps me focused, inspired and encouraged.
Oh, and I love that my social calendar has filled up with book launches and writing events.
Keep an eye out for our own Write Links logo in the next couple of months, designed by our own members, and check out some of our favourite Write Links blog posts:
Pamela Rushby on writing and her latest novel: The Ratcatcher's Daughter
Getting the most out of a writers' and illustrators' conference
April Write Links Meeting with Stephanie Hogan at Black Cat Books
Write Links meets on a monthly basis as the State Library Qld from 1 to 5pm, for more information please have a look at our website:
And on the topic of interesting blog posts ... Here is the link to a guest post I did for Alayne Kay Christian:
ALL ABOUT SUBMISSIONS GUEST BLOGGER YVONNE MES: HOW TO SUBMIT WITHOUT FEELING LIKE THROWING UP
And to round it all off, here are some pictures of last Saturday, the 3rd of May, dedicated to children's writing in the company of my Superhero Write Links friends:
11am - 1pm -Book Launch
Kaz Delaney launched her new book 'Almost Dead' at Black Cat Books hosted by the wonderful Angel Sunde.
There was a Q & A session between Angela and Kaz which included the telling of some spine tingling spooky stories.
Kaz is absolutely amazing and will be looking forward to more of her books.
1pm - 5pm - Write Links meeting
Sam's social media presentation at the State Library Qld, followed by our networking and critique sessions.
5.30 pm - till late -Book Celebration
Caylie Jefferey had a book celebration for 'Bedtime Stories for Busy Mothers' at the Lethbridge Gallery in Paddington, gearing up for her book launch next Saturday.
As we arrived a little late, the place was so packed, we couldn't even get a glimpse of Caylie until the crowd had thinned out a little!
For more information about 'Bedtime Stories for Busy Mothers' read my review here.
Today I have the pleasure of reviewing Bedtime Stories for Busy Mothers and interviewing the author, Caylie Jeffery.
I identify more than a little with ‘being one of those mothers, the harassed looking ones that never carry enough band-aids, as Caylie describes herself in the introduction and it can be quite cathartic recognising yourself in someone else life; realizing you are not the only mother that loves her children enormously but worries about not living up to being the perfect mother, struggling with guilt and trying to find a balance between parenting and being a person in your own right.
Caylie urges us ‘to take some time each night to rest, reflect and regroup’ by reading her stories. As an emerging children’s writer and illustrator and a busy mum, I only have so much time to read stories that are not for children, so this book with its short stories for adults was perfect! The stories were just the right length and packed full of goodness. Like taking a multivitamin for busy mums.
This book does not describe the agonies of middle class motherly woe. These are stories that inspire, stories that overwhelm with emotion, stories that frighten and stories that make you laugh.
Caylie and her husband made some life changing decisions after close encounters with tragedy and Caylie chooses to live her life consciously, reflecting on anything from the extraordinaire to the mundane.
My favourites are too many to list, but the opening story particularly has stayed with me (you really need to read it and experience the goosebumps and snotty tissues for yourself). Topics range from puppies to politics, from following your dreams and relationships to ... warts. Midwives, teachers, The Baby Artist, being an imperfect parent, libraries and writing and many more. But what all these stories have in common are heart, soul, humanity, frailty, courage, passion and love, and they made me giggle.
The book left me wanting more; more stories and more insights from a fascinating lady whose words flows on the page like a salve for the weary busy motherly soul.
Caylie’s book is being launched at Black Cat Books on Saturday the 10th of May at 10am.
And if you can't make it to the launch, you can get your copy here.
Interview with Caylie Jeffery author of Bedtime Stories for Busy Mothers
Please tell me you have more books like this planned?!
Yes, at the end of each year, I'll publish another Bedtime Story book for grownups, using the best stories I've published from the year before, possibly in e-book format to start with, and maybe one for Dads!
What was your road to getting this book published?
I have always loved to write, and used letters, journals and diaries to debrief about my life experiences. Blogging became another outlet after a Picture Book author suggested I get an audience and a platform before I started to submit stories to publishers. So just over a year ago, I started Distractions of a Busy Mother and realised that debriefing about imperfect parenting and describing positive experiences and inspirational events connected with a lot of people (mainly women between 30 and 60). My stories were read out on the radio and picked up by a few online magazines, and hey presto, I had a platform, an audience and a reason for writing. Now I can't stop.
I see wonder, beauty, pain and choices everywhere I look, and can't wait to get my fingers typing about so many different topics that might resonate with my readers. Because I was frightened off traditional publishing by a publisher who said they received 1000 manuscripts a day, I decided that life is too short to wait for someone to 'discover' me. So, I took the initiative, started my own publishing house (Mindful Matter Publications), found a great editor, printer and started learning everything I could about marketing. And here I am!
Can you share some tips for busy mothers?
Ha! I can offer some but I'd love to receive some in return!
I'm always looking for smarter ways to live and parent! But for what it's worth:
1. Be your true, authentic self. Your kids will know if you're trying to practice a new technique on them that you've read about in a book. If it doesn't come naturally, ask yourself why and then perhaps change the technique to suit your own style and voice
2. Those books next to your bed that tell you how to be a better parent can also sap your self-esteem. Perhaps get a blank journal and keep a record of all the things you do well as a mother, rather than beating yourself up about not being perfect. Just being aware of your developmental areas is a good start, and if you make a mistake, just pick yourself up, dust yourself off and do it better next time.
3. Follow all the same advice you give your children!
4. Have your own hobbies that don't involve the kids or your partner and make time for them
5. Don't stop reading for pleasure... even if it's only 15 minutes a day... sit up in bed, don't lie down to read! Else, you're a goner!
6. Allow yourself down-time. Watch a DVD with the kids, or watch one of your own when they're watching theirs! No guilt!
7. My biggest tip: ask for help when you are snowed under. Start with your kids, then your partner, then your extended family, then your friends. They don't know what to do to help you. Be specific, give a time frame and then say thank you without the need to pay them back with gifts. Let them help you, as you will pay it forward when you can, I just know it.
What are you working on now?
Apart from the marketing and promotion planning for this book, I'm continuing to write weekly essays for various online publications. I am also doing the QWC's Year of the Edit to finish off my YA Manuscript, Salt.
This story is based on our real-life experiences in London during the 2005 terrorist attacks and the ensuing sailing adventure. The heroine is a 16 year old Australian teenager called Rosie who finds power at sea after the traumatic past she's had.
Thank you, Caylie. I am looking forward to more stories and hope to one day hold one of your picture books in my hands!
Caylie and I are both members of Write Links, the Brisbane children's writers group. For more information check out the website.
Meet Tracey Lennon: Brisbane writer, illustrator and visual artist.
Late last year Tracey latest children's book, The True Book of Gnomes, was launched at Avid Reader in Brisbane. I was proud to be there supporting this local and talented author/ illustrator.
The True Book of Gnomes is written for young independent readers from 7 years and up. The story is written from 11 year old Sam’s perspective. Tracey really gets the voice right and the humour is sustained throughout. The story starts off with an exciting chase scene which plunges the reader into a tale of gnome kidnapping by terrible gnomers. After the gnomes, Tomte and his brother Binky, find safety with Sam and his family the story turns into an informative text with delicious titbits of knowledge about the lives of Gnomes.
The book can be read as a whole, or dipped in and out of. There is information on what to feed your gnome, the magic power of gnomes, runes, a short history of gnomes and includes jokes, riddles, quizzes, recipes and even music through the clever use of a QR code.
Though this book will be enjoyed by confident readers, it would also be a great asset to school libraries and specifically for reluctant readers, dyslexic readers and ESL students.
I was so fascinated by this book that I really wanted to learn a little more about Tracey and her background in writing and illustrating. So I went ahead and asked her some questions:
Your new book The True Book of Gnomes launched late last year.
What is your background? How did you become a children’s writer.
I never set out to be a children’s writer, or a writer at all. I’ve always been a compulsive reader and drawer and I studied an Arts degree and design when I left school. I also studied set design and illustration but I didn’t begin writing until I enrolled in a course at the College of Adult Education in Melbourne in 2000. I had a fantastic mentor and teacher called Rachel Flynn who inspired me. I wrote 4 educational fiction books for a local publishers in Melbourne and poems and plays for Australian school magazines.
But what I really want to know is, how did you become such a Gnome expert?
I read the Book of Gnomes by Rien Poortvliet when I was 15 and became fascinated with this world and all the different creatures and fairies in the fantasy realm. I was amazed at the variety and wealth of magic creatures in every culture and I wondered how they would fit into Australian life. I began noticing articles in the local paper about gnome owners and kidnapped gnomes. When I researched the topic on the Internet I discovered a number of organisations that “relocated” gnomes. As I wrote the book a number of gnomes found their way into my garden and my life and it was through them I became an “expert.”
There are quite a few facts within your story, I loved how you entwined Gnome and Human history and even made up your own language. Did you base much of the language of Runes on fact?
Yes. I researched the first types of writing and discovered they were called glyphs which means symbols. Then I found the Nordic runes from The Elder Futhark. I was amazed they were so similar to some English letters but I also thought it was wonderful that each rune has it’s own ancient story and meaning. The meaning of runes are open to interpretation and I was intrigued by the warning, “ Don’t use runes for magical spells until you are completely sure of what it is you’re doing and what (the runes) mean”! Perfect for a gnome’s secret language and spells.
How does your book assist children that find reading more challenging, such as reluctant readers or ESL students?
It’s written with a lower reading age and a high interest level. It has diagrams and pictures to help the reader understand the words. It is a ‘handbook” so it can be read in small sections to avoid reading fatigue. The font is larger and the pages have coloured backgrounds to help dyslexic readers.
What age group would your book appeal to?
7-12 and some adults.
Could you describe your writing process?
Pretty chaotic. I began writing this book on an envelope. Then in a notebook. As I started to write the book I began to do drawings with it - probably like a picture book. I had a specific goal which was to use the pictures to create meaning for the words. I wrote the book over two years but I had the gnome story for ages and I’d written lots of different versions of it. I decided on the chapters, did the research and then cut and pasted all the info into groups/chapters. Most of my writing is like collage- bits of info put together. Then I wove all the info into a story and joined the chapters with a narrative thread. I had a publishing contract on the book at that time so I was working with an editor to bash it into shape. I rewrote it many times. When I got the rights to the book back- I changed it again- included many more illustrations and redesigned it for my audience- dyslexic kids.
You did the illustrations yourself as well. Can you share a little more about your process as an illustrator?
I developed a series of gnome characters and then I went through the book and decided on the number and type of illustrations. I did them in black and white. For every illustration I’d do some sketches and when I was happy I’d use a light box to trace them onto watercolour paper. I used an old fashioned quill pen and ink because it kept the drawings loose- inkblots remind you not to get too uptight! and I like the effect of soft ink wash. I used a program called Comic Life to do the comics and collage for the chapter title pages. I’m dodgy with computers so I like to stick to pen, paint and paper and use computers to clean up the pictures. I got a graphic designer to help me put colour and labels on the drawings and design the book.
Do you consider yourself an author or illustrator first?
Not sure- probably a writer- I started writing and was published as a writer first. I guess that gives you a “professional” title. I’ve had two books published with my illustrations but mostly I just feel like someone who loves writing and drawing.
What advice would you give to yourself when you first started writing and/ or illustrating (imagine you have a time machine).
Warning : Don’t read this if you are easily scared. (I wouldn’t read it.)
Advice to myself: Try not to write everything on little bits of paper, Tracey, because you always lose them. Try to start with a plot and a narrative thread. Try not to have too many ideas. Punctuation and editing are good tools for writers like you to use. This will be the hardest thing you’ve ever done and will take an insane number of rewrites and redesigns to produce a book. Writing the book was the easy part- selling it is the hard part.
Which writer(s) inspires you?
Roald Dahl, Hilaire Belloc, Ogden Nash, Isabelle Carmody, Susan Cooper , Tolkien, C. S Lewis, Catherine Jinks.
Which illustrator(s) do you admire?
Quentin Blake, Ronald Searle, Lizbeth Zwerger, Oliver Jeffers, Julia Friese (Schnipselgestrüpp).
What writing resources do you recommend?
Writing Hannah by Libby Gleeson. This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett. Screenplay by Syd Field. The Writing Book by Kate Grenville. The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. The Poet’s Manual and Rhyming Dictionary by Frances Stillman. And online www.kidlit411.com.
What project(s) are you currently working on?
A series of three chapter books. They are narratives based on the “handbook” of gnomes. Written for 8-12 year olds and at 18, 000 words. I’d like my reluctant readers to have a go at reading shorter chapter books.
Where can people buy The True Book of Gnomes?
You can buy my book via my website, www.traceylennon.com, at Amazon or Booktopia and from local bookshops in Australia including : Avid Reader. Riverbend Books, Speld QLD.
TRACEY LENNON is a writer, designer, illustrator and tutor.
She has completed a Bachelor of Arts (UQ), Bachelor of Applied Science Interior Design (QUT), Cert IV Professional Writing and Editing (CAE Melb) and Cert IV TESOL (BNIT TAFE) and studied illustration and literacy. Her articles have been published in local and regional newspapers : Indian Link, trade magazine Multihull World and kid’s magazine, Scientriffic. She worked in communications at RMIT and is currently tutoring in English Grades K-12. She has had 4 novels for children published, Bad Hair Days, Fish Tales, The Fish Files and The Great Island Adventure. Her poems for children: Glimmer, P’s and Q’s and The Need for Speed, articles: King of the World, Freaky Creatures, Pirates at School and play The Secret Club have been published in The NSW School Magazine and Pearson School magazines.
In 2013 she participated in Two Locals, Brisbane Grammar and Clayfield College Art Shows. The True Book of Gnomes for middle readers was launched in December 2013.
Children's Writer and Illustrator