Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Most of us call these flowers grape hyacinths, but I thought I’d pretend to be educated and give them their proper name of muscari!

I came across a bank peppered with them when I was walking by a stream today. The sun was hitting them, although we’d had drizzle earlier. The intense blue-mauve against the bright green and the brown earth just invited a photo. Plus their attitude!

hyacinth copy

So I’m afraid this is another haiku. But it’s such a lovely form to write in, with syllables of 5, 7 and 5.

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Hope you like it! If you feel inspired to write one about a flower, do post it in the comments for us all to enjoy!

 

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Let me say straight out that I found the instructions for making one of these fold-it-yourself books on this site, by the lovely Nancy I. Sanders, who shares so much of her wisdom about writing for children and schools via her many books. Previously, I have made my own dummies in a totally different way – less fun but maybe easier for including lots of pages.

Today I didn’t want many pages. But I did want twice as many as provided by one sheet of A4. So I simply made two and worked out which panels had to be glued together to make them one. This gives 12 mini pages and a cover and back.

And why a small one and not a 32-page picture book? Because I am still interested in writing for early readers or those who will only read something less threatening than a book, and perhaps also those children who like facts more than fiction.

I still had to pay attention to choice of words, and also how to put them on the page, leaving space for some line drawings in ink. And this is only a draft and a trial. But I thought I’d share the link and image, in case it’s exactly what you were needing to know. Chances are you are ahead of me and knew how to do this already!

You could use any layout software if you want to do it in type rather than handwriting – I used Pages on the Mac and deleted the grid before printing. Handwriting is all good though.

If you have children or grandchildren and want to write a very short bedtime story and put a few line drawings in, that would be a great way to do it.

Better still, with slightly older kids, your could write the story together, get them to learn how to fold it (for any future stories they write), and get them to put a few illustrations in! Simple is best 🙂

Here is a picture of my finished booklet.

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Any teachers out there?

A year ago, I kept a concertina art journal in which I jotted everyday stuff via images in pen and wash, with only a few keywords. So not a proper journal. Got one of those already! My PJs appeared, as did the dirty water we live with, the concert I went to (aged rockers they were!) and the first snowdrops. That sort of thing.

But on the way, I jotted down a rhyme I suddenly thought up, which has come to mind regularly ever since. So this week I got it out and drew the images to go with it. I changed a few phrases on the way – things can always be improved – but on the whole this now feels like a done work. Ps There’s a little joke I added to number 7’s image – do you see it??

It would be really useful to teach to Reception-age kids because they could do large arm movements of how the numbers should be drawn/constructed (like playing air guitar!) while reciting the rhyme, and just learn and enjoy all at the same time. It would even make an assembly little demo.

Still, I’m not in schools doing author visits at the moment and not in touch with many teachers at all these days. So I’ll let you enjoy it instead 🙂

Let me know if you like it? It’s so encouraging to hear from you all. (OMG – have a I fallen into the “likes” trap? Perish the thought!)

numbers and words screenshot

I seemed to be drawing a lot of owls, so when my granddaughter was visiting, we talked a lot about owls and stories. And eventually, when she’d gone (useful that, having a lively discussion of ideas!), I came up with a story about an owl who was looking for his breakfast at dusk.

When I’d fleshed out the idea, I did take time to go back to the general rise and fall of a picture book story (as I often do with PBs). The structure goes something like this, although you will find variants all over the internet:

First: What is the story question?
Then:
1 Problem
2 Incident intensifies
3 Reaction to worsening
4 Thwarted efforts to sort this out
5 Character suitably reacts
6 Find a successful solution

I went through checking that there was all this ‘shape’ to it – and then wrote it.

And then trimmed it! Taking out everything that could be better shown in the illustrations. (This would, of course, assume an illustrator with greater talent than me knowing how to make magic of the scenes I can see in my head!)

The easy bit for me is editing my text so that it has rhythm and balance and alliteration and surprise. The difficult bit will be finding a publisher for this, ahem, masterpiece!

I’ve started the trawl now. In case it helps anyone out there, here is a wonderful website page, made and updated regularly by Lou Treleaven, which lists publishers who accept unsolicited manuscripts. She deserves a medal. (Agent Hunter is good if you want an agent, though.)

https://loutreleaven.com/2010/07/21/childrens-publishers-accepting-unsolicited-manuscripts/

But just in case you miss seeing an owl while you read my ramblings about an owl story, here is a recent and surprisingly relevant one I did, though I won’t tell you why! It just happened, unconnected with writing any story.

mouse in hand and owl

 

Not ‘woes’, as in I can’t, but just wondering how you ever make a picture book sound like a story when you have left significant things to be shown in the illustrations only!

I was thinking this especially today as the SCBWI organisation (for children’s book writers and illustrators) is holding an illustration thingy for picture book stories of just 350 words to be read out and one chosen to be given a critique by an agent. It’s for the whole membership, and only 100 slots are available – from whom finalists will be picked. OK, fine. It doesn’t matter that I can’t manage it. The slots were probably filled two minutes after the competition opened!

But all my picture book texts in embryo form wouldn’t hang together if ‘just read out’. I thought the point was to show not tell!

So – let me explain the latest place where it would be a problem. I got this idea after sketching a little girl with a pencil who is picking up the shavings.

Day 9a girl and shavings

This  gave me the idea to do a picture book about a girl who is small for her age and doesn’t want to go back for a second day at school in Reception class, aged 4+ (UK schooling system). At one point in the story, there would be this line: ‘But the children couldn’t agree about what made them happy.‘ On the next page there would be nothing but a spread of chaotic children in pairs arguing about how to make the picture they have to make in class. A bit of text, attitude, thought images etc would show it all. But it would sound bizarre to read on, in public, to the next bit, without the public knowing what this spread had shown. So no, I won’t be entering that sort of competition haha.

What I will be doing is making up a dummy to show which illos would go on which page and cutting up text and sticking it in place – and then sending it with the whole manuscript to someone or other to find it’s fortune. Wish me luck!

(Ps I think Jojo bows have gone out of fashion now, so the girl in the story will not look like that sketch I did!)

 

I’m never sure of terminology, but I think “magic realism” is magic introduced into a real-world setting.

This is something I love. It resembles a flight of imagination that sees the possible amid the mundane. And I like that attitude. It brings something extra special to a novel to have these things happening. I suppose that’s why I brought in a talking mouse in the chapter book I am redrafting. Why limit things by being prosaic all the time??

This probably explains why I so enjoyed The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley. And that’s also why I’m now reading her next book, The Bedlam Stacks.

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It was a little bizarre at first, though not magical. And then there appeared a statue that had moved. But, supposedly, no one had moved it. Then later it faces a direction from which to watch the narrator. I’m only 20% through, so I’m not sure how much more “magic” will happen. But guess what? It leaves the possibility open and makes me read on. The story will definitely not be boring!

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And then I came across Cassie Beasley’s Circus Mirandus. This is aimed at so-called middle grade. A good reader of 10 would love it.

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This is the intriguing first bit – how can anyone resist that last sentence??

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I leave you to decide if magic realism grabs you like it does me. But discovering new books is such fun anyway, so I thought I’d tell you about these two – three if you include The Watchmaker – I read that three times. Not something I normally have time to do!

 

Not another haiku, I hear you say!

No, not at all. TWO haiku (haikus?).

We had a welcome visitor this week who has stayed around and I love him. It’s a Great Spotted Woodpecker. Difficult to capture on film without him seeing me and zooming back over the road to the forest. So this image is from Pixabay, which is free to use here.

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Isn’t he just beautiful?

 

 

 

 

 

 

I then wrote haiku number one:

Tap tap tap tap tap –

something pecking on the wood

of my bird feeder!

(Pity this feeder is mesh!) I think he came because it got cold up here and started snowing. But I’m glad he’s stayed.

And because I didn’t go walking in the snow, I wrote haiku number two!

Grey-white snow, and mauve,

spread in crystals on my lawn,

lounging till the thaw.

Which is what I propose to do – lounge till the thaw. I go out when it’s deep and fun, like the snow my hens here are enjoying; not when it’s thin and icy and then slushy!

pic 2 for snow