Posts Tagged ‘ideas’

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?
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.)

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


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


I really am no good as a poet. Possibly because I haven’t put in my 10,000 hours of practice! But sometimes, just sometimes, words are needed to capture something without the result having to be prose.

I know you have to ponder and alter and think and discard as you write a poem. But I have had a go at this on four occasions and soon it won’t be autumn but Christmas, so I’d best get on an show you!

So – please don’t judge it as you would from a poet. Just imagine it captures, in a deliberate mix of senses, what it was like to go for my walk the other day. If you take something from it, great. If not, well, I assumed it was for me personally anyway!

November walk in the village

Burnishing the air an earthy warmth,

a rusted scent of needled pine.

Under my feet the sodden leaves.

Livid berries on the forest edge,

a copper beech like polished gold.

Feathers darting endlessly

through criss-crossed twigs on lichened boles –

touched by hint of diesel fumes?

A taste of bonfire fills my mind,

tuneful breezes lift my hair

infused with hints of Eastern spice

from cottage, crêperie and mill.

While overhead, and in full swing,

a corvid family gathering.

leaves photo 72

I have tried to write something that will be easy for beginner readers to read. I declared my intention to do this a while ago actually! Well, eventually things get done. And after I did it, some more time passed and I edited it again. If I fiddle any more I’ll get bored, so here it is, with a couple of provisos:

  • Firstly, I’m assuming an illustrator would show up lots and lots of interesting things going on at the same time on the page!
  • And most of the words are from the list in the post I linked above.
  • But I’m also assuming the young reader can do “I’ll” and I’m” and guess a couple of others from the illustrations.

ps. I painted my castle ornament ages ago, so I thought I’d use it to illustrate the post.

castle new for Pip

Pip’s Present

“Here is your present,” Mum says to Pip.

“It’s very big! What is it?”

“Take it out. You will like it.”

Pip sees the old castle and laughs. “It’s so good!” he says. “Thank you.”

He runs to Mum and hugs her. “I will play with it now.”

Pip looks inside. “Rascal, come and see!” he says.

Rascal comes and tries to look in.

“I want to play in there,” he says. “But I’m too big.”


Pip and Rascal fall into the castle.

“Help!” says Pip.

“Woof!” says Rascal.

Something flies into Pip.

“What is this?” he asks. “It’s like a ghost!”

He is not happy!

“I am Justin,” the ghost says. “I live in the castle. Will you play with me?”

“No,” says Pip. “I do not like you.”

“Come on,” he says to Rascal. “I want to go to Mum.”

They run to the door. But the door will not open.

“Bother,” says Pip. “I want to get out.”

They run to the window. But the window will not open.

“Bother,” says Pip. “We must get out of here.”

The ghost flies with them.

“Will you play with me?” he says. “I’m not happy here.”

“I do not want to play,” Pip says to Justin.

“Woof!” says Rascal. [He is under an old table]

“But you must see my castle,” Justin says. “Come with me.”

They go into a big room.

They see some armour, some daggers and some gold cups.

They see a spider, an old brush and some logs.

They come to a bed. [with a cat on it]

“Woof, woof!” says Rascal. [The cat runs down the stairs]

The ghost looks very sad.

“You do not want to play with me,” he says. “So now I will help you go home.”

Pip is not happy. The ghost is a good ghost. Pip has made him unhappy.

“We will play with you now, and then go home,” says Pip.

Pip and Rascal and Justin play

with the apples and oranges on the old table.

The apples and oranges fly up and down…

from Justin to Pip… from Pip to Justin.

Rascal tries to play too.

But they do not eat the apples and oranges. They are too old!

Justin laughs and jumps.

“I am not sad now,” he says. “Thank you!”

He goes to the door.

He hits it here…

and here…

…and there.

“Open, open, open!” he says.


Pip and Rascal are back home. [in the bedroom]

“Goodbye, Justin!” calls Pip. “We will come and play tomorrow.”

“Woof!” says Rascal.

Rascal goes to sleep on Pip’s bed.

“Good night, Rascal,” says Pip. “That ghost was fun! I like my big old castle.” [imagines happy ghost in ghost bed?]