Posts Tagged ‘stories’

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.

Screen Shot 2018-03-13 at 11.14.25

 

Advertisements

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.

Screen Shot 2017-12-13 at 16.44.19

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!

File 13-12-2017, 16 58 02

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.

Screen Shot 2017-12-13 at 16.33.19

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

Screen Shot 2017-12-13 at 16.53.33

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!

 

Experimenting with all sorts of writing now!  A long time ago, I wrote a 2,000-word story that didn’t (and doesn’t) meet the required criteria for what it’s meant to be, which is a chapter book for a newly confident reader. So it needs altering – both in length and in content. (I drew an image to go with it and showed you the first paragraphs here.)

Someone told me at the time what I needed to do with it to make it right, but *shrugs* sometimes you lose heart or don’t agree or want to keep it as it is.

Now, however, having saved it under a different name, and with loads of time having passed, I feel more free to experiment with changing it. As they say, you have to be willing to murder your darlings – but the time has to be right too! See what you think. Any crit or comment would be welcome. This is just the beginning. Maybe a chapter or maybe two chapters or more. Not sure yet. Just ‘the beginning’ anyway 🙂

Jess hated her new school. She missed her old friends. She also hated her new house. The bedroom door moaned and groaned all night. She tried propping it open. She tried pressing it shut. She tried pushing her slippers against it. But:

Creak! Squeak!

Moan… groan…

Cold air brushed against her face.

A scuffle on the floor: mouse or ghost?

Jess shivered and pulled the covers over her head.

It was nearly morning before she fell asleep. She dreamt that tree roots were curling round her feet. When she woke, the quilt was twisted round her legs and the wind was whistling round her toes. She couldn’t think why anyone would want to live here.

She pulled her uniform on and ran down to the kitchen, where her mum was frying bacon.

‘I hate this house,’ she said. ‘And I hate my new school.’

‘You’ll soon like it,’ said her mum. ‘And it’s wonderful the school is only down the road – or you’d be late.’

School didn’t go well. Again. The other girls and boys were OK, Jess thought, trying to be fair. No one was actually horrible to her. But there didn’t seem to be room for her in their groups.

‘I hate it here without my friends,’ said Jess when she got home. She threw herself onto a beanbag. ‘I used to have loads and loads––’

‘––and loads,’ said Mum. ‘I know, Jess. That’s what happens when you move house. You have to start all over again.’

‘But there isn’t anyone. Hari’s got Ty. Sasha’s got Kate. Everyone’s got someone. I’ll never have anyone.’

‘You will, soon,’ said Mum, stirring the soup. Jess knew from the smell that it was her favourite. Mum was trying to make things OK. But without her dad, and now without her friends, how would things ever be right?

Mum looked up. ‘And when it happens, you’ll be able to invite your new friends for a sleepover.’

‘I can’t. There’s a ghost in my room.’

‘Don’t be silly! It’s an old house, and old houses creak. And remember, there’s always a silver lining to a dark cloud – Grandad lives with us now.’

Mum put three plates and mugs on the table and took the bread out of the bread bin. ‘Why don’t you go up and tell him tea’s ready?’

Grandad had stopped travelling the world and moved into the spare rooms in the attic. It was the only good thing about this new house.

Jess ran upstairs, then up again… right up the steep steps to the attic… and knocked on Grandad’s door.

‘Come in!’ Grandad called.

‘Tea’s ready. Mum said to come down.’

‘Okeydoke,’ said Grandad. ‘I’ll pop my shoes on.’

His face was brown and his hair wild. A tiny bit grey in places, but not much. Jess thought he looked like a wizard. The nicest wizard you could ever have living with you. She’d only known him for two weeks but she was already sure he was the world’s most interesting grandad.

She gazed round the room. Every wall and shelf was covered with Grandad’s special things.

Pictures of Indian snake charmers and rickshaws.

Brightly coloured pottery and robes from Africa.

A wolf skin from Canada.

Jess looked at the basket of stones. ‘Can I play with your stones?’

‘No, no and no,’ said Grandad. But he sounded kind. ‘Those stones are magic. Special. They’re not for playing with.’ He finished pulling on a shoe and stood up. ‘Found them on my travels, I did.’

Jess sighed. ‘Did you meet ghosts on your travels?’

‘No such thing as ghosts, Jess.’

‘Did you lose your friends when you went away?’

‘No such thing as losing friends, Jess. Friends are always somewhere.’

‘But––’

Grandad waved her out of the room. ‘Off we go, Jess. Tea calls.’

He banged the door behind them and started down the stairs.

Jess shut her mouth.

Grandad thought there were no such things as ghosts. Mum thought she could make new friends. They were both wrong.

But suddenly an idea jumped into her head.

After supper, Jess said goodnight to Mum and Grandad and climbed into bed.

She waited until she heard Grandad go into his bedroom to watch television as usual. Then she crept up the stairs to his sitting room. She gently pushed the door and stepped in.

Moonlight flooded through the roof window, painting silvery edges on everything.

Jess looked for the magic stones and spotted them on the table by Grandad’s chair.

Grey.

Rust red.

Yellow.

Chocolate coloured.

All that magic!

If only she could have just one…

Just for a day…

Just to help her make friends…

She’d hold it and whisper:

Stone be true

as blue is blue

I need your power

in this dark hour.

She reached out a finger and touched one that had fine red veins on its shiny black surface.

‘I knew you’d be back,’ said a voice.

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.”

BANG!

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.

BANG!

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?]

 

Not as short as a haiku haha! This is set in a playroom situation, where, in all the stories, the lead character would be one of the various things in the playroom: toys, vehicles, puppets, stones etc. And in this one, the craft paper! Well you can’t say it’s not original 🙂 The idea is that at the end of any story the toys or whatever will go to sleep, or it becomes nighttime. They could well be used as bedtime stories. Lots of discussion points possible, of course, on what has been going on in the story.

See what you think. Here’s an image to go with it.

red paper

Red Paper’s tale

The piece of red paper lay on the table in the playroom with all the other sheets of paper – blue and orange, black and white, cream and pale brown.

Red Paper looked round at the others.

“I’m the brightest and best paper here,” she said. “Mark will choose me to draw on, and then he’ll hang me on the wall for everyone to look at.”

“Shut up!” said Black Paper. “You’re just a bit of paper like all the rest of us. Mark could draw fireworks and a bonfire on me. Black is perfect for that.”

“Yes,” said Blue Paper. “And Mark might let me be the sky when he draws his house.”

“Or I could be a sandy beach,” said Orange Paper.

At that moment, Mark raced into the playroom with his friend Jodi.

“What shall we draw?” Mark asked Jodi. “Houses? The seaside? Bonfire night?”

Red Paper held her breath and crossed her fingers. What would Jodi say?

“Actually,” Jodi said, “My dad’s been showing me how to fold paper to make tiny models. You don’t have to cut it. Shall I show you how?”

Make tiny models? Red Paper was furious. She got redder and redder as she thought about being folded and squashed and creased and bent. Paper was for drawing on! How dare they ruin her?

But before she could say “paper plane”, Mark and Jodi sat down at the table and Jodi picked her up. She flapped and flipped in Jody’s hand, trying to escape.

“Bother!” said Jodi. “This red paper is too bendy and floppy. Let’s try the black piece first.”

Red Paper sat and fumed. She didn’t want to be folded and creased – but she didn’t want to be left out either. She was the best, wasn’t she?

But she had to sit and watch as Jodi folded and creased Black Paper.

After a while, she grew so interested that she forgot to be cross. Jodi’s hands were very careful as she made each fold, and she kept waiting so that Mark could copy with his piece of orange paper.

When they had both finished, Red Paper couldn’t believe her eyes. There, in front of them, sat two little birds.

“Mine’s a blackbird,” said Jodi. “What’s yours, Mark?”

“An orange bird, of course,” he said, waving it around in the air.

Red Paper was sad now. So she flapped and flipped in the breeze that wafted through the window, and hoped that someone would let her join in.

Jodi noticed and picked her up.“Let’s try with this bendy bit now,” she said. “See if you can guess what I’m making.”

Mark watched as Red Paper let herself be folded this way and that, without arguing, until Jodi stood her on the table. She felt very important.

“Why, it’s a butterfly!” Mark exclaimed.

A butterfly? Red Paper flexed her wings up and down excitedly. And the breeze suddenly caught her and carried her over to the book shelf. She was flying! She was beautiful. “Come up here,” she called to the blackbird and the orange bird. “It’s fun to fly!”

“Good night, little butterfly,” Mark and Jodi called as they switched out the light in the playroom. “You can sleep up there tonight. See you in the morning!”