Thursday, December 30, 2010

Workshops at the NSW Writers' Centre

Someone once told me that many people don’t realise that people actually live west of the Blue Mountains. He was mainly talking about the publishing industry at the time. Granted, he was a little jaded and being flippant but he isn’t entirely wrong. It is harder for writers living outside the capitol cities. Not because of publishers but mainly that we don’t have regular access to all the facilities of our city cousins.

Take the NSW Writers’ Centre.

If I didn’t live three hours away, I’d be at the Centre every week. I’d join one of their numerous writers’ groups and I would go to a lot more of their wonderful workshops. As it is, I try to attend two workshops each year, plus the annual Festival of Children’s Literature.

Early this month, I attended the “Advanced Picture Book Workshop” with Libby Gleeson. I had high expectations and happily, I wasn’t disappointed. Libby is such a lovely person. She made everyone feel at ease and filled our hungry little minds with insightful and practical information. She also left us with some useful questions to ask ourselves when writing.

Some of these include;

.....• What is it that sets your character apart from other picture book characters?

.....• Why did you explain what the story is about?

.....• Is the orientation too long and complicated?

.....• Is there enough dramatic tension in the middle? (Rule of three)

These questions are just as valid for chapter books and novels.

Libby also left us with some interesting quotes.

.....• “Try and find that perfect – beautiful image.”

.....• “If you are going to do a rhyming text, it MUST be VERY, VERY good.”

.....• “If it doesn’t ADD, it SUBTRACTS.” (My personal favourite).

The best thing I took away from the day was the realisation that I’m actually on the right track with my picture book texts. And I’m confident that with persistence and a little luck, I am going to crack this publishing thing.

What a lovely setting for a workshop.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Literary Christmas

It is now late on Christmas day and the house is finally quiet. It has been a busy day - if you don't count the short nana-nap this afternoon - so I haven't had much of an opportunity to enjoy my gifts yet.


It is going to be a very literary Christmas.

Santa has been good to my this year, not only did she leave me a new camera, there was a whole swathe of new books as well. Lara Morgan’s first Rosie Black Chronicles – ‘Genesis’, Suzanne Collins – ‘Hunger Games’, Simon Green’s - ‘The Man With the Golden Torc’, two of Joseph Delaney’s - ‘Spooks’ books, Bernard Cornwell’s - ‘The Burning Land’, Cornelia Funke’s newest book – ‘Reckless’, a gift voucher from my local book shop and last but certainly not least, ‘Violet Mackerel’s Brilliant Plot’ by Anna Branford with brilliantly delightful illustrations by Sara Davis.

Although, like I said earlier, it has been a busy day. The first thing I did after the exchange of gifts – and a nice coffee – was to sit down in the quietest corner of the house I could find and devour ‘Violet Mackerel’ Not only is it a lovely story with enchanting characters, nearly every page has a little of Sarah’s magic. She never ceases to amaze me with her illustrative talents. One day I hope to be as good.

I walked around today and kept finding myself looking for my own small things.

I’m going to buy a second copy of ‘Violet Mackerel’s Brilliant Plot’ to donate to my school library. I’m working in just the right class next year (Year 4). I know some kids who are going to love this book as much as I do.

Congratulations Anna and Sarah. You made my Christmas special. And thank you to the team at Walker Books – you know your job.