Archive for the 'Picture Books' Category

Reading children’s literature

One of the units of study I have lectured in at university this year has been Children’s Literature, with a particular focus on using children’s literature in the classroom. All of my students for this unit are teachers in training, all of them eager to gather ideas for incorporating literature in their future classrooms.

It has been a rewarding time for me as it has renewed my enthusiasm for reading children’s literature. When I was a classroom teacher, and earlier in my career when I was a teacher/librarian, I would regard the reading of children’s books as a professional requirement. I am a voracious reader, so this was no hardship. After one little forgettable incident, I resolved never to read a book to a class without having read it privately first. I still believe this to be a wise policy for any classroom teacher or children’s librarian.

In recent months I have read a wide variety of picture books, chapter books for emerging readers, novels for older readers and non-fiction for various year levels. Sadly, I haven’t had time to review any of them here. In time I hope to regularly get back to reviewing the books I read. In the meantime, if it has been some time since reading a children’s book, why not borrow a few from your local library? Many of the titles published in the last decade are fine examples of excellent writing; some are just as challenging to read as adult books. And often far more interesting and captivating.

If you read a good book that you’d like to recommend – children’s or other – write about it in the comments section. I’d like to know, and so would my readers, I’m sure.

Good reading – and writing.

Writing about your childhood

I don’t get home to the farm where I grew up often enough. It’s only about a two hour drive in the country from where I now live, but I find life gets far too busy at times. A few weeks ago, however, I did have an opportunity to visit my brother on a day trip. Sure, it was only a few hours but pleasant all the same. Sadly I didn’t have time to visit the farm where I grew up, and where my nephew now lives.

While visiting my brother he showed me some photos I can’t ever remember seeing. These photos were originally on slides but John had converted them to digital images and could show them to me on his television. Many of the photos were of John’s pride and joy: his tractors. He thinks he has a photo of every tractor he ever owned – except one.

While this was interesting, what really grabbed my attention was that several of the shots showed me aged between eight and fourteen. It triggered in my mind a desire to focus a little more on writing about my childhood days. Here is a largely untapped resource of experiences that I can use in my writing. It is a deep well of interesting and colourful incidents that can only enhance my writing.

A word of caution is needed. Approaching a topic like this in a dry, journalistic way would be of interest to no-one. Except perhaps immediate family. A more creative method is required if you are interest a broader readership. This is not a problem if you are only recording your experiences as part of your family heritage.

If you do desire a wider audience for these stories, why not try rewriting your life experiences as a child (or an adult for that matter) as fiction? Take that incident with the bull when you raided a neighbour’s paddock while picking mushrooms and turn it into an exciting escapade, complete with other characters who may or may not have been a part of the original story. Turning fact into fiction can release those creative juices and you will never know where the story will end up. It will surely be a more interesting read than a dry narrative account of the facts.

You never know: one or more of these stories might end up being the text for a children’s picture book, or included in a magazine or anthology.

Good writing.

Goals for 2011

At this time of year many people make New Year’s Resolutions. That’s fine, but it is my observation that few people actually keep them.

I prefer to set some firm goals instead, especially in relation to my writing. I find this far more practical and achievable than some nebulous resolution. I shy away from airy-fairy resolutions like “I am going to be a better writer in 2011.” What does that mean? How do I achieve it? How can I measure how successful I’ve been?

My firm goals are often numerically based – so that they can be measured. For example, here are some of my writing goals for this coming year:

  1. I plan to average 500 words per day. That’s over 180,000 words for the year – quite a significant figure.
  2. I plan to average 3 hours of focussed writing per day. That’s well over 1000 hours for the year – another large number.
  3. I plan to write and submit at least 20 short stories to magazines.
  4. I plan to write and submit  at least 50 poems to magazines.
  5. I plan to edit and submit 5 picture books to publishers.
  6. I plan to edit and submit 3 novels to publishers.
  7. I plan to write and post 200 articles on each of my 3 blogs.

That’s the plan at the moment. It may have to be adapted with changing circumstances but they give me something to aim at. I keep detailed records on each of the elements of my plans so it’s easy to see how I am going.

A special note about items #5 and #6 – the texts of these books have already been written. They just need editing, some rewriting and then submission. If I was to allow myself to have one resolution for 2011 it could be: “The year 2011 will be my year of getting published.” And knowing the way publishers work with their long lead times, this resolution may have to stretch into 2012 as well!

Further reading on this topic:

Writing while in hospital

It has been a while since my last post here on this blog.

During the last month I have been busy finishing off my course work for my Master of Arts in Creative Writing . It has distracted me from blogging for quite a few weeks. Then I had a few days in hospital – kidney stones are no fun. This was followed almost immediately by a stay in hospital by my wife. She had a blood clot in her leg which also was far from fun. You could say we were helping to keep the local medical staff gainfully employed. We are both on the mend now.

During my enforced stay in bed I managed to do quite a few hours of reading – all the in line of background research for my thesis novel. The reading was accomplished despite the fog created by the morphine to quell the waves of pain.  Okay – I’ll come clean. I actually had to put the book down quite a few times and take frequent naps.

As I was reading, something triggered an interesting response in my foggy brain. I suddenly had an idea for the text of a picture book based on an experience our family had with a Koala many years ago. The story came to me in a flash – start to finish. That is quite amazing as the ideas I have often take many days – and sometimes weeks or even years – to find that satisfying ending.

Fortunately I had asked my wife to bring me my writing notebook to the hospital. Over the next few hours I jotted down the text of the picture book. Mind you, this is only a very rough first draft. It will probably need to go through many more drafts and rewriting before it is ready to send off to a publisher. Coming up with a unique idea is sometimes the hardest part of writing picture books. This was easy. The hard part will be in refining the text to a publishable standard.

Good writing.

Book Launch: The Wish Giver

Yesterday I had the wonderful privilege of attending a book launch. Rosanne Hawke, one of my lecturers in my Master of Arts Creative Writing Course, is a writer of children’s books.  This new book is her 15th book to be published, and her third picture book.

The Wish Giver

Written by Rosanne Hawke and her daughter Lenore Penner.

Illustrated by Michelle Mackintosh.

Published by Windy Hollow Books.

The Wish Giver  is a delightful book for young children. The Wish Giver lives on “the biggest and brightest star.” His job is to make children’s wishes come true. Unfortunately he falls off the star and lands in Layla’s garden.

Layla has a problem. She has no friends and no-one will play with her at school. She wished she had some friends to play with. She helps the Wish Giver return to his star, and he in turn helps her to find some new friends to play with.

One of the privileges we had being in Rosanne’s class was getting a view of the printer’s proofs many weeks before publication. The book was launched by well known South Australian author Phil Cummings. One of the interesting aspects of this book was that Rosanne’s daughter Lenore was also credited as the joint author. The original story of the Wish Giver was written by Lenore as a high school assignment. It was this story that initially got Rosanne into writing. It was also very much a family event, with Rosanne’s grandchildren also present.

After leaving the launch my wife told me she had been taking notes on how to run a book launch. Rosanne, when signing our copy of the book, added: “It’ll be your turn next.”

Now it’s up to me to get some of my manuscripts off to publishers.

Good writing.