This is my short story entry into Susanna Leonard Hill's Valentiny contest. Enjoy reading the other entries on her website.
Daisy’s heart thudded as she saw all the hearts hanging from streamers in the classroom.
“This week we are celebrating Valentine’s Day,” said Miss Lovely. “Tell me what you know.”
Valerie raised her hand. “You give a card to your best friend.”
“And, it’s a secret,” added Clementine.
Miss Lovely clapped. “That’s right. Everyone will make a card for a friend.”
After recess, Miss Lovely took the class to the library.
Valerie handed Daisy a book. “You’ll love this one.”
“Thanks,” said Daisy. She liked horse books too.
Valerie whispered, “I can’t wait to make your Valentine’s card.”
The librarian shushed them before Daisy could reply.
On the bus, Clementine saved a seat for her. “What are you going to decorate your Valentine’s card with?”
Daisy held her library book. “I like lace. And you?”
“I’m going to use your favorite – glitter,” said Clementine.
“Great,” said Daisy. “I thought it’s meant to be secret.”
Clementine smiled. “I had to tell you.”
At home, Daisy pulled out her craft kit. Who would she give her Valentine to? Valerie and Clementine were both her friends.
Instead, Daisy made two cards.
On Valentine’s Day, Daisy handed Valerie and Clementine their cards.
Valerie + Clementine + Daisy = Valentine’s Dai – a chain of friends.
No, I didn’t disappear off the edge of the world in 2016. I have indeed been engaging in social writing activities. Here’s my proof.
The blog has suffered in my absence because I’ve been focussed on revising my work. I also moved into a new house and have a fantastic new writing room!
I’ve started this year off with a new motivation, writing new material and enjoying my critique group. I’m also participating in Storystorm to generate one new idea for a book each day during the month of January.
On day two of Storystorm, the founder, Tara Lazar wrote an amazing post on mindfulness. It’s a hot topic everywhere. Mindfulness is the ability to be here in the present moment.
My grade one teacher wrote on my report card, “Rebecca has a tendency to daydream.” After reading Tara’s blog post, I’m embracing this as a positive. For many years I saw this as a negative. While I do get distracted, daydreaming has helped me to dream up wonderful stories to tell.
So this year my writing goal is to strike a balance between mindfulness and daydreaming.
To help me with this matter, my writing buddy Alison Stegert gave me the most amazing diary for Christmas. I am scheduling in time to daydream while being mindful of important deadlines. Writing makes me happy and when I’m not, I’m deflated.
Here are a few other thoughts I've had about mindfulness and daydreaming.
Children need time for free play and daydreaming to foster creativity, which helps them excel in many areas of learning.
The Labor Party is opposing changes to parallel imports, which would have allowed cheaper titles of the same Australian book to be imported from overseas into Australia. Thankfully, they are mindful of the impact this will have on the Australian publishing industry, ensuring the support of local authors, illustrators, publishers and more importantly, preserving and dreaming about Australian culture in literature.
So who is going to join me this year in mindful daydreaming?
P.S. If I schedule blog posts into my diary, you should hear more from me this year.
Being a teacher is hard work, but the two things I love most about my job are teaching kids to read and talking about what we’ve read. I’m a huge believer in loving what you read and developing children’s oral language by discussing what you’ve read. So at the end of each year I gift my students with a book to read during summer.
One thing I witness in my class year in year out are kids who are what some term ‘reluctant readers’. This can include reasons like students find reading hard, they can’t concentrate for very long, they don’t know what to read and more.
When I was a kid, I found reading hard. Thankfully I had a mother who constantly encouraged my reading, despite the fact I didn’t enjoy it for the above reason. She diligently took me the mobile library to borrow books every week and the school library, read homework books with me, helped me with school projects, bought book club at times, surrounded me with books, gave books for gifts and didn’t give up on my love of reading. Unfortunately, my love of reading came late in life when at university I got sick of reading textbooks and I turned to fiction for some welcome relief. I discovered a whole new world and I haven’t turned back, a fully converted book lover, especially of children’s books. Now as a teacher, I want my kids to love what they read from a young age.
Yesterday, I found this same sentiment reiterated in a fantastic article called ‘Game Changer for Kids’ in the U on Sunday section of the Sunday Mail (20 December 2015). Here’s its sub-heading:
“In a children’s publishing boom, reluctant young readers are being lured to the exciting world of books with the help of their sport heroes.”
It really got me here:
“I was always wanting to be out there playing sport and not in the classroom,” [Billy Slater] the NRL star says. This is a common scenario in many classrooms around Queensland.
I know this all too well. After teaching the middle grades for several years, I have taught many students who are sports crazy, dream of being a pro-athlete, line up quick smart for their weekly Physical Education lesson with their hat (why not mine? :) and live for the lunch breaks playing any game on the oval until they’re red in the face. I often wished they showed similar enthusiasm for the classroom! Some do, but not all.
I’d love to spend more afternoons playing sport with them. Unfortunately due to an overly-packed curriculum, it makes it hard to get out and play these games more often, although I dedicate one afternoon a week to this. This is an important side issue.
So this article absolutely grabbed my attention for these kids! Where was it earlier in the year? I would’ve used it.
The article features Billy Slater and the Billy Slater series about rugby league, Israel Folau and the Izzy Folau series about rugby union, David Warner and the Kaboom Kid series about cricket and Tim Cahill and the Tiny Timmy series about soccer. Each have worked with different authors to bring these series to life.
These are the main takeaway points I got for all kids:
- Find books on topics that interest your kids and get them hooked on reading.
- The main focus is they enjoy what they read.
- It shouldn’t be a chore or feel like homework.
- They need to practice to be confident readers.
- Reading should be a shared experience between parents and their children together. Talk to your kids about what they are reading and what they like or don’t like about the book.
- My personal one: Be a good role model and read books. Talk about the books you are reading and why you like them.
These are my favourite quotes from the athletes with my anecdotes included:
"If sports heroes can help hook the kids into reading, that’s a great thing.” [Dr Sue Thomson, director of the Australian Council for Educational Research] Well said!
He was thinking outside the box because there was no point getting me read a novel I didn’t really care about.”
I love how Billy Slater’s grandfather got him interested in reading. I say to my students I don’t mind what you read, as long as you enjoy it!
"Reading is like kicking a football, the more you do it, the better you get.
That’s what I say to my little girl who puts herself down with her reading.
It’s about building up their confidence and making them interested in what they are doing.” So true!
Books for me in primary school usually meant homework and assignments.” My worst nightmare!
"As a kid, I was never a reader and now I’m still not a reader, and that’s one thing I wish I could do. I wish I could go back and read a lot of books. I hope kids feel a connection with me as a kid and not mimic me, but learn from it because I regret not paying attention at school.
I always found reading hard. I would read one page and then go to the next page and forget what I had read.” No! Don’t let this happen – please!
I understand as a parent the pressure kids face with sport and school.” They can love both!
“I say to my wife that as long as the kids are reading something that’s all that counts. For sure.
As a kid I wasn’t a massive reader, but I loved books with pictures and cartoon characters such as animation.” Have you heard about graphic novels?
And if you have lasted to end of my very long blog post, well done! This is an important issue to me as a person, educator and writer. One day, I hope a book I publish connects with a child and inspires them to keep reading just like these athletes have. All I can say to these athletes, authors, publishers and other people who’ve gotten involved in these series of books is THANK YOU! I'll keep encouraging my students to be readers. I hope you will as well.
Karen Tyrrell is a Brisbane based author who writes and self-publishes books about resilience for adults and children. I met Karen through my writing group Write Links.
Karen is visiting my blog today. I was interested in finding out from Karen how she imagined her latest book, Jo-Kin Battles the It, a kid’s space adventure. The book follows Josh Atkins (Jo-Kin) and Sam Jones (Sam-Wich) on their first Super Space Kid mission to save the galaxy from a deadly alien called It. Welcome Karen!
Karen, you enjoy writing humorous stories. How have you added humour into Jo-Kin Battles the It?
I wrote a hilarious story based around the main character, Josh Atkins super geek and his dotty family. Josh throws himself into challenges but they backfire and go wrong. Jo-Kin’s dad is scared of heights, he even gets dizzy combing his hair. Jo-Kin’s silly mum wears a fluffy dressing gown with bits of dog biscuits stuck to it and sings love songs to her dog. I added funny smells, and WHOOSH and KAPOW comic book sounds. Of course, Josh trips over - SPLAT- many times at a critical moment.
Which character are you most like in the book and why?
I’m most like Josh Atkins, the nerdy science kid. I too was the science geek at school and later as the science school co-ordinator, pale skinned and terrible at sport. Like Josh, I was determined to achieve my dream one day.
You have created some fantastic gadgets and inventions in Jo-Kin Battles the It. Did any real life gadgets inventions inspire you? Which is your favourite gadget/invention in the book?
Them all. Real life and fantasy gadgets inspired my own creations like:
Jo-Kin is on a great adventure. What is the best adventure you have been on Karen or you want to go on?
I’ve explored most continents of the planet. I helicoptered over volcanoes, trekked over glaciers and I have gone helmet diving down into Tahiti’s pacific reef. I really love exploring new destinations at sunrise, inhaling life. I did this after I arrived in Bali, Fiji, Penang, Hong Kong, Paris and Rome.
My dream now is to zoom into space aboard the Virgin Starship to explore the final frontier.
Thanks Karen. It was great to have you zoom by on your blog tour for Jo-Kin Battles the It.
If you enjoyed stopping here, continue visiting Karen on her blog tour and have a chance to win a prize. See below for how.
Jo-Kin Battles the It Blog Tour
19 Oct Dee White writingclassesforkids.com/writing-an-illustrated-novel-with-karen-tyrrell/
20 Oct Di Bates diannedibates.blogspot.com.au/2015/10/jo-kin-battles-it.html REVIEW
21 Oct Alison Stegert ali-stegert.com/2015/10/21/blog-tour-jo-kin-battles-the-it/ How to Write KIDS Sci-Fi
22 Oct Georgie Donaghey www.creativekidstales.com.au/whats-new/tours-at-the-tales/1319-jo-kin-battles-the-it-karen-tyrrell
23 Oct Robyn Opie www.robynopie.blogspot.com.au/ Review
25 Oct Rebecca Sheraton www.rebeccasheraton.com/blog Imagine!
26 Oct Sandy Fussell www.sandyfussell.com How to Promote your Book
27 Oct Jill Smith authorjillsmith.wordpress.com/ Review
Melissa Wray melissawray.blogspot.com.au
28 Oct June Perkins gumbootspearlz.org Interview
29 Oct Sally Odgers promotemeplease.blogspot.com.au Story behind Jo-Kin!
30 Oct Kate Foster www.katejfoster.com/blog How & Why Sci-Fi?
Jo-Kin Battles the It Book Giveaway
Win a signed copy of Jo-Kin Battles the It OR one of four eBooks of Jo-Kin Battles the It OR signed artwork from the illustrator, Trevor Salter.
For a chance to WIN please like Karen’s Super Space Kids book series page on Facebook www.facebook.com/SuperSpaceKids and
Please leave a comment on any of the above Blog stops 19-30 Oct.
Winners announced in November. Good luck
Where to buy Jo-Kin Battles the It
Jo-Kin Battles the It is available direct from the author, from Amazon, LSI, Fishpond and book shops such as Riverbend in Brisbane, Dymocks: Penrith, Carindale, Garden City. Angus & Robertson: Victoria Point & Post Office Square, Mary Ryans Milton.
MORE stores coming soon.
Hello everyone. I’m back in the blogosphere again. Six months is a long time. I will get back to regular blogging again.
Some of my favourite historical fiction writers include Pamela Rushby and Alison Lloyd. As for picture books, I’ve read a lot of biographies lately. One of my writing friends Yvonne Mes has a picture book biography on Sidney Nolan coming out in the Meet series by Random House later this year.
These are some of activities I’ve been doing to research for a Junior Fiction novel I’m writing on the Emu War and a picture book on a child living through WWI, called Paddy Vidgen who was the mascot for his brother’s army battalion.
Go on an excursion
For my emu project, I visited an emu farm only 10 minutes down the road from where I live. I got to walk through their pens, watch these unique creatures and learn a stack about them from a very passionate emu farmer.
Interview your subject
Unfortunately, the emus weren’t very chatty. But my WWI subject was. My State Library interviewed people in Brisbane who grew up during WWI and recorded their experiences. I went to the John Oxley Library at the State Library of Queensland to hear Paddy recollect what it was like growing up in the war era. I even got to use a tape player. The wonderful librarians arranged everything so it would all be there for the day I visited.
Read entries from your subject's journal or personal letters they wrote. Watch videos on your subject being interviewed.
Interview someone connected to your subject
Paddy, sadly has passed away. I have been in email contact with Paddy’s family to ask questions about his life.
This is a rare and wonderful experience if someone is willing to let you in and share information about your subject. You glean a personal aspect of your subject’s life and this helps bring them to life for you.
Go to an exhibition
While at the State Library I dropped in to see the WWI exhibition, Distant Lines. Low and behold, there was a photograph of Paddy Vidgen on a wall in the exhibit. (The below photo is not Paddy Vidgen). I learned many interesting pieces of information about WWI and was moved by the personal accounts of people who lived and served during the war.
Wow, the internet has journals to read, videos to watch, images to see and lots of information on websites. You can find out almost anything. People who are passionate about a subject have put up a lot of information for you. Of course, take the information you find with a grain of salt and check its validity and the source who is providing it. Otherwise, have fun seeing what comes up in your search engine results and wading through the information. Save details of your research later so you can always refer back to the website links.
Visit your library website
The State Library of Queensland and TROVE have an incredible amount of information digitised. I have been able to find old newspaper articles and photographs from both the Emu War and on Paddy Vidgen.
Also search your library's catalogue and order books so they are ready to pick up when you next drop in.
Visit your library
Contact your librarians. They are very helpful people. Librarians at the State Library sent me a very personal email answering my many research questions with links to the relevant information. If you speak to them, they will help you find what you need while you are there too.
Library’s often have historical archives. During my time in the John Oxley Library I read two books on the history of two WWI army battalions from Brisbane. Sometimes they allow you to photocopy pages from these precious books.
I have read many books on these topic areas. I have also read books by other authors who have written similar books to my stories. Soak up what you can and learn from others.
History is full of interesting figures waiting to have their story told. I hope these tips help you enjoy the research. Go on, get caught up history.
Kidlit 411 is turning one! To celebrate, this fantastic and free website features relevant information on children's publishing and they are giving away prizes to their loyal followers. Join in the fun and win signed books, courses and much more.
Most of the information is from America and worldwide. You can subscribe to their blog and get the weekly updates sent straight to your Inbox. Kidlit 411 also has some great interviews with authors and illustrators.
I had another wonderful year reading many great children’s titles. Here are my top picks. They may not have been published in 2014, but I read them this year and fell in love with them.
The Mighty Lalouche
by Matthew Olshan (Author), Sophie Blackall (Illustrator)
I love this book because it works on so many levels. Set in Paris, Lalouche is a postman, but when electric cars replace his job he turns to boxing to make a living. He is nimble and small, yet mighty.
Why it works?
It has an adult main character, but children will relate to being overlooked because of their small size. Lalouche doesn’t give up. The boxing is child-friendly punch ups and you want to barrack for Lalouche! Great history lessons at the end of the book. The illustrations are whimsical of Paris.
by Kyo Maclear (Author), Isabelle Arsenault (Illustrator)
Spork’s mum is a spoon and his dad is a fork. They love him just as he is, but the other cutlery don’t see where he fits as he is neither a spoon or a fork.
Why it works?
Children will relate to their parents loving them for who they are, but struggling to fit in socially and the attempts Spork goes to connect with the other cutlery. I love that the book doesn’t paint over the lows of the character, yet Spork finds his own special place in the world when he is the only one who can help. Great twist at the end!
Dogs Don’t Do Ballet
by Anna Kemp (Author), Sara Ogilvie (Illustrator)
Biff is a dog who doesn’t do dog stuff and all he wants to do is ballet.
Why it works?
A dog who is dog-darned determined to be a ballet dancer. Children will benefit from the resilience to keep going when everything tells you should give up.
Early chapter books/Early Junior Fiction
Friday Barnes: Girl Detective
by R.A. Spratt
My new favourite series of books. Friday is a very mature girl who solves a bank robbery and uses the reward money to send herself to the most exclusive school, Highcrest Academy. On arrival, Highcrest is a crime hot-bed and there are many mysteries for Friday to solve.
Why it works?
Great character name – Friday! Friday is smart, but socially awkward with a dead pan sense of humour. She doesn’t compromise on who she is, what she wears (I love her hat) and she finds her own feet at school. Friday has one great friend and roommate Melanie, a fantastic arch nemesis in Ian Wainscott, a supportive uncle, clueless scientist parents and many mysteries to solve, including a Yeti. I can’t wait to read book two, Under Suspicion. Watch out Sherlock Holmes!
Jake in Space: Moon Attack
by Candice Lemon-Scott
Another great series. Moon Attack is the first in a series of six books to be released in 2014 and 2015. Jake is sent to remedial driving school on the moon when he has failed his license again.
Why it works?
Kids will love the fact that young boys and girls learn to drive space crafts much earlier than they are allowed to in real life. They will love summer camp, but set on the moon and that people now live on other planets in the solar system. It is fast paced, fun and a great mystery for Jake to solve.
Older Junior Fiction
My Life is an Alphabet
by Barry Jonsberg
Candice Phee is a 12 year old girl and she is asked to submit a journal based on the 26 letters of the alphabet. Candice is the glue that holds her family together and brings joy to those around her through all the ups and downs in her life.
Why it works?
Candice is a strong, caring character that is well developed, quirky and yet relatable to all people. Despite being a misfit, she doesn’t see it that way in her world and she does what she can for those around her. I love the recount style of the book and each journal entry has a fully developed storyline and idea. Funny and poignant, a great read.
The Fault in our Stars
by John Green
Hazel has terminal cancer, but has received treatment which has extended her life. At a Cancer Kids Support Group Hazel meets her best friend Augustus Waters.
Why it works?
Just read my whole blog post dedicated to it.
So what were your top reads for this year?
What a scorcher! Sweat dripped off my forehead. A massive heatwave hit Queensland. The hottest Australian Christmas on record ever and here I am stuck driving out to the middle of whoop-whoop with my whole family.
“How much longer to Uncle Ned’s and Auntie Karen’s farm?” I complained.
“Jake, you know Blackall is far away!” said Mum.
“It’s not all black. It’s all dust. It should be called Dustall,” joked Dad.
“Ha, ha. That’s so corny, Dad,” said Lisa.
“Mum, can you turn the air-conditioning up?” I asked.
“Rrrr,” groaned Mum, giving me the not-one-more-word look.
“I’m almost as scorched as a scorched almond!” said Dad, laughing at himself.
“Seriously Dad, enough. Those aren’t even jokes,” said Lisa.
Whoosh! Splutter-splutter STOP!
Steam poured out from under the hood.
That’s not good, I thought.
Dad popped the bonnet and checked the engine. “Radiator’s gone! I’ll need to call for help.”
This was perfect! What’s worse than being stuck in the outback? Not going out or heading back home, I thought.
Was it a mirage? No a miracle on wheels. A blurred haze of rusted steel chugged straight towards us.
“Hi Jensen’s. I’m Steve. You’re heading to Ned’s and Karen’s for Christmas?” called Steve from his old tractor.
“Too right. We’re having a bit of car trouble,” said Dad. “Can you give us a tow?”
“Sure can! I’ll have you hooked up in no time.”
And we chugged slowly behind Steve all the way to Ned and Karen’s farm.
“Thanks mate,” said Dad, shaking Steve’s hand. “Come in for a drink?”
“No, I have to get to my own celebrations. Glad to help.”
“Well that’s an entrance,” cried Uncle Ned.
“Merry Christmas!” shouted Auntie Karen, squeezing me so hard and covering me in kisses.
“Where’s the kids?” asked Dad.
“Oh, floating up in the dam. That’s where we set up Christmas!”
I couldn’t have been more wrong. We floated in tubes on the dam, barbecued Christmas lunch, ate under the tarp and slept in our swags under the stars.
It was a dam good Christmas!
For some writers when you hear the word ‘critique’ you want to bite off all your nails. I still get a small amount of butterflies in my stomach before a critique and even more nervous when I sit in front of an editor.
While I think it is nerve wracking, I have learned so much from other people reading my work in my writing group, swapping critiques with friends over email and for paid editor appointments.
How to get the most out of a critique?
1. Sit in on a critique session at a writing group first to see what the process is like. Have agreed rules.
2. Find someone you trust or a group of writers you feel comfortable showing your work to. Talk about your expectations and then swap critiques.
3. Be open to what others have to say and listen to them fully.
You never know which bit of advice will pay off. One editor appointment I went to last year didn’t feel so great. But she gave me one fresh idea that helped transform a whole manuscript.
4. You don’t have to agree.
I sometimes get varying critiques. While helpful, it can be confusing too.
5. I choose which pieces of advice I think will work.
Sometimes I try different things and it works and other times it doesn’t.
6. It’s okay to put your work away.
Sometimes you develop a love/hate relationship with your work. One editor asked me to do something completely amazing and fresh to a manuscript I showed her. It was confronting. In fact, I was so scared it sat in a drawer for five months. Today, I pulled it out for the first time to write it.
When to get a paid critique?
I recently sent a picture book off for a manuscript assessment. I was ready for a good critique. I had worked on the manuscript and got is as polished as I could. I’d had advice from editors and had it critiqued in my writing group and I was now stuck.
To be honest, I was a little nervous. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised. I was greatly encouraged by the feedback and instead of sending me into a hole to hide, I actually couldn’t wait to get back to writing. It was the best money I have spent. It really helped me to see the strengths and weaknesses of my manuscript.
I can tell you I have learned so much from other writers letting me see their work. It is a privilege and it encourages me to show my work to them.
Hopefully, you will enjoy critiquing, as much as you can.
Do you have any tips on how to survive a critique? Share your tips below.
As soon as you start to dip your toes in the kid lit world, you quickly make a lot of friends with rather friendly, zany, fun, creative types like yourself who like to call themselves writers, illustrators or both. You also end up attending their book launches.
And can I say there is nothing more thrilling than to celebrate this milestone with the very people who understand all the blood, sweat and tears that go into producing the pages, words and illustrations all beautifully bound together in that now tangible object, the book.
A book launch is a celebration for all involved including the author, illustrator, publisher, bookshop for the sales, family, friends and fans.
Over the weekend I had the pleasure of attending two book launches for two very talented Queensland authors who have also become my friends.
Animal-lover and advocate, Samantha Wheeler launched her second book Spud & Charli, published by the University of Queensland Press at Riverbend Books in Bulimba on Friday night.
The book follows Charli as she heads off to riding camp where she is matched with the somewhat ugly duckling called Spud, a former racehorse. Also there’s the dreaded bats and the Hendra Virus risk that scares Charli. Young girl readers will love this horse riding adventure. Here’s a great review already on Spud & Charli.
Space cadet, Candice Lemon Scott launched the first in a series of six books, published by New Frontier called Jake in Space: Moon Attack at Black Cat Books, Paddington on Saturday.
Jake is learning to drive at space car driving school when he discovers a plot to blow up the moon. In order to save the day and the moon, Jake puts his lacking driving skills to the test. This book is guaranteed to thrill young boy readers with space, cars and things blowing up. Two more Jake in Space titles are to be released this year and three in 2015. Check out the Jake in Space website.
So here are some things I’ve learned from attending a lot of book launches in the last year.
1) Buy the book before the launch starts. It’s a great idea to support our independent retailers.
2) Have any camera device ready to snap an impromptu photo, just as the author/illustrator is breezing past you. When they stop to say hello, ask them to pose for a photo with you. This works, of course if you know them. Smile Candice!
3) Have a notepad or app to jot down dot points when they are giving their presentation.
4) Go enjoy some snacks first and as the queue gets shorter, get your book signed then. This is a good time to ask for a photo if this is your first time meeting the author or illustrator.
5) Don’t be afraid to talk to people. Network and you will get to meet some of your favourite authors and illustrators that way. They go to these events too, to support their colleagues.
6) Have a business card ready in case a relevant industry professional asks for your contact details. It makes you look professional.
7) Enjoy yourself and the snacks.
Remember the cool ideas for your own book launch. I hope you enjoy meeting an author or illustrator at a book launch in your area soon.