Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Snap Magic's Cover Release

When you work towards a project for years (writing) and months (illustrating) it can be difficult to finally introduce your 'baby' to the world. Letting go of something you have been passionately working on for such a long time is often an angst-filled moment. But I couldn't be prouder of how the cover for my new release, Snap Magic, has turned out. Here it is:

ISBN: 978-0-9925753-0-4
The illustration/artwork and design vision are my own. Anthony Puttee of Book Cover Cafe brought it all together beautifully. He's terrific to work with; I especially like the font he found and the background he created to my brief.

In another post I'll show my original illustration and sketches. And who's keen to read the blurb?

The professional editing and design of this creative work was made possible with the support of
The Regional Arts Development Fund – a Queensland Government and Gold Coast City Council partnership 
to support local arts and culture.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

My Top Ten Tips for Story Writing

Below you'll find some quotes by me as editor of the Junior Redlitzer Anthology 2014, published in the Redlands City Council's Redlands Magazine as well as my Top Ten Tips for Story Writing. 

"Think of a character, give them a challenge and delve into your imagination for ways to overcome it – you are now well on the way to becoming a junior Redlitzer finalist." 

"What young writers have to keep in mind firstly is that the Redlitzer is a short story competition. There is only so much that can be covered in 1000 words." 

"But we want a complete story from start to finish, not an essay. So make it active more than descriptive, jump straight in."

Angela, a former teacher, says the best way to start is simply put ideas down on paper "no matter how crazy."

"It's when you start firing your imagination that you start to get ideas that are original," she says. "And remember that as a short story it is just a snapshot in life - a very short timeframe."

Photo by Melanie Holtsman

My Top Ten Tips

1. Find inspiration for stories by: reading newspaper features; finding objects on the beach; childhood memories; old diaries; two randomly chosen nouns (like sausage/queen); using story starters (eg. http://www.literacyshed.com/the-story-starter-shed.html) etc...

2. Decide on who will be the main character of your story and keep the secondary characters to an absolute minimum of two or three. Give your character a name, something they love and something they have a fear or loathing of (eg. love of a family pet and... fear of heights.) 

3. Give your main character a problem, which they must solve or overcome - or at least struggle with within the 1000 words. (eg. the beloved family pet is stuck in a tree.... main character must overcome fear of heights to save it.)

4. Brainstorm/mindmap your main character's problem and possible outcomes. What does your character want more than anything? Think up crazy obstacles and solutions. Weird, funny, fantastical are all good.

5. You may plan your story first and then write it, or the other way around. Absolutely NO sub plot in a short story.

6. Keep your story within a short time frame. It is like a snapshot of the life of your character. 

7. Your first sentence is the hook. Jump right into the drama and action. Dialogue is also a good place to start, or thoughts. Introduce the main character's problem as soon as possible. Don't start with description.

8. The middle of your story should show your character trying to overcome their problem/ achieve their goal with obstacles in the way.

9. The resolution of your story may have a twist - short stories often do. Surprise your reader!

10. When editing, think about the tense, the point of view (ie. first person or third person) and grammar. Cut out all the bits that are telling or describing too much. Show your character's emotions through dialogue, thoughts and actions.

The Redlitzer Junior Anthology will be launched at a gala event on Saturday, October 18, 2014 at which the Editor’s Choice Award for the best story will be announced.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Redlitzer Junior Anthology 2014

I'm busy working on the final copyediting of the ten finalists' stories for the Redlitzer Junior Anthology 2014. As this year's editor I had the privilege of running a full-day writing and editing workshop with the finalists last month at the Victoria Point Library in Redlands City. With the help of judges and mentors, Louise Cusack and Marianne de Pierres, the junior writers worked on their rewrites in three small groups.

The day began with a warm-up exercise and editorial feedback on their stories. Overall the 10-14 year olds used consistent point of view, good opening hooks, strong endings/twists and imaginative world building. General weaknesses were paragraphing and the setting out of dialogue. I wonder whether schools are teaching paragraphing with an empty space between each. That's fine for websites, emails, letters and report writing, but creative writing and the publishing world require true paragraphing.

We then looked at Editing a Scene, working on a Scene Overview sheet after a reading of the first scene from my upcoming children's novel, Snap Magic. The junior writers had to fill in questions on characters, purpose, action, setting, sensory details and hooks in relation to their own story.

This was followed by Strengthening a Character. After showing the junior writers examples of my character profiles, they worked on their own, looking specifically at emotions, abilities, personality, physical attributes and mannerisms.

Finally, before they began their rewrites, we worked on Strengthening Plot and Structure. Using a Story Plan and Story Editing Checklist we read and discussed the parts of a story, the goals, obstacles and resolution.

Somewhere in between all this we also managed to fit in a huge cooked breakfast and lunch at the cafe next door!

Tomorrow I'll be putting up my Top Ten Tips for Story Writing (for junior writers). Tune in again!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Book Cover Modelling

My mother-in-law is very proud to have entered a new modelling career at the age of 83. She was the hand model for an illustration I worked on for my latest book cover. In the illustration an elderly neighbour offers the main character a magic sphere for her 'trick or treat'.

I was having trouble drawing the hand and had found some good visual references online, but none were from the right angle or perspective. Then it dawned on me that staying in the spare room was my very own 'hand model'.

Voila! Here are the results below.

And here is my mother-in-law hard at work. Gotta love her!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Children's Picture Book Portraits

In an effort to have fun, play a little and increase my portfolio, I am offering very reasonably priced Picture Book Portrait commissions. 

Working from photographs of children and their favourite things, I create a one image visual narrative straight from the pages of a make-believe picture book. The child becomes a character within their own one-page story.

The portrait is worked in watercolour, graphite and coloured pencil on 300gsm artist quality watercolour paper. 

In the example below I combined baby Milly's favourite blanket, beach hat and inseparable companion, Charli.

Just send me a query through the contact page on my website.

Kate Greenaway Medal Winner Jon Klassen Shares his Process

I love to learn about the illustrative processes of some of the world's best children's book illustrators and share them on the blog. Today I have a special treat for you...

The winner of 2014's prestigious Kate Greenaway Medal is Jon Klassen for his book, This is Not My Hat – both written and illustrated by him.

On the children's books page of The Guardian Jon Klassen kindly gives us a page-by-page video tour of the book in person, explaining his illustrative method and reasons behind his decisions for each page. Watch it here: Jon Klassen's Video Tour of 'This Is Not My Hat'

I was fascinated to learn that he paints the images first in black ink on white paper, scans them into the computer and then inverts them before colouring. That's how he gets the rich black backgrounds.

Also, enjoy the book trailer below.