Our very own Write Linker, Jacqui Halpin, has just released her second picture book, 'Where's Lucky?' with Little Pink Dog Books, illustrated by Sandra Severgnini. Lucy McGinley was delighted to interview Jacqui about her inspiration for the story.
How did you get involved with Our Haven Wildlife Shelter?
I saw a video someone shared on Facebook of Tony from Our Haven bottle-feeding about 10 joeys all at once in what looked like an ordinary suburban kitchen. I thought, there has to be a picture book here somewhere. So, I followed them on Facebook to learn more about them. Then I contacted my publishers at Little Pink Dog Books and asked if they would be interested in a story based on Our Haven Wildlife Shelter, and they said yes! So, I contacted Theresa from Our Haven and got the ball rolling.
What came first the story idea or the desire to help the charity?
At first I just thought it would make a beautiful picture book, but as I discovered more about what Our Haven Wildlife Shelter actually did, and saw how hard they worked for the animals in their care, I realised it could be a lot more than just a lovely story. It could bring recognition for Our Haven and wildlife carers everywhere. I also wanted this book to be a way that children and adults could learn how to help care for our native animals. The final page has a list of tips on how the general public can help save our wildlife.
I’m blessed in that my publishers, Peter and Kathy Creamer from Little Pink Dog Books, are animal lovers and were happy to donate a percentage of the income from Where’s Lucky to Our Haven. Sandra and I both personally make donations to Our Haven as well.
Are all your stories about animals?
Actually, now that I think about it, a lot of my picture books are.
In your last book, you gave a percentage to help retired racehorses. I sense a theme! Does a ‘cause’ motivate you to write?
Sometimes. I’m of the opinion that good stories should do good. So, if I’m writing a story and it can benefit a worthy cause in some way, I’m happy to do it.
Mostly, the stories find me and they don’t always have a good cause in mind but that doesn’t mean they can’t do good in other ways.
Jacqui’s passion for children’s literature started when reading bedtime stories to her children. They outgrew their childhood books but Jacqui never did. Jacqui writes junior fiction, picture books, and short stories (for adults and children). Her short stories appear in anthologies by Stringybark Publishing and Creative Kids Tales.
Find out more about Jacqui and her books by following the links below.
This weekend I held the book launch of my latest two children’s novels, Daniel Barker By Power or Blight, and, Amy and Phoenix.
I have planned and implemented a few book launches with my five titles. I find a book launch is like a wedding but on a smaller scale. It needs preparation, can be stressful and overwhelming, and you’ll have a sore mouth from smiling for all those photos!
I congratulate you if you are coming up to your book launch, because already you’ve put in a mountain of work to have your book published, whether traditionally or independently.
Here are five tips to help you hold a successful book launch:
1) Decide on the date
If you are traditionally published you will be given a date that the book will be released. If you are independently published you will have an approximate date you think your book will be printed and ready to go. Even if you are traditionally published, you will most likely have to organise your own launch.
When making the date there are some things to think about:
* What other activities are on at the same time? Will your friends and loved ones be able to come or are there a lot of other conflicting events on the same day?
* If you would like your book launch put in your local council’s newsletter you will probably need to get that date to them six months in advance.
* If you need to book a venue, you will need to allow time to be able to negotiate this with them. They may not be able to do your first date.
* Make the book launch at least a month away (many say three months is better) so you can advertise and promote your book.
2) Book the venue
Where do you want to hold your book launch? There is no prescribed place. Many people hold their launches in bookshops or libraries, but you do not have to. I have held my book launches in two different parks and the local art gallery. I’ve had other friends hold their launches at sports clubs and in community halls. Do what you want to do.
Some things to think about before you book your venue:
* The cost of the venue. If you are hiring a room in a library or a community hall, sports club venue etc. you will need to pay.
* The weather. If you are outside, what will you do if the weather is inclement?
* Is the venue near public transport? You need to consider people who are unable to drive. All of my book launches have been near the train line.
* What facilities does the venue have? If you are at a park, are there toilets? Also, if you are at the park, what do you do for hot water etc.? If you are at the park you will also have the added furniture - gazebo, tables and chairs.
3) Send out invitations
If your venue has a limit of the number of people it can hold, you will need a guest list or a ticketed event. Invite people from all the different areas of your life. On Saturday I had family, and friends from my three writing groups, school, church, my childhood and my community. If you don’t have a limit, invite everyone who you think might be interested in attending.
After saying this, if you invite a large number of people, expect a large number of apologies. People are crazy busy and some people will just not want to attend. I had 70 apologies, and 40 people attended, and others who did not RSVP. Keep positive when all of those ‘I’m sorry I can’t make it…’ start coming in. Look at the people who do come and enjoy your celebration with them.
4) Market the launch
You may need a press release
A book launch is really a part of your marketing plan. Put your book launch on all of your social media platforms. Add snippets from your planning process, glimpses of your book and what it is about, and if you are able, make a promo video. It is a great idea to contact your local newspaper and ask if they would be interested in doing a story on you. In some instances, you may need to write a press release to send to media.
5) Plan your day
Like a wedding, you will need to have a To Do list, and a program for the day. Think about everything you will need depending on what you want to do in your book launch. Some people like to do a book reading, have art and craft activities, dress-ups for the children, prizes, pantomimes, or have puppets. Think about yourself, the book you are launching, and how you can make it unique in some way. Don’t try and replicate someone else’s but by all means take ideas from others you have seen and like.
* A banner
* Flyers, business cards, bookmarks
* Books (pre-sign to save time) and a pen
* A float/credit card facility (organise a person to handle the money for you on the day so you are free to just sign the books and chat)
* A cake & knife, tablecloth
* Food & drinks (plates, cups etc)
* Your speech
* Public liability insurance (check with venue)
You must have some type of speech. Your guests will be in awe of you. Many people would love to write a book but will never. You have! Make sure you explain a little about your book, or read some of it (if it is a picture book then read it all) so they know what it is about, and say anything else that you think would interest your guests. You can have someone interview you, or you can tell a story and then relate it to your book, act out a play… whatever you are comfortable doing. Write a list of who you would like to thank in case you forget someone. Even though writing is a solidary activity, there will be people who helped or supported you, encouraged you or have influenced you in your journey. And if you forget someone who is present, go to them and apologise (I did this on Saturday!) I also suggest that if you suffer from anxiety, practise your speech beforehand.
6) Post about it afterwards.
You’ll be exhausted afterwards, but this is not the end. You need to post on social media photos from the event and tell your followers how they can support you – by purchasing your books, posting reviews and telling people about you.
Then it’s time to get on with more writing!
Jenny Woolsey is an educator, author and speaker, on difference, diversity and difference. She is passionate about advocacy for facial differences, mental illness and inclusive education. Jenny has published five children’s/YA novels on her theme. Through her work, Jenny presents three messages: 1) Just be yourself 2) Embrace your differences 3) Be a victor not a victim. She ultimately wants everyone to feel valued and be accepted for who they are.
Reblogged from https://ali-stegert.com/2019/01/09/a-writers-self-care-part-2/
Not all goals are good goals; some can be downright unhealthy.
Of course, most writers want to sign with a world-class agent, experience a bidding war over their manuscript, sell out their first print run, hit the best seller’s list, and become wildly and internationally famous. The trouble with all of those awesome events is they are completely outside of a writer’s control. Setting any of them as a goal will lead to disillusionment, heartache, and burnout.
Dreams & Goals
The old adages hold true:
“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.”
“Dreams should be big enough and wild enough to scare us.”
But dreams and goals are two very different things. Dreams engage your wishbone. Goals rely on backbone.
Writers—all creatives in fact—need both ‘bones’. Your wishbone is a trellis that supports your imagination, fosters your vision, and trains your creativity into something uniquely yours. Your backbone is a girder for your growth, dedication, resilience, and longevity.
Goals or SMART Goals
The SMART acronym has been bandied about since 1981 when it was coined by George Doran and associates in an article in Management Review. I particularly like this amplification of the basic qualities of good goals:
S = specific and stretching
M = measurable + meaningful and motivating
A = achievable and action-oriented
R = realistic + rewarding and results-oriented
T = time-bound and trackable
I whimper on the inside when my writing peers say their goals for the year are to get an agent and land a publishing deal. Both are superior dreams but inferior goals, because they aren’t specific, measurable, achievable, realistic or time-bound. Lots of wishbone, little backbone.
Compare these SMART Goals:
But Will Setting SMART Goals Get Me My Agent?Well, not exactly… But it will lay stepping stones in the direction of that dream. Instead of chasing a hazy desire, you create a clear path to follow. Won’t it feel amazing to know where you’re going and how far you’ve come?
As a bonus, tranquillity, optimism, and contentedness flow more freely when we focus on the things we can control. Setting smart goals makes the journey pleasant and healthy!
Self-Care is a Non-Negotiable
Hitting send on your query letter simultaneously hits pause on the part you control. I can tell you from years of experience: unless you are unbelievably lucky, freaky talented, or have an X-factor idea whose time is RIGHT NOW, waiting is the name of the game.
The waiting “to get somewhere” in the life of a writer can be frustrating and bewildering and downright disheartening. It can feel like being stuck in a terminal with no flight information while everyone around you takes off on time or lands safely and falls into the embrace of waiting loved ones. That’s why it’s so important to have clear steps to care for yourself.
It’s common—normal even—for emerging and aspiring writers to feel lousy about “not getting anywhere”, which is industry shorthand for not getting an agent or a publishing deal. Unchecked, disappointment can fester into disillusionment, despair, and even deeper into mental health issues. If you are vulnerable (genetically or circumstantially or both), please, please take steps to be proactive about self-care.
The creative life is a zany rollercoaster with an unpredictable series of highs and lows and tummy-squeezing, knuckle-whitening loop-de-loops. Try to step back so you can view the whole ride, rather than bogging down on the slow or disappointing bits. And above all, share the ride with friends. It’s more fun to scream in symphony than all alone!
Own the Process
We control the quality and quantity of our work. We control how we use our time, how we spend our resources, who we include in our networks. We can control what we read, who we listen to, where we find inspiration, and how we treat other writers. We cannot control whether an agent will like our work enough to sign us as a client. Therefore, own what we do control and let the rest go.
This is a workout for the backbone, not the wishbone.
Over to You
I hope this is the year of your breakthrough or continued success in the creative life—whatever that means for you, signing with your dream agent or landing a publishing contract or breaking a sales record with your latest indie book. May it also mean growing in your ability to find joy in the act of creating and strength in the practice of caring for yourself.
Until next time, take care of yourself!
I went because I wanted to make a website. I had part of an understanding of the process via some wonderful, tech-savvy (which I am not) friends. But not only that, I’d been trying to make it to one of these meetings for a year.
It was too far, it was in the afternoon, my kids needed me (no, they really didn’t). Not getting to a WriteLinks meeting had become an excuse. I went to other local writing meetups which were wonderful, getting to know my writing community. I learned my craft.
But they never really fulfilled my needs. Why? Because none of them wrote for children. Writelinks provided that for me today. Bonus, I got to listen to Anthony Puttee of the Book Cover Café - now The Self-Publishing Lab – speak on making a website.
A few friends had teed me up in the prior months, yakking on about domains and hosting (napkins on the table and chips in a bowl, right?) when really I had no idea. Nods and smiles convinced them their words had gotten through while I hoped my computer started and I could find my most recent Word document.
An hour and a bit into the meeting I was amazingly well educated on how to choose a host that allows me to purchase a domain – my own author name – which looks professional, is easy to use and can grow with my business. This includes listing my books in an online store and getting one of those snazzy enter-your-email-here boxes I’ve always wanted.
In fact I’m so gung-ho, I’m heading home to sort it out later tonight. Not bad for someone who regularly sees wisps of smoke rising from whatever electrical item they’ve neared. I was pretty impressed with my very first Writelinks meeting – more so by Anthony, who gave me the confidence that I could sort this at home by myself.
So here are his tips for making a strong author website. An author’s website is their online presence, their main hub to the world. The Domain, he explained, is like a street address, the Host is the land and the website the house itself.
First he offered a choice of website creators. The usual suspects, Wix, Weebly, Wordpress.com. But it was Wordpress.org he focused on, along with Blue host.
For a small fee you can set it all up ad free, with an email that matches your domain. What screams professionalism like that? Especially to that top-notch agent or Big 4 publisher you’ve been chasing. *cough* Because we never do that…
If yours is a reasonably unique name like mine, use that as your Domain, so your fans can find you easily. If you have a more common name or one that crosses with another online personality, maybe you could add something to it – johnsmithbooks.com, for example.
Anthony went through the entire process with us and it took around half an hour, with questions. In your own quiet space, you could do it in less time again. Follow the prompts and save for a quick, professional hub that can expand with your writing business.
You can even get a great little plug in that shares your content to social media for you. Handy. It’s also compatible for mobile devices, so that professional look follows your online presence. www.selfpublishinglab.com also provides authors with editing, cover design, layout and a plethora of coaching services. Many of the WriteLinks authors have used Anthony’s services to their great benefit and speak well of him.
In all, I enjoyed my first WriteLinks meeting. I learned a lot, put faces to online names, met some wonderful authors and reconnected with others I’ve spoken to at prior Brisbane events. I’ll certainly be adding these meetings to my 2019 calendar.
Jo Seysener is an emerging children’s author with a passion for PND awareness living near Brisbane with her three crazy kidlets, enthusiastic GSD pup and decrepit Kelpie. She also shares her living space with a trio of mad chickens. Jo dabbles in speculative fiction in her spare writing time and is obsessed with alpacas.
Author and illustrator, Gregg Dreise, bounced into view and began his Welcome to Country so the gathered members attending the Book Links AGM could join him in paying respect to the traditional custodians of the land.
Before we knew it, he had Tess Rowley flying like a sea eagle and Sandy Driessens bouncing like a kangaroo as Gregg himself animated the whole room with his passion and energy.
He peppered his stories with snippets and antidotes and we all hung on tight for the ride of our lives though some of the oldest stories in the world to the stories of Greg's parents and his own generation. Gregg pointed out gleefully that we are still teaching in schools today what his ancestors 55,000 years ago knew, that to tell a good story you need to have an introduction, body and conclusion!
We replied with gusto to his communal storytelling, singing back, clapping and ‘tsking’ in mostly the right places! The stories of more recent times, The Stolen Generation “savages to be civilised” can be hard to hear as a white Australians, however Gregg is about joy and happiness and he shares stories to bring awareness and to ensure we look after each other and the world, so the world can look after us.
Gregg spoke to us of the power of tradition especially with art and storytelling and how we can change perceptions and increase diversity without stereotype. Something as simple as the revised edition of Jessica’s Box by Peter Carnavas. The text hasn’t changed but in the illustrations Jessica is now in a wheelchair. It can be as simple as blending skin tones in illustrations so that children could be of any ethnicity that connects with the reader. That is what diversity is about, books that connect with every child because they are about people like them.
Gregg agreed that changes like the above are simple to do but as a non-indigenous person if you wanted to write a story about an indigenous group it was important to connect with that group for their guidance and approval.
In the true spirit of inclusion, I asked other members of the Write Links group to share their reflections, resources and their favourite inclusive books and picture books for this blog:
Write Links attendees were fortunate to hear Gregg Dreise talk about his heritage, his stories and how we can all include greater diversity in our work. I was extremely grateful for this opportunity as I have always wanted to be more inclusive in my work, however I have been concerned about the possibility of inadvertently causing offence through potential cultural insensitivity or lack of knowledge. Gregg clearly and concisely explained the way forward. It would be wonderful if all authors could hear Gregg speak. Thank you so much Gregg, you are a brilliant ambassador. – Emma Middleton https://emmamiddleton.com/
I think it's really that Gregg is encouraging respect. It is more than inclusive literature it is raising up diverse voices, through mentoring to also tell their own stories. So, it is everyone reading beyond their own immediate experiences who may be used to always being mainstream.
It is also about deconstructing stereotypes of others and keeping them out of our writing
So, for the inclusive list you wrote, it is also about adding authors of experiences often offered as well, not just as friends, but as a new world for some readers, but a well-researched one.
Dr Who on Rosa Parks was great episode, for instance. Also thinking of Indigenous and Migrant authors just telling stories they want that are great books for all.
Dr June Perkins https://magicfishdreaming.com/
Here are some links to check out for more information:
And here are some books suggested by our members
Karen Tyrrell, a Write Links member has written …. Ready, Set, Discover Logan
Cecilia Adams 'The Day War Came' - Author, Nicola Davis. Illustrator, Rebecca Cobb. www.walker.co.uk - Amnesty International UK endorses this book because it shines a light on children's rights to be safe and have an education. Walker Books donating one pound to Help Refugees for every copy sold. My very best purchase from London trip this year!
Justine Lawson "My Two Blankets" Irena Kobald, Illustrator, Freya Blackwood
Hayley Jackson Gus the asparagus! and Amy and Matthew by Cammie McGovern
This one is a beautifully illustrated, rhythmic exploration of difference in an Indigenous/non-Indigenous context https://www.goodreads.com/.../17236136-same-but-little...
For your advanced Yr 6 readers, Inheritance by Carole Wilkinson is thought-provoking. A time-slip looking at the massacre of original occupants of a pastoral lot, but really sensitively done, with a gripping mystery at the heart.https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40660553-inheritance...
I love this as a non-patronising look at a non-Anglo family & the different ways families express love. Unique & powerful use of language too.https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2962372-so-much...
Lucy McGinley – My Place by Nadia Wheatley and Donna Rawlins
Gregg Dreise is the author and illustrator of Silly Birds, Kookoo Kookaburra and Mad Magpie. These stories are about teaching morals. Silly Birds is based on the saying, “It’s hard to soar like an eagle when you are surrounded by turkeys”. Kookoo Kookaburra is based on the saying, “Kindness is like a boomerang - if you throw it often, it comes back often. If you never take the chance to throw it, it never comes back”. Mad Magpie is based on the words of wisdom, “Stay calm like the surface of the water, yet strong like its current. And know that there is a song out there for you.”
A descendant of the Kamilaroi tribe, from south-west Queensland and north-west New South Wales. He was born and raised in St George, Queensland and moved to Noosa during high school. He is the youngest of eight in a family that loved sport, music and poetry (one of those families where everyone sings, and passes guitars around at get-togethers). Gregg’s mother (Lyla Dreise-Knox) has always inspired him to write. Her poetry has entertained the family (as well as the odd magazine and newspaper readers) for many decades.
Gregg is currently a teacher in the Sunshine Coast, Queensland. He has completed writing four more picture books waiting their turn for publishing; and is also working on a chapter book for upper primary. For Gregg, the most exciting part of writing, is going to schools and libraries with his didgeridoo and guitar, with the aim to educate an audience filled with smiles. He was very excited to take his books to the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in Italy this year. His book Silly Birds was on the 2015 Premier’s Reading Challenge year 1 to 3 booklist and was shortlisted and then won the 2015 Speech Pathology Australia - Book of the Year award.
Gregg has been an artist most of his life, following in the footsteps of many family members. His paintings have been sold all over the world. His recent international art award was for the last painting in the book Silly Birds.
Lucy lives in a house where dinosaurs roam the bathroom, chess pieces invade the dinner table and drawings of the weird and the wonderful carpet the floor. Words wrap around her like possums clinging to telecom lines, plop onto pages steadily like koala droppings and dart into the grass like blue tongue lizards! She spends her days captivating kindergarten children and her afternoons marvelling over birds feathers, seedpods and occasionally snake skins, with her son.
French artist Edgar Degas (1834 – 1917) famously said ‘Art is not what you see, but what you make others see’.
This was truly my experience when I joined June Perkins’s tour of Words & Pictures. June's interactive journey through the Australian Collection features poetry and micro stories inspired by 12 different artworks. Her responses are written for visitors of all ages, with particular appeal to children and families; a delightful glimpse of art through the eyes of a poet and children’s author.
Words & Pictures is part of an ongoing project to increase engagement with artworks in QAG. Local artists and writers are invited to respond to artworks in the Australia Collection. June was thrilled to be commissioned to do this work. ‘This was one of the best emails in relation to my work I’ve ever received,’ she said.
June had complete freedom over her choice of artworks. Each response was limited to a maximum of 80 words and everything had to be completed in three weeks with a couple more weeks for editing! She spent a lot of time in the gallery, finding works that appealed to her, thinking of a child’s perspective (choosing works above and below their eye level and in a variety of media) and developing a concept for her poetic responses. The result is engaging, inspiring and easily accessible to children and adults.
June’s poetry appears in a display adjacent to author information beside each artwork. Each poem carries a delicate feather motif. This is a reference to an imaginary character that June created - Perceval’s Angel, inspired by John Perceval’s Herald Angel, a richly glazed sculpture.
Herald Angel, John Perceval, Queensland Art Gallery
June imagined the tour like a giant picture book with Perceval’s Angel guiding viewers through the pages. June was delighted to tell John Perceval’s grandson, a friends from her university days, that she was using the angel in her creative pieces for the gallery. Some of her poetry pieces begin with a quote from Perceval’s Angel who speaks directly to the viewers, guiding them to the next artwork or helping them interact with it.
‘Hop on board’ the angel invites viewers of Yvonne Koolmatrie’s Hot Air Balloon, and June adds:
‘Take yourself to the balloon’s edge,
Feel the breezes, through the sedge’
in an enticing invitation to adventure and travel, lets the imagination ride free in this sedge grass, coil woven work suspended in space.
Hot Air balloon, Yvonne Koolmatrie, Queensland Art Gallery
On a time travel wall displaying different artists’ ’ approaches to the Australian landscape, the angel says:
‘Listen to the music of landscapes
through the portal of Australia’s artists’
One of June’s choices on this wall is Rosie Gascoigne’s Lamp Lit, a large work made up of letters and shapes from cut up road signs. June’s response draws on the personal experience of destruction and loss wrought by Cyclone Yasi in 2011 when a road sign ended up in her front yard; or as angel says: ‘But the real question is what will you design in response to loss?’
Lamp Lit, Rosie Gascoigne, Queensland Art Gallery
And so, the adventure in art continues, stopping by at Ian Fairweather’s Epiphany, Sydney Long’s romantic and ethereally beautiful Sprit of the Plains, Sonya Carmichael’s colourful Baskets of Culture, Fred William’s vivid Echuca Landscape, Irene Chou’s suggestive Universe within Our Hearts, William Delafield Cook’s amazingly detailed and skilfully toned A haystack, and Ray Crooke’s Woman with blossoms, reminiscent of Gauguin. June said she saw her identity in this particular work.
Woman with blossoms, Ray Crooke, Queensland Art Gallery
Our tour ended as it had begun with an invitation to travel on in the imagination, this time on a representation of Ian Fairweather’s ramshackle craft; the one he used at the age of 60 to make a potentially suicidal 16 day crossing of the Timor Sea from Darwin to a remote coral island west of Timor in 1952.
The gift (from 'Argonauts of the Timor Sea'), Michael Stevenson, Queensland Art Gallery
June’s verse reads:
You can do anything, be anything
The child in her poem makes the sacrifice necessary to travel to Kudusur – a reference to the dramatic mural visible through the hole in the craft’s sail. Painted by Torres Strait islander Alick Tipoti, it references paddling a canoe, seasons, ocean currents, journeying between islands and spiritual ancestors – the universal journey through life.
Kudusur, Alick Tipolti, Queensland Art Gallery
Don’t miss this Words and Pictures journey. Grab a child or find your inner child; help yourself to the drawing board, paper and pencils, and create your own responses. You can take yourself on a tour anytime between 10 am to 5 pm, until the end of November.
June's final in person tour will be on November 17th 2 pm (contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information). You won't regret it. All those attending on 17th Nov are invited to sponsor Magic Fish Dreaming books to go to PNG.
Poems are available as pdfs until the end of November https://www.qagoma.qld.gov.au/whats-on/exhibitions/australian-collection/quiet
Renee Hills 2018-11-06
Dr June Perkins is a Brisbane-based poet, blogger and children’s author, of Indigenous Papua New Guinean and Australian background, raised in Tasmania by Baha’i parents. She utilizes multiarts and multicultural stories to inspire an enriched sense of belonging and compassion in those who encounter her work. She was recently invited to share Magic Fish Dreaming at the Asia Pacific Triennial Pacific, Summer Program 2019 and became a member of Mana Pasifika research Institute. She maintains an interest and dedication to promoting diversity in the Australian literary landscape. Her first children’s book was the award-winning poetry collection, Magic Fish Dreaming (2016) illustrated by Helene Magisson.
Renee Hills has always loved words and writing. A founding member of Write Links, she writes picture books (Turtle Love was published in 2017); flash fiction (Proof was published in Short and Twisted, Celapene Press 2017); and a short fantasy is to be included in the Rainforest Writing Retreat Anthology 2018.
Lucy McGinley blog editor and coordinator
Story telling has existed throughout cultures around the world from the beginning of time. Primarily, stories were passed on through the generations with oral language, points of interest in the environment and body actions all committed to memory.
In the modern day, stories are conveyed less through voice, as humans became better at writing them down for others to read; and more recently they are listened to via audio books and podcasts.
In education, a child develops holistically with the integrating of reading, writing and oral language skills. With the advancement of technology, some of the most important tactile hands on learning for early childhood development is lost and the ability to recall and retell stories decreases.
Felt stories and rhymes are a colourful tool to engage learners of all abilities, ages and cultures in the act of language acquisition and literacy learning. Together children and adults can retell common shared stories by manipulating felt crafted characters and settings to make the scenes enacting the events, problems and solutions. As children develop, they can recall the stories with minimal support and perform the stories for adults and siblings. They can then extend their imaginative processing by creating new stories with the characters and share them with peers within their families, classrooms and communities.
Photographs by KRC Photography.
You may be asking: How do felt stories connect communities?
Many years ago, my study buddy, turned friend and Early Childhood Mentor, Fran Fitch, was diagnosed with Neuroendocrine Tumours (NET cancers): the cancer that took Steve Jobs and Aretha Franklin from our world. Five years ago, Fran decided to raise funds and awareness for the Unicorn Foundation (who support NET cancer patients and their families) and pass on her love of rhyme and stories through felt creations. I have been helping bring her favourite rhymes and stories to life by hand making characters and settings from blank felt canvases. We have been sharing our passion for early language and literacy development at the annual Quota Craft Fair and have raised many hundreds of dollars each year for the charity.
In this case, felt stories are a bridge that connects cancer patients with the wider community. When families visit the Unicorn Foundation stand at the Craft Fair held each October, not only are they being inspired by Fran’s exuberant retelling of the rhymes from memory to then share with their own family, they are becoming aware of the plight of NET cancer patients, how the Unicorn Foundation provides support and last but not least, the money raised from the selling of the hand crafted felt stories and rhymes goes directly to the Unicorn Foundation and their front line programs.
Felt stories are not just amazing for language and literacy development within the home; they have long been a popular instructional resource for teachers and educators. Felt rhymes and stories cater for all 8 of Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences: musical-rhythmic; visual-spatial; verbal-linguistic; logical-mathematical; bodily-kinaesthetic; interpersonal; intrapersonal and naturalistic intelligences. They can be used for whole class, small group, individual and differentiated learning tasks to retell familiar stories and create new ones using a tactile play-based learning philosophy.
Felt rhymes and stories can also connect communities across cultures as they share their traditional stories with each other and other members of the wider community and can assist in the language and vocabulary acquisition of another culture’s language through the shared understanding of common imagery of the felt characters and objects.
The fun, joy and excitement we see when a child chooses their own felt set makes all the hours, glue covered fingers and felt covered furniture all the more worthwhile.
The fun, joy and excitement felt intrinsically from helping my friend going through cancer, spreading the word about the Unicorn Foundation and the amazing work they do, is priceless. This year I lost count at over 20 hours of crafting, motivating my friend through her daily battles and helping put a laugh in her days. No amount of money can be put on the time I have spent with her when she has been in need.
I highly recommend being a volunteer for a charity and connecting with your community as it is not only paying the goodness forward, you are being the voice for those who can’t or don’t often speak up for themselves and studies have shown that doing works of charity also helps your own physical and mental wellbeing. In an ever-increasingly busy world, I understand it can be hard to find the time to invest in others. However, it can be as simple as a tax deductable monetary donation; spending time on the frontline generating awareness and raising funds; spending time in the background by offering your skill set by volunteering in a charity’s office; sparing a few moments to hit like and share on social media to spread the word through your digital networks or communities and it can be as simple as buying something as a gift for yourself or others, knowing the funds are going to a worthy cause. Every little bit helps!
In the words of Mother Teresa: “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”
For more information about World NET Cancer Day on 10 November 2018, the Unicorn Foundation and the support programs they run, please visit their website: https://www.unicornfoundation.org.au/
For more information about the Quota Craft Fair to visit the Unicorn Foundation Stand on 13-14 October 2018, please visit the event website:
Blog written by KR Clarry.
Brochure by The Unicorn Foundation.
Photograph by Special Memories Photography.
Author Bio of KR Clarry:
KR Clarry is an OP1 graduate of Logan and a Teacher of 13 years’ experience with a strong passion for life long learning. She has taught in State, Catholic and Independent schools as well as having roles with a University and an International Education Company delivering ICT professional development to school administrators, staff and students.
KR loves to read, write and bring stories alive through modelled and shared reading and writing experiences. She is currently working on many exciting projects.
When she isn’t lost in a world of creative imagination, KR likes to do ballroom dancing, bush walking and photography, as well as volunteering for a range of different community charities.
KR’s ultimate goal is to make a positive difference in the world and works to inspire children to aim high to be the best versions of themselves that they can be.
How to present at a Festival or School
An insightful presentation by Jenny Stubbs a Teacher Librarian and Story Arts Festival organiser shared some insightful tips for authors considering talking at festivals or schools.
Before you are booked:
TIP 1 - Find out what they want!
It could be educational or curriculum based. It might be about how you inspire children to read, how writers write and create or it might be how your book has links to the curriculum. They could book you for a special week such as Under 8’s, Book Week or Science week. Whatever you believe your talk can deliver; ensure your promotional flyer and website portray the same message.
You can have a YouTube video of yourself presenting your book and a bit about you. Make sure you have an introduction to what book is about and why you wrote it on your website.
Ask the age of the children and duration of sessions as well as the number of sessions the school requires. Is it to one small group or to a large cohort e.g., all year 2’s. It is important that you set times limits you don’t want to be at a school all day for the cost of a teacher’s wage but it needs to be value for money. So ensure your flyer details length of session and what they can expect in the session. Make sure you add something about the audience participation and how you intend to do that, e.g. young kids love humour or puppets, older children might be more engage with drama or power point. All children love music, so if you can play an instrument or your book includes music in some way then ensure you bring your music or cd player.
“There’s nothing worse than not being prepared!”
The size of the group dictates where will it be held, e.g. classroom, library, hall and this will determine how you present your session. A small picture book might not work with a large group, so you need to consider how you can enlarge the book for example copy it onto A3 pages to create a Big Book or scan as a pdf and share it as a slide show on a projector as you read or talk about the text and illustrations.
TIP 2 - Timing is very important!
It needs to be right; not too short and not too long for young children. Find out how long each session will be 30 min or 45 or Ensure that you don’t go over time either, children have a busy school curriculum they might have staff waiting for them for other lessons, lunch and play time are all important routines that are scheduled in the school day.
You should know the amount of time each section of your talk will require, so you can schedule each activity in time increments. Regardless of whether you are reading the entire book or just a chapter; time it and make sure that you have the page marked. How long will your audience participation task take? If you are doing a quiz and are awarding prizes at the conclusion, ensure that you set time limits for the quiz or your Q & A session might become rushed. You want to end your presentation talk on a high so make sure it runs smoothly.
If you get the timing right it could secure you more referrals to other schools and result in more bookings.
TIP 3: Practice.
Find a friendly school, perhaps one your children attend, or friend’s children attend so that you can do a FREE practice run to check your timing in return for honest feedback from the staff.
TIP 4 How do you stand out from the crowd?
What you wear can make an impact with the audience or children; whether it’s a wig, coloured hair, character clothing, or masks. You need to be interactive and involve the audience, you could have; props, puppets, or something that the children could act out or say in the story, where they help with sound effects or acting out one of the images in the book. Children love drama so a reader’s theatre might be easy if the text could be turned into a script or use the dialogue to make it into a play. If you’re an author/illustrator draw something with the children to engage them. If you can play an instrument that’s a bonus as you could get them to sing the chorus of a song with you that relates to the book.
Humour is also good getting the children to laugh makes it a memorable experience.
TIP 5 Make sure you ask if there will be a bookshop at the event. This is a good way to generate sales. Never underestimate the cost of an author autographing a book, take a few copies of your book with you and promotional material e.g. a flyer or a bookmark with your website. If they want autographs, make sure you stipulate autographs are only available with a purchase of your book.
Do you need a lot or equipment?
Well that’s entirely up to you but if you don’t have the equipment such as projectors then you need to ask if the organiser is able to supply it. Specialised drawing visual boards might be difficult to source at short notice, so you might have to provide your own. Check that the school or library has your book in its collection, so that children can have had a chance to read it prior to your visit.
After you’ve been booked what’s next?
Ask if they will be promoting your session and offer to send them an image for promotion which would include the copy of the book or books. You might write a short article for school newsletter or local paper.
Tip 6 Ask for feedback from the teacher’s & the kids, questions about what did they like? Ask if you can use any of their testimonials on your website or your promotional material. You could have a follow up activity for the students that compliments the book in some way, a handout, colouring in sheet or writing task.
Jenny has shared a document “Author in schools Guide it’s in the Write Links Folder.
Luise Manning grew up in Brisbane and began her career as an Early Childhood teacher. She has been teaching for over 20 years and is passionate about children’s literature and making books come alive. In 2014 she wrote her first children’s book “Hold My Hand” to help teach children about driveway and car park safety. In 2015 she wrote and produced a play “For Sophie’s Sake” about domestic violence and its impact on young families. Luise has received a number of awards for projects to raise awareness of issues affecting our society and in 2017 received an Australia Day Citizen of the Year Award for her city of Ipswich.
Illustrations by Inda Ahmad Zabri
Mini fest – 3 authors, so different but with so much to offer their transfixed audience.
Shaun dished out the treasure from the passionate and brave Isobelle Carmody.
Rebecca tamed the hilarious ideas flooding from the gregarious Dave Lowe.
Lucy will spill the beans on what's under Peter Carnavas’s Cap!
The authors all shared their different paths to full time writing. While Isobelle has a Batchelor of Arts and experience in journalism, Peter and Dave were teachers before they became full time authors and in Peter's case an illustrator. Their motivations however, are similar.
When asked, Peter Carnavas revealed that his motivation was an urge to be creative, to tell a story and to be heard.
Well your audience was certainly listening and we loved everything we heard … even when you made us cry!
Peter put together a new masterclass for us as he knows many of the Write Links members have been to previous workshops. He even wrote two stories for us to practice with. Just like that! Sigh. One of which, Maggie and Frank, made many of us just a little bit teary.
Peter wasn’t precious about his stories. He just wanted to share with us how to make them better. It was fascinating to hear Peter critiquing his own story and invite suggestions from us. Published picture book author, Jacqui Halpin, bravely suggested that the ending was too long and breathed a sign of relief when Peter agreed.
Peter challenged us to think from the perspective of an illustrator. Using planning tools such as a story board. He really believes this will pay off in the long run. Peter asked us to be mindful of how illustrations will help to tell the story. Remember it’s OK if your story doesn’t stay the way your story board it. Tinkering is part of the process.
Peter loves the jigsaw process of putting the pieces together. For example he feels there is a great opportunity to lift the spirits after the 'blue page'. He urged us to think about the layout of the pages, make sure that we have suspense on the right hand page to encourage the reader to turn over.
Peter certainly doesn't have any trouble getting his readers to turn the pages of his books!
What is under his cap? Peter is just like his books, sensitive, generous and genuine with a subtle humour to delight.
Thank you for sharing so much with us Peter, especially Maggie and Frank.
Lucy McGinley lives in a house where dinosaurs roam the bathroom, chess pieces invade the dinner table and drawings of the weird and the wonderful carpet the floor. Words wrap around her like possums clinging to telecom lines, plop onto pages steadily like koala droppings and dart into the grass like blue tongue lizards! She spends her days captivating kindergarten children and her afternoons marvelling over birds feathers, seedpods and occasionally snake skins, with her son.
Photos of Peter Carnavas by Lyn Halliday
Dave Lowe on Middle Grade Humour
Dave Lowe is the author of several funny series, such as Stinky and Jinks, Squirrel Boy, The Unbelievable Dadventure and The Mumbelievable Challenge. During Dave’s masterclass at the Write Links Mini Fest, he generously walked us through the world of middle grade humour.
Dave explained the difference between early middle grade and middle grade.
Early Middle Grade Middle Grade
Reader aged 6-8 Reader aged 9-12
Main character is 9-11 years old Main character is 11-13 years old
Shorter chapters (around 800-1200 words) Longer chapters
Often illustrated Sometimes unillustrated. Black and white line drawings.
Series is very common Standalones / series
Word count: 4000 – 30000 words Word count: 30000 +
Stinky and Jinks books are 7000 – 9000 words
Nevermoor is 30000 words Example: Harry Potter
He gave 15 helpful tips for writing a middle grade book.
1. Grab the reader at the start.
2. You must know the cast of your characters really well.
3. Your main character needs a strong, authentic voice.
4. Middle grade is high paced. Think of your character entering the scene late and getting out early.
5. End each chapter on a cliff-hanger.
6. Dialogue must advance the story or character. Keep it short.
7. Read your book aloud to find the rhythm.
8. Show, not tell.
9. Humour can work in all stories.
10. Be a ruthless editor.
11. Keep descriptions short, to match the fast pace.
12. Read widely, beyond middle grade.
13. Write a lot.
14. Be persistent. Dave’s first book published was his fifth finished manuscript.
15. Get help and get involved in the writing community.
Dave shared many funny anecdotes, his knowledge of the industry, got us working on some fun group activities and answered our many questions.
It was a pleasure to have Dave come along to Write Links to share his experiences and we all had a real hoot! Thank you Dave and we’d love to have Dave back another time.
Rebecca Sheraton is a primary school teacher and children’s writer. If she was allowed, she would teach English all day long and she loves sneaking books into her other lessons.
Rebecca writes picture books, junior fiction or middle grade and short stories. Her articles and short stories have been published in The School Magazine, anthologies and websites.
She is a member of SCBWI, Write Links Children’s writers group and several other organisations.
When she’s not writing, you’ll find Rebecca exercising, reading, drinking tea or waiting in her car for the audio book chapter to finish.
Photograph of Dave Lowe by June Perkins https://gumbootspearlz.org/