Saturday, September 15, 2012

Wave goodbye and say hello...

I love blogging, I've been at it since 2006, but I don't think I like this blog anymore.

During my blogging hiatus of 2008/9 something happened to blogging. You had to be a book blogger or a food blogger or a writing blogger. There were platforms to be built and tweeting to be done, and followers to be caught and blah, blah, blah.

And frankly like my stalled WIP in progress, my blog has become stale. My stalled WIP in progress is another story, but I think there is something to be done about the blog.

I'm moving on. The wanderer and I morphing into a rather more rounded me (in ALL senses). I'm not so sure how Blogger will take it, but 'sssh' I'm going to have a go at wordpress. And I'm going to blog about it ALL.

So you can now find me here.

And now that I've announced this momentous occasion, I shall go and feed the cat.

Monday, July 23, 2012


In the last few weeks I have discovered this:

The website is called and I have wasted many hours on this in the name of research.

I have also discovered this (nothing to do with research):

Which in turn led me to discover this (a band that have been going since 2001):

and this:

As a result this was my word count before the holidays:

And this is my word count three weeks into the holidays:

6,500 words are random scenes that I have written for the end of the book and from experience never actually make it into the draft. So, if we have a look at the real word count, it is:

The question I ask you, is what could the reason be? Is it:
a) the nearly four year old's fault (she is going through a particularly truculent period at the moment)?
b) the fact that I didn't plan this draft, other than in my head?
c) that I'm a bit mixed up what with writing bits here, there and everywhere?
d) that maybe I need a break from this as well?

I've considered all four. The only thing I am sure of is that I will attempt to slog on. In the end a rubbish first draft is better than no draft at all.

I'll leave you with this, that you have probably been listening to for YEARS:

Saturday, June 23, 2012

What one does on a Thursday evening or SCBWI Scrawl Crawl 2012

Once a year SCBWI ...ehm Europe, no I know, various chapters in the Europeish region participate in something called a Scrawl Crawl. It's a bit like a pub crawl except instead of drinking you draw, or write, or take photos, or do something creative. The idea to do it on the summer solstice, the longest day of the year is so that we can be out and about for as long as possible a scribbling away.

This year the monster of our crit group (she calls herself that) did a gargantuan job of sorting all our different needs and wants and requirements and various other things into a schedule where at various parts of the day we could drop in and scrawl. I hooked up at 5ish after a days work, and honestly I did fully intend to write... more than I did.

As it is, before my camera died I took a bunch of pictures and really this is the first time I've had a chance to play with them. The fullish story is posted on the scrawl crawl site, but to give you a little taster, here are the first three pictures.

It was also fete de la musique on Thursday, so eventually it got kind of difficult to write as all the musicians filled our creative head space with techno, rock, jazz, cacophony and our stomachs were warmed with a nice bottle of Cote de provence and Brouilly, but that's another story.

Monday, May 28, 2012

A book review: Frederick

Title: Frederick
Author: Leo Lionni
Published: Anderson Press ...
Synopsis: While the other field mice work to gather grain and nuts for winter, Frederick sits on a sunny rock by himself. “I gather sun rays for the cold dark winter days,” he tells them. Another day he gathers “colors,” and then “words.” And when the food runs out, it is Frederick, the dreamer and poet, whose endless store of supplies warms the hearts of his fellow mice, and feeds their spirits during the darkest winter days. Frederick’s story will warm readers as well in this Caldecott Honor winning fable.

Rereadability: I can't remember when we got this one exactly, but it's a fairly recent discovery. And when I say discovery, I read this in the shop, a smile spread across my face and I knew I was going to buy it. I felt as if I was the first person to ever discover Leo Lionni (silly me). I have to confess that part of the reason I love Frederick so, is that as a 'cough cough' writer myself, I do spend an awful lot of time starting into space. I so relate to Frederick and  I just love the fact that after being called a poet, he blushes and says, 'I know it.' 

Pictures: While there is something reminiscent of Eric Carle in Lionni's collages, there's also something very distinctive. I spotted a first grade teacher carrying a book under her arm and instantly recognised the style and we waxed lyrical about what a sweet little book Frederick is. 

The three year old test: And it's these pictures which are part of what make it such a great read with a young child. The bubba's favourite part of the bedtime story is when she can tell her own story using the pictures. Let me tell you that some of the time her story and the 'real' story have very little in common. But here Lionni's pictures hold meaning to her little three year old brain and she knows the family are working and that Frederick is doing nothing and she expresses that. 

Text: And then, if like me, you didn't grow up with Lionni, his words are beautiful. I was once told rather glibly, that illustrators couldn't write. So maybe Lionni was a writer who could illustrate, or maybe this was just one very talented illustrator and I shall definitely be looking out for more of his books during out next book shop visit. 

Oh and then if you are wondering why I love this book so much, it was made into a cartoon...

Monday, May 07, 2012

a book review: Beware of the Frog

Title: Beware of the Frog!
Author: William Bee
Published: Walker 2008
Synopsis: Mrs Collywobbles has nothing to fear from the strange and fearsome visitors that emerge from the big, dark, scary wood – not with her pet frog guarding the garden gate. Gobble! They don't hang around for long! But when Mrs Collywobbles' frog demands a thank-you kiss, things suddenly take a surprising turn...

Pictures: Let's get one thing straight. I chose this book. There's a certain feel to the illustrations that remind me of 'Rosie's Walk' and what I associate with my childhood. In a way some of the humour in the pictures also pay homage to Pat Hutchinson's book, but there are a lot more words in this book. Apart from the colour scheme the pictures and creatures really are William Bee's own. There is a lot of detail in each illustration, so that the non reading child can infer a lot from context and find something new in them each time. 

Text: The words tell the story of Mrs Collywobbles and her pet frog. The Amazon synopsis practically tells it all, but basically each character is introduced and has their own particular rhyme and then they come to a sudden and surprising end. 

Rereadability: So all in all given the little rhymes which could often be heard around the house this holiday  (it wasn't always the bubba) and the intricate illustrations, there is a lot to get out of this book. 

The three year old test: I'm not sure if the nightmares started after this book or before... OK I'm joking, but let's make this clear, for the child who is starting to understand fear and becoming scared of things, this is not the best BEDTIME read. At every other part of the day it's perfect. And to be absolutely sure you get this, the reason I chose this was because the ending made me laugh out loud. There is no writing down to the three year olds and it's rather irreverent fun. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

In answer to the last post

The short answer is: I've been writing. 

The slightly longer answer is that I had a few realisations: 

  1. I realised that I needed a good long break from my WIP. I've been working on it since November 2010 and if I'm to do it justice, I need to leave it alone and come back to it when I can do a good job. Until I actually admitted that I was feeling a bit down, but now I'm quite happy about that decision. 
  2. Whenever I interview other writers I ask plotter or pantster. I tried the Snowflake method. I got all excited and really enjoyed it and learnt a lot from it, but I think that deep down I'm a bit of a pantster. 
  3. Having said that last weekend when I decided that I was going to write something new (I knew I was going to start something new before last weekend, I just didn't know what), I went through my strongest idea with the Frog. He didn't say bof, but he might as well have. In desperation, I burst out with idea number two. By Sunday I was giving him a scene by scene breakdown of what was going to happen and who the characters were. The good news is, he likes it. 
  4. I think it's for adults, but it could be crossover, but then again it could be YA, but it's probably for adults. 
  5. I'm really enjoying that buzz of the first draft again. 
Right, I'm off to write some more and while I will be writing in the next two weeks, I won't be blogging. The photos will appear as if by magic, but the The Frog, Bubba and I are off to Guadeloupe for a couple of weeks. Squee. 

Monday, April 09, 2012

A book review: Cinderella

Title: Cinderella
Author: Nick Sharrat and Stephen Tucker
Published: Macmillan's children's books (2001)
Synopsis: Cinderella's sisters were such a rotten pair, She did all the housework, They never did their share. A funny retelling of the classic fariy tale with lift-the-flap surprises. Also in this series: The Three Little Pigs, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, Goldilocks.


The three year old test:  The bubba asked me what I was doing in her room so I asked her to pick me a book. About a year ago the book fair came to school and this one caught my interest because the bubba was big into her Spot books, so I thought she would like the lift-the-flaps in this book too. A colleague came along and virtually sealed the deal by telling me that her kids loved the books when they were kids. The clincher was the special CD.  

Rereadability: Part of the reason I liked the special CD was that we had just moved and the bubba was commuting to the creche. Because the text is so infinitely rereadable and memorable, even without the pictures Bubba loved this story. 

Text: It can be read fast slow or medium, depending on the amount of time you have. As there is a certain predictability to the text, kids can guess what is coming next and also eventually join in with it as they memorise the story. I certainly got to memorise the text after reading it every night for three weeks. When it was a late bedtime I could be pointing to the flaps as I recited away. We've borrowed Little Red Riding hood and Goldilocks from the library and the bubba picked out The Three Little Pigs when we were in the UK recently, but as we already have two versions I swapped it for Jack and The Beanstalk. So out of the four we've read, this one is definitely our favourite and the rhyming works particularly well. I also like that when you examine the text, it isn't too far away from the original, but there are a couple of lines that make it thoroughly modern and then there are...

Pictures: Nick Sharrat's pictures. In this version of Cinderella there are washing machines, discos. platform shoes and boxes of chocs. But there are also the traditional elements like a pumkin and white mice and a lovely gown and the shoe. Of course Cinders loses the shoe. 

Monday, April 02, 2012

A book review: Bright Stanley

Title: Bright Stanley
Author: Matt Buckingham
Published: Little Tiger Press (6 Mar 2006)
Synopsis: Far below the waves a little fish called Stanley lived with the rest of his shoal. They were the brightest, sparkliest fish in the whole of the deep, dark sea. One morning Stanley woke up rather late. "Coo-ee! It's me-ee!" he called to his friends as usual. But the reef was strangely quiet...

In the days when I wasn't exactly sure what to buy, I confess that in that banner that says: If you are buying this, then why not try this... I also confess that that was the first and last time I chose my books like this. Firstly because I was using and for some bizarre reason they never specify whether the books are UK and US edition. Now call me an old stickler, but when I don't know I'm reading a US edition the spelling throws me... anyway. 

Text: This is the tale of a slightly camp (well in my mind) and sparkly goldfish called Stanley, who wakes up one morning and realises he is late to meet his school as they swim to warmer waters. His adventures lead him through a whole gamut of emotions: glee, terror, disappointment and shock, which are quite fun to share with a young child. Stanley has a couple of catchphrases: 'Hello it's me!' and 'Jumping Jellyfish', which we really enjoy and like I said at the beginning I play him camp. One of the things I'm not too keen on is the growled, snarled, groaned... dialogue tags. I kind of know the book off by heart now, but to begin with it would throw me off my game. 

Pictures: In complete contrast with the Ahlberg's work, Stanley is pretty simple, painted pictures, but we really like them. We can see the emotion on Stanley's face (and I'm a bit of a Nemo fan and have watched all the extra bits and know how difficult that is to do). There are clever little devices in the pictures, such as a sea snail that appears on every page and the sparkly Stanley of course. 

Rereadability: Have I mentioned the catchphrase? Brilliant, because you pick up the book and everyone instantly says it. There is also a moment (I don't want to give it away) which will have your kid scuttling under the covers and when we're doing the read aloud we like to play that bit up. It's not really the calmest of bed time reads, but it definitely is fun . 

The three year old test:  I recently learnt that if publishers put foil in your books they LOVE you. Well Bright Stanley has foil on EVERY page people. And for the last page you practically need your sunglasses. This goes down really well with the three year old who loves stroking the foil. She also loves to join in with Stanley's catchphrase. All together now: Hellooooo it's meEE!

OMG! (Say that in a Bright Stanley way) I've just found the page! Jumping Jellyfish!

Monday, March 26, 2012

A review: Peepo!

I have not finished The Undrowned Child, but rather than rush to finish the book I decided I would have a crack at reviewing some picture books. Living outside of an anglophone community, whenever I have a chance to buy picture books I do. They fit quite nicely into the suitcase and aren't heavy. The problem is I never know what to buy. Book blogs (or rather the ones I read) are full of YA and Children's books. So when faced with shelves and shelves of the books and no idea what to buy I revert to type. In other words I buy books I loved as a kid, or stuff that was popular when I started teaching cough cough years ago.

Title: Peepo
Author: Janet & Allan Ahlberg
Published: Puffin Books 1981 
Synopsis: PEEPO! has become a classic for babies and toddlers. It follows a baby through the day in a style full of wit, charm and ingenuity. A series of holes peeping through to the next page leads the child on to the next stage in the day, giving a hint of what is to come. An original book that has long delighted young children - and their parents!


Pictures: So the Ahlberg books were popular when I started teaching (which I hasten to add was NOT in 1981) with their Jolly Postman books. I already had a Jolly postman book, and I figured this would be a good buy. The pictures in this are amazingly detailed and tell a completely different story to the one referred to in the synopsis above. The pictures give us an insight into another era and each time I look through the book I see something different. Despite the intricate detail of the pictures they don't detract from the text. 

Text: Call me an old traditionalist, but I love the predictability of the text and that the rhythm leads you to say 'Peepo' in such a way that it's like playing a game of peekaboo. Also predictable text means the bubba knows exactly when the: Peepo! moment is coming. The words and sentences work perfectly so that there's no stumbling as you read aloud.There's about 400 words in the book, so when you think that the tendency nowadays for a picture book is about 500, this is quite a lot. But, until I just counted the text it's never struck me as a lot and yet we've been reading this book since the bubba was a baby. 

Rereadability: So given that Bubba is now three and almost a half, the rereadability factor is immense. She loved the pictures, she loved looking through the hole and seeing what she would discover on the next page. We have the board book version, so I can tell you it lasts a good long time despite chewing. 

The three year old test:  We're kind of getting to limit with this book as a shared read. The bubba is at the stage now where she likes a good old story and while there is plenty of story in this book, it's more in the pictures than the text, so she tends to look at it by herself now. I imagine this will become a favourite again when she is learning to read. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Savita's question

The other week I was reading this excellent blog post by Saivta Kahlan about drawing the line. I urge you to go and read it: a) because as I've mentioned before it's excellent b) I rattled off a quick witty response and c) was challenged to consider my response in more depth. If you go and read it you will see evidence of b, and c, and a, will get you thinking. Now, if you are extremely busy (and only if that is the case) Savita questioned whether there were some subjects that should be should be taboo in children's literature. 

The teacher as gatekeeper: 
A few months ago I took a couple of books home to read as the teacher felt they were not suitable for ten year olds. One of them I couldn't get into and haven't read, the other one I absolutely loved, but agreed to send on to the secondary school as there was a death at the beginning of the book, some criminals, criminal activity, rap stars and pedophiles. While I would be quite happy to let a ten year old read the book, given the complexity of the the story, the age of the characters and some of the issues in the book, I felt more kids would read it in the high school.

The parent as gatekeeper: 
One of our favourite books is: De la petite taupe qui voulait savoir qui lui avait fait sur la tête. You may know it as The Story of the Little Mole Who Knew It Was None of His Business. We find it hysterical, we love the onomatopoeias and boy did we use a lot of them when in the throes of potty training. We pulled the book out at a some family do a while ago and one of the aunties was well and truly not amused because it was a book all about poo. Another one of my personal favourite's is Babette Cole's: Mummy laid an egg, but at present it's still on the top shelf (ooh er missus) of our book shelf. It will come down one day when the Frog has finished with the kamasutra like pages. 

The writer as gatekeeper: 
So far the examples I have mentioned have all involved other people as gatekeepers, but should the writer be a gatekeeper. In my current WIP, I did everything to keep my antagonist alive. I knew he had to die, but I didn't want my protagonist to be the one to kill him, and until I worked out a way for that to happen, I kept him alive. In the end it wasn't killing a character off that bothered me*, it was the main character. She could not become a killer, she's not a killer. She's pretty special, but if push comes to shove, she can't and won't kill anyone.

So after much thought and consideration I am actually in complete agreement with Savita (but you'll have to go to her post and see what I'm agreeing with), and as I mentioned in my comment I only draw the line at swearing, because as I say to the kids: we all do it, but there's a time and place and so far it hasn't found it's place in my WIP. 

* I'd just like to make it clear that I do not condone murder, the death penalty or vigilantes, but boy does it make good stories. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

A book review: Zac & The Dream Pirates

Title: Zac and The Dream Pirates
Author: Ross MacKenzie
Published: Chicken House 2010
Synopsis: Everybody dreams. That's the problem. Good dreams are sweet. Bad dreams are scary, but what happens if the worst sort of nightmares take over? Zac Wonder is about to find out. On the stroke of midnight, he is plunged into an extraordinary world on the other side of sleep. Is he still dreaming? Has he gone nuts? Or, is he really meant to save us all from vampires, werewolves and the dream pirates wh threaten to keep us awake forever.

I found this book on the librarian's desk at work and was drawn by the button that said "Glow in the dark cover". In fact later on in the week I put a couple of kids in a cupboard so they too could see the glow in the dark cover. 

Star parts: Great first page and then we turn over and it's that old chestnut: but it was all a dream, except MacKenzie doesn't ever say that and he also turns all that 'it was all a dream' thing on its head. I don't think I'll be giving too much away if I say that our dreams are real and exist in Nocturne, because that all happens in the first few chapters and by then you are hooked. As Zac discovers his grandmother's world and who he really is, so do we. There was the right mix of humour, excitement and world building. Then there was the parallel story line of Rumpous Tinn and Noelle, a girl who can make herself vanish. I really liked their story line, firstly because Tinn keeps all manner of things in his beard and secondly because Noelle goes from the ultimate wall flower (she vanishes for crying out loud) to a goblin beating heroine. Her character development is spot on. But I don't think I can say much more about her without giving the story away. 

Black clouds: The glow in the dark cover and the publisher's letter at the beginning. You see, call me a dreadful old cynic, but I find all that gimmicky (well up until Mary Kole's workshop the other week, now I understand, that if a publisher goes to the length to make your cover glow in the dark they love your book), but I see those things and the book is going to have to work just that little bit harder to win me over. Maybe it's because I'm an old fuddy duddy, but back in the day, the book just needed to have two covers and all the pages. 

 Do I recommend it: Definitely and I believe according to Mr MacKenzie's twitter feed that there will be another book, and I hope so because there are things I want to find out*. But, you know my recent beef has been series books which leave us hanging. This one doesn't, yes there is stuff that absolutely need to be found out, but we find out there is more, much more, after we got through the first book have a satisfying end. We are led into the second book during the coda of the first, just the way I like it. 

*Last week I reread my book review in borror as I realised that I had blithely given the ending away. I almost did it again this week, but notice I didn't. (I also cut the huge great big SPOILER from last week's review). 


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...