Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Miri's Book Launch

Yesterday, I visited the Owl Bookshop, Kentish Town for the launch of Miriam Halahmy's young adult novel, Hidden, published by Meadowside Books. It is also available for the Kindle.

Hidden is the first in a trilogy set on Hayling Island. It is about a fourteen year old girl called, Alix, who hides an injured illegal immigrant and all the complications that entails. Alix has never really thought about asylum seekers before as she has a whole load of her own teenage problems to worry about. But, now she is confronted by the... 'international politics of war, terrorism and refugees.'

Miriam has tackled this gritty subject with empathy and expertise. Get a copy and read it, I know you will be impressed. I was lucky enough to read a first draft and  was drawn in from the start and everyone knows that if I'm not hooked by the first few pages I will not bother reading the book. I can't wait to find out what changes were made before it reached the final version in the book.

Here is Miriam at her launch talking to her agent Eve White. That is my copy of the book she is about to sign on the table.

Miriam also writes poetry and runs creative writing classes in London. You can find out more about her and her books on her website:

Friday, March 18, 2011

100+ Fun Ideas for Science Investigations

The other day, I had a little rant about one of the sad things that had been drawn to my attention by signing up to Google Alerts. Today, I thought I should let you know about one of the good things.

One of my publishers, Brilliant Publications, has set up a lovely website where they publicise their books. Each day they post a teaching activity from one of the books they publish, to give you a flavour of the book.

Well, I was very pleased to find out that one of my ideas was used for their Activity of the Day. It was actually the second activity they posted and was from my book 100+ Fun Ideas for Science Investigations.

The activity is to investigate, 'How can you make your shadow bigger?' and is linked to Physical Processes in Science (Ages 9–11). The book contains lots of practical and fun experiments that can be easily carried out in the classroom and help to developp the children's skills of scientific enquiry.

But, don't take my word for it. Go check it out for yourself.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Literacy Teacher Training Handbook

Now, some of you know all ready how I spend hours seaching for myself on the web. Yes, I do! And I have mentioned that I have set up Google Alerts for my name so if anyone writes about me I get sent an email with the link so I can go check it out.

Sometimes this brings up things that make me sad, like the bad review I got for my book, The Literacy Teacher Training Handbook on Amazon. It's really mean. :(

This is one of the books I am most proud of writing. It covers the whole of the Primary Literacy Framework suggesting three or more activities for each of the learning objectives from Year One to Year Six. It is jam packed full of ideas and I would highly recommend it to new teachers, highly-experienced, supply teachers, learning support assistants and I would also recommend it to anyone who needs an idea for a school visit activity.

There are ideas for drama, reading, writing, speaking and listening and working creatively in groups.

I think it is a brilliant book, even if I did write it myself. In fact, it is the book I wished I'd had when I was still teaching full-time.

OK, rant over! Go have a look at it for yourself and make up your own mind what you think.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Voice and Viewpoint

At the last SCBWI Professional Series meeting, Elizabeth Hawkins talked about Voice and Viewpoint. Using manuscripts volunteered by those attending, she demonstrated how a story could be told in a different way by changing the voice and the viewpoint. 

Every writer has to make their own choice. It does depend on the book. No matter what the viewpoint you have to bear in mind the question: 'Is that my character speaking, or is it me?'

By changing a text into the present tense she showed us how it could be more immediate. We were able to compare this to a more traditional narrator style viewpoint. It was good to see how it subtly changed the feel of the story. The present tense is fashionable at the moment but, very tricky to bring off. 

Elizabeth explained that in an action-packed writing scene it is easier to use third person, as there is not so much reflection and interpretation to stop the flow of the action. The reflection requires prior knowledge of what is going on and tells the reader how they should feel about this. We need to avoid telling the reader what to think. A tighter viewpoint helps the reader to see and feel the action. The actions needs to go at the speed of the character - seeing what they see, in the order it happens. Strangely, the third person, even if it is written in the past tense gives the experience of reading it as it happens. In intense danger scenes, a tighter viewpoint adds more tension but, you can pull back this tension in other scenes to let the reader reflect.

With viewpoint it is better not to be original but, to let your story do the talking. A lot of teenage books are written in first person. When writing in the first person and present tense you have to consider how much you are supposed to know at any one time.

The omniscient narrator, such as the Victorian, 'My dear reader', can work in a different way. However, if you talk to the reader you distance them. The omniscient narrator where you don't even change scenes to change viewpoint can suit a big saga. But, it is important to make sure the character is mentioned before you change viewpoint.

Back-story can slow the pace. When adding back-story, the writer needs to seriously consider if it is really needed. It slows the tension and you may find you do not need all the detail. Ask yourself why you are putting it in, as it losses the ability to catch the reader early on. It is better to take out this narrator intrusion.

It is good to experiment with viewpoint within a story. Keep in mind it is the book we are really concerned about. What makes it great is the hard draft of the writing. You can read a book and not remember what person it is written in - it is the essence of the story you remember. You can do anything as long as your reader like it. Elizabeth suggested we ask the children what they prefer to read.

Elizabeth had many little gems of wisdom, which she conveyed to us during her talk Last week. Many of them I have included in my write-up. One of my favourites was: 'Write what is right for you, as you will write well what you like writing.'

Monday, March 14, 2011

Authors for Japan

I was shocked and deeply saddened by the terrible events in Japan and the thousands of deaths that occured. It certainly does put my own problems into perspective. These poor people, just carrying out their normal daily routines one second and then disaster strikes. Life will never be the same. If, like me, you were wondering what you could do to help, I recommend you all take a look at this website - Authors for Japan

A whole load of authors have offered dedications, tutoring, sets of books and lots of other goodies to the highest bidders to raise money to help the people devastated by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Bidding starts tomorrow, Tuesday 15th March, at 8am GMT and ends at 10pm GMT on Friday 18th March. The bidder who has made the highest bid in UK Pounds, will be notified by email and sent instructions on how to make their donations to the British Red Cross Japan Tsunami Appeal.

It is the least we can do.

Friday, March 04, 2011

How to Turn a Sheep into a Dragon

As part of my youngest son's homework for World Book Day, he had to make a model of a fairytale adventure. He made up his own. It consisted of a castle in a shoebox made from card and toilet rolls and a lot of orange crepe paper where it was burning down. He then came and asked me for a dragon to put in it.

Unfortunately, I did not have any dragons. Why not? I'm not quite sure. Every mother should have a stock of miniture dragons handy just in case of emergencies. However, what I did have was a rather cute selection of sheep, which I had knitted after, Sarah McIntyre's, Vern and Lettuce book launch. See post: Vern and Lettuce.

So, I added some wings and a tail and hey presto... I turned a sheep into a dragon.

Here is the dragon in its habitat. I hope you like it.

What has this got to do with writing for children?

Well... because I liked the title so much, I have spent the day writing a picture book text called 'How to Turn a Sheep into a Dragon' - it is all about a sheep who wants to be a dragon and the crazy things it gets up to on its quest. It needs a bit of editing but, I hope to send it to a publisher sometime soon.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

World Book Day

Today is World Book Day.

My youngest son was supposed to dress up as a book character for school but, he refused. Apparently, he discussed it with his friends and none of them were dressing up. I did suggest slipping the Peter Pan hat into his bag and he could put it on if he changed his mind. But, NO! He did not want to. Not even, if I dressed up as Wendy and wore my night clothes all day.

To celebrate World Book Day I decided to post this video sent to me by Philip Steele from NIbWeb. It demonstrates what happens to a book when it is taken over by infographics. It made me laugh, anyway.

I thought it was rather clever and not just because it has a VW Type 2 campervan in it. Take a look and let me know what you think.