Saturday, 30 July 2011

First Impressions - Rosalie Warren





I've officially been a children's/YA author for four months now, since March 21st 2011, when my young teens' novel, Coping with Chloe, was published by Phoenix Yard Books. This puts me in the nursery class, of course, compared with many other writers on here. I should say that posting on the ABBA blog is yet another 'first' for me, in a year that so far has been full of adventure, minor disasters, excitement, terror and hundreds of iced cakes (see below).

I don't particularly like the term 'learning curve'. Perhaps 'learning big dipper' better captures the crazy speeds, the loss of control, the apprehension, the thrills and the vomiting (if not the actual cakes).

So I thought I'd gather a few of my first impressions here. Let's start with schools. As a beginning children's author, I had no idea about going into schools. The last time I went into a school was for a prizegiving in 2003. Before that, it was a PTA meeting back in 1999. I didn't realise that many children's writers did regular school visits - or how terrifying or (in the end) rewarding and fun it would be. Thanks, Cardinal Newman School, Coventry, for your fantastic welcome, and thanks to all those experienced authors who gave me advice.

Something else I've learned recently is how many young folk are writing books and stories of their own. They are often self-motivated, dedicated and producing writing of quality and promise. No doubt some, as they grow up, will decide to put their energy into other things. But I'd love to think that a few of the young writers I've met recently will go on to achieve publication and wide readership. What I'd have given, as a child, to have a real live author (even one I'd never heard of) come into our classroom and speak with us...

Other things that stand out for me from these hectic past few months are:
  • A book signing in Waterstones, during which I managed to pluck up the courage to do a short reading
  • Baking and icing over 150 small cakes with As and Cs on them (you'll have to read 'Chloe' if you want to find out why)
  • The kindness, generosity, friendliness, energy and warmth of *all* the children's authors I've met so far, through the Scattered Authors' Society (SAS) and elsewhere. Truly overwhelming...
  • The thrill of hearing my words brought to life by young readers from King Henry VIII School, Coventry, at a recent launch event at Coventry Central Library
  • The joy of having youngsters tell me they liked my book and asking when the sequel is coming out
  • The excitement of writing for children and rediscovering the child/young person inside me. I'm now writing about about a robot and having the most fun since I don't know when...

I know the world of publishing is in upheaval and many writers, independent booksellers and other professionals are suffering. I know libraries are being closed, sales are down and authors are being dropped mid-series by their publishers. These are depressing and difficult times. But as a newcomer, I wanted to focus in this first post on some of the positive things I've experienced in the past few months. I'm not expecting to make a fortune, not even a small one, but I can't help feeling optimistic. With so much energy, creativity, commitment and kindness around - better times for the world of children's books must surely be ahead.

Hold tight round the next bend - wheeeee!!!


My website

Friday, 29 July 2011

An Awfully Creative Adventure - Meg Harper

I’m laughing this morning over Andrew’s 6 monthly skips! So that’s why our garage is stuffed to the gunnels! I’ve missed a trick there! I’m also taking a welcome break from the huge task of getting a house that has been ‘lived in’ (ehem) by 4 teenagers ready for the market. Anyone wanting a large family house in Warwick, step this way! It has new carpets throughout except, of course, in my study – another place stuffed to the gunnels and impossible to empty for the day. So my new study carpet is – guess where? In the garage!
Today, however, I really want to write about a school project that I’ve been engaged in intermittently all academic year. This was at Limehurst High School, a middle school in Loughborough which is definitely the pleasantest, happiest secondary school I have ever encountered and where it was a privilege to be the visiting author. There are times when I question the value of author visits. If it’s a case of the ‘author talk’ delivered to every class in the school, I wonder what lasting benefit there will be. I am far more excited by being invited in to run workshops or, as in this case, to be a partner in a long-term project.
The brief at Limehurst was to run a workshop with a small group of year 8s, teaching them the nuts and bolts of story writing so that they could teach a slightly larger group of year 7s, who would then write a story suitable to be turned into an animation for year 2s from a local primary school. Nothing too complicated then! As so often, I found myself deconstructing what I do myself (principally by instinct in my case) in order to make the vital elements clear enough for young people to absorb and cascade down to their juniors. Fortunately, I often write short stories, not simply novels, and I also have some very limited experience of writing animations – so I felt competent enough to know where to start. As so often, however, I learned as we went on. I was there as consultant when the years 8s taught the year 7s and was alongside them as they thrashed out their plots and wrote and edited their stories. I sometimes think I don’t know very much about creating story but as we worked, I appreciated that I really do know what I’m doing. I know where to cut and prune, I know what’s needed to lift a plot and to keep the pace. I know how to create the crisis and how to satisfactorily resolve. And I realised what a mammoth task the young people were facing – and yet again, how ludicrous it is that year 6s are expected to write short stories for their SATS in a mere 45 minutes. Grrrrrrr!
In the end, the year 7s had the barebones of two workable stories so we asked if they could animate both. Fortunately, the lovely Leo and Theo of Lunchbox Films were ready to give it a whirl and the school was confident they could provide funding – so the year 7s set out on the laborious task of animating their stories. A couple of weeks ago the big moment arrived. The year 2s from the local primary school arrived for the premiere – and so did I! You can see the results below. (Well - maybe not - I've tried to post the links and they're showing on the dashboard version but not on the blog - but here are none hot links if you're interested!


http://www.lunchboxfilms.co.uk/project.php?url=goldilocks_baldilocks

http://www.lunchboxfilms.co.uk/project.php?url=tanes_tremendous_trumpet)

My next task is to see if my agent’s interested in submitting the original stories to publishers. I’ve edited them in conference with the young people and have kept as much of their original wording as I can. I was thrilled by how engaged they were with that process – but then, we were doing what I wish schools could do more. A real task for a real purpose. There were lots of really memorable moments but it all felt very worthwhile when one of the participants said, ‘I used to think I was no good at English but doing this project has made me realise that I really am.

www.megharper.co.uk

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Nothing Doing - Andrew Strong

I seem to spend at least a week, every summer, picking things up and putting them down again. This is in the cause of ‘tidying up’. Last year I had a shed built on a small plot of land at the end of the garden. Within a month I’d filled it with junk. I ordered a new shed. I have three new sheds now, all built this last year, and all are full up.
Not that I can’t throw anything away. At least once every six months I order a skip and leave it parked at the end of the lane. It fills with rotten furniture, saggy mattresses and deceased lawnmowers.
Every year I need more and more storage. I live in a reasonably big house, but can never find anywhere to put things.
So this year I decided to excavate the spare room, a place where guests fear to tread. It’s in a wing of the house that was once the maid’s quarters. She must have died in there and left a jug of milk to go off at the same time, because I haven’t been able to get rid of a very weird smell.
That weird smell, or the ghost of the gone off milk, or both, has meant that the guest room door is rarely opened.
I had to take the bull by the horns, however, and grasp the nettle that was knotted around the bull’s horns (I wore protective gloves). I was going to venture into the spare room.
It was worth it. Stacked in a huge, damp cardboard box I found my ancient diaries, or journals as I prefer to call them. Calling them journals makes me sound more like Edmond de Goncourt and less like one of the Waltons.
At this point, I’d like you to imagine a clichéd cinematic dissolve. From the middle aged man cut to the fourteen year boy sitting cross-legged on his bedroom floor, listening to Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto. I say imagine, because in reality I would have been listening to T.Rex.
I’m thinking what to write in my diary. So I put: ‘I am sitting on the floor listening to Mozart’. (I lied a lot in those days).
Three or four years on, I vowed to write a page a day, roughly five hundred words. I kept that up for thirty years. On days when nothing happened, I would still have to write it all down. And those details of days when nothing happened are what interest me most. The descriptions of travels, or even my participation in events that made national news (the Poll Tax Riots, IRA bombings) don’t absorb me as much as where I went to buy my bread and milk, or attempt to describe the state the teapot was in. I glued in plenty of ephemera: cinema tickets, receipts from shops now long gone, and even food. On October 2nd 1982, under some grimy yellow sellotape, there’s what I think is a Trebor Mint.
So, if you’re looking for a moral in all this it’s that the things that mean the least to us when we are young can mean the most thirty years later. I still like T. Rex though.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Carnegie Shadowing - Elen Caldecott

One of the troubles with sharing a blog with so many other lovely people is that you have to wait in line for your turn. There's no pushing in. So, a few weeks late, I'm going to tell you about my experience of the Carnegie Medal this year.

For those who don't know, the Carnegie is probably the most prestigious award given to a UK children's writer annually. The longlist is very long, but the shortlist is usually whittled down to about 6 or 8 books by a team of dedicated children's librarians.
This year I was invited to visit a school in Swansea to spend a few hours with their Carnegie Shadowing students - a group of book-mad Years 7-9 with lots of energy, enthusiasm and some very honest opinions!
In advance of the visit, I had a lot of reading to do. The shortlist this year was:
  • Prisoner of the Inquisition by Theresa Breslin
  • The Death Defying Pepper Roux by Geraldine McCaughrean
  • Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness
  • The Bride’s Farewell by Meg Rosoff
  • White Crow by Marcus Sedgwick
  • Out of Shadows by Jason Wallace
I also promised the students that I would ask a few question of the authors on their behalf, more on that in a moment.

First we decided on our criteria for what made a good book. We had a huge list of everything from 'makes me laugh' and 'great cover' to 'inspiring characters' and 'feels like I'm there' (none of us could spell verisimilitude...).

Each student judged the books by choosing the three criteria that mattered most to them.
Then, the discussion began...

It became clear quite quickly that despite saying that they didn't judge a book by it's cover, they all had. Very few of them had read all six books, and the cover had had a huge influence on what they'd selected to read. None of the boys had read Prisoner of the Inquisition (I told them what idiots they were being, as this was in my own personal top three). The size of the book mattered too. Hardly any had read Monsters of Men; some of the smaller Year 7s could hardly lift it.

Hearing from the authors influenced their opinions too. After hearing that Geraldine McCaughrean's favourite bit of her book was a transvestite sailor, the students snatched copies of the book from one another searching for La Duchesse. The favourite answer of all though was Marcus Sedgwick's laconic response to a question about the title: 'read the book.' It became our catchphrase for the day.

While we had a great time, it was clear that the challenging nature of almost all of the books had intimidated the students. I'm not sure there is a solution to that. The award is intended to reward excellence and excellence is challenging. A shorter shortlist, perhaps?

Finally we had to declare a winner. After the votes were counted, we found we didn't agree with the official result (sorry, Patrick). Our winner was Marcus Sedgwick with White Crow. Possibly because of that very sage piece of advice 'read the book'.

Elen's latest book Operation Eiffel Tower is out now, published by Bloomsbury.

www.elencaldecott.com
Elen's Facebook Page

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

If I could find the camera... Celia Rees

I'd take a photo of the chaotic mess that is my study. I know it's in here somewhere, I just can't remember which pile it is under. As a writer, I'm as prone to rituals as the Lords of Groan and one of patterns that has emerged over the years is the Big Clear Out after a book is finished, a physical and mental de-clutter before the next project gets truly underway. That is one way of spinning it, the other is I just can't find anything: letters, tax forms, notes and print-outs, books, cameras, staplers, rulers, anything I actually need has disappeared.

The problem is twofold. I am naturally messy and find it difficult to throw things away. I have, for example, a great many books - not just on the two walls of shelves, but in piles on the floor, table, futon, chair, any flat surface, and I find it hard to part with them. This is not just sentimental. I never know when I might want them and I can guarantee the next time I think, 'I know I've got a book about that somewhere', that will be the book that's gone to Oxfam. I need more space (move house? Rent storage?) to put them and I need some kind of coherent cataloguing system (alphabetical? By subject? Dewey Decimal?) but I can never quite decide how to organise them (too many decisions) so that does not get done.

Then there are the foreign editions of my own books that publishers have kindly sent to me. It is wonderful to have foreign editions, but they do mount up. If I could find a good home for them, then I could use the storage space for other stuff. If anyone has any ideas for safe disposal, please let me know.

And then there are the notebooks. Like many writers, I love stationery and find it hard to resist the lure of The New Notebook. Consequently, I have many: big ones, small ones, hard back, soft back, posh, expensive, cheap spiral pads. Most of them have something written in them, so should they be retained, part of my 'archive'? Should I even have an archive, or is that just another excuse not to throw things away? More dilemmas...

Quite apart from all that, there are the box files of documents, notes, correspondence (archive again) - should I just throw the lot out, would I even notice? Going through everything is a big job, one I keep putting off because I've got better things to do (like writing books) but I can hardly move at the moment and I actually don't have a book to write, so I guess I've run out of excuses, except I've got a blog to write - now, where is that camera?

www.celiarees.com
Fan Page: www.facebook.com/theofficialceliareesfanpage

Monday, 25 July 2011

What's in it for me? By Lynne Garner

This is not a question I normally ask myself. Well, unless a family member or a close friend asks for a favour and I ask tongue in cheek. However it was a question I asked myself recently when I did my first in-store book signing.
A few days before I was asked "how much are they paying you?" The look of surprise was amusing when I replied, "Oh, I don't get paid anything!" I was then asked, "so what percentage of sales are you getting?" Again the look of surprise when I replied, "none!" made me smile. "So what's in it for you."
I was going to give the following reasons:
  • Getting my name known
  • Meeting my target audience
  • Increasing sales
However I realised perhaps there was very little in it for me. I already had a way of achieving these goals. I can get my name known locally, meet my target audience and increase sales by doing presentations to local groups. I started to break down the benefits of doing these presentations rather than doing a book signing. They broke down as follows:
The plus of doing a presentation to a group of children (e.g. Rainbows, Brownies, Cubs):
  • The children are excited to meet an author who is there to see 'them.'
  • They are not being pulled from one shop to another by a rushed parent who does not have time and did not plan to stop to talk to an author.
  • I meet the target audience for my picture books.
  • I am able to spend quality time with them talking about my books and my work in a relaxed atmosphere.


The plus of giving a presentation to a group of adults (OPA Groups, WI's etc.):
  • I meet those who purchase my picture books and often have to read them.
  • They are also the target audience for my adult non-fiction books.
  • This is 'their' time and they are there to enjoy themselves.
  • They do not have to fit me in with the 101 other things they have to do whilst out shopping.


The plus of giving a presentation to any group:
  • I go to them as a group and do not have to keep fingers crossed they come to me; they are a captive audience.
  • Any books I sell I keep any profit.
  • I charge a fee to cover my time and expenses; again the money goes directly into my pocket.
  • I don't have to compete with the noise and jostle that takes place in a shop.
  • If they enjoy my presentation they become my sales force and pass on my contact details to other groups.
Having looked at the above I've now decided that perhaps doing a book signing in a shop is not right for me. I can get far more from giving a presentation and my audience hopefully gains more from me.
So let me put it out there. What's in a book signing for you?
Lynne Garner
www.lynnegarner.com
www.madmomentmedia.com

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Competition Winners

So, we had a wealth of competitions over our Festival weekend which have now been won!

If the competition asked entrants to email the author directly, then the winners will also be contacted directly.

If the competition asked you to enter via the comments, then there is an almost full list of winners below. Any that are missing, the author who set the competition will make an announcement as soon as they've judged.

Adele Geras' competiton: Brigita won Dido, Sue E won A Magic Birthday, Sarah A won Lolly and Adele won Stagestruck.

Liz Kessler's competition was won by Leah Auty, Zoe Crook, Hannah Powell and Bronte. Liz has all but one of these winner's email addresses. If you are the missing winner, please visit her Facebook page to make contact.

John Dougherty's competition had ten winners. They are Leah A with Jupiter and His New Computer and Minerva and the Loyal Server; Madwippitt with Vulcan Gets Hammered and Psyche Babbles; Rosalind A with Pray to the Backwards Dog; Linda with Thor's Thilly Idea; Elen C with Bend it Like Sobek-ham; Linda S with Loki's Looking for Love; Paul H with Poseidon's Misadventure; Denise with Aphrodite and the Yellow Nightie; Kate with It's Thor I Adore and finally, Moogiesboy with In Hidin' With Poseiden.
All of these winners should email childrenspublicity@randomhouse.co.uk with 'ABBA Competition' in the subject line with a) who they'd like it signed for and b) where they'd like it sent. Delivery in 4 weeks.

The Literary Gift Company's competition has been won by Hoopie, with the advise 'take a notebook everywhere'. To claim your prize, please email karenball@fastmail.fm

Nicola Morgan's competition was won by Rebecca Clare Smith.

Lucy Coats's competition to win 18 children's and YA books from Orion was won by Sarah of Whispering Words.  Lucy will be contacting Sarah via email.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Harry Potter and the Celluloid of Terror: Gillian Philip


I took my ten-year-olds to see Harry Potter the other day. There were three of us in that front row, trying to make sense of the slightly distorted soundtrack, and only one of us had read the book.

To the ten-year-olds, it didn't matter that for a good deal of the running time, they couldn't quite follow what was going on. It was, as Girl Child announced within five seconds of the credits rolling, the best movie they had ever seen. And with mother giving whispered side-of-the-mouth explanations of the tricky bits, the plot was perfectly comprehensible.

The cinema - an old-fashioned, sticky-floored, numb-bum relic of the golden age, and one of my favourite places in the world - was teeming with three- to ten-year olds who hadn't read the books, along with a lot of teenagers and young adults who had clearly grown up with them. I had high hopes that my two would ask to read all seven books afterwards, and when they didn't volunteer, I offered.

No takers. It's the films they've grown up with, and the Xbox games. Boy Child has spent the summer-holiday days since then watching and rewatching the earlier movies, and begging for the Xbox game. Girl Child has preferred more and more and different movies (and books) involving death, sacrifice, love, hate, good and evil.

I'm not sure they'll ever read the books, now. And I have wildly mixed feelings about that.

My strongest reaction is that these are my kids, dammit. MY KIDS, for whom the purchase of books by readers is the wellspring of the finance that buys them DVDs and Xbox games. What are they THINKING?

A subsidiary, guilty feeling, is that I'm probably even more of a movie addict than I am a book addict, and that's saying something. I'm not sure I'll read The Lord of the Rings again, however many times I've read it in the past, because the movies distilled the best of the books, while holding onto respect for them, and the pictures I made in my head weren't ever quite as good as the pictures made since 2001 by Peter Jackson.

At school talks, I torment myself and the audience with the question 'Books or Movies?' And while we all tear at our scalps shouting 'BOTH', I always advocate BOOKS with the argument that however many girls in the room love Edward Cullen, only around half think he truly looks like Robert Pattinson. For the others, he'll always be the perfect sparkly beauty they formed in their own heads, and R-Pattz will be no more than - well, not an impostor: just someone who once played the part.

I feel quite sad that my kids are unlikely to read Harry Potter as he was originally wrote - or not for a few years, anyway. They won't grow up, as so many young adults did, with a boy who grew up, slowly, on the page, along with them.

But the movies have created another part of the myth, and one of their own. My kids have grown up with Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter, and when I really think about it, that's fine. There are so many other books now - in great part thanks to the Potter phenomenon - that they can film for themselves, inside their heads, just like I do with my own characters while I'm writing. For them, Harry can be a movie.

Films make their own mythology. The story of the Lions of Tsavo is a true one, while the film version - The Ghost & The Darkness - follows to a great extent the template of Jaws. I honestly don't think that destroys its validity as a story. I remember being terribly upset and angry when I first saw James Cameron's Titanic, because why would anyone want to add fiction to a truth that had its own perfect tragic narrative and human pathos? Since then I've watched it often, and always cry - because I never believe in Jack and Rose, but they symbolise the real people dying in fractions of screen moments in the background.

Maybe it's distance that lends both enchantment and forgiveness - recent lies and distortions are less forgiveable; but is Troy, if it ever existed, diminished by being relegated to myth and a bloody good story? A seriously bad movie certainly didn't hurt that immortal myth.

We're humans, and we love a narrative arc. The best of them will survive in any form, and many. They start, and end, in our heads.

www.gillianphilip.com
www.facebook.com/gillianphilipauthor


Do You Remember The First Time? - Karen Ball

Signs you are getting old:
  • It’s not as easy to put on a pair of tights as it once was.
  • People ask you for advice and listen carefully, as if you actually know what you’re talking about.
  • When a younger author friend opens her box of advance copies for the first time in her career you think, Aw, bless! I remember that.
Yesterday, my lovely colleague, Lil Chase, took receipt of the advance copies of her debut novel, Boys For Beginners. There was much excitement, let me tell you! This event only happens once in a lifetime and I’m glad we caught the moment for posterity.

Lil’s book is being published in August by Quercus Publishing. There’s a lovely story behind this novel, as it’s based on a story Lil first wrote when she was eleven years old. She still has the original copy of her ‘book’! Like many of us, I suspect, Lil knew she wanted to be an author from a young age.

When I opened a box of my first ever advance copies, I was all alone in my little flat, with no one to show them to. I think I pushed the box under the piano and went to work. If I had my time again, I’d run out into the street, waving the books above my head and accosting strangers. I’d also have asked my publisher how I could help to promote the books and I may even have invested in some of the button badges Joanna Kenrick has been championing. But hindsight is a wonderful thing, especially when it comes to a writing career.
Do you remember the first time you opened a box of advance copies? What was it like? Is there anything you’d have done differently around that time? Or are you still waiting for this moment in your life - what would you do around your fantasy opening of a very special box?
One last thought for us all to share: NOTHING beats the sight of a grown man reading a book embellished with foil lettering, aimed at 8-12 year-old girls.

The world would be a better place if everyone stopped what they were doing to read a book like Lil’s.
Visit my blog at www.karen-ball.com.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

ROCK OF AGENTS - by Nicola Morgan

I read this post from Kristine Rusch. Be warned: it's not a pretty picture. It paints a very gloomy portrait of the situation for writers at the moment, and I have to say much rings true. Last year, on Help! I Need a Publisher!, I also wrote a few negative posts about the situation for writers, though always with a degree of optimism because I do tend to find the positive in any situation, crabbit old bat though I may be.

But, I want to respond to something that Kristine says about agents.
"What’s worse is that the people we once thought were our advocates - our agents and our editors—can’t help us any more.  ... Agents - who are savvy about business - have realized that they can no longer make money in traditional ways, so many of them are looking for other ways to make money.  And often, those ways hurt the writer. See what agent Peter Cox says about this, about the way he’s fighting to keep some semblance of decency in his profession. "
Although it's true that there are some potential conflicts and true that rules need to be set (which is why the Association of Authors Agents is looking at it so carefully), I want to scotch the idea that this is what agents in general would do. Agents are too often portrayed as sharks and though they may sometimes be so it's not a fair generalisation.

But forget any generalisations for the moment. I want to get specific and talk about my agent.

My agent has been my rock. She has fought for me and stayed with me despite the fact that most of my income does not currently go through her - she doesn't take a percentage of my speaking/consulting income; and she only acts for my children's titles; I've not written a new children's book recently; and my royalties are pathetic. (And yes, Kristine is right that publishers blame authors for poor sales, quite unfairly in most cases, or at least they drop us when it happens, often without apology or any obvious feeling of regret or understanding. Most of you will know someone who has suffered like that.)

My agent has kept me strong in the face of adversity that almost stopped me writing altogether. She has never stopped believing in me or working for me. She has never told me to write any particular thing or not to write any particular thing. She could have done, if money was her object. She never pushed or hassled or nagged. She was just there, calm for me, to keep me calm when I couldn't write fiction.

And my agent is not going to publish my backlist as ebooks and give me a cut - no: I'm going to publish them and give her a cut! Hooray! I owe it to her and it's the least I can do. After all, without her, those books would never have been published in the first place. She hasn't earned as much from me as she should have done, especially in the last year or two, and I really hope I can put that right.

So, this is just a shout-out for my great agent. Good agents are not sharks - they work for us and usually they work damned hard. I owe mine everything. I owe her the very fact that I'm a published author. And I intend to be able to give something back.

Thank you, Elizabeth Roy.
 __________________________

I'll let you know (if I may) when we republish Mondays are Red and Sleepwalking. Those books did well and I still get many emails from people who want them - a school just this week was trying to buy a class set of Mondays are Red and so that school is going to work with me around the re-publication. I will also be publishing a brand new non-fiction list, starting with Tweet Right - the sensible person's guide to Twitter. Publication for that is planned for September. All you reluctant tweeters - one for you!

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

GREEN IS FOR . . .by Penny Dolan

I am off to buy a green t-shirt today.

This is not because I am involved with the Tour de France, or am a member of the Sherwood Forest Appreciation Society or am given to hiding myself behind hedges.

It is because I have devised a strategy for dealing with that unspoken Writers Problem. Raging Jealousy!

I was with a group of writers recently and suddenly heard one of the mildest, sweetest people ever admit that she had occasional twinges of jealousy. She? She occasionally felt jealous too? Someone like that? Then I was not alone!

Dear Reader, I broke out into a loud rant about things that make me feel bitter and twisted and angry and jealous and cross with myself, and there are plenty.

For example, I get angry about the writer who suddenly turns out to be related, involved or working for someone Famous, Rich and Influential.

I get angry about supposed “children’s authors” who don’t write their “bookwords” nor even read their books - probably because they are already Famous, Rich and Influential.

I get angry about the rise of the non-existent “children’s author”, the brand names emblazoned across a host of gender-biased series, even though I know there are many real writers happy to be paid for this quiet anonymous work.

It is the lie behind the branding that makes me uncomfortable: “Now, children, who is your favourite author?” Does that “author” even exist?

Please note that I do not rant or get angry about the good writers, the people who write so well that I am in awe of them. I never feel jealous of them or the praise they receive.I feel inspired and encouraged by their words, no matter for what genre or “age.”

It is the unfair, unjustified fame that fills me with jealousy and turns me crabbit and cross at my desk. I have at last, before it shrinks me down into a wizened hob-goblin,worked out how to deal with this rage. Remember that green t-shirt?

I have resolved that, every so often, I will put on my significant green garment and give myself permission to rant and rage and let all the angry stuff out of my soul. I will howl at the moon, away from you all, in private, alone.

Then when the raging is done, I shall hide my jealous green t-shirt in safe secure place and be calmness and sweetness and light and probably write about fluffy kittens too.

Do you ever get the raging jealousies too?


A BOY CALLED M.O.U.S.E, now out in paperback.
Shortlisted for the Historical Association's Young Quills Award.
www.pennydolan.com

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Battles, kings and elephants. Cindy Jefferies





One thing you can depend on for a writer is that if you ask them what they're thinking , whatever they reply you can be pretty certain that at least a part of their mind is thinking about a story. It might be no more than a slight itch at the back of the mind, but it'll be there.

So, being a writer, it is hardly surprising that when I was in Paris in the Spring stories were taking up a corner of my mind. After all, even a desert can be fertile ground for a story, which makes ideas for fiction seep out at every turn in Paris.

Fortunately, the friend I was staying with understood, and on the last day of my trip came up with something for me to take home. It was a quote in the frontispiece of a novel by Mathias Enard called Parle-leur de batailles, de rois et d'elephants.

Puisque ce sont des enfants, parle-leur de batailles et de rois, de chevaux, de diables, d'elephants et d'anges, mais n'omets pas de leur parler d'amour et de choses semblables.

Here's a translation:- Because they are children, tell them about battles and kings, horses, devils, elephants and angels, but don't neglect to tell them about love and things like that.

Not being able to find an attribution I assumed the author must be Mathias Enard, but I wished that I knew for sure.

I loved the quote. It seemed to sum up exactly what I thought was important. Yes, of course a fast moving plot is paramount, especially in the sort of fiction for the 8-12's that I usually write. But, and I think this is particularly important for boys; love, and things like that is also vital. Girls tend to be better at talking about feelings, while some boys, I think, can find it harder. Of course, both boys and girls can feel pretty lonely at times, when what they're feeling is muddled and difficult. I believe that one of the best ways of understanding that you're not alone in your feelings is through a good story. So the quote resonated with me, whoever had written it. But the story doesn't end here.

Some while later, a review from an American newspaper fell into my inbox. It was a glowing review of a new novel that had been in the final selection for the Prix Goncourt in France. It was being translated, and would soon be available in America. To my delight the book was the very one that had contained my favourite quote, and at last I found out what I wanted to know.

The reviewer wrote that the quote came from one of my own countrymen, Rudyard Kipling, in a collection of stories published in 1915 called Life's Handicaps. It's a little known collection, but I tracked it down, and found those wise words in the preface of that book, which takes the form of a discussion between two storytellers, one an elderly Indian who speaks his stories, and the other an Englishman, who, like Kipling writes with pen and ink. The discussion is about the art of storytelling, and the wise words come from Gobind, the holy, one eyed Indian.

And so, the quest for an author led me on a long journey, from England to Paris and back again, and across the Atlantic, with a nod to India, only to find that in true and pleasing storybook form, the answer lay in my own land.

I'd love to hear about your favourite quotes, and why they are special to you. I have mine pinned up by my desk, and my eyes are drawn to it often, as I ponder the twists and turns of the story I am conjuring from behind my eyes. And I will try never to forget to include at least something about love, and things like that.


Monday, 18 July 2011

Meeting your heroes - Josh Lacey

A few weeks ago, I went to Devon and met one of my heroes.

He was standing in the middle of the road, staring at the traffic with a haughty expression - the same stern gaze which terrified his opponents and stirred the hearts of his compatriots, the men who followed him to the other side of the world.

I knew he wouldn't talk to me, so I didn't bother saying anything.

I just stood and stared.

Francis Drake stared back at me.


I was in Tavistock, the small town where he was born. It's a lovely place, just on the edge of Dartmoor. I spent a couple of hours wandering around the market and looking at the river, before meeting Simon, the proprietor of the local independent bookshop, the Book Stop, and going to talk in a local school.

That was the first time that I had ever been to Tavistock, but I’d met Drake before. Not once, but many times. In history books. In biographies. On the deck of the replica of the Golden Hind that is moored in London. And in my own book, The Island of Thieves, where he is a marginal but crucial character.


I've been fascinated by Drake for most of my life, but I’ve never particularly wanted to meet him in person. I doubt I would have liked him much; he was fierce, grumpy, greedy and single-minded to the point of madness.

Of course, you probably had to be all those things if you were going to sail around the world in 1587, taking a route that no one had ever previously sailed, battling the weather, the sea, hunger, thirst, the Spanish and even your own crew, who might mutiny at any moment.

If Francis Drake hadn’t been so uncompromising, so single-minded, so fierce and brutal and aggressive, he’d never have left Plymouth; he would have spent his life pottering about the coast of Devon in a little dinghy, fishing for mackerel, rather than sailing around the world.


Meeting your heroes in the flesh is probably never a good idea. How can they be anything but a disappointment? But meeting them in fiction - reading about them or writing about them yourself - is much safer. They can continue being as heroic as you’ve always imagined them.

http://www.joshlacey.com

Saturday, 16 July 2011

The Naming of Characters

So - you have a character in your book, and they have to have a name. First names are difficult enough. I have two baby's names books in my study, both very well thumbed, one in English, one in German. Sometimes a name attaches itself to a character at once, like Jenny's name in Saving Rafael - and Rafael's - or sometimes I change it several times before I find the one that's right.

In Saving Rafael, I called the horrible Nazi family next door some name I've forgotten, then decided that wasn't right, so I flicked through various German books I possess and found the name Mingers. I fell about laughing and decided this was the one. Young and older readers have appreciated the joke, so I am vindicated. The Gestapo man who interrogates Jenny is called Brenner, which means 'burner,' because I felt this gave a sense of someone who causes pain. Germans would get that more than English-speaking readers, but Mingers is a pun that will be lost in the German version (Nicht Ohne Dich, Boje Verlag, out now). Jenny's family name is Friedemann which means 'peace man' - I felt an appropriate name for a German Quaker and his family.

Sometimes place names are good for a character - like the inadequate missionary in The Mountain of Immoderate Desires. On a visit to the White Horse of Uffington, I saw the name of a village, Fawler, and thought, yes, that's right for the man, since he collapses under pressure. Sometimes I just take names off the spines of books in my study..but in my novel of the English witchhunt, Malefice, I took all the names of characters from the 17th century Parish Records in Waltham St Lawrence, the village on which I based my fictional Whitchurch St Leonard.

Graham Greene used very common names for his characters, for fear of being sued - Brown, Grey, Smith, etc… and I have sometimes invented German names and do a websearch on them to see if they come up. If they do, I have to invent again. You can sue for libel on behalf of the dead in Germany.. People who know about English poetry will comprehend why the vile concentration camp guard in Saving Rafael is called Grendel. It's not a German name.

For other, less sensitive characters' names, I have harvested them from the plates of apartment blocks in Germany, which is what I'm doing on the picture here.





On the other hand, reality does perpetrate jokes that one would hesitate to put into fiction. Opposite the orthodontist I used to go to in Mansfield Road in Nottingham was a greengrocer's called Flower, and a florist called Onion. I think they were just one house away from each other. And would an author, apart from a comic one, name the three hairdressers in a town Sharp, Blunt, and Brittle? That was in Kendal, in the 50s and 60s. My husband had two risk assessment colleagues called Dr Hope and Dr Luck. One could go on forever, and the correspondance column of the Guardian recently did..

How do other people decide on characters' names?

Friday, 15 July 2011

Bad Blogging Day - But Smile! - Emma Barnes


It has been one of those days where nothing is working. My beautifully crafted post (you would have enjoyed every word, promise), with its wonderful, glowing images, is failing to upload, my computer keeps crashing, and so there is nothing for it but to be brief.

Here is a preview of the new edition of my book Jessica Haggerthwaite: Witch Dispatcher with a new cover by the fantastically talented Emma Chichester Clark - creator of Blue Kangaroo and many other wonderful characters. What do you think? I am feeling lots more cheerful already!

What has made you smile today?

Posted by Emma Barnes www.emmabarnes.info

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Lord of the Flies ..... by Miriam Halahmy


                                 
Lord of the Flies was probably my first teenage, young adult, post-childhood novel and I read it when I was eleven years old. It shocked me to the core. I had just started grammar school in the 1960s and it was a rather old-fashioned place. The girls had their own separate little playground around the side of the school. We were not supposed to make friends with the older girls. But somehow Barbara, who was in the fourth form and I gravitated to each other because of our love of books.  Lord of the Flies was Barbara’s set book for English. Lucky me!



Image: AKARAKINGDOMS / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
We sat together on the back step, every playtime (there were three a day in those days) and shared the book, waiting quietly for each other to finish before turning the page. I don’t remember how long it took us to read and I don’t remember us discussing the content. But I do remember the profound effect the book had on me.
 I couldn’t stop thinking about what happened to the boys on the Island and how their behaviour changed so dramatically. Why had this happened, could it happen to my brothers, what if it had been a plane full of girls?

Lord of the Flies has remained one of the most profound reading experiences of my life because it shook my little world and the values I had been brought up, values of fair play and pulling together in a crisis – the values of the Blitz. I was a Londoner and so were my parents. They had fought in the war and this novel felt like a slap in the face after all the heroic black and white films we grew up on, where John Wayne and John Mills won the war almost single-handedly. They would never have allowed the merciless teasing of Piggy or the kicking to death of Simon. My goodness – it just wouldn’t be cricket.



I recently took my daughter to see the new production at the Regents’ Park Open Air Theatre and she loved it and is reading the book again. This is a modern version, with an entire crashed plane on the stage but the concept remains the same. It takes very little to strip away the veneer of civilisation.


I might have been a little young for this book but it certainly challenged me to think independently in a way that all the lessons in the world probably couldn’t have done, certainly not in those days when we weren’t encouraged to think for ourselves. This is contemporary gritty fiction about boys on the edge of the teenage years and stands alongside the best of YA fiction still today.

And haven’t you always wanted to find your very own conch shell?

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Competition reminder! - John Dougherty

I hope you all enjoyed the LitFest at the weekend. I thought I'd use today's post to remind you about the competitions. Most of them are open until the 20th July, and you can see the full list by following this link

There are, so far, only 3 entrants for mine, and since there are 10 prizes the chances of winning are pretty high! All you have to do is come up with a witty title for an imaginary book about a god, Greek or otherwise.  

Winners will receive two signed books - Zeus on the Loose and Bansi O'Hara and the Bloodline Prophecy - both of which have sequels coming out in the next few months.

Post your suggestion in the comments, either to this post or the one linked here, where full rules can be found. Good luck!

And feel free to send your friends - and their children - in this direction as well. Make sure they check out all the competitions. Where else can you find so many free books - and have them signed?

Winners will be announced on Sunday 24th - come back to see if you've won!

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

The ABBAlitfest Story - Lucy Coats

More than 10,000 views later, I think I can safely say that the first-ever online children’s book festival has been a huge success. The Awfully Big Blog Adventure Online Literary Festival has been tweeted many hundreds of times, been splashed all over Facebook, been commented on, blogged about, and generally feted with praise and raised glasses.  All of us who took part—both organisers and bloggers—would like to say thank you to all of you who came, saw, and stayed for some or all of the 20 hour, 40 post duration--and to those of you who are STILL coming back to catch up with everything! It took a lot of hard work (and maybe even a tear or two) to get us here—and so we thought you’d like to know a bit about how it all came to pass....  

Back in the bleakness of mid-February 2011, Sam Mills mentioned that she’d seen a feature about an online literary festival in a newspaper, and suggested that The Scattered Authors could hold the first-ever online children's festival on our shared blog. Sam says:
“I worried the idea might be rubbish, so I was excited by the positive and enthused response. The festival was on!”
So The Awfully Big Blog Adventure Online Literary Festival was born.  It’s quite a mouthful. So we quickly shortened it to ABBAlitfest. Short, sweet, and easy on everyone’s typing fingers.  Sam then approached each author-blogger individually about doing something for the festival—even though she knew it would take many times as long as doing a group-mailing.
“Day after day, I shot off email after email. I was so pleased when the first authors I approached, Liz Kessler and Adele Geras, said YES and agreed to do giveaways. Soon I had 12 authors on board and I began to compose a timetable. By the end we had a grand total of 47 authors. All the pieces were of such good quality...I think that made the festival.”

While Sam was working her socks off, wrangling authors and posts into place (much like herding cats, some say), another piece of the festival jigsaw was quietly being put into place by Elen Caldecott, our new Blogmistress Supreme.  The old blog was looking a bit dated, so Elen volunteered to oversee and take on the huge task of creating a brand new blog look in time for our third blogoversary on 9th July.  Elen says:
“I was on a massive learning curve. I thought I knew how it would work, but with so much varied material, I had to think on my feet a bit. I know a lot more about Blogger now than I did before!”
Not only did Elen revamp the entire blog, she also had to contend with designing our very popular I ♥ ABBAlitfest blog button and pre-loading all the author posts which arrived in several neat email bundles from Sam (all very-time consuming).  What surprised her was how willing so many were to use technology to meet and interact with readers and other writers.
“Blogging, of course, but also making videos, both unheard of ten years ago! Writers are adapting well, I think. I came away very hopeful and inspired.”

So what did I do?  Well, since I seem to have acquired a reputation as a mistress of the dark arts of social networking, I was designated Publicity Campaign Director. I started the ABBAlitfest campaign 3/4 of the way through June, though the planning had been done long before. Like Sam, I sent out email after personal email (with press release attached)—to bloggers, newspapers, journalists, magazines, publishers, bookish organisations and bodies—anyone I thought might be interested in linking to us or writing about us, or generally spreading the word.  The response was immediate and incredible, and like Elen, I had a steep learning curve. 
I had to be disciplined (that this happened is possibly a small miracle), and very very focused. If I had a day or so off, my inbox exploded (the final email count was nearly 1000). There was a Twitter #ABBAlitfest hashtag and a Facebook Event Page to run—and the task of co-ordinating all the guest posts for the various wonderful bloggers who’d agreed to host our author-bloggers in the run up to the festival weekend.  On the weekend itself, I felt as if I was juggling about a million slippery batons at once—and dropping one was not an option!  I was glued to the computer screen almost permanently—cross-posting links to Twitter from two accounts, updating Facebook, retweeting, replying, reading posts (and checking they all appeared), watching videos, viewing our ever-rising visitor numbers with growing excitement—and living on Earl Grey tea and adrenaline. 

It’s been a rollercoaster ride into new realms for all of us Festival organisers, and we’ve learned lots of lessons along the way about how to run an online children’s book festival (and some about how not to!) . But I think it’s safe to say we’ve all enjoyed it hugely (most of the time).  And for those of you who asked immediately it ended if we’ll be doing it again next year...(for pity’s sake, people—could we not have had ONE day to recover!!)...well, the answer is probably yes.  Maybe. If you twist our arms a bit and give us chocolate.  We’ll, er, keep you posted!  

Lucy's website
Lucy's blog
Lucy on Twitter

Monday, 11 July 2011

Getting to the Point: N M Browne


So where do you get your ideas from?
I know we all dread the question and, even though I know I’m going to be asked it, I still haven’t come up with a sensible answer. Philip Pullman (note name dropping ) told me and two hundred other people that he bought them at ‘Ideas R Us.’ I want to say that elves leave them on my desk in return for chocolate crumbs, but the truth is I often lack for any ideas at all.
I rarely think to myself: ‘I want to write a story about...’ That’s not how it works for me. I can’t wait for inspiration. I haven’t got the patience to wait for a bus I always set off walking so why would I wait for inspiration? Instead I start writing and hope the idea bus will catch me up.
Often an idea will emerge within a paragraph, sometimes within a first line. Most of the time characters, places, situations, rebound like snooker balls on a billiard table and I discover that they have all arranged themselves in such a way that I can pocket the lot. Sometimes sadly, that doesn’t happen and it takes a lot of work and a lot of miscuing before I get to that point, indeed to any point that might count as a desirable destination.
My new book (out today as it happens) is one of those latter books where the ideas didn’t all come together either by happenstance or by gargantuan subconscious effort; they resolutely refused to arrange themselves within potting distance of a plot resolution. ‘Wolf Blood’ was the result of more of my blood, sweat, tears and foot stamping than is usual. It was not high concept.
Give me credit. I tried to make it sound like it was (Oh - did I try!) ‘Roman werewolf meets warrior seeress with bloody consequences?’, ‘Roman werewolf meets Celtic firestarter?’ Nah. It really isn’t that kind of book. It is hard for me to sum up because it isn’t one big idea, delivered neatly packaged by elves on a sugar high, but lots of little ones, colliding tangentially until somehow the game got resolved. ( I hesitate to say won.)
I do not give good elevator pitch. I don’t work like that. I can’t get to the point, the point of the book until after I’ve written it and sometimes not even then.
What I’ve learned is that you don’t need a big idea to write a novel, but you do need the confidence to carry on regardless, in the hope that one will arrive. Someday, eventually, it probably will.
That small (and possibly inconsequential) message of hope to those lost in plot pits is the point of this blog.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Happy Lit Fest for this year!

Well, the Lit Fest has drawn to an end for this year. We've had some fantastic moments - Anne and Mary discussing Italy, Candy's advice on writing a legend and John's song were worth the entry fee alone. Wait! There was no entry fee? Well, that just makes it even better!

All the posts will be archived and can be accessed either by clicking the button to the right, or by using the labels.

Don't forget the fabulous giveaways. Most of the competitions will run until the 20th July. View the complete list to see what you can win.

It's been a great way to celebrate our third birthday. Thank you for joining us. Same place, same time next year? Well, perhaps!

Best Wishes,
The ABBA Team.

Finding History and Herstory - N M Browne

What's the Point of Twitter? - Lynne Garner

Once you’ve had a book published you soon realise you need to learn marketing skills. There are many ways to market your work and perhaps the easiest is Twitter. If you’ve not heard of Twitter it is a free social networking site. You can tweet as often as you wish, you follow other members and they follow you which hopefully creates a fan base. A tweet is a comment of 140 characters or less, also making this is a great way to hone your writing skills.

Some authors are using Twitter as a tool to prove they can write by creating ‘Twisters.’ Although I’ve not discovered any children’s writers doing this I have found a few who write for adults, for example:

A competition and a composition - John Dougherty

First, the competition! I'm no good at getting people excited about competitions - I tend to sound like an over-heated 1970s Radio 1 DJ - but I suppose I ought to make the effort, so here goes...

Thanks to those lovely people at Random House Children's Books, you can win one of 10 prizes of 2 books each, and you can even have them signed by the author - me! - if you'd like. The two books are:

Zeus on the Loose
When Alex makes a cardboard Temple of Zeus in school, he doesn't expect the god himself to turn up, pinch his mum's nightie, and try to re-run the Trojan War in the school playground...

"Whether you're a Greek god or a mere mortal, you should read these wonderful books. They're hilarious!" - Andy Stanton, author of Mr Gum

 Zeus on the Rescue is also available, and Zeus Sorts it Out - in which Zeus meets the bullying Eric Lees, and decides it's either twelve labours or a good old-fashioned smiting - will be published on August 4th.




Bansi O'Hara and the Bloodline Prophecy
Bansi O'Hara is about to discover two very important facts. Firstly, she has faerie blood running through her veins. Secondly, the faeries want it back...

"A fantastic fantasy - I would challenge anyone not to enjoy this fabulous book" - Anorak magazine

"Skilfully balances real thrills and chills with wonderful knockabout humour" - John Newman in Publishing News

The sequel, Bansi O'Hara and the Edges of Hallowe'en, will be published on September 1st.

So, what do you have to do to win? Well, I'd like you to think about Zeus on the Loose, and see if you can come up with a title for an imaginary book about another god - Greek or otherwise. Post it in the comments to this post by July 20th to be in with a chance of winning!

Points will be given for:
  • amusingness (potentially but not necessarily including use of rhyme)
  • originality
  • inventiveness
and at the whim of the judge (me!).

You can enter as many times as you like, but there'll be only one prize per entrant unless you can give me a jolly good reason for bending that particular rule. The winners will be announced in the comments section on or shortly after July 20th. Good luck!

And now, the composition. I'm a late addition to the star-studded line-up at the festival, and here's a little something I've thrown together - written in a bit of a hurry, and recorded live in a single take in my kitchen, using my laptop camera and mic. I hope you enjoy it!




Thanks for listening. My name's John Dougherty. Goodnight!

What the Dickens? - Sue Purkiss

I recently found myself reading a book I hated. Normally, I would have ditched it after a few pages – but this was for a book group, and moreover it was by an author whose work I normally enjoy and admire.

It didn’t get any better. In fact by the end of it, I disliked it so much that I felt the need to reach for an antidote. I wanted something guaranteed to restore my faith in fiction. I took a deep breath and reached for Great Expectations.

WIN: The Undrowned Child - Michelle Lovric

I am offering three copies of The Undrowned Child paperback as a competition prize.

The question to answer is ‘Which Queen’s face do we see in The Undrowned Child video trailer on Youtube?’



The first three people to email me via my website www.undrownedchild.com with the right answer (plus their name and address) will be sent a copy.






The Happy Book - Malachy Doyle

The Happy Book, my new picture book from Bloomsbury was published on May 3. I only wrote it 6 years ago, it's only 48 words long, but it's out there at last. Yaay!

Back in 2005, I came across an old Swedish proverb:

'Fear less, hope more,
Whine less, breathe more,
Talk less, say more,
Hate less, love more
And all good things will be yours.''

Arvon Writing Course - Linda Strachan and Cathy MacPhail

A fantastic opportunity to hear award winning authors Linda Strachan and Cathy MacPhail discussing a lively week tutoring an Arvon Foundation writing course at Moniack Mhor in Inverness-shire.





Linda Strachan’s best selling Hamish McHaggis series has delighted her young fans, who are already looking forward to the 10th book in the series which will be coming out in 2012.
Turning her hand to gritty realism, from joyriding to knife crime, the award winning, Spider was followed by the equally edgy Dead Boy Talking
Linda’s writing handbook, Writing For Children is an excellent guide for new and aspiring writers.
Website www.lindastrachan.com
Blog  BOOKWORDS www.writingthebookwords.blogspot.com

 Cathy MacPhail's  journey began with Run Zan Run, and to her delight the brand new edition is coming out in November 2011.
She won a radio short story competition with Another Me and just couldn't let it go, she had to write the novel - and now it's going to become a film.
Out of The Depths, coming out this November is the first in Cathy’s new Tyler Lawless series – not to be missed.

WIN: An Inspiring Giveaway - Karen Ball

When a blog celebrates its birthday and launches a new-look website, you know it’s time to celebrate. Thanks to the Literary Gift Company, we’re able to share the party with our readers. Normally, we use our ABBA blog posts to pontificate on whatever literary subject we fancy, being gloriously self-indulgent and – we hope – entertaining as well as informative. But today we’re busy eating cake and popping balloons, so we thought we’d pass the baton to you, our readers.

Creating A Legend - Candy Gourlay

Thank you for coming to the Awfully Big Blog Adventure Online Festival! I'm the 4pm act and I'm very pleased to welcome you to my little session on Creating a Legend in Your Own Time!



Visit the Tall Story website
Art by Sarah McIntyre
In my novel Tall Story, I sewed in myths and legends from the Philippines and elsewhere to add magic to the story of Bernardo, a boy who is eight feet tall.

In the Philippines where I was born, legends were a way of ordinary people explaining the often unexplainable forces of nature around them - the volcanoes, earthquakes, the strange shapes of mountains, caves, the existence of plants and other creatures.

A lot of Filipino folk stories are handed down in the oral tradition - grown ups telling children stories, and the children growing up to tell the stories to their own children.

And every time a story is told, the teller adds his own spin to the story, so the story is always changing. It's a very exciting process!

In the video, I tell The Legend of the Bellybutton - as imagined by me and a group of children at the Hay Literary Festival after a hilarious brainstorming session.
Photo by Another Sergio
(Creative Commons Attribution)

It was just one of many legends we made up in that hour we spent together. We had great fun - we must have written 20 legends in one hour!

It's easy! And it's so much fun!


1st Choose something to make a legend about. It can be anything at all! 

eg. The Legend of the Nose

Thanks to Jon-Eric Melsæter on Flickr
(Creative Commons Attribution)

2nd Decide how things used to be. 

eg. People didn't have Noses. So they couldn't smell anything. So they didn't enjoy eating because they couldn't smell food. And they thought flowers were boring because they couldn't smell how lovely they were. And they themselves smelled bad because they couldn't smell themselves.

People became very grumpy

3rd Something happens to bring your something about!

eg. Someone tripped and grew a bump on their face. Then tripped again and got holes in the bump. And then discovered that they could smell food and flowers (they also began to wash). And everyone became so jealous they went out and accidentally on purpose tripped over too!

And that is why we have noses!

Thanks to Bazusa on Flickr (Creative Commons Attribution)


If you're a teacher or a librarian and you fancy creating legends with your own posse of children, check out my Legend in Your Own Time download on my website!

Thank you!



Other downloads you might enjoy:




Find out about me on CandyGourlay.com and my blog, CandyGourlay.blogspot.com
And more about Tall Story and the Philippines on TallStory.net