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Archive for February, 2011

"The Lost Thing by Shaun Tan"

The Lost Thing wins a 2011 Oscar for Best Short Animated Film

A few posts back, we mentioned that The Lost Thing—an animated film based on Shaun Tan’s book—was nominated for an Oscar. The very exciting news today is that it won the Oscar for Best Short Animated Film!

Hooray! Hooray!

If you haven’t already checked out the trailer, you can find it over on The Lost Thing‘s own website. (Due to the win, there are a lot of visitors there today, so make sure you check again later if you’re finding it slow to load!)

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"Oliver Phommavanh, author of Thai-riffic!"

Oliver Phommavanh, author of Thai-riffic!

In every issue of Alphabet Soup magazine we interview an author or illustrator. The trouble is, we can only fit some of their answers in the magazine. So we print the full interviews on the blog—we wouldn’t want you to miss out!

In issue 10 we talked to Oliver Phommavanh, author of Thai-riffic!

Where do you live?
I live at my website, http://www.oliverwriter.com and blog http://www.winfree.com.au (how’s that for shameless plugging in the first question?). Offline, I live in Liverpool, Western Sydney.

What do you love best about being a writer?
I never have to grow up hehe. I really love creating quirky characters and cramming in as many funny jokes as I can. Plus I enjoy visiting different schools and making kids laugh.

What was your favourite book as a child?
I was a bookworm so I have many favourites. I loved Paul Jennings’s ‘Un’ series and Morris Gleitzman’s Blabber Mouth and Sticky Beak books. Hating Alison Ashley was also pretty cool.

Was it easy to get Thai-riffic! published?
Not really. I knew it was going to be tough so I prepared myself for lots of rejections and setbacks. But I also had this belief that there was nothing like Thai-riffic! out there yet, so that kept me going. It was going to be a matter of time until I saw Thai-riffic! on the shelves.

"Thai-riffic!" coverWhat do you like to do when you are not writing?
I love playing video games and reading (still proud to be a bookworm). I’m a primary school teacher and stand up comedian so my days are jam packed!

What made you become a writer?
I always wanted to be one, ever since I started getting awards for writing in Year 1. It took me some time to find my audience and style though. I tried my hand at adult fiction in my uni days. Then I tried teaching and realised that I was destined to write for kids.

Where do you get your ideas?
Most of my stories start off with a core moment or feeling from my childhood. Some of my characters are based on kids that I’ve taught. Teaching can be wonderful market research hehe. I carry a notebook with me everywhere I go, soaking up funny lines, come backs and any striking language and descriptions of the classroom. I’ve also trained my brain as a stand up comedian to squeeze out jokes from any situation.

Do you have any advice for young writers?
Get yourself out there in the writing community. I joined a writers group and other organisations such as SCBWI and CBCA, meeting lots of writers and authors. I’ve been lucky to get my breaks through festivals and conferences, where publishers are so approachable, in other words, they can’t escape hehe. There are heaps of competitions to enter, if you win then you gain some cred and assurance that you’re on the right track. And just keep writing, let those words flow. If you’re enjoying the process, then you’re halfway there.

Are you working on a book at the moment?
I’ve just finished my second book Con-nerd, coming out in June 2011. It’s about a nerd (me, surprise surprise) who has a knack for drawing cartoons that suddenly makes him cool and popular. I’ve just started writing my next book about a teenager doing stand up comedy, which should hit the shelves in 2012.

Do any of your family or friends recognise themselves in your writing?
I hope so because I love using their names as characters in my stories. Thai-riffic!‘s eccentric parents are based on Mum and Dad. Everyone’s grateful to find their names and/or personalities in print. It’s a simple way of thanking them for supporting me on my ‘cHEwY’ journey.

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You can find out more about Oliver Phommavanh and his books on his website and blog.

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"Boy writing by Greg Mitchell"

© Greg Mitchell

Here is the winning Under 12s poem from our summer 2010 writing competition. You were asked to write a poem incorporating the word ‘snap.’

A reminder: always check the rules of the competition. If you don’t stick to the rules, we have to disqualify your entry and that makes us sad!

Under 12s winner: B Apel (QLD)

Timber!

Vrooooom … vroom

The big tree falls,
smashing through the canopy
severing branches with a snap!
creating a chain-reaction;
like dominoes
they fall
until petering out
with a final …

Whump.

Enter our autumn writing competition. Entries close 29 April 2011.

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"Boy writing by Greg Mitchell"

© Greg Mitchell

Here is the winning Under 9s poem from our summer 2010 writing competition. You were asked to write a poem incorporating the word ‘snap.’

A reminder: always check the rules of the competition. If you don’t stick to the rules, we have to disqualify your entry and that makes us sad!

Under 9s winner: T Arthur (NSW)

Hearing Snap

Snap is the sound that you hear when the elastic in
your underpants goes.
Snap is the sound of crocodiles’ teeth.
Snap is the sound of …
Who knows!

Congratulations! The winners of our writing competitions receive a $20 book voucher.

Enter our autumn writing competition. Entries close 29 April 2011.

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"Boy writing by Greg Mitchell"

© Greg Mitchell

Here is the winning Under 7s poem from our summer 2010 writing competition. You were asked to write a poem incorporating the word ‘snap.’

A reminder: always check the rules of the competition. If you don’t stick to the rules, we have to disqualify your entry and that makes us sad!

Under 7s winner: P Burstow (QLD)

Secret Handshake

Once there were two friends
And they had a special handshake
And the special handshake was
Click, Knuckle-Punch, SNAP!

Congratulations! The winners of our writing competitions receive a $20 book voucher.

Enter our autumn writing competition. Entries close 29 April 2011.

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Issue 10 cover Alphabet SoupThe autumn issue of Alphabet Soup magazine was posted yesterday, so if you are a subscriber—you’ll find it in your letterbox sometime over the next few days. Yay!

Here’s what you’ll find inside issue 10:

  • Q&A with author, Oliver Phommavanh
  • How to have fun with chemistry (2011 is the International Year of Chemistry!)
  • Writing tips for kids from The Book Chook
  • Stories and poems by children’s authors and poets
  • Stories, poems and book reviews by kids
  • Crossword
  • Our autumn writing competition

Later today we’ll be announcing the winners of our summer 2010 writing competition and posting the winning poems here on the blog. AND we’ll be posting the Q&A with Oliver Phommavanh. So stay tuned!

WIN a $200 BOOK PACK!

"Book pack from Fremantle Press*"

Are you a subscriber? Subscribers are entered into a draw every season – this season’s winner receives a $200 book pack from Fremantle Press! (Books may differ from those pictured.)

Subscribe to Alphabet Soup

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Free exhibition: Look! The art of Australian picture books today
If you’re in Victoria, take your family to the Keith Murdoch Gallery to see illustrations from many of our favourite illustrators (and probably yours, too!). It’s free, and there are free events and activities for adults and kids, tours and a kids’ drawing competition.
The exhibition runs until Sunday 29 May 2011. For all the details, visit the State Library of Victoria website.
We’d love to go, but we’re in Perth. If you’ve been, tell us what you thought of it!

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This month there is a new series out called Our Australian Girl. Each story in the series is set in a particular era of Australian history and the first books in the series explore the convict era and colonisation, the goldrush and Federation. In the first books we meet Grace, Letty, Poppy and Rose. Each of their stories begins in a different era and each character has their own series of four books.

Meet Rose

Meet Letty Meet Grace

Today we are lucky to have one of the authors visiting Soup Blog. Gabrielle Wang is writing the series about Poppy. The first book, Meet Poppy, is out now.

Meet Poppy

Were you asked to write Poppy’s story in particular?

I was given the name Poppy by my publisher. But they let me decide on the era in Australian history that I wanted to write about. I chose the Gold Rush because it was a very exciting time, and because my great grandfather came to Australia then. He was Chinese. I have written him into the third book which is called Poppy and the Thief. I have never met my great grandfather so I don’t know what kind of man he was. I therefore had to make up a lot, especially about his personality. But I did know what town he settled in and what he did for a living. There is a plaque in Wahgunyah on the Murray River that is dedicated to him. He was a pioneer in that area.

Poppy’s story is set in 1864. Did you have to do some research before you starting writing?

With historical fiction you always have to do heaps of research. Even though Poppy is not a real person, a lot of the facts in the novel are true. For example, Harry Power is a real bushranger. When I write a story, I see a picture in my mind as if I’m watching a movie, so before I could start the Poppy series I had to have an image in my mind of the way Victoria looked back then—the towns, the way people dressed, their hairstyles, the food they ate etc. Because 1864 is quite early in the history of white settlement in Victoria, most of the towns we know today didn’t exist then. I had to be very careful not to write about a town that had not been built yet.
How long did you need to research before you were ready to write?

I researched the story for about 4 months then I wrote a first draft. This is when you write and don’t stop to do corrections. You just want to get the story down. There are four books in the Poppy series but I wrote the first draft as if it was one long novel because that’s what it is really. Each small novel is only a part of a bigger story. Of course the research part doesn’t stop when you start writing. For example, in Meet Poppy, I needed to know how people lit stoves and fires in 1864. Were there matches? I needed to know what kind of lighting they used and what washhouses looked like, and much much more. As I wrote the story I was constantly on the internet searching for small details like these. We are so lucky that Google is available. It makes writing much easier.
Did you go anywhere else to find your information?

I went to the State Library of Victoria and did a lot of my research there. Unlike suburban libraries, you are not allowed to borrow the books from any State Library. I also took books out from my own local library, used the Internet, bought books to keep, and interviewed people. The story takes place along the Murray River, so I drove up to Beechworth and stayed for the weekend to get a good idea of the vegetation and have a look at the historic towns there. Poppy is born to a Chinese father and an Aboriginal mother so I have had to work closely with several Aboriginal people to make sure everything I wrote concerning Indigenous matters was correct.
Do you think growing up in 1864 was very different from growing up in 2011?

Try to imagine what life would have been like back then. There is no electricity, no computers, no aeroplanes or cars. The toilet is outside or just a hole in the ground. You ride on horses or in carriages or else walk. If your father is a gold prospector you probably live in a tent or bark hut if you’re lucky, by the banks of a creek muddied with gold panning. You don’t go to school unless you live in a town. Probably at least one of your brothers and sisters has died. If you are an Aboriginal girl, life is much worse for you. You would be forcibly taken away from your parents and put on a mission like Bird Creek. There you would be trained as a servant girl to work in a rich person’s home. You most likely would never see your mum or dad ever again.
What do you like best about Poppy’s character?

Poppy is brave, much braver than I could ever be. She is resourceful and creative and most of all, she is very kind.

Have you read any of the other ‘Our Australian Girl’ books?

Yes. I love Grace and Letty and Rose. They are all such strong characters and their stories are very exciting.

Gabrielle Wang

Gabrielle Wang, author of Meet Poppy

Did you find writing ‘Meet Poppy‘ any different from writing your previous books?

The Poppy books, Meet Poppy, Poppy at Summerhill, Poppy and the Thief, and Poppy Comes Home are a series and I’ve never written a series before. But now I have a taste for it, I’ve decided to start on another series soon. I’m not sure what it’s going to be about, or what my main character will be called. I’ll let it simmer away in my mind first. Wh enever I visit a school to talk about my books I’m constantly on the lookout for names to use in my next story.

Gabrielle Wang’s books include The Garden of Empress Cassia, The Pearl of Tiger Bay, The Hidden Monastery, The Lion Drummer, A Ghost in My Suitcase and Little Paradise. You can find out more about her and her books on her website http://www.gabriellewang.com/.

You can find out more about the Our Australian Girl series on the series website. The website also has a fun page including a quiz, activities and a competition.

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"The Lost Thing by Shaun Tan"You’ve probably heard that The Lost Thing—a 15 minute animated short film based on the book by Shaun Tan—has been shortlisted for an Oscar. If you haven’t seen the trailer yet, you’ll find it at The Lost Thing website.

See you over there!

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