Posted in authors, poetry

Lorraine Marwood: writing a verse novel

Today we’re super excited to have Lorraine Marwood visiting Alphabet Soup to talk about writing verse novels. Lorraine is an award winning Australian writer of novels, verse novels and poetry for children.

Lorraine’s latest book, Leave Taking, is about a boy and his family who are leaving their farm forever after the death of Toby’s younger sister.

Leave taking by Lorraine Marwood. Book cover.

What bought you to write Leave Taking as a verse novel?

That’s an interesting question. Often I’m asked if I write ‘normal’ stories, meaning all prose. The answer is yes I do — not everything I write is poetry or verse novels, except when the subject matter calls for a stronger emotional framework, then I use poetry. Sometimes it’s my natural voice; sometimes I sketch a character out in prose poetry much like an artist might sketch a character. Because Leave Taking has an emotional tug of saying goodbye to both a beloved place and a beloved family member, my natural instinct was to treat the story in a special prose poetry way.

For me this technique is quick and it also provides different layers for the reader to climb on and it allows us to cry or laugh at the time the reader feels a heartstrings pull.

A verse novel way of writing is like wearing a piece of comfortable clothing; I can confidently build an atmosphere and that is a huge gateway for me to enter the story. I have to feel the right atmosphere to plunge in.

What do you find most challenging about writing verse novels?

This way of writing does have pitfalls. For me it’s probably not to strike out in prose too much when it’s a blend of poetry and prose together.  And to keep that consistency of words to a line and to write more rather than less, which I tend to do as a poet. I try to paint a bare sensory picture for the reader to experience and that allows them to come to the story with their own ideas and reactions.

Do you have a tip for young writers who’d like to have a go at writing a verse novel?

  • Start out with a tale you know well and cut it down and put your own slant on it.
  • Try for short sentences and short phrases.
  • Try to give lots of senses and details.

Here’s a start of a well-known tale — continue on! Using first person voice is a good choice for a verse novel.

Aladdin

I am waiting, watching.
My mother said, ‘Go and hunt
for bargains in the market.’

There are shouts of stall holders,
banners flapping in the breeze.
‘Pies, fresh bananas, best in town!’
‘Silk, wool, rugs, soft and hardwearing!’

And amongst all the bleats of sheep,
or goats, I hear a musical voice;
‘Lamps, I buy old lamps, I pay good money!’
Now you continue on — try for 7 or 8 words a line.

Can you tell us a bit about what you’re working on next?

I have written a ‘normal’ big book, a fantasy, a genre I love. I have written another verse novel, which is under contract with University of Queensland Press, and always I write poetry and have some school writing workshops coming up.

Thanks for asking me these insightful questions.  And happy verse novel writing everyone — have a go!

Interview answers © Lorraine Marwood 2019.


Leave Taking has been shortlisted for the 2019 Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Award (Younger Readers category), AND shortlisted for the 2019 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards.

You can read earlier interviews with Lorraine Marwood here.

Posted in Recommended reading, Top Reads

TOP READS: March 2019

It’s not long to go until the school holidays are here — and you don’t want to be caught without a good book or two or three. This pile of books has the stamp of approval from our Top Reads Team members:

You’ll find a recommended list from our Top Reads Team on the last day of every month (February to November). If you’d like even more recommendations, browse all through all our Top Reads ever!

*All our Top Readers are kids aged 13 and under. No grownups allowed!

Posted in Young Writers in Action

Young Writers in Action: Monkey Island in Cat Ba, Vietnam

Monkey Island in Cat Ba, Vietnam
Elizabeth, 6, NSW

We went swimming, kayaking and visited Monkey Island. Dad and I kayaked into a tunnel. We could see the other side, so we went straight through.

There at Monkey Island my brother was standing on the beach and a monkey ran up behind him and bit him on the ankle!

My brother was okay. It was a good day.


Read other work from Elizabeth here. To send us YOUR story, poem, artwork or book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Posted in poetry, Young Writers in Action

FIRE (Young Writers in Action)

FIRE
by Anishka, 9, QLD

The blazing flame,
Is never the same,
Cutting through the wood,
In its usual fairy mood.
Smoke fills the sky,
The fire destroys anything in its way,
The flame spreading on the road.
The fire has a feeling,
Which goes over the ceiling,
Anger and fury, hot and burning.
The rain soon makes its way,
Giving a single sun ray.
Coolness all around,
Blackness on the ground.
Fire has finished.
Rain has won,
What a mystery on its own.


Anishka is a regular contributor to Alphabet Soup. You can read her earlier work here.

Posted in Recommended reading, Top Reads

TOP READS: February 2019

Welcome to the first Top Reads post for 2019! Every month–from February to November–members of our Top Reads team recommend their favourite reads for the month. Add these books to your reading list, and head to your nearest library or bookshop. Read on!

You’ll find a recommended list from our Top Reads Team on the last day of every month (February to November). If you’d like even more recommendations, browse all through all our Top Reads ever!

*All our Top Readers are kids aged 13 and under. No grownups allowed!

Posted in Top Reads

Introducing the 2019 Top Reads team

 

Image: pile of books. Image from pexels.com.

We’re thrilled to introduce you to the 2019 Top Reads team.

What is the Top Reads team? Members of this team are keen readers who stop by each month to recommend a favourite read for the month, and they’re all kids like you!

INTRODUCING:

Anna, 10, VIC
Anna loves using technology at school and learning about science and the environment, issues she cares deeply about. She likes to read fiction and non-fiction books about animals because she has three pets at home – two cats and one dog. Anna’s hobbies are tennis, swimming and gymnastics.

Nicholas, 10, VIC
Nicholas likes to read most types of fiction. He also reads information books about technology and how the internet is changing, improving and going faster. Nicholas picks up a picture book now and then too because he enjoys using the pictures as clues to work out the meaning, he finds them playful and he can relate to the real-life scenarios that often feature in these texts. He plans to take up tennis as a sporting activity very soon.

Xavier, 10, NT
When he’s not reading, Xavier enjoys riding his bike, swimming and playing soccer. He is obsessed with video games, especially Yo-Kai Watch! When he grows up Xavier wants to be a doctor.

Lewis, 10, WA
Lewis loves reading, particularly entertaining/funny books and adventure stories. When he isn’t reading he loves music, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Lego, scooting, fishing, kayaking, and playing with his younger brother.

Matilda, 10, NT
Matilda loves fiction, fantasy and mystery books, and hery favourite series is Harry Potter. She loves all school subjects. She’s into netball, swimming and dance, and she’s also the junior school dance captain.

Céití, 9, WA
Céití loves spending time with her chocolate labrador Flynn. She enjoys all sorts of reading and writing, playing her violin, cooking and playing water polo. Her favourite series at the moment is Harry Potter, and her favourite book is Whimsy and Woe.

Anishka, 9, QLD
Anishka loves writing poems and reading books. She started composing her own poems when she was 4 years old. She is  involved in raising funds for Heart Research and Foundation through ‘Jump Rope for Heart’. She is also involved in a meditation group in the community.

Fergus, 9, WA
Fergus loves to play Lego with his brother, ride his bike, code, play with his dog and read. His favourite genres are action, adventure and magic. He has three favourite series: Ranger’s Apprentice, Brotherband and Harry Potter.

Albie May, 7, NSW
Albie May loves funny books — like Piranhas Don’t Eat Bananas (which is about a vegetarian piranha) as well as books with made up words in them. She loves reading funny jokes out loud from The Ha Ha Bonk Book.

Rory, 7, WA
Rory loves to spend his day playing Lego, reading, coding and riding his scooter. His favourite authors are JK Rowling, Sally Rippin, Andy Griffiths and Jack Heath. His best place to read is in his bunk bed. When he grows up, he wants to be an archaeologist.

Look out for the first book recommendations for 2019 on the last day of February!

Posted in Young Writers in Action

Young Writers in Action: The Boy with no Talent

THE BOY WITH NO TALENT
by Caitlyn, 9, NSW

Charlie looked like the rest of his family – tall, dark-headed with greenish, bluish eyes – but the unique thing about him was that he was … normal!

Yep. All of his family had a special talent. For instance, his mum was a famous cook and his sister knew LEGO like the back of her hand but Charlie was just plain normal. People said he would find his talent soon enough but he had now waited eleven years for that moment and he was doubting that he had a talent at all. Charlie lived on a planet called Zog where everyone had a talent. He often thought of running off to a distant planet called Earth where he wouldn’t stand out.

Child partially hidden behind a stack of library books. Photo from pexels.comAs Charlie trudged to school one morning thinking about the teasing he would face, he bumped into his teacher, Miss Primrose. She excitedly told him about a talent show for showcasing the students’ talents. Charlie anxiously asked if it was compulsory and unfortunately it was. So that’s how Charlie ended up in the school library, searching for a book that would help him find his talent in time for the show. He made a list of possible talents.

Over the next few days, Charlie tried everything from kung fu to talking to animals. The days drifted by; a week and it’s not gymnastics; five days and it’s not swimming; three days and it’s definitely not cake making. By the time Charlie had two days left, he had almost given up hope.

Charlie sighed. One more thing to try … sprinting. It probably wouldn’t be his talent. After all, he hated cross country and triathlons were definitely not his favourite but he still got his dad to time him sprinting 100m. One minute and forty seconds. Dang it! That wasn’t Charlie’s talent either. His first four legs were co-ordinated, but legs five and six? Well, not so much.

“One day left,” was Charlie’s only thought as he dragged himself to school the next day. As he slumped into his seat at the front of the classroom his mind drifted to tomorrow where he would be humiliated beyond belief.

“A special announcer will announce all of the acts, but not do one themselves,” stated Miss Primrose.

Had Charlie heard correctly? Could it be possible?
Miss Primrose continued, “The person to announce will be … Charlie!” Charlie’s mind was buzzing. He really could just announce?
“I would love to!” he exclaimed.

On the night of the talent show, Charlie wasn’t scared at all. He was excited. As he started speaking, the words seemed to flow easily out of his mouth. It was amazing. The audience was dumbfounded and his parents beamed with pride. He had found his talent.

So that was how the boy with no talent ended up as a public speaker, prime minister and dad to three delightful children. All with a talent!


This is Caitlyn’s first story for Alphabet Soup. To send us YOUR story, poem, artwork or book review, check out our submission guidelines.