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 authors, Pass the Book Baton

Pass the book baton: Jen Banyard

PASS THE BOOK BATON logo

It’s Friday! And that means it’s time for Pass the Book Baton. Every week Alphabet Soup features a book creator who will answer one question before throwing a new question to the next Friday visitor. (It’s kind of like a book relay in slow motion.)

Today the book baton is passed to Jen Banyard!

Jen Banyard at the beach

Jen Banyard lives in Western Australia and writes fun adventure stories, including the Riddle Gully series. Her books have been serialised in the West Australian newspaper.

You might recognise some of these books:

Last week Jackie French asked:

Why do you write?


Jen Banyard answers:

You could say there are three main reasons I write. One is that when I write I feel I’m having the kind of experience I’m giving my characters. If I’m writing a sad part, I feel sad, a scary part, scared, or a funny part, happy. So when I sit down to write I’m giving myself lots of feelings and ‘experiences’ I wouldn’t otherwise be having that day.

Also, when you write stories you start looking more closely at the things going on around you—I mean really looking. Otherwise your stories miss the little details that bring them alive. Have you ever seen one of those nature films where everything is magnified and slowed down? Well, that’s what writing is like—it turns you into a giant magnifying glass and everything you see is more vivid and significant. (When I’m mid-sentence, though, a bird could poop on my head and I wouldn’t notice!)

Lastly, there’s the big buzz you get from creating something, be it building a raft or baking muffins. You’re in control of the story and you get to say how it turns out. You have all these parts—an idea, some images in your head—and gradually you file them down and shuffle and shape them into something people want to read. It’s awesome!

Read more about Jen Banyard and her books at her website: www.jenbanyard.com

and …

Read an earlier Alphabet Soup interview with Jen Banyard (from 2012!).


Gary by Leila RudgeAnd now Jen passes the book baton to our last Friday visitor — Leila Rudge. Leila Rudge is a writer and illustrator. Her books feature artwork in pencil, paint and collage.

Jen asks:

In your books you’ve painted ducks, bears, pigeons, dogs and skunks. If you could take all the best bits from the animal characters you’ve created, what would your animal look like?

(While you’re waiting for Leila’s interview you can catch up on all the interviews in the Pass the Book Baton series so far!)

Posted in authors, Pass the Book Baton

Pass the Book Baton: Jackie French

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It’s Friday! And that means it’s time for Pass the Book Baton. Every week Alphabet Soup features a book creator who will answer one question before throwing a new question to the next Friday visitor. (It’s kind of like a book relay in slow motion.)

Jackie French, photo by Kelly Sturgiss
Jackie French (photo by Kelly Sturgiss)

Today the book baton is passed to Jackie French. Jackie French is an ecologist, the author of more than 200 books, and the 2014–2015 Australian Children’s Laureate (and 2015 Senior Australian of the Year!).

You might recognise some of these books:

Last week Sherryl Clark asked:

What are your best or favourite research tools for your historical novels?


Jackie answers:

Old letters, newspapers, advertisements, paintings of the time.

Old diaries are great. People don’t lie in diaries.

Archeology surveys on the ground or by satellite.

Inscriptions in pyramids.

Ancient Viking rubbish tips.

Depends on the book. Incredible fun, like the best detective investigation in the universe. You never know where the trails will lead. Plus you get to play in a dozen different times with no danger of dying of the bubonic plague or getting your head sliced off by Vikings.

You can check out Jackie French’s website for more about her and her books: www.jackiefrench.com. Or read a 2015 Alphabet Soup interview with Jackie here


Riddle Gully Secrets by Jen BanyardAnd now Jackie passes the book baton to the next Friday visitor — Jen Banyard. Jen Banyard is the author of adventure stories, including the Riddle Gully series.

Jackie asks:

Why do you write?

Check in every Friday for mini interviews with children’s authors and illustrators. (While you’re waiting you can catch up on all the interviews in the Pass the Book Baton series so far!)

Posted in authors, Pass the Book Baton

Pass the Book baton: Sherryl Clark

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Sherryl ClarkIt’s Friday! And that means it’s time for Pass the Book Baton. Every week Alphabet Soup features a book creator who will answer one question before throwing a new question to the next Friday visitor. (It’s kind of like a book relay in slow motion.)

Today the book baton is passed to Sherryl Clark. Sherryl is an author and poet — with over 40 books published in Australia. 

You might recognise some of these!

Last week Yasmin Hamid asked:

I know you have travelled to many different countries, but do you find it difficult to write books that are set in an Australian landscape when in your mind you have the embedded landscapes and terrains of the New Zealand you grew up in?


Sherryl answers:

Farm kid by Sherryl Clark

I think it’s firstly the people from my childhood and teen years that are embedded! I often find myself using bits of them, or certain anecdotes (changed to fit my story, of course). But also I find I tend to write stories set in valleys, and in the country, probably more than writers who grew up in the city do.

It’s tricky because publishers often want city stories where most of their market of readers live. Whereas I think it’s good for city kids to read about living in the country. It’s one of the reasons I wrote Farm Kid, because the Australian drought in the 2000s was so devastating for farmers, but people in the city didn’t really understand what it meant.

I suspect the main effect, though, has been the urge to travel (common among Kiwis) which has led to me writing historical novels set in the USA, England and France. The lure of history and stories that can go back many centuries into the past.

Read more about Sherryl Clark, her picture books, novels and verse novels at her website: www.sherrylclark.com


Diary of a wombat by Jackie French and Bruce WhatleyAnd now Sherryl passes the book baton to the next Friday visitor — Jackie French. Jackie French was the 2014-2015 Australian Children’s Laureate, and has had more than 200 books published.

Sherryl asks:

What are your best or favourite research tools for your historical novels?

Check in every Friday for mini interviews with children’s authors and illustrators. (While you’re waiting you can catch up on all the interviews in the Pass the Book Baton series so far!)

Posted in authors, Pass the Book Baton

Pass the Book Baton: Yasmin Hamid

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It’s Friday! And that means it’s time for Pass the Book Baton. Every week Alphabet Soup features a book creator who will answer one question before throwing a new question to the next Friday visitor. (It’s kind of like a book relay in slow motion.)

Today the book baton is passed to Yasmin Hamid. 

Yasmin grew up in East Africa with her siblings, English mother and Sudanese father. She has been in the same book club group for almost twenty-five years.

Yasmin’s first children’s novel — Swimming on the Lawn — was published in 2017.

Swimming on the Lawn by Yasmin Hamid

 

Last week Aśka asked:

To someone like me — who grew up among grey blocks of flats in Eastern Europe — your childhood sounds absolutely fearless. Was there ever anything that you were afraid of? How did you overcome that fear?


Yasmin answers:

Yasmin Hamid in a garden. Photo courtesy Fremantle Press.
Yasmin Hamid, author

This is a very interesting question. I don’t remember ever being afraid when I was a child. I think it was to do with the place where I lived at that particular time (open spaces, lots of freedom to roam the neighbourhood, climb trees and and be away from home for hours on end without supervision). There wasn’t any hint of stranger danger and there was rarely any interference from adults.

I remember doing things that involved an element of risk like climbing up onto our house roof and weighing up the possibility that if I jumped off and flapped my arms, whether I could fly a bit before I fell onto the strategically placed mattress! Needless to say, I always knew I couldn’t and would climb down again after spending time looking over the garden from a different perspective.
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Read a sample chapter from Swimming on the Lawn and download teachers’ notes.

And now Yasmin passes the book baton to the next Friday visitor — Sherryl Clark. Sherryl writes picture books, junior fiction, novels, verse novels, and books for young adults.

Yasmin Hamid asks:
I know you have travelled to many different countries, but do you find it difficult to write books that are set in an Australian landscape when in your mind you have the embedded landscapes and terrains of the New Zealand you grew up in?

Check in every Friday for mini interviews with children’s authors and illustrators. (While you’re waiting you can catch up on all the interviews in the Pass the Book Baton series so far!)

Posted in authors, Pass the Book Baton

Pass the Book Baton: Sian Turner

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It’s Friday! And that means it’s time for Pass the Book Baton. Every week Alphabet Soup features a book creator who will answer one question before throwing a new question to the next Friday visitor. (It’s kind of like a book relay in slow motion.)

Today the book baton is passed to Sian Turner. 

Sian lives in Albany, Western Australia and has two picture books published — Beyond Our Garden Gate (illustrated by Irene King) and a brand new book called Can I come too, Eliza-Lou? (illustrated by Rebecca Cool).

Last week Deb Fitzpatrick asked Sian:

“I love that nature is such a big part of Beyond Our Garden Gate. Is this important in all of your books? Can you talk about your own experience of nature as a child?
 
Do your children help you write your books, or give you ideas?”

Sian answers:

Thanks for these questions Deb! I love watching children use their imaginations in the world around them and I hope this joy comes across in Beyond Our Garden Gate.  Nature is a big part of my life and, unintentionally, this creeps into my stories.

I’ve been writing two junior fiction novels which are not yet published. In one story, my main protagonist wants to be an Olympic athlete. The descriptions of the environment are quite rich in their imagery as she jogs through town on her training runs.  In the other story, my main character befriends a wacky neighbour who is a gardener and a retired concert pianist. This neighbour’s garden features in the manuscript.

Sian Turner
Sian Turner

Growing up, I had heaps of freedom roaming the outdoors on my bike. Holidays were spent with my family in a sleepy country town called Augusta on the Blackwood River so the beaches and the beautiful Karri Forests and caves of the South West are special to me.

Right now, I live in Albany so it is easy to be inspired with such rugged beauty on my doorstep.

In answer to the question do my children help me write my books or give me ideas?

Of course! I have a four year old, an eight year old and an eleven year old. They definitely help me when I am writing for children because I’m grounded through their experiences. Their personalities, what excites them and what they are interested in and the conversations I have with them about school and friends, all help me to create realistic children characters in the stories I’m working on.

Check out Sian Turner’s website for more about Sian and her books: sianturnerbooks.com


The Cosmic Adventures of Alice & Bob, written by Cristy Burne and illustrated by Aska.And now Sian passes the book baton to the next Friday visitor — Aśka. Aśka is a children’s book illustrator and a science communicator, and has been involved in product design, graphic novels, animation, graphic design and e-publishing.

Sian asks:

“Wow! You have travelled to some amazingly diverse and interesting places, Aśka.

I understand that these experiences have been a rich source of inspiration for your art. Can you elaborate on some of your favourite travel destinations? How have you found that these places have influenced your creativity?”

Check in every Friday for mini interviews with children’s authors and illustrators. (While you’re waiting you can catch up on all the interviews in the Pass the Book Baton series so far!)

Posted in authors, Pass the Book Baton

Pass the Book Baton: Deb Fitzpatrick

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Deb Fitzpatrick

It’s Friday! And that means it’s time for Pass the Book Baton. Every week Alphabet Soup features a book creator who will answer one question before throwing a new question to the next Friday visitor. (It’s kind of like a book relay in slow motion.)

Today the book baton is passed to Deb Fitzpatrick. 

Deb Fitzpatrick lives and works in Fremantle, WA and she writes novels for adults, young adults and children. Deb’s sixth novel, The Spectacular Spencer Gray, was published in mid 2017.

Last week Jen Storer asked Deb:
“How long do you spend planning a book before you start writing it? Also, do you put people or animals you know into your stories? ”


Deb answers:

I’m a pantser, I’m afraid, (that is: I fly by the seat of my pants and make it up as I’m going along, unlike a planner, who, well, plans and is sensible and orderly and grown up). So, I do very little planning for a book before I start writing it. I just launch on in and I love seeing what unfolds.
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Teachers are often rather appalled when I admit this to kids, which I do at every opportunity. Kids seem to love that I’m barely more mature than they are. I make up my stories as I’m going along, and if, in the course of the writing, I need to stop and think things through, I just do it then. Of course, this does sometimes mean that I have to go back and rewrite bits of my story, but I’m okay with that. Can I tell you a secret? This must only be read in a barely-heard whisper … I get bored with writing a story that I have planned too closely. Writing to a plan, for me, takes away the magic of discovery that is creative writing. Shhhhh!!! Don’t tell your teachers!
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I put versions of my two wonderful children in some of my books, but I always ask their permission before going ahead. Sometimes they don’t want certain things shared, and I respect that. I also get my kids to read a manuscript before I submit it to my publisher — so they can give me feedback, which I use!
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Check out Deb Fitzpatrick’s website to find out more about her and her books!
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Beyond our Garden Gate by Sian Turner and Irene KingAnd now Deb passes the book baton to the next Friday visitor — Sian Turner. Sian is a WA writer and her second picture book will be published in November 2017. (More about that next week!)

Deb asks:

“I love that nature is such a big part of Beyond Our Garden Gate. Is this important in all of your books? Can you talk about your own experience of nature as a child?
 
Also: do your children help you write your books, or give you ideas?”

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Check in every Friday for mini interviews with children’s authors and illustrators. (While you’re waiting you can catch up on all the interviews in the Pass the Book Baton series so far!)