Posted in authors, interviews

Rebecca Lim on Eddie Woo: Superstar Maths Teacher

Today we’re pleased to have award-winning author Rebecca Lim visiting Alphabet Soup. Rebecca Lim is a writer, illustrator, editor and lawyer based in Melbourne, Australia. She is the author of nineteen books for children and teenagers. Her latest book is Eddie Woo: Superstar Maths Teacher, part of the Aussie STEM Stars series.

From the publisher:

Eddie Woo has already packed a lot into his short life. Australian High School Maths teacher, education ambassador and advisor, author, TV Host and YouTube sensation, Eddie has been putting the magic in maths for the past ten years, allowing students to learn in creative and practical ways, and being at the forefront of school-based integrated STEM education. His is an inspiring story of empathy, generosity, mentorship, personal connection, and overcoming adversity.

How did you go about your research for writing about Eddie Woo?

I was lucky, because Eddie has a huge social media presence and footprint and I could get to know him from his Maths videos as well as talks he’s done (like his 2018 Australia Day Address and TED talk) and TV and radio interviews he’s given, even before I actually got to speak to Eddie himself. He kindly let me ask him loads of personal questions over the course of several emails and phone calls. 

Did you watch any of Eddie Woo’s YouTube videos before writing this book?

I did watch some of Eddie’s YouTube videos including footage of Eddie spontaneously running over and giving the winner of the 2018 Top 10 Global Teacher Prize, Andria Zafirakou, a huge congratulatory hug. It was a prize that he was also shortlisted for, along with 9 other teachers from around the world. It told me that Eddie is exactly like he is in all his videos – spontaneous and warm and human. All great things in an educator, advisor and industry expert.

You moved to Australia from Singapore when you were a toddler. Were there similarities in your school experiences and Eddie’s?

I copped lots of casual racism when I was in primary school, even from ‘friends’, and experienced a brief, intense period of bullying when I started at a new school in Grade 6 because I was the new, very tall, very dorky Asian kid in class. I don’t think I’ve forgotten a single instance of racism that I’ve experienced in this country from the 1970s onwards – I can tell you where it happened, who I was with, how old I was. As recently as 2020, during the second Melbourne COVID-19 lockdown, I experienced racism from my neighbour’s extended family while I was standing in the ‘safety’ of my own backyard. So there are definitely similarities between Eddie’s school experiences and mine, but I didn’t get ‘roughed up’ like he did, which I’m very thankful for.  

Do you have a tip for children in primary school who’d like to try writing nonfiction?

Some key skills for writing non-fiction are:

·         being able to work through a lot of data, pick out the high points or themes and pull them together into a compelling narrative 

·         being observant about your subject, about the time that they live(d) in and how the things in their wider environment might have contributed to making them who they ended up becoming

·         being empathetic – you might not agree with the subject or the subject matter that you’re writing about, but you need to be objective and be able to step into your subject’s shoes or see things from their perspective 

·         being truthful and factual – whatever you write, you need to be able to argue it, defend it, back it up

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

Something with a bit of fantasy and paranormal in it because I love setting things in our world but then having the characters and the story go completely off road, into unexpected places. Like lots of writers I have three or four things on the go at the moment. The story with ‘legs’ will win out eventually!

Eddie Woo: Superstar Maths Teacher is out now! Ask for it at your favourite book store or library.


AWESOME EXTRAS

Take a peek inside the book

Find out more about the books in the Aussie STEM Stars series

Eddie Woo Superstar Maths Teacher story told by Rebecca Lim
Posted in authors, interviews

Nadia L King on The Lost Smile

MEET THE AUTHOR

Nadia L King

Nadia L King was born in Dublin, Ireland and now calls Australia home. Nadia writes for children and adults. She believes in the power of stories and that stories can change the world for the better. When she was a little girl, Nadia rode an ostrich. When she was older, she rode a camel. One day she hopes to ride an elephant! Nadia is currently a postgraduate student in English and Creative writing. She lives in Western Australia with her family, two tabby cats, a beautiful black Labrador and a vast (and growing) collection of books. The Lost Smile (illustrated by Nelli Aghekyan) is her third book.

The Lost Smile by Nadia L King and Nelli AghekyanFrom the publisher:

When Zaytoon wakes up sad, she goes on a search to find her smile. From the kitchen to the garden, Zaytoon searches high and low. Themes of cultural diversity, emotional intelligence, family life and the importance of connecting with nature and animals make this a perfect book for our times.

On with the questions!


Finding the best name for characters in a story can be challenging. How do you choose names for your characters?
Choosing names for characters is HARD. One of my favourite places to visit is the local cemetery (I know that sounds creepy!), and I like to read inscriptions on the tombstones. Sometimes they give me ideas for naming characters and I write names from tombstones down in my little book which I carry everywhere with me.

Did you meet/talk to the illustrator of The Lost Smile while it was being illustrated?
The illustrator of The Lost Smile is an artist called Nelli Aghekyan who lives in a country called Armenia. It’s very far away from Australia, about 12,000 kilometres away. Nelli and I spent a lot of time emailing and chatting about the illustrations for The Lost Smile and consequently, became friends.

The Lost Smile deals with themes about sadness and emotional intelligence. What are your ‘go-to’ activities if you’re feeling sad?
I don’t like being sad but I know that feeling sad won’t last forever. These are some of the things I do to help make me feel happier:

  • Have a cup of tea and a nice biscuit;
  • Go outside for a walk;
  • Look at the plants in my garden and sniff the flowers. I love smelling flowers.
  • Have a cuddle with my cats (if they let me), or with my dog Pippa who always lets me cuddle her.
  • Read a book. I love reading.

Nadia L King at the launch of The Lost Smile
Nadia L King at the launch of The Lost Smile

Do you have a tip for young writers who’d like to write a picture book?
If you want to write a picture book, first you need to find ideas. Not just one idea, but a few because each story needs a few ideas. Think about a beginning and then think about an ending. In the middle, think about what could go wrong, what challenges and obstacles could your hero face? Congratulations, you’ve just mapped out a three-act story, well done!

Can you tell us a bit about your next writing project? 
I’m very excited about my next writing project which is a short YA novel being published later in 2021 (somewhere around August). The book is called Can the Real JR Stand Up, Please? and my favourite character in the book is a yoga-loving, talking dog called Baba Ami (I didn’t see that name in the cemetery. I made it up after researching Indian gurus on Google!). I can’t wait for Can the Real JR Stand Up, Please? to become a real book because it took me a very long time to write.

The Lost Smile is out now! Ask for it at your favourite bookshop or library.

The Lost Smile by Nadia L King and Nelli AghekyanAwesome extras:
Posted in authors, interviews, poetry

Lorraine Marwood and Footprints on the Moon

Lorraine Marwood

Today we’re pleased to have Lorraine Marwood visiting Alphabet Soup. Lorraine is an award-winning poet, novelist and verse novelist. She likes to write about the goldfields, country life, a tiny moment in time, families, animals, mystery, a longing for something, fantasy … and more! Lorraine’s latest

book is Footprints on the Moon.

From the publisher:

It’s 1969 and life is changing fast. Sharnie Burley is starting high school and finding it tough to make new friends. As the world waits to see if humans will land on the moon, the Vietnam War rages overseas. While her little cousin, Lewis, makes pretend moon boots, young men are being called up to fight, sometimes without having any choice in the matter. Sometimes without ever coming home.

Dad thinks serving your country in a war is honourable, but when Sharnie’s older sister, Cas, meets a returned soldier and starts getting involved in anti-war protests, a rift in their family begins to show. Sharnie would usually turn to her grandma for support, but lately Gran’s been forgetting things.

Can she find her own way in this brave new world?

We’re pleased to have Lorraine visiting today to talk all about the book!


Footprints on the Moon by Lorraine Marwood

Footprints on the Moon is historical fiction, set at the time of the moon landing and the Vietnam War. How did you go about your research?
I read newspapers, articles, personal stories, and delved into my own childhood memories of that time. This was in contrast with the exciting, exuberant conquering of man on the moon – how could there be such polarizing events operating at once?

I visited the Australian War Memorial and one impression that stayed was the fierce unearthly sound of the helicopters (choppers) that were an integral part of the Vietnam War. I came away with much material to read and ponder. I had newspaper articles of Vietnam War experiences, I researched posters of protest movements, found out numbers of conscripts sent to Vietnam etc.

Similarly I researched the moon mission and had many articles and booklets to read from many years collecting. I knew I wanted to write about this era but when it came to writing the book I needed to delve more deeply and think about the questions the teachers in the book might ask students about the Vietnam War. I also knew the prevalent attitudes of political and establishment at that time, as well as communism, had to be shown too. I also spoke with Vietnam veterans and families affected by the conflict.

This is your fourth verse novel. Can you tell us a bit about the editing process for a verse novel?
A very interesting question as I feel this verse novel is different in format from my other verse novels – each format seemed to reflect the subject matter and as this was set in a high school, it was written for a slightly older audience than two of my other verse novels.

Each poem or section has its own title to lead us into the narrative. I think the editing is the same for other novels, to get facts right, to get the main character to shine in her own story, to see growth in the character from start to finish, to find a climax of narrative, a progression, a flow, to take out unnecessary words and especially for the verse novel, to make sure those spontaneous lines of poetry flow and sparkle.

Did you watch the moon landing in 1969? Were you aware of the Vietnam War?
Yes indeed – just as the book says – in the cookery room of my secondary school, amazing, amazing and then looking up at the moon at night and noting that it had been conquered and was not the same mysterious orb that had always been there.

Yes the Vietnam War impacted family around me, male acquaintances anxiously waited for their birthdate to come up in the ballot. Political opinion was being rocked, the establishment was called into question and protests, especially the Melbourne ones called young protestors into action, to change history as it were.

Do you have a tip for young writers who’d like to write historical fiction?
Yes, delve into that era, immerse yourself in the nitty gritty of daily life, food, clothes, world events because this is where your story will flourish. Ask questions of anyone who might have experienced that era (contemporary era) look at old newspapers online, examine as many resources as you can, to see an entry point that resonates with you, then write the story. Once that is down you can check the facts later.

Can you tell us a bit about your next writing project?
Another historical novel – but not a verse novel, a longer one with mystery in it. I have researched the era it focuses on for years and years and written it on and off for years also and now have stripped it back and begun again. I am also tackling plot which is hard for me as I am a pantser but this will be a bigger novel …

Then of course I have enough material for another poetry collection and I’ve always wanted a picture book … lots of material there to work on!

Footprints on the Moon is out now! Look for it at your favourite bookshop or local library. 


AWESOME EXTRAS:

Footprints on the Moon by Lorraine Marwood

Download teachers’ notes from the publisher’s website

Do you live in Victoria? Go to the book launch celebration at the Bendigo library! 11 am, Saturday 27 February 2021. It’s free but you do need to book tickets online. 

Read our earlier interviews with Lorraine Marwood –

Posted in authors, interviews

Cristy Burne on Beneath the Trees

MEET THE AUTHOR

Cristy Burne holds Beneath The Trees Cristy Burne writes fiction and nonfiction and her books are bursting with adventure, friendship, family, nature, science and technology. Cristy has worked as a science communicator for nearly 20 years across six countries. She has been a science circus performer, garbage analyst, museum writer, and atom-smashing reporter at CERN, but her all-time favourite job is working with kids to embrace the intersection between science, technology and creativity.

Cristy’s latest book is Beneath the Trees, with illustrations by Amanda Burnett. From the publisher:

Cam and Sophie feel like they’ve been travelling forever to get to the rainforest and the river and their cousins. They just want to see a platypus in the wild, but with the rain tipping down and the river turning wild they can’t see a thing. Until suddenly, they can. A platypus is just below them, and it needs help! But when their rescue attempt goes horribly wrong, it’s not just the platypus that needs saving …


Your characters Cam and Sophie want to see a platypus in the wild. Have you ever seen a platypus yourself?
Beneath the Trees by Cristy Burne and illustrated by Amanda BurnettYes, and I loved it! In 2019 my family travelled across Australia to see platypus in the wild, just like in the book. In fact, that’s the whole reason Beneath The Trees exists. So the descriptions in the book of the forest, the rain, the river and the platypus are all real-life descriptions.

Platypus are so wonderful and so lovely to see in the wild. We need to do all we can to protect their habitat and our environment so animals like this don’t continue to decline.

You write books about kids having adventures in the great outdoors. Do any of your own childhood adventures make it into your books?
I grew up on a kiwifruit orchard and farm in New Zealand, so adventure was a huge part of my childhood. I remember being chased by bulls, rescuing a paddock of heifers from a flood, accidentally electrocuting myself with the electric fence while chasing a wayward cow through the orchard in the dead of night and in bare feet…

None of these adventures have made it into a book yet, but now you have me thinking….

Personal opinion: Leech or mosquito … which is worse?
Mosquito is way worse.

  1. Mosquito bites itch, but leeches use anaesthetic, so you don’t even know they’re biting you.
  2. Mosquitoes buzz around your room all night, but leeches are nice and quiet.
  3. Mosquitoes are responsible for millions of deaths (from diseases like malaria), but leeches are used to treat patients who are recovering from surgeries (like reattachment surgeries).

So leeches are way better than mosquitoes. And they’re way grosser too!

Do you have any tips for kids who’d like to write adventure stories?
Adventures stories are awesome to read, and awesome to write. The best bit is that you have to have experienced some adventure to write a good adventure story. You don’t need to have experienced the exact thing your character is experiencing, but you do need to know what it feels like to be frightened or lost, or how it feels to do the right thing, even when you’re afraid.

A good way to remember how you feel is to write about it in a diary each day. You’ll soon get bored of writing ‘I felt scared’ or ‘it was fun’ and you can start to experiment with new and scary and funny and original ways to describe your day. I dare you to start a diary and write in it every day for a week!

Can you tell us a bit about your next writing project?
My next book comes out at the end of April. It’s the first in a science-meets-magic adventure series co-written with debut author Denis Knight. Book 1 is called Wednesday Weeks and the Tower of Shadows, and it’s about a schoolkid called Wednesday who mixes magic and science to save the universe from a power-crazy goblin king. It’s loads of laughs!

Beneath the Trees is out now! Ask for it at your favourite bookshop or local library. 


AWESOME EXTRAS

Beneath the Trees by Cristy Burne and illustrated by Amanda BurnettDownload Teachers’ Notes for Beneath the Trees

Read the first chapter on the publisher’s website

Visit Cristy’s website to see some photos of the Queensland environment where the story is set

Watch a YouTube video of Taronga Zoo Australian fauna team releasing a rehabilitated male playtpus back into the wild in NSW

Posted in authors, interviews

Dianne Wolfer and Munjed Al Muderis: from refugee to surgical inventor

MEET THE AUTHOR

Dianne Wolfer

Dianne Wolfer lives on the south coast of Western Australia, but she grew up in Melbourne, Bangkok and Albury. Dianne’s love of books is one reason she became a writer. She writes picture books, novels for  children and teenagers, and nonfiction for all ages. Her stories are about many things; different cultures, the environment, friendship, being brave, turns in the road and taking chances. Today we’re thrilled to have Dianne visiting to chat to us about her latest book, which is part of the Aussie STEM Stars series.

Munjed Al Muderis from refugee to surgical inventor

From the publisher:

Munjed is a humanitarian and world-leading pioneer of surgical osseointegration. The book follows pivotal moments in Munjed’s life: becoming a surgeon under the regime of Saddam Hussein, fleeing from war-torn Iraq and arriving at Christmas Island in a rickety boat, being held in the Curtin Detention Centre, his hard-gained medical success, and his acknowledgement as the 2020 NSW Australian of the Year.

On with the questions!


You’re a writer of fiction and nonfiction. What’s different about writing nonfiction compared to writing a fiction novel?
Writing fiction is just me and my imagination. There is some research, for example in The Shark Caller I wanted to find out more about Papua New Guinea and the practise of calling sharks, but with nonfiction you have to always check and double-check the facts that link to your book. When it’s biography, like Munjed Al Muderis from refugee to surgical inventor, and the person is alive, it’s super important to not only get the details correct but also to capture the ‘voice’ of the person you are writing about. That’s not easy. Historical fiction is different again, it sits between the two and some people call it ‘faction’. With the Light series, set in WWI, I imagined the characters; both real and fictitious. For example, when I began work on Lighthouse Girl in 2005, very little was known about Fay’s life on Breaksea Island in 1914. As time passes research sometimes uncovers interesting details that I wish I’d known way back then. Each genre has its own challenges and its own fun.

Your latest book is part of Aussie STEM Stars – a new series for kids celebrating Australia’s experts in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. Had you met Munjed Al Muderis before you began writing the book?
No, sadly I still haven’t met Munjed. He lives in Sydney and soon after I began work on his amazing story, COVID happened.

How did you go about your research for writing the book?
Munjed has co-authored two books for adults, given TED talks, been painted by Anh Do’s ‘Brush with Fame’ and been on many media shows, so although I could not meet him in person, I was able to watch Munjed on screen and listen to him speak about his life and surgical achievements. Munjed often spoke about pivotal life moments, like when he had to choose between probable death and cutting off the ears of prisoners, and coming to Australia by boat, and being locked in Curtin Detention Centre where they called him by a number instead of his name. These were some of the life-changing moments I pieced together to create the book. As I wrote I often asked myself, ‘How did these experiences shape the man Munjed has become?’

Australia is now the world-leader in osseointegration, a surgical technique that allows amputees to feel the ground as they walk, because of Munjed and his team’s surgical work. He’s the current NSW Australian of the Year and his resilience and positive ‘glass half-full’ (rather than ‘half-empty’) attitude inspired me as I drafted and re-drafted his story. “Life is about making a difference,” Munjed says. “We all have a mission in life, to leave behind a legacy.”

Do you have any tips for kids who would like to try writing a biography?
So many … capturing someone’s ‘voice’ is important. The more research you do, the better chance you will have of doing that. Then start writing and keep going until you get to the end. You can make notes along the way about things you’ll need to research in following drafts. When you’re finished a read-through, reread and let the story settle.

Then ask yourself questions like:

  • What is the heart of this story?
  • Why has my character made the choices she/he has?
  • Are there important turns in the road when they could have taken another path? Why didn’t they? Would their life have been very different if they had?
  • What does my character care most about and what drives them?
  • Who are the important mentors for my character?

Thinking about smaller things like the kind of clothes they wear, favourite music and the food they like is also a fun way to bring a character to life.

If ever I go to Iraq I will definitely try Gaymer & Kahi for breakfast.

Can you tell us a bit about your next writing project?
I thought I’d finished writing about WWI but one story kept calling me back. It’s a little like the ‘Light’ series but it’s also different (a special animal is the hero). I’ve done a lot of research and I hope I can share more about it soon. I’ve also completed a middle-grade novel which is on a publisher’s desk. Lots of other ideas are swirling about but these are the ones I’m working on.

Munjed Al Muderis is out now! Ask for it at your favourite bookshop or library or order it from the publisher.


AWESOME EXTRAS:

Munjed Al Muderis from refugee to surgical inventor

Download the Teacher’s Notes for this book. (PDF)

Watch a 30-second video of Dianne Wolfer talking about the book.

Visit Dianne Wolfer’s website to find out more about her and her books.

Posted in authors, interviews

Kate Gordon on The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn

Kate Gordon grew up in a very booky house, in a small town by the sea in Tasmania. Now she’s the author of picture books, children’s novels, and novels for teenagers. We’re thrilled to have her visiting to chat to us about her writing and the setting of her new children’s novel The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn.

The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn by Kate Gordon

From the publisher:

Lonely orphan Wonder Quinn lives in the attic of Direleafe Hall with only a gloomy crow for company.

But when a spirited new student, Mabel Clattersham, befriends her in class, Wonder’s dreams seem to be coming true. As the girls grow closer, Wonder discovers her friend has a list of strange wishes: Throw a pie, leap into the sky, break someone’s heart…

What is Mabel’s big secret? Can Wonder protect her heart from being broken all over again?

The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn is an enchanting tale celebrating friendship, bravery and the importance of staying true to yourself.

On with the questions!


Direleafe Hall is a spooky, gothic setting for the school in The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn. Is it inspired by a real-world place?

It absolutely is inspired by a real place! The Midlands of Tasmania is a beautifully gothic landscape, just begging to be turned into (gently) dark and atmospheric stories. I travel along that stretch of road fairly frequently and my favourite thing to do on the trip is stare out the window at the historic buildings – some intact and some broken down by time – on the route. My favourite ones are the broken down ones and my favourite of all is an arched doorway that stands alone in a paddock, the rest of its structure vanished as if into the air. I finally researched the building and found it was a school, once. Of course, I had to set a story there!

How do you like to write: pen and paper, or typing straight into the computer?

A bit of both! I write notes on paper but I type the prose directly on the computer. I make too many mistakes to write my stories longhand. I’d need shares in Tipp-Ex.

How long did it take you to write The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn (from the first idea for the book, to publication)?

I looked up the first emails talking to my husband about my idea for this story. It was around six years ago! And I wrote a very rough first draft in 2015. The story came quickly but the process after that was slow. I’m not complaining at all – I feel like this was a book that needed time to breathe and to grow and the team at UQP had the wisdom to allow that. Sometimes things happen quickly and slowly at the same time and I think the best stories have a bit of both.

Do you have a writing tip for young writers?

I’m going to be that thousandth person telling you to read a lot – but it is so important. Apart from that … just love it. Pour all your love and all your heart and all your enthusiasm on to the page and your writing will sing with it. Write as if the world is ending. Write as if it’s the most important thing you’ll ever do. Write because you need to, and you love it. The reader will be able to see it and they will love the words you make as much as you do.

Can you tell us something about your next writing project?

Absolutely! At the moment I’m still deep in Direleafe territory, working on books two and three (and a sneaky extra story about a girl who runs away to the circus). I’m not ready to leave the world of Hollowbeak just yet!

The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn is out now! Ask for it at your favourite bookshop or library, or order it from the publisher.


The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn by Kate GordonAWESOME EXTRAS:

Read a sample chapter!

Download the Teachers’ Notes from the publisher’s website.

Visit Kate Gordon’s website for more about her and her books.

Posted in authors, illustrator, interviews

James Foley on Chickensaurus

MEET THE AUTHOR

James Foley. Photo by Jessica Wyld Photography.
James Foley (photo by Jessica Wyld Photography)

Chickensaurus by James FoleyJames Foley is a Western Australian author, illustrator and graphic novelist. James uses a variety of materials and tools to create his books: pen and ink, pencil, charcoal and watercolour. He also uses digital tools: Adobe Photoshop, a Wacom graphics tablet, an iPad Pro and the Procreate app. His latest book is the fourth instalment in the hilarious S. Tinker Inc series: Chickensaurus.

From the publisher:

Sally Tinker, the world’s foremost inventor under the age of 12, is back with a new adventure in invention. When Sally’s nemesis hatches a fowl and poultry plot, there’s no room for the lily-livered. Sally and co will need all their pluck to return the world to its rightful pecking order.

On with the questions!


Assuming you’ve never seen a real chickensaurus, how did you design your dinosauric creatures in Chickensaurus?
I started off with some of the dinosaurs that everyone is most familiar with – T-Rex, velociraptor, stegosaurus, triceratops and pteranodon (though technically that last one is a pterosaur, not a dinosaur). I drew them normal to start with, then added chicken-y details on and gave them silly names. Sometimes the bits I added were suggested by the silly name I gave them – for example, the stegosaurus became an eggosaurus, so it’s basically a giant walking egg. Some of them just started out as a silly drawing and then I found an even sillier name for them – for example, the velociroosters turned up in my sketchbook in 2016, and there were other versions of lizardy chickens in my sketchbooks as far back as 2012.

Just how many chicken puns do you have in your archives? (Would Chickensaurus win the record for the most chicken jokes in one book?)
I hope so! (Though is that really a record that I want my name to be on? Should I be proud or ashamed?) I gathered as many silly jokes as I could and then found places for them in the book. There’s one particularly pun-filled part that I’m strangely proud of, where a character gives a long ‘villain speech’ using as many chicken and egg puns as I could fit in. It’s very, VERY silly.
.
Chickensaurus is Book 4 in the S. Tinker Inc series of graphic novels. You also write and illustrate picture books. What’s different about the way you go about creating your graphic novels, compared to your picture books?
They’re basically the same process; graphic novels just have A LOT more drawings and A LOT more words. But there is one difference with my writing; when I’m writing a graphic novel I write it out like a movie script. It’s mostly just what the characters say to each other, with a few descriptions of the settings or the action that are basically notes for myself. On the other hand, when I’m writing a picture book the text is usually more than just what the characters say.
.
Do you have one tip for young storytellers who’d like to create their own comic books or graphic novels?
Yes, and it’s an easy one – read lots of comics! It doesn’t matter if they’re superhero comics, or funny comic strips, or big fancy graphic novels … just read lots of them. And while you’re reading them, pay attention to the ways that the authors and illustrators tell you the story. Notice the things you like about the comic and maybe have a go at trying some of the same drawing or writing techniques. Notice the things you didn’t like so much about the comic and then ask yourself what you would have done differently. You can learn HEAPS just by reading other people’s work.
.
Can you tell us a bit about your next project?
My next two projects are a short Sally Tinker comic adventure that will go into next year’s School Magazine, and a picture book about animals in space!

 

Chickensaurus is out now! You can buy it from the publisher’s website, find it at your favourite book store, or ask for it at your library. 

Chickensaurus by James FoleyAWESOME EXTRAS:
Click here to watch an interview with James Foley for Paper Bird Books Home Club (1/2 hour YouTube video)
Posted in illustrator, interviews

Tom Jellett on Shoo You Crocodile!

MEET THE ILLUSTRATOR

Tom Jellett, illustrator
Tom Jellett at work (photo by Alexander James)

Tom Jellett is a Sydney based illustrator. For over twenty years he has illustrated a number of books for children including My Dad Thinks He’s Funny by Katrina Germein, Why I Love Footy by Michael Wagner, Whale in the Bath by Kylie Westaway and the Besties series with Sporty Kids author Felice Arena. His latest picture book is Shoo You Crocodile! (with text by Katrina Germein).

Shoo You Crocodile! by Katrina Germein and Tom Jellett

From the publisher:

Shoo You Crocodile! is a fun, raucous tale for imaginative young readers and small, brave adventurers. The story offers space for play, real and imagined stories, and families can use the book to play their own make-believe monster games and learn about rhyming words. 

On with the questions!


What’s your favourite illustration tool when illustrating picture books?
It has to be pencil. Prismacolor ones are my favourites … I go through a lot of them, though I found sharpening them by hand slowed me down quite a bit. I only recently bought an electric pencil sharpener ($10 from Officeworks! Insane!). It has changed my life.

When you agreed to illustrate Shoo You Crocodile! what was your first step when you sat down to get to work?
The first step, after having read the manuscript a few hundred times is to start figuring out the story within the story, for example, where the story is set, who is being chased … is it a real crocodile or is it a game? Is it set in a zoo? In a jungle? I was pretty certain early on I wanted a ‘real’ crocodile in there so I started with that and ended up with museum … once these things are decided then I can start drawing.

Did you like to play monster games yourself as a child?
I’m not sure about games, but I used to like old scary movies when I was younger. When they were in black and white they were even scarier. I was probably a bit of a scaredy cat … even Doctor Who used to scare me … still does, actually …

Do you have a tip for children who would like to try drawing ‘monster-type characters?
SHARP TEETH BIG CLAWS. The other good tip I find helpful is to start with real animals, and take bits from here and there. I think I stole this tip from Sendak’s drawings in Where the Wild Things Are. If you look at the wild things they are all sorts of bits and pieces … I think one had a parrot’s head, another looked like a bull … all mixed up!
Can you tell us a bit about your next project?
It’s not out for a little while yet, but I just finished a book which has no story at all, but is all about funny sounding words. (Some rude ones possibly … )

.

Shoo You Crocodile is out now! Ask for it at your bookshop or order it from the publisher. 


Shoo You Crocodile! by Katrina Germein and Tom Jellett
AWESOME EXTRAS:
Read our 2017 interview with Tom Jellett (his comic-book style answers are fantastic!)
Visit Tom Jellett’s website for more about him and his books.
Posted in authors, interviews

Bren MacDibble on Across the Risen Sea

MEET THE AUTHOR

Bren MacDibble photo

Bren MacDibble is an award-winning author of books for children and young adults. She grew up in New Zealand, and then heaved on a backpack and spent a couple of years exploring the world. Bren has lived in Whanganui, Hawkes Bay, Waikato, Tauranga, Frankfurt, London, Auckland and Sydney before finally stopping off in Melbourne for 20 years, where she raised two children. She now lives in Kalbarri on the insanely gorgeous mid west coast of Australia. Across the Risen Sea is her 2020 novel for children and hit the Aus, NZ and UK shelves in August.

Across the Risen Sea by Bren MacDibble

From the publisher:

Neoma and Jag and their small community are ‘living gentle lives’ on high ground surrounded by the risen sea that has caused widespread devastation. When strangers from the Valley of the Sun arrive unannounced, the friends find themselves drawn into a web of secrecy and lies that endangers the way of life of their entire community. Soon daring, loyal Neoma must set off on a solo mission across the risen sea, determined to rescue her best friend and find the truth that will save her village.

Across the Risen Sea is an action-packed, compelling and heartfelt middle-fiction adventure, set in a post-climate change landscape, from the multi-award winning author of How to Bee and The Dog Runner.

 

On with the questions!


In Across the Risen Sea your main character, Neoma bravely sails off on her own to rescue her best friend. Had you done much sailing yourself before writing the novel?
Have I done much sailing? A little. Not enough to feel completely safe on the water, but enough to understand how the sails and rigging work. When I was in my 20s I went out a couple of times on hire yachts in the Bay of Islands NZ with friends. The last time I did that I got hit by a swinging boom and went flying across the deck and landed on a stanchion and I still have a scar on my spine! My advice: when someone yells tack, duck! This person didn’t yell tack. I’m still angry at them. I sometimes go out when I’m in Auckland, the city of the sails. Last time I went out on Auckland harbour, the skipper went to take a phone call and left me in charge and a ship was coming in. So I was whispering, I have to tack! I have to tack! And he was waving his hand for me to wait. And then the ship sounded its fog horn! Those things are so loud! We had plenty of room to tack, but it was still terrifying! That noise goes right into your chest and stops your heart!

Your characters’ names all seem to match their characters perfectly. How do you come up with names for characters?
I love how the fashion for names change constantly. Names in Western Australia are fun and modern, names in Melbourne are traditional, and so I try to think about future people. What might they name their children? What’s important to them? It was easy in How to Bee, fruit and flowers. In Across the Risen Sea it was a little harder. Fish and boats are important but they are everyday so I thought about what was exotic, big cats may well become extinct if people are forced up into high country so Jaguar was easy. The moon and tides are important and so is new beginnings in this story. Neoma means new moon. Sometimes I just use names I grew up with. Saleesi was one of those.

The consequences of climate change is a recurring element in all three of your recent children’s novels. Can you tell us why you write climate change into your fiction?
I mainly write about post climate changed worlds to keep the conversation about climate change going. I realise it’s scary and when humans are scared we turn away from the thing that scares us, so by writing about children surviving in these worlds, I’m hoping to keep people looking at climate change instead of looking away. We can only solve problems we face. I’m hoping it also gives a safe fictional space for people to talk about these issues. ‘What would I do if I were Neoma?’ is easier to talk about than, ‘What would I do if my family was threatened?’. Fictional problem-solving is always easier than real life problem-solving but it uses the same brain muscles and I think everyone needs to develop more problem-solving muscles.

Do you have a tip for young writers who might like to write their own dystopian adventure stories?
Leap a little bit into the future. Change something and then write a list of all the things affected. You’ll be surprised how much everything is connected. As we’ve seen, warming temperatures lead to sea level rise, leads to coastal erosion, relocation of cities, building of dykes and sea walls, and fresh water issues. Felling forests leads to invading wild animals habitats, their extinction, excess fresh water runoff, new deserts, new diseases. You decide which ones you want to use in your story, it’ll be too hard to use them all. In truth our planet is small and EVERYTHING is connected, but as humans we can only examine a few ideas at a time, and this is a story not a text book. Ask yourself, how do people live now? What’s important to them? It will always still be family, friends, water, food, shelter, peace and safety. Can they find these things in this ruined world? Make sure they do, at least by the end, or your story may be too scary!

Can you tell us a bit about your next writing project?
I am working on two projects right now. One with Zana Fraillon, so that’s like half a project because she is a very good team member and has made it so easy. We are writing a children’s novel together which combines an ancient myth with the present and brings a boy (Zana’s character) to the future, where he meets a girl (my character) living in a sparse kind of Utopia, where humans care for the planet. I’m also working on a story alone set in the desert where strange new humans are being born and the main character is fiercely protective of their little toddler sibling who is one of these strange new humans. I like writing this one, now I practically live in the desert! Red sand will be pouring out every time readers turn a page!

Across the Risen Sea is out now. Look for it at your favourite bookstores and libraries!


AWESOME EXTRAS:

Across the Risen Sea by Bren MacDibbleClick here to download Teachers’ Notes for Across the Risen Sea (scroll to the end of the page that opens)

Read our 2017 interview with Bren MacDibble

Visit Bren MacDibble’s website for more about her and her books. 

Posted in authors, interviews

Claire Saxby on Georgia Ward-Fear: Reptile biologist and explorer

Claire Saxby MEET THE AUTHOR

Claire Saxby writes novels, picture books, nonfiction and poetry for children. Her books are published all around the world. This month she launches a new nonfiction book Georgia Ward-Fear: Reptile biologist and explorer, which is Book 2 in the new Aussie STEM Stars series.

From the publisher:

 Georgia Ward-Fear’s conservation journey has seen her travel the world, empower young girls to become environmental leaders, and carry out trailblazing work to save native animals from the threat of cane toads.

An inspiring story of an adventurous spirit whose love of the natural world has made her a STEM superstar.   

Georgia Ward-Fear Reptile Biologist and Explorer

On with the questions!


You’ve written fiction and nonfiction books and poetry on a variety of subjects. Do you have a favourite nonfiction subject to write about?
It seems impossible to have a favourite when there is so many interesting things to explore. Sometimes I write what I’m in the mood to write (and I’m just the same when reading … sometimes serious, sometimes curious, sometimes silly), but mostly the idea dictates the form. I had a story I really wanted to write as a picture book but it JUST WOULDN’T FIT! So eventually I gave in and wrote it as a novel (and it took forever!), but it was right. I’ve learned to follow where the idea leads.

Your latest book is part of Aussie STEM Stars – a new series for kids celebrating Australia’s experts in Science Technology, Engineering and Maths. Had you met Dr Georgia Ward-Fear before you began writing the book?
Georgia and I were paired by the publisher at Wild Dingo Press. We’d not met before. I’d never heard of her before. But she’s just fabulous, and was so generous with her time and her … life! I had to ask all sorts of questions and she trusted that I would know which bits to put in, which bits belonged just to our chats.

How did you go about your research for writing the book?
Firstly, I scoured the internet for information about Georgia. Fortunately, she’s done some things that make her interesting to newspapers and television so I could get to know her a little bit through them. Then I read many of her papers and articles. By then she was already my hero for teaching goannas NOT to eat cane toads. Then I emailed her and we started chatting. Every answer she gave me led to more questions. We met once in person and had some phone conversations. Once I started writing I had more questions! Curiosity was my friend.

What’s different about sitting down to write a fiction and sitting down to write nonfiction?
Georgia is a real person living a real life. She has real family and real friends. I have to be sure that I’m being true to her story. I can make up some things, for example I invented an encounter with a mob of wallabies behind her house, but although I couldn’t 100% be sure it DID happen, I knew enough about Georgia to know it COULD have happened. In a fiction story, I can follow any direction my imagination takes me, as long as I can convince my readers. But both need structure, clear language, and lots of rewrites!

Can you tell us a bit about your next writing project? 
Next year is going to be a busy one. I have three picture books coming out early in the year and there could be another longer work, but I don’t have a firm date on that. The picture books are all related to the ocean. One is funny (Treasure), one is really cool (Iceberg), and the third is thrilling (Great White Shark). I love the ocean, can you tell?


Georgia Ward-Fear Reptile Biologist and ExplorerAWESOME EXTRAS

Visit Claire Saxby’s website for more about her and her books.