Posted in authors, interviews, poetry

Sherryl Clark and Mina and the Whole Wide World

MEET THE AUTHOR

Sherryl Clark is an award-winning writer, editor and writing teacher. Sherryl has been writing poems and stories for children for over twenty years. We’re pleased to be chatting to her today about her latest verse novel – Mina and the Whole Wide World, illustrated by Briony Stewart.

From the publisher:

A powerful story about a young girl, Mina, and how she copes when her family take in a refugee boy and give away what was meant to be her first very-own bedroom.


What brought you to write Mina and the Whole Wide World?

I have been thinking about it for several years. I wanted to write something about refugees and also about what kids learn from their parents, and about how hearing someone’s story can change us and change how we perceive the world. But I was very conscious of appropriating stories – that stopped me in my tracks and the book just stalled after about five poems. Finally I went on a writing residency to Finland, and I realised one day that it was Mina’s story, and I could tell it from her point of view. Then the book just burst out – I wrote it in about five sittings of two to three hours at a time.

You write for a variety of ages and the style across your writings and books is also varied. Can you tell us about how you approached the writing? Did you set out to write it as a verse novel?

Yes, it was always going to be a verse novel. I think simple poems with lots of imagery and ideas allow the reader into the spaces and gaps, and they can then imagine and feel the story for themselves. Not all stories work in verse (and not all verse works). I’ve actually tried to write a fantasy novel in poems and I just got bogged down by the world-building and the plot details! On the other hand, Motormouth started as a prose novel and was really flat and stuck until I turned it into a verse novel.

How long did it take you to write the book from the first germ of the idea, to the final draft?

I think I wrote the first five poems about four years ago. They just sat in my notebook and I couldn’t keep going. I didn’t know how to tell the story. When I got to Finland, the silence in my writing room and the fact I was there to write and do nothing else seemed to allow my brain to expand and “see” better. It’s hard to explain. I went there to write a crime novel! And I did, but Mina and the Whole Wide World kept pushing in and the poems just kept coming. As soon as I had Mina’s voice, I started writing madly. So it was finished in less than three weeks (and the original five poems were back in Australia so I had to start from the beginning). I did another draft when I came home but it was mostly refining and changing a few things.

Do you have a tip for young writers who would like to try writing a verse novel of their own?

Think imagery and story, and put them together if you can. Having a clear story idea or a plot is really helpful. It acts like a beacon to keep you on track. I’d also think a lot about voice – who is telling the story? Who do you imagine is speaking through the poems? And keep the poems tight – don’t over-explain. It’s a balancing act!

Could you tell us a bit about your next project?

I’m writing another adult crime novel at the moment. I was a bit stuck because I had to do some important research about private investigators to help me sort out some plot problems. I finally found someone I could interview so now I have to do some rewriting before I can work on the rest of it. Sometimes it’s like that. You stop because you know something is missing or wrong, and you have to go away and solve it before you can keep writing.

Mina and the Whole Wide World is out now! Ask for it at your favourite book store or local library.


AWESOME EXTRAS

Visit Sherryl Clark’s website for more about her and her books

Download the teachers’ notes for this book

Listen to Sherryl Clark reading another of her verse novels Sixth Grade Style Queen (Not)

Mina and the Whole Wide World by Sherryl Clark and illustrated by Briony Stewart
Posted in authors, interviews, poetry

Kristin Martin and To Rhyme or Not To Rhyme?

MEET THE POET

Kristin Martin writes poetry for adults and children. Her poetry has been published in poetry collections as well as in magazines in Australia, UK and Ireland.

Kristin lives in South Australia in a house near the sea with her husband, two children, three turtles, lots of goldfish, and a bearded dragon named Ash. Her latest children’s poetry collection is called To Rhyme or Not to Rhyme? (illustrated by Joanne Knott).

From the publisher:

A stunning collection of  children’s poetry with a focus on the natural world. Poems truly are all around us, and in this collection Kristin Martin shares her love of nature and sense of fun on each and every page. Joanne Knott’s exquisite illustrations bring the animals and natural environment to magical life.

On with the questions!


When you’re putting together a poetry collection, how do you choose which poems to include and which poems to leave out?

When I was putting together my children’s poetry book, To Rhyme or Not to Rhyme? (which is published by a small independent publisher called Glimmer Press) I decided to only include poems that have something to do with nature: animals, plants, the sea or clouds. As most of the poems I write are inspired by nature, this was easy. I wanted roughly half the book to be made of rhyming poems, and half of non-rhyming poems, so I picked out my favourite rhyming nature poems, then actually had to write some more poems to have enough poems that don’t rhyme. It is much easier to write poems that don’t rhyme.

Do you have a tip for kids who would like to write rhyming poetry?

My tip for writing rhyming poetry is to read lots of rhyming poetry, and work out what the poet has done. Look at the syllables, and where the beats are in the words (where the natural stress falls when you read it aloud). I also suggest you ask someone else to read your rhyming poem aloud to you – then you can hear if it sounds right, or if there are any ‘clunks’ in it.

Do you have a favourite poem for performing/reciting to an audience?

My favourite poem changes all the time, but my current favourite is this, as it is fun to read aloud and have children guess what it is about. It is actually a (mostly) true poem, based on our family pet, Ash.

There’s a Dragon in my Bedroom by Kristin Martin

There’s a dragon in my bedroom
with a long and scaly tail.
She has spikes around her collar
that are sharper than a nail.

There’s a dragon in my bedroom
with four sets of razor claws.
She has rows of sharp incisors
set inside her fearsome jaws.

There’s a dragon in my bedroom
who’s out tracking down her prey.
When she’s hungry and she’s hunting
then I stay out of her way.

There’s a dragon in my bedroom
who adores her daily meal.
When she finds those jumping crickets
she just snaps them up with zeal.

There’s a dragon in my bedroom
who’s the nicest one I’ve met.
She’s a baby bearded dragon
and she’s my beloved pet.

(from To Rhyme or Not to Rhyme? Published by Glimmer Press, 2019)

Do you have a tip for kids who would like to try performing/reciting poetry themselves?

Before Covid, I used to help organise a poetry performance evening at the school I teach at called ‘Rap, Rhyme and Rhythm’. My tips for the students performing, and any other students who want to perform or recite poetry, are to make sure you understand the poem when you learn it, then recite it to put across the meaning, rather than focussing on the rhymes. If it’s funny, make sure the audience can hear the jokes and have time to laugh. If it’s sad, make sure the audience hears the sadness in your voice.

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

I’ve just completed my next poetry collection, which has 75 rhyming poems in it. The illustrator, Joanne Knott, is working on the pictures – I can’t wait to see them. It should be out next year. I am currently working on several rhyming picture books. I am at the editing stage, which is my favourite part of writing.

To Rhyme or Not to Rhyme? is out now! Ask for it at your favourite bookstore, at your local library, or you can buy a copy from the publisher.


AWESOME EXTRAS

Learn how to write your own poems

Download Kristin Martin’s Teachers’ Notes for To Rhyme or Not to Rhyme?

Read some more poems by Kristin Martin on her website

To Rhyme or Not to Rhyme by Kristin Martin and illustrated by Joanne Knott
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, poetry

Meet the author: Sally Murphy

Sally MurphyMEET THE AUTHOR

Sally Murphy is an author, poet, speaker and educator based in the South West of Western Australia. Sally has published more than 40 books, and her latest book is a verse novel for upper primary readers: Worse Things, with illustrations by Sarah Davis.

From the publisher:

After a devastating football injury, Blake struggles to cope with life on the sideline. Jolene, a gifted but conflicted hockey player, wants nothing more than for her dad to come home. And soccer-loving refugee, Amed, wants to belong. On the surface, it seems they have nothing in common. Except sport …

Worse Things by Sally Murphy with illustrations by Sarah Davis


Worse Things is your fourth verse novel. Your first verse novel was published in 2009. Has the way you go about writing your verse novels changed since then?
I think so. When I wrote the first one, Pearl Verses the World, I didn’t really plan – a character started speaking to me and I started writing. Pearl’s voice came in verse, and the plot emerged as I wrote. When I wrote Toppling and Roses are Blue the process was similar, though Roses are Blue took longer to get right.  When I wrote Worse Things I really wanted to do something different. I still loved verse novels but I wanted to see if I could write in multiple voices and with slightly older characters. This dictated that I needed to write more self-contained poems. I also played around more with poetic form – so there are, for example,  little definition poems scattered throughout which define key words from the  story or the themes being explored.

Worse Things includes characters who play various sports (hockey, soccer & AFL). Do you play these sports yourself?
I loved hockey and played in primary and high school and a couple of seasons as an adult. I actually wish I had kept playing for longer. I got busy as a mother and now that I have more time I am probably not fit enough. I loved soccer as a sport at school, but never played it away from school – when I was growing up there was no soccer for girls where I lived. The other sport in the novel is AFL (football) and again I didn’t have the opportunity to play, but my kids did, and so I spent a lot of time at junior matches, as well as being a mad keen Fremantle Dockers fan.

You write picture books, poetry, chapter books, and verse novels. How do you know the sort of book you’ll start writing when you have a creative idea?
Mostly the story or character presents itself and I just kind of know what is right for that story. It’s about how the story feels, although sometimes I also push myself to try a particular form, or I’m asked to. My two historical novels – 1915 and Bushfire, were both written because the publisher asked for them, and so that dictated that they would be novel-length.

Do you have a tip for young writers who would like to write a verse novel?
Read lots of verse novels to get a feel for how they work. As well as mine, there are some other excellent Australian verse novelists whose work you will love: Steven Herrick, Lorraine Marwood and Kat Apel, for starters. The other thing to do is to start by writing single free verse poems, to practice things like poetic technique, line length and portraying emotion or themes in poetic form.

Can you tell us a bit about your next writing project?
I usually have a few things on the go, and right now is no exception. I have two junior novels which need redrafting – one is set in Vietnam, and I started it when I went there for a residency. I am also doing some research for a historical idea I am interested in. And there is a voice talking to me at the moment and telling me that her story needs telling. I have a feeling she may win.

Worse Things is out now in bookstores and libraries.


AWESOME EXTRAS:

Worse Things by Sally Murphy with illustrations by Sarah Davis

Watch Sally Murphy read the first chapter of Worse Things (YouTube)

Take a sneak peek at some Definition Poems from the book

Click here to download Teachers’ Notes

Visit Sally Murphy’s website for more about her and her books

Posted in poetry

Young Writers in Action: Maybe Someday

MAYBE SOMEDAY
by Liora, 10, Manhattan, USA

Child reading newspaper. Photo courtesy pexels.comThere is this thing called the coronavirus
It canceled my art class where we drew on papyrus
It canceled everything including school
I can’t even go swimming in my building’s pool

I can’t see my friends
Or get any books that they usually lend
It’s always in a newspaper or on the news
It really gives me the blues

Oh how I wish it would go away
Maybe someday


Read more creative writing from Liora hereTo send us YOUR book review, poem, story or artwork: check out our submission guidelines.

Posted in interviews, poetry

100 Ways to Fly: an interview with Michelle Taylor

Michelle TaylorMEET THE AUTHOR

Michelle Taylor is an award-winning poet and has been writing and publishing for over twenty years. Michelle tells young people that poetry is like making magic with words, and her sessions typically involve audience participation and a lot of interaction. Her latest book is 100 Ways to Fly, her third poetry collection for children.

From Michelle:

Poetry is not meant to be scary! It’s the opposite! It can make you laugh, make you feel normal, even brave, especially if you feel sad or alone. When I set out to write 100 Ways To Fly I wanted this book to be a little different to the others. After five years of careful crafting, multiple test runs of poems with children and exercising my imagination muscles until they ached, I bring you these 100 (or so) poems! Poems to celebrate our amazing senses and sense of humour, poems to twist your tongues and thoughts, poems about creatures that live in the land of nonsense. 

We are very excited to welcome Michelle Taylor to Alphabet Soup today!


100 ways to fly. A poetry book for children.When you were putting together 100 Ways to Fly, how did you decide which poems to include, and what order to put them in?
That’s one of the trickier jobs. For 100 Ways to Fly I set out to write lots of different kinds of poems – ones about our senses, scary poems, gross poems and nonsense poems, serious poems to help us feel more confident. I did what I do with every collection. After writing for about a year, I printed all the poems and laid them out all over the lounge room floor. Then I started to look for patterns. It’s messy but it’s very exciting. From here I saw the themes that kept coming up and these formed the sections of the book such as, ‘The Word Zoo’, ‘How Many Noses In a Nostril?’, ‘A Pocket Full of Poems’ and so on. Then I could think about which sections I needed to write more poems for. The hardest part is the order. For this I imagine being the reader of my collection. What I want is to start on a high and be hooked in straight away. I also want to end on a hopeful note that invites me to go away and keep reading or writing poems. Then all the poems in between need to go up and down, a bit like a rollercoaster to keep me reading through the whole book.

How do you like to go about drafting a concrete poem (a shape poem)?
I don’t have any rules for a concrete poem but I am very visual and I love art. So for each poem I think to myself, ‘What shape or form will work best?’. A concrete poem is just an exaggerated way of echoing the words with a shape on the page. A concrete poem seems to help my brain ‘get’ certain ideas better and as a bonus I can enjoy looking at it. I had fun writing ‘Summer Lies’, finding shapes for each separate idea as I wrote the poem. It’s an example of how just a few spaces can bring words to life. With ‘Hope’ I wanted to see what hope might look like. We talk about hope a lot but what might symbolise it? Even if I don’t remember all the words – I don’t have a great memory! – I know the feeling of that poem and think of going up the steps.

Do you have a favourite from this collection for performing/reading aloud to kids?
A favourite poem to read is ‘I Wish For You’ because it’s like giving a present to the people listening, and afterwards I invite kids to write their own wish poem for someone they care about. I naturally like sharing poems that get big reactions, so the section ‘Spooky and Sick’ is very popular, and we also have a load of fun when we do the actions for ‘Boom Crash Poem’. We do things like patting ourselves on the back and giving ourselves big hugs!

Your collection includes rhyming and unrhymed poetry. Do you find one comes more naturally than the other?
Rhyming is more of a challenge. When I say rhyme I mean rhyme at the end of lines or end rhyme. Some of my poems contain end rhyme. For ‘The Termite Rap’ I deliberately chose end rhyme schemes to reinforce what this poem is about – the repetitive sounds of termites! Internal rhymes come more naturally for me though. These are similar sounds occurring within and across the lines and which have less tendency to follow a pattern. Maybe that’s because I’m not so fond of rules, or because some of my poems are expressing uncertainty and choice and internal things like our feelings.

Do you have a writing tip for young poets?
Be kind to yourself. Let the writing of a poem be your friend. It may not be perfect or easy. It might take lots of tries. Your teacher or another reader may not like it the same way you do, or they may not think it’s important at all. That will happen so you need to be prepared for this because it’s a normal part of writing. Sometimes the best writing is the writing that gives us a way to think or talk about confusing or hard or wonderful things. The main thing is to start, write something, write anything and begin! Who knows what it might lead to!

Michelle Taylor signing copies of 100 Ways to Fly.


Awesome extras:

Click here to WIN a copy of the book

100 ways to fly. A poetry book for children.

Click here for a review of the book. (Review by Julie Thorndyke for the Reading Time website.)

Click here for Teacher’s Notes.

Click here to visit Michelle Taylor’s website.

100 Ways to Fly by Michelle Taylor is out now! Ask for it at your nearest bookshop or library. 

Posted in poetry, Young Writers in Action

Young Writers in Action: A sinkhole in the park

A SINKHOLE IN THE PARK
by Lewis, 10, WA

I went for a drive to the park one day,
and what do you think I saw?
A bunch of people screaming
and a sinkhole in the floor!

I stopped the car and looked around
until I couldn’t see.
(A bunch of people in my way
and one called Sylus Lee.)

I asked him what happened
and he said a strong ape jumped,
jumped and landed with a crash!
And now people are pumped.


Read Lewis’s earlier work here. To send us YOUR book review, poem, story or artwork: check out our submission guidelines

Posted in poetry, Young Writers in Action

Young writers in Action: Ode to Lego

ODE TO LEGO
by Lewis, 10, WA

Child building something by hand. Photo from pexels.com Oh, Lego! I have love and happiness
for thee, and I would be bored without.
I am only disappointed when I hear a crash!
And I am always satisfied when I hear a click.

Getting my first set is still in my mind!
It was so small, yet so big and great for thyself.
I am creative and happy when I touch you.
I save up so much to buy you all.

Lego, you’re old and wonderful,
I am grateful and excited when I open a set!
Lego, you are my memory of yesterday,
And I will never forget your darn good beauty!

Thy Lego has such cool features,
I feel like I’m in the future!
When I turn the light on I imagine you there.
I will never forget you and your beauty!


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

Posted in poetry, Young Writers in Action

Young writers in action: Back to School

BACK TO SCHOOL
by Liora, 9, Manhattan, USA

Close up on an open notebook with words highlighted. Photo courtesy of pexels.com

Oh no, the summer is over, it’s time to go back to our schools
There is so much homework and so many rules!

You have to go shopping for school supplies
When you’d rather be eating a hamburger and fries

You’ll have PE, reading, science, math and more
And you mumble to yourself that this is quite a bore

But at least, you’ll see all your friends again
And for that I would give away my lucky pen.


You can read more of Liora’s poetry hereTo send us YOUR story, poem, artwork or book review, check out our submission guidelines.