Posted in authors, interviews, teachers' resources

Secrets of a Schoolyard Millionaire: an interview with Nat Amoore

Nat AmooreMEET THE AUTHOR

Nat Amoore is a Sydney-based writer and podcaster (if you haven’t heard of the One More Page podcast, you’d better check it out here). Nat is an accomplished entertainer and presenter for children, and has been a trapeze artist and circus performer for the international resort chain, Club Med. Her first children’s novel is Secrets of a Schoolyard Millionaire:

Finding a million dollars in your backyard – every kid’s dream, right? That’s what me and my best friend Toby thought too.

Jumping castles at school. Lollipops for our adoring fans. Wearing sunglasses indoors (‘cos that’s what all the millionaires do).

There’s a lot you can get with a million dollars . . . including a whole lot of trouble.

We’re thrilled to be chatting with Nat Amoore at Alphabet Soup today!


Secrets of a Schoolyard Millionaire by Nat AmooreOkay – what would YOU do with a million dollars if you suddenly became a millionaire?
Oooooohhhh, this is such a hard one even though I get asked it all the time. One of my favourite things about writing Secrets Of a Schoolyard Millionaire was being able to explore all the things I could/would do with a million dollars. But in the end, I think I’d divide it into three. First third would be to go wild with. Spend on whatever I wanted. Rent out Wet’n’Wild for all my friends so we didn’t have to wait in line. Buy heaps of books. Get a bed shaped like a race car. Take a holiday. Just get a little cray-cray! The second third I would put away and save for something responsible when I grow up, like buying a house or something adult like that. And the last third I would spend on other people who need it more. There are a lot of great charities out there and a lot of ways to help people who need it.

Did you base the characters in Secrets of a Schoolyard Millionaire on anyone you know?
I think A LOT of people who know me will tell you that there is a lot of me in Tess. My friends say when they read the book, they can hear my voice in their head as Tess speaks. A lot of the things Tess does in the book, I did when I was a kid.

Then with the other characters, there are a lot of ‘bits’ of them that come from real people. Toby has some elements about him that are based on a friend of mine. So does Kathy. I actually have a brother called Dane who had a dog just like Butthead when we were kids. So I think when I write, I’m a little bit like Doctor Frankenstein. I take bits of different people I know and then sew them all together to make new characters.

Writing a book: Pen and paper? Or write it straight onto the computer?
OMG, I CANNOT write with a pen and paper. Even when I was at school, I always got in trouble for my handwriting. I was the LAST kid to get their pen licence and if you go back and read my school reports they say ‘Nat still does not join her writing’. To this day I cannot do running writing, I always print. I always write in capitals and when I write in a birthday card, my hand aches for a week after. The only way my writing can keep up with my brain is if I’m typing. If I was born 100 years ago I would never have written a book because I would never have been able to do it with a paper and pen. So without a doubt, I’m a straight-into-the-computer kind of gal!

What’s your million-dollar tip for young writers?
Just write! Don’t worry about spelling or punctuation for now. Just get the idea out. You can come back later and fix all that stuff up. I’m not the greatest writer, I know that. But I have really great ideas. Fortunately I have editors and publishers who help me put all the commas and stuff where they are supposed to go. And you have people to help you with that too. But you’ll have nothing to fix if you don’t write it first. So get your idea down on the paper/screen and don’t let all that other stuff stop you. I still, don’t know, where all, those, pesky commas are, supposed to go,,,,,,

What are you working on next?
Right now, like RIGHT THIS SECOND, I am working on the follow up to Secrets Of A Schoolyard Millionaire. It is called The Power Of Positive Pranking and it’s coming out in June 2020. It’s not really a sequel so much, but it does happen in the same world as Secrets Of A Schoolyard Millionaire (the town of Watterson and Watterson Primary School) and you will see some of your favourite characters make a comeback. It’s a story told from the perspective of a very minor character who made a small appearance in the first book — ooooohhhhh the mystery!


Secrets of a Schoolyard Millionaire by Nat AmooreAwesome extras:

Click here to read a sneak peek of the book

Click here for Teachers’ Notes by Melissa Kroeger at Children’s Books Daily

Click here to visit Nat Amoore’s website

Click here for the One More Page podcast (where Nat Amoore is one of the hosts)

Secrets of a Schoolyard Millionaire is out now! Look for it at your nearest bookshop or library. 

Posted in authors, interviews, teachers' resources

Cryptosight: an interview with Nean Mckenzie

Nean McKenzieMEET THE AUTHOR

Nean McKenzie is a children’s writer and optometrist who lives in western Melbourne with her husband and two teenage children. When not writing or testing people’s eyes, Nean enjoys travelling to interesting places around the world. She also likes bush walking and reading books, especially ones for 8-12 year-olds. Earlier this year she published her first children’s novel, Cryptosight.

Rafferty Kaminski is a 13-year-old who believes in facts. Not like his Cryptozoologist father, who searches for creatures not proven to exist.

When their father disappears in the Flinders Ranges, strange things start happening to Raff and his younger sister Zara. They learn that their father belongs to a secret organisation and they are suddenly being pursued by bunyip hunters.

Today Hannah (age 13, QLD, and one of our regular book reviewers) interviews Nean McKenzie about writing Cryptosight. Over to you, Hannah and Nean!


Cryptosight by Nean McKenzieWhat inspired you to write about the wonderful world of cryptozoology?
Cryptozoology is a weird sort of world between fantasy and reality, which I thought was great to write about. While the likelihood of any of these crypto-creatures actually existing is really low, it’s still not impossible. I have had people talking to me since the book came out about things that they’ve seen, but no-one believed them! And the creatures are uniquely Australian.

Obviously a lot of research went into the creation of the novel. Can you describe how long the research period took and how the it impacted the overall story?
I like to go to the places I write about to get a feel for them, so we went to the Flinders Ranges and Mildura on family holidays. I’ve spent a lot of time in the Grampians – it’s one of my favourite places. I also went the Wombat State Forest, especially for story research. I really find it helps me to get ideas and also to describe smells, sounds, etc. I research as I write really, so it’s all part of the process.
.

When was the first moment you discovered you had a passion for
writing and it would be your career?

I’ve always wanted to be a writer, since I was about seven. I wrote my first novel when I was fifteen, an adventure story set in 16th century Scotland. I did a professional writing and editing course as an adult, which further inspired me to write. I have written quite a few books, but this is the first one to get published. I do have another job, as an optometrist which is good as it is not always easy to earn money as a writer! But when I write I can escape to other worlds and it makes me happy. I think I will always love it.

What advice would you give young writers?
The best advice I’ve been given is that writers need to write. It sounds obvious, but it’s not always easy to do. There are many things that get in the way of writing, but making time to do it and doing it often, makes the writing better, I think. I also think reading a lot is important as it feeds the mind and the imagination.

Can we expect a sequel or even a series for this novel?
I wanted Cryptosight to finish with a few unanswered questions as  cryptozoology is all about mystery and never really finding out what’s real. So I think that is the end of Raff and Zara’s story but I have written another story set in the cryptozoology world with different characters and creatures, and am working on a third. There is so much to write about!


Awesome extras:

Cryptosight by Nean McKenzie

Click here for teachers’ notes.

Click here to read a book review of Cryptosight (review by Hannah, age 13).

Click here to check out Nean McKenzie’s website.

Cryptosight by Nean McKenzie is out now! Find it at your nearest bookshop or library.

Posted in authors, interviews, teachers' resources

Maddie in the Middle: an interview with Julia Lawrinson

Julia LawrinsonMEET THE AUTHOR

Julia Lawrinson was born just after the first moon landing and grew up in the outer suburbs of Perth. Julia is an award-winning author of books for children, teenagers, and adults – her latest book is Maddie in the Middle.

Maddie Lee is in year six. Her best and oldest friend Katy is busy with school duties and music and scholarship plans, and Maddie feels lost and lonely. Then a new girl starts at school. Maddie wants more than anything to become friends with her. And she does. But Samara’s friendship comes at a high price, with consequences Maddie could never have imagined.

Today we’re thrilled to welcome Julia to Alphabet Soup to talk about writing books.


Maddie in the Middle by Julia LawrinsonWhat sparked the idea for Maddie in the Middle?
The novel was sparked by a friend telling me how her daughter was caught shoplifting. It was something completely out of character for this girl, and I began thinking of all the reasons good kids might do bad things. Then I began wondering what would happen if a kid was doing bad things for a good reason. And so Maddie and her story were born!

How long did it take you to go from the initial idea to the finished manuscript?
It took a couple of years. I work full time so I write in half hour blocks early in the morning, or on weekends, so progress is slow. Also, every book seems to take at least three re-writes before I have a grip on point of view and character development, and then what feels like a million edits after that! The team at Fremantle Press [the publishers] were wonderful to deal with – direct but sensitive with suggestions.

Pen and paper, or computer?
I prefer writing with pen and paper, but I am a fast typist, due to time constraints (see above!) all my drafts are done on the screen. I am still very fond of keeping a pen and paper journal, though.

Do have any advice for young writers?
Start writing! Practice writing – anything, from fake hashtags to parody lyrics to poems, short stories and scripts. Write and don’t worry about what will happen with it. Have fun!

What are you working on next?
Its working title is The ABBA novel’ – it’s set in 1979, features roller-skating, Countdown, horses, glitter pens, and prank calls, as well as letters to someone from the past. I am having the best fun writing it.


Maddie in the Middle by Julia LawrinsonAwesome extras:

Click here to read a sneak peek of the book.

Click here to read a review of Maddie in the Middle. (Review by Hannah, age 13)

Click here for Teachers’ Notes.

Click here to visit Julia Lawrinson’s website. 

Maddie in the Middle by Julia Lawrinson is out now! Find it at your nearest bookshop or library.

Posted in info, teachers' resources

Last chance to purchase back issues

After 25 December 2013 we will no longer be offering back issues of Alphabet Soup magazine for sale. So now is your LAST CHANCE to order back issues! You can order copies through our website.

Some of the earlier issues are now in short supply and issue 7 is almost sold out. If an issue is no longer available it will not appear as an option on the list to purchase. (We will do our best to remove sold-out issues from the list as soon as they are sold out!)

NB: There was no summer 2008 issue. 

Here is a snapshot of what was in each issue:

Issue 1 SPRING 2008 (limited supply)

issue 1

Theme: Alphabet Soup (a bit of everything!)

Author Q&A: Jackie French

Interest article: Firefighting

Poetry and stories by AB Paterson, Charlotte Clarence, Nardia Bordas

Folktale/fairytale: The Magic Porridge Pot

Issue 2 AUTUMN 2009 (limited supply)

issue 2

Theme: Water

Author Q&A: Duncan Ball

Interest article: Scuba diving

Poetry and stories by Brian Langley, Charlotte Clarence, Michele Purcell.

Foktale/fairytale: The Fisherman and His Wife

Writing tips: Keeping a journal

Issue 3 WINTER 2009 (limited supply)

Issue 3

Theme: Flight

Author Q&A: Jo Oliver

Interest Article: Air Traffic Control

Poetry and stories by CJ Dennis, Marie Clark, Michele Purcell

Greek Myth: Daedalus and Icarus

Writing tips: Describe it!

Issue 4 SPRING 2009 (limited supply)

"issue 4 cover"

Theme: Gardening

Author Q&A: Mark Greenwood

Interest Article: Home-grown vegies

Poetry and stories by Ann Ingalls, Brian Langley, Hazel Edwards, Michele Purcell

Folktale/Fairytale: Jack and the Beanstalk

Writing tips: Writers’ block

Issue 5 SUMMER 2009 (limited supply)

"Alphabet Soup issue 5 cover"

Theme: Space

Author Q&A: Christine Harris

Interest Article: Astronomy

Poetry and stories by Sally Murphy, Jackie Hosking, Paula Hayes and Mabel Kaplan

Folktale/Fairytale: The Red Riding Hood Rap

Writing tips: What does ‘write what you know’ mean?

Issue 6 AUTUMN 2010 (limited supply)

"Alphabet Soup issue 6 cover"

Theme: Outdoors

Illustrator Q&A: Chris Nixon

Interest Article: Rogaining

Poetry and stories by Jackie Hosking, Beverley Boorer, Michele Purcell, Selina Duke

Folktale/Fairytale: Hansel and Gretel

Writing tips: Getting to know your characters

Issue 7 WINTER 2010 (ONLY 3 copies remaining)

"Alphabet Soup issue 7 cover"

Theme: Ice

Author Q&A: Sandy Fussell

Interest Article: Art in the Ice Hotel

Poetry and stories by Karen Collum, Michele Purcell, Di Bates

Folktale/Fairytale: The Snow Maiden

Writing tips: Point of view

Issue 8 SPRING 2010 (limited supply)

"Issue 8 cover Alphabet Soup magazine"

Theme: Music

Interest article: Playing the viola

Poetry and stories by Jeni Mawter, Valerie Thomas, Lyn Oxley, Rebecca Newman

Folktale/fairytale: The Smell of Bread

Writing tips: How do I write a funny story?

Issue 9 SUMMER 2010 (limited supply)

"Alphabet Soup magazine issue 9 cover"

Theme: Wetlands

Author Q&A: Hazel Edwards

Interest article: Wetlands Care

Poetry and stories by Sally Murphy, Edel Wignell, Rebecca Newman, Aleesah Darlison

Folktale/Fairytale: A Needle and Thread

Writing tips: The writer as crocodile hunter

Issue 10 AUTUMN 2011 (in reasonable supply)

"Issue 10 cover Alphabet Soup"

Theme: Chemistry Fun

Author Q&A: Oliver Phommavanh

Interest article: International Year of Chemistry

Poetry and stories by John Malone, Nadine Cranenburgh, Michele Purcell, Kathryn Apel

Greek myth: The Golden Touch

Writing tips: Playing with words

Issue 11 WINTER 2011 (in reasonable supply)

Issue 11 cover, Alphabet Soup magazine

Theme: Things with Wings

Interest article: Bee keeping

Author Q&A: Wendy Orr

Poetry and stories by Edel Wignell, Jackie Hosking, Lorraine Marwood, Michele Purcell and Emma Cameron

Folktale/Fairytale: The Six Swans

Writing tips: Writing great dialogue

Issue 12 SPRING 2011 (in reasonable supply)

Alphabet Soup magazine, spring 2011

Theme: Sail Away!

Author Q&A: Briony Stewart

Interest article: Sailing

Poetry and stories by Pat (Tricia) Simmons, Edel Wignell, Michele Purcell, Susan Stephenson

Fable: The North Wind and the Sun

Writing tips: Finding the right title

Issue 13 SUMMER 2011 (in reasonable supply)

Issue 13 cover

Theme: Medieval

Author Q&A: Norman Jorgensen

Interest article: Fencing

Poetry and stories by Jackie Hosking, Marianne Musgrove, Michele Purcell, Tracey Slater

Legend: Robin Hood Meets Little John

Writing tips: Finding good names for your characters

Issue 14 AUTUMN 2012 (in reasonable supply)

Alphabet Soup issue 14 cover

Theme: Fun with paper

Writer Q&A: Lorraine Marwood

Interest Article: Making paper

Poetry and stories by Edel Wignell, Jackie Hosking, Rebecca Newman, Zoya Nojin

Fairytale/Folktale: Why Evergreen Trees Keep Their Leaves

Writing tips: Journalists’ skills

Issue 15 WINTER 2012 (in reasonable supply)

Alphabet Soup issue 15 cover

Theme: National Year of Reading!

Author-illustrator Q&A: Peter Carnavas

Interest Article: Judging Book Awards

Poetry and stories by Kathryn Apel, Sally Murphy, Lorraine Marwood, Michele Purcell, Susan Stephenson

Fairytale/Folktale: The Three Wishes

Writing tips: Beginnings — finding a hook

Issue 16 SPRING 2012 (in reasonable supply)

Alphabet Soup issue 16 (cover)

Theme: Champions

Author Q&A: Jen Banyard

Interest article: Behind the Scenes at Big Events

Poetry and stories by Marianne Musgrove, John Malone, Dianne Bates, Rebecca Newman

Fable: The Tortoise and the Hare

Writing tips: 10 Behaviours of a Champion Writer

Issue 17 SUMMER 2012 (in reasonable supply)

issue 17 (cover)

Theme: Come to the Fair!

Author-illustrator Q&A: Mark Wilson

Interest article: Juggling

Poetry, stories and a play by Jackie Hosking, Kathryn Apel, Michele Purcell, Susan Stephenson

Folktale/Fairytale: The Three Billy Goats Gruff

Writing tips: A lucky dip of prompts

Issue 18 AUTUMN 2013 (in healthy supply)

Autumn 2013 Alphabet Soup (cover)

Theme: Long, long ago

Author Q&A: Tania McCartney

Interest Article: School in 1941

Poetry and stories by Rebecca Newman, Tricia Simmons, Zoya Nojin

Folktale/Fairytale: The Little Red Hen

Writing tips: Writing perfect endings

Order back issues from our website

Posted in Anzac Day, book reviews, Book reviews by Rebecca, teachers' resources

Book Review: Light Horse Boy

Light Horse Boy by Dianne Wolfer, ill. Brian Simmonds, ISBN 9781922089137, Fremantle Press

A review copy of this book was provided by Fremantle Press

Light Horse Boy (cover)

Lighthouse Girl (cover)This new picture book was recently launched in time for Anzac Day — Light Horse Boy is a companion book to Lighthouse Girl and both are worth buying (or borrowing — ask for them at your library).

When war is declared on Germany in 1914, Jim and his best mate, Charlie, decide to sign up for the war. Jim is not quite old enough to sign up but he lies about his age. When he resigns from his job to go to war, Jim’s boss gives him a horse called Breaker, instead of his wages. Jim and Charlie think joining the Light Horse Regiment is a bit of an adventure and that the war will be over in a few months. But they quickly discover how terrible life on the frontline really is.

Light Horse Boy is based on historical events, though the characters are fictional. (On the first page, the author explains that the characters were created “after researching the records and diaries of Australian and New Zealand soldiers who served in the ‘Great War'”.)

Jim’s story is told as a narrative with charcoal illustrations, and the book includes copies of his letters and telegrams to his sister Alice. Readers are taken back in time with old photographs, maps, and newspaper clippings.

Reading Jim’s letters is like reading letters from someone you know (your own brother, or a friend).  Through Jim’s eyes we see how war affected young Australian soldiers and their horses serving in World War I, and how hard it was for friends and family left behind.

Highly recommended.

© April 2013 “Review of Light Horse Boy” by Rebecca Newman (https://soupblog.wordpress.com)

 

Read other Anzac-themed posts on Soup blog

Posted in info, teachers' resources

Free back issues (just ask!)

 

 

 

 

 

Magazine covers

UPDATE (20 January 2014). APOLOGIES – following the closure of Alphabet Soup’s print magazine, this offer is no longer available. 

We’re giving away free back issues!

HERE’S WHY:

Alphabet Soup magazine is run as a small business—and our only income is from the sale of subscriptions and single copies. We’d love to continue to keep the magazine free of advertisements, but advertising would certainly help us financially.

So—can you help us to keep the magazine ad-free?

If you love Alphabet Soup, please spread the word for us. (Most of our subscribers say they first heard about the magazine from another subscriber.) To help you spread the word, from 4 January until the 4 February 2013, we will give away a back issue to the first 200 people who request it. You don’t even need to pay for the postage. We just ask that you show it to your favourite book-loving teacher, friend or family member!

HOW TO REQUEST A FREE BACK ISSUE:

Just  email our editor and remember to include your postal address.

Fine print:

  • Due to the cost of postage, we can only post free back issues to Australian addresses.
  • The back issue we send will be selected at random from the back issues we have in stock. (You won’t be able to request a particular back issue, and it may not be one of the back issues pictured above.)
  • The offer of a free back issue is only available to the first 200 people who request it.**
  • The offer of a free back issue is only available until 4 February 2013 or until 200 copies have been requested, whichever comes first.
  • We will not use your postal address for any reason other than to post you a free back issue. We will not pass your details on to any other party, except where required by law.
  • We will post out back issues every few days. Thanks for being patient!

**Please note: There is no expiry date for requests from Australian schools.

Thank you. (And Happy New Year to all our readers, writers and artists … and subscribers!)

~ Rebecca
Editor
Alphabet Soup magazine

Posted in teachers' resources

Cost-free gifts for young writers (and old ones!)

So—you have a friend who likes to write. And you’d like to give them a gift befitting a writer but you’ve checked your money box and there’s only 25c rattling around in there.

pen and scrunched up paperHere are some low-cost or even cost-free gift ideas.

JAR O’ PROMPTS (for writer’s block)

  • Cut out pictures of funny/cranky/worried (or nice-looking) people or creatures from magazines or the newspaper. Or draw your own.
  • Write interesting words or scenarios on little slips of paper.
  • Write down weird things that you’ve seen or overheard at the shopping centre, on the bus or at soccer training.

Put all these things in a jar or small box. Next time your writer friend is a bit stuck, they can pull one item out of your jar and write about that to get the creative juices flowing again. (Ask your parents if you can have a pasta or jam jar when they’ve finished with it, or there might even be a few covered in cobwebs at the back of the shed. Or use an empty cocoa box and decorate with the comics page from the newspaper … )

A READING LIST

All writers need to read LOTS of books to keep those booky ideas cooking. Write them a list of cool books you think they should definitely read. List the books and their authors, and a sentence or two about why you think they’d love each one. Roll it into a scroll and secure with a bit of string, ribbon or a rubber band. Your writer friend can take the list to the library and work their way through the books. Brilliant!

AN APP LIST

If your writer friend has an iPad or iPod, write them a list of cool apps, websites, e-books or comic-creators you think they would love and should try out. (Know of any free ones? Even better!)

A COMPETITION LIST

Some writers love to enter writing competitions. If your friend is like this, they might like a list of current competitions they can enter. (You can start by checking out the Alphabet Soup ‘Comps for Kids‘ page right here on Soup Blog. You can thank us later!)

A LISTENING EAR

Create your own gift voucher—good for one (or three) sessions of listening to their story or poems read out—and giving an honest opinion if they’d like one. (If you have some suggestions about things that might need fixing, make sure you comment on some parts you did like, too. It’s hard to read your work out to someone.)

A GAME

Create another gift voucher—promise to play one (or three) games of Scrabble or Boggle or any of their other favourite Word games even if you know they consistently win. You know they’ll love it!

BOOKMARKS

As we said before, writers are readers … why not make a bookmark gift? You can use your own artistic skills to decorate a rectangular piece of card. Personalise it with their name or their favourite word or poem. Or try making these simple bookmarks below. (Ask your parents’ permission before checking out these other websites—and while you’re there asking permission, check about using a cutting blade because some of these involve cutting and you’ll need a parent to help if you are little.)

Owl bookmark (scroll down the page halfway for instructions in English)

Origami Bookmark

Woven Paper Bookmark

Fabric bookmark

Chicken Bookmark

Kimono Doll Bookmarks

Monster Bookmark using an old envelope

BOOKPLATES

We might have mentioned that writers like to read. And readers don’t like their favourite books to go missing. On the State Library of WA website, you’ll find bookplates you can download for free with artwork by some fabulous Australian illustrators, like Shaun Tan, Rebecca Cool and more! You just download them, cut them out and your writer can glue them into the covers of their favourite books. Excellent!

Got any other low-cost gift ideas for writers? Let us know in the comments below!

© 2012 “Cost-free gift ideas for young writers” by Rebecca Newman and Alphabet Soup Magazine http://wp.me/pmzE0-To