Posted in poetry, Soup Blog Poetry Festival

Visiting poet – Janeen Brian

Janeen Brian

Today we have Janeen Brian visiting Soup Blog to talk about her poetry and poetry-writing. (Janeen also writes picture books, short stories, nonfiction and novels. She’s a busy writer!)

When did you first start writing poetry?

I can’t remember writing anything much at all as a child, so I’d guess I began writing poetry in my late twenties or early thirties.

What sort of poetry do you like writing best of all?

Both rhyming and free verse. I tend to use rhyme for more of my humorous pieces, but not exclusively. I love the word-manipulation, the struggle and the joy of creating rhyme. Free verse excites me too, but for a different reason. There, I aim to convey something to the reader by way of a new point-of view, a twist at the end, a particular rhythmic pattern, or a feeling. I love selecting the right word. It can take hours, or longer. But when it does — oh, what a feeling!

What sort of poetry do you like reading?

I love reading ballads, humorous, quirky, clever verses, verse novels, free verse and rhyming verse. I prefer reading children’s poetry because that’s the main area in which I write, but I also read adult poetry and have also written in that field.

Where can we find your poetry?

My poetry has been included in the following anthologies:

  • 100 Australian Poems for Children
  • There was a big fish (limericks)
  • Christmas Crackers
  • Fractured Fairytales and Ruptured Rhymes
  • Four and Twenty Lamingtons
  • Petrifying Poems
  • Stay Loose Mother Goose
  • Off the Planet
  • Vile Verse
  • Putrid Poems
  • Side by Side
  • Machino Supremo

(Tadpoles in the Torrens due for release September, 2013. Our Home is Dirt by Sea due for release 2014)

By jingo!Books of my own poetry:

  • By Jingo!
  • Silly Galah!
  • Nature’s Way A-Z of biodiversity.

(Our Village in the Sky due for release 2014)

Rhyming picture books:

  • I’m a dirty dinosaur
  • Meet Ned Kelly
  • I Spy Mum!
  • I Spy Dad!
  • The super parp-buster!
  • Shirl and the Wollomby Show
  • Columbia Sneezes.

Over 150 poems have been published nationally and internationally in the following magazines:

  • The School Magazine
  • the Victorian Education Magazines
  • Spider
  • Ladybird
  • Ladybug
  • Contagious.

Comma Dog © Janeen Brian

There’s a comma
of a dog
lying on the mat.
Dozing belly and
curl of tail
ears no longer
playtime exclamation marks
eyes closed as hyphens
and soft brackets of sighs
snuffling from
that comma of a dog
in a circle
of sun.

Published in The School Magazine: Orbit. May 2012

How often do you write?

I write every day. It might be my diary, my ideas book, some research notes, a page of practice writing, a draft of a poem or story or rewriting earlier drafts of work.

Do you prefer to write with a pen and paper or straight onto the computer?

Note-taking, ideas gathering, early paragraphs or lines of poetry are mostly done by hand with pen and paper (an exercise book), but I gradually take the work onto the computer and work from there on.

What’s your number one tip for budding poets?

Choose a book of poetry. Write out several poems that you like and then work out how the poet has written them. Think and discover. And practise.

Janeen’s Poetry Prescription corner

IF YOU’RE HAVING A SHAMBLY DAY — read the following poem:

‘Cat Burial’ (from Note on the Door by Lorraine Marwood).

Some books by Janeen Brian

For even more about Janeen Brian and her books and poetry — visit her website!

Interview with Janeen Brian © 2013 Janeen Brian and Rebecca Newman
Posted in info

2012 Alphabet Soup Creativity Award – The Winners!


And you know what that means … it’s time to announce the winners of the 2012 Alphabet Soup Creativity Award!



Polar Bear by Daniel Hayes

The judge’s comments: This painting captures the drama of a long, dark arctic winter. Imagine this lonely polar bear waiting months and months for the sun to rise again! Despite being immersed in the freezing gloom, the artist has given the bear and her iceberg a magical inner glow.

Daniel wins $50 from the Book Chook, an art appraisal with James Foley, and a copy of James Foley’s book In the Lion.



It’s night time, thought Jake. I hate night time. Jake was lying on his bed, looking out the dark window. He was 11 years old and had brown hair and eyes.


Jake heard some spray and saw the window cover in water drops.

‘What was that?’ he asked himself. He jumped out of his covers and sneaked towards the window. It wasn’t rain because it was only a quick burst of misty water. Jake opened the window and stuck his head out. He saw a large cloud of mist swirling around his neighbourhood.

Strange … Jake thought. It must be a dream … I’ll pinch myself. Jake pinched himself hard and closed his eyes. When he opened them again, he was in his bed and it was morning, yet the window was still covered in misty water.

Jake hopped out of bed and hobbled down the stairs. His breakfast was already waiting for him at the table.

‘I’m not hungry right now,’ Jake said to himself. ‘Something’s not right.’ Jake dressed himself and stumbled out the door. He jogged to the nearby beach and saw that most of the beach parasols had been washed into the ocean, plus mounds of seaweed were piling on the shore.

I knew something was wrong, Jake thought to himself. The beach has been wrecked.

Jake jogged home to tell his parents, but something captured his eyes. His parents’ car was gone! He panicked. Where were his parents? Surely they wouldn’t be gone at this time of the morning. The front lawn of Jake’s house was wet and ruined.

Jake heard a windy sound from behind him. He turned around and saw a massive cloud of misty water! The mist was swirling around at high speed, ripping out plants and pulling pots and cars. One of the cars Jake saw was his parents’ car!

‘No!’ Jake yelled. Jake ran as fast as his legs could carry him, but he was too slow …

The judge’s comments: This story carefully builds suspense, and Jake’s feeling of foreboding pulls the reader through the story. Abandonment is an age-old theme in storytelling and this story leaves us guessing what is to come. We sense that Jake is capable but his fear is real.

Simon wins $50 from the Book Chook, a manuscript appraisal with Dee White, and a copy of the e-book Ten Top Writing Tips for Kids—What to Write About.



Smart and clever,
Cunning and quick,
The raccoon darts,
Weaves and dips
Between the buildings,
In the night,
Guided by
The silver moonlight.
The sun is rising,
Night is away
Hurry my friend
Before the brand new day.

The judge’s comments: Line breaks and well-chosen words reflect the movement of the raccoon at night. The poet conveys a lot of action in this brief poem.

Rose wins $50 courtesy of the Book Chook, a poetry appraisal/mentorship with Lorraine Marwood, and a copy of A Ute Picnic.


Second Place (Artwork)—Caspian by Benjamin Woo, 6, Malaysia.

Second Place (Story)—UFO by Harry Cordingley, 10, WA.

Second Place (Poem)—The Sun, Ellie Rose Fisher, 11, WA.

Benjamin, Harry and Ellie Rose each receive a runner-up medal.

If you’d like to submit writing and/or artwork for Alphabet Soup‘s 2013 issues, check out our submission guidelines.

Posted in info, poetry

Alphabet Soup Creativity Award

We love reading all the work you send us and we really love publishing it, too. Sometimes we’re blown away by the amazing stuff we find in our inbox and our post office box. And that’s why we are thrilled to be announcing the inaugural ALPHABET SOUP CREATIVITY AWARD.

Prizes will be awarded in three categories:

Most outstanding story

Most outstanding poem

Most outstanding artwork

If you are a child who had work published in the magazine this year, you are automatically in the running for this Award. (This excludes the winning pieces in the writing or design-a-cover-competitions).

The prizes:

Most outstanding story—the winner will receive $50.00*, an ebook by Dee White, and a manuscript appraisal (professional feedback) from Dee White on a 500-word story they have written (not necessarily the story that was published in Alphabet Soup).

Most outstanding poem—the winner will receive $50.00*, a book of poetry by Lorraine Marwood, and a poetry appraisal (professional feedback) from Lorraine Marwood on an unrhymed poem up to 15 lines written by the winner (not necessarily the poem that was published in Alphabet Soup).

Most outstanding artwork—the winner will receive $50.00*, a book by James Foley, and an illustration appraisal (professional feedback) from James Foley on a piece of artwork (not necessarily the artwork published in Alphabet Soup).

You’ll hear more about these people and the prizes this week, starting on Monday. And on Friday we’ll announce the winners here on the blog. (If you are a winner, we will also notify you personally.)

Read more about the award (including some fine print) on the Alphabet Soup Creativity Award page.

*$50.00 cash for each category is courtesy of The Book Chook. (Thank you!)

Posted in info, National Year of Reading

Winter 2012 issue – out now!

You have probably heard lots of talk about reading lately and that’s because 2012 is the National Year of Reading. Our winter issue celebrates the National Year of Reading (because we do love reading and we know you do, too!).

Here’s what you’ll find inside issue 15:Alphabet Soup issue 15 cover

… and more!

Subscribe via our website (you can order single copies from the subscribe page, too). If  you’re in WA, rush in to one of our WA stockists—Westbooks (Victoria Park) and Zero to Ten (South Fremantle) who will have copies of the winter issue to sell you from Wednesday 16 May 2012.

Happy National Year of Reading!

National Year of Reading button 




Alphabet Soup magazine is a proud partner of the National Year of Reading.

Posted in info, National Year of Reading

Autumn Issue – out now!

You can crumple it, fold it, cut it, write on it, post it, paint on it, roll it into a scroll, make collage with it … and so much more. What are we talking about? Paper! Our autumn issue was posted to our loyal subscribers yesterday—and it’s all about paper.

Alphabet Soup issue 14 coverHere’s what you’ll find inside issue 14:

… and more!

Subscribe via our website (you can order single copies from the subscribe page, too). If  you’re in WA, rush in to one of our WA stockists—Westbooks (Victoria Park) and Zero to Ten (South Fremantle) who will have copies of the autumn issue to sell you from Tuesday 21 February 2012.

Happy National Year of Reading!

Posted in poetry

Three Quick Questions: Jackie Hosking #16

All through October, Alphabet Soup is celebrating turning three. We have heaps of writers and illustrators stopping by to answer THREE QUICK QUESTIONS and today’s visitor is poet Jackie Hosking. You might have seen some of her poems in The School Magazine, The Scrumbler and in Alphabet Soup! You’ll also find her writing in the anthology Short and Scary.

Alphabet Soup issue 5 cover"Short and scary (cover)"


1. Where do you like to write?

I love to write in bed with a nice cup of tea.

2. Can you name a book you’d recommend to our readers?

Anything by Lorraine Marwood. A Ute Picnic is brilliant and I’m about to read Note on the Door. Her poetry is so accessible and beautiful to read.

A Ute Picnic
Jackie recommends A Ute Picnic by Lorraine Marwood
note on the door (cover)
Jackie also recommends Note on the Door by Lorraine Marwood


3. Can you offer a word or phrase that kids could use for inspiration if they have writer’s block?

One of my favourite unblockers is the phrase ‘Once upon a time … ‘ It seems to unlock the door to possibilities. So if you’re stuck, just write Once upon a time … and see what happens.

You can find out more about Jackie Hosking in an earlier interview (or keep an eye out for our November issue which will include one of Jackie’s poems).

© October 2011 “Three Quick Questions with Jackie Hosking” by Rebecca Newman (Alphabet Soup magazine)

(Psst … don’t forget to enter our birthday giveaways—entries close at midnight tonight, Perth time )

Posted in competitions, info, poetry, teachers' resources

Winter 2011 Alphabet Soup — out now!

Issue 11 cover, Alphabet Soup magazineThe eleventh issue of Alphabet Soup magazine (yay! yay!) was posted yesterday. If you are a subscriber, keep an eye on your letterbox.

Here’s what you’ll find inside the winter issue:

  • Q&A with author, Wendy Orr
  • Meet a beekeeper
  • Writing tips for kids from The Book Chook
  • Stories by Michele Purcell and Emma Cameron
  • Poetry by Edel Wignell, Jackie Hosking and Lorraine Marwood
  • Stories, poems and book reviews by kids
  • Crossword
  • Our winter writing competition
  • Our annual design-a-cover competition

and more!

Later today we’ll be posting the Q&A with Wendy Orr and on Monday we’ll be posting the winning stories from our recent story-writing competition. So stay tuned!

Subscribe to Alphabet Soup magazine

Posted in authors, teachers' resources

Does a picture book need an editor?

Today we are chatting with Catriona Hoy as part of her blog tour to celebrate her new book George and Ghost. Here’s a bit about the book:

"George and Ghost"George and Ghost are friends, but George isn’t sure he believes in Ghost anymore. How can Ghost prove to George that he is real? George and Ghost is a tale of friendship, with a little bit of science and philosophy thrown in.

The author writes the story and the illustrator works on the illustrations. Does a picture book need an editor?

Thanks for being part of my blog tour Rebecca. Glad you asked that first question.

People often think that picture books are simple to write and therefore edit, however, picture books are actually quite complex beasts. Picture books start as a series of words and or images in the author’s head. These words are then interpreted by the illustrator and the editor has the job of making sure that the illustrations match the text in tone and make sense. In many ways the illustrator will add extra layers of meaning and even their own ‘in jokes.’ The editor is much more than just someone who looks at the text; they have to see the whole picture.

Picture book editors begin by looking at the text which they may, or may not ask you to rewrite. They will look at it with fresh eyes to make sure the story flows, the language is clear and engaging. They may see the work in a completely different way to the writer.

I’ve worked with some great editors and have learnt something from the editing process with each book. Different editors have different ways of working but the process should be an ongoing dialogue. When I first began writing, I didn’t think about what should go on each page; whereas now I’ve learnt that with illustrations your eye should flow naturally from one page to the next … and the placing of the text is a big part in the unfolding of the story.

So the simple answer is yes, most definitely!

What sorts of things did the editor do/ask/say about George and Ghost?

I was very lucky with George and Ghost, as I had moved to the UK at that time and did not have a publisher over there. I sent a query email, as I was already published in Australia and was asked to submit. Within a couple of days I had a very positive response from the editor, which is almost unheard of in writing circles. So I felt good things would come. I ended up working with Emma Layfield at Hodder, who did a fantastic job.

George and Ghost is about half the size that it was when I wrote it and that comes down to the editor and I seeing the story in different ways. When I wrote George and Ghost, I was living in the UK and my children were going to school there. I was also teaching science in the local high school. My science teaching background influenced me to an extent, so to me the story was about the scientific method, matter vs energy, how to measure appropriately … all sorts of things. It was actually quite a complex book to write, to get  such big ideas in a simple form. However, my editor saw it as a book about childhood friendship. Actually, it’s both. In this case, Emma operated on my original manuscript and removed what I considered at the time to be quite vital components. She also suggested rephrasing the text … as a scientist I had posed each challenge as a question, with the repeating phrase ‘prove it.’ That phrase was ditched and we ended up agreeing on a format.

(And it’s not just the editor who is involved, increasingly the marketing team is also involved at an early stage.)

"Catriona Hoy"
Catriona Hoy, author of George and Ghost

Did you always agree with what your editor said?

I didn’t agree at first with the changes, especially as I felt such a large part had been cut out. It’s sometimes difficult to step back from something you have been so close to for a while. I emailed copies of the new text to friends to ask if it made sense and they said that it did. In the end, I came to the conclusion that the story was stronger for having some of that material removed and crossed my fingers and toes. I planned to have supporting curriculum material on my website.

Do you have to make changes to the story if the editor asks you to?

The bottom line … yes. It’s a commercial product after all. In the end if you can’t come to a compromise, you have the choice of walking away, which would be a really drastic step for an editor or an author to take. If you feel really strongly however, and can logically argue the point, most editors will listen. With George and Ghost, I insisted very strongly on one particular point. I’d conceded most of the changes—however, one change I felt was scientifically incorrect and I couldn’t see how it could be acceptable. Eventually we worked out a wording where we were all happy.

Basically, Ghost was trying to show that some things such as sunshine and music were real but didn’t weigh anything (because they are forms of energy).  Ghost says ‘sunshine is real so it should take up space’ but in the next scene they try to weigh a ‘thought’. I didn’t want Ghost to say that thoughts were real, which would follow the pattern in the text. In the end we agreed on ‘And thoughts should weigh something,’ said Ghost. For me, that just felt a little better.

How did you work with your editor?

I usually work via email, that way, we’ve both got a record of what’s been said. That means that I can also work wherever I am. These days, illustrators can send big files, which is much easier than for my first book, where I had to go and physically view them. I can also think carefully about what I want to say. It’s always nice to meet the editor of course. I did meet the editor for George and Ghost after it was all done, at a publisher’s Christmas party in London, however I have other editors whom I have never met.

How would George and Ghost be different if it hadn’t had an editor?

Probably longer, and not quite so lovable! Emma also had the important job of finding the right illustrator and she made the perfect choice with Cassia Thomas. Her illustrations bring to life the emotions in the book, because in the end, it really is a simple story about friendship.

Thanks for having me visit today and I’ve really enjoyed answering your questions.
Catriona Hoy

Find out more about Catriona Hoy and her books—visit her website.

Check out the other stops on the George and Ghost blog tour:
Mon 7 March Claire Saxby Art vs Science
Tue 8 March Alphabet Soup Magazine Does a picture book need editing?
Wed 9 March Trevor Cairney Writing journey
Thur 10 March Robyn Opie Writing George and Ghost
Fri  11 March Dee White Ghosts? Do you believe?
Sat  12 March Chris Bell Writing picture books.
Sun 13 March Day off!
Mon 14 March Lorraine Marwood In conclusion …

Download curriculum notes for George and Ghost. (PDF).

Posted in Events, info, poetry, teachers' resources

Meet children’s poet, Jackie Hosking

Jackie Hosking photo
Poet, Jackie Hosking

Today is ‘Poem in Your Pocket Day’! And we’re thrilled to have a wonderful poet visiting the blog today: Jackie Hosking. You can find one of her poems in the current issue of Alphabet Soup magazine (issue 6).

Welcome, Jackie! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I am a Nigerian born, Cornish, Australian. How can that be? Well, my parents are Cornish, they were living in Nigeria when I was born, they moved to Victoria, Australia when I was ten where I became an Australian Citizen. I left my parents’ home with my kitten, Gizzy when I was 18 years old. Gizzy lived to be 21 years old and I wrote a poem, ‘My Cat,’ in her memory. Now I live in a beautiful seaside town with my puppy Rex. Rex is a Blue Staffy and he wrecks (Rex) everything. I love walking by the sea and in the bush and discover many of my poems this way. I also love to read.

How long have you been writing poetry?

I have been writing poetry for about 25 years. I wrote my very first poem when I was 17. I have been writing for children for about 5 years.

You seem to love rhyming poetry in particular. Can you tell us why?

I grew up reading poems by A.A. Milne. He wrote the ‘Winnie The Pooh’ books, and I always enjoyed discovering when a poem rhymed. I thought it was really clever and so doubly satisfying. Even though I love rhyme, I like the rhyme to be incidental, a bonus, not the whole focus but the icing on the cake.

Do you prefer writing poems to writing stories?

I much prefer to write a poem. I think it might be because I have a short attention span. I love how a poem can condense thoughts, feelings and descriptions into a powerful piece of writing. Poems are bite sized stories to be consumed greedily.

Why do you like writing poems for children?

I think because I never really grew up. Also I think when I write a poem, I try to write with a fresh eye, a child’s eye. Instead of having a bird’s eye view, I write with a child’s eye view. I have also written poems for adults, a few serious ones but mostly funny ones for parents with small children.

Did you like poetry as a child?

I didn’t really enjoy reading adult poetry as a child but I always enjoyed the children’s poets. I’ve mentioned A.A. Milne and there’s also C.J. Dennis, Dr. Seuss, C.S. Lewis and Roald Dahl.

Who are some children’s poets you admire today?

Of course, all of those mentioned above, as well as – Lorraine Marwood, Meredith Costain, Claire Saxby, Sally Murphy, Janeen Brian, Stephen Whiteside, Sherryl Clark and Edel Wignell, just to name a few.

Do you have a favourite style of poem when you are writing?

I like to think about my poetry as an artist might think of a painting. Poetry, to me, is painting with words. I’ve written all types of poetry, funny, sad, pretty, long, short, limericks but what is most important, for me, is the rhythm or the meter. It has to be perfect and I enjoy the challenge of getting it that way.

Have you ever done anything unusual with one of your poems? (e.g. purposely left one on a train … )

Funny that you should mention a train. Two of my poems are travelling around Melbourne on the trains as part of the ‘Moving Galleries’ project. It’s such fun when someone contacts me to let me know that they’ve seen one. I also entered a very personal (and a little bit rude!) valentine’s poem into a competition where it ended up being included in the anthology.

Do you have any advice for kids who want to write poetry?

Think of poetry like making gravy – it needs to be reduced. It needs to be the essence of what you want to say. Less is always more where poetry is concerned. Use strong, sparkly words, become friends with metaphor and simile and don’t be afraid to be unique. Never use clichés – never say that something was ‘as cold as ice’. Find a new way like … the water was as cold as money.

Where can kids find your poems?

Many of my poems have been published in The School Magazine.

Alphabet Soup has published ‘The Moon’ and ‘A Raindrop Race’.

The Poem a Week Project – ‘To Catch a Dewdrop’.

I also have a blog!

How do you get ideas/inspiration?

Ideas can come from anywhere. Walking stirs up lots of ideas, as do my pets. Nature is a favourite, the flowers, the birds, the beach. I love to capture all of these things and display them on the page.

Today is ‘Poem in Your Pocket Day’. Would you share one of your poems with us today?

Here’s one I prepared earlier …

Short and Scary cover‘I had a little poem’

I had a little poem
I held it in my hand
It whispered muffled secrets
Only I could understand

I had a little poem
I kept it in a locket
And every time I went outside
I popped it in my pocket

© Jackie Hosking

You can find out more about Jackie Hosking at her website: Her most recent publication – ‘At the end of the Street’ is included in the anthology, Short & Scary.