Yesterday we announced the Alphabet Soup Creativity Award—for outstanding work published in Alphabet Soup magazine in 2012. Today we welcome Dee White to share some ideas for what to write about, and to tell us about the prize she has donated for the winner in the Most Outstanding Story category.
Over to Dee!
A House Can Tell A Story
There are so many potential stories hidden inside your home.
You just have to use your imagination and look for them.
What if you opened a drawer and found a secret letter hidden there?
What if something in your house came to life and started chasing you or wanted to be your friend?
What if your house could talk and told you a story about the people who used to live there before you did?
What if your house got blown away like Dorothy’s in The Wizard of Oz and you ended up somewhere completely different?
What if there was a treasure chest hidden in your garden?
What if there was a secret compartment in the wall of your bedroom and it led to another world?
One of my favourite things to do when I can’t think what to write about is to look around a room in my house and pick an object. It could be a wall, a door, a light switch, anything.
Next I imagine what it would be like to be that object sitting there day after day. I think about what that object can see and do and how it might feel. Then I write a piece about it.
It’s fun to do this with a writing friend and see if they can guess which object in the room you are writing about.
This excerpt is from Dee’s new e-book, 10 Top Writing Tips For Kids: What to Write About.
Dee is donating a free copy of this book and one hour’s mentoring (a manuscript appraisal) to the winner of the Most Outstanding Story category of the 2012 Alphabet Soup Creativity Award.
Here’s how it works.
The winner will send a 500-word piece of writing to Dee. If it’s part of a longer story they’ll need to also send in a plot summary or information about what happens in the rest of the story. Dee will give tips on how to improve the piece of writing and the winner’s skills in general. She’ll also answer questions they might have about the piece or writing in general.
ABOUT 10 TOP WRITING TIPS FOR KIDS
Dee has written this series to encourage and inspire kids who love to write. 10 Top Writing Tips for Kids: What to Write About was released in November 2012.
Other books in the series coming in 2013 are:
10 Top Writing Tips For Kids – Heroes and Villains
10 Top Writing Tips For Kids – Want to Be a Writer?
10 Top Writing Tips For Kids – Make Your Writing Sparkle
Dee White has worked as an advertising copywriter and journalist, but wanted to be an author from the time she was seven. Her first book for young adults, Letters to Leonardo, took more than ten years to research and write. Dee’s other titles include Hope for Hanna, A Duel of Words and Harry’s Goldfield Adventure.
She runs writing workshops for primary and secondary students across Australia with sessions focusing on story ideas, plotting and character development. She also runs them online at Writing Classes for Kids.
She is honoured to be providing the prize for the inaugural Alphabet Soup Creativity Award, and hopes that it will help encourage young writers.
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).
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.)
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 Dee White, author of Hope for Hanna, and YA novel Letters to Leonardo. Dee also runs theWriting Classes for Kidsblog.
1. Where do you like to write?
My favourite place to write is my study or my lounge room, which have amazing views (here’s a pic).
2. Can you name a book you’d recommend to our readers?
A book I’ve read recently that I’d recommend is Head Spinners by Thalia Kalkipsakis.
3. Can you offer a word or phrase that kids could use for inspiration if they have writer’s block?
A word or phrase I would use to kickstart inspiration is, “You wake up in the morning and your cat has brought you breakfast in bed.”
Australian author Dee White has started a new website called Writing Classes for Kids (& adults). You’ll find info about writing, writing tips, links to useful websites, writing competitions, and writing classes for kids and grownups (available as $5 downloads).
A big welcome to our guest blogger today – Dee White. Her books include many fiction and nonfiction titles, including Hope for Hanna, and a Young Adult book, Letters to Leonardo.
Reading after lights out was a constant source of conflict in our house. My sister and I shared a set of bunk beds – she was on the top one so the light source was definitely better for her.
We didn’t actually read by torchlight. We kept the bedroom light on so if the other person wanted to sleep then that was just too bad, or you got used to sleeping with the light on.
Official lights out at our place was at 8.30pm. But we soon learned that once parents became engrossed in their television show or ‘winding down’ because the kids were now in bed, they forgot to check to make sure that lights stayed out.
Ours wasn’t the most foolproof method. It was easily detectable, and it led to sisterly verbal exchanges that also attracted parental attention.
During these clandestine sessions (which occurred almost every night), I liked to read books that are pretty much like the ones I write today – books about real people and the things that happened in their lives. Early on I was a big fan of ‘The Whiteoaks of Jalna Chronicles’ by Mazo de la Roche (this could have been the influence of my European father).
In my teens, I gravitated towards tragically romantic books like Sons and Lovers by DH Lawrence, Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’urbervilles and Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. I liked thick books that I could savour, ones that didn’t end too quickly.
Today, I see the same trait in my eldest son. His undercover reading tastes include books by Clive Cussler, Robin Hobbs and Matthew Reilly. My youngest is more an Artemis Fowl, Diary of a Wimpy Kid kind of guy.
I’ve always loved reading, but I have to admit that it’s so much more exciting when you’re reading undercover – when the threat of detection lurks around every corner.
Alphabet Soup magazine is celebrating the launch of Undercover Readers (our new reviewers club for kids)! If you’d like to join the Undercover Readers Club, you’ll find an information pack you can download from the Alphabet Soup website. As part of the celebrations, we have a different children’s author or illustrator visiting Soup Blog each day until 29 June 2010 to talk about what they used to read after ‘lights out’ when they were growing up. So be sure to check back tomorrow!
Tomorrow we are taking the spring 2009 issue on a blog tour!
From 1 – 7 September, Rebecca Newman (Alphabet Soup‘s Publisher and Editor) will be visiting 7 different blogs, where she’ll be answering questions about the magazine. Find out what started it all, how the magazine could be used in the classroom, who’s on the team at the magazine, and more!
The spring ’09 issue marks the magazine’s first birthday. To celebrate, there’s a set of the first four issues to be won – so make sure you visit Robyn Opie’s blog on 6 September!
To celebrate the magazine’s first birthday, we’re taking Alphabet Soup on a blog tour! What does that mean? It means from 1 – 7 September 2009 we’ll be visiting 7 different blogs and I’ll be answering questions about the magazine on each one.
We’ll tell you a bit more about it in a few days. But here are the links where you’ll find us in the first week of September:
Australian author, Claire Saxby, is on a blog tour with her new picture book, Sheep, Goat and the Creaking Gate (illustrated by Judith Rossell.) Today we are talking to Claire about how she goes about writing a book, the illustrations in a picture book, and how long it takes for a picture book to be published.
How did you get your idea for the story of Sheep, Goat and the Creaking Gate?
I don’t actually remember where the original idea came from. I think it started with the creaking gate as I liked the idea of the silence and tranquility of the countryside being interrupted by the grating sound as Sheep became dissatisfied with her lot.
Where do you write your stories?
I generally write directly to the computer. I always travel with a notebook and will jot down ideas but I’ve become so accustomed to drafting on computer that I seldom draft on paper. However, when I’m stuck, I do use paper and pen, or even pencil. I just write and do the ‘what if?’ thing over and over until I work out where I need to take the story. When I do use a notebook, I only write on one side of the page, using the other side for notes, or facts I need to research
What do you do with drafts of the book once the book is published? Do you throw them away?
I tend to keep drafts. I’m not good at throwing much away although I do usually file them quite neatly! I’ll print out really different drafts, or save them as separate documents, particularly if the new draft is going in a really different direction. It’s like insurance, in case the new draft just loses its way. It’s always interesting to look back at the early drafts and see how a story has changed.
How do you come up with a title for your books? Does the title come to you before you write the story?
I love titles. I love finding the right title for each story. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes the title even comes first, but not always. Then I do use paper and pen/pencil. I write down words or potential titles and keep doing it until I find the perfect title. If the story has changed a lot, often the title needs to change to reflect that. For Sheep, Goat and the Creaking Gate, the title came quite early although the story changed a lot through the drafting. I toyed with the idea of using specific names for the characters, but returned to the generic ‘sheep’ and ‘goat’. I’m not really sure why, but names can sometimes be too specific.
Do you ever change the title after you’ve written the story?
Sometimes, as above. But sometimes a publisher will suggest that the title change. There can be many reasons for this. For one book I did, the title was too similar to the previous one. Not in subject or style, but just in how they sounded. The title I had was also similar to another book still in print and the publisher felt this could cause confusion. That was an interesting process as I also decided to change the name of the character … even harder than changing the title. It took several weeks before I found an alternative character name that was a good fit. Then the title was easy.
Did you meet with an editor in person, or discuss your book via email?
There’s a bit of both, depending on where the publisher is. For Sheep, Goat and the Creaking Gate I met once with the editor face-to-face, but then we were in touch via email. Roughs (pencil sketches) and proofs (full colour art with some or all layout) are either emailed or posted to me and then there are phone and/or email discussions.
What does an editor say to you?
It varies with the project. Sometimes it’s global things, like ‘The text is a bit long, can you look at tightening it?’ Other times it can be very specific. I had an email conversation (several emails) about the placement and use of punctuation. After sketches and proofs the discussion will be about the relationship between text and illustrations and also about the layout.
Is it hard to make changes? Do you have to make the changes that an editor suggests, or can you say ‘no’ sometimes?
It can be hard, but producing a picture book is a collaboration despite the writing coming first, then the illustrations. Sometimes the changes are easy because a fresh set of eyes can point out something which then seems really obviously out of place. Other times, the changes will be about being clearer about my intention. Then I’ll clarify in discussion what I was trying to say, and the editor/publisher will say whether or not that’s been clear. Sometimes that leads to changes, sometimes tweaks, occasionally more. Editing for length can be tricky, but it’s all about making the book as strong as possible and leaving room for the illustrator to work their magic.
Do you make suggestions for the illustrations, or leave it to the publishing team and the illustrator to decide?
I generally don’t have a sense of what my characters look like unless it’s relevant for the plot (and it often isn’t). I am always very excited to see the first sketches to see what my characters look like from the outside. I write looking out through their eyes so don’t see what they look like to others. Most publishers prefer not to have any illustration suggestions, as it may limit the illustrator. There are times where I might put a very brief ‘Note for illustration’, but not often.
Do you see the illustrations before the book is published?
It varies but usually I’ll see a rough outline of the whole book. Then I’ll see coloured images, sometimes one or two, and then proofs when some layout and design has been done. Sometimes I’ll see a character sketch first, before the roughs are done. It’s always very exciting and I generally wear out my family and friends showing them everything!
When you’ve written a story, how long does it take before it is published? Sheep, Goat and the Creaking Gate was accepted in mid 2007, so it will be just over two years from acceptance to release. That might seem a long time, but is fairly average in the world of picture books. It can take much longer. I have several other projects that have been longer in production. The timing has many components. Once the publisher accepts the manuscript then there is the search for the illustrator. Then the illustrator has to schedule in the time (up to six months or more) that it might take to do the illustrations. Next there is design and layout time and then printing. It’s a long process.
Are you working on another project now? Can you tell us anything about it?
I’m always working on several projects at once. They will generally be at different stages and of different length. Some will be at the research and reading stage, others in first, second, tenth draft form. For example, I’m working on a poem about a beautiful old tree in our street that has just been cut down, a picture book manuscript about a critically-endangered Australian animal, a historical novel set in early Melbourne and a non fiction biography.
Do you have any tips for budding authors?
Read and write. Simple as that, hard as that. Read widely because it helps a writer understand their world. Read for fun. Just read. And write. Know that your first draft will not be perfect, but by practising a writer will discover their voice. Write shopping lists, write letters, write novels and poems. Eventually you will learn how you most want to write and to make your work sing.
You can find out more about Claire Saxby and her books by visiting her website.