Posted in authors, Pass the Book Baton

Pass the Book Baton: Wendy Orr

PASS THE BOOK BATON

It’s Friday! And that means it’s time for Pass the Book Baton. Every week we’ve featured a book creator who answered one question before throwing a new question to the next Friday visitor. (It’s kind of like a book relay in slow motion.) This is our last Pass the Book Baton post for 2016 but — after a summer break — we’ll be continuing with the series in 2017.

 

Today the book baton is passed to author Wendy Orr. Wendy’s books have been published in 25 countries and languages and have won awards in Australia and overseas. Her Nim’s Island books were made into movies. Wendy Orr’s latest book is Dragonfly Song. (You can read an excerpt if you go to the publisher’s site.)

Here are some of Wendy Orr’s book covers:

Last week Anna Ciddor asked:
I love to find out how other authors work. There are two parts to my question. Firstly, do you plan the whole book, including the end, before you begin (like I do), or are you one of those authors who start writing without knowing the ending? And secondly, once you begin writing, do you slow yourself down with research and re-writing (like I do), or are you one of those amazing authors who can work fast?

Wendy answers:
I agree with Anna Ciddor that it’s fascinating to find out how other authors work! It always seems to bear out the Somerset Maugham quote that there are three rules for writing a novel, but nobody knows what they are. I’m also intrigued — or depressed, depending on the day — that as soon as I figure out my own rules, I start a new book and the rules change. However, I always need to know several things before I start the book — the first scene and first line, a climactic scene, and the ending. Details about the ending sometimes change, but I have to know where it’s heading. And in general, I seem to be planning more now than I used to. For Dragonfly Song, when my editor asked if the first deadline was achievable, I made a list of all the scenes from where I was till the end. It was amazingly helpful (who knew!). Of course there were still surprises and aha! moments of insight, but I stuck to it fairly closely. Admittedly the book had been freewheeling in my head for the previous year.

As for speed — how I envy those fast writers! I’m very slow. It’s true I’ve got a huge list of books, but I’ve been writing for 30 years, and many of my early books were small. Dragonfly Song took 22 months, (ignoring several false starts over the previous 5 years) without working on anything else. I rewrite obsessively — and oh yes, the research! The two main problems are that I don’t always know what I need till I find it, and conversely, sometimes some little fact really has to be clarified before I can continue with the story. Then down the rabbit hole I go … And then have to rewrite again because there was too much research showing, and sometimes obscure facts have to be bent to suit the story! But what a feeling when I work something out to suit the story, thinking I’ve purely made it up — and then find the research that says my theory is right!

But all I really care about once a book finished is that the reader enjoys it and believes in it while they’re reading.

Happy reading!

Wendy

www.wendyorr.com


ERIC VALE OFF THE RAILSAnd now Wendy Orr passes the baton to the next visitor — Michael Gerard Bauer. Michael is an award-winning author who writes humorous books for children and young adults.

Wendy asks:
I’m curious whether, like me, you draw on different parts of yourself to create your characters (even if other people might not be able to see that ‘seed’   that started the process.) Do you use any techniques to find these beginnings, or does the character appear to grow spontaneously, and you only recognise later the bit that sparked its creation?

The series will be taking a break over the summer school holidays. We’ll leave Michael Gerard Bauer with some thinking music while he considers Wendy’s question …

And Pass the Book Baton will resume in 2017 with his answer.

See you next year! (While you’re waiting, you can check out all the book creators who have had the baton so far.)

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Posted in authors, illustrator, Pass the Book Baton

Pass the book baton: Anna Ciddor

PASS THE BOOK BATON

It’s Friday! And that means it’s time for Pass the Book Baton. Every week Alphabet Soup features a book creator who will answer one question before throwing a new question to the next Friday visitor. (It’s kind of like a book relay in slow motion.)

Today the book baton is passed to author and illustrator, Anna Ciddor. Anna has written and illustrated over fifty books on topics as diverse as Vikings, Australia, goldfish, and tournaments. Her most recent book is The Family with Two Front Doors — a true story about a family of nine children who lived in Poland in the 1920s.

You might recognise some of these books:

Last week Meg McKinlay asked:
You’re a writer and an illustrator — good grief! Do you feel equally comfortable doing both, or does one come more naturally to you?

Anna answers:
Well, to tell the truth, even though I have been a full-time author and illustrator for nearly thirty years, I don’t find either writing or illustrating quick and easy! For me, they both need lots and LOTS of drafts and research and planning. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at how I wrote and illustrated The Family with Two Front Doors so you can see what I mean.

Step 1 Planning and research
The Family with Two Front Doors is based on stories my late Nana told me about her childhood. I planned each chapter of the book, including the ending, then sat down to bring the first scene to life in my head. I quickly discovered I had a problem. Nana never told me what clothes she wore as a child and, sadly, she was no longer around to help. If I can’t picture a scene, I can’t write it, so I had to stop and research the types of clothes worn by religious Jewish children in 1920s Poland. All through the book there were delays while I researched details before I could picture each scene.

Step 2 The Writing
When I write, I constantly ask myself, ‘Does this word give the best picture of what I am trying to say?’ For example, in one sentence I wrote ‘Yakov ran through the door,’ but then I realised I needed a more descriptive word than ran. Maybe burst would be better? Or scampered? Which word gave the best picture of what Yakov was doing? As you can imagine, this makes the writing process extremely slow. It took me four years to research and write The Family with Two Front Doors!

Step 3 The editing
When I deliver a book to the publishers, it is very exciting and scary, waiting to find out if they like it. Luckily, they loved The Family with Two Front Doors but it took me a few months to write the few changes they suggested because I am so slow!

Step 4 Illustrating
For me, this is the last step. Even though The Family with Two Front Doors was going to have tiny black and white illustrations, I wanted them to be perfect. I drew them over and over again. The faces of the characters had to be exactly the way I imagined them, and their clothes, and details, such as the sewing machine, had to be historically accurate. Those few tiny illustrations took me months!

Visit Anna Ciddor’s site for more about her and her books!


Dragonfly SongAnd now Anna Ciddor passes the baton to the next Friday visitor — Wendy Orr. Wendy’s books have been published in 25 countries and languages and have won awards in Australia and overseas. Her Nim’s Island books were made into movies. Wendy Orr’s latest book is Dragonfly Song.

Anna asks:
I love to find out how other authors work. There are two parts to my question. Firstly, do you plan the whole book, including the end, before you begin (like I do), or are you one of those authors who start writing without knowing the ending? And secondly, once you begin writing, do you slow yourself down with research and re-writing (like I do), or are you one of those amazing authors who can work fast?
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Check in every Friday for questions and answers from children’s authors and illustrators.
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See you next week!

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Posted in book reviews, Book reviews by kids, Book reviews by Matilda

Book review: Alice-Miranda in the Alps

REVIEWED BY MATILDA, 10, WA

Alice Miranda in the Alps

Alice-Miranda in the Alps by Jacqueline Harvey, Random House Australia, ISBN 9780857982742

Matilda reviews her own copy of this book.

Alice-Miranda is a very bright girl with a big imagination. She solves a lot of mysteries and is liked by nearly everyone. This is Book 12 in the series, and Alice-Miranda goes on holidays to Switzerland with her friends Jacinta, Sloane, Millie, Lucas and Sep. They only planned to stay at Fanger’s Hotel but when they find that they have to stay an extra week in Switzerland, they decide to visit Alice-Miranda’s uncle’s hotel — the Grand Hotel Von Zwicky, and help him out. Alice-Miranda is suspicious to find Frau Doerflinger now appears to be staying at the hotel when the hotel was supposed to be full.

This was one of my favourite Alice-Miranda books because I have just been through the Alps.

People who already love Alice-Miranda books will enjoy this book, and so will people who like mysteries. I think ages 6 to 12 will like reading Alice-Miranda in the Alps.

Matilda is one of our regular book reviewers. Her most recent review (if you don’t count this one) was of  Mrs Frisby and the rats of NIMH. If YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Posted in book reviews, Book reviews by kids, Book reviews by Matilda

Book review: Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH

REVIEWED BY MATILDA, 10, WA

Mrs Frisby and the rats of NIMH

Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C O’Brian, Penguin UK (Puffin Modern Classics), 9780141333335

Matilda found this book on the bookshelves at a holiday house.

When we were on holidays this book was on a bookshelf, so I read it. When I picked it up I thought that Mrs Frisby was a person, but she is actually a mouse and she lives at a farm with her children. The rats of NIMH are a group of rats with a secret, and they also live at the farm. Soon Mrs Frisby knows that it’s time to move their house again because the humans are coming with ploughs — but she has a big problem. One of her children is very sick and can’t get out of bed. The mice mostly stay out of the rats’ way. Will Mrs Frisby be brave enough to ask the rats to help before the ploughs arrive?

You can’t put this book down because it’s so exciting and you’ll need to find out what happens next. I recommend Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH for children aged 7 to 12.

Matilda is one of our regular book reviewers. Her most recent review (if you don’t count this one) was of  An Artist Once Said. If YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Posted in book reviews, Book reviews by kids

Book review: Loyal Creatures

Loyal Creatures by Morris Gleitzman, Viking (Penguin Australia), ISBN 9780670077427

Loyal creatures (cover)

REVIEWED BY HAYLEY, 10, VIC

Hayley borrowed Loyal Creatures from the library.

The story is set in 1914, World War One. It is about a boy, Frank, and his loyal horse, Daisy. They enlist in the light horse brigade after Frank’s dad receives a white feather. I had never heard of a ‘white feather’ or what they did with them, before I read this book, so I was in shock after I’d found out. They face the abomination of war and some utterly unjustifiable things happened.

I enjoyed reading it because it gave me a real insight as to how ghastly war was! The book is so sad it made me cry at some points knowing it was based on a true time in Australian history. I felt so sorry for Frank.

I would recommend this book for grade 5/6 and up because it has very mature themes. This is my first Morris Gleitzman novel and I am eager to read another.

This is Hayley’s first ever book review for Alphabet Soup. (Thanks, Hayley!) Would YOU like to send us a book review?  Check out our submission guidelines. For some great book-review writing tips, visit The Book Chook’s website.)

Happy reading!