Three Quick Questions: Wendy Orr (#3)

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 Wendy Orr, author of Nim’s Island, Raven’s Mountain and many more.

Nim's island (cover)"Raven's Mountain (cover)"


1. Where do you like to write?

I’d love to say that it’s sitting on my favourite log out in the bush—but it’s actually at my desk. It’s a lot easier for my imagination and mind to fly free if my body is comfortable and in a good posture for writing—boring but true!

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

I’ve just finished City of Lies, the second in The Keepers trilogy by Lian Tanner. It was just as wonderful as the first (The Museum of Thieves).

City of Lies (cover)

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



Find out more about Wendy Orr and her books—visit her website and her blog and check out the Nim’s Island blog, too. (Plus, read our May 2011 Q&A with Wendy Orr.)

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

(Psst … check back tomorrow, when author Susan Stephenson—aka The Book Chook— answers our Three Quick Questions.)

Book reviews by Rebecca

Book review: Raven’s Mountain by Wendy Orr

Raven’s Mountain by Wendy Orr, Allen and Unwin, ISBN 9781742374659

This book was selected for review from the editor’s own collection.

"Raven's Mountain (cover)"

Raven isn’t thrilled about moving—and leaving her friends behind. When her step-dad decides to take Raven and her sister Lily mountain climbing they aren’t thrilled about that, either. But when Raven gets to the top first, she is ecstatic and does a

crazy jumping, waving my arms, spinning, Top-of-the-World Dance

and that’s when the rock tilts and everything goes wrong.

Raven has to find her way back down the mountain on her own to find help for Lily and Scott before it’s too late. She’ll have to summon up enough strength and courage to keep going. And going.

While Raven is trying to make her way down the mountin, she has a lot of time to think—she worries about Scott and Lily, she thinks about the friends back in Cottonwood Bluffs, her mum, the bear family they saw on the way up the mountain (and the advice Scott gave her about bears), and her dad who left the family when Raven was very young. It’s a physically and emotionally demanding journey for Raven but she is determine to save her sister and step-dad.

I didn’t want to put this book down. It’s highly recommended if you love adventure and stories of bravery … and possibly if you love being outdoors and mountain climbing—though hopefully you’ll never find yourself in Raven’s situation!

© June 2011 “Review of Raven’s Mountain by Helga Visser”, reviewed by Rebecca Newman (Alphabet Soup magazine)
authors, teachers' resources

Meet the author: WENDY ORR

In every issue of Alphabet Soup magazine we interview an author or illustrator. The trouble is, we can only fit some of their answers in the magazine. So we print the full interviews on the blog—we wouldn’t want you to miss out!

Wendy Orr, photo by Roger GouldIn issue 11 we talked to Wendy Orr, author of many books, including Nim’s Island, The Princess and her Panther, and Raven’s Mountain.

1. Where do you live?
On a hill near the sea on the Mornington Peninsula, south of Melbourne.

2. What made you become a writer?
I love stories and books so much that I always knew I wanted to write them. My dad used to tell us crazy stories that he made up, and my mum read us wonderful books for bedtime stories, so wanting to write books never seemed like a strange thing to do.

3. What do you like to do when you are not writing?
Reading, going for walks (especially on the beach or in the bush, and especially with my dog), seeing my friends and family, doing tai chi, and travelling.

4. Was it easy to get your first book published?
I was quite lucky with my first book (Amanda’s Dinosaur) because it won a competition, and the prize was having it published. The next few were harder!

5. What was your favourite book as a child?
At different ages: Winnie the Pooh; My Son in Law the Hippopotamus; Anne of Green Gables; Swallows and Amazons; Little Women; The Eagle of the Ninth.

6. Where do you get your ideas?
I’m often not sure where an idea has come from until I’ve finished the first draft. Sometimes it’s from something that has happened in my life, and sometimes it’s a crazy sort of thought—which of course has still probably happened from something I’ve seen or heard or experienced in some way. Sometimes it might be by asking ‘What if?’ about something that’s happened. Of course you need a lot of ideas to make a whole book—one idea starts it, but then you need more for how a character looks or acts, or what happens in chapter 3, and what’s exciting in chapter 5, or how everything all comes together in the end … I sometimes think that there’s a little bit of magic in how all these different ideas come together.

7. Do you prefer to write with a pen in a notebook, or on the computer?
On the computer. I use a pen to make notes in a notebook with a pen; often one book will have its own notebook and I jot down my thoughts or try to work something out. But once I start writing the story, I always use the computer. (For one thing my handwriting is so messy that writing a whole story with a pen would be too tiring— and even worse, I often can’t read my writing!)

8. What do you love best about being a writer?
Living inside a story and playing with it till it comes out right.

9. Of your own books, do you have a favourite?
It’s very hard to choose a favourite, because they’re like friends or pets. I sometimes think Ark in the Park is my favourite, because when I read it there are still no words I want to change or lines I’d like to rewrite. But Nim has been my favourite character for a while—except that now Raven’s Mountain is out, in many ways that’s my favourite, because I always feel very protective about a new character about to face world. So that might be why Raven is my favourite character right now.

Nim's island (cover)

"Raven's Mountain (cover)"

10. Are you working on a book at the moment? Can you tell us anything about it?
I’m always working on several books at a time. I’ve just finished Raven’s Mountain, which was out in February. The short blurb would be, ‘Three people go up a mountain; one comes down.’ It’s an adventure story about a girl named Raven who goes mountain climbing with her older sister and stepdad—but when there’s a rockfall and the others are trapped, Raven has to face the wilderness alone to try to save them, and herself.

I’m also working on a series of books set in The Rainbow Street Animal Shelter. I’m doing these with an American publisher; in Australia the stories will most likely be collected into one or two books. I’ve just finished editing the second book, MISSING: A Cat Called Buster, and now am waiting for my editor to work on the third book while I rewrite the fourth (FREE: A Lion Called Kiki).

There are also several other books at various stages on my computer and in my head!

11. You write picture books, books for primary school aged kids, and young adult books. Do you have a favourite age group to write for?
If I had to choose one age group, it would be primary school or middle grade readers. But I’m very glad that I can skip around and play with a picture book or plan an adult novel in between.

"The Princess and her Panther (cover)"12. How do you know if an idea is best for a picture book, a middle grade book or a young adult book?

That’s part of the mystery of writing that I don’t understand. As an idea starts to grow into my mind, it shows me the shape the book will be, so that by the time I’m ready to write it, it’s obvious what sort of story it wants to be.

13. Do you have any advice for young writers?
Just keep on writing! Have fun with it; try writing different types of stories with different types of characters. Remember that the first person you’re writing for is yourself—you need to love what you’re doing. When you’ve finished, read it and see if there are any parts that are a bit boring, or don’t make sense—pretend you’re a teacher with a big red pen, be brave and mark everything that isn’t good. Ask yourself if that bit needs to be in the story. If it doesn’t—delete it. If it does—make it better. Does it make you laugh, or cry, or hold your breath? Keep on rereading and rewriting till you’re happy with everything in your story.

And don’t forget to read, and experiment with different types of books. Writers need to see how other writers work—but most of all, we need to love stories.

You can find out more about Wendy Orr and her books on her website. And visit the Nim’s Island blog!

“Meet the author: Wendy Orr” © Rebecca Newman 2011
authors, teachers' resources

A new book from Wendy Orr (out Feb 2011)

"Wendy Orr, author"
Wendy Orr, author of Nim's Island, and Raven's Mountain.

Wendy Orr has a new book coming out in February 2011, Raven’s Mountain. You can read a post about the book on her Author Journal.

Here’s a bit about it (from Allen & Unwin’s website):

A gripping wilderness-adventure by the author of Nim’s Island. Raven’s sister and step-father are trapped under rocks on the mountain top, and their lives depend on Raven making it down the mountain to get help. But can she find the way?


When Raven woke up by the lake she just knew this day would be one she would remember forever. And as they climbed the mountain they saw bears—a Mama bear and two cubs. Not just ordinary black bears—two were white, like the Spirit Bears in the north who are said to help people in trouble. Raven is first to make it to the top of the mountain and she’s doing a top-of-the-mountain dance before her sister Lily and stepfather Scott catch up. But suddenly the rock under her feet cracks and she is falling, tumbling, crashing down over the edge of the cliff.

When she finally comes to, no one answers her calls. The rockfall is covering the trail where she last saw Lily and Scott. Eventually she hears her sister through a tiny crack in the rocks, but Scott is lying twisted and unconscious. Raven must find help. But can she find her way down through the forest? And what if she meets the bears they saw on the way up? Or wolves? She has no food, little water, no phone and no compass. And it’s late in the day. Still, Raven will do anything to save her family.

We can’t wait to read it!