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 author Sheryl Gwyther—her most recent book is Charlie and the Red Hot Chilli Pepper.
1. Where do you like to write?
I have a study to write in, but I can write anywhere (if I’m in the writing mood). Funny thing, though, the place where I write a first draft reminds me of that time whenever I go there—like on our back deck, where I wrote the first draft of Singing the Wires and the words poured out of my head. Luckily, it’s all good memories.
2. Can you name a book you’d recommend to our readers?
Just finished John Heffernan’s book Battle Boy—Spying on the Past, written under the name of Charlie Carter. It’s the first in a series of exciting, short adventure books for young readers. Easy to read, gripping and cleverly bringing the past alive when a young boy—Napoleon Augustus Smythe—hurtles back through time and into … the big battles of the past. Lots of techo stuff (and illustrations) to intrigue kids.
3. Can you offer a word or phrase that kids could use for inspiration if they have writer’s block?
Rather than one word or phrase, I use my ‘Double Trouble Game’—think of two words that are ‘bad roommates’, put them together and ask, ‘What If? I used this method to get the ideas flowing for my story Princess Clown. Also for my work-in-progress, Fangus Fearbottom (fang and banana—yes, bad room mates!)
Sheryl Gwyther visited us last month as part of the celebrations for the launch of our Undercover Readers Club. She’s back today to talk a bit about how she got the idea for her latest book, Princess Clown. Welcome back, Sheryl!
What gave you the idea for writing Princess Clown?
Princess Clown began with a challenge – to write a chapter book using words that clashed. I chose CLOWN and PRINCESS.
(Musicians have used this same process to choose intriguing, unusual names for their bands. That’s why we have rock bands with names like Led Zeppelin, Guns ‘N Roses, Green Day, Pearl Day and Stone Roses.)
Once I had chosen the words Clown and Princess I asked myself, What if?
What if there was a princess who was different? What if she loved clowning and making people laugh? What if she was the heir to the throne? What if she was in trouble because she can’t stop clowning around? What if her tricks go terribly wrong?
Then before I could say, ABRACADABRA and ALLIBALOO, out sprang Princess Belle and a story was born.
Are you good at any circus skills yourself? Juggling, unicycle riding, back flips, squirting unsuspecting people with your joke flower/buzzing them with a handshake?
I prefer my bike with two wheels so I don’t fall off. I can’t do black flips or somersaults and neither do I have a zingy clown ring like Princess Belle, but I do have a set of three professional juggling balls – a perfect size and weight for my hand.
I’m trying to learn to juggle. So far, I’ve worked up to three throws and a catch, but it’s been difficult to throw that fourth throw. My brain does not like it at all! But I’ll never give up trying – one day I will get there.
How do you get inspiration and ideas for your writing?
I get ideas for writing stories from lots of places. Some start with daydreaming, or childhood memories, some from intriguing things I’ve read or heard about, some from combinations of words, a couple even came from dreams. Once I get the idea, I always ask, What if? And that is when the story really begins to form in my imagination.
I like to write a rough outline while the idea is fresh in my brain. Then it’s a good idea to brainstorm – that fills out the characters’ development and also the plot.
While I’m writing the first draft, I play some background music on the CD player. When writing an adventurous part of my stories, I like the soundtrack from The Lord of The Rings – helps to keep the fast pace going. You might find that works for you too.
Today we are launching Alphabet Soup magazine‘s UNDERCOVER READERS CLUB – the new reviewers club for kids aged 12 and under! As part of our online celebrations, we’ve invited a different children’s writer or illustrator to visit Soup Blog every day until 29 June 2010 to tell us about what they used to read after ‘lights out’ when they were growing up.
Our first visitor is Sheryl Gwyther, author of Secrets of Eromanga, and Princess Clown. Her writing has also appeared in the NSW Schools Magazine, and the anthology, Short and Scary.
READING UNDER THE COVERS (Sheryl Gwyther)
What happens when you are reading an extremely exciting bit in a book and Mum or Dad says, light’s out!?
You keep reading, of course! Out comes your trusty torch. You wriggle under the covers and once again, you are lost in the book. This is exactly what I used to do when I was younger.
Once upon a time, before I owned a torch, I tried to use a candle to read in bed after ‘light’s-out’ – never thinking of the danger involved with fire. Burning wax on my fingers and on the floor stopped me. Maybe my mother saw the wax drops everywhere, because not long afterwards my parents gave me my first torch.
There’s a powerful image in my memory of reading in the dark with a torch. It happened when I was about eight. I had to get up for school the next day and Mum was nagging me stop reading and go to sleep. But I was caught up in the Silver Curlew (a book by Eleanor Farjeon), an exciting story about a young girl’s fight to save her sister from an evil imp. How could I possibly sleep?
I hid under the sheet with my torch, reading. Everyone else had gone to bed. It was dark outside and still, and the story was at a creepy, scary part. Then, an eerie wailing sound came from the trees outside.
It was a nocturnal bird called a Bush Curlew. I snapped shut the book, flicked off the light and burrowed back under the sheet in the dark, remembering my grandmother’s words … Curlews always wail when someone is dying. I was too scared to go to sleep!
If I had a ‘Light’s Out’ curfew put on me tonight, you would find me reading (with the aid of my trusty torch) a spell-binding story by Kate Forsyth, The Starthorn Tree. It’s the first in a series. When I’ve finished this one, I can start on the second one, The Wildkin’s Curse. Do you think my torch battery will last?
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.
The Undercover Readers Club will be launched here on Soup Blog on Monday!
If you haven’t heard about it yet, Undercover Readers is a book reviewers club for kids aged 12 and under. And it’s FREE to join! Club members with an Australian postal address receive one free book to review, but you can also review your own books, and books you borrow from friends or the library. (Members outside Australia can send book reviews of their own books, but unfortunately we aren’t able to send you a free book, due to the high costs of postage to overseas addresses.)
Members can be individual children, or a primary school class. The reviews will be published in Alphabet Soup magazine, and/or here on Soup Blog.
Back to the launch celebrations! Starting on Monday, we’ll have a different author or illustrator visiting this blog every day (14 – 29 June), to tell us about the books they read after ‘lights out’ when they were growing up — when they were still reading under the covers with a torch! So make sure you check back on Monday, when we’ll be hearing from our first author, Sheryl Gwyther .
Want to join the Undercover Readers Club?
Go to the magazine’s website (www.alphabetsoup.net.au) where you’ll find a PDF to download with information about the club and how to join.