Posted in authors, poetry

Lorraine Marwood: writing a verse novel

Today we’re super excited to have Lorraine Marwood visiting Alphabet Soup to talk about writing verse novels. Lorraine is an award winning Australian writer of novels, verse novels and poetry for children.

Lorraine’s latest book, Leave Taking, is about a boy and his family who are leaving their farm forever after the death of Toby’s younger sister.

Leave taking by Lorraine Marwood. Book cover.

What bought you to write Leave Taking as a verse novel?

That’s an interesting question. Often I’m asked if I write ‘normal’ stories, meaning all prose. The answer is yes I do — not everything I write is poetry or verse novels, except when the subject matter calls for a stronger emotional framework, then I use poetry. Sometimes it’s my natural voice; sometimes I sketch a character out in prose poetry much like an artist might sketch a character. Because Leave Taking has an emotional tug of saying goodbye to both a beloved place and a beloved family member, my natural instinct was to treat the story in a special prose poetry way.

For me this technique is quick and it also provides different layers for the reader to climb on and it allows us to cry or laugh at the time the reader feels a heartstrings pull.

A verse novel way of writing is like wearing a piece of comfortable clothing; I can confidently build an atmosphere and that is a huge gateway for me to enter the story. I have to feel the right atmosphere to plunge in.

What do you find most challenging about writing verse novels?

This way of writing does have pitfalls. For me it’s probably not to strike out in prose too much when it’s a blend of poetry and prose together.  And to keep that consistency of words to a line and to write more rather than less, which I tend to do as a poet. I try to paint a bare sensory picture for the reader to experience and that allows them to come to the story with their own ideas and reactions.

Do you have a tip for young writers who’d like to have a go at writing a verse novel?

  • Start out with a tale you know well and cut it down and put your own slant on it.
  • Try for short sentences and short phrases.
  • Try to give lots of senses and details.

Here’s a start of a well-known tale — continue on! Using first person voice is a good choice for a verse novel.

Aladdin

I am waiting, watching.
My mother said, ‘Go and hunt
for bargains in the market.’

There are shouts of stall holders,
banners flapping in the breeze.
‘Pies, fresh bananas, best in town!’
‘Silk, wool, rugs, soft and hardwearing!’

And amongst all the bleats of sheep,
or goats, I hear a musical voice;
‘Lamps, I buy old lamps, I pay good money!’
Now you continue on — try for 7 or 8 words a line.

Can you tell us a bit about what you’re working on next?

I have written a ‘normal’ big book, a fantasy, a genre I love. I have written another verse novel, which is under contract with University of Queensland Press, and always I write poetry and have some school writing workshops coming up.

Thanks for asking me these insightful questions.  And happy verse novel writing everyone — have a go!

Interview answers © Lorraine Marwood 2019.


Leave Taking has been shortlisted for the 2019 Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Award (Younger Readers category), AND shortlisted for the 2019 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards.

You can read earlier interviews with Lorraine Marwood here.

Posted in authors, Pass the Book Baton, poetry

Pass the Book Baton: Kathryn Apel

PASS THE BOOK BATON

Today we introduce a new Friday feature — Alphabet Soup will be featuring a book creator every Friday who will answer one question. And then they will ask one question of the next Friday’s visitor. (It’s kind of like a book relay in slow motion.)

We’re thrilled to have Kathryn Apel visiting for our first ever Pass the Book Baton! Kathryn writes poetry, picture books, novels and verse novels. You might know some of her books from the photo below.

 

Kathryn starts our interview series, so we asked Joseph to give her an interview question. (Joseph is 12, and is one of our Top Reads team members. He has reviewed Kathryn’s verse novels for Alphabet Soup.)

Q. I really enjoyed Bully on the Bus and On Track, both verse novels. But you’ve written other books, too. Why did you decide to write those two books as verse novels?

A. Verse novels very often deal with issues that have a lot of heart. They have humour and laughter too, but I think the raw emotions are key. I really wanted to try writing a verse novel, and chose a topic that would interest sporty kids. My first attempt was a verse novel about training, with threads of sibling rivalry and self-doubt. But I didn’t get far before I panicked. In fact, I’d only written 139 words! (I think I was feeling that self-doubt!)

Bully on the busI put it away to think about (or forget about) and went back to polishing a manuscript about bullying. It was a chapter book I’d written for younger readers. But then I had feedback from a critique-buddy, and realised the chapter book I was writing was really the verse novel I wanted to write. I sat down straight away, and started working Bully on the Bus into a verse novel. At first, I thought I’d flick between verse and prose (poetry and paragraphs) … but once I started, the prose sounded clunky and heavy, whereas the verse was lighter and so much better. It all needed to be written in verse.

Bully on the Bus was accepted … and published … and I was still writing that verse novel about training; On Track. I thought it was going to tell Toby’s story. I didn’t realise that his older brother Shaun also had a story to tell. Being a verse novel made it easier to feel the emotions from both sides — and to switch between the two brothers.

On track (cover)My heart soars when I’m writing verse novels. Maybe because I’m writing about topics that are important? That can make a difference in someone’s life? Or maybe because they’re just so very beautiful to write … and read. Though I do often get teary when writing them … and reading them — even my own. It’s also fun to slip in short and snappy little jokes, and the verse novel format enables that.

Writing a novel — without the verse — scares me. It seems so enormous! But writing a verse novel, I can write short, complete pieces, individual poems that slowly, carefully, bit by bit, build to tell the story.

I remember when you reviewed Bully on the Bus, Joseph, you said you would like to read more verse novels and maybe write one, too. I’m wondering how you’ve got on with that. Don’t worry if you haven’t written much yet — ideas grow once you’ve made the start.


Steve goes to carnivalAnd now Kathryn can pass the book baton to our next visitor. (Actually two visitors at once — Joshua Button and Robyn Wells who are the author-illustrators behind Steve Goes to Carnival.)

My question for Joshua Button & Robyn Wells:   I read that you collaborate for hours over the kitchen table. Can you describe your process — and how you came to form this wonderful working partnership?


Visit Kathryn Apel’s website: https://katswhiskers.wordpress.com/ to find out more about her and her books. (You can also read Joseph’s reviews of her verse novels Bully on the Bus and On Track here on Alphabet Soup.)

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Posted in book launch

Book launches: August 2015 VIC and WA

Two more book launches — if you live in Victoria or WA, mark these dates on your calendar!


 

VICTORIA

Come along to the launch of Bob the Railway Dog by Corinne Fenton and illustrated by Andrew McLean. This picture book tells a heart-warming true Australian story. This is a well-known legend in SA and a statue of Bob can be seen in the Adelaide Station.

Bob the railway dog (cover)

When: 11am, Saturday 1 August 2015

Where: The Railfan Shop, 4 Churchill St, Mont Albert, VIC (opp. Mont Albert Railway Station)

RSVP: by 29 July 2015 to corinneking[at]bigpond.com


 

WA

Sister heart (cover)

Come along to the launch of Sally Morgan’s new book Sister Heart, to be launched by Ambelin Kwaymullina. Sister Heart is a verse novel aimed at 10 to 15 year olds.

‘ [a] personal and approachable conversation-starter about the Stolen Generations for mature young readers.’
— Bookseller + Publisher.

When: 6pm, Wednesday 6 August 2015

Where: New Edition Bookshop, 41 High St, Fremantle WA (cnr Henry St)

RSVP: Entry is free but places are limited and must be reserved in advance by contacting admin[at]fremantlepress.com.au or 9430 6331. Only those who RSVP will be allowed entry on the night.

New Edition has pledged to donate a percentage of all books sold at the launch of Sister Heart to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.


 

Why go to a book launch? Here are ten reasons why you should!

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

Book review: On Track

On Track by Kathryn Apel, University of Queensland Press, ISBN 9780702253737

On track (cover)

REVIEWED BY JOSEPH, 11, WA

Joseph received a review copy of this book.

This book is about two brothers (Shaun and Toby) and they couldn’t be less alike. One of them always gets As (Shaun) and the younger one is mostly a C person. When Toby goes to see an OT, he figures out he has a condition with his body. He starts training as a runner which he thought he couldn’t ever be good at but he wants to win an 800m race.

When I saw the cover of this book and that the author was Kathryn Apel I thought I would enjoy it because I liked her verse novel Bully on the Bus. It’s similar to Bully on the Bus because it’s also a verse novel but it’s not the versiest of the two books. Like Bully it’s also about two siblings and they also have to deal with a problem. On Track is for slightly older kids because of the length of the book — it’s longer — and because the characters in the book are older (Toby is 11).

Eleven and twelve-year-olds will like this book, especially athletic readers and fans of verse novels.

Warning: this book may contain traces of nuts. 🙂

Joseph is one of our regular book reviewers. His most recent review (if you don’t count this one) was of The Simple Things. If YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

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

Book review: Toppling

Toppling by Sally Murphy, ill. Rhian Nest James, Walker Books Australia, ISBN 9781921529429

Toppling (cover)

REVIEWED BY CELINE, 12, WA

Celine reviewed her own copy of this book.

I attended a Literature Centre session last term where Sally Murphy was teaching us how to write poetry. She showed us some of her books she had written, and this was one of them, so when they announced that they were selling some of Sally’s books, I jumped at the chance to buy my very own copy of Toppling.

John loves to play with dominoes; they are his passion. He plays with them in his spare time, and when his mother is not looking. Coincidentally, his best friend’s name is Dominic, which sounds a lot like domino. Dominic and John and have a group of friends, which consist of Joseph, Christian and Tran. They hang out together at school all the time, so when Dominic is suddenly sick, John, Joseph, Christian and Tran become very worried. Dominic has to go to hospital, and John and his friends have not seen him for quite a while. They hope he won’t pass away. Will John, Joseph, Christian and Tran ever see Dominic again?

This was a unique book, where the whole story was in verse. It is not rhyming poetry, but it was very entertaining, telling the story of a group of friends, and how they coped with their friend’s absence. I absolutely adored this book, and I felt so sorry for John, Dominic and their friends. I really hoped Dominic would get better soon.

I would rate this book 105%, and it is recommended to a very wide audience, especially people who have had a sick friend or family member.

Celine is one of our regular book reviewers. Her most recent review (if you don’t count this one) was of  Pharaoh, the boy who conquered the Nile. 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: Pearl Verses the World

Pearl Verses the World by Sally Murphy, ill. Heather Potter, Walker Books Australia, ISBN 9781921150937

"Pearl Verses the World"

REVIEWED BY MATILDA, 8, WA

Matilda reviewed her own copy of this book.

I saw this on the bookshelves at our house — I’ve met the author and I also really like Roses are Blue and The Floatingest Frog by Sally Murphy, so I read the first few pages of this book and I didn’t stop.

This book is about three people: Pearl, her mother and her grandmother. And that’s how it’s always been. But suddenly Pearl’s life changes. Her grandmother is ill and her mother is thinking they will have to send her grandmother to a nursing home.

This is a sad book. I liked the characters Mitchell Mason and Prudence Jones because they were very interesting people. Pearl Verses the World is a verse novel and I liked it even more than Roses Are Blue, which is also a verse novel.

I would recommend this book to kids 7+ because it’s about school and it might be too sad for younger kids.

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

Posted in poetry, Soup Blog Poetry Festival

Kathryn Apel and her verse novel

bully on the bus
Bully on the Bus — a verse novel.

Today we have Kathryn Apel visiting us as part of the Alphabet Soup Poetry Festival. Kathryn writes fabulous poetry for kids. Some of you might remember Kathryn’s poems in Alphabet Soup (back when it was a print magazine) and her latest work is a brand new verse novel called Bully on the Bus. (You can read a review of Bully on the Bus in a previous blogpost — thanks to Souper reviewer Joseph, 10.)

We asked Kathryn if we could bombard her with questions about verse novels. (Luckily — she said yes!)

kat apel
Kathryn Apel dressed for the book launch.

AS: What IS a verse novel exactly?

KA: A verse novel is a story that is told in verse, either as a collection of individual poems that build to tell a story — or longer poems that stand as chapters in a larger story. Verse novels may be told in rhyme, or free verse.

AS: Can a verse novel rhyme?

KA: Oops. I answered that before I got to this question. I think, traditionally, verse novels did rhyme. But now there are lots that don’t. Mine don’t rhyme — but there are rhymes that sneak in, in places. I used to write lots of rhyming picture books, but I love that my verse novels don’t rhyme — so I can play with the words more … which includes rhyming play sometimes.
AS: What gave you the idea for Bully on the Bus?

KA: The idea came from an experience my boys had on their school bus … but as I was writing, I was  reminded me of my journey on the school bus as a child — with bullies. And suddenly I had more than enough ideas for Leroy’s story!

AS: Why did you choose to write it as a verse novel? (Why not a prose novel?)

KA: In fact, I did first write it as a prose novel — a chapter book for early readers. It was the Book Chook (Susan Stephenson) who helped me see that it really was a verse novel. Rewriting it as a verse novel was one of the most rewarding things I have done. I knew that this was the right format for Leroy’s story, because the words sang on the page.

AS: You write lots of poetry too. What’s different about writing a verse novel and writing a poem? 

KA: Great question. You’re really making me think with this …

A poem often captures a moment in time — or an event. A verse novel creates a bigger picture, and you become really involved with the characters — feel their emotions with them, and know how they’re going to respond. I think it’s the fact that the poems are a part of a whole that give them their strength … And because there are different emotions and experiences (and sometimes even different narrators — although not in Bully on the Bus, which is told through Leroy’s eyes) you can also explore different forms of poetry — different rhythms — throughout the book. Of course, because each poem is just one of many, the devices you employ as a writer in each particular poem are also dictated by the surrounding poems. Something that might be effective in a stand-alone poem may have already been used within the verse novel. So you have to  evaluate if it will still be effective if you do the same thing again — or if there’s another, better way of presenting it.

AS: Can you recommend other verse novels for primary school aged kids?

KA: This is one of the easiest questions I’ve ever had to answer! Australia has produced lots of beautiful verse novelists — and verse novels. It’s wonderful that publishers are producing them, and kids are reading them! The following verse novels are great reads for Primary students — although older readers (and adults) will also enjoy them. (That’s perhaps the best thing about verse novels. They’re so versatile!)

  • Sixth Grade Style Queen NOT! by Sheryl Clark
  • Ratswhiskers and Me, and Starjumps by Lorraine Marwood
  • Pearl Verses the World, and Toppling, and Roses are Blue by Sally Murphy
  • The Spangled Drongo, and Pookie Aleerah Is Not My Boyfriend by Stephen Herrick

AS: Where can we find your poems?

KA: Most of my poems have been published in magazines — so they’re not available online. But it’s something I’ve been meaning to fix, so in honour of this post, today I’m launching a page with poems for kids on my blog. You’ll find it at http://katswhiskers.wordpress.com/poetry-for-kids . Skip across to check it out sometime.

AS: Is there anything else we should know about Kathryn Apel?
KA: Every January I co-ordinate Month of Poetry, a family-friendly event that Alphabet Soup readers can participate in. The challenge is to write a poem a day for the month of January — but even if you only write a couple of poems, that’s still better writing none. 🙂 You can read more about the challenge on the Month of Poetry site — but be sure to get your parents permission and help to sign up.
Interview with Kathryn Apel © October 2014 Kathryn Apel & Rebecca Newman
http://alphabetsoup.net.au