A Book For All Children

What an amazing experience it has been to see our new picture book, Reena’s Rainbow released to both deaf and hearing communities.

Reena’s Rainbow tells the story of a deaf girl and a homeless dog and how they bridge the gap between the deaf and hearing worlds.

One of the most amazing things about our Reena’s Rainbow events has been being able to include both deaf and hearing children.

This was made possible thanks to a grant from Regional Arts Victoria that funded our fabulous Auslan Interpreters Meg, Pauline and Bec.

It meant that deaf children could feel included and valued, and be introduced to a story in which they could see themselves represented.

It meant that hearing children could experience communicating in Auslan, and it allowed them to walk in the shoes of deaf children.

We were truly fortunate to be able to also be able to have both deaf and hearing children at our workshops where they could learn about how books are created.

There were interpreters.

Our Auslan Interpreter, Meg, our fabulous launcher Mitch Vane, me and Tracie at Dromkeen.

Tracie, me and Bec our Auslan Interpreter

Auslan Interpreter, Pauline, interpreting how to create Rainbow Stories

There were lots of eager young readers.

There were supportive bookshops and galleries including Dromkeen, Squishy Minnie and Collins Bookstores.

And there was cake. And books of course.Thanks to everyone who has supported Reena’s Rainbow and its launch into the deaf and hearing worlds. Special thanks to my fabulous partner-in-picture books, Tracie Grimwood who created all the fabulous illustrations and did so much more.

Happy writing, illustrating and creating 🙂

Dee

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Tarin of the Mammoths – Jo Sandhu’s 5 Step Approach to Story Development

Jo Sandhu is an amazing writer who was very supportive of me in the early stages of my career, which is why I’m so pleased that her beautifully written Tarin of the Mammoths series (Book 2 due out next month) is doing so well.

In today’s post, Jo generously shares her Five Step Approach to Story Development … and I review her beautiful book, Tarin of the Mammoths – Book 1.

ABOUT JO

Jo grew up in the Tweed Valley in northern NSW, close to the beach… and she’s still there. She’s married to Sarj, and has two boys, Chris, 21 and Alex, 19.

Jo has been writing on and off for over 15 years and her short stories have been highly commended in numerous competitions. Tarin of the Mammoths: The Exile is my first published novel.

JO SANDHU’S FIVE STEP APPROACH TO STORY DEVELOPMENT

I’ve always loved a Quest story and I’ve always been fascinated by history, so it was probably inevitable that I would one day write an historical adventure story. It only took me ten years! Of course, my first draft was very different to the story that was finally published, and these are some of the steps I took to develop a trilogy from my initial idea.

Step One:

First, I started with an idea and a protagonist.

A boy travels to a mountain with an Offering from his clan.

Simple and straight forward. Then I played with that idea – I asked questions and posed problems.

Who is Tarin? Why is he going to the Mountain? Why him? What happens if he fails? Does that make him still a hero? Does anyone want to read a story about a boy who failed?

From these questions came the picture of Tarin as a member of a Clan or Tribe. I hadn’t set the exact time period yet because I was still playing with ideas around his character. He was going to be the weakest member of the Clan, because I like the idea of the Unlikely Hero. And there would be wolves and river rapids and danger, but somehow, he would ‘save’ his clan. Obviously, still lots of plot holes at this stage of development.

Step Two: Refine the details.

My next step was to make some decisions about Tarin’s world, because that would determine the nature of his Quest.

Where is this happening, and most importantly, when?

Two elements came together here.

Firstly, I had always loved Jean Auel’s Earth’s Children series and wanted to share it with my children, but they were too young for such an adult book. Secondly, I already knew a lot about the Paleolithic Era from my own non-fiction reading. The two combined to give me my time in history – a time about 30 000 years ago, when the last of the Neanderthals were disappearing and mammoths and bison still roamed the tundra in large numbers.

I then had to decide about place. I had spent a year in Finnish Lapland as an Exchange Student and still remembered the forests and deep winter. This would be my landscape.

As my picture of Tarin and his world grew, so did my plot. I have to plot a story before I begin writing, otherwise I get a bit tangled up and lose focus. I think a good plot outline is like a map – I might wander off course sometimes, and even find a trail that is better than my original plan, but if I don’t have that initial map to keep me focussed on my destination, I could end up anywhere!

At this stage I had Tarin reaching the mountain, rescuing the wolf pups, returning home and being hailed a hero. The End.

Step Three: Research – my favourite part.

I love research so much I tend to get lost in it. I wanted an authentic world, so I read widely on archaeological digs, scientific discoveries, customs of ancient civilisations, flora and fauna, survival skills, herbal medicine, hunting skills, and so on, and my historical details are as authentic as possible after 30 000 years.

Step Four: Write the story. Follow the map, but be willing to explore.

Step Five: Editing and layering.

Possibly my favourite bit after researching. This is where I take my raw story and shape it into something completely different. I take out extraneous words, adjust pace, swap chapters around, change characters names, delete whole passages in disgust – all the while using my research to add authenticity and richness to the world I’ve created.

I like adding extra layers to the story and I do this by dropping in small facts such as wolverine fur doesn’t allow ice to form, reindeer fur keeps the wearer warm and dry, and sedge grass can be stuffed in boots as insulation. I use Finnish words such as Kaamos for the long, dark winter when the sun doesn’t rise, and beaska is a Saami (traditional Lappish) word for coat. The herbs Tarin uses are all Scandinavian herbs and used authentically, although I created mustika, the plant that brings on trances or death, from the Finnish words for black and plant.

It’s like adding to a skeleton – muscle, flesh, then skin and finally, clothes. I find this is when the story really starts to sing.

I’ve really enjoyed writing Tarin’s story. Book Two, Clan of Wolves is out in October this year, followed by Book Three, Cave Bear Mountain next March.

You can find me at www.josandhu.com

Thanks Jo for taking us through your fascinating story development process and sharing your tips.

DEE’S REVIEW OF TARIN OF THE MAMMOTHS – The Exile

Tarin of the Mammoths – the Exile is a seamless work of historical fiction that immerses the reader so deeply in Tarin’s world that you feel like you are part of the story, sitting in the deer hide tent, or rubbing firestones together to try and get warm.

You can smell the broth being stirred with the bleached bone, and you can picture Tarin limping along, determined but frightened.

With extroardinary setting detail, author Jo Sandhu has captured the world of the Mammoth Clan completely.

Then there’s the main character, Tarin. Tarin is so believable, vulnerable and brave that he stays with you long after this story is over.

Tarin longs to be a hunter, but his twisted leg means he is feared and bullied. After a disastrous mishap, Tarin is forced to leave his family and travel alone across wild, unknown land to save the Mammoth Clan to which he belongs.

Tarin’s disgrace is even harder to bear because his parents are the leaders of the Clan.

He has so much to lose, his family, his honour and his life.

Readers looking for adventure, great characters and tension will love Tarin of the Mammoths – The Exile, and after reading the last page will be eager to know what happens next.

And you’re in luck, because the sequel, Clan of Wolves is due for release early next month.

Thanks Jo for visiting DeeScribe Writing, and sharing your writing secrets.

Dee

Nurture Your Creative Dreams

When I was seven years-old I decided to become a writer.

I had written a poem for arbor day (tree planting day) that I was asked to read at school assembly.

Little oak tree by the mill
standing there so quiet and still
stretch your branches up to the sky
up to the birds flying by.

And when the wind oh how it blows
It blows the leaves down to my toes
With little acorns yellow and brown
“Folks gather them all over town.

Oak tree I like you when you’re small
and I like you when you’re tall
But I like it best of all
When the coloured leaves fall from the trees
Look at the things that the butterfly sees.

Not a literary masterpiece and that last stanza is pretty random I know, but I was only seven 🙂

Reading my poem out at assembly and seeing how people reacted to it was amazing, I think it was the first time I realised the power of written words, that what we write can have an impact on people.

Of course I didn’t realise at that time what being a writer actually meant. All I knew was that I loved to write.

English and writing were the only subjects where I shone,  but there was nobody at high school to advise me  how you become a writer.

So I wrote. I thought that seemed the best way to follow my passion. Then I went to Vic Uni and did their Professional Writing and Editing Diploma, and I wrote some more. I wrote because it’s who I am … a writer.

I battled self doubt often … and the judgements of friends and family who didn’t think that writing was a ‘proper job’.

And after a while I started to see things their way. What other profession would you face constant rejection … constant letters/emails from people saying that your work was not what they wanted? What other profession would you devote hundreds of hours to a project with no guarantee of any financial reward?

I took a job in insurance because it enabled me to eat, but still I wrote. It was a compulsion with me. It was who I was … a writer.

Eventually I went from insurance to marketing to advertising to copywriting … and finally I was a writer.

From there, it was a short step to being an author … or so I thought.

But getting a novel published isn’t easy. You have to find someone that loves your book, loves the story idea and the writing so much that they are willing to publish it.

So began the long road of rejections.

As the years went by, the rejection letters got better … if you can use such a word for rejection. I started receiving letters that weren’t the standard rejection. Editors and agents began to offer feedback on my work … offered suggestions on how to make it more ‘publication ready’, and I embraced all their suggestions.

But still I wasn’t published. And I have to say I became more desperate. I submitted to publishers I might not normally have sent work to. If I’d had the money I think I would have been open to all kinds of publishers offering to publish my work for a ‘not so small’ fee.

The reason I’m sharing this is because writing is hard. No matter how patient we are, how hard we work, sometimes it feels like it’s never going to happen.

My new book out this year with Scholastic Australia

But if you have talent and dedication and lots of ideas i firmly believe that you will find someone who will love and believe in your work as much as you do.

So take heart, don’t give up, but don’t sell yourself short either. Don’t fall victim to scammers and companies seeking to make a lot of money from your desire to be published.

Have faith in yourself and wait for the right opportunity, wait for the publisher who wants to pay to publish your work rather than the company who wants you to pay hundreds or thousands to see your work in print,

Out 1st September with EK books. Loved working with illustrator Tracie Grimwood on this one 🙂

Be patient (although I know how hard that can be). Keep writing, take courses and get better at your craft.

Anyone who values your writing as much as you do will be prepared to pay for it.

Feed and nurture your creative dreams until they bear fruit.

Good luck, keep going and happy writing 🙂

Dee

Here’s a link to a page I’ve set up about some of the traps you can face as an author: https://deescribewriting.wordpress.com/authors-beware/

 

    

 

 

In the Dark Spaces

I’m lucky to have known the elusive Cally Black for many years now, and was aware of her incredible talent long before she was discovered by the Ampersand judges, and awarded the 2015 Prize.

That’s why I’m so excited that readers will now have the opportunity to read her amazing work and discover her quirky,i maginative and insightful stories

I have seen Cally’s YA novel In The Dark Spaces transformed from a great piece of writing to an even greater book.

I can’t even begin to imagine where she gets her ideas from. They are so unique and compelling and amazing. You really have to read her books to understand what I mean.

But you couldn’t find a more hardworking, more deserving  or humble author than Cally, always willing to share her knowledge and craft with others.

Today she is sharing  FIVE fabulous tips on how she wrote her prize winning novel, In The Dark Spaces. Did I say already … you should read it? 🙂

The latest winner of the Ampersand Prize is a genre-smashing hostage drama about 14-year-old Tamara, who’s faced with an impossible choice when she falls for her kidnappers.

Yet this is no ordinary kidnapping. Tamara has been living on a star freighter in deep space, and her kidnappers are terrifying Crowpeople – the only aliens humanity has ever encountered. No-one has ever survived a Crowpeople attack, until now – and Tamara must use everything she has just to stay alive.

But survival always comes at a price, and there’s no handbook for this hostage crisis. As Tamara comes to know the Crowpeople’s way of life, and the threats they face from humanity’s exploration into deep space, she realises she has an impossible choice to make.

Should she stay as the only human among the Crows, knowing she’ll never see her family again … or inevitably betray her new community if she wants to escape?

This ground-breaking thriller is the latest young-adult novel to win the Ampersand Prize, a stand-out entry with a blindingly original voice: raw, strange and deeply sympathetic. With its vivid and immersive world-building, this electrifying debut is The Knife of Never Letting Go meets Homeland, for the next generation of sci-fi readers.

Over to you, Cally.

CALLY’S TOP FIVE TIPS

Tip 1 – Experiment
Don’t be afraid to try something different. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Don’t be afraid to write it out. Write your way into the story. Write it in a new direction if you get bogged down. And write it over and over, until it becomes what you want it to be. I wrote In The Dark Spaces to experiment with some ideas and styles. I wanted to combine values often associated with different genres into one book. I wanted to see if I could do it.

Tip 2 – Write What You Want To Read
I think you have to trust that you as a reader have common interests with other readers and just write what entertains you. If you are writing to entertain yourself, you’re not going to be bored or held back by the expectations of others. Who knows if anyone will ever see your work, especially if you set out just to try some things, like I did. Of course you’ll have a general idea what age group you are writing for, but write for you at that age. Write for the fun and joy of telling yourself the story. I think that definitely shows through in the prose, the plotting and the themes.

Tip 3 – Be Open to Change
I’d written and rewritten In The Dark Spaces to tell myself the story, but once it won The Ampersand Prize and editing was underway, it was clear that it needed a major overhaul. Originally, it was relentlessly harsh, and all action, all the time. The poor reader was in danger of dropping the story from sheer exhaustion. There wasn’t enough hope or light to keep the reader caring and believing. I was pretty much bruising the soul of any reader brave enough to keep reading. That’s no way to reward them for their reading efforts! So it was great to have sweet loving editors offer me suggestions to go away and run with. A new character to the story brought new motivations for my main character, and introduced the balance needed. There were a few major edits required and then a lot of smaller edits. It was a lot of back and forth, changing one thing, following the implications, changing something else, to see if it worked, and I’m in the habit of throwing out scenes and writing them over from scratch because I like flow. In The Dark Spaces may be a short novel but there are two more novels worth in its trash file! Even if the editorial suggestions weren’t quite in line with my ideas, they always revealed a problem, and working on a change always improved the manuscript.

Tip 4 – It Takes Time to be Intensive
Often when you’re writing a whole novel, especially one with many action scenes, there is an urge to rush, move, keep it hopping, but if something important happens, if something terrible happens, then if you don’t linger and evaluate that thing from your character’s perspective, feel all the feels, it’s as if it’s had no impact on them at all. It should affect them deeply, it should shock them, then linger and niggle at them if you want it to be real, and that requires you to slow down and find the pain or the love or whatever has impacted your character.

Tip 5 – If You Make Characters That Are Smarter Than You – How Will You Keep Them Under Control?
I know… what writer in their right mind would make a character smarter than themselves? I did. I made Tootoopne, and I never knew what she was up to. She always had a plan. She schemed. She pulled surprises. She dangled my protagonist on a string. She had a completely non-human logic, further compounding my problem of understanding her. She almost killed the manuscript, just because I could not get her to behave. I think though, that maybe, I’d write her into being all over again, because characters like that are special.

Tootoopne is special … and so is Cally’s book. Thanks for sharing your journey and your great tips, Cally 🙂

Dee

 

Dogs, cake and books … what more could you want?

I’m fortunate to live in a great community where authors and other artists are supported.

Today I met with my local bookshop and librarian to talk books … and launches. More specifically, the launch of my new book, K9 Heroes.

I can’t remember which of us (although it could have been Woody from New Leaves bookshop) came up with the suggestion some months ago that the launch just wouldn’t be the same without dogs.

And so it is, that I’ll be launching my book at the Woodend Library on 26th August at 4.30 pm and DOGS ARE INVITED.

There will be a competition on the day for:

  • Dog with the biggest smile
  • Dog with the smartest trick
  • Dog most like its owner

Requests have already been made to bring alpacas and cats, but I’m sorry, this is a day for dogs 🙂

If you’d like to be part of the fun, you can find the details here.

You’re welcome to bring your family, your pooch, or someone else’s pooch (with their permission of course). You can also come sans dog if you wish.

Online competition.

For your chance to win a signed copy of the book, and treats for your K9, tell us in 25 words or less why your dog is a hero. You must be present at the launch to collect your prize.

You can enter here.

Doggy Delights

Book trailer

If you want to know more about the book, here’s the book trailer.

I hope to see you at the launch. Oh … and did I mention there will be cookies and cake too? We’re going to have a barking good time 🙂

Dee

 

 

 

Critiquing Tips – How to Start and Run Your Critique Group

Nicky A contacted me recently asking for tips about how to set up and run a critique group.
Thanks, Nicky.  Really happy to blog about this because critique groups are amazing. Mine have been so helpful to me in developing my craft. I love my critique groups. Shout out to The Secret Scribblers, The Snorkers and The Killer Rabbits.
A critique group should be a nurturing, secure and inspiring environment so here are my tips on how you can achieve this.

My Australian critique groups helped me get this book to publication.

My Tips on Running a Group

  1. Don’t have too many people. I personally think up to about four works best, although one of my groups is larger. Think about this. If there are ten people in the group and each one has a piece to critique, that’s a lot of time you spend reading other people’s work and not writing. Smaller groups can be more flexible because there are fewer people to please in terms of meeting times etc. Also, too much advice from too many people can get very confusing. Don’t be afraid to split a large group into smaller ones.
  2. If you’re looking for members to start a group … be specific about what you are looking for in terms of experience, genre, and commitment to their writing. You want sharers in your group. People who will share publishing opportunities they hear about, and who will be there for you during the highs and lows of your writing career.
  3. Generally, it’s helpful if your critique group comprises people of similar levels of experience. Otherwise, the more experienced writers become more like mentors/teachers and will eventually leave because they are not getting the feedback they want on their own work. The least experienced writers can become overwhelmed and daunted by the experienced writers. However, some groups of mixed experience work really well. It depends on the people and their commitment. And a critique group can be a great learning environment for everyone.
  4. You don’t all have to be writing the same genre (sometimes it helps to have fresh eyes look at your work), but it’s good to have at least one other person in the group writing the same genre as you. That way you have someone who can give you feedback on whether you have met the conventions of your genre. The main thing is that all members have the same level of enthusiasm and commitment to the group.
  5. Set guidelines for your group. For example, you might take it in turns with giving people the opportunity to submit their work to the group. That way nobody monopolises the critique time, and nobody is left out.
  6. Critiquing works best if the person asking for the critique knows what they are looking for and can be specific in the sort of feedback they are looking for. For example, “I’m not sure if my main character is believable’ or “Is my ending too predictable.” Thinking about the kind of feedback you are looking for, makes you think deeper about your work. It also means that nobody’s time is wasted on giving or receiving unnecessary feedback. For example, if this is your first draft and you just want to know if people can engage with your main character, then having people read your work for typos or setting description can waste everybody’s time.
  7. You can belong to more than one critique group. Different writers bring different things to the table.
  8. If you’re writing for an international market it can help to be in an international critique group.
  9. Establish at the start the times and methods of running the group. For example, one of my groups meets every fortnight. Another of my groups does most of our work online and we only meet about four times a year in person. It doesn’t matter if you never meet. With Skype, emails and other electronic means, it’s possible to do critiquing at a time and in a way that suits everyone’s lifestyle.
  10. Critique groups need to be flexible. For example, you might decide to meet once a month. But what if one of your members has just received a FULL manuscript request from an agent? You may want to call an impromptu meeting to celebrate this, show support and perhaps critique aspects of the manuscript before it goes to the agent.

Everyone has different reasons for wanting their work critiqued. As I mentioned before, if you are specific with the aspects you want the group to look at, you will receive higher quality feedback.

Above all … have fun! Your group can have outings, retreats, get togethers … whatever it takes to help and inspire each other.

My U.S. critique group helped me get this book to publication.

WORKSHOPPING AND CRITIQUING TIPS

  1. Be positive.
  2. Be constructive.
  3. Sandwich a negative in between two positives.
  4. If you see a problem try to suggest a solution – don’t just say, “I didn’t like this.”
  5. Don’t talk while your critiquer is having their say – if they didn’t ‘get’ what you are trying to say, you might need to get your message across more clearly and they might be giving you tips on how to do this.
  6. Constructive feedback is critical to becoming a better writer.

OPENING

  • Does it hook you in?
  • Does it make you want to keep reading?
  • Does it give indications of what is to come?

PLOT/STRUCTURE

  • Is plot believable?
  • Was there a clear conflict/focus?
  • Did story follow plot arc/structure?
  • Did story start at right place?
  • Were there any scenes, paragraphs, characters etc that didn’t need to be there?

SETTING

  • Could you picture it?
  • Too much/too little detail?
  • Did places seem real?
  • Was setting consistent?

CHARACTER

  • Were character’s believable?
  • Did characters have depth?
  • Could reader relate to/feel empathy with characters?
  • Were character’s motives and conflicts clear?
  • Did characters change and grow as story progressed?
  • Was there enough contrast to differentiate characters?

DIALOGUE

  • Did dialogue seem authentic?
  • Did dialogue have purpose in the story – eg, show character or move plot along?
  • Were there too many dialogue tags?

ENDING

  • Was the ending believable and satisfying (had the loose ends been tied up)?

POINT OF VIEW

  • Did it work?
  • Was it consistent?
  • Was tense consistent?
Some other information
If you’re looking for a writing/critque buddy, you may find one here.
Below are some links to articles on my blog that might help you in the editing/workshopping process. You can find other articles if you search for ‘editing’ on my blog.

https://deescribewriting.wordpress.com/2012/02/14/tuesday-writing-tips-fixing-the-holes/

Nicky, I hope you and your group find this helpful. Please let me know if you have questions or there’s anything else you need to know.

If you’re in a critique group and you have tips or experiences to share, feel free to include them in the comments section at the bottom of this post.

Happy writing 🙂

Dee

Sunday for Children’s Writers at the Sunshine Coast International Readers and Writer’s Festival

If you’re coming to the Sunshine Coast International Readers and Writer’s Festival, make sure you pop in and say, “Hi”.

I’ll be talking about writing for the international market, and the delightful Dimity Powell will be launching my new books, Reena’s Rainbow and K9 Heroes.

The festival has a great line up of speakers, launches and presentations – Sunday is especially for those who write children’s and YA books.

Bookings can be made through festival website.

Hope to see you there.

Dee