All of Us Together – With Bill Condon

disphotoofbillyToday we are pleased to welcome the amazingly talented Bill Condon to DeeScribe Writing. Bill is celebrating his new book, All of Us Together and he has some great writing tips, and at the end of the post we’ll also talk about the book itself.

On four occasions Bill Condon’s novels have been shortlisted for the Children’s Book Council Book of the Year Awards. In 2010 he won the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Young Adult Fiction. (Since then he hasn’t been able to find a hat big enough to fit him.) He lives on the south coast of NSW with his wife Di (Dianne) Bates.

All of Us Together

All of us Together is a junior fiction novel set in Australia’s Great Depression of the 1930s.

all-of-us-together-front-coverWhen John O’Casey leaves his family to go in search of work, his wife Margaret is left to raise their three young children, Daniel, Adelaide, and Lydia. Daniel, being the eldest, tries to take on the role of being a leader, but as he discovers, it’s hard to be a man, especially for a boy who’s only twelve-years old.

Although the events within these pages take place many years ago, it is not primarily an historical novel, but one that examines the lives of the same kind of down-to-earth people, who live and breathe today. This is about a family who remain hopeful and resilient, as they stand together through the hardest of times.

All of us Together is an uplifting story, told with poignancy and humour.

Bill’s Writing Tips

In 2015 I spent several months working on All Of Us Together, but I wasn’t happy with what I had, so I gave up, which is one of my many bad habits. At the start of this year I decided to change the story to first person, and when I did that I felt it worked much better, and so I kept on going. – Tip 1 – If your stories not working as well as you’d like, don’t be afraid to try a different approach.

unknownI think first person enabled me (and hopefully the readers) to get closer to the action, and made the story more immediate and real.

The main character in the book is twelve-year-old Daniel. When his dad goes off in search of work, Daniel takes it on himself to bring some money into the home as best he can. Needless to say, all does not go smoothly. But the family sticks together and stays strong.

Daniel and his family are loosely based on my own family. He has two sisters, just like me, and he has loving, working class parents, just like I had. Once I’d recognised the similarities between Daniel and myself, the writing became easier. Tip 2 – Draw on your own experiences and the things you can relate to.

When I was young my parents sometimes told me of their experiences during the 30s. They didn’t tell me much – or perhaps I wasn’t listening very carefully – but it was enough to get me thinking about setting a story during the Depression.

One of the problems writers face is in finding a plot. This is particularly so in my case. I always struggle. Fortunately, this book came with a plot already built-in – the Great Depression of the 1930s. All drama needs obstacles for the characters to overcome. What better obstacle than a period in our history that impacted on the lives of so many Australians? Tip 3 – Historical stories can come with a readymade plot.

unknown-1As with nearly everything I write, All Of Us Together has bits and pieces from my own life scattered through it. Some of the mischief I got up to as a child could fit into any era, so I didn’t find it at all daunting to write a book set so long ago. I also wasn’t perturbed that I was writing what many might perceive as a book about history. It was never that to me. Daniel and his family were just ordinary people – the kind who might be your neighbours today – doing their best to survive in a very tough time.

Because I’m not a history buff, and I doubt my readers will be either, I’ve kept the historical facts to a minimum. My research was confined to Google searches. There is lots of information, and photos about the Depression on-line. I saw one photo that gave me an idea for the story. It’s a picture of three or four boys, each aged around 13 or 14. They were living in a tent in the bush and shooting rabbits to get some money for their families. In my story there are two brothers who are out in the great beyond somewhere, living rough to try to help their family. They are heroes to Daniel and he is always searching for them. When he at last finds one of them, it isn’t at all what he was expecting. Tip 4 – Don’t become lost in your research.

I’ve never been any good at plotting a book. I just find little bits and pieces as I go – like that photo – and I very clumsily and slowly stick them all together. And then, after a year or so of stumbling around in the dark, I make my way to those magical words, The End! Tip 5 – There’s not ‘right’ way to write a book … do what works for you.

ALL of US TOGETHER REVIEW

all-of-us-together-400hIn his latest book, All of Us Together, award winning author Bill Condon gets us right inside the head of main character, Daniel, right from the first page.

All of Us Together is set in the Great Depression of 1930 when families were being ripped about by poverty.

Unable to find work, Daniel’s beloved father has been forced to leave the family to seek employment further afield in the hope that he will soon have money to send home.

He leaves behind Daniel, his two sisters and his mother, trying to cope with his absence. Poverty forces Daniel into doing things he wouldn’t normally do and his strength and resolve are put to the test.

This realistic representation of a difficult time in history has clearly been well researched, and the characters are so real that the reader feels as if they are stepping back in time, straight into the lives of Daniel and his family.

Amidst the hardship though, there is love and hope and we see the characters grow and develop as they face the challenges that life throws at them.

The harsh realities of the Great Depression are depicted with sensitivity and authenticity, and All of Us Together is a book that would make a great family or classroom discussion piece.

All of Us Together is a compelling read for readers aged 8+.

Bill draws us into Daniel’s world with his great characterisation, and the universal themes of family, belonging, and bullying make All of Us Together very relevant for today’s readers.

All of Us Together is available from About Kids Books or from any children’s bookstore.

Bill will also be visiting the following great blogs on a tour to celebrate the release of All of Us Together:
18 November Clancy Tucker http://clancytucker.blogspot.com.au 
19 November Sally Odgers http://promotemeplease.blogspot.com.au 
20 November Sandy Fussell www.sandyfussell.com/blog
23 November Elaine Ousten http://elaineoustonauthor.com/
24 November Melissa Wray http://www.melissawray.blogspot.com.au
25 November Susan Whelan http://www.kids-bookreview.com
26 November Romi Sharp http://www.justkidslit.com

 

New Picture Book Treats From Abroad

here-comes-mr-postmouse-300-dpi_0Book Island, winner of the 2016 Bologna Prize for Best Children’s Publisher Oceania brings us two beautiful new picture books from abroad that would make wonderful Christmas gifts.

HERE COMES MR POSTMOUSE

Here Comes Mr Postmouse is the creation of award-winning author and illustrator, Marianna Dubac.

In this colourful book, readers follow Mr Postmouse on his daily rounds as he visits the home of Mr Bear, Senor Snake, Madam Dung Fly and many others.

But his last delivery for the day is the most important one of all.

imagesThe illustrations in Here Comes Mr Postmouse are quite extraordinary in their detail. Readers will love poring over them and seeing something new each time they visit a page.

latourdefactsouris_bookisland-1They will be fascinated by the variety of animals and entertained by the gentle humour. The text is simple but relevant, and carries the story forward.

Here Comes Mr Postmouse was a winner of the Kirkus Review Best Picture Books 2015.

FOX & GOLDFISH

unknown-2Fox & Goldfish is by Nils Pieters a creator from Flanders, and this is a story about a very special friendship.

Fox knows that his friend is unwell so before it’s too late, he takes Goldfish on an epic adventure beyond the fish bowl.

There is minimal text in this book, and the story is mostly told through stunning illustrations – each one an amazing work of art.

unknown-3I loved the simplicity of this book, but there’s such a powerful story told through the pictures which capture both the joy and sorrow of the narrative. The depth of colour and emotion in each picture leave a lasting impression in the reader’s mind.

It’s a reminder to all of us to live life to the full.

unknown-7Some things – like friendship, farewells, and the beauty of the world – are almost beyond words.

Fox & Goldfish is a great book to share with children who may have lost a pet.unknown-4

Smile Cry – A Beginner’s Book of Feelings

Smile Cry written by Tania McCartney and illustrated by Jess Racklyeft is a wonderful book to introduce  discussions about feelings.

smilecryfullcover-smallYoung children find that a cry can quickly turn into a smile and vice versa so it’s an ideal blend to have these two feelings showcased in the same book.

Our society often has a negative response to tears so it’s refreshing to see this emotion presented to children as a ‘normal and acceptable’ way to feel.

The way these emotions have been introduced allow the reader to empathise with others and learn that everyone has feelings.

Smile Cry presents the concept that we feel things for a reason.

The simple and powerful text and emotive illustrations make this book relatable and relevant for young children.

The gorgeous pictures represent feelings in a fun, non-threatening way – providing reassurance to young readers.

piglet bunny cat double picFeaturing a very cute pig, rabbit and cat, the emotions of the characters are simply yet strikingly depicted in the illustrations.

Smile Cry is a ‘flip about’ book, symbolic of how emotions and feelings can flip. ‘Smile’ starts from one end and ‘Cry’ from the other, and the feelings meet in the middle.

Smile Cry is an important book, introducing young readers to the complicated world of feelings in a compassionate and memorable way.

Published by EK Books, Smile Cry is currently available in Australia, the US, UK, New Zealand and Canada.

If you’re looking for the ideal Christmas present for the youngest readers in your life, this could be it.

Writing & Illustrating a Picture Book – With Tania McCartney

Today my very good author/illustrator friend, Tania McCartney is joining me on the virtual deck for a cup of tea and a chat about how to write and illustrate a picture book. At the end of this post, she’s also offering readers the chance to win some great prizes.

Check out Tania’s great writing and illustrating tips at the end of this post. image011

Tania, tell us about Australia Illustrated.

Australia Illustrated is the very first picture book I’ve both written and illustrated and it was an incredible learning experience. The process was unusual in that I had pretty much carte blanche (with a pre-approved outline from publisher, EK Books). You may already know that in publishing, this is highly unusual.

Having this freedom was a real gift. Having written, edited, laid out, designed, collected, studied, read and enjoyed picture books for two or three decades now, I had zero experience in the actual process required to combine my own writing with my own illustration. In fact, to give you an idea of up how-ended my process was, I did the book cover first!

With this lack of experience, it would have been almost impossible for me to take the ‘roughs, storyboards, mock-ups, colour-palettes, character studies’ route that most picture book illustrators undergo. I didn’t have the know-how or skill, and given that Australia Illustrated is 96 pages and I had scant idea of what I was going to include in the book, having to do all that would have been my undoing!

Thankfully, I muddled my way through, and the end result is something pretty unusual—and something I’m actually proud of.

DEE’S REVIEW OF AUSTRALIA ILLUSTRATED

If I could think of one word to describe Australia Illustrated … it’s joy.

T00a-cover-pastelhis book exudes joy on every page.

It’s clear that Tania enjoyed creating Australia Illustrated … and this book reflects her joy in being Australian.

Each page is full of vibrant, active illustrations that reflect well thought out and researched text.

Each state and territory of Australia is featured along with the food, flora, fauna, sport, customs people and places that make them unique … oh and did I mention food? There’s a lot of food in this book.

From the First People to washing lines and crocodiles, football and sunshine, koalas and akubras, skyscrapers and beaches that squeak, this 96-page picture book is a glorious tribute to this wide brown land and its rich and varied multicultural communities. Vibrantly illustrated with watercolour, ink and mono-printing, Australia: Illustrated not only celebrates the more ‘typical’ Australian flora, fauna and landmarks, it also showcases the everyday quirks and idiosyncrasies that make Australia unique: the many types of rain, Greek street food, Sydney ferries, cattle breeds, the plants of the Daintree. Even the quokka selfie epidemic is featured! 

One of the things readers will love most about this book is that it’s so relateable. For adults it will conjure up childhood memories, for young readers it will inspire them to create them.

Australia Illustrated is beautifully produced by EK Books. It comes in a hard cover and with 96 pages will provide hours of entertainment and joy for readers of all ages in the classroom and home.

TANIA’S WRITING & ILLUSTRATING TIPS
What I Learned During My Picture Book Muddle.

  1. I learned that the best way to illustrate a book is to have courage and not think about it too much. There were moments on this journey when I was filled with absolute terror over how my images would be perceived—in terms of skill, style, content.

au-diverse-kid-girl-japaneseI also began questioning how things were unfolding and if I was on the ‘right track’. Whenever this happened, I had to shut this thought down, otherwise, I probably would have given up. And how did I shut the thought down? I told myself what ALL creators should be telling themselves—that I’m creating this book for me first, others second.

Many creators will tell you that they write for the reader but we HAVE to write for ourselves first. If we don’t, we wouldn’t enjoy the process (sorry, but I don’t want to write about boy superheros who live on the moon, even though millions of kids might love that!). We have to write and draw what WE personally love—to give us creative satisfaction and to do our best work. Then, as a massive side-bonus, if kids or adults or monkeys fall into our stories or our images and have a wonderful time there—that is what makes it doubly worthwhile. In fact, they say that once a book is published, it ceases to be yours—it becomes the reader’s. So I say make it yours while you can, then let it go!

  1. I learned that a creative process should be an organic process, and that while having a plan or outline is important, allowing story and images to unfold has an intense magic in it. Good publishers know this. They know that stories can morph over time, and picture ideas can change and grow. The very best books come from trusting that organic process, and not stripping it of its essence with over-editing and over-thinking—or bowing down to what other people want or might expect.
    027-nsw-sydney-ferries
  1. I learned that illustrating books is an immense emotional, mental, physical and time investment (arguable even more so than writing one). You cannot be in this for the money. A hundred-thousand dollars probably wouldn’t cover the hours I put into Australia Illustrated, but the creative satisfaction and joy its creation brought me is priceless. It can’t be about money. If you make it about money, it will crush you with the fiscal unfairness of it all.
  1. I learned that children’s book illustrations really do need to be highly professional and beautiful. I mean, I knew that already, but I learned it all over again on a deeply personal level. I have only just rekindled my love for illustration these past few years. My skills were rusted over, and I’ve had to relearn so very much. During the twelve months it took to create Australia Illustrated, my skills, naturally, bettered themselves, and I found myself looking back at my first images with some disdain. Luckily, I had also developed digital art skills during that year, and I was able to touch up first images to the standard I knew the book needed.
  1. I learned that you Just Have To Throw Yourself In. During my [many] moments of self-doubt or angst of fear, I found the only way out was through. Just do it. When you do that, things unblock and flow. It worked for me every single time.034-vic-mel-icons
  1. Dee asked me for five points, but I can’t resist one more—sorry, Dee! I learned that I want to do things differently next time. There are some splendid illustrators who keep the same style of art their entire career long—and it works beautifully for them. For me, I think creating in the same style forever would send me to the loony bin. I still love the style I’ve done in Australia Illustrated, but I’m ready to try something new for my next book (in fact, I’m currently creating several fully-digital works) and I can’t wait to see what style that will be. I have some ideas but I’ve not settled on something yet. Perhaps I’ll just let it unfold—pretty much like Australia Illustrated.

act-arboretum-boy-3See more of Tania’s work at www.taniamccartney.com or follow her on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter @taniamccartney

Australia Illustrated is published by EK Books and will be on sale 1 November in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the US, with a release date of 28 November in the UK. Hardcover, clothbound, 96 pages, AU$29.99, ISBN: 9781925335217 www.ekbooks.org

WIN GREAT PRIZES

  • WIN a copy of the book (There three to give away, thanks to EK Books)
  • WIN an original watercolour image from the book (two to give away)
  • the chance to name some of Tania’s book characters!

Enter here at Tania’s Blog

australia-illustrated-launch-poster

Rat City

Everyone thinks Shannon was responsible for his best friend’s death, including Shannon.

Now he’s not letting anyone get close to him.rat-city-cover-600w

That’s until he meets the gorgeous Ally. But she has problems of her own.

Ally’s twin brother, Felix is sick and getting sicker and nobody seems to know why.

Ally’s sure that it has something to do with her crazy scientist Uncle Killian who not only has a fixation for rats, he’s also supplying dugs to thrill seeking youths, including Felix.

Will Shannon and Ally find out the truth in time to save Felix and what will this mean for their relationship.

Rat City is a compelling read from start to finish. The stakes are high and the book is a page turning mix of science and adventure.

The reader will empathise with Ally and Shannon right from the start. The more you read, the more you care about these characters.

I got to the end of Rat City and wanted more. So I was pleased to discover that Book 2, Rise of the Rat Generation is due for release in 2017.

Rat City is written by Ree Kimberley and is available here and through Amazon.

About the author

Ree Kimberley grew up in Melbourne and travelled Australia before living in tropical Cairns and then settling in Brisbane, in sunny Queensland. She’s always loved reading and wrote her first novel, Strike Up a Friendship with a Vampire, when she was 10 years old. Ree’s writerly obsessions include weird science and things that are bizarre, strange and a little bit gross. She also has a thing for circuses (she swears she is not scared of clowns!)me-at-sete

Ree says that if she wasn’t a writer, she’d love to be a teratologist (someone who studies monsters). Rat City is Ree’s first novel, and the first in a three-part series, Rat Generation.

You can find out more about Ree here.

Life in Other States – A Texas Year and A New York Year

It’s clear that meticulous research and care have gone into Tania McCartney‘s and Tina Snerling‘s colourful fun books, A Texas Year and A New York Year.

These well produced picture books cover a year in the life of kids living in Texas and New York.

One of the things I love most about them is their theme of diversity – the way they reflect the lives and cultures of the people living in these states.

A texas yearA Texas Year and A New York Year feature ethnically and culturally diverse characters and diverse experiences.

The lively text and illustrations make these books a fun read for anyone with an interest in finding out about Texas or New York.

A Texas Year and A New York Year are full of information about the lifestyles and aspirations of kids living in these locations.

Readers will enjoy poring over the text and illustrations, taking in the fascinating detail.

They will be taken through a month by month account of what it means to be a kid living in New York or Texas, learning about special occasions and customs.

There’s everything from food, sport and school, to dancing, language, holidays and special occasions.

A New York Year - Front coverA Texas Year and A New York Year present great opportunities for discussions in the classroom or home about cultural diversity.

Each book has a location map with information about the state including its nickname, state flower, song, animals, and popular foods found there.

The content in both books has been produced in consultation with native advisors from the state including teachers and children.

A Texas Year and A New York Year offer young readers a fun and entertaining way to explore their own environment and the world around them.

 

Little Mouse – A Toddler’s Day Out

UnknownLittle Mouse is a typical toddler. He has a very busy and fun-filled day, but it’s also full of things he’d rather not do.

He’s learning how to do lots of new tasks, but one thing he does competently already is say, “No”.

Little Mouse was so relatable for me as a parent, and I’m sure young readers will also be engaged by the humour and the authenticity of the situations Little Mouse encounters.

There’s getting dressed, skipping through puddles, not wanting to go in the pusher or brush his teeth or eat his broccoli.

Unknown-1The text is simple and age appropriate and the illustrations are adorable. They’re full of humour and warmth and detail for kids to pore over.

Little Mouse is the work of Helsinki-based author and illustrator, Riikka Jantti.

The book is published in hardback and has a fairytale like quality.

Unknown-2It’s a perfect size to fit in a nappy bag or hand bag and I can imagine Little Mouse finding his way to many picnics, appointments and family outings.

Although he can be a testing toddler, Little Mouse is totally charming. I can see his captivating story becoming a classic.

Little Mouse, for readers aged 0 to 4, is published by Scribble, the children’s imprint of Scribe.