CATRIONA HOY’S TIPS ON WRITING OUR GAGS

Catriona Hoy is the author of many wonderful picture books including My Grandad Marches on ANZAC Day, The Music Tree, Mummies are Amazing, Daddies, Puggle and George and Ghost.

Her latest book, Our Gags is her first venture into longer works and it’s published by Walker Books.

Today, Catriona is kindly sharing her tips on how she made the transition from picture books to Walker Stories.

Catriona, your other titles so far have been picture books, while ‘Our Gags’ is an early reader, comprising three short stories. Tell us about it’s journey to publication.

Thanks for having me here today Dee, to talk about my new book… it has had a long journey to publication.

I originally wrote the first of the three stories as a picture book. I submitted it to my editor at the time but sadly it didn’t make it past the aquisitions meeting, so it went back to languish in a bottom drawer. The feedback that I got was that the voice was too old to be a picture book.

After a while, I took it out again, looked at it with fresh eyes and sent it off to another publisher. Again, it got all the way to aquisitions but was ultimately rejected.

However, that publisher soon folded and the editor, Sue Whiting, moved on to Walker Books. I sent Our Gags to Sue again at Walker after another revamp and….then we had an interesting conversation.

Sue told me that she didn’t think it was a picture book either and that in fact, she had probably thought more about my book and analysed it than I had. She thought that it would actually work better in the format that Walker was bring out for early readers, with three short stories. I was asked to submit two other stories about the same characters, with a central theme. And eventually, that’s how it ended up.

So it’s always worth revisiting some old stories in a bottom drawer but also important to listen to feed back

How did writing ‘Our Gags,’ differ from writing a picture book?

It offered more flexibility in terms of the writing as I didn’t have to think so visually. I listened to the voice of the character in my head but didn’t need to be so conscious of pagination and whether or not there were the right number of pages and illustrations.

When I write a picture book, I’m very much thinking in terms of 16 openings and possibilities or opportunities for varied illustrations.

It also offered more opportunity for character development and plot.

Did you experience any difficuties in writing this book, particularly since it had started as a picture book?

At first, I found it difficult to get back into the character’s head. When I first wrote it, I really was almost in that position of being a mum with a new baby. By the time I had to write the second stories, the ‘baby’ was at school.

By the time the revisions came around, we had moved overseas and my girls were quite big! This isn’t unusual though, as often writers need to put works away until they can look at it with fresh eyes.

I also had to have a consistent style and that was something that I had to work at with the three stories. There had to be progression and development over those stories, while still keeping the same overall feel. 

The author and her family featured in the book

How true is the story and do you think that this is important in writing?

I like to write about things that I know, so my family often features in my books. This is the story of how my Mum used to come to help when I had a new baby and struggled with breastfeeding and juggling an energetic toddler. Caitlyn was sometimes babysat by a video, however, my Mum was great and would come and play with Caitlyn, while simultaneously managing to get all my washing off the floors, into the machine, onto the line, dried, folded and put away.

It’s not just about the cleaning though, it’s about the wonderful relationship that my mum formed with her grandchildren. They still love to go to their ‘Gags’ for a sleepover, grab a movie and have a girl’s night in. My mum is getting a bit tiredr but she can be a crocodile, or a horse as needs be for my little niece.

What’s important about all this in writing is that I am familiar with my characters and I’m writing about something I love.

Were there embellishments?

Mum did play great games at the park, including pirates and billy goat’s gruff.

However, she didn’t actually ever have a man think she was having a heart attack when she was pretending to be sat on by an elephant. Although she could do a great ‘death scene,’ complete with flailing arms and groans if the occasion demanded.

How do you find your ‘voice’?

I think you have to know your character from the inside out and be in their head. You have to hear them talking…although I don’t read aloud, I’ll repeat it in my head to see whether I think this is how a child would talk. Although I’m in the book as the mother character, I never actually saw myself as her funnily enough. I was always my little girl Caitlyn.

In terms of the voice for this book, I can now see what those early comments meant in terms of the age of the character. It is very important to own your character and see life through their eyes.

Thanks for sharing your Our Gags journey, Catriona. It’s a wonderful book about the grandmother every family needs. Some great tips too about voice and character.


 

CATRIONA HOY TALKS ABOUT THE BEST BITS OF HER BLOG TOUR

Today we are pleased to welcome a guest poster at DeeScribewriting.

My good friend and writerly colleague, Catriona Hoy is here to talk about her experiences with blog touring. Catriona is currently on her second blog tour with her beautiful new picture book, George and Ghost.

WHAT BLOG TOURING IS REALLY LIKE
by Catriona Hoy

I’m fairly new to the blogging world myself and only blog sporadically so the thought of starting a blog tour last year was something that was fairly daunting. I am in awe of those bloggers like Dee, here, who have the dedication and drive to come up with new and interesting things to talk about.

So the first thing about starting a blog tour was to get over the guilt… that I myself wasn’t a great blogger.

Next, I had to conquer the fear that I people wouldn’t be interested or that I wouldn’t find anything to say. Eventually, as with many of those non-writing aspects of being a writer, I just had to decide to jump in with both feet.

By the end of my blog tour for my picture book, Puggle ,  I’d learnt a lot. Firstly that there are lots of bloggers out there and lots of people who read blogs. I really enjoyed some of the questions that were thrown at me and I found the comments interesting that other people made about my book.

So this year when I start my blog tour for my new picture book, George and Ghost, I’ll be doing so with renewed enthusiasm. I’ll make sure I publicise as widely as I can. I’ve also organized for the publisher to include a few give aways.

All in all, I still like a book launch but a blog tour is a way to reach many more people and meet new people along the way.

Things I’ve tried to think about have been varying the type of blog that you visit. While it’s great to generate interest amongst the writing fraternity, it’s important to reach a wider audience.

Also I’ve made the tour shorter as last year I was exhausted by the end. I’ve tried not to repeat myself too much, although inevitable there are some types of similar questions.

In the week before the blog tour, some of the bloggers that I was going to visit put up tasters on their blogs, so that also helps to advertise. So…when I self-googled (we all do, don’t we?) there were a lot more listing for the book. It also creates an opportunity to refer to older titles and hopefully generate some re interest in those.

Thanks for letting me ramble on Dee. I’m no expert but I certainly see the value in blog tours. I’m on a learning journey like everyone else.

My next foray will be into the world of book trailers…I think!

Thanks for visiting, Catriona and sharing your experiences with us.

Catriona is now popping over to my other blog at http://content.boomerangbooks.com.au/kids-book-capers-blog/ where she’s going to be talking about ghosts and you can win one of FIVE copies of Catriona’s fabulous new book!

HOW TO TURN FACT INTO FICTION – TUESDAY WRITING TIP

Author, Catriona Hoy is celebrating the launch of her fifth picture book, “Puggle”, which she says now qualifies her to call herself a children’s writer – personally, I think she was one way before then.

Catriona writes wonderful books about real things, but turns them into fiction. She’s here today to give us some tips on how she does it. Over to you, Catriona.

TURNING FACT INTO FICTION – by Catriona Hoy

If there was one tip I could give about turning fact into fiction, it’s the obvious one. Research!

I regularly write non fiction for some childrens magazines. With non fiction I usually have a topic and a brief, so the shape of the writing is there so to speak. Once I have researched, collated and refined my material, the smaller subheadings begin to emerge; pretty much like writing an essay.

However, with fiction, it is more difficult. My new picture book, Puggle, began with an idea. My imagination was captured by a cute baby echidna that I met at the home of some wildlife carers. I loved the name and wanted to write a story but the shape wasn’t there yet. The idea sat around somewhere in the back of my head, brewing away.

I kept in touch with the wildlife carers and they told me of Puggle’s progress as he grew and began to learn the skills he would need to survive. While I waited for the shape of the story to come, I found out all I could about echidnas. I searched for photos online, compiled lists of interesting facts and made a timeline marking out the milestones in Puggle’s life.

I distilled all the information down to the essentials, what would be the most important points. Then the story began to take shape.

Puggle just getting spines

There was the beginning and introduction, then the explanation of how Puggle came to be with his carers. Then forward in time to trace Puggle as he grew up. Because the house was filled with other animals, I began to mark time passing with the exit of some of these animals as they became well and returned to the wild.

The challenge with turning fact into fiction is that it has to be a readable story, the language has to flow, the story must be interesting, we must love Puggle…otherwise it will sound like a piece of research that has been turned into a story and is more suited to a nonfiction book. So I think the key is …EMOTION.  You have to love your characters and they have to feel real to you and other people.

With Puggle, one of the obvious markets is the educational one; therefore I really had to resist the temptation to give Puggle human emotions. The nearest I came to it was ‘ milk smelt very, very good.’ I had to get into character and imagine I was a baby echidna.

Finally, for me, verifying the text is important.

As I write picture books, they are short and therefore not too onerous to read. I established contact with Dr Peggy Rismiller at the Pelican Lagoon Research Centre on Kangaroo Island. She generously read the text and advised on any areas that she thought needed tweaking. Likewise, the carers in the story also gave me their advice. (Including the fact that they would have euthanized the magpie with the broken leg …but I didn’t think that was appropriate to include!)

If anyone would like to see pictures of Puggles, there are some gorgeous ones on my website and some information about some of my other books.

http://www.catrionahoy.com.au/html/puggle.html

Thanks so much for dropping in Catriona, and telling us your story and sharing your helpful tips. (Believe me, Catriona’s pictures are seriously cute, you will definitely want to see them).

Catriona is visiting us on her blog tour. Here’s where you can catch her in cyber space over the next couple of weeks.

Blog Tour Dates
April 12 http://scribblygum.wordpress.com/
April 13 https://deescribewriting.wordpress.com/
April 14 http://sallymurphy.blogspot.com/
April 15 http://www.letshavewords.blogspot.com/
April 16 http://orangedale.livejournal.com/
April 17 http://sherylgwyther.wordpress.com/
April 18 http://angelasunde.blogspot.com/
April 19 http://katswhiskers.wordpress.com/
April 20 http://belka37.blogspot.com
April 21 http://sandyfussell.blogspot.com/
April 22 http://trudietrewin.com/blog-ramblings/

Hope you enjoyed Catriona’s visit as much as I did.

Happy writing.

Dee:-)