Tuesday Writing Tips With Marmalade and Alison Reynolds – Writing a Sequel

A-Year-with-Marmalade_cropped2Today I’m very pleased to welcome my good friend and writing buddy, Alison Reynolds.  Alison has a new book out and it’s a sequel to her bestseller, A Year with Marmalade (also illustrated by the very talented Heath McKenzie).

A new friend for Marmalade once again features the wise and independent thinking Marmalade.

Marmalade is a bit of a favourite of mine so it’s so great to see his adventures continuing, and I’m in the middle of writing a sequel to my book, Letters to Leonardo so I was very interested to read Alison’s tips on writing Marmalade 2.


UnknownTo help Alison and Heath celebrate the release of their brand new book, I’m offering a manuscript assessment of the first chapter of a chapter book for one lucky winner.

All you have to do is  comment on this blog post or any other blog during the A new friend for Marmalade blog tour and add the initials DW.

The more you comment, the more chances you have to win.

More information about the other great prizes on offer is available here.


Alison and Heath signing books

Alison and Heath signing books

Dee, thank you so much for hosting me here. A new friend for Marmalade was a very special book for me to write.

Toby is different from Ella and Maddy. He wants to be friends with them, but doesn’t know how to gain their friendship. Ella and Maddy aren’t mean to Toby but they exclude him because they’re not sure how to handle his exuberance, and Toby doesn’t have the social skills to know how to fit in.

Marmalade immediately accepts Toby as a friend, and doesn’t even notice that he’s a bit different.

I wanted to celebrate Toby’s special qualities – his exuberance and unique way of seeing and doing things. I wanted to show that once the girls were prepared to accept Toby’s differences, that they could all be good friends.

I leapt at the chance of writing a sequel for A Year with Marmalade. I love that cat!


  1. Come up with a totally new concept from Book Number One. Keep it fresh.
  2. If self-doubt creeps in  about whether you can write a book as good as Book Number One, don’t think about it and just start writing. You’ve done it once and you can do it again.
  3. Make sure that your sequel isn’t too similar to book one. I wrote a list of cat actions so I didn’t use all the same words that I used n Book Number One to describe Marmalade.
  4. Don’t change the characters too much in the sequels so you have continuity in the series.
  5. Hope and wish that Book Number One does well enough so you are asked to write a sequel. Then hope and wish that Book Number Two does well enough so you are asked to write a sequel. Then really hope and really wish that there is a Book Number Three and it does …


I love picture books like A new friend for Marmalade where themes of friendship, tolerance and adaptability are woven into the story and the actions of the characters so seamlessly that readers are absorbing important messages without feeling as though they are being preached to.

I can’t be completely objective with this book because Alison is my crit buddy, and I’ve seen this story grow from the gem of an idea into the beautifully told and illustrated book it is today.

But the themes in this book and the setting are universally recognisable. And the rhythm of the language makes it a great book to read out loud.

“A whirlwind cartwheeled through the sandpit. Maddy scowled and Ella frowned”

So few words, yet the scene and its characters are easily established in the mind of the reader. To me that’s the essence of a great picture book.

Readers will enjoy the sense of fun in A new friend for Marmalade, expressed both through the text, and the lively and appealing illustrations.


Lovers of the first Marmalade book will enjoy A New Friend for Marmalade, and this book is bound to guarantee this cute ginger cat a legion of new fans.


Marmalade is padding off to more great blogs. You can visit him here:

11th Dee White – review and post https://deescribewriting.wordpress.com/

11th Chris Bell – post http://christinemareebell.wordpress.com/

12th Angela Sunde – interview with Heath http://angelasunde.blogspot.com.au/

12th KBR – book giveaway http://www.kids-bookreview.com/

13th Boomerang Books – Post with Dimity Powell http://blog.boomerangbooks.com.au/author/dpowell

14th KBR Guest post http://www.kids-bookreview.com/

14th KBR Review http://www.kids-bookreview.com/

14th Sally Murphy – Meet my book http://aussiereviews.com/reviews/blog/

15th Buzz Words – Interview http://www.buzzwordsmagazine.com/

17th Ask the Bean Counter – Mr X http://www.alisonreynolds.com.au/

17th Pass-it-on Post and Review- Jackie Hosking


18th Ask the Publisher – Kay Scarlett http://www.alisonreynolds.com.au/

Tuesday Tips – Picture Book Writing and Illustrating with Alison Reynolds and Heath McKenzie

This week at my blog I’m celebrating the release of my crit buddy Alison Reynolds’, and talented illustrator Heath McKenzies’ beautiful new picture book, The Littlest Bushranger.

The Littlest bushranger_FRONT COVERI was so excited to hold The Littlest Bushranger in my hand. I have seen this book through its various stages of development. I’ve seen it grow from Alison’s seed of an idea to a complete, full colour work of art and literature.

Bushranger page 2So I can’t promise my review of this book will be completely objective, but anyone who reads The Littlest Bushranger will love the playfulness and the wild imagination of this story, enhanced by Heath’s amazing pictures.

When Jack’s sister Lil goes off to school, Jack is left alone with his dog Hector and his imagination. Lil has assigned Jack the task of looking after her favourite toy while she’s away, but when an outlaw comes to steal it, Jack must call on his bushranger skills to save the day.

What I love about this book is that it explores the world inside a child’s pure imagination – and shows us that in the universe inside our mind anything is possible.

Jack is a very likeable character  who shows resilience and resourcefulness in dealing with his sister’s absence. He transforms his backyard into a magical world of adventure where he battles the fiendish villain with fearless resolve.

Bushranger - other picThis book is a true collaboration between author and illustrator where the author has given the illustrator plenty of space to bring his own interpretation to the story. Heath’s illustrations are full of life and movement and carry the reader along in the urgency and adventure of this story.

The Littlest Bushranger can be read and discussed on so many levels from the entertaining story to looking at issues of the younger sibling left at home, and finding the resilience within ourselves.

The Littlest Bushranger has a uniquely Australian flavour.


Alison and Heath, the creators of this beautiful book have generously agreed to share some of their writing and illustrating tips.

Alison and Heath book signing at Collins Northland

Alison and Heath book signing at Collins Northland

Alison’s Writing Tips

  1. Pillage your childhood!
  2. Get writing. You can’t fix up a blank page.
  3. Cut, cut, cut.
  4. Do as many drafts as it needs. If the sight of your manuscript makes you feel sick, then you’re on the right track. Swig an eno and do another draft.
  5. Leave room for the illustrator to interpret the story too. You don’t need to say everything when you can show it in an illustration.

Heath’s Illustrating Tips

1. The more you draw, the better you’ll get – mistakes are one of the best things you can do!

2. Don’t try and draw a perfect drawing straight away – rough things in, make a little mess and refine that.

3. Imagining what you’re trying to draw as a group of basic shapes is a good way to start.

4. Draw what you love (BUT try something different now and then, it’ll do you wonders!)

5. Experiment! Both with styles of drawing and what you draw with!

Saddle up for The Littlest Bushranger blog tour.

Follow the stops on tour and you could win some fabulous prizes. The best thing about a blog tour is that you don’t have to visit on the stated day, you can drop in the next day or the next and still enjoy being part of the tour – and win the prizes.

June 11 Kat Apel


June 12 Chris Bell


June 13 Angela Sunde


June 14 Boomerang Books Blog


June 17 Ask the Sales Rep. Interview with Melinda Beaumont


June 18 Dee White


June 19 Kids Book Review


June 20 Ask the Editor. Interview with Melissa Keil.


June 21 Heath McKenzie and Alison Reynolds interviewed by Juliet Chan, Marketing & Publicity Executive.




  1. A piece of Heath McKenzie’s artwork from The Littlest Bushranger
  2. A picture book assessment by Alison Reynolds
  3. 2 free passes direct to an editor’s desk (you get to skip the slush pile)
  4. Copies of The Littlest Bushranger.


Little Bushranger_Internals_LORES - page 8 There are a couple of monsters in The Littlest Bushranger. One’s a bunyip, and the other an outlaw/monster who steals Lil’s telescope.

What sort of monster do you like? Send along a painting/drawing/model of a monster and you could win a piece of Heath McKenzie’s amazing artwork for The Littlest Bushranger.

Upload your own best monster to https://www.facebook.com/alison.reynolds.524 or email it as a low res jpeg file to alrey@msn.com.au and we’ll upload it. If you don’t have a scanner, take a photo on a smart phone and email that!

Two categories. Under 12 and 12 plus including grown-ups. Entries close 25th June!

Follow the blog tour to find out details of the competitions and how you can win these great prizes.


Have your manuscript on a Non Fiction Editor or Children’s Book Editor’s desk.

All you have to do is comment on any of the posts and leave NF (if you have a non-fiction manuscript) or CB if you have a children’s book manuscript. Leave NF and CB if you have both.

Good luck:)

I hope you’re enjoying our picture book blog post series.

Happy writing and illustrating:)


Picture Book Writing Tips – Alison Reynolds Shares her ‘Marmalade’ Story

Today I am thrilled to welcome my very special crit buddy and great writerly friend, Alison Reynolds to DeeScribe Writing.

As well as being a fantastic crit buddy, Alison is the author of over 30 books for children and adults.

She’s here to celebrate the release of her wonderful new Picture book, A Year With Marmalade. It’s a very cute book with a compelling story and wonderful illustrations by the very talented Heath McKenzie.

I’m going to start with a review of Alison’s new book, but I have to warn you that I may be biased on several counts: I love Alison and Heath’s work and I love cats.

But I have seen A Year With Marmalade develop from a three simple elements; girl, a cat and a picture of autumn leaves, into a heartwarming story about friendship and change.

Ella’s best friend Maddy is going away for a year and she asks Ella to look after her beloved cat, Marmalade. But Ella and Marmalade don’t exactly take to each other and they both miss Maddy.

Over the course of the year their friendship blossoms like the tree in Ella’s garden. When Maddy comes back, Marmalade manages to slot perfectly into both Maddy and Ella’s lives.

In A Year With Marmalade, Ella and Marmalade’s friendship mirrors the four seasons and all the changes are beautifully depicted by illustrator, Heath McKenzie. I fell in love with the gorgeous, green-eyed Marmalade – a cat with attitude.

A Year With Marmalade is published by The Five Mile Press. It’s a great book to share with young readers and to invite discussion about friendship and change.


DeeScribe Writing is Alison’s first stop on her blog tour to celebrate the release of her new book.

During the tour, she’s running a competition so you can win a FREE copy of this special book just by sharing a picture showing the personality of a special cat in your life.

Here’s what to do:

Marmalade’s   personality really shines through in Alison Reynolds and Heath McKenzie’s newest picture book A Year with Marmalade.

Share your favourite picture showing your cat’s personality to win. The winner will receive a signed copy of A Year with Marmalade and a copy of the picture book Lighty Faust the Lion, a book about a much bigger cat.

Share your favourite picture of   your cat by uploading it to author Alison Reynolds’ Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/alison.reynolds.524 or email it to Alison as a low res jpeg file at alrey@msn.com.au and she’ll upload it on her website www.alisonreynolds.com.au

Entries close on the 1st of   September.


Today, Alison is sharing some of her favourite picture book writing tips.

Five tips for picture book writers

1.  Be prepared to do lots and lots of drafts.

I often start with a vague idea and play with it and see what emerges. Often I find that I end up with a totally different story, which is always better than my first try. A Year with Marmalade started with a little girl, the seasons, jealousy, a cat and a bird. It morphed into a cat, two little girls and a story of friendship and that change isn’t always a bad thing!

Themes seem to have a habit of emerging as the book improves.

2. Learn to think in double spreads and the physicality of a picture book.

Think of each spread as a scene, and when you turn the page the curtain closes and there’s a new scene on the next page. I buy visual diaries and copy my words in them so I can check on the flow. I also always write illustration guidelines. This helps me check that there is actually something different to illustrate on each spread.

3.  Don’t have too many words!

You have pictures to help tell the story too! Make the most of it. I cut A Year with Marmalade by one third, and it improved it! I like to see how low in word count I can go.

4. Don’t submit too soon

I like to live with the picture book for a while and peck away at it, removing a word here, or changing a word there. I wrote a completely different story first, and then an entirely new one that ended up being A Year with Marmalade.

5.  Find a great crit partner.

My crit partner always improves my books. (Thanks, Dee.) I tend to complicate things. In A Year with Marmalade, I needed to make the cat climb up a stile over the fence. Why wouldn’t the cat just jump over anywhere? So I was starting to think barbed wire, booby traps etc. The brilliant Dee suggested a cat-flap. This is my favourite part of the book.


You can follow Alison and Heath on tour as they visit these great blogs:

Blog Tour

7th  August  Dee White


9th  August  Karen Tyrrell


11th August  Tania McCartney


13th August  Pass It On


14th August  Kathryn Apel


17th August  Dale Harcombe


20th August  Peter Taylor


22nd August  Susan Stephenson


23rd August  Robyn Opie Parnell


27th August  Sally Odgers


29th  August  Angela Sunde


31st August Chris Bell