TUESDAY WRITING TIP – USING A JOURNAL

J.E. Fison is the author of the kids’ adventure series, Hazard River. The series was inspired by a family holiday on the Noosa River, but she also relies on her journal for a constant source of ideas for her adventure stories. Julie describes how newspaper stories inspired her latest adventures, Blood Money and Toads’ Revenge.

Two teenage brothers are fishing in a quiet creek near their home in northern New South Wales. There’s been some heavy rain and the creek is littered with broken branches that have washed down in the flood – nothing unusual about that, until the boys spot a plastic bag amongst the debris. It’s most likely just a bag of rubbish, but the boys decide to check it out. They can’t believe their eyes when they open the bag. It’s full of money, cold hard cash and loads of it – a total of one hundred thousand dollars in all. What an unbelievable find!

This isn’t a story I made up – it really happened to two boys in a town outside Lismore. The boys spent two weeks deciding what to do with the money, before eventually doing the right thing and handing it in to the police.

When I read this story in the newspaper a couple of years back, I knew it would make a great start to an adventure story. So, I cut it out and put it into my journal (which is more of a plastic folder than a journal). It emerged a year later on the banks of Hazard River, in the latest adventure, Blood Money.

Just like the boys in the real story, the kids at Hazard River find a bag of cash and just like the real boys they face a moral dilemma about what to do with the money. Add to this a few snakes, some troublesome meatballs and a nasty neighbour and everything is in place for a rough ride for the newly cashed-up kids of Hazard River.

Starting a journal was one of the first things I did when I began writing the Hazard River series. My journal now runs into several volumes – all choc-a-block full of news clippings on endangered animals, notes on adventure ideas and snippets of conversation I have stolen from my own children as well as strangers. There are also bus tickets, maps, plane tickets and an assortment of other souvenirs from my travels that might just come in handy for a story some day. So, when I come to write a new story, it’s just a matter of linking it all together. Well, it’s not actually that easy, but having a good source of story ideas certainly makes it easier.

I spent many years working as a news reporter before I wrote the Hazard River series and I still like to keep up to date with the news. I read the newspaper daily so I know what’s going on in the world. I also keep my eye out for strange, quirky and bizarre stories that I might be able to weave into my adventures. I tuck those stories into my journal until I need them.

In Toads’ Revenge the kids of Hazard River find themselves thrown into a nasty toad-infested new world when they accidently fire themselves into the future. Although it’s a bit of a change from the usual Hazard River stories, the idea came from the real world. Cane toads were introduced into northern Queensland to eat sugar cane beetles. Now they have spread as far south as Sydney and into Western Australia, threatening native animals and fragile wilderness areas along the way. Cane toads are poisonous and when snakes and lizards try to eat them, they die. (The keelback is one of the few snakes that can eat a baby cane toad and survive.) The super-resilient cane toads are also super breeders. Females lay up to 35,000 eggs at a time and the toads’ march across the continent is proving impossible to stop. A newspaper clipping on the cane toad inspired me to make them the bad guys in my latest adventure.

So, if you haven’t got a journal, start one today. Write down your story ideas and keep anything at all that you find interesting. You never know when that news story on the skateboarding dog or the ticket from last year’s grand final is going to come in handy. Inspiration comes from all sorts of places and there’s nothing worse than remembering you had a great idea but forgetting what it was!

Good luck with your journal and good luck with your writing!

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For more information on J.E. Fison and the Hazard River series you can visit her website at www.hazardriver.com or read her blog at www.juliefisonwriter.wordpress.com

I also get a lot of my inspiration from newspaper articles.  My book, Elephant Trouble was based on a true story I read in the paper about a man who came home from work and found an elephant stuck in his driveway.

Journals are great for storing away all those great ideas that you think you will remember but often don’t.

Some authors like Sue Lawson have a journal for each book they write. My journals tend to be a mish mash of ideas with all sorts of weird bits and pieces including:

  • song lyrics
  • leaves and other things from nature
  • scraps of material
  • newspaper articles
  • song names
  • scraps of conversation I hear
  • poems
  • names of people and places
  • photos
  • drawings
  • sounds
  • description bites
  • word prompts
  • story titles I dream up
  • random thoughts

Do you keep a journal? What do you put in it and how does it help you with your writing?

Feel free for sharing your thoughts and comments.

Happy writing:)

Dee

HAZARD RIVER BOOKS ON TOUR

Brisbane author, J.E. Fison, launches two new books in the Hazard River series this month. Tiger Terror and Bat Attack follow the action-packed holiday adventures of Jack Wilde and his friends. J.E. has embarked on a virtual book tour after reading my post on blog tours. She stops by to share some tips on touring and explain the inspiration for her new books.

It’s no secret that marketing plays a large part in the success of a book. So I shouldn’t  have been surprised when my publisher asked me to write an article for a children’s literature magazine to promote the Hazard River series. But I was. I was also surprised when he asked me present at a book distributers’ conference and appear at a Scotch College literary festival in Melbourne. I was a brand new author – I’d been a journalist, marketing manager and mother for the previous two decades. What could I possibly tell an audience about writing? The same applies to a blog tour. What to blog about?

After much soul searching and several interviews I’ve come up with a better idea of what readers want to know. Writing blogs, articles and doing talks is like anything else, you have to know your audience. But generally you can assume that they’ll want to know something about your background and the inspiration for your book.

I know that if I’ve enjoyed a book I want to find out more about the real story behind the story – not just because I’m a sticky beak, but also to uncover the author’s credentials for writing a book. No one tells a story like someone with first-hand experience of the issue, the characters or the setting.

Writing and literature blogs are an obvious choice for hosting a blog tour, but they’re not the only choice. Take the themes in your book or your life and look for relevant blogs outside the writing world. As long as you put together a sensible and well-written piece, anything you blog on will give your book a bit more exposure that will hopefully translate into more sales.

I’m kicking off my virtual book tour on Dee Scribe writing because the book tour was Dee’s idea (and a great one at that). And I’ll get things started at the start, with the inspiration for the first paragraph of my new book Tiger Terror.

It was probably my mother’s screaming that frightened the cat. It’s just a guess. No one knows for sure why a cat fell from a ten-storey building onto my head. It was about the last thing I was expecting on my visit to Summercity. I wasn’t expecting to get mixed up with tigers either. I live in Australia. A tiger is one dangerous animal I shouldn’t have to worry about. But the cat changed all that.

The curious incident of the falling cat might sound like the product of an author’s  imagination, but it was actually inspired by a true story. Some years back a cat fell from a high rise apartment block in China, hitting and injuring a woman. The event triggered calls for pets to be banned from apartment blocks. I have no idea how things panned out for the cat, the woman or pets in China, in general, but the story stuck in my mind. Eventually I found a home for it in Tiger Terror.

In the story, the falling cat puts Hazard River’s narrator, Jack Wilde, in hospital. But just before it does so, Jack spots two men in a traditional medicine shop handling a tiger’s paw. The Hazard River gang must track down the men before they kill another tiger. The action is fictitious, but it was inspired by a worrying fact. Tigers are on the verge of extinction. One hundred years ago more than 100,000 tigers roamed Asia, now the numbers have dropped to around 3,000. Three subspecies of tigers have already become extinct. The rest live in isolated populations, threatened by poachers and habitat destruction.

The whole Hazard River series is firmly rooted in the real world. It came out of a family holiday on the Noosa River. My sons teamed up with friends and spent the summer exploring sand banks, dodging sting rays, building camps, getting stuck in quicksand, discovering abandoned boats, finding a whole lot of thongs (where do they come from) and having a Boys Versus Wild adventure.  I had to write about it.

My children are a constant source of inspiration, but I don’t just rely on my kids’ adventures. I look back to my own misadventures as a journalist in Asia, Europe and Australia. I also keep an open mind, whatever I’m doing – reading the newspaper, listening to the radio, checking a news website. I’m always looking out for a bizarre story or a quirky tale that I can incorporate into one of my adventures. As we all know – the  truth is often stranger than fiction.

For more details on J.E. Fison’s Hazard River series visit www.hazardriver.com

See the trailer at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZP4wqrSQSk

Stop by my blog at www.juliefison.wordpress.com

Hazard River virtual book tour dates:

14/3/2011 Review of Tiger Terror and Bat Attack http://content.boomerangbooks.com.au/kids-book-capers-blog/friday-book-feature-more-great-hazard-river-adventures/2011/03

15/3/2011 Inspiration – it’s all around us www.deescribewriting.wordpress.com

16/3/2011 Interview http://www.needtoreadthis.com/randomacts.html

17/3/2011Writing for kids helped me become a better parent http://www.womensvillage.com/profiles/blogs/childrens-author-je-fison

18/3/2011 Does my front cover look too scary in this? http://content.boomerangbooks.com.au/literary-clutter-blog/