Thursday, 20 December 2012

In Celebration Of ... Group Post

Christmas is all about sharing, so we decided to post our first group blog and share our top ten writing tips, plus the books we'd like Father Christmas to sneak into our Christmas stockings.

Abie Longstaff - author of The Fairytale Hairdresser and new book The Mummy Shop (illustrated by Lauren Beard).

My writing tip:
Draw: Drawing really helps to pace the book and to get the page turns right. It also helps with working out what must be said in the text, and what can be left for the illustrations.  And if you can't draw, draw anyway - just draw stick figures and squiggles.

The book I want from Father Christmas:

The Secret Lives of Princesses by Philippe Lechermeier and Rebecca Dautremer. The book looks so beautiful and I'm a sucker for anything fairytale related

Jane Clarke - author of Knight Time (illustrated by Jane Massey) and other titles.

My writing tip:

Have some time off. Embrace the ups and downs of the holiday season - and use the experiences and heightened emotions to inform your work at a later date. 

The book I want from Father Christmas:
Please may I have a hardback copy of Flotsam by David Wiesner. My paperback version is worn out by constant use. Flotsam has so many levels of enchanting possibilities, it highlights how sophisticated a picture book can be.

Juliet Clare Bell - author of The Kite Princess (illustrated by Laura-Kate Chapman) and other titles.

My writing tip:
My tip is to reduce the amount of time I’ve got for writing, in the hopes of getting more written. I’m going to give myself an hour which is dedicated, sacrosanct, scheduled in at a very specific time each day and where, on pain of death, I am NOT allowed to have access to the internet. In that writing time, I will WRITE. I will timetable things so that I do the marketing/generating new work etc. at other specific times and I will no longer let myself think that reading about what other writers are doing on FaceBook is actually work.

The book I want from Father Christmas:
The book I would most like from Father Christmas is Quentin Blake’s Beyond the Page (Tate Publishing, 2012) with 240 reproductions of his work since 2000. My favourite book until now has been Quentin Blake’s Words and Pictures, an autobiography full of his inspirational illustrations, and Beyond the Page will carry on where that one left off. And do you know what? I’m actually getting it for Christmas. Yippee! 

Karen Saunders - author of Baby Badger's Wonderful Night (illustrated by Dubravka Kolanovic) and other titles.

My writing tip: 
Set yourself a really low word count or goal to meet every day, something that's very achievable. This way, you'll be encouraged to actually start writing, because it's much less intimidating to write 50 words than 500, and chances are, you'll keep going once you've hit your target. Also, turn off your internet connection so you don't get distracted and spend all of your writing time procrastinating online (or maybe this one just applies to me).

The book I want from Father Christmas:
Any of the Little Grey Rabbit story books, because they're a wonderful reminder of my childhood and were my favourite books to share with my mum. 


Linda Strachan - author of What Colour is Love? (illustrated by David Wojtowycz) and other titles. 

My writing tip:
READ READ. Read as many picture books as you can. Look at how they are structured and how they differ in word count. Look at how the author approaches the story/idea in a unique way and how the story ends, which can be just as important. Be a critical reader, then go away and write!

The book I want from Father Christmas:
The book I'd like to receive is Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brand. I seem to have lost my copy. It was originally published in 1934 but I still find it an inspirational book about writing and being a writer. 

Lynne Garner - author of A Book for Bramble (illustrated by Gaby Hansen) and other titles.

My writing tip:
Set yourself a goal. Something that will stretch your writing muscle. For example Picture Book Ideas Month which takes place each November where you pledge to come up with 30 ideas over 30 days. Or perhaps try 12 x 12 which encourages you to write one new picture book story per month.

The book I want from Father Christmas:
This is really three books but they make a series. How to Write a Children's Picture Book Volume I: Structure - Volume II: Word, Sentence, Scene, Story - Volume III: Figures of Speech.  Written by Eve Heidi Bine-Stock.


Malachy Doyle - author of Too Noisy  (illustrated by Ed Vere) and other titles. 

My writing tip:
Take it to the garden, shed, bathroom - anywhere quiet - and read it out loud. Catch it by surprise.

The book I want from Father Christmas:
A Dictionary of British Folk Tales (part b), by Katherine Briggs. Martin Waddell, in my early days of writing, recommended these for inspiration, and he's right. I've got part a, but the cheapest I can find part b is £50, so ...  


Moira Butterfield 
- author of Smile Baby Smile (illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw) and other titles.


My writing tip:
Remember to play. Occasionally give yourself a treat and just play with words, writing for fun only. I’m sure professional singers must sometimes sing in their baths and professional artists must sometimes doodle. I see it as trying to keep some water in the creative well.

The book I want from Father Christmas:
I love to find vintage Children’s books and on the internet I’ve seen the cover of an interesting-looking 1970s picture book called The Very Important Man, by Joan Hickson. The deliciously retro cover looks great, with a humourless-looking man being driven in an impossibly long car that wraps round the whole book. I’ve never seen inside and I want to know what happens to the very important man. Whenever it turns up on the internet (not very often) it’s too expensive, but perhaps Santa has one in his attic.

Paeony Lewis - author of Best Friends or Not?  (illustrated by Gaby Hansen) and other titles.

My writing tip:
I enjoy the traditional clichés of Christmas. However, I suggest trying harder to avoid clichés in our writing. Think before including overused phrases, though don't be afraid of using simple words like 'said'. This also applies to tired scenarios, such as ending a story with the hero being presented with a medal by the mayor and everyone cheering (I did this with my first story - justifiably unpublished!).

The book I want from Father Christmas:
I might have been too naughty this year for a present, so I bought it earlier this week. Mirror by Jeannie Baker is a very visual picture book that opens up on the left and the right to show us the mirror images of an ordinary day in the life of two families (in Australia and Morocco). Although the lives appear different, underneath we see many similarities. Plus the final images remind us we shouldn't make clichéd assumptions. In this 'season of  goodwill' we think about others, and Mirror encourages year-round reflection.  


Pippa Goodhart - author of Just Imagine (illustrated by Nick Sharratt) and other titles 

My writing tip:  
Take a professional interest in those terrible cracker jokes.  A really good joke that lends itself to visual treatment, and a sequence of revelations, just might make a brilliant picture book!

The book I want from Father Christmas:

Children’s Picture books; The Art Of Visual Storytelling by Martin Salisbury and Morag Styles.  It’s a stonking £22.50 because it is sumptuous and big, and full of wonderful examples of picture book art.


With warm and festive greetings for a wonderful holiday from Abie, Jane, Clare, Karen, Linda, Lynne, Malachy, Moira, Paeony and Pippa.


And now over to you: what would be your top writing tip, and which book would you love to receive this Christmas?

8 comments:

  1. My wishlist of books has just grown again. Moira, I love the sound of 'The Very Important Man'. I recently found 'The Epipleptic Bicycle' and Tomi Ungerer's picture book about a flying kangaroo. What a treat! And I'll be fighting Malachy for that dictionary of British Folk Tales... (though I may have to let you win since you were the one who told me about them when I first met you). Happy Christmas and New Year, and happy holidays to you all, love Clare.

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  2. So many great-sounding books suggested! Flotsam is fantastic, Jane, I agree, and your tip - to take a break - is just what I needed to hear today. It's so true, and it made me realise what I need right now. Sometimes we need to step away from the work and just breathe. So a hopeful and peaceful Christmas to all.

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  3. You don't need to surprise me with the Katherine Briggs book, dear Santy, as writing this made me realise it's well worth the £50. Amazon are whisking it towards my island as we speak. Have a lovely Christmas, people.

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  4. And 'the Epiplectic Bicycle' is on its way to me! Thanks, Clare! Like the look of it immensely!

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  5. This is awesome! I can't digest it all in one sitting! I'm coming back when my mind is quite so busy with seasonal tasks! Thanks for the book suggestions and tips!

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  6. Thanks for sharing your tips - will be passing these on to my writing students.

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  7. Some great tips and wonderful books! But I don't understand how Clare knows what she's getting for Christmas in advance?! Also, not sure you've been good enough really. Have a lovely Christmas, pic book denners.

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    1. Because, Addy, mine wasn't from Santa. It was from my husband, and he did ask what I most wanted, so I did tell... and it's great! Happy New Year, everyone (and I've realised it's Epiplectic and not Epipleptic)...

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