Archive of ‘Process’ category
THE NUMBER ONE QUESTION: Where did you get the idea for Thunderstorm Dancing?
We’re always curious, aren’t we? Join me as I invite the wonderful picture-book writer, Katrina Germein, while she answers that question!
Where do you get your ideas from? – the Number One question authors get asked. Usually, I have an answer. I say that my story ideas come from events in my life, from people I’ve met and places I’ve been. But with Thunderstorm Dancing the answer is not so simple. I don’t really know where the story came from. I mean, it still came from my life (it’s the second time a vibrant, comforting granny has appeared in one of my books) but I can’t pin point a single event or place. It’s as if the storm in the story has swept through my life, lifted fragments in the wind and blown them into the book.
Firstly, the book begins at the beach. Most of my daydreams begin at the beach, so do many of my nicest childhood and adult memories. As well as that, it’s a book about family (always important) and it’s a book about dancing around the house for the sheer fun of it. I’m guilty of a bit of shameless lounge room dancing myself.
When I was in Primary School I had the same teacher for three years, starting from when I was six. Mrs Vaughn was a keen pianist and singer. She encouraged us to express ourselves through story and music. Some of my favourite school memories are of times when Mrs Vaughn took us to the big, empty activity hall for dancing. She would play the piano and call out stories, line by line, to go with the music. (I assume she made them up as she went along.) We would dance (or romp/roll/rollick) out whatever actions we felt matched the musical story. There was one tale about a fresh water crocodile and a salt-water crocodile meeting in a river and fighting each other, and another about wild ponies prancing and whinnying across a hillside. So much fun! Anyway, the feeling of those occasions was definitely lurking while I wrote Thunderstorm Dancing. (It’s not surprising that nearly all of the early reviews have mentioned opportunities for classroom performances as a follow up to the book.)
This story was written quickly, over a couple of days. Most of it was penned within a few hours of the first word, even though I had things to do and couldn’t stay home to write it. The words rolled in from somewhere and I had to save them. One page was written on a receipt when I pulled into a service station. Another page was written on a café napkin as I waited for a friend. It was like the little parts of me that had been lifted by the storm dropped onto the paper like raindrops plop-plop-plop and as the momentum built more ideas poured down.
One of the things I love about writing is you never quite know where it’s going to take you. Sometimes I read things back later and think, Did I write that? Thunderstorm Dancing is one of those.
Do you enjoy the concept of serendipity? – ‘the discovery of desirable but unsought for discoveries’.
Often the discoveries come as welcome and remarkable surprises.
Sometimes they are even connected to your current life situation, family history or your work.
Recently, within 24 hours, I came across two people whose families had a direct connection to the children’s historical novel I’m working on with Walker Books.
The story, Walking for gold, is set in the mid-eighteen hundreds when more than 16,000 Chinese braved the voyage to South Australia. They then walked approximately 500 kms from the South Australian port of Robe to the Victorian goldfields, carrying all their belongings in baskets hung from poles across their shoulders, or pushing them in wooden barrows.
One night, I sat next to a Iady whose Chinese ancestors had made the trek from Robe to Ballarat, as do the characters in my manuscript. At one point, she said that her ancestors had ‘Anglicised their Chinese name,’ probably hoping it would aid assimilation.
Then the following morning, my chiropractor mentioned that her family owned a property in the south-east of South Australia. ‘My father told me the Chinese must’ve walked through our property in the early days,’ she said. ‘And I remember there was an old well it and lots of broken Chinese artifacts and coins about.’
I wrote the fictionalised story of Yong, a twelve-year-old Chinese character and his father from the comfort of my own home.
Those like Yong, his father and thousands of others were the ones who made the history, enduring great hardships in their struggle to find gold.
It was great to hear the two serendipitous snippets. Somehow it helped to humanize the thousands of nameless faces and made connections over time.
Have you experienced any serendipitous situations? Were any connected to a particular situation or project?
Hi. It’s been a while since I’ve checked in. So, here’s what I’ve been up to lately.
Researching and writing a children’s historical novel based on the journey of the Chinese, walking from Robe in the south-east of South Australia to the goldfields of Victoria. (Working title, The long, golden road – to be published by Walker Books.)
Our Village in the Sky
A picture-poetry book, published by Allen & Unwin, illustrated by Anne Spudvilas.
- Launch: Mildura Arts Festival, Artvault. Saturday July 19th at 3pm.
- Workshop: Poetry and Art, with Janeen and Anne; Artvault, Mildura. Sunday 20th July. 2.00-4.30pm.
- Launch: Immanuel Primary School, Novar Gardens, South Australia. Friday August 1st
- Reading & Signing: Collins Bookshop, Castle Plaza, Edwardstown, South Australia. Saturday, August 2nd. 1pm.
Picture book, published by National Library of Australia, illustrated by Anne Spudvilas.
- Due for release: 2015
Picture-poetry book, published by Omnibus/Scholastic, illustrated by Cheryll Johns. (a sea-sequel to Silly Galah)
- Due for release: 2015
I’m a hungry dinosaur
Picture book, published by Penguin Group Australia, illustrated by Ann James. (a sequel to I’m a dirty dinosaur) Due for release: 2015
Vaska, the very old ghost
Short story for anthology, Stories for 6 year olds. published by Random House.
3. Other special bits and pieces:
- Wrote words for a dance performance created for babies aged 4- 18 months, choreographed by Sally Chance Dance. Opened at Out the Box festival for children in Brisbane, Queensland, June 24, 2014. Will be travelling to Melbourne and Perth and in Adelaide for the Come Out Festival, 2015.
I’m a dirty dinosaur
- Picture book, published by Penguin Group Australia, illustrated by Ann James.
- Shortlisted for 2014 CBCA (Children’s Book Council of Australia) awards, Early Childhood category.
- Published in USA by Kane Miller Publishers.
- Published in China by Oriental babies and kids Ltd.
- Short reading on television program, Home and Away, Thursday 19th June.
- Selected for Get Reading scheme 2013. (50 Books you can’t put down.)
- That Boy, Jack – Children’s historical novel, published by Walker Books, 2013.
Notable Award in 2014 CBCA awards. Too tight, Benito Picture book, published by Little Hare, to be published by KZIM publishers in Korea, 2015.
- Attended Children’s Book Council of Australia conference in Canberra, in May, 2014.
- One of 14 Australian writers/illustrators taking part in Meet the Writers in the Adelaide Convention Centre, Thursday, June 19th, 2014.
- Along with Jacqueline Harvey and Mike Dumbleton, spoke at Ardtornish School, South Australia, with Random House publishers, for SLASA (School Library Association of South Australia)
That’s it for now! Till next time. Love to hear from you.
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