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Oh, happy me. I actually forgot the day the Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards were to be announced (April 8, 2014). The reason was that I was consumed with my week-long involvement with a dance production for babies (more about that later!)
So, when one of friends left a text message of congratulations, I was gobsmacked. I think I startled the rest of the creative development team with my sudden yelp of delight!
I was thrilled to hear that That Boy, Jack, a novel set in the early copper mining days in South Australia was a Notable Award in the Younger Readers’ category and my picture book, illustrated by Ann James, I’m a Dirty Dinosaur received a Notable in the Early Childhood category.
An hour later, I heard more good news. I’m a Dirty Dinosaur had done another leap and was now Shortlisted!
As the saying goes, ‘I could have danced all night!’
Are you one who’s curious about BEGINNINGS? I am and so I thought I’d share the briefest whiff of the beginnings of both books.
I’m a Dirty Dinosaur began its life as a poem. It was one I’d written specifically for a program of poetry and rhymes, which I’d been taking to kindergartens and child-care centres. It was part of an innovative project designed by a children’s librarian. She felt many children in the area weren’t receiving much in the way of language and rhymes in their early years. The poem wasn’t perfect, but it certainly captured the children’s interest.
Then, when I was up in Queensland as part of the Ipswich Literature Festival, I approached my friend and colleague, Ann James, with the question, ‘Do you think this would make a good picture book?’
There’s more, of course – but that’s the first whiff!
The second book, That Boy, Jack, was really a labour of love, and that love was laboured over for 10 years before the book was finally accepted and published in June, 2013. Its beginning started with my many visits to the little historic Cornish mining towns of Moonta, Kadina and Wallaroo in South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula. When I discovered a photo of a group of picky-boys (young boys who worked laboriously above the mines, sorting copper into various grades) it struck a chord.
Some years later I wrote a short story and sent it to an educational publisher who was looking for Australian stories at the time. Unfortunately, it missed the boat. They’d finished the series.
There’s more to that too, of course – but that is also the first whiff!
Hope you enjoyed the beginnings!
By that, I don’t mean size 8 font, I mean writing less. Which means every word has to earn its place to be on the page. The challenge of the cull! The one hour agony of this word or that. So, it’s no wonder I like writing picture books, poetry, short stories and chapter books.
My latest stories were written specifically for Random House’s anthologies, just released, called Stories for Girls and Stories for Boys aimed for children 7+
One writing equation I’ve learned along my writing journey is this:
idea+ experience+ imagination = story.
So, what was the idea behind Millie the Frog in Stories for Girls?
Millie dares to be different in the play that she, her best friend and her brother put on in Millie’s backyard. Not all princesses have to dress in pink frilly clothes! Especially if you’ve had a frog spell cast upon you – and you, like Millie, quite like being a frog.
- lots of dressing-up and performing in our back yard as a child.
- loved mucking around in froggy, boggy creeks when young.
Where did the idea for Archie the Superhero come from in Stories for Boys?
Archie believes he has superpower but when he helps his mum in her hour of need, he comes to realise that having superpower is perhaps doing something brave. Or . . . maybe he still has bigger dreams!
- My daughter was to due to have a baby and my older grandson wanted their family to be a Superhero family with each member being able to do something superheroic.
- A hairdresser I knew believed that when he was young, people and their everyday existence only came to life when he entered the scene. When he was out of the scene, everything froze, became still life.
- My new grandson was called Saxon and my new great-nephew was called Archie. Great names to use in the story.
What was missing? You guessed it.
After that, of course, came the editing, culling and polishing!
Hope you enjoyed reading about the background of my two, new, small stories!
*PS: in this case, small equated to 1000 words.
When friend and South Australian illustrator, Amanda Graham and I were asked to create a Picture Book workshop for primary classes, we prepared a story idea in advance. We planned to demonstrate how we’d attack the process and ultimately end up with the bones of the story and the first lines (or sketches) of a story. (working title: Tim and Maxie, Maxie being a dog)
Because it was part of the Onkaparinga’s Readers’ and Writers’ Festival, the librarians at Woodcroft Library had created a great idea, called a Book Picnic. Children could pluck items from particular picnic baskets to help stimulate ideas. Amanda and I had already chosen a shell, and decided that we’d use the word SHELL to brainstorm associated ideas and memories.
The whole program worked well; the two classes brainstormed their own ideas, wrote extensions of that idea, and jotted words and/or sketches on a storyboard. Hopefully, many of these will end up as their own books.
The first lines I’d written for the demonstration story were these:
“Tim liked everything about the beach, but Maxie especially liked . . .
One day Tim took a new, special ball to the beach. His Grandpa had given it to him for his birthday.”
At the conclusion of the session, one girl asked me, ‘Janeen, are you going to finish the story about Tim and Maxie?
To be honest, I hadn’t considered it. It had simply been part of the exercise. Besides I was tired from a very long and hectic period of touring and workshopping.
But one sunny morning, a couple of weeks later, I woke up and said, ‘Ah, what the heck. Just do it for fun!’
So I did. And it was FUN!
Three drafts later, I still like it. Will it be accepted for publication? That’s a guessing game.
But at this stage, the title is still Tim and Maxie . . . in case you ever see it in the bookshops!