Saturday, February 21, 2009

Brenton's on Tour!

Today I'm happy to welcome young author Brenton Cullen back to Spinning Pearls as one stop on his blog tour. If you want to track Brenton's tour, check out the following stops.

Day 1, Saturday 21st Feb.
Day 2, Sunday 22nd Feb. Here at Spinning Pearls.
Day 3, Monday 23rd Feb.

Brenton’s book The Writers: A Collection of Australian Writers' Biographies, can be purchased as a download or in paperback or hardcover versions from Lulu by visiting

Hi, Brenton;

I’ve already done an interview with you at Spinning Pearls, but I’ve come up with some questions for the blog tour.

Q. Young writers often find themselves categorized as “different” from other kids. Is this something you accept, or even enjoy, or do you prefer to see yourself as an ordinary writer who happens to be younger than most? (Or as an ordinary teenager who happens to be a writer.)

A. Well, I am not ordinary, but very different from the other kids in my classes. But I do think that people come down a bit too much on teenage authors. Sonya Hartnett hated being referred to as "the teen writer". I feel sort of the same way, as people do not take me as seriously as they would take a 35 yr old author.

Q. You write non fiction (in your biographies of Australian writers) and also fiction. Which style of writing comes more naturally to you?

A. This is hard to say. Non-fiction is easier but I prefer fiction and fiction is harder but I prefer to not do nonfiction all the time!

Q. Do you have other creative talents, such as music or drawing?

A. I am not fond of music, except for listening to it! My drawings would, put it this way, want to make you throw them in the bin! I enjoy some art, but am terrible at it, especially painting!

Q. Do any of your peers at school like writing too?

A. Yes, my best friend and I co-wrote a novel in 6th Grade.

Q. If you could interview any writer, living or dead, and write his or her biography, which one would you pick, and why?

A. I love this question!! I would love to fly to their house and sit down for a two hour interview or something with J.K. Rowling, or, much more likely(!) my mentor, Sally Odgers.

Thanks for answering my inquisitive questions, Brenton. Good luck with the rest of your tour.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Winning the Paperback in Your Hand contest 5

Here's a fifth tip for those planning to enter the Paperback in Your Hand Contest at (or any other writing contest for that matter!)

Enter a project you feel passionate about.

Sometimes, strategies of market study and technical proficiency are enough, but winners often have that little bit extra. You might call it spark, passion or X-factor. It's difficult to categorise but unmistakable to see. Care about what you're writing, whether it's a recipe book, a family history, a poetry collection or a comic novel. If you find yourself smiling, sniffling, laughing or just grinning like a harvest moon when you think of your manuscript, then you care, and that's half way to making others see the light emerging from the bushell.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

How to Win the Paperback in Your Hand contest 4

Welcome everyone! Today is the fourth day of this Event. It's very informal, as you will note. Each day I'll be putting up a tip or trick to help writers make the most of contest writing... not only the Paperback in Your Hand Contest, but other competitions, too. Please be sure to read the comments for the earlier parts, as the writers had some useful tips of their own. If you plan to enter this contest, you'll find all the details at .

Here's the fourth tip.

If your entry is fiction, make sure the plot has plenty of highs and lows.

Most readers prefer a story where there is plenty of action, but which allows for some quieter and more reflective passages that allow them to get to know the characters. It is also better to show characters who have shades of grey in behaviour, emotion and luck. You can test this by plotting your protagonist's emotional journey on a graph, If the emotional journey appears to be flatlining, so, probably, is the story.

Thanks for reading, and don't forget to check in tomorrow for the fifth tip.

Friday, February 13, 2009

How to Win the Paperback in Your Hand Contest 3

Welcome everyone! Today is the third day of this Event. It's very informal, as you will note. Each day I'll be putting up a tip or trick to help writers make the most of contest writing... not only the Paperback in Your Hand Contest, but other competitions, too. Please be sure to read the comments for Parts 1 and 2, as the writers had some useful tips of their own. If you plan to enter this contest, you'll find all the details at .

Here's tip 3.

Consider your style, genre and target readership.

You probably have considered these already, but have you looked at them as a whole? Writing style is closely tied to readership and to genre. The style that is perfect for a category romance won't suit a hard-boiled thriller. The chatty first-person style that fits a chapter book might be quite wrong in a detective story. One of the most common errors I see is a style that fights with the genre, or with the age group. For example, there are very few science fiction stories for very young readers. This is because such young readers don't know the conventions of sci fi, and so need a lot explained. A lot of explanation in a short book overshadows the action and character.

Thanks for reading, and be sure to come back tomorrow for another winning tip. Any comments will be welcome.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

How to Win the Paperback in Your Hand Contest 2

Welcome everyone! Today is the second day of this Event. It's very informal, as you will note. Each day I'll be putting up a tip or trick to help writers make the most of contest writing... not only the Paperback in Your Hand Contest, but other competitions, too. Please be sure to read the comments for Part 1, as the writers had some useful tips of their own. If you plan to enter this contest, you'll find all the details at .

My second tip is simple.

Submit a manuscript of the right length.

The rules call for a manuscript of 25,000 words or under. This can be short stories, a novella, a short story or a chapter book, poems, a biography, a cook book... well, just about anything! Technically, a story with five words in it or a haiku poem would fall within the rules, but remember, this is a Paperback in Your Hand contest. How many paperbacks have you seen with one or two pages? A book of ten poems would probably have fewer words than a chapter book, but it would cover several pages because poetry is traditionally displayed in short lines with plenty of white space. A recipe book would likewise take up more pages than the word count would suggest. A chapter book would cover more pages than a short story of the same word count. A children's picture book would take up the traditional 32 pages... but since this particular contest cannot provide for coloured illustrations, any pictures would be black and white, and, additionally, will need to be provided by the author.

All these matters need to be taken into account by entrants in this contest. When planning your entry, visualise it as a paperback. How will it look? Will it be impossibly slim? Will it need saddlestitching, or will it be perfect bound? If you can't "see" a proper book, then maybe you should reconsider your entry.

Comments? Questions? Come back tomorrow for another tip.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

How to Win the Paperback in Your Hand Contest 1

Welcome everyone! Today is the first day of this Event. It's very informal, as you will note. Each day I'll be putting up a tip or trick to help writers make the most of contest writing... not only the Paperback in Your Hand Contest, but other competitions, too.

First up... if you want to enter the contest, check out the rules at .

Now, here comes the first tip. It might be self-evident to some people, but it obviously isn't to others.

Obey the contest rules.

Rules are there for a number of reasons. Some rules make sure there's a level playing field for entrants. Others make life easier for the judge(s). Still others are there to help weed out entries. If you're unsure about the meaning of a rule, you should contact the contest organiser(s) and ask. For example, the Paperback in Your Hand contest asks for manuscripts of 25,000 words or under. As it happens, the contest will accept mss of up to 26,000 words, simply because editing will often remove this many from the finished product. However, this is not always so. Some contests are strict about the word count, and you may be disqualified if you overshoot the mark.

If you have any comments or questions, send us a comment. Then tune in tomorrow for the next tip.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Big Blowie! Sally Murphy swats my questions

Hello everyone, and welcome to this stop on the inaugural Aussie Blog Tour! Today author Sally Murphy has kindly agreed to answer my inquisitive questions regarding her new book, The Big Blowie.

Q.1. The Big Blowie is a title to send me for the swatter. Please provide one (1) true-life horror story concerning one or more big blowies.

A.1. Blowies (or blowflies if you are not Australian) are truly insidious creatures. They are worse than ‘normal’ flies, in their ability to just stick around, being big and buzzy and gross. Living in hot, dry parts of Australia, I’ve spent many hours trying to get rid of persistent blowies. The worst is when they start buzzing in your bedroom in the middle of the night. If you turn on the light to spray or sat them, they go quiet and you can’t find them.
But a story? Hmm – let me think. Perhaps this one: yesterday morning I took a bag of kitchen rubbish to the green wheelie bin outside. When I opened the lid, it was wriggling with big juicy blowfly maggots. One of my darling children had taken some rubbish out for me the day before and not pushed it in far enough. As a result he lid was ajar, and a blowfly, attracted by the delicious aroma of week old rubbish had decided to make my bin her nursery. Eeeeewww. Fortunately for me, yesterday was bin day and the whole stinking mess has now made its way, to the local tip.

Q.2. The best way to make a big blowie into an ex-blowie is via a folded newspaper. Discuss.

A.2. Oh definitely. And it works for other pests, too. After my recent holiday, I bought in the morning paper, which had been buried deep in a bush in my front garden. When I started to unroll it, a family of big cockroaches came scurrying out. The newspaper was hastily employed to say goodbye to the cockroaches. It turned out it was not that day’s paper at all, but one which had been lost in the bush for some time, long enough to become a little cockroach heaven.

Q.3. That’s a very feral-looking child on the cover. Is he based on one of yours? (You may take the fifth on this if necessary.)

A.3. Lol – MY children wouldn’t dare look feral. Okay, well maybe occasionally. Very occasionally. Is there such a thing as frequently occasionally or occasionally frequently?
But no, Syd doesn’t look like any of my children, though I do have sons about his age, and three of my kids do have blue eyes. But none of them have yellow hair. Come to think of it, I’ve never seen a kid with yellow hair.

Q.4. Oh, the story. Yes. Did the Aussie Aussie Aussie theme set you thinking about Things Aussie, such as thongs, chops, and blowies? Or was it the sight of a Big Prawn, Big Pineapple or the daddy of them all, the Big Spud that set you off?

A.4. Yes, the story was definitely prompted by the series theme, although I’ve always been strangely fascinated by Big Things, and on my recent trip across Australia insisted on not just viewing as many as possible, but also photographing them.
The Big Blowie, came about because the publisher was looking for very Australian stories for the series. I wanted to have a good chance of being accepted, so I tried to think of things were very Australian – I came up with the Outback, blowflies, and Big Things . The guidelines also mentioned that it wanted books to deal with issues, so I decided to include a drought in my book because drought is a huge problem here in Australia. From this list of ideas, I came up with a plot where the drought is affecting a family’s livelihood, so the child comes up with the idea of building a big blowfly (blowie) to draw tourists in.

Q.5. How do you individualise the voice of a young protagonist? One pervasive problem in books at this level is that the protagonists CAN begin to sound generic… boy, smart, eight-to-eleven, scrape-prone, or girl, smart, feisty, tomboy or proto-feminist, eight-to-eleven, scrape prone.

A.5. You are so right. In these shorter length books you have less room to develop the protagonist’s character, and there is a risk of them all sounding the same. I sued first person narrative for this book (I tend to use it a lot, actually), and there is always a risk in first person that the character sounds just like you, the author. For Syd, I tried to have him focus on the things a kid would focus on, rather than having him have an adult take on the world. For example, Syd’s in a rural area in a drought. For an adult, there would be worries about stock and crop prices, concerns about water for the house and property, financial concerns. These issues are not what’s at the top of Syd’s list of concerns. He likes Dougie and the tourists coming to visit – he’s a social kind of kind – so his concern is with the tourists drying up when the water does. Kids are, by nature, egocentric, so he’s concerned about the things that affect him. But he’s also proactive. He can’t fix the drought, but he can come up with a way to get the tourists to come back, and that’s exactly what he does.

Q.6. Is this book a move to rehabilitate the humble blowie?

A.6. No, I think they’re beyond redemption, quite frankly. But it is a move to make the most out of the things that we can’t change. Before Syd comes up with his big idea, he and his mum are being bothered by blowies. That’s the source of his inspiration. The blowies don’t go away, and although they don’t appear much again in the text after Syd gets his idea, the illustrator (Craig Longmuir) has them there in the illustrations right till the last page.
I’ve noticed a bizarre tendency for me to right about things that gross me out. Obviously blowies, but previously Giant Cockroaches (blehhhhh) and, more recently an incident with a huge spider is fodder for a new story I’m planning. Snakes and bitey insects such as scorpions also feature prominently in two nonfiction titles I’ve written, and flies, snakes and snails are in my poems. Will I rehabilitate them? No. But sometimes when I write about them I do learn things that make me feel more kindly about them. Sometimes

Thanks, Sally, for visiting Spinning Pearls. And readers, why not follow the tour? Sally Murphy has been to..

February 8 - Dee Scribe -
February 9 - Let’s Have Words - http://letshavewords.blogspot…com/
February 10 - Robyn Opie’s Writing Children’s Books -
February 11 - Spinning Pearls -

Tomorrow she will visit -
February 12 - The Book Chook -

The Big Blowie is part of the Aussie Aussie Aussie series published by Aussie School Books and distributed by Blake.

Friday, February 6, 2009

See where I walk!

View Interactive Map on

To see one of the walks I take regularly, click on the link above.