Tuesday, June 30, 2009

(Giving our kids) A REASON TO WRITE

In April 2009 I had an email from a high school teacher, asking if I could suggest a source for one of my books. The book in question was a handbook for teachers, outlining writing workshops to use with schoolchildren. I suggested some bookshops, but no one seemed to have stock. Having had no luck sourcing copies from the publisher, I decided to write a completely new book on the same subject.

"Just a small book," I assured myself. "One about 6-7000 words, like your picture book writing workshop."

Blithely, I set to work.

43,000 words and many mini interviews later, the first draft of Reason to Write was done. Now came the hard part, deciding on a title. I found that using the short version Reason to Write, gave people the wrong impression. Almost everyone thought this was a book for adult writers who wanted to be published. No, no, been there, done that. Then they thought it was a handbook for children to use. No, no, haven't done that yet, but probably will. What is it then?

It's a handbook for adults who want to help children with their writing. Got it? Yes, they had it, but I couldn't explain that to potential customers, could I? Reluctantly, I decided the book needed a subtitle.

Many were suggested and considered. A handbook for parents. Yes, but it's also for teachers. A handbook for teachers. Yes, but it's for parents too. A handbook for teachers and parents. Too long.

Children's writing. Yes, but it sounds as if it might be for adults who want to write for children.

Child writers. Yes, but that sounds like a study of children who are writers.

Helping children write. Yes, but that could be about actual writing lessons.

The more subtitles I considered, the more I realised no subtitle of a reasonable length could explain the book's content and purpose. Finally, I hit on the idea of a subtitle that came first. How would that look?

Oddly, it looked OK. That's why the book is called (Giving our kids) A REASON TO WRITE.

Phew! Now the title was out of the way, I had to think about publishing... and that's another story. Tune in tomorrow! And, if you want to see, preview or buy the book itself as a PDF or paperback, follow the link. Reason to Write

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Letters to Leonardo

Today I'm happy to welcome Dee White's novel, Letters to Leonardo, to Spinning Pearls. I asked Dee some curly questions...

1. Imagine you're pitching Letters to Leonardo to the following readers, and give a high concept (25 words or fewer) for each pitch.

A boy who's heavily into computers and aircraft.

15yo Matt surfs the internet for info on his ‘dead’ mum. Copes with his discoveries by writing letters to early aircraft inventor, Leonardo da Vinci.

(phew, just made it with that one – 25 words)

A woman in her 40s who wants to be a writer.

Letters to Leonardo uses dual narrative to add story layers and suspense. Leonardo da Vinci’s paintings symbolise the turmoil going on in Matt Hudson’s life.

A girl who enjoys TV soaps.

Action, drama and a hunky main character with a secret make Letters to Leonardo essential reading.

2. Can you remember when you first became a fan of Leonardo da Vinci? (In my case it was a story called "The Boy Who Set the Birds Free" in a school reader, and also some of Leonardo's drawings in an encyclopaedia.)

I can’t remember exactly when I was first drawn to Leonardo da Vinci, but I remember looking at the Mona Lisa when I was in my teens and speculating about what secret she was hiding. Don’t you think she looks as if she knows something that nobody else does? I’ve always been inspired by the detail and the depth of emotion you can see in the people Leonardo painted – like he ‘really’ knew them.

3. How do you suppose an eccentric gay Italian genius would respond to letters from a 21st Century Australian boy?

Leonardo da Vinci was always searching for knowledge and truth – was always open to new things so I think he would have been intrigued with Matt’s letters – and fascinated to find out more. He is quoted as saying, “The desire to know is natural to all good people”.

When you look at some of the things Leonardo designed like tanks, flying machines etc, he was way ahead of his time. So I think that when Matt told him about our 21st Century world, he would have nodded his head, stroked his beard and said, “Hmmm! Just what I expected!”

4. What made you pick Leonardo as your character's unwitting aura?

Matt’s character was in my head before I started writing. Leonardo seemed the logical aura choice for an artistic, sensitive boy who could see layers in things - and deeper meanings. They had other things in common too; like being removed from their mothers when young and having strong, overprotective fathers.

5. Tell us about your next project.

I’m putting the finishing touches on a new YA novel, Cleopatra’s Cat. It’s about a girl with three obsessions – the ancient Egyptian queen, cats and getting her brother off drugs.

Thanks for having me, Sally – and for making me think ‘outside the picture’.

The tour kicks off at Sally Murphy's blog http://sallymurphy.blogspot.com tomorrow, then on to Sally O's blog where I had to answer some very tricky questions:-)

Anyway, here's the complete itinerary

24th June 2009 http://sallymurphy.blogspot.com
Dee and Matt (the main character) talk about promoting Letters to Leonardo online.

25th June 2009 http://spinningpearls.blogspot.com
Author interview - some very curly questions

26th June 2009 http://thebookchook.blogspot.com
How art has been used in Letters to Leonardo - with some teaching activities included.

27th June 2009 http://belka37.blogspot.com
The research process involved in writing Letters to Leonardo

28th June 2009 http://weloveya.wordpress.com
Guest blogger – talking with Vanessa Barneveld – interactive discussion about dreams and writing

29th June 2009 http://www.livejournal.com/users/orangedale
An author interview on the writing process - covering things like inspiration and perspective

30th June 2009 http://www.letshavewords.blogspot.com
Use of mentors in YA fiction, and Leonardo da Vinci’s involvement in the book

1st July 2009 Cyber launch http://deescribewriting.wordpress.com including cross to Robyn Opie’s blog http://robynopie.blogspot.com – hurdles overcome on the way to publication.

2nd July 2009 http://persnicketysnark.blogspot.com
How the author’s life paralleled Matt’s – her growing obsession with Leonardo da Vinci

3rd July 2009 http://bjcullen.blogspot.com
Working with a publisher and the editing process

4th July 2009 http://sandyfussell.blogspot.com
Interview with the elusive Matt Hudson at Sandy Fussell's blog. Sandy is the author of the Samurai Kids series

5th July 2009 http://teacherswritinghelper.wordpress.com
Class writing activities based on Letters to Leonardo - themes in the book

6th July 2009 http://tips4youngwriters.wordpress.com
Tips 4 young writers on how Letters to Leonardo was written - how the author turned fact into fiction

7th July 2009 http://www.JenniferBrownYA.com
An overseas stop before heading home - USA blogger Jennifer Brown talks to Dee about bipolar themes in the story and the affect on teenagers of having a family member with a mental illness.