Writing for Children: the Power of Community

I recently spent an entire weekend with an incredible group of children’s writers and illustrators. Some published, some not, but all of them passionate about one thing – bringing stories to life for kids.

It was planned and executed flawlessly by Susanne Gervay and her incredible team from SCWBI Australia East and NZ.

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Nancy Conescu (Walker Books), Zoe Walton (Penguin Random house), Bruce Whatley

From our opening pages, to synopsis, character and plot, we were treated to inspiring keynote talks from publishers Zoe Walton (Penguin Random House), Nancy Conescu (Walker Books), Tania McCartney (author, illustrator and founder of Kids’ Book Review), Deborah Abela (author) and the amazing illustrator Bruce Whatley.

With their words of wisdom buzzing around the room, it was time to get to work.

In small peer groups, we read and shared our thoughts on each other’s writing and that’s where the magic truely began.

I was so lucky to be working with authors Susanne Gervay, Deborah Abela and Julie Anne Thorndyke – I felt like I’d won the lottery!

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My incredible peer group at work making magic

By both receiving and sharing ideas about my writing and the pieces they were working on, I learnt a very important lesson – we are all on a learning curve, sharing doubts and success. The wonderful thing about writing is that process never really ends.

Writing can be such a isolating career and that’s why connecting with fellow writers is so important. Organisations like SCWBI prove just how powerful being part of a community can be.

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With Susanne Gervay

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Me, my roommate Jodie Wells-Slowgrove and Deborah Abela

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Introducing “The Time of the Jade Spider”

Writing is my passion and once again I have had the enormous privilege of combining it with a cause I am passionate about – finding a cure for childhood cancer.

I am very proud to introduce our latest co-authored middle-grade novel, The Time of the Jade Spider.IMG_2571

This book for eight to fourteen year old’s is based on the award-winning story our Northern Beaches Writers’ Group team wrote wrote during the 2016 Write-a-book-in-a-day (WABIAD).

This competition requires us to write, illustrate, bind and deliver an entire children’s book in twelve hours. I have been part of the NBWG WABIAD team for the past four years and I am thrilled to say each year our books have won Best Book in the National Open Category. We have also won awards for illustration and sponsorship.

Launching The Time of the Jade Spider was about more than just selling books and sharing stories – it was also about raising more money for The Kids Cancer Project. You see, not only do we raise sponsorship ahead of WABIAD each year, profits from the sale of all four of our books continue to go towards research into finding a cure for childhood cancer.

With your help we have raised over $10,000 for The Kids Cancer Project since 2013.

 

IMG_2576Thank you to all those who joined us for the official launch and to Jody McDonnell from The Kids Cancer Project for talking to us all about the organisation and the incredible work being done.

Congratulations to all my fellow authors on yet another wonderful book - Leah Boonthanom, Madi Duncan, Chris Lake, Kylie Pfeiffer, Mijmark,  Zena Shapter and Susan Steggall and a big thank you to Kylie for organising a successful and enjoyable launch!

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If you would like to enjoy a wonderful story and help fight childhood cancer at the same time, we still have copies of The Time of the Jade Spider and our other WABIAD books Rider and the Hummingbird (2015), A Dolphin for Naia (2014) and Scribbles in the Dark (2013). Just contact NBWG or order them through most online booksellers.

Happy reading!

 

Introducing #IntoTordon and Z.F. Kingbolt

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Authors Kristin Prescott, Zena Shapter, Tony McFadden & Zoya Nojin with some “Into Tordon” fans

Seeing kids excited about reading and clutching a new book is something that always makes my heart sing. So you can imagine how thrilled I was when the cover peeking out at me, the book they were so happy about, was one I co-authored with nine of my writing friends!

Into Tordon has had its official Sydney launch at Berkelouw Books Balgowlah (huge thanks to Lee and her team) – and oh what a night!

From crazy word-jumbles to colouring-in competitions, merchandise prizes and book readings, the kids were plunged whole-heartedly into the “Tordon” world.

There was also plenty for adults as we celebrated the book and the arrival of author Z.F. Kingbolt onto the literary scene.

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Susanne Gervay launching “Into Tordon”

Best-selling children’s author Susanne Gervay launched the book to the large gathering of supporters with enthusiasm and excitement describing it as “a must read for kids and adults“. Susanne told the enthusiastic crowd she couldn’t put it down – a problem when there is other work to be done! She even described it as “Harry Potter on steroids” although as one of my fellow authors Tony McFadden pointed out – we don’t endorse the use of performance enhancing drugs! Thank you so much Susanne for your incredible endorsement and support, it is wonderful to share this journey with you.

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L-R: Zoya Nojin, Susanne Gervay & Kristin Prescott

About Into Tordon

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The “Into Tordon” authors, Susanne Gervay & some of our biggest supporters

Into Tordon and Z.F. Kingbolt are the creations of nine authors and I feel honoured to be among such a wonderful pool of writing talent! The authors are Leah Boonthanom, Tracey Jackson, Tony McFadden, Liz Michell, Mijmark, Zoya Nojin, Kristin Prescott (me), Zena Shapter and Kirsten Taylor.

Writing collaboratively on such a big and exciting project was one of the best and most rewarding experiences so far in my writing career. It certainly had its challenges to overcome. At times we felt a little like our protagonists in Into Tordon, Beth and Zane, but we did succeed and through a fabulous team effort we brought the book to life. It was also a fantastic way to grow as an author. I write more about tips on writing collaboratively HERE.

Huge thanks need to go to our amazing publisher Anna Solding from MidnightSun Publishing who was brave enough to take on nine authors and this book. We are so grateful for her confidence and passion for Into Tordon which is now allowing us to share the book with any children or children at heart that enjoy online games, riddles, action and adventure.

We’ll be holding our Adelaide launch on Saturday 19 November, 2pm at Shakespeare’s Book & Coffee Shop in Blackwood. Why not stop by and meet some of the authors and our wonderful publisher – i’ll see you there!!

Join the “Into Tordon” conversation

If you’d like to know more about Into Tordon and follow Z.F. Kingbolt then head to the website.

Books are available NOW at Berkelouw Books Balgowlah and will be in other stores from 1 November (if your local doesn’t have it – get them to order it in!!)

Into Tordon is available for pre-order now through NewSouth BooksBooktopia and QBD

You can also join the conversation on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

 

How To Write As A Team

Collaborative writing may seem like an impossible option for many authors. We are by nature, usually solitary creatures who toil at our keyboards or notebooks alone, for hours and days on end.

Right? Wrong!

Writing alone absolutely has its place, but it isn’t the only option. Some of my best writing experiences to date have been the result of collaboration. My experiences began with the opportunity to join a team in the “Write-a-Book-in-a-Day” competition, raising money for The Kids’ Cancer Project. We had to write and illustrate an entire book for 8-14 year olds in 12 hours. Not only did we do it, my Northern Beaches Writers’ Group team has won three years in a row. (If you want to support our fourth effort CLICK HERE – all money goes to finding a cure for cancer)

We have now published our three award-winning collaborative novels – Scribbles in the Dark (2013), A Dolphin for Naia (2014), Rider and the Hummingbird (2015) and a fourth children’s novel is being published in late 2016. In all four publications there were between five and ten writers!

So how did we come up with a story we all wanted to write, choose characters, find a common voice? How did up to ten creative voices, unify into one?

Here are a few tips to get your collaborative juices flowing!

1. Majority Rules

It is important from the start for everyone to leave their egos at the door and understand decisions will be based on what the majority wants. Everyone should get a say, but you need to accept you’ll have to adjust what you believed was the best direction for the story if you are outvoted. If everyone is on the same page with this from the very beginning it will make the experience far more enjoyable and rewarding for everyone.

2. Choose a Leader

It is good to have someone who can work as a leader and arbiter to keep everyone moving forward. This person doesn’t necessarily have more power or more say than anyone else but can help determine when it’s time to simply make a decision.

3. Do Lots of Planning

It is crucial to do lots of planning and plotting as a group. Even if you are normally a pantser, you will need to change camps if you are collaborating. The more work you do fleshing out your characters, the more detailed your settings and the clearer the plot, the more likely it will be you find a common voice when you write. Butchers paper or a white board that is clearly visible to everyone will make this part of the process more effective and easy for people to refer back to later.

4. Divide and Conquer

Once you have done LOTS of planning and plotting, then it is time to divide up the story and start writing. Using your butchers paper or white board again, split up your story using a basic narrative arc. What are you moments of rising tension and what is your climax? How does it resolve? As you fit your plot to the story arc you will begin to see how it can be broken down into sections or chapters.

For each section write the starting point, a line about what happens and the end point of that chapter or section. That way the cliffhanger endings are clear and you have smoother flow between the chapters before and after you. Decide on your word count and then divide the story up to fit the number of writers. Then it’s time to write!

5. Read and Revise

Once everyone has written their sections of the story it is time to pull it all together. Read through from beginning to end. Don’t worry if there are gaps or inconsistencies – there will be! Just make notes and fix these when it’s time to revise. If your plotting has been thorough, you will be amazed how close to having a complete story you already are.

Revising your own chapter is a good next step but then you need to look at whole book edits. Have everyone read the book and give feedback. Once again, majority rules!

The final steps will depend on the number of writers, their experience and the group dynamic. Once the fundamentals of the story are decided then I believe having two or three people doing the final edits or proofing is a good idea.

6. Don’t be precious … it will always be your story too!

In the collaborative novel your words won’t necessarily end up printed the way you originally wrote them. Anyone who has been edited will understand that different eyes see different things – some changes you will agree with, some you won’t. Often authors can challenge edit suggestions, but when you are collaborating, sometimes the changes simply need to be made. Remember, majority rules! However, even if changes have been made don’t forget you will have been instrumental in giving your creative baby life. You were part of the process and it is still equally your creation, regardless of any changes that have been made.

So find some like-minded writers and give it a go. What have you got to lose?

Oh and don’t forget to CLICK HERE and sponsor the NBWG team for WABIAD 2016 … or buy one of our books … profits go to The Kids’ Cancer Project and work to finding a cure for childhood cancer.

Happy writing!

 

 

How you can be part of a life-changing novel

Have you ever become so lost in a book that it seems more real to you than the world you actually live in? Do you know that feeling of excitement as you travel with a favourite character for hundreds of pages and countless adventures? Have you ever wondered what it would be like to actually live some of those adventures?

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Me with members of the award winning 2013 NBWG team with author and judge J.C. Burke
(L-R) Fiona Howland-Rose, Tony McFadden, Zoya Nojin, Zena Shapter, JC Burke (author and judge), Liz Michell, Kristin Prescott (Me), Leah Boonthanom, Tracey Jackson

Books give us an opportunity to escape, which is why I love reading AND writing them so much.

In August I will also have another very good reason to spend an entire day writing … to fight childhood cancer.

For the third year in a row, I am joining a talented team made up of members of the Northern Beaches Writers’ Group taking part in Write-a-Book-in-a-Day competition.

In a nutshell, we will write, edit and illustrate a children’s novel in just 12 hours …. sound crazy? Well maybe just a little bit, but once again, we will certainly give it our best shot! In 2013 we were awarded Best Book and Best Illustrations for our Book Scribbles in the Dark and in 2014 we were awarded Best Book for A Dolphin For Naia.

We also raised the most sponsorship … and that’s where you come in. We are doing out bit – but we need YOUR support. Money raised goes to The Kids Cancer Project and Westmead Children’s Hospital.

Just CLICK HERE and select NORTHERN BEACHES WRITERS’ GROUP to sponsor our team.

Not only will you join the fight against this awful disease, your name will be included as a supporter in our book and you’ll help bring a smile to the face of a sick child.

Thank you for your support!

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Kris x

PS – Both our award winning books (for ages 8-14) are available from all good online retailers and a percentage of profits goes to The Kids Cancer Project, so why not grab a copy today!!

The End and The Beginning

There’s something a little unbelievable about writing 50,000 words in 30 days, but for the second time in two years I did it. I was a National Novel Writing Month winner!

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My NaNoWriMo Progress chart. It was tough at times, but worth the ride!

For the month of November 2014, I banished my doubts and focused on the finish line, finding time every day, in many ways to write and write and write.

It was my second year taking part in this global initiative and even though only twelve months had passed since my first attempt, it was quickly apparent just how much I’d learnt. So what did this year teach me?

Literary website Writer’s Edit asked me to write about my journey HERE.

So head on over – happy reading!.

NaNoWriMo Adventure: Here we go again!

Writing a novel is a daunting but exhilarating goal and one I’m thrilled to be taking on again this year. After almost 20 years as a journalist I have discovered I work best with tough deadlines and that’s exactly what I’ve just given myself. Throughout November I have committed to writing 50,000 words – my entire middle grade novel.

The wonderful literary website Writer’s Edit has asked me to document my journey for them. So pop over and have a look at the first instalment. Here’s a teaser …

“Around the world this weekend, writers of all shapes, sizes and experience are at the starting line of a literary marathon.

November means National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) where more than 300,000 participants are given the goal of writing an entire novel – 50,000 words in just 30 days. … for the second year in a row, I am taking my place among them.”

Read the full article HERE.

As for me … I’m heading off to my fictional world. Let the adventure begin!

WABIAD … we won again, especially for the kids!

KrisWABIAD_smallThis week I was out at Westmead Children’s Hospital with members of our NBWG team to receive our awards for the Write-a-book-in-a-day competition. For the second year in a row, we won Best National Book and raised the most sponsorship.

Congratulations to the rest of my wonderful team from the NBWG and thank you to all our generous sponsors. NSW entrants raised a combined total of just under $50,000 dollars. The money we raised goes to The Kids Cancer Project and will be used to buy medicine and support research to find a cure for childhood cancer.

The Kids Cancer Project is currently helping fund an experimental and promising treatment for brain tumours … they need all the help they can get!

Here’s what the judge had to say about our book A Dolphin for Naia:

This novel has it all! A brilliant, fast-paced adventure between a young man and his Grandmother on a road-trip to find his estranged parents, A Dolphin for Naia serves up a fantastic mix of mystery, sci-fi and family intrigues. Strong, well-rounded characters and confident, mature writing drive a very well structured and paced narrative. The climax is both heart-warming and thrilling. Beautifully presented with lovely illustrations, this was an engaging and creative story.

- Judge, Paul McDonald from Beecroft Children’s Bookshop

Stay tuned to find out how you can have a copy of this award winning book in your hands for Christmas!!

 

WABIAD – We’re doing it again!

It is a sad reality that kids get sick. I don’t mean just a simple cold or cough – I mean really sick. Life threatening sick – and there isn’t always a happy ending, no matter how many stories I write to try and convince myself otherwise.

So on Sunday the 17th of August I’m doing it again!

Me with our WABIAD 2013 awards!

Me with our WABIAD 2013 awards!

I’m joining 9 other talented writers from the Northern Beaches Writers’ Group taking on the Write-a-Book-in-a-Day (WABIAD) challenge. This is the second year for some of us, while a few other brave souls have joined the cause for the first time – and it’s a good one – we’re raising money for the Kids Cancer Project at Westmead Children’s Hospital!

What do we have to do? Well at 8am we are given a random setting, 2 humans, 1 non-human, 1 issue and 5 random words, then we have to write, illustrate, print and bind the children’s book by 8pm that night (now you know why I’m referring to our group as brave!). Wish us luck – it’s a big ask, but I know we can do it!

NBWG WABIAD team featured in the Daily Telegraph

NBWG WABIAD team featured in the Daily Telegraph in 2013

Last year, we were pretty chuffed to be awarded Best Book and Best Illustrations – and we raised the most Sponsorship nationally! And that’s where you come in. We’ll put in the hard work on the day, but you can help too – by becoming a sponsor!

Simply CLICK HERE then select Northern Beaches Writers’ Group. It’s up to you how much you want to give – but remember big or small, every cent will go towards helping change the plight of a precious child.

I’m dedicating the day to a very special little boy who has touched my life – perhaps your donation will be the one that makes a difference for a child just like him.

Thank you to my fellow NBWG team members: Leah Boonthanom, Zoya Nojin, Kirsten Taylor, Kylie Pfeiffer, Mijmark, Chris Lake, Susan Steggall, Madi Duncan and especially Zena Shapter for getting us all organised!

And a big thank you to all of you who support us by donating.

You can read more about last year’s experience here and here and watch this space – I’ll be sure to let you know how we go this year!

Why Every Writer Should Join a Writing Group – Zena Shapter Interview

Recently I have been reflecting on how much my life has changed since I took a leap of faith and threw myself into my writing. Can it only be a few months ago?

I had no idea how much I could achieve, or how quickly – I’ve been co-author on an award winning children’s book, I’ve completed the first draft of two children’s fantasy novels (both written in a single month during NaNoWriMo) and I’ve had articles and a short story published in international literary magazines … WOW!

Writers' Group articlePossibly the most important factor in achieving all of this was my decision to join the Northern Beaches Writers’ Group, founded by award winning author, Zena Shapter. Being part of a writing collective was the key to staying motivated through the times of loneliness and doubt and learning about a world I had previously only dreamed I could be part of. Now I am well on the way to making it my life.

In my article “Why Every Writer Should Join a Writing Group” for the literary magazine Writer’s Edit, I explain why connecting with other writers is so important. One of my interviewees was the amazing Zena Shapter. The interview was so interesting and inspiring I wanted to share it with you in full. So read on and enjoy! Continue reading