Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Roald Dhal on E-Bay

Two pages from an unpublished story written by Roald Dahl have come out of their long-forgotten box in somebody's garage and made an appearance on E-Bay where they have nearly reached $2000 (so far). The Eyes of Mr Croaker was to be part of a collective work titled The Do-it-yourself Children's Storybook, which compiled a series of "story starters" that the reader was then meant to complete. The poject never came to life, but with this new development, one of its initiators, Jerry Biederman, is hoping to have another go at it:

Biederman now hopes to create an interactive version of The Do-It-Yourself Children’s Storybook that will include contributions by contemporary authors; he will approach J.K. Rowling about the possibility of joining the project as well. “The concept is now possible on a massive global scale,” Biederman notes, “thanks to the ability of a publisher to stage an online competition to find the best completed versions of each unfinished story.”
Budding writers, you have been warned!
For more, you can have a look over there.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Ibby Ireland is treating you to an evening all about manga this Thursday 9 December at Exchange in Dublin. Meet the artists, learn about their techniques, grab a free manga book and gobble up some sushi from 6.15pm. More info over here.

Tandems on the road

Sailor, by Leila Brient
  So this is it, all the contributions I received for the ''tandem fair'' have gone live on my French blog. Go have a look and don't hesitate to scroll all the way down (there's over 35 texts or images!!!). There's some deadly pics in there... (stories too, of course, but I guess you'll just have to take my word for it!). It's over here, but here's a wee sample...

Morine, by Captain Jelly

Monseigneur Lapin, by Madama Prope

Pic by Robin

Friday, November 26, 2010

Story Spark Sparked Off

 And in great style at that. Last Monday saw the great and the good of the Irish children's books scene with a crowd of authors, illustrators, storytellers, facilitators and young readers from far and wide (but mostly from Bray!).

Joseph O'Connor officially opened proceedings with a fantastic speech, which you can read on The Ark's blog (here). But I can't resist giving you the last paragraph of it:
"And I also believe, without his solidarity and courage, that his life, and therefore mine, would have been different indeed. All my life I have been given chances he did not have. The same is true of many of us. It’s hard not to be scared when times change very suddenly, as they have for many of us in what seems only a few months. But to read with a child can never be taxed, to believe there are deeper solidarities than the merely financial. Things were not better in the old days. Nobody sane could say that. But the example of that generation of Irish people has much to offer. It could be a time to remember the story of where we came from. It will help us write the story of where we’re going. For a story, in order to work, needs to have a good ending. And the story of our country and of our city is far from over, despite these times. The story gives us back our dignity, our passion, our pride, our courage, our solidarity, our pleasure, our sense of wonder, and to know there are young readers here in this room tonight is a cause of pride and celebration for all of us. I am honoured to be among them, and blessed, and fortunate. They represent the greatest values we have, the values that will see us through, and the future of the Irish story."

This week-end will see the kick-off of the series of public events, with Derek Landy and Anthony McGowan on Saturday, and Roddy Doyle and Frank Cottrell Boyce on Sunday.
Now be quick and book them tickets!

Irish Book Award Winners

I mentionned earlier that YOU were the ones to decide the winners of the 2010 IBA, and so, you have. Of course, there's all sorts of ''adult'' category prizes (which you can chexk out here for example), but since we're between kidlit addicts, I'll just announce the winners of the children's fiction awards. In the Junior category, Niamh Sharkey snatched the prize with On the Road with Mavis and Marge. Derek Landy's Mortal Coil (that's Skuldugery 5) won the senior section. Well done all!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Alcatraz, book 3

These days, I'm busy doing lots of things, one of which being the translation of Alcatraz Versus the Kights of Crystallia into French. Like the other two books, it's fast and fun, and it has its share of untranslatable puns, including something to do with riding hogs (as in bikes... or pigs) (precisely). I shall try my best!

Thursday, November 11, 2010


(c) fixedgear
 Following a fellow French-kidlit-writer-living-in-Dublin's suggestion, my French website is hosting a ''Tandem Fair'' where writers and illustrators are invited to send projects and find partners in crime to bring said projects as far as they will go. Writers will send me excerpts of text and illustrators one or a couple of pics, and I'll post the lot on the blog page on December 1st. The ''fair'' will then move on to another blog for another month. Watch this space!

PS: all welcome, although some command of French a plus! ;o)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


I am delighted to say that I will be roaming the aisles of the children's bookfair of Montreuil (near Paris) this December: manning the children's writers and illustrators' Charter's stall (http://www.la-charte.fr/), signing my Christmas opus on Hachette's patch and generally loitering and going 'oooh' and 'aaah' and spending plenty of money on my own crimbo list. If you're in the vicinity, do pop in!

Monday, November 8, 2010


Impressed yet? Here are the results of my paper-folding efforts at the weekend. Santas, samourai hats, butterflies, bells and what have you. Now Mad Cap, I know what it feels like!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Research (ahem!)

Tomorrow I'm off to the National Print Museum to do a bit of research... aka an origami workshop. The aim of this make-and-do adventure is not at all to have fun and get some deadly handmade xmas decorations, but to get a better understanding of the deeper being of Mad Cap, a heroine of mine which some of you will have heard of. Mad Cap, you see, is big into origami and well, one needs to know what one's creation is talking about, right?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Something fun

That should bring in a bit of sunshine on this liquidy-wet Thursday...
The pics are by Raphaelle Laborde, a French illustrator with as much talent as sense of humour. Raphaelle recently did the pictures for my Sardine Tin Fairy. Since then, she's been working on a Bollywood adaptation of the Perrault tales! Here's Rapunzel and Little Red Riding Sari! Head over to her blogpost to see a couple more.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Here we go again!

It's official! This year again, I have the immense honour and pleasure to be invited at the Bisto Book of the Year Award's jury table. My co-judges this year are Jennifer Carpenter, Valerie Coghlan, Hannah Deacon (our ''young'' judge), Anne Fine (our ''international'' judge), Joe Kelly, Ríona Nic Congáil and Finian O’Shea. The chair is Keith O'Sullivan and the admin wonder is Aoiffe Murray (more detail on who we are here).
There's plenty to read, probably more than last year, with some very serious contenders already popping up in our heavy bags of books. Exciting!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Mo Willems talks to us

Well, not directly, but it's fascinating stuff so it should be shared by many. Thanks to Maeve who linked to the post on the Children's Literature Comprehensive Database.
Here's an introductory snippet, in case you haven't already rushed to read the whole thing:
"My job is to write incomprehensible books for illiterates." A literary rock star, Mo has published over thirty children's books receiving critical and commercial success. He spoke to the Children's Book Guild of Washington DC about his creative process, his views on writing and illustrating, and the importance of emotional truth in books.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

It was a dark and stormy night | StorySpark at The Ark

After a whole month of events and fun and games, some of the people behind the Children's Books Festival are back with more fantastic offerings to lighten up the our cold and dreary week-ends this winter. Children's Books Ireland, The Ark and Poetry Ireland are bringing us StorySpark, a celebration of the magic of story.
"Each weekend from 27th November, The Ark will become a hive of story-centred activity for families to explore. On Saturday and Sunday mornings, the creative facilities of The Story Lab, a facilitated interactive space, will be open to those wishing to write and record their own stories, or to enjoy those left by others. Later in the afternoon, The Reading Room will play host to some of the most talented children's authors writing today, with a series of exclusive readings at 2pm and 4pm.
Top-class writers and story-tellers include: Derek Landy, Anthony McGowan, Roddy Doyle, Frank Cottrell Boyce, Mary Arrigan, Aubrey Flegg, Ali Sparkes, Tony Mitton, Enda Wyley, Larry O'Loughlin, Marcus Sedgwick, Guy Bass, John Boyne, Ian Beck, Philip Ardagh, Oisín McGann, Joe O'Brien, Niamh Sharkey, Sarah Webb, Brianóg Brady Dawson and Gillian Perdue.

Check out The Ark's website for all the minutiae from dates to times to genre and age-group and the rest. Meanwhile, I'm going to find a 7-year-old to take me to see Philip Ardagh and His Beard.

Friday, October 29, 2010

In good company

Last Thursday saw Oliver Jeffers (of Lost and Found, The Great Paper Caper or The Incredible Book-Eating Boy fame) and Martin Salisbury (illustration expert) having a public chat in the National Library. For those of you who missed the event, despair not! Kim Harte has a great report on the night over here. The only snippet of info I feel compelled to add (for family reasons) (you know who you are) is that apparently Oliver failed a  colour-blindness test a few years ago and never took another one. So there's hope for us all!

Irish Book Award Shortlist Announced

Last night was the announcement of the Irish Books Award shortlist. And here are the lucky few who made it to the kidlit lists:

The Dublin Airport Authority Irish Children's Book of the Year - Jnr

The Heart and the Bottle, by Oliver Jeffers
On the Road with Mavis and Marge, by Niamh Sharkey
Alfie Green and the Chocolate Cosmos, by Joe O'Brien
Adam's Pirate Treasure, by Benji Bennett

The Dublin Airport Authority Irish Children's Book of the Year - Snr:
Ask Amy Green: Bridesmaid Blitz, by Sarah Webb

Skulduggery Pleasant: Mortal Coil, by Derek Landy
Timecatcher, by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick
Noah Barleywater Runs Away, by John Boyne, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers

Now the final decisions rest into your hands. You have until November 21, midnight, to cast your vote on the IBA website. The winners will be announced on November 25. Off you go do you duty as a reading citizen!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Seen on the Etherweb

I've made it to the picture books list on Mary Esther Judy's blog, Fallen Star Stories. Mary read In Search of Happiness and, it seems, liked it!
This is a warm and well-written fable style picturebook written by Juliette Saumande. While the story is a familiar one, in the telling is a quality genuine and unique that truly sets it apart. Stylized, exquisite illustrations by Eric Puybaret (illustrator of 'Puff, The Magic Dragon) perfectly accent this tale as it carries the reader along. A wonderful and timeless picturebook to be treasured.

Thanks Mary!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Not as pink as you might think

October is always the high season of picture-book publishing, at least for me. On top of the other titles mentioned earlier, I can now proudly present 10 Histoires de Fées, featuring two by yours truly, and a reissue-cum-repackaging of Ma Première Grande Histoire de Fée (My First Great Fairy Story).
The compilation of 10 stories will introduce you to Chimera the Sardine-Tin Fairy, and to Chimes, a little detective of a fairy who wants to know why all her colleagues are disappearing.

My First Great Fairy Story (revamped under the title My Little Story Library - Girls) may look and sound fairly pink to you, but do not be fooled! It's actually about all the colours of the rainbow (and more) and includes a talking woolly hat, a worm-chopping ogre and a Hawaiian shirt.

As these stories are all in French, here are a few pictures, for those who can't enjoy the words...
Chimes is a fairy on a mission.
Where have all the fairies gone?

Meet the Sardine-Tin Fairy and Small Fry,
the ogre who conjured her up by accident.
There's definitely something fishy about those two...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Out Now for all your Xmas and Saturday-nights needs...

It's release season for me, with 26 new books out this month in France. Yes, I did say 26. Do the maths yourselves...
1 Alcatraz contres les Ossements du Scribe, a translation of Brandon Sanderson's Alcatraz versus the Scrivener's Bones, book 2 in the demented series. Age 10+

1 52 Histoires pour tous les samedis soirs, 52 bedtime stories for every Saturday night of the year, featuring 6 texts by yours truly, including the infamous bandit Conor O'Connor who suffers from hay fever and the rather limited fairy Turnip-Flower who can only turn people into daisies. Age 3+

24 livres et c'est déjà Noel, 24 books containing a Christmas story each and sold in a box set. One story to read aloud every night before C Day, for 3+. This is the happing ending to a two-and-a-half year long saga where the actual writing of 24 very short stories (ie 24 very quick beginnings, 24 very quick middles and 24 very quick endings) took place over 5 weeks only. One was younger then...

There you go: 1 + 1 + 24 = 26.
Cheating? Me? Never! ;o)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Big Draw

If October wasn't busy enough with our own Children's Books Festival, it's also the month of the Big Draw, a worldwide campaign and series of events which "aims to use drawing to connect visitors with museum and gallery collections, urban and rural spaces – and the wider community – in new and enjoyable ways." Check out the website for events listings, there could be something down your neck of the woods or your Internet alley...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

TV star (ahem!)

It would appear that while I was away doing serious research into the Scottish children's books market, a strange woman with stranger feet was spotted on the French TV channel TF1. It's in French and lasts for a whole glorious minute and nine seconds. It's all about, you know, books, how they're made, you've seen it all before...

Back at the ranch | CBF 2010

Meanwhile, some people have been busy. The Children's Books Festival (aka CBF) has been kicked off with gusto up and down the country. For plenty of worshops, talks, readings, etc. wherever you might be, check out the CBI website. They have an events calendar and a festival blog.
If, however, you're desperate to go but are stuck at home with a bad case of flu, pesky attention-seeking babies or a heavy wardrobe accidentally resting on your chest (stuff happens), you can also enjoy some action from home on Tuesday 12 October at 11.30. Read on:

To celebrate Children's Books Festival, Laureate na nÓg Siobhán Parkinson will participate in a special webcast. Siobhan will be in conversation with Bisto Award winning author and illustrator Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick and school and library groups all over the country are encouraged to tune in from their own classroom or library via South Dublin Libraries live stream.This event will be live streamed from County Library, Tallaght. You can tune in live on October 12th or you can view the interview at a later date by visiting www.southdublinlibraries.ie/videos
Young readers can submit their questions to Laureate Siobhan Parkinson in advance
of the broadcast by emailing info@childrensbooksireland.ie. A selection of questions will be answered during the event and any questions that don’t get answered on the day will be answered afterwards by Siobhán on the Laureate’s special website - http://www.childrenslaureate.ie/.

So off you go now!

Dublin Culture Night

I couldn't attend this year's edition of Culture Night (what with being in Scotland and all), but it seems I still managed to take part in it by proxy and unbeknownst to myself. The lads and lassies at CBI took a liking to the sight of these Awfuls (the baddies in my French Tirligok series) and put them up in the reading area for an event at the National Library! Thanks guys!

A wee tour

As you can see, I've been busy sorting out my shelves, which is why it's been quiet in these parts lately...
That, and the fact that we've been taking a litterary tour of Scotland, which included :

  • Leaky's (a second-hand bookshop in Inverness, above);

  • A visit to the McManus Gallery in Dundee where we discovered the fascinating story of the first world tour by two female reporters (sent by publisher DC Thomson, of The Beano fame, in the 1890s to 'obtain full and accurate information as to woman's position in the world', more here);

  • A quick stop at Waterstone's in Edinburgh (where you can find Scots versions of The Twits, dubbed The Eejits! and The Hoose at Pooh's Neuk): 'I'm Pooh,' said Pooh. 'I'm Teeger,' said Teeger. 'Oh!' said Pooh, for he hadna ever seen a craitur like this afore. 'Does Christopher Robin ken aboot ye?' 'Of coorse he does,' said Teeger. 'Weel,' said Pooh, 'it's the howe-dumb-deid o the nicht, which is a braw time for gaun tae sleep. And the morn's morn we'll hae some hinny for oor breakfast. Dae Teegers like hinny?' 'They like awthin,' said Teeger cheerily. 'Weel, if they like gaun tae sleep on the flair, I'll awa back tae ma bed,' said Pooh, 'and we'll dae things in the mornin.'
  • No Loch Ness monster, but this... I've been wondering ever since what the Irish equivalent would be... Simon the Selfish Sausage Roll? Colm the Cool Colcannon? Patrick the Proud Potato (looks like it's there in the background already!);
  • And last but certainly not least, our favourite, good old William Topaze McGonagall, the world's worst poet, who left us these incomparable lines:
Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silv'ry Tay!

Alas! I am very sorry to say
That ninety lives have been taken away
On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember'd for a very long time.

When the train left Edinburgh
The passengers' hearts were light and felt no sorrow,
But Boreas blew a terrific gale,
Which made their hearts for to quail,
And many of the passengers with fear did say-
"I hope God will send us safe across the Bridge of Tay."
So the train mov'd slowly along the Bridge of Tay,

Until it was about midway,
Then the central girders with a crash gave way,
And down went the train and passengers into the Tay!
The Storm Fiend did loudly bray,
Because ninety lives had been taken away,
On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember'd for a very long time.
Oh! ill-fated Bridge of the Silv'ry Tay,
I must now conclude my lay
By telling the world fearlessly without the least dismay,
That your central girders would not have given way,
At least many sensible men do say,
Had they been supported on each side with buttresses,
At least many sensible men confesses,
For the stronger we our houses do build,
The less chance we have of being killed.

(see here for the rest and plenty more, you now you want to!)

Monday, September 6, 2010

A bit flummoxed

Here I am, in my attic-cum-study, hoping the roof will hold and the bucket won't overflow, and finding myself not quite mistress in my own home, what with the water sneaking in through loose tiles and my new story showing me who's boss (not me).
I had this silly idea for a picturebook about a nasty kid who ends up (or thinks he is going to end up) in a 'boy sandwich' at the hands of his two aunts who may or may not be witches.
It seemed pretty straightforward so I picked that idea out of the project box and started working on it, i.e I opened a brand new Word document, saved it as 'Boy Sandwich' and started typing. And then stopped. And started again, with a different opening. After I did that three or four times, I declared to my typing self: ''There's something wrong''.
I thought about it for a while and realised it wasn't the writing that was causing trouble; it wasn't finding the right words to launch the story that was proving tricky. It wasn't even the story itself. It was a) the main character (evil boy) and b) the format (picturebook).
I've written a few nasty-character stories in the past and imposed some terrible fate on them or given them a glorious ending. But for some reason, last week, I found that the boy in the Boy Sandwich project refused to be treated as a nuisance. That he demanded to be painted as a human being with light and shade, good points and bad points. The works.
As a result, the size and shape of a picturebook didn't work anymore, as my Boy needed more space to plead his case and develop. I'm now 1700 words into the story and Boy has yet to meet the Aunts, and I can already see places where I'll have to go back and add bits so that it all makes sense and isn't rushed.
I've no idea where this is going (as my original ending worked really well for a picturebook but might look a bit slim and 'babyish' in the new order of things) or how long it'll take us (me and the boy) (or rather the boy and me) to get there. Even the whole sandwich business may have to go out the window... and perhaps be recycled in some later project!
Exciting times...

(The flummoxed rooster, wondering in actual fact how he can get rid of his hiccups, is from La véritable histoire du coooq Figaro, written by yours truly and illustrated by Dorothée Jost)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Books and bookmakers

Just read this quite amazing piece on thebookseller.com. It seems up to £500k are spent every year on literary bets in the UK and Ireland. The bets concern the winners of literary prizes, but also the sales figures of such and such a title.
Irish bookmaker Paddy Power... expects a total stake of about £100,000 on all book-related bets, such as unit sales of Peter Andre's biography versus Katie Price's, or sales of Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol, with £50,000 of the total gambled on literary awards, and £25,000 of this on the Man Booker alone. Spokesperson Ken Robertson recalls that Paddy Power's largest literary loss so far was at the 2005 Man Booker, when the bookie offered unfavourable odds of 8/1 on eventual winner John Banville's The Sea—losing £17,000 in the process.
Wonder if the Bisto's in there...

(pic (c) Vincent Gerard)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Publish Your Children's, Tween, or Teen Fiction in Today's Market : A live webinar

Mary Kole, US agent of kidlit.com fame will be giving a webinar on the 23rd of September for the Reader's Digest.

For $79 you will learn:
The essential elements of books written for younger children, tweens, and teens
How your kid reader thinks about fiction and what they want
What agents and editors look for in terms of pitch, writing, and book premise
How to make your hook absolutely irresistible
What separates an aspiring writer from a contracted author in this field

AND you will get the first 500 words of your novel or 300 words of your picture book critiqued by Mary.
Those who register (=pay) will have free access to the webinar for a year.
More info on the Reader's Digest website.

Stand and Deliver 2: Reading and Q&As

We then went on to discuss the all-important matter of Reading and the dreaded Questions and Answers...

Ask the teacher to read the book in class, but only to a certain point. Then when you come in, read the remaining chapters, making the best of the suspense created, interrupting your reading with questions to the children (what do you think is going to happen next? Will I read on or will I stop here?).

Stop your reading at any point to let the kids have a go: they can guess what will happen next or comment on the action.

Give the kids some detective work to do during the reading. Enda gave the example of an excerpt she read from The Silver Notebook in which she uses an element from a well-known fairy tale and asked the children to see if they could spot it.

Here too, try and tie in your reading with the wider writing world (does it remind of other stories/books?) and to the kids’ work (on the book or as displayed in the classroom).

Enda suggested to split the reading in two halves, with a pause in between. The reading shouldn’t exceed 10 mins.

As Sarah Webb said during the first Stand and Deliver workshop, you are not tied to your text. Sarah suggested you could slightly rewrite or cut an extract to better suit the needs of a listening audience. Enda encouraged ‘flicking’. You can read very short, punchy bites from you book and jump from one to the next, skipping entire chapters.

4) Q&A
It can be a good idea to enunciate the golden rules of Q&A right from the start: 1) listen carefully and you’ll find that some of your questions will be answered before you ask them; 2) put your hand up if you have a question.

If there are no questions from the kids and the teacher/librarian doesn’t volunteer any, ask the children some: where do you read? What do you read? Etc. That should hopefully spark off their curious minds and get the ball rolling.

Leave them on a high. If you feel that your time is nearly up and that you’ve given a particularly satisfying/inspiring answer to a question, stop right there.

Make contact with the organisers again for feedback.

Attend events by other writers/illustrators. It’s a great source of inspiration and fun!

After our separate sessions, the group was reunited for the real attraction of the afternoon (meaning the Scary Bit), where each of us had 3 minutes to launch into their spiel: Hi guys, my name is Juliette and I’m here to talk to you about my book…
The tailor-made feedback was fantastic and the range of styles and talents pretty impressive. Moving stories were told and incredible props produced, from scrapbooks to wigs to shrunken heads. Intrigued? You’ll just have to wait for these writers’ new titles and events in the coming weeks and months…

Stand and Deliver, 2: Before your visit and Engaging with your audience

For this sequel to the Stand and Deliver workshop, Children’s Books Ireland and the Farmleigh Writer in Residence programme invited poet Enda Wyley and Conor Kostick (novelist and writer in said residence) for an intensive afternoon in Farmleigh’s Old Kitchen last Saturday.

The group of about 15 new writers was split in 2, according to the age-group for which they write. Being a younger-audience person, I joined Enda and half a dozen others to discuss tips and tricks for organising, delivering and surviving meetings with children.
First of all, let's remind ourselves of the whole point of meeting with young readers as a writer: The main thing is to leave your audience with the desire to read any book and with a sense of the writing world. Right, so now, how to achieve this? It’s a long way, so I’ve divided it up in 5 steps. (And 2 posts)

Ask the organiser of the event a few key questions: how many children will attend, how old will they be, where will the event take place, will the kids have read the book in advance, etc. If you’re uncomfortable with anything, feel free to make suggestions to the organisers.

Write up a script for your session. Think of it in blocks of time. How long for the intro? How long for the reading? The Q&A? the activities?...

Make sure you have everybody’s contact and if necessary a map of where you’re going.

Bring your stuff: from notes, to props and bottled water. And don’t forget your book!

With kids of all ages, two traps (equally dangerous) await you:
1) the Lull: when a restlessness sets in, it’s a hint: they’re getting bored
2) the Over-Excitement: when a restlessness sets in, it’s a sign: they’re hyper.
In both cases, a change of rhythm is called for: insert a calm-down session or a wake-up call. Get them to sing a song, recite a nursery rhyme, wriggle their toes, shout the three rules of Vampiracy (only if you’re Justin Somper and have actually invented said rules, but you get the point), etc. This should hopefully reboot the whole machine and allow you to continue.

Ask them questions and praise them for good answers.

Be definitive. You know your book, you know how you got to this stage, show it. Your audience will then feel confident that you’re the person to answer their questions at the end of the session.

Bring props if you have them. From your personal notebook where you jot down ideas, to the first story you ever wrote aged 7. Show the kids how a book is made, from A4 sheets of text to lay-out to cover illustration proposals to the finished product.

If you can, imagine activities around your book. Get the children to draw something (Patricia Forde has a great technique to make them draw a collective monster), to read something (Jane Mitchell asks them to read aloud real testimonies from children soldiers), etc.

The personal stuff can be very engaging when relevant. Tell them if it was a struggle becoming a writer. Tell them about that spooky house you visited when you were 10 and wrote a novel about when you were 30. Tell them about working in a fish factory during your summer holydays. Tell them stories. About yourself and your book.
(Read on to the next post for Reading from your book, Q&As and Post-Visit.)

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Bookfest 2010 out now!

The Children's Books Festival is still a month away, but the deadly poster (by Kevin Waldron), the reading guide (edited by yours truly) and a heap of goodies from stickers to bookmarks, have arrived from the printers.
"Bring Festival Fever to your library, school or bookshop this October with the gorgeous new promotional materials from Children's Books Ireland! To download an order form (including prices and quantities) please click here."

Stand up and Deliver, 1

Back in February, Children’s Books Ireland and the Ark invited new writers to attend Stand and Deliver, a workshop on how to survive meeting young readers. For those of you who wished they’d been there and haven’t read my account of that fantastic day in the last Inis, here's a shorter version:

First off was writer and theatre-practitioner Mia Gallagher’s workshop on vocal skills and performance technique. Through a series of physical games and vocal exercises, Mia showed the dozen volunteers how tension manifested itself in their bodies, from sweaty hands to weight shifting to the side to a crowd of butterflies in the stomach. Mia suggested that all performers (including writers going to meet their audience in the flesh) should take the time to do a gentle warm up of the voice before going ‘on stage’. This, she said, helps loosen up tension and all the ‘kinks’ in one’s body, so that the voice can flow more freely and connect with every part of the body.

The first session of the afternoon was led by Oisín McGann and Sarah Webb. ‘Devising your own events strategy’ was a very informative and practical presentation inspired by both writers’ experiences.

Kicking-off. How to kick off your session in a non-awkward manner? Oisín’s simple but effective answer was put into practice with the participants as guinea pigs: get your audience to talk first, ask them a question, and that’s enough to get the ball rolling.

Style. Sarah’s approach is more intimate, based on her own life and experience of becoming a writer. She describes her talks as a ‘Show and Tell’ that relies a lot on props (photos, toys, diaries, old school reports...). Oisín focuses more on his craft than his character, ‘using storytelling skills to talk about writing’, showing the children what a book looks like before it’s a book, producing notebooks full of writing ideas, etc.
The key is to use your own background to give your session its flavour and its theme. Are you an illustrator as well as a writer? Did you have an interesting job before you turned to children’s books? All this can be brought in to shape your presentation and make it your own.

Acting. Both speakers insisted on the importance of treating the performance as an hour of acting, Sarah highlighting the practicality of wearing something comfortable as well as the impact created by wearing something colourful and memorable, while Oisín suggested playing with your voice, learning breathing and drama techniques. Props also feature heavily in the two writers’ arsenal of tricks: they give you something to do with your hands and they are a great help in case of a blank. However, both Oisín and Sarah warned against using any amount of technology (Powerpoint in particular), as the venue might not be kitted out for it.

Practise. Both writers revealed that they practise their talks beforehand and that they time themselves. They divide their material in blocks, each covering a certain amount of time, so that they know what they can linger on or drop entirely if the situation requires it.

What to read. Oisín listed the characteristic for the ideal text to read: it must contain a fair dose of dialogue and be lively, it mustn’t involve too many characters or be weighed down by too much description. Sarah went further, by explaining that ‘you can actually rewrite a passage from the book to make it work better for a dramatic reading’. She also mentioned the need to note the different accents and body language of your character, to work them into the reading and, again, to practise them in advance.

Audience management. While both writers agreed that ‘the kids have to know you’re in charge and confident’, Sarah insisted on the role of the teacher who, she said, must be present in the room at all times. She also warned the future performers to be prepared for a very different age group from they may have asked for. Oisín described his own ‘crowd-control techniques’ which feature ‘using the bully’ and ‘going on the offensive with hecklers’.

Wrapping up. Sarah and Oisín insisted on the vital importance of leaving the audience with some sort of memorabilia. While Oisín donates a signed picture to the school (which can then be photocopied and distributed to the children), Sarah has put together a document listing her writing tips, favourite reads, info on competitions to win copies of her books, writing exercises to do in class, and so on. She also has a stack of bookmarks and stickers recapping the books’ details as well as her blog and website addresses.

Business. How to get more readings and what to charge? They advised talking to your publisher, checking out Poetry Ireland’s Writers in School scheme, volunteering at your local library or at Fighting Words.

Finally, CBI’s Mags Walsh and Tom Donegan introduced the group to their ideas on best practice for events. Festivals and one-off events are forever looking for names to put on their programs. CBI has developed a database of writers and illustrators living in Ireland, which event organisers can explore and use to contact the artists. The key is to be proactive.
This session also touched on very practical matters such as child protection and vetting, the Irish Writers’ Union recommendations for fees, invoicing (an invoice template can be found on CBInfo), and so on. Finally, Tom and Mags insisted on the importance of self-promotion (online in particular) and of leaving something behind (info sheets, press releases, teacher packs and other give-aways).

NB: as you can see from the pic above, you don't strictly speaking have to stand. Sitting is ok. Or kneeling or perching or whatever takes your fancy. (Check the desk before perching on it though...)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Monster Book Lunch

I've already mentioned the very exciting line-up for the Mountains to Sea Festival next month, but wait til you hear about the Monster Book Lunch.
A fantastic literary lunch for young readers, with an author or illustrator at every table! Fifteen authors will host fifteen different tables. Meet and chat to Marita Conlon McKenna, Don Conroy, Joe O’Neill, Judi Curtin, Sarah Webb, PJ Lynch, Sarah Rees Brennan and a host of other authors and illustrators, including a surprise American guest.
We can now reveal that the surprise guest is Kate DiCamillo, acclaimed author of the Tale of Despereaux among other things. For more detail and to book (quick!), check out the festival website.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A heap of events...

Taking a stroll in your local supermarket or bookshop and slaloming between their Back To School isles, you would be forgiven for having gloomy thoughts involving lunch boxes, new pencil cases and itchy school uniforms. But fear not, September hasn't come yet and when it does, here are a few things to liven it up no end...

The Mountain to Sea dlr Book Festival will take place between Sept 7-12. The line-up for the kids' events is very exciting, and includes the likes of Cathy Cassidy, Kevin Waldron, Celine Kiernan, Sarah Webb and lots more. And yes, there's a host of interesting 'adult' stuff too: Jonathan Coe will be around! For more, the programme is here.

On Saturday 11 September, Children's Books Ireland and SCBWI Ireland organise an information seminar on writing and illustrating for children in Tallaght. Between the Lines is a chance for the aspiring writer or illustrator (or multi-tasking genius) to hear authors and artists (Jane Yolen, Adrienne Geoghegan, Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick, Keith Gray), commissioning editors and agents (Clodagh Feehan, Paddy O'Doherty, Mary Webb, Julia Churchill, Faith O'Grady). And to top it all, there is the possibility of getting your stuff critiqued by some of these people! What more do you want?? Details of time-table, fees and all can be found here.