Writer in Residence

I’m delighted to share my experience of being Ardoch’s ‘Writer in Residence’ at Sunshine Primary School, where I recently conducted a weekly story writing workshop for two Grade 3 and Grade 4 classes – culminating in the illustrated story book ‘Pencil Pandemonium’.  The programme ran during one school term and involved 5 weeks (10 hours) of classroom workshops and many more hours of writing and editing outside the classroom.

Pencil Pandemonium reflects how a school community can come together to foster literacy – coupled with the good will of Ardoch, an author and a printing business.

Before I explain a little more about the process of how we wrote the book, here’s a joyous slideshow of our Book Launch on Friday 14th October, in brilliant sunshine (of course!). With the inspirations for our story – the six majestic pencil art installations – sharing the limelight.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The book launch also would not have been possible without the support of Ardoch and Bizworks Brighton Printing. Nor would it have been complete without Rob – the school handyman.  Rob works one day/week and spent a whole year making the giant pencils for the school 🙂  He was so excited to be a part of our book launch and quietly chuffed that six coloured pencils could inspire a story which is now part of the school’s folklore. The pencils all have names too – Baxter Blue, Yuki Yellow, Olympia Orange, Penelope Purple, Gilbert Green and Roger Red – and the children talk to them each day!

These six huge pencils have inspired the imaginations of a class and an entire school. The physical structures stand proudly at the school’s entrance – announcing to all the vibrancy and ingenuity of what lies within. A brilliant example of how art lives and breathes in our community and can spark great things!

I’ve conducted my story writing workshops over the past 10 years, and this is the first time that I’ve been invited to an Ardoch partner school.  I’ve always provided the workshops ‘pro bono’ as part of my commitment to early literacy and to share my love of storytelling and story writing.  The dozens of hugs, enthusiastic smiles and messages I got from the Sunshine Primary students about their love of Pencil Pandemonium cannot be measured in monetary terms. And I urge any writers reading this to consider being a ‘Writer in Residence’ for Ardoch or a similar literacy charity, too.

My workshops are a little unusual, compared to other authors, in that I’m very clear with the children and their teachers that I will write the story – with the assistance of the children. I explain to the children that we will put all of ‘my ideas’ and all of ‘their ideas’ into a giant washing machine, and we’ll mix them all up and put a wonderful story together. And they’re always wonderful!

I want the children to be free to imagine and explore without the pressure of punctuation and assessment, pre-testing or post-testing. I want them to learn ‘from me’ by going along the process ‘with me’ – from blank page to printed book.

I also like to professionally print the story books at the completion of the workshops to give the children a sense that their story is real and important.  I always incorporate current learning units (in Sunshine’s case it was ‘machines’) so that the books dovetail with their curriculum. The end result is a true collaborative effort, where each child can clearly identify their input into the ‘whole’ project.  I believe that it’s important to show the students that they are ALL important contributors to the book – irrespective of their literacy proficiency levels.  For example, often some of the best ideas and ‘light-bulb moments’ during the plot-making, as well as drawings, are contributed by the students with the least strong reading and writing levels.

I’m beyond thrilled with Sunshine Primary School’s Pencil Pandemonium!  It reflects the children’s genuine love and respect for their school – something that they wanted to write about. Not all students I visit are this passionate about their school!

One of my favourite memories from this story writing experience, was after we’d finished writing the story about the pencils who sneak into the classroom at lunchtime when nobody is looking – and one of the students asked me to look out of the window, and just ‘check’ that the pencils were still there . . . What if they weren’t?  This is such a lovely example of how these children have not only had a hands-on learning experience of turning imaginings and ideas into a story . . . but they’ve kept the story alive in their heads . . . and that for me, as a writer, is what the magic is all about!

This quote from author, Michael Morpurgo’s speech, ‘The Power of Stories’ at the Inaugural Book Trust Lecture, Sept 22nd, 2016, Guildhall, London also sums this up beautifully:

“Let the children go home, simply dreaming of the story. Re-living it. Wondering at it. Loving it.”  Michael Morpurgo (2016)

 

 

 

 

Book Week 2016

Two special memories from this past week of National Book Week. . .

The week started off with the exciting announcement that I am the Ambassador for Ardoch Youth Foundation’s School Readiness Book Drive. As an author, former Occupational Therapist and a mum, I am so proud and beyond thrilled to have been asked to help with this campaign, which pledges to give 1,000 children in disadvantaged areas five books and fine-motor activity packs at the end of this year, in readiness for their school start in 2017.  I’ll be writing a little more about this in coming weeks, but please click here to read about why I’m so passionate about the book drive.

ardoch book drive

Emma Bowd at Scholastic Australia Book Bunker RCH Book Week 2016

And on Tuesday, I was at my beloved weekly volunteering position at Scholastic Australia’s Book Bunker children’s library, at the Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne. I had a lot of fun with some of the Starlight Captains who popped in to visit us! We sang songs and read books – my favourite being our book-of-the-day: Tony Wilson’s award-winning and endearing ‘The Cow Tripped Over the Moon’. It’s a clever back-story about the several attempts that the cow actually made before she had a successful moon-jump. An instant classic in my mind, with a special message of courage, determination, perseverance and the help of your friends.

 

Meet the Publishers Day – KidLitVic 2016

I spent a hugely enjoyable and inspiring day today at the very first Melbourne ‘Meet the Publishers’ event for Children and YA writers and illustrators.  It was organised by authors Alison Reynolds and Dee White, along with the assistance of illustrator Nicky Johnston and author Jaquelyn Muller, and held at the magnificent State Library of Victoria.

The opening address was given by David Ryding, the Director of Melbourne’s UNESCO City of Literature Office, and set the tone for a day of collaboration and inspiration on all things creative in the world of children and YA publishing.

Both established and emerging authors and illustrators were able to attend Panel Discussions from the creme de la creme of Australian publishing, as well as present Portfolio Displays, Manuscript Assessments and 3 Minute Pitches.

The Publishers and Agents represented were: Allen & Unwin; Black Dog Books; Hachette Australia; Hardie Grant Egmont; HarperCollins Children's Books Australia; Jacinta di Mase Management; Random House Children's Books, Penguin Random House; Scholastic Australia; Scribe/Scribble; Text Publishing; The Five Mile Press

Some key themes from the panelists which really resonated with me were:

  • authenticity and consistency of voice are the cornerstones of good writing
  • be true to your DNA  – don’t try to write or draw in a particular genre, just because it’s the current fad/bestseller
  • a good story is everything – irrespective of what tense it’s written in
  • collaboration between authors and illustrators is crucial
  • a book is a result of teamwork – between authors, illustrators and publishers
  • publishing is a commercial enterprise – that is the reality
  • all publishers are different – do your homework before submitting
  • N E V E R  G I V E  U P

 

The Story of Hands

What a merry dance shoes have led me on . . .

Emma Bowd by Jacqui Grantford 2010
‘Emma Bowd’ by Jacqui Grantford, 2011, Oil on Canvas, 65cm x 45cm

When I first put pen to paper in London in 2001 to write ‘A Passion for Shoes’ I would never have guessed that ten years later, on the other side of the world, my hands would be painted IN a pair of shoes!

It was my great privilege to be asked by the immensely gifted Australian artist, Jacqui Grantford, to be a part of her exhibition ‘A Show of Hands’ in Melbourne, in 2011. I’ve made a link here to her video, where she explains how she extensively interviewed people from all walks of life, to see what made them ‘tick’.  Each hand painting was accompanied by the person’s own ‘story’- and many of them were very moving and inspirational.

Jacqui has a unique way of capturing the spirit of people in her paintings.  I found that the added story she had next to each painting gave it an even greater poignancy.  She is also the author and illustrator of several children’s picture books. A very talented lady indeed.

I’m lucky enough to have this original painting, thanks to my husband and a sneaky special birthday gift.  You can read more of my story here:

Read More

What Makes a Great Kids Story?

I recently had the pleasure of attending a Melbourne book signing, by the best selling children’s author, Jacqueline Harvey.  Of course, it was a beautifully girlie affair (though I did note a couple of dads!) with cupcakes and cordial, and much chat about Alice-Miranda and Clementine Rose.

What I wasn’t expecting, was to promptly change from my ‘mum hat’ into my ‘author hat’ when Jacqueline asked the audience of passionate, articulate 7-9 year olds, “What makes a great kids story?”

Cue a flurry of enthusiastically raised hands, and a swift lesson in storytelling, that no writers’ conference could ever have provided!  So, here goes, from the mouths of babes:

What Makes a Great Kids Story?

  • Straight to the POINT (NO long intros…YAWN)
  • NO adults
  • Characters that I WANT TO BE
  • A BRAVE main character
  • ADVENTURE
  • Story set in INTERESTING PLACES
  • Mystery – a PROBLEM to be SOLVED
  • FUN!