Author interview with Belinda Murrell

Belinda Murrell writes childrens fiction – both junior readers and for older children. Belinda kindly offered some insights into her writing:

 

belinda-murrell-closeup-copy

1.    What does your workspace look like?

I live in an on old Victorian house near the sea with my husband Rob and three children. I am lucky enough to have a beautiful office at home, which is lined with hundreds of books, has a fireplace and looks out over my garden. My dog Asha keeps me company, sleeping in front of the fire. It is a gorgeous place to work – sunny, calm and quiet.

2.    Who or what inspires your work?

As a children’s author, perhaps it’s not surprising that kids are my greatest inspiration. Initially it was my own three children Nick, Emily and Lachie who inspired me to write books for them. Now however I am also inspired by readers who love my books and children I meet. One of the greatest inspirations is receiving hundreds of emails, drawings and letters from children who love my books. They tell me what they love about each book, and beg me to write more. I also spend several weeks each year on tour – speaking at literary festivals, schools, bookstores and Book Week events. Each year I meet thousands of children and I love talking with them, discussing what they enjoy about books, what interests them and intrigues them. Many of my ideas for books are triggered by conversations or experiences I’ve had with children.

3.    What advice would you offer aspiring writers?

I have four tips which all begin with P! They are:

Passion – write what you love. Write from your heart. Don’t try to follow trends. Write for yourself.

Persistence – there are so many writers with talent, who write extremely well. But to succeed as a writer you need bucketloads of determination and tenacity. Succeeding as a writer can only be achieved through lots of hard work over many years!

Practise – write constantly. Write every day. Take a notebook with you everywhere and fill it.

Pack your bags – travel the world and have amazing adventures. Work at various jobs, volunteer, experience life, fill your notebooks with sights, people and experiences.

4.    What was your reaction when you found out that your first manuscript was going to be published?

Utter joy! I screamed and cried and laughed. It was definitely one of the most exciting days in my life. My agent rang to tell me the news. My family all came running to find out what was going on. Then I rang my sister Kate (who is also an author). She was as thrilled as I was and we celebrated with French champagne. Despite all the excitement, I couldn’t really believe it was true until I first saw my name on the cover of a book in a bookstore.

5.    What dreams do you have for your writing career?

To keep writing books which kids love. To stretch myself and keep getting better as a writer. To challenge myself and try different genres and styles.  I have been incredibly lucky to have a career as a writer doing something I love so much. I work with a fantastic team at Random House who are so talented and supportive. I get to spend time with lots of extremely gifted and inspirational authors. I am now writing my twenty-first book, yet I still get very anxious when I finish a new book and am waiting for my publisher to read it. Will she like it? Is it any good? Writing can be a solitary and often difficult job. Yet opening that package with your book straight from the printer is still one of the best feelings in the world.

And a quick biography:

Belinda Murrell is an internationally published, bestselling children’s author. Her 21 books include The Sun Sword Trilogy, a fantasy-adventure series for boys and girls aged 8 to 12. Her time-slip books – The Locket of Dreams, The Ruby Talisman, The Forgotten Pearl, and The Ivory Rose – have been shortlisted for various awards, including KOALAs (2013, 2012 and 2011), CBCA Notable List and highly commended in the PM’s Literary Awards. Her new book, The River Charm, is based on the thrilling adventures of her ancestors. For younger readers (aged 6 to 9) Belinda has a new Lulu Bell series, about friends, family, animals and adventures growing up in a vet hospital. http://www.belindamurrell.com.au <http://www.belindamurrell.com.au&gt;

https://www.facebook.com/belinda.murrell.5

Author interview with Jacqueline Harvey

On my previous blog site I was privileged to interview children’s author Jacqueline Harvey. Here’s what Jacqueline had to say:

Copy of Jacquie Harvey_0010_Cropped1.jpg

 

  1.    What does your workspace look like?

I work from home in the study which is at the front of our apartment.  My end of the room has floor to ceiling windows on three sides and a big old oak desk with my laptop and another large screen on it (and usually a pile of manuscripts and books!).  There is a lovely modern timber lamp in the corner and a built in cupboard which contains editions of all the Alice-Miranda and Clementine Rose titles.  The walls are Whisper White which I find very soothing.  My husband has his desk at the other end of the room and the walls are lined with paintings.  There are two book cases and some comfortable chairs as well as the requisite printer and photocopier.  I look out onto the courtyards that surround the apartment which have lots of plants and a beautiful tree fern.  It’s not a big space but I love it and it works for me.

  1.   Who or what inspires your work?

My work is very much inspired by my experiences as a teacher and meeting and working with children.  Until November 2012, when I took the giant step of becoming a full time writer, I worked full time in a school.  Having been a teacher and Deputy Head for over 20 years, I’ve experienced just about everything school life throws at you.   In the past couple of years I’ve travelled all over Australia and the world and met thousands of children and obviously before that I taught thousands more.  I love listening to children’s stories, hearing about the things that interest them and working with enthusiastic and curious young people who are keen to know about the world.  These days I still get to work in schools – either through promotional tours or teaching writing and I receive lots of mail – which often makes me laugh and sometimes even cry (in a good way).  The travelling also greatly inspires my work.  My husband is fantastic too – he talks through ideas with me and always reads what I’ve written (or listens to it if I want to read it aloud).  He’s my number one supporter.

3.    What advice would you offer aspiring writers?

Stick with it.  Listen to your heart – if something is good, you’ll know it and don’t be afraid of advice and constructive criticism.  You’ll never get better if you think you know it all – I feel like I don’t know anything a lot of the time and I am so fortunate to have trusted people in my life who give me honest feedback.  My editor and publisher are fantastic too and always straight up.  My other advice is to go into the business with your eyes open.  Most writers don’t make a lot of money (especially not in the beginning) and often have to juggle writing as a secondary job.  I worked full time in two very demanding roles – first as a Deputy Head of Junior School and then as the Director of Development K-12,  and wrote on the weekends and in term breaks.  It was a huge amount of hard work and my school jobs always came first as they should have.  It was only after Alice-Miranda and Clementine Rose began demanding way too much attention (and selling well) that I took that leap of faith to write full time.  There’s no point saying that you want to be a writer and never putting pen to paper.  If you want something badly enough you’ll find the time to make it happen.

4.    How did you feel when your first manuscript was accepted to be published?

I screamed so loudly that the teacher in the classroom beside me thought something terrible had happened!  My class had gone to a music lesson and I was sitting at my desk marking when an email came through advising that my book had been accepted.  It was surreal.  I was so excited but I was also very naïve.  Things don’t happen quickly in publishing and sometimes there are factors that are very much outside of your control as a new author.

5.    What dreams do you have for your writing career?
I am so blessed to have the career I have now but to quote Shane Jacobson, ‘It’s been a long road to overnight success.’  Alice-Miranda and Clementine Rose have changed my life and I can’t imagine not writing and travelling and sharing my books with children.  Being published internationally as well as here at home has given me incredible opportunities to travel for publicity tours and I relish being in new places and developing friendships and relationships all over the world.  I hope to continue writing books that children (and often their parents and grandparents) enjoy reading.

 

Alice M at sea.jpgam4.jpg

Further information about Jacqueline Harvey and her books can be found via the links below:

www.jacquelineharvey.com.au

http://jacquelineharvey.blogspot.com

http://alice-miranda.blogspot.com

Twitter: @JacquelineHarve

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jacqueline-Harvey/186316834766392?ref=hl

 

Author interview with Frances Watts

Early in 2014, I was able to interview Frances Watts about her writing. Frances writes picture books for younger readers and novels for older children. The transcript from the interview is shown below.  frances-watts

 

What does your workspace look like?

We live in a tiny one-bedroom workers’ cottage, so my writing space is a desk in the lounge room—but I love it. I overlook the front garden and two walls are lined with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.

 

Who or what inspires your work?
My first inspiration is my partner; I call him my ‘dear reader’ because he is my first reader, my first audience. I’m also inspired by the many, many brilliant books I encounter as a reader; I think reading is the number-one way to learn about writing.

 

What advice would you offer aspiring writers?

I have two pieces of advice:

Never submit your first draft. Understandably, we all feel thrilled and satisfied when we finish a manuscript, but don’t get so carried away you send it straight out to a publisher. I think it’s really important to let it sit for a while, even just a few days or a week, then read it again with fresh eyes. Be critical—and be ruthless! I see the second draft, the self-editing, as an extremely valuable part of the writing process.

Find yourself a reader/readers you trust. It might be the members of a writing group, it might be a friend who’s not afraid to give it to you straight. A good, critical first reader will give you invaluable feedback. As tough as it is to take criticism, you’ll never improve your ms without it—and no matter how good that first draft is, every ms can be improved.

 

How did you feel when your first manuscript was accepted to be published?
I think the word ‘elated’ would cover it! And the funny thing is, even now, ten years later (ten! how did that happen?!), I still get anxious when I submit a manuscript—and still feel elated when it’s accepted.

 

What dreams do you have for your writing career?
I suppose I dream of writing ‘the perfect book’; I’m really happy with all my books, but they always lose something between the shimmering image in the mind and the actual words on a page. But really, to have a writing career at all is like a dream come true—I feel so lucky to be doing what I do.

 

More information about Frances Watts and her books can be found at http://www.franceswatts.com

Literacy resources

Placeholder Image

While I was casual teaching at a local high school, I recognised that within each class there were different abilities within the students. For example, in one year 7 English class, there were students who were quick in their responses to the lesson, deeply insightful and eager to work. On the other extreme, there were students whose literacy skills needed further development before they could comfortably work at the academic level that was expected of them. Then there were the mix of students in between.

In the classroom – and with tutoring – I have found a couple of literacy sites to be helpful in engaging students of all abilities with learning, and helping them to develop their literacy skills. These literacy sites use games and visual stimuli to engage the students, and the difficulty increases as the levels go higher which is an ideal way of differentiating the curriculum within a mixed-ability classroom.

The first site is Wordflyer whose content matches that of the Australian Curriculum.

screenshot-2016-12-06-12-32-15

The WordFlyer apps are for grades 7 – 10 and have different sections for spelling, grammar and vocabulary.

The second site is freerice which assists students in reading comprehension and word knowledge.

screenshot-2016-12-06-12-32-36

This site is useful for grades 6-8 and increases word knowledge and comprehension.

Reading, comprehension, spelling and grammar are important tools for students and although each student is unique and has individual learning needs, using a simple app or carefully chosen website game can assist students in developing their literacy skills.

Author Interview: Kate Forsyth

Kate Forsyth gave this interview on my previous blog site in 2014. Since then she has written a number of other books which can be found at http://www.kateforsyth.com.au

Kate Forsyth image.jpg

  1.             What does your workspace look like?I have a book-lined study with pale green walls that looks out over the garden to the harbour and the ocean. The walls are hung with covers and illustrations from my books and I have a big chair where I can sit and read and drink a cup of tea. I’m actually in the midst of repainting the room – on one wall, I’m going to have a quote from one of my books. It’ll read ‘May my heart be kind, my mind fierce, and my spirit brave.’
    1.    Who or what inspires your work?

    The story is what inspires me. I get an idea for a story, my imagination catches fire, and all I have to do is follow where the story takes me.

     

    1.    What advice would you offer aspiring writers?

    Be patient and persistent – it takes time and dedication to write a novel. And, most importantly, be brave!

     

    1.    How did you feel when your first manuscript was accepted to be published?

    Just as happy as you can imagine.

     

    1.    What dreams do you have for your writing career?

    To spend the rest of my life writing stories.

     

     

    kates-study

 

Further information about Kate’s books can be found at http://www.kateforsyth.com.au