How would life be,
Better or worse,
If our lives were lived
In rhyming verse?
Driving in the car
Slam on the brakes.
Shout out of the window
“No great shakes!”
Queuing for a drink
Some guy pushes in
We square up to each other
He says “Sorry!” with a grin
Sitting in his office
Boss shouts out my name
“About that lost contract…
I know you’re not to blame”
Washing the kitchen floor
Dirty dog runs through
“Never mind!”, I say
“That first wash wouldn’t do!”
So give it a try
And maybe you’ll see
The power of rhyme
To set you FREE!
Image courtesy of: https://www.flickr.com/photos/thecaucas/2300447649
Walking to school
Stepped on a crack
Stepped on another one
Sky turned black
Stepped on another
And the sky turned blue
What an odd thing for
The sky to do
My son, aged 4:
Daddy, I DON’T like that poem.
It makes me angry!
If you wrote it down for me on a piece of paper,
I would tear it into pieces.
If you gave it me in bed,
I’d bring it straight downstairs and
put it in the recycling!
(Too silly, and not enough dragons for his taste!)
The Story So Far…
I’ve been writing picture book (PB) stories for 18 months or so now, and am learning more and more every day: about the craft of writing, about the industry, about the importance of building up a network of contacts. One thing I need to work on at the moment is finding the balance between all the different elements that I am immersing myself in, and still having time to write (not to mention spend time with the family). This is written to take stock of what has happened these past few months. There are some words, and then pictures. Pictures are good, right!
I now have about half a dozen stories that I am happy enough to send out to agents (although, of course, find more faults or tweaks with each as soon as I hit “send”…). There are at least another half a dozen that didn’t quite work, for various reasons, so will be forever (?) left in the drawer. This month, I have signed up for Picture Book Ideas Month, aka PiBoIdMo – see the big link to the right of this post – which has already sparked off some ideas that I want to immediately run with, and turn into first drafts before the “next thing” comes along, so hope to be expanding on this foundation over the coming months.
I have shared these with friends and colleagues, partly to get used to the act of sharing stories (what’s the point writing the best, most heart-wrenchingly brilliant PB if it never leaves your hard drive?). Two of these friends, in particular, have been particularly helpful in providing some “critical” feedback – so thank you, Nick and Glen, a pair of Coventry lads in differing degrees of exile!
I have also managed to find my way into an American critique group, by the act of being on the right Facebook page at the right time… a certain amount of creating your own luck goes into this. This has been really helpful, not only in testing my stories with fresh eyes, but also in making me think more critically about stories that others have posted, and applying this process on my own writing through self-reflection. I even wrote a poem about this for my crit group – http://altheauthor.wordpress.com/2014/11/09/critique-group-poem/ . There are some very talented writers, not to mention lovely and supportive people, in this group.
I signed up for SCBWI – http://www.scbwi.org/ – a few weeks back, sadly too late for the annual conference. Next year… I have made contact with a small group who meet in Nottingham to talk all things writing once a month, led by the lovely Liz Miller. I look forward to seeing them again, and being able to talk in depth about all the things about the industry that I find so captivating… but that few other people – family, friends – know anything about. No offence to them, and the support they offer, but it’s nice to be able to talk shop without fear of boring anyone! I haven’t yet been able to make contact with any crit groups through SCBWI, but will keep trying.
So… I’ve been to a PB writers’ conference – http://altheauthor.wordpress.com/2014/09/14/nosy-crow-conference-2014-everything-you-always-wanted-to-know-about-childrens-publishing-but-were-afraid-to-ask/ and http://altheauthor.wordpress.com/2014/09/15/nosy-crow-conference-cntd/ .
I’ve been engaging with the twitterverse – http://altheauthor.wordpress.com/2014/09/28/a-newby-in-the-twitterverse/ – with mixed results so far. One twitter conversation stands out to me, from someone called Wilf who was particularly taken by my poem http://altheauthor.wordpress.com/2014/10/28/a-meeting-with-wilfred-poem/ . So I guess all I need to do is write a poem about every name there is, for maximum impact!
I’ve published about 40 poems on this blog now, and even entered a Halloweensie competition, winning a prize in the “Spookiest Entry” section (surely the most important in a Halloween competition, right??) for this http://altheauthor.wordpress.com/2014/10/29/the-raven-and-the-pumpkin-poem/.
This poem has had far more “hits” than any other on this blog, undoubtedly due to the traffic generated by this competition. Some of my poems have been picked up by various “daily newspapers” of poetry from around the globe, including, bizarrely, one from Hong Kong, which seemed to mostly be in Cantonese. The popularity of some, and the indifferent reaction to others, is often a complete mystery to me. For example, I really thought this Star Wars version of the Lords Prayer would get a few hits – http://altheauthor.wordpress.com/2014/11/07/the-star-wars-prayer/ – which could demonstrate how little I actually understand about all of this! (Or the inherent randomness of web and twitter traffic. Take your pick.)
So, enough naval gazing. I mentioned pictures. So pictures you shall have. I wrote a blog piece on what to share some time back – http://altheauthor.wordpress.com/2014/09/24/what-to-share/ . I can’t share my words with you, yet. What I can now share though are some children’s pictures, based on my words. A colleague from work happens to run a monthly art project at Lowdham Library in Nottinghamshire. I discovered this when I first emailed out my stories to a large group from work. (Again, making my own luck.) He took two of my stories to his group, and took these pictures of the results. The lad who drew the bear slightly misunderstood the task, and is now under the impression that his art will definitely be used when my book is published. I just have to find a publisher for it first, and explain the situation to them!
It is hard to describe the feeling of seeing these pictures based on my words, brought to life and colour by a group of children who I’ve never met. This positive, creative, imaginative effect on children is the “pull” for me. It brought a genuine lump to my throat, and I’m not a particularly sentimental person (although ET still makes me cry every single time… we each have our Achilles heel!)
Incidentally, one of these pictures is from one of the “dads” in the group, rather than the children. Can you guess which one?
I wrote this for my critique group, expressing some of my (newbie) feelings about the critiquing process. Do others have the same thoughts and feelings about it?
This critiquing game is hard.
It lays your soul open wide,
Your deepest thoughts for all to see,
And invites the critters inside.
Lightly as they tread,
The daisies still get trampled,
Structure taken apart;
Favourite lines get strangled.
Part of me wants to hear,
Nothing but praise and love,
As my words shine new light
And raise you up above
Maybe one day they will.
But they’re not quite ready yet.
As good as they seem now, this isn’t
As good as they can get.
So they pass through the crucible,
Tested and toughened by flame.
Ready to share with the world,
Ready to make your name.
So thank you all for your words
And all the time that you take
The different perspective you bring
The different insight you make
This is a relationship of trust
From thousands of miles away.
I hope to eventually meet you in person.
Perhaps at your book signing day?
I have recently joined SCBWI, and hope I will be as positive about it a few years down the line. A good summary for those thinking of signing up, or for those who perhaps are not yet even aware of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators
Every office has them,
Lurking in plain sight.
Do NOT touch their milk,
Unless looking for a fight.
With the level marked
And named with felt-tip pen,
The milk mafia dictate
What you drink, and when.
Don’t think you’ll get away
With taking a drop for your tea:
They do NOT take the view “live and let live,
Whatever will be, will be.”
These semi-skimmed soldiers
Deploy all sorts of tricks.
To prevent you getting your fix.
Should they ever catch you,
You’re surely for the chop.
A withering stare; a scowl:
“Whatever you’re doing, just stop!”
There is only one thing worse
Than those who behave in this way.
My ire’s reserved for the light-fingered lout
Who’s stolen MY milk today!
The food I simply love the most
Is toast, it’s toast, it’s toast, it’s toast!
I love it with butter, I love it with jam,
I love it with cheese, I love it with ham!
I’d eat it for breakfast, for lunch and for tea,
You don’t need to pay me: I’ll eat it for free!
I’d eat it with fingers, or with knife and fork,
I’d eat it in Gloucester, Oxford, and York.
I’d eat it in April, I’d eat it in June.
Give me a rocket and I’ll eat on the moon!
White bread or brown, nutty or plain,
I’d eat it all, again and again!
Toast sitting down, or out on the move,
There’s no toastly type which I can’t approve.
Toast with some friends, or solo as a snack,
Give me a plate and I’ll attack, attack, ATTACK!
Toast in the sun or toast in the rain
(It’s been said before I’ve got toast on the brain)
Toast with chocolate spread as a weekend treat.
A day without toast is just incomplete.
I love toast, I love toast, do I need to repeat?
The food I simply adore the most
Is toast, it’s toast, it’s toast, it’s toast!
I nibble, I chomp, I gulp and I chew.
For a steaming plate, what wouldn’t I do!
So if I come to your house and you offer me food,
You know exactly what I’ll say.
“I’ve given it some thought and, just for a change,
I think I’ll try toast today!”
Sitting on my sofa in my second-favourite pants,
I scan a hundred channels in a Stella sort of trance.
I can only deal with people shrunk and at a distance,
Or stuff about polar bears, or distant solar systems.
I fantasise about being, about living life aquatic,
Doing something dangerous, sexy, enigmatic.
But the truth I fear would be rather more traumatic,
So I scratch myself at length, watching Cash in the Attic