Saturday 29 June 2013

Red Sails and a Junk Sandwich by Linda Strachan

I love it that ideas are everywhere. 
Sometimes pinning them down and deciding what this great idea you've just had will turn into, can be the real stumbling block.  When you are looking for picture book ideas, listening to small children is a delight because their view of life is so fresh and often amusingly inaccurate. 

 They spend a lot of their time watching the world around them, trying to make sense of it.   They have few boundaries because in their world almost anything seems possible.

They don't really care that it is not realistic to travel to the moon for tea, or that there might be a problem getting a tiger to make friends with a mouse.

Also, the language we use can be confusing.  Imagine a small child hearing that someone 'pushed their glasses up their nose', or was 'as fit as a fiddle', or any of the many other slightly bizarre expressions we use without thinking of the exact meaning. It is no wonder that when children try to make sense of the world it is often with quite comical results.

Playing with language and taking a fresh view of how we use everyday words can make a picture book familiar and yet new at the same time.  I find that the juxtaposition of words can spark off ideas in all sorts of ways.

Jack and the Flumflum Tree by Julia Donaldson has both made up and familiar words. It's a lot of fun.
As Jack heads off to find the Flumflum tree on the Isle of Blowyernose he takes his Granny's patchwork sack. Inside is a weird assortment of things that prove to be useful to him and his friends.  When they encounter a sneaky monkey, some sharks and even when the boat starts to leak, there is something in Granny's patchwork sack that he can use to get them out of trouble. 

The story rolls along with a great rhythm that makes reading it fun for the adults as well as the child. 

 So if you are looking for ideas for a picture book story try putting odd things together, mix up the words in song titles, listen to little children, and before you know it you will be in the world of make believe where anything and everything just might be possible!

What are your favourite, but easily misconstrued, sayings?

Linda Strachan is the award winning author of over 60 books for all ages, from picture books to teen novels, and a writing handbook Writing For Children.

Interested in writing for children?  12-17th august 2013  Arvon Foundation residential course with Linda Strachan and Teresa Flavin with midweek guest Bali Rai   Almost sold out- so don't delay!

This summer Linda will be speaking about her teen novels in August appearing at  The Fringe by the Sea festival  and  The Edinburgh International Book Festival   
and in September with Sophie McKenzie at Bloody Scotland Crime festival


Monday 24 June 2013

Getting in the mood by Abie Longstaff

I’m getting ready to write a new book. 

For me this process starts with collecting ideas. My ideas come from everywhere – the radio, the newspaper, people’s stories, nature, the television – so when I’m at this stage of a project I tend to immerse myself in themes that might crop up in my book. Some of the process is about finding plots and characters, but some of it is also about retreating into a cave of writing where I (try) to shut out the world.

My new book is about a tropical swamp so I need:

1. Ideas for words

These might come from the internet;



from other books, like the wonderful Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson (any excuse to read this...);

or from brain storming on my own;


2. Ideas for images

I find Pinterest a really good source for images. I often make boards for my books as I find it really helps to collect all the pictures in one place. For me the images kick start themes, drawings and plots, or even just get me in the mood to write.  

My boards:

For my swamp book I have:

both of which are starting to spark off ideas. 

I visit places that might inspire me and take photos (these are from Butterfly World):

I also draw my own images to help jog things along.



 3. Ideas for noise

I find sound a very evocative sense so I will search for noises that echo the mood of the book. For my swamp I’ve chosen a rainforest birdsong background.
I might have this on while I gather images and draw and sometimes throughout the entire writing process. Bits of birdsong may find their way into my descriptions and the noise helps to imagine the hot, humid feel of the jungle.

4. Ideas for scent

I got the idea of using scent from an author friend, Nicola Morgan. Her blog full of writing tips is highly recommended:

Nicola told me she sometimes lights a candle to get her in the mood to write. I’ve started doing this too, choosing a scent depending on the book. I’m trying a tropical reed diffuser to get me in the zone for my swamp book.

I’d love to know how you get in the mood.

(If you want to see more of my boards, You can find me on Pinterest under AbieLongstaff)