Month: June 2014

Wondering

Wonder is the beginning of wisdom. –Socrates

When I was a kid  much of my life was spent wondering.  Things puzzled me. Things intrigued me. Sorting out my thoughts via a series of wondering questions was the means by which I came to decisions, assumptions and conclusions.

I wondered about explorers. How did they ever figure out where they were going? Did they ever think they were wasting their time? Did they get scared? How did they know if they were the first to find a place? 

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I wondered about place names. Who chooses what a place will be called? Can you change the name of a place if you don’t like it? How can you get a place named after you?

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 I wondered about people. Why do some people have blue eyes? Why do I have freckles? How can I make myself taller? What is common sense? Why do old men have hairy ears? Why do old ladies grow whiskers? 

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I wondered about clouds. I wondered about rainbows. I wondered about chickens. I wondered about fingernails.

I wondered about princesses. i wondered about people who lived in castles all those years ago before modern plumbing. 

I wondered if the boy who sat next to me in class would die from eating what he picked from his nose. 

I wondered if I was smart enough to get to high school. I wondered what I would be when I grew up since it had been made clear to me that I could never be a firefighter. 

Wondering is an essential part of development. It is how children make sense of the world around them. It is the basis of learning. It is the source of the dreaded ‘But why?’ question that drives parents temporarily insane.

It must be encouraged and extended. 

When a child wonders, we can simply provide the answer or we can offer a thought provoking query that will make them wonder even more.  

‘Why do dragons have wings?’

‘Well, would they still be dragons if they didn’t?’

 

Do you still wonder?  I know I do…often.

 

 

 

 

An Inspirational Moment

I was asked yesterday what inspires me to write and my immediate answer was ‘Everything.’

Ideas come from all angles all day.  I have always been a wonderer. I wonder about lots of things. Place names, in particular, fascinate me. I wonder how those places came to be named as they are. As a child this wondering was the cause of my being ejected from the classroom on a regular basis for asking too many questions.  For example, ‘Who was Weller and what did he do to get a hill named after him?’ (Suburb of Brisbane – Wellers Hill)

Luckily for me, the principal of the school was a very special man. He was about nine feet tall – six feet of which were legs – and always carried a bamboo cane. Eeek!  He had a habit of prowling the corridors and verandahs in search of miscreants. He would make his extremely tall and scary way toward the small red-haired girl standing by the classroom door, bend so that we were face to face and say, ‘Not again, Coppertop. What did you say this time?’

I would perform the required head bob and tell him my question. He would then take me to the school library, point out the section in which I would find the answer to my question and leave me to it. ‘Come see me when you have the answer.’

This man who was at once terrifying and kind made me realise that children are supposed to ask questions, that inquiring minds should be encouraged and that it is important to go forth into the world and notice things. He is also the reason I became a teacher.

But back to what inspires me.

Places inspire me.  Image      In the seventies I lived in a place in Cornwall called St Mawes.

It was then a tiny sleepy fishing village during the winter months. It came alive during the summer because of the tourists who came to sail the calm waters of the bay and visit the old Tudor castles that guard the entrance to the nearby Fal River Estuary.  I haven’t been back since 1976 and I guess that it would be an entirely different place these days but my memories of it are all good.  The people would tell stories of pixies (piskies) and smugglers. There was the ruin of an old lighthouse on the headland and treacherous waters to be negotiated by boats as they entered the harbour. This place fired my imagination, reminded me of all the Enid Blyton ‘Famous Five’ books I had read as a child and was the inspiration for my first story ‘Taya Bayliss – Treasure Hunter’.

My home and family inspire me. This is especially true of my dogs, Trudy, seen here, and Heidi.

ImageTheir sheer joy in being alive and their enthusiasm for everything they do is infectious and so funny. I really enjoy writing about their adventures and misdemeanours.  Those of you who read The Big Blonde Dog blog (www.thebigblondedog.blogspot.com) will be familiar with these stories.  Trudy provided the inspiration for Minette in ‘Taya Bayliss – Dog Sitter’.

People inspire me.   Last year my husband and I were on vacation at the beach. From Image

our apartment balcony we had a great view of the lookout shelter atop the headland. There was a man – I don’t think the photo is sharp enough for you to see him – who would stand there looking out to sea.  It did not matter at what time of the day or night I looked, he would be there. I couldn’t figure out what he was doing over there but it really bugged me.  I spent the entire vacation coming up with scenarios, mostly sinister I must admit, for his presence there.  So when I was working on the most recent Taya Bayliss book, Code Breaker, there just had to be a man at a lookout.

Inspiration is all around us. All we need to do is allow the child within to wonder and ask questions.

And, of course, we must encourage our children to do exactly the same thing….wonder and ask questions.

What inspires you?

Looks New

Well, it’s been an exciting week.

I have been working with a delightful young man who lives on the other side of the world from me to re-jig the formatting of my stories. Each of the chapters now has an image to mark it and there are quizzes in the back of each of the books.

Also, I found found Irish illustrator, Ros Webb, to create new cover images for each of the books.  As previously mentioned in this blog, I wanted them to appeal more to the nine-year-old eye.  I think Ros has done a wonderful job.

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What do you think?   

You Can’t Judge a Book…

When I was a kid my favourite books were the mystery adventures written by Enid Blyton.  I considered Julian, Anne, Dick and George to be my best friends.  They were a very important and consistent part of my life.  

The book covers looked like this. Image

They featured illustrations of the kids and Timmy the dog in a scene from the book.  Some of my books were hard cover editions and had dust jackets.  I treasured them all, created library cards for them and stacked them in careful order on my bookshelf.

In the seventies, I think it was, the covers were redone to coincide with the television series made in England.

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These ones had more intense images, more realistically drawn, designed to entice children to not only read the books but also to connect with the actors from the tv  shows.  The logo of The Famous Five was also a prominent feature.  Back in the fifties, we didn’t need to be told they were famous.  To us they were just the Five.  

Then, in the early part of this century, for the 70th anniversary of the series, there was another change. This time to a totally different style…Quentin Blake.

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I find these reminiscent of the ones that I knew as a child and they attract me more than the 1970s versions.  

Today,  I am struggling to decide upon covers for my own books.  At the moment they have photographic-type images.

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Parents tell me the covers are lovely, that they really like the silhouettes, but the kids are saying that they would prefer a more ‘cartoony’ style.  One little girl told me she love, love, loved the story of Code Breaker, but she only read it because her mother picked it out for her.

‘ I don’t like the cover. It’s not exciting’ she said with all the honesty (and complete lack of tact) of childhood…and to be honest too, if I were looking at it with my own nine-year-old eyes, I might just agree with her.

Given that the kids are my target audience, I have to do something about this.  

Five dollars spent on fiverr.com resulted in this.

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Interesting, but I think the girl is too girly to be my Taya…she needs to be in jeans with her hair in a pony tail.  I am going to ask the artist to do a re-draw.  If I can just get the character image right, I am hoping the rest will drop into place fairly easily.

Other authors…how do you decide on cover design?