Australian Author of Children’s Books and Teen Books: June 2012

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Digital Storytelling

Digital tools and a 360-degree approach to storytelling are revolutionising the creative process for kids and teens everywhere.

I was recently funded to take my digital story brainstorming app, Story Scrapbook, on tour. CAL (Copyright Agency Limited) and the University of New England supported a two-week tour of the New England Region. I did my own creative work and ran digital storytelling workshops with children, teens and adults using Story Scrapbook. Here is what happened...

Story Scrapbook is point-and-shoot with the young and computer-savvy picking the basic functions up in minutes.
Year 8 boys created stories based on their greatest fears.
Beautiful downtown Armidale where I was based for the tour.
There was an earthquake during my stay! (Pic by Amber Melody.)
Me, flying, after brilliant digital storytelling sessions with the kids at a little country school, Kingstown Public.
One of the adult writing workshops at the New England Regional Art Museum. In general, children
and teens are able to pick the app up and run with it a little more quickly than their elders but many at the adult workshops discovered great possibilities for using the app in their own creative and teaching work. 
Many boys created sport-related stories. The app allowed them to gather video, images, music,
maps and notes related to the sport they were passionate about.

Jane Austen battling a dalek on a bookshelf at the University of New England.
(Not really related but difficult not to include. This may never happen again.)

This student was able to get brilliant results from the app's drawing tool.
Each group is invited to give feedback on the app, making users a part of future development.
The Hogwarts-style dining room at TAS, The Armidale School. I dined here after  three
creative workshop sessions with the boys.
The tour was a great example of creative communities in action. Huge thanks to CAL and the wonderful Elizabeth Hale from the University of New England. Liz will be touring three more children's authors / illustrators to the region next year so, if you are a children's storyteller, keep your ear to the ground.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Follow Your Bliss

It's like a growing tree. It doesn't know where it's growing next. 
A branch may grow out this way, then that way, and then another way. 
If you let it be that way and don't have pressures from the outside, 
when you look back, you'll see that this will have been an organic development. 
Just remember: Parzival blew the job when he did what people expected him to do.

- A Joseph Campbell Companion: Reflections on the Art of Living

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Get Fit, Write Book

I have been reading a lot lately about the dangers of sitting down for eight hours a day. (Check out this Mashable Infographic.)

The latest and possibly greatest tools in my writing arsenal are the iPhone and the great outdoors. Finally, a device that unshackles the writer from the desk and allows them to write, freely, outside while walking in sunshine and breathing fresh air, staving off heart disease and cancer and myriad other diseases associated with sitting in a chair all day.

The best thing is that it feels creative and loose and free and brings the writing process alive.

I spent three days recently walking on the beach for 3+ hours each day, writing a book... in Notes on my iPhone as I walked. Sounds distracting and unproductive but they were three of the least distracted, most creative and productive days I have ever had.

This approach fits perfectly with my need to feel like I am bunking off from something. I was able to fool myself that it wasn't really work which freed me up to write whatever came to me. I wasn't writing in anything that looked like an 'official' manuscript, so I wrote freely. I sketched ideas and scenes and dialogue onto the 'page' without needing them to be perfect. (Great for first draft, not sure how I will go with rewriting.)

The first day I carried a heavy laptop bag on my back with shoes hanging off it. By the third I took my phone, a mandarin, a muesli bar and left everything else in the car. The movement, air and sunshine, the white-noise roar of the ocean – perfect conditions for laying words onto the page. (In fact, I am writing these very words while walking the beach. Better get back to manuscript. ;-)

I dare you to try it and let me know about your own active writing safaris. (At the very least, try to write standing up, like Hemingway!)

Monday, June 18, 2012

David Lovegrove, Manga Artist & Illustrator, in The Writer's Studio

David Lovegrove is a Northern NSW-based illustrator and manga artist. He has created concept art for film and TV including Steven Spielberg’s World War II mini-series The Pacific. He runs popular manga workshops for kids and teens throughout Australia and is currently working on his own graphic novel, Daruma. Here, he takes us inside his creative space and process.

Where did you create your latest book / project? How important to you is the space in which you create?
My graphic novel Daruma has been created in a very diverse range of places - on a jet scribbling sudden inspirations on the back of a ‘sick bag’, in coffee shops on napkins, on trains and send from my iphone to myself, scribbled in sketches sitting in a temple garden in Japan. Somehow, the odder the place the better the ideas!
David Lovegrove's Iga Ninja
Do you transform your space in any way for each project? Do you 'get into character' at all?
My story is about ninjas and geishas and robots plus all sorts of other unconnected things. I have my “old Japan” space at home and my studio where I sit and collate and rewrite and sketch. I watch a LOT of Samurai movies, read lots of manga and listen to arcane Japanese music and I also practice kung fu so I am always ‘in character’.
David Lovegrove's Manga DVD collection
How has the place that you create evolved or changed since you first began?
The Samurai DVD collection keeps growing, as does the Daruma doll and Japanese arcana collection. I write at the desk that I used as a teen that I inherited from my dear storytelling Nana.

Do you keep regular writing hours? If not, when do you write?
I tend to write whenever I get the chance, hence the sick bags and napkin approach - we have three young children so life is pretty hectic at home. My studio is my hideout but the kids give me energy. I write a lot late at night too.
David Lovegrove's Studio
Do you have a morning ritual? Roald Dahl was said to sharpen pencils. What settles your mind for writing?
Yoga and practicing Wing Chun kung fu (which is a relaxing internal style) and listening to traditional Indian and Japanese music are my ways to settle my mind. If I don’t do them the daily stresses of life can really throw me off track.

Thanks David! Next week, another writer / artist in The Writer's Studio.

(This interview originally appeared in Northerly, the magazine of the Northern Rivers Writers Centre.)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Children's Author Christine Harris in the Writer's Studio

Children's author Christine Harris lives in the Adelaide Hills with her husband and writing partner David Harris. She has won tons of awards and has been published all over the world. Here, she invites us into her space and shares some of her tips on keeping the writing process fluid, active and fun.

Where did you write your latest book? How important to you is the space in which you write?
I am on the last of three books in a mystery series called ‘Raven Lucas’. Unlike my previous books, the first two books were written on my laptop computer. I sat either in the loungeroom where I could see the garden or actually in the garden itself. (On a chair – I’m not a garden gnome.) I found I was delaying my writing by going on the internet all the time so I keep my laptop internet free. I can’t be tempted. Also long hours in my computer chair isn’t that good for my back and ... oh, okay, so I Iike to be comfortable, watch the leaves blow in the wind and hope for inspiration! I still love my office, but if I’m stuck it helps to change the place where I am writing (temporarily). You can write anywhere if you have a story to tell. Once you start, that place belongs to you.

Do you transform your space in any way for each book? Do you 'get into character' at all?
I used to have little gadgets for different books, such as chopsticks or an emu made from a pinecone. But now, before I start a book I clean out my desk and stationery cupboard because it feels like I am wiping away the residue of my last work so I can start afresh. This is kind of important if you write different sorts of books.

I keep copies of my books on shelves above my desk, family photos, a plant, a blue wren (real feathers but fake bird) and a tiny paper foldup model of Dr Who’s tardis (it’s bigger on the inside). There is also an exercise bike that I look at and imagine I am cycling. Well, sometimes I pedal. But I probably stare more than I pedal.

I can’t listen to the radio or hear music with lyrics. It gets in the way of my thoughts. But I do play nature sounds (birds, waterfalls, cowbells etc) and I adore the soundtracks to ‘Dr Who’. Murray Gold, the composer, knows how to wring emotion from the heart. Just what I need when I am writing.

And if you promise not to tell anyone I will confess that I do sometimes dress up as my characters. I have a collection of wigs and stuff. It’s fun. Or I interview my character – ask them questions and let them answer in their own way.

How has the place that you write evolved or changed since you first began writing novels?
It has more and more books. I’m running out of space so now I am starting on wall shelves. I have culled my posters as I was running out of walls. Too cluttered. When I first began writing my two children were home so I had to write in the dining room. Now I have my own room. Bliss.

Do you keep regular writing hours? If not, when do you write?
I try to start in the morning by 9 am. And if I don’t, I wish I was starting then. Mostly week days. I used to work 7 days a week, but I find it is better for writing (also sanity and health) to have time off with family or in my garden (and my kids told me off for working too hard). But I am a rotten sleeper and I’m often awake all hours of the night so I write then. The world is mine in the middle of the night.

Do you have a morning ritual? Roald Dahl was said to sharpen pencils. What settles your mind for writing?
Roald Dahl was also addicted to chocolate. Can I copy that one instead of the pencil thing?
But seriously, I can’t work in chaos. My house must be tidy for my mind to be so. I also make sure I sit down, have coffee that David my husband always makes because he actually sleeps at night and gets up way early. We eat our homemade wholemeal bread and talk about all kinds of subjects like the yeti crabs discovered in Antarctica, interrogation techniques, flowers or ways to improve our writing or ourselves. We read together in the mornings too. Then we disappear to our own writing rooms. We come out and meet for morning tea and lunch, and keep the phones on silent until 3 pm.

But I can’t sit still for hours. Every hour or two I get up and walk around the house or do a little chore or stare at my exercise bike.

Thanks Christine! Check back for another writer in The Writer's Studio next week.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Children's Book App Developer Vincenzo Pignatelli in The Writer's Studio

Vincenzo Pignatelli from Blue Quoll Digital Publishing holds a PHD in Neuroscience, is an innovator in children's publishing and an eloquent speaker on the nuances of what makes a quality children's book app. Here he takes us inside his creative space and gives a glimpse into the multi-faceted process of app development.

Where did you create your latest book app? How important to you is the space in which you create?
The App content and assets are physically delocalized across several computers. Because we collaborate with a developer in Perth and a graphic designer in Italy, we keep a server where we host the App content and code for easy review and sharing. So in a sense our workspace is all over the place ;)  Eventually everything is assembled by myself on my computer and prepared for delivery onto the AppStore.

The physical space where I work is important for me in the sense that I like it quite tidy. It's an organisationally intense job and if I do not have things organised properly, even visually, around me, it's easy to lose track of bits and pieces along the way. Keep in mind that besides putting together the App I work on the audio management and processing, digital image processing, social media and marketing.

Do you transform your space in any way for each app / book? Do you 'get into character' at all?
I surround myself with the original drawings and a series of printed tabs that I use to keep track of the various language versions, the interactivity on the pages and what has been done or needs to be done in our Apps.

How has the place that you create your apps evolved or changed since you first began creating?
It's constantly evolving. Now that we are going to implement games and different types of interactivity in our future AppBooks I will need a bigger screen for sure which should allow me to juggle more comfortably between all the different software I use for development purposes.

From AppBook, Mr Wolf and the Ginger Cupcakes.
Do you keep regular hours? If not, when do you create?
We try not to work on weekends (even though it can be hard at times, particularly upon launch). I am the kind of person that focuses enormously during work hours, I rather prefer to get something done quickly in a few intense sessions than to procrastinate and dilute it across several days. So I might put in long hours one day and take a few hours off the next one ;)

Do you have a morning ritual? Roald Dahl was said to sharpen pencils. What settles your mind for work?
What sets me to work mode really is closing the internet browser and the email client. When I do that I know there is no more distraction and I can start to work on what's at hand ;)

Thanks Vincenzo. Next week children's author Christine Harris will be in The Writer's Studio.
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