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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Keeping First Draft Creating separate from Editing

Our friends at grammarly.com have sent a helpful list of things to watch for when editing - whether it's your NaNoWriMo novel or anything else. However I've held back on sharing till the end of the month, because I think it's essential that while you're in that first draft and actively creating, you must NOT worry about spelling, commas, or anything else that blocks your flow.

The important thing in your first draft is just to keep writing. Even if you realise you've just used a stereotypical description - 'red as a beet', etc – unless you can come up with a better one immediately, just leave it there for now. If you're truly worried that you won't notice how bad it is, use an asterisk or footnote e.g. 'red as something unusual that fits into the store: ruby? traffic light? fresh blood?'

Then move on. No matter how beautiful a sentence seems as you write it in that first draft - it's highly unlikely that it'll remain in that form in the finished book. So relax, write, and when your story is done and needs tidying and editing, be absolutely rigorous about these five tips.

Good luck to everyone doing not just NaNoWriMo, but taking that brave step of leaping into any new writing!

Five Mistakes To Avoid in Your NaNoWriMo Novel Infographic

Friday, October 02, 2015

Champ's Story of Survival - a Real Life 'Rainbow Street Animal Shelter' story

Today, Harry the Rescue Dog is interviewing Champ for his Rainbow Street Animal Shelter blog post  with special thanks to Fiona Ingram for translating, and for including Champ's poem as well!

Tell us a bit about your story?

Hi Harry, thanks so much for featuring my story on your blog. By the way, what a great blog! I read that you are a rescue dog too. My story has a wonderful happy ever after ending and I’m such a lucky pup for that. I was treated very badly by my previous owners, and it’s a good thing my memories of those bad times are a bit hazy. I was actually saved after my owners wrapped me in two plastic bags and dumped me at a shelter. I guess they thought I was dead, and I thought I was dead too – but I wasn’t!

I was saved by a caring animal rescue organization called S.A.F.E. Rescue in California, and they made sure I came back to life with lots of love, medical care, and good food. My life just turned around. Then a children’s author called Fiona Ingram (who is also a devoted animal lover) saw my story on Facebook and asked me if I’d like to be a co-Pawthor on a biodography. Of course I said yes! What pooch wouldn’t? I thought this is my chance to tell people how to love and care for their pets, and to say NO to animal abuse.
You may be wondering what’s in my book; is it all just sadness and tears? No, there’s a bit about that in the beginning to explain to readers how the book came about, but there’s tons of happy, fun stuff. I wrote Mi Happy Eva After Pome to say how things happened. And then I also wrote a super hero short story, starring me, for younger readers. How Superdog Champ Saved the Day is very exciting. It’s how I saved the dogs of Thousand Oaks, California from being dognapped by bad guys. There’s also lots of helpful stuff about how to look after pets, how to help animals in general, and how to be a good citizen and help elderly people who may not be able to care for their pets any more.

I hope people who love animals will buy my book because the proceeds go to S.A.F.E. Rescue so they can help even more animals like me get saved and find new homes. Here’s something cool – if people buy my book on Amazon, I can Pawtograph it for them!

What's the best thing about living in your home now?

Having people who love me, people who care about me, people who take me for walks with all my other doggy siblings; having a lovely cuddly warm bed to sleep in, and just knowing that when I open my eyes every morning I am safe, loved and secure. No more pain and heartache, no more tears.

Is there anything you'd like people to think about before they get a pet?

First, adopt, don’t buy. There are so many adorable animals, just like me, who are longing to find their Fur-ever Family. And rescues make the most wonderful loving pets because they are so happy to be with a caring family. Second, make sure you have the time to spend with your pet; that you have the right environment and enough space for it. Third, make sure the type of animal suits the mix of family members. If people are not so young any more, they should consider a more senior pet that won’t jump about and demand lots of playful activities. Fourth, animals need the right food, regular dental and health check ups, and annual inoculations. These are all serious considerations before thinking about getting a pet.

I hope Harry’s followers will look me up on Twitter and social media. I love making new friends!

SAFE Rescue Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/SAFERescue2013 
Champ’s Bio: Champ is an adorable poodle mix. He loves to be loved, and has not let being a Pawthor celebrity turn his head. His favorite toy is his squeaky ball; and he loves going for walks and being cuddled. Collaborating on this book was the biggest step in his life and he hopes that people will love it to bits and tell the whole world. Readers and supporters will agree with S.A.F.E. Rescue when they say: “Champ has touched the hearts of so many people and has been an inspiration, if for no other reason than to bring awareness and attention to the plight of abused and neglected pets. They too just want to be loved and cared for and can and will blossom into wonderful companions with unconditional love, despite their past.”
Fiona Ingram’s bio: Fiona Ingram is a South African children’s author. Her multi-award winning middle grade adventure The Secret of the Sacred Scarab is the first in her adventure series Chronicles of the Stone. Fiona loves animals, reading, books, anything artistic, travel (any excuse), and especially doing research for her books. Fiona has an amazing adopted daughter, Mabel, and is passionate about getting kids to love reading. Writing this book with Champ has been an absolute joy. Find out more about Fiona on her website. Find out more about her animal rescue books on Caladrius Books.
(Bit of book blurb)
On May 11, 2013, a little dog was dumped at a California animal shelter. He was enclosed in two sealed plastic bags, with another one over his head and tied around his neck. Miraculously, the shelter vet was able to revive him. More miracles happened. He was taken in by S.A.F.E. Rescue animal shelter in Thousand Oaks. Hundreds of supporters on Facebook followed his precarious road back to health. Again, the odds were stacked against him: his condition was so bad, his wounds so deep. But this little champion (renamed Champ) decided to live. A torrent of love and funding poured in for Champ. Many people said Champ and his brave little struggle for survival had changed their lives. From being beaten by life, Champ has become an inspiration and penned his tale Champ: My Story of Survival with the help of biodographer Fiona Ingram. Please share Champ’s story: it deserves to be told.

Monday, September 21, 2015

It's impossible to overemphasise the importance of literacy, so I'm sharing this infographic from Grammarly  https://www.grammarly.com/plagiarism-checker (More than just cute quotes on Facebook!)

I did have one query, as I thought the infographic showed Australia as having a 12% illiteracy rate, whereas it seems to be between 1 & 3% (depending on which site I referenced). However, what it depicts "is that 12% of all illiterate population leave in East Asia and the Pacific region." Australia is of course part of that region - so it's a good reminder that there is a lot of work still to be done to improve literacy quite close to home, no matter where you live. And if you live in Australia, there's one section of the population that especially struggles with literacy - so although there are many charities and organisations around the world working to improve literacy, I'm just going to mention The Indigenous Literacy Foundation. 

As well as donating directly to them, if you're a Nim's Island fan or teacher, don't forget that if you buy the ebook Nim's Island: Excellent Stuff to Make, Cook, Read and Do100% of the proceeds goes to the ILF. 

And meanwhile, think about how lucky we all are to simply be able to read this!

Literacy Day

Saturday, August 01, 2015

The award Nim would be most proud of

The environment and children’s literature are two things I care about passionately, so I was absolutely thrilled last Tuesday night when, at a lovely event at the Melbourne’s Little Bookroom, Rescue on Nim’s Island was awarded the Widlerness Society’s Environment Award for Children’s Literature (fiction) ­– and the inaugural Puggles (children’s choice) award as well!
The Little Bookroom, photo by Elise Jones

When I first wrote Nim’s Island, I didn’t set out to make Nim a wildlife warrior. She just ended up one because if you live in a pristine natural environment, you have to care about keeping it pure. If you have a friend who’s a sea turtle, you care about whether she and her babies will survive. If you live on a small island, you know that every part of the island works together, and if you damage any part of it, it will damage the whole. We live on a big island in Australia, and other continents are bigger still, but the principle is the same.
Hollyburn School, Vancouver, using Nim as an environmental hero, 2008

But the good news is that every good thing you do for the environment can have big effects too ­– and it’s important to remember that we need to start with what’s right around us. You can sign a heap of petitions to save whales, but if you plant the rushes that indigenous butterflies breed in, you can help to save a species in your own garden. 

And that’s really what Nim does. You don’t have to be quite as dramatic as she is – it’s probably best not to look for dynamite to defuse, but I guarantee that you can make a difference. If you read the books on this list, you might find surprising ways to do it. I'm reading one of the shortlist right now: The Vanishing Frogs of Cascade Creek, by Emma Homes, and I'm learning lots! 
With illustrator Geoff Kelly, photo by Coral Vass
With author Emma Homes

for the whole list and more pictures of the great evening, hosted by the lovely Leesa Lambert, with an inspiring keynote speech by Morris Gleitzman. And a special thanks to Coral Vass for allowing me to use her photographs.
Meeting Rescue on Nim's Island illustrator Geoff Kelly for the first time,
photo by Coral Vass

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Lost and found lion friends

It’s happy book birthday for the new paperback editions of Wanted! A Guinea Pig called Henry, and Abandoned! A Lion Called Kiki. Harry the Rescue Dog is celebrating with an updated post on the origin of the lion story – because believe it or not, that’s the truest story in all the Rainbow Street Animal Shelter series (the Rainbow Street Pets book in Australia).

Can you imagine getting a phone call from an airport to say, “You’ve got a parcel here!” – and when you get there, finding out that a friend has sent you a lion cub? That’s what happened to friends of my parents when I was a kid, living in Colorado.

The cub was a lioness, and she was named Cappy. Her father was a cross-eyed lion named Clarence, who starred in Daktari, a TV series set in Africa, but I’m not sure why someone decided to send this cub to our friends – who already had six dogs and a three-legged goat! (And can you imagine how excited my brother and sister and I were when they came to visit us? The cub even met our horse!)

Our friends took wonderful care of Cappy, but of course she grew into a lion, not a big pussy cat. In the end they realized that the best thing for her would be to take her somewhere where she could live more like a lion. It was as heartbreaking as it would be to give up any pet. They chose the zoo at Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, although she was later sold to the Topeko zoo in Kansas. They visited her there a couple of years later, and she seemed to remember her name when they called her.

That was the happiest ending that little lion could have had in 1967, but when I wrote the story I set it in the 1980s and so was able to make it even happier. I used a wildlife refuge in Zambia because when I phoned the Melbourne Werribee Plains Zoo to ask some questions, I spoke to a vet who was about to return to Zambia to set up a wildlife refuge to look after lions and other native animals.  

It also struck me that if the memory of the visiting lion cub had made such an impression on me, it would have had a much bigger effect on a child who'd been given it. So as authors do, I used some bare bones of truth, and fleshed out a story that explains why the Rainbow Street Shelter manager Mona has dedicated her life to animals.

And thanks to my original post when the book first came out, we’re back in touch with the friends who were surprised by that parcel so long ago. A lovely bonus to the story.

Harry's hoping to interview a guinea pig rescuer in a later post. (I don't really trust him to interview guinea pigs…)

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Asking questions to turn thoughts into story ideas

Eleven year old Maddison wants to be a writer and has asked where I get ideas from. That’s a great question because every story has to start with an idea!
Ideas come from thoughts, and thoughts come from all our senses, as well as our emotion and everything we remember and imagine. That can add to millions of thoughts a day (I just made that figure up – maybe it’s thousands. A lot, anyway.) How do we turn some of those into ideas that can be built into a story?
The answer is: Questions! The first questions are usually, ‘What if?’ or ‘Why?’ or ‘How?’ or ‘What happened?’
To show you what I mean, I gave myself a challenge to find some new ideas on my morning walk.
Here’s a not-very-great picture of a nest fallen on the ground. To turn this into a story I’d ask:
What happened here?
1) What happened to the baby birds? Had they already flown away?
(I really hope so, and I think they had, because the nest looks old - but that wouldn’t  make a story. So for the rest of the questions we’ll say that the eggs or baby birds were still in there.
2) How did it fall out of the tree?
 Possible answers:
a) The wind.
b) A predator bird or animal.
c) A bad person - why are they doing it?
d) An alien - what do they think the eggs are?
e) …..
3) What happens next?
 a) The protagonist (hero) tries to rescue them and put the nest back in the tree. How do they do that? Climb the tree? What happens if they fall out? Or meet an eagle? Or get into trouble because someone thinks they’re trying to steal the nest?
b) The birds are an endangered species – so a poacher is going to raise the birds and sell them to zoos. Now how does the hero try to stop them?
c) The aliens are going to hatch them…
3) Where is the nest? What's on the other side of that fence?

Questions & answers for writing Raven's Mountain
(Facing the Mountain)
So, you just keep on asking questions.  Remember that there aren't any wrong answers - there are only answers that will lead to better questions to make the best possible story. 

Of course I saw lots of things on my walk: blackberries – not much of a story there, but what if you put blackberry bushes under the tree that someone’s climbing to steal or rescue the nest?
What about the sisters I heard arguing?
Or the sign for the school fete?

Or the empty holiday house – where one day my dog ran away and went in the dog door. The dog door was locked from the inside so that he couldn’t get out… There are lots of chances for a story there!
The island that gave me the first idea for Nim's Island

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Harry the Rescue Dog Talks Animal Shelters: Debra Duel and the Washington Animal Rescue League

Harry the Rescue Dog's Rainbow Street Post:

Although Harry might look as if he's dozing after an exhausting ball play, he's actually contemplating his first of a series of blog posts to celebrate rescue pets, animal shelters like the one he was adopted from, and the release of the beautiful new editions of The Rainbow Street Animal Shelter series with Square Fish.

Lost! A Dog called Bear  and Missing! A Cat Called Buster are out today. (The books are out - I hope the animals are safe at home!)

If you'd like to share the story of your rescue pet or an animal shelter - or any amazing animal story! - you can contact Harry by commenting on the Rainbow Street Pets Facebook page (it would be great if you wanted to like the page too) or through the email link on wendyorr.com. But to start off, here's Debra Duel, the Director of Humane Education at the Washington Animal Rescue League, with the interview from June 2012, when Lost! A Dog Called Bear was first published.

Debbie has more than 25 years of experience in humane education—leading classroom programs and professional workshops.  She is the author of the book, Nigel, a popular Operation Outreach-USA (www.oousa.org) title.  I had never heard of a role like this until I received this email:
"I just read Lost! A dog Called Bear.  Thank you for writing a book for early readers that not only paints animal shelters, and their staff and volunteers, in a positive light, but stresses the importance of micro-chipping AND is a really good story.   The humane education program that I administer is literacy based. We provide classroom teachers with humane-themed books for their classroom libraries, and whenever possible, give every student In the class a book of his/her very own.  I am going to add Lost! A Dog Called Bear to my list and can’t wait to get Missing!  A Cat Called Buster.

I also wanted to let you know that I believe  that the strongest message in your book, and there are many without preaching a single one, is when Hannah decides not to adopt the guinea pig!    That is such an important, and often lost, message."

Debbie's childhood friend Teddy

How would you describe your job? .
Lots of fun, but with a serious message.   I actually get paid to spend every day with my wonderful dog, Nigel, and children who care about animals!  My job is to share information about animal welfare with students  so they can strategize ways in which to help animals and make a real difference.  I tell them, you don’t need to live with an animal to help them.  Animal welfare is everyone’s  responsibility.

What was the path - or the passion(!) -  that led you to working to animals in general, or this job in particular?  
I couldn’t find a job when I graduated college in 1981, so I started volunteering with the local animal welfare organization in Tallahassee, Florida.  That led to a job in the adoptions department at the shelter.   I didn’t feel like I was doing enough to prevent animal cruelty and make a real dent in the overpopulation crisis in that position, so I started a volunteer humane education program for children, and that eventually led to paid position.  Now I visit students in D.C. area schools.  The students and I explore ways to end animal suffering including spaying and neutering cats and dogs, lobbying for stricter animal protection laws, and  emphasizing responsible animal care school-wide.

Did you have pets as a child? 
Debbie's Dad with his "Black Hill Sheepdog"  Ted
We adopted our first cat when I was 9-years-old.  That was a big deal because my mother was scared to death of cats.   I’ve lived with cats ever since.  Later, my family added a puppy to the family.   The card on his cage at the shelter said shepherd mix.  But Teddy, a fluffy black puppy grew into a very handsome 60 pound shaggy dog that didn’t resemble a shepherd at all.    People would stop us and ask what kind of dog he was.  My dad made up a name, he would say, “Ted is a Black Hill Sheepdog.”  People would often reply, “Wow, he’s beautiful, I’ve never seen one of those before,” or “You don’t see many of those in south Florida, do you?”  “No, you don’t, “ my dad answered.  

Do you have an animal companion now?
My dog, Nigel, came to live with my family 7 ½ years ago.  He is a black Labrador retriever, who neither swims nor retrieves (characteristics associated with retrievers).  My son, Max, who was seven when we adopted Nigel wanted a dog more than anything in the world.  Since I worked in a shelter, I saw dogs every day, but none of them were the “right” dog.  Eventually, one of our humane officers brought in a very friendly, but terribly emaciated black dog.   The veterinarian who examined him said that he had been nearly starved to death.  Nigel, now a very handsome 75-pound dog, weighed just 48 pounds the day he was rescued.   For me, it was love at first sight.   Nigel comes to work with me at the Washington Animal Rescue League, and he visits students in Washington, D.C.   I wrote a book about him shortly after I adopted him and we give the book to every student we meet.   Nigel and I also live with three shelter cats, Micky, a Morris-the-cat look-alike, Merl a brown tabby named for a cat in one of favorite picture books, My Big Dog,  by Susan Stevens Crummel and Janet Stevens, and Charlotte Tibbs, our most recent addition.

What would your pet tell us about you?  
 Charlotte would complain that I refuse to let her go outside.  She is very curious and is always trying to escape out the front door.  I explain to her that she is much safer as an indoor only cat (and so are the birds!), but she is not very accepting of this reasoning.   She is young and fearless; scratching posts and toy mice are not nearly as thrilling to her as towering maple trees and real-live rodents!

Any advice for people wanting a pet?  
An animal companion is a HUGE financial and time commitment, but if you are sure that you can, and want to commit to both, you will have a true BFF!

Favourite animal books? 
I have so many and I love sharing them with students.   Right now the first two books in the Rainbow Street Series are my absolute favorites for young chapter book readers and Cracker!: The Best Dog in Vietnam by Cynthia Kadohata and The Nine Lives of Travis Keating by Jill MacLeanis  are my must-read picks for fifth and sixth graders.  I think both of those would make great movies!  I have way too many favorite animal picture books to name, but I list many of them on my blog, warlkids.blogspot.com.