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Monday, August 18, 2014

The comfort of bedtime stories

The saddest story I've ever heard about the importance of reading to your children came from someone who told me that the happiest times of her childhood were when her mother was in hospital, because she would be sent to stay with neighbours - and the neighbours read her bedtime stories. She has remained grateful to those neighbours for introducing her to books being read at home, the power of a shared story, the comfort of being read to, the establishment of a bedtime routine - or maybe all of the above. She went on to become a teacher, specialising in reading.

So if you don't have children to read to, remember that you can still share it with other children (even if they have parents who read to them!) You never know how that book, or that warm feeling of being read to, may go on to influence a child's life.

And if you'd like me to read to your child, or children you know, let me know by commenting on this post, tweeting or emailing me directly through my website. Today is the last day to enter, but tomorrow, for National Reading Hour, (6 pm Tuesday 19 August) I'll be reading to a child or group of children. It'll be over Skype or even phone if you don't happen to live nearly next door, but that's still a great way to share the love of books around the world.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

National Reading Hour - Would you like me to read you a story?

Australia’s National Reading Hour is fast approaching: 6 pm on Tuesday August 19: a time when we celebrate the act of reading with children. Reading is one of the most important things in my life. Stories take us into new worlds and teach us something more about ourselves, all at the same time. 

But reading to a child is an even greater gift than this. Sharing the story enhances the enjoyment; undoubtedly it deepens the child’s understanding of a more difficult text – and most importantly, it’s an expression of caring. Most of us lucky enough to have grown up with bedtime stories remember them as a time of warmth, safety and love; most of us who read bedtime stories to our children will remember them in the same way. What better way to lay down the association between pleasure and learning; to give your child a resource for difficult times?

As an author who grew up with those feelings for bedtime stories, and attempted to pass them on in the same way to my children, it’s very special to me to hear of my own books being part of this interaction.

So if you would like to celebrate the National Reading Hour by having me read a pre-bedtime story to your child or children, over Skype or phone if you don’t live next door, just comment on this blog, email or tweet. Tell me why you’d like it, or what reading means to you, because that’s fun for me to hear, though I’ll choose the winner by random drawing, because it would be just too hard to choose the best reason for sharing a story!

Here’s what some author friends and I said about reading a couple of years ago:

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Have you ever ridden on a sea lion?

Miriam at Create Hope Inspire blog interviewed me about Rescue on Nim's Island this week.

 Her two young sons also had some great questions! Here are a couple:

Have you ever ridden on a sea lion?
What does a sea lion's fur feel like?
Wendy sent this gorgeous photo in answer to these rather funny questions!

Was the cake actually poisoned? What with?
It was actually poisoned. They used juice from rhubarb leaves, because that makes you very sick but probably wouldn't kill you.

Why was there a passage where Tiffany's foot got stuck?
Why was the hole joined to the bat's cave?
All the passages, tunnels and caves were formed in the mountain by water dripping or running through the limestone rock, and gradually dissolving it, so that bigger passages, tunnels and caves were formed. Of course this took many thousands of years! Also, any small earthquakes or rumbling through the mountain when the volcano erupted made new faults and cracks, so the water dripped down those and continued to erode the new holes in the tunnel or passage.

For the complete interview and Miriam's review, go to: Create Hope Inspire

Thursday, June 19, 2014

I've been a bad, slow, blogger lately (even more than usual!) but my excuse, apart from having a wonderful four weeks of travel, inspiration and, yes, even a holiday – is that I was copyediting, rereading, proofing and driving my editors crazy with last minute fiddling around with commas and words in Rescue on Nim's Island, right up to the time I left.

A month later, when I got home, my advance copies were waiting for me. Some have already been mailed to the winners of the Name the Character competition. But most of the books are on their way to bookstores now, for release at the end of the month, and so I'll be doing some running around to share them.

So here's a list of some of the events I'm doing in the next few weeks. (Though just if you were wondering, the NSW Writers' Centre Festival and CYA conference weren't organised around my book's release - just a very happy coincidence for me.)

                        Panel on Page to Stage and Screen
                        Panel on Writing, Pitching and Publishing a Series
July 1, 2014:  RESCUE ON NIM'S ISLAND  published (Australia)
July 3, 2014:  Carindale Library AuthorEvent, Carindale, QLD, Australia,
                    2:00 pm
July 4, 2014 Black Cat Books, Paddington, QLD, Australia
                 Launch of Rescue on Nim's Island                 11:00
July 8, 2014: East Melbourne Library Author Event, with the Little Bookroom              2:00pm
Address: 122 George Street, East Melbourne, VIC, 3002
Library Contact: Fiona Campbell, Events Manager, P: (03) 9658 9658
July 9-11, 2014: Mornington Peninsula Library Author Events 
July 9: Mornington Library, 2:30 
July 10, Rosebud Library, 2:30
July 11, Hastings Library, 11:00
July 26, 2014, Petersen's Books, Hastings,  launch of Rescue on  Nim's Island -launched by Sue Flockhart, commissioning editor, Allen & Unwin.
          2:00 pm           
Come dressed as one of the new visitors to Nim's Island!
           Colouring competition
           RSVP to info@teachersresource.com.au by 23 July

Monday, May 19, 2014

History and the magic of inspiration

Inspiration, story ideas - they're all around us, in everything that we see and hear, think and do, every day of our lives. But sometimes a particular story needs more specific inspiration, as well as hard research, and that's one of the reasons I'm travelling in France now. In the ancient towns of Marseilles, Avignon, Nimes, etc, I've found details that add to the world I'm creating and have  imagined myself into the atmosphere of those very different times. But true inspiration usually comes accidentally, and that's how it's been this time. The day that we decided we needed a break from history and ruins, and headed off to tour a cave outside Avignon, was the magical day for me.

Arriving at the caves at 12:00, just as they shut for two hours, we decided to head to the nearest village for lunch. Isle de Sorgue was perfect, charming and historic, exactly what you might imagine for a holiday in Provence. The sun was shining and suddenly the thought of returning to tour a cave with the six classes of kindergartners who'd been picnicking at the entrance, seemed less appealing. We continued on to Saumonne, a village and chateau built of rock, often into the side of the cliff. It was the key I'd been looking for; I felt almost weak with relief. I would have been happy enough to have simply headed home then, but La Fontaine de Sorgue was nearby, so we headed there. We visited the church, first founded in ( I think) the 5th century, rebuilt in 12th or 13th, and still used as the parish church now. Of all the magnificent cathedrals and basilica we've visited, we found this the most moving and spiritual.

Then, passing the myriad ice cream and souvenir stalls lining the walkway, we walked up to La Fontaine, the source. There was a barrier at the end, with a sign saying extreme danger but not actually forbidding you to climb over it, as quite a few people were doing, so we did. A short scramble later, we came to one of the most magical places I have ever seen. Clear, deep blue water  welled up from underground chasms deep under the white cliffs. It didn't take much imagination to  guess that it must have been a sacred place from the time people first saw it, or to imagine what it must feel like on days that weren't bright with spring sunshine. And to womder at the stories it must have seen...

So often story ideas can come from the smallest things in daily life, the emotions we all know, and no story is complete without those factors. But sometimes there's magic too, the catch of the breath that marks the sudden gift of inspiration.

At this point I was going to add some glorious pictures, but unfortunately can't seem to do it from my iPad. I will post some on my facebook page: Wendy Orr Author, if you want to see.

Friday, April 18, 2014

My friend's son is in jail

My friend’s son is in jail. These aren’t words I ever thought I’d write; they’re not words my friend would have ever thought I’d write. And at first glance, they’re not words about books and writing, which is what this blog is about.
But writing comes from life, and our characters’ thoughts and deeds spring from our own reflections, no matter how deeply buried the source sometimes seems to be. We’ll never grow as writers without reflecting on the harsh times of life: even the cheeriest story has at least the threat of some misery, or there’d be no plot at all.
Writing can sometimes seem cannibalistic, gobbling up other people’s traumas for story fodder.  I can’t imagine that I would ever write a story based on this particular tragedy, but anything that I care deeply about it is likely to inform some story in some way. It’s not a simple matter of being grateful for the roads my own children have chosen or pitying my friend’s family. It’s not even my respect for the extraordinary wisdom that she has grown into. It’s just sitting and reflecting on the feelings of all those concerned; of truly imagining what it would be like to know that you will not be leaving this room for another twelve hours, or leaving this building for another six months. Of imagining the complex web of emotions for the family on the other side of the walls. And it is complex, more than I’d ever considered before.
Whether I ever use any of these complexities in a book is irrelevant. Allowing myself to contemplate the issue from all its different angles can only help me grow as a human being, which is, ironically, not only more important than any writing skill, but basic to it.
I hadn't intended this as a Good Friday reflection, though perhaps it's appropriate. So, whatever your religion or beliefs, why not take a moment out of your day to imagine someone else's suffering, and their road through it. It won't hurt - you have the choice of stopping whenever you like - and it just might lead you into new understanding and stories.