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Friday, July 29, 2016

Dragonfly Song Giveaway: Books & Skype Talks

Kersey Creek's photo from OneSchoolOne Book 
Have I ever said how much I love Skype talks? I think the biggest percentage I do are with schools in the USA that are studying Nim's Island for One School One Book. (I will blog about that amazing program another time.) In Australia I've done them for general writing talks as well as for individual books.

And now I'm so excited about the feedback and reviews I've been getting for Dragonfly Song, both formal and informal (like people phoning and emailing to say they're loving it – that is so nice!)  that I'm offering a free Skype talk to the first three schools to order a class set. 

e.g. Dimity Powell writes: '...the sweeping majesty of an epic novel and the thrill of a mid-grade fantasy that will win leagues of young new fans. Powerful, eloquent and moving, Dragonfly Song is a story you will never want to leave.'  

And Pamela Freeman (Pamela Hart) said on Facebook: 'Everyone must read this. It's right up there with The Wizard of Earthsea and Mary Stewart's The Crystal Cave.'  

A whole list of quotes like this might not thrill you as much as it does me, so I'll quit there. Teaching notes and an excerpt from the book can be downloaded from my website: wendyorr.com or Allen and Unwin

ALSO: GOODREADS IS GIVING AWAY 5 COPIES! But you have to be quick. 

A piece of chipped flint, like Aissa's 'knife'
There are more classroom suggestion on Pinterest: Dragonfly Song Background and Teaching Ideas 

The books is suggested for ages 9 to 13, and ties in with the Victorian ancient history units in Year 7, but I'm visiting a school next week that's looking at it for their Year 10 classes. Have a look at the excerpt and decide for yourselves! 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Dealing with Writers' Block - Part 1: Letting go of the previous story

I’ve never really believed in writers’ block – but I do think there are a lot of different reasons why we might have trouble writing at any one time. And right now I’ve hit one of them: 

Aissa and Luki, and all the characters and stories of Dragonfly Song, have filled my mind for so long that it’s hard to let them go, especially now that I’m starting to hear lovely comments from readers. But more than that, I’ve just realised that I loved writing this story so much I’m afraid that I can never love another one quite as much. I remember a friend saying that she’d worried something similar before the birth of her second child. Needless to say, she was telling me because it hadn’t come true.

Of course I know this, but like a lot of life lessons (and most writing lessons are pretty much about life) I seem to have to learn it again each time it happens. But at least now I have some strategies.

·      Noticing it. It’s true that I’ve been very busy. I finished the final proof read of Dragonfly Song days before going to Crete and Santorini to research the next book; I came back and jumped into preparing for the launch. But the launch was over a week ago now and I’m still finding lots of busywork today. I think it now has to be labelled procrastination. Time to do something about it.
·      Timetabling. Structure the time that I need to start on the new book and the time for social media, interviews and emails. The new book doesn’t need huge blocks of time right now. It does need concentration and focus.
·      Research. Again, the important thing here is corralling this into a specified time. I could spend the next ten years researching – but I’m not an archaeologist, I’m a fiction writer. I need to sort out notes and pictures, and read more of my huge stack of articles, but I actually have pretty well all the research I need to plan and write this book. I’ll find specific things that I need to know as I write, but I don’t have to know everything first. If I’m feeling truly stuck, a couple of hours of reading is likely to bring me at least one thing that will start an idea.
Tapping for the inner critic, CYA masterclass 2014
·      Synopsis. By the time I finished this, a couple of months before the final proofreading of Dragonfly Song, I was falling in love with my new character and her story. Now that Aissa has jumped to the foreground again, I know that fleshing out the synopsis and asking the questions I need to know, will reignite the new love affair.

·      EFT Tapping. Always my go-to when I need to sort something out. After a round or two something about the story is usually so clear that I have to stop to get straight to work.

Friday, July 01, 2016

Dragonflies: myths, meanings and mysteries

Dragonfly photo sent by my cousin when she heard the title
Happy birth day to my newest baby: Dragonfly Song. You've been a long time coming.

The dragonfly theme in the book began because when I first imagined the shape of the story and the questions I needed to answer, I saw them in an iridescent blue bubble - and the next day saw a real dragonfly, exactly the same colour. This kept happening: it seemed that whenever I made a significant decision about the story, I saw a dragonfly soon after. It became too much to ignore, and eventually I decided that my character's name, Aissa, meant dragonfly in the island's language. Her amulet - the carved name-stone around her neck, that she calls her mama stone - would therefore be carved with a dragonfly symbol.

Met a friend wearing this as I picked up the advance copy
I knew that dragonflies had many myths and symbolic meanings in different cultures around the world. Dragonflysite.com even categorises them by continent, so we can see that they range from symbols of purity to Satan, but suggests that the overwhelming belief is that they symbolise change and perhaps self-realisation. I didn't happen to read that summary until the book was finished, but it's particularly apt for Aissa.

However, despite all my reading on Minoan and Cycladic civilisations, I had no idea that the dragonfly was relevant to Aissa's own culture. Then a month ago, with the book safely with the printer, I went to Crete and had an amazing, mind-boggling day with an archaeologist as I started the research for my next book.

Of course I told her about Dragonfly Song. 'Of course,' she said, 'the dragonfly was an important symbol for the goddess, or her priestess.'

Fragment of fresco with dragonfly, from Akrotiri
On one of the most famous frescos from Akrotiri, on Santorini, the goddess is wearing a dragonfly necklace. A ring  from Archanes in Crete shows dragonflies hovering in front of the goddess; a dragonfly bead from Mochlos in Crete may have been worn by a priestess...

Life is full of coincidences and synchronicity, and sometimes story-making has more of them than the stories themselves.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Book Launch! And Blog Tour.

It's finally here - Dragonfly Song will be in stores across Australia next Monday.  (The wait might not have seemed as long to you, but it's been on my computer for a long time, and in my heart for longer, and I'm actually having trouble believing that it's really going out into the world now.)

So if you're in Melbourne, I'd love you to come and celebrate its launch at Readings in Hawthorn, at 4 pm on July 2. Yes, election day - but wouldn't it be great to slip back to 1460 BCE for an hour or so and let present day politics slip away? I'm really thrilled to have Kirsty Murray launching it, so come and hear what she has to say.

And in the meantime, I'm hopping around a great bunch of blogs. Booktopia started off with 10 Terrifying Questions yesterday, and today was an interview on Creative Kid Tales. 

You can also read an excerpt on my website - and of course you can send me a question here! 

Friday, June 17, 2016

When Hollywood Comes Knocking - Part 3: Green Light!

So your film’s been optioned, it’s spent years in development and now the script has been approved, the cast and crew are pretty well set… and finally you get that call. I still have the recording of Paula Mazur’s message on my answering machine: ‘I’ve got good news, girlfriend. We’ve got the green light.’

Lea the pelican arriving on set
And from the moment of that green light, everything springs into action. Preproduction – finalising cast, crew, locations… all the details so that when it goes into production, the actual filming, no time is wasted. And when that unbelievably intense period of filming is over, there’s post production, with editing and any special effects.

As the author, even if you’ve been a consultant on the script, or even if you’ve written it, you’re unlikely to have any rights be involved with any of these stages.  But if you’re lucky, you’ll be invited to spend time on set.

You’re in someone else’s workplace, you have to obey their rules – but really, it’s not that complicated. This is not the time to suggest that they change something to the way that you envisaged it. And you can probably work out that if someone calls for silence and then shouts, ‘Rolling!’ you need to keep quiet.  The rest of it probably depends on the directors and cast involved – but my advice is: if you get a chance, take it. It’s like nothing else.  
Setting up in the rainforest

I was lucky enough to spend a couple of 3 day periods on set for Nim’s Island, and one for Return to Nim’s Island. It was phenomenal. It’s difficult to describe the emotion of seeing your characters embodied in flesh and blood. The first time I arrived in the middle of the scene with Abigail Breslin as Nim, running down the mountain with a bloody bandage on her knee and Fred on her shoulder. It’s exactly as I described it in the book – and there it was. It was surreal. Of course it also quickly demonstrated the perils of filming with animals: every time Abbie turned her head to speak to Fred, played by the Australian Bearded Dragon Goblet, he’d crossed to her other shoulder. Goblet was more interested in staying in the sunshine than the camera.

Later I met Jodie Foster and Gerard Butler … and they were so like the characters in my imagination that it was overwhelming, though I didn’t cry till I met the sea lion playing Selkie. In fact the human stars were much friendlier than the sea lion, who I’m pretty sure only kissed me because of the fish in his trainer’s hand. And a few years later, when I met Bindi Irwin playing Nim, it was the same – there, the storyline was different, but Bindi embodied the older Nim just as Abbie had the younger version.

I was also an extra in Nim’s Island – I couldn’t think of a better way to understand a bit more about the whole procedure.  So if you’re watching the film, when Alex Rover is going through security at San Francisco airport, I’m the first person in the scene, putting my bag on the Xray conveyor belt. You won’t see my husband, who went through first and ended up on the cutting room floor, but you’ll see the book’s illustrator, Kerry Millard, behind me, and then the producer’s two children. (In fact you’re unlikely to see me, because your eyes won’t have adjusted yet from the brilliant blue sky and sea of the previous scene, to see the somber airport colours.)

Filming in the airport
The filming was in the Gold Coast international airport, so we were going through the real security setup – over and over, to have it right by the time Jodie Foster appeared.  And when she did, as I headed back to lay my bag on the belt again, she looked at me and called, ‘So you’re doing it today? Isn’t it boring?’ 

There were another 200 extras in the room, and I swear there was a single, group intake of shocked breath. Later that night a young man came up to me. ‘Are you family?’ he asked.

‘I wrote the book,’ I said.