On Sunday I travelled back to L’Derry/City of Culture (with fellow north coast writer Jenny) to enjoy a masterclass with author Lynne Raid Banks, as well as an unexpected second masterclass with acclaimed children’s theatre writer and director, Vicky Ireland, who spoke about adapting children’s books for the stage.
Both women can easily be googled, so again, I simply convey some of their wisdom from the day, as tends to be the case when I go to these events.
First up – Lynne Reid Banks – who writes a range of children’s books but focused on writing for teenagers/young adults at the weekend. Although this age-group is just beyond what I’m aiming for, advice is advice and easily adaptable I think to either younger/older readers of whatever you may be working on. Lynne has a penchant for dialogue, which she said, rightly so, helps to break up the format of novels and make them more appealing to young readers, so…. try to not to write long, frequent descriptions is what I took from that. Funnily enough, one of Lynne’s less successful books also had less dialogue, which she thought wasn’t coincidental.
She also advised that to her, writing as a new author in the first person was easier when you are starting out than in the third person. I would possibly agree with this but I think I agree more with what she said next – that the book sort of dictates the voice you give it and for me, er, it’s the third person, so I hope it works out!
Lynne read a few excerpts from some of her older children’s novels and spoke a little of both her life (from living in a kibbutz to moving to England and establishing herself as a writer) and also the amount of research she would plough into stories during the process. There was also the interesting point she made about writing sequels…. 25 years after the first book was published! Could it be done? Well, she did it and it turned out fine…
Meanwhile, Vicky Ireland, who was also on hand to discuss some of her experience in theatre, finished off the day’s session by explaining her involvement in getting children’s books accurately ‘from page to screen.’ She has worked with poetry, fiction and real-life memoirs (including one of the very few Anne Frank plays allowed) and said that as she produced works primarily for children – a very shrewd audience – she liked personally, to stick closely to the book at hand. We also watched a few examples of some of her productions, before the day had to come to an end.
Writing talk was not over however, as Jenny and I dissected our thoughts afterwards in a wonderful Alice in Wonderland themed coffee shop, complete with a giant looking glass! Should dialogue be regional, we wondered…? That is, do characters work better done in the style of Terry Pratchett for example, who creates dialects and languages in his books or does it matter/work equally as well or better, if we simply use ‘common-speak’? I think we agreed that ordinary speech served a purpose and that it worked well in a lot of children’s novels, fantasy included.
Jenny is working on a picture book (which I hope she won’t mind me saying!!), where of course illustration plays a big part, and how picture book writers convey their desired artwork to the artist or to a publisher without any drawings completed, was subsequently also a topic of discussion. Malachy Doyle previously said that he sometimes writes in brackets under his text what sort of picture is needed to complement his story at certain points, when he thought it wasn’t fully clear and the author/illustrator Alex T Smith had agreed this was sometimes useful but also that he liked the freedom to draw independently, so perhaps a happy medium can sometimes be struck, depending on the story. I would quite like some illustrations in my own book if it were to be published but… that’s for another day!
A final note from this was discussing the idea of finding a children’s author as mentor – someone to look over our work before we send it on to publishers or agents and I think this, once I’m happy with ‘The Draft’, might have to be my next step!
News now: On Saturday, I will be attending a one-off creative writing workshop with the lovely Bernie McGill in Ballycastle and… Blackstaff Press is now accepting submissions for fantasy and children’s books! News indeed! (Also, I got a mention on Lemn Sissay’s blog, so I’m very chuffed about that!)
Ok, now for the poems….
It’s quiet at night
Elusive, she moves swiftly
A ghost in the night
She flits, takes flight
delicate – willowy
A sliver of shadow
a silver shape
made by the moon
Curious and cunning
wise as an owl
She knows – she moves
For it is dark and it is damp
and she is alone
Meanwhile, Day 21 prompted us to re-write Frank O’Hara’s ‘Lines for the Fortune Cookies’ poem, which had 29 ‘fortunes’! I did write 29 but I’m posting just a few here as otherwise, this post is never going to end!
Lines for the Fortune Cookies
Yearning for it isn’t enough – seek it
The ring you wear will sparkle with hope
Tomorrow you will bake a cake of favours
Yesterday yields yellow tears
The future is paint, smeared
The sun will melt your anxiety
Debt decays with your investment
Look in the mirror and SMILE!
Never say you don’t care
Desire the fate you make
Just think on it.
(ok, that’s 11 – enough for now!)