The power of a burp (and a giveaway)

If you’ve followed me for a while, you’ll know I always enjoy Robin Bennett’s books – check out my thoughts on my personal favourite, The Hairy Hand, here. Anyway, he’s got a new one out so as part of his virtual book tour, I invited him to join me for a chat about his creation process.

Breaking the Rules in Children’s Books”

Monster Max started with just one hook: what if you could turn yourself into a monster just by burping (but turn back, by simply sneezing). This appealed to me because it meant my central character had the sort of power and control that you can only dream of aged 9. And the ability to bend statues or eat dustbins whole. It’s obviously got a lot of comic potential, too – because we all sometimes burp or sneeze by mistake and this was going to leave Max, quite frequently, with a lot of explaining to do.

I also decided to ignore one of the cardinal rules in children’s writing: I didn’t get rid of the parents. In fact Max’s parents are both fantastic – Max is given the space to fight his own battles with his arch nemesis, the genius inventor Peregrine, but they are supportive enough to give him the confidence he can – and they never take parenting – nor Max – too seriously.

And the rule breaking didn’t end there, I’m sorry to say. A famous editor once said that children’s books must obey all the laws of life – except one: i.e. you can only get away with one big lie. So clouds might have cities hidden in their soft folds but water must still be wet, little brothers annoying and tea should be at 4pm sharp.

And this is why I modelled Monster Max on books like Paddington, where almost everything is comforting and normal – and nice – except for the one huge anomaly that everyone politely ignores because they’re British. So, in Paddington, people are far more put out by his table manners than the fact he’s a talking bear, in Monster Max his parents tend to take his super power with a pinch of salt and spend more time nudging him to use his brains, be nice to his friends and brush his teeth. It’s this gentle, understated way of life and the well-being of his parents – his mother in particular – that Max realises he has to use his monster powers to safeguard.

And that was the clincher for me … because, at the end of the day, lots small boys want to save their mums. Hence his reformed monster motto – To Protect and Do Good Stuff

So, that’s Monster Max and the first book, the Bobble Hat of Forgetting. It’s a happy book, I hope and positive, which is always welcome – especially now. And I also hope there will be many more, each with their hurdles to overcome for Max and his friends … and jokes … lots more jokes.

Back to me. It reminds me of the boy AA Milne poem “Disbedience” (one of my absolute favourites) protecting his mother!

James James 
Morrison Morrison 
Weatherby George Dupree 
Took great 
Care of his Mother, 
Though he was only three. 
James James Said to his Mother, 
“Mother,” he said, said he; 
“You must never go down 
to the end of the town, 
if you don’t go down with me.” 

Giveaway to Win a Monster Max Cuddly Toy (UK Only)

Enter via Rafflecopter here http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c69494409/

*Terms and Conditions –UK entries only, welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

Author Bio

Aged 21 Robin was all set to become a cavalry officer; aged 21 and a half, he found himself working as an assistant gravedigger in south London wondering where it all went wrong. Robin has gone on to start and run over a dozen successful businesses from dog- sitting to cigars, tuition to translation. The list is quite exhausting. Robin is married with three young children. He spends his time between Pau in the Pyrenées and Henley-on- Thames.  

Monster Max and the Bobble Hat of Forgetting is Robin’s first book with Firefly Press publishing in February 2021. He has also written other books for children, published with Monster Books

Rampaging Rugby, first in the Stupendous Sports non-fiction series for 7-11-year-olds will publish August 2021. 

Follow Robin on Twitter @writer_robin and Instagram https://www.instagram.com/robinbennettauthor/

Scavenger hunt extravaganza

As we enter another half term in lockdown, most of us are searching for activity inspiration. Just before Christmas, my latest book, Scavenger Art was published which hopefully solves some of those “I don’t know what to do/ draw” cries. I’ve been thrilled with all the amazing reviews from parents, teachers, mindfulness coaches, and young artists. And was delighted to see it included in this article, originally published on Kickstarterz and shared with their permission, so here you go …

There are so many different variations and themes you could adopt to create a fun and exciting scavenger hunt. The best thing about them is children absolutely love them. From colour to themed scavenger hunts, the possibilities are endless. Below are some of our favourite variations of different scavenger hunt ideas you could do, or get creative and invent your own. (We would love to hear your favourite).

  • Colour – By using colour in the hunt, young children have the opportunity to learn about colours and for older children it’s an exciting challenge to find such a colourful mix of items. Why not create a rainbow scavenger hunt, where children have to find items the colour of the rainbow

clolour scavenger hunt

  • Letters – Finding items beginning with certain letters is another fun and challenging hunt we can use. Why not have your child find items that spell their name, football team, pet name etc. Whatever their age or ability this one is a fantastic way to enhance learning and fun.
  • Treasure Hunt – Get creative and draw a map of your house/garden and put clues to the location of the treasureyou want your children to find. Items could include, favourite toy, teddy bear, real or chocolate coins.
  • Team Hunt – More than 1 child? Then why not create team games and see who can find items on the list first. If not you could always have parent vs child hunts were you can create a list for each other, say 7 items each and see who can find all the items the fastest.
  • Theme – There are so many themes you could include to make your scavenger hunt feel more topical and relevant. Such as seasonal (things found in spring, autumn etc), football themed, superhero and senses (things you can smell, for example).
  • Art/Mindfulness – A great activity we came across was the mixing of drawing and a scavenger hunt, creating Scavenger art. Perfect for children and families alike, with so many great skills acquired, such as creativity, mindfulness and developing drawing skills.

One book we came across was a perfect recourse for this different kind of hunt, and can be found here. With 52 scavenger hunt ideas in, it’s a perfect companion to any scavenger hunt.

Scavenger art
Scavenger Art, Lexi Rees

Review

“What a wonderful book! It’s easily accessible and adaptable for any circumstances, age, or even weather. An ideal present, this fun book would be appreciated by any child who loves to draw. Invaluable for both parents and educators, there are hours of enjoyment to be had within its pages.” Art teacher

So there you have it, a basic list of ideas to get you started for a scavenger hunt for kids and parents alike. 

Why we should insist children read – guest blog by Arabella Northey

I was chatting (on Zoom) with Arabella Northey from Metaprep. After over fifteen years working in both the state and private schools sector, Arabella knows her stuff. As a founder of The Fulham Boys School, she developed a curriculum to equip and challenge boys of all abilities and foster a love of learning. Whilst at Wetherby Prep she successfully prepared pupils for both entry exams and scholarships to a wide range of day and boarding schools. Arabella then moved to Fulham Senior where, as Deputy Head, she developed and oversaw the implementation of the curriculum as well as the entry and interview process for both 11+ and 13+. Having completed her National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH) Arabella decided to combine her interests in progressive education and leadership with technology and found Meta Prep.

I invited her to share her thoughts on why reading is critical and how, in the quest to become an independent thinker and use your experiences and current knowledge to address new situations, a book is a great way to start, so over to her …

Years of teaching, particularly English, often involved great conversations with parents about our love of literature or the best books to read at the moment. Sadly, for some children their heart would sink as they were invited to choose a book from the library and spend five minutes in silence. I am a self-confessed voracious reader who would quite happily sink into a hammock for a day with a good book. Admittedly, I spent the first days in Lockdown 1.0 going through the list of Carnegie Medal winners pre-1976, comfort reading at its height! Reading Lucy Mangan’s ‘Bookworm’ gave me an excuse to relive old favourites from Shirley Hughes to Enid Blyton and on to Willard Price.

You probably have not left a parent’s evening without a teacher mentioning the importance of reading. So why is there this insistence on getting children reading? Encouraging them to pick up a book and sail away to a foreign land is the mission. What do they find when they get there? How does it make them feel? What are they thinking? 

Our message at Meta Prep is about becoming an independent thinker and using your experiences and current knowledge to address new situations; a book is a great way to start.

Good to read

Reading together is always important

Reading allows children to discover new worlds, meet new people and learn about the past. It develops empathy and critical thinking. At a time when many children are deprived of social contact, a book is a great way to help them connect with ‘others’ and help them prepare for the return to the classroom. 

One of my favourite bumper stickers is ‘there is no app to replace your lap, read to your child.’ I would reiterate that there is no magic age to stop reading with and to your child. A parent reading to their child can unlock complicated prose that opens a previously closed door. As little as 10 mins a day can make all the difference. 

Reading increases vocabulary, improves spelling and can help with punctuation! It is an essential part of life and opens deeper learning in the classroom. The best part is it develops the ability to reflect, which is often the weakest part of the learning process. As metacognitive learners, being able to reflect on their learning is key.

Barriers

Variety and options is key for children

For many children, particularly boys as they pass into secondary school, reading can seem to be seen as some kind of secret code understood only by teachers and women. Feeling alienated is so easy and the quickest way to turn a child away from reading. If they think that everyone is getting meaning from a book and to them it just stinks, it feeds into their insecurities and they will run away screaming from the problem. 

We need to demystify the whole process and make it engaging and enthusing. It should not always be about the need to increase vocabulary etc, but about finding the sweet spot: where interest meets confidence. If you have a child that is passionate about football or drama, then find a book or non-fiction title within their reading range that will entice them to read. 

Start the book with them, make it a joint adventure of discovery, and remember that your tastes are not their tastes. It could be comics, graphic novels, audiobooks, the sports pages or magazines; fluency and challenge can come later.

Reading age

Many schools use a variety of assessments to judge the reading age of a child. A reading age refers to a child’s ability in relation to the average age of comparable ability.  Many textbooks require a certain level of reading ability for children to be able to read and understand them. The reading age goes up as fluency increases and that will be as a result of practice. Daily reading with you and in school has immense power to lift their literacy skills opening up a host of knowledge, understanding, interests and enjoyment. At Meta Prep, preparing children for the 11+ is a challenge as every question uses complex and nuanced language; it requires impressive comprehension skills before they even tackle the answer.

We want children to read for pleasure and, like everything in life, we need to sprinkle the trail with breadcrumbs to show them the way.

Thank you Arabella, I couldn’t agree more!

Why authors need to use social media, and Clubhouse!

If you’ve followed me a while, you’ll know I’m pretty chatty on social media. Anyway, I’ve followed Lizzie Chantree for several years now having initially stumbled across her when she was doing the launch for “Ninja School Mum“. That book was literally EVERYWHERE I turned on social media! Of course I read it, so clearly the marketing campaign worked. Naturally, when I heard she was publishing “Networking for Writers” I was first in line.

My initial thought was that it’s a pretty slim volume at 98 pages, but each chapter is densely packed and hits you over the head with information. If you’re new to life as a published author, or unsure on social media and some other marketing opportunities, this is a helpful guide which you could use along with the essential BadRedHead Media 30 Day Book Marketing Challenge.

Chapters cover the various social media sites, and other tools that authors can use. I found it very interesting to see that she starts with Twitter. It’s words, so the fit for a writer is obvious. Personally, I’ve found a huge, positive, and supportive, writer community there, as well as many readers. I love Twitter, and agree with everything she suggests in the chapter. I’ve always resisted Pinterest, but having read her tips, you might see me popping up there too.

One issue with writing a book about social media platforms, is new ones keep on popping up. So far I’ve completely dodged TikTok, but was a little disappointed to see it didn’t feature as I’ve heard some writers suggest they have had great success on it.

In my opinion, the bigger gap is Clubhouse. To be fair, this probably wasn’t even in existence when Lizzie sent her book to print, but it definitely merits a new edition of her book. I wonder if this will be the fastest ever second edition release? If you haven’t come across Clubhouse yet, it’s a voice based app that is basically a live chat show where you can pop into rooms and hear an amazing range of speakers and join in. In your pyjamas and without brushing your hair. A total win for me! I said I love Twitter, but I LOVE LOVE LOVE Clubhouse. If you’re not on and you get a chance of an invite, grab it. I’ve been on a while and have taken part in shared writing sprints, joined book club chats, hosted Q&A sessions, and visited a whole heap of other interesting rooms. While you’re there, say hi – I’m @lexirees.

The Blurb

Networking for writers book cover

Are you swamped with book marketing and looking for a way to find new sales? Learn simple and effective networking techniques, to grow your readership and connect with other authors and book lovers, today!

Whether you are a new or experienced writer, self-published or traditionally published, this book will show you how to grow your readership and author network, through some of the most powerful of all marketing tools – word of mouth and recommendation.  

This book will show you:

  • How networking can help you sell more books.
  • Why author branding is important.
  • How networking hours work.
  • Specific Facebook groups for writers
  • How to utilise social media to grow your readership.
  • How not to waste valuable writing time.
  • How to make our marketing more effective.

Throughout Networking for Writers, we will explore running or attending book signings, hosting seminars, finding a writing buddy or mentor, author networking groups, social media planning and so much more. 

Purchase Link – viewbook.at/NetworkingForWriters

Author bio

Lizzie Chantree author image

International bestselling author and award-winning inventor, Lizzie Chantree, started her own business at the age of 18 and became one of Fair Play London and The Patent Office’s British Female Inventors of the Year in 2000. She discovered her love of writing fiction when her children were little and now works as a business mentor and runs a popular networking hour on social media, where creatives can support to each other. She writes books full of friendship and laughter, that are about women with unusual and adventurous businesses, who are far stronger than they realise. She lives with her family on the coast in Essex. 

The joy of editing, and an amazing competition

When I do author talks in schools, I always spend a chunk of time talking about editing. I know it’s a popular topic for the teachers as it’s something they can refer back to in subsequent lessons (“Remember how Lexi talked about the importance of editing your work?”). It’s also useful for them to be able to discuss it with the pupil who is absolutely adamant that their first draft is flawless, perfect in every way, how long I spend on the editing phase before publication.

I usually start by asking them to define editing. Most of the pupils leap straight to the grammar, spelling, and punctuation stage, which sets the scene for a discussion around developmental edits (looking at the big-picture), structural edits (looking at the structure of the story), line edits, copy edits (the bit the kids initially latch onto), and finally proof reading.

Some authors struggle with the editing phase, but personally I enjoy it. Editing Your Novel’s Structure: Tips, Tricks, and Checklists to Get You From Start to Finish is a concise guide to the structural editing phase and, whilst there is absolutely no substitute for a professional edit, it’s always good to do a thorough run through yourself to catch as many issues as you can.

Book cover image

The checklists are particularly handy. For example, the one on settings has a very comprehensive 18 separate points! For this reason I prefer a paperback rather than ebook so I can flick through quickly, cover it in post-it notes, and annotate heavily, but that’s partly because I’m an old-school hard-copy girl. I also love the way it covers a wide variety of genres so it has prompts regardless of whether you are writing historical fiction or sci-fi.

I’m actually reading two books on the writing process at the moment, and they couldn’t be more different. This one is blunt and to the point (lots of “you must” rules). The other is a lyrical, philosophical approach. If you’re serious about improving your writing craft, I would recommend you consume as many different approaches as possible as everyone has different issues, and different aspects will resonate with the issues you personally grapple with.

Competition

As part of todays blog blitz, I’m ridiculously excited to be hosting this competition to win an introductory editing service, The First Five PackageEntries close on Sunday night, so don’t hang around! Enter here …..

https://kingsumo.com/g/xcysrh/win-an-editing-package-worth-150

Here’s a description of the service: https://theartandscienceofwords.com/thefirstfivepackage/ It’s worth $150. I wish I could enter myself!! #win #editing 

Blurb

Editing Your Novel’s Structure: Tips, Tricks, and Checklists to Get You From Start to Finish

Before it’s time to check for commas and iron out passive voice, fiction writers need to know that their story is strong. Are your beta readers not finishing? Do they have multiple, conflicting complaints? When you ask them questions about how they experience your story, do they give lukewarm responses? Or have you not even asked anyone to read your story, wondering if it’s ready?

If any of the above is true, you may need to refine the structure of your story. What is structure you ask?  Structure is what holds a story together. Does the character arc entrance the reader? Is the world building comprehensive and believable? These questions and more have to be answered by all of us as we turn our drafts into books. 

In this concise handbook, complete with checklists for each section, let a veteran writer walk you through the process of self-assessing your novel, from characters to pacing with lots of compassion and a dash of humor. In easy to follow directions and using adaptable strategies, she shows you how to check yourself for plot holes, settle timeline confusion, and snap character arcs into place. 

Use this handbook for quick help and quick self-editing checklists on:

– Characters and Character Arcs.
– Plot.
– Backstory.
– Point of View.
– A detailed explanation of nearly free self-editing tools and how to apply them to your book to find your own structural problems.
– Beginnings and Ends.
– Editing for sensitive and specialized subject matter.
– Helpful tips on choosing beta readers, when to seek an editor, and a sample questionnaire to give to your first readers. 

Grab your copy of Edit Your Novel’s Structure today! Now is the time to finish that draft and get your story out into the world.

Author bio

Bethany Tucker is an author and editor located near Seattle, U.S.A. Story has always been a part of her life. With over twenty years of writing and teaching experience, she’s more than ready to take your hand and pull back the curtain on writing craft and mindset. Last year she edited over a million words for aspiring authors. Her YA fantasy series Adelaide is published wide under the pen name Mustang Rabbit and her dark epic fantasy is releasing in 2021 under Ciara Darren. You can find more about her services for authors at TheArtandScienceofWords.com. 

Author photo