Monthly Archives: April 2012

Hurrah For ‘The Hunger Games’!

Cover of "The Hunger Games"

Cover of The Hunger Games

Most of us have seen the huge success of The Hunger Games, first the books and then the film.  We have read reviews, heard talk of the volumes of sales and realised what a huge success it has been in financial terms.  That is not what it is getting my cheers for though.  Let me explain.

Yesterday, I went to get my hair cut.  The young man who cuts my hair is twenty one and is a wonderful, young man.  He told me about two months ago that he doesn’t read books.  I have to add that the young man in question is a young man with vision.  He works part time in a salon whilst he is studying for a degree in business studies.  So the reason he doesn’t read is not because he’s lazy or not bright.  He doesn’t read books because after a few pages, his mind wanders and he puts the book down for another time.  In essence, it takes him a few months to get through a book and he’s simply got fed up and decided that reading for pleasure is not for him.  Basically, he just hadn’t found the type of books which transport him into book world.

We were discussing how Doctor Who has a cult following and the young man told me that he had also followed a cult, or sort of.  My heart sank; I wondered what was coming next.  He then went on to tell me that he had been to see the film The Hunger Games and was totally besotted with it.  So much so, that he had instantly gone out and bought Catching Fire (book two) and Mockingjay (book three)  He had then read Catching Fire in one sitting.  He said that he was not sure whether it was for kids or not but he was totally into it.  I explained the YA category to him.  I then swooped in and told him to get on the internet and type in this category to get other YA writers.  I also explained how he could order books from all over the county and have them delivered to his library.  He could actually try them out to find out which other YA writers he might like.

So The Hunger Games has reached rural England and persuaded a twenty one year old non-reader to become a reader.  This is what it is all about.  Therefore, all YA writers – this is a call to arms – GET WRITING – no excuses about lack of confidence or anything else – this is a question of duty.  When you don’t feel like writing, in fact, you would rather clean your lavatory than write, think of the boy in rural England and all the others in the world like him – I think you get the message.

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Introducing children to Shakespeare by using insults.

Introducing children to Shakespeare by using insults..

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Inspiration and Us – Childhood Books – Shakespeare’s Stories.

Inspiration and Us – Childhood Books – Shakespeare’s Stories..

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Why It Is Good To Perform Shakespeare As Terribly As Possible!

A circa 1884 poster for William Shakespeare's ...

A circa 1884 poster for William Shakespeare's Richard III, starring Thos. W. Keene. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Before you decide you have never heard as much rubbish in your life – lend me your ear and I will explain.  I am positive that children can really enjoy Shakespeare if they are primed properly for it before they are thrown head first into the text in their teens.  Acting out monologues can be a useful starting point.  However, to get our wisdom across we have to have laughter and lots of it.  If we tell children they have to do it badly, they lose all their fear – they cannot get it wrong.  As confidence affects every decision we make, trying to be good at something as odd as Shakespeare when you are ten means that you want to disappear.  When you are told you have to be as terrible as possible at it, it doesn’t matter if your peers laugh at you – they is what they are supposed to do.  The bigger the laughs, the more successful you are.

Okay, so that deals with the confidence factor, now we can move onto actually teaching them something about the monologue and how it is meant to be performed.  I have added a Loony Literature video here to demonstrate what I am talking about.  The main actor is fourteen years old and is auditioning for Richard III.  The young actor in question is extremely serious about acting and can do a very convincing Richard III.  So much so, that when he performed the same monologue for a LAMDA exam, he got a distinction.  However, do you think he enjoyed filming this?  Indeed he did, he was in his element and he’s fourteen.  Younger children, therefore, will positively love being told to do something badly.

You can use the video to demonstrate how utterly badly it can be done.  Ask your child or group what is wrong with the way Horace Gaup is standing and delivering the text.  In fact, you can be sure that they will want to have a go too after seeing that!   If the children are particularly enjoying themselves, you could film it.  Playing it back would cause more hilarity and enhance discussion greatly.

Once the terrible deed has been done and the young thespians have done their worst, you can talk about the way they moved and held themselves.  We can ask them what they think is wrong with it.  How could they do it better?

We can talk about the manner of the delivery – would it be better if it was louder, quieter, slower or speeded up.  Why would that sound better?

We can talk about what the text means and what is the best way to say it – for instance when Richard III is saying that he is so deformed dogs bark at him – what sort of voice would he say that in?  He would he be feeling whilst saying those words?

I hope this is helpful,l but above all I hope that you have as much fun as we had whilst making the video.  Happy acting.

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How NOT to do a Shakespeare Audition.

How NOT to do a Shakespeare Audition..

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How NOT to do a Shakespeare Audition.

Loony Literature is auditioning people for Richard III.  We show how Shakespeare should not be done by a guitar playing werewolf, a modest cat called Mildred and the incredible Horace Gaup.  We must stress that no children, animals or werepeople were harmed during the recording of this video.

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Doctor Who City of Death Review

Doctor Who City of Death Review.

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Why I Will Never Be On The Bestseller List.

2nd third of 17th century

2nd third of 17th century (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you think this post is going to be one of doom and gloom, it isn’t, it is actually one of celebration – a celebration of writing that is.  I write because it is inherent in me.  It gives me joy and a sense of order.  I am a nobody who cannot catch serial killers and prevent them from doing any more damage – I am too trusting, I would believe what every criminal tells me.  I cannot be a politician because far too often, I can see everybody’s point of view.  I think you get the picture.  The only way I can make a difference, apart from being kind to other people, is if I help or entertain with my writing.  The human race fascinates me and I write about them to put things right.  Bullies are sorted out  and murderers get their comeuppance.   I write to get a sense of order and also to entertain my readers.

I read articles about children’s books being written specifically to formula.  I hear people saying that they can’t use certain things because they are past trending.  I look at the charts and see a lot of the same subjects covered over and over.  Do all kids like mostly the same thing, I wonder?  I know that my own teenager doesn’t because he moans that publishers think that teenagers don’t have a sense of humour.  He’s finds a lot of the material depressing and so tends to read mostly adult books.  I am not saying that there is anything wrong with any of this; I think it is fantastic that children are reading so much.  As far as I am concerned, anything, within reason, that encourages children to read is doing its job and I support it 100%.  I am simply stating that, for me, writing to formula or writing about something because it is trending, would kill my love of writing.

I remember going to a literary festival and listening to a writer telling us about how he wrote his first book.  One of the things which totally fascinated me was the fact that he had taken a copy of Harry Potter and counted the words, lines and paragraphs.  He had then done exactly the same amount in his book.  This was about six years ago and it still amazes me as I think about it.  He went onto to publish quite a few more books.  I would get emails from him from time to time inviting my family to his promotional events and asking for us to vote for his books in competitions.  I then moved, changed my email address and had forgotten all about him.  It was only when I came across an old photograph of my son at one of his events that I looked him up on the internet.  There has been no news on his website since 2008.  This is very strange as he is one the biggest self-publicists I have ever come across.  I can only wonder if all his efforts of trending, jumping on bandwagons and counting paragraphs had killed the muse.

I am not saying that there is anything wrong with following trends and counting paragraphs etc…  If anything, I admire people their tenacity.  I think it is a gift to have the patience to do it.  It is something which I will not be attempting though.  I have gone through my life being the only one who didn’t light up at senior school;  ignoring what colours are in season as I know what suits me and taking my son out of school at 7 to educate him myself.  We all must make our own decisions in life.  I know I am not even giving myself any chance of being a medium seller let alone a best seller, but writing as I write gives me a deep sense of fulfilment and the people who like my stuff really like it.

So what about you?  Do you follow trends and count paragraphs?  Or do you write about want you want to write about?

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Inspiration and Us – Childhood Books – Shakespeare’s Stories.

 

Touchstone the Jester from “As You Like It.

Inspiration and us – that’s the name of a new category for the blog.  The reason I am calling it inspiration and us, instead of inspiration and me is because I want you to think about how our lives and our children’s lives inspire us.  I would also be extremely grateful to hear of your inspirational experiences.

 

As a child, I had many books which I loved but as this is about what inspires us, I shall be mentioning the main sources of inspiration.  One of my favourite books was one which was passed onto me.  I regret to say that I have no idea where it came from.  It was a big book which had many stories in it.  My favourites were some of the stories from Shakespeare’s plays.  They were the plays written in story form with some illustrations.  I read them over and over.  One which sticks in my mind is As You Like It.   It was pure escapism.  The idea of people running away from their everyday lives and living in a forest, appealed to me greatly.  As a child, I loved the idea of dressing up and being in disguise.  Subsequently, when Rosalind dressed up as a boy and pretended to be Ganymede, I was in the story with them.  This is a story which explores sibling rivalry, romance, has a wrestling match and a court jester named Touchstone.  I am proof that the story appeals to children.  If the play had been thrown at me at the age of nine, I would have been put off by its beautiful, poetic language.  However, I was lucky enough to have the plays as stories first and so Shakespeare‘s work was adored by me even before I had read a play or a sonnet.

 

illustration of William Shakespeare reciting h...

illustration of William Shakespeare reciting his play Hamlet to his family. His wife, Anne Hathaway, is sitting in the chair on the right; his son Hamnet is behind him on the left; his two daughters Susanna and Judith are on the right and left of him. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

So how has this childhood book inspired me?  First of all, I think the greatest proof is that my son is called Will after Shakespeare.  Incidentally, one of his main ambitions is to play Hamlet at the Globe Theatre.  He has never had Literature forced fed to him.  I was worried that I would do that so I have always been careful and introduced it as the fun, mad and exciting subject that it is.

 

My educational route would suggest that Shakespeare’s stories also inspired me as I have an Honours Degree in Literature and an M.A. in Creative Writing.  However, I think that the most telling aspect of it is in my writing.  In my children’s book Will Blyton and The Stinking Shadow, I have a small boy trapped in a stone called Hamnet.  He has had a curse put on him by the powerful magician Corspehound.  Not only is Hamnet trapped in the stone but the curse is on his tongue.  He can only insult people.  Hamnet is actually Shakespeare’s son who died at the age of eleven.  The Bubonic Plague was rife at the time.  Little is known about Hamnet and so I wanted to keep his memory alive by re-writing his story.  Instead of perishing before his young life had really begun, I have him living on as a huger than life character.

 

An illustration of an undertaker during the Bu...

An illustration of an undertaker during the Bubonic plague. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

I have already written about introducing children to Shakespeare by using insults.  Children love language if they allowed to be playful with it – this is why they love insults – they are naughty and delicious.  This was part of my enjoyment when reading A Midsummer Night’s Dream in my story book.  There was great emphasis on the argument between Hermia and Helena.  It is Midsummer, they are lost in the forest, it is a time of misrule and chaos and they are arguing over men.  Hermia calls Helena – “You juggler! You canker-blossom!” (The Arden Shakespeare – Act III, Scene II Line 282)  Later in the heated argument, Hermia also calls Helena “Thou painted maypole.” (The Arden Shakespeare – Act III, Scene II, Line 296) The enjoyment of the insults as a child turned to inspiration as an adult.  In Will Blyton and The Stinking Shadow, Hamnet is a master of insults; most of them are aimed at Will.  The first thing he ever says to him is “thine intestines wilt be mine.”  This is quickly followed by “thou wilt regret this warty nose.”

 

Washington Allston's 1818 painting Hermia and ...

Washington Allston's 1818 painting Hermia and Helena. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

We cannot change our own childhoods.  However, we can be inspired by what was thrown at us and mould it.  As writers, we can turn our experiences into what we want them to be.  Although we cannot change our own childhoods, we can guide our children’s inspiration and education.  Catch them early on with Shakespeare in the form of his stories.  Talk to them about the funny characters like Bottom, from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, who gets the head of an ass for a time.  If you missed out on Shakespeare first time around – you might be surprised at what you find.  Who knows, you or your children might end up being so inspired that you write a book too.

 

Emil Orlik: Actor Hans Wassmann as Nick Bottom...

Emil Orlik: Actor Hans Wassmann as Nick Bottom in Shakespeare's A Midsummernight's Dream, 1909 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

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The Versatile Blogger Award.

About two weeks ago, I was lucky enough to receive The Versatile Blogger awardfrom a wonderful fellow blogger who constantly entertains me or provokes deep thought in my erratic.  The writer in question is Marcella Purnama and her blog is Message in a Bottle.  I would like to thank Marcella very much and apologise for taking so long to accept the award.  I have been working on Will Blyton  and  The Stinking Shadow.

So what is the versatile blogger award?  Basically it’s a blog award that is given by another blogger. The rules are: to thank your nominator, nominate other bloggers, and tell seven truths about yourself.

So first of all I would like to say to Marcella, that if it was allowed, I would be nominating her.  I love your blog Marcella.  Here are the other bloggers whom I nominate.  It is not in any order and some might have been nominated before.

theconsultingdetectivesblog.wordpress.com  This is a wonderful fourteen year old who is a big Doctor Who fan, writer and actor.

willowthevampire.com   This is a website by Maria Thermann who has written a fabulous book called Willow the Vampire and The Sacred Grove.

rossmountney.wordpress.com  This is a website by Ross Mountney who really cares about children’s education. She is also very funny. Her book is Learning Without School is an absolute must for anyone involved in Home Education.

nmwritersblog.wordpress.com  This is a website run by Nisha Moodley who is one interesting and caring lady.  Oh, she’s also very intelligent and writes great posts.   I love her posts on Victorian books.  Nisha has already had this award, it might be twice – shows how good she is.

manipalphotoblog.wordpress.com  This is a photographic website run by a group of students.  Their work is amazing and inspiring.

limeisbetter.wordpress.com  This is a news blog.  The photographs and videos are either shocking, frightening, funny or educational.  I always look forward to the posts from this site.

brainsnorts.wordpress.com  This is the work of Rich – a really nice man who writes great stories.  If you need a read – visit Rich.

diane-owens.com writes the In My Opinion site.  Diane answers a thought-provoking question everyday.  She is intelligent, honest and full of integrity.

streetsofalem.com  This is a site which writes about historical, often quirky subjects.  It also has enchanting illustrations of yesteryear.

ahousewifeswork.wordpress.com  This is another historical site which is both illuminating and amusing as it views the way in which homes were run in the past – this is another site which has enchanting illustrations of yesteryear.

onthetudortrail.com  If history, particularly the English, Tudor, royal family is your thing, then  this is the site for you.

photobotos.com As the name suggests, this is a photographic site. Some of the scenery is breathtaking.

  thetemplarknight.com  As the name suggests, this site is about The Templar Knights.  There are interesting photographs and also some extremely intelligent explorations of knight mythology.

convergentjourney.com is a travel site described as weekending their way through Europe.  It’s both interesting and fun.

blissfuladventurer.wordpress.com  I have only just discovered this site which is about food and travel.  It’s so me.

Now here are seven things about myself.

I really don’t like talking about myself much.

In Will Blyton’- The Alternative Detective Video 2, I dress up as a werewolf and dance.

One of my ancestors was in the pillory three times, unjustly.

Venice is my favourite city with Barcelona coming second.

I  dressed up in Victorian clothing with my son and a friend.  We were driven around in a pony and trap for research purposes for my novel Mulgrave Castle.

I once had a job travelling Britain as a space girl called Zoe and was accompanied by an alien out of the Cadbury Smash advertisement.

If you can cook, you can be my best friend.

Finally, thank you to everyone who reads my blog, it means a lot.

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