Topic: Bookrapt Seminar 2013: Bookrapt’s Big Birthday Bash

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On Saturday 3 August 2013, the Bay of Plenty Children's Literature Association Incorporated, otherwise known as 'Bookrapt' held their annual seminar at Tauranga Intermediate. This year they were celebrating their 30th birthday along with appointing Phyllis Johnston as their Patron. Report by Debbie McCauley.

With over 50 attendees, the seminar featured the speakers Chris Gurney, Maria Gill and Dame Lynley Dodd.

Chris Gurney

Not being a fan of public speaking, Chris Gurney had made up a poem instead of a speech which was a novel approach. A copy of the poem can be found by clicking here. Chris grew up on a farm and was forever scribbling; writing stories which she would tell to her cat, or sometimes her parents. She also liked to dress up her cat in her doll’s clothes. She was an only child until the age of nine after which her brothers arrived.

She married at age 19 and had two sons before a daughter with serious neurological issues. During her daughter’s seizures, Chris would use writing as an outlet. She had written a wonderful poem about her daughter which she read aloud to us.

Writing became a habit. She was encouraged by her elder son Jason to send some of her stories away to book publishers. Finally, after Chris had received many, many rejections, Christine Dale from Scholastic phoned and said she wanted to publish her story Cindy and the lost Jandal. Her book is an hilarious, rhyming retelling of the Cinderella fairy tale which we were privileged to hear her read aloud. Chris did have to change certain things; for instance, she couldn’t have Cinderella’s sisters being fat, but being ugly was acceptable!

Chris has written 14 books in the Kiwi Corkers series, which has now been put on hold by Scholastic. One title, Little Blue Chook, had to be changed as it couldn’t have an exotic animal, so it became Little Blue Duck. Another title called Heinous Hawk was changed to Little Red and the Cunning Kuri.

Chris believes she stumbled on being published by luck.

Literary devices that she uses:

  • Rhyme – must not be forced, must flow, and telling a terrific story must be the main part.
  • Rhythm – music is made by the words. The arrangement of the words makes a pattern or a beat and must sound right. She suggests that authors read their work aloud and then get others to read it aloud also. People can then work on the areas that don’t flow so well.
  • Alliteration/Consonance – The play on words and recurrence of similar sounds such as can be found in Hester’s Blister.
  • Onomatopoeia – The formation of a word from a sound associated with what is named. A good example is ‘Giraffe Attack’ with bam, zoom, crash, and bang as well as ‘Madison Moon and the hot-air balloon’.

Writing in general:

  • Write what publishers are looking for.
  • Gather your ideas.
  • Make time for your writing every day.
  • Picture books need to be short – limit the words.
  • Revise, rewrite, revise, rewrite, revise rewrite….
  • Read your writing out loud to someone.
  • If you don’t like it, put it away for a while.
  • Research which publishing companies publish the genre of stories you have written and follow their guidelines exactly.
  • Believe in yourself.
  • Write for pleasure.
  • Never every give up!
  • Don’t take rejection too personally.

Maria Gill

Maria Gill published her first book in 2004. She writes full-time and has had 30 titles published. Describing herself as a ‘very determined person’, she ‘works hard at her writing’. She travelled the world in her early years, going to places such as India and China. Maria has a love of meeting people and is drawn to both animals and people. After her book Operation Nest Egg she maintained a commitment to visit Motuora Island during September to February each year to give a talk to people before the kiwi chicks are released. She was privileged to see a kiwi hatching. Maria has an organic garden, as well as chickens. Her passion for wildlife and caring for the environment shines through in her work. She runs networking groups for children as well as workshops.

Maria believes in continuous learning about writing and children’s literature. Every year she asks herself, ‘What shall I learn about this year?’ Last year she completed a Graduate Diploma in Journalism which she felt improved her writing. This year she is focused on learning about E-Books.

Reed, Penguin and New Holland have all published her books. Maria says that you can’t make an income writing in New Zealand, so this is why she writes so much educational material such as readers etc. She has written her whole life, always keeping a diary and writing stories.

  • Being a visual person, she creates a mock-up of how her books can potentially look.
  • Her teaching background allows her to know what children need, as well as identify curriculum needs.
  • She has a passion for children’s books and getting children into books.
  • She wants to make a difference.
  • She has a real interest in people and a love of writing biographies.
  • She starts with an idea that sometimes she wakes up with or sees in the newspaper, or from people etc.
  • She meticulously plans her books with storyboards, lists, flowcharts, mind maps etc.

The New Zealand Hall of Fame (caricatures by Bruce Potter):

  • Research – she did a lot of interviews with 1/3 of the page questions and 2/3rds writing.
  • She interviewed 25 personally out of 50 people.
  • A book is proof-read 20-40 times.

Maria believes that the internet is ‘killing non-fiction’ and is ‘not such a great thing for children’. In 2008 there were 50 books published in this market; by 2010 this number was down to 20, and only 12 are scheduled for this year. The internet is written for adults and usually not what children are looking for. In America many schools advocate 50% non-fiction resources. Maria believes that 80% of what adults read is non-fiction. Non-fiction has been found to enhance reading ability. There are different types of non-fiction works such as reports, facts and games. Non-fiction books are checked by experts whereas content on the internet is not checked. Teacher’s resources are also available to go with non-fiction books. Unlike the internet, non-fiction books:

  • Target specific age groups.
  • Make information easy to find – keywords, contents pages, indexes, glossary, bibliographies and where-to pages.
  • Is factually checked.
  • Offers bite-sized chunks of information.
  • Is specifically about New Zealand.
  • The authors know their market.
  • Lots of kids, especially boys like to dip in and dip out plus pour over graphics so non-fiction is ideal for them.

On the future of non-fiction:

  • More narrative non-fiction.
  • More E-Book formats.
  • Supported on internet/facebook/twitter.
  • Multi-media with video and audio.
  • Kids write their own stories on their own devices.
  • Pixelbook – enhanced E-Books.


  • E-books are different in that there is no double-paged spread.
  • You can have the glossary link right there.
  • You can get rid of the text box to see the full picture.
  • Hot facts can be added.
  • All about layering – diagram overtop.
  • Timeline can be added.
  • Can add activities such as wordfind.
  • Advertising page for other books plus links.

What can we do?

  • Model reading NZ non-fiction.
  • Read NZ non-fiction to children.
  • Promote them in libraries.
  • Teachers – bring into curriculum as engagement stories?
  • Parents – borrow/buy non fiction.
  • Bookseller – promote in-front-of-house.
  • Writer – make books colourful and creative, with a New Zealand flavour and connected to children’s interests.

I am a big fan of The New Zealand Hall of Fame and Eruption and look forward to reading Maria’s new book on New Zealand’s Parliament. Maria hopes to complete a Masters in Creative Writing in 2014.

Dame Lynley Dodd

Lynley Dodd was present at the inaugural Bookrapt meeting on 18 October 1983. This year, her lovable character, Hairy Maclary, is celebrating his 30th birthday, along with Bookrapt. Lynley was introduced by Lee Rowe and expressed her gratitude to Bookrapt for the support over the years and said, ‘Here’s to another 30 years!’

It is 40 years since she illustrated her first book My Cat Likes to Hide in Boxes.

Lynley commented that her book signing sessions are becoming more difficult as parents expect her to be able to spell their ‘ever more inventive’ children’s Christian names!

Influences and Inspiration:

Lynley asked why some words and phrases from books stick with us so much that we still love them as adults. Her childhood was full of 1940s post-war stories. She recognises the enormous impact that her childhood books had on her and feels the responsibility that she has to children today. She had an isolated childhood as an only child and books payed a big part in her life. She had a large bookcase that was packed with fiction.

Chappie by Constance Stewart was a book Lynley loved dearly from the age of four. It is illustrated with wartime austerity and is about a stray puppy.

Dr Seuss. Lynley met Dr Seuss in the 1970s when he came to New Zealand. Her favourite story is Scrambled Eggs Super which can be found in his collected works. The quote at the end of the story is in constant use in her household: ‘like Scrambled eggs Super-Dee-Dooper-dee-Booper, Special de luxe a-la-Peter T. Hooper'. It was the first crazy story that Lynley had come across and hooked her as a child. ‘It was a revelation to me and made me realize what fun there is to be had in books'.

She also loved his short story Too Many Daves with the phrase, 'Did I ever tell you that Mrs. McCave Had twenty-three sons and she named them all Dave? Well, she did. And that wasn't a smart thing to do. You see, when she wants one and calls out, "Yoo-Hoo! Come into the house, Dave!" she doesn't get one. All twenty-three Daves of hers come on the run!' Another influence was her Fifth Progressive Primer.

And the Motmot Bird said Motmot was another well loved story: 'Here I am and here I mean to stay'. Pig Wiggins and Mrs Knowalittle were also favourite characters.

Mother Goose book of Nursery Stories: Lynley’s wartime edition is in black and white with only one very special colour illustration. This book ‘takes her back to the torch under the bedclothes’. She now realizes how political much of it is.

The Kings Breakfast by A. A. Milne. Lynley’s favourite line is, ‘I do like a little bit of butter on my bread'.

Grimm’s Fairy Tales: The version that Lynley has belonged to her mother and was published in c1905. ‘It is full of violence!’ She read Grimm’s avidly, ‘with all of us these lines stick’. She also thinks the Musicians of Bremen is a great story. Lynley had contact with Dodie Smith, author of 101 Dalmatians who was looking for the story Dame True and the Youth who could not shiver which Lynley was able to supply much to her appreciation.

She was an avid listener of the Goon Show with her Dad at around age 12. Her husband brought in Spike Milligan’s poetry whilst she was in labour with her son. Lynley believes her son Matt was, ‘propelled into the world by Milligan’s Maveric’. A line from Maveric: ‘Maveric Prowles Had Rumbling Bowles That thundered in the night’. She also enjoys Bump: ‘It's the hole in each ear That lets in the fear’ and 'Never bath in Irish Stew, It's the most illogical thing to do, But should you go against my reasoning, Don't fail to add the appropriate seasoning!’

Book’s that were favourites when she was reading to her own children: The Pokey Little Puppy; The giant jam sandwich; Yertle the turtle; The snow goose; Anderson’s fairy tales; Miss Smiley and her seventy three cats with ‘Millions of Cats: Millions and Billions and Trillions of Cats’.

Story ideas:

  • Lynley keeps an ideas book.
  • She often hears half-conversations from passing people in the street which can trigger ideas, ‘The mind gets carried away with such pieces as that’.
  • The concept must fit the pages – 32 pages long.
  • Ending – does it have an ending?
  • Can it be sustained through to 32 pages?
  • Stick to the main plot.
  • Does it provide scope for good pictures?
  • Does it have good rhythm or prose?
  • The best rhymes flow effortlessly.
  • All picture books should ‘sing'

A favourite quote from Eeyore: ‘weeds are flowers too until you get to know them’ and from Max Cryer: ‘Why humans exchange pointless little "business cards" when all they have to do is pee on a post'.

There are going to be 9 sculptures of Lynley Dodd’s wonderful characters altogether. They are nearly all cast and ready to go onto the Tauranga waterfront near the new playground. Bookrapt has kindly donated to the fundraising

Once again, Bookrapt have done themselves proud with another great seminar featuring highly regarded speakers.

Debbie McCauley (14 August 2013).

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