Topic: Bookrapt Seminar 2012: Wrapt in Books

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On Saturday 4 August 2012, the Bay of Plenty Children's Literature Association Incorporated, otherwise known as 'Bookrapt' held their annual seminar at Tauranga Intermediate. Report by Debbie McCauley.

With over 50 attendees, the seminar featured the speakers Anna Mackenzie, Nikki Slade Robinson and Penny Scown.

Anna Mackenzie – Author

Anna Mackenzie is a full-time writer and editor. Living on a farm in Hawke’s Bay, her first novel was the teen book ‘High Tide’. She grew up with a master storyteller for a father and a mother who would read aloud to them often. Anna in turn read to her children everywhere, she even reads aloud to her teens when they are doing the dishes which stops any fights. As a child she gathered books by being part of Scholastic’s Lucky Book Club. As a teen, her biggest influence was probably ‘The Outsiders’ by Susan Eloise Hinton, which she read many times. She created her first book at age 7 and, although chronically shy, went to university at age 16. She said that everything you do and whomever you meet can give you a little snippet for a book. She started seriously writing once her children were at school. Every book she writes starts with the question ‘what if’? She feels that everyone’s experience is different but equally valid and that we have to think about the hard stuff. Anna takes as much time in editing as in writing her first draft. Then she leaves it for a week or two to reread as someone else’s work. She also reads chunks aloud. Her first readers then read the book and provide feedback. Anna then re-reads and makes changes. Finally, the manuscript is sent to the publisher. Dealing mainly with coming of age stories, she believes that we have a much faster society than in the past and writing must reflect that. She says that E-readers are like comparing an escalator with stairs – both do the same thing but suit different places. There is big pressure to be digital and have Facebook pages, websites and twitter. Ann has ‘clarity of purpose’, her job to make her book the best book that it can possibly be. Writers just want someone to read their stories – and get paid for it!

Nikki Slade Robinson - Illustrator

Artist Nikki Slade Robinson uses lots of ‘found’ objects in her work. She has a Diploma of Visual Communication & Design fromWellington. She usually uses 300gsm watercolour paper, dipped nibs with watercolour ink and coloured pencils and has even used salt to great effect. She then scans her work into a computer for further work digitally using Photoshop, her artwork being a combination of digital and art. She usually works at 110% of the finished size. She believes that the cover of a book is really important as that is what sells the book. As part of her marketing plan she produces activity sheets which can help sell a book.

Penny Scown – Editor with Scholastic

Having worked in the children’s book area for over thirty years, Penny is a mine of information about publishing in New Zealand. When she read Tauranga author Sherryl Jordan’s book ‘Rocco’  she loved the manuscript. Rocco was Sherryl’s thirteenth book, but the first to be published in 1990. Sherryl’s latest book, Ransomwood (2012), was discussed and the various options for the cover shown. Penny told us that from when a book is accepted it is usually 18 months or so before it will appear on the bookshelves.

Picture book text needs to be: Imaginative, unique and believable; fit a 24 or 32 page format for printing purposes; have a beginning, middle and satisfying end; be in a common style to aid beginning readers, have great rhyme & rhythm (Piggity Wiggity) or a familiar sequence (Grandpa’s Slippers), or repetition (3 little pigs) or a cumulative structure (The House That Jack Built) or be in a cyclic structure (There’s a hole in my bucket).

Illustrations: The style must fit the story; the pictures must reflect words; the characters be consistent in size and look; the rooms, furniture and outside scenery must remain constant and sometimes the pictures may add another storyline (Something from Nothing).

Novels: Must have a strong plot with credible climax; have a main character the reader cares about;  the length and writing level must be suitable for the main character; each character’s dialogue must sound natural; the pace must not be slowed by long descriptive passages; the events purpose should be to move the storyline along; the character needs to be three dimensional and well rounded and the reader must know what the character looked like.

Penny explained that the cover is the hardest thing to get right. She showed us the cover options for the latest in the ‘My Story’ series which a book about the 1918 influenza pandemic (Spanish Flu). The picture books are printed inSingaporeorChina; novels are sometimes printed inAustraliaorNew Zealand. Picture books are printed 8-up which is where the 24 or 32 page length comes in. Novels are printed in a 16-up pattern. Four colours are used which is called CYMK (cyan, magenta, yellow, key - a scheme for combining primary pigments). One colour text (black) is easier and cheaper as it only requires one plate change. Stock is shipped toNew Zealand. At present publishers have closed submissions and are only accepting work by published authors. Around 40-50 books are published by Scholastic every year. OtherNew Zealandpublishers are doing around 10-20. Scholastic read the scripts from the Joy Cowley and Tom Fitzgibbon Awards and will publish the winners. Being a winner of one of these awards is a good way of getting published inNew Zealand.

Overall, another great seminar with very interesting speakers.

Debbie McCauley (8 August 2012).

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