Monday, May 07, 2007

Useful Books for Writers

Over the years PIO subscribers have recommended books of use to writers. Below is a list recommended to date. If you know of others please do add them in the comments area.

Title: Simply Storytelling
Author: Helen Evans
Publisher: Tertiary Press February 2007 ISBN 0 86458 810 0

Simply Storytelling, outlines different methods of storytelling to young children. Methods include the use of felt boards, puppets, toys and drama. Whether you are a parent, a teacher, a student, a grandparent, or someone who just loves to be with children, you will find something to interest and inspire you in this book. Helen also has a website on storytelling and a writing site

Just starting out as a children's writer? Trying to get your head around the Australian marketplace and wondering where to seek help? "How to Become a Childr
en's Writer" has the answers. Packed with facts about the craft, submitting, as well as tips from writers and industry professionals and lists of contacts and local publishers.
"How to Become a Children's Writer" is available online at the ACQ boo
kshop: (click on the TopJob Guides tab).
Still have questions?
"How to Become a Children's Writer" has its own Blog where you can ask! There will also be links to other helpful sites and discussions, and a chance to learn more as the author elaborates on topics covered in the Guide. 'Becoming a Critical Reader' is the first topic. Please visit

Stories, Pictures and Reality: two children tell by Virginia Lowe (Routledge).
This is a record of my two children's responses to books, from
birth to age eight, emphasising especially their understanding of the reality-status of the words and pictures. For instance, when they begin to ask "Is this a real story?" or say "But animals don't talk" or "He's my favourite not-real person". Also when they understand the name, then the role of the author and illustrator, what they see as funny, and how they relate to characters - even take them on as alter egos. Shows the four-month-old's first fascination with pictures, the developing recognition of pictures and picture conventions, and ultimately differentiation of different authors' styles.
My aim is to ensure that young children are not underestimated - in vocabulary, in concepts, in length of story. It has a Foreword by Margaret Meek Spencer, and an Afterword by daughter Rebecca.
It can be ordered fro
m bookshops, or from my website

I once read a novel in which one of the characters obsessed about apostrophes. He went out under the cover of dark and changed signs where the offendi
ng punctuation mark was incorrect. Mmmm! A bit excessive, but then I probably get a bit over excited about full stops.
Luckily these matte
rs are easy to sort out if you read the Style manual and Australia Post on the subject. Essentially, mid last century we sprayed them around, and that economic with the ‘u’ nation the USA still does.
we don’t. For example, only if the word is an abbreviation with the last letter missing do we use a full stop. For example, Rev. takes a full stop, but Dr doesn’t, because the last letter in the abbreviated form is the last letter in the word.
s it matter?
Well, it does it you want to send off your m
anuscript and envelopes looking professional.
If you want to learn more about a wide range of matters relevant to manuscript presentation, you need a co
py of FIRST WITH OUR EYES, A guide to better manuscript presentation by Leone Peguero. RRP $25.95 from all good bookshops.
Topics covered include: choosing fonts, layout and paper, style consistency, cover sheets, business cards, SSAE, Author Profiles. A variety of manuscript templates are displayed. Leone's book is based on her 15 years experience as a Professional Writing teacher, many more years than that as an author, and now a small independent publisher receiving manuscripts.

BlueCatBooks PO Box 3006 Eltham VIC 3095 (03) 9439 3070

Here's a wonderful book for yourself or for a gift: Seeing the Blue Between: Advice and Inspiration For Young Poets, compiled by Paul B. Janeczko,
(Candlewick Press, USA). It was reviewed in the latest Reading Time journal (CBCA) and, luckily, when I phoned Readers' Feast, they had it on the shelf - $16.95.
This ins
piring volume includes letters of advice and support, as well as a sampling of poems from thirty-two renowned poets (including our Michael Dugan and Stephen Herrick). As the blurb says, 'These poets have spent a lifetime experiencing the challenges of writing - and the thrill of seeing the world with a poet's eye. Now they're sharing their experiences with you.'

s Roy recently recommended this book to me. My trusty local booksellers, Moirs at Lane Cove, tracked it down and ordered it in and I love it.
Walking on Alligators: A Book of Meditations for Writers
by Susan Shaughnessy
HarperSan Francisco, a Division of HarperCollins Publishers
It’s a book to dip into and savour the wisdom of each page. I think others might enjoy it too.
Warm Regards,


“Writing for Children & Teenagers”
by Lee Wyndham and Arnold Madison (3rd ed)

This was one of the first books on writing for children that I bought, and it’s still a mainstay in my library. It was first published in 1968 (written by Lee Wyndham) and revised for the 3rd edition in 1988 by Arnold Madison, so some aspects are a little dated. However, not many, because this is a book that focuses clearly on the basics.
Its tone is authoritative, as if it expects you to listen and take note, but also considerate, as if assuming you are serious about writing for children and teens and ready to get on with it.
There are 22 chapters, and most focus on various aspects of writing character, hero/villain, dialogue, motivation and plot. But there are also chapters on how to make the reader feel emotion, conflict, opposition and suspense, sensory details, beginnings, middles and ends. The two pages of the Twelve Point Recipe for Plotting contain a simple series of questions that I’ve come back to many times (and always give to my classes).
There are also c
hapters on getting started and getting ideas (the ideas section is great if you feel stuck), sending out manuscripts and what happens if you sell a book. The chapters on markets covers non-fiction, plays, readers and Hi/Los, which not many books do.
No doubt there are bigger and flashier books around now, promising more, but I’d recommend this as a great starter text. I like its tone, and how it covers an enormous amount clearly and concisely.

Price: $29.95 plus post
age from Writers’ Bookcase (online Aust site)
Probably similar price in local bookshops. If they quote you more than 3 weeks to order it in, go online.
For next to nothing secondhand on Amazon if you can find a dealer who will post to Australia (postage is usually around US$10).

Note: Every writing book will speak to you differently. My best advice is, if possible, to go to a good bookshop that stocks writing books, sit there for a while and read - choose what appeals to you in approach and tone. There are lots out there. If you can afford it, add to your library gradually. Some people think how-to writing bo
oks are a waste of money but I find I can always find something useful in my library when I need it.

8-) Sherryl's website is at
Her verse novel Farm Kid won the 2005 NSW Premier's Award for Younger Readers (Patricia Wrightson Prize)

Another Word A Day : An All-New Romp through Some of the Most Unusual and Intriguing Words in English by Anu Garg
Publisher: John Wiley & Sons
ISBN: 0471718459


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