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Category Archives: Literacy

Researching the environment of story

By happy accident, I discovered the  way to travel interstate, overseas, inter-culturally  and explore the  ambience of remote towns, cities, country lanes and outback outposts. Air tickets – well that’s the ideal, but no, I used Google Earth.

It started with my trying to locate a lovely country home in West Hougham, Kent, England. It was featured in Country Life for September 7th, 2000, and was the

Inspiration for “The Dolls’ House in the Forest”

inspiration for my story “The Dolls’ House in the Forest”. I was fascinated by the quaintness of the architecture compared to anything out here in Oz and the size of the immense, almost regal trees forming a perfect backdrop to the house. I tried to relocate the house by doing a ‘street view’ saunter down English lanes in the vicinity.  I located the area on the map and zeroed in from aerial to ‘here I am virtually walking down this street on the other side of the world the environs of which I just happen to need to explore.’

West Hougham, Kent, country road, travelled via Google Maps street view.

I didn’t find the house, but I had the most wonderfully inspiring time wandering down country lanes that were little more than wagon tracks, great boughs canopying overhead and wildflowers dotted in the fields…

Now, if I need to capture something of the ‘feel’ of an area. I seek out an address.  Real estate notices for sale/auction/for rent are a good source, then go explore in Google Earth.   Wander around that area, exploring the architecture, streetscapes, lifestyles evidenced in things as random as  street art, verge gardens, bus stops, signage, graffiti, shop window decor, fences or lack of, litter, strays and the bystanders to my wanderings. Don’t forget YouTube – Example – Dingle, and with Celtic song overlay Dingle

I have also found that  exploring the Realtor advertisements in the area I am exploring gives insight into the lifestyle and inhabitants of the town. Many homes  give a slideshow or even a video tour online.  This helps you pick up on details of lifehome decor, layout, from wall hangings to  cushions, scatter rugs to artwork, the placement of chairs to take in a much loved outlook, the windows and their views out, the garden. Example.

Perhaps this sounds a little bit the voyeur. It is not the intention, far from, it is seeking faithfulness in recreating a  ‘feeling’ for place. It is gathering the elements of story , setting the stage, arranging a convincing backdrop to the action!

Lovely example of a virtual tour – 1893 mansion, St Georges Road, Toorak.

http://imagetrack.com.au/pv/view.php?sc=ffdc8554de&v=/v/ffdc8554de

Another lovely virtual tour – historic “Douglas”, built in 1881, in Birchgrove, Sydney.

Visualising Story

The tips above, of course, are beneficial to illustrators as well. Not many can afford to jet around the world on location research for images.  Other ways to ‘get in the setting’ for free include YouTube clips. This is even a Youtube video clip on West Hougham, Kent. Sadly, it doesn’t feature that house…

Other ways to ‘get in the setting’ for free, besides YouTube clips, are Flickr and photographic collections held in State Libraries and on places like Pinterst. Jeff Faria recently sent me  a great link to early circus posters – fascinating. Little did he know I am currently writing a story  which involves Civil War period circuses in the US.

If your story requires an historical setting, you are in luck! Heritage listings in Australia and the UK are excellent.

Below are some very useful research sites  for historic buildings in Australia –

Federation style dwellings   lists many excellent buildings, of which Alister Brae, Pymble is an outstanding example.

Additional links are given for some residences, as in the case of “Venice”, Randwick.

The NSW Heritage database also gives excellent information. TIP: Put in the street name and the suburb to narrow your search for a particular building. Just putting in the suburb will bring all heritage listed buildings in that suburb. Putting in the street number and street will draw a blank. Putting in the property name will sometimes bring up additional material otherwise unaccessed, e.g., “Glen Rhoda”, a gothic residence in Woollahra. Using the  name in the search brings up information on the existing residential property, No.71, and and an additional link to the listing for, No.67, property formerly part of the original “Glen Rhoda”.

For anyone researching Kew, Camberwell or Hawthorn buildings [mainly but not only residences] from 1860s through to 1969, this site is a must. Other Councils will have similar sites.

Open Gardens, Australia has links to various of its  most notable gardens. Windyridge shows the garden in all four seasons in a map based virtual tour.

International settings – the virtual tour

Aside from a drop in to street level via Google Earth, many online sites feature virtual tours of historic settings, buildings, rambles around towns, cities and country areas. A few examples –

Castles –

Eilean Donan, the iconic Scottish Castle featured on  innumerable  calendars, tourist  brochures and used as a location in numbers of  feature films [you need Java 7 to see the virtual tour on the official website] can be viewed in Youtube Clips.

The best clip of Eilean Donan, features a commentary on the Castle’s history and shows the exterior, surrounds and interior in much more detail.

Neuschwanstein [Castle that inspired the Disney fairytale castle] – site tour;

Virtual Tour of Neuschwanstein with  commentary in English subtitles;

Virtual sight-seeing – contemporary and historical

Paris

A walk around Paris by video [sadly not signposted but gives a good  overview of  everyday life];

Louvre  – historical commentary and tour [mainly external],   contemporary , history [in French] and tour of architectural features;

Tuileries, Paris  surrounds, exterior, interior in brief;

Whatever the historic building or the town, you are quite likely to find a youtube clip or at least flicker photos, then there is always Google earth! Have fun!

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Collaboration – an adventure to be savored!

I have found the opportunity to collaborate with illustrators something eminently rewarding, an experience that  enriches both participants and results in a more vibrant and much richer work. It does this because, in the best collaborations,  it  broadens the vision of the work, taking in as it does the illustrator’s perception of the story’s universe.

My first picture book, “Mending Lucille” was the result of a collaborationWorking with the amazing Sarah Davis was inspirational! I have gone on to collaborate closely with illustrators all over the world. I have found them on the internet’s illustration sites, on http://www.Jacketflap.com and on http://www.utales.com. We have created and are creating numbers of other picture books, some digitally published, some in process with print publishers and some I am still researching the right publishing outlet. Finding the ‘right’ outlet is very important. Not every publisher is ‘right’ for every book.

Digital Publishing

I have had the pleasure of collaborating with first time picture book illustrators, Jade Potts [USA], Jonas Sahlstrom [Sweden], Alexandra Krasuska [Sweden] and fellow Aussie, Jodi Magi [now of Abu-Dhabi] on uTales, and am about to have my latest collaboration, “Little Dragons’ Babysitter” released with Caroline Lee. Utales is non-exclusive which means  creators can take advantage of other  opportunities for their work as they arise. I have just signed a contract with Flying Books, Islreal, for “Rich Man, Poor Man” the book I did with Jodi Magi. My first digital collaboration is on http://www.istorytime, “At the Beach with Bucket and Spade” with Sarah Bash Gleeson [USA], whom I met on JacketFlap.com, a wonderful children’s literature networking site along with many other amazing and inspiring folk. Sarah is editor of magazine, “Dream Chaser” which focusses on children’s books and their creators.

Joanna Marple’s mini review of my latest digital book, “Xengu and the Turn of Tide”:

“A Tolkienesque tale, I love it!”

See a review of her first picture book in my last blog post with links to her interview with Darshana Shah Khiani on “Flowering Minds“.

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Thoughts on Collaborating, incorporating an Interview with Joanna Marple on uTales

Collaborating

Darshana Shah Khiani‘s interview on her Children’s Book Review site, “Flowering Minds”, with new children’s picture book author, Joanna Marple, is revealing on lots lof levels.

Joanna and Darshana met on children’s writer and illustrator FaceBook site, 12 x 12 , a very lively, supportive, share and learn community set up by Julie Hedlund. When Joanna released her very first picture book, a collaboration with the very talented Maja Sereda, Darshana jumped in with the interview offer.

“Snow Games” is a fun tumble and rumpus in winter’s wonderland aimed at 3 to 7 year olds. Maja’s wonderfully endearing little animal characterisations beautifully complement the story.

Joanna  shares what it was like to collaborate with Maja to create “Snow Games”. Close collaboration between author  and illustrator is a circumstance largely [and sadly] foreign to most traditional print publishing. For Joanna and Maja it was a fun and very rewarding experince. But the interview goes beyond the creation of  “Snow Games”. It also details Joanna’s experience of the uTales website and her thoughts on traditional and digital publishing.

Cover for “The Sea Cat Dreams” collaboration with Muza Ulasowski, a narrative verse story with a theme of surviving the changes in life.

Joanna Kindly makes mention of my collaboration with noted animal and wildlife illustrator, Muza Ulasowski, a story about surviving change, “The Sea Cat Dreams”. Muza was one of many wonderful illustrators I met on the uTales Facebook group and have since worked with to create a varied range of children’s books.

Opportunities to collaborate – children’s writers and illustrators; artists and poets;

1. CHILDREN’S ANTHOLOGY – Collaboration opportunity for  writers and illustrators
An opportunity for children’s writers and illustrators to collaborate in an anthology of humorous stories has been created by  bloggist Lyn Midnight [Violeta Nedkova]

http://grim5next.blogspot.com.au/2012/04/apocalypse-for-kiddies-childrens.html

2. POETRY ANTHOLOGY, Illustrated

Poets Corner is calling for  submissions from poets and interest from artists for an anthology of illustrated verse to be called “Musings; A Mosaic”.

===CALL FOR SUBMISSION===
from poets around the world !

“Poets Corner” is coming up with an anthology of English original poems complemented with illustrative sketches, real soon.

Title of the Book:
Musings : A Mosaic

About the Book:
Out of the entire submission best 45-50 poem will be selected and each one of them will be illustrated with a sketch by an artist .

Theme :
Open

Format :
Any

Fee:
Nil

Submission Date :
April-13-2012 – April-20-2012

Send to :
poetscornergroup@gmail.com (Subject of the mail should be MUSINGS-YOUR NAME, Poems should be in the body of email as no attachment will be entertained)

Editor (Poetry) :
Dr.Madhumita Ghosh
Kavitha Rani

Editor (Art) :
Wajid Khan

Managing Editor:
Yaseen Anwer

Co-Editor:
Fouqia Wajid

Coordination:
Neha Srivastava

Note:
Please send ONE poem, of not more than 25 lines, and a brief note on the theme of the poem for the benefit of the artist. Please note that submission does not guarantee publication as the best 45-50 will be selected.

How to Create a Website in 3 Steps (with 10 thumbs)

How to Create a Website in 3 Steps (with 10 thumbs). This is good sense advice succinctly put from Jo Ann Carson. NOTE – you do not have to buy. Word Press, Yola, Weebly and Wix all provide excellent ‘free’ – yes, that’s what I said, FREE’ site templates, easy to assemble [if I can, anyone can] with lots of whizz-bang features!

Presenting – the Lockyer Arts Festival

Can’t remember when I’ve had so much creative fun with such a fantastic group of multitalented folk! 13th to 16th January  we arrived in from all over – WA, NT, Vic and  ‘locals’ Christian and self.  We were housed in the Gatton Motel, a leg stretch away  from the main venue, not that we needed to walk. We were chauffeur driven everywhere by local Minibus/taxi owner Sue.

12a/aka 13

This is the door to my room, the non-existent  No. 13, on 13th January, a Friday, how lucky can you get!  Interesting how many places omit room 13, floor 13 etc etc. Do folk really think we are so bound by superstition and hangovers from the dark ages that we will eschew  a room or a whole floor just because of a place in a numeric sequence? Evidently it is so.

Presenting

Craig and I had joint sessions with small groups of ardent attendees in a series of workshops. All interacted with us freely and kept us on our toes with their questions.

We started with a draft of my story about the cow that swam the Brisbane river during the January 2011 floods. It was  over 700 words [too long for a picture book] but gave the background Craig needed to locate the story and characterise the little cow. This is a link to a newspaper article about her amazing survival swim.

It was a revelation and a privilege to work with Craig one on one as he sketched out his visual thoughts on the story with me reading excerpts and the audience  interspersing with comments. I cut swathes from the text as Craig’s expert hand created  wonderful image after image.

This is a glimpse of the creation process –

  1. A view of the Brisbane Rive in flood provided by Kim Byron from her newspaper collection on the event.
  2. Craig working on a charcoal image of  the little cow. He has a strong feel for movement and can create a whole range of emotions with sometimes the barely there addition of a line or a smudge.

I love the way illustrators  climb into the  visual universe of a story. Text says a family is sitting in a kitchen. The illustrator will look over their shoulders, look out the window, go out into the next room, climb the stairs to the attic or down to the yard and see where the  house is located in a community.

[more coming… I just need to sleep now…]

How not to do a Book Launch?!

When Jenny Stubbs, Festival Coordinator Extraordinaire, told me I had a slot to launch “All in the Woods” I was ecstatic! It was my first book to be published in the UK and a launch venue at the Ipswich Festival of Children’s Literature, Woodlands, was almost too good to be true. Jenny facilitated a link to Aleesah Darlison who agreed to MC. BRILLIANT! What could go wrong?

The Ipswich Festival is always an exciting event! It is held at Woodlands, a stunning, heritage listed venue set amongst rural fields, magnificent trees and rolling hills – what a setting for a launch! The lead up to the day, Tuesday, 13th September 2011, was a real buzz! Then the unthinkable happened… The weekend before, my throat started to get that irritating little scratch and that niggly cough that sometime precedes worse. Sunday night it started to hit! Laryngitis!

Friends, good friends can be the saving of such worst case scenarios. I spoke (whilst I still had a voice) to Tara Hale, who designed the promo poster, would she be Guest Artist “Pink” the possum [cousin of “Ink” the animal hero of my book]. Next I contacted  Nooroa Te Hira, he has worked as a tour guide so I knew he would ace a reading of my book. Then I rang Christian Bocquee and asked would he help with nitty grittys like directing teachers and students to seats, distributing prizes and general moral support! Bless them, they all ‘volunteered’ unstintingly!

Result? Fun, fun, fun!  We had a ball, the book launch was a total success! The author having to use copious amounts of sign language but, hey, she has 5 kids so she speaks the  lingo with hands and fingers! 🙂

You can see some of the fun in the gallery below.

And the book, which was illustrated by wonderful watercolourist Linda Gunn

? It had been a truly international effort – written by an Aussie, illustrated by an American and published by a Brit! The icing on the cake was a nomination for the OPSO Award!

Here is a recent review by Kathy Schneider!

Where can you get it? Here!

The Stray – Your feedback is actively solicited! :)

The Stray.

Please leave a comment or like – I won’t be upset if you do both!

“Mending Lucille”, Radio New Zealand review by John McIntyre

Cover, "Mending Lucille"

I thought I had probably long gone received the last of the reviews for my Crichton Award winning picture book, “Mending Lucille”. WRONG! Just got the loveliest, very belated review –
RADIO NEW ZEALAND:
http://podcast.radionz.co.nz/ntn/ntn-20110617-1037-childrens_book_review_with_john_mcintyre-048.mp3
Sarah Davis [my amazing collaborator, illustrator on this wonderful project] sent it to me today. It came out on 17th June this year! Better late than never!

John McIntyre gave a very thoughtful, in depth review citing the use of “Mending Lucille” by the Monash Centre for Grief Education in the training of counselors working with children experiencing grief, loss or separation from a parent. Read more of this post

Projects – TOOFS – Monica/Andrea & Jennifer/Estelle

TOOFS by J.R.Poulter & Estelle A. Poulter, illustrated by Monica Rondino & Andrea Pucci

Take a peak at what we are doing –
http://www.theartofpuro.com/Toofs.htm
Monica Rondino and Andrea Pucci are creating the images and J.R.Poulter has written the humorous story with rhyming elements, Estelle A. Poulter is the co-author and childcare practice adviser.
What is it about – how to cope with a biting baby!