Tuesday, June 10, 2014

HUGO Cabret - One of the best modern stories for children

Brian Selznick's sumptuously beautiful graphic novel for children, The Invention of Hugo Cabret  (2007) ticks all the boxes for a truly great story of all time. It's protagonist, the mild, earnest, mechanically-minded Hugo is an orphan who lives between the walls of a Paris train station, circa early 1900's.

After his drunkard uncle disappears, Hugo continues to wind all the station clocks, keeping them in perfect working order, so as to remain living in a forgotten corner room, high up among the giant cogs and wheels.

But the station master has other ideas. He means to catch Hugo and send him to the orphanage - a tidy solution to his problem of who should look after this child.
Hugo has one love - clockwork. He is not only fascinated, obsessed, but has the skill to repair anything. After all, he maintains all the station's clocks. But his one passion is to repair the automaton sitting in his room; a forgotten relic saved from the museum fire which killed his beloved father. The automaton is somehow a connection to that lost father, to a happier past. Hugo is certain that if he could just get the mechanical man working, there would be a message from his father. But Hugo doesn't have the pieces he needs to fix the automaton, so he begins stealing them from the toy store at the station, owned by the gruff and unforgiving Georges Melies.

Hugo befriends Isabelle, Papa Georges' daughter and together they not only find the lost key to bringing the automaton to life, but reignite the hope and passion of a forgotten film maker and automaton collector - Georges Melies.

With actual footage of early silent films, and photographs from the era, The Invention of Hugo Cabret transports the reader to a beautiful Victorian setting, shrouded in the romantic mystery of the age of steam.
 The story was adapted for film with exceptional skill in 2011, producing a fine moving picture of this wonder-filled adventure astonishingly true to the book's original appearance.
Insightful casting included Ben Kingsley as Georges Melies, Sasha Baron-Cohen as the station master and the talented Asa Butterfield as Hugo Cabret. The movie Hugo offers a glimpse into a fascinating past, based upon the real life story of Georges Melies and the real life existence of automata, some of which survive in museums today and can be seen on youtube. Franklin Institute demonstration
And this one, of infamous French Queen Marie Antoinette playing a harpsichord. marie antoinette automaton



And here, a short film (in French) about the glorious 'androids' of Jaquet-Droz of 1700's. including this 240 year old mechanical boy, (containing almost 6000 miniature parts) who writes and draws. Jaquet-Droz automaton boy Astonishing!
An informative and fascinating short documentary on how the film version built their automaton man can be found here: automaton from HUGO movie

In this age of violent cartoons, sexualisation of children everywhere and the ever diminishing innocence of childhood, this is one story that refuses to be trivialised.
 Selznick doesn't gloss over the problems of that era. It is obvious that Hugo has tremendous courage to survive in a world which sees him as an inconvenience, but in his quest to find that hidden message from his dead father he finds something unexpected - a loving home of his own.



Tuesday, June 3, 2014

What constitutes 'writing'? Are we lying to ourselves?

So, you have this dream, a beautiful, sparkly dream where you sit down at the keyboard and the words flow from a pristine font deep inside, stories fully formed... Ah!

Seems a world away from the dishevelled form slumped in front of the computer struggling through bleary eyes and a headache to skid in to a deadline, hitting 'send' at two minutes to midnight.

So, when we chat to each other, as writers, do we lie? Gloss it up? Tell the truth? Cos doesn't everyone else seem to be doing so well, churning out books, gathering piles of publishing contracts, smiling blissfully at their bank statement?

Er, no. A select few may have this experience, occasionally. I've known writers who struggled for YEARS before getting a single contract and then had their career take off, when they are in their fifties. The vast majority of writers in my circle of acquaintance struggle with the exact same issues I do:
  • Constructing a bubble of time in which to work that is separate from work, family, friends
  • Focussing on what they were supposed to be doing in said bubble of time, without being distracted by kittens and baby hedgehogs
  • Being organised and then actually sticking to the plan
  • Not expending considerable time and energy on the perfectly cleared desk, dust-free house and clean, shiny car before settling to write

So, I ask, what constitutes actually writing in any given day? Is it going through your notebooks collecting those stray bits you want to use? Is it updating your blog? (like I'm doing now) Is it doing publicity stuff for your last book? It is emails to other writers discussing writing stuff? Is it reading well informed and interesting blog posts? Connecting on LinkedIn etc? Reading your journals? Following leads? Submiitting to a publisher?

I'm sure everyone would have a slightly different answer. Here's what I think, seven books down the road,with two more to come out this year - as long as you are writing something, towards any project, it counts.

One of the most valuable writing exercises I do is putting together a synopsis for a publsher. Nothing gets you in a knot faster than having to summarise your entire book into a single page, or even (hold your breath) one sentence! But it's a brilliant process. The clarity is astonishing.
So, what do you think? 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Anxious Kids - NEW BOOK for parents and children "12 Annoying Monsters" by Dawn Meredith

Hey! My fabulous book for kids (and grown-ups) is available at  Five Senses Education website and 12 Annoying Monsters on AMAZON   So, what's it all about? Perhaps you are a bit anxious at times, get that pounding heart and shortness of breath. It can feel like it will NEVER END! But guess what? There are 12 annoying monsters chatting inside your head, telling you all the wrong things. Such as: 'change is always bad!' or 'the whole world is a horrible mess!' or 'everything has to be perfect!' These monsters are a real pain. But you can learn how to banish them, through awareness and useful strategies. This book comes highly recommended by counsellors, psychologists and parents.
About me:
I've been working with children and their families for 25 years. I've noticed that so many kids suffer with panic attacks, feelings of misery and helplessness! I've put all  my tips into this fun book. By identifying some of the unhelpful thoughts and casting them as monsters who live outside their heads, children can learn to recognise these unhelpful messages and ignore them. Developing new, more positive messages, more helpful thinking habits and accepting that the symptoms of anxiety can be managed gives an enormous sense of relief and freedom to someone who has suffered with this sometimes paralysing condition for many years.  

The funny thing about this book is that adults will flick through it and exclaim out loud, "Oh, this one talks to me!"   There are ways of thinking which are inherited, as personality, and therefor run in families. In this way, my book can stimulate conversations between parents and their children.

As a writer, I run workshops all over the country for children and adults. I speak to audiences about writing, about what kids like to read and about trends in publishing and literacy. I love hearing what readers think of my books! If you'd like to write a review I will post it here on my site.
Enjoy your day!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Gendered Books - are we forcing stereotypes?

Just been chatting to Linda Mottram, radio host ABC Sydney 702 am
I've just been on air, chatting to Linda Mottram about books and the gender divide. With Sydney Writer's Festival coming up this week the topics are running hot. What do girls want to read? Why do boys have to have beasts and macho characters? Why can't girls read adventure stories too? The fact is, girls will read about male protagonists, but boys generally won't read about female main characters, just in case it's too 'girly'. 

So, pink for girls and blue for boys, right?
Uh... no. As a young girl myself I loved the adventure stories of Enid Blyton, in which a group of both boys and girls had wild and daring escapades. So what's with all the fairies for girls and monsters for boys? Publishers maintain they are providing what the market demands, but everyone knows, what children are exposed to influences their choices. DUH! Already at home, with our eight year old daughter, we are exposing her to non-fiction interests, buying Meccano sets and reading classics such as Treasure Island. And it's taking her far away from the rubbish other girls her age are reading - High School Musical, Monster High. Blargh!
 What are publishers producing, then?
As a children's author I'd love to write more stories about feisty girls, but unless its a heavily structured series, like EJ12, there doesn't seem to be much interest in female protagonists in more unisex books. It's no surprise to me that most of my published books have a male protagonist or two. They sell because there are boys on the cover. However I'm holding out hope that my next chapter book will be about a girl. I've submitted two stories to New Frontier's new series. The main character is a girl who saves her sister, trapped in nasty fairytales. It requires enormous courage from her, but she fights her own fears as well as the very real dangers of ogres, witches, bears and the like. Let's hope the publisher wants a change from boys fighting demons and girls chatting to fairies!

Have we actually come any further in gender stereotyping?
The day my daughter came home from school and informed me, 'I don't like Science. Science is for boys,' my blood starting boiling! We realised we had a job to do. She rarely watches TV now. We buy DVDs that have suitable material for her age, no ads and don't give her nightmares. Hearing her laugh while reading Paul Jennings' Singenpoo adventures is such a treat! She reads books about raptors, dinosaurs, machines, marine animals - whatever we can get our hands on. We want her to have a broader sense of herself and the world.

 The scary worldwide trend
It's all getting very dark in the world of entertainment. Vampires, werewolves, monsters and kids dressed like Goths. Where has the innocence and fun of childhood gone? As I say to my little girl - "Enjoy being a kid, Sweetie. Childhood goes pretty quickly. Have fun! And here's a book about time travel and wormholes."

Friday, May 2, 2014

STAR WARS new film - So why Can't Babes be Warriors?

source
Whoa, you were there?
Yes, I know this makes me SUPER old, but I remember going to see STAR WARS when it was released to cinemas in 1977. I don't remember who took me, but I remember almost everything I saw on the screen that day.
What an amazing phenomenon Star Wars has become!
Sequels and Prequels - it's all downhill
Some people are of the opinion that it's been a steady downhill rush since those first three films, that each subsequent installment has failed to impress. I love the characters and I'm inclined to think that the film makers could do just about anything. The world George Lucas created can take it. Heck, we even survived stupid, pointless Jar Jar Binks!
source
So, why can't babes be warriors?
I admit, I have a soft spot for Harrison Ford. I don't think anyone else could play that role the way he did. And it was certainly the making of his career, as a wise-cracking sometimes incompetent but lucky hero. Carrie Fisher, however, is perhaps best known for her gold slave bikini and for nearly kissing her brother. Which brings me to the only criticism I have of the series - the lack of female protagonists. Surely, so far into humanity's future, women would do more than wear gowns and bikinis? Where are the warriors? Even Hercules came up against Zena. The new cast shows no sign of improving this lopsided view of life in space. But perhaps deep into our future as a race there aren't as many females. Perhaps we all got fed up with being ignored and buggered off to another universe.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Amazon reviews of THE ANYTHING SHOP by Dawn Meredith

I've just been updating my speaker profile on the SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) website and came across these two lovely random reviews of one of my books on Amazon. How fantastic to think people love it so much! Thank you to these readers who took the time to write a review.
Amazon customer reviews:
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read! March 2, 2014
'I loved this book and have bought it for 'future' grandchildren! The uncoolness of hugs and other family traditions can be difficult for children, especially if their peers don't have similar practices. Dawn Meredith tackles this readable chapter book in a most creative, entertaining and memorable way for the 8-10 year age group.'
5.0 out of 5 stars Unique and lovable! February 8, 2014
Amazon Verified Purchase
'A unique, lovable story premise that is sure to touch children's hearts and minds. The intangibles of life are far more meaningful than the tangibles. Loved the ending. Well done Dawn and the illustrations are lovely.'

Monday, March 24, 2014

Want to write the next AVATAR, THOR or STAR TREK? Conflux Writers' Day 2014

Here's your chance to learn the art of writing speculative fiction. For one day, you can learn from Australia's best Spec Fic writers, take notes like a madman and schmooze with authors you admire!
Conflux Writers Day
Saturday April 5th 2014.
Apart from the excellent plenary sessions, there are many many workshops from which you can take your pick. I myself will be running a workshop - 'How to keep your writing career moving.' workshop schedule


The inaugural Conflux Writers Day will take place at the beautiful University House, Australian National University, Canberra. For one day, Australia’s speculative fiction writers will gather for hours of professional development.

The theme of the day is ‘The Writers Journey’, which will be covered by four sub-themes – ‘Writing Skills’, ‘Writing Processes’, ‘Submission and Publication’ and ‘Building a Career’.
Four plenary speakers will be addressing these themes. These speakers are:
Joanne Anderton
Kaaron Warren
Ian McHugh
Keri Arthur
There will also be concurrent presentations bringing great thoughts and ideas to writers at all stages of their career.

Program

The presenters are top notch authors with experience and skills to share. Even if you don't write Spec fic, you will find the sessions invaluable. Some of the topics covered include:  
  • 'The six inevitable mistakes of first-time writers', 
  • 'character motivation : getting away with murder', 
  • 'research like a ninja', 
  • 'How to keep your writing career moving', 
  • 'The elements of novels,'
  • 'Building an online presence'.
  • plus many, many more!
Come and join us! Mingle and share a drink or two. Then stay afterwards for the fabulous AUREALIS AWARDS night. http://www.aurealisawards.com/ where the best authors in Speculative fiction are honoured.

Click on the link below to read the abstract. To see all the abstracts, go here.


To register, download this form, complete it and email to onfluxwritersday@gmail.com
Registration for the Conflux Writer’s Day includes:
  • Attendance for the day (giving you access to any sessions you wish)
  • Morning/afternoon tea and lunch
  • Conflux Writer’s Day satchel
  • Access to presentation slides following the conference (where such slides are available and permission has been granted)
NOTE: Registration does not include the Aurealis Awards Ceremony.
You’ll be invoiced for the correct registration rate. Payment of registration is required prior to attending. 
Members (member of Conflux 9/10, CSFG or ACT Writer’s Centre)*
$120
Non-member+
$150