Recently, some of you may have spotted amongst the ice bucket videos and baby photos on social media an interesting “meme” that was doing the rounds. This was asking people for the “10 books that had the most profound influence on me over the years.” Or something like that.
Now, while I didn’t do the list myself, it was interesting to see the types of books that were appearing on other people’s lists. And typically three or four of them were picture books.
Picture books appear simple, but can be so powerful – and not just because they’re the first books we probably ever read. When you have fewer words to play with, those words really have to work harder – there’s simply nowhere to hide for lazy language or words that aren’t pulling their weight. So when a picture bookgets the formula right, it is often a huge success – which clearly (if social media lists are to believed) can last a lifetime in our memories.
With such rewards on offer for readers, it makes writing them equally rewarding. And this is why I was so excited last week to receive, from publisher Allen & Unwin, a copy of Whale in the Bath by Kylie Westaway – a graduate of our Writing Picture Books course! Congratulations Kylie – an amazing achievement, really fun to read, and fab illustrations by Tom Jellett.
A recent article stated that bookshops are reporting booming sales of children’s fiction (including picture books), making it a magical time to be a reader and writer of these genres. So if you’d like to replicate Kylie’s success, our brilliant Writing Picture Books course is the place to be! Then we can all live happily ever after.
Have a picture-perfect week!
What our graduates are saying
Considering doing a writing course with us? Or maybe you’re considering a new hairstyle? Well, we can help with the first one. These people did a course and here’s what some of them had to say:
“The presenter was very knowledgeable and covered the content really well.” – Sally Taylor-Phillips (Blogging for Beginners)
“I’m glad I did it! I know I can write, and write well, but needed the presenter’s insights into the process and the realities of writing, whether for a living or for fun. I might just get off my backside now and start the novel I believe I have in me.” – Floyd Robichaux (Creative Writing Stage 1)
“It motivated me to start writing! It gave me a boost in confidence to take my ideas seriously and do something about them. The units on how to structure a feature article were extremely helpful.” – Johanna Rigg-Smith (Magazine and Newspaper Writing Stage 1)
Q & A: It’s a new innovation!
This week, we’re going to have a discussion inspired by an email from alert reader, Lee F.
Q: Hi there AWC. Did you know that today it’s exactly three months until Christmas? A: We’re sorry, is this your grammar and punctuation question? Q: Nope, just thought I’d start with something light. I actually want to talk to you about your “Plan Ahead” section of this weekly newsletter. I couldn’t help noticing that there really isn’t any other kind of planning you could do – you’d hardly “plan behind”… Am I right? A: Great point! You’ve spotted one of the more commonly used (certainly by us at least) examples of “tautology”. Q: Tautology huh? I think I might have taken that in high school. With Mr Simons? C block? A: Probably not. But it is a fascinating area. (Tautology that is, not C block; that was always shabby.) Tautology occurs when you have a phrase that repeats itself – with two (or more) words effectively saying the same thing. One is rendered redundant by the other. Q: Hey, when I was 10, my dad was rendered redundant by some guy they flew in from America. There was no advance warning, apparently some joint partnership between the companies. They just gathered together each and every one of them in close proximity, told them the honest truth that the vote had been completely unanimous and that the US bosses in charge couldn’t keep commuting back and forth and the end result was that they had to cut back and close down. Dad’s future prospects weren’t great, no added bonus or anything. But I’m guessing you meant something different. A: Well, we did. But you just used 14 tautologies in that trip down memory lane. Q: Seriously? I think you’re over-exaggerating. A: 15 now. Q: Wow, okay, so they really ARE everywhere. But are they acceptable? A: Well, some are just clunky. You shouldn’t ever want to write “say it again once more” or “a sad misfortune”. And yet others have found their way through the side door of usage. Things like “positive affirmations”, “armed gunman” or “first priority” you’ll see and hear all the time. Then you have the modified absolutes we chatted about a few weeks back – “very unique” or “completely destroyed” etc. They happen. If the English language was a law-abiding nation, then these tautologies would probably represent jaywalking. Q: Hmmmm. But it’s lazy. A: Absolutely – and just like stepping out into traffic at your leisure, it’s something you should avoid doing, or one day you’ll get hit. However it’s also something that won’t ever be eradicated. Yes it’s a double up, and mildly annoying, but certainly not up there with mixing “your” and “you’re” – that’s more akin to an armed assault. Q: True I guess. Now, you’ve just slid a piece of paper over to me asking me to enquire about whether there are acronyms that commit tautologies. A: Great question! Wow, you’re on fire today. There definitely are. First example, your “PIN Number”… Q: 9124 A: No no, lalalalalalaaa. We didn’t WANT the number. We’re simply saying that “PIN” already has “number” as the “N” word in the acronym, so you’re basically saying “Personal Identification Number number”. Q: Oops, how embarrassing. Lucky I only have a $100 dollar limit. A: That’s another sneaky one actually – the dollar sign was already there, so use either “100 dollar limit” or “$100 limit”, not both. Back on acronyms, other examples include “ATM Machine”, “GPS System” or even “Please RSVP” because “Respondez, s’il vous plait” already translates as “respond please”. Q: Great. Now I have to go and change all my party invites. A: We’d suggest not to worry – it’s a common thing. What time does it say the party starts? Q: 11 am in the morning. A: Okay, shred them all. Because that one is our pet hate. For example, “I arrived at five am in the morning” – well duh, there is no five am in the afternoon! Either just use “5 am” or “five in the morning”, never both. Q: Hmmm… Five is probably a bit early; it’s more of a lunch thing. But you’ve raised a good point. Perhaps tautologies are sometimes snuck in for emphasis. To really hammer home a point. A: Yep, there are clumsy ones that you should avoid, and there are others which would probably get let off with a warning. However, we’re good law-abiding citizens and from this week on, we’re changing our “Plan Ahead” section to “Featured Course” instead. It’s our “free gift” to you!
Got a Q & A topic you’d like us to tackle in our own unique way? Send us an email!
Podcast: Episode 30
This week, the podcast turns 30 and YOU get the presents! Val and Al talk about the flooding of the Amazon (with books!), smart ways to use your Kindle, six-word memoirs, and an innovative book launch. Plus they chat with business author Steve Sammartino and much much more!
Oh wait, that probably doesn’t sound too good. Ahem. Anyway, what we’re TRYING to say is “wow, thanks for all your acronym entries”.
We liked the meta-ness of ACRONYM (Alphabet Capitals Representing Ordered Names Yield Meaning) and TWA (Three Word Acronym), the functionality and politeness of EMFJI (Excuse Me For Jumping In), and the audacity of WOMBAT (Waste of Money, Brains and Time). SWF (Small White Fluffies) for those small dogs that are the bane of hound owners everywhere, and SOBWWF for people who enjoy slapping bellies with wet fish!? One reader described AFBOB syndrome from European Contiki travels (Another F***ing Boring Old Building) whereas ROFLSCOMM (Rolling on floor laughing while spitting Coke onto my monitor) has definitely happened here in the office before!
But the winner of Poppy’s Dilemma by Karly Lane is Matt K from VIC for MAMIL – Middle Aged Men In Lycra. He even gave us an example sentence: “On sunny winter mornings, MAMILs migrate in herds through the eastern suburbs towards the pretentious cafés of Camberwell.” Well done Matt FTW! And take a look at our Picture This section below for this week’s competition.
On the blog this week: WIN with Anita Heiss
We chat to Australian author Anita Heiss about her latest book, Tiddas, and have a look around her workspace. PLUS, you can win a copy of her book just by giving us another word to describe your close friends! Enter on the blog.
The Village Idiom: “To make a beeline for something”
This one talks about going somewhere in a direct line (which for school holiday parents may involve making a beeline for the bathtub/wine at the end of the day!). It of course relates to the straight line that a bee makes when returning to a hive. Sometimes it’s written with a hyphen or even as two words, but the generally accepted form is “beeline” as one word. Sometimes “B-line” is wrongly used, possibly originating from the concept of travelling from A to B in a straight line. Close, but no cigar!
Featured Course: 2015 is your year!
Write Your Novel with Pamela Freeman Begins Monday 2 February 2015
This is it. A six-month course where it’s time to get serious and take your novel to the next level. We’re talking about expert advice, completion of your first draft (you must have at least 10,000 words to begin the program) and perfecting the all-important first chapter that publishers and agents will be critiquing.
It’s six months because we’re realistic. We know that this is what you’ve been working towards and we want to help you identify issues, nail your structure and really maximise your story’s connection to your reader. There’s theory (including the publishing process, agents, editors and publishers) as well as significant workshopping, combining to give an honest grown-up look at your work. All working towards the same goal of completion and publishing success! So if you’re ready to take the next step, diarise February 2015 and prepare yourself for a big year!
Program: Write Your Novel with Pamela Freeman Starts Monday 2 February 2015 (6 month program)
It’s time for September’s caption competition. You lot always do well with these, so we can’t wait to see what you come up with for this great pic! Get creative – first person, third person, whatever you want. It’s a game of skill!
Enter by replying to this email, changing the subject to CAPTION. Entries close 11:46pm on Monday 29 September 2014 and our favourite caption will win The LostTestament by James Becker.
Webpick: Game on!
So, you want to be a writer? Well, it sure can be tough to get into this writing game. Hey, what if it WAS a game!…
Created by the Los Angeles Times, How to be a writer was built from more than 200 responses to an informal survey of writers.
The resulting online boardgame may ring true with many aspiring or published authors. Overwhelmingly they found that there actually is no single path to literary success – sometimes it even comes down to a little luck!
All of the plays posted on "The Brainpan" are the original work of the blog's main author, Randy Ford, and may not be reproduced, in any form, without the author's permission. You may reach the author at email@example.com.