Tag: Australian authors

On getting ideas for stories

Because of popular request, I’m updating this blog that I had posted on my sherylgwyther4kids blog earlier this year. Thank you, Rachna Chhabria, my author friend from Bangalore, India for reminding me about it. Glad your writing students over there enjoyed my Double Trouble Game, Rachna.

Story ideas can pop into your head from lots of places: from almost forgotten memories, from over-heard conversations, from newspaper articles, from funny things you see people do, from history and even from the landscape itself. Or sometimes ideas can come from the wonderful world of WORDS.

Most of the time, writing a story can be just one plain, hard slog so if I’m looking for something to vary my day, I play a writing game/challenge. I call it the DOUBLE TROUBLE GAME. In this game, you have to pick two nouns from a list of unlikely ‘room-mates’ – naming words that do not go together. Like:


You get the idea? Now imagine the combination of two and ask yourself What if?

Like: What if you won a goldfish at the local fair – the ugliest, puniest goldfish you had ever seen. But you have to take it home because you feel sorry for it? What if that goldfish had the ability to sense an imminent earthquake? Yes, an earthquake-sensitive goldfish called Eric … all from the unlikely room-mates called GOLDFISH and EARTHQUAKE.

Before I wrote my book, Princess Clown, I chose two words from my DOUBLE TROUBLE list and asked, What if?
What if there was a princess who was different? What if she loved clowning and to make people laugh? What if she was the heir to the throne? What if she was in trouble because the last thing she wanted to be was a royal princess? What if her clowning tricks went terribly wrong? And before I could say ABCADABRA and ALLIBALOO, out popped Princess Belle and a story.

A first chapter book for 6-7 year-olds

Lots of other people have recognised how clever words can be, especially when you combine them together. Famous musicians do it all the time. Here are some of the most recognised names of rock bands words that are ‘unlikely room-mates’.

COLDPLAY (well, it could be 2 words)

Have fun using my Double Trouble Game! Write and tell me if you were able to come up with something that helped make your story happen! The only limit is your imagination.

If you would like to let others know about my Double Trouble Game List (and Triple Trouble Game), make sure  you credit my name and link to it as the author.

P.S. Want an extra challenge? Try three from my DOUBLE TROUBLE word list! Then it will be TRIPLE TROUBLE :)

Princess Clown is available from Blake Publishing, (ISBN 9781741646481)
And from educational supply retail outlets nationally.


Ever heard of the SLAQ/IASL? No? Neither had I before getting involved in the Australian school librarians’ push to get better conditions in school libraries, and then the Government inquiry into the issue.

Breakfasting with Australian children's authors and illustrators.

Last week, Brisbane was the lucky Australian city to host the School Library Association of Queensland Biennial Conference and the 39th International Association of School Librarianship Annual Conference – the 14th International Forum on Research in School Librarianship. Teacher Librarians from across the globe filled the Brisbane convention & Exhibition Centre at South Bank. Their theme: Diversity Challenge Resilience

Sixteen lucky Australian authors or illustrators (mostly from Queensland) were fortunate to be guests at their Authors’ Breakfast.

We included Belinda Jeffrey, Christine Bongers, Clare McFadden, David Cox, David McRobbie, Hazel Edwards, James Moloney, John Danalis, Kierin Meehan, Michael Bauer, Narelle Oliver, Peter Carnavas, Richard Newsome, Wendy Orr, Rebecca Johnson and me.

Sheryl with Pat Carmichael

We each got to give a run down of what we do and show an artifact to do with one of our stories. I took along my cast of dinosaur footprints from the Lark Quarry Dinosaur Stampede at Winton, plus a piece of 50 million-year-old coprolite, fossilised turtle poo. Many fascinating things to see – highlight for me was author, John Danalis’s possum fur cloak presented to him by the  Wamba Wamba elders.

It was also fabulous to meet and talk with so many enthusiastic TLs – without their commitment to literacy and literature, many children would not have the chance to read the books we write. And there would be many, many authors finding it even harder to make a living without the chance to get paid visits to school libraries and classrooms.

Wendy Orr with Janelle, librarian, central coast Qld

The battle to save school libraries continues with a new Government installed. The Inquiry had been launched by Julia Gillard last year – and playing a central role was Rob Oakeshott, a member of the Inquiry committee. Let’s hope he will continue to bat for TLs and school libraries in his role as an Independent in Parliament.

If you would like to know more about the Government Inquiry into the parlous state of School Libraries in Australia and also Teacher Librarian jobs, here’s the link to The Hub – a support blog.

And why wouldn’t you want to know? After all, without Teacher-Librarians and school libraries, authors and illustrators would not sell as many books, would we?

Blog touring with ‘Princess Clown’

To celebrate the launch of my new chapter book, Princess Clown, I’ll be touring the internet. 

Today, you can catch my tips about WRITING CHAPTER BOOKS on fellow Aussie author and good friend, Dee White’s blog. It’s on her regular TUESDAY WRITING TIPS.

If you would like to follow the blog tour, (and if you have never followed one before, here is your chance) check out the list below of all the great Aussie children’s authors’ blogs I will visit.

06 July Tuesday  Dee White – ‘Tips on writing chapter books’  http://deescribewriting.wordpress.com

07 July Wednesday – Interview. Rebecca Newman (Alphabet Soup magazine) http://soupblog.wordpress.com

08 July Thursday – A guest blog.  Robyn Opie www.robynopie.blogspot.com

09 July Friday – A guest blog. Catriona Hoy http://catrionahoy.blogspot.com

10 July Saturday – Interactive, especially for kids. Kat Apel katswhiskers.wordpress.com

11 July Sunday – how to prepare for the ‘real’ book launch.  Sheryl Gwyther 4 kids http://sherylgwyther4kids.wordpress.com

12 July Monday – Guest blog. Sandy Fussell http://sandyfussell.blogspot.com/

13 July Tuesday – Interview. Sally Murphy www.sallymurphy.blogspot.com

14 July Wednesday – Interview. Claire Saxby www.letshavewords.blogspot.com

15 July Thursday – ‘Workshopping with young children’.  Mabel Kaplan http://belka37.blogspot.com


Many thanks to all the above authors for their time and blog space – both Princess Belle and I are grateful!


writing for children -v- writing for adults

Someone said an intriguing thing the other day and it set me thinking.

‘Why don’t you write for adults, Sheryl?’

‘I prefer to write for kids.’

‘Oh, well, I guess writing for children is much easier.’

Okay, so how would you respond in that situation if you were a writer of children’s books? For once, I held my tongue and didn’t bite back. It is an important question to a writer of the genre and it needs careful consideration – even if just to defend my choice of audience, in a coherent way.

First, let’s get rid of the myth that writing for children is easier. I suspect it is harder – not only do you face the rigorous ‘gate-keepers’ for quality books known as Australian children’s publishers, you also are up against the harshest, most ‘lackadaisical’ of critics – young readers.  Adult readers will give you the benefit of the doubt in your story. They will read a few chapters, or almost to the end, before giving up if it doesn’t grab their attention (I know, because I’m one of them).

But a child reader will read the first sentence, or paragraph, and if you’re lucky, the first page, before deciding whether to keep going. And fair enough, too. There are so many other media grabbing their attention span – that’s the way things are now.

There’s also the tricky adaptations you must make to write for different age groups and reading abilities – I have to write the story first, then, if it is for the younger, chapter-book readers, I take out more than I leave in, ensuring the story still rollicks along.

Why do I write for children?

  1. The characters that live in my stories are children (or animals) experiencing the rocky road of life. I’ve never thought of an adult as the main character. That does not mean I don’t write about adults too. I do – like Matron Maddock and Algernon Parris in my story, McAlpine & Macbeth. They are real in my head – evil, corrupt, but both pragmatic about what must be done to survive in an uncertain world.
  2. The stories spilling from my imagination owe homage to the stories I have loved reading over the years – heroes (always young) facing challenges and quests, or fighting the odds to follow their hopes and dreams, facing off (and eventually winning) against antagonists who will stop at nothing to get what they want.
  3. I thrive on challenges, and writing for the children’s book industry is one of them. I will never climb a cliff-face or venture out of my depth in the sea, but every time I send off another story or a play to publishers, the possibility of rejection is there like a stone in my shoe. Every author I know who submits a manuscript feels the same way.
  4. I love the way child readers respond to books – the way stories capture them, the way characters becomes alive in their minds. I love their enthusiasm and their excitement when their favourite authors visit a school library.
  5. I also love being part of a community of Australian children’s writers. Since being involved in the SAVING AUSSIE BOOKS campaign last year, I connected up with authors and illustrators from across the nation. They write for all age levels and range from beginning, through to established, award-winning writers.  I have met publishers in the industry as well. All are incredibly enthusiastic people and generous with their support to fellow writers. Maybe it is because our focus is on children.
    I don’t get the impression there is that connected feeling in the world of writers for adults.

Do you write or illustrate children’s books? Tell us why do you do it? What spurs you on?

For another hilarious view on this topic, check out Katrina Germein’s blogging: 10 Things Not to Say to a Children’s Author