Ali Sparkes and a Sparkling Talk at the Local Library

ali sparkes out of this worldI’ve just seen the fabulous Ali Sparkes give a talk at our local library and….WOW! That’s how an author talk should be done!

Ali writes for children, and she was funny, informative, and engaging. I won’t give away her ‘trade secrets’, but she has quite a few clever props, some for fun, some to illustrate her points, and a final magician’s trick for the end of the talk, which brought some real gasps from her audience.

I might have to make library visits one day, (though I’d have to finish a book first!) so here’s what I picked up from Ali’s talk.

  • Engage the audience in the first few minutes. Ali had us responding to cue cards straight away, and it really got us in the mood.
  • Keep the audience involved. Ali asked questions, she called people up to help, and she used props throughout the talk to keep us interested.
  • Choice of readings. Ali chose a couple of really fun passages from her books, and these were spread out in the talk, but gave a real insight into what to expect if we read her stories. She put a lot of expression into it, but I suspect she’s a natural performer!
  • Be funny. Well, there again, you’re either funny or you’re not – but it certainly helps!
  • End on a high. The magician’s trick. We were ALL impressed, mums and dads too!

And what about writing advice? The talk was aimed at children, but the main message is clear. Don’t give up. Her work was rejected for years, but she kept writing and submitting. She got close a few times, only to be rejected at the last minute, but she kept writing. She was finally published in 2006, and has written 40 books since then!

We’ve never read her books, but on the basis of this talk, I think we’ve missed out. We bought ‘Out of this World’  yesterday, and now that it’s signed, my daughters can fight over who gets to read it first.

The talk was part of the summer reading challenge, which we’ve always taken, but this year… well, to be honest, the girls read longer books now, and the reading challenge would be a bit like Nanowrimo – all about quantity rather than quality. I’m sure they could pick six books to read, but they’d be chosen for their brevity to meet the six week deadline. I’d rather they read a few ‘bigger’ books slowly.

This is the third author talk I’ve attended at the library, and though I’m an aspiring writer I’ve never hovered around afterwards to ask insightful questions, or chat with the ‘proper’ author.  (Actually, I think there were two ‘proper’ authors in the room, I think I spotted Kate Kelly, in the audience, who’s blog I’ve followed for a while.)

I didn’t hover around for a chat this time either, I wish I was the sort of person who could do that though – just walk up and introduce myself, and start chatting about the writing process.

But is that the right thing to do? What’s the social etiquette for collaring authors after talks? Should you save that for conferences?

What do you think?

 

Making Mondays – Tagxedo word art

Always looking for ways to make easy art with the children – this site is a dream!

Instead of a simple word cloud, at Tagxedo.com you can choose from an astonishing array of shapes, and make real  ‘word art’.

tagxedo dog trudyktaylor blog4

  • Firstly, paste in your blog url, or text, or individual words.
  • Choose your shape. Hearts, elephants, bats – I even saw a witch’s hat in there!
  • Choose from a beautiful range of colour themes.
  • Even choose your fonts!
  • Then create, and save to jpg, or share on Facebook or Twitter.
  • They have a shop where you can buy mugs and stuff with your word picture on it.

I can see tons of uses for this:

  • A family word picture, with all our names on it.
  • For Father’s Day, the word ‘Dad’ repeated, and printed out to stick on a card.
  • For Valentine’s Day, the word ‘Love’, to stick on a card or frame and give to someone special.
  • Your child’s name, printed out to frame, maybe even print out 16 or 25 of them, each one in a different colour theme, in a smaller size, and then collage them together!
  • The words of a favourite poem or song.

The possibilities are endless!!!

These are the words it picked up from the blog.

Strangely, at some point I have used the words ‘sandwich’ and ‘rice’, which taken out of context seems a trifle odd! I’ve also used the word ‘really’ a lot more than I should. Happily, ‘Chocolate’ seems nice and emboldened, but where is ‘coffee’? This blog runs on coffee, yet no mention of it – strange…..perhaps it is my guilty little secret, only now revealed…

(Upon further investigation, I’ve uncovered ‘sandwich’ tins, ‘rice’ krispies – see, makes more sense now!)

Have you tried this? Can you think of any more uses for tagxedo?

Making Mondays – How to make a pet collage with your children

We’re always on the look out for great craft projects, and when I saw the work of this artist Michel Keck, who produces amazing dog pop art, we just had to have a go.

The girls and I made…….. a collection of collaged Berties!

craft with kids, pet collageAnd for this craft, you’ll need all the usual scraps.

collage materials

  • Paper or material scraps – wrapping paper, scrapbooking paper, newspaper, even A4 lined paper can look good.
  • Stickers, glitter, beads – whatever you fancy.
  • PVA glue
  • Scissors
  • A4 photographs of your pet

Firstly, protect your work surfaces from all that glue.

Next, print out the pictures of your pet. You need a nice clear image. We printed the same picture three times, but flipped it in one picture, so Bertie was looking the opposite way. Make sure the eyes and the nose really stand out, because that’s all you’ll be able to see later!

bertie4Then get to work! Tear or cut pieces of your paper and stick onto the photo. You need to leave key areas clear, so that you’ll recognise your pet. With our collages, it was the eyes, nose, and floppy ears that stood out. And we all came up with our own unique versions!

bertie3bertie2bertie1These pictures are all on A4, and since I don’t have any good frames for that size (until my next trip to IKEA), I photographed each collage, changed the backgrounds in Photoshop,  then printed them out as 7″ x 5″ photos.

copiedAll of which fits nicely into the RIBBA frame.

ribbaLike so:

craft with kids, pet collage

It’s not a very messy craft, and I think the end results are really colourful and fun. When I get round to framing the originals, which have a lot more texture and variation, I’ll update this post with some more pictures.

Let me know if you try this with your own pet photo, and post a link to your site so other people can see too!

And I think our Berties might look better in a white Ribba frame….what do you reckon?

 

 

 

 

How old is your dog?

black cocker spaniel puppy, bertie

To redress the balance (I last posted about cats – the cat font Nekofont), this is a post about dogs.

The BBC News magazine had a great article the other week about calculating your dog’s age – apparently the old adage of multiplying by 7 just doesn’t cut it any more.

Dog Years : How do you calculate a dog’s true age?

Well, this must have been a popular post because they’ve now come up with……

The Dogulator!

Dog Years: The calculator

I gave it a try, and it appears that Bertie is 35!

Which is where the whole enterprise falls apart, of course, because comparing dogs with humans is never really going to work – no way I had that kind of energy and enthusiasm when I was 35!

Or maybe dogs just know how to enjoy life more?

 

A bit of feline fun

I’m more of a dog person, but for all you cat lovers out there….this is my name in cats.

cat font neko font

Neko font is a font composed entirely of furry felines – just input any words at this Japanese site,  and there you go!

What's that you say?

procrastination

Fair point.

Recommendation – a great post about freeing up your internal editor

free your internal editorDoes your inner editor hold you back with all its comments and criticisms? Mine never shuts up, and it’s hard to ignore, but then….

I was a few days behind on my Google Reader, and I just came across this post on Janice Hardy’s site which really spoke to me. It’s by guest author Amy Butler Greenfield, who suggests you give your inner editor a sheet of paper or a separate document to record all its little gripes and groans.

I love this idea! Because if I let the nagging creature speak its piece, perhaps it will settle down while I carry on scribbling.

Worth a try?

 

Cheat’s Pizza Cake – with Rice Krispies

This cake is so easy to make, it feels like cheating! You can make it yourself, or let your children do it – it’s that simple!

Rice Krispie Cake

You will need:

  • A big sandwich cake tin, for getting a nice round shape, and some clingfilm or greaseproof paper to line it with.
  • Rice Krispie cake mixture (the kind made with marshmallow) OR  a real cheat – ready-made Rice Krispie Squares, the chewy marshmallow ones.
  • Strawberry or raspberry seedless jam
  • Sweets! I used Dolly Mixtures, Minstrels, Smarties and Jelly Tots. Anything goes, I guess – just not blue sweets….I’ve never seen anything blue on a pizza, and I’d be suspicious if I did!
  • Grated white chocolate.

Instructions

  1. Make your Rice Krispie mixture,  OR  if you’re using the ready-made Rice Krispie Squares, take them out of their packets, put them in a bowl and warm in the microwave for 15-30 seconds. This will make them all moist and pliable.
  2. Form your mixture into a pizza shape in your lined tin, pressing down firmly, and score into slices. Then cool in the fridge.   (Scoring into slices makes it easier to serve, and  the toppings don’t get destroyed by cutting it up later)
  3. Use seedless jam for tomato sauce, and a selection of sweets for toppings to decorate the base. I used Minstrels, Dolly Mixtures, Smarties and Jelly Tots.
  4. Finish with a grating of white chocolate, which looks amazingly like cheese.
  5. Serve it up, and soak up all that praise!