Skip to content

5 Great Kidlit Podcasts

May 3, 2019

STEPHANIE WARD

I’m late to the game when it comes to podcasts. But recently, I found a slew of entertaining and informative shows that have made me convert. Here are five podcasts that children’s book readers and writers should have a listen to.

 

The Happy Book: A Children’s Book Podcast with Tania McCartney

My latest discovery is a brand new podcast (now in Season 2) by Australian author, illustrator and all around fabulous kidlit creator, Tania McCartney. I love this podcast for so many reasons but it’s by far the most informative for those that are writing and/or illustrating children’s books. With 30+ years of experience, Tania McCartney tells it like it is (with a charming Australian accent) and with specific, relevant stories from many areas of the kidlit industry. A bit of the information is specific to Australia, but the large majority is relevant across borders so give it a go. Available on iTunes, Spotify and Whooshkaa and there’s a Facebook page too.

 

One More Page: A Podcast for Lovers of Kids’ Books

 

 

 

 

 

This is the podcast that got me into podcasts. It’s fun, funny and full of interviews with popular kidlit authors. But what sets it apart from others is that they actually talk to kids about kids books. Brilliant, right? And it’s hilarious. In its first year, One More Page was a Finalist in the Australian Podcast Awards. Well worth checking out. Available on iTunes, Castbox, Pocketcasts, Spotify and iHeartRadio.

 

The Children’s Book Podcast with Matthew Winner

 

 

 

 

This might be the most comprehensive podcast about children’s books available. There are over 500 episodes and some with the most successful children’s authors in the world. Matthew Winner’s long-form interview style gives creators ample time to share their journeys. I’ve picked up some incredible wisdom by simply tuning in and tuning everything else out. Plus, Matthew’s sheer joy and gratitude about the world of children’s literature is infectious. It’s an absolute pleasure to listen to this multi-award-winning, highly acclaimed series. Check out the website for all of the details.

 

So You Want to be a Writer

Practical advice for writers of any genre, Valerie Khoo and Allison Tait share their wealth of experience as writers and authors. Plus, there are interviews with a wide variety of authors. I search for relevant kidlit authors, but occasionally I’ll try an adult or non-fiction author and invariably learn something I can use in my own writing. With 275+ episodes, there is something for everyone. Available on iTunes, the Australian Writers’ Centre website or Stitcher Radio.

 

Middle Grade Mavens: The Podcast

A relative newcomer, this podcast specifically focuses on a middle grade books. Middle Grade Mavens reviews books, interviews publishers and authors working in this genre and discusses everything related to the genre. If you’re writing middle grade, check out this podcast for the most relevant and timely information about this wildly popular kidlit genre. Available on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify and Radio Public.

 

I’d love to hear what you tune into, so please leave a comment with a link to your favorite kidlit podcasts.

Happy listening!

This post was first published in https://stephaniemward.com/blog/

Advertisements

Empathy in Children’s Literature

April 5, 2019

ODETTE ELLIOTT

I have recently become aware that there is such a thing as an ‘Empathy Book List’. I looked at the list today and there are some excellent-sounding books. A while ago, I also read about someone sending her daughter to an ‘empathy session’. I’m not sure whether this is heart-warming or not. It probably is. . .

Clearly empathy is heart-warming but is it strange that such activities/book lists are necessary?

Perhaps the following comment by Empathy Lab UK explains the need for current attention being paid to empathy.

“There is a long list now of young people who have been persecuted in a way that would not have been possible until this century. It represents a failure of empathy, compounded by the impersonality of digital communications”
@PeterBazalgette #TweetwithEmpathy

I remember feeling empathy with the majority of characters I used to read about as a child. It seemed to be a necessary part of carrying on reading about a character – even, for example reading about cross young Mary in ‘The Secret Garden’. I felt very much for her and her reaction to her circumstances – the loss of her parents in India and being sent to a strange house in Yorkshire.

I also remember feeling greatly for Katy in ‘What Katy Did’. She had an accident and seriously hurt her back and had to strive to recover from this. The love/empathy of her grown-up Cousin Helen and her loving sister Clover helped her through the ordeal.

There are many books written today in the list by the Empathy Lab. There is even an Empathy Day.

“On Empathy Day on 12 June this year, lots of children, teachers,  librarians and authors shared empathy-boosting books and took part in a wide variety of activities around the country, including the hugely successful #ReadforEmpathy social media campaign.”

“Although Empathy Day is over for this year, our Read for Empathy Guide is still available, as is the 2018 book collection.” 

I have at last completed writing my first children’s novel. ‘Saving Willowfield’. (Please note: Looking for a publisher. . ) The main character Abigail cares so much for her twin brother Gabriel who is suffering from a serious disease of the hip (Perthes disease). I hope her love for her brother and her love of their grandparents’ farm come across and will move the children who read the story.

Here is UK Children’s Laureate, Chris Riddell’s illustration and comment on empathy.

Another matter that requires empathy in my novel is the plight of farmers of small farms struggling to make ends meet. Abigail and Gabriel are desperate to think of a way to save their grandparents’ farm from having to be sold. It means so much to them. They love their grandparents and visiting the farm is a big part of their lives. I hope the reader will share the children’s concern and salute their persistence.

As long as it involves the reader enough, a fictional story about identifiable characters can bring care, concern and invoke feelings of empathy. It seems as if this is something urgently sought after in today’s digital technology and internet-obsessed society.

Originally posted in http://www.odetteelliott.co.uk/empathy-childrens-literature/

 

On critique groups – further thoughts

February 14, 2019

ODETTE ELLIOTT

I think Lorna’s checklist (On criticism: can we be kind, careful and constructive? Jan 31, 2019) is an excellent idea. I have been attending the Islington Writers Group for many years and have always found the feedback constructive and helpful. We look for something positive as well as something constructive. (Of course it is complicated when different people say entirely different things!)

I had an interesting experience lately. Unfortunately, at the moment I am not able to attend frequently but I did get a reading “slot” on my last visit. I presented Chapter 1, having completed the novel and thinking that I needed feedback especially on this start to the story. Criticism was quite hard-hitting. It was also almost unanimous, so I listened hard. I found this extremely helpful, but what to do if it is a long time before I can return? I know I benefited greatly from the criticism and planned to put things right. For me the whole situation was bearable because one kind person whispered to me that if I wanted to send a re-write to her, she’d be happy to read it.

Maybe the message I’m trying to get across is that even with guidelines and procedures in place and with a writer well-used to critique sessions, there is always room for kindness as this writing business leaves one quite exposed.

On criticism: can we be kind, careful and constructive?

January 31, 2019

LORNA HOEY

Having your work read aloud in a writers’ group can be very scary. You’ve slaved over the piece, re-drafted many times, changed the title and the main character’s name. What if they don’t like it? What if they think it’s lightweight – you’re lightweight – and shouldn’t be part of the group?

Who hasn’t felt their heart beat faster as the reader picks up those sheets of A4 and begins?

Now – picture the scene at the end of the evening. You’re heading home on the Tube, tears sparking behind eyes, mentally crumpling those A4 sheets into a ball and flinging them from you as far away as possible. You quickly go from ‘They’re all idiots – too stupid to understand what I was trying to say’ to ‘I knew I was useless – why did I even bother. I’ll never write another word.’

It’s never happened to you? Lucky. It has certainly happened to me, in my encounters with various Writing Groups over the years. I can clearly recall some particular vicious comments from – oh, maybe 30 years ago. Goodness knows what kept me writing.

But, to be fair, it’s not the easiest thing in the world to think of something pertinent and useful, moments after you’ve heard a piece for the first time. It’s so easy to fall back on ‘I liked the ending’ (you slept through most of it) ‘the pace felt about right’ (the reader didn’t stop once) or the inevitable ‘it’s all been said’ and ‘I agree with everyone’ which isn’t particularly helpful.

The Writing Group I lead in Sudbury, Suffolk, identified this as a real problem. Where some members, perhaps with years of practice, could comment specifically and constructively, others, when placed ‘on the spot’, found it very difficult to think of anything to say. To try to help, I put together a ‘Checklist for Constructive Criticism’. Each member has a copy and keeps it beside them, so that when it’s their turn to contribute they’ve got an aide-memoir to consult, however briefly. I believe that we’ve all found the list useful. Every member is now contributing a comment rather than ‘opting out’ because they can’t think of anything.

I also remind members at the start of every meeting, of The Three Cs (except they’re one K and two Cs, actually): Be Kind (find 2 ‘good’ things about the piece) Careful (if something isn’t working, or you ‘just don’t get it’, by all means say so, but remember that the writer really wants their piece to work), and Constructive (no more than 2 suggestions in which you think the work could be improved.)

Another thing we do is to ensure that each group member has a copy of each story read at the meeting, so authors need to bring along a copy for everyone. Instead of writing notes in a notebook while the story is being read, the members write their notes on their copy of the story, which they hand to the author at the end. This has proved not just useful to the author, but also when making comments.

While these systems seem to be working well at the moment, we are always open to new ideas and different ways of working. I’d be delighted to know what you think at Islington Writers for Children – where, I must say, I never had a vicious or unkind comment in my years as a member.

Checklist for Kind, Careful and Constructive Criticism


The beginning:

  • The title – am I intrigued? Or does it give away too much?
  • Does it begin well? Am I hooked?
  • Is the beginning – gripping; clear; difficult to understand; baffling; boring; tedious?
  • Do I want to know what happens at the end?

The structure:

  • Is the viewpoint clear?
  • Any clichés or clumsy sentences?
  • Any really effective description? Any sounds, smells, weather?
  • Is the dialogue realistic and/or convincing?

The plot:

  • Does it work or is it contrived and/or predictable?
  • Is the pace right or does it feel rushed or drawn-out?
  • Is there a dilemma or a high point – does it work?
  • The middle – does it flag?

Overall:

  • Was I gripped by the story?
  • Did the ending link to the beginning in any way?
  • Was the ending satisfactory?
  • Length – was it too long, or too short?
  • Did the story have that WOW factor?

 

Love Factually

January 9, 2019

LAURA MUCHA

My very first book is out this month – it’s been a massive project and I’m excited-relieved-exhausted-curious to see how it goes. Here’s the BLURB (it’s called Love Factually in UK / Aus (amzn.to/2CdGUkf), Love Understood in the US (amzn.to/2QQpXV9)):

Poets, philosophers and artists have been trying to explain romantic love for centuries, but it remains one of the most complex and intimidating terrains to navigate. Most people are afraid to be open and honest about their relationships … until now. For Love Factually, Laura Mucha has interviewed hundreds of strangers, from the ages of 8 to 95 in more than 40 countries, asking them to share their most personal stories, feelings and insights about love. These intimate and illuminating conversations raised important questions, such as:

• How does your upbringing influence your relationships?
• Does love at first sight exist? Should you ‘just know’?
• What should you look for in a partner?
• Is monogamy natural?
• Why do people cheat?
• How do you know when it’s time to walk away?

Drawing on psychology, philosophy, anthropology and statistics, Love Factually combines evidence, theory and everyday experience and is is the perfect read for anyone who is curious about how we think, feel and behave when it comes to love.

Little Fir Tree

November 12, 2018

MEGG NICOL

I brought the idea of writing a musical called Little Fir Tree to our Writers Group a good few years ago.  The synopsis of the story that David Stoll and I had written was read out to the group and it received a general thumbs up.  That was the signal for me to go away and get writing in earnest!

It was very important to me to have that nod of approval from the group, to give me the confidence to forge ahead. Happily I am now able to report that after a gap of some years, Little Fir Tree will be aired at two staged concerts at Kings Place on 18th December, both supported by the Woodland Trust. Excitingly, Sylvester McCoy will be the narrator and we have seven actors and six musicians.

The Woodland Trust involvement came about after Alan Rickett the producer of Little Fir Tree discovered that the whole of the London Borough of Islington had been declared an Air Quality Management Area with concentrations of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter exceeding the UK air quality standards, so we decided to do something practical.

Because of my connections to the entertainment world it seemed natural to think how it might be possible to link the message about needing more trees in cities and at the same time putting on a show to raise consciousness about the subject.

That’s when the idea of using Little Fir Tree co-written by myself and David Stoll,  as a vehicle for getting the green message out there, began to form. I went to a hear talk by some of the Woodland Trust speakers at the Sainsbury’s Headquarters on ‘How trees talk to each other” and although, this was a lecture for adults, all I could think about was how children would relate to the talking trees in our show, and how we instinctively knew that trees did have an inbuilt communication system

Of course as children’s writers we know all about making that emotional connection with characters that help children make sense of their everyday lives so the first aim of the story is entertainment. That said, there are lessons to be learned. The situations that Little Tree encounters parallel those of every child, and his adventures show the power of friendship and loyalty and especially the importance of never giving up.

But importantly for the Woodland Trust the story-line reminds everyone of the value in preserving our woodland areas for the future well-being of the planet. Little Tree, for example, is not chopped down and disposed of at the end of the story (as in the original) but dug up and replanted as a symbol of growth.

I have to say that I am very excited that Little Fir Tree is growing! Wouldn’t it be fun if at the same time it might be possible to open the door to a magical world of trees that city children might not even know exists?

https://www.kingsplace.co.uk/whats-on/family/little-fir-tree-gala-premiere/

Little Fir Tree Gala Premiere

November 12, 2018

MEGG NICOL

Little Fir Tree – Gala Premiere

World Premiere

Little Fir Tree is a magical new uplifting musical for the whole family based on the Hans Christian Andersen story, re-imagined and composed by Megg Nicol and David Stoll. This concert performance, with celebrity storyteller Sylvester McCoy, cast and orchestra, is the world premiere.

Little Tree lives in a clearing in the Great Forest, far away from most human contact. He has wonderful animal friends, Owl, Benny Badger, Rabbit, the Squirrel Twins and Mouse who support him, especially when the bigger trees pick on him for being small.

Occasionally the human world and the Forest world collide, bringing hope and joy, as when Lara and the other school children arrive for a winter picnic and fall in love with Little Tree. But sometimes the outside world can bring danger, in the guise of Poacher Pete, who hunts animals and chops down trees.

Few people venture this deep into the Forest. But on this special occasion, you too can discover the magical world of Little Fir Tree.

Little Fir Tree is a feel good family story that will appeal to the child in all of us.

Suitable for all ages.

https://www.kingsplace.co.uk/whats-on/family/little-fir-tree-gala-premiere/

%d bloggers like this: