(Don’t) Do The Voices! – a blog post by author Alan Dapre

Back in 2013, my young daughter did not want me to put on any ‘voices’ when I read to her.

“Stop, Daddy – you don’t sound like you any more.”

“But that’s the point,” I’d say as she picked up a book. I’m not meant to sound like me. “What are we reading tonight?”

“Peppa Pig.”

It was called something like Peppa Pig’s Daddy Is Made To Look A Right Nugget Again. To save my sanity, I slipped in voices from the TV show.

My Mrs Rabbit was okay. My Madame Gazelle was spot on and I did an uncanny Daddy Pig – basically lots of booming and chuckling. My Peppa Pig was woeful though – wrong pitch and tone.

“I told you – don’t do the voices!” she said, sounding exactly like Peppa.

Well, that was about 5 years ago. Over the intervening time, I have gradually cajoled my book-loving daughter into joining in. A word, a phrase…a sentence. A page! After a while she grew to like my grumpy Mr Gum…

My bewitching Winnie the Witch…

Even my dodgy Scooby-Doo… ‘Sh-raggy!‘ 

These days (nights?) it isn’t so easy to get reading time together. I have deadlines or maybe my daughter’s gone to bed VERY late…. So I say goodnight and leave her reading quietly to herself.

Three. Two. One.

“Dad! I need you,” yells a plaintive voice when I am halfway down the stairs.

I go back up and pop my head around her door. “What do you want?” I know what’s coming.

“A story.” I get the tried & tested It’s just one story look. Works every time.

“Ok. Just one.”

“We have to read it all – and do the voices.” 

I nod and say, “Only if you turn the light out straight afterwards and don’t sneakily turn it on and read for an hour then complain you’re tired the next morning!”

“Okay, Dad. Sure thing. Pinkie promise.”

So nowadays we both take turns being the characters.
Such is life. You couldn’t make it up.

reading together, sharing books, do the voices, bedtime story

 

 

And if you do…

DO THE VOICES!

 

 

*****

Alan Dapré is the author of the popular Porridge the Tartan Cat series.

alan dapre,unfair funfair,prorridethetartancat,florisbooks,kelpies,junior fiction,gender neutral, boys and girls,girls and boys

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Who is the best at giving hugs?

My young daughter swerves by me and stubs her toe on a door.  I hold out my arms to give her a big hug and…she hops straight past.

Hops all the way down the hall.

Hops into the kitchen…yelling for Mum.

I follow and see her get a big cuddle and lots of sympathy. Then she looks round and flashes a cheeky grin. “Hey,” I say, “you ran right past me. I was going to give you a big hug.”

“Sorry, Dad, but you’re too bony – even though you’ve got a big fat belly. Mum’s way better at giving me cuddles.”

“What am I good for?” I ask, with a mock glum face.

“Well, I like it when you pretend to be a robot and run after me. And you’re pretty good at doing voices. Yeah, I like it when you read to me at night and do your Winnie the Pooh voice. Can you do it now?”

“Ummm, Uhhh, Nope – I don’ttt think so.”

“YOU JUST DID IT!”

“I think she’s feeling okay now,” says Mum.

“My foot still hurts a bit,” says the wee girl, angling for more attention. 

“Come to Dad and get a big hug,” I say, crouching down and stretching my arms wide.

“No – that’s Mum’s job. Your job is to tell me jokes and…”

“And?”

“Do the washing up. Pick up after me and Mum. Keep the house tidy and make cookies. You are the best in the world – ever – at making cookies, especially the big chocolate ones. Can you make them now?”

“It’s late. How about I make them tomorrow? How about I make Yorkshire Puddings? You used to call them Orchard Puddings when you were wee.”

“No Dad. Mum is the best at Yorkshires. [pause] But you are the best at pancakes.”

“It’s the same stuff!” I protest.

“Look. Sometimes you are okay at Yorkshires too.”

“What about hugs?”

She thinks. “Yes. But not if I’m really hurt because then I just have to go to Mum – it’s the law. Unless Mum’s not here then I’ll come to you. Don’t worry, Dad. I still love you.”

She starts running off.

“I can see your leg’s better now.”

And accidentally catches her shoulder on the door.

“Ow! That was your fault, Dad.”

“What? Why? How?!”

“Well, I get my cleverness and hair from Mum.”

“And…?”

“And I get clumsiness from you! It’s okay. I know you didn’t mean to give it to me.”

And off she goes with a grin…

to cuddle the dog!

“Skye gives the best hugs in this house!”

cuddle dog alan dapre

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The tyranny of Blue & Pink (a blog from 2013)

I’ve just come back from a local discount store, my arms full of gardening equipment and my head full of questions. While shopping, I overheard a woman speaking into her mobile phone – loud enough for the whole store to overhear.

‘Hmm, I’m still not sure what to get… What about an assault rifle?’
Long pause.
‘There’s one here.’
Pause.
‘No. It’s made of plastic. It doesn’t fire bullets…’
Pause.
‘…which I suppose is better.’

Yeah – that’s true. Funnily enough, I don’t really want the Toy aisles stocking working AK47s. Doesn’t seem right somehow.

My daughter is in the Toy aisle of a well known ‘stack them high, sell them cheap’ discount store. The boys’ toys aisle. The girls’ aisle is a row of eye-aching pinkness, stacked with cheap dolls and nail painting sets. The boys meanwhile have Dr Who, Ben 10 and bow & arrow sets.

A few days ago I was walking down one aisle with Isla who said, ‘I don’t want these toys. They’re boys’ toys.’
I explained that there was no such thing, despite us being faced with a long wall of blueness.
I don’t want a Dalek,’ says Isla.
But you’d like a skateboard,’ I say.
She nods.
‘So skateboards are for girls too.’
‘I think I would like a pink one. Look.’
She goes down a new aisle and points out a Hello Kitty Mini PINK skateboard.
‘That’s pink.’
‘Certainly is.’ I am pleasantly surprised to see it lurking amongst all the Polly Pockets and Disney Princesses dolls. ‘Sure you don’t want a blue one?’
‘No daddy. Pink is for girls.’
Argghhh.
My daughter’s actually said it. For the past 4 years I have been trying to be gender neutral. She has had Fireman Sam and Cinderella dressing up clothes. A Doctor’s medic set too. There’s a wooden train set, a dolls’ house, a Playmobil Pirate Ship ….

Basically a real mix of toys. Yet Isla now equates pink with girls and blue with boys.

I blame the advertisers – the sort who have have girls lip-synching along whilst skipping about in glittery pink shoes. The sort who show boys playing with transforming cars and girls playing with sparkly pink ponies.

I ask Isla what she thinks about toys for boys and girls.
‘Well, Daddy…a Ben 10 torch is for boys but I like torches and you have a torch so I can use that.’
‘Would a boy like one of your dolls?’
Isla giggles.
‘We could play swing ball. James likes swing ball and I like swing ball.’
‘There are no such things as just toys for girls or boys. You can play with what you like,’ I say, with poor grammar but good intentions.
Isla spies a pump action water gun. It is too much like an assault rifle for my liking.
‘That’s not a nice toy.’
‘But you said it’s for girls too.’
‘It’s for warm sunny days and we don’t get many in Scotland.’
Isla nods.
‘Now what shall we get your friends for their birthdays?’ I say, changing the subject.
‘Those.’

I grit my teeth and take two Disney Princess money boxes to the tills. At least they are the Paint-Your-Own variety.

Apparently the birthday girls loved them.

Discuss…

***

Here’s an interesting study from 2005…

http://web.mit.edu/2.00b/www/documents/ToyGender.pdf

10 Ways To Get A Great Publishing Deal ;)

Hobnob With Celebs: Remember that celebrity author you bumped into once at Waitrose/Aldi? (They probably won’t remember you.) Simply stand in the same spot and hope that lightning strikes twice. If it does – hand over your manuscript and wait for their agent to call.

Milk Your Contacts: Ask your best mate’s friend’s aunt’s mother’s cousin’s sister in law who knows someone who works in publishing…to ask her best mate’s friend’s aunt’s mother’s cousin’s sister in law if she would ask someone who works in publishing to publish your book.

How to get a publishing deal

Do Something Unusual: Go around the world on a unicycle while Juggling scorpions.* You’ll probably fall off & require medical attention – which will get you media attention…a book deal, 2 minutes on Oprah, etc.

Do Something Dull: Some YouTubers simply unwrap stuff and get millions of online visitors. Why not fix a camera above your desk and let people see every word as you write it. You’ll be amazed at how folk will love watching you write. And love commenting about your grammar and punctuation.

Get A Pal To Nominate You For ‘The Nobel Prize In Literature’ [In The Hope It Will Get You Noticed]: According to Wikipedia, ‘Each year the Swedish Academy sends out requests for nominations of candidates for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Members of the Academy, members of literature academies and societies, professors of literature and language, former Nobel literature laureates, and the presidents of writers’ organizations are all allowed to nominate a candidate. However, it is not permitted to nominate oneself.’

Marry Into The Royal Family: Then write tales about a helicopter.

Become Famous: To get a great publishing deal, make sure you first get a gold at an Olympic sport. Or present on national TV, play football for a major club. Or sing in a band…

Streak At A High Profile Sporting Event [With Your First Chapter Tattooed On Your Bottom]:  How much you’ll get noticed really depends on the size of your bum.

Go Small:  Write your book on a pinhead and get it into the Guinness Book of World Records.

Send a publisher a big dollop of Porridge: A quirky Scottish cat who once fell in a tin of tartan paint. Hang on, I’ve just done that. Better try one of the other suggestions…

Click the link if you wish to have a peek at or download Loch Ness Mess

*NO SCORPIONS WERE HURT IN THE MAKING OF THIS BLOG POST

Beat Writers Block

Writer’s Block strikes all of us at some time or other so maybe Writers’ Block is a more accurate description?

Here are some ways you might beat the block!

alan dapre,writers block,lightbulb,solve.Open a drawer and pull out a random object and write about that in a style of your choosing. Breathless Mills & Boon prose about a stapler anyone?

Write a list of things you dislike about your main character. Then generate some positives to add balance.

Get away from the typewriter and use a pencil and some sticky note pads. Stick ideas into a small notebook. You can always remove the rubbish ones into the rubbish bin  the next day.

Sniff the way forward by imagining what the location of your story smells like. Throw in unusual scents to generate a sense of place.

Give characters and places a potted history – no more than a paragraph written on the fly.

Ask a question – ‘Why?’ and try to think of a situation that gives you an answer.

Write a verb and get the computer synonym maker to chuck new words out at you – a different or unfamiliar word may get the character talking or acting in a different style.

Turn on the TV and grab a headline (one that is positive) and think about your characters and how they would react to it.

Write a note for your character – the sort you’d find left on a fridge.

Revisit first lines from books in your house – and play with them.

Time yourself and try to write 200 words in 10 minutes – anything.

Think about what your character most needs at the moment. Then try to get it down, jousting its needs with other key characters.

Flip the issue over if it’s a problem that’s stumping you, e.g., if a character is too dull then try to make them too interesting  – by going Over The Top!

Nick ideas from friends & family either by telling them you’re stuck, or by eavesdropping on their conversations. Amazing what you can pick up and play with – just don’t use real names when it comes to publication.

Use rhyme – forcing yourself to think of simple rhythmic sentences. Often, a narrative will come.

The idea here is to just get something down … to clear the blockage. If one thing doesn’t work, try another. And if that does not work then, er, do a blog … Works for me!

Think up dramatic, funny, quirky opening lines – and really play with the scene, character or place – pushing them as far as you can. This will lead you into areas that you would not normally go. If you struggle with this then play with the last line. Apparently J.K. Rowling had the last line of her last book ready before she finished the first book. I tend to think about how the action might wind up and conclude – so writing a final line seems to make things more concrete. It always helps me to know where I’m heading narratively.

Wander around the house picking up props – which can easily become prompts for new ideas. Maybe you’ve a figurine from Africa that sparks off a story set there … ?

Get in the car, or put on your boots, and take a journey – heading for an unfamiliar place, object, house – whatever – as long as you examine your feelings when you arrive there. Being in a fresh environment can conjure up vivid new ideas and thoughts that you can mull over on the way back.

Start with the word ‘I’ … and add an action to it – such as ‘jump’ – and then see where it leads – off a cliff – down a hole – who cares as long as you’re writing …

Begin with ‘What If …’ and say aloud something outlandish or mundane. Let the ideas follow on from each other. Maybe it’ll help to dictate to your computer, or chat to the dog? Just getting words out and hearing them gives you ideas a reality that might spur you on imaginatively.

These are just a few writing tips that have worked for me. Hopefully the few minutes spent reading them has got your brain juices flowing … I will add more the next time I’m hit by a wall of my Writer’s blocks.

Alan Dapré is a published children’s author living near Glasgow in Scotland. His latest series is Porridge The Tartan Cat. Packed with hilarious twists and fun wordplay, all with a cat’s-eye view of a zany Scottish family. 

Writing For Girls And Boys – blog post by Alan Dapre, children’s author


Recently, I was browsing in a well-known superstore with my young daughter. She found pink pyjamas decorated with rainbows – ‘For Girls age 7-8’. Then a set of dinosaur pyjamas. Isla turned to me with a frustrated look and said, “I really want those dinosaur ones, but it says ‘For Boys age 7-8’.”

Then a similar thing happened when we walked through a local discount store. The toy aisles were clearly segregated by colour and gender – pink for girls and blue for boys. Isla picked up a blue skateboard then put it down. “They make me think I can’t have it. Why can’t girls and boys share the toys?”

Why indeed?

As I write this blog at home, I am surrounded by Lego models. Some sets are obviously packaged for boys, others for girls. My daughter chose all of them, regardless. “I think boy stuff is cooler than girl stuff. They get to have ferocious dragons and knights and ninjas. Girls just get pretty rainbows and unicorns and lots of pink. Some girls might want to have different colours and have adventures.”

One of my favourite childhood books was The Turbulent Term of Tyke Tiler by Gene Kemp. Tyke takes on the school establishment in an action-packed tale. It was quite a shock to discover the eponymous protagonist was Theodora Tiler. Most of the books I had read up until then featured boys doing all the exciting stuff.

Being adventurous is a vital part of growing up for all children, not just boys. Books should reflect that. My Porridge the Tartan Cat books are funny, fast-moving, action packed adventures that anyone can read.

Twins Isla (named after my daughter, who calls herself Real Isla) and Ross McFun feature in every book of the Porridge the Tartan Cat series and star in two. Both characters are go-getting children, with enquiring minds who courageously work together to solve tricky problems. I chose non-identical twins because I wanted female and male characters who are equal but different. Children with the confidence and freedom to express and exchange ideas. In each book, they take turns to explore, to question and to lead. I’m not writing for girls or boys. I’m writing for girls and boys.

My wife is an engineer – and a great role model for our daughter. Together we encourage Real Isla to try new things and believe in herself. Anything is possible. Last month she scuba-dived in a cage at Deep Sea World and loved every moment. Not every child gets a chance to do that. Or to be in a book like Real Isla. But all children should see characters with identifiable traits, and read reassuring books that show them it’s okay to be themselves. Books that nourish, sustain and empower children to be the best they can be.

By the way, my daughter loves wearing her new dinosaur pyjamas. And I love that she loves them, too.

This blog re-post is taken from the Alan Dapré author page at the Discover Kelpies site

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Writing For Children: practical tips by author Alan Dapre

After 60+ books I’ve gathered a few tips on writing for children:

1) Always read the genre you are aiming at and immerse yourself in the relevant books.

I have written plays for teenagers and younger children, general story and picture books, plus joke, puzzle, activity and story books for TV tie-in characters such as Brum.

I used to think that my writing might be diluted by reading other writers. The opposite is true. I was able to pull their words and structures apart, agree (or disagree) with what I read, and get a sense of how each format worked. What I discovered somehow filtered into my own writing.

2) Grow up surrounded by books.

This riffs on my first point. Obviously you can’t go back in time and surround yourself with books but it helps if you have had a childhood love of reading. Fiction, non-fiction, who cares. Just getting words into you is a positive and life-affirming benefit.

3) Study the ways children (your readers) think and interact.

Watch, listen and learn. Resist the urge to step in – any interaction from you will affect the dynamic. Become aware of the rhythms and patterns that youngsters adopt. It will make your own writing sound more natural.

Children tend to say only what they need to say. They often repeat phrases and rework their sentences as they speak – so go with their flow. It’ll make you a better writer.

4) Love your work.

There is no point writing something and getting all worked up about it before the ink is dry. I tend to write my stories in big chunks then go back and edit. This approach works, but only if I know the plot and the characters well enough. If I am too uncertain then it shows in my writing. Better to write a chapter and edit afterwards than write a paragraph and edit that.

Rash editing can simply be masking your lack of preparation or understanding of the story or characters. If you believe your work is rubbish it will be. So pull out what works. Look for the strengths. Print it off, go for a walk, come back and read it at arm’s length. If you think it is going nowhere then stop…and start writing something else.

5) Buy a load of sticky notes.

When I have a story idea I draw the main story arc. It gets me to explore actions and characters and motivations without too much fussing over the plot. I can see the way – or the roadblocks -ahead.

I concentrate on ACTIONS. If characters are not doing something then they should not be in your story. Stories are about DOING. Sticky notes can be easily rearranged, drawn over, replaced, etc. They are brilliant. You can do the same using virtual notes on your computer desktop or tablet screen. Trust me, it works.

6) Don’t give up.

Life for a writer is tough. For every rejection send your stuff out to three, no, ten more publishers. Who knows why someone gets lucky and is published? It could be that they have written the best kids’ book EVER. Maybe they simply approached the agent/publisher at the right time.

The key is to build relationships. Get known as a hardworking, imaginative writer and your reputation will help you get more work.

When you get rejections – and you will – channel your writing energy into new projects.

7) Be nice to everyone.

A) It’s a nice thing to do

B) Publishers and Editors and Agents move about, get promoted, lunch together, etc. Some may even talk about you. You want that to be in a good way.

8) Write as much as you can.

You don’t have show it to anyone – just write and see what happens.

When you write, magic happens. Doors open. People smile and the world is a better place.

You can quote me on that.

 

 

If you would to see my latest books, please click on the covers.

brawsome bagpipes, bashcrashding,alan dapre, dapre, porridge the tartan cat, tartan cat, floris

Brawsome Bagpipes & Bash-Crash-Ding by Alan Dapre

 

[If you want to use any of the above blog for non-commercial reasons then feel free to do so – but mention my full name. Link back to my blog please. Anything else? Simply click ‘Comments’ & drop me a line.]

Wee Write! 2017 – Alan Dapre

wee write 2017 alan dapre
Back in 2015, I met the organiser of Wee Write! at an event where new books from Floris were being showcased. It seemed quite surreal to be chatting about half a dozen books I had not yet written. At that time, I was working on my first title – ‘Porridge the Tartan Cat and the Brawsome Bagpipes’ – and creating the style for the series.

Brawsome Bagpipes, alan dapre, author, scotland, floris books, childrens books, humour

The six Porridge books can be read in any order, as they feature recurring characters but stand-alone plots.

Just before the first two books were launched (Feb 2017) I was invited to take part in the Wee Write! schools programme. A great idea that brings schools into the Mitchell Library in Glasgow. It costs schools nothing and the children get lots from the experience. A morning – or afternoon – off school to watch authors and, in my case, engage in some silly wordplay and enjoy plenty of interaction. Yes, if you come to my event then be prepared to volunteer.

Nearly 180 pupils, teachers and helpers filled a large space inside the library, overlooked by big windows and curious office workers. Helped by Janette (an experienced  librarian) and knowledgeable technical staff, I was able to prepare my presentation and props in no time at all. The worst bit was hanging around the back of the projector while I was being introduced. As ever, I couldn’t resist a bit of silly shadow hand puppetry and that got the kids laughing.

wee write book festival 2017 Alan Dapre author

The stage was set for me to start. I was soon chatting about how my Porridge books came about. I then gave the children wee snippets about characters – aided by Yuliya Simona’s brawsome illustrations – and introduced Porridge (in soft toy form).

Porridge the tartan cat, porridge, tartan cat, alan dapre, dapre, toy, plush porridge, Floris,

Plenty of noisy fun ensued with fast-paced tongue-twisters,

alan dapre tongue twister brawsome bagpipes porridge the tartan cat

and kids running about the stage sorting out muddled-up words. A lot of Porridgy goodness was somehow spooned into one hour. At one point, we created our own crazy competitions – aiming to be as daft as Gadget Grandad’s Scottish Shed Racing Championships. There was also a lively joining-in session where children danced around and mimed tapping along to a noisy tripe writer. Next we explored together facts that sound like a load of old (typed) tripe but are actually true!

floris, tripewriter, alan dapre, porridge the tartan cat,

The hour flew by and everyone was hoarse and happy by the time my event ended. A short Q & A brought out some very good questions. “What’s my favourite book?” I was asked. I replied that it’s any book that’s being read. Books are meant to be read, to stimulate and engage.

Judging from the reaction of staff and the kind comments afterward, the children went away motivated and excited. If libraries and authors can get children enthused by the written word then we are all onto a winner.

porridge, language, made up, tartan cat, alan dapre, me-wow, mewow, cat talk,

 

Wee Write! is in someways an off-shoot of Aye Write! but it has its own special atmosphere. It offers a wee glimpse of the magic of books – and writing – to any kids (young or old) lucky enough to attend.

I loved it. Good job too because I did it all again that afternoon.

brawsome bagpipes, bashcrashding,alan dapre, dapre, porridge the tartan cat, tartan cat, floris

Porridge the Tartan Cat books launched purr-fectly

The first two stories in my Porridge the Tartan Cat  (6 book) series were launched last week.

Brawsome Bagpipes, alan dapre, author, scotland, floris books, childrens books, humour

Brawsome Bagpipes, alan dapre, author, scotland, floris books, childrens books, humour

A large group of eager readers gathered at West Kilbride Library in Ayrshire, Scotland to discover more about a terrific tartan cat called Porridge, who lives with the McFun family in Tattiebogle Town.

Staff from Edinburgh-based Floris Books (recently named Scottish Publisher Of The Year) were on hand to provide drinks and nibbles. I brought various activities and a tub of homemade fishy biscuits, Porridge’s favourite treat. Me-yum!

homemade biscuits, fishy, biscuits, porridge, tartan, cat, alan, dapre, Floris, scotland

The guests were entertained by an informative introductory speech about the series from Floris editor Lois, and then it was my turn. Cue lots of purr-fectly bad puns and a-mew-sing jokes from the author.

I discussed how the books came about, way back in 2011. (I wanted to do a series about a family with secrets – a Grandad with awesome gadgets, a Gran who was once a groovy singer, etc).

Then I talked about the characters and the way names had changed. For instance, Mini Mum was once Dinky Dad! And the name Porridge was originally used for a character called Doris Porridge.

I read out an extract from Brawsome Bagpipes and got everyone joining in with terrific tongue-twisters, e.g., ‘The dastardly Dug o Doom did a devious deed indeed!’

Later, I was joined by my daughter Isla – who features as a character in the series and has her own big adventure in one of the six books (where she turns invisible! You’ll see one day, or maybe you won’t…?)

[Btw, to get the look of the character Isla right, the series illustrator Yuliya Simona was given some pics of Isla and asked to draw a girl with glasses, a bob and a big smile. She did a brilliant job]

Isla, Ross, McFun, Dapre, Porridge, The Tartan Cat, tartan, cat, Floris, brawsome bagpipes, brawsome, bash, crash, ding,

Another child and his mum – who is an excellent actress – also helped out with a reading from Bash-Crash-Ding! It was lovely to hear my words come to life in front of everyone.

Porridge, tartan, cat, alan dapre, scotland, tartan cat, porridge the tartan cat, floors, childrens book, tattiebogle town, date

Reading aloud from Bash-Crash-Ding

We ended with some more joining in activities and a signing session, while the children did table-top tasks and had a go at Pin The Tail On The Porridge.

Here are some pics of the night’s events:

Porridge the Tartan Cat, tartan, cat, porridge, launch, books, alan dapre, alan, dapre, humour, floris

Signing Porridge books at my launch

porridge the tartan cat, alan dapre, book signing, Floris, scotland , author, childrens author

More signing

tartan cat, porridge, alan dapre, author, scotland, floris books, glasgow,

This is what it’s all about. Brawsome stories for kids.

alan dapre, porridge the tartan cat, tartan cat, floors, books, childrens, scotland, story

Reading an extract from Porridge

porridge, tartan cat, alan dapre, Floris, brawsome bagpipes, books, bash crash ding, scotland

Porridge with his tartan cat books

Books are available in-store and online with waterstones,  amazon,  w h smith and Floris Books. Plus other reputable sellers.

Porridge The Tartan Cat Series – launching Feb 2017

I know I really should have been blogging this year but most of my time has been spent writing an exciting new 6 book series for Floris Books, a large publisher based in Scotland.

The Series: 
Each story stars a member of the McFun family. Gadget Grandad, Groovy Gran, Mini Mum, Dino Dad, Roaring Ross and Invisible Sister. Nothing is ever what it seems in this fantastic family. Everyone has a surprising secret – and a knack of getting into trouble. Luckily, Porridge is around to lend a helping paw and save the day. All it takes is courage and a box of brain-boosting Fishy Biscuits.

The first two books come out in February 2017. Here’s the cover for:

“Porridge The Tartan Cat and the Brawsome Bagpipes”

It’s brilliantly illustrated by Yuliya Somina, who has illustrated for Bill Bryson’s bestseller ‘A Really Short History Of Nearly Everything’.

porridge-1-cover

That’s the cover. Here’s a quick summary of the story:

Gadget Grandad does nothing on Sundays. Me-yawn. However, Porridge and the McFun twins soon discover he spends the rest of the week doing incredible things – like Walter ski-ing with a shark called Walter, or catching sneaky Scotch Pies (spies). All the while, mouldy old Fergus McFungus is stealing ingredients to cook up a secret secret recipe for disaster. Can anyone (anycat) stop him from destroying the world and volcanoes and fishy biscuits and elephants!”

***

The other book being launched is:

“Porridge The Tartan Cat and the Bash-Crash-Ding”

Here’s what it’s about:

Groovy Gran was once in a band called The Tattie Scones, but it split in mysterious circumstances many years ago. Porridge, the twins and Groovy Gran go on a mission to reunite the band members and put on a special one-off Big Gig. Unfortunately the dastardly Dug o Doom is on the prowl, trying to thwart their every move. Porridge is determined to save the day – and the show. Claws-crossed it will end with a fantastic Bash-Crash-Ding!

 

porridge-2-cover

 

I’ve seen the illustrations so far and they look very impressive. Energetic, fun and just right to capture the imagination of 6 to 8 year old readers. That said, there is enough word-play and imaginative quirkiness for grown-ups to enjoy too.

Well, I’d better crack on. More stories to write. I’ll post more thoughts and exciting news later.

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Launch of the ‘Young Kelpies’ range of new books. Mine included.

I was delighted to be invited to attend the launch of the new Young Kelpies range. It features four series from exciting authors. ‘Axe throwing’, ‘goal scoring’, ‘mysterious’ and ‘adventurous’ are the key words for each series.

Mine is the adventurous one…with lots of gags, wordplay and exciting action.

Each brilliant series has six books and is written for children aged six to eight. If you want funny and engaging stories then Young Kelpies will do the business for you.

The launch was a light hearted affair where each author read an extract in front of the great and the good from the publishing trade. I was on last and could see how well the other authors were being received.

I ate a bacon buttie and threw myself into my performance.

Alan Dapre Porridge The Tartan Cat

Alan Dapre reads an extract from his Porridge The Tartan Cat Series

There was certainly a lot of interest for my Porridge The Tartan Cat series.

When Porridge was wee he fell into a tin of tartan paint. A tin of tartan paint. Not easy to say or do. Porridge loves sharing tales about the McFun family. He has even cat-a-logged all their funny adventures. Six books coming out in 2017.

Can’t wait. Guess I’ll have to 🙂

More info on my books and lots of others can be found on twitter #discoverkelpies

 

Back In The Room…

It’s good to be back!

I have taken time off from writing this blog to concentrate on writing children’s books.

It takes a while to create meaningful, exciting and engaging characters who jump off the page, climb up your nose and playfully mess about with your brain.

I shall be posting soon about some exciting new developments regarding my latest project – a series of  humorous books for six to eight year olds, with a Scottish twist.

As ever, what takes the time is getting something off the ground. Finding a publisher or agent who is willing to take a punt and develop your ideas is a slow process, with many hurdles to overcome.

A writer may know his or her characters and plot intimately but this knowledge has to be imparted to others – never easy. I have developed some clear methods that I will blog about in later posts.

I have also been busy painting in acrylics just to give me a counterpoint.

Art by Alan Dapre  Copyright Alan Dapre

Art by Alan Dapre
Copyright Alan Dapre

 

Staring at a blank computer screen day in day out is not healthy so I mix in a bit of staring at a blank canvas too. Going from one medium to another can alleviate blocks. I often come up with plot ideas while daubing on paint.

Every once in a while I will offer up tips for writers. These have come from my own experience. I will back each one with an exercise and quote or two. Hope they prove useful for you 🙂

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WHY WRITE?

Writing for yourself is a great way to begin. You will discover what subjects interest, motivate and challenge you. To write honestly you have to write from the heart, regarding the things you really care about. If you are creatively and emotionally engaged then your writing will reflect this. External critics will be kept at bay while you learn to master your internal one. Keep what you write private and you will be free to write what matters to you. Not having to impress others is a great thing.

EXERCISES:

-Write about a subject you passionately love or hate.
-Write about a personal secret that needs unburdening.
-Write boldly about a fear or hope for the future.

‘Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self’

– Cyril Connolly

Far from perfect grammar

My Grammar School inconveniently forgot to teach me grammar. Fact. We had a few lessons about verbs and adverbs, prepositions and commas – and that was about it. When I became a Primary teacher I swotted up on the basics, while older colleagues banged on about the dubious merits of Box Analysis.

box chart grammar alan dapre

 

As a published writer I am expected to know how words are strung together. I do – but I string them in my own sweet way, dropping convention when I see fit (or through ignorance). My aim is to keep things simple.

Friends who speak foreign languages have a grasp of tenses – such as the Pluperfect tense in French. I vaguely remember that it had something to do with things already done in the past. The nearest English equivalent is the Past Perfect tense – ‘we had written, they had entered’.

Wikipedia has this to say –

Examples of the English pluperfect (past perfect) are found in the following sentence (from Viktor Frankl‘s Man’s Search for Meaning):

  • A man who for years had thought he had reached the absolute limit of all possible suffering now found that suffering had no limits, and that he could suffer still more, and more intensely.

Here, “had thought” and “had reached” are examples of the pluperfect. They refer to an event (a man thinking he has reached the limit of his capacity to suffer), which takes place before another event (the man finding that his capacity to suffer has no limit), that is itself a past event, referred to using the past tense (found). The pluperfect is needed to make it clear that the first event (the thinking and the supposed reaching) is placed even earlier in the past.

Dull. Dull. Dull. I get a headache just reading and thinking about it.

Quick question. Do you know what makes a tense Perfect?

Quick Answer. A tense is said to be Perfect when the action is over and complete.

Hmm, I also remember the dreaded Past Participle. It is always used for perfect tenses… opened, eaten, rewarded.

Perhaps it’s better not to dredge such stuff up.

The Present Participle is used to create continuous tenses, which show when an action has been going on for some time – even if it started back in the past… I have been sitting here for ages.

That brings me to Gerunds. They are verbal nouns, that always use a possessive adjective instead of a pronoun… I was upset about her leaving.

Writing this, I can see why Grammar left me cold. It is vitally important but when taught badly is almost incomprehensible. Too much and you struggle, too little and you struggle.

So I am heading for the middle way. I might use the odd Gerundive (verbal adjectives) but I won’t let the terminology get in the way of writing a cracking story.

I am glad that young kids have to use appropriate terminology and call a spade a spade – noun a noun. But let’s not take it too far. There is a debate whether kids should say ‘joining words’ or ‘conjunctions’, ‘Doing words’ or ‘Verbs’…

Surely they should be taught in a way that makes sense to them, using words that they understand. Horses for courses.

By the way, does anyone know the difference between loose, periodic and balanced sentences?

Hands up at the back!

‘It’s good to write badly’ – Writing tips from Alan Dapre

It’s good to write badly. Baldly, in my case.

Back in the noisy days of  typewriters I was indebted to a strip of white tape that I placed on the paper to strike out mistakes. This was replaced in time by liquid paper. Nowadays the computer Delete key is my friend. Though I enjoy drafting my ideas out on sticky post-it sheets, rearranging good ones and throwing away the not-so-good.

Writers produce their best work when they jettison unnecessary words, characters, narratives and ideas. I prefer to be ruthless and self-edit.

Working with an Editor is useful but can be painful too, reminding me of my TV script writing days where directors and producers would wreak havoc with a careful crafted submission. In TV, the editing process is not over until the final cut. Most of the writer’s vision is left on the cutting room floor, or in a computer’s trash bin.

The best publishers use Editors who work alongside writers to eliminate excess bloat – creating a flowing narrative that engages the reader. Bad ones take over – and might as well have written the piece themselves.

So I find it is in my best interest to get a story written and self-edited to a level where I feel bold enough to let it go. If it’s strong enough it’ll fly. If not, it will probably still benefit from a good kicking about.

I tend to write more than will see the light of day – best to have too much than too little. Writers need time to write themselves into a state of consistency. So there is always plenty of flab to cut out.

Giving birth to ideas allows them to take their chances. Sometimes it takes years for them to reach their potential. I once wrote ‘Kenny’ – a play about kids leaving a Care Home. It sat in a drawer for two years until it was dusted off, re-edited and sent to the BBC for their 1991 Young Radio Playwrights Festival. Happily, it became one of the winning entries and kickstarted my writing career.

It helps to write with no fear for half an hour or so. Then have a cup of tea or walk the dog, returning fresh to the work. Skim it and highlight the good sections and strike through the rest. Save the draft. Now delete the dross and save again. Re-read and tinker with any gleaming nuggets you have left.

Now for the hard bit. Look at the work as a whole and strike through anything that doesn’t fit. It may be your best line ever, but if it shouldn’t be there then it has to go. I find this tough. Very tough when I am writing short narratives for children’s picture books. Every word counts. If a word or sentence is out of place, out it goes.

Ouch.

stephen-king

Stephen King has this advice – ‘Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.’

bernard lepton, alan dapre, stranger in the home

Bernard Hepton, a great actor and a lovely bloke, once narrated ‘Stranger In The Home’ – my BBC Radio 4 monologue. Prior to the recording day, we were discussing a certain line – one that I considered to be of great emotional importance for his character.

‘I think I’ll just cut it out,’ he said softly. I asked how he would get the emotion across using the other, more mundane, lines…

‘It’s called acting, darling.’

Bernard gave my play more space – and that gave it greater emotional impact. What is left out is as important as what is left in.

This is true for actors, writers, musicians…dustmen.

A final piece of  advice from Stephen King – ‘Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.’

That’s what good writing hinges on…