Author Archives: admin

About admin

Alan Dapré lives in North Ayrshire, Scotland, UK where it rains a lot. He was a Deputy Headteacher and now is a radio and TV scriptwriter, published author, artist and very slow typist. He has had a few plays on Radio 4 and lots of stuff on the telly. His first book did not win the Pulitzer Prize. He loves long beach walks, sketching, crosswords and rhubarb crumble. He has written many books and plays for children that people have been quite nice about.

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.

 

girl reading kittycat kidnap by alan dapre

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

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.

Catch me on Twitter: Alan Dapre On Twitter

or Facebook: Alan Dapre on Facebook

 

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 🙂

*******

 

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…

 

 

 

 

Of the 8 million children in institutions worldwide, more than 90% are not orphans.

So says Lumos. A UK based charity dedicated to getting children out of institutions.

Further to my earlier blog about Lumos – the charity chaired by J.K. Rowling – I thought I’d share more about what it is trying to do.

‘Across the globe 8 million children are living in institutions that deny them individual love and care. More than 90% are not orphans. They are separated from their families because they are poor, disabled or from an ethnic minority. As a result, many suffer lifelong physical and emotional harm.

Many children are institutionalised because local schools are not adapted to teach children with physical or learning disabilities and local health services cannot provide specialised care. Social services are insufficient to meet the needs of poor families or protect children from abuse.

Decision makers resist closing institutions because they cannot imagine a system of family based care and lack the resources to fund and manage the change. Personnel resist for fear of losing their jobs. Stigma attached to children in care makes communities reluctant to accept them.’

The above quotes are from the Lumos website –  wearelumos.org. The name Lumos comes from the spell in the Harry Potter books that causes light to beam from the spell-caster’s wand.

Lumos exists to shine a light on troubled children, showing the world they exist, and starting a process to free them from the all encompassing darkness.

No child should grow up never knowing what it is to be loved and hugged, nurtured and supported. When a child is born, its mother continues to offer warmth, nutrition and a comforting heartbeat, wrapping her child in love. Or so it should be. Sadly, too many children are rejected and find themselves institutionalised – thus losing the bond they crave.

J.K. Rowling is passionate about supporting such trapped children, wherever they are in the world. She has given the proceeds of her book ‘The Tales Of Beedle The Bard’ to Lumos – so the charity can keep on helping children.

Click here for a video where she talks about her book and the work of Lumos.

I love the fact the people at Lumos care so much for children they have never met. Maybe you can help too?

Lumos urgently needsfunds this Christmas to continue its emergency intervention work with extremely vulnerable children and give them a chance to move out of an institution and into a caring family environment.

Hopefully their Christmas Appeal has been a success and 2014 will be a brighter time for disadvantaged children.

If you wish to make a donation then click here to go to the Lumos website.

Looking for quality picture ebooks for kids at a great price?

I’ve decided to offer two of my picture ebooks at a great discount. Why? I want to get my ebooks read as much as possible so it makes sense to lower the cost – to less than a third of the original purchase price.

Wiggle Jiggle  (UK link)   (US Link) (Canada Link)
Cuddle Muddle  (UK link)  (US link) (Canada link)

I don’t have any overheads or printing costs or anything like that so I can offer my quality ebooks cheaply.  I have got quite a few 5 star reviews for the ebooks, but what matters is what kids think. I’m happy to say they like the humour, colourful illustrations, simple yet engaging stories and lots of rhyme and repetition.

My Wee Panda Bear Series is really for preschoolers. And their parents, grandparents and guardians and…you name it. No writer seeks to limit their audience, otherwise we would all keep our fingers off our pens and keep our stories in our heads.

If you want to discover more about my writing then why not have a look at my website – www.alandapre.com It is crammed full of my books, tips, videos and reviews. Have a browse…it’s a great way to pass a few minutes on bus/loo, etc.

Or take a look at the Alan Dapre wikipedia page.
It’s short and sweet, just like my picture ebooks. 🙂

Or why not drop me a line by clicking on Comments below. I’d love to know what you think of my ebooks.

Wiggle Jiggle  (UK link)   (US Link) (Canada Link)

Cuddle Muddle  (UK link)  (US link) (Canada link)

kindle, alan dare, picture ebook, wiggle jiggle

Wiggle Jiggle – kindle picture ebook by Alan Dapre

picture ebook, cuddle muddle, alan dapre, kindle

Cuddle Muddle – kindle picture ebook by Alan Dapre

 

 

12 dodgy ways to get a publishing deal.

12 – Being famous – worked for Whoopi Goldberg, Julie Andrews, Madonna, etc.

11 – Playing for Chelsea – worked for Frank Lampard.

10 – Posting your manuscript through J.K. Rowling’s front door.  She probably has a bin under the letter box flap. Or a paper-loving dog.  Or an island retreat somewhere else less rainy than Scotland.

9 –   Asking your best mate’s friend’s aunt’s mother’s cousin’s sister in law to ask her best mate’s friend’s aunt’s mother’s cousin’s sister in law if she would like to publish your book.  She won’t. You’re virtually related.

8 –  Slipping a copy of your manuscript into Richard And Judy’s shopping trolley. It’ll just get eaten.

7 –  Nominating yourself for a 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.’

6 – Be an ex-Royal and write tales about a helicopter.  Too late. Been done.

5 – Get a good seat at the Commonwealth Games/Olympics and wave your homemade cover at the camera when Chris Hoy goes past.

4 – Streak at the World Cup with  your first chapter tattooed on your bottom. Not a bad way to get noticed but it depends on how big your bum is.

3 – Write your book on a pinhead and get it into the Guinness Book of World Records. Already been done.

2 – Invent a really dreadful personal illness/childhood and write some dreadful Misery Lit that will get Grannies crying dreadfully. Actually that’s not a bad idea.

1 – Write a funny, sunny kids’ e-book and put it on Amazon – worth a try.

***

If you wish to have a peek at or download Cuddle Muddle, an engaging, funny, sunny children’s e-book, please  click one of the links below
Cuddle Muddle‘ – available on kindle now (UK link) (US Link)

 

Writing for Children – helpful ideas by Alan Dapre

I’ve had over 50 books traditionally published in a range of genres. A few are plays for teenagers and younger children. Some are linked to characters on TV (such as Brum) and are joke, puzzle, activity and story books. Others are picture books or adventure fiction for school age kids. If you look at my website you’ll see examples.

While writing in a range of formats, I’ve seen similarities in my work – and my approach to writing. Here are some ideas that have helped me.

1) Read the genre you are aiming at. Immerse yourself in the relevant books. I used to think that my writing would somehow magically be diluted and weakened by reading the work of 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 the format worked.

I never felt like slavishly copying a certain style – I simply read so much that stuff filtered into my own writing. No man is an island and no writer can honestly say they have not been affected by something they once read.

2) Grow up surrounded by books. This is riffing a bit on my first point. Obviously you can’t go back in time and surround yourself with books but it really does help if you have had a childhood love of reading. Fiction, non-fiction, who cares. Just getting words into you is a positive benefit. Obviously, if you have been starved of this as a child then grab loads of second hand books, trawl libraries and steal from friends (well, ask nicely actually).

Get yourself a real feel for narrative and story, for text and picture layout. It’s never too late. Books gave me a fantasy retreat from some rather dire stuff that was happening to me in Children’s Homes. Books created amazing worlds that I could inhabit for a while. They energised and enthused me and helped me become literate, confident and, er, me.

3) Get empathy with how kids think. Watch and you will learn. The secret here is to listen to the way children talk and think. Resist the urge to step in – any interaction from you will screw the dynamic and truth of what you are seeing.

By hearing children converse you will become aware of the rhythms and patterns that children adopt. It will make your own writing sound more natural. Children tend to say only what they need to say. They may repeat phrases and rework their sentences as they speak – 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 chunks then go back and edit. This can work but only if I know the plot, the characters and have got myself to a stage where I can write without fear. If I am too uncertain then it shows in my writing which gets edited to death. Best 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 ever think your work is rubbish then it will be. Be constructive and 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. The urge to get back to that piece of work will return.

5) Buy a load of sticky Post-It notes (other makes are, of course, available). When I have a story idea – be it a picture book or prose, I always start by drawing the main story arc. It gets me into the characters – and stops me from fussing too much with the plot.

I draw ACTIONS – nothing else. If a character is not doing something then they should not be in your story. Stories are about DOING. Post-Its 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 get scared or defeated. Life for a writer is tough. You are always going to have knock backs. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve sent something to a publisher for it to be rejected but then that publisher comes up with a very similar idea not long afterwards. Part of me says it’s coincidence – it’s probably just bad luck. For every rejection send your stuff out to three, no ten, more publishers.

7) Your work is probably as good as the next man/woman. Who is to know why someone gets lucky and is published. It could be that they have written the best kids’ book EVER. Or  they were the best of a bunch and had approached the agent/publisher at the right time. I think the key is to build relationships. Get known as a hardworking, imaginative writer and your reputation will stand you in good stead.

I read rubbish kids books all the time. I roll my eyes and despair how something so awful could make it into bookshops. That’s life. It doesn’t mean your work is bad. Hey, we can’t all be at the right place at the right time.

8) Publishers don’t always know best. I’ve had books rejected by one publisher only for them to be accepted by another. Keep trying.

9) When you get rejections – and you will – channel your writing energy into new projects. Following a rejection, I resolved to take some ownership of some of my ideas and created my Wee Panda Bear Books – Cuddle MuddleWiggle Jiggle & Eggy Leggy. Out of despair comes creativity.

eggy leggy, wee bear, alan, dapre, panda
Eggy Leggy – Wee Bear Series

9) Be nice to everyone. A) It’s a nice thing to do and B) You never know who is on the way up. Publishers and Editors and Agents move about, get promoted,  lunch together, etc. Some may talk about you – most will not. But if you stick in their minds as that rude individual who needs a slap then you probably won’t be getting much paid work in the future.

10) Write. No, really. Write as much as you can. Don’t show it to anyone – just write. If you want to get involved in a Writers’ Class then fine. But be aware that your words will be filtered through the minds of others and you’ll probably start rewriting to please other people. Not a good idea when an idea is so raw it’s bleeding out of your ears.

By all means listen to constructive criticism by someone you respect who has just won the Nobel Prize For Literature. Personally, I’d rather just write my own stuff and see what happens.

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

Good luck.

 

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‘Mummy, don’t do the voices’ – the perils of reading aloud

Peppa Pig’s school roof needs repairing. Again. And poor Daddy Pig ends up having to buy his chair back at a fundraising fete.

That was the gist of our daughter’s latest bedtime story. I’ve read “Peppa Pig’s Daddy Is Made To Look A Right Nugget Again” or whatever the book’s called  a million times, trying as best as I can to mimic the voices Isla hears on the DVD.

My Mrs Rabbit is close, Madame Gazelle is spot on and I do an uncanny Daddy Pig – basically lots of booming and chuckling. My Peppa Pig is woeful though – wrong pitch and tone. But, hey, there have been umpteen actresses playing the part since it began a decade or so ago. That’s my excuse.

Isla usually asks her Mum to put her to bed so Mum usually throws herself into reading aloud. She has a gentle Scottish accent that strikes the right rhythm and pace. Well, I think so. Isla too – so much so that whenever Mum starts to put on a voice and do an impersonation she is immediately silenced. Either by a hard Paddington Bear stare or the words, ‘Mummy, don’t do the voices!’

Tonight, Mum’s Madame Gazelle was mercilessly shot down in a scene reminiscent of Bambi.

She gamely protested – ‘But you let Daddy do the voices. Is that because he can do them?’

‘Yes,’ Isla shot straight back.

Undeterred, Mum bided her time until the next book. As she opened the first page of ‘Some Dogs Do’ Isla offered some advice.

‘Don’t do the voices!’

Some Mum’s Don’t. Mum obligingly played it straight and got an approving look. Within moments the tired wee girl was asleep and Kate was downstairs pondering the inequality of Life.

‘Is she asleep?’ I ask.
Kate nods then says – ‘I do a really good Madame Gazelle.’

She launches into an accent straight out of  The Sound Of Music – part Austrian, part manic Nun. I am impressed. I tell her so. ‘That’s not what Isla thinks. She thinks you do better voices than me.’

Inwardly I glow, though outwardly I feign a concerned look and mention that sometimes Isla doesn’t like me doing voices. Apart from when I do foppish Captain Hook from Jake & The NeverLand Pirates – ‘Smee, Smee! Where are those pesky pirates?‘ Oh, and my earnest Scooby-Doo always goes down well – ‘Sh-raggy.’ As does my dim Winnie The Pooh – ‘Um, where’s mi hunney?

I mentioned in an earlier blog that I tell Isla Stories. These are stories that have certain rules.

1. They must always began with the words Once Upon A Time There Was A Big Girl Called Isla.

2. Isla must always be the heroine and save the day.

3. The stories must feature her Gang, such as the cast of Scooby Doo interspersed with characters from Jake & The NeverLand Pirates and Fireman Sam. Plus key ‘real’ friends from her Nursery.

Yes, each story features plot twists and heart wrenching character arcs. Oh, and voices. Plenty of voices. I am allowed to go OTT with my voices in Isla Stories.

Normally I get asked to tell them at 6.10 am when Isla springs in, all bright and breezy. I am far from my best and I usually wind her up by saying, ‘Once Upon A Time There Was A Big Girl Called Isla who tricked a Witch. The End!’

Isla will protest and ask for a longer version.

I say, ‘Once Upon A Time There Was A Big Girl Called Isla who tricked a Witch and went back home. The End!’

By this point Isla is NOT PLEASED so she bashes me with pillows or pokes me in the ear or tickles my feet or opens the curtain or whines to Mum that Daddy is not saying it right.

I do not want to do voices. It is too early, but She Who Must Be Obeyed Because She Is Four And Nearly A Half persists and I sleepily agree to do them … if Isla will agree to get washed and dressed and brush her teeth and eat breakfast and put her shoes on.

Isla readily agrees.

I tell the story properly. Then we spend the next hour trying to get Isla to get washed and dressed and brush her teeth and eat breakfast and put her shoes on……..

Such is life. You couldn’t make it up.

And if you do…

Don’t Do The Voices!

**Updated 29 December 2013**