The Curse of Jasper Rust

For the last two years I have been involved with the gifted and talented writers at my local primary school, mentoring them through the plotting, writing and editing of a chapter book. Last year I shadowed another fabulous local author, Tony Davis, who had been responsible for pulling the programme together with the school four years ago.

This is last years book: The Disappearance of Jasper Rust


This year I took the reigns. It has been an amazing experience, from the first full day workshop, through to the final edits. I have been so lucky to have had a team of exceptionally gifted writers, who soaked up everything I taught during the workshop session and delivered it so beautifully throughout the term as we plotted and wrote the 6 chapter, 8,000 word book.

The character Jasper Rust was a legacy from the previous three years, and the title ‘The Curse of Jasper Rust’ was our starting point. We took our time to map out a thorough plot and workshop our main characters and then each of the six students were assigned a chapter. This year we wrote the book chronologically, so our Chapter One writer had a week to write her chapter, then our Chapter Two writer had his week, and so followed through to Chapter Six.

As the chapters took shape I provided feedback and the writers edited their chapters against this and against the changes that came about because of what was written in the previous or subsequent chapters. The children’s ability to take on board the feedback and make the necessary changes to their chapters was inspiring.

We also developed ‘hit squads’ I had a ‘Hamish and Andy’ duo, who had shown a natural ability to write humour into their chapters, so they worked through the other chapters adding hints of their comedy brilliance. I also had character and setting teams who were able to embellish the story with detail, all the while helping to move the plot forward.

Writing in this form is all about re-writing and it is so far removed from a piece of homework that you write once and hand in. They had to go back over their 1,000+ word chapters between 8 and 10 times to get it to mesh seamlessly with the rest of the book. They also had to willingly let others tweak their work. Throughout this whole process the group was amazing, dedicated and flexible. I am so proud of each and every one of them and can’t wait for the launch of book four, pencilled for the 22nd November.


Monsters Under the Bed

I had the pleasure of attending the Talking Writing event at the NSW Writers’ Centre last night, where Kate Forsyth, Nyssa Harkness and Matt Finch discussed monsters and villains in kid’s and YA fiction.

One of the most interesting parts of the discussion, for me anyway, was what makes monsters and villains suitable for children’s literature. Kate having written many a children’s story with villains in, suggested that a well written monster or villain in a children’s book sends a delicious shiver of fear through the child, whilst allowing them to still feel safe in their reading space. A child should be almost giggling with fear, not sweating with terror. And the difference between a child’s monster and an adults monster is defined by the depth of depravity. Get it wrong and that will be the last book you sell to that family, no parent wants to be woken in the night by a terrified child! True!

Another very interesting point was made around the level of sympathy you can manipulate readers to feel for the villains in stories. Kate talked about two types of villains, static villains, who remain bad all the way through the story, and villains that learn a lesson and change through the story. Readers can be encouraged to find understanding and even empathy for the latter, but will rarely have any sympathy for the former. Children have a strong inbuilt sense of justice, and like to see the bad guy punished and the good guy triumph. The story that stands the test of time is the story with a strong sense of justice and where true love triumphs.

There were many more interesting points made and all three presenters provided a fantastic insight into their area of expertise. Whilst I don’t write fantasy or dystopian fiction I came away from the evening feeling like I have learnt things I can incorporate into my writing.

A big thank you to Matt, Kate and Nyssa, and of course the NSW Writers’ Centre for hosting the evening.