Category Archives: Visitors

Research for poetry writers

Lorraine reading from one of her poetry collections, Guinea Pig Town

Lorraine reading from one of her poetry collections, Guinea Pig Town.

Today I welcome Lorraine Marwood as a guest-poster. Lorraine is the author of novels, verse novels and poetry collections. She’s here today as part of a blog tour to celebrate the launch of the latest poetry collection — Celebrating Australia: A year in poetry, and while she’s here she agreed to share some wisdom about research and poetry writers. Over to you, Lorraine!

Celebrating Australia -- the cover (front and back!)

Research for poetry writers

I’m wondering if it is universally known that poets research to gather words, concepts, ideas, and information all for the reader’s gratification? (As well as the researcher gaining much knowledge!)

I believe that a poem is as vital a form of communication as non-fiction or fiction, and dives beneath the layers of fact to provide the emotional element that in history or recounting is often lost.

In this collection, even poems with subject matter I knew a lot about had a research component. For example the Christmas poem — ‘Christmas Competition,’ was based on the house and street decorations we have in my hometown, but I’d also collected newspaper cuttings about it. This made it convenient to write a Christmas poem ‘out of season’ and visually remember the amount of time and amount of manufactured ‘festive spirit’ that went into house owner’s decorations. Often one component of my research is newspaper clippings, unusual and also topical.

Research in this instance meant that I was looking for a different angle to present a poem on a tried and true subject.

Books and internet became the basis of research for such celebrations as Chinese New Year, Ramadan, World Oceans day, Walk safely to school day, Bastille day — to name a few. Facts, colours, customs became the entry point for the poem. I had to immerse myself in the celebration across many web pages before I had a strong enough hold upon the facts to go off on my own tangent. After all, I am trying to write in a new way about established yearly events.

My editors made suggestions of what to include if it seemed that the poem still didn’t have enough depth and I re-worked or incorporated these suggestions.

For me getting facts right was very important in these poems.  After all, many readers and hopefully many school classes will use these as springboards for exploration of their own celebration.

The vernacular of spoken words was researched for such iconic poems as ‘Talk like a pirate day’ and the Aussie slang poem for Australia Day. Again I used many sources to make a word bank of sayings and then for me finding the all important entry point. Then the poem would form its own structure and poetic devices.

Even subjects that I thought I knew a bit about like ‘St. Patrick’s Day’ were easier to write after research and pinpointing a common theme. Images and photos of celebration all added to the depth of research and equipped me with enough ideas to write.

Here are the opening lines of the St. Patrick’s Day poem

St. Patrick’s Day
By all things green
and shamrock-shaped
by all things leprechaun
and pot-of-gold-shaped

© Lorraine Marwood

Of course research was even more important when topics like birthdays, grief and Christmas had more than one poem to represent them.

I really enjoy this aspect of my writing time, it’s like poetic map-making or planning and kick-starts my poems in unusual and exciting ways.

And now that you’ve learned something about the research that goes into Lorraine’s poetry, I have a poem of my own to share. Lorraine has challenged the host at each of the blog tour stops to write their own poem based on the patterning of her season-themed poems in Celebrating Australia. (At the first stop of this blog tour, Jackie shares instructions for using Lorraine’s autumn poem as a template for your own poem.)

Here’s my poem!


Winter is a constant rhythm
a plink-tink thrum-drum patterning.
One day a pianissimo tinkling
of rain on roof top,
by week’s end a crescendo
of drubbing, clattering, hammering, battering.

Winter is stained glass, blurred,
a forgotten paintbrush in a waterglass.
One day the muted yellow glow
of street light halos,
by week’s end a bright fireside gleam
of lighted windows along our road.

© Rebecca Newman

For more poem-y goodness, be sure to check out the other stops on Lorraine’s blog tour.

Blog tour dates and links:

2 March Jackie Hosking:  Topic: What makes a good poem ( according to LM) + giveaway.

3 March Kathryn Apel:  Topic: Bringing a poetry collection together.

4 March Rebecca Newman: Topic: Research for poetry writers. [You’re here!]

5 March Claire Saxby:  Topic: Inside this collection.

6 March Janeen Brian:  Topic: How you create for the creators: how you create ideas to excite children and adults to write poems of their own.

9 March Alphabet Soup:  Topic: Writing a class poem — the results! + giveaway.

Writing a picture book – Tania McCartney

Today Tania McCartney is celebrating the launch of her newest picture book — Tottie and Dot — with a Blog Blast. She’s visiting a whole truckload of blogs all day today. Heaps of them. (A special welcome if you’ve blog-hopped from somewhere else to read this post!) 

Firstly, a bit about the book. Here’s what the publisher says:

Tottie and Dot live side by side. They drink marshmallow tea in the morning. Side-by-side. They water blooms in the afternoon garden. Side-by-side. They make speckled eggs for tea. Side-by-side. All is calm and peaceful until, one day, things change between Tottie and Dot.

Tottie and Dot cover

How long did it take you to write Tottie and Dot — from solid idea to having the final draft ready to submit to a publisher for consideration?

Timings are so hard to delineate! I write very fast, so the actual original writing time spent on this picture book would have been less than a day. I wrote the first draft back in 2010, and pottered with it on and off (I usually have many picture book manuscripts going at once). That same year, I submitted the text to a couple of publishers with no result, then again in 2011. In 2012, I submitted a revised version to the CYA awards and although it didn’t place, it scored highly and I received some very encouraging words from the judges, so I felt inspired to rework it one more time. It was accepted by EK Books in April 2013, almost immediately upon submission.

So, EK Books accepted it in April 2013. How long did it take the book to be published? (From acceptance to publication.)

From April 2013, I began liaising with my illustrator (and friend) Tina Snerling on the design and layout and imagery for the book. Tina had already worked with me on An Aussie Year so we had a really great working relationship, and were very familiar with how each other worked. Tina began drafting what Tottie and Dot would look like, and in July 2013, she sent through a first glimpse of Tottie and Dot.

tottie and dot july 2013


It was instant love. I adored them on sight. I loved the fuchsia pink but I did ask Tina to make the blue a little more aqua, and the result was wonderful.

From there, we set up a google spreadsheet (August 2013) and began working on the page layout and matching imagery with text. This continued through to around late January 2014, so I guess it was roughly six months all-up from acceptance to finished files. Next came the printing period, and as the distributor is Scholastic, we needed a long lead time before publication — hence the gap between our January end-of-production date and the book’s September release. This kind of timeframe is pretty standard — oftentimes even longer.

How do you like to write the very first draft for a picture book like Tottie and Dot? Are you a pencil-and-paper fan, computer … ?

I find it really, really hard to write longhand now. I’ve been pretty much typing since I was 11 and type up to 100wpm (but I don’t touch type!), so using a keyboard is really the only way for me. It’s especially helpful because I write quickly, my brain works quickly, and I need the speed to get the words down in time. Sometimes I pen part of some texts in a notebook, but it’s very rare. I like to work at home, in complete silence, but if I’m researching or drawing or revising, I do love to write in cafes (always on a laptop).

OK! Tottie and Dot is out in the wilds — what are you working on now? 

Tina and I are midway through our next EK book—it’s called Peas in a Pod and is a picture book for slightly younger readers. It’s fun and kooky, and Tina’s draft illustrations are absolutely gorgeous. A glimpse:

Peas in a pod preview

It’s going to be very colourful and retro in style. I’m also working with a new illustrator — Jess Racklyeft — who I met on my 52-Week Illustration Challenge. She creates soft, whimsical illustrations that are perfect for my tender picture book Smile Cry — a topsy-turvy picture book for 2 — 7 year olds, where half the story starts at one end of the book, and the other half from the other end! Both books will be out 2015/2016. I’m chipping away at several more picture books and I’m also writing some junior fiction — Ava Bloom, and older junior fiction — Ella McZoo. I’m absolutely loving this genre.

Do you have a piece of advice for writers trying to get that first (finished-and-submission-ready) picture book manuscript submitted and accepted?

I have more than one piece! Let your work ‘breathe’, allowing it to sit for at least a month before redraftings. These revisits will help hone and make it much better, but don’t fall into the trap of overworking. Remember, a publisher will always value a great story idea well over perfect, grammatically immaculate text. Write what you know and love, and whatever you do, write something different. Don’t do what’s been done before. Be sure your narrative is clear and tight, and has a firm story arc, with a solid beginning, middle and most especially — a great ending. Your work should be a story not an account. It needs plot points, twists, conflict and resolution. Add humour, charm and strong, active characters that kids can relate to. When submitting, carefully research your publisher and align it with your work. And lastly, don’t give up. I know it’s a cliché, but just don’t give up. Publishing is a game of perennial patience.

Tania and Tina (Tottie and Dot’s illustrator) are stopping by lots and lots of blogs today. Click on the flyer below to be taken to the Grand List of All Blog Stops:

tottie and dot blog blast flyer