#Secretshiddenbelow

The Fun of Book Launches and School Visits.

One of the best things about being a children’s author, is being able to take kids along on an adventure with you through story time fun. Over the past month I have launched the second book in my Adamson Adventures, A Lighthouse in Time. This has given me the opportunity to do just that.

During the official book launch at Paperchain bookstore in Manuka and throughout the many school visits I did, kids were enthralled with my story telling as I took them on a journey from my inspiration behind writing the book to decisions I made by asking those constant what if questions. Every time I began my cutting out story, you could hear a proverbial pin drop in the room as every pair of eyes gazed in wonder and amazement at what I was saying and doing. Their faces lit up with awe when the final shape was revealed. I had them not only intrigued with the story but hooked on reading.

Kids ask the best questions and I always answer them as best I can. Here are a few samples along with my answers.

  1. Who is your favourite character? My characters are like my children, I love them all equally and individually for their own unique personalities.

  2. How do you make your books so realistic and interesting? I like to set my stories in real places. That means I can do lots of research about the area, explore and take plenty of photos and add little bits of information into the story to make it more real. Kind of like adding non-fiction to a fiction story but then expanding on it and having a bit of fun with it. Naturally the caves at Caves beach don’t go back as near as far as I take them in the book, but it adds to the mystery and intrigue by creating a sense of drama and wonder. By the time we finish talking about the Jervis Bay area, Cape St George Lighthouse, Caves Beach, and Wreck Bay, they all want to go down the coast for a visit.

  3. When did you start writing the book? When I explain to the kids just how long a book can take from the initial idea, to writing the first draft, then re-writing and editing many, many times before I am happy with a final draft, they are amazed. I have been showing them the original handwritten manuscript where they can see all the scribbles and changes. This brings more astonishment as they realise even authors make a mess when they are starting out planning their story. Kids learn from this that it is ok to make a mess. Ideas and creativity flows better when you are not concentrating on grammar, spelling and neatness. That can all come later.

Sometimes great questions come from parents, teachers and other authors too. During my story time session at the Canberra Writers Festival and my South Coast book launch with the Shellharbour Writer’s & Illustrators group I had to stop and think quickly when asked these two.

  1. Are you concerned with the lack of girls as main characters in children’s books? And do you feel you have a responsibility towards including them? My initial manuscript for Secrets Hidden Below contained three brothers as the characters. It wasn’t until my publisher pointed this out that I had to rethink it. As my characters were based on my own three sons, it seemed natural and fine to me. However, my publisher pointed out, and rightly so, that the books would appeal to a wider audience if one of my characters was a girl. I had to agree. That being said, I feel there are plenty of books coming out these days with great strong female lead characters, let’s not forget our boys still need to want to read too. It’s a fine balance to get right.

  2. What is your favourite scene in your newest book, A Lighthouse in Time? I had to think long and hard about this one. Then I remembered the feeling I had when I re-read the manuscript after leaving it to rest for a few months. When I reached a certain part in the story I had tingles. I sat and thought, ‘wow, did I really write that?’ I’m not going to give the scene away, you’ll have to read the book and decide for yourself which scene you think I might be talking about.

I loved being swamped by kids asking for my autograph. I felt special and was honoured by how excited they all were to meet me. I was even stopped on the stairs outside the National Library of Australia as I left after my session at the Canberra Writer’s Festival. A young fan who had just bought A Lighthouse in Time raced over to greet me, show me she had the book and eagerly pulled a pen from her bag for me to sign her copy. It made my day.

Do you attend book launches and events? What are some of your most memorable experiences? Let’s chat in the comment section below.

A Lighthouse in Time is now available here on my website along with Secrets Hidden Below. https://sandrabennettauthor.com/books#the-adamson-adventures

Or through Elephant Tree Publishing.

https://elephanttreepublishing.com.au/current-titles/

Both books are also available through your local bookstore. If they don’t have either of them, simply ask them to order through Peribo Distributors.

Where Do You Find Ideas for Stories?

Stories , like people, come in all shapes, sizes and genres. Each one is different and unique in its own way. With the exciting cover reveal of A Lighthouse in Time, Book 2 of the Adamson Adventures, my new chapter book for middle grade readers this week, I thought we might take a look at finding story ideas.

In case you missed it, drum roll please…. here is the cover for - A Lighthouse in Time. The Adamson Adventures. Book 2.

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When I do school visits, one of the questions that kids always ask is, ‘Where do you find your ideas?’

My answer, basically, ‘Stories are all around us. You just have to look and listen.’

Story ideas can come from - talking to other people. Kids, have amazing imaginations, a conversation can spark a fabulous idea. I have often been heard to say, ‘There’s a story in that.’

- everyday life experiences. The things we see and do can inspire a great adventure. Just sit, listen and observe people. It’s amazing the ideas that will spring to mind.

- memories are powerful tools. We can reflect back on the past, growing up as kids ourselves or from observing our own kids grow. Our memories make our writing voice more authentic and original.

- special events. Christmas, birthdays, even a wedding can create possibilities and help present stories of cultural diversity.

- other books. When you read a lot you travel into new and different worlds. A line from a story can set you off on a completely different tangent, leading to exploring and making discoveries of your own.

- prompts. I belong to a Facebook group that has a one word prompt every week. It is the 52 Week Picture Book Challenge. We are one month into the next year and I already have the ideas for four intriguing stories. By the end of a year, I should have the beginnings of 52 new possible stories. How exciting is that! They won’t all be necessarily picture books, some might be chapter books, the possibilities are endless.

So, where do my specific story ideas come from?

Let’s start with my new upcoming children’s chapter book for ages 8-12 years, A Lighthouse in Time.

For me, the ideas tend to come from memories and experiences. A Lighthouse in Time is no different. For as long as I can remember I have been intrigued by lighthouses. On many a driving holiday around our magnificent Australian coastline, if I spot a lighthouse, I must visit it. To explore inside and climb the winding stairs all the way to the top, is even better! I’ve collected lots of photos and statues of lighthouses from every one we have visited. Imagine my curiosity when we discovered the remains of the Cape St George lighthouse only 2 1/2 hours drive from home.

Our boys were in their early teens then and every January we had a camping holiday at Merry Beach on the NSW South Coast. Mr B being a surfer from way back, was always in search of that perfect wave. So we would explore all the beaches within a days drive of our campsite. To my delight we found and spent time at Caves Beach and the lighthouse. The more visits we made to the area, the more my curiosity grew. Caves on a beach, an area called Wreck Bay and a mysterious old lighthouse. What more could a children’s author ask for? I had to learn more about why this lighthouse had been demolished. I could see the seeds of an idea growing. The lighthouse had to be haunted. Slowly, with careful nurturing the idea grew into something a little more substantial.

Cape St George Lighthouse as it remains today.

Cape St George Lighthouse as it remains today.

An artist’s impression of the lighthouse in the 1800’s.

An artist’s impression of the lighthouse in the 1800’s.

When Elephant tree Publishing offered me a contract for Secrets Hidden Below and asked whether I could use the siblings to make a series, I immediately thought of this partially written story. I hope when you read it, you will enjoy the adventure as much as I did writing it.

Most of you know by now the story behind the idea for Secrets Hidden Below. Again it evolved from memories and experiences. It was a holiday to Bali with the family many years ago where it all began. I loved the culture and was fascinated by the geography and wanted to write a story for children about this beautiful island that they could enjoy while on holidays. Mr B had already spent several years working in and out of Indonesia, so the family was familiar with Bahasa. After our incredible holiday in Bali, it seemed a natural progression for me to extend my teaching by learning Indonesian and become a LOTE teacher. After further study on Bali and writing, I became confident I was equipped with the language, experiences and knowledge to be able to write Secrets Hidden Below. I recently found an old photo album of that initial Balinese holiday and would like to share a few memories here with you. Just a note, these were taken back in the mid 1990’s, so the quality is not as good as today.

Tanah Lot Temple

Tanah Lot Temple

Offerings to the Gods at the Temple. Balinese people are very superstitious.

Offerings to the Gods at the Temple. Balinese people are very superstitious.

Ubud

Ubud

Inside a Woodcarving shop at Ubud.

Inside a Woodcarving shop at Ubud.

Mt Batur Volcano

Mt Batur Volcano

Mt Batur Crater Lake

Mt Batur Crater Lake

Curious about the third book in the series? The seedlings from another life experience are growing. Where are the Adamson family heading next? Hint : There is no surf in sight, Dad will not be happy, but Zac will be living his wildest dreams. That is, until they become Luke’s greatest desires instead. The title for Book 3 of the Adamson Adventures is Fossil Frenzy. Can you guess where it might be set?

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Now it’s your turn.

How do you come up with story ideas

Are they similar to my suggestions or do you have alternative methods? Let me know in the comments section below.