Shelley Chappell is a writer of fantasy fiction and fairy tale retellings for children and young adults. She is the author of Beyond the Briar: A Collection of Romantic Fairy Tales (nominated for a Sir Julius Vogel Award), and various short stories. Today we are talking to her about her recent project, Wish Upon a Southern Star, an anthology of retold fairy tales by New Zealand and Australian authors, which is scheduled for release on September 2nd, 2017.
Hi Shelley, thank you for joining us today. What was the inspiration behind Wish Upon a Southern Star?
I was invited to meet with the Christchurch Children’s Literature Hub to speak about fairy tales. I had already published my own collection of retold fairy tales, Beyond the Briar, and it was great fun to share my passion for fairy tales with the group. One of the activities involved leading the group through the process of rethinking and rewriting their own chosen fairy tale and that gave me the idea of editing a collection of writing by other authors in New Zealand and Australia.
Can you tell us about some of the stories?
Every author has their own unique way of reinterpreting the original tales and it’s fun to read how they reshape the original characters and plots. I met some very memorable characters walking through these pages and enjoyed their adventures. With twenty-one stories, it’s hard to pick one or two to highlight but I can say that there are stories set in this world and stories set in other places, comical stories and stories that pluck at the heart-strings. With such a range of different stories hopefully there will be something to appeal to everyone!
Would you be able to share with us a little about the anthology creation process?
The anthology began with a call for submissions nearly a year ago, which I sent out to all the writing groups I could reach in New Zealand and Australia. Once the submissions came in, I got to enjoy the process of reading them all. I read lots of great stories, including some I had to decline because they just weren’t ultimately a good fit for the collection. The editing process came next, and I really enjoyed working with the contributing authors to get their stories ready for the collection. With twenty-one contributing authors this took some time to complete, but once a final draft was ready it was time for proofreading and formatting the manuscript for Createspace and Kindle (the publishing platforms for Wish Upon a Southern Star). After that came the marketing and advertising in preparation for the anthology’s release.
The official book launch is Saturday, September 2nd. Where is it, and what can we expect?
The book launch will take place between 2 – 4 pm on Saturday 2nd September in the Sydenham Room at the South Library at 66 Colombo Street. Seventeen of the contributing authors will be in attendance, some coming from the North Island and Australia, so it should be a really fun occasion. The launch will start at 2pm with some speeches and author introductions, followed by a mix and mingle with light refreshments, allowing guests an opportunity to purchase and sign books and meet the authors.
Thank you Shelley, looking forward to meeting you and the other authors there.
On Wednesday, April 20, 2016, the Christchurch Writers’ Guild had our first Awards Dinner. It was a night of good fun, great company, and fantastic food.
Not everyone who got an award was able to attend, but the awards were well deserved by all. So here was the list.
Cut Quill 2016
This award was presented to those who submitted a snippet of tantalising story for the members to read in the month leading up to the awards dinner.
- Shelley Chappell
- Jenner Lichtwark (aka J. L. O’Rourke)
This award was presented to those who submitted a death scene of moving proportions for the members to read in the month leading up to the awards dinner.
- Shelley Chappell
- Jesse Colvin
- Jenner Lichtwark (aka J. L. O’Rourke)
- Judy L Mohr
- Angela Oliver
This award was presented to those who helped to spark a flame within the Guild, encouraging us to move into the future.
- Jonelle Case
- for promoting the ideals of the Guild.
- Judy L Mohr
- for all her hard work in getting the Guild to become an incorporated society and getting the workshop series off the ground
- Angela Oliver
- for giving the Guild site and online presence a spruce up
This award was presented to all those who are supportive of other Guild members, upholding the main reason for the existence of the Guild.
- Jesse Colvin
- Encouraging others to write
- Janine Lattimore
- For stepping up to become secretary when no one else would
- Jenner Lichtwark
- Encouraging others to actually finish and take the leap toward publication
- Rochelle Mayes
- Encouraging others to write
- Angela Oliver
- Helping others to format their manuscripts and publish
- Francis Tanner
- For helping others to see their own talent
- Rata Turner
- Encouraging others to finish writing their current manuscripts
- Chris Yee
- Encouraging others to write, and all his hard work with NightOwls
There was an additional award presented, that a secret squirrel had coordinated with one of our overseas members. It was presented to Judy L Mohr for all the support she gave our overseas member in the USA during the editing phase of her manuscript.
In 2017, there will no doubt be a few more categories added to the list. And there will definitely be more Quills well deserved. Thank you to all those who make 2016 a year to remember.
On Wednesday, March 16th, 2016, CWG hosted our World Building workshop at Imagination Station. Boy, oh boy… So much fun and full of laughs.
From word go, the workshop was not what people expected. So many came in and sat at the tables scattered around the place, not realising that when we said that we would be playing with LEGO, we meant it. It was a hands on experience, literally building our worlds.
“Into the pit every get, and start building that setting that is playing around in your heads.” So into the pit everyone went and the creations began. Some were contemporary and modern, while others were futuristic and dsytopian. Others were classic fantasy, and a few took us back to the beginnings of time itself. There was the abstract and the real. Every flavour of design was represented, but it wasn’t about the setting alone.
World building, as many writers know, is about every aspect of the world that your characters live in: politics, religion, societal norms, customs and belief, not just the physical setting. Every aspect needed to be examined. So as the ideas started to flow, the thoughts were applied to paper.
The religious figure heads that tell us lies to maintain our obedience were ousted for who they were. The societies that rely on those who live on the lower levels were revealed. The office space that was so full of furniture that the characters were tripping over themselves came into light. And the trees that seeded the mist were discovered.
Like all things within a writer’s repertoire, LEGO helped this small group of writers to free their minds to the possibilities of their complex worlds. I know a few of them will visit Imagination station again, just to keep the ideas flowing. Just don’t eat the LEGO!
If you liked this post, you can find others like it here.
After an enjoyable lunch and a quick stretch of the legs, it was back into the boardroom for our afternoon lectures on Developmental Editing: the Editing Skills Every Writer Needs.
Jenner Lichtwark, from Millwheel Press, was one of our sponsors, and also our third lecturer. She has worked as a journalist, and is a freelance editor, publisher and author. Her presentation was on Voice, Backstory and Staying on Track.
She spoke of the importance of choosing the right time in the narrative to begin—reinforcing the mantra of “start late, leave early”—and selecting the right narrator, and voice, to write in. If one character is the focus of your story, and appears in every scene, then first person is the best option for you: it allows the writing style to be more colloquial, and more personal, creating a greater intimacy. She also recommended that the writer stay open to changing characters if the plot demands it.
After Voice we delved into Plot and the importance of keeping the story on track. The plot must be structured so that the ending is the end of the story you started to tell, and that you haven’t meandered off on a wild tangent. Even for pantser writers like myself, it is best to have the skeleton of the story in mind although, like a skeleton, it will require bones to make it work. How to cope when you do feel your work has wandered away off into the wild woods (a common cause of Writer’s Block)? Go back to where you strayed from the path, and choose the trail that gets you closer to the end you had intended!
Backstory is a case of the “Iceberg Theory”: the writer needs to know everything, or almost everything, but the reader only needs to know what is relevant to the plot. Dripfeed it in early to foreshadow future events. Hint at it in conversations and action. Beware of info-dumping paragraphs of exposition, you’ll lose the reader’s interest.
And, most importantly, you don’t need to resolve every bit of backstory. It’s always fun to leave a few threads hanging and the reader hungry for more —thus opening the path to a sequel, leaving it up to the reader’s imagination or, heck, who knows, you may even inspire fanfiction!
Our final speaker was Dr. Shelley Chappell. She has a PhD in literature and works as an advisor at the University of Canterbury. She spoke to us on Literary Criticism.
Literary Criticism, for those of us who have not studied it at university, is the analysis, interpretation, classification and evaluation of literature. And it proved to be quite an insightful lecture. First, she suggested that we look beyond the plot and into genre, setting, structure, characterisation, audience, theme and more. She then talked us through the process of close-reading, looking for insights into the story such as recurring motifs, metaphoric representations/imagery and into structure such as sentence length, use of words, repetition (intentional, or not?). We were then encouraged to practice close-reading on a sample she handed to us (or on our own work), which turned out to be more of a challenge than I would have expected.
Finally, we looked deeper into the subconscious messages we might be conveying in our stories, such as playing to clichés and tropes, as well as unintentially incorporating prejudices, or things that could be perceived as prejudices. This was a little disconcerting for me, as it illuminated some issues in my own novels, which I may have to be careful with.
After that, many of the attendees departed, with much to think on, educated and, hopefully, inspired. Those receiving critiques remained, to await their ten minute slot with the chosen editor. Overall, I felt enlightened, not just by new knowledge gained, but also by the feeling of connection and kinship with my fellow writers.
Our next workshop, Marketing for Writers, will be held on Sunday, May 22nd, 2016.
On January the 30th, we held the first in our series of 2016 workshops, Developmental Editing: the Editing Skills Every Writer Needs. This full day program offered four guest speakers, plus offered one-on-one critiques of manuscripts. We were supported by a strong attendance – the venue was full! – with writers coming from the Guild, the Hagley Writers School and the wider Christchurch community.
We started the program at 10am, with an introduction by Janine Lattimore, the Guild secretary. Then our first guest speaker, Barbara Arnold took the stage to discuss “Dialogue and the Traps”.
Barbara is an author and has previously tutored at the University of Canterbury. She is also published in various collections and has penned a series of historic novels available through Amazon and your local library.
She first talked us through the basics of dialogue and its role in narrative: how it can reveal information in an accessible manner (including backstory), show a character’s personality and relationships, and advance the plot, amongst other functions. Any dialogue that does not fulfil any of the above is nothing more than filler, and should be reconsidered or removed from the narrative.
Dialogue should also be realistic, but not real, and every character needs a “voice” of their own. And, I’m sure many of you will be pleased to note: bad grammar is perfectly acceptable in dialogue, as are cliches (although please do not overdo the latter).
We also discussed dialogue tags – the overuse of “said”, when to replace it with other adjectives, and when not to, as well as alternatives to using tags at all. For a bit of fun, we got to list adjective alternatives, which could change the shape of the story somewhat dramatically. Best bit of advice: alternatives are powerful tools, to be used sparingly and to the best impact. And an adjective is better than an adverb. (ie: ‘”stop!” he shouted’ VS ‘”stop!” he said loudly.’)
Second presenter was freelance editor, Judy Mohr, speaking on “What is Editing? Why and Who?”
Beginning first with the “who needs an editor?” (answer: anyone who intends to share their book with the world), she educated us on the various types of editors available and various stages of editing: from developmental editor to the final copy-editor and proofreader. Also, sharing with us a few tips and tricks to make the way easier – and cheaper – for self-publishers.
Her lecture was particularly useful because it highlighted how many different stages there are to the editing process; finishing the first draft is a huge achievement, but it is really only the first step upon your publishing journey. Finding beta readers, compatible critiquing partners and a good editor are all necessary in transforming your story from a manuscript into a strong and polished novel. And yes, I’m afraid that does involve a lot of work – and several exhausting rewrites!
You can read a little of her lecture here.
We then parted for a short lunch, before continuing on with the afternoon lectures.
Deb Donnell, of Keswin Publishing and Writing Diamonds was one of our sponsors for this event. She set up a lovely display with Keswin Publishing’s Christchurch-themed books: Responders, and Christchurch, NZ 2015, as well as her introductory books to the Writing Diamond Publishing System.
She also provided her services as one of our Editors in the Critiquing Program.
The workshop was sponsored by:
The Workshop Report will continue next week.
The Christchurch Writers’ Guild are here to help, with the first in their 2016 series of workshops:
Saturday January 30, 2016, 10am – 4pm
South Library, 66 Colombo St, Cashmere
(Parking is across street by river outlet)
Half day: $20
Full day: $30 (CWG members), $40 (non-members)
As part of the workshop, one-on-one critiquing sessions with editors will be offered for manuscripts and query letters. Participation in the critiquing programme will incur an additional charge. More information can be found here. A list of the editors participating can be found here. Critiquing programme is now closed.
The full programme for the workshop can be found here. Registration is now closed.
Not a member of the Christchurch Writer’s Guild? Not a problem. There’s no time like the present. Join here.
This workshop is proudly sponsored by:
It comes with a rumbling, a deep and guttural roar. My feet awake first, propelling me out of bed and across the floor almost before my brain has registered: “Earthquake!” Into the doorway, ground rolling beneath my feet. Fingers clutch the frame, crouching, eyes scrunched closed. As if that makes it any easier. As if the night is not dark enough. The house groans and moans, bucking like a beast untamed. No room for thoughts in my head – just a desperate plea.
Around me, crashes and bangs. Thumps from below. It feels like an eternity.
It is 45 seconds.
Then, silence. Deep, profound; broken only by the distant sounds of car alarms. I grab my husband, crouched in the adjacent doorway, and hold him tight. Insanely, a sense of relief pervades me. This was the Big One, they’ve been threatening it for years, the Alpine Fault, due to fracture at any time. And we have survived.
Except that it wasn’t.
No power, no Facebook. The phone lines are all jammed, but I fumble off a text message to my mother, on a phone that’s nearly dead. I cannot stop shivering. Can’t find the flashlight, but husband grabs the fully charged laptop and we use it to light our way downstairs. A mess. The thumps had been our tall book cases, and the floor is littered with books, lying like broken birds. Upstairs, my television, a 17-inch brick, had crashed to the floor within arms reach of my refuge. And I hadn’t even registered it.
The front door is stuck, so we wrench it open. I walk to the road. All seems oddly still and calm. No broken building. With no power, I seek shelter in my car, fumbling to find a radio station and a news report.
Magnitude 7.1. No reported casualties.
Sirens break the silence with their screams.
We crawl over the bookcases and into the kitchen, fumbling to plug in the old-style phone. Dial tone, but it won’t ring. The lines must be jammed.
Adrenalin dying, exhaustion takes hold. Aftershocks rattle on continuously, as we huddle on bean bags in the upstairs doorway, shaking with cold and nerves. Finally, I allow my husband to coax me out of the (perceived) safety of the doorway, and back into bed. I bring the bean bag with me. As if that will help.
We hear from our family. They’re alive and okay. Just scared. We’re all scared.
Dawn comes, and with it a still surreality. Power is restored, but as aftershocks continue to rattle the house, my nerves cannot take being confined within walls. The frost has melted away, into a sunny spring day, and I join the multitudes as they roam the streets, cameras in hand, looks of stunned disbelief on their faces. Scarce a chimney left standing. Brick walls are toppled. Local shops reduced to rubble.
But no-one has died.
The face of our city has changed, but this is only the beginning. For Mother Nature is not done with us yet…