Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Verse Novel Form: Guest Blogger Lorraine Marwood Tells How and Why

I am delighted to welcome children's author and poet Lorraine Marwood to my blog today. Lorraine's second verse novel for children, Star Jumps has just been released (you can see my review of it here), so I asked Lorraine to drop in and talk about why she chooses to use the verse novel form This is what she had to say:

Why use this genre as a way of story telling?

Years ago when I finally gave into my life long desire to write, I could only snatch a few morning moments before the cowshed work, before getting the six kids ready for school, or after the evening meal; to write down lines. I trained myself to write quickly- poems- maybe three a day about details that happened, words spoken, emotion expressed through the rural landscape. Poems were attainable, satisfying and I began sending them out into the literary world of journals.

Many were published. But I still wanted to write for children. I began to write poems specifically for children and many of these poems found their way into the journals of School Magazine New South Wales.

After gathering a collection of poems together, Five Islands Press published one volume ( Redback Mansion) and then later a second ( that downhill yelling).

Now, I wanted to evolve a longer piece of writing. I wrote a short prose verse poem about a picnic in a paddock. I loved the intensity of feeling and atmosphere and setting that prose poetry could give. I wanted to write a novel. But how to take the plunge?

Of course I'd read Sharon Creech's novels and Karen Hesse's novels and always enjoyed Steven Herrick's work. How could I find my own voice in the verse novel?

I researched my topic: I researched human accounts of gold finding and the turmoil and untold stories that were humped across the gold fields. Then I found a voice, an entry, an immediate creation of suspense and atmosphere that I wanted. The striking of atmosphere in the first few words of Ratwhiskers and Me' was the steering of the story trail.

'Boy, they call me boy.'

Yes! I was on my way to the exploration of theme and plot and voice. I could use what is kinda instinctive in my writing: my poetics.

The verse novel became an atmospheric device in itself. It is very conducive to the playing out of sensory detail, and the propelling of the bare bones of the story. And while it is shorter in words than an ordinary novel, it strips back the verbiage and puts the reader right there emotionally.

Recently two students from Latrobe Uni were researching the editing process and came to ask me a few questions. They highlighted the way I make a narrative of the verse novel rather than individual poems, and for me that was a point to ponder. I make this distinction because I do naturally write so much poetry. I wanted to experiment with form. And my version of the verse novel is one long poem.

Because my writing is always evolving, the subject matter of the verse novel itself dictates the way a book is written.

Star Jumps, my recently released novel allowed a more poetic vista of details like the ghostling breath of the cows on a cold frosty night. I wanted to convey to non- farming children, as much as possible; a real life snapshot of a farm at its most busy period- the calving season. I wanted to show the drought in action and the decisions that are constantly being made in many rural communities.

My words made flesh and blood of Ruby as she took us through her farm life and showed us hope played out. Only the genre of the verse novel allowed me to recreate the emotion of farming without the didactic and sentimental picture so often stereotyped as farming.

Thanks so much for sharing, Lorraine. You can visit Lorraine Marwood online at http://www.lorrainemarwood.com/.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Sometimes another writer says something so well there is no need to say it again. Today, Australian author and blogger Sandy Fussell posted an excellent post about the verse novel form at her blog, Stories are Light. Read it.

Friday, May 1, 2009

New Verse Novel

As you know, this blog is all about verse novels, but today I am inviting you not just to celebrate the release of a new verse novel - but to celebrate the release of MY new verse novel.

As you may or may not be aware, today is a special day for me as it marks the release of my much cherished, much awaited children’s verse novel, Pearl Verses the World.

To celebrate, I am having a month long virtual party, starting today on my blog - www.sallymurphy.blogspot.com.

From there I am heading off on a blog tour, visiting ten blogs in ten days. I am also having several chidlren’s poet visit my blog as guets bloggers and also hosting a special poetry writing challenge on my blog and my friend Kathyrn Apel’s blog, too.

I’d love it if you would consider dropping by my blog today and read all about Pearl and about my celebrations. While you’re there, feel free to leave me a comment so I know you came by.

Have a wonderful May. I know I will!

Monday, April 20, 2009

First Review

The first review for my verse novel, Pearl Verses the World is online, here. Among other things the reviewer describes the story as "a wonderfully told story with heart".

I'm ecstatic.

Pearl will be released on May 1 - watch this space for a more information. In the meantime, Pearl can be ordered online at Fishpond

Link: On Writing Verse Novels

If you are interested in writing in the verse novel form, you might enjoy this blog post by verse novelist Lisa Schroeder - On Writing Verse Novels. It's a wonderful insight into why Lisa (and others, like me) like the verse novel form.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Australian Verse Novels for Children and YA: A List

I'm endeavouring to compile a list of Australian verse novels for children and young adults. (I must add that I'm not ignoring verse novels for older readers or by writers from other countries - those lists will follow later). Unfortunately, my list isn't as long as I had hoped, but here goes:

A Dangerous Girl, by Catherine Bateson
His Name In Fire, by Catherine Bateson
The Year It All Happened, by Catherine Bateson
Farm Kid, by Sherryl Clark
Sixth Grade Style Queen (Not), by Sherryl Clark
What Does Blue Feel Like, by Jessica Davidson
Goodbye Jamie Boyd, by Elizabeth Fensham
Volcano Boy, by Libby Hathorn
A Place like This, by Steven Herrick
By the River, by Steven Herrick
Cold Skin, by Steven Herrick
Do-Wrong Ron, by Steven Herrick
Kissing Annabel, by Steven Herrick
Lonesome Howl, by Steven Herrick
Love Ghosts and Nose Hair, by Steven Herrick
Naked Bunyip Dancing,
by Steven Herrick
The Simple Gift,
by Steven Herrick
Tom Jones Saves the World,
by Steven Herrick
Ratwhiskers and Me,
by Lorraine Marwood
Against the Tide, by Irina Savvides
Muscle, by Matthew Schreuder
Nine hours north , by Tim Sinclair
The Angel of Barbican High, by Michelle Taylor
Jinx, by Margaret Wild
One Night,
by Margaret Wild

I am sure I have missed some. If you know of a chidlren's or YA verse novel written by an Aussie author or poet, please leave a comment below and I will add it to the list.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Author Copies and Other News

In my mailbox this week was a lovely surprise - the balance of my advance copies of Pearl Verses the World, my verse novel to be released May 1.
I've been dancing around with one copy for a month or so, but it was nice to get the rest and know that this brings us another step closer to release - six weeks away now.
Pearl was featured in Walker Books' media mail out this week, so hopefully requests for review copies will come in.

In preparation for May 1 (and beyond) I am planning a blog tour to promote the book and talk about verse novels, writing for children and more. My tour kicks off on launch day, so watch this space.