How to become a Great Writer…advice from an 11 year old

April 26, 2021 at 10:14 am | Posted in Top Writing Tips | Leave a comment
Tags: , ,

After my visit to Canadian International School in Hong Kong today by zoom, I thought I’d republish this post from 24 May 2016, about the young writer who featured in the picture at the start of my talk, Jemma Julian :

As an author of children’s books, perhaps one of the most frequent questions I get asked by kids is “How do I become a great writer?”. Now anyone who knows me will know what my answer will be: “You have to read LOTS and LOTS and LOTS of books!”

But I thought it would be interesting to find out from kids your age, who are already great writers, just how they’ve done it themselves!

In this post, I’d like to introduce you to Jemma Julian, from Sydney in Australia, who regularly wins a place in the top ten in my Clever Competitions! Her writing is wonderful, full of original ideas, fantastic words and great imagination, and I encourage you to look at the results of my Clever Competitions over the last three years (see tabs on the right hand column) to see examples of her work!

Jemma Julian 1

Here you can see Jemma posing with her signed copy of my Dark Horse Activity Book which she won when she came first in my Ode to my Favourite Tree Competition in 2014, when she was just 9 years old.

I wrote to Jemma last week to ask her some questions about what she does in her spare time, and I thought you’d be very interested to read her answers! Here, with Jemma’s permission, is what she told me, and I think it’s worth reading EVERY WORD of what she says :). I’ve highlighted in bold the bits I think are most important:

“In answer to your questions:

I write my current stories almost every few days, often on the weekends as I don’t always get enough time during the week. For just general writing, I mostly just to write back to emails and letters from my penpals and aunt, who I correspond with regularly.

 I mostly just write on the computer, as I find that typing is easier to read for me. I make my writing neat for letters to people, so that they can easily read them, but when writing stories I often have heaps of new ideas, thus my writing gets spikier, my letters not fully- formed, which makes it harder to read…

Yes, I keep a diary, and also a scrapbook diary, where I stick and paste things cut out of magazines, newspapers, or drawings I’ve done.

I suppose I have a writer’s notebook. I’ve actually never heard the term before, but I have a notebook which I’ve had since I was eight in which I’ve written stories, looked up words, written sentences for words, poems, written answers to questions for schoolbooks which don’t give space for answers and various other things I’ve done.

My other hobbies apart from writing stories are writing songs, (only just today I wrote music to a song I’ve written- the first time ever!), writing poems,writing letters, feeding the many birds which come to eat sunflower seeds in the backyard, playing the piano, drawing, dancing, swimming, reading as many books as I can, typography, calligraphy, ornithology, and climbing trees.

Here are my tips for other children to improve their writing:

  1. To write something everyday– it doesn’t even have to be a story! It could be an essay for school, a project about something you’re interested in, an email to a friend, even a letter to a relative long overdue!
  2.  To read whenever you can! I love reading, and even read at lunchtime, despite my parents’ not liking it! Books can give you the foundations for your own stories, ideas to weave into your stories, fantastically interesting words to use, (I need to thank you, Sarah, your word ‘splendiferous’ features regularly in letters, and I use ‘idiosyncrasies’ occasionally during speech), and much, much, much more.
  3. To edit, revise, and rewrite your stories again and again and again. Editing can be a bore, especially when you’ve put your heart and soul into a scene but then find it doesn’t work with the rest of the story, but still essential. Revising too, but still, finding a word miss spelled and correcting it makes me feel like I’ve saved the story from badly written words. Rewriting is fun! I love looking back into a story I wrote a while ago and thinking about all the things I’d like to change about it. 
  4. To ask for feedback. Writing a story on your own can be a bit monotonous as you can’t get other people’s views on your stories! You don’t have to ask only other writers for feedback- you could ask your parents, (if they’re not too busy), your friends, your school teachers, the kids in your class at school.
  5. To always jot ideas down, however silly you think they are. Some of the stories I consider masterpieces began from some crazy idea I had a year ago, which I wrote down in a notebook, to be discovered later and turned into a story.
  6. I also think that grammar is important too! A grammatically imperfect story isn’t always a good one. Read through your stories every once in a while to check them, and also experiment with little letters, colons, or even the odd bracket. I’ve found that just adding a comma in some cases fixes up a whole sentence!

 The answer to your question of ‘how much time do you spend reading books for leisure’ is WHENEVER POSSIBLE! As I said before, I read even at lunch!

I don’t play any computer games, though I used to once a week for an hour… Our television isn’t wired up to any stations, so I don’t watch it. Occasionally I will watch a movie with my family. I do use some social media. Since the national postage rate went up to a dollar- the slowest postage- I have mostly been emailing my penpals. I do also have Google+, but I mostly don’t really have any time to post things on it. All in all I mostly spend, (excluding writing stories), up to half an hour on the computer a day. I don’t often get emails though, normally about one or two a week, so that makes the time I spend on the computer shorter.  When I’m writing a story, the time spent on the computer gets larger, up to about two hours. I normally don’t just write though- I look up words I think could be used in my story, I research things to do with my story and check my emails.”

Soooooo….in a nutshell, the way Jemma has become a Great Writer is by:

  • writing something every day
  • having penpals
  • reading as many books as she can get her hands on
  • limiting the time she spends on digital screens to half an hour a day, except when she is writing a story, when she might spend up to 2 hours a day doing research, using her computer as a TOOL but not a toy
  • keeping a diary
  • keeping a writer’s notebook to jot down ideas for stories, special words etc
  • enjoying lots of different hobbies outside and inside the house
  • editing and revising her stories over and over again
  • practising her grammar!

So now you’re heard it from an expert who is still just 11 years old! If you can follow her advice, your writing is just going to get better and better! Thanks Jemma for all the fabulous tips! One day, I just know that we’re going to see your name up in lights!

The Results are out in The Oxcellent Ox Tale Competition!

April 23, 2021 at 11:31 pm | Posted in Clever Competitions, Writing competitions for kids | 1 Comment
Tags: , , ,
From The Tale of Oswald Ox illustrated by Harry Harrison

Hooray! At last the results are out in my Oxcellent Ox Tale Competition! Thank you so much for your patience! It was horribly difficult to judge, with a fabulous 44 entries from 19 schools in 6 cities around the world: Brisbane, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Sydney, Taiwan and Ely in the United Kingdom!

Congratulations to everyone who entered. And special congratulations to the Top Six in each of the Year 1 to 3 and Year 4 to 6 Categories, as well as some fabulous Honourable Mentions and Special Mentions!

Click on my Clever Competitions page right away to read the fantastic winning entries!

Places were as follows:

Year 1 to 3 Category

FIRST PLACE: Sophia Dennison, Year 3, French International School Hong Kong, 8 years old

SECOND PLACE: Luke Jackson, Year 3, Arden Anglican School, NSW, Australia, 8 years old

THIRD PLACE: Seraphina Zhuang, Year 3, Arden Anglican School, NSW, Australia 8 years old

FOURTH PLACE; Lillian Xue, Year 3, Arden Anglican School, NSW, Australia, 8 years old

FIFTH PLACE: Muyao Zhang, Year 3, Arden Anglican School, NSW, Australia, 8 years old

SIXTH PLACE: Freya Bainbridge, Year 3, Shrewsbury International School Hong Kong, 8 years old

HONOURABLE MENTION: Ivan He, Grade 3, Stamford American School Hong Kong, 8 years old

SPECIAL MENTIONS:

Leona Huang, Year 1, Arden Anglican School, NSW, Australia, 6 years old

Louise Pan, Year 1, Arden Anglican School, NSW, Australia, 6 years old

Year 4 to 6 Category

FIRST PLACE: James Bruser Zarin, Year 5, Shrewsbury International School Hong Kong, 10 years old

SECOND PLACE: Reva Kamath, Year 4, Discovery College Hong Kong, 8 years old

THIRD PLACE: Therese Li, Year 4, Arden Anglican School, NSW, Australia, 8 years old

FOURTH PLACE: Akshadha Madan, Year 5, Shrewsbury International School Hong Kong, 9 years old

FIFTH PLACE: Renee Wong and Kate Chiu, Year 6, Renaissance College Hong Kong, both 11 years old

SIXTH PLACE: Tanvi Pati, Year 4, Renaissance College Hong Kong, 8 years old

HONOURABLE MENTIONS:

Amira Datwani, Year 5, Renaissance College Hong Kong, 9 years old

Abigail Wright, Year 6, Oxley State School, Brisbane, Australia, 10 years old

Jake Jung, Year 5, Ermington Public School, Sydney, Australia, 10 years old

Hang in there, you Clever Competition writers!

April 14, 2021 at 11:21 pm | Posted in Writing competitions for kids | Leave a comment
Tags: , ,
Oswald patiently grinding the grain (with a little help from the cattle egret) in The Tale of Oswald Ox , illustration by Harry Harrison

Hang in there, all you wonderful writers who entered my Oxcellent Ox Story Competition! I’ve almost finished the judging and I’m excited to report that the standard of entries has been fantastic! It’s been so much fun reading all your very different and original stories about the beloved Ox! But there’s still a bit of work to go, and that’s me, above, grinding away at finishing this very enjoyable task! Please be patient and bear with me. I’ll be posting the results soon!

Time’s up in the Oxcellent Ox Tale Competition!

March 29, 2021 at 8:00 pm | Posted in Writing competitions for kids | Leave a comment
Tags: , , ,
Illustration by Harry Harrison from The Tale of Oswald Ox

Time’s up my friends in my Oxcellent Ox Tale writing competition, and WOW! how hard so many of you have been working! I haven’t counted them all yet, but there are at least 50 entries from at least 19 schools in Hong Kong, mainland China, Taiwan, Australia and the UK! So this competition is going to take quite some time to judge :)! Please bear with me, and I’ll announce the results as soon as possible!

Just 5 days left for your Oxcellent Ox Tale!

March 23, 2021 at 5:32 pm | Posted in Writing competitions for kids | Leave a comment
Tags: , , ,
Illustration by Harry Harrison from The Tale of Oswald Ox

Moooo!

Oswald Ox would like to remind you that you have just 5 days left to get your entries in to the Oxcellent Ox Tale story writing competition! The competition is open to primary school students anywhere in the world! Click on my Clever Competition page right away to find out all about it!

Say hello to Therese, a worthy prize winner in my Clever Competition!

June 19, 2020 at 3:40 pm | Posted in Arden Anglican School, Beecroft, Chinese Calendar Tales, Clever Competitions | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , ,

I’ve just received these lovely photos of the talented Therese Li of Arden Anglican School in New South Wales, Australia, who at just 7 years old was the winner of the Years 1 to 3 Category in my last Clever Competition! Here she is presenting the Boxed Set of Chinese Calendar Tales which she won for her school to the junior school librarian, Mrs Maren de Rijk! You can read Therese’s brilliant story here!

At last! The results are out in The Rascally Rat Tale Competition!

May 9, 2020 at 12:53 pm | Posted in Arden Anglican School, Beecroft, Australian schools, Challenges and activities, Hong Kong Schools, Shanghai schools, Singapore schools, Writing competitions for kids | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , ,

Screen Shot 2020-02-29 at 10.33.42 AM

Illustration by Harry Harrison from The Tale of Run Run Rat

Hooray! At last the results in The Rascally Rat Tale Competition have been posted on my Clever Competitions page! Now I know that a lot of you have been doing lots of school work online during the Covid epidemic, so we had fewer entrants than usual, although we still had entries from Hong Kong, Melbourne, Shanghai, Singapore and Sydney! They were of a very high standard, so it was difficult choosing the best! I did so using my special spreadsheet, with all the entries anonymised, which you can read more about on the results page.

Congratulations to everyone who put in an entry, and to all the place-winners! Special congratulations to Therese Li of Arden Anglican School in Beecroft, Sydney for placing FIRST in the Year 1 to 3 Category, and to James Bruser Zarin of Shrewsbury International School, Hong Kong, who placed FIRST in the Year 4 to 6 Category. They both win a signed copy of the Chinese Calendar Tale of their choice, as well as a Boxed Set of the Chinese Calendar Tales for their school libraries! Well done! Congratulations also to the English teachers of Arden Anglican School in Beecroft, Sydney whose students write to an exceptionally high standard for their ages!

So go to my Clever Competitions page right away to read the winning stories and enjoy!

Hang in there, all you fabulous competition entrants!

April 27, 2020 at 5:09 pm | Posted in Challenges and activities, Clever Competitions, Great Year of the Rat Challenge 2020 | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , ,

Run Run running

Run Run Rat from The Tale of Run Run Rat, illustration by Harry Harrison

Hang in there my friends! We are SO nearly there with the results for two great competitions:

The Great Year of the Rat Challenge 2020 and my A Rascally Rat Tale Competition!

I promise the results will be published here on my blog REALLY SOON!

The Rascally Rat Tale Competition ends tonight!

April 17, 2020 at 2:36 pm | Posted in Clever Competitions, Writing competitions for kids | Leave a comment
Tags: , ,

Screen Shot 2020-02-22 at 11.00.49 AM

Run Run Rat is racing for the finish line – and so should you be if you’ve been writing your Rascally Rat Tale for my latest Clever Competition! The deadline is midnight tonight so send that story in right away – I can’t wait to read it!

If you’re sitting at home looking for a bit of fun!

February 12, 2020 at 8:04 am | Posted in Writing competitions for kids | 1 Comment
Tags: ,

Precious and Bright IdeaHello all you primary school kids out there who are sitting at home with all that home school work! If you want a bit of fun, this is your PERFECT opportunity to enter my Rascally Rat Tale story writing competition! You can see all the special ingredients and rules here! So get out those pens and start writing!

 

Run Run running

Next Page »

Blog at WordPress.com.
Entries and comments feeds.