Thursday, 30 May 2013

Radio Two's Children's Writers

  • BBC Radio 2 has just announced the results of its short story competition aimed at children up to the age of 13. Oganised by the Chris Evans Breakfast Show, this is the second year the Oxford University Press has analysed the words (all 40 million of them) within the entries in order to monitor and track children's language.
    There were nearly 100,000 entries to the 500 word length competition, and I was delighted by some of their contents. For instance, children writers are using similes that might make some adult writers look cliched and stale. What about; 
  • As trustworthy as a fox with a chicken feather poking out of its mouth
  • As slow as a snail with 25 shells on its back
  • As boring as a cake with no candles
  • My heart fades like a balloon with a hole in it
  • "WHAT? Noooooooooo!" howled Lydiea, like a werewolf with a toothache
  • Her face looked like a pig with chickenpox
  • He's crying out like a grasshopper with a burnt leg
A model as Mary Poppins 
Children have the Mary Poppins touch for made-up language

Here are some of the new words they invented in their stories - such great ones, such as fridgemarine and shrinkinganator, that a data base has been created. Here are some of the best;
He made a disflomaticinator. It would make stuff from the past come into the present and stuff from the future come into the present. I will sell this on eBay, he said. I will sell this for 123456789123456789 million billion trillion dollars.
My fear was hairthlessquipadoliciousphobioa (fear of beards) but people don't believe me what so ever.
I told them that this ghost is one of a kind called a lumbagain ghost who makes people dull and boring.Shockingly he only gets children but when it gets mad he could get teachers and only comes to schools.
My fear was Hairthlessquipadoliciousphobioa (fear of beards) but people don't believe me what so ever.
Dulbodogfragonaffe is very big animal with the head of a duck and the mane of a lion. The neck of a giraffe and the body of a horse. The wings of a bee and the front legs of a dog. The back legs of a from and the tail of a dragon. The spikes on its back of a hedgehog and the ears of a rabbit. All over it is an orangey-pinky coloured.

Reasuringly, text speak was not used as much as might have been feared. Most uses of, say, 'blackberry' denoted a fruit, although most uses of the word 'text' referred to phone use. New slang words have emerged from the submissions, including yolo (you only live once) and rofi (roll on the floor laughing).
The analysis shows that we tend to become more humdrum about our lives as we grow up. Among the top five two-noun words for kids were "time machine", "space ship", and "tree house". By the time people reach adulthood, these words have been replaced by the more mundane, functional terms like "car park" and "kitchen sink", with the missing link that unites generations being ice cream, which reaches the top five in the OUP data bases both kids and adults! 
Gender differences  showed a bit.Girls wrote more about pop stars More boys wrote about sport and used words like 'gun', 'sword' and 'battle'. . Apparently a rule was introduced to prevent boys killing off every single character.
But what I loved to learn is that the stories were imaginative, varied and full of passion for getting things down on paper. The sheer scale of the entries is heartening, and I do commend Radio 2 for getting this so right; kids really wanted to take part. 
go to    to read the rest of the article

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Alice Walker's Desert Island Discs

I was fascinated by last week's Desert Island Discs, in which Pulitzer Price winnerAlice Walker talked not only about her life's work as a writer, but also her childhood and young adulthood. She spoke movingly about the accident that affected her life as a child, but that initiated her writing, and generally of experiencing racism in the south of the US. 

The Colour Purple  was lambasted by some people in the US, and her diary, Honouring the Difficult, addressed the criticism. She has one child and also talked about motherhood in a way I found fascinating. I loved to hear about her relationship with the earth; how she eats her own vegetables and keeps chickens. Her position on how she tackles a poem, in contrast to a novel, is worth listening to. You can still catch the entire programme pm

 I loved her choice of records, which included the wondrous Stevie Wonder et al., and wondered what my own would be. Possibly, I would follow my own life and start with Gilbert and Sullivan, which I sang to at my father's piano, and take in Mendelssohn's Octet, the overture to La Boheme, Queen and the Beatles.

But, when I was quite small, my half brother emigrated to Oz. His two children wer more or less my age and at first we wrote letters to them, but they were not very good at replying. Then, out of the blue, a reel of audio tape arrived in the post. Clearly, we were supposed to play this. My mother went straight out and bought a reel-to-reel player and we listened to Harold, Mel, Stuart and wife Pat talking to us all the way from the other side of the world. Now we could also record our voices and send reels back. But even this trailed off...very soon we weren't communicating. So, at the time I was just beginning to listen to pop music, I had total control of the tape recorder. I spend untold happy hours listening to Radio One and recording the hits of the time. I made it my business to try to get the entire top twenty for each week - quite an obsession. After a bit, though, old reels began to hold really treasured recordings that I didn't tape over in my quest for the new top twenties. Quite recently, I tried to remember what these were. I'm still catching up, but I'm sure they included....

The night has a thousand eyes - Bobby Vee
Hey Jude - the Beatles - well, anything by the Beatles
Feel me, touch me - The Who
McCartha Park (who was this?)
Whiter shade of Pale – procol harem

Woodstock  Crossby stills and Nash
Bohemian Rhapsody Queen/don't stop me now - well, anything by Queen
YMCA villagte people
American Pie – don Maclean
I’m not in Love 10CC
25 or 6 to 4 – Chicago
Spinning Wheel- blood Sweat and Tears
Matchstick men and Matchstick Cats and Dogs Brian and Michael
Midnight by the Oasis Maria Muldaur
Dancing in the street Martha and the Vandellas
Space Oddity = David Bowie
Saturday Night’s alright for Fighting – Elton John
Dancing in the Moonlight King Harvest
It’s raining Men – the Weather Girls
OKAY, by the time some of these were released, there were no more reel-to-reel recorders in the shops, but you get the idea...

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

IN THE MOORS now on order!

I'm delighted to announce that my crime fiction book for adults, IN THE MOORS, the first Shaman Mystery, is now available to order. Save yourself the bother of doing it later and put an order in now with Amazon; postage is free and the book is a under a tenner - not just a bargain, but a cracking good read.

Published by crime imprint Midnight Ink, endorsements for my work are already in; including this one from Professor Ronald Hutton, author of Blood and Mistletoe (Yale University Press) and Shamans (Hambledon and London):

 In the Moors has a cracking pace, evocative landscapes and a shocking twist at the end, and I’ve rarely read depictions of shamanic journeying that have felt so authentic. 

To order a copy, just click on the book cover in the right-hand margin of this blog, or go to Amazon Uk and type in my name, which will also take you to all my children's books.

And don't forget you can still download my latest story for 9+ young readers, TOUGH LUCK, which has been doing well, with 5star reviews on Amazon and these great endorsements from fellow writers; 

Gripping storytelling – Brandon’s voice is strong and convincing, his world vividly imagined...Jane Rogers, author of the Arthur C. Clark award-winning The Testament of Jesse Lamb (Standstone Press) 

Embark on Nina Milton…and you won’t stop reading… 
(Naomi Lewis, Sunday Observer) 

TOUGH LUCK is a multi-cultural fable, a painless history lesson, and very good fun.  A first rate young adult read...Jean Burnett, author of Who Needs Mr Darcy? (Sphere)

An engaging and moving novel, Tough Luck tackles issues that confront most teenagers today. Drawing upon Bristol’s dark history of the slave trade, this story of inner-city racial tensions challenges children to think about the ability of individuals to make their own luck and so change the future...Shirley Wright, author of Time out of Mind (Thornberry) 

My latest novel for children, Tough, Luck now live on Amazon. Go to: