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Guest Blog: Tansy and Kaia talk collaboration

The Collaborative Arts, by Tansy & Kaia

Tansy: Collaboration most definitely used to be a dirty word for me.  I am – or was – a complete control freak when it came to my writing.  Taking on critiques and editing was one thing, but sharing ownership of my work?  That’s just weird.

Kaia: I find it hilarious that you have ever been a control freak in ANYTHING. I mean, you write until you fall over, pretty much. And then you get up and keep writing for God knows how long, and somehow it ends up working out anyway. Just the thought of doing it that way makes me twitch.

Tansy: I have grown as a person.  I used to take a whole year to write each draft of a book! Also I used to have spare time.  And an attention span.  Where was I?  Writing with you is AWESOME because you make the spreadsheets and timelines and keeps notes.  It’s like having someone tidy up all your clothes while you are sleeping.

Kaia: Ha, yes, there is that. I guess it’s no surprise that I am *still* a control freak about my writing. But I think I need all these meta docs and meticulous little things because I have no idea what the hell I’m doing. Which is why I absolutely love having somebody bringing not only the crazy (and the Tansybrain is kind of nuts, in the best of ways), but also a bit of make-write-good to the project. Because if I pick up your metaphorical clothes of the floor, you totally throw them into the closet and close the door really quickly, making the room (and the story!) all presentable to other people.

Tansy: Ha, how do you know my methods for cleaning house?  While we have been on-and-off collaborating on a lovely soccer and blueberries novel for some time now, the story we wrote together for Worlds Next Door was something of a departure for us – for a start, it’s set in Sweden rather than Australia!

Kaia: Oh, yes, that was a first. In fact, I automatically gave them all mostly English-sounding names that we later had to go in and replace. And I absolutely love that my cousin, not knowing about this story, went along and named her baby Emil. Possibly I should tell her that her adorable six month old baby isn’t going to end up like that. (I hope.)  I did love writing this story, because it’s so far away from what we both normally write! It was my first attempt to write something for younger kids and actually the first short story I managed to write since I was about… twelve. It’s fun, and I was absolutely delighted by the review that sorted it (along with a few others) under the heading “creepy”. Mission accomplished and all that.

Tansy: Yes, I’ve written (a bit) for the 9-12 age group and I’ve written a teeny bit of horror type stuff, but I’ve never put the two together before, and there are so many elements in the story which are outside my usual bag of tricks.  Ultimately that’s the best thing about collaborating – you get to play with someone else’s toys, steal things from their List of Awesome and produce a story that you never would have written on your own.

Kaia: I do love your list of awesome.

Tansy: And of course you end up “borrowing” bits of pieces from each other which you take back to your own writing.  And the danger of collaboration is that your writing voices completely merge and you end up sounding like each other even when not collaborating!  But there’s one thing in the story which is completely representative of your writing and mine equally: the characters are CONSTANTLY drinking cups of tea!

Kaia: A proper Swede would drink seven cups of coffee a day instead. Then again, I’ve never claimed to be a proper anything…

Tansy: You must be a writer then.

Tansy Rayner Roberts lives in Australia and Kaia Landelius lives in Sweden. They have never met in person. They began writing together as part of a group online RPG, and found it rather difficult to stop. This is the first of their coproductions to be published. Separately, Kaia is currently editing Eld, a YA fantasy novel inspired by Swedish folklore, while the first of Tansy’s “Creature Court” fantasy trilogy, Power and Majesty, was released by HarperVoyager in June.

Guest Blog: Rowena Cory Daniells

A Fun Project for upper primary school students or high school students.

Step One. Ask the students to bring in their favourite children’s picture books from before they were old enough to read.

Discuss all the different types of picture books and techniques used. (Have examples of these books yourself in case they don’t bring them in).

Repetition – (The House that Jack Built) Repeating certain words on each page so that the kids can anticipate the words.

Hooks – put a question on odd numbered page, answer on even.

Text – Giving clues with the illustrations so that the kids can guess the words. Using word balloons to augment the text. Using words in inventive ways, eg. if there’s a giant, making his words really big. If someone gets shrunk down, making their words smaller and smaller until they are hard to read.

Using fold outs or fold upsWhere is Spot.

Turning it into a playWhen Daddy Cooks.

Hiding things in illustrations Animalia, Where’s Wally.

Creating a book from photos – eg. Danger Ted (teddy bear) around the house. Oh, no. Danger Ted has to rescue the cat. It’s fallen in the washing machine!

Step Two. Now set up an opportunity to pair the older student with a Year One or Prep student. Have the older student interview the younger one to find out their likes and dislikes so that they can write a story specifically for that child, a story that the child can ‘star’ in, a story that the child could almost read (eg little text, repetitive text).

Step Three. Then have the older student plan a short children’s book for their young friend. It needs to be no longer than 8 pages. It needs to open with a question or problem or adventure, that the younger child solves. Have the older student use one (or more) of the techniques mentioned above to make the picture book interactive and fun.

Step Four. Give them feedback on their book, or have them break into groups and give each other feedback.

Step Five. Now that they have feedback, then can write and illustrate the book. (Supply an 8 page template using actual paper, or a template on computer which they drop their text into and scan their artwork and drop it in). If they are working on real paper they can do collages with photos from magazines, or use material/s collage. (Remember this is for small children so the drawings can be very simple cartoons as long as they colours are bright).

Step Six. Once the book is completed it will need a title, a front cover and a back cover blurb.

Step Seven. They take the finished book and read it to the child. If the text is simple enough the child may be able to read it back to them.

Because the story is short and the illustrations are simple, and because they have the examples of books that they remember from childhood, this task doesn’t feel daunting. It is also very satisfying to have a completed book and to read it to their young friend, who will love it, because it is a book about them.

Rowena Cory Daniells is devoted to her family (husband and six children) and writing. In her spare time she has studied each of these martial arts for five years, Tae Kwon Do, Aikido and Iaido, the art of the Samurai sword. She writes for adults as well as children. Her new fantasy series is called The Chronicles of King Rolen’s Kin.