Archive for February, 2009

A picture can be a great story starter.  And you can use it as a writing exercise for any age group, and to help create stories of any length. The exercise can be done singly or in pairs or groups.

Here’s what you do:

Get each student to cut a picture out of a magazine or newspaper, but it can’t be of someone that they know. It can be a man, woman, or child.

Allow the student a minute or two to look at the picture then get them to answer the following questions from their imagination.

  1. Who is the person in the picture? (name, age, job, etc)
  2. What were they doing when the picture was taken/
  3. Why was the picture being taken?
  4. When was the picture taken? (year, time of day etc)
  5. Where was the picture taken?
  6. How did they feel about the picture being taken? (happy, sad, angry etc.)

Now the student knows all these things about the person in the picture, they can use the information to develop it into a character in their story. You could even get them to do a physical description of the person. Some of the  info  gathered from this exercise might even be used as part of the plot.

Hope you and your students enjoy this activity.


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The drought at Lake Blowie threatens to put the whole town off the map but Syd likes living there.


He can’t make it rain, but there is something he can do.


In The Big Blowie, we meet Syd, a kid with the imagination and enthusiasm to save the world ( fortunately, in this story he doesn’t have to, just his Mum’s scones and cream business).


This is a great book for kids who hate blow flies and like coming up with big ideas.


Sally Murphy’s descriptions and dialogue make you feel right there in the story, and Craig Longmuir’s illustrations are totally cool. 




1.          Where did your idea for The Big Blowie came from?

 The idea came from my brainstorming as many Australian things as I could that I thought would fit into this series. The series guide requested Australian subject matter and Australian issues, so I came up with a ‘Big Thing’ being built in the Outback to draw tourists in during the drought. Australians love ‘Big Things’, and what could be more Australian than a big blowfly – they are everywhere!

2.           In your book, The Big Blowie is made from all sorts of things including a car body. Have you ever owned a car that you would like to have made into a Blowie or any other insect parts?

Can’t say that I have! I’ve had a very eclectic mix of vehicles, starting from my first car which was a 1972 VW Superbug, which I wish I still owned and including Holdens, Mazdas, Fords, Toyotas and Mitsubishis.

I did always wish I could have a really useful insect like Evinrude the dragonfly from The Adventurers, who acted as the outboard motor for their little boat. That was way cool.

 3.           Why are you touring by blog and not by car? Is it a) because of the cost of petrol? b) because your car has been made into a giant Blowie to get people to come and visit your town? c) Other? (please explain)


It’s because I’m too scared to leave my house in case I meet a giant blowie, of course! But really, touring by blog makes so much sense. I live in rural Western Australia. It is two and a half hours to Perth, and a week’s drive from, say, Sydney. So, to try to get out and talk to lots of people about my book would take weeks and weeks and, of course, lots of petrol. (which is ridiculously expensive). But when I tour by blog I can do it from the comfort of my home and, if I wished, I could do it while I ate breakfast in bed wearing my purple polka dot pyjamas! Actually, I am much more sedately dressed and sitting in my office, but who would know if I wasn’t?


A blog tour allows me to reach readers, parents, teachers, other authors and more, all around Australia and even around the world. That doesn’t mean that I’m not willing to travel. I love going into schools and sharing my books, and also love doing festival appearances, so if anyone reading this has a need for a crazy, but enthusiastic, speaker, they should drop me a line. A blog tour isn’t a replacement for other touring – it’s simply another way of doing it.


4.           I read somewhere that you grew up in a hotel. Is that where you met your first ‘Big Blowie’?


Yes, I did grow up in a hotel – a country ‘pub’ in rural Western Australia. There were lots of blowies in my town – but of course, I’d hasten to add (in case any health inspectors are reading this), NEVER in the hotel kitchen (lol). Growing up in such a different setting – we didn’t live in a house like everyone I knew, but in bedrooms which were the same as the guest bedrooms, on the top floor of the hotel, with our kitchen downstairs and through the guest dining room – was probably an interesting way of living, but I didn’t know anything different until I was in my teens when we moved into a real house. I would love to write a story with pub kids in it one day, but it hasn’t finished brewing yet.


 5.           I’ve heard that writers can become pretty involved in what they’re writing. When you were writing The Big Blowie, did you ever accidentally put flies in your fruit cake instead of currants?


No, but only because I don’t make fruit cakes (I leave that to my mum, who makes the best fruitcakes ever).


But I do become very involved in my stories, and definitely take on the personalities of my main characters which wasn’t so bad when I was working on The Big Blowie because Syd is a human child, but more worrying when I wrote Pemberthy Bear and The Floatingest Frog. It isn’t easy having the personality of a frog or a bear. And when I wrote Pearl Verses the World, which is about a little girl whose grandmother dies, I cried and cried as if it was my own grandmother.


6.           In your book, Syd can say ‘hello’ in ten different languages. Can you speak any other languages besides English and Australian?


Yes. I speak fluent teenager. Well, that’s a lie, but I do know what it means when my son says ‘yo, Mum dude’ and can even interpret various grunts, eyebrow raises and withering stares directed at me by the various teenagers in my life.


I spent a year in Papua New Guinea, and can understand Pigeon English passably, but speak very little. I was an English teacher so tried to always talk English.


When I wrote this book I wanted to show that Syd likes to connect with the tourists who come to visit, and I thought learning to say hello would be a good way of doing so. I used the internet to find out how to say hello, and also to find names for the two tourists that appear in the book – I used Mr. Yen and Mr. Krona because they are the currencies in their respective countries (Japan and Sweden)


7.       With his Mum and Dad, Syd builds the Big Blowie over the school holidays. What is the weirdest thing you’ve ever done in the school holidays


I usually use the school holidays to clear my desk. This might not sound very weird, but when you see how my desk is today, a week after the school holidays, you might wonder why I bothered to spend so much time tidying. It always has a pile of books to be reviewed, a pile of stories to be rewritten, at least two lists of things to do, a pile of bills to be paid and forms to be filled out, even a pile of things to move into other piles.  It’s sad, really.


Just before Christmas, I did take an extended holiday with my family. Some would say it was weird (or just plain crazy) to cross the Nullarbor with my husband and five of our kids, staying in a small caravan and spending so much time together. But we had a lot of fun – and plenty of experiences worth writing about! 

The Big Blowie is part of the Aussie Aussie Aussie series published by Aussie School Books and distributed by Blake. http://www.blake.com.au/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=9781921255366&Show=TechSpecs



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