Showing posts with label Beatrix Potter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Beatrix Potter. Show all posts

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

JULY'S AUTHOR by Sharon Tregenza


Beatrix Potter was born on July 28th, 1866, in South Kensington, London. She was the only daughter of Rupert and Helen Potter. She had one sibling, a younger brother, Bertram.

Although she didn't go to school (she was taught at home by a governess) she learned to read from Sir Walter Scott's novels. She was very interested in science and developed a theory about the germination of fungus spores.

She made her debut as an author and illustrator in the 1890s when her illustrated letters to a sick child found their way to a publisher. This was the first version of THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT. The years between 1905 and 1930 were Potter's most productive. She published a number of children's books with the meticulous water colour illustrations she's known for.


At the age of 47 Potter married the solicitor William Heelis. On her father's death she received a large inheritance and in 1923 she bought a sheep farm where she spent her last 30 years raising sheep.

Beatrix Potter died in Sawrey, Lancashire on December 22nd, 1943. She left several thousand acres of land to the National Trust. This included Hill top Farm the setting of many of her 

Five Facts About Beatrix Potter:

1. She was actually christened Helen but was known by her middle name of Beatrix.

2. Peter was modelled on her own pet rabbit, Benjamin Bouncer. She sometimes took him for walks on a lead.

3. She understood merchandising and made her own Peter Rabbit doll, which she patented.

4. Potter kept a journal in a code so difficult to crack it took many years.

5. She was an award winning sheep farmer and President of the Hardwick's Sheepbreeder's association.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Some Phenomenal P's by Lynne Benton

Today we have reached authors whose names begin with P.  Of these I have to start with one of my favourites.

PHILIPPA PEARCE wrote several books for children, but her most famous, and arguably her best, has to be her fantasy time-slip novel Tom’s Midnight Garden.  This is the story of Tom, who, while staying with his uncle and aunt in their small modern flat with an ugly back yard, discovers that at midnight the yard becomes a beautiful garden where a little girl lives.  The little girl grows older each time he visits the garden, and he becomes fascinated by her life which is so much more interesting than his own.   The book won the 1958 Carnegie Medal as the year's outstanding children's book by a British subject.  She was a commended runner-up for the Medal a further four times.   She was born in Cambridgeshire, where many of her books are set, including Minnow on the Say, The Way to Sattin Shore and A Dog so Small.  She died in 2006.

K. M. PEYTON is a British author of books for children and young adults.  Born in 1929, she has written more than fifty novels including the much loved Flambards series of stories which spanned the period before and after the First World War, for which she won both the 1969 Carnegie Medal and the 1970 Guardian Children’s Fiction prize.  In 1979 the trilogy was adapted by Yorkshire Television as a 13-part TV series, Flambards.  She had a great love of horses, so wrote a great number of other pony books, which became very popular.  She was awarded the MBE in 2014 for services to children’s literature.

BEATRIX POTTER needs no introduction.  Her wonderful children’s books featuring animals, such as Peter Rabbit, Jeremy Fisher, Mrs. Tiggywinkle etc. have delighted children for over a hundred years.  Born in 1866, she was educated by governesses, and grew up isolated from other children, but she had numerous pets which she closely observed and painted.  During holidays in Scotland and the Lake District she also developed a love of landscape, flora, and fauna, and painted these too. In her thirties she self-published The Tale of Peter Rabbit, which became highly successful, so she then began to write and illustrate children’s books full-time.  Her 23 children’s books still sell throughout the world in many languages, and her stories have been retold in song, film, ballet and animation.  Her life too was depicted in the film Miss Potter.  She died in 1943 in her home in the Lake District, by which time she had become a prosperous farmer and prize-winning sheep breeder, and she left almost all her property to the National Trust.  She is credited with preserving much of the land that now constitutes the Lake District National Park.

The PULLEIN-THOMPSON sisters – JOSEPHINE PULLEIN-THOMPSON MBE (3 April 1924 – 19 June 2014), DIANA PULLEIN-THOMPSON (1 October 1925 – 21 October 2015), and CHRISTINE PULLEIN-THOMPSON (1 October 1925 – 2 December 2005) – were British writers, known mainly for their pony books, mostly fictional, aimed at children and mostly popular with girls. They started at a very young age, initially writing collectively, and they were at their peak in the 1950s and 1960s, but their popularity has endured. They also wrote a collective autobiography Fair Girls and Grey Horses.

TERRY PRATCHETT once said he wrote most of his books for an imaginary fourteen-year-old boy called Kevin.   Born in 1948, he was an English author of fantasy novels, especially comical works (which would appeal to said Kevin!)  His first novel, The Carpet People, was published in 1971, but he is best known for his Discworld series of 41 novels, the first of which, The Colour of Magic, was published in 1983, after which he wrote two books a year on average.  The final one, The Shepherd’s Crown, was published in August 2015, five months after his death.  In 1998 he was awarded an OBE, and in 2009 he became a Knight of the British Empire.

PHILIP PULLMAN is an English novelist, the author of several best-selling books, including the fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials.  In 2008 The Times named Pullman one of the "50 greatest British writers since 1945".  In a 2004 poll for the BBC, he was named the eleventh most influential person in British culture.  Northern Lights, the first book of His Dark Materials trilogy, won the 1995 Carnegie Medal for the year's outstanding English-language children's book. For the 70th anniversary of the Medal in 2007 it won the public vote for the all-time "Carnegie of Carnegies".  It was adapted as a film under its US title, The Golden Compass.  He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature (FRSL) and was awarded a CBE in 2004.

SUSAN PRICE was born in Dudley, West Midlands, and has written many books for children and young adults, from fantasy, science fiction and ghost stories to historical novels, books about animals and everyday life.  She is also fascinated by folklore, and in 1987 she won the Carnegie Medal for her first Ghost World novel, The Ghost Drum, an original fairy tale using elements from Russian history and Russian folklore.  Another of her books, The Sterkarm Handshake won the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize in 1998.  In this book and its sequel, A Sterkarm Kiss (2003), time travel brings together a young anthropologist from 21st century Britain and a young warrior from 16th century Scotland.   Susan still lives and writes in the Black Country.

I could come up with no authors whose surnames begin with Q, so unless anyone can tell me of any I've unaccountably forgotten, next time I will go on to the Rs.

Monday, 14 November 2016

"All the right words..." by Lynne Benton

“…but not necessarily in the right order,” to misquote Eric Morecambe in that wonderful sketch with Andre Previn.  For anyone out there who doesn’t recognise the original quote, he was referring to notes in music, not words, but to a writer it is equally important to get the right words in the right order.

For poets, of course, this has always been obvious: they have little space in which to put across everything they want to say, and every word has to not only count, and sometimes rhyme, but most importantly it has to flow, like music.  The language poets use can be lyrical and soothing or sharp and shocking, depending on the type of poem, sometimes both in the same piece, as in John Masefield’s poem “Cargoes”:

Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir,
Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine,
With a cargo of ivory,
And apes and peacocks,
Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine.

Stately Spanish galleon coming from the Isthmus,
Dipping through the Tropics by the palm-green shores,
With a cargo of diamonds,
Emeralds, amethysts,
Topazes, and cinnamon, and gold moidores.

Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke stack,
Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,
With a cargo of Tyne coal,
Road-rails, pig-lead,
Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays.

The opening lines of the first two verses conjure up beautiful calm pictures, while the first line of the final verse couldn’t be more different.  The words used and the order in which he places them makes for memorable word-pictures.

The same applies to picture books, designed to be read aloud.  Even if the words are right, if they're not in quite the right order they will be harder to read, and harder to remember.  Imagine if Beatrix Potter had written, "Flopsy, Peter, Mopsy and Cottontail" - it wouldn't have rolled off the tongue in the same way as "Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter", nor would we have realised that Peter was the important one.  She knew that if we want a particular word (or in this case, name) to stand out, it works best if placed at the end of a sentence/paragraph/chapter, so that the reader will immediately latch on to it and realise its importance. 

In some languages, such as Latin and German, the rule is that the verb should go at the end of the sentence.  In English, however, we are free to order sentences in whichever way we like.  If we want to start with a preposition, or end with an adverb, we can, which gives us a glorious freedom in our writing.  However, in a recent blog someone pointed out that there was an approved order for lists of adjectives, so that you can say “a big red ball”, but not “a red big ball”.  This had never occurred to me before, because one way sounds right, while the other sounds plain wrong. However, it's interesting to discover that there is a rule, should one wish to apply it.

And it's not only individual words that need to be in the right order.  Sentences too, and sometimes even whole chapters – I’ve recently been revising a children’s novel which I wrote a a while ago, and decided to follow advice often given:  Cut the first chapter and begin at Chapter 2 when the action starts.  Fine.  I did that.  Easy.

Or not. 

Because what should I then do with all the information, necessary for the plot, which had been in Chapter 1?  Would it be better to filter it in in snippets over the next few chapters, or should I transpose Chapter 1 in its entirety to around, say, Chapter 5, by which time the reader may be wondering whatever is going on? Or have given up altogether.  Whichever way I chose, many things had to change – for example, there were things the hero wouldn’t know about if I simply left out Chapter 1 altogether, but if I added in explanations at each relevant point they would slow down the plot.  Moving, or removing, a chapter may sound like a small change, but it means a lot of rewriting and reassessing the result.  Decisions, decisions all the way.

Now I’ve started working on a crime novel for adults, which is a fascinating challenge.  I love reading crime novels, and doing puzzles, both jigsaws and crosswords, so the idea of setting my own puzzle in the shape of a crime novel was irresistible.  There are, of course, various conventions in this type of novel which I need to observe:  the crime should happen quite early in the book, as should the introduction of the villain, the victim and whoever solves the crime.  At the same time the clues and the red herrings should be fed in drip by drip, so that the reader has a chance to guess the outcome. The longer the book, the more organisation is necessary. 

There is also the useful ploy of placing a vital clue in the middle of a list, so the reader may not spot it.  If it comes at the beginning or the end of the list it will stand out, but slot it into the middle and it may not be noticed…

While it’s great fun making all the decisions, for me it takes a long time to get the whole thing into my head in the right order.  Apart from anything else, adult novels are, in general, longer and have more subplots than novels for children, but the way of working is the same.  After trying various other ways of plotting I prefer the “card-shuffling” route: writing all the various plot points on individual index cards and then spreading them out on the table (or in my case, the floor, where there’s more room).  Then I can decide which bits should go where, and shuffle them around until I feel they’re in the right order.

When I’ve done all that, I will put them in rows, one row for each chapter, so I can see which chapters are too full and which need bulking out a bit. 
After that I can actually start writing – making sure, of course, that all the right words are there, and in the right order.

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