How to Write a Superhero Story

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Featuring guest blogger, Karen Tyrrell

Karen, tell me about Song Bird Superhero.

Song Bird Superhero is a humorous adventure with positive messages for kids.

Kids can stop the bully … Kids can do STEM science … Kids can do anything.

Blurb…

“Rosella Bird’s nightly dreams are filled with flying. Too bad her waking hours are a living nightmare:

Her flying inventions crash.

Her kooky parents are overprotective.

Her singing shatters windows.

The principal bans her from the science fair.

Worst of all, she lives next door to Frank Furter, an evil boy-genius whose sights are set on seeing her fail! Rosella is the girl least likely to soar, and yet when she learns to sing something incredible takes flight. Rosella becomes Song Bird, a flying superhero who saves the day.

Can Song Bird defeat Frank Furter’s evil bullying ways?”

Song Bird Superhero meets Captain Cybersafe at the launch.

Song Bird Superhero meets me–I mean, Captain Cybersafe–at the launch.

Why did you write a Superhero novel?

A: Readers of my Super Space Kid series (Jo-Kin Battles the It AND Jo-Kin vs Lord Terra) requested I write a superhero action adventure for girls. They wanted the main character and her side-kick to be heroic kick-ass girls. Rosella Ava Bird is a bullied girl who dreams of flying. Her side-kick, Amy Hillcrest, a super smart girl with cerebral palsy revels as a positive role model for diversity and disability, crushing stereotypes. Both girls excel with girls-can-do-anything and STEM science.

B: Song Bird is inspired by my real childhood events. I was bullied terribly in Year 6, losing my self-confidence. Each night I dreamed I could fly to escape my bully. I discovered my super powers when I sang in the choir and dabbled in science.

What are the rules of the superhero sub-genre?

A superhero battles against a super villain as he/she strives to keep the world safe. Super heroes and super villains co-exist in a supernatural world, a familiar world, but much darker than ours. The story begins with an inciting incident, when an ordinary person is initiated into being a superhero. In Song Bird Superhero it was from the accidental bite of a crimson Rosella. Rosella Ava Bird must then learn how to control her super powers. Eventually, Song Bird Superhero becomes the ultimate force of good, saving the world, and her school with her super powers.

What are challenges did you face writing Song Bird superhero?

  •  To create an original superhero with new superhero powers, appealing to children. Song Bird gains her superpowers from singing, science and self-belief.
  • Explain Song Bird’s super powers by Science, Technology, Engineering or Maths in a fun easy-to-understand way.
  • To create a relatable evil opponent, Frank Furter as the evil boy genius. Kids immediately identify Frank as the nasty school bully, who calls them names and trips them over.

What are the Top Tips in writing a superhero adventure for children?

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Song Bird Superhero meets Super Girl at Oz Comic Con – Brisbane.

a. Create an appealing superhero. Make sure your hero saves someone/ something in the very first scene to create empathy from the reader. Add lots of FUN humour. Give your superhero and her side-kick positive heroic qualities to inspire kids. Readers want to connect with the characters emotionally, not just observe their physical amazingness. That means giving them a full range of emotions and an interior life, people they care about, obstacles and goals.

b. Create super cool and interesting superpowers. But not so complex that we can’t quickly grasp what your character can do. Readers of this genre expect characters to do amazing and unusual things, but they don’t want to have to take a crash-course in physics before they can understand what’s happening.

c. Create a FUN super villain that we LOVE to hate. Make them as powerful as the superhero, adding to the conflict and tension. What powers does the villain possess? How do the villain and the hero interact?

d. Explain the superhero’s super powers by STEM science. Research scientific explanations on how superpowers work. Use simple yet engaging language to explain these powers.

e. Create a super world where the superhero and his nemesis exist. What are the rules to this world? Ask yourself: How is your super world the same and different to a real world?

f. Create FUN names for your characters. ie Rosella Ava Bird AKA Song Bird, Ms Bamboozle the school principal, Frank Furter the villain and Perry Poopa, his evil side-kick.

FREE Teacher Resources and kids’ activities for Song Bird!

Includes STEM science, creative writing, flying history, art, craft, maths, literacy, drama, social skills and bully prevention. Download HERE.

Song Bird Superhero by Karen Tyrrell is now available on Amazon HERE.

Song Bird Book Giveaway

Let’s celebrate the release of Song Bird Superhero by Karen Tyrrell on Amazon. Comment below to win a signed “Limited Edition” copy of Song Bird Superhero. Giveaway closes on October 20. Good luck!

Answer this question: Why do you want to win a copy of Song Bird Superhero?

Thanks Karen! All the best with Song Bird Superhero!

Blog Tour: Jo-Kin Battles the It

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My writer-friend Karen Tyrrell has launched her latest book, and the operative word is LAUNCH. Jo-Kin Battles the It is the first book in a zany Super Space Kids sci-fi series for young readers.

What’s it about? Here’s my review from Amazon:

Jo-Kin (aka Josh Atkins) is a funny but flawed, easy to like hero-in-the-making. As a lonely star-gazing super-geek, he’s the boy least likely to save the universe. All he needs is a teammate and an opportunity. Full of action, adventure, and slobbering space monsters, Jo-Kin Battles the It is an intergalactic odyssey to be loved by any little earthling.

Josh has enjoyed a stellar solo career as a gamer, but now, with the earth’s survival at stake and his friends in danger, he has to put his gaming prowess to the test and learn to be a team player. Author Karen Tyrrell does a great job of weaving the cooperation lesson in without being preachy or heavy-handed.

Action-packed and full of adventure, this book is sure to entice reluctant readers–particularly boys who’d rather be gaming. There’s plenty for girl readers to like in this book too. The illustrations have a zany comic book vibe that is sure to appeal to kids.

I had the privilege of interviewing Karen about her interest in the Sci-Fi genre, and I also asked how a teacher could use the book with primary students.

Why Sci-Fi?

Let’s talk about genre. Jo-Kin Battles the It and the Super Space Kids Series are clearly sci-fi. Where did your interest in the genre come from?

I’ve loved sci-fi since I was young watching kid’s sci-fi TV series Superman and Lost in Space. In high school, I read Day of the Triffids, and all the Jules Verne novels: Time Machine, Journey to the Centre of the Earth and 20,000 Leagues under the Sea then later the DUNE series. I watch every sci-fi movie when it’s released. I can’t wait to see The Martian and Tomorrow Land.

How does a sci-fi writer do research? You can’t exactly jump in a space ship or try on hover boots. Can you share some of your favourite sources?

I watch how-to videos on You-tube to learn how something works, e.g., hover boots, rocket launches, quad bikes, jet packs and more. For the gaming sections in JO-KIN, I played Wii and computer games with my son who taught me the correct “lingo” and all the right moves.

Describe your readers. Who will love Jo-kin Battles the It?

Kids 7-12 who love hilarious action-packed adventure stories. Kids will love watching the underdog succeed after a series of trial. Kids who love barracking for the hero to rise and help save the galaxy.

BIG kids who are sci-fi buffs will get a giggle.

Jokin FULL back Front Cover PRINT

Sci-Fi in Science Class?

Let’s say a primary school teacher wanted her year 6 students to read Jo-kin Battles the It. How could a teacher exploit the book to best advantage? Does it lend itself to science lessons?

The teacher should write a science and literature based unit around Jo-Kin Battles the It. She should read a chapter or two per day in the classes’ read-aloud time with lots of discussion on imagination, teamwork, resilience and brainpower leading to creative writing. With science, the teacher could feature topics: the solar system, the night sky, gravity, and space travel.

STEM … an emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths

 JO-KIN Battles the It SUPER Space Kids #1 is a STEM novel featuring science, astronomy, Mars, techno gadgets, and explains super-hero powers.

Download FREE teacher resources and kids activities: science and astronomy sheets, creative writing, humour & family themes, team power, quiz and colour sheets.

Would students enjoy writing a sci-fi story?

Students could write their own sci-fi story after a brainstorm of possible scenes and characters. Or they could write to a certain topic, e.g., How to Build a space ship, Be a super hero and Life on Planet X.

The class could discuss how to structure a sci-fi story or where to start.

I always start my sci-fi stories by thinking of a twist ending and writing the story backwards.

I’ve read the book and loved the action and adventure, as I mentioned in my review above, which is from Amazon. (<Click that link to buy a copy. If you love it, be sure to leave a review of your own–that’s the best way to support an author!) Thanks to Karen for inviting me to be a part of her blog tour. I loved watching this book come together, so it’s a thrill to see it blast off into the world!

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Far Out! Karen can rock green hair!

The Blog Tour Continues…

Follow along and leave a comment to be a part of the giveaway. (See below!)

Jo-Kin Battles the It Blog Tour

19 Oct Dee White http://writingclassesforkids.com Blog

20 Oct Di Bates http://diannedibates.blogspot.com.au Review

21 Oct Alison Stegert https://ali-stegert.com/ Interview

Jackie Hosking https://jackiehoskingpio.wordpress.com/ Blog

22 Oct Georgie Donaghey http://www.creativekidstales.com.au Review & Interview

23 Oct Robyn Opie http://www.robynopie.blogspot.com.au/ Review

25 Oct Rebecca Sheraton http://www.rebeccasheraton.com/blog Interview

26 Oct Sandy Fussell http://www.sandyfussell.com Interview

27 Oct Jill Smith https://authorjillsmith.wordpress.com/ Review

Melissa Wray http://melissawray.blogspot.com.au Blog

28 Oct June Perkins http://gumbootspearlz.org Interview

29 Oct Sally Odgers http://promotemeplease.blogspot.com.au  Interview

30 Oct Kate Foster http://www.katejfoster.com/blog Interview

 

Book Giveaway

Win one of four eBooks of Jo-Kin Battles the It OR signed artwork from the illustrator.

To qualify please LIKE Karen’s Super Space Kids book series page on Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/SuperSpaceKids AND

Leave a comment on any of the Blog stops to win. Good luck

Little Meerkat’s Letter Arrives Home

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Little Meerkat needed a boost to reach the postbox.

Featured Book: Little Meerkat

Spilling Ink’s World Read Aloud Day (#WRAD15) featured book is Little Meerkat, a gorgeous picture book written by Aleesah Darlison, illustrated by Shannon Melville, and published by Wombat Books. You can buy a copy here.

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Read the earlier posts (or go to #LittleMeerkat on Twitter) to see how Ali played free-wheeling Fairy Godmother to a Little Meerkat with a BIG hunger for adventure.

Author Interview

I asked Aleesah a couple of questions about reading aloud for World Read Aloud Day 2015.

  • If she could listen to anyone reading a story, who and what would it be?
  • Does she do impersonations when she reads aloud?

Aleesah: “If I could have someone read aloud to me it would be Charles Dickens reading one of his own books.

And I’m terrible at impersonations but my favourite character to impersonate is probably Pipp Puggle from my first picture book, Puggle’s Problem. I hope Little Meerkat is behaving himself. You’ve been so good taking him everywhere.”

Thanks, Aleesah. Dickens–What a great choice! And I’m pretty awful at impersonations too, but it doesn’t stop me from having a go!

Author June Perkins on Cyclone Yasi & Kids

After Yasi: Finding the Smile Within by June Perkins is more than a memoir. It’s the honouring of a community’s collective experience of a devastating cyclone and a celebration of healing in the aftermath.

After Yasi by June PerkinsIn this beautiful book, June Perkins candidly and eloquently shares the experiences of her family and neighbours as they picked up the pieces after 2011’s most destructive storm, Cyclone Yasi.

June’s poignant, light-filled photos draw the reader in. Neighbours, aid workers, and family members tell their stories in their unique voices. After Yasi: Finding the Smile Within is an uplifting read about the power of art and community in the face of difficulty.

In February of 2011, Yasi, a category 5 severe tropical cyclone, scarred the Cassowary Coast in far north Queensland. Winds gusts of 290 km/hour (180 m/h) uprooted trees, tore apart homes, and displaced families.

But in the ravaged landscape left behind, beauty took root. As June’s book shows, tears and heartbreak intermingled with joy and laughter.

Spilling Ink is honoured to play a part in the launch of After Yasi, offering a stop on the blog-hop to celebrate June’s accomplishment in her book on the occasion of the cyclone’s fourth anniversary.

Children & Natural Disasters

My interview focuses on children and the trauma of natural disasters. I asked June about how major weather events affect children and what support strategies were helpful. Her kids were aged between 10 and 15 at the time, and they had lived in the Cassowary Coast region for six years.

This post is longer than usual, but I think you’ll find June’s insights so interesting. Make a cup of tea and get comfortable. While the kettle’s boiling, here’s her son’s story on video.

Interview with June Perkins, Multi-platform Storyteller

Ali: Cyclones build for days or weeks so there’s often time to prepare. Do you think this preparation helps children cope with the event?

June: The preparation time does help children ready themselves to some extent for what might happen. We did emergency drills as well, just like you do with fire drills to help prepare them mentally.

Some of the media build-up was not helpful though, as they kept saying things like, “This will be as bad as Cyclone Tracy,’ and focused on its enormous size. This was more panic-inducing than helpful to our family’s preparation, so we had to minimise exposure to media coverage. We tended to go with ABC radio and the BOM site (Bureau of Meteorology).

Ali: Often a child’s age determines how they cope with a natural disaster or other traumas. Did you witness this with your kids?

June: I am not sure if it was age or personality, but my children certainly all experienced it differently. My eldest had been so resourceful during the crisis, helping his dad secure the house a couple of times. The morning after the cyclone, he kept falling asleep, even whilst walking up stairs. This gave us a bit of a cause for concern but passed after the first two weeks. He took to playing his guitar with an absolute passion. He did not want to talk about it directly for a while, but he was happy to talk about in conversations with close family and friends.

Our youngest was nervous in storms for about a year after the cyclone. He’d wake up to check on all of us. He was later keen to vocalise his experience in an interview, not just with me, but also with an external visitor collecting cyclone stories. He participated in an ABC Open workshop with Leandro Palacio, where the children spoke about what made them happiest during or after Cyclone Yasi. He spoke about our guinea pigs.

Straight after the cyclone, my daughter became extremely irritable and emotional. Not all the adults around her appreciated this, and one person we knew, but not that well, even told her off and lectured her when she uncharacteristically slammed a door. This was probably not the best thing at the time to happen to her, and I felt torn between wanting the said adult to be understanding of her and being a bit mortified she was acting up. She became withdrawn after that, especially when our pet bird died.

However, luckily for my daughter, she wrote and did art, and this helped her to release the feelings of loss and recover a more balanced mood.

I think she has some songs in a notebook somewhere about it all. These are very private things to her. I was very sensitive to how she was feeling and perhaps would have taken her for some counselling if it had continued too long.

The hardest thing about our situation was that everyone was equally stressed by what had happened, and sometimes some people did or said things that, looking back, were caused by their own stress.

I do think adults have on onus on them to be more understanding and patient when children have been through a trauma, but this is hard if they have been through it too.

Everyone reacts in their own way, and you can’t predict that even people who are usually mild-mannered and kind might become angry, protective, and concerned for only their own families ahead of all others. Some become generous, and some become more family-centred. This is where counsellors can be helpful.

bloghop5Ali: Your book demonstrates that some good can come out of bad. What good did your children experience as a result of Yasi that they might not have otherwise?

June: They met some amazing people they might not have otherwise have met, who encouraged them to go for their dreams, including Phil Emmanuel (musician) and Damien Martyn (cricketer).

They bonded closely with some of the families in the area, and one friend stood in as a grandmother for my daughter at a high school grandparent event. Our bond with her family was definitely strengthened by the cyclone.

My children all began to pursue their talents in life with far more passion than before, music, cricket and art. Who knows what the future will hold for them?

They learnt from the experience that they are strong and resilient. They are not attached to material objects. They know that things can be replaced. Since moving to the city, they notice things where people’s priorities can be about what school you go to and what uniform you wear, and they are not impressed by things like that. Not sure if that’s the cyclone or having come from the country and an egalitarian family or a bit of all of these things.

As a family, we learnt to make decisive, best-for-family decisions as well as community-oriented ones. We moved to the city to help our children make it into and through university and further study they might need.

Ali: How did the children respond to the emergency? Have there been any ongoing issues? For example, do they get anxious about weather events?

June: Some children were lucky enough to come from large extended families and really massive friend networks. Some families stayed with each other during the cyclone for more strength. Afterwards, a few families said they wished they had invited us and others to be part of these networks, as we went through the first half of it on our own, and they wouldn’t have stayed at our house if it was them. But they didn’t say this before the cyclone.

There was definitely some anxiety about weather events for a long time afterwards, not just with children but with adults. After cyclones, you often have a lot of flooding that can go on for weeks.

Ali: What actions of the wider community were most helpful to the kids affected by Yasi and your children?

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Multiplatform Storyteller, June Perkins

June:

Immediately after the event:

  • Allowing the children who wanted to talk about it at school and getting them back to school as soon as possible.
  • Having play areas and counsellors around when people were lining up for government assistance to assist families to feel less stressed.
  • Concerts and celebrity visitors. Some visited twice or more.
  • School children from other areas sent care packs to some of the worst affected school children and their families.
  • Special consideration for the Year 11s and 12s in their examinations.

Long term:

  • I don’t know that enough is being done long-term for the mental health of country areas and in preparation for another disaster. Shelters have been built, but the mental health facilities were only temporarily bolstered and then cut back again.
  • Many programs were only temporary, yet the economic set-backs are still making their mark in the community. It will be years for communities like Cardwell, in particular, to make it back to where they were. (Notable exceptions are ABC Open which is still doing workshops in the area and Mission Beach Community Arts Centre.)
  • The economy does impact on children and families in the areas and put them under more stress. Many have just chosen to leave.

Ali: Having the benefit of experience, what advice can you give to people who wish to support children and young people in the aftermath of a traumatic event such as Yasi?

June:

Do things with the children that they enjoy, and if they wish to talk about the cyclone, let them; but do not force them.

Take children to events like tree replanting or community joy building, so they know they are not alone; everyone is going through this with them. Encourage them to find gratitude for the positive things in their lives.

Realise some of the effects may come years after the cyclone. They might include their friends moving out of the area and feelings of loss and grief that are not immediate. Keep the channels of communication open.

Ali: Was there anything that was not particularly useful to your children?

June: They received a workbook, which they didn’t want to fill out and found too young for their needs. They are well-meant but just too standard and one-size-fits-all.

Standard disaster workbooks are less helpful than encouraging children to journal whatever they wish in their recovery process. Some of those widely distributed where not age appropriate to all children but more suited to very young children. My children personally did not like being given these and just put them aside. I am sure they were well-intentioned, and there may have been children they suited.

Ali: What do you children think is the most helpful thing after an event such as Yasi? Grown -ups and especially professionals often think we know best. Do they have any opinions?

June: I think mainly that there should not be a one-size-fits-all approach, but there should be a systematic attempt to do something.

Some children require an indirect approach, and others are open to a direct approach and they will tell you how they are feeling.

Artists, maybe with some art therapy background combined with the support of counsellors, can be extremely helpful with an indirect approach, rather than a one-on-one consultation with a counsellor. They just help people to release things from their system in music, painting and storytelling, sport (whatever is helpful to that particular child.)

More helpful rather than focusing on the cyclone itself is posing questions like these:

  • ‘What made you feel happy?’
  • ‘What made you feel safe?’
  • ‘What do you most want to do with your life?’

For some children, physical activities are helpful, and I wish more schools had run long-term tai chi and yoga or meditation programs to teach children more relaxation techniques.

Ali: June, I am so grateful for you candour with these questions. It’s so important for grown-ups and professional helpers to remember to take the children’s lead as we help them.

I wish June all the best with her book and am mindful of her reminder of the ongoing difficulties in remote rural communities.

Buy June’s Book

After Yasi by June Perkins

You can buy June’s book, After Yasi: Finding the Smile Within, here.

For more information on the launch, visit her beautiful blog, PearlzDreaming.

 

 

Helpful Resources for Supporting Kids Traumatised by Natural Disasters