Archive for May, 2011

"Boy writing © Greg Mitchell"Here is the winning Under 7s story from our autumn 2011 writing competition. You were asked to write a story about something to do with cooking.

A reminder: always check the rules of the competition. If you don’t stick to the rules, we have to disqualify your entry and that makes us sad!

Under 7s winner: O Small (WA)


Once there was a chef, a crazy chef. He was so crazy that if someone ordered pizza he would give them pasta instead. But one day he said “I’m going to make myself a coffee. I love coffee it’s my favourite thing.”

So he went to the cupboard and got out what he thought was coffee beans. The milk was real, but the coffee beans were really poisonous sultanas.

“ARGOOWY!!!!! I used the poisonous sultanas” and he flew up to heaven never to be crazy again, still wearing his chef’s hat.

Enter our winter writing competition. Entries close 29 July 2011.

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"Boy writing © Greg Mitchell"Here is the winning Under 9s story from our autumn 2011 writing competition. You were asked to write a story about something to do with cooking.

A reminder: always check the rules of the competition. If you don’t stick to the rules, we have to disqualify your entry and that makes us sad!

Under 9s winner: G Oakley (WA)


Once upon a time there lived a girl named Misty. Misty lived with only her mother.

One day Misty’s mum was making a stew.

But then all of a sudden there was a cry from the kitchen. It was Misty’s mum. Misty ran to the kitchen as fast as she could. And there right in front of her mum was the stew, but the stew didn’t look like a stew it looked like a monster.

Misty asked her mum what she did to the stew but her mum just said ‘I just put this sauce in that a stranger gave me’ said her mum.

After Misty’s mum said this Misty was just about to ask her mum about the stranger but before she could say anything the stew monster tried to jump on her. All of a sudden Misty found herself being chased by the stew monster.

As Misty was running very fast she had an idea. Misty remembered that stew goes rotten in the sun so Misty made the stew monster chase her outside into the bright sun then Misty quickly ran inside and locked the doors. As soon as Misty locked the doors she sat down and asked her mum about the stranger her mum had met. Her mum said she had a big wart on her nose.

Misty started to laugh, ‘Oh mum’ she said, ‘you bought something off the witch who lives outside of town.’

Misty and her mum both looked outside to find the monster but all they found was a puddle of stew.

Enter our winter writing competition. Entries close 29 July 2011.

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"Boy writing © Greg Mitchell"Here is the winning Under 12s story from our autumn 2011 writing competition. You were asked to write a story about something to do with cooking.

A reminder: always check the rules of the competition. If you don’t stick to the rules, we have to disqualify your entry and that makes us sad!

Under 12s winner: R Mukherjee (NSW)


No, Amanda!” Kathleen groaned to her friend, “I am not entering!”

“Oh, Kath! Everyone is entering. It’s just for fun, after all!”

Kathleen watched her brown hair ripple out in the breeze. After a moment she replied quietly, “I’m hopeless at cooking.”


Amanda had piercing green eyes and she fixed them determinedly on Kathleen. “You are not! It’s just a Cupcake Competition, Kathy! C’mon, we are entering!”

She leapt out of the pool, grabbed her towel and strode away. Before she left she yelled over her shoulder, “Just believe in yourself!”


Two weeks later, Kathleen and Amanda were ascending the steps to Harrow Hall, where the Cupcake Competition was to be held. Kathleen was so reluctant Amanda practically had to drag her along. Amanda loved cooking and decorating, but Kathleen was different. She loved reading. Her favourite genre was crime fiction and she adored puzzling out mysteries! As a result, she’d become exceptional at finding lost things! But reading couldn’t help her now. This was a cooking competition. Kathleen knew she couldn’t do it. She was about to let her team down—and embarrass herself. Oh, what was she doing here?!


Jeanie and Maria, who went to school with Amanda and Kathleen, joined the girls at a bench. The workbench was full of icing, sprinkles and flour. It was a mess!

“Ladies and gentlemen!” the announcer cried, “Are you ready?!”


No, I’m not! Kathleen whined to herself. She spied Tom Wright at another bench. They were school enemies. Great! This really would give him something to snigger about! “You have fifteen minutes to make a batch of four cupcakes,” the announcer continued, “so manage time effectively! On your marks, get set … go!”


It was eight minutes into the competition. Everyone except Kathleen was enjoying themselves and working hard. Kathleen stood to one side, eyeing the mess of supplies. Suddenly someone cried, “The ladle!” It was Jeanie.


“What’s wrong?” asked Amanda, impatiently.

“The ladle’s gone! It’s not here!” At this, everyone made a frantic search for it—but it was truly gone. Kathleen snapped into action. A minute later she returned, smiling, with the large wooden spoon.

“Kath,” Amanda breathed, “you’re a life saver! But … where was it?”

Kathleen nodded towards Tom Wright’s group with a wry smile. “Kath, you didn’t want to come—and now you’ve saved the group!”

Kathleen shrugged, “You’re the one who told me to believe in myself!”

Enter our winter writing competition. Entries close 29 July 2011.

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In every issue of Alphabet Soup magazine we interview an author or illustrator. The trouble is, we can only fit some of their answers in the magazine. So we print the full interviews on the blog—we wouldn’t want you to miss out!

Wendy Orr, photo by Roger GouldIn issue 11 we talked to Wendy Orr, author of many books, including Nim’s Island, The Princess and her Panther, and Raven’s Mountain.

1. Where do you live?
On a hill near the sea on the Mornington Peninsula, south of Melbourne.

2. What made you become a writer?
I love stories and books so much that I always knew I wanted to write them. My dad used to tell us crazy stories that he made up, and my mum read us wonderful books for bedtime stories, so wanting to write books never seemed like a strange thing to do.

3. What do you like to do when you are not writing?
Reading, going for walks (especially on the beach or in the bush, and especially with my dog), seeing my friends and family, doing tai chi, and travelling.

4. Was it easy to get your first book published?
I was quite lucky with my first book (Amanda’s Dinosaur) because it won a competition, and the prize was having it published. The next few were harder!

5. What was your favourite book as a child?
At different ages: Winnie the Pooh; My Son in Law the Hippopotamus; Anne of Green Gables; Swallows and Amazons; Little Women; The Eagle of the Ninth.

6. Where do you get your ideas?
I’m often not sure where an idea has come from until I’ve finished the first draft. Sometimes it’s from something that has happened in my life, and sometimes it’s a crazy sort of thought—which of course has still probably happened from something I’ve seen or heard or experienced in some way. Sometimes it might be by asking ‘What if?’ about something that’s happened. Of course you need a lot of ideas to make a whole book—one idea starts it, but then you need more for how a character looks or acts, or what happens in chapter 3, and what’s exciting in chapter 5, or how everything all comes together in the end … I sometimes think that there’s a little bit of magic in how all these different ideas come together.

7. Do you prefer to write with a pen in a notebook, or on the computer?
On the computer. I use a pen to make notes in a notebook with a pen; often one book will have its own notebook and I jot down my thoughts or try to work something out. But once I start writing the story, I always use the computer. (For one thing my handwriting is so messy that writing a whole story with a pen would be too tiring— and even worse, I often can’t read my writing!)

8. What do you love best about being a writer?
Living inside a story and playing with it till it comes out right.

9. Of your own books, do you have a favourite?
It’s very hard to choose a favourite, because they’re like friends or pets. I sometimes think Ark in the Park is my favourite, because when I read it there are still no words I want to change or lines I’d like to rewrite. But Nim has been my favourite character for a while—except that now Raven’s Mountain is out, in many ways that’s my favourite, because I always feel very protective about a new character about to face world. So that might be why Raven is my favourite character right now.

Nim's island (cover)

"Raven's Mountain (cover)"

10. Are you working on a book at the moment? Can you tell us anything about it?
I’m always working on several books at a time. I’ve just finished Raven’s Mountain, which was out in February. The short blurb would be, ‘Three people go up a mountain; one comes down.’ It’s an adventure story about a girl named Raven who goes mountain climbing with her older sister and stepdad—but when there’s a rockfall and the others are trapped, Raven has to face the wilderness alone to try to save them, and herself.

I’m also working on a series of books set in The Rainbow Street Animal Shelter. I’m doing these with an American publisher; in Australia the stories will most likely be collected into one or two books. I’ve just finished editing the second book, MISSING: A Cat Called Buster, and now am waiting for my editor to work on the third book while I rewrite the fourth (FREE: A Lion Called Kiki).

There are also several other books at various stages on my computer and in my head!

11. You write picture books, books for primary school aged kids, and young adult books. Do you have a favourite age group to write for?
If I had to choose one age group, it would be primary school or middle grade readers. But I’m very glad that I can skip around and play with a picture book or plan an adult novel in between.

"The Princess and her Panther (cover)"12. How do you know if an idea is best for a picture book, a middle grade book or a young adult book?

That’s part of the mystery of writing that I don’t understand. As an idea starts to grow into my mind, it shows me the shape the book will be, so that by the time I’m ready to write it, it’s obvious what sort of story it wants to be.

13. Do you have any advice for young writers?
Just keep on writing! Have fun with it; try writing different types of stories with different types of characters. Remember that the first person you’re writing for is yourself—you need to love what you’re doing. When you’ve finished, read it and see if there are any parts that are a bit boring, or don’t make sense—pretend you’re a teacher with a big red pen, be brave and mark everything that isn’t good. Ask yourself if that bit needs to be in the story. If it doesn’t—delete it. If it does—make it better. Does it make you laugh, or cry, or hold your breath? Keep on rereading and rewriting till you’re happy with everything in your story.

And don’t forget to read, and experiment with different types of books. Writers need to see how other writers work—but most of all, we need to love stories.

You can find out more about Wendy Orr and her books on her website. And visit the Nim’s Island blog!

“Meet the author: Wendy Orr” © Rebecca Newman 2011 http://soupblog.wordpress.com

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Issue 11 cover, Alphabet Soup magazineThe eleventh issue of Alphabet Soup magazine (yay! yay!) was posted yesterday. If you are a subscriber, keep an eye on your letterbox.

Here’s what you’ll find inside the winter issue:

  • Q&A with author, Wendy Orr
  • Meet a beekeeper
  • Writing tips for kids from The Book Chook
  • Stories by Michele Purcell and Emma Cameron
  • Poetry by Edel Wignell, Jackie Hosking and Lorraine Marwood
  • Stories, poems and book reviews by kids
  • Crossword
  • Our winter writing competition
  • Our annual design-a-cover competition

and more!

Later today we’ll be posting the Q&A with Wendy Orr and on Monday we’ll be posting the winning stories from our recent story-writing competition. So stay tuned!

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