Friday, October 29, 2010

Quick, fun Halloween craft

We don't really do Halloween downunder. My first ever sight of a carved pumpkin Jack O'Lantern was in Scotland when we lived there for a year when I was a kid. I loved them, longed for one, even butchered a hapless pumpkin in my 8 year old fervour for one. A desperate failure, I suspect and I've never had one since.

The country where they really go all out for Halloween activities is the USA. And influenced by US TV,  the kids here are starting to pick it up. What's not to like about dressing up, scaring people and the legalized taking of sweets from strangers? The only problem is that when the local kids go trick-or-treating and knock on doors, they often get blank looks. Or a diatribe about it not being our tradition and watching too much American TV.

A couple of years ago I was heading off to the supermarket and I saw a small gang of kidlets down the end of my street dressed as ghosts and ghouls and pumpkins, clearly going trick-or-treating, and though I kind of agree with the "not-our-tradition" folks, it's a bit of fun for kids, and these kids had gone to a lot of trouble and looked really cute,  so I bought some chocolates and lollies for when they got to my house.

I was only gone half an hour, and it was still light when I got home, but my door got nary a knock.
So there I was with a small pile of the sort of stuff I try not to buy or bring into the house. What to do with it all? Oh, the dilemma!

Anyway, since I enjoy crafts, and in my neck of the woods we're in for a long, wet weekend, I thought I'd share a few easy, kid-friendly halloween crafts. They're all in paper, so cheap, fun and easy is the theme.

 If you have any littlies who want masks, there are some good, simple ones here.

You might want to make a lovely Halloween decoration — collect a bunch of interesting twigs, spray paint them black and hang the paper decorations below from them. Easy, gorgeous and cheap.

The decorations below are printable and downloadable free from the craft ideas site. There are lots more good ideas on this site.

Here's a downloadable paper origami cat that comes in black or marmalade — just print it off, cut fold and glue — dead easy. (pun intended, heh heh) I've made these and I really like them. Tammy Yee, the designer, has other animals that are print and cut out, too, including bats, and some really beautiful owls.

The hanging paper pumpkins below are both elegant and amazingly easy. All you need is orange and green paper, scissors and glue or a stapler and some cotton to hang them. They're a variation on some Christmas deco designs I've made before, and it's all about strips of paper that are different lengths.
A different, just as easy and elegant design is here.

So whether you celebrate Halloween or not, enjoy the evening and don't scare the kids too much. 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Farewell Eva Ibbotson

Eva Ibbotson— one of my favorite writers in all the world — died on Wednesday and I'm feeling very sad. 

Many people know and love her children's books — Which Witch, The Secret of Platform 13, The Journey to the River Sea and many more, but I first came to Eva Ibbotson through her adult romances. They were well out of print when I discovered them, but I hunted them down on the internet until I had a full collection. I didn't care that I'd paid quite a bit of money for battered old library editions; the contents were gold.

However last year they were reissued— as YA books for some odd reason — and it was great because the books found a whole new audience, and also because I was able to press her books on friends without risking their non-return.  I did a Word Wench interview with Eva last year, when she was 84.

She left behind her a brilliant legacy — these are books that will live on, as Georgette Heyer's books have lived on, but one of  her stories that might not live on is a small piece she wrote in support of public libraries, and it's one of my favorites. 
It starts:

I was eight years old when I came to Britain as a refugee - and was not particularly grateful. Mostly this was because after years and years of being a sheep coming to the manger, or a grazing cow, I had at last landed the part of the Virgin Mary in the nativity play at my convent school in Vienna.
And then ... Hitler.      read the rest here.

You can listen to a podcast interview with Eva here.

Eva said once in an interview  that she thought of her books as a present for readers.
They are indeed a gift she has left to the world.
Vale Eva Ibbotson.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Delicate Art of Critique

I'm blogging on RomanceAustralia about the critiquing process — what to talk about when you're past the beginner stage. Any suggestions?

The hardest part of the critique process comes after the beginner level is past. Often people are at a loss when they read someone’s work, especially if problems are few and far between. What if there are no typos, no grammar mistakes, no head hopping, no obvious problems? Where do you go then?

I think one of the most important things is to respond to a piece, not correct it.  
Read the rest of the post here.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Where my ideas come from...

I'm celebrating the release of my book THE ACCIDENTAL WEDDING and blogging on WordWenches today about what is probably the most common question an author gets asked - Where do you get your ideas?

When an author first gets published, people who don't know her — and sometimes people who do — assume that if the events and characters from her books don't come from history books, they must come from her life.

I can't speak for other authors, but for me, this is far from the truth. Not one character I've ever written has ever existed outside my imagination. And my life hasn't been nearly as exciting or adventurous as that lived by most of my heroines. And, alas, the heroes that walk my pages are not hanging around my house. Even the occasional dog that appears in a book wasn't one of my dogs. Really, I often just dream up scenes and stories and I have no idea where that comes from — I only know it's not from history books and it's not from my life. 
What I do often take from life, however, are the small details that "furnish" the book, the things, for instance that evoke a scene and a mood. The scent of herbs drying or bread baking, of new cut grass, or of damp dog. The fragrance of a wood fire, the crackle and hiss of burning wood, the settling of coals and the dancing of shadows on the walls when the only light is firelight.  
Read the rest of the post here...