Sunday, 25 December 2011

Happy Christmukah

During the week, my family attended the Chanukiah lighting ceremony at our local shopping centre. This was on level 2. Directly below on level 1, Santa was posing for photos with the kiddies.

Of course, there was only one eventuality for a Jewish family in a commercial Christian society... we attended the Chanukah ceremony and gave in to our daughter's demands to say hi to Santa on the way out. 'Tis the season.

Happy Christmukah everyone.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Always be prepared

Scratching my head for this week's blog post idea, I feel deeply satisfied with my own foresight to note down a couple of bullet points on my phone last month (in the middle of PiBoIdMo).

<--- This is Carmen Miranda

Carmen is best remembered for her signature fruit hat.

Carmen was always prepared in case she was ever held to a promise of eating her hat.

Props to Carmen and props to everyone that manages to be prepared.

I don't always follow my own advice, but I'm glad that I made an exception this time around.  Phew!

Sunday, 11 December 2011

What if INVISIBLE was actually...

In a recent picture book writing course, the instructor wanted us to explore how changing a characteristic of the protagonist can open up all sorts of different possibilities for the manuscript.  It could be a change of gender, personality, species, etc.  We were encouraged to take a published work and rewrite a few spreads based on the characteristic we chose.

Here's how I went with my attempt based on Possum Magic by Mem Fox.

Original text:
But the best magic of all was the magic that made Hush INVISIBLE.
What adventures Hush had!  Because she couldn’t be seen she could be squashed by koalas.
Because she couldn’t be seen she could slide down kangaroos.
Because she couldn’t be seen she was safe from snakes, which is why Grandma Poss had made her invisible in the first place.
But one day, quite unexpectedly, Hush said, “Grandma, I want to know what I look like. Please could you make me visible again?”
“Of course I can,” said Grandma Poss, and she began to look through her magic books.

Modified text:
But the best magic of all was the magic that made Hush INVINCIBLE.
What adventures Hush had!  Because she couldn’t be beat she could squash sumo wrestling koalas.
Because she couldn’t be beat she could outleap kangaroos.
Because she couldn’t be beat she was a demon at Snakes & Ladders, which is why Grandma Poss had made her invincible in the first place.
But one day, quite unexpectedly, Hush said, “Grandma, I want to know what it feels like to have my friends win once in a while.  Please could you make me vincible again?”
“Of course I can,” said Grandma Poss, and she began to look through her magic books.

Have a go at this exercise yourself and leave a comment or link to your own example.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Scruffy McPaw's Chasing Tale

Scruffy. Scruffy McPaw. You get back here right this minute you little rascal!

Oh, I’m terribly sorry about my dog.

Scruffy, get down! And keep your paws to yourself, you clown.

Listen, he really seems to like you a lot.

Maybe you can help keep an eye on him for a few minutes while I read you my book?

PiBoIdMo 2011 - What a month!

PiBoIdMo 2011 Winner
The stats
·         30 days
·         3 recording devices
·         140+ ideas recorded (including several potential series)
·         Undeterminable number of ideas MIA
·         30 writing prompts shared with the world
The lows
·         Within the space of a few days, finding that not one, but two of my ideas had already been published (with almost identical titles to those I had jotted down)
·         Thinking about what to do with all the ideas… how to record and organise them… how to prioritise them
·         Anxiety that I may have had ideas and forgotten them before having a chance to write them down (hold on a sec… did I or did I not have a brilliant idea floating around in my brain as I was drifting off to sleep? Was I just dreaming that I had an idea?  I DID have an idea!  I know I did.  It’s okay.  It’ll come back to me once I’ve had my coffee.  Hello… idea… where did you go?  FFS, GET BACK IN MY BRAIN RIGHT THIS MINUTE!)
·         Shock and dismay upon review of my list of ideas, that they would not all fit into my existing definition of Picture Books with Chutzpah
The highs
·         Realising that if a couple of my ideas had already been published, I might just be on the right track (possibly, maybe, perhaps)
·         Looking forward to Jodie’s 12x12 in 2012 challenge to help prioritise the ideas and start turning them into manuscripts
·         Getting over the ‘lost ideas’ anxiety by acknowledging that there is more than enough gold in what I do have recorded
·         Toying with ideas to expand my definition of Picture Books with Chutzpah in order to fit in the other gold nuggets in my list
·         Picking up some great tips for generating ideas and writing picture books in general
·         Meeting and exceeding Penny’s challenge of 11 ideas on the 11/11/11
·         Coming up with a non-fiction idea on the 2nd last day
Ready to do it all again next year…

Monday, 28 November 2011

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Friday, 18 November 2011

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

PiBoIdMo Writing Prompt

Take a universal theme universal, ie. to a newly invented planet with newly invented inhabitants

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

PiBoIdMo Writing Prompt 15

Hey hey hey hey HEY hey hey! No no no no no!
(quotes from Eddie Murphy in 'The Distinguished Gentleman'
& Gus Gould, Australian rugby league commentator)

Monday, 14 November 2011

PiBoIdMo Writing Prompt 14

Random toy ends up at the wrong holiday destination.
What is it and how does it get home?

Sunday, 13 November 2011

PiBoIdMo Writing Prompt 13

Ask someone to suggest an animal. Someone else to pick a strong emotion.
Whack them together and see where it takes you.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

PiBoIdMo Writing Prompt 10

Crocodile – alligator, emu – ostrich, echidna – porcupine, AUS – USA. 

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

PiBoIdMo Writing Prompt 09

Invent an article of clothing or accessory with a secret gadget, 007 style.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

PiBoIdMo Writing Prompt 08

Lost: Mummy’s sense of humour. (US version – Lost: Mommy’s sense of humor). 

Monday, 7 November 2011

PiBoIdMo Writing Prompt 07

Helium balloons float up, up, up into the sky and they’re lifting ______.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

PiBoIdMo Writing Prompt 06

That super power you always wanted... it’s just been acquired by your pet.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Friday, 4 November 2011

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

PiBoIdMo 2011 Writing Prompt 02

Arriving for a holiday, you start unpacking and find a stowaway _____  hiding in your luggage


Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Monday, 31 October 2011

PiBoIdMo - I'm EXCITED!!! And I'm Issuing myself an additional challenge!

PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) kicks off tomorrow and I'm excited!!!

As a new picture book writer, the ideas have already been flowing thick and fast.  I am looking forward to adding (at least) another 30 ideas in 30 days.

With my idea-generation-confidence sky high (given my fertile newbie imagination), I have decided to extend the challenge for myself.
Each day during the month, I am planning on issuing a PiBoIdMo writing prompt for my fellow participants. If you want to receive the prompts (or just want to see if I can complete my challenge), just follow me on Twitter (@GaryMasskin) or check back here on my blog.

I'd love to hear back if it helps ignite an idea or two... feel free to leave me a blog comment or Twitter mention.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Ode to Lunch

Yummy yummy in my tummy
A monster sandwich
to match a monster hunger
Monster hunger bugging me
Can’t survive on snacks and tea
Looking forward to my lunch
What’s in store, I have a hunch

Not just any lunch will do
Satisfy my taste buds too
Ask politely ‘Tum, wassup?’
‘Monster sandwich, conjure up!’

Have not eaten one for many
Years gone by, not eaten any
Surely I’ve been missing out
Now my daughter has some clout

Like a scratch unto an itch
Pesters Gran for a sandwich
‘Make it huge, as huge can be
That’s what we shall have for tea!’

‘Fill it with all kinds of stuff
Don’t go easy, teeth are tough
Load it up with meats and spreads
Fancy cheese and many breads’

‘Philly, butter and Nutella
Vegemite is also stellar
Capers, onion, salmon smoked
Add pineapple - I’ll be stoked’

‘Meat delight with every bite,
Somehow it just tastes so right
Even ox tongue, on a dare
Tasty, swiss and camembert’

‘For some beetroot and an egg
Please, oh please, don’t make me beg
Mayonnaise, a can of tuna
Could you make it ready sooner?’

‘Layer fruits and veggies too
Nothing (almost) is taboo
Carrots, honey, sweet sultanas
What the heck, just go bananas’

Mind if I have a few nibbles?
Juicy! Down my hands it dribbles
Every bite, a brand new taste
Makes me want to eat with haste

Peanut butter… crunchy munch
Mustard pickle… munchy crunch
Monster sandwich satisfies…
What a grand old lunchy lunch!

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Mathematical Gymnastic Linguistics

I'm a pestic what?!?
Who would have thought that coming up with a story and then making it rhyme was the easy part? 
I am currently working on a re-write of Chasing Tail and am mostly focussing on getting the rhythm consistent.  When talking about rhythm, one enters a whole new realm.  A whole new language.  The linguists have made up lots of funny sounding words and even taken common words from the English language and given them new meaning, just to describe… <drum roll please> how the English language works.
Navigating the shores of diphthongs, triphthongs, schwas and demi-syllables (linguistics)… and the stormy seas of iambic, dactyl, anapestic and trochaic patterns of feet in lines of trimeter, tetrameter, pentameter or hexameter (mathematics)… one must also be somewhat flexible (gymnastics) in order to bend the words into coherent verse (let alone a complete story).
Needless to say, I’ve just developed an even stronger appreciation for the likes of Theodor Geisel (aka Dr Seuss) who was obviously a grand master mathematical gymnastic linguist.
Just for the record, I am aiming for rhyming couplets in anapestic tetrameter for my re-write.
da da DUM da da DUM da da DUM da da DUM
da da DUM da da DUM da da DUM da da DUM
And be damned how many syllables the dictionaries claim are in the word “smile”; I’m counting it as two beats J

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Here's hoping "Scruffy McPaw" translates well into Greek

Whilst thinking about how long, realistically, it would take me to establish any kind of name in the picture book industry, I got to thinking about my target audience and which generation(s) I'd be writing for.  I hadn't realised that according to some, my 4 year old DD only snuck into Generation Z by a couple of years.

So then I was trying to think what comes after Generation Z?  I thought that perhaps, Generation @ would be appropriate. Alas, looks like I am about 8 years behind the times on that one... apparently Generation @ is an alternative suggestion to Gen Z, as are Generation I (Internet Generation) and Generation Text... thanks Wikipedia.

 So what does come after Gen Z?  Apparently, the agreed name is Generation α (For those that don't speak physics or mathematics, that's an Alpha - as in the first letter of the Greek alphabet). 

Generation α

The unfortunatley-not-so-exciting reasoning is explained here.  

They will presumably be followed by the very imaginatively named Gen β (hopefully not too full of bugs - sorry, software engineering joke) but I digress.

They say that the attributes and qualities of a generation are not known until they have had a chance to make their mark.

So what do you think, what will Gen α be known for in 20 years time?

Saturday, 1 October 2011

In honour of the brand new Dr Seuss book

It's been 20 years since Dr Seuss passed away, yet his stories still enjoy massive popularity.  Today, a new book of his work is being released in book stores:

I felt very proud when I was told by a member of my writers critique group that the following excerpt from my Chasing Tail story reminded her of Dr Seuss:

He chases them high,
He chases them low,
He chases them fast,
He chases them slow,

He chases them big,
He chases them small,
If they wiggle or waggle,
He chases them all.

So, inspired by the comp at I thought that I would put together a short ode to my favourite Dr Seuss book:

The Cat in the Hat
Entertains just like that
I love fun with Thing One
And you too Thing Two

Dr Seuss
Is on the loose.
That cat in that hat
Rocks my caboose!

What do you love about the Dr Seuss books?

Friday, 23 September 2011

Lessons In Reality: The Tortoise & The Hare - Remixed

The Tortoise & The Hare is a great children's story and contains a very worthwhile lesson for kids. However, tweak the conditions slightly and it's an entirely different ballgame.  Allow me to demonstrate with the following illustrations.

Introduce a dose of reality (eg. a predator such as Scruffy McPaw above), and suddenly "slow and steady" becomes "slow and easily devoured".  It doesn't have to a predator of course.  Any form of time pressure will do.

Don't get me wrong, there's certainly a time and place for the "slow and steady" approach.  Anyone performing an operating on me in the future can take all the time they want.  But in most real world scenarios, time is precious and there are few managers I know who will buy into the premise of the original Tortoise & Hare tale.

So what age do you think is appropriate to remix this classic fable and start preparing your child for the real world?

Monday, 12 September 2011

Hello World

What does one say in the first post of their first ever foray into the blogosphere? I guess the logical place to start would be to introduce myself and the reason for creating "Picture Books with Chutzpah".

Let me take you back a few months to a lazy afternoon at home with my four year old daughter. It was an average day. At the best of times, my adorable daughter has the attention span of a gnat so it didn't take her long to reach a state where boredom had set in. Deeply set in. 

Anyway, we got to talking about the entertainment options at our disposal. One thing led to another and we decided that it would be best if we got creative and made our own entertainment, since the other options on offer simply didn't cut the grade. Having always had an interest in various forms of writing, I decided to challenge myself to write a picture book which I could share with my daughter.

I've always had a bit of a cheeky side (usually well hidden) and thought that if I'm going to reveal myself as a big kid at heart, then I better do it properly. With a great big dollop of chutzpah!

The ideas came thick and fast... cheeky book titles that fit into one of two categories:
  1. Titles which contain slightly rude words (guaranteed to get a giggle out of a preschooler) or
  2. Titles which contain double-entendres that are perfectly innocent to those same preschoolers, but are likely to evoke a snicker from their aunt/uncle and possibly elicit a 'tut-tut' from the principal.
Fast forward to today. My first picture book titled Chasing Tail is now finished and self-published over at Smashwords. I thought I'd create this blog to explore my endeavours as a picture book author; publish the odd observation (and when I use the word odd, it serves multiple purposes); maybe even review picture books by others and rather conveniently, it gives me a great platform to shamelessly self promote my books (apparently writing picture books is a really tough industry to break into so please take it easy with any anti-capitalist sentiments). So that's the blog introduction out of the way.

As for me, I don't actually exist.

Or to be more accurate, "Gary Masskin" doesn't really exist (apologies if there are any real Gary Masskins out there). I've decided to create a pseudonym as I have ambitions to write thriller novels one day and so I thought I'd write the picture books under a different pen name.

How did I decide on this particular name?

I knew straight up that I wanted it to be an anagram of my last name. This gave me plenty of letters to play with. After several attempts rearranging the letters, I struck gold with "Gary Masskin".

Gary means "spear thrower" which lends itself nicely to the controversial book titles I had in mind and the aforementioned dollop of chutzpah.  Mass means "big" and kin means "kid". So roughly translated, I tell people that Gary Masskin means “Big-kid-at-heart-who-enjoys-throwing-spears”.