Monthly Archives: March 2019

Book Review – Tiz & Ott’s big draw

Title: Tiz & Ott’s big draw

Written and Illustrated by: Bridget Marzo

Published by: Tate Publishing

Tiz and Ott

Tiz & Ott’s big draw is an ode to the imagination and expressing yourself creatively. Children, parents and teachers will love this fun, creative way of introducing art to young people. This book reveals the multitude of different ways we can create marks, whilst showing the effects these marks can produce. Tiz and Ott demonstrate how to draw your way out of illustrator’s block.

This high-energy story is about Tiz the cat and Ott the donkey who are drawing themselves an exciting adventure. They have no idea what they are going to draw next they are just going with the flow where their imaginations take them. They start off small with a house here, a sun there and a rain cloud for shade and their adventure literally explodes right off the page.

Tiz and Ott2

Ott gets stuck in a scrape of orange sand and Tiz scritch scratches herself out of the hole with her multi-coloured crayon. The sky really is the limit. Bridget’s bold and colourful illustrations will capture the children’s imagination, encouraging them to try the ideas for themselves. At the end of the book, there are some step-by-step instructions on how to draw each of the characters and a recap of all the individual marks they used.

“Tiz and Ott is not just about creative block – getting carried away, landing in a hole and having to find a way out of it but also, oddly I realise high energy Tiz is a bit like my daughter, and my son says he identifies with low energy Ott.”

Bridget Marzo

This book is an ideal resource for stimulating art activities at home and in the classroom. It would be an excellent tool for encouraging children to express their imagination. Tiz & Ott’s big draw demonstrates there is so much more to painting and drawing than just painting and drawing. It epitomises the brilliance of free will.

To find out more about author-illustrator Bridget Marzo and her books see her website: or follow her on Twitter: @bridgimage 

An interview with… Stephen Potts

In Dec 2008, I interviewed award-winning screenwriter and novelist, Stephen Potts, about the research he did for his books and screenplay adaptations.

Pullman and Potts

(c) Stephen Potts

In 2007, he was commissioned to adapt Philip Pullman’s 1992 novel of doomed teenage romance, The Butterfly Tattoo, as a feature film. It was directed by Phil Hawkins. The film toured festivals in 2008, winning several awards (including Best Adaptation at the New York Independent Film Festival), and reaching 75 on IMDb’s moviemeter, before a US/UK cinema. The DVD was released in 2009.


Stephen told me:

“I’m aware I write visually (hence my interest in screenwriting). Unless I see a scene in my head I can’t write it.” Stephen Potts

He does not have a set method for research as he believes it should be appropriate to the task. It was interesting to discover that adapting The Butterfly Tattoo didn’t require visits to Oxford, where it’s set, as he had lived there for eight years. But it did require him to read and re-read the book, every interview Pullman had given where it was discussed, and every review of the book he could find.

Stephen explained:

“The questions here, in adaptation, were different: what was Pullman trying to achieve? What was the essence of the story? What are the inessential features, which could be changed to fit the different form of a feature film?” Stephen Potts

Stephen emphasised how the temptation, when you’ve invested time, money and effort in your research, and you’ve unearthed interesting nuggets, is to crowbar it all in to what you’re writing. He revealed he had to tell himself repeatedly that he was not writing history, but a story. If a piece of information served a story purpose, and was interesting to boot, all well and good: but he was adamant that the story must never serve as a showcase for More Interesting Facts.

“In writing, you must kill all your darlings.” William Faulkner

Stephen Potts has been nominated twice for the Carnegie Medal (Hunting Gumnor, 2000; Tommy Trouble, 2001) and short-listed for the inaugural Branford-Boase Award (Hunting Gumnor, 2000) and Askews Prize (Compass Murphy, 2002).

You can read the full interview in the December 2008 #87 issue of Writers Forum. You can find out more about Stephen Potts and his books on his website.

The Fictional Dream

Read for inspiration. If you admire an author and their writing, copy a couple of pages of their work and take it apart to find out how they did it.


Shakespeare’s Titania depicted by Edwin Landseer in his painting Scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, based on A Midsummer Night’s Dream act IV, scene I

When you read you forget the words. You enter the fictional dream. You don’t read on unless the dream is continuous and vivid. You have in your mind’s eye what you want to write about and the film is running in your head. What you feel, hear, touch, the clothes you are wearing, the sensation on your skin. Know these physical clues and work the scene.

“If you put your energy into getting all the senses right, the words come easier.”

Pamela Cleaver

Modified by CombineZP

The story produced is like growing crystals. You have to be there. Being there is writing what you see, hear and feel. An image or idea can be developed. Your unconscious will join them up. Work with your unconscious and accept the ideas do not come in the right order. Ask, what does the reader really want out of this scene? By seeing you can lead the reader into the fictional dream.

Book Review – Creative Writing

Title: Creative Writing: How to unlock your imagination and develop your writing skills

Written by: Adèle Ramet

Published by: How To Books

How To Books

This book is ideal for the beginner writer who wants an overview of the different genres whether they are writing for children or adults. It covers both fiction and non-fiction and has chapters on character, setting, dialogue, using personal experiences and how to submit to publishers.

Following the familiar how to book format, each of the ten chapters concludes with a handy checklist and an assignment to help you develop your skills and put what you have read into practice. There is also a very useful list of addresses for writing organisations and societies, as well as lists of websites and further reading where you can find more information.

I also have some of Adèle Ramet’s other books on my bookshelf:

Creating a Twist in the Tale: How to Write Winning Short Stories for Women’s Magazines

Writing Short Stories and Articles: How to Get Your Work Published in Newspapers and Magazines

And I have had the pleasure of attending one of her ‘Writing a Twist in the Tale’ workshop. I found her no-nonsense, direct to the point style was reflected in Creative Writing: How to unlock your imagination, develop your writing skills and get published.

Adele Ramet does not ‘tell’ you how to write better, she ‘shows’ you through concise, easy-to-understand examples. By following her advice, you’ll be able to recognise the areas that need sharpening in your own writing and know how to improve them. It is the kind of book you’ll want to refer to time and time again. Packed full of useful ‘insider’ tips on creating professional, potentially lucrative manuscripts it provides a comprehensive guide on how to write on a variety of topics.

It is full of essential tips to hone your skills and help you decide which area of writing you want to concentrate on, or specialise in. In my opinion, Creative Writing is a useful addition to the bookshelf and an invaluable tool for all aspiring authors.

This book was sent to me by the How to Books publishers to review on my blog. There is always a worry when I review books what happens if I don’t like it but, I must say I really like the format of the How to Books. I like the way they use case studies and checklists and they have assignments, so you can practice. A couple of my favourite books published by How To Books are the Pamela Cleaver books on writing for children:

Writing A Children’s Book: How to Write for Children and Get Published

Ideas for Children’s Writers: A Comprehensive Resource Book of Plots, Themes, Genres, Lists, What’s Hot and What’s Not

An interview with… Alison Rattle

In June 2016, I interviewed Alison Rattle about her passion for stationery for the Papers Pens Poets blog. You can read the full feature on her and her stationery here.

Alison Rattle pic

Alison told me she does not have a favourite pen she just picks up the first thing to hand.

“When I’m writing a book I usually start off on my laptop, but then very quickly reach for a pen and notebook. There’s something very freeing, peaceful and intimate about letting your imagination run wild across a beautiful clean page.” Alison Rattle

She told me she always buy a new notebook whenever she starts a new idea for a book.

“It’s a brilliant excuse to add to my collection, but also so exciting to hold those clean, fresh pages in my hand, knowing that before long they’ll be covered in words I can’t even imagine yet.” Alison Rattle

Her most glamorous and expensive notebooks tend to be received as presents as Alison revealed she only buys reasonably priced ones, but even so they have to be pretty.

“Once I start writing in a notebook, I’m not precious about it at all. They all end up being scruffy, well-worn things that contain not only the workings of my book, but scribbled recipes, telephone numbers, shopping lists etc… a snapshot of my life during the writing process.” Alison Rattle

v for violet 1

Alison normally writes gritty crime thrillers, published by Hot Key Books. But her latest books includes two whimsical collections of quotations published by Carlton Books. They are compilations of over 1500 amusing and insightful quotations from well-known writers, politicians, film stars, artists, musicians and philosophers.

You can follow Alison on Twitter @alisonrattle

Write Like What You Talk

You can cheat the eye but you can’t cheat the ear, so always read your story aloud. Stories are oral and this is why voice is important. So write like you talk. It really is as simple as that. Say something. Then write it. Record it so you can really listen to what you have written.casette recorder

If it sounds stilted or wooden, stop and think about what you’re trying to say. Say what you want to convey aloud. Then write it down. A group reading or performance is even more useful since each reader, like an actor, will deliver their lines of dialogue at a different pace. When writing dialogue less is more, so use limited speech tags.

However, it is not only the way the characters talk that is important, spend time trying to understand why your characters say the things they do, and how they feel about it. Think about the characters and their motives:

  • What would she do?
  • What happens next?
  • What would she say?

Make these motives plausible. Get into the body of your character.


Create character sketches and think about their off the page activity so you can step into your characters shoes and know how they would react and speak in a given situation.

  • Where do they live?
  • How do they talk?
  • What non-verbal mannerisms do they have?
  • What food do they like?
  • What is their taste in music?

All these things can contribute to developing your character’s voice. I spend many hours talking aloud to myself and acting out bits of my WIP just to see how it sounds and works with the action. Oh yes, and don’t forget to use the correct punctuation so your reader knows how it should sound. A quick speaking exercise you can try is to say these three sentences aloud. Notice how the emphasise is on different words in each sentence.

You’re going to be in Strictly Come Dancing.

You’re going to be in Strictly Come Dancing!

You’re going to be in Strictly Come Dancing?

This doesn’t mean your whole book should be full of exclamation marks though. Too many exclamation marks is off putting and in my opinion lazy writing!