Guest Blog #2 – Jen Storer

As one of our top 15 picks for junior readers, Jen Storer’s Tensy Farlow and the Home for Mislaid Children is a firm Fairfield Books favourite. The whimsical tale is full of magic and adventure and will keep young readers guessing until the very end. Charming and quirky, Tensy is a nine year with something to say.

And here is something her creator has to say about writing fantasy for young readers….

Beyond the Alphabet: Writing Action Scenes for Children’s Fantasy

Writing action scenes can be an exhausting process. There’s so much going on that it’s easy to lose sight of who’s doing what; who’s in, who’s out, who’s blubbing, who’s bolting, who’s fighting the good fight. And aside from the physical action there are all sorts of emotions and motivations that need to be observed or in the very least alluded to. These might include fear, delight, bravery, victory, regret, envy, greed; they’re all flying around in the blurry mix of an action scene. So how do authors pull it off without totally bamboozling their young readers and without pulling out their own hair in despair? Well, firstly I make a pot of tea. That’s a nice, civilised start. Then I write the first few jerky pages. This is where I just kind of let loose—I stop worrying about the reader and for the time being just let the characters run amok. Then I print out what I’ve written, take the hard copy and go and sit somewhere well away from Miss Mary Mac (if I stay anywhere near the computer she and I will want to fix the pacing and point of view, or fiddle with the grammar and syntax and spelling and all that fluffy stuff that Doesn’t Matter at this point). I might retire to the garden. Or perhaps my local café. Thus ensconced I drink more tea, re-read and ponder. I absorb every nuance of the scene so that my mind is flooded with movements, gestures, snippets of dialogue, even smells. Then I take out my A3 sketchpad and I draw the scene (stick figures if you please, although occasionally there’s a flourish of inspiration and someone will score a cape or wings or crooked teeth). If you’ve ever acted, this is rather like blocking out a scene on the stage. Or for those of you who dance, it’s choreography on paper. I need to know exactly where everyone is and how and when they’re going to pounce or strike or flee. I need to be absolutely clear about this or the entire ugly broil will implode (and so will my brain).

In my new book, The Accidental Princess, there are several opposing villains including a witch queen, a giant toad and a traitorous cat who may not even be a cat. There are also a couple of feuding imp armies, a band of cock-eyed goblins and two quarrelling sisters at the centre of everything. Naturally it all comes to a head at the end of the book and quite frankly it would have been impossible to write this final showdown without the aid of an A3 sketchpad, some wonky stick figures and a pot of tea. Sometimes you really do have to go beyond the alphabet in order to write…

Jen Storer

The Accidental Princess, illustrated by Lucia Masciullo, is due out April 2011.

Tensy Farlow and the Home for Mislaid Children (HB $19.95) and Tan Callahan’s Secret Spy Files (PB $14.95) are available instore now. See the Tan Callahan book trailer below and check out all things Tensy, Tan and Jen at Jen’s website


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Filed under Junior Readers (8-11 years)

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