Category Archives: Kim Donovan

The Shoemaker’s Secret

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The Shoemaker’s glass slippers and soft leather boots were coveted by royalty and the very rich. Other shoemakers wanted to know the secret techniques and materials he used to craft them, but his big secret was he didn’t make the shoes; they were the work of elves.

He had found the elves working in his shop late one night, stitching fabric. They were no bigger than dolls and wore tatty, green tunics over woollen tights. He thought he should pay them in some way and presented them with new clothing; they were like excited children on Christmas morning.

Over the next few months the elves produced more and more new designs while The Shoemaker took the credit for their craftsmanship, gaining considerable wealth and status. He continued to pay his workers in tiny shirts, trousers, underwear and socks, but then one night the elves turned the tables. They took something belonging to him before they made the shoes: the book he was reading. He bought another copy and thought no more of it.

But the following evening, the same thing happened. This time they chose a framed picture of his baby daughter and paid him five pairs of sandals. The day after, they took a curl of her blonde hair.

The Shoemaker held his child tight to his chest and said to his wife, ‘I’ll put a stop to it.’

The next night he waited up for the elves. They appeared on the stroke of midnight.

‘I don’t need your services any more,’ he said firmly. ‘Please go.’

They smiled smugly, bowed and left the shop. He hoped this was the end of it all, but in the morning he discovered a pair of sparkly silver shoes taking pride of place in the shop’s display window. His daughter’s beloved teddy bear had disappeared.

He tried moving his family to a nearby coaching inn, but that night they took the child’s little toe. The Shoemaker wept, not knowing what to do. The elves would take her bit by bit; he was sure of it.

The bell tinkled as the shop door swung open and a young man walked in.

‘I’m enquiring to see if you have any jobs?’ he said. ‘I want to be as good a shoemaker as you.’

‘Do you have a wife, children?’ asked The Shoemaker.

‘No, it’s just me,’ he replied.

The Shoemaker sighed with relief and smiled. ‘You can have my business for free,’ he said.

He handed the bewildered man the keys to the shop and left immediately with his wife and child. They were never seen again.

The new shoemaker was the talk of town. His glass slippers were exquisite.

Story by Kim Donovan. Image Pixabay. All rights reserved.

First published on my author blog.

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Mobile homes with a difference

I love the creative freedom independent publishing gives me. Here’s one of my micro stories. I hope you like it!

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First posted on my author blog.

Kim

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Favourite Quotes on Writing

Having completed my challenge to blog a book quote a day for 365 days, I thought I would want a rest from finding quotes for a while – but I’m collecting more than ever! I love them. Here are some of my favourite quotes on writing for anyone working on a book at the moment (including me). I hope you find them inspiring.

virginia woolf

 So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters.

Virginia Woolf

Explore the reason that bids you write, find out if it has spread out its roots in the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die, if writing should be denied to you. Above all, ask yourself in the stillest hour of the night, ‘Must I write?’

Rainer Maria Rilke

 You know that sickening feeling of inadequacy and over-exposure you feel when you look upon your own empurpled prose? Relax into the awareness that this ghastly sensation will never, ever leave you, no matter how successful and publicly lauded you become. It is intrinsic to the real business of writing and should be cherished.

Will Self

 Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly. Only if you do that can you hope to make the reader feel a particle of what you, the writer, have known and feel compelled to share.

Anne Rice

We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.

Ernest Hemingway

 Writing is a lonely job. Having someone who believes in you makes a lot of difference. They don’t have to make speeches. Just believing is usually enough.

Stephen King

A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.

Virginia Woolf

 Write the kinds of stories you like to read. If you don’t love what you’re writing, no one else will.

Meg Cabot

 Have fun.

Anne Enright

 Does anyone have any writing quotes they’d like to share? I’d love to hear them.

Thanks for reading my blog.

Kim

Author of St Viper’s School for Super Villains

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Hogwarts’ owl seen slipping inside St Vipers School for Super Villains

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It looks like a Hogwarts’ owl is trying to slip inside St Vipers School for Super Villains. I wonder why? Here’s my series, rubbing shoulders with Harry Potter, in the window of Topping & Company Booksellers of Bath yesterday.

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Exciting Ways to Celebrate World Book Day

WBD2014_lime_leftWorld Book Day is a celebration of books and reading, which is marked in over one hundred countries. At Electrik Inc we love to see children enjoying stories and we’re often invited into schools on this day to read from our books, facilitate creative writing workshops and generally join in with the fun! Here are some ideas from Kim and Kay if you’re looking for inspiration. Happy World Book Day!

Kim Donovan

Produce a School Anthology. This World Book Day I’ll be helping to launch a very special anthology of short stories and poems written by two hundred pupils from King Edward’s Junior School, Bath. My little publishing nest, Squawk Books, is the publisher of this amazing book and I couldn’t be more proud. It’s called Knock Your Socks Off! On World Book Day the children will take centre stage, reading their stories to friends and family, answering questions and, of course, signing books!

Guess the Book. Here is a clever way to get children thinking creatively about their favourite books. Pupils choose a story and tell the class about it using a box decorated in the theme of the book and filled with clues, such as a bottle with a label tied round the neck with the words “Drink Me” for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Bedtime Stories for Reception, Year 1 & 2. Why not hold a bedtime event in the school hall during the early evening? Make the room comfortable with gym mats, project glowing stars onto the ceiling and ask the children to bring in duvets and pillows. Give them an early midnight feast and then settle the boys and girls down for a story-telling session. Libraries could do their own version of Night in the Museum with guest appearances from book characters for a fun bedtime event!

Hold a book quiz. Stage your own show like University Challenge with teams representing a class or house, starter questions – “on the buzzer” – and bonus questions for the team who answered the question correctly. The questions might relate to books that have been studied by the whole class, contemporary and classic children’s literature or featured authors. For the picture round you could show the pupils cover illustrations and ask them to name the titles of the books. The music round could be on stories that have been turned into films – their music tracks. Don’t forget to say, “It’s goodbye from X (losing side), it’s goodbye from Y (winning side) and it’s goodbye from me.” I found the University Challenge theme tune on televisiontunes.com.

Kay Leitch

Take Two Books
Consider a fun afternoon event, where children take two books to school with them. One is their absolute favourite, which they would never swap – and they must tell everyone why they love it so much.

The second is a book they like but are happy to swap, and they must tell everyone why, and put it into a pile for ‘swaps’. There should be a pile of books the children want to swap, so everyone can take something from this pile, if they want.

To make this even more interesting, invite along a local author, who can bring their own published book to talk about and do a Q&A session on. They can bring a book they want to swap, too, and tell everyone why.

Write A Story With Your Favourite Character
Take your favourite character of all time and write a story with them in it. This doesn’t have to be from the same kind of story the character is from. In fact, it’s more fun if you put them in a completely different kind of story. Imagine the Gruffalo as a policeman… or a dentist … what would that be like? A bit like fanzine stuff. Have fun.

Murder Mystery Day
All pupils who want to act a part, put their names into a hat. Pull six (or more) pupils’ names out: one is the victim; one is the murderer; one is the detective; one is the detective’s not-very-bright sidekick. Two (or more) are witnesses who tell conflicting stories…

Just for starters: you could write a script where it becomes clear that the murderer and one of the witnesses know each other and are covering for each other. The murderer keeps changing his or her story and it becomes clear they don’t have an alibi. The not-very-bright sidekick keeps missing clues. That kind of thing makes it fun for everyone.

Anyone in the participating class can ask questions.

If you want to share what you’ll be doing on World Book Day, or if you have any ideas you think children would love, use our Comments box and let us know. It would be great to hear from you.

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Stretching my Wings

This year I’ll be flying a little further away from my virtual home at Electrik Inc, our collective of children’s writers involved in Professional Independent Publishing.  I’ll still be very much part of the group and will continue to write books under that logo and support Janine, Jenny and Kay with their stories. But I’m also ready for other/new challenges and have two exciting projects in progress.

SQUAWK - RED (2)My own little publishing nest, Squawk Books, is about to become the proud publisher of a whole school anthology, which I’ve been helping King Edward’s Junior School to write. Knock Your Socks Off! is the title the children picked for their book of short stories, poems and illustrations, and the name couldn’t be more apt. The book certainly does for isbn agencywhat it says on the tin! I also had my socks knocked off by the way the children grasped the opportunity to be published authors with both hands. I saw pupils working in the library before school on their stories, a reluctant writer not only produce a brilliantly funny piece but start planning a whole series for his character, and children discussing story ideas and helping each other in the playground. It’s been a lot of work but incredibly rewarding and good fun. I can’t wait for the launch on World Book Day!

My second solo project is to write and publish my first book for adult readers. One of the reasons I chose ‘the third way’, where a writer independently publishes some books and uses a traditional publisher for others, is that I thought it would allow me greater creative freedom to write what I wanted to write. So do expect different things from me! The story I’m currently working on, called Misdirection, is inspired by my writer friends at Electrik Inc. I’ll tell you more about the book another time, but it involves suffragette - bath in timea special group of real-life suffragettes who unconditionally supported each other in their common goal to win women the right to vote. I’ve had unconditional support from Electrik Inc with publishing the St Viper’s series and it is a privilege to work on their books too. Although I’m flying solo for this adult book I know that just below me my fellow inklings are stretching out a safety net – just in case.

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Kim Donovan

http://kimdonovanauthor.wordpress.com

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BELIEVE IN BOOKS!

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Do you believe in books?

Children are reading fewer books than ever, with increasingly more time spent on games apps, Youtube and text messaging. Sadly, many are becoming non-readers. After reading this report in theguardiancom, we are campaigning to persuade Father Christmas to include a story in every child’s stocking (ebooks as well as physical ones). We need your help to make this happen.

If, like us, you believe in books, help spread the magic – please like this post and share with everyone you know.
Thank you.

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Super Stories for Stockings

As special advisors to the children’s book department at the North Pole, we have been campaigning for a story to be included in every child’s stocking. I know a nine-year-old has written to Father Christmas asking for St Viper’s School for Super Villains because I’ve been asked by an elf to write a personal message inside the cover. I’ve seen Kay’s book Treasure This  on the present conveyor belt too. Here are some other brilliant stories we’ve suggested to the book-buying elf team.

Inkling ideas for bookworms

Kim Donovan, author of the series St Viper’s School for Super Villains.

Every Christmas Eve my son and I dust off Father Christmas by Raymond Briggs and read it curled up together in bed. The book is in comic-strip format and has well over a hundred exquisite illustrations, showing the reader everything Father Christmas does from the moment he wakes up on December 24th to going to bed on Christmas Day: making cheese sandwiches for the journey, filling the sledge with presents, riding through fog, tripping over a cat in someone’s house. We also see him being a grumpy old man, which is a nice change from the standard jolly Father Christmas character. The book is full of humour, the illustrations are delightful and my son seems to appreciate the story more with each passing year. A special 40th edition copy has just been published.  As Father Christmas says, “Happy Blooming Christmas to you, too!”

Janine Amos at  janineamos.com

There are so many wonderful children’s books to choose from. . .

For children who like fairy tales, I’d recommend The Snow Queen, vividly retold for confident readers by Sarah Lowes, Barefoot Books. This little version of the Hans Christian Anderson tale about friendship and courage is illustrated by Miss Clara, a French artist with a gift for the magical. There are other books in the series – The Princess and the Pea and The Twelve Dancing Princesses  − all perfect reading for a cold winter’s night.

For something much more contemporary, Frank Cottrell Boyce’s novel Millions is a miracle of a story: what happens when millions of banknotes fall from a train right into the arms of Damian Cunningham, Year 5. This fast-paced adventure, told in Damian’s voice, is both funny and sad; it will have you laughing out loud and crying too, and I can guarantee that after reading it you’ll never see the school Nativity Play in quite the same way again. Millions really will please anyone from 8 to 80 – Cottrell Boyce’s “dream-reader” is an adult and child reading together, one of the very best ways to spend Christmas I reckon.

Jenny Landor

Some stories have a magical quality you can’t quite put your finger on … For a rip-roaring yarn which adds that X factor to Xmas, look no further. Geraldine McCaughrean, one of the most acclaimed and original storytellers for children, gives Christmas a real twist in Forever X, a novel for ages 10+ which will enchant and surprise grown-up readers too.

When the Shepherd family car breaks down at the start of their summer holiday, they are forced to stay in the nearest B and B, a bizarre place where December 25th happens every day of the year. Despite Holly, the resident elf, and grandfather F-C’s efforts to fulfill wishes, the drama here isn’t all tinsel and candy, especially when the police and the mysterious Mr Angel arrive…

Funny, moving and brilliantly plotted, the story explores family relationships and gets to the bottom of what Christmas is really about. Read about Geraldine’s books here and check out another favourite, The White Darkness, a gripping and romantic survival adventure which, by contrast, has a decidedly wintry setting. Peter Pan in Scarlet, the official sequel to J M Barrie’s original, will delight too.

Kay Leitch, author of Treasure This

If you happen to see Santa sitting chuckling over a book before Christmas, he’s probably reading ”Who Could That Be at This Hour?” by Lemony Snicket (the first in the “All The Wrong Questions” series). And if you like your mysteries to have quirky humour, wit and a sense of the ridiculous, you’ll make sure this book finds its way into your stocking too. This series has all the usual fun, twists and turns we’ve come to expect from Lemony Snicket, along with more curious characters such as the enigmatic Ellington Feint, librarian Dashiell Qwerty, and Moxie Mallahan the journalist. Lemony’s secret assignment centres around finding a statue of the Bombinating Beast, presumed stolen… but perhaps not actually stolen…  and as usual Lemony shows himself to be much smarter than his chaperone, S. Theodora Markson, who is the best there is… or perhaps not…

A nice mystery, neatly tied up at the end… or maybe not…  which means you’ll probably want to read the other three in the series. Great fun and a delight to read. Just remember – the map is not the territory!

Another favourite of mine is One Boy and His Dog by Eva Ibbotson. A bit of a modern classic, this is simply but beautifully written and, sadly, was the last one Eva Ibbotson completed before her death. Hal has always wanted a dog and his overly house-proud parents humour him by hiring one – Fleck – for a weekend, thinking Hal will tire of the idea. As anyone who has ever loved an animal knows, you don’t tire of them in a few days – you fall more deeply in love. Hal is devastated when Fleck is taken away and returned to Easy Pets Rental. This is the story of how he runs away and tries to get Fleck back, with the help of his friend Pippa and four other dogs. An emotional journey for characters and readers alike and a very satisfying read.

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Super Books for Boys

Ch4altIn a time when children are reportedly reading less than ever, what we need are story heroes who stand together and take on the fight. In a small way, my young evil geniuses at St Viper’s School for Super Villains  have been helping to save the day — they’ll be annoyed when they find out I’ve been calling them heroes! Readers tell me they can devour a St Viper’s adventure in a weekend (they take me months to craft and the illustrator to draw) and I know there are other super stories out there, which make kids want to read.

So here’s a novel idea: writers telling their readership about other books they would enjoy. Their competition! I know what my 7 – 10 year-old readers want from a St Viper’s story: plots to take over the world, plenty of action, use of super powers, cool gadgets, friends working together, tongue-in-cheek phrases, lessons in diabolical laughing, a fast pace … and I’m knowledgeable about what else is available in stores. We don’t have to work alone, do we? The time has come to join forces. We strike for victory!

If you like St Viper’s  why not try:

Magic Ink  by Steve Cole

Twelve-year-old Stew Pender loves super heroes as much as his grandfather, a once famous comic book artist, and spends his time drawing comic characters including his alter ego: Stupendous Man. When his grandfather goes to the great comic convention in the sky, Stew and his family move into his home. On the first night in the house, Stew is woken by a cartoon pig in a top hat and cape. This isn’t a figment of his imagination. In the attic, where his grandfather used to draw, Stew finds a bottle of magic ink, which brings characters to life. But it’s not all fun and games, the creator of the Magic Ink — the wizard Merlin — is imprisoned in a cave in a land of myth and monsters and needs Stew to draw super heroes to save him.

I say: It’s quirky, great fun and the idea’s brilliant. Unlike St Viper’s and NERDS (see below), most of the action comes at the end of the book, but there are lots of hooks to keep readers turning the page and the pace is spot on. Steve Cole is the author of the well-known series Astrosaurs.  Magic Ink is suitable for 8+ readers.

Atomic. The Madness of Madame Malice  by Guy Bass. Issue 2.

Ten-year-old super-powered twins Jonny and Tommy Atomic have a super hero father and a super villain mother. They live with their father, Captain Atomic, Aunt Sandwich who’s a hamster and Dogday, a super-intelligent dog on an island in the sky. Their mother is an inmate at The Stronghold, a high-security super prison, until she breaks out to spend time with her darling boys. In this book, one of the twins is drawn to the dark side and the other the light as they spend quality time with her. She frees all the animals in the zoo, turns their school to rubble and rips the roof off Icy Joe’s Delectable Dairy Den so they can fly to the front of the ice-cream queue. The story follows a predictable path until the end where Bass reveals their mother’s true dark colours.

I say: The storyline is simple, the chapters are short and there are lots of illustrations to break up the text. The book would be enjoyed most by my younger and less confident readers (7+). It’s also a suitable story for parents to read aloud. In book 3, Bass hints that the boys will become their father’s sidekicks. I hope that as the series develops we’ll see the children use their super powers a lot more. But what I think my readers will really like about this book is that it’s part novel and part comic. They’ll also like the super cool cover!

NERDS. The Villain Virus  by Michael Buckley. Book 4.

Michael Buckley is the New York Times bestselling author of the Sisters Grimm series and NERDS is a great read, too. In this book, the villain population rockets as a virus sweeps the world, which makes people develop insane alter egos. Ordinary folk start planning the destruction of the planet, building doomsday devices, wearing ridiculous costumes and calling themselves the Terrible Tornado and such like. Kids from the NERDS secret spy society are given the job of saving the world. They are all underdogs and what’s nice is that their weaknesses are all turned into super strengths. For example, Wheezer — Matlida Choi — can fly and blast enemies with her asthma inhalers. In this story, Flinch takes centre stage. He’s hyperfast, hyperstrong and just plain hyper (a bit like my son!) and I must say hyperbrave to be shrunk and injected into the bottom of a master villain near the end of the book.

I say: the story is great fun and has lots of action — KA-POW! It feels like an animated cartoon, which is also how I see St Viper’s.  NERDS is suitable for 8 + readers.

Cartoon Kid  by Jeremy Strong. Title: Zombies.

All of Mr Butternut’s class are super heroes — that’s what he told them in their first lesson. There’s Cartoon Kid, Big Feet Pete, Exploding Girl and many others. They are actually ordinary children, but in moments of crisis the book changes to a comic strip and the kids transform into heroes in cool super suits. Afterwards, we find out what really happened to them. There are three short stories in this book. In the first story, Cartoon Kid (Casper) gets the pupils out of a tight spot with Masher McNee and his Monster Mob by scaring them with the dead bat he’d brought in for Show and Tell. In the second story, the school inspectors pay a visit and are not impressed with what they find until Mr Butternut saves the day with an inspiring history lesson. Then in the last story, Cartoon Kid tries to be a hero (even if this is out of self-interest) by painting his sister’s bedroom with a water blaster. The underlying message behind Cartoon Kid is that anyone can be a super hero.

I say: It’s exactly what I expect from a Jeremy Strong book. Cartoon Kid  is funny, age-appropriate and suitable for children who are starting to build confidence with reading. Readership: 7+.

Vordak the Incomprehensible. How to Grow Up and Rule the World.  Scott Seegert

A comical step-by-step guide on how to bring out your inner evil and take over the world. Instructions include: how to select a gut-wrenching evil name, communicating with your arch-nemesis, picking a super menace mask and buying the right super villain lair — typically, I chose the most expensive one: an orbiting space station!

I say: It’s a fun read and I can see my older readers liking it (10+). The book’s packed with illustrations, lists and diagrams (I loved the Many Faces of Evil) and it may appeal to reluctant boy readers. But it does cross the invisible line I set for St Viper’s.  Some parents may not like how Vordak the Incomprehensible encourages children to grow the evil that exists inside of them. This book will appeal to my younger readers but it really is for older kids who know not to take the advice seriously.

St Viper’s School for Super Villains

If you are not familiar with my series, you can read about it on this site or please visit Amazon for more reader reviews.  Thank you!
http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_0_10?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=st%20viper’s%20school%20for%20super%20villains&sprefix=St+Viper’s%2Caps%2C292&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3Ast%20viper’s%20school%20for%20super%20villains

Kim Donovan

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Despicable Me, Responsible Me

My eight-year-old evil genius was seriously unimpressed with one crucial thing that happened in the films Despicable Me and Megamind: the bad guys turned good.  So it would seem that Despicable Me 2, the sequel, is wrongly named – there is now nothing at all despicable about the main character. It is more Responsible Me. Gru, the villain turned hero of the original, is now a devoted dad who cross dresses as a pink fairy to save his daughter’s birthday party and makes jam instead of trying to take over the world.

‘This isn’t good,’ said evil son (now nine), shaking his head and looking like there was no hope for Gru. Clearly he likes his villains to stay evil.

I can see the same challenge ahead for my own book series, St Viper’s School for Super Villains. My young readers like the fact that the super villains in training are bad – it makes them exciting. But some of my more responsible, grown up readers would like to see all the characters become heroes in the end to send out the ‘proper’ message to children. Good always wins through in the end, right? Who shall I upset?

Fortunately in Despicable Me 2, the writers have made Gru’s life as a stay-at-home dad more interesting by having him recruited by the Anti-Villain League, which has its HQ in an underwater submarine. In places the film has the look and feel of The Incredibles.  The story has quirky scenes and cool gadgets. Gru’s secret agent partner, Lucy Wilde, has a lipstick taser.  Personally, I’d have made it a lip salve lightsaber, which when twisted grows into a long white laser beam (Hmmm … maybe a copyright issue). The Anti-Villain League have decided it takes a villain to know one and Gru’s first and only assignment is to find the master criminal who has stolen a lethal serum which when injected into a fluffy bunny does the equivalent of feeding a Mogwai after midnight.

The film is not amazing but it is certainly good family entertainment with lots of slapstick humour. The kids I saw in the cinema all looked engaged and laughed along with the story; as did evil son.  I saw no-one playing on their mum’s iphone (I did actually see this in a children’s theatre the day before). My super hero husband only nodded off for about five minutes (a record for a family movie) and there were several genuinely funny moments. Most of them involving the stars of the film, by some distance, who are the horde of little yellow ‘minions’.  If they ever get bored helping Gru load the washing machine, they will be welcomed with open arms to be villainous at St Viper’s School!

It may not be any more despicable than the first film, but the entertainment is just as good.  Take your young villains along for a laugh and even they won’t be too disappointed by the happy ending.

Kim

 
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