I’m thrilled to announce the launch of my new website www.animalswhotalk.com. A website dedicated to all things anthropomorphic.
For several months Zoe and Felix from Social Force have been patiently helping me the shape the website and the accompanying Wolfish Blog. I love the final look of the site and look forward to adding more information over summer. My regular blog posts will look at ways authors and illustrators use animal characters in fiction. I’ll be sharing background to my own works, listing favourite animal titles and providing links to interesting articles and discussions about anthropomorphism.
For teachers, there will be links to themes, topics and animal species which you may find useful when programming. For book-lovers I hope you’ll find your next favourite animal story. You can also Join the Pack to receive regular posts and I’d love to hear from you. Who are your favourite animal characters? Do you love Bottersnikes? What is your daemon?
During the next few weeks clips of authors and illustrators will appear on the Instagram carousel. They’ll be sharing their thoughts on how animals inspire their creativity. The first clip will be up soon. Enjoy!
There is alchemy in the business of writing. Authors are often asked where their ideas come from. Divine inspiration, shells on a beach, talk-back radio … Sometimes I can pinpoint a moment, more often a story grows from linked moments of wonder or interest. As ideas come together and bubble, a manuscript grows, and sometimes, with luck, this mash turns into a book. Some moments that sparked The Shark Caller involved diving on reefs in PNG’s New Britain area as well as snorkeling in Marovo Lagoon (Solomon Islands) and WA’s Greens Pool.
Greens Pool was especially significant as it became (in my mind) the fictitious ‘Abalone Cove’.
In the opening scene of The Shark Caller a teenage boy dies in mysterious circumstances at Abalone Cove. A blue-ringed octopus is involved. I once saw a blue-ring in Greens Pool; just a surprised flash before it turned sandy brown and crept away. Greens Pool is a magical place to swim. When I lived in Denmark my regular loop involved a long lap, from a rock that sometimes hid a wobbegong to the far end where a Gloomy Octopus lived under a large rock. Her garden of shells gave away the entrance. These shark and octopus encounters swirled around in my imagination, along with the evocative rocks that guard Greens Pool. I added PNG diving experiences, environmental worries and my own sense of communities being linked by oceans. This all gave me a strong sense of setting to draw on during the long writing process.
Greens Pool, WA
If you’d like to read more about The Shark Caller, here is a post from last World Octopus Day.
What a wonderful thing it is to receive artwork inspired by one of my books.
Kelby Murray is a Year 5 teacher at Bunbury Cathedral Grammar who has been reading The Shark Caller with her Year 5 class. Some of her students created beautiful drawings, inspired by different scenes in the novel.
Molly drew the villagers having a discussion and also the evocative scene later in the story where Izzy summons her courage to swim back to the boat. This is exactly how I imagined the boat would look from below. Grace drew Izzy diving through the cave. In the larger original, you can notice finer details and see how Izzy’s toe webbing is growing back, what clever crafting …
The writing process can be solitary and it’s lovely to see how readers imagine these scenes. Thank you Kelby, Grace and Molly for sending your artwork. Your pictures make me smile every time I look at them.
To honour the villainous characters in The Shark CallerI felt that a short post was needed celebrating these amazing cephalopods.
As well as having three hearts, octopus are super-intelligent. They can solve mazes and are able to contort their muscly bodies to escape through tiny crevices. Octopi are also clever camouflagers. Some are small and highly venomous, like blue-ringed Pyrena in my story, others like the Pacific Octopus are enormous. My favourite fun fact about octopus is that their blood is blue.
Here’s an extract from The Shark Caller. It’s when Izzy meets a Giant Octopus.
The massive octopus flicks a tentacle, thick as my neck. It slaps the wall beside me. I give in to the terror clutching my throat and my scream ricochets over dripping rock. the octopus slurps and a deep rasping voice fills my mind.
No others can hear. We are the only ones …
My scream turns into sobs.
Your noise will bring shadow creatures.
Dreadful images fill my mind. I steady my breath, forcing myself to face the octopus. its tentacle arms curl as I try to stop trembling.
Pre-conference events begin tomorrow and I’m super-excited to be joining educators from across Australia and the world to share conversations about the 2018 theme, the Art of English: Language, Literature, Literacy. My hands-on workshop tomorrow will focus on Creating Creative Writers: Teachers as writers, and we’ll see how much we can create in two and a half hours … Then my Monday keynote focuses on my favourite topic of all time, Anthropomorphism in Children’s Literature; bring on the sharks, octopi and dog characters!
Looking forward to meeting teachers, librarians and children’s book industry colleagues.
Kerry Warkia and Kiel McNaughton are producers and creatives that have been at the forefront of some of New Zealand’s most innovative content for television and the web. Passionate about telling Maori and Pasifika stories, their company created the wonderful TV series Find Me a Maori Bride and more recently, the award-winning film Waru. Kerry and Kiel’s say their goal “is to tell stories unique to Aotearoa and the Pacific and that reach local and international audiences. Our passion is innovative culturally relevant and diverse content with multi-ethnic and indigenous stories, characters, cast and creatives that celebrate diversity.”
The director for the film will be Veialu Aila-Unsworth whose animated short film Blue Willowwas selected for Berlinale and screened in 26 film festivals. Veialu says she was “so excited when Kerry and Kiel contacted me about this project: chances like this do not come very often. For me, working on The Shark Caller with Kerry is a rare and wonderful opportunity to promote our shared heritage, to give a voice to our culture, to promote strong female lead roles both in front of the camera and behind, and to tell a beautiful family story that is deeply unique to our homeland.”
I share Veialu’s passion for strong female characters and am so excited to begin this creative journey with Brown Sugar Apple Grunt Productions. I can’t wait to see how Kerry, Kiel, Veialu and the team bring my characters (both human and marine) to life. Thank you to my agent Clive Newman and Penguin Random House Australia for facilitating this cross-Tasman partnership. And to Publisher Zoe Walton for her enthusiasm and the following kind words.
“I’m over the moon that Dianne Wolfer’s The Shark Caller has been optioned by Brown Sugar Apple Grunt Productions. It will make the most amazing film, with its visually spectacular ocean world combined with the heartwarming story of a girl learning about her family’s traditions and bravely stepping up to take on a dangerous but important challenge. Izzy’s story is in good hands with Kerry, Kiel and Veialu.”
Last week (on Dianne Wolfer – Author) I posted a photo of my first batch of summer reads. I’m making good progress and have already finished Kate Constable’s New Guinea Moonwhich I very much enjoyed. The story has satisfying and unexpected twists. It’s marketed at a YA audience but like so many teen novels is just as enjoyable for adults. I’m drawn to books with PNG settings; three of my own works unfold there (The Shark Calleris set in the New Ireland Province and Photographs in the Mudis set along the Kokoda Track in 1942). The backdrop for New Guinea Moon is in the Highlands, pre-independence, a time when things are changing for both Nationals and expat Australians. Kate grew up in PNG and her use of local language and culture rings true.
My next read was fun. I have several ideas bubbling for emerging readers and so have been reading titles from the hugely successful I Can Read! series. Think Berenstain Bears, Fancy Nancy and Flat Stanley. Danny and the Dinosaur – Too Tall is a great example of a concise book with exciting characters and a compelling, exciting plot. How on earth does Syd Hoff weave this magic in 32 pages? Stories with depth that appear ‘simple’ are hard to create – editing, shaping, editing …
Michael Morpungo’s books make me cry. They are so good. I love animal characters and Morpungo is a Master of creating stories with powerful links between animals and humans and thought-provoking moments in history. After re-reading his poignant and lovely I Believe in Unicorns, I’ve been visiting Michael Morpungo’s website. I knew he was a prolific writer and I loved Shadow (set in Afghanistan), but there are so many others that look enticing. Perhaps I’ll spend summer reading all his animal novels… I’ve also just noticed that this month he’s releasing Lucky Button. After the synchronicity of the War Horse movie being released just before the launch of Light Horse Boy, I’m glad my Nanna’s Button Tin came out in June.
I’ll be posting more Summer reading blogs over the next few months. My Want-to-Read book tower is tall but I always love hearing recommendations …