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Don’t blame me…

December 5, 2012  |  Uncategorized  |  , , ,  |  No Comments


Regular visitors to this new blogging venture of mine may have heard the deafening silence coming from this site for the last month. Well, don’t blame me. I lay the blame directly in front of Tara Lazar‘s door. More importantly I lay a huge bouquet of beautifully scented THANKS at her door too.

Tara started PiBoIdMo a couple of years ago and has kept it going and growing year by year.

I joined up for the first time this year and it has been wonderful! The idea is that one comes up with a picture book story idea on every day in November. The ‘rules’ are very loose. The community supportive, funny and inspiring. Some of my ideas will be discarded immediately but quite a few of them deserve another visit.

Which leads to January 2013 …


A follow-on from PiBoIdMo is 12×12. Julie Hedlund  created a forum for picture book writers to take their November ideas, flesh them out and create a picture book a month for a year. 2013 will be my first year for this – and I CAN’T WAIT!

I like to work to a deadline (even if it is self-imposed).

So I plan to take a deeeep festive holiday breath. Take time with my family, then tackle 12(!) picture books next year – YAY!




More story jewels, and a map to find them

October 22, 2012  |  Uncategorized  |  No Comments

Writing can be a lonely endevour and so I’m often on the look-out for a course or workshop where I can mingle with my tribe. Not online but with real, live people.

A workshop I did a while ago was with talented SA author/illustrator  Reviva Schermbrucker and one of the tools she showed us to spark our childhood memories went something like this:

Step 1: use a large sheet of blank paper + pencil/pen,

Step 2: picture a house and neighbourhood in which you spent a lot of time as a child,

Step 3: draw a map of this area (no art skills necessary!),

Step 4: make notes all around your map – favourite play places, neighbourhood friends, weird neighbours, crazy-kid trouble you created, happy times, sad times… and so on.

Step 5: choose one of these (or a couple that flow together) and write, write, write.


On that day my story map looked like this.


a corner of Kerry's memory

In a corner of Kerry's memory


The story jewels here included ‘the cliff with dassies and a cave fort’, ‘the berry hedge hiding place where we all got tummy aches’, ‘selling anti-social pies(!) to passers-by‘ and oh so many more

and when I was a lot older ‘Russell, the boy we loved to love’ and ‘Anton, the boy we loved to hate’.


Some of the roads on my map lead to dead-ends but many of them are little beacons vying for my attention and wanting to be added into a story.

What does your story map look like?

Story jewels

October 8, 2012  |  Uncategorized  |  , ,  |  3 Comments

This blog began its life by being about vivid memories from childhood creating story jewels.

But then Florence, the hen, came home with us this week!

Introducing - Florence, in her temporary accommodations

Myself + girlchild1 + girlchild2 have just been camping with a good mate and her girls on a farm outside Tulbagh. We love to go to a farm which we call Peter’s Farm but which is officially known as Fynbos Farm.

I put up with many of camping’s little hardships…to create memory jewels for my girls. The rhythm of our days there are a bit like this:

  • Peacocks and cockerels perform a cocka-doodle-doo version of the mexican wave around our tents – at 4.30am!
  • GC1 and 2’s eyes snap open; socks and takkies are hauled on; tent zips open; girls jump on bicycles to rush off to ‘wake’ the farm animals.
  • GC1 and 2 return hours later for drink and snack.
  • Back on bikes.
  • GC1 and 2 return hours later for drink and snack.
  • Off to build a clubhouse in amongst the trees.
  • Nighttime means a huge fire; scrambling in the dark for marshmallow sticks.
  • A quick tooth-brush, a basin wash of the ‘important bits’, a torchlight stumble back to the tent.
  • Fast asleep.
  • Repeat from the top!

(…and all the time I listen and watch. There is soooo much story-fodder to be found in the fantasy play of children.)


Early on in this last trip, GirlChild2 who tells everyone everything(!), told Farmer Peter that her “mother really wants some chickens”. Now in essence this was true. But I’d planned to do this later, after a little chicken palace had been constructed in our garden. (Perhaps the ice-cold nights ’caused by unseasonal snowfalls on the surrounding mountains had left me in a state to say ‘yes’ to anything. And so, on leaving, we were handed Florence.)

I had imagined my first chicks to be of the tiny, cute and fluffy kind.

Florence is none of these.
And I LOVE her.
I’ve fallen in love with Florence because:
– she only needs 3 things from me – nourishment, a perch to roost, a cosy place to lay.
– for this she’ll give me an egg a day.
– she’ll never backchat, argue, need grooming or training, attack anyone, pee in the house, shed fur or slobber!


Imagine the story jewels in this: Florence moves from the farmyard and into our home on Tuesday evening. By Wednesday morning she’s tucked under GC2’s arm eating at the breakfast table and a little while later cuddled in with GC1, on the couch, watching the Disney Channel! True story.


Now Florence is one of my story jewels.I’ve taken photos and notes along the way and think that I’d love to write a story about Florence.

Maybe ‘Florence, the hen who came home‘. Or perhaps ‘Florence, from fynbos to Fish Hoek‘.

See where I’m going with this??

Now to let that all percolate while I think whether I’ll write this from a child’s perspective or from the Hen’s; whether i write this factually or dream up additional wild and wonderful adventures for Florence.

Abongi’s Journey, my journey…


Girl+bike+pup? Check.

Starry-eyed literary student? Check.

Fast forward a number of years. By-pass a teaching career and two pregnancies. Turn in where the sign announces: ‘Pause here for an adventurous leap into writing independence, self-promotion and prize-winning books.’

After about 10 years spent writing under the umbrellas of various publishing houses and within the constraints of the (ever-changing!) South African schools’ curriculum, I decided to enter a storybook writing competition hosted by The Centre for the Book. I approached Tasia Rosser, whose illustrations I’ve always loved, and we began to work together. The guidelines for the competition were still quite specific – the category we entered was a ‘wordless picture book’ suitable for all of South Africa’s children.

Detour ahead:

For those of you unfamiliar with the South African children’s writing scene, here are a couple of things that inform our writing (if you want to publish or earn any money in our market!):

  • Our terrible apartheid past still has deep deep routes in our collective memories. There is a concerted effort to right this and so writing for children should try to reflect all of our society. Of course this then means that freedom in text, and certainly illustrations, are often contrived to fit this need. There is emphasis placed on showing politically-correct situations such as equality in gender, race, religion.
  • There is not a huge book reading or buying culture in South Africa, yet! This is due to many historical factors but the wonderful thing is that there’s a major push towards literacy in our country and many organisations are doing wonderful work along these lines. Checkout Nali’bali. This has resulted in many children’s stories being written for the school’s market and so you’ll find hundreds of amazingly creative stories, beautifully illustrated… in reader book formats, within classrooms…not on the proud shelves of bookshops amongst the big, glossy, hardcovers brought in from over-the-seas.

What a wonderful process Tasia and I underwent. Normally kept separate, an author and an illustrator were now working together to create a vision of a book that would fit the competition criteria. I began with the simple premiss that all children, regardless of race, religion or gender, had experience of wheels, circles and cycles. This then led to Abongi’s Journey, and in turn to mine.

The rest is now history. Check it out at: www.kerrysraad.com

PS Blogging – upload pics? Check.  Add links? Check.  Tags?! Grrrr….

Loving to read Memory #2

So my first loving to read moment involved a girl, a bicycle and a faithful pup.

Memory #2 has the same girl (a number of years on), a drowsy afternoon lecture room at Teacher’s College and a twinkly-eyed lecturer. Jen Willson stood in front of us with a small book in her hands and a secret in her eyes. And then with the greatest of delight she opened up….The Jolly Postman (Janet and Allan Ahlberg), and I was hooked. Up until that moment my experience of books had been limited to what our local library carried. We never had children’s books at home and the thought that books could be an adventure like this complete with hidden secrets and little letters and pretend stamps and …oh my goodness. I raced out and bought a copy (and now am the proud owner of all of their ‘postman’ books.)

Every year that I taught young children, I couldn’t wait for just the right time to show them the magic inside of my ‘Jolly Postman‘ books. And my own young girls were treated to them when they were so little that they weren’t even allowed to touch the books. Now they are a little older and on certain occasions take the books off of my shelf and bury themselves inside them.

The Jolly Postman


PS Blogging – didn’t seem to get the tagging right, will try again. Today I’ve tried to attach an image…see anything???

Ready, steady, blog!

Writers are so often told to “just show up at the page”, well here I am!
I don’t remember learning to read but I clearly remember loving to read. Many of these moments are spot-lighted in my memory.
1) Me+bicycle+loyal dog companion would make our way to the library at the bottom of our road (lucky me!). There Cindy-dog would obediently sit with her nose only poking around the glass doors at the entrance. I would make a beeline through the Dewey system to end up at the ‘B’ for Blyton shelf. Here I would devour the Famous Five books and later all of the Secret Sevens. Of course eventually Nancy Drew rounded out that lot.
And at home, a precious collection of the ‘…..of adventure’ books were lined up on the book case above my pillow. From where the adventures surely seeped into my dreams.

PS Getting my blog driving license as we speak…See the big red L on the back of my vehicle? Okay, today’s lesson has been ‘to tag or not to tag’. Let’s see how that works out.