#theapostropheposse #blogtour #booksontourpr #day4
It’s no secret that we adore Teena Raffa-Mulligan here at Just Write For Kids! You’ll never be short of enlightened when learning about her writing life and the ‘evolution’ of her work. Let’s look at the fascinating formation of the indelible The Apostrophe Posse!
Congratulations on the release of your latest title, The Apostrophe Posse!
Please tell us a bit about how this story came about.
I came up with the initial idea about a group of country kids going around town fixing up all the incorrect signs when my children were still in primary school. I now have teenage and young adult grandchildren!
On the morning in question, I’d dropped my kids off at school and was heading to the local paper where I worked part-time as a reporter and relief editor. I’d had some stories and poems for children published, plus a picture book, and I was constantly coming up with new ideas. I’m not really sure what inspired this one; perhaps it was because I’d been helping out as a parent volunteer at the school and realised how much trouble kids were having with punctuation, particularly apostrophes.
The original version of Posse was only short, about 3000 words I think. It was accepted by a small independent publisher who was excited about it and organised an illustrator. Six years later the book still hadn’t been released so I took back the manuscript, tried a few other publishers without success so filed it away and wrote more books. In 2007 I had another look at it and did a rewrite, then in 2011 it was given a complete revision. I figured I’d learnt a bit about writing during the intervening years.
The Apostrophe Posse addresses such themes as community, social responsibility, teamwork, and obviously language conventions. What other themes are interweaved in the story? Were these your intention or did they happen naturally? Why are they important to your purpose of this book?
My only intention was to write the story idea that had popped into my mind. I had no thought of themes or lessons and if I had any purpose at all it was simply to produce something that would be interesting and entertaining for kids to read. I’m not an organised writer in that I don’t plan my stories, they evolve. I start with a fairly simple idea and an overall concept of the tone. With Posse I knew the beginning and the end but had no idea what happened in between. Ideas always come if you give them space and time, and writing in this way allows the story to find its own shape. Any themes find their way into the narrative naturally. It’s not my conscious decision to include them. Interestingly, I went to a school talk once and the teacher and students had spent time reading and discussing my books and a selection of short stories I’d had published in The School Magazine. They had identified themes of belonging, family, acceptance and friendship in all of these stories. I hadn’t even thought about it. There’s only one story I’ve ever written with the intention of sharing a message and that was my first published picture book, a stranger danger story called You Don’t Know Me?, released in 1982. It’s since been republished with new illustrations as Jimbo! Don’t go!
What is the main premise you would like readers to gain from reading this story? Literacy-focused or social-awareness?
Above all, I hope readers will enjoy it and have a bit of a giggle at some of the things that go wrong for the friends. If my story encourages discussion about community, social responsibility and written communication, I’ll consider that a bonus.
The children in the story take wild risks venturing out at night to correct all the apostrophe errors in the town of Tea Tree Bend. What kinds of risks did you take as a child yourself? How do you think this sense of adventure caters to the needs of children growing up today?
I’d love to say I was a free-range kid, but the only risks I took as a child were in my imagination. I was one of those nerdy kids who spent all her time tucked away reading books, writing stories, drawing pictures and daydreaming. My brother was the adventurer who roamed the nearby hills with his mates, climbed buildings to catch pigeons and got into a few scrapes. My adventures took place in the books I read and the stories that filled my head. They still do.
Children growing up aren’t very different from those of us who grew up in earlier times. They have the same thirst for adventure, whether actual or imaginary. It comes from an innate curiosity about the world in which we find ourselves, and that needs to be nurtured and encouraged. The biggest difference now is technology and the role it plays in everyday life. It must be incredibly difficult for parents bringing up young children and trying to encourage an on and off-screen balance in their life. I believe it’s essential for parents to stay strong on this issue and make sure their children have lots of opportunities for creative indoor and outdoor play that doesn’t involve technology. Send them on adventures around the house, in the backyard, to the park. Go further afield with them to explore the neighbourhood, the seashore, the bush.
Are you a stickler for correct spelling, punctuation and grammar?
I’ve spent much of my adult life working with words as a writer, editor and proof reader. Correct spelling, punctuation and grammar matters to me, however I’m particular, not pedantic. I’ve relaxed a lot. These days I mutter quietly and shake my head over errors, whereas on one occasion many years ago I actually went through a printed magazine with a red pen and sent it to the publisher with a polite note to inform her she needed an editor. The arrogance of youth!
Who influenced your writing career?
So many people along the way! My high school English teacher who advised me to stick to light-hearted writing; my dad who was always a willing listener to my stories; books by Julia Cameron and Natalie Goldberg were inspirational; my wonderful SCBWI West tribe; Karen McDermott of Serenity Press and Making Magic Happen Academy; and of course my critique group of the past 14 years, Anna Jacobs, Claire Boston, Susy Rogers, Lorraine Mauvais, Juanita Kees and the late Leonie Knight.
What’s next for the kids in The Apostrophe Posse? Will there be more adventures to look forward to?
Hmm. I hadn’t considered another adventure for them. That’s something to think about…
What about you? What else can us Teena fans expect to see from you in the near future?
I have a new picture book coming out in June with Daisy Lane Publishing. It’s called When the Moon is a Smile and is about the special relationship between a father and daughter who no longer live together due to the parents’ marriage breakdown. Amy Calautti is working on the illustrations and I’m absolutely thrilled with the way she’s interpreted the text.
My WIP is a quirky story for young readers about a kid who hires a parent tamer. At first Talibut Vish looks like he will be the solution to Mike’s out of control mum and dad but the stranger’s special powers only escalate the chaos in his life.
Finally, best place to find you and The Apostrophe Posse?
There’s lots of information about me and my books on my website at www.teenaraffamulligan.com
I’m also on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TeenaRaffaMulligan
The Apostrophe Posse is available from Amazon.com.au at https://www.amazon.com.au/Apostrophe-Posse-Teena-Raffa-Mulligan/dp/0648250377/
And from The Book Depository with free delivery worldwide at https://www.bookdepository.com/The-Apostrophe-Posse-Teena-Raffa-Mulligan/9780648250371
Thanks for answering all our questions, Teena! Hope they are all structurally correct! 😊
Jill Smith writes a thoughtful review of The Apostrophe Posse over on her blog! Another perspective is always of interest!
On Your Marks. Get Set. WIN!
Kids! This challenge is for you! Fix the apostrophe mistakes for a chance to WIN a paperback copy of The Apostrophe Posse by Teena Raffa-Mulligan!
The Apostrophe Posse will feature at the following media channels from April 1st to April 5th…
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