The day my teacher achieved the impossible

I remember being at school and having to write a thesis from one of William Shakespeare’s plays. At the time I thought there couldn’t have been anything more boring. There were FAR cooler things to do, like play with my radio controlled car, or play football, or watch TV. Luckily we had an amazing teacher at Kapiti College named Mrs Palmer, who somehow brought these very old stories to life. She made Shakespeare interesting, and because of this, we were sucked into happily doing our homework. I now have a huge admiration for Shakespeare and Mrs Palmer.

Here is a link to an article written in the Guardian by Deborah Patterson titled ‘Top 10 tips on how to write like William Shakespeare.’ And below you’ll find some examples:

1 – Have fun with language. Many words and phrases that are in common usage today can trace their origins back to Shakespeare, so feel free to invent words and create new phrases. You may even come up with the next “The world’s mine oyster”, or “green-eyed monster”.

2 – Write a love story. Like Shakespeare, you’ll have endless themes of love to choose from. Forbidden love is a popular choice, but there’s also jealous love, love-sickness, unrequited love, luckiness in love, or, worst of all, ‘death-mark’d love’ as suffered by Romeo and Juliet. As Shakespeare wrote in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, “The course of true love never did run smooth”, so your love story could have as many plot twists as you like.

3 – If you would like to add a darker tone to your tale, consider including a ghost in your cast of characters. The ghost of Hamlet’s father was given a voice, and he used that voice to reveal the identity of his murderer to his son. The ghost of Banquo was silent but was used to great effect in Macbeth, increasing Macbeth’s growing sense of madness.

4 – To write a Shakespearean comic tale you will need to put one or more of your characters in disguise. Sometimes only a single scene using disguise is enough, a masked ball for example, but you could choose to lead your plot with the main character who is permanently concealing her identity.

I hope you learn like I did, that William Shakespeare was indeed a master. We have a lot to learn from him.

Jack Reads Books Reviews Freakout Island

JackreadsThanks, Books Jack Reads for your lover-leee review of Freakout Island.

Jack adds – ‘There’s a strong element of mystery in this story too, as everyone slowly realises that both Friendly Island and its two owners, Vayne and Vulga, are a lot more dangerous than they thought. Overall, this is a fun cautionary tale with a lot of appeal for kids, and a great first effort by a talented young author.’

Glad you enjoyed it Jack!

And here’s another review from Taylor Malmo – Freakout Island is, put simply, a marvellous book which seems to be made of a wonderful concoction of heart, humour, and sheer unfiltered happiness, all held together by a copious amount of pink bubble-gum. The tone is reminiscent of Roald Dahl’s work, with a fantastic story and an endearing cast of characters. I realised, as I lay in bed last night reading the whole thing, that I felt like a 10-year-old again. Granted, it hasn’t been that long since I was a 10-year-old, but as I lay there chuckling to myself, I felt like I should be reading the story under the covers with a torch in hand. It is a book that just radiates joy. I laughed, and gasped, and worried about the characters’ fates, and I loved every second of it.

Freakout Island is a worthwhile read for children of any age and brings out the gum-swallower in all of us.


My dog is having a bad hair day

If you’re new to my site, you will find my sketches of our family dog Cooper here. While you’re having a look around, be sure to check out my latest books, which are available in paperback or ebooks. Thanks so much for visiting!

What is the strangest thing YOUR dog has eaten?

If you have a dog as a pet you’ll know they do some crazy things. The story above is not entirely true, but my daughters and I sure had fun writing it. And they were both very keen to voice it, so we called our great friend Guy Harkness who threw some pictures together and suddenly we had a story. If you have a cat or a dog, or any pet for that matter you are very lucky. Cherish them, just make sure you LOCK THE BATHROOM!

Ah, you caught me in the middle of writing

I’m busy writing a new novel and I thought I’d give you a glimpse into how I work. Sometimes I write down stories on old notebooks, other times I go straight to using software. In this case, it’s Vellum. You’ll see the chapters on the left, you write on the pad in the middle, and on the right-hand side, you’ll see what it looks on various phones, tablets, or in paperback. You can name the chapters and take notes so as not to lose funny jokes or particular plots or storylines. There are all sorts of other tricks you can use on Vellum, but for this post, I’ll keep it simple. I’ve also used Scrivener for writing novels as well as Final Draft for movie scripts, but for now, Vellum does just fine. I hope this helps. JC

I made a new friend today – and he flew away

Today we saw the most amazing sight. Our friends asked us to look after their chrysalis while they went on holiday. Two days later – this guy! How magic. The caterpillar of a Monarch butterfly only lives for about two weeks before they turn into a chrysalis. Two weeks later they hatch out of that as a winged adult butterfly. The next phase of their life spans about 2 months. Then if they are lucky they mate, lay eggs and the whole cycle begins all over. Be safe, little guy.

Monkey + Snake Colouring In!

It’s the holidays here in New Zealand so we have some spare time, which is LOVER-LY! My daughters and I often draw together, but the idea has to be STOOOPID, so tonight we challenged ourselves to draw a monkey who was also a snake living in a world of mushrooms.

Oooooo…kay. (Color this in if you like!).

Monkey + snake

More great pics of Freakout Island!

Today I found a birthday card from my daughter. She drew the pictures as I was writing Freakout Island. A few of the characters still feature in the published story, namely Dr Vayne, and Leo with the bubble for a butt! Pip, who swallowed a watermelon and therefore grew a watermelon oout her head will have to wait to be another version. Felix is pictured, the boy whose brain fell out as he picked his nose. Knotty, the girl with a bird’s nest for hair, became Harriet, and the vomiting Komodo Dragon is still in the story! You can read the first chapter of this book on my Freakout Island page here. Enjoy!

My Twin Brother

I put this pic online a few days ago and a few of my friends thought I looked a lot like my friend in the bike basket. How rude! When I was your age I loved the movie E.T so much it made me want to create my own alien world. And now we’re lucky enough to have Stranger Things, which some say is even BETTER than E.T. What world do you want to create? Go ahead and do it!

Hey there, Storyteller!

As an author, I’m often asked very similar questions – here are some answers.

How do you think of new characters?

Think about the characters in Roald Dahl’s books – they are hilarious, gross, or really super lovely. Feel free to exaggerate your own characters, you are the teller of the story. Readers won’t care about characters unless they are believable. Think about if you were your character, how would you feel? What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.

Where do you get your ideas?

Go with those ideas most alive in you. Which ones evoke the most energy and passion?

How do you start a story?

You write. Write when you’re tired and when you don’t want to write. Try to write for an hour a night instead of watching TV. 100 words become 1000, becomes a manuscript. The first draft will always be rubbish, it always is, but keep going!

Give me that stick!

My dad’s dog Charlie is no longer with us, but he was a real character! RIP Charlie. ;(

Freakout Island In Pictures

When I was writing Freakout Island my daughter Sophie was busy drawing characters for the story. (She’s so cool.) The original draft had some characters that didn’t make it to the published book, like Jack Russell (who only ate dog biscuits and turned into a dog.) There was also Pip who ate too many watermelon pips and her head turned into a watermelon. Leo’s original name was Chudd and the first draft also featured twins, Jimmy and Francis. But you will also notice that Dr Vayne and the Komodo dragon were in an early draft and became the main characters in the story. This is a good example of how a story can change. 

The best advice I ever got? Just start!

You can do it.

Do you love Dr Seuss? Me too.

Do you love Dr Seuss? Me too.

Well guess what, he was a kid once too. He’s the one wearing shoes, in case you were wondering. Oh, and if you’re new to Dr Seuss check out some of his wonderful books – The Cat In The Hat, The Lorax, and Green Eggs and Ham. He was a gentle genius.

‘If you dedicate your next book to me I’ll give you $1.20!’

‘If you dedicate your next book to me I’ll give you $1.20!’

A boy named Kit once said this to me after a school talk. He was reading my new book My Best Worst Year. At the time, my nine-year-old daughter Sophie was having this book read to her class. She came home and said, ‘Dad, even the bullies love this story – and they never share their feelings!’ I hope you like the book. (Link).

Oh, I did dedicate a novel to Kit, but I have not seen any money yet!

The Maggot Adventure

Whoah! I think I have might have found the very first book I wrote.

I was 7-years-old I when BOMBARDED – The Maggot Adventure entered the world. 

Can you guess what the story was about? I’ll tell you. 

Two maggots get drunk on fly’s eyes wine. (Tasty!) The maggots have too much to drink before finding a Superman costume each. They then fly into space to play car tennis, which involves a traditional game of tennis but using cars instead of a ball. Oh, and instead of using racquets, they use cars. 

I can’t believe no one published this book.




About The Author

Hi, my name is Justin. When I’m not drinking chocolate milk or watching Stranger Things, I write and draw.

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