Celebrating the write stuff

Compiled by Chris Lau

Authors and artists share their secrets with our junior reporters at the Young Readers' Festival

Compiled by Chris Lau |

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Writer Eliza Teoh (left) shares tips at the Young Readers' Festival.
The recent Young Readers Festival gave students, parents and teachers a chance to meet authors, and take part in workshops all over Hong Kong. Our junior reporters met illustrator Sally Kindberg, children's books writer Dianne Wolfer and former journalist Eliza Teoh. Here's what they learned ...

Writing a news lead with Eliza Teoh

"I've always loved to write," says Eliza Teoh, former sub-editor and journalist at Singapore newspaper The Straits Times.

Teoh got her first job at The New Paper tabloid, which was new at the time. She was not particularly fond of the tabloid style (which has shorter articles), but Teoh saw it as a stepping stone. Plus, she figured all journalists should start from the bottom.

One of the most embarrassing stories she wrote was about nose rings, she recalls. "I did have some tough times when I was forced to do unwanted stories, such as interviewing a stranger and asking him why he put a ring on his nose," she said.

But her effort paid off. She soon got a job at The Straits Times, where she began writing political stories. She then worked her way up to become a sub-editor.

Since then, Teoh has moved away from journalism. She writes a children's book series called Ellie Belly.

At the festival, Teoh shared tips on writing a news lead, the first paragraph of a news article. She said the most important facts are "the five Ws and one H" - who, what, when, where, why and how. Each news story is organised as an inverted pyramid, with the most important information at the top.

Tam Sum-sze, Dristi Gurung and Sonia Tsui

Comic-strip workshop with Sally Kindberg

Illustrator Sally Kindberg sits down with Pradyumn Dayal.

I'm not a great artist and was anxious about making a fool of myself. But the cheerful Sally Kindberg made drawing seem easy and fun. She showed us tips and tricks: for example, changing a cartoon character's eyebrows also changes its emotions.

Armed with these tips (and pencils and markers), we started a comic strip of our own. The theme: a Cyclops is trying to eat you.

Kindberg always loved telling stories, even though she started reading quite late. She used to draw pictures illustrating The Adventures of the Kite Family, so-called because "all the characters had heads shaped like kites!"

Kindberg also paints and writes - and she used to be travel writer for The Guardian.

Her secrets on drawing can be found in her new series Draw It, which teaches how to draw odd ideas like "Tuesday" and "awesome".

Pradyumn Dayal

Writing a children's novel with Dianne Wolfer

Author Dianne Wolfer with junior reporter Minal Daswani.

Dianne Wolfer is the author of many children's books, such as Dolphin Song, Choices and Lighthouse Girl. She was once a teacher in Nepal and Tokyo, Japan. She now lives in Albany, Western Australia, where she is also working towards a degree in children's literature.

Wolfer's advice to aspiring young writers is to join a writers' network. Entering competitions is also a good start. She says her books are mostly inspired by what she reads. She got the idea for her most well-known book, Lighthouse Girl, from a newspaper.

Wolfer says she had to be a writer because she had so many ideas. "I just needed to write them down. Maybe it is how I explore the world."

Minal Daswani