Me & Scott in Bologna

Philip Stanton, one of the illustrators we met in Bologna, drew me and Scott while I delivered my keynote about “Regional Voice” for The Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators Before Bologna conference. (Scott was up front with me to do the American and Scottish readings; I don’t do accents.)

It’s lovely to have this keepsake of the SCBWI conference (thanks, Philip!). It was my first time teaching creative writing (we taught a workshop on writing synopses) and it turns out that I really enjoy it. I had my doubts because I had to teach back when I was an academic and, well, there are things I have loved more in this life (like fourteen-hour flights in cattle class, for example). Turns out that teaching a roomfull of people who are keen, interested and really want to be there is an enjoyable and inspiring experience. I swear I learned new stuff about writing synopses from all the smart questions we were asked. Thanks for inviting us, Lawrence and Erzsi!

Giving the keynote was also fun. I’d already been thinking a lot about how you write different accents because my Magic or Madness trilogy has Australian and USian characters, but giving the lecture forced me to put my thoughts in some kind of order. It also gave me an excuse to mess about with writing stuff phoenetically. I started by writing how I think I pronounce “can’t”:


How Scott thinks I pronounce it:


And how I reckon many USians (particularly Midwesterners and Californians) say it:


The lecture also gave me an excuse to phoenetically render the Queen of England speaking of her spouse and herself:

    Mah hoosbahnd ahnd Ah

I have always wanted to share that with the world at large. I can die happy now.


  1. Hezaa on #

    Phonetic spellings are fun. I say the word “cute” like “kyuut,” and sometimes I create new words for the bizarre sounds my palat expander (like headgear, but entirely inside my mouth) sometimes makes my mouth articulate. Additionally, I am quite fond of spelling words like people in Brooklyn say them.

  2. tricia sullivan on #

    actually your queen reads a bit yorkshire to me, which would be vastly more amusing than her actual voice…

  3. veejane on #

    My favorite pronunciation shibboleth is “Mary, marry, merry” — a sequence of three different vowels that only a few Americans hear as different at all. Certainly not midwesterners and Californians.

    I say “can’t” as if it rhymed with “wont,” as in the archaic word for habit.

    (I do think that finding rhyme words is a great, and transnational, method for sussing out accent differences. Turns out, Canadians are not pronouncing “sorry” as SORE-y just to annoy me; they can’t help it! All their short Os have been stolen away.)

    All of your vowels are belong to me!

  4. Candy Gourlay on #

    i really enjoyed your talk. i came to the conference specially – had been struggling with an english language novel set in a non-english speaking country, with characters who love reading english language books and who, in part, are characterised by their different accents. your talk helped me work on a strategy for these lingusitic challenges!

  5. Justine on #

    Hezaa: I think I say “cute” more like “kewt”. I’m trying to imagine what “kyuut” sounds like . . .

    New York accents are fabulous.

    Tricia: Proves my point! Phoenetic spelling rarely works cause we all talk and hear so different.

    Veejane: My “Mary” and “merry” are pretty much the same.

    Yup rhymes can be effective cept when you say the word so different from the other person that they can’t conceive of how those words could possibly rhyme.

    But back off from those vowels, missy, they’s mine.

    Candy Gourlay: Really? I’m so pleased it was useful! And thanks for posting your notes from Scott’s talk. Good luck with the novel!

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