Wendy Orr

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Wendy Orr

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Born
Edmonton, Canada
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June 2011

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I’m an author, but I could never have started writing books if I hadn’t loved reading them first. Reading isn’t just one of my favourite things to do; it’s one of the most important things in my life. I can’t imagine a world in which I couldn’t read, every day. That’s why I always read to my children every day, just as my parents used to read to me. Stories can be exciting, sad, funny, scary or comforting, but the most amazing thing about them is that they take us into new worlds and teach us something more about ourselves, all at the same time.

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Wendy Orr I'm just starting a new book, set about 200 years earlier than Dragonfly Song, so about 1625 BCE, at the time of a volcanic eruption on Santorini. So …moreI'm just starting a new book, set about 200 years earlier than Dragonfly Song, so about 1625 BCE, at the time of a volcanic eruption on Santorini. So right now, I'm going back and forth between my plot questions and research, as they each feed into the other, and the characters are growing steadily in the background. Sometimes I'm overwhelmed with the sadness and horror of the history, so one of my tasks is to see how that can be represented and yet contained. It's a time of bumbling around and sudden discoveries, in which it's important to have faith that the story will work itself out. (less)
Wendy Orr I’ve been getting letters from kids for years asking for a third Nim book, and of course that interest intensified after the release of the film Retur…moreI’ve been getting letters from kids for years asking for a third Nim book, and of course that interest intensified after the release of the film Return to Nim’s Island last year. I’d always known that the third story would involve caves, and so I decided it was time to let that story seed grow. However there were challenges, because the film was dramatically different to the book it was based on, Nim at Sea. To satisfy the readers who’d come to it through the film instead of the book, this sequel would have to tie both of them in.

The writing process was also somewhat different from my usual ‘let’s dream it and write it and see where it ends up,’ as the film producers had already indicated that they hoped to film it, and suggested that we conference the story idea when I was ready to share. I often discuss a story idea with my editor once I’ve got it worked out, but it’s usually rather vague; this time I had to do a thorough plot summary before I started writing. It took a few attempts to work through this process; my initial attempts I think would have foundered during the writing, because of that conscious awareness of being filmic. Luckily for me, my editor and the film producers quickly pointed out, in the nicest way possible, that these plots didn’t sound like me, or like Nim. I had to go back to my usual more organic way of working out my story, playing with the ideas for several months and letting them germinate; finding odd facts – like the 1987 discovery of Eric the Pliosaur, an opalised dinosaur fossil – that lead me where the story wants to go. Once I really knew the story I wanted to tell, the film producers and I had a very lively phone conference, – and then I went off on my own and wrote for the next nine months.

As usual, it was during the writing that Nim really took over. In the previous two books, she’d existed only in my imagination (the writing of Nim at Sea was completed before the film Nim’s Island was cast). I wasn’t sure how I would feel writing about her now I’d seen her personified by two real girls, Abigail Breslin and Bindi Irwin. Would she still belong to me?

Well, what a resounding ‘yes!’ it was. Although I’d tended to picture Nim as Abbie during the years in between, by the time I started writing I’d been on the set of Return to Nim’s Island. Watching Bindi embody Nim in her own, equally convincing, way reminded me that a character belongs to whoever reads and creates it. Abigail Breslin told me recently, ‘There’ll always be a little piece of Nim in my heart,’ and I think that holds true not just for an actor who’s devoted months of her life to a part, but to all readers who become a character while they’re lost in the book.

And for me, watching Nim come to life again was liberating as well as inspiring: my Nim, my lovely, imperfect, hot-headed girl, was just waiting to take me through her adventure. Because even though I know that I did all that planning, once I started writing, it seemed as it always does, that the story was there, and I just needed the right words to find it.

One lovely incident was that a few days after handing in penultimate draft, my family and I went to Malaysia. As we were hiking through a rainforest one evening, the guide warned us to make sure that the vines we were stepping over weren’t snakes. It was nearly exactly what I had just written: Vines dangled down from the trees and across the ground, ghostly and shadowed in the bobbing light of Nim’s headlamp. It was hard to tell if they were vines or snakes.”
And then the next day, we visited a bat cave...
(less)
Average rating: 3.85 · 6,774 ratings · 973 reviews · 52 distinct worksSimilar authors
Nim's Island (Nim #1)

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3.87 avg rating — 3,884 ratings — published 1999 — 46 editions
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Peeling the Onion

3.65 avg rating — 979 ratings19 editions
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Dragonfly Song

4.19 avg rating — 335 ratings — published 2017 — 6 editions
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Nim at Sea (Nim #2)

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3.84 avg rating — 338 ratings — published 2007 — 19 editions
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LOST! A Dog Called Bear

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3.90 avg rating — 163 ratings6 editions
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The Princess and Her Panther

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3.63 avg rating — 88 ratings2 editions
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Mokie and Bik

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3.34 avg rating — 90 ratings — published 2006 — 4 editions
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Swallow's Dance

3.43 avg rating — 102 ratings — published 2018 — 7 editions
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MISSING! A Cat Called Buster

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4.17 avg rating — 84 ratings6 editions
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Ark in the Park

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4.06 avg rating — 52 ratings — published 2001 — 5 editions
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More books by Wendy Orr…

Rhinoceros poems and strange things writers do

I always love hearing from readers, but some requests are more unusual than others. I received this letter from Germany on Friday.
 They also enclosed copies of verses they’ve received from Doris Lessing and Patrick Modiano, both writers I particularly admire (as well as the minor detail of being Nobel prize winners). Obviously this has been going for some time, as Doris Lessing died three yea Read more of this blog post »
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Published on November 06, 2016 20:37
Nim's Island Nim at Sea Rescue on Nim's Island
(3 books)
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3.87 avg rating — 4,272 ratings

LOST! A Dog Called Bear MISSING! A Cat Called Buster WANTED! A Guinea Pig Called... ABANDONED! A Lion Called Kiki STOLEN! A Pony Called Pebbles DISCOVERED! A Beagle Called...
(6 books)
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4.02 avg rating — 435 ratings

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Wendy Orr and 168 other people liked RoseMary Achey's review of The Paris Architect:
The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure
"The concept of this book was excellent….an architect who retrofits spaces within homes to hide Jewish individuals during WWII. The writing left much to be desired. Filled with anachronisms, the narrative was so simplistic; it just did not fit the tim" Read more of this review »
More of Wendy's books…
“Nim loved the ocean because it was always there, wherever she looked and as far as she could see, but it was too huge and powerful to understand and too dangerous to”
Wendy Orr, Nim's Island

“She felt like a tiger in a cage, trying to burst free.”
Wendy Orr, Nim's Island

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“The breaking of so great a thing should make
A greater crack: the round world
Should have shook lions into civil streets,
And citizens to their dens.”
William Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra

“The poetry of history lies in the quasi-miraculous fact that once, on this earth, once, on this familiar spot of ground, walked other men and women, as actual as we are today, thinking their own thoughts, swayed by their own passions, but now all gone, one generation vanishing into another, gone as utterly as we ourselves shall shortly be gone, like ghosts at cockcrow.”
G. M. Trevelyan

“When the Dark comes rising six shall turn it back;
Three from the circle, three from the track;
Wood, bronze, iron; Water, fire, stone;
Five will return and one go alone.

Iron for the birthday; bronze carried long;
Wood from the burning; stone out of song;
Fire in the candle ring; water from the thaw;
Six signs the circle and the grail gone before.

Fire on the mountain shall find the harp of gold
Played to wake the sleepers, oldest of old.
Power from the Green Witch, lost beneath the sea.
All shall find the Light at last, silver on the tree.”
Susan Cooper, The Dark Is Rising Sequence

“On the day of the dead, when the year too dies,
Must the youngest open the oldest hills
Through the door of the birds, where the breeze breaks.
There fire shall fly from the raven boy,
And the silver eyes that see the wind,
And the light shall have the harp of gold.

By the pleasant lake the Sleepers lie,
On Cadfan’s Way where the kestrels call;
Though grim from the Grey King shadows fall,
Yet singing the golden harp shall guide
To break their sleep and bid them ride.

When light from the lost land shall return,
Six Sleepers shall ride, six Signs shall burn,
And where the midsummer tree grows tall
By Pendragon’s sword the Dark shall fall.

Y maent yr mynyddoedd yn canu,
ac y mae’r arglwyddes yn dod.”
Susan Cooper, The Dark Is Rising Sequence

“Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.”
Lemony Snicket, Horseradish

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