Thursday, 29 December 2011

I was going to...

...write about how writing has ruined my reading life. About how I can no longer just read a book, I have to pick at it, pull it apart and see how it works (or not).

Then I found these pictures and videos of metal insects!

Here's a dancing mantis I'm particularly fond of.

Yay for dancing mantis!



Thursday, 22 December 2011

Amazing Writing Tips #7: Crash Those Christmas Parties

A normal Christmas party scene
Yes it's Christmas and that means parties, publishing parties. The parties you want to crash if you want your book to be published. Crashing parties can be a daunting thought but don't fear, I have years of experience to guide you through to that 5 book series deal. Read and learn, my friends, read and learn.

Gaining Entrance
Preparation is 99% of success. Everyone going to one of these parties will be smashed, all you need to do is splash some gin and vodka over your clothes and grab a couple of bottles of each. You'll be more welcome than Santa in an Orphanage. Oh, you might need a camera, see below.

Tactic 1: Blackmail
The first method to get that publishing deal is blackmail. There's more inappropriate touching at these parties than in a xxxxxxxxxx when the sdfsdfsdfsdfsdf visits. So as soon as you get there start flashing away (taking photos, lift your mind from the gutter) and you'll have all the evidence you need to blackmail that editor into giving you a deal.

Tactic 2: Smoooosching
If you want to go the more subtle route the best plan is to loiter by the bar waiting for a likely target to appear, agents and editors are best. Anyone from Sales and Marketing will just drink your wallet dry and then try to touch you inappropriately. Editors and agents can be easily identified, they look insane, can't afford proper clothes and usually have a raft of unpublished manuscripts tied to their backs.

Once you have your target, approach. The first, ABSOLUTE FIRST, thing you must do is buy them a drink. You'll be on every blacklist, from London to Ulaanbaatar, quicker than a xxxxxxxxx up a Schoolboy's xxxxxxxxxx if you don't do this. But once that drink is bought you're in, they'll agree to publish anything, probably even this blog.

Good luck, you'll have a book out by March!


P.S. Wasn't last week's blog weird?

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

I Know Nothing

I know nothing
Knowing nothing is tough. Last week I couldn't think of a single blog post idea, all because I know nothing and there are only so many authors I can insult on here and get away with it..

If you're reading this you probably know nothing too. You're probably read this in the hope that I'll say something daft or useful but I won't, as I know nothing.  I could recycle the stuff you've been told over and over again about dialogue and -ly  words and don't write about goblins because no one writes about goblins as they've been sent to Coventry. But you should know that and if you don't you'll find much better blogs about it elsewhere. So I won't and we'll just both be here knowing nothing.

So stop worrying about it and just write something. Or draw it if that's your thing. You might learning something, if you do let me know.



P.S. Actually I know loads and I'm awesome. I'm just not telling you my secrets.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Amazing Writing Tips #6: Give Up the Day Job

Do it! You'll be making millions from writing in no time.

Bearded loon hermit
What? You want me to explain? Ok then. Anyone connected with the writing world will tell you writing isn't easy. The story goes that you slog away at it and eventually, if you're lucky, you'll get published and make £2.88 in royalties.

But that's all lies.

They're just protecting their own slice of the writing pie bonanza. This cabal, the same people that refused to publish my ground breaking work 'The Very Silent and Uninteresting Boy' (about a boy who does nothing, 400 page picture book. Drop me a line if you're interested.), don't want us muscling in on their biblio-gold mine.

Illiterate weirdo drop-out
But you probably don't believe me do you? In the same way you think that climate change has to be real, because the lazy scientists looking for another government handout say so. So let me prove to you that writing is easy. Think of an author; Picture them...

Exactly, everyone of them is a freak, weirdo  or drop-out. It's got to be easy if this bunch can do it.

That's probably why no one picks up my books, they're just too clever.


Monday, 21 November 2011

You Know You've Been SCBWI'd When...

I've just got a song that sums it up. I know there's a lot of noise about the conference and how great it was, and the song covers that, but there's a bit in it for those that have had their ideas shot down and dreams shattered. Have a good cry, then paint the town (I'll come too if you want!)

And the video reminds me of the Saturday night party, I'm even in there with my red bow-tie!

So you and whose army are gonna stop me now?



Other SCBWI Conference Blog Posts:

Who Ate My Brain?
Julie Fulton's Blog

Friday, 11 November 2011

Goin' to the Conference and We're gonna Get...

Do I need to bring the cat?
Drunk and laughed at?
All three?

Who knows?

I don't. But I'm quite excited about going to the SCBWI British Isles 4th Annual Conference. Lauren's quite excited too, as she's trying on endless dresses to wear on the Saturday night. I just nod and say they're all great, I'll live longer that way.

But what should I take? What is the most useful thing or the thing that will make me look like I know what I'm doing? Candy Gourlay has put up a check list on the SCBWI Ning of stuff to take, but do you have any advice?

I think the most important thing might be ibruprofen.



P.S. Hello bibliokittens!

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Amazing Writing Tips #5: Critique Groups, Should I stay or Should I go?

A typical crit group
There are two kinds of writers in this world; Those that think going to a regular critique group is a good idea and those that are published. Critique groups are usually the home of twisted nutters and escaped lunatics.

They'll be quick to rip your time-travelling robot falls in love with dogman mutant from the sewers who save the poor autistic girl from the evil vicars masterpiece. But I tell you now, genius is never recognised in its own time or in a pub on the A38 just outside Buckfast.

So don't go. Or if you do go, just go once, show everyone your work and tell them how brilliant it is and tell them theirs is rubbish. Then be on your way.  Be really mean, they'll give up writing and you'll have eliminated some of the competition.

But to be honest you'd be better off asking the local ducks for advice.



Monday, 17 October 2011


How I felt
After a Saturday morning which felt like someone had been kicking me in the guts for 60 minutes, not appearing on the Undiscovered Voices long-list doesn't seem that important.  Though it probably should do.

After the Wales France result in the rugby I sulked a bit, realised it was just a game and then sulked a bit more. Waves of rugby related grief hit me in a way that grief probably shouldn't. But I felt for those Welsh players who walked a lap of the pitch, saluting the fans whilst crying. They were the older players, those that would never get to play in a world cup again. They'd been through tournaments before when Wales had played at their abject worst. In this tournament they'd played above and beyond what was expected of them. In this particular game they faced a French team a man short for 60 minutes and came within a blink of winning. But that's it for them.

For the rest of the team, indecently young, the future looks bright. They will have other chances. Other games and other tournaments to win.

That's how it feels for me. I haven't succeeded this time but there will be other chances. What I and the other unsuccessful entries into Undiscovered Voices need to do can best be summed up by this blog post about the rugby:

"...this adversity will reveal us to ourselves. Perhaps ironically for a Welsh supporter, it was an Englishman (but qualified by birth to play for India) who said it best of all: ‘If you can meet with triumph and disaster, and treat those two imposters just the same.’ And there’s the truth of it – triumph is an imposter, disaster is an imposter. Neither is real. Reality is the journey, not the temporary stations that we mistake for destinations. Reality is the glory of the struggle, the glory of getting back on your feet every time you are knocked down, the glory of reaching further than you think you can, the glory of life itself... let every single one of us get back up again, wipe the blood away, and aim a little higher."

Congratulations to those on the Undiscovered Long-list and good luck! Now I've got to go and spend the rest of my lunch hour writing something better than what came before.



Thursday, 6 October 2011

Undiscovered Voices Angst

Like me, it doesn't look good.

but at least Wales won. and I've got a quarter-final against Ireland and stag party this weekend to take my mind off it.

Good luck Undiscovered Voices people.


Thursday, 29 September 2011

What Do the RWC 2011 and UV2012 Have in Common?

The two things being the Rugby World Cup 2011 and Undiscovered Voices 2012 for those readers who are acronym-challenged.

The answer is I have an emotional investment in both events.

So rugby first and it's all about Wales. On Sunday they play Fiji on Sunday in a game they should win fairly comfortably but I thought the same thing 4 years ago, right up to the final whistle. But this time Wales seem to have a young team of big, super fit Spartans. I'm feeling lucky and that's when things go wrong.

Evil Fiji
If Wales defeat Fiji they have quite a lovely, probable route to the final. Ireland in the quarter-finals, England or France in the Semi-final. It does seem like it could happen. But first they have to beat Fiji, so I'll be up stupidly early on Sunday morning to watch them. If they win and Scotland put England out on Saturday morning it would be a really good weekend. I'll be getting a beating from Lauren for writing that as soon as she reads it.

Undiscovered Voices looms on the horizon. I think the judging takes place this week and I keep imagining the three manuscripts I sent in for it. Sometimes they've already been shredded and recycled. Sometimes in a scruffy pile of manuscripts in the centre of a table, surrounded by the judges arguing, and gesturing wildly as they endlessly smoke and drink.

My UV2012 entry?
With the rugby it's easy to watch, though it means a fair bit to me it is just a game and I have absolutely no power over the outcome, no matter how much I shout and leap and whoop. But Undiscovered Voices is different. It's all down to me. In the few months since I entered I've been scared to look at my entry. I've been scared because I'm probably better at this writing thing now than I was then (I hope I am anyway). What if I spot something terrible? With it I get some very black and white feedback. If I win I get to know why, if I lose I don't get anything. I just know I wasn't good enough. At least I can see Wales playing rubbish rugby and know why they lose.

On the plus side if I do lose I only have to wait 2 years to enter again. If Wales lose  on Sunday and get knocked out of the world cup it'll be another 4 long years.

But Wales will probably win and so will I.

Because we are awesome!



Saturday, 24 September 2011

Storytellers, Writers and Google Plus

He's musing
Bit of a short, mixed bag of a post as I was ill for most of last week and still feel like someone is kicking me in the head.

Firstly, here's a 5 minute interview with Philip Pullman. What I found interesting about it was the part (2.33 mins in) where he's asked if he sees himself as a storyteller or a writer. He say's a storyteller as he is interested in the events, plot and the workings of a story rather than a writer who would be interested in the words and sentence construction rather than plot. So what are you? I think I'm a storyteller, mainly because I have trouble spelling words and constructing sentences and it sounds much, much cooler.*

Second thing is the changes that Google have made to Google+ this week, mainly to the hangout function. Hangout started off by letting you video chat to a limited group of people on your computer. Now it's been updated so you can use it on your smart phone, can make broadcasts from it to a larger group of people or edit Google documents in it. It seems very similar to a lot of the Google Wave functionality if you ever used that before it got moth-balled. But editing documents as a group over live chat could make e-critique groups very interesting.

Here's the full blog post about the Google Plus changes, it is open to everyone now so why not give it a try?



* I wish I was joking.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Argghh and Ning

So much to do, so little time!

Still no results with getting my image added to Google search results, Google say it is a very sloooow roll-out. Only important, famous people get it at the moment. I've got some more techno-geekery in the pipe line featuring a map! If it works you'll possibly be amazed.

So tonight, I've leapt on the SCBWI 'update your Ning page' bandwagon and after spending an hour and a half drawing various things have put up a header of two fluffy clouds, Lovely. Well it was them or the strange insect creature thing coming out of the sand on a beach or a big squiggle.

Not the most productive nights work...



P.S. I did make the fluffy clouds on my lovely Asus Transformer tablet. It's lovely, lovely, lovely.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Amazing Writing Tips #4: Illustrate the Point

I didn't draw this
In this business you meet a lot of picture book writers. And one thing they nearly all say is, "Are you paying?" But they also say, "Don't illustrate your own work."

Now this seems really lazy to me. A picture book is, say, 500 words. I could knock that up sitting on the toilet. So when I do, I do my own illustrations. I find it a marvellous outpouring for my creative side, the side that doesn't really get to show itself when I'm writing. Then I'm purely focused on the money.There are two big benefits to doing your own illustrations:

  • As the writer only you can really interpret the story you write. No illustrator could envision the sweeping grandeur of my picture book 'Barry the Dog Falls Asleep'.
  • It's cheap.
So when working on any book that requires or has the faintest glimmer of a chance of requiring an illustration, do them yourself. If you have a manuscript that might require illustrations doodle them in the border. In fact fill the borders with differing versions, let your imagination run riot.
Original Barry Illustration

Now you may not be as an accomplished artist as me, but don't worry, with modern computer software like MS Paint you can create masterpieces like this. 'Barry the Dog Falls Asleep' comes alive!

Doodle on brothers!


Thursday, 25 August 2011

Techno-geeky Nonsense #2: Author photo in Google Searches...Continued!

So, who tried to get their picture added to Google searches?


You bunch of slackers.

I did and here are the results!

So as you can see, no author picture, damn it! But it has only been a couple of days and it could well take a while to get added. On the plus side I'm pretty close to topping the search term 'amazing writing tips'. I will persevere as I find it quite interesting and it'll do the blog some good.

Roughly, what you have to do is:

1. Create a Google profile if you haven't got one. If you are on Google+ you'll have one.
2. Add a link to your profile to your website. My link is over there on the right, that black google-y button.
3. Add a link for your website to your Google profile.

That's it. You'll need to add some information to your profile and Google recommend a good clear headshot (BLAM!).

Anyway, here's the link to the full instructions again:

I'll stick an update on here if my image starts appearing. I check about once every 15 minutes at the moment.



Friday, 19 August 2011

Techno-geeky Nonsense #1: Author photo in Google Searches

Interesting geekery.
Ahhhh! I forgot I was supposed to blog yesterday and had no idea of what to put. But inspiration strikes, why not actually try to write something useful for once instead of daft writing advice?* So here's something interesting to you writer-y types who might be trying to get your face out there.

Google seem to be inserting people's profile pictures into search results. So when people look up something and something you have posted is in the results they'll feature your ugly mug. Here's an article explaining it:

I'll be trying to get this to work for my blog this week, honest. I'll let you know how I do. If you have a go please let me know how you get on.

Edit: Information from Google about this here:



*I sort of hope some one has been taking my writing advice seriously and following it. I'd like to see the outcome.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

A Private Retreat

A bit late with a blog post this week. We've just got back from a private retreat up in the Shropshire hills around Ludlow. Yeah, Ludlow, the place that was on TV a couple of weeks ago. How current and cool are we?

So we had plenty of time to do lots of thinking and writing. But instead we went shopping in Ludlow and walked up some hills.

Shropshire Hills

And fed the chickens.

If chickens were publishers...

Chased a fox and some kids chased me (in a good way!)

I've got pace!

So we didn't do the amount of work we wanted to. However, the quality seemed to be better. Though I might not think that when I go back to it...

But if it is rubbish I'll just blame the fox.



Thursday, 4 August 2011

Amazing Writing Tips #3: Purple Prose is the Key to Success.

You'll need a shed load of words
to create this.
If a picture paints a thousand words then surely you need a thousand words to paint a picture? No, you need more. A common mistake the less experienced, but ever hopeful, dreaming writers of this aged but optimistic world make is to cut. They set about their loved manuscripts, pen poised like a gleaming, sharp and vicious dagger over the bleached and trembling paper, ready to strike, strike, strike out the words they think they don't need.

But they do need them, for surely words are our tools, our treasure, our breath and we must impart them like the precious, dear life-blood that they are. Force them in, prise those sentences apart, and shove  and hammer those fluted nouns and flowery adverbs in until you are left with a sentence that is the literary equivalent of this architecture:


As an entertaining but educational example let's take this simple, common and oft-used sentence:

'The cat sat on the mat.'

It might tell you everything it needs to but couldn't it be better?

'The stripy furred feline reclined gracefully, but not with out a sense of feral, barely contained animalistic fury, on the worn and tatty, brown, stained door mat next to some old, and worn boots that belonged to Mike the local dustman, his ragged footwear suffused with every failure, regret and dead dream of his life.'

Improved like a wine left in a dark and cobwebbed cellar, filthy with dust, crud and weird things that no one really wants to think about, its taste enriched, unseen by its future drinkers.

Let my magnificence wash over you like the warm soapy suds of last nights washing up bowel bowl as it catches the waning, dying evening light.


Thursday, 28 July 2011

Goals, Reasons and Making Stuff Up

This isn't me.
I think this is a mostly Undiscovered Voices 2012 angst fuelled post.

Last week I read the first couple of chapters of Bekki Hill's book which focus on goals and identifying them. I looked at the list of things I wanted to do, lots about writing and I wondered what I'd need to sacrifice to reach them and whether it was likely.

Time seemed to be the main sacrifice. Time spent trying to write stuff is time spent not doing other things. Other things that might lead to more achievable goals if I chose them. I could focus all that time on my current job, become brilliant at it and earn lots (or at least more) money. that seems to be an easier, more achievable goal than trying to write a book and get it published. I guess most people choose this route. Or just have jobs they really, really love (Dear Boss, I like my job, I just like other things more.). But I chose to try and write and I'd put my chance at being successful at it at about 1%.

I was also struck by the idea that these might not be my real goals but things I do to try an escape my current life. Do I really want to write stuff? When I sit down to do it I spend the first 10 minutes mucking about or playing silly Flash games on the internet. But I think/hope I do that due to the procrastinating curse that afflicts humanity rather than that I don't actually want to be writing. (Where would humanity be now if the whole human race had done something constructive rather than procrastinate?)

One of the reasons I think I like writing is because I like making stuff up. I find nothing more fun than making stuff up. About people or things I see but usually in a "what if..." sense. I also like drawing random stuff, and it has struck me many times that the things I draw are 99.9% made up from my mind. And if I try to draw something real it doesn't look too similar, ask my dad about the portrait I did of him.

So I make stuff up and I write it down. I think I make stuff up quite well but it is the writing that is the main problem. But the more I write the better I get and hopefully that 1% chance will start to creep up.

But there must be other reasons?

Richard Parks who just broken a world record, climbing the highest mountain on each of the world's continents and venturing to The South and Geographical North Poles, raising money for Marie Curie Cancer Care. That's one big goal. I watched a programme about it and one of the people involved mentioned that he was different to others that thought of attempting this challenge because he was amazingly fit and also acclimatized to his environment quickly.

But it seemed to me that he had a strong reason to succeed. Something that he could hold on to when things became tough and he was close to breaking.

I hope my reasons for writing are enough to see me through all those future knock backs that are destined to come.



P.S. Sorry, all a bit serious. I'll be back to the silliness later.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Welcome to Monkey Towers

The Monkey Lounge
The clamour, emails, tweets, paper-plane notes, messages beamed on to the moon, dancing mice-ograms have been literally non-existent about why there hasn't been a blog entry for so long. In fact only Nick Cross asked if I was going to do any more Amazing Writing Advice features. Yes, he's probably scared he'll get anonymously referenced in a incredibly cheeky/insulting way again.

But if you are interested, there haven't been any new blog entries because Lauren and I have been moving into Monkey Towers together. Now we live together I can make sure she writes all  those blog entries she promises to do. Possibly.
The Monkey Roof

But after carrying endless boxes and bags up and down four flights of stairs I'm left with completely awesome guns. with trying to get back in to a writing pattern. But how do I do that? I'm not sure. Maybe I should read Bekki Hill's new book 'Coach Yourself to Writing Success'? Yes, that is a plug. Or maybe Nicolas Morgan's Book 'Write to be Published'. That's another one.

Or maybe I should just write something...


Thursday, 16 June 2011

Amazing Writing Tips #2: The Importance of Plot-holes

Plot-holes - with extra google-y
goodness for some reason.
Recently a not so experienced writer came to me and asked how they could deal with too much plot in their book. I get asked this sort of question all the time, given that I'm such an established and talented writer. There is a secret to managing plot levels and that is plot-holes.

Plot-holes are the colander to the boiling potatoes of plot. If you don't have any plot-holes you'll just end up with a big pile of mush. In fact the more plot-holes you have the better, just look at the popularity of 'The Da Vinci Code'. That had some whoppers.

Get your plot-holes right and the rest will follow.

Good Luck!


Wednesday, 1 June 2011

A load of Faf!

Me and my spoon
A couple of weeks ago I went to the Bookseller Awards. I thought I could meet some interesting people and fashion a completely awesome blog post out of it. Instead I got drunk and said/shouted something incoherent at Danny Wallace. I'm sure he didn't mind, he has the kind of hair that attracts drunken shouting. So instead you get a picture of me with a spoon on my nose.

So then, as I toiled over my UV2012 synopsis, I thought I'll write a blog post about how to write a really good synopsis. But obviously to have any weight and meaning I'd have to win UV2012 first. Only then will people listen to me, stroke their beards and nod in agreement.

So instead you get a blog post about nothing what so ever.

But I do look good with that spoon.



Thursday, 5 May 2011

Amazing Writing Tips #1: When Things are Slow Add Some Zombies

Zombies improve everything
Quite frankly I'm brilliant and thought I'd offer my brilliance to you in a series of short writing tips. What a brilliant idea.

So what should you do when you are stuck writing a boring part of your book? you know the bits, where people are just talking, usually about their feelings or the m.p.g. of their car or why they are searching for vengeance. No one wants to read those parts. They want to get to the part where someone's head is getting cut off or brain kicked out.

Here's the solution; throw in some zombies. Zombies improve everything. Look at Pride and Prejudice, I would never have read that book until Seth Grahame-Smith added a bunch of zombies. It went from polite comedy of manners for girls to UBER-CLASSIC in an zombie shuffling instant.

Also don't feel constrained by just using zombies. Other undead work too. Look at 'From Dusk Till Dawn', it was a bit boring until everyone turned into vampires!

A little exercise for you, finish of this scene by adding zombies:

"Juliet, I have to tell you something," Romeo said, fidgeting like a hyperactive meerkat.
"Romeo, I've said it before-"

Spoiler below:
"OMG!!!!! ZOMBIES!!!!!!" screamed Romeo.
"Uggggggggghhhhhhhhhh," moaned the undead.

Now try it on some of your favourite, boring scenes. It works a treat.



Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Cambridge Wordfest: From Pitch to Publication

They looked just like that
We popped* up to Cambridge Wordfest to round off our uber-booky week with a 3 hour master-class presented by Julia Churchill and Leah Thaxton. During 'From Pitch to Publication with Your Children's Book' they dished out the hints and warnings whilst flaunting the covers of books some lucky...people have had published.

As it cost me money to attend this I'm not going to let you in on the secrets they revealed. Bye!

Oh ok then, I'll put a few of them here for you to steal. But if you get a book published I'd better appear in the acknowledgements.

Brain Dump from Julia Churchill

The Single Most Important Thing:

  1. Finish the book
  2. Leave it. (Like a fine wine or pair of dirty socks - my words not hers)
  3. Work on it again
There are 5 things she looks for (I think I got these right, my mind does wander...):
  • Concept -> Strong premise
  • character -> how do you create great characters? Get to know them.
  • Story  -> Plot makes characters interesting. Characters make plot interesting.
  • Setting -> If the walls could speak what would they say?
  • Voice -> Hard to explain, easy to spot.

Squeeze all the juice out of the best bits!

Brain Dump from Leah Thaxton

Find your voice, examples are Mr Gum, Andy Stanton (insane) and Warhorse, Michael Morpurgo (simple) .

It needs a good hook, examples:

  • Gone, every one over the age of 15 disappears and those left behind find themselves in a giant glass Centre Parcs type structure.
  • 0.4, the recordings made by an earlier model of human are found (I think that was it, it was a bit crazy. Mind wandered a little...).

If you get interest from a publisher, meet the editor and make sure you get along.

You know when you're successful as your editor will be scared to edit your manuscripts.

So there you go, some random points from the talk. I hope you find them useful. We also met SCWBI Ruth Fitzgerald. She stole my wallet.**



*I had a harrowing 2 hours drive; Lauren fell  asleep.
**Ok, that's a lie.

Friday, 15 April 2011

The London Book Fair: Free Stuff and Inspiration

Hanging out in the Illustrator's Bar
Arrived at London Book Fair and experienced a sense of excitement and longing as I looked at all the publisher’s stands with their beautiful, glossy books on display.Aaaah heaven! Mark went to the talk on ISBN numbers (It wasn't just about ISBN numbers, in fact had hardly any mention of them - Mark) and I thought I’d start the day as I meant to go on, slipping in a massage. Well, a girl has to get her priorities in order! Then it was off to a slightly more interesting seminar!

The seminars were extremely informative with top notch speakers.

‘The Great Debate’ featured Richard Charkin, Executive Director of Bloomsbury, Cory Doctorow an award-winning author, Andrew Franklin Managing Director of Profile Books and James Bridle a editor/publisher/technologist who discussed whether publishing would become irrelevant.

Ultimately the majority of people disagreed with this premise but the onslaught of a technological age and the failure of publishers to invest in marketing and business campaigns for their ‘products’ weaken their position in the market.

Mark and I sneaked into the out-of-bounds and terribly exciting ‘Rights Centre’, where big pitches where being made, to listen to the talk on ‘The Secrets of Success’ of children’s books. The panel which included Lisa Edwards from Scholastic Books and Sarah Odedina from Bloomsbury reiterated that they look for originality and a fresh, new voice. Hmmmm, I better get scribbling!

At the talk on ‘Prizes in Children’s Literature’ I got the lovely Philip Pullman’s signature. Sadly I had forgotten my novel by him so I got him to sign my A4 piece of paper. He looked slightly perturbed! The talk concluded that prizes are a great way for new writer’s to launch themselves and come to the public’s attention and a great way to commemorate fantastic writing.

Further highlights of the Book Fair included meeting all the lovely SCBWI people, meeting more lovely people at the Tweetup, getting lots of free books from promotional seminars and stalls including our fellow SCBWI-er’s book The Truth About Celia Frost (Paula Rawsthorne) and sampling rather many glasses of free wine at the end of day one (!).

All in all the London Book Fair was a really positive experience and gave an insight into the ‘industry’ behind an author. I would urge everyone to go at least once although a lot of the information is probably more pertinent if you are already published. However, for me the most inspiring talk was given by the writer and illustrator Lauren Child. At 29 she was still kipping on a friend’s sofa ‘undiscovered.’ Lauren stressed that writing about something that resounds with you is more important than trying to emulate other authors or tap in to market trends. She emphasised the importance of hard work and determination which when combined with a little bit of luck can take you on an unexpected journey!


Sunday, 10 April 2011

Counting Down To London Book Fair!

I am slightly worried about writing my first blog post in case my SCBWI critique group give me feedback on it!!   They are a fab bunch whose personal blogs manage to be disconcertingly witty and engaging but variety is the spice of life so I will continue....

It's a gorgeous, sunny Sunday evening and for once I don't have that sinking 'last of the weekend' feeling as I contemplate what should be 3 informative and fun filled days at London Book Fair.  I feel positively pious as I justify to myself that not only am I having time off but I am hopefully being propelled further down the road of a striving children's writer. The alarm clock is set and Mark and I will be heading towards Earl's Court for the first talk on CodeMantra at 10.00 a.m.  I say this knowledgeably but I had to ask Mark what it was and when he started talking about ISBN numbers I have to admit I will probably grab a coffee during this scintillating talk! However, do not fear, there are other extremely interesting talks throughout the day that are not specific to I.T whizzes.  I am particularly looking forward to the talk on marketing your book ( a little premature perhaps but I like to be prepared!) how the digital generation is reinventing the art of storytelling and the secrets of success to Children and Youth books. Hopefully I will soak up useful tips and become a formidable source of knowledge.

Over the 3 days there are also talks on new books from UK children's publishers, children's publishing across the world and interviews with those greats like Lauren Child.  All in all it should be a great event with the only negative being trying to decide which of 2 talks to go to on at the same time.  You could always do what Mark and I are going to do and split the talks with a friend and report back to each other. Alas, I am gutted to be missing the talk by one of my favourite adult writers Kazuo Ishiguro but as a budding librarian the talk on public libraries beckoned.  

Anyways, I'll be sure to blog after the fair and reveal what I got out of it.  If anyone is coming to the London Book Fair do say hi.  Mark has described himself as Ade Edmondson from Bottom and has told me the best description I can give for myself is that I have black curly hair and smile a lot.  If that doesn't put you off we hope to see you there! 


Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Undiscovered Voices 2012 Launch (Via LiveStream)

We can see youuuuuu
Due to financial constraints I was unable to make the Undiscovered Voices launch (or Unheard Voices as I keep calling it). Fortunately the wonderful organisers propped up a laptop with a webcam and those of us unable to make it watched from 'tinternet.

We gathered in the little chat room next to the video window, waiting for something to happen, drinking wine and wondering who would sit next to the laptop.

Hopefully they'll be other blogs covering what was said and by whom at the actual event. I've stolen most of the chat conversation and pasted it below so anyone who missed out can get a feel of what it was like watching the launch on the 'tinternet. Unfortunately I lost the start of the chat, which mainly involved me pretending to be a ghost and people getting wine.

ruthfitz: Hello from Ruth Fitzgerald!
MLynas: Are we all being patient? Or have you all gone?
Nicky5: we're all being patient, quietly sipping our wine
Mark: Being patient or fetching wine I guess
MLynas: Hello Ruth
Tracy: yep -what Nicky said
ruthfitz: this is so clever Sara
MLynas: We can see you!
ruthfitz: I have lemon & ginger tea - is that wussy?
saramoo: Two judges MIA. Hope to start soon.
Mark: Oooo, get to stare at julia Churhill all night... (Honestly, Lauren,  a masked ninja broke into the flat and typed this! - Mark)
MLynas: Don't you just wish you were there?
LesleyM: Hello
Tracy: But isn't this such a fab idea - for the first time I feel part of it all!!!! :D
MLynas: hello
ruthfitz: Yep - as long as someone spoke to me!
Nicky5: Tracy - major ditto there! :-)
Nicky5: Hi Maureen!
ruthfitz: Hello Lesley
Nicky5: Hi Lesley
MLynas: Me too, Tracy, I hate the 'you might be interested in - something else in London!
LesleyM: Hello Ruth! this is amazing
Tracy: So true Maureen!!
MLynas: Hi Nicky!
ruthfitz: Yes - fab!
LesleyM: I wish they had big name stickers on!
MLynas: What's on the other side?
Tracy: :D
Nicky5: They do, they're just in front of them, angled so we can't see!
ruthfitz: Ha! I can't believe all this is coming though Sara's phone
LesleyM: Of course!!
MLynas: Julia's pointing at us!
LesleyM: what kind of phone?
ruthfitz: Smarter than mine!
Nicky5: probably an iphone or an android
LesleyM: android??!
Nicky5: uh-huh - like the Samsung Galaxy, very smart phone :-)
MLynas: Galaxy?!?
LesleyM: was imagining large robot
Mark: It's a laptop connected to the phone, I think (sorry for being pedantic)
LesleyM: thank you mark!
Nicky5: Mark, you're right :-)
MLynas: She's pointing again. she must like us
ruthfitz: Well I'm impressed - I'm sure we don't have them in Ipswich!
LesleyM: or Dorset
ruthfitz: LOL
MLynas: So, who's got a story ready to send?
LesleyM: should we stop talking when they begin?
Nicky5: they won't hear us if we whisper... ;-)
MLynas: :) Nicky
Nicky5: ;-)
LesleyM: 'whispers' have a story maureen - not sure if ready!
saramoo: hi all! sara grant here. just about ready!
MLynas: 'whispers back'  i have one too
Nicky5: hi SaraG
Tracy: :)
MLynas: Hi Sara
LesleyM: Hi Sara - so excited!
ruthfitz: I have one - not sure if it's a story!
Nicky5: I swear I can hear Bex Hill in all that hubbub...
ruthfitz: Hi Sara
saramoo: can you hear ok?
MLynas: I can, thanks
Nicky5: it's a bit soft, but that's the distance Sara is from the mic
LesleyM: yes thanks, just ok
supergirl2000: Not very clear for me either, but might be my rubbish speakers!
annemarie: I can hear you just fine Sara.
Mark: First question for all judges: name your favourite book from childhood.  Just incase anyone missed it.
LesleyM: Thanks mark, i missed it
ruthfitz: It's a little quiet but probably just because I'm on my laptop
Nicky5: I think it has to do with the distance each of the speakers is from the laptop microphone
Tracy: It's a bit hard to hear the distant speakers
Nicky5: is that Jasmin answering now?
Tracy: yes
LesleyM: who's this?
Tracy: Is it Jenny Savill?
Nicky5: I think so
saramoo: it's jenny
Tracy: ta
saramoo: this is Rachel Boden
Nicky5: thanks, Sara!
saramoo: now it's amber caraveo
LesleyM: thanks
saramoo: volume better
Nicky5: much!
MLynas: I'm sensing a theme!
Tracy: yes thanks :)
LesleyM: yes!
steph_mcgregor: Sorry, I'm lurking. Listening. Hi all ;)
MLynas: Hi Steph
Nicky5: hi Steph! ;-)
Tracy: Hi
steph_mcgregor: :D
LesleyM: hello!
saramoo: and finally Julia Churchill
Nicky5: Sara, can you "introduce" the speakers again - we didn't get the names of those at the top of the table - thanks
saramoo: this is catherine pelligrino
Nicky5: thanks
Tracy: thanks
saramoo: can you hear?
Tracy: just about
Nicky5: just...
steph_mcgregor: no
Mark: Are all the judges female?
LesleyM: indistinct
Nicky5: thanks, Sara!
annemarie: thanks sara!
steph_mcgregor: ta
saramoo: this is dagmar glelditch
LesleyM: such a help!
Nicky5: thanks, again! :-)
saramoo: now it's jo anne the book seller from foyles
Tracy: what was this book?
saramoo: swim the fly
Tracy: thanks
saramoo: it's not out yet
saramoo: now jasmine from OUP
Nicky5: woohoo, Dave Cousins!
saramoo: her book is 15 days without a head by UV-er dave cousins
LesleyM: Yay!
steph_mcgregor: Yay!
MLynas: And yay!
LesleyM: Lol!
steph_mcgregor: ;)
MLynas: Sounds excellent!
LesleyM: like the bra bit ..
saramoo: now jenny savill an agent from andrew nurnberg associates
saramoo: rachel  boden at egmont
saramoo: her book is the magnificient moon hare
saramoo: now amber caraveo from orion
saramoo: amber is talking about Kate Harrison's Soul Beach
LesleyM: interesting
MLynas: Falling in love with the dead never goes well
LesleyM: speaking from experience?
MLynas: Contact me afterwards. It's an interesting story!
LesleyM: Oooh. Shudder.
Nicky5: Maureen, we could compare notes...
MLynas: hahahahaha!
saramoo: now julia at greenhouse literary
LesleyM: better view thanks sara
MLynas: What was the book?
saramoo: catherine asked who she recommends.. meg rossof's how i live now
saramoo: jenny's is the graveyard book by neil gaimen
saramoo: julia says the read broadly and be a fan
saramoo: oops forgive my typos!
louisekelly: don't worry about typos - this is an amazing treat!
MLynas: Hi Louise!
saramoo: egmont not looking for straight historical and no high fantasy
louisekelly: oohps - won't be sending my girl living in the 14th century to egmont then!!!!
louisekelly: hi Mrs lynch
saramoo: egmont want 8 to 10 adventure with humour
saramoo: survival stories
MLynas: Hi! Pay attention!
saramoo: dagmar looking for younger stuff and funny
saramoo: she says she wants humour that can travel
MLynas: I write funny stuff and I have a car!
saramoo: ha ha
Nicky5: LOL!
LesleyM: need a plane for this!
louisekelly: she said not TOO funny Maureen!!!
MLynas: There's no such thing as too funny
saramoo: they are emphasizing more younger fiction
louisekelly: who is the Julia they are referring to?
MLynas: Mine's very young1
Mark: Goblins are getting a hard time.
It's all over bar the drinking
saramoo: amber not looking for epic fantasy
saramoo: actively looking for ya for new imprint
saramoo: jo anne says memorable characters or first page that grabs you
saramoo: rachel says original characters make a book stand out and writing that stands out
saramoo: catherine says voice, character and voice
saramoo: jasmine: has book have theme that kids can relate to
saramoo: pitfall: slow start. she gives ms 50 pages
MLynas: That many!
saramoo: jenny's pitfall: too many words, too few words and the wrong words
saramoo: julia: entering scene too early and leave too late
saramoo: any questions
saramoo: i'll ask for you
Tracy: What do they class as epic fantasy?
Nicky5: good question, Tracy!
Tracy: :0
Tracy: thanks sara :)
Nicky5: we know everyone's looking for younger fiction, but are they still taking on YA fiction, though perhaps not as much as before?
Tracy: What about gritty urban YA realism?
Nicky5: ie where is the YA market...?
MLynas: Could you thank everyone for letting us listen in.
LesleyM: yes!
louisekelly: seconded!
Nicky5: Yes, please!  This has been so great to be part of!
saramoo: absolutely!!!
steph_mcgregor: how long is the synopsis supposed to be? Did I miss it?
Tracy: Big thank you from me too :)
Mark: 75 words I think
ruthfitz: Thanks - really informative too
steph_mcgregor: (thank you )
Mark: Thanks
steph_mcgregor: Thanks
supergirl2000: Thanks very much for this video link - its brilliant for those of us who have to stay home with the children
MLynas: Can we do this again?
Nicky5: ooh, yes, please!
LesleyM: Please!  'Wild applause'
saramoo: bye all

Thanks for the stream and good luck to everyone that enters!



Thursday, 31 March 2011

The Secret of the Slushpile Revealed*

The slushpile. It's legendary. Every mention of it is made in a hushed, reverent tone. But what is it? Some people think every agent, publisher and tramp has one in their office, which they look through during a free moment and use for extra insulation during the winter.
But I know the truth.
I met a man in a pub today. Haggard and bristling with stubble. I bought him a pint (because I'm a generous chap who craves company) and he told me his tale.
He'd just finished working in the warehouse district of Oxford. Most people think they are chicken sheds but in fact they are owned by the major publishers of the world. His job was to drive a snow plough.
But he didn't plough snow.
It was manuscripts.
Thousands and thousands of manuscripts.
Every day they would arrive and every day he'd get in the plough and push them into a dark chimney like thing under one of the warehouses.
He became curious.
Where did the chimney go?
The night before I met him, after he'd knocked off for the night, he stole over to the warehouse. Forcing the door open he was met with a disturbing sight. The walls were lined with cages, each containing one bedraggled figure hunched over a joystick. In the centre of the warehouse a pile of manuscripts towered. The chimney led up into the warehouse, the pile sprouting from its mouth.
From the centre of the roof hung a metal claw, like in those games you play at Brighton pier. The huddled shapes in the cages took turns in trying to grab a manuscript with it. If they failed an electric shock was administered.

It was just like this

And that's when he realised.
The people in the cages.
They were agents.
The man fled.
So the next time you meet an agent remember that they have probably only been let out of their cage due to good behaviour. Their lives are a living hell of electric-shocks and manuscripts. Buy them a drink and sooth their shredded nerves. They deserve it.



*Everything in the above text and picture is fictional and any resemblance to a real agent, publisher or tramp is coincidental.