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!