The Joy of #Yalc

#Yalc= Young Adults Literature Convention

Last year I saw all the excitement around YALC  and was just desperate to be there. So this year, by hook or by crook, I wasn’t going to miss it.   Continue reading “The Joy of #Yalc”

For Readers, The Publishing Process, Writing Advice

A Week in the Life of an Author



The craziest of train journeys; a wonderful day with librarians and a short lived but highly productive afternoon at the SCBWI writer’s retreat… Continue reading “A Week in the Life of an Author”

The Publishing Process, Writing Advice

How to Make an Author Website Part 1

The very obvious answer is to pay a professional but hey, most of us live in the real world. Paying a professional web designer may be desirable, even sensible,  but it’s also far more expensive than free. Author advances can quickly be gobbled by such expenses. If you want to build a free site for yourself,  but are baffled at how to begin, hopefully I can give you a few tips over the next few weeks. Ready?

WEEK  1 The very, very basics……….

A few people have asked this question on various different forums so I thought I’d tell you how I did it. I’m no expert, I know a very very limited  amount of coding, so what what I’m going to tell you is very basic but it’s probably enough to get you started. It’s also based on what I’ve learned as I’ve built various sites – there will be other ways to do it, possibly even easier ways!


Imagine a village high street full of shop fronts, behind which is the workshop with all the equipment to display the things in the shop hidden at the back. Those workshops are the website builders, or the platforms, and  the shop front is your website. There are a lot of workshops to choose from and I can’t tell you about them all because I  don’t have experience of them all. I’ve used:

Blogger ( meh)

Jimdo (Ok )

Weebly (Ok)

BT’s own website builder ( yuk) (my fave and where this website is built)


Ready? We’re going to use wordpress and we’re going to build a really simple website together. I can’t promise I’ll do it all logically, I learned this stuff by trial and error, but by the end of this page you will have a website. Click this link, it’ll open  on a new page so you won’t lose this one: GETTING STARTED  (TIP To save you hopping back from one page to another,  if you have Windows 7 or above, , you can pull apart the tabs at the top. We’ll call this blog A, and your new website B. Just left click on the tab for A and drag it away from B. Use the double page icon top right to make it smaller, then drag it to the left hand side of the screen as far as it’ll go – it should lock in place and fill the left side of the screen. Now  make B a bit smaller the same way and drag it all the way over to the right. It should lock in place next to it so you can work in them side by side.)


web theme

On the page you’ve opened, you’ll be asked to choose a theme. This is the style of your website. Choose one you like, you can always change it later. I’ve chosen SOLA because it’s pink and I like it. Click your choice and you’ll move on to choose your…


Your domain name is just your blog address. That’s it. If you already own a domain name, you’ll need to map it to your new website.  If you are starting from scratch, as I’m guessing you are if you are using my super easy guide,  you can chose a domain name in the next step. Unless you choose something that ends you will need to pay for it and it’s usually a small annual fee. The advantage of a paid web address is just that it looks more professional and fits more neatly on your business cards/book marks.


But it’s up to you – for the purposes of this exercise, I’ve chosen

Cos it’s free and I already have a website.

So go ahead, type what you like in the domain or key name box and take your pick. It makes sense for you to choose your name  not your book title – there’ll be more books coming after all! And we’re nearly there….


Choose your plan – we’re going for a freebie, you can always upgrade it later – so do it now,  click select a free plan!


There you go, we’ve done it! The website exists – now all we need to do is add content and for that we need to go into the workshop behind the shopfront…ready?


Click the magic words Let’s get Started.

new site

And we’re in the workshop…



Today we’re going to WRITE a front page, insert  a PICTURE and add  some LINKS.

To begin just WRITE your title in the box where it says title…just type over it, it’ll be fine.

Now click underneath the little bar of icons to add content to the body of the page..

We’re going to add a PICTURE.  See the add media button  in this picture?

add picture


Click it.

This page will store all your images and videos – click add new or add media and choose a file from your pictures folder on your computer.  Make it a good one…Once it’s uploaded, click insert. There’s other stuff you can do on this page but we are keeping it simple…

add media

Once you have inserted your picture you can change its size by clicking on it and dragging one of the tiny white boxes at the corner in or out.  When you’ve clicked the picture, you’ll also see some icons – these allow you to change the position of the picture and add a caption – go ahead and have a play – you can always use the back arrow to undo what you’ve done – you’ll find that in the second bar of icons at the top of  the place you’re adding your content. It’s just a back bending arrow.

picture added


Ok, now add some text underneath

Let’s use your bio – you can get some bio writing tips from me and Nick Cross over on Notes from the Slushpile.

You are basically writing a blog post but we can organise your content more as we learn.  Wordpress will save as you go but if you want to save more frequently there’s a tiny blue SAVE up on the left hand side, over the publish button. You  are doing GREAT and we’re nearly there for today. All we’re going to do now is add some LINKS! These are little gateways to other webpages. You might want to link straight to where someone can buy your book, or you might want to link to some other interesting content.

You could just put a web address in for people to copy and paste but it looks so much more professional to add a link to text. To do this, first find the website you want to link to . Next, highlight the piece of text you want the link to jump from.


Next, copy the web address you want to link to from the address bar of the page – highlight, right click, copy. Come back to your new website . Now look at the top line of icons at the top of the page, see the little chain icon? That’s your tool for adding hyperlinks. Click it.

hyperlink button

Right click in the box marked URL and paste the website address you want to link to. Then tick the box underneath that says ‘open in another page’ – that just means they won’t lose your website when they click the link. Click Add link.

link url

You’ve done it!!

Just one more tiny thing:

On the left hand side of the screen there are a few buttons that will help people find and navigate around your websites.  We’ll come to most of them another time but we’re going to set your featured image today. Just click the drop down menu on featured image, select Set featured image, and choose the picture you uploaded earlier by clicking on it and then clicking Set Featured Image.


Now press that big blue button on the left that says PUBLISH.


We like that word 🙂 Well done, you’ve got a very basic website! We’ll add more next time! Now I have to go and write a book…but in the mean time, here’s one we made earlier. we’ll iron out some of the creases soon!


Next week : Categories and tags


In addition to running a fruit farm, Kathryn is a mother who loves to belly dance, fences competitively and is  a passionate supporter of SCBWI for whom she volunteers as Finance Co-ordinator for SCBWI British Isles. She lives on her farm near Chichester. More of Me, published by Usborne, is her debut novel. Agent: 


















The Publishing Process, Writing Advice

What’s it like? 2 Days To Launch Day

I have tried to write a sensible “week before launch day” post. Honestly I have tried . The thing is,


Twitter header

On Monday very many of my friends and family will be joining myself and Usborne  to celebrate the launch of More of Me in London. That is genuinely enough excitement for anyone. Then I’m  doing it all again in Chichester on Thursday.  I am as giddy as a school girl who’s eaten too many fruit pastilles and just been introduced to Beyonce.

That is my current base line level of excitement.

Add to that a continuous trickle of breath takingly good reviews, ( THANK YOU SO MUCH),  winning a silver medal at last weekend’s fencing competition, being sent gorgeous flowers  by my Aussie Aunt and Uncle and jewellery from my baby sister, signing contracts with my German publisher and other behind the scenes publishy stuff and well, you can see why I am actually bouncing off the walls.

So I’ve given up. Nothing sensible is coming out of this head for at least a week.  Thank you, all of you, your support means the world. I shall try and be slightly less annoying when it’s all over.


PS: What’s it like? IT’S AWESOME, keep writing – it is SO WORTH IT.

The Publishing Process, Writing Advice

How the SCBWI Conference Blew My Mind

My Seawig of Books! All the launching SCBWI Titles of 2015 Awesome Photo by: Candy Gourlay


Every year I think this year’s conference has been the best ever but this year, it really might have been. Was it just me or did we fill Winchester with enough warmth and creativity to power a small ship? And what about it really blew my mind?

Was it our fantastic, if bonkers, keynote speakers who set the tone for a fabulous weekend? Sarah Macintyre & Philip Reeve, Jonny Duddle and David Fickling were all inspiring and hilarious.

With Sarah Macintyre and Philip Reeve – two of our AWESOME keynotes. They sold out of books, our lovely bookseller sneaked back to one of the shops and got me one! Thanks David from  P.G.Wells in Winchester!

Was it because we had a great break out program which showed me the way to go with my school visits, fixed a HUGE plot problem I was having (Candy Gourlay you GENIUS) and answered many tricky questions under The Cone of Silence?

Candy Gourlay’s Structure Break Out was exactly the butt kick I needed.

Was it the fringe critique or the killer 1-2-1 that may have been hard to hear but was absolutely the medicine my younger fiction needed? Thanks David Maybury –  honesty was definitely the best policy. I’ve stopped crying now.  I’M KIDDING – it’s all good.


With  George Kirk (valiant organiser), Steve Hartley (school visit genius), Philippa Francis ( all round good egg)

It may have been  the awesome party, celebrating the success of all our new SCBWI books published this year. Or was it just the gathering of the clan? The cementing of of old friendships?

Addy Farmer, Me in a Wig, Teri Terry

The sparking of new ones?

Dom Conlon fellow FunEverser.


Robin Stevens, I wish I could post our pictures but what happens in the bar, stays in the bar…

It was all those things because all those things embody SCBWI.  The sharing of our craft, our knowledge, our experience, our friendship. And that true symbol of SCBWI,  giant pants.

Steve Hartley Doing His Thing.



The Publishing Process, Writing Advice

What’s it like: Copy Editing (or taking constructive criticism when you don’t expect it).

Space for where my book will one day sit!
Space for where my book will one day sit!

I’ve done it, more-or-less. More of Me is finished – there’ll be the possibility of minor tweaks when the proof copies are ready but all the tough writing stuff is done, including the final stage, COPY EDITS.

My Facebook pals, and worse, my Twitter followers (why don’t they let you edit tweets? I never see my mistakes until it’s too late!) will suspect any copy editor  of mine deserves a medal. My typos are disgraceful but I was very careful with my script. I spell checked until my fingers bled before I sent it off, but there were still things that came back needing correction. Some of which, for the first time since the edit process began, rankled.

It wasn’t the formatting things:

‘Speech marks’ should be “speech marks”.

Indentations should be


It was questions like this, “Why is Teva pretending to be dyslexic”:

She’s supposed to be good at English – offering to help Ollie and agreeing to help Tommo – not the most convincing excuse?

Now, if Sarah, my wonderful editor, had written that, it wouldn’t have bothered me at all – so why did I have a niggle of irritation?

Maybe because I’m vainer than I think? And also, more stupid? Sarah tempered her critiques with  a lot of back patting so, even if her comments meant a ton of work, I didn’t mind. We were making a better book. It was all good.  There was no back patting from the  copy editor. This was a sweep through the mansucript picking up any outstanding issues. And instead of being grateful for this last chance to get things right, this fresh pair of eyes on my work,  I was thinking:

“But you don’t know me, you don’t know my book.”

I was, to put it bluntly, being an arse. Everything the copy editor raised was valid – how could it not be, it was her professional opinion? And I needed it – if she didn’t understand what I was trying to say, I had better go back over it and work out why.  So I did, and quite often she was right – and now, of course, I’m grateful to her attention to detail.

I’m grateful, too, that it got me thinking about my own response to constructive criticism. I’ve always thought I was pretty good at it – you know, not too precious but fairly steady in my own self belief. Clearly, not so much.

This was timely in more ways than one. My beloved SCBWI critique group has been having a heart to heart – when we started out, none of us were published. We had no real deadlines and no one to please but ourselves. We could be gentle with our critiques, and rightly so – the first rule of critique is:

Do No Harm

But now many of us have, or nearly have, agents and publishers and a firm, critical, honest eye might be the difference between success and failure – or a shed load of work further down the line. We’ve moved up a level and our critiques need to follow or we aren’t being fair to each other.

There comes a point when you  need to lift your chin  and listen.You might not agree with what’s being said, and that’s fine, but do listen, then take a breath, and listen again. It’s quite likely, no matter how hard it is to take, that there’s something you should be hearing.

Critque group meeting
A rare meet up of some of my YA Critique Group


Conference Header
The Publishing Process, Writing Advice

SCBWI-BI Conference – Is it Worth It?

Protecting Wonderful Author,  Fiona Dunbar’s Modesty: Conf 2010

The annual SCBWI British Isles conference is open for booking and I didn’t hesitate before signing up. I’ve hardly missed one in years – in fact I’ve been trying to remember if I’ve missed one. Sadly, no one has helpfully produced a list  so I can’t tick them off. Continue reading “SCBWI-BI Conference – Is it Worth It?”

Crazed Author in Panic
The Publishing Process, Writing Advice

What’s it like?….Phase Two of the Editing Process

Regular readers will gather, from the huge gap in posts, that Phase 2 of Editing More of Me has been somewhat more stressful than Phase 1. There are a number of reasons for this: Continue reading “What’s it like?….Phase Two of the Editing Process”

The Publishing Process, Writing Advice

What’s it like…Signing Contracts


IT’S GREAT!!!!!!

That’s pretty much it – except to say it takes a loooooong time. Or this one did. Lots of behind the scenes negotiation in which my agent, Sophie Hicks, more than earned her money. The skeleton deal was done four months ago, in November 2014.  My first lot of edits have already gone back. Still, this felt like a significant milestone on my publishing journey Continue reading “What’s it like…Signing Contracts”