Yesterday, 22nd June 2021, I did my first live school visit in 15 months at the wonderful Tor Bridge High in Plymouth. It wasn’t quite what we’d planned, the delay to ‘Freedom Day’ meant we couldn’t do whole year groups assemblies but instead, were a more intimate library full of 30 young people at a time – and it was WONDERFUL.
It’s been a miserable covid year but I’m double jabbed and things are, at last, looking up. I am not going to dwell on the misery, I am going to celebrate!
I have two new talks in addition to Self Esteem & Social Media – and an updated post-covid version of Reading and Resilience , I also have What Women Are and Empathy.
You captivated all the students with four fantastic workshops full of energy, enthusiasm and passion – Joanne Bowls, librarian
See here for more information and details on how to book me for your school or college. I can’t wait to visit!!!
Writers are asked this ALL the time. And the truth is, ideas come from everywhere, you just have to be receptive to them. Listen to conversations for the hidden under tones, read newspaper articles with a writer’s eye – ask:
at every possible situation. I find trying to force ideas quite hard but if I remain open, little seeds sow themselves and start to sprout. Today however, it was not so much a seed as a fully planted tree.
This was passed on to me this morning:
This book used to belong to my mother-in-law’s mother, Isabelle Keymer. Isabelle began training as a pharmacist at a time when young women were not encouraged to go out to work. Unfortunately for her, family circumstances meant she was not able to complete her training – when her mother died she was expected to stay home and look after her father and she did exactly that. I suspect she wasn’t given a great deal of choice. Male privilege held her back more than once in her life. I’m so glad I got to meet her, though it was just the once shortly before she died. Even then, post a leg amputation, she was a strong, kind, determined and interesting woman. It’s not hard to see where my daughter has inherited her academic brain and drive from.
Isabelle’s life is an interesting story in itself but then I opened the book and saw the first page:
Graffiti!!! Joy of joys, look at this page – not only is this a first edition published in 1864 (book swot alert) but someone, judging by the copperplate hand-writing possibly the first owner – has completely defaced it! Isabelle clearly wasn’t the first person to use this book – so who on earth was Rice Forsyth? Page after page is full of Rices’ amendments:
This is pure magic for a writer.
J. K. Rowling uses the device of a hand me down book with just these kind of amendments in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince! Oh, what a happy hour I’ve just spent looking through the book and wondering…What if?
Here are a few unknown unknowns – things you need to do as a published author that you never even guessed at:
Blog posts, heaps of them , which is GREAT, because I am a massive chatterbox and they allow me to chatter. I’m blogging at Notes from the Slushpile , YAshelfies, and on all sorts of yummy blogs of friends who have invited me , or not friends who’ve been wrangled into it by the fab publicity team at Usborne.
Keep secrets. Literally, every contract for a deal or an event has to be kept under wraps until someone says “Go!” That is HARD when you never shut up.
Be aware of your behaviour on social media- this isn’t just about not swearing and calling everyone a walrus , this also means being present. I tweet therefore I am.
Read! Oh so much wonderful reading that you don’t have to feel guilty about. It’s work!! I have read so many great books in the last month alone – Cat Clarkes’ The Lost and Found, Hilary Freeman’s When I was Me, Sarah Crossan’s One, Liz Coley’s Pretty Girl Thirteen – and these are just my favourites!
Fill in German tax forms. I know – who knew? Well, my agent, obviously.
Make difficult decisions about overseas publishers that probably aren’t as difficult as you think if you can stop being an arse for five minutes. It’s fine, I got over it. Twit that I am.
Find more time – I know. I thought I could do it all but turns out writing without deadlines is a whole lot easier to fit in than writing with deadlines. Especially when you’re fitting in all the promotional stuff.
And you know what? I love all of it! Except maybe the tax forms. Definitely not the tax forms.
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.
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?
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?
The sparking of new ones?
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.
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.