Friday, 31 August 2012

Today I...

1. Spoke to an audience of 150ish teachers who  displayed varying degrees of interest (but mostly, it has to be said, interest) in my talk about reading, reading for pleasure, teenagers, brains and more about the brain.

2. Managed, mostly, to block the fact that one man in the audience was shaking his head most of the time.

3. Sold a book. And gave away masses of posters, postcards and info about dyslexia. Hooray!

4. Went to M&S on the way home and bought some scrummy ingredients for dinner, but then got a text from Mr M to say his train wouldn't get in till 9.30. And he'd have eaten. Never mind - there's always tomorrow.

5. Re-read and attempted to process an email from my agent yesterday, re a publishing decision which surprised me, and not in a bad way.

6. And took a phone call which included the word "television".

Well, Mr M may not be back, but I'm, frankly, celebrating.


Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Name that character!

Ideas, please! I need a good name for a character in a children's book. An lady in her early 70s, aristocratic by origin, eccentric, mysterious, elegant. A name which resonates and is striking, but not too comic. Not a villain, though she is somewhat scary and aloof. Not cuddly. Emotionally somewhat fragile or fractured, though she's built a strong shell around herself.

The only other thing you might need to know about her is that her life was saved by a horse when she was a child, and she's horse-obsessed, so it's possible that she might have taken a horse-related middle name upon herself as an adult.

Ideas, please, in comments below!

If I use your suggestion, I'll credit you... If the book is ever published.

Monday, 27 August 2012

New term, new school, new girl, new books, new readers

Doesn't September always feel like the start of something? Dates back to when we were all at school and September meant new pencil cases and shoes and jotters. It's all full of hope and resolutions and a little bit of fear.

As many of you know, I'm about to start a new direction, too, stopping my writing-advice blog and books and emails and consultancy and all the other ways I found myself offering help to fellow writers. (The advice is still there, and so are my books for writers.)

And as many of you know this is not because I've had enough of it: it's because I want to get back to the real writing. For children. Focusing on story, on readers, on gorgeous books with exciting covers, and all the face-to-face, heart-to-heart, eyes-wide excitement that goes with children as readers. And I can't do the blogging and the writing, or not as much writing as I want.

I also want to put on record my commitment to supporting libraries and librarians, physical bookshops and enthusiastic booksellers. I want to be part of that again. I have had some decent success with self-publishing but my heart is more in writing than publishing and I want to publish less and write more. Publishers can help me do that. (If I can get another contract, of course - and that depends on my writing a book they think readers will want. I'm prepared to take that chance.)

So, am I writing more teenage fiction? No! Well, I'll never say never, but it's not what I'm doing right now. You may think we're none of us getting younger but in my writing I am. *swallows cod-liver oil* Back to the age group that Chicken Friend was for. Chicken Friend did really well and, although out of print, is still my most borrowed book from libraries. I often asked my former editor if she'd like me to do more along those lines but she always seemed not to hear the question, as she wanted me to do more teenage stuff. But now, I'm returning to that wonderful, enthusiastic age group with a vigour. Maybe someone else will like my new ideas for that age group.

So, I've written a new novel for 8-10s and have a load more ideas in the pipeline, including a highly commercial high-concept series. My agent wants me to hurry up and get on with these ideas.

So I will!

Watch this space.

Friday, 17 August 2012

If you want to bamboozle me, now's a good time

If anyone wants to deceive, bamboozle or mug me, any time over the next five days I'm going to be a push-over. I probably won't even see you coming. My head is going to be dizzied by debate, confusticated by conversations, and buzzing with b...b...b... ideas. It is the much-heralded (and in my case somewhat dreaded) World Writers' Conference as part of the Edinburgh International Book Festival and I am in it. And it starts today. From lunchtime. Hence my slight earlier-than-usual posting. I will not be fit for anything later.

I am sure the only reason I'm in it is because I'm crabbit and I think we are expected to be crabbit and indulge in near-fisticuffs because that's what some internationally-renowned authors did at the previous one, fifty years ago, on which this is scarily modelled. (Even the new one's website looks scary, don't you think? I have no intention of being crabbit in public, so the idea of being expected to be eloquently crabbit is scary.

Then all the bumpf came a couple of days ago and I became a bit less scared and a lot more excited, because I discovered that they have laid on a vast and exciting programme of social opportunities to discuss anything we want (well, book-related, I guess, but who knows?) with fellow delegates. And I very much do like the idea of discussing (even crabbitly) book-related things with other writers and to be given many opportunities to do this with writers I mostly haven't met before is an exciting idea.

As I say, hypnotised as I will be by all this probably-lubricated discussion and the effort to avoid fisticuffs or tongue-tied moments, you could probably get me to sign anything.

Wish me luck. I shall report.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

My experience of work experience girls

I've had two girls with me, doing work experience - Alex Brogan and Mairi Chittleburgh. They've been wonderful! Later, I'm going to get them to blog here about their experience.

When they first arrived, I spent time explaining all the parts of publishing, agenting and writing. Then I told them about all the projects I'm involved in at the moment and I identified some they might be able to help with.

Their main task on the first day was to go through the whole text for my recently finished novel, Lizzy Invisible, and a) make notes of every fact about every character b) check for consistency of facts and c) tell me if there were any aspects at all that I should change. I must say, I did like hearing choruses of "awwwww" and "OH NO!" coming from the next door room! Late that night, I incorporated their (few) suggestions and sent it to my agent, who has now pronounced it fit to go to publishers. *shivers*

They also started brainstorming names and characters for a commercial series I'm planning.

Then they made lists of schools I can tell about a competition I'm organising for the Highwayman books. And researched the authors I'm chairing at the Edinburgh Book Festival.

Next task is to start planning a marketing campaign for my proposed ebooking of Sleepwalking and The Passionflower Massacre. They have already had some good ideas. And they will be commissioning the covers from my designer!

They will be spending a day or two at the Edinburgh Book festival with me next week. Unfortunately they can't come to my school event or workshop but they are coming to the event I'm chairing on Monday - Sally Gardner and Celia Rees. Do come!

They are both starting their final year at The Mary Erskine School in Edinburgh, a school I've had many links with. Girls from the year above them helped write Deathwatch and launch The Highwayman's Curse, for example. Fantastic school and the girls are a credit to it.

And they will get their names in the acknowledgements for Lizzy Invisible, if it is published...

Mind you, what I hadn't realised is that Alex Brogan has another claim to fame. And they both eat chocolate, so they will do well as writers.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Mondays are Red and the lovely trailer

I came across the trailer for Mondays are Red the other day. My younger daughter made it and I think it's very wonderful indeed.

Mondays are Red is currently an ebook only. It was my first YA novel and had some fabulous reviews. You'll either love it or think it's weird! It's challenging and different, with weird language because it's seen through the eyes of a boy not only waking from a coma but discovering that he has synaesthesia.

And my daughter who made it is now looking for a proper job in the film industry, making documentaries. She now has enough great work experience on her CV that she's ready for proper, paid work as a researcher or production assistant.

Let me know if you have any ideas or contacts for her!

If you'd like to buy Mondays are Red from Amazon, it will make my day! ONly £2 at the moment. If you write a review, it will make my week ...

UK link

US link

Lulu link for non-Amazon purchases

It's written for teenagers but very often enjoyed by adults, especially those interested in language. Teachers will also be interested in the examples of inspired creative writing from pupils at the end of the ebook.

Here's that spooky trailer again!

Don't read on if you don't want to read any reviews: