Thursday, May 25, 2017

A visit to Random House


One of this year’s SCBWI Industry Insider Events was a visit to the Random House Publishing House where Editors Carmen McCullough and Naomi Colthurst talked us through their publishing process.

Carmen McCullough
Naomi Colthurst
Random House only take agented manuscripts, unless the author has forged a relationship with an editor.

When they receive a manuscript from an agent they talk as a team in an editorial meeting and then an acquisition meeting where everyone would have read the whole book. All reading is done in their own time. Carmen and Naomi will often read five to six titles a week.




It is unusual for something to go to acquisitions and not get through. Once acquired the book is scheduled and there is a structural edit. Structural edit deadlines vary. Some may tie in with specific events. Delivery dates will be specified in the contract. Naomi specifies a month in the first instance. Carmen often allows more than a month but if the edits drag on she will reduce to two weeks. These are additional edits that happen after a structural edit with an agent.

A structural edit can go 2 or 3 rounds before going to the Editorial Two Team for copy edits. Naomi has never taken on a book that does not need editing for at least two rounds. Copy edits are often with an out of house freelance editor. When it is approved it will then go to the Production Team. The whole editing schedule usually takes about a year.



Six months before the book is due to be launched Publicity will work on feature ideas, press and events. There are also rigorous cover meetings.


From start to finish the whole process may take two years with everyone working in unison.



…the book goes on and on as Random House continue to find ways in which they can keep marketing and publicity going.

Overall Random House aim to:
  •         Make the big brands bigger
  •         Reinvent the Classics with new cover looks and picking a hero title each year to pitch a high-level campaign that is often tied into events like Science Week.
  •         Push their dazzling debuts as tomorrow’s brands today.




Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Writing 4 Children - Dionne McCulloch

In my Writing 4 Children column in this months issue of Writers Forum, I interviewed for Dionne McCulloch.


She works as an editor for Cornerstones, is a judge for the Bath Novel Award and writes her own YA novels. How does she fit it all in? Dionne explains how it is a balancing act and talks us through her typical day. Dionne has previously written and edited scripts for TV and copy-edited speeches for US President, Bill Clinton.

In the feature, Dionne also gives us an insight on what she thinks makes a children's book great and gives readers expert tips to help develop their writing skills.

The Bath Children’s Novel Award 2017 is now open for unsigned novelists writing for children or young adults.




Friday, July 22, 2016

Oskar Cox Jensen's Research Secrets

In the July 2016 issue of Writers' Forum I interviewed Oskar Cox Jensen about the research he did for his novels, The Stones of Winter and The Wild Hunt, which are set in Scandinavia. He explained how fieldwork inspired him and helped him to solve specific issues with the series.



The books are Viking tales of myth and magic. All is not well at the Viking court of Jelling. Home to the mysterious Yelling Stones (three witches turned into stone). It has always been a place of power and a haven for 'the old ways'. Troubling news has reached King Gorm's court - but fourteen-year-old princess Astrid isn't concerned. She's far more worried her family prefers her inside sewing, or planning her marriage, rather than letting her explore the forest, or ride Hestur, her beautiful snow-white horse.

Astrid finds herself at the heart of a battle that will change her life forever. Leif, an ambitious and talented young poet, arrives at King Gorm's court and announces he has been sent visions from the witches of the Yelling Stones, saying a dangerous and powerful force is coming - one that will change the face of Denmark -and only Astrid and Leif can stop it. With danger all around them, including trolls, witches and a terrifying creature called 'The Beast', can they tell who the real enemy is in time to stop them?

To find out more about Oskar Cox Jensen you can visit his website at: www.oskarjensen.com

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Picture Book Retreat in Herne Bay

Last weekend I was teaching a course on writing picture books in Herne Bay, Kent.

The course launched with wine and nibbles at the Grosvenor House guesthouse, hosted by the lovely Frances Brown. I did a presentation on the myths of picture book writing and we all got to know each other. We then walked into Herne Bay town, to a local art gallery called, One New Street Gallery, owned by Helen Wilde and her partner Terry Sole. They had arranged a private viewing of paintings by John Butterworth for us before we went to eat at an amazing little Italian pizza house, A Casa Mia on High Street.


After breakfast, our morning session kicked off with an introduction to picture books looking at word count, structure and themes. We spent time analysing a wide range of picture books looking for common features and what appealed to us as readers. This sparked lots of interesting discussion.


For lunch, we went to an adorable vintage tea shop with lace table clothes on William Street called, Very Vintagebefore embarking on our afternoon sessions where all the delegates plotted a new picture book. They shared and discussed their ideas within the group and for homework were asked to complete their stories and make dummy books to show the group in the morning.

Each course member completed their homework to a high standard and I was impressed with the quality of the stories they presented. They had all taken on board everything I had said about plot and structure. After looking at each of the picture book dummies we started another picture book idea, inspired by group work and role play to develop a new character.



During the final session, we discussed the submission process, writing a picture book elevator pitch and I told everyone my top ten tips for being a picture book writer. 


We are hoping to run a similar course in the Autumn. If you are interested please contact Frances Brown at Grosvenor House Events, Herne Baywww.grosvenorhousevents.co.uk
Places are limited to six people per course. It is also a fantastic venue for writing retreats.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Katherine Rundell’s Research Secrets

Katherine Rundell’s Research Secrets

In the June issue of Writers Forum, I have interviewed Katherine Rundell about the research for her novel, The Wolf Wilder, published by Bloomsbury.

The Wolf Wilder is about a girl called Feodora who is training to be a wolf wilder. A wolf wilder is someone who teaches tamed animals to fend for themselves - to be wary of humans, run and fight. The exact opposite of an animal tamer. Feo lives in the snowbound woods of Russia with her mother. Ten minutes away, in a ruined chapel, lives a pack of wolves. 

When the murderous hostility of the Russian Army threatens her family and the wolves very existence she has no option but to go on the run. What follows is a story of revolution and adventure, about standing up for the things she loves and fighting back.

Katherine told me how she went about researching wolves and Russia to write her novel. In the feature, you can find out which books she read, how she accessed childhood memories and why she found the online digital archive JStor invaluable. 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Letters in the Sand

Imagine how overjoyed I was to see my books being recommended on the Letters in the Sand website created by Caitlin, who is a mother of two and has experience as an educator in both public and private schools, as well as the being a home-schooling parent and teaching in community educational playgroups.




These particular books were written for QED Publishing and are illustrated by Sue Hendra. They were designed to help children to distinguish between different shapes. The emphasis is on making learning fun. In the book s I use the environment to reinforce what the reader sees to help them recognise shapes by using familiar, everyday objects in the world around them.





In the United States it is possible to buy all four books in one volume, entitled Shapes Around Me and published by Scholastic.


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Emma Claire Sweeney’s Research Secrets

In the May issue of Writers Forum, I have interviewed Emma Claire Sweeney about how the research for her novel Owl Song at Dawn led to a PhD in autism and learning disabilities.

Owl Song is published by Legend Press and is a tribute to Emma’s autistic sister Lou.  As well as her extensive research into the history of learning disabilities, Emma talks about how the path of her character, Maeve Malone and the fictitious Sea View Lodge, follows a similar trajectory to the rise, fall and rise again of the Midland Hotel in Morcombe.

Maeve Maloney is a force to be reckoned with. Despite nearing eighty, she keeps Sea View Lodge just as her parents did during Morecambe’s 1950s heyday. But now only her employees and regular guests recognise the tenderness and heartbreak hidden beneath her spikiness. Until, that is, Vincent shows up.

Vincent is the last person Maeve wants to see. He is the only man alive to have known her twin sister, Edie. The nightingale to Maeve’s crow, the dawn to Maeve’s dusk, Edie would have set her sights on the stage – all things being equal. But, from birth, things never were.
If only Maeve could confront the secret past she shares with Vincent, she might finally see what it means to love and be loved: a lesson that her exuberant yet inexplicable twin may have been trying to teach her all along.

Owl Song at Dawn will be released on July 1st, 2016 and is available for pre-order now.