Friday, December 07, 2007

My First Break

Read how some of the best-selling children's authors got published at Times Online.

I got my first break from a post on the Wordpool forum saying that a publisher was looking for authors to write some literacy workbooks. the project sounded brilliant. A lot of the stuff I used in the book were adaptations of worksheets I'd previously written when I was teaching.

It is a wonderful feeling when you see your first book in print.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

NaNoWriMo Update


I finished my NaNoWriMo story with two days to go. It is only 19,364 words. but, that is it the story is finished.

Yes, I am slightly disappointed with myself but, I suppose I acheived my aim in that I have written a brand new story in the time limit allowed, with new characters and quite an exciting plot. Unfortunately it did not reach the word count required to be announced a winner.

I know when I come to edit the story it will probably be a lot less words too.

Ah well, I enjoyed the challenge and will definitely have another go next year.

Thanks to everybody who supported me with encouraging words and an even bigger thanks to Sarah and Evette for taking me out to coffee and letting me bore you to death with the minute details when I got stuck.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Who's Afraid of the World Wide Web - Blog Panel

Candy has informed me this is the first ever online Blog Panel. Isn't that cool? Another new breakthrough for technology. Well, it impressed me!

As you can see from Candy's very clever picture, the four addicted bloggers on the panel are:

Sue Eves - Sue writes picture books and children's novels. Her lastest picture book The Quiet Woman and the Noisy Dog has recently been accepted for publication by Andersen Press. You can find Sue on Facebook, Myspace and her blog: Read her Blog Panel post - myspace, facebook - why bother?

Me - I write teacher resources and non-fiction for children. I have about ten books published by various educational publishers - some of them can be viewed on my website. My blogs include this one and a blog of book reviews on my MySpace. I also dabble on Facebook. My questions and answers for the Blog Panel can be seen below in my Why blog? post.

Sarah McIntyre - Sarah is a brilliant illustrator. She has illustrated the Xmas card this year for the Cutty Sark - you can buy yours here. As well as, having her own website, a blog and being on Facebook, Sarah has set up a community blog for members of SCBWI with LiveJournal. If you take a look you will understand why she has a mermaid's tail in the picture. You can read her Blog Panel interview at: web panel interview.

Addy Farmer - Addy has several books due for publication. Grandad's Bench comes out with Walker Books in August 2008. Here is a picture of the cover:

She also has a picture book due to be released by Tamarind Press in 2008 and a book based on her Wilf's World fictional blog, Wilf and the Big Cat, being published by The Friday Project in August 2008. Take a look at Addy's Blog Panel interview at The Brilliant Blog Panel Interview.

For more details on the Blog Panel take a look at Candy's blog - Notes From the Slushpile.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Why blog?

On Saturday I went to the Winchester Writers' Day. It is a conference run by SCBWI for writers of children's books. I was going to be part of a panel discussing blogging. But, due to unforeseen circumstances, the panel didn't happen.

For this reason, Candy Gourlay has decided to do an online panel. So today, I am blogging the questions Candy was planning to ask me.

1. Could you tell us a little bit about your blog, its purpose and its target reader?

I started my blog because Jude Ensaff decided to start one and I had to join up to make a comment. As I had signed up, I thought, “Well, I might as well blog now.” So I did!

My blog has no purpose what-so-ever.

It has a theme in that it is aimed at writers’ for children like me. It is sort of a journal about my experiences and thoughts on writing, with particular reference to writing for children, but maybe a few other things mixed in.

I’ve always been rubbish at keeping diaries and stuff though. So, I do not blog regularly. My blog also does not really have much of a following, which allows me to basically say what I want, on the grounds not many people will read it anyway. However, this has got me into trouble once or twice.

2. Why do you blog? Is it a blessing or a curse?

I have no idea why I blog.

My first response to this question was – “Mainly, I blog as a ‘real work’ avoidance tactic.”

Once I was told by a group of my friends, Jane Wenham-Jones, Lynne Hackles and Irene Yates, I should NEVER write for free. Blogging is writing for nothing. Their argument is why waste your time writing something you are not going to get paid for. In theory, I should not be doing it. But, I’m the type of person that if you tell me not to do something I have to give it a go.

They also said blogging is a form of self-publishing – a quick, easy way to see yourself in print. Now, I’m slightly anti self-publishing on the grounds I want someone else to love my writing and want to publish it, so in this respect I should not be blogging either.

Maybe, blogging is my way of getting off my mind the things that are clogging it up so I can get on with the ‘real work’- you know, the stuff I DO get paid for. Sometimes I just need a break from a project I’m working on so I might blog instead. Sometimes, I just have things I want to say to nobody in particular.

It is both a blessing and a curse. I love blogging but, I get cross at myself at procrastinating and wasting time when I am not getting paid for it.

Saying that I have had several publishers send me books to review as a result of reading my blog. I also, got a job as a children’s book reviewer with as a result of my blog. Oh, and I got to answer all these silly questions for Candy! Lucky me! LOL

3. You dabbled in fiction blogging with Moira - why did you stop (I loved Moira)?

I started my fictional blog Moira Miller because Addy asked me to. She is a fictional-blogger with her wonderful Wilf's World blog, soon to be published. She set up the fictional blogging forum and sent me an invite. I felt I could not join unless I had a fictional blog and that is why I invented Moira. Moira was based on my daughter but, had a growing number of problems.

The main reason I continued writing the fictional blog was because I had this really cool word counter. Every day I would watch the word count climb. There was thousands and thousands of words and then disaster struck! The word counter broke. It messed up the formatting on my blog page so I had to take it off. Moira sort of ran out of steam after that. My motivation was watching the word counter go up. Again, it was writing for nothing so I had to make a decision if I wanted to carry on.

I was spending a lot of time writing Moira with no direction or plot and it was fun. But, she was out of control. I felt I needed to stop and rein her in. There were massive gaps where I had not got round to writing that day and I was trying to work it into real time with school terms and everything. The problem with blogging it means I could not go back and fill in the gaps. Also, the problem with blogging a story is you have to read the story backwards. So, if you came across Moira after I’d been writing her a few months, you wouldn’t know all the back-story and it honestly didn’t make sense.

So, I took Moira offline. My plan is to fill in the gaps. Give her direction and edit it down into a more readable story. One day, she may be back online but, I’d rather see her published in a book because an editor really loved her and loved my writing and just had to publish it.

4. What is the worst thing and what is the best thing about blogging?

The worst thing about blogging is feeling like I am wasting time when I should be getting on with other things. The best bit about blogging is when someone leaves me a comment. It makes me feel really good knowing somebody has actually read what I’ve written and taken the time to write back to me.

I have found blogging will get your name out into the big wide world and people do start to know who you are. Ahh... fame and fortune – that’s all I’ve ever wanted really!!!

5. Can you give any advice to the web newbie on how to break into the blogosphere?

Yes, my advice is… don’t do it! Think of all the time you’ll be wasting!

I gave a course at the Caerleon Writers’ Holiday this year (July 2007) on how to set up a blog. It was great seeing other authors with their blogs up and running. But, I can’t help feeling guilty I am also helping them to procrastinate when they should be writing their books.

There are loads of blogging companies. Some are just plain blogs or online journals. Others are whole networking structures, like MySpace and Facebook. But, in my experience, the best and easiest blog to start with is, as Candy said at the Winchester Writers’ Day,

If you really, really want to blog and nothing anyone can say will dissuade you - then, go to the website and sign up by filling in the boxes with all your details, your name, what you want to call your blog, etc. and then you have a WYSIWYG (What You See Is what You Get) text box you can type in and upload your entries, pictures, videos anything you want. If you want people to read your blog the best way to do it is by going and commenting on other people’s blogs. Also, put your blog address as part of your signature in all your all emails.

Happy blogging!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Sarah Odedina

Sarah Odedina is a senior publishing director with Bloomsbury Children's Books in the UK. She has edited and published such highly-acclaimed books as, Witch Child by Celia Rees, A Gathering Light by Jennifer Donnelly and Holes by Louis Sacher. I interviewed her, as one of the speakers of the Bologna 2008 conference. For more information about the conference see: Bologna 2008

What made you decide to go into children’s book publishing?

SO: It was very simple, I wanted a new job and one came up at Orchard Books and the wonderful Judith Elliot who was publisher there at the time offered it to me. Despite the fact that I had no children’s book experience. It was in the Rights Department.

After almost five years at Orchard I knew I had found the area I wanted to work in, Children’s Books, but I wanted to move in to an editorial position at that point and I was fortunate enough to be employed in that capacity at Bloomsbury. Again without experience!

In your opinion, what makes a good publisher?

SO: A belief in the books that they publish.

When you're reading a mss for the first time, how long does it take you (approx. how many pages? chapters?) to figure out whether it's something you want to pursue?

SO: I think the rule of thumb is 30 pages. If something is not exciting me by then I reckon it probably wont. I am just an ordinary reader after all, most readers (children especially) don’t want to keep going when things aren’t exciting quite early on.

What kinds of things ‘turn you off’ a manuscript right away?

SO: Nothing specific. I suppose I am looking for something that I find original and exciting.

What are the ‘realities’ of children's publishing?

SO: It is a hard market. We publish too many books. The realities of the trade in the UK are that fewer books are selling to fewer people and yet we (publishers) continue to pour out 1000’s of titles a year.

What is your favourite thing about being a children’s book publisher?

SO: The fact that I can work on books which are going to be read by generations of children.
The fact that I work with authors of world standing. The fact that many of our books are published around the world and will be read and enjoyed by children around the world.

What are some of your favourite books and why?

SO: Holes by Louis Sachar. A quiet and understated masterpiece that combines a fable like quality with humour and a social setting that is utterly contemporary

No Matter What by Debi Gliori. A picture book that in 32 pages of beautiful art and very few words addresses the biggest question of all - enduring love.

Is there a character you met in a book when you were a child that changed your life?

SO: Not changed my life … but enchanted me, yes, Robinson Crusoe! I loved the adventure. I was quite a tomboy and nothing would have thrilled me more than being stuck on a desert island building tree houses.

What book(s) are you proudest of having worked on? Why?

SO: Witch Child by Celia Rees. It is a powerful story set in the 1700’s a desperate time for some women and this story accurately deals with the historical context and does it in a passionate and compelling way that really appeals to contemporary readers. I have seen young readers at signings clutching the book with heartfelt adoration. It is a book they love about a girl they would love to either know or be!

No Matter What by Debi Gliori – a picture book with universal appeal and one I am sure people will be sitting on beds reading 50 years from now.

Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror by Chris Priestley. We are always looking for something new and exciting and with this book I really think we have found it! a collection of short stories, that is a novel. A classic spooky book that you can rush your way through or savour ever word.

Have you worked with both fiction and non-fiction? If so, how do the processes compare? What do you like most (and/or least) about each?

SO: Fiction … that’s my thing!

What does the ideal cover letter say?

SO: It is brief, it outlines the submission very succinctly, and it doesn’t say ‘my grand children/children/friends children loved it!

Is there any area on your list you’d like to “grow” at this time? Do you look at art samples?

SO: I think we have a very balanced list and no I don’t want to grow any specific part of it but we are always looking for new authors and great books. Yes we look at art samples.

How involved in the marketing of the book are you? What is the average marketing budget for a picture book at your house? A YA novel? Etc.

SO: I am very involved in marketing. We don’t have an average budget as each book has its own budget which depends on all sorts of things including the track record and profile of the author, what opportunities the book lends us, and how much we can rely on the author.

Thursday, November 08, 2007


Today one of my good friends, Nicky Schmidt, sent me this link about editors. I thought it was so funny and sort of reflected how I was feeling today about my NaNoWriMo effort.

I have had so many people trying to give me advice that my head is spinning. My problem is obviously spending too much time talking about it and not getting my words on the paper.

I hope to spend some time today catching up on my word count. LOL! Whose stupid idea was this anyway?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Paddington Station

My study can be a bit like Paddington Station. I do tend to leave the door open so my family walk in and out whenever they please. But, even if I shut the door they walk in and out anyway. I suppose, they all know that is where they will find me.

Sometimes I worry that I am neglecting the children and maybe I shouldn't be working or being distracted by my PC when they are home, after school and in the school holidays, etc. But, I do like it in my study.

I was reading the other day a book called, Detoxing Childhood by Sue Palmer . In it Sue made some very valid points about being a parent in the 21st century. I wrote a review of the book for Write Away. See: Detoxing Childhood. In the book she pointed out the latest addiction, which she termed 'pigeon post'. This is where in any spare moments people think, 'Oh - I'll just go and check the email.' Then once logged on may spend ages on their correspondence, quite forgetting the family. I do this all the time. I am addicted.

Sue Palmer compared this addiction to the experiments the psychologist, B. F. Skinner, did on pigeons. He found if you gave pigeons intermittent, unpredictable rewards, the pigeons would peck enthusiastically at a particualr spot - even to the point some would peck their beaks totally blunt. Emails are my intermittent rewards. I am a pigeon and probably just as stupid as one in that I am not even sure I want to put it right. Getting emails makes me happy, especially if they contain good news or are from a dear friend.

However, most of the time the children are just as happy to be getting on with things on their own. I remember as a child I loved playing in the street, my parents never knew half the things I got up to. But, I think they purposely wait until I am fully engrossed in a piece of writing before they walk in and interrupt me. It takes ages for me to start to write and just as long to get going again when I’m interrupted.

The other time they like to all congress in my study is when I’m on the phone. Yep, I can guarantee anybody who is in the house, not just the kids, will come into my study if I need to make a phone call.

Yet, I know they would not be competing for my attention like this if I just switched the computer off, or made the phone calls whilst they were at school, or in bed. Maybe, it is a problem of working from home? Organising the time around the children is easier said than done. In my review Detoxing Childhood, I mentioned the need for a new kind of self-help group. I think I am one of the people who needs to enrol on one of these.

My kids are the modern equivalent of 'latch key children'. I wonder if there is a term for it?

Monday, October 22, 2007


Good News!
Looks like I'm off to Bologna in March next year, for the SCBWI conference and hopefully the bookfair as well. I'm very excited. Although, my cartwheels are more like sideways rolls.

I was asked to do the interviews of the authors, editors and agents who will be speaking at the conference. I've made a start trying to think of imaginative questions to ask. It will be great to meet them all in person.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Hi All,

You'll never guess what? I've decided to give NaNoWriMo a go. Do I think I can write 50,000 words in a month. I've no idea but, I certainly hope so and plan to give it a good try. This is me with my fingers poised ready to go.

I'm a little nervous but I reckon it is the kick I needed to get my Moira Miller idea, that has been brewing for nearly two years now, finally off the ground.

So I have signed up and read the instructions and Number 3 said, and I quote:

Tell everyone you know that you're writing a novel in November. This will pay big dividends in Week Two, when the only thing keeping you from quitting is the fear of looking pathetic in front of all the people who've had to hear about your novel for the past month. Seriously. Email them now about
your awesome new book. The looming specter of personal humiliation is a very
reliable muse.

So this is what I'm doing - telling you all I'm going to write a novel in a month. And you all have to check on me in Week Two and make sure I am still on track. Here is the link so you can check up on me:

I'm going to start totally from scratch and try to keep in the NaNoWriMo spirit by not editing as I go along. but, that will be a hard one for me.

Wish me luck, because I am going to need it.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

How important is a synopsis?

This is a question that is often asked at writing meetings and events.

Some highly established writers claim to have never written a synopsis in their life - such as Dee Williams and Iris Gower.

Others, like Marti Leimbach, tell you it is harder to write than the actual novel. Whereas, some very lucky people like Lee Weatherly claim they are easy to write.

You can read Lee Weatherly's Tips on How to Write a Synopsis on Candy's excellent blog Notes from the Slushpile. Unfortunately, I lost my notebook which had all my notes from the Lee Weatherly talk – I kept saying to myself it was bound to turn up and it never has. I may have left it on the train!

Then, I have been told at conferences by agents and publishers they don't even read the synopsis. You should have heard me groan at that news. I spent hours and hours on mine and they're not even going to read it. I could have stood up and screamed. Is a synopsis a waste of time?

But, other editors and agents have said – much more recently – they read the synopsis first and if they don’t like it don’t bother reading the rest. Arrggghhhh!

So, what do we do?

I believe the most important thing is how good your writing is. But, I do think a synopsis is a useful tool to see how well the story hangs together and if it has a defined beginning, middle and end. So I will persevere with my synopsises and hope they help me to clarify my own story, even if they are not being read.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Next Move

I am my own worse enemy.

There is nobody I know who criticises me, more than myself. This is the realisation that has dawned on me over the past few weeks. I am very critiical of myself. To the point I have put my children's book manuscripts away and not sent them out to anybody for over a year - maybe two.

But, how can I become a published author if I never send my manuscipts out? Is it because I am scared of them being judged and I don't think I want to know that my hard work is not good enough for publication?

I try to console myself by remembering that the rejection letters I had in the past were all very positive. But, then I remember I was told, by a very good friend of mine, I should throw all the rejection letters in the bin - positive or not - because it is very bad karma to keep them. I moved them to the attic, unable to part with them.

So, I dug out my favourite manuscript and started to re-read it and was pleasantly surprised. It's rather good even if I do say so myself. But, then I closed down all the files and it is hidden away again. What the hell am I doing?

You know, my problem - I am scared of success.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Sally Gardner

At the September SCBWI Professional Series event, Sally Gardner talked about her writing process. She mainly works directly onto an apple laptop because she loves the free-form where she writes and writes, stop, then discards most of it. She explained she might only keep three sentences and then she starts all over again, until she finally gets the rhythm of the book.

When the manuscript is complete she sends it to her agent, who has an editor who looks at the grammar and tidies up her spelling. This is a necessity for Sally because she is chronically dyslexic and she described how she has built up an excellent rapport with the editor.

However, Sally thinks it is a great mistake to have too many voices listening to your work. She has never belonged to a writer’s group and insists it is not the sort of thing she would do as she is not a group person. Sally told us she felt writing is an intensely private thing and you’ve got to have someone you trust not to bring in their own agenda to your work. If you’re showing it and you own it, if you’ve got a clear feel you need to be sure it’s not going to be tarried by their prejudices or jealousies. You must be very careful whom you choose.

She also recommend authors back-off the child-tested idea, claiming it is OK for the younger child, but when children get older they can pollute your work.

Sally never wrote for her own children, she writes for herself. She said if she hadn’t have had children, she would have still wanted to write children’s books. But, reinforced, it is important you know your market, know the genre and to know yourself.

Her advice to new writers is to keep writing and never give up:

"Actually, it is difficult to know what advice to give. It’s really about
finding your voice and how you wish to write. You’ve got to want to write.
Listen to the words. Do they sing out? Do they capture you?"

You have to have some recall on your memories of justice, being wronged, being in trouble, etc to be able to find your own voice. When writing for children believe in the child within you. Never patronise. Always assume the children know more than you do. It is only adults that have problems with concepts. Have an idea of alluring magical surrealism and live true to that reality.

Sally told us how she felt very privileged in her life especially when she worked in the theatre, because she got to work with alot of different writers and has watched a lot of plays being performed. She explained how she has seen what works and what doesn’t work; what makes the audience fidget, what makes the audience get up and leave. Most solitary writers never get to see this. She told us how she believes her own voice grew over a long period of years from this experience and being very involved in the written word.
"I just love the sound of words. Dyslexia does not stop anyone loving words.
You’ve got to love words; you’ve got to be riveted by them to want to write."
Some people say writing is all about swallowing a dictionary to write a book, but Sally does not think this is true. She said some of the best books have the most simple words and it is these simple words that make the books so powerful.

Lots of people plot, but she doesn't. She also advised to be careful you’re not a tourist. Take the child very fast by the hand and lead them quickly through the plot. When she writes for older children she uses music to inspire her. It helps her to get back into the mood straight away.

When she falls asleep she said it is just as important as writing. Walking and time away from the computer is also just as important. It’s in these lazy moments you get to know where you want to go. Sally recommended that we as writers should have lots of talks aloud to ourselves. She said, opening yourself up will help your story grow.

At the moment, Sally is working on the sequel to the Red Necklace. It is a love story between the two main protagonists, Yann and Sido.

Her only regret is she wishes she’d had this belief in herself earlier. People can achieve their dreams. She feels like she has waited all herlife to get to this moment and now she is flying.

Listening to Sally talk was truely an inspiration. Her enthusiasm for writing was contagious. It was a most enjoyable evening.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Author Interview

I have another author interview in Writers' Forum the October 2007 issue. It is available in your shops now. It is about Peter Kerr, who went to Mallorca to start an orange farm with his family and started writing best-selling books about his experiences there. You can find out more about Peter Kerr from his website:

If you would like to take a look at the article it is on pages 9-10. In the meantime, why not have a look at my new website:

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Pick Up A Play

Pick Up A Play - Plays for Primary Schools - Ages 9-10
Hopscotch Educational Publishing
ISBN: 978-1-905390-36-6
Price: £35

This is a super file (even if I do say so myself) and is part of a series of differentiated plays at three ability levels for each year of primary school. Pick Up a Play for ages 9-10 contains 27 different plays to photocopy, which can be used for guided reading or performance on stage. Each play is accompanied by detailed teachers' notes that provide suggestions for making costumes and props, as well as performance ideas for each of the characters. The plays are closely matched to the new Literacy framework and indicate cross-curricular links.


  • Childhood Experiences - friends, school journey, Victorian childhood
  • Traditional stories - fairy tales, myths and legends, fables
  • Stories form other cultures - creation stories, Chinese festivals, Christmas

Monday, September 10, 2007

Market Research

I started my writing career (that sounds real professional dunnit)...

Anyway, I started my writing career, writing short stories for the national Women's Magazines and feature articles for County Magazines. I had quite a bit of success doing this and learnt a lot. One of the most important lessons I learnt was before you write anything you should do your market research.

When writing for the magazine market it is so important you know who your audience is and what they want. One of the best pieces of advice I was given when I first started out was by Iain Patterson who told me to get hold of the contributor's guidelines. These are often available online.

Well, to be honest, when I first started out I found market research extremely difficult. But, the more I tried to do it the better I got. I now automatically pick up a magazine and look at the adverts, the letters page and the way the stories and articles are written, to get an idea of who the readership the magazine is aimed at, are.

I ask myself questions like:
  • Whose viewpoint is it from?
  • How long are the sentences?
  • How long are the paragraphs?
  • Is it in first or third person?
  • What tense is it written in?
  • How much dialogue is used?
  • Is slang used?
  • Is compression used (i.e. i'll, we've)?
  • Are there any sentences beginning with And and But?
  • Are there any swear words?

I beleive this was excellent training and has helped me to launch my career in to writing teacher resources because, although the writing and market is different you still need to consider who the target audience is and whether you are meeting the requirements of the in-house style.

So my advice is to anyone who wants to get published, whether it is in writing for children, adults, your publisher , or a specific ediitor - do your market research. Know who you are writing for.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007


Hi All,

I apologise to all those people who have emailled me to ask when I was goiong to update my blog. I'm sorry. The whole of August seems to have passed me by in a blur.

As expected, I had a wonderful time, at the Caerleon Writers' Holiday. It was great being able to get together with all my friends again and hard to believe we had not seen each other for a whole year.

Here are the pictures I promised I would put on my blog.

The first picture is Ian and Maureen and the second is Maureen again with Beth and Howard

This is Trish and of course you all know my very good friend Lynne (who I'm missing already)

Good news is that the Caerleon Writers' Holiday has a brand new website, courtesy of Sunrise Webs, which for those of you who don't know is my web design company. Check out the new website at:

For more information about my the websites I have designed have a look at:

More good news is the developing History series I have written for A&C Black goes on sale at the end of this month. the books are available to pre-order from Amazon at:

My book of plays for Hopscotch is also available to buy from Hopscotch. Although, they have still not put my title on the website yet. Check out: and ask for the Ages 9-10 file.

Anyway, I hope to post more frequently in September and I also hope to have my website live and running soon too.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Annual Writer’s Holiday

Tomorrow morning, I am going to Caerleon for my annual Writer’s Holiday. As previously mentioned, several times, this is my highlight of the year.

I will have my breakfasts, lunch and dinner made for me and absolutely no washing up (or loading the dishwasher). I get my own little room with my own bathroom and every morning whilst I'm learning how to write at one of the daily workshops, someone comes and makes my bed for me. It is BLISS!

I am planning to work on my children's novel for 9-12 year olds.

For more details about the Caerleon Writer’s Holiday see:

As I said last year, it is the most relaxing, most value for money writer’s conference I have ever been on. I truly recommend it. This is my fifth year of attending.

When I get back I may be able to write up some of the classes, I have attended. These will not necessarily be about writing for children but I am sure they will all be linked to becoming an author in some way.

Oh, and for those of you who are interested here are some photos during the flooding from the front bedroom windows:

The water had just started going down at this point. Look at the colour of the water. Disgusting, isn't it?

For more pictures of the floods near where I live take a look at these flood pictures.

Anyway, I'll see you all on my return.

Meanwhile, why don't you take a look at some of my previous posts and leave me loads and loads of comments.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Agents who accept picture book authors

At the June Professional Series meeting, editor Emma Layfield spoke to us about picture book publishing at Hodder's childnre's Books. One of the most depressing things she told us is, Hodder Books no longer accept unsolicited manuscripts, they only accept picture book submissions through agents.
In my experience however, I have found there are very few agents who accept picture books on their lists. So I asked Emma, which picture book agents does she deal with. Here are a list of agents she told us accept picture books and whom she does frequent business with:
  • Eunice McMullen - Eunice McMullen Literacy Agency
  • Rosemary Canter - PFD
  • Caroline Walsh
  • Eve White
  • Caroline Sheldon - Caroline sheldon Literacy Agency
  • Alice Williams - David Higham
  • Pat White - Rogers, Coleridge & White
  • Catherine Clarke - Felicity Bryan

Full contact details can be found in the Children's Writers' & Artists' Yearbook, which by the way, the 2008 issue is due out soon.

If you have found this information useful kindly leave me a message and let me know. If you decide to submit your picture book to any of these agents, I would also be very interested to hear how you get on.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Are you pressing the delete key too often and too quickly?

Pamela Johnson listed some techniques to help when editing your manuscripts:

She said, when re-writing a paragraph cut it and paste it into a new document.

Stephen King talks about the different stages of writing. He says we write too soon with the reader on our shoulder. Write the story as a draft first and then refine it to meet readerships. Only think of the reader in the final stage. In this way you are whittling up.

Remember the thin flat writing are the notes to yourself. The delete key is word doctoring.

If writing is talking on paper try to listen in.

  • What is it I’m trying to say?
  • What is it I can see?
  • What am I trying to show?

Voicing the work comes up through the layers.

You can’t write a book in one sitting just as you can’t edit in one sitting.

Other useful ideas Pamela suggested were:

  • Print off 5000 words and go somewhere else and read it aloud.
  • Highlight all the concrete nouns and verb phrase.
  • How precise can you get your verbs and nouns?
  • Find the active verb.

These techniques will help you to edit and refine your work.

Other useful posts on editing are:

All the best,

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Have you set scaffolding or stepping stones?

Now when I look at my notes after this point they seem to stop making sense. I either was getting tired, or had drunk too much of my wine (probably on an empty stomach), or both. However, I thought I would bullet point them anyway with the hope they may make sense to somebody else.

Pamela said: "How can you manage the whole thing without knowing what the whole thing is?"

She suggested:

  • Write the first draft as fast as you can. It can be rubbish. Just keep going. Pamela Johnson estimated she can write 50,000 words in about 10 weeks, which is about 2 hours a day. This also echoes what Jane Wenham-Jones said in her book Wannabe a Writer. See my post: Wannabe a Writer.
  • Put the key scenes in some kind of narrative order with a beginning, middle and an end. Ring binders can help to set up the beginning, middle and end and help so you can move things around.
  • Remind yourself why keep polishing chapter two when you’ve got thirty more chapters to write.
  • What is the plot and how can you find it? Can you find a beginning and middle and an end image?
  • Your story needs a timescale. Draw a timeline. Subplots can create the timeline. This prevents imposing a plot that feels wooden.
  • Decide when the story will start and when it will finish? What happens between the start and finish?
  • Ask questions of your characters and how they feel about things.
  • Structure will get you re-started if you get stuck.
  • Work organically.
  • Set up a mind space.
  • Nothing is set in stone.
  • Link scenes to know where you are going.
All the best in deciphering the above.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Can you work like an actor?

At the SCBWI Professional Series, Novel Masterclass, on Thursday 22nd February, Pamela Johnson told us we need to consider dialogue and movement like an actor.

She said, you can cheat the eye but you can’t cheat the ear, so read it out loud. Be in the body of your character. Stories are oral and this is why voice is important. So write like you talk. It really is as simple as that. Say something. Then write it. Record it if you want and read what you wrote aloud. If it sounds stilted or wooden, stop and think about what you're trying to say. Say what you want to convey aloud. Then write it down. A group reading or performance is even more useful since each reader, like an actor, will deliver their lines of dialogue at a different pace. But she reminded us, for dialogue, less is more – use limited speech tags.

However, it is not only the way the characters talk that is important, Pamela said you should prepare for writing like an actor prepares for a role. Spend time trying to understand why your characters do the things they do, and how they feel about it. Think about the characters and their motives:
  • What would she do?
  • What happens next?

Make these motives plausible.

Create character sketches and think about their off the page activity:

  • Are you giving yourself enough rehearsal time?
  • Can you step into your characters shoes?
  • Do you know their world?
  • Do you know their voice?
  • What food do they like?
  • What is their taste in music?

All these things can contribute to moving your story forward.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Can you write more like a reader?

Pamela said you need to enjoy reading more to enjoy writing more. She told us to read for inspiration. If you admire an author and their writing, copy a couple of pages of their work and take it apart to find out how they did it.

When you read you forget the words. You enter the fictional dream. You don’t read on unless the dream is continuous and vivid. You have in your mind’s eye what you want to write about and the film is running in your head. What you feel, hear, touch, the clothes you are wearing, the sensation on your skin. Know these physical clues and work the scene. Pamela said, if you put your energy into getting all the senses right the words come easier.

The story produced is like growing crystals. You have to be there. Being there is writing what you see, hear and feel. An image or idea can be developed. Your unconscious will join them up. Work with your unconscious and accept the ideas do not come in the right order. Ask, what does the reader really want out of this scene? By seeing you can lead the reader into the fictional dream.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Can you work like a visual artist?

When I first heard Pamela Johnson mention this, I thought she meant in the way picture book writers and seasoned bloggers use the shape, size, colour of their words and illustrations to add to the story. But, she meant so much more than this. Pamela was not just talking about how we write on the page but our whole working environment.

She meant, turn your writing space into a studio ~ sketch with words, trial pieces of paper about the room and sculpt them into a 3D version of your book ~ move things about, add some colourful phrases here and a touch of darkness there. Think, where is the light coming from? Put the light on the page. Look for key images within your story and draft them into key scenes to add texture to your text.

Ok, maybe I’m going over the top but writing is multi-tasking. So come on girls we should be good at it. Pamela did emphasise we should not try to glue down the pieces too early and allow our minds to free-flow.

Remember, writing can be a visual, multi-dimensional experience similar to painting or designing a structure.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Are you hung up as a writer?

This is my 100th post
As you will be able to see, I am in a very philosophical mood today. The ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius said,

“Every journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.”
He also said,

“Be not ashamed of mistakes and thus make them crimes.”

Pamela Johnson suggested to help yourself move on with your writing, think as each step you write as a single incident, such as writing one paragraph, producing a character sketch or sketching a map of the location. It is a process of going through the layers.

The process of writing itself, even for very experienced writers, can be difficult and frustrating. The choices involved in creating the text, selecting appropriate words, arranging these words into meaningful sentences and using these sentences to explain a flow of fast moving ideas is hard work. Writing is a physical activity:

So take the first step...
Think what is it you want. Where you are now? Where do you want to go? What's the first thing that you need to do to get moving? Don't worry about making mistakes just get the story down on paper.

And keep taking steps....
Even if they feel like baby steps! We all have days where every step feels painful, or there is something else to do, or it's just plain too difficult. This is the, ‘Don't wanna’ tantrum, I’ve mentioned before! Go on, even if it's something really easy, take that one step. Just open the file on your computer. It's only a small step, but it proves your intent. After all, the files open now, you might as well do something with it.

And most importantly enjoy every step you take…
It was Haim Ginott who said:

“Happiness... is not a destination: it is a manner of travelling."

So have fun on your journey. Enjoy your writing and when you get there rather than moving straight to the next place, next goal, and next challenge, rest a while and glory in the fabulousness of what you have achieved. Read it aloud and be proud of what you have written.

Pamela said that instead of saying, “I must…” say, “I wonder…”

Recognise what is relevant and throw the rest away. I’ve said many times before - don’t be precious about your writing. I know this is easy to say and a lot harder to put into practice, especially when you have invested so much time into it. But, try it and see. You may be even prouder of the finished article.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Six Diagnostic Questions

Pamela Johnson identified six diagnostic questions to help you recognise the pitfalls in your own writing. They are:
  1. Are you hung up as a writer?
  2. Can you work like a visual artist?
  3. Can you write more like a reader?
  4. Can you work like an actor?
  5. Have you set scaffolding or stepping stones?
  6. Are you pressing the delete key too often and too quickly?

And just to be really frustrating and hopefully bring you back begging for more, I am going to go through each question separately over the next few weeks and will add my own ideas to Pamela’s.
Bye for now,
Anita ~ xxx

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Novel Masterclass

On Thursday 22nd February, Pamela Johnson, novelist, critic and curator, gave a Novel Masterclass for the SCBWI Professional Series in London.

Pamela has published two novels, Under Construction and Deep Blue Silence. Her third, Taking in Water, will be published in 2007. Her short stories and poems are published in anthologies. Her critical work includes Ideas in the Making. She teaches fiction writing on the MA Creative and Life writing at Goldsmith College, University of London, and is working on her forth novel.

She believes you can’t teach writing but, writers can learn and are capable of more than they know. Pamela explained how writing is experimental learning. You have to do it to get better at it.

So, what do you do when you are six chapters in and can’t get any further? Pamela narrows this down to three hurdles:

Belief – You have to believe in yourself and the novel. Is it the writing that is the problem or the resistance? You have to question rather than judge the work. One solution to this hurdle is to ask the question and answer it on paper. The aim is NOT to get it right but, to get it written. Remember, writing is on paper not in your head.

Time – Is there enough of it? How much do I actually have in between the school runs and the housework? How much can I steal back? How can I utilize the time available effectively? You’ve cleared a morning to write and you’ve sat there and written nothing! Remember, being anxious about writing is normal. It takes time out of your life and it may be for nothing. But, you can waste time by rushing around trying to do everything. You wouldn’t read a novel one page at a time, once a month, so don’t try to write like this. You need to engage with your work regularly. Break down your time into useful 40 minute slots. Define a piece of time and decide you are going to do one thing. Then define the task and do that one thing, nothing else.

Resistance –There are two forms of resistance:
The diving board syndrome - you keep going back and tightening up but never go forward. Will I ever get past page 20?
The flood - writing pours out of you but you never revise, so never have a finished product.
You need to recognise the boulder on your shoulder. Journaling is great for this as you can talk to yourself on paper. This is one way of giving yourself a tutorial every morning. But, only read your positive scribbling back. Move towards the triumphant don’t dwell on your negative thoughts.

However, if you are already a published author, Pamela identifies another even larger hurdle for you to jump.

PISS (Post Incredible Success Syndrome) - Sometimes a second and a third novel can be harder than the first. There is more pressure to do well and make a repeat performance. One solution that can help with this is to read other writers talking about writing. Pamela recommends four authors that have helped her:

Right, now you’ve jumped the hurdles but somehow, something feels wrong. You know you have a great storyline but the characters don’t quite live. Or, is it you have some fantastic characters but they just don’t seem to be going anywhere? What do you do then?

To help identify any problems, Pamela outlined six diagnostic questions to ask yourself about your writing. And guess what? I will tell you them another day. You know what that means don’t you? You have to come back and read my blog again! LOL

Monday, May 21, 2007

Wannabe a Writer

On Saturday 19th May, I travelled by train to London and went to Borders in Charing Cross Road to go to my friend, Jane Wenham-Jones', book launch.

Her latest book Wannabe a Writer was released on 1st of May by Accent Press. It is an hilarious, informative guide all about getting into print and is a must have for anyone who's ever thought they've got a book in them. It is jam packed with loads of useful information from a whole range of writers. There are over 50 contributers including (and this is where I get to quote loads of famous people and so my blog will come up when people search for them): Katie Fforde, Frederick Forsyth, Ian Rankin, Jilly Cooper and my dad's favourite author Jill Mansell. Cool, or what?

Jane is Writing Magazine’s agony aunt. Every month she writes a very personal and to the point reply to wannabe writers' questions. I first met Jane at the Winchester Writers’ Conference when I was on her course on how to write short stories. I have had several short stories published in national women's magazines since doing her course. We met up again at the Caerleon Writer's Holiday. Watching Jane dance on the table is one of the highlights of my week.

At the book launch I met other famous authors such as Adele Parks, Helen Lederer, Ray Allen and many more. In fact, I got 22 signatures in my book. Several glasses of wine later I left Borders very happy indeed.

So far, one of my favourite bits in the book comes under the heading 'Suck it and See' (no pun intended).

"Just start writing and see what happens - you might be pleasantly surprised.
Or you might not.

Do remember though at this stage it is supposed to look like rubbish. So
don't let theat put you off. Write, write, write. You can sort it out

I suspect this bit caught my eye because it is basically reiterating what I've said in my previous posts this month. Take a look at:

Don't Panic - Organise! - Step One:

Don't Panic - Organise! - Step Two:

Don't Panic - Organise! - Step Three:

Also, and this is always a big selling point with me, it made me laugh. So if you only buy one book this year, I suggest you buy this one - Wannabe a Writer by Jane Wenham Jones. For more information about Jane and her books check out her website

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Wise Words

Today someone very special to me said:

"If you always do things for nothing, you will always be at the start."

I think these are very Wise Words, which I felt compelled to share.

Yes, I have often done a lot of things for nothing - usually for the enjoyment I get out of doing them. It is true you have to start somewhere. But, it is also true, you cannot work for nothing all your life as you will never be considered a professional.

So thank you David Brown for your words of inspiration. I have taken them to heart.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Don't Panic - Organise! - Step Three:

  • As you write, note in bold, or use a highlighter pen, or a different colour font any sentences, words, or phrases you are unsure of, or unhappy about. This way you can can easily revisit these highlighted areas when you edit.
  • It is much easier to critique someone else's work than your own, so approach your writing as if someone else has written it.
  • Control your vocabulary. Use the find and replace function on your computer to find the words you overuse and then change them using the thesaurus for other, often more imaginative words.
  • Print and read each chapter or section aloud. Ask yourself, 'Does it sound right?' If you run out of breath halfway through a sentence, it is definitely too long.
  • I find printed text is much easier to edit than on the screen. Highlight problem areas (as specified above)to revise after you've finished reading it aloud.
  • It is a good idea to review sentences by focusing on one idea in each.
  • When writing for children, especially young children, short, focused sentences are clearer.
  • At many of the workshops on writing I've been to, they suggest to keep your voice active and verbs strong. I have found this to be good advice and it helps me to find a focus for each sentence as I edit.
  • Be careful when using acronyms, slang or jargon because it can date your writing.
  • Something I've learnt from my online critique group very recently is - special vocabulary should be used cautiously, introduced early, defined and used consistently.
  • And finally, if in doubt chop it out.

For more information on editing read my previous post: All About Editing

Friday, May 11, 2007

Don't Panic - Organise! - Step Two:


That's it!

Put your fingers on the keyboard and push, or for the more technically challenged pick up a pen.

It's, quite literally, as simple as that.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Don't Panic - Organise! - Step One:

Get in the zone

Whether you are meeting a publication deadline, overlapping projects, or procrastinating:

  • Mentally organise by thinking about your 'story' or project and how it develops.
  • Don't think about looking at your MySpace or updating your blog, turn off the mobile and msn, but most important of all - delete all those distracting solitaire games on your PC. (Yes, this is me talking - I haven't been replaced by aliens. It is very good advice and one day, I too will follow it!)
  • Keep a notebook and jot down all your thoughts on 'story' development and write down all those good phrases you over hear.
  • Talk about the topic you are writing about (but, not the story) to your family and friends, your doctor or even the postman. Your writing will benefit from the reactions and interpretations of other people.
  • If the information received is unclear, ask for clarification. But, whatever you do don’t get defensive and don’t argue. Smile and accept comments gracefully, even if you disagree. Then, make a note in that notebook we mentioned earlier and move on. You don’t have time to debate. If you get all uptight you wont be able to write anything anyway. So always remember it’s only a writing project!
  • Clear your desk, or the place where you write, so you have a designated distraction-free area where you can concentrate.
  • Make sure your time frame is clear, especially if you are dependant on others to get the job done.
  • Devise a schedule working backwards from the deadline. This includes highlighting all the major steps: due date, revision, draft, workspace organization, resources required and research. This schedule can be adapted as you progress.
  • Once you've organised everything you need to avoid disrupting your writing process you now need to think about everything you don't need! So, make sure you've got something to keep the kids busy - hire some DVD's and playstation games, buy them new feltpens, let them choose a whole range of books and CD's from the library and make loads of snacks they can help themselves to.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Standing by my convictions

Hi All,

As a follow up to my previous post I thought I would let you know, I wrote to my local MPs and I got a reply.

This is what they said:

Dear Anita,

Thank you for your recent Email forwarded to me by West Berkshire District Council.

I do have considerable sympathy for your concerns and your obvious passion regarding childrens education and the history of this Great Country. I am of an age when as a child, there was little restriction regarding such celebration. In fact I can remember when very young, attending a St Georges day Parade culminating in the rest of the day off from school.

However that is not the world that we now live in, as one of your local Councillors I frequently find levels of restriction imposed upon personal opinion. Political correctness, does however have considerable benefits in our current society as it ensures a mechanism not to unwittingly cause offence to the wide and varied structure of our community.

I wish you well in your efforts to achieve an additional Public Holiday, but I fear that the cost will ultimately be borne by the general public and perhaps it is support from the business community that is needed.

Yours Sincerely

TSJ Port

Well, I think the gist of the letter is that we can't celebrate St George's Day or put the word saint on the front of children's books, not only incase it offends people but, because it is too expensive.

What do you think? Maybe I've totally misunderstood.

Leave a comment and let me know what you think.

All the best,

Monday, April 23, 2007

Foster a Sense of Pride

Today is St George’s Day and as we all know St George is the patron saint of England. Last year I had a little rant about how terrible it is we do not really celebrate St George’s Day. See: St George's Day

I still believe it is bad form to prevent the patron saint of a country being nationally celebrated in children’s books for fear of upsetting people.

But this year, I have been assured the celebrations are going to be more passionate than ever!

Today, a St. Georges Day rally will take place at Westminster in the Grand Committee Room of the House of Commons at 4.00 pm. It is being hosted by Andrew Rosindell MP in conjunction with This is a strictly non-political event and will be attended by elected MPs from all over the country and 150 supporters.

For those of you who don’t already know, has launched their new website, which amongst other things is campaigning to establish St. Georges Day as a national holiday. The voting poll stands at over 960,000 YES votes in favour of St. Georges Day being a PUBLIC HOLIDAY.

You can help tip it over the million by clicking HERE and you can write to your MP and let them know your thoughts on the matter by visiting this site:

At last someone is doing something to foster a sense of pride for our country.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

I've gone identity mad!

I really love Mika's Grace Kelly.

Apparently, he wrote it after receiving loads of rejections. If you listen to the words you'll see it's about his experiences of changing his style to meet what the music people in charge wanted. Being angry doesn't solve anything. Why not watch and see for yourself.

Like Mika says:

Do I attract you?
Do I repulse you with my queasy smile?
Am I too dirty?
Am I too flirty?
Do I like what you like?

I could be wholesome
I could be loathsome
I guess I'm a little bit shy
Why don't you like me?
Why don't you like me without making me try?

I try to be like Grace Kelly
But all her looks were too sad
So I try a little Freddie
I've gone identity mad!

I could be brown
I could be blue
I could be violet sky
I could be hurtful
I could be purple
I could be anything you like
Gotta be green
Gotta be mean
Gotta be everything more
Why don't you like me?
Why don't you like me?
Why don't you walk out the door!

How can I help it
How can I help it
How can I help what you think?
Hello my baby
Hello my baby
Putting my life on the brink
Why don't you like me
Why don't you like me
Why don't you like yourself?
Should I bend over?
Should I look older just to be put on the shelf?

I try to be like Grace Kelly
But all her looks were too sad
So I try a little Freddie
I've gone identity mad!

I could be brown
I could be blue
I could be violet sky
I could be hurtful
I could be purple
I could be anything you like
Gotta be green
Gotta be mean
Gotta be everything more
Why don't you like me?
Why don't you like me?
Why don't you walk out the door!

Say what you want to satisfy yourself
But you only want what everybody else says you should want

I could be brown
I could be blue
I could be violet sky
I could be hurtful
I could be purple
I could be anything you like
Gotta be green
Gotta be mean
Gotta be everything more
Why don't you like me?
Why don't you like me?
Why don't you walk out the door!

These words relate to writers of all genres - not just music. Anybody who has ever had to deal with rejection can realate to this song.

Do the general public only want what everybody else says they should want? I think the popularity of Mika's music proves that they don't. So there is hope for all of us - a silver liniing on the horizon. We should all say what we want to satisfy ourselves. That is what writing is all about.

Don't you think this song is just brilliant? If I were you I'd listen to it again.

To find out more about Mika and his music take a look at his MySpace:

And because this post is unusually deep for me, here's another one:

This one is just COOL! And I've posted it because I like it so much. Excuse me while I dance around the room. Can you mosh pit on your own? I've no idea! But, who cares?

Monday, April 16, 2007

Check out the April issue of Writers' Forum

This month I have another article in Writers' Forum. This time about Philip Caveney. He has written adult thrillers for more than twenty years but, recently signed a three book deal with Random House for a new children's series. The first book, Sebastian Darke: Prince of Fools, was released in January this year.

If you would like to see the article, it is on pages 41-2. To find out more about Philip Caveney and his books take a look at his website:

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Agent's Party 2007

Hi All,

I was going to write up my notes on the Agent's Party and post them on my blog but, time is ticking by and the moment feels like it has gone.

However, Candy has done an excellent write up of the evening. So if you want to find out more about SCBWI's Agent's Party 2007 take a peek at: No talking teeth and vegetables.

Have a great Easter.

Love Anita xxx

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

World Poetry Day

Today is Poetry Day.

March 21st was proclaimed World Poetry Day in 1999 by the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. The aim of the day is to promote the reading, writing, publishing and teaching of poetry throughout the world.

To mark the day I was going to put a little poem on my blog - but... I changed my mind!

Monday, March 19, 2007

My New Books

My new books are now available to pre-order on Amazon UK:

Developing History Year R

Paperback: 64 pages
Publisher: A & C Black Publishers Ltd (30 Sep 2007)
Language English
ISBN-10: 0713683961
ISBN-13: 978-0713683967
Price: £16.99

Developing History Year 1

Paperback: 64 pages
Publisher: A & C Black Publishers Ltd (30 Sep 2007)
Language English
ISBN-10: 0713683953
ISBN-13: 978-0713683950
Price: £16.99

Developing History Year 2

Paperback: 64 pages
Publisher: A & C Black Publishers Ltd (30 Sep 2007)
Language English
ISBN-10: 0713683929
ISBN-13: 978-0713683929
Price: £16.99

They are part of a series of seven photocopiable activity books - one for each year of primary school. The books follow the proven, successful 'Developings' formula and provide a wealth of activities to support the teaching of history in the Foundation Stage, Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2. History fires pupils' curiosity about the past in Britain and the wider world. Through the activities in this series, pupils consider how the past influences the present, what past societies were like, how these societies organised their politics, and what beliefs and cultures influenced people's actions. The aim of the series is to develop children's sense of identity through learning about the development of Britain, Europe and the world. It introduces pupils to what is involved in understanding and interpreting the past. Children find evidence, weigh it up and draw their own conclusions, and in doing so they develop skills in research, sifting through evidence, and arguing for their own point of view.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Book Review - Creative Writing

How to books
ISBN: 1-84528-101-2
Author: Adele Ramet
Price: £9.99 (Paperback)

This book is ideal for the beginner writer who wants an overview of the different genres whether they are writing for children or adults. It covers both fiction and non-fiction and has chapters on character, setting, dialogue, using personal experiences and how to submit to publishers.

Following the familiar how to book format, each of the ten chapters concludes with a handy checklist and an assignment to help you develop your skills and put what you have read into practice. There is also a very useful list of addresses for writing organisations and societies, as well as lists of websites and further reading where you can find more information.

I also have some of Adele Ramet’s other books on my bookshelf:

Creating a Twist in the Tale: How to Write Winning Short Stories for Women's Magazines

Writing Short Stories and Articles: How to Get Your Work Published in Newspapers and Magazines

And I have had the pleasure of attending her ‘Writing a Twist in the Tale’ workshop at the Caerleon Writers Holiday. I found her no-nonsense, direct to the point style was reflected in Creative Writing: How to unlock your imagination, develop your writing skills and get published.

Adele Ramet does not ‘tell’ you how to write better, she ‘shows’ you through concise, easy-to-understand examples. By following her advice you will be able to recognise the areas that need sharpening in your own writing and know how to improve them. It is the kind of book you’ll want to refer to time and time again. Packed full of useful ‘insider’ tips on creating professional, potentially lucrative manuscripts it provides a comprehensive guide on how to write on a variety of topics.

It is full of essential tips to hone your skills and help you decide which area of writing you want to concentrate on, or specialise in. In my opinion, Creative Writing is a useful addition to the bookshelf and an invaluable tool for all aspiring authors.

This book was sent to me by the How to Books publishers especially to review on this blog. There is always a worry when I review books what happens if I don't like it but, I must say I really like the format of the How to Books. I like the way they use casestudies and checklists and they have assignments so you can practice. A couple of my favourite books of theirs is the Pamela Cleaver books on writing for children. See: Books About Writing For Children.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Pulped Fiction

A link to this article from The Independent was posted in one of my Forums and I thought you all might be interested.

Take a look at: Pulped fiction: Publishing is booming. So why are writers struggling?

It is most enlightning. Although, I don't think many authors turn to writing nowadays with the illusion they are going to make mega money. A friend of mine told me that an educational book has a shelf life of about five years and then it goes out of print. You have to keep up a large turn over of books to make any money at it.

You know what that means? I best get some work done!

Friday, March 09, 2007

Another Article

I've got another article published in this month's Writer's Forum - the March issue - for any of you who are confused what month it is.

If you are interested and get a chance to have a look it is on pages 35-6. It is about Leslie Horton and why she decided to write crime novels.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Blogs and Blogging

Blogging can be an awful distraction from doing 'real' work. It is a brilliant time waster.

I got asked the other day if I made any money from my blog. The answer is I'm afraid not. You don't get paid for posting blogs. It is one of those things where you are actually writing for FREE. I've been told by several different authors never write for nothing... and here I am still blogging.

I've been experimenting in MySpace too - so now I have two blogs. The MySpace blog I have decided to use for just posting book reviews. I have been sent a couple of books straight from publishers to review. However, I will probably add them here as well.

To be honest I prefer Blogger to MySpace. I think MySpace is very messy and has a disorganised feel to it. However, I quite like the making friends function. So yesterday I set about making a few friends and I am now Harrison Ford's friend. How cool is that?

Well, it would be if I hadn't gone to his site to leave a comment and accidently left a picture of a pig. There goes all my credibility - a pig! I ask you!

That was it. Talk about being totally uncool. This is what I meant to leave:

Which would have been much more sophisticated. So there goes my lasting friendship with Harrison Ford. I don't think it even lasted 24 hours.

Ah well, lets hope I make a better impression on the agents and publishers.

Monday, February 26, 2007

The Children’s Bookshop in Hay-on-Wye

The second-hand bookstores of Hay-on-Wye are famous worldwide.

The Children’s Bookshop is situated on outskirts of town and is owned by Judith Gardner.

Judith moved to Hay-on-Wye in 1978 and like most people in the town, she started her career working for Richard Booth who owned several bookshops in Hay. She spotted about 300 children’s books for sale in Richard Booth’s 30p shop and originally purchased them for a relative working in a school. Soon after she rented some shop space with her husband, he sold clocks one side, and she sold the children’s books she’d bought on the other. The venture grew from there. She now has over twenty thousand second-hand books in stock.

At the moment, the concentration of books is from the late 1930’s to 1980’s. They are books to read rather than works of art. She deals mainly with adult collectors, teachers, writers or researchers, rather than children.

Collectors look for series books written about the same characters, such as the Hardy Boys books and the Pollyanna books. Another area for collectors is girl’s school stories by authors like Angela Brazil, Elinor M Brent-Dyer and Dorita Fairlie Bruce. They give a snapshot of social history. Basic adventure books like the Biggles’ books by Captain W. E. Johns, especially the early ones, also sell well. Boys’ school stories are not sought after as much. Judith mentioned there is also a big market in second-hand scouting and guiding books.

She explained the second-hand book trade is like dealing in stamps and a totally different market to selling new books. Older books can sell for much more than there original cover price, but a book is only worth what someone is prepared to pay for it. If the author has signed the book, it can alter the value, if they add a doodle it could add an extra £20.

There is also a first edition mania. A first edition Debbie Glori book starts from around £100 and could sell for as much as £500. The first Harry Potter books were sold under the name of Joanne Rowling and these fetch enormous amounts of money.

However, there are trends in the second-hand book sales in the same way as there are with new books. Second-hand book trends tend to go in decades, as people often want to show their children and grandchildren what they were reading as a child. At the moment, they are beginning to come into the 1980’s, especially with annuals from that era and science fiction and fantasy titles are very popular. The Children’s bookshop operates a free book search service for books not currently in stock. An online catalogue is available and they offer a worldwide postal service. Visit the website at

Friday, February 23, 2007

SCBWI Professional Series

Yesterday, I went into London to, amongst other things, attend the first of this years SCBWI professional series. Pamela Johnson gave us an excellent masterclass on novel writing. I had a wonderful time and met up with a load of my friends. It was wonderful to meet everyone again and to meet some new people too, whose names I have seen on Wordpool and teh SCBWI forum.
The venue this year is the Theodore Bullfrog Pub near Charing Cross. It was ideal. I am looking forward to the next meeting in April.