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?