What the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever been
‘Write the book you want to read’…except I’ve altered it slightly to say ‘write the book you want your children to read.’ That’s both the children at school and my own children at home. There’s nothing better than finding a book that captures children’s imaginations; that sees them reliving characters, recreating plots and role-playing scenarios long after the last page has turned. …And hopefully, I’m about to find out that there’s nothing more rewarding than when this book is written by you.
And the worst?
In the context of submitting a manuscript:“Just send it. You won’t know until you try.” To a certain extend I agree, but this advice comes with an expiry date. If you’re getting more and more standardised rejections, you might want to take the time to review your submission: Who you are submitting to? Are you sure you’re approaching agents and editors that represent your style and genre of writing? How you are submitting? Are you following the submission guidelines? Is your submission up to scratch? Is your query letter selling you? Have you spell checked everything at least once? Is your manuscript the very best it can be?
What’s more important to a writer, talent, or perseverance?
Definitely, perseverance. Talent is simply our perception of performance; one person achieving more or better than another. With good, solid hard work you can make improvements and see progress. That’s not to say that you don’t need to read the work of your idols and aspire to The Greats, but I think writing successes come from hours of late nights, early mornings and hard work behind the scenes. Those that appear more talented and more successful, have most likely struggled as much as the rest of us but persevered.
“I’ve failed over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.” Michael Jordan
Some people believe that the craft of writing can’t be taught. What’s your perspective on this?
I quite honestly hadn’t written a thing before 2013 so I definitely have to disagree. I firmly believe that anyone can achieve the highest levels of writing with hard work and self-belief. It might come seemingly easier to others (to those who appear gifted or to who it comes naturally, for example) but these people have simply had more experiences, more opportunities, more practice to hone their skills. Having a positive, growth mindset is vital to writing. In fact, it’s vital to all learning; learning to read… learning to draw… learning to juggle! The only thing stopping you achieving your dream is you… and hard work!
And what about writer’s block, do you believe in it and if so how do you deal with this?
I do have days when the words won’t and don’t come easily and when this happens I take a break or change the routine, for example I write outside not at a desk, or in a notebook and not on the laptop. Sometimes I try to plough on but this doesn’t usually work. However, I do believe that the only barrier to our writing is our subconscious. Trying not to worry about what others will say or think can be useful advice. (Although this is important at the editing stage!) I try to put the needs and requirements of the gate keepers aside and write just for me.
You say on your website that you never think small. Can you expand upon this, please?
To answer this question I simply had to call upon my long-time friend and Teaching Assistant at The Erme Primary School, Lesley Martin:
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"Yes, we do all groan inwardly and run for the hills when we hear Clare say, ‘I've had a good idea.’ However, the ideas are always brilliant. From the giant rice crispy cake that was the size of a bed... to the muddy manicures… and dozens of glittery elf hats thrown in for good measure. (Everyone was covered in glitter for days that Christmas!) Not forgetting the text one Saturday morning to say that she'd found an old oven in a skip and ‘could we use it to make the dragonfly's mouth for art in the park?’ So many memories of Clare 'thinking big (or should that be enormous?) over the last nine years as her TA, and all of them exciting… if slightly barking!”
Oh Clare, that made me smile! Moving on, can you tell us about the role you play in The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ Celebrations Team?
The Celebrations Team, currently consisting of Charlotte Comely, Nancy Saunders and I, write articles to congratulate SCBWI members on their big and small achievements, be it a book deal, signing with an agent, winning a competition or showing casing work at an exhibition. We scour social media for reasons to crack open the bubbly and then write a celebratory post to be featured in Word &Pictures Magazine… and eat a large slice of cake in the member’s honour! Oh, that’s just me.
As someone who has been featured on Words & Pictures I'd like to say a massive thanks to you and all the team. Now to our next questions: where do you see yourself and your writing in the next ten years?
It sounds a bit cliché, but hopefully exactly where I am now. Teaching, writing, having lots of happy times with my family and friends and loving every minute.
Fascinating answers, Clare. Now let’s finish off the interview with a few random questions:
Biscuits or cake?
It has to be biscuits! Having said that, I wouldn’t turn down cake...any cake… except coffee!
Teaching or writing?
Teaching. Working with children is the best job in the world and I wouldn’t be writing without them.
Devon or Cornwall?
I was born in Plymouth so it’s got to be Devon. Sorry, Cornwall. You are lovely too.
Autumn or Spring?
X Factor or Strictly Come Dancing?
I’m a sucker for X Factor. My sister-in-law gave my husband and I tickets to see the Live Shows in 2010 and because I was heavily pregnant and needed a wee, I went back stage and rubbed shoulders with Cheryl-then-Cole and Simon Cowell! (Well, when I say rubbed… I was halted by a security guard as they walked passed us. Simon did ask if we were enjoying the show, though.)
Crime novel or chicklit?
City break or beach holiday?
Favourite picture book?
Stuck by Oliver Jeffers.
Thank you Christina for interviewing me for your blog, my first as a debut author! Your questions were fun and thought provoking and I thoroughly enjoyed answering them! J
Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer my questions, Clare. I wish you lots of success with Aerodynamic of Biscuits and with all of your books in the future.