Oh my goodness, look what I came across when doing some research on YouTube this morning: the video of the SCBWI Crystal Kite Award for the British Isles and Ireland 2015! I was thrilled to be shortlisted for this award and honoured to see MINTY in such exalted company. Seeing the accompanying video at the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators conference that November was a terrific surprise, but I must confess that I was too excited to truly absorb its content. Now, thanks to the lovely people at SCWBI, I can watch it as often as I like (writing time permitting!)!
Massive thanks to narrator Dom Comlon and to Addy Farmer for her beautiful words about MINTY, and congratulations to winner Clare Furniss and the other shortlisted authors. Yes, I realise this is 2018 and I should have posted about the award ages ago, but better late than never. Right?
The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley...
The above quote is from one of my favourite Robert Burns' poems, To A Mouse, in which he talks of how even the best of plans can go off course.
I had lots of plans for this summer: meeting friends and family, book bloggers and fellow writers; plus attending several events at the Edinburgh Festival, and the book festival in particular (which coincided with a picnic to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators - Happy Anniversary, SCWBI!). However, life intervened which left me strapped for time, even for writing, so I’ve had to put my plans on hold. Nevertheless, I hope I’ll manage along to at least one of the things I’ve been looking forward to because, I admit, I’ve been feeling a wee bit low about my plans going astray. Then something wonderful happened – or somethings. Let me explain.
I’m sure that I’m no different to other authors when I say that I love getting feedback on my book. The thing is, though, my novel Minty was published two years ago so my expectations of readers noticing it amongst all the amazing new books that are being published weekly have diminished with each month that passes. Of course, in this I’m no different to anyone else who’s had a novel published. To be honest, that can be difficult to comes to terms with but then again it’s just the way things are.
So imagine my surprise when I received an email from a lovely reader who told me how much he loved Minty and that - and I quote - “The ending was terrific and I was tearful. Thanks again for a much needed book about a subject that will touch us all.”
Wow! That really lifted my mood.
I expect most people are aware of the Edinburgh International Book Festival which takes place in Scotland's capital city every August. For me the book fest is one the highlights of the year, and the end of July always brings with it that delicious tingle of anticipation at the literary excitement to come. This year I have even more reason to be excited because I've been asked to be part of a very special event on August 20th: the Edinburgh International Book Festival SCBWI panel - How To Survive Being Published. Yes I know - I'm one of the panelists, can you believe it? I'm not sure I can!
Last Wednesday I swopped my study for the train as I headed to London for a few days. Whilst speeding southwards I spent several enjoyable hours of uninterrupted writing. Then, on arrival at
Kings Cross station, I began to ponder upon what my break from home would offer me - and I knew it would be good. You see, I was in the big smoke for three Society of Children's Book Writers and
Illustrators (SCBWI) events, the first of which was early that evening. But before I tell you a little about that, here's a question or two for you:
One of my writer friends, visited the East Neuk of Fife last week. I've known Morag Caunt for a few years now as we're both members of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI or Scoobie as it's affectionately referred to by many). At one point Morag and I were part of the same young adult critique group. I used to look forward to her work being posted each month as I was enthralled by the gritty, true-to-life short stories she wrote, all inspired by her work with young people in The Zone, a youth drama group near to her Yorkshire home.
April is the cruellest month, or so said T S Eliot in his epic poem The Waste Land. Yet, for me, nothing could be further from the truth, because last April saw the publication of my debut novel Minty, an event that will forever be imprinted on my memory.
My book being released into the world was something I had dreamt of since childhood, but it took me until late 2001 to work towards turning that aspiration into a reality. During the many years that followed, as I laboured on manuscript after manuscript with no apparent prospect of being published, I often wondered if it would ever happen. But happen it did, although it took a long time to get there. That's why I'll always cherish the joy of Minty's publication day. It was such a special moment in my life, one of the most exhilarating so far. For alongside the phonecalls, texts and gifts from family and friends came a flurry of tweets, shares, likes and comments on social media, many from people I didn't know. In truth, I was overwhelmed by the generosity of strangers.
I think I can safely say that I'm one of the world's most infrequent bloggers, especially when I'm in the throes of writing a new book, as I have been these past months. Today, however, I've been prompted to resuscitate my blog to write a quick post. Here's why:
If you've been on Twitter lately you may have heard of the UKYA Extravaganza in Birmingham on the 28th of this month.
Organised by authors Kerry Drewery and Emma Pass, and hosted by Watersones High Street, it promises to be an amazing afternoon of literary fun. There will be 35 authors there (of which I'm one!), giving readings and talking about their books with readers, bloggers and everyone who loves UK young adult fiction. I can't wait to meet and mingle with so many incredible authors and UKYA fans. There's a lot of buzz around UKYA at the moment so I guess it was no surprise to learn that tickets for the event sold out very quickly. For those who are lucky enough to have grabbed one, I look forward to seeing you on the day.
Following on from my last post you might be relieved to know that, this time, there will be no mention of underwear, damp or otherwise. There will, however, be quite a lot of information about how a writer works - or at least this writer. You see folks, I've been invited by the lovely Karen Owen, picture book and middle grade author, to take part in The Writing Process Blog Tour. Yes I know this all sounds very grand, but it's actually quite simple: every Monday the participating writers post a blog answering four questions about their writing process. Today it's my turn. So, if you're interested in having an insight into my working practice, not to mention my overactive imagination, grab yourself a drink of your choice and read on.
As I was fishing underwear from my washing machine the other morning, I experienced a mild case of panic. Like Lewis Carroll's White Rabbit I found myself muttering, "I'm late! I'm late! For a very important date!" In the run up to my book being published next month I seem to be saying that a lot lately. The thing is, I've imposed all sort of deadlines on myself: get this done, get that done; start this, finish that. So many demands on my time and so few hours in which to accomplish all I've set myself to do.
Phew! It's exhausting, especially when some of those tasks are mundane things like doing the laundry. Now that kind of stuff really tires me out - because I'll let you into a secret, a domestic goddess I am not. I am, however, a writer, and a writer needs a blog. Or so I've been told by several of my fellow scribblers over the years. Often. And yet I've resisted. The thing is, although I can happily work away at 90,000 word novel - through several drafts - the thought of maintaining a blog freaks me out. I mean - what do I have to write about, and, assuming I can find something to say, who'd want to read it? But to turn a phrase, 'faint novelist never won fair reader'. And so, as I untangled a heap of damp boxers and knickers, I decided to quieten my inner critic (not to mention that darned White Rabbit!), and get that blog on the go.