June 17, 2016

Exciting and inspiring – enjoying the day as a shortlisted author

Thank you very much to Chicken House for choosing 'The Firefly Cage' as the winner of this year's The Times / Chicken House Children's Fiction Competition.

It definitely has not yet sunk in at all that my book was chosen as the winner and I expect normal reality to resume sometime soon.

Being involved in the competition has been a pleasure. Thanks to all those involved in the organisation and the judging.

A big thank you and congratulations also to all the short-listed authors (Janine Barnett-Phillips, Tracy Darnton, Julie Mee and Jamie Smith) who have been on this journey with me and to whom I wish every future success.

June 03, 2016

Writing quotes - great for sharing

Some of my favourite authors seems to be inspired to put into words what they love about writing and wanted to share a couple.

"I hadn’t found profound happiness and intellectual stimulation in the act of writing, then I would long ago have abandoned the whole adventure. The fact is that I love doing it and am never happier than when embedded with a complex narrative, slowly revealing itself over great gulps of time" - Rose Tremain

And the second from Meg Rosoff, recently he laureate of the 2016 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award 

“I think that writing comes from a very deep place, from the unconscious. I imagine it to be a great big dark place from which you sometimes can cross a bridge to the conscious mind. Writers spend a big part of their lives in that dark place and get more and more used to crossing that bridge”.

And the final one I was reminded of the other day - it's an oldie but a goodie

 "Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead." - Gene Fowler.

And it never gets any easier does it.

April 26, 2016

Carnegie shadowing - reading together the hottest children's books around

Each year I am proud to join in with the Space on the Bookshelf blog, where we join schools around the country reading all of the shortlisted titles for the Carnegie Medal and posting reviews.

Then we try to pick the winner. Sometimes we get it right!

Carnegie Shadowing is a great way to introduce children to 'grown up' books, new authors and titles they probably wouldn't discover themselves. Discovering more about the world through books is a way you can relive other people's experiences through stories and talk about them - and it is this spirit of discussion and sharing that really makes the Shadowing such a great experience.

I run a bookshop, Mostly Books in Abingdon, and we are proud that all the schools take part in the Shadowing. A group of children from each school gets together to offer their views, reviews and present which they think should be the winner. We even get involved with the judging day and offering tips on how to do good reviews!

It creates a huge buzz around books in the town right at the start of the senior school years and we particularly love it when parents read the books too. It's a real showcase for the talent that exists in writing for children today.

It's all great, except I find it just too difficult to choose a winner. So glad I don't have to be a judge.

April 22, 2016

Seven survival tips for the bewildered on twitter

1.      Twitter is a conversation – so you need to be engaged and that means joining in to be part of it. You don't want to be hanging out on Twitter the whole time, but when you do join in, put the time in. And perhaps try to do so twice a day.

2.      People go onto Twitter because they want to be engaged and entertained, so being warm helps, being funny is brilliant if you can do it . . . Have a go at Twitter challenges - and learn to pun well!

3.      But always be positive and generous. Say thank you a lot. Share books and articles that you like – engage with an author and tell them how much you enjoyed reading what they have written.

4.      To be engaging, you need to be conversing with interesting people. Follow people and institutions connected to all of your wider interests, there will be lots of cross-overs. If you’re an author you can follow authors and writers, publishers, bookshops, libraries, but also galleries and people involved in other aspects of cultural life.

5.      Support other authors – congratulate or commiserate when favourite authors do/don’t make shortlists. 

6.      It is more engaging if you try to use a quote from content to recommend an article. Try not to just include a link.

7.      Use images, but don’t change your own photo very often – that becomes your brand and people will start to recognise you.

With grateful thanks to Will Rycroft @vintagebooks for his talk at the London Book Fair, “Successful Social Media Strategies” and for explaining a complex subject so well he made it seem simple.

January 17, 2016

The serious art of procrastination

Got some serious long-term project to do? One that is giving you a nagging thought that you should be making some progress towards it?

Well, clear that nagging thought – banish troubling thoughts from your mind. Instead, learn the art of procrastination.

If you join the wily team of good procrastinators you will never have to complete a tricky project ever again. Read on to find out how.

January 08, 2016

Five golden rules for setting your writing goals (and why having the right ones can help)

Planning a successful year?

You’d be very unusual if you didn’t start out the year with all sorts of grand plans.

But how often to you achieve them?

As I sat down to think about my own grand plans, I realised that the first on my list was to ‘get out there more’ on social media, so thought a good place to start was to share my goal-setting process, which I changed radically last year and worked out really well for me.

Let me suggest your first writing goal for this year – discovering how setting the right goals can actually help you make positive progress.