Sunday, 28 November 2010

Birthday meal

Last night I went to Garfunkel's at the Strand for a birthday meal with family and a friend. I had steak, chips with veg and spicy onion rings (and they were spicy), followed by a delicious blackberry and apple crumble. It tasted like a true blackberry and apple crumble and ones that my mum used to make years ago, esp the blackberries. Nowadays, shop bought blackberries don't taste like the ones you can grow on hedges. I had a really nice time chatting to my friend and ignoring one of my guests, who kept on moaning about the food that the place had. I decided to ignore her rather than create a scene like I did at my mum's meal last year. I had a really nice time and wouldn't mind going there again for food as I enjoyed it and it was reasonably priced.

All celebrations are well and truly over, although I did buy some Free From shortbread biccies this morning. They are dairy free and made from rice flour and very light to eat, and tasty. I did want a special free from choc cake but they didn't have any. Maybe at Xmas.

Well, this is it for today. Will let you know what progress is with Allie later on or keep an eye on FB.

Friday, 26 November 2010

My week so far

This week so far I have done the following:

Been shopping and bought the last of the Xmas presents (the last one being for my mum from my dad) and books.
Finished current draft of Georgina, and jotted more notes on how to improve Allie, which I will start rewriting today.
Oh and yesterday I celebrated my 40th birthday. In the morning I went to the Teapot cafe for herbal tea and carrot cake and met two writer friends, Sue Hyams and Jo Franklin (Hi ladies). We had a good old chat about writing, agents and rewriting. All three of us have rewrites to do on our current wips, and all from comments made by agents. Oh yes, I paid a deposit to go to a writer's retreat in Sussex next May. I can't wait to go there as it will be with the same people I met at the conference a couple of weeks ago. Children's authors and that is the area I'd like to concentrate on the next coming year. In the afternoon I didn't do a lot cos I was tired, so had a nap then went on the internet to read emails and check out Facebook. I do love FB, esp when it comes to your birthday. If you put your whole birth date on it, it will remind others that someone has a birthday and they can put a birthday message on FB for you. Yesterday I had 13 messages in all and I was happy. I had a couple more cakey things in the afternoon, and needless to say have put on more weight today. Back to more exercise next week me thinks.

Well, that's my news. Let's hope that the saying life begins at 40 proves to be right for me as I have things happening that could change my life shortly.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Conference photos

I have just finally transferred my photos I took at the conference to this machine so here are some of them:

This is Wolvesey Castle, which I saw from my b&b window.

Marcus Sedgwick doing his funny and inspiring talk.

Some of Linda Chapman's books, which I went and bought at the book stall.

THE birthday cake. Isn't it gorgeous looking?

Lee Weatherley and Linda Chapman. Two v nice and inspiring authors.

Lynne Chapman, a very funny and clever illustrator giving her funny and inspiring talk about how she got published.

And that was the end of the conference, and can't wait to go next year.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Ideas galore!

I forgot to say last time that the meeting with the agent wasn't all bad. She did say to me that if and when I rewrite Allie with her comments in mind, which I will do, I can email it to her again for feedback and if she's not interested still she could point me in the direction of an agent that might be. So that is what I intend doing.

Ever since I had the meeting on Tuesday, I have had lots of ideas how to improve Allie, esp on scenes showing Allie practicing her magic. I am going to work on that when I finish the current draft of Georgina. I wrote a couple of pages from a note pad when I went to bed last night on scenes showing Allie practicing, and what came to mind was scenes reminiscent of Mickey Mouse in Fantasia. Things don't go right to start off with then after practicing and with help from a techer and parents, they get better, esp when she has to fight the art teacher all through the book along with another girl. I am getting rather excited about this again now and want to finish Georgina, which I am having similar ideas for too. That too will get a change of title.

Meantime, still thinking of ways to promote Rosie. Have decided that from now and up until the end of the year, will work on fun things to put on my website, so I can email people in the new year about them. Have just typed up what I call The Letter Game workshop I do in libraries, and will put a few more workshops on with quizzes and fun facts. Watch this space...

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Meeting with the agent

So Tuesday I found my way to Camden/Mornington Crescent to the office of the agent. I got there early, as I left really early to give myself plenty of time to find it. The agent was really nice and friendly. She gave me lots of comments about Allie and here is what she has suggested and what I have learnt. I should set the scene for the first vision Allie has, and I said that I had suggests for that, which included either a prologue or inserting something that I had put in an earlier draft about Allie overhearing her mum on the phone to the headmistress about testing her. She felt that it needed more magic and more obstacles for it to be fun and entertaining esp for 8-12 year olds, so I should let Allie practice her magic more and recruit more girls to her team to battle against the teachers. I should develop the character of the art teacher more so he is against Allie most of the time, so she has more obstacles and more drama. I need to give Allie more emotional reactions, make her more vulnerable. I need more strands to the story as it is too linear at the moment, more magic and more involvement with the parents and teachers. And a change of title. Allie and the Messy School isn't that appealing to that age. This is something which I have already decided I think I will do. It was near the start of the feedback that the agent asked me what age range it was for and I told her middle grade, and she told me that she was only interested in YA fiction. Oh yes, she also suggested that maybe I could find a child that could read my work to find out what works and doesn't.
Here is what I have thought about doing - a change of title, something on the lines of Allie, Queen of Green. I am going to put more magic in it, and get Allie practicing the magic at school and home, as she becomes aware she needs to hone her powers. I will develop the art teacher and get him to go against Allie, inc inserting a scence that I'd taken out, and make him be manipulated first remotely then by touch by the new girl. I will give Allie more team members, so more magical powers. I am now getting rather excited about going back to working on Allie again, and this time I shall have a critique buddy to help me along the way, and I might try to find a young girl to read my work to see if it works for children or not, once I get revising/rewriting again.

All in all, I came out quite disappointed not having an agent and a bit despondent about writing for children, but now I am excited with full of ideas (which I started writing during the night) about how I can add magic and fun and drama to Allie, with a new title that goes to the current market. So watch this space.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Sunday speaker

I forgot to mention last post that before the farewell speech on Sunday we had a keynote speaker, who was Lynne Chapman, who illustrates picture books. Lynne gave a talk about how she got published over the years, up and until her most recent success. Lynne gave a funny and inspiring talk, and she is funny just like her drawings. I liked her laugh, which was a kind of dirty laugh, because it made me smile. She sounded such a warm and friendly person to know, and I wish I could draw animals like she does. It was a great way to end the conference.

Tomorrow I shall blog about the meeting with the agent yesterday. Gist - still no agent for me.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Conference Sunday

Sunday got off to a good start for me as I sold a book at the b&b. We had just finished breakfast when the host introduced us to 2 new guests. We got chatting about writing and our books, and I told the other guests about my book. They said they were interested and I replied that I had a couple of copies if anyone was interested. A sale ! I signed the book to their daughter. Jon, the author and fellow b&b mate, drove us all to the campus for our first talk. Mine was by Keren David. She talked about how she wrote her first book, which is about a teenage boy who has to go into witness protection. Keren is a journalist and any interesting news catches her eye, and it was one particular one about a family with a boy who were victims of a crime and had to go into witness protection that caught her eye, esp about the boy and how he'd feel about living a lie. We had a break before going onto a second part where we chose a few paper features in a group. My group had two pieces about unemployment (I thought how very appropriate for me) and a young boy who marched on Armistice Day for his great uncle. We came up with lots of ideas, some crazy and mad - those were chosen by Candy Gourlay (hi Candy). It was interesting and gave me an idea for a possible book.
Then it was a talk all about social networking, Candy being one of the talkers. Candy is an experimentalist and has tried nearly all the social media going, then it was Sarah McIntyre who chooses her media carefully. She has a Livejournal blog as well as another blog. Then came Keren David who likes using Twitter and has found she likes social networking, The advice I wrote down was to have words on your blog that people will find you on and is relevant to you.
Then came lunch. After waiting half an hour the day before for my lunch, I made sure I was one of the first. I had new potatoes, a roll with spread, and some salad. Very healthy. I had time then to go and buy some more books, which I did. You can't go to a conference and not buy books is what I say. Most of the ones I bought were written by Linda Chapman, so I can read and see how she puts her magical elements into her stories.
Then it was a workshop about how to make your characters stand out and we did some writing for this. It got me thinking about my characters. What I learnt about characters is that the two most important tools we have for them are dialogue and action, so we can make them do and say things. Because Miriam, who did the workshop, knew we were tired, she ended early and we had time to breathe before the farewell talk.
Then it was home and I left with Sue Hyams and a few others, driven to the station by Bekki Hill (Thanks Bekki). We had to stand most of the way home on the train. By the time I got home I was hungry and tired and did some essential unpacking.

I came home tired but inspired from it and so pleased I went and met lots of others that I only knew my name.

Now to go and pack to meet the agent this afternoon.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Conference - Friday/Saturday

Well, I am back from the conference, where I had a brill but tiring time. I got to Winchester in the pouring rain and was greeted at the b&b by the host with one of his cats. I settled in and got chatting to the host, who was really nice and friendly. I had a double room with its own wash basin, which I really liked because I could wash in my own room with privacy. Unfortunately I found out it was only for that night. Later on I went to the critique night and that was really helpful. The others in the group gave me feedback on Chapter 1 of Georgina, and a lot of it they said I hadn't even thought about, and I will work on during the next draft. After that we all went to the pizza place in the drenching rain, and I did get soaked. I couldn't find my umbrella, it had fallen down in my backpack and right at the bottom, so was dripping wet when I sat down. I had to dry my hair with tissues and a napkin. By the time I left, it had stopped thank goodness, because I walked back to the b&B with one of my fellow b&b mates. I didn't sleep very well that night, I never do in a strange place.

The first talker was Marcus Sedgwick and he was really good and funny. Talking about how he got writer's block because he wasn't happy with what he was writing at the time, so went away to an island, where he got an idea for his next book. He talked about how he wrote that. A very good talker.
The first workshop/talk I chose of the day was 'How to sell your book'. The gist of it was make use of your publicisit, your local community and booksellers and experiment with social media. Make more use of your social networks such as Facebook. Reviewing is a good idea to get yourself known. Follow your interests and make use of those when you are published. Make yourself known to people and try to sell your book wherever you go. (Saying that the author who said that, when it came to a possible buy of his book didn't have a copy to sell! and I did).
Next was the industry panel with various people who deal with books. They told us what they were interested in now, what they thought of the new digital era (census was that picture books are better for the much younger children, and there is a place for the older children readers).
Then it was lunch. I had beef stir fry with rice, which was dry and went cold quickly.
Then I went to a talk by author Linda Chapman (Hi Linda) about writing books with magical elements (my thing completely). This talk was really helpful to me and the one thing that stood out for me after it was that I have to know what happens and why. I think I will end up typing up the notes from this session as it is relevant to what I am writing right now. The reason that advice stands out is that is what the editor said to me about Georgina at the one-to-one meeting I had after the magical talk. It really got me thinking about what I am writing about and what happens in my book, so much so, that I ended up jotting down notes during the night when I woke up at 4am Sunday morning. I will work on Georgina a lot now after these two talks.
Then it was the last talk of the day about the state of the nation. Basically you need to be a good performer to connect to your readers and have good events. Get people to think that your book is good and then you will too.
Then it was a break where I rested at the b&b before going on to the party. I met lots of authors, inc Linda Chapman again, and Lee Weatherley. The food was better this time. It was a buffet and I had spring rolls, chicken on sticks, and a bit of salad. Later I had a piece of the wonderful looking cake, which I will put a photo of on here shortly (need to transfer photos). It was another late night and I went back to the single room this time, where I slept better.

Will write about Sunday tomorrow morning, before I go to see the agent.

Thursday, 11 November 2010


Yesterday I started sniffling and sneezing and thought, oh no I'm getting a cold just want I don't need in time for the conference on Friday. So I started taking zinc lozenges and have been indoors for most of the time and today...I don't feel so bad. I am wondering if it is staying indoors a lot of the time. When I was working I was out in the cold, into the warmth then back out in the cold again, then in the warmth again, which couldn't have done my body much good, so ended up with cold lasting a few days, but now hardly a sniffle. I hope it doesn't decide to come out over the weekend when I am in the conference. I can't wait to go to Winchester, as it's my first time there, both seeing the place and going to the conference. I will be staying in a B&B, something I don't think I've done before, so something different for me to do this year.

Tomorrow night is the critique night and I have managed to crit all four mss that were emailed to me. I am interested to hear what my group think of the first chapter of Georgina, and even more interested to find out what the editor at the one-t0-one on Saturday thinks of it. I shall blog about what I have done and learnt when I come back from the weekend, prob Monday or even Wednesday.

See everyone in the British SCBWI there tomorrow.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Going down

The word count for Georgina that is. I am now up to the 6th day in the book and so far I have managed to cut it down to just over 30,000. I have been cutting out sentences and paragraphs that I now feel don't mean anything to the story, which is coming to a lot already. The next draft will be about my characters and making them believable, by working out why they do what they do.

Only a few days to go now until I go to the British SCBWI conference. I am really looking forward to it. I have my train tickets, the programme etc all ready to go. I am this week critiquing other people's mss for the critique night, something I've not done before and am finding it enjoyable. I am trying to pass on what I have learnt from the Cornerstones report, namely show not tell and not breaking up action with mundane things in the chapter. I am doing one a day then the day before will go through them all again to see if I've missed anything. A bit nervous as to what the others in my group will make of my work, as from what I've read so far, my work is aimed for an older audience than theirs. We shall see. Let you know next week.

Will be on Facebook next.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Counting the words for Georgina

I did some more typing rewrites of Georgina yesterday and it is now down to just over 32,000. Just 7000 to go until I reach 25,000 words, which is what Allie ended up being. I think this is the ideal word count for 8-12 year olds. Will be working on the fourth day of the novel this afternoon, and I think it will have to be split into two chapters as it is now 15 pages long, which is far too long for a chapter. I did that for the last chapter, so shorter chapters and quicker pacing.

Also yesterday I wrote to Woman and Home magazine, but don't know if that will be published or not. Had no luck so far with the magazines I have written to. Will keep looking and trying. Am still working on what quizzes etc to put on my website, definitely revised workshops to what I do in libraries. Instead of asking to take a square from an envelope, I will either give a letter or colour.

Well, this is all for now. Gearing up now to go to the conference on the 12th, and can't wait it being my first one there.