Saturday, 21 May 2011

The Writing Life

This week I have been out and about listening to talks and critiques. On Tuesday night I went to a Professional Series talk by Nicolette Jones, reviewer of children's book for the Sunday Times. She says that she finds it hard to get her weekly column published at times because people don't think writing for children is as worthy as writing for adults. This was totally agreed with by the audience when someone mentioned that they'd been asked when they were going to write a real book after saying they write for children. Grrr. Nicolette receives lots of books but only has 4 slots to write so can't review them all, and she always ends up praising so there is no space for hostility. She says that she has H Potter books to thank for making editors realise that children's books can be worthy of reviewing and interesting. The internet has expanded the chance to recommend children's fiction but on the other hand so many blogs and review sites are running that it could put paper critics in jeopardy. Cross-over books are hard to review as don't know who should review them - children or adult book reviewer. And the snag is where to put them in shops. Although in Australia they have sections for 15-25 y-olds. Booksellers should find ways to put them in the right place. Puffin is putting out books with penguin on spine for children of 15 upwards.
She said that in an ideal world, there should be blogs that let you know what books are coming out, like they do films. Candy said that paper reviews generated more interest in her book than online ones.
When asked Nicolette thought that publishers aren't overpublishing children's books as there are fewer picture books being published but that is being rectified with the Big Picture Campaign. She likes Indies and thinks that bookshops should have a broader stock, and likes to see people in chains showing real interest and expertise with children's books. Doesn't want blackmail to get your book reviewed by her. Looks at most of the books she's sent but can't do all of them. Suggests that you start your book strong, so reader wants to read more and is interested in reading more.
Believes that hype with books doesn't work all the time. But if you can excite her with your work and make her laugh, she will read on. Has read self-published books which have to be on Amazon, but doens't recommend this route unless you have sold lots and then can go to an agent or publisher with them saying this - this has happened.
Very fond of children's poetry, which is popular in schools and Miriam said best to start with magazines then into anthologies as this has more child appeal.
She has a fantasy of having a best and worst book column. Says lots of boys do read, and others need to read, some don't admit reading but read magazines etc. Thin, snappy books are ideal for these boys. Believes that some books are packaged wrong eg the target is for boys but the cover is designed with girls in mind.
It was brought up about prizes for series fiction. Nicolette thought that she wasn't keen on this as this is tricky when there is a series of books that are written by different authors but seen to be by one.
She would like to see a children's TV programme on books/prizes and inspirations behind books. A channel that would make families believe that reading books is a part of family life.
She finished saying that literary editors have to do books with interesting angles, and Nicolette unless it is news worthy, and most commercial books aren't.

Then on Wednesday I had my second crit group meeting. There were only 3 of us this time so it went quicker. It was mentioned they like my book and feel that is child friendly as Tanya said that most children's books she has read the children try to work things out on their own instead of going to adults whereas mine, Georgina talks to her teachers and family. Kathryne likes the ideas of having magical powers about passions, so I was well chuffed about, of course there were lots of other comments that I have to work on and will do later on. They liked the idea of rooms and walls shimmering when Georgina does her magic so I will def put that in next time. Can't wait for the next group meeting.
I was due to go to a talk today but not feeling well so here I am instead.

Next time will let you know how Georgina is getting on and more news.

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