Category Archives: writing

Led Astray – Longlisted for Write Now! Prize

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I’m overjoyed to say that my first book, Led Astray, has been longlisted for Macmillan’s competition to find an unpublished/unagented children’s author.

Progress. Wow. It feels good.

Cool things about this:

1. Macmillan publish three of my all-time favourite children’s authors: Eva Ibbotson (*sob), Frances Hardinge (goddess of magical worlds in my head) and Richmal Crompton (no words needed).

2. Somebody in at Macmillan read my book and liked it. That person also wrote their own description of my book. This amazes me. So this means other people are now sharing in my little cat world of handsome but lazy danglepaws, Eyelight, sky-battles, the clumsy, oafish Bluntpaw humans, wildcat kittens, Ruficul the Demon Cat,  dangerous slavehounds – a world ruled by claws, teeth, fur, scars and cat gods, purrs and hisses.  I loved writing this book. I’m so glad somebody else enjoyed reading it, and had their own interpretation.

3. MY NAME appeared in The Bookseller magazine. In black and white print, on the same page as other author’s names. Look, here is proof:

Write Now

So, along with my fellow-blogging longlisters Lorna Fergusson and Daniel Whelan who have written blurbs of their books on their blogs, here’s a taster of Led Astray:

Feral kitten Hattie is born into poverty in a family ruled by evil tomcat Scarab Razorclaw, destined to fulfil his dream of returning to her wildcat roots by shunning humans.

When Hattie is banished for falling in love with a despised ‘danglepaw’ housecat she struggles to survive, but using knowledge from both the wildcat and danglepaw worlds she eventually becomes queen of a vast colony of stray cats… only for everything to unravel when Hattie realises the truth about the true destiny of her species.

Here’s the first paragraph:

Hundreds of pairs of eyes glowed, unblinking, all directed to their queen. The Daughter’s Eye shone brightly, fully open, her reflection rippling in the waves. The sea was calm tonight, the air hot and still, the sand dry under their paws. Mice scuttled in the shadows, but the cats made no move to catch them. It was a perfect time to hunt, but tonight they would all go hungry.

Thank you for reading! You can find out more about the Write Now! Prize on their website.

>Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook: The Inside Guide to How to Get Published

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>I popped along to the W&A Yearbook’s first ever event today, which was held in Farringdon’s Free Word Centre.

There was a far less commercial feel to this day than any other writing conference I’ve been to. It also felt much more old-school than other events, the speakers didn’t have a huge amount to say on anything excitingly digital. Graham Joyce had everyone falling off their seats in wonder at the WIC2010 conference last week. This was far quieter affair, I think good for people keen to pursue the traditional route of publication of their literary masterpieces.

We heard from Rebecca Swift, co-founder of The Literary Consultancy, who is very keen on Emily Dickinson and less so on Dan Brown.

Andrew Kidd, Senior Literary Agent at Aitken Alexander Associates was most charming and asks for freshness and energy in the writing you submit to him. He is still building his list, so if you’re a literary writer, give it a go.

Bill Swainson, Senior Commissioning Editor at Bloomsbury Publishing got excited about a book of translated short stories from across Europe. He explained how hard it is to be the champion of a book at an acquisitions meeting where he has to convince the marketing department, foreign sales guys, PR guys, rights team, and production team that the book will get the ‘figures’ it needs to make enough money for them to make an offer.

The highlight of the day was W&A Yearbook editor Jo Herbert. Her extremely comprehensive 2-hour explanation of how to submit your manuscript to an agent or publisher was professional, clear and not at all patronising. I learned lots of new things and I feel sure I’ve got enough knowledge to take a businesslike approach to submission that will give my book the best chance of not being drowned in the slush pile. This talk made the whole day worthwhile.

The usual crowd of fruitcake aspiring authors was there to be marvelled at (yes I’m including myself in that description – I was wearing my pink tartan wellies.)

Great food, organisers very keen to please and oblige, they clearly cared very much.

Recommended, especially for literary types.

>Writing Industries Conference East Midlands 2010 review

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>Full of writerly zeal and resolutions, at the beginning of this year I signed up for lots of UK writing and publishing conferences, and today was the £42 Writing Industries Conference in Loughborough.

I’m so glad I went! It was fascinating not only because of all the fantastic authors and agents and the heady feeling of mingling with all the other like-minded budding writers, but because a lot of what was discussed was also relevant to my job at Unruly Media and I love it when these two passions collide.

Here’s a brief overview of the comment-cream:

The End of the Print Age: Graham Joyce

Graham has been writing the ‘British weird tale’ for 20 years and has 18 books to his name, with several fantasy award wins. He is going to write the storyline for Doom 4.

Graham advises all new writers that when it comes to the printed book/ebook/traditional publishing debate, we must “face up or fossilise.” Ebook readers mark the end of the print age. A book is like a tardis – bigger on the inside than out, a portal to another world, and an ebook is a better tardis.

Where they have both versions, Amazon will sell versions of the ebook for every 10 hard copies.

He predics that it’s not about the best new ebook reader, it will be the cheapest and most convenient unit that will win.

Surviving as a writer:

He says his 20 years in the ‘word mines’ have toughened him up and to protect ourselves, he advises all writers to be as independent and diverse as possible. Here are ways writers can make money:
1. The advance
2. Digital streams
3. Teaching writing
4. Performance, live spoken word
5. Lectures, talks, workshops
6. Non-fiction writing
7. Develop your story into script
8. Write online drama (e.g. Kate Modern)
9. Games writing

I found the last two points particularly fascinating, I’d never considered this before. As I work in online video, I really should have!

Do at least four of the above, and they won’t break your writer’s heart.

Graham finished on a lovely inspirational note, saying that people are hungry for narrative and though the vessels for story are changing, the stories themselves will always be in demand.

Wow!

My favourite part of this talk was when I spotted the 80 year-old man sitting beside me write ‘GET WEBSITE’ in spidery capitals on his notepad.

I was given much more food for thought in the rest of the sessions, but the only other session which stood out was:

Everything You Ever Wanted to Ask an Agent

John Berlyne – Zeno
Oliver Munson – Blake Friedmann
James Wills – Watson, Little

So, here’s what the big cheeses at the agencies are looking for:

A good synopsis which gives a taste of the story, not overwhelmingly filled with plot points or themes. Should be just enough.
Nothing gimmicky, i.e. green ink, manuscript slipped under their toilet door.
Covering letter should be personalised and professional, don’t bother submitting if their website says they’re closed for submissions.
Don’t give them any reason to put book down within the first few pages: writing should be fantastic, attention-grabbing, start in the middle of the action.
Show that you’re serious and passionate about writing.
They are desperate to read something that will make them forget their cynicism – reading for pleasure is but a distant memory for them, try to rekindle this memory for them!

It’s their job to spot potential, so once you’ve done all of the above you stand a good chance of getting some feedback. They don’t have time to give feedback to most people though, so don’t be offended with a standard rejection letter.

I liked the sound of John Berlyne’s strategy. Not in the business of crushing anyone’s dreams, along with a standard form rejection he suggests some books which will show them how they can improve their writing. I had a quick look at the Zeno site and I like the fact they list resources for us, and that they only accept email submissions.

I was cream-crackered by 5pm so I legged it back to London. I bumped into one of the agents 3 times, she appeared to be running from one end of the train to the other fleeing from a wannabe author – I decided not to introduce myself, I felt sorry for her!

Overall the event was well-organised, though queuing for 35 minutes for lunch was a pain. If you go next year, bring your own. Wine at lunch would have been nice – this was a tongue loosener at the Verulam Writer’s conference ‘Get Writing 2010’ a few weeks ago. I think the venue was too small for 300 people, it got a bit claustrophobic.

I approved highly of the prominent Twitter hashtag #wic2010 displayed on the co-ordinator’s email signature, printed on the brochure. It was very handy for all 3 of the people using it to talk to each other!

>Unruly proposals, agent submissions and blogging

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>What a day.

Today, I woke up at 6:10am. (Okay, I then dozed until about 8 but fact remains, I woke at 6 and I DIDN’T LIKE IT.)

Then I worked hard all day with lunch at my desk (don’t like doing that). Brief fresh air break when fire alarm went off in the trusty Old Truman Brewery. Raced home at 6.30pm, ate, met the new person who has come to live in my house while Australian housemate goes away for 2 months, then raced upstairs to bedroom.

Bed with laptop giving me hot knees became my new office.

I worked on my book proposal for a couple of hours. I went to the Verulam Writer’s Conference a couple of weeks ago and did one of those 3-minute meet-the-agent sessions. To my horror/surprise/delight, the agent said he thought the idea had potential and he wanted to see a submission. Squee! As I’ve never shown anything to an agent before, I really want to get this right. I know it’s against every pitching-an-agent rule in the book not to have a submission pack ready to give him immediately on the first expression of interest, but hey, it’s my first time.

Turns out there’s quite a lot of work involved in writing a covering letter, synopsis and ‘about the author’ page – not to mention going over my first few chapters with a fine-toothed comb, sending them to friends/lovers/strangers to read and review.

So, once I finished that I wrote two blog posts as I was excited to see two very cool new videos in the Viral Video Chart today and I couldn’t help myself: OK Go and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

Then I settled down to put the finishing touches to the video seeding pitch I was working on all day, for a very big deal with one of the biggest film studios in the world. EU-wide. Yikes! I’m waiting for the proposal to download now, as it is massive.

My aim is to be as accomplished a social-media bod, researcher and writer as the amazing Scarlett de Courcier. Unlike her though, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get up at 4am to do it.