27 November 2017

Ten Things I Love about the SCBWI Conference

Photo: Colleen Cailin Jones
10 things I love about the annual SCBWI conference (and one thing I hate!)

Here goes:
  1. The fantastic Keynotes. This year I was inspired and entertained by the ‘seriously funny’ Liz Pichon and Alex T Smith. Their passion for producing funny children’s books and the hard work they put in, left me awestruck. Industry professional Julia Eccleshare’s thoughtful and realistic view of the current state of children’s publishing was excellent too.
  2. The workshops. I came away buzzing with enthusiasm from Kate Scott’s insights into how to have multiple careers as a writer (and the message you don’t have to be famous to make a living at it). From Joanna Nadin’s practical session, I gained the confidence to believe I could at least try and write something funny.

25 October 2017

Something From the Trolley?

Something from the trolley?

Book Gems I’ve come across accidentally.

I love my job in the library. Not only do I work with fantastic people and get to help wonderful library users, I have fallen in love with so many books I would never have come across if it weren’t for the place I work.

I frequently take advantage of the staff ‘perk’ of free reservations to order in books I’ve heard about, seen advertised or had recommended to me. As a result, I’ve managed to read a lot of great stuff. However, I’ve also done a lot of unplanned reading that has been great too. Books I’ve come across on the returns trolley or on a display shelf or in the course of returning a title to its rightful place on the library shelf. I’ve discovered some brilliant new fiction this way and some incredible new authors, but I’ve also, and more interestingly, found some fantastic non-fiction titles too. Here are just a few of those gems:

9 August 2017

I've started...but will I finish?

I’ve started…but will I finish?

Mum taught me how to use a sewing machine as a child and I’ve been making stuff with it, on and off, ever since. Every so often I set up the machine on the table in the window and, full of enthusiasm, I embark on creating something new in much the same way as I embark on writing a new story.

I don’t know where ideas for stories come from but sometimes it’s a something on the news or overheard in the street and plots and characters demand I do something about them right now. With sewing sometimes it’s some fabric, or a paper pattern that catches my imagination. Often it’s seeing something in a shop that’s way out of my budget and thinking: I could make something like that. But whatever the spark, the process of putting together a sewing project is very much like putting together a story.

27 July 2017

10 March 2017

Old Friends (Or the Joy of Re-reading)

Old Friends (Or the Joy of Re-reading)

I never used to think reading the same book more than once was strange. As a child, I’d read the books I owned over and over, still have many of them and still read them now. I’d also borrow the same book from the library two or three times and enjoy reading it each time, often gaining a fresh perspective on some aspect of the plot or characters that I’d missed first time round.

But apparently not everyone is like that. Most of my friends and family read a book once then shelve it or give it away. In a library I used to work in, people would often ask me to check if they’d had a book before or would come and complain that a book they borrowed turned out to be one they’d already read, like the idea of reading something again was unthinkable.

I don’t understand this. To me, a favourite book is like an old friend. You’re familiar with each other, you never get tired of their company and they can pick you up when you’re feeling down. It was a favourite book that probably first started me on my journey to becoming a writer. Aged 12, off sick from school and stuck in bed, re-reading Swallows and Amazons, I decided to enhance the whole experience by writing my own diary version. In an old notebook I recorded the events in Swallowdale as if I was there, complete with illustrations and stuck in messages sent via arrow from the Amazons. I might have been using another writer’s characters and plot but I was also creating something new.

We live in a throwaway society and, as writers, maybe we should be grateful that readers seem to want to read something only once then move on to the next story. After all, that ensures a fresh supply of stories will always be needed. But I’m convinced there’s much to be gained from re-reading too. 

4 March 2017

Not On The Schedule

Not On The Schedule
Amanda had the summer holidays all figured out but sometimes even the best-laid plans can be upset.

5 February 2017

Why I Write

Why I Write

A few years ago my whole family took ice skating lessons. For two years we went to the rink every Saturday morning and three of us even took part in the annual Ice Show (not me of course, performing is something I definitely shy away from!) Every year, the woman who ran the show would vow ‘never again’, but every year she would change her mind and the show would go on. Why? Because the audience loved it, she loved creating it and despite the headaches, it was a magical experience and her life would have been that much emptier without it.

That’s how I feel about writing. I used to think I wrote because I wanted fame and fortune. (OK, fortune rather than fame) and of course it’s lovely to be rewarded financially for your efforts: ‘£25 for 3rd place in a competition - wow, lovely thanks.’ (Ignore the amount you’ve spent entering the story in previous comps without success). But it’s not really money that drives my desire to write. It’s the whole create-something-out-of-nothingness I love, the bringing to life of ideas or characters I didn’t know I had in me but which gain power and momentum once they appear on a page. The polishing and refining of words until you know that the audience will laugh or cry exactly the way you want them to. Just like the Ice Show, it’s magic and we all need a bit of magic in our lives. That’s why I write.

21 January 2017

I'm New Here

I'm New Here

Er…hello. I’m really sorry if I’m interrupting anything. Feel free to ignore me.

Now I know that’s not really what a blog is for – a blog is supposed to get you noticed – but I find being the centre of attention really hard. I’m an only child and I grew up in so much cotton wool I literally had to spit it out of my mouth to speak to other children. Confident, outgoing children. Children with siblings to knock their corners off, to fight and argue and compete with, to stop them being like me…shy.

You never stop being shy. Over the years I have developed coping strategies for everyday situations but ask me to stand in the spotlight or step out onto the stage and uh, no thanks, I'd rather not. So I’ll just creep onto the blogosphere from the wings and lurk here for a bit.

If you don’t believe how afraid of attention I am, believe me when I say I’ve had ‘Create Blog’ on my to-do list for more than two years. I’ve got to the point of almost doing it several times but then stopped short, shy. But now, buoyed up by the encouragement of a fantastic writing friend I’ve decided to stop shying away from it and just do it!

The main purpose of this blog is to let people see some of the stuff I've written, mainly some short stories I’ve won prizes with. I've uploaded two to start with - tabs at the top of the page will take you there - and I'll add a few more later. I’ll also be talking about being a writer a bit which will hopefully inspire me, to make me be the writer I’ve always wanted to be. If it inspires you, or if you enjoy reading any of my stories, then that’s great too. 

19 January 2017

Something To Say

Something to Say
Alice couldn't speak, yet there was something important she needed Carol to know.

The Hero

The Hero
Teenager Jess's life was in self destruct mode until she found a reason to live.