18
June

Author Interview with Katherine Rundell

Here’s my author interview with the lovely Katherine Rundell that I did for Middle Grade Strikes Back. At the end of this month I’ll be talking to Emma Carroll about her new book ‘In Darkling Wood’. A tale of fairies, magic woods, heartbreak and the First World War. I can’t wait!

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23
March

Middle Grade Strikes Back

Have you heard about MGStrikesback yet? It’s a collection of writers and bloggers who are just a teeny bit excited about middle grade books. In fact, there is a whole lot of love going on. If you want reviews, interviews, guest posts, competitions, Top Ten Tuesdays, book birthdays, articles and much much more then head on over and check it out.

Maybe you want to hear what children say about what they read?

Or where authors get their ideas from?

Or why authors love writing for kids?

Go on then, get yourselves over there!

(Oh and I’m one of the contributors too : ))

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26
February

Why I’ve become a fickle floozie since having kids

I used to be strictly monogamous. But now not so much. In fact between you and me I’d say I was a bit of fickle floozie these days. And it’s probably since having kids.

Now before you leave in horror, let me just explain that I’m only talking about books here!

For years I would only read one book at a time. It was the author and me in a wonderful whirlwind romance. I had eyes for no other. And even the ones who were a trial, and frankly I should have chucked sooner, I still stayed true while we were together.

But having two small boys I started having to flirt with other books while my first love was still blazing away. They wanted stories not just at bedtime, but at teatime and in the middle of the morning and while they were in the bath. And lots of them. I had to get used to the idea that I could have a story for me, a story for a new reader and a multitude of stories for a voracious toddler all on the go at once. Well, not quite at once – I may be learning to read books alongside one another, but even I haven’t learned to read with each eye independently – it would be good though, wouldn’t it!?

Anyway I have now discovered that with books coming in so many different formats I can be as frisky as I like.

When I’m cooking and can’t hold a book open I flick on my Kindle story – a quick tap in between chopping and I’m good to go. Walking the dog or lying in bed I can listen to another on audio format. Then I have the kids’ story of choice – wherever and whenever we have story time.

Then finally my actual physical silky-paged book that I hold in my hand and read in the few moments in between everything else.

And I kind of like how the mix up of stories can bring new things to each one when I read.

I used to love curling up with a book when I was a kid and reading for hours and hours. But apart from the fact my back won’t allow that (which is why kindle and audio also rank high for me) I don’t get those uninterrupted hours anymore.

One of the best bits of writing advice I was given was to not wait for a chunk of time to write, a whole day to settle in and get in the mood. But to write in the little snatches of time when the kettle boils or the kids are briefly occupied or the bath is running. And I guess I’ve finally learned to read like that too. In the little gaps. And having a different format for each snatch of time has definitely helped.

So are you a strictly one at a time reader or do you juggle stories like a pro? And if you have more than one or two or three on the go at once do you choose them to complement each other or purposefully make them clash to set the mental sparks flying?

Currently my reads are:

Paperback – Anne Michaels Fugitive Pieces. My go to book when I want to remind myself why I love words so much.

Kindle – The Girl Who Walked on Air – Emma Carroll

Boy’s story – The Dreamsnatcher – Abi Elphinstone

Teatime boy’s story – Arsenic for Tea – Robin Stevens

Audio – The true Tale of the Monster Billy Dean – David Almond

Picture books a plenty just because we love them anytime anywhere.

 

 

 

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8
February

Why I wish I could forget Stonebird by Mike Revell

I am reading so many great books at the moment, and there are more stacking up clamouring to be read. I sometimes wish I could read with both eyes, one on each book. Think how many more I could get through! But then sometimes a book comes along that makes me glad I can’t, because it’s a book you want to keep both eyes firmly focused on.

Stonebird by Mike Revell is one of those.

It reminded me of one of my all time favourite books, Skellig. And like Skellig it was a book I wish I could forget I’d read – just so I could go back and have the pleasure of reading it all over again!

From the first pages I didn’t want to be doing anything else except curling up with it. It’s a beautifully told story where magic weaves effortlessly through the everyday. Revell writes so poignantly about the power of story and memory and the effects that an illness like dementia has on people. Told in the first person, Revell really captures the voice of  Liam and expertly conveys how the move, his grandmother’s illness and his mum’s drinking feels to an 11 year old.

From the moment Liam stumbles across Stonebird in the Church I knew I was in a for a treat.

A stunning debut from Mike Revell and one to watch in 2015 for sure.

 

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4
February

Inspiration meeting effort

Sometimes words don’t seem enough.

Sometimes the depth of feeling is so great that even as a writer it can simply feel impossible to capture a moment.

But we still try.  It’s what we do.

My husband is an audio engineer – well-respected in his field. Today, using all the sophisticated binaural equipment and digital audio editing software at his disposal he has tried his best to capture that moment where inspiration and effort meet.

Just click here to experience it:

Inspiration meeting effort

(All I can say is that some days it’s just easier than others!)

Are you having one of those teeth pulling days?  Where you want to do anything else except write?

Why not share your top tip to keep yourself turning up to the page?

Here are a few of mine from a previous post:

Quick, they’re after us!

And if all else fails I remember that I might rant and rail and blow raspberries of epic proportions that scare the dog, but at the end of the day I’m still going to write so I might as well bloomin’ well go on with it.

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2
October

National Poetry Day – Hurray!

When I was about 13 my rather brilliant English teacher brought Roger McGough into school. For me this was the equivalent of meeting Simon Le Bon or Andrew Ridgeley. He was cool.  McGough, Brian Patten and Adrian Henri – those Mersey boys. They broke rules and they played with words in a wicked way.

Ah the power of author visits – and good teachers –  to inspire. Here I am still playing with words today.

And in honour of the Day itself I thought I’d include a few of my own little verses.

 

Lil’s

There’s a shop at the top of our road called Lil’s,
Which has shelves stacked with sweets, under the tills.
There are twisty red laces
And round candy faces,
Sherbert and fizz bombs
And dark chocolate bon bons.
And sometimes, when I am sitting in class
I imagine I’m there, nose pressed to the glass.

 

Who Am I Today?

On Monday I pretend to be
A pirate who’s been wrecked at sea.

On Tuesday I am spiderman,
Shooting webs to foil their plan.

On Wednesday I am Doctor Who
Telling Daleks what to do.

On Thursday I go undercover,
Detecting clues about my brother.

On Friday with my Wizard’s wand
I pull a Princess from a pond.

On Saturday I am a knight,
Wounded by a dragon fight.

On Sunday I am very good
All dressed in green as Robin Hood.

And then I can’t think who to be,
And so I think I’ll just be me.

 

Our Den

Down in the wood where the trees are thick
And the bracken trips you and bites at your knees
We made a den.

And the branches bend low and the leaves whisper,
And no one can see us beneath its green weave.

It’s a den to hide in, a den to find bugs in,
A den to watch rabbits and squirrels go running.

We can sit very still as a woodpecker knocks,
Or leap out from a bush to startle and shock.

But mostly we listen to the sounds of the wood.

The crack of a twig,
The crunch of a leaf,

The song of a bird,
The creak of the trees.

And when we walk home all covered in burrs,
Singing our stories of good Robin Hood,
There is our den left deep in the wood.

 

Apple Tree

Beneath a tree upon the ground
A rosy apple I once found.
I took a bite and there inside
A tiny wriggly worm I spied.
Stepping back in my surprise
I started to apologise,
For my gigantic teeth and jaw
Had eaten most of his front door.
But this tiny little fellow
Tipped his hat and said “Ah, Hello,
I’m so glad that you are here
It’s such a perfect time of year.
Won’t you come and join with me
In scrumptious, juicy, apple tea?”
So now when I do take a bite
Of any apple juicy ripe,
I always like to stop to knock
In case a worm should get a shock.

 

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12
September

SCBWI Agents’ Party – Why it’s worth feeling the fear and doing it anyway

This time last year I was madly practising my elevator pitch for ‘Phoenix Fire’, my middle grade contemporary fantasy, in preparation for the SCBWI Agents’ Party.

And wondering how on earth I was going to stand in front of an agent and actually get the words to come out in a sensible intelligible order! Every time I tried to pitch to my husband I started well enough and then got tied up in knots and seemed to peter out with a lot of sort of…you know… um… well the thing is…

I very nearly decided that launching myself into a room full of fierce looking agents was really not the best idea and I’d be much better off staying at home and reading about how it all went on Twitter.

But I didn’t.

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2
July

Quick, they’re after us!

I’m at that bit of the first draft.

The bit that I find the hardest.

That part from The Middle to The Beginning Of The End. (The End I usually have in mind from the opening page, so I’m generally OK by then.)

The initial flurry of getting the ideas down and enjoying all that lovely setting up has passed and now it’s the hard slog of making it all pay. It is The Grind. And it’s this part where I tend to think all those creeping negative thoughts along the lines of ‘This is rubbish. Why am I bothering? Who’s going to read this? Who am I kidding? I should give up and breed goldfish’. You know how it is.

Apparently, as my husband laughingly told me on our walk this morning, this happens every time I write something. Only I forget.

I like to remember the ‘I’m in the flow’, and the ‘I’ve finished’ moments, rather than that middling, struggling, hard won series of moments in between. Funny, that. But I guess this selective memory means I keep coming back for more, so it’s probably a good thing in the end.

But, I do often wonder how to get my backside to stay on the chair through those times – you know, to fight to the other side.

Here are some things I try:

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16
October

Keep banging the rocks together!

I am absolutely thrilled to be able to say that I am now represented by the lovely Jo Williamson of the Antony Harwood Agency.

I’m so glad that I held my nerve and went to the SCBWI Agents’ Party a few weeks ago! Believe me, I was very close to letting the nerves get the better of me – the thought of pitching to a room full of agents really did feel pretty intimidating. But it was such a great night and by being there I was able to submit my book to some fantastic agents.

I was delighted by the response I got and couldn’t be happier that I now have the pleasure of working with Jo.

Sometimes it can feel like it’s never going to happen. And trying to keep going when another rejection lands on the door mat can be a big challenge. I’ve found being part of  Suzy Greaves’ Big Writing School invaluable. Not just the inspiration it has given me but the support of a ‘tribe’ of people who are all going through it with you.

Connecting with other writers on Twitter has been great too, hearing about their journeys and the often circuitous routes to being published, reading their blogs about the ups and downs and the tips they’ve learned along the way – and most of all learning that they just kept going. When I announced it on Twitter I got so many lovely well-wishes from people which was amazing.

My husband kept saying – “The secret is to keep banging the rocks together, guys” (slightly mis-quoting our guru Douglas Adams) – and you’ll get there eventually.

And after today I couldn’t agree more.

Thanks again to the team at SCBWI for organising such a great event!

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30
September

The joy of real books

Today the removal company man came round to ‘assess the damage’.

He took it all in his stride as he peered into the garden sheds, opened the door to the summer house – and by summer house I mean large shed crammed with even more stuff – and bravely stuck his head up into the loft. His only real comment was ‘You’ve got a few books, I see’.

As I start to prepare for the move it really is dawning on me just how many books we’ve managed to get into this house. And yes, a huge proportion of these are children’s books! But in the last 24 hours I’ve had two more examples of why this just makes me so glad.

The first was when my husband whispered in the car, “It’s on its way!”

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