I’ve just got back from meeting my publisher…

blog5

I like to say that.

I will take every opportunity to say that.

I do not apologise for being ecstatic that I can say that!

blog10

During a very civilised conversation over a cup of tea at the fabulous Cloudberry Cafe, Marple, my publisher and I

(oops! I did it again) discussed the upcoming marketing strategy for my new book. 

 

blog9

I am so excited I may spontaneously combust – stand well back!

Talking for 2 hours about all things bookish, is an absolute pleasure. 

blog12

Watch this space over the coming weeks for details.

My face is literally aching from smiling so much.  

I will be ordering my own book from Amazon because I can.

I will be ordering my book from Waterstones because I can. 

Ouch! My cheeks hurt.

I have illustrations!

Picture a lady who is old enough to know better, bouncing around like Tigger on his happiest and bounciest day. 

Picture the biggest smile on a child’s face.

Picture someone who can’t sit still and is yabbering on at speed and at a pitch only dogs can hear.

That’s me, right now, as I look at the illustrations created for my new children’s book. 

It’s every Christmas morning rolled into one. 

My baby now has a face, a colourful, beautiful face and I could kiss it – but that would be too weird.

b;og7

 

I have “blurb”!

Today, I contributed to and approved,  the blurb that will be issued to the trade when describing my first Children’s Picture Book. It may even appear on the back cover. (I won’t dwell on how the word “blurb” frustrates me when the words “a brief outline of the story” could be used, this is not the time to be picky.) Today is the day to celebrate and be excited by the fact I have my very own blurb. I have blurb about a book that I have written. Me. My book. My blurb. Happy. 

The Book, The Writer

Day 23 Napowrimo Challenge

The Prompt:

Our prompt for Day Twenty-Three comes to us from Gloria Gonsalves, who challenges us to write a double elevenie. What’s that? Well, an elevenie is an eleven-word poem of five lines, with each line performing a specific task in the poem. The first line is one word, a noun. The second line is two words that explain what the noun in the first line does, the third line explains where the noun is in three words, the fourth line provides further explanation in four words, and the fifth line concludes with one word that sums up the feeling or result of the first line’s noun being what it is and where it is. There are some good examples in the link above.

A double elevenie would have two stanzas of five lines each, and twenty-two words in all. It might be fun to try to write your double elevenie based on two nouns that are opposites, like sun and moon, or mountain and sea.

My Response:

The Book

Book

b;og7

Almost published

Work in progress

Awaiting illustrations and print

Excited

Writer

blog 112

Almost published

Edge of seat

Endlessly pacing the floor

Eager.

Fireside Tales and Folklore

Yesterday, I spent the day in heaven. I was surrounded by nature. I was in the company of creative writers with a passion for the written word. I was  taught by a master of the craft.

blog7

Joy Winkler, the former Cheshire Poet Laureate, ran a masterclass in re-writing myths and legends with a modern twist, from the grounds of a beautiful National Trust Park. 

 

From the minute I entered the gates of Tatton Park, I was inspired. The tree-lined driveway leads past reindeer, quietly grazing in the morning haze. It continues on to the impressive architecture of the old hall, then on through farmland. I actually stopped the car on the drive to have a “moment” with an adult deer, which stopped eating, looked up and made eye contact, gently tipping his head to one side as he did. By the time I got to the car park, I was peaceful, relaxed and ready for a day’s writing.

blog-131.jpg

To add to my bliss, there is a very short walk through a tree canopied pathway, which is one of my favourite spots in the park.

As I turned onto the path, I was greeted by crowds of golden daffodils, with heads swaying in the breeze.

blog112.jpgPink and white blossom trees shed their petals as the wind rocked their branches. They fell like wedding confetti as I walked by.

blog33.jpg

Turning in to the stable courtyard, deep purples and violets burst from the filled planters, vibrant crimson crept up the exterior walls of the kitchen gardens.

What a welcome.

Reluctant to leave the fresh air and sunshine but excited to join the writers; I entered the classroom, which for today was a converted barn. A few people had arrived. There was a lovely atmosphere as everyone greeted each other and settled themselves down with cups of tea and coffee. Joy is a wonderfully personable lady, who has the comforting presence of an old friend, from the first moment you meet her.

spell writing

She began her lesson in re-writing old myths and legends. She introduced the topic of our own family stories which had been handed down the generations, told and re-told perhaps by the fireside, perhaps as bedtime stories. Changing the time period, slowing the pace, embellishing with detailed descriptions were techniques discussed.

blog4

Following a writing exercise the group read out their work. I always enjoy hearing how others have interpreted the prompt. Their personalities are revealed by glimpses of their passions and fears, it’s fascinating to hear and observe.

I very quickly realised I was in the midst of very accomplished writers, people who loved their craft and were passionate lovers of literacy. I learnt more than expected from the lively conversation as we shared our experiences and knowledge. It was a dream to spend the day with book lovers and creative minds.

After lunch, a walk around the gardens, more writing, readings, and discussions, the day came to a close. Everyone was reluctant to leave. It was a perfect day, in the most wonderful surroundings, with the best company.

blog112

I’m very grateful to have been part of the magic and will treasure the memory – perhaps I may tell the tale to my children and grandchildren in years to come… with an added elf, monster, wizard and princess, of course.

May the ink never dry

The day came to sign the contract. The publishers treated me to a fabulous lunch. We had an excellent discussion on all aspects of writing, publishing, readers, and distribution before papers were signed and photographs taken.

blog11

 

Onlookers from neighbouring tables stopped to see who the celebrity was.

 

 

 

 

 

blog9

 

Elated I published my news on Facebook and amidst the warm wishes of friends and family, tried to let what had just happened sink in.

So what then?

Then, I waited.

 

Soon after, I received an email with sketches of the artwork which the illustrator had submitted. The thrill was intense. I studied each pencil line. As I turned through the pages, I saw my story come to life. I was introduced to the main characters. I marvelled at the detail.

TV personality Sarah Heaney Reads to kids in Edinbugh

 

I saw my story through the eyes of a child, wondrous and excited. I wanted to know what was on the next page.

What a gift.

 

And then…. I waited.

I’ve learnt you need patience, a lot of patience. Work is happening behind the scenes and the writer needs to sit back and wait to be called upon.

I’m still waiting.

As I’ve said on a previous blog, I’m not one to sit around idle, so whilst I wait;

Too busy to stop

  • I attend Stockport Writers, a local writers group
  • I attend Write Out Loud, a local poetry group
  • I’ve written two more children’s picture book stories
  • I’ve attended a workshop on how to write about conflict
  • This week I am at a workshop about re-writing traditional myths in a modern and contemporary way
  • I continue to write the morning pages, again, as discussed in a previous blog
  • As April approaches, so does the poetry challenge of Napowrimo; a poem per day for each day of April

That should keep my mind busy, and if it doesn’t, I can always blog!

Burnout Schmurnout – let’s do this!

blog10

Validation and Illustration

In reply to my resubmitted manuscript, the publisher sent a brief email back, saying “Well done… we’ll go forward with that.”

blog2

It may be the best email I have ever received. I printed it out and shared it with anyone I could find. If I was athletic and if I wasn’t sat in a very busy corporate office at the time, I would have done a lap of honour. As it was, I paced around a lot with a ridiculous grin across my face, pumped with adrenaline. Success!

It’s a strange experience when you receive an acknowledgement that what you have produced is good enough to print.

blog1

It’s a validation that your work is viewed by at least one person as acceptable. The strangeness comes from the unfamiliarity with that approval. When it happens, it doesn’t quite seem real. It’s almost an out of body experience. I’d love to hear from other writers if this is how they felt, or if I’m alone in this!

So back to practicalities: The next step was to secure an illustrator.

blog3

I submitted some samples a good friend of mine had created, and the publisher had requested samples from illustrators they had worked with previously.

After comparing all samples, a choice was made.

I opened an email one day, simply saying “What do you think of this?”  

When I opened the file, I saw my main character staring back at me on screen. Only this was the illustrator’s interpretation of my character, not the image I had been carrying around in my head for months.

blog4

It was like meeting a friend for the very first time, combined with the surprise of opening a Christmas present.

I was thrilled. The colours were bright, the characters friendly and the overall feel fit perfectly with what you would expect from a children’s picture book.

I wanted to show the world, but knew I had to keep it to myself. The publisher had been very clear that they manage the release of information about the book, to maximise the impact of the marketing. So I kept the concept illustration close to me and just peeped at it every hour on the hour for a number of days. I smiled to myself each time. This was really happening.  

The next communication from the Publisher was “We need to talk contracts.”

Feedback and re-writes

After the initial interest from the publishers, I was asked to go into the offices to chat about my book. With a beating heart, I replied to their emails, always unsure of how businesslike to sign off my mails; “Kind Regards” too official? “Sincerely” too stuffy? “Love” out of the question. I chose one and stuck to it. We arranged a date and after much deliberation on what to wear for a first meeting with a publisher, I set off.

blog16

I arrived at a very traditional industrial mill. It seemed every time I joined any writing group or indeed visited a publisher, it was always in a building with great architectural heritage. I loved it. Walking down a long dark corridor into the depths of the mill, it was evident daylight didn’t feature here. There wouldn’t be any window seats like the modern office buildings of today.

A workman passed by in overalls and looked at me quizzically, possibly due to the heels clomping on the York stone slabs. I asked him directions and he waved his hand at a small white door to the left. As I approached, I could see James and Anthony inside, and they beckoned me in. The stark fluorescent lights were harsh on the eyes in contrast to the dark corridor outside. I was motioned to a sofa and the meeting began.  

blog18

James, the Managing Director, told me how he had read the manuscript and his first reaction was “Wow”. I sat there dumbfounded and almost deaf to anything else he said for the next minute. “Wow”? Really? My work deserves a “Wow”? I couldn’t believe my ears. More positive feedback was given as Anthony, the Marketing Manager backed James’ views. I was delighted.

James then moved onto what was to happen next. He explained that the story I had written spanned two reading categories; 3-5 year olds and 5-8 year olds. Apparently, it is important to distinguish which bracket your book is aimed at, to help the bookshops to know where to position it on shelf and of course how online booksellers should list it. I was given the task of re-writing the story to fit either category. I had to either remove the more difficult words, and simplify the terms for the 3-5 year olds, or lengthen the story to suit the 5-8 year old category.

blog19

Happily, they said they would print my book whichever group I decide to target, so I left feeling on top of the world. I still had the word “wow” ringing in my ears.

TV personality Sarah Heaney Reads to kids in Edinbugh

As soon as I got home I took out the manuscript and started work. I started by simplifying the piece and aiming at the 3-5 year olds. My thought process being quite simply, I had set out to write bedtime stories which my 4-year-old would enjoy, so it seemed appropriate to start there.

blog20

My twelve-year-old daughter came home from school as I was in the midst of the re-write and asked what I was doing. When I explained, she very quickly responded with the fact that I couldn’t possibly write it for 5-8 year olds. When I asked why she was so adamant, she informed me my story wasn’t cool enough for an 8-year-old. She wrinkled her nose as she said it, for added effect!

“Which 8 year old is going to pick up a book with a pear on the front?” She had a point.

blog17

With added determination, I finished the re-write and submitted it back to the Publisher.

Waiting, waiting, waiting.

I had submitted my work to 5 publishers and 1 agent. The websites for each one were very open and honest and advised that in some cases it can take up to 5 months to reply.

blog9

Apparently, there are very large slush piles of unread submissions somewhere on shelves in England, waiting to be read and their magic discovered. I visualised these piles of dusty papers whilst I waited and waited. 

blog10

However, a great lover of effective time management (sad but true, I blame it on the process of becoming an institutionalised corporate being) I wasn’t going to sit idly by relying on one manuscript to turn my world around. There was much more about this craft to learn and many more genres to explore.

I began researching all things relating to creative writing, all types of publishing methods and anything that had “advice to the new writer”. I read books on writing (Stephen King’s “On Writing” is one I recommend). I read magazines on writing. I trawled the internet following link after link on the topic of writing until my eyes stung.

blog11

I was becoming obsessed. In fact it was an infatuation. I was falling in love with writing all over again.