Monday, March 29, 2010

Just a contest

I've been thinking for a while that I should maybe hold my first contest, and today's the day! Something happened that gave me JUST the kick in the pants I needed to get it sorted.

I received a lovely email from my copy-editor, with a thoroughly copy-edited word doc of Entangled attached. This was all very exciting - yet another stage towards publication ticked off. But it was also more than a little bit mortifying... in that she pointed out that there is one particular word that I JUST use to damn much. That word, my friends is 'JUST'. I JUST can't believe that I JUST wrote 'JUST' all the time instead of JUST thinking of a better word once in a while. It's JUST... aaaargh. Truly embarrassing.

So, bad news for me. But good news for you (yay!). So here's what you have to do...

In the comments below, take a guess as to how many times I used the J-word. And please tell me  which prize you'd like/are elibible for.To help you out, I'll tell you that the entire ms is approximately 80,000 words.

The winner will be the person who guesses closest to the actual number, which I double-checked myself out of pure disbelief.

Now, the prize... Well, you have a choice. (OK, if you like in the UK, you have a choice. If you're lucky enough to live abroad, you'll be stuck with prize B - sorry!)

Prize A: A copy of Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver. It's got romance! It's got wolves! It's got quiche! Seriously, people, you'd be crazy not to go for this prize.

Prize B: Aha! It's a MYSTERY PRIZE. Only the winner will find out what this is. And they'll only find out if they choose it. Mwahahahaha! I am evil, it's true. Of course, if you're abroad, this is what you're stuck with, but don't worry because it's awesome. Maybe.

So, get guessing. And get your friends and family guessing too. Or don't, because then they might win and you will feel sad. The contest is open until... um... I dunno... Sunday 11th April.

Good luck!

(Gawd, I can't believe I'm sharing the true scope of my ineptitude with you people. That's JUST how much I love you.)

P.S. If you happen to KNOW the actual number because I shared my mortification with you today, you ain't allowed to enter. Soz.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Miss Writey McWriterson

Yup, it's true. Today I am mostly writing. And it feels bloody great. It's been a while (and not exactly a wee while) since I've really and truly immersed myself in book 2. OK, so if I'm entirely honest with you, I haven't really and truly dunked myself headfirst in the story since... um... October. Just before Entangled went out on submission to publishers, in fact. Coincidence? I don't think so.

Yes, I've written dribs and drabs here and there - slowly but unsurely building word on word to reach a grand total of 29,000. But I've been annoyed with myself EVERY SINGLE DAY for not doing more. For not being a proper writer who actually, y'know, writes stuff. Just for the record, it's pretty tiring being annoyed with yourself all the time. I wouldn't recommend it. Reading about other writers on their blogs and on twitter just made me feel worse (and also better, somehow. Don't ask. It's complicated). Gawd, this is starting to look like a pity party, but WAIT, because I am officially 100% (hopefully) OVER IT.

I am writing. I'm getting to know my characters again, and they're doing things and talking to each other, and surprising me in all kinds of good ways. And it feels right. This is what I'm meant to be doing. This is why I love writing.

So I hope (reallyreallyreallyreallyreallyhope) that Writey McWriterson sticks around for a while.

It's good to back.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Interview with an editor of awesomeness

Continuing my Interesting-Folk-Who-Work-in-Publishing feature, I have ANUTHA interview with a real live commissioning editor bod. It's the completely awesome Sarah Stewart of Scholastic Children's Books.

And yes, it's the same questions as last time, but hey, if it ain't broke... (I was indeed too busy to come up with new questions. Please accept my humble apologies.)

So, who the heck are you and where do you work?

I work at Scholastic, a large international publishing house, who create amazing books for kids of all ages, from teeny-tiny to teenage. We have dedicated non-fiction, picture book and fiction lists. ­ I'm one of the editors on the fiction list.

Do you get bucketloads of unsolicited manuscripts?
We're one of the very few publishers who still accept unsolicited MS. But I rarely have time to look at our slush pile. ­ I have enough manuscripts to read from agents. Most editors have a huge pile of reading to get through at any given time. ­ I can't remember the last time I had a bus or train journey without submissions to read!

Is there any particular genre/type of manuscript you'd really like to land on your doorstep right now?
I would love to see more fiction for girls aged 8-10 ­- really fun stuff with a good unique voice. I quite fancy reading some good detective fiction, but haven't seen much of that lately. And I'm always interested to see great YA ­but I think I've probably had enough of vampires for now!

What advice would you give to someone looking to get a book published?
Buy the Artists' and Writers' Yearbook and read it cover to cover. Find an agent: ­ approach all agents in a courteous and professional way, as they are the key to getting noticed by a publishing house! Believe in yourself, but don't pester!

What do you enjoy most about your job?
Finding new talent ­- it is so exciting when you read a book and fall in love with it. I also really like that magic moment where you make someone really happy by offering to buy their book!

And least?
It's tough when you have to break bad news to an author; for example that their sales have dipped, or that a book is going out of print. Fortunately we don't have to have those conversations often, but they're always difficult.

Top three children's books?
There are too many! Today I'll say:
Daddy Long-Legs by Jean Webster
Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
A Pack of Liars by Anne Fine

I also used to devour school stories like Chalet School, Malory Towers, St Clare's, Trebizon, Dimsie, you name it. Which is quite odd when you're a kid going to a normal state school who rarely encounters lashings of ginger beer:)

Which book do you wish you'd published?
Recently? Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick. And When I Was Joe by Keren David.

Finally, the most important question of all: chocolate or cheese?
Cheese. But if I'm being asked to give up one of them forever, I'd start crying.

Cheese was the correct answer. Thanks for your time, Awesome Sar!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Holidays are bad for you

It's true. Or maybe traipsing round New York in the rain for five days is bad for you. Whatever. I'm not well. Or as we used to say in my family 'I'm not a tall well.' Don't ask. Me being unwell is very boring for me, and very boring for you. The only person it's not boring for is possibly my mother (Mum, if you're reading this, I HAVE had some paracetamol and a hot orange).

My sickness has, however, meant some quality reading time. I read The Adoration of Jenna Fox, by Mary E Pearson. It was a disturbing, thought-provoking read, and not at all what I was expecting. Genuinely creepy.

In the middle of the night, I also finished Will Grayson, Will Grayson, by John Green and David Levithan. Now this was a revelation. I don't normally go for books with boy protagonists, and this one had TWO (both called Will Grayson, oddly enough). But there was something about this book that gripped me from start to finish. I really cared about these characters, and wanted good things to happen to them. Highly recommended. (And I must investigate more books by these two... anyone got any recommendations for me?)

I'm flagging now, so I'll just leave you with this gratuitous Taylor Kitsch pic. It's practically medicinal.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Book heaven

This is Strand, aka my idea of heaven. I went here three times in five days. 18 miles of bookshelves! That's a whole lot of books, and happily for me, a whole lot of YA.

Yes, we have YA sections in bookshops in the UK. But they are small. This YA section was HUGE. There was even a 'YA sports fiction' shelf. WTF?!

As you can probably guess, I bought a book or two. I could have filled a whole suitcase, but I had to leave SOME room for clothes, right?

On the first day I bought:

From bottom to top, that's:

Going Bovine, by Libba Bray
The Adoration of Jenna Fox, by Mary E Pearson
Boyproof, by Cecil Castellucci
Jellicoe Road, by Melina Marchetta
Tithe, by Holly Black
Break, by Hannah Moskowitz
The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
Beyond the Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier

Then a couple of days later, I supplemented that lot with:

The Secret Year, by Jennifer R Hubbard (an ARC for $1.99!)
Will Grayson, Will Grayson, by John Green & David Levithan (another ARC for $1.99!)
Willow, by Julia Hoban
Tenderness, by Robert Cormier
Story of a Girl, by Sara Zarr
Once was Lost, by Sara Zarr

I read Story of a Girl on the flight home. The voice is spot-on, and ALL the characters are portrayed as real, actual, interesting people with lives of their own - not just plot devices. It's a perfect read.

So I also met up with the completely fabulous Nova Ren Suma. Nova writes YA AND middle grade. How cool is that? It was very exciting to finally meet up with someone who's been so lovely and supportive and fun to chat to on the interwebs. And she was even more awesome in person, if that's even possible. Check out her debut novel, Dani Noir. It's a treat. And I can't wait to read Imaginary Girls, which is to be published summer 2011. I have a feeling it's going to be ever so slightly blimmin' brilliant. (Nova, if you're reading this, please come to London SOON.)

Here's a pic that perfectly represents my trip (well, except for the mardy face... I really WAS happy most of the time, honest):

It rained. A lot. Proper, torrential storms. Please note the droplets of rain on the hat and the soggy t-shirt. It was way too windy for umbrellas, so I was pretty much soaked for most of the time. But I didn't let that stop me from doing some serious shopping. See below.

I was going to finish off this post with a picture of ribs from Blue Smoke, but I figured some people might not find ribs particularly appetizing... Let's just say they were lip-smackingly good. Nom nom nom.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

I haz returned

I’m back! I’m back! I decided not to stay in NYC after all, although it was MIGHTY tempting. I’ll post something about the trip at the weekend, but here’s a sneak preview: I bought books! Lots of books! And met the super-lovely, mega-awesome Nova Ren Suma. It was a truly fantastic trip. And now it’s over. Sigh.

Today is a very exciting day for me. There’s mention of the book deal on BookBrunch. Since you have to subscribe to read the article, I’ll copy and paste it for you. It makes me smile.

At Quercus, Roisin Heycock has acquired a debut YA novel, ENTANGLED by Cat Clarke, from Victoria Birkett at the Miles Stott Children's Literary Agency. The publisher has UK/Commonwealth rights in two books.

"It's a nail-biting story about an electrifying love triangle, and all the intensity, joys and pressures associated with friendship and love on a knife edge at a vulnerable age," Heycock says. "What attracted me so much to this book was that Cat Clarke got the UK teenage voice so perfectly. Quercus believes that Cat is a very important new voice in British fiction." Publication is scheduled for January 2011. Clarke's second book, about a teenager uncovering the suspicious death of a girl at her school, will follow a year later.

ke, a Children's Non-Fiction Editor, says: "I'm a huge Quercus fan, so I'm extra-specially thrilled to be joining their exciting and flourishing list, and to be published alongside Lili St Crow and Bernard Beckett."

It feels kind of strange reading that, but I’m officially excited all over again!

I hope you’re all having very happy Thursdays out there. 

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I'll be back (probably)

So I'm leavin' on a jet plane, don't know when I'll be back again. Oh wait, I do. I'll be back on Tuesday. Unless for some reason I decide to abandon my London life and stay in New York instead. This is a distinct possibility, what with all the cool stuff I've got planned. I could well take up residence in the Metroplitan Museum of Art and NEVER leave.

But let's just assume for now that I'll be back next week, refreshed, inspired, and with shiny new clothes.

For now, here's a treat for you: the design of a book cover, condensed into 1 minute 55 seconds. It's pretty damn cool, and I especially love the music.

Ooh, I wonder what my cover's going to look like.

Bye for now folks. Be good.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Characters with character

I've been missing Grace, the MC of Entangled. She's a feisty one: complicated, self-absorbed and deeply unhappy. It was lots of fun to write about her. Well, most of the time. Sometimes it was pretty upsetting. But I liked her a lot, despite (or maybe because of) her flaws.

This makes me envious of writers who've written sequels or trilogies or even gazillions of books about the same characters (I'm thinking Gossip Girl here). This way you don't have to say goodbye to your lovely characters, you can get to know them better and explore their world further. And readers often enjoy reading aboutt he same characters too - it's less work, isn't it? You can just dive straight into the story, with none of that tricky getting-to-know-you bit.

I was thinking about what kind of characters I like to read about. My conclusion is: there's not one specific thing I look for. He/she just has to be INTERESTING. Possibly the best character I've come across recently is Riley Rose in Everything Beautiful, by Simmone Howell. Like Grace, she's flawed and deeply unhappy (but blimmin' hilarious with it). Riley is a fantastic creation, and I'd urge you all to read Everything Beautiful and get to know her.

So what do you like in a main character? Someone you can identify with, or someone completely different? Do you like NICE main characters, or those who are flawed and difficult? Do you prefer to read about girls or boys, or does it not matter?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

I heart Twitter

For reasons I won't bother going into (although some of you may know!), today I feel like talking about how much I love Twitter. I must confess here that I used to be complete Twitter sceptic. So much so that when it was suggested at work that we might want to do a book about the Twitter phenomenon, I scoffed. Yes, that's right, I SCOFFED. (What a weird-looking word that is.) I probably said something along the lines of 'What's there to write about? 140 characters of pointless wittering. Complete waste of time.'

A few months later, I signed up. And did nothing. I didn't GET it. The @ and the # were alien to me. I felt stupid. I tried to forget that I'd ever signed up.

And then I stumbled across this by Debbie Ridpath Ohi. And it all started to make sense. I started following interesting writerly types and publishing bods, and some of them even followed me back. It was the start of a beautiful relationship. Six months down the line, and we're still going strong.

Without the combined forces of Twitter and blogging, I may never have bought and read these fab books:

Dani Noir, by Nova Ren Suma
When I Was Joe, by Keren David
Extreme Kissing, by Luisa Plaja
Everything Beautiful, by Simmone Howell
If I Stay, by Gayle Forman
The Thirteen Treasures, by Michelle Harrison
My So-Called Afterlife, by Tamsyn Murray

And that's just in the last two or three months. There are several more on the huge TBR Pile of Joy.

Without Twitter and blogging, I would never have "met" the interesting/thoughtful/downright hilarious people who make each day a whole lot nicer than it might have otherwise been. And without Twitter and blogging, I would never have happened across the interesting/thoughtful/downright hilarious people I met (note the lack of inverted commas here) at Tamsyn's book launch last week.

So what I'm saying is: Twitter rocks. And blogging does too. And you rock quite a bit, just for being here, reading this right now.

P.S. Happy World Book Day! Why don't you go and buy a book from a lovely independent book store. Not sure what to buy? Well, fancy that! There's a ready-made list up there... that's right, just scroll back a couple of paragraphs. Enjoy.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Hello, Taylor Kitsch!

'What's that?' I hear you cry.
Why, that's an entirely gratuitous photo of Taylor Kitsch aka Tim Riggins in Friday Night Lights, of course.
'Why do you have an entirely gratuitous photo of Taylor Kitsch on your blog today?' I hear you cry. (Please stop crying. It's OK, don't fret. Taylor Kitsch is here to make everything OK.)
Why indeed? Because. I. Can. You can find another one here.

There's nothing much to report on the writing front I'm afraid, and there probably won't be for a couple of weeks. My excuse: I'm going to New York! New York City, baby! But when I come back, I will be On It. I'm sure all those books and trainers and jeans and tops I'll be buying will help me with my writing. In case you can't tell, I'm hugely excited about the NYC visit. It's my favourite place in the world.

Things I'm planning to do in NYC:

1. Shop
2. Eat
3. Drink (ice-cold Coors would be ideal)
4. Go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (best museum ever)
5. Er... shop a bit more

I think that just about covers it. I'm looking forward to checking out the YA sections of various bookstores. Oh, and I really want to pick up a copy of Going Bovine by Libba Bray.

I'll be posting again before I go. Next time, no gratuitous photos, I promise. Oh, and if anyone's got any suggestions for things I absolutely must do/see/eat in New York, please let me know!