Archive for category Events

The Famous Five are 75!

Five years ago, in 2012, I wrote about Enid Blyton’s Famous Five turning 70.  Five on a Treasure IslandIt was one of my most popular posts.

In May of this year, that gang of four children and a dog will turn 75. The anniversary of the first publication of Five on a Treasure Island is being celebrated as part of Visit England’s Year of Literary Heroes 2017.
To mark the occasion the Royal Horticultural Society is creating four ‘Five Go on a Garden Adventure’ trails, one in each of their gardens: Harlow Carr, Hyde Hall, Wisley and Rosemoor. All four gardens will also hold a picnic party on 11th August to celebrate Enid Blyton’s 120th birthday.

A series of new paperback books will be released in May to coincide with the anniversary. These have new covers, an example of one of these can be seen on the Bookseller’s website. Have a look and tell me what you think. I’m not keen but I guess today’s children wouldn’t be impressed by the ‘old-fashioned’ original covers. I much prefer the one I’ve used to illustrate this post.

However, I do fancy that picnic – especially if there’s lashings of ginger beer plus plenty of ice cream (didn’t Julian always buy an ice cream for Timmy the dog?) and then we can relax on a bed of springy heather and keep watch for the smugglers on Kirrin Island …

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Birmingham Reader’s Map

Last week I was invited, along with comedy writer Heide Goody and children’s author B. B. Taylor, to take part in a rally to save Sutton Coldfield library.

We collected signatures for the petition, marched through the town centre shouting ‘Save Our Library’, were interviewed by ITV for Central News (but unfortunately that got left on the cutting room floor), listened to speeches by the rally organisers and our MP Andrew Mitchell, Birmingham City Councillor Rob Pocock, Sutton Coldfield Town Councillor Ewan Mackey and eventually we stood up and said a few words ourselves in support of the library.

In between all this excitement we managed a bit of writing chat. Heide told us about the Birmingham Reader’s Map that she curates via her website. It shows the locations of novels set in and around Birmingham and Heide has kindly added Bedsit Three (set in a fictional part of north Birmingham) to the map.

If you’d like to see what other literary gems are set in the West Midlands, use the ‘+’ sign to enlarge the map below and have a hunt around. If you know of any other book that should be on the map, contact Heide and let her know.

Satan’s Shorts, a collection of short stories co-written by Heide and her writing partner, Iain Grant is FREE on Amazon. The book description is intriguing, “Curious about the day that Saint Christopher found out he’d been declared non-existent by the pope? What exactly is a cat in Hell’s chance? How would an annual Christmas present exchange between Heaven and Hell work out? Find out the answers to these and other pressing questions in this collection of short stories from the world of Clovenhoof.”

Satan's Shorts

 

 

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Womag fiction is wanted by readers …

Much is written in the blogosphere and on social media about the diminishing market for women’s magazine stories. I haven’t submitted any womag fiction for a while but am still interested in the area and mentioned it in a talk I gave a couple of weeks ago. womag stories
The group I was speaking to consisted mainly of retired, but very active, women. I told them how my writing career had moved through articles, short stories for women’s magazines and on to longer fiction.
At the end, several of them told me how they’d stopped buying some of the magazines when the fiction was replaced by celebrity/real life stories. One lady said that she really enjoyed the Woman’s Weekly Fiction Specials because they were ‘proper stories with a beginning, a middle and an end’ and they gave her something nice to read before she went to sleep at night. Several mentioned that they liked the mix of things in My Weekly.

It makes me wonder whether the magazines that dropped fiction had a noticeable increase in sales afterwards or whether it brought them no obvious benefit. They certainly lost readers from the group I spoke to.

(By the way, if you’re wondering about the significance of the flower photo – this beautiful array of colour was a gift following my talk.)

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Poems about Birmingham Wanted

In February 2017 Birmingham will be hosting ‘Verve’, its first ever Poetry and Spoken Word Festival, organised by Waterstones and the Emma Press.

To get things started a poetry competition has been launched for poems on the theme ‘Birmingham’.

So start thinking poetic about things like Spaghetti Junction, Edgbaston Cricket Club, the Bullring, the Jewellery Quarter, New Street Station etc. etc. Maybe you live in the area or maybe you’ve done the tourist bit or perhaps been here on business – whatever your connection to the city, there’s lots of inspiration to get your teeth into.

The only problem is I’ve left it a bit late to tell you about this. The closing date for the adult section of the competition is September 11th 2016 and for the children’s section it’s September 30th. But a short deadline is good – it forces the brain cells to perform!

Full details of the competition are on the Verve website.

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Celebrating on a London rooftop!

Last night I and five other short-listed authors were sipping sparkling wine in the rooftop garden of Hachette UK. Also among us were the team from Writing Magazine, several of the authors published by the various imprints of Hachette, editors and literary consultants. Earlier in the day we’d each made a short video interview in the Darwin room (Origin of the Species was one of the first books published by the company). It was all exciting stuff! Just Write 2016

The six of us had been shortlisted from 130 entrants in the 2016 Just Write Creative Writing Competition organised in association with Writing Magazine and John Murray Press. The competition asked for short stories of 4,000 to 8,000 words in any genre and on any theme.2016 Just Write

In true award ceremony style, the name of the winner was taken from a ‘gold’ envelope and announced to the waiting crowd. Emma J Myatt was the worthy winner and we expect great things from her in the future! There followed lots of chatting to literary people and I got encouraging feedback for an idea I have in mind – something to work on for the future …

We all came away on a high, with goody bags full of books plus copies of the newly-printed anthology containing all six of our shortlisted stories. And we were kept busy signing the anthologies for lots of the other guests to take home – I felt like I was famous as people kept pushing books in front of me to sign!

Many thanks to everyone involved in organising the event and I’ll be watching for my fellow shortlistees – Louise Hare, Sumana Khan, Ian Laskey and Dan Purdue – to hit the big time!Just Write 2016 shortlist

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The Questions Asked of Writers

Earlier this week I gave a talk to a local neighbourhood forum group. They are a mixed bunch of people who meet every couple of months principally to discuss what should be done to improve our locality. But before their business meeting they often have a speaker – hence my visit with my pile of books to speak about my experience of self-publishing.

When I’d finished my spiel there was time for questions. This can be the point when things go awkwardly quiet because no one likes to be the first to speak. But the forum chairman was great at getting things started. He’d been scribbling as I talked and had noted several points to raise with me. His questions got the audience relaxed and soon everyone was asking things.

I’m pleased to report that no one came up with the old chestnut ‘where do you get your ideas’ but here are some of the things I was asked:

  • What do you think of ghost writers? (in relation to books by celebrities)
  • How many words can your write in one hour? (I’d told them about NaNoWriMo)
  • Could your book be made into a film?
  • How many books have you sold?
  • How much did it cost to have the novel professionally edited?
  • Would I consider writing a historical novel?
  • Could I make my book available in Waterstones?
  • Did JK Rowling and EL James find it difficult to get published?
  • Would I be willing to go and talk to two reading groups that a couple of the attendees were members of? (Yes!)

It was great to get people engaged, pass on the message that self-published books can be just as good as traditionally published works and sell some copies of Bedsit Three.

Author copies of Bedsit Three

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Finding an Agent

Yesterday evening I braved the torrential rain that hit Birmingham and attended a Waterstones event on how to get a literary agent. The speakers were local authors Gemma Todd, Liz Tipping and Stephen Aryan.

Here are their stories (in brief):

Gemma Todd (writing as G.X. Todd)worked her way logically through the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook. She noted down all the agents working in her genre and then researched them further on the internet, looking specifically for anything that she could use to personalise each agent’s covering letter. Her first novel went out to 17 agents and received some positive comments but no offer of representation. So, she put that book aside and wrote another. She repeated her submission exercise with the second novel but also going back to the agents who’d made positive comments about the first book.
After six months of submissions with her second novel, Darley Anderson agreed to represent Gemma.

Liz Tipping found her agent, Juliet Mushens at United Talent Agency, accidentally via a Twitter appeal for ‘hilarious romantic comedies’. However, at that point Liz’s novel wasn’t finished. When it was complete, she went back to Juliet plus other agents she discovered via the internet. Liz said that she chose to submit to agents who looked ‘friendly and nice’ in their photos and, to make the experience less daunting, she turned it into a challenge to amass one hundred rejections rather than one acceptance. She also put her book on the now defunct site Authonomy and received interest from Harper Collins editors. Liz signed with Juliet Mushens and is now published by Harper Collins.

Stephen Aryan wrote eight books in several different genres over fifteen years before he was signed by an agent and published. When he started his first hunt for an agent at the turn of the century things were much more difficult because the internet was in its infancy and all submissions had to be posted rather than emailed. Now he advises using social media to follow agents that interest you and using #askagent to ask questions. Stephen was also signed by Juliet Mushens and spent a year working on the book with her and then another year working on the book with the publisher.

The overall message from the evening was positive with a theme of: ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again’. And also a reminder that the wheels of the literary world turn very slowly.

Happy agent hunting!

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