Sunday, 3 January 2010

Notes from the Slushpile's Year That Was

If 2009 were a story arc, it would be one with a happy but tension-filled cliff hanger.

This is the year I officially moved off the Slushpile into The Beyond. Or have I? Will getting published fulfil my dreams or create new miseries? Will life as I know it change for the better? Or for the worse? Will readers like my book or hate it?

My first post in January 2009 was filled with hope and happiness, I surveyed what kids in my neighbourhood read in 2008. Here's the video I made:

I celebrated my friend Sue Eves' new book The Quiet Woman and the Noisy Dog with an interview. I hear it's doing very well indeed!

In February, as the screws of the credit crunch tightened, I advised authors building an online presence not to go wide but go deep.

Let me quote myself:
If you are a children's author writing about aliens, you don't want someone searching for "book" to find you. You want someone searching for "children's book about aliens". It's the quality of the traffic that counts, not the number. You don't want to be found by just anyone. You want people who are actually likely to reach into their wallets
...If you are trying to use social networking sites to raise your profile ... it's better to have one social network that really works for you than half a dozen that don't. It's the quality of the network, not the quantity (ie. You don't want to friend 3,000 people who will never buy your book) ...

March was the month I read the wonderful Solace of the Road by Siobhan Dowd, who died in the summer of 2007. It made me so sad to think there would be no more Siobhan Dowd books to come.

April was busy, busy, busy!

There was the launch of the second Undiscovered Voices competition - the very same competition that gave me a leg up, helping persuade my agent to take me on.

Then I discovered that Kathleen Duey, author of the amazing Skin Hunger, was writing a novel on Twitter!

Then I posted a whole bunch of stuff from the London Book Fair including this piece on what UK editors were looking for. If you're my friend on Facebook, you might have also noticed me updating my status with LBF facts Twitter-fashion (that was fun because each update launched hilarious conversations amongst my FB pals).

Then I participated in a monsters and zombies Comics Jam (my lovely friend Sarah "The Mankiest" McIntyre was one of the cartoonists there) at the Crystal Palace Children's Book Festival organized by author illustrator Alex Milway (of Mousehunter fame). On the right is my drawing of the kids I took to the festival (as zombies ... they didn't really have leaky brains).

Whew. April. Come she will.

May blew in - it was sunny, remember? I helped my friend Fiona Dunbar (Pink Chameleon) edit her video, found out what a textonym was (the textonym for book is cool, isn't that cool?), drove cross country from Sarwat Chadda's magnificent book launch to the SCBWI retreat.

The coolest thing about the launch of Devil's Kiss, the dark un-putdownable novel by Sarwat Chadda (pictured with spear), was this:

One of the younger guests at the launch was so engrossed in the book he ignored all the proceedings. What a compliment!

Then I discovered the text to movie website Xtranormal via uber-blogging author Nicola Morgan (Deathwatch), whose DIY video had me rolling around under my desk.

For most of June  I was busy with my day job and barely managed to post. Sorry about that.

I was still terribly busy designing websites in July and was shocked to receive some mail from the Vogon Postal Service ... as well as proofs of my very first little book, Animal Tricksters for Oxford University (Daughter is pictured holding it at right).

In August, I blogged about attending Arvon's Writing for Teenagers Course with Malorie Blackman and Melvin Burgess. Melvin kindly sent me off with this message of hope:

My friend Mark Hudson's book Titian: the Last Days came out and I helpfully made this video with his daughter -  titled 'My Dad Wrote a Book' and scored to the tune of  Bing Crosby's version of Yessir That's My Baby, the video was mentioned by the Guardian when it picked Mark's book as one of the best travel books for 2009:

In September, I attended a workshop on writing Fantasy led by Working Partners editor Sara O'Connor, who basically told us to slash and slash again. "KILL those darlings," she cried! "KILL KILL KILL!" Sara is pictured right, kindly advising attendees during the manuscript review session.

There was also a radio programme about how street performers built and kept their audiences and I was struck by the painful similarities to authors.

September ended happily with the launch of The Boy Who Fell Down Exit 43 by fellow Undiscovered Voices author Harriet Goodwin. After the launch, we took pictures of each other posing with random books. That's Sarwat with Twilight, Margaret with When Cats Turn Bad, and me with Thanks and Have Fun Running the Country.

With October, came Blog Action Day - the day bloggers get together and try to effect change. This year's topic was Climate Change which would have been a perfect time to plug the fact that I had a story in the new climate change anthology Under the Weather edited by Tony Bradman ...but there were more serious things going on. The terrible issue of Climate Change was horrifically brought home by a deluge of biblical proportions in my native Philippines. Thousands were left homeless and several hundred people died.

And then November came and with it, life-changing news.

Tall Story, my novel about a boy with gigantism, sold to David Fickling Books, of Random House. It felt like I was moving from one scary fairground ride to another.

From trying to get published:

To trying to succeed as a published author:

With all the possibilities ... good and bad.

The bad news that the Publishing industry endured in December ...

... gave us all a lot to think about.

All the good reasons why we do what we do as writers. And all the reasons why we should keep going.

For me personally, now that I'm on the cusp of becoming a published author, I've got to change mindsets -  I've been blogging for an audience of writers, how do I reach the readers? Suddenly I've got to practice what I've been preaching on this blog! It's exhilirating and scary at the same time.

A graphic from the Facebook page I made for Tall Story:

One can only do one's best.

So farewell, 2009 - what a year that was!


Here we go.


  1. Great round up Candy (along with two pictures of members of my family!)
    Wishing you a fantastic successful 2010!

  2. A wonderful round up of your year, Candy - and now here's hoping that 2010 sees you enjoying loads of personal and literary success. You're going to do great and I so look forward to reading Tall Story! xxx

  3. Phew - what a year! And what a fantastic way to end it with your book deal. Congratualtions and here's to a great 2010. xx

  4. I look forward to welcoming you the world of published writers, Candy! And wish you every success with your book.

    You will find it's not actually that different - apart from how you feel inside.

    Getting my first acceptance letter remains the highlight of my career so I know how you feel.

  5. Keren - putting two of your relatives on my Year roundup was unintentional! But as you can see they were highlights! And here's hoping your new book is a bestseller!

    Nicky - back to you! Someone's going to discover you soon you know ... it's only a matter of time. Now that I've read your work, I can't help wondering why they don't just get on with it.

    Tracy - thank you so much and thanks for all the support. it's going to be you soon, I'm sure.

    Mary - thanks so much. Meeting you and hearing your story at the SCBWI retreat was a highlight and an inspiration.

  6. Candy, how will we manage without 'Notes'??? I hope you find time, some how, some when to keep it going....big hugs to you my friend, wishing you and Tall Story all the success you so richly deserve in 2010 xxxx

  7. Hurrah!!! And steaming ahead into 2010, good luck with it all! Way to WRITE THE BOOK, girlfriend! :D

    And thanks for the monster mention!

    -Sarah the Mankiest McIntyre xx

  8. What a fab year! Congratulations!

    Best wishes for 2010.

  9. Candy, great roundup of 2009! Think about this, 2010 will be even better. Get ready ;)

  10. Fab round-up, Candy, and THANKS for the mention!
    (I actually also need to tell you that the link to your NEXT blog post is broken, but by the time you read this comment you'll prob have fixed it - but just in case you haven't I thought I should mention it.)

    You're a great blogger - very generous and interesting. Good luck with your other writing too!

  11. thanks thanks and thanks!

    re broken link - sorry, people who subscribe! i had a technical failure last night when i posted a new video, the sounds was not in synch and i had no choice but to delete the blog post and the video. i'm fixing it now. but goodness, what do i know about sound?


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