Tuesday, 11 December 2012

1st Day of Christmas - Katy Wyton, Writer Wrangler extraordinaire

A complaint (in verse)

Writer Wrangler (N): someone who has voluntarily, or involuntarily, come into possession of a writer.

Please remember that a Writer is for life, not just for Christmas.

(Although if you put enough shiny baubles on the tree, it will distract them long enough for you to scoff all the mince pies.)

Monday, 10 December 2012

Reinventing the Bookshop for the Future of the Book

That Newsweek cover.
I got a Kindle recently. Yup. I admit it. I have crossed the digital divide. And yes, I LOVE it. Loved it so much that I downloaded a fortune's worth of books in the first week and I've read MORE since getting it than my normal. And my normal is A LOT.

But you know what? Getting a Kindle made me realize how much we need bookshops.

Yes the buying process is a doddle. But I only had to walk into my local Waterstones on Islington High Street to realize that shopping on a Kindle is a limited experience.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

A Scoobie Do to Remember

Three amazing things happened to three of my lovely SCBWI friends at this year's BI SCBWI conference and I thought I would share my happiness with you.

by Maureen Lynas

SCBWI friend one is Rachel Turner

In my last post I suggested that people have a pitch ready just in case they were in the queue for the toilet and someone said the dreaded words, 'So, what are you writing?'

Well, this is what happened to Rachel, author of Dragonflu.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Writing conferences: Everyone has a first one! Agents included...

by guest blogger, Gemma Cooper

I read the lovely Jo Wyton's blog about her first conference experience with interest, because her first conference was also my first conference! And we sat across from each other at dinner on the conference Friday night and talked about our virgin conference concerns. I remember her admitting she was nervous about talking to agents and editors (although you would never have guessed). I admitted that as a newer agent, I worried that no one would want to talk to me!

Monday, 29 October 2012

To MA or not to MA, that is the question...

by Teri Terry
No, I'm not talking about the big life decision of whether or not to have children! Instead the question is this, one that I get asked a lot when someone finds out I'm doing a creative writing MA: Should you do one? What will you get out of it?
To try to get to the bottom of this, I've enlisted some writing buddies who all have creative writing graduate degrees from different places.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

J.K. Rowling - Adversity and Imagination

Something worth watching if you've got a spare 20 minutes this sunny Sunday!

J.K. Rowling gave a Harvard Commencement speech in 2008, where she talked about overcoming adversity and the significant, if painful, benefits of failure. She then talks about where the power of imagination truly lies - not in the ability to escape or picture new things, but in the ability it gives us to empathise with people who are experiencing things we ourselves have not.


Monday, 22 October 2012

Maureen says, 'OMG I'm Pitching!'

by Maureen Lynas

To pitch or not to pitch, that may be a question, but is there a right answer?

Confusion reigns.
You’re going to a conference (let’s say SCBWI Winchester 2012 for instance) and some advice is saying PITCH! And some is saying DON’T PITCH. So you go with the latter and decide not to pitch because it would be rude to foist the five page pitch for your ten-ton WIP on an unsuspecting agent queuing for the toilet. And you are a very well brought up author who knows her/his place in the queue.

Monday, 15 October 2012

A writer's sugary dream: Book meets cake!

by Sally Poyton

There are few dead certs when writing a book. There is no definitive way to get published; some people win competitions, other meet agents and click, and some get picked off the slush pile. There is no one way to write, either – some see where the writing takes them, others plot and plan meticoulsy before writing a word. No agent or editor can tell you the one thing that makes a good book, as they are all looking for something slightly different. It’s all so... subjective.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Writing Conferences: Everyone's a fan-girl, everyone's a writer.

by Jo Wyton

I've just read this fantastic blog by agent Susan Hawk on how to get the most out of a conference, and with the SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) conference creeping ever closer, I have been thinking a lot about my first ever conference experience. It was last year, in fact, and it was nothing short of terrifying.

Monday, 8 October 2012

High on Concept, Low in Execution

Eoin Colfer's famous
pitch for Artemis
Fowl: 'Die Hard
with fairies'.
By Candy Gourlay

High Concept books are easy to sell. They offer something unique before you’ve even opened the cover. MORE

This was how our Jo defined High Concept in her brilliant Concept, Concept, Concept post. Jo also very kindly wrote about High Concept from the point of view of a reader here, in which she revealed:

Saturday, 6 October 2012

More from the funEverse

No To No Rhyme

To live in a world where there is no rhyme
Would seem to me to be a crime
And surely children need this skill
To prevent them all becoming ill
From: sums and science, laws and rules
Boredom, bedtime, some of school.
To have no rhyme would be a curse,
That's why we have the funEverse!

Friday, 5 October 2012

Rhymes From The funEverse

By Maureen lynas

Say hi to more funEverse poets

I'm so lucky to be working with these people. They're funny, they're talented, and they care deeply about kids and want to make them laugh. 

And where else would I have discussions on whether it's appropriate to have a character trapped in a sumo wrestler's bum crack! (That was not one of my poems!)


Rebecca Colby

I blame Dr. Seuss for my love of rhyme. When I was six years old, I checked ‘The Lorax’ out of the library and became lost in its magical, sing-song rhyme. I loved it! Not wanting to give it back, I promptly hid it under my bed, hoping my mother wouldn’t find it. She didn’t. Not for months anyway, by which time she must have paid for it several times over in library fines. 
I also blame Robert Frost, although the story there isn’t half as interesting. He wrote poems I could relate to—poems that brought the rural environment of my childhood in New Hampshire to life in verse.   
It has taken me years to learn how to rhyme well—and some might argue that I still haven’t achieved that ability. One of my attempts follows:

I love to write in rhyming text,
although sometimes I get perplexed
when my iambic metered lines
all end in slant, imperfect rhymes.
And counting syllables to excess
can cause unnecessary stress,
so sometimes I don’t worry about rhyme or meter at all and I just go with the flow! 
©Rebecca Colby 2012

 Lesley Moss

Why poetry? Why not?
I like playing with words. I had early publication success with a poem
about a cat and a rat, and would like to repeat the experience. 

For me, a poem is words condensed, like a tin of milk. Distilled, like rose water. Intense as vanilla extract .. you see where I’m going with
this  ..

Pick summer words from the Poet Tree,
some for you and some for me,
ripe and juicy, shrivelled and thin,
cut right through to the essence within.
Words with vinegar, words with butter,
words to make a cold heart flutter,
pickled, dried or baked in pies -
each word explodes with fresh surprise.
Words to whet the appetite,
words with zest and words with bite.
Pick summer words from the Poet Tree:
store for winter’s memory.
©Lesley Moss 2012

Alex Craggs

Why do I write in verse?

 Words can be bland
They need to stand
Stand out
Take a chance
Run about
Run free
Be fast
Or slow
But dance
Hang loose
Choose to shake words
Make words
rattle and roll them
Let them have fun
Try it
Take one
Give it time
Find another
 ©Alex Craggs 2012

I am so lucky to be working with these talented people... and there's more

Tomorrow I introduce 

Georgina Kirk 


Mo O'Hara

Thursday, 4 October 2012

It's National Poetry Day!

By Maureen Lynas

I had this really great idea,
That I would blog in verse on here.
To celebrate this special day,
With similes I'd have my say.
And metaphors, they would abound.
I'd entertain you with the sound,
Of rhythm, metre, and some rhyme
But then I thought,
That will take time.
I'm not.

Instead I'm going to celebrate NationalPoetry Day by announcing a brand new poetry group that's about to jump out of hiding and onto the web.

The poets are a bunch of people who love to read and write funny poetry for children. We began as a BI SCBWI ecritique group but we're branching out soon and launching our very own website called 

We'll be setting ourselves poetry challenges and inviting schools to join in with the silliness. A guest school will be appearing on the blog every other month where our poems will be featured side by side with the children's. So please do take a look at our first blog in November. And if you would like to be a guest school then let me know.

The funEversers are:
Alex CraggsGeorgina Kirk, Kathryn Evans, Laura Louise Stewart, Lesley Moss, Maureen Lynas, Meagan Munroe, Mo O’Hara and Rebecca Colby.
It may seem a bit barmy to focus on verse when it is supposed to be difficult to publish it but over the next few days we're going to introduce ourselves and explain why we do what we do. Enjoy. 

First up 

Maureen Lynas 

(That would be me)

Basically, I can't not do it. I have tried to stop, I've been advised to stop, I've even advised others to stop (shame on me) but I seem to be addicted to rhyme. Addicted to rhyme but allergic to poetry. I don't want to examine the human condition (at the moment), or let all my feelings out (at the moment), and the thought of reading Sylvia Plath makes me reach desperately for poems like Albert and the Lion and Matilda 

Verse slips into my stories too. I have a dad living in the attic in one book, he's gone mad and can only speak in verse:  
'Must stay static. In the attic.'

And a frog who introduces himself with:
'I swing through the trees with the greatest of ease,
For I am the prince with four legs and four knees.
My skin is a rainbow, my eyes ruby red,
And I am named Bob, and my father is Fred.

I find funny poems irresistible to write but I love to get kids squirming too. The children's poem below was written in response to an illustration by Sam Zuppardi who actually looks exactly like his picture below.

Sam's illustrations will be featured on our first blog, and you'll have to wait until then to see the illustration that inspired -

Mr MacEvil

Please do believe me, or you could all die!          
For Mr MacEvil is scoffing kid pie!

Kid pie with his eggs, Kid pie with his chips,
Kid pie with his gravy that dribbles on lips.
Kid pie with his beans, kid pie with his peas,
Kid pie with his custard and sprinkles of cheese.

Please do believe me, or you could all die!          
For Mr MacEvil is scoffing kid pie!

Kid pie for his dinner, kid pie for his tea,
Kid pie for a snack that he eats off his knee.        
Kid pie for his breakfast, kid pie for his lunch,      
Kid pie with some bones to munch and to crunch.

Please do believe me, or you could all die!          
For Mr MacEvil is scoffing kid pie!

Kid pie has all gone! You’d better take flight,
Kid pie must be made by MacEvil tonight.
Kid pie needs a kid, to chomp and to chew,
Kid pie needs a you, or a you, or a you!

Please do believe me, or you could all die!          
For Mr MacEvil is BAKING kid pie!
©Maureen Lynas 2012

Tomorrow I'll be introducing 

Rebecca Colby 

 Alex Craggs (he's the one in the middle) 

And Lesley Moss (if I can catch her)

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

School Librarian of the Year Award 2012

Adam (right) receives the award from
author Kevin Crossley-Holland who is
President of the School Library Association
Congrats to Adam Lancaster who is SLA School Librarian of the Year and Duston School for winning the Library Design Award. It was an inspiring event with many thrilling ideas about enthusing children into reading. But the awesome initiatives on display were made poignant by a constant awareness of the terrible challenges nibbling away at our libraries. When I was a kid, the library rescued me. But who's going to rescue the libraries?

Read my post on the SLA Librarian of the Year Award

Please participate in this online survey, part of a piece of research entitled Envisioning the Library of the Future, commissioned by Arts Council England. This programme of research will inform the development of the Arts Council’s long-term vision for public libraries in England. Go to the Survey 

Monday, 1 October 2012

So you've got an agent. Now what? A short checklist.

By Candy Gourlay

Lots of talk about how to get an agent last week here and  here. Who knows, some writer who attended one of these events may this very minute be signing up with an agent.

(Speaking of which, congratulations to Julienne Durber over at our sister blog, Demention, who's just signed with Gemma Cooper of the Bent Agency! Woo hoo!)

Once you've got an agent, you're truly on the brink. You're as almost there as almost there ever could be.

But now what?

Here are some helpful tips from your been-there-done-that NFTS reporter:

1 Now is not the time to stop working on your craft. The quest is not over. Will it ever be? Ahh. That's the thing you see. In this business, evolution is never-ending. Stop developing and you're left behind.

2 Tune up your public profile. Well yeah, just in case your agent strikes gold first time. And if, like many of us, your agent doesn't get you an instant deal, it's good practice. Spring clean your Facebook profile. Make sure you've got a good profile pic on all the usual channels (go to Gravatar, to get a universal profile pic). Spruce up any info about you online. Start working on that website. Volunteer to guest blog somewhere. Review a few books on a few websites. Add that precious line '(Your Name) is represented by (Your Agent)' to your bio.

3 Tune down your expectations. Fame? Fortune? Sorry, it ain't instant. Don't give up the day job. At this stage, it's just another level of submission ... and rejection. Here's a video I made back when I realized that agents spent a lot of time getting rejected too.

To watch the video you need a password which is iwantanagent

4 Be discreet. It's not just you against the world now. You've got an ally. The days of social moaning are over. Don't jeopardize your agent's strategic submissions by shooting off about random niggles, doubts and worries on Facebook, Twitter or what have you. And don't go shouting to the world about the manuscript you're shopping around. You don't want to help your competitors with their publication timings. Besides, the first time a publisher sees your manuscript should be a wonderful surprise. Don't spoil it.

5  Manuscript safely with your new agent, what to do? Well just in case your agent isn't successful in finding it a publisher, do not delay: double your chances by writing another book.

6 NEW! Okay, thought of something else, something absolutely VITAL, as I watched Adam Lancaster win the School Librarian of the Year Award today (Adam, so well deserved! More news in a future blog post) ... from now on, you, dear future author, are an apprentice to the world of books - learn EVERYTHING you can about it. Booksellers, librarians and libraries, the literacy curriculum, Amazon, ebooks, EVERYTHING. This is your world now.

That's all I could come up with off the top of my head. Anyone else got the experience (bitter or otherwise) to offer more advice on this one?

Thursday, 27 September 2012

The Curtis Brown Discovery Day at Foyles - Writers and Industry coming together

Update! A detailed report of British SCBWI's yearly Agent's Party appears on Jeannette Towey's blog. Oh, and here's our report on last year's Agent's Party New - So you've got an agent, now what? A checklist

by Sally Poyton

On Saturday, I, along with 270 other budding writers, convened at Foyles for the much-anticipated Curtis Brown Discovery Day. The day was billed as giving ‘aspiring novelists the chance to pitch their book ideas directly to award-winning literary agents, Curtis Brown.’ Those lucky enough to bag a free ticket recieved a seven minute one-two-one session with an agent - 30 seconds to deliver your pitch and then six and a half minutes to brace yourself for some feedback!

Monday, 24 September 2012

Jonathan Stroud: The F Word is Fantasy

By Candy Gourlay

My trophy photo with Jonathan when we met at last year's
Hay Festival
A year ago, I attended a brilliant Patrick Hardy Lecture* on The F Word: Writing Fantasy for Children by Jonathan Stroud (of Bartimaeus Trilogy fame).

Friday, 21 September 2012

Go for gold! Why we must all be more like Andy Murray

This is actually a heads up that something absolutely brilliant has just been posted on the Demention Blog by Julie Bertagna (author of the extraordinary Exodus trilogy).

The demon of self-doubt lives inside every artist and athlete, in anyone who has ever pushed beyond their comfort zone. So many actors, writers, musicians and comedians

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

If everyone's now got a platform how are you going to stand out?

By Candy Gourlay

It was only oh five years ago that I was giving talks advising authors and illustrators to get themselves a platform.

Monday, 17 September 2012

On Will Power, Self Discipline and Cake

Photo by oatsy40
By Candy Gourlay

Everyday you spend hours resisting the siren song of Facebook, resisting the impulse to check your inbox, resisting the text messages vibrating on your mobile phone, resisting the call of the laundry, resisting the sunshine outside, resisting the urge to turn the word processor off before you've hit your word count target.

After all that self control you are confronted with the last hurdle. There it is. Cake.

Can you resist it?

The answer is no.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Decide to Write

From Zazzle
By Candy Gourlay

So I was having a moan at a publisher the other day.

Sort of along the following lines:

There's no time to write.

Life keeps getting in the way.

The children feel neglected.

The husband makes me feel guilty.

It takes too long to write novel.

How does one make money.

And so on and so forth.

He had no sympathy.

'Writing is a decision,' he said, citing all the stories ad nauseam of authors who wrote while holding down several jobs, cooking with one hand, bringing up ten children, etc etc.

He's right, I guess. It's a decision. And for as long as we haven't made up our minds, we won't be writing.

Go on. Decide to write.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Concept, concept, concept – A publisher’s dream, a writer’s minefield

by Jo Wyton 

Over the weekend, I wrote and posted a piece on my own blog about High Concept books from a reader’s perspective.

But I’m not just a reader, I’m also a writer, so of course I spent the rest of the weekend tormented, sleepless and getting through an enormous amount of cake as a result. 

Thursday, 30 August 2012

The Publishing Process as told by Nathan Bransford

Author Nathan Bransford put together something a little bit special and a lot funny this week. It's been doing the rounds on facebook amongst those of a writerly persuasion and is well worth a watch for anyone who hasn't seen it! (And a second, third and fourth watch, come to think of it.)

Seeing as even we on the Slushpile couldn't put it any better, here's the link:



Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Edinburgh Book Festival: Teri Terry checks it out from both sides of the Yurt

by Teri Terry
Banrock the Muse models my Edinburgh author badge,
nestled between the Edinburgh Programme & Slated!
Last week I was at the amazing Edinburgh Book Festival: the largest public celebration of the written word in the WORLD. 

I was invited to take part in two events - more on them, below - and also spent an extra day there so I could experience the whole thing from the other side.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

'Oh, my Daddy, my Daddy!' - Words that move in older fiction

by Addy Farmer

The blog that never ends. More choices of words that move from me and you... 
Behind the tired old words, Tog heard the harsh grate of fear and loved Allanza even more for his stupid bravery, even though the prat had got them into this mess. J.P. Buxton - I Am The Blade
I love this book and I love these words. Here, we arrive just at this point when our hero, Tog realises what lengths his friend will go to for him - even if the action is idiotic.What is bravery if not the act of doing something which scares you witless? And then when you do that something brave for a friend - well then, then it becomes so moving.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Ten Top Tips from Molly Ker Hawn

By Maureen Lynas

Welcome to guest blogger Molly Ker Hawn of the Bent Agency based in New York. Molly, who lives in London and works with authors in the UK and America, is on the look out for YA and middle grade fiction. The agency asks to see the first ten pages of manuscripts so I asked Molly for the ten most common mistakes she finds in those ten pages - so you can avoid them. 

I get about a hundred queries a week. Most of them, I’m glad to say, are in English, are for children’s/young adult projects, and do not salute me as ‘Sir,’ though there are occasional exceptions.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

'Then Bella did something very kind' - Picture Book Words that Move

by Addy Farmer

Then Bella did something very kind.
'Would you swap this Teddy for my brother's dog then?' she asked.

Just look at Dave - heartbreaking. Shirley Hughes' illustrations perfectly match the tone of the text

What is it about this bit of Dogger by the genius Shirley Hughes that moves me so much? What is it that makes my voice wobble? First of all, there's Bella's kindness towards her brother, Dave (for me kindness is an under-rated quality).

Thursday, 5 July 2012

The Five Bricks of Story and Life

by Maureen Lynas


Orrible Enrietta

I'm always on the look out for patterns and structures when I'm analysing books and characters and this week was a breakthrough week for me. My last blog was on the Seven Steps of Structure and I thought the last three steps Reveal, Reflect and React needed a bit more analysis. So I got out the highlighters and put Horrid Henry (and his new friend Enrietta) back under the microscope.

Eureka! No 1

I thought I'd spotted the 3R's as a repeating pattern throughout the work, and not just after the EVENT as previously indicated.

I'll show you what I mean but I'll use Orrible Enrietta to give an example instead of Horrible Henry in case I'm sued.

Orrible Enrietta sneaked back into the kitchen for the chocolate.
'Chocolate is for kids. Grown ups should eat carrots and soggy cabbage. It's my human right to eat that chocolate. So I will!'
Orrible Enrietta stuffed the chocolate in her mouth.

But something didn't seem quite right. Some sentences, paragraphs didn't fit the pattern – what were they doing, if they weren't revealing, reflecting, or reacting.

So I decided to check my research and went back to James Scott Bell's Revision and Self-Editing but when I looked in the book the three R's were not there! Even though that's where I was convinced I'd discovered them. What was there was –

Action Scenes – Objective, Obstacle, Outcome.
Reaction Scenes – Emotion, Analysis, Decision.

Interesting! And now I was having…

Eureka! No 2! I had discovered The 5 Bricks of The Scene.

If this is a good old secret known to many then that’s brilliant. But it’s new news to me.

The Bricks of The Scene is what story structure is built from.

Something is revealed
There is an emotional response.
There is reflection/discussion
There is a decision
There is action

For example

Orrible Enrietta was watching Zombie's Rule, OK.
'It's your turn to wash the dishes,' said Mum.
'No! Not fair!'
'I did it last year! Why can't we use paper plates. Why do we have to use stinky proper plates like rich people? I'm too young. I'm too clumsy!' 
That'll get her, thought Orrible Enrietta. Mum won't want her precious plates smashed.
But mum was one step ahead of her. 'Any breakages come out of your pocket money.'
I'll think of something, thought Enrietta stomping into the kitchen. What would a genius do?
Aha!  I'll wash them all right. But I won't clean them.
Orrible Enrietta turned the cold water on. She rinsed the spaghetti off each plate and into the sink. Then stacked each plate on the draining board. I'll leave the tap on, she thought. It'll wash the spaghetti away. Then I won’t have to wash the sink either. I am sooooooo brilliant!
'Done Mum,' she shouted. She dashed back into the living room just as the Zombies chanted, 'Blood, blood, brains and blood. You should run, oh yes, you should.'

That seems a lot better. But I hear you cry (those of you who don’t want to follow rules or patterns)
Are there rules to break?
Yes! It doesn't have to be as prescriptive as it sounds. But rule and patterns are there for a reason, if you apply these bricks to any event, they will be there e.g. I want toast. There’s no butter. Damn it! Shall I go to the shops or have cereal? I’ll have cereal. I eat cereal. They really are the bricks of life not just story.

The reveal and emotion bricks can be alternated to escalate the emotional reaction to the reveal.
Here’s a different scenario.

Mum interrupted Zombies Rule, OK. 'Mrs Knowitall is coming for tea,' she said.
Noooooo, thought Orrible Enrietta.
'She's bringing Nigel Knowitall for you to play with.'
Nooooooooooooo, thought Orrible Enrietta.
'And the baby.'

Not the BABY! Anything but the BABY!'
I hate the baby!
The emotion and reflection/discussion bricks can be alternated to escalate the panic of the situation.
I need an incredibly clever plan that only I can think of.
Aaargh! I can't think of one!
I'll hide. Under the bed.
Grrr. Mum always looks there first.
'Blood, blood, brains and blood,' chanted the zombies on TV.
If only I was a zombie, thought Enrietta. No one would ever come to the house if I was a zombie.
That's it! I'll be a zombie!
Once the decision is made there can be no more reflection/discussion.
'Blood, blood, brains and blood,' chanted Enrietta. She shuffled towards the door, her arms stretched out in front. 'I need flour and jam and mud.'

What can be missed out?
I'm very interested in 'the gap'. The gap we leave for the reader to fill. This is probably the basis of 'show not tell' (will think more deeply on this, that could be a giant blog post). But for now this is what I think happens. We invite the reader to infer something because we have missed something out. We give them a role to play in the story and they fill the gap with their own life experiences and knowledge. I also think this is where subjectivity comes in to play. People like books that allow them to fill the gap easily. They relate to the gap you leave.

So what can we leave out? The reveal? The emotion? The reflection/discussion? The decision? The action? Are Reveal and Reaction essential? Does leaving out emote or reflect provide the gap for the reader? Let's have a go. Let's go back to the washing up scene-

I'll leave the tap on, she thought. It'll wash the spaghetti away. Then I won’t have to wash the sink either. I am sooooooo brilliant!
'Done Mum,' she shouted. She dashed back into the living room just as the Zombies chanted, 'Blood, blood, brains and blood. You should run, oh yes, you should.'

Don't Reveal
the sink has overflowed.

'Enrietta!' cried Mum, storming into the living room.
Her slippers left soggy footprints on the floor.
'You are in soooo much trouble.'

The missing reveal from the text is implied by Mum's emotional reaction. We as adults would be able to fill the gap. But could children? Young children don't have the skill to infer so the gap may be filled by an illustration. Which is why it's essential to discuss the text and illustrations with them: to make sure they have the whole picture.

So, what's on each brick?

In no particular order
Who’s there.
The setting.
The obstacle.
The objective.
The tone.

But it should be right for your character type. Horrible Henry would be unlikely to do sadness. His main emotions are frustration and joy.

The situation.
The emotion.
The problem.
The consequences.

The protagonist must make a decision that will carry the story forward. He/she can have the decision made for them depending on the story (a bomb goes off so they must move on, the decision is out of his/her hands) but if all decisions are made for them then it isn’t really the protagonists story is it?

The action should be based on the decision and should move the story along. We're not talking action as in – she waved her hand at Mum. We're talking – so I plastered my face with flour and dribbled on jam for the scars and lay in wait for the BABY.

The story layers seem to be
The finished structure (Hero’s Journey, Romantic Comedy etc) is created using –
The 7 steps of pacing and plotting (name, preview, contrast, EVENT, reveal, reflect, react)
Which are built with –
The 5 bricks of The Scene (Reveal, emote, reflect/discuss, decide, act)
And I’m wishing I’d called the 7 steps something else! That fits the analogy of a building. The 7 girders?

And then, I hear you cry over the internet, ‘What about the cement? What's glueing it all together?

Well, that would be the...


Happy writing

Maureen Lynas blogs intermittently on her own blog which she creatively named - Maureen Lynas
She is the author of
The Action Words Reading Scheme
Florence and the Meanies
The Funeverse poetry site.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Beating The Odds with the Winchester Writers Conference

by Teri Terry

A week ago I was at the 32nd Winchester Writers Conference. I first attended in 2008 - it really was the encouragement of winning a prize in the Writing for Children 8-11 back then that set me on the path that landed me where I am now (as blogged last year, here). And Slated - just published by Orchard Books in May of this year - also won a prize at the WWC in 2010 (blogged here). I really wanted to spread the word about this conference, again - but what more can I say about it? Then I thought: how about we hear from some new voices? So here goes.

Lesley Moss

Like Cinderella, I left WWC before midnight struck - did anyone pick up my glass slipper?
Beverley Birch's masterclass was inspirational, I met lovely writer friends, had feedback from editors which was both encouraging and surprising - and then, back home sweeping up the cinders, I got a message about the competitions.
I'd been commended for Albert's Animated Animals (or How I Made My Magical Menagerie, By Albertin the Little Tiger Press 4-7 category, and Highly commended in the Greenhouse 8-12 for Matilda Curioso: Super Sleuth Matilda, trapped in Haunted Hazard House, must solve the Case Of The Mysterious Camera, or never get back to the future again. 
I forgot to say that Sara Gangai the administrator was exceptionally helpful - if you can mention that somewhere ..? 
(Teri - in blue from now on: there you go :O) 

Laura Louise Stewart 
I was at the conference and managed to get Highly Commended in two comps (writing for children age 12+ and Short Stories). Predictably, the moment when I saw my pseudonym on the board outside the theatre was a huge highlight! I had to walk back to check the board several times during the rest of the day and make sure..
But overall the best thing has to have been just meeting people. I was really nervous at first but loved starting to recognise people from the same talks and workshops and learning everyone was going through the same things: and that -
having problems with a particular character doesn't mean you are rubbish and should give up! 
Between the WavesHighly Commended in Writing for children,12+:
Wannabe surfer Eddie experiences an unexplained event at the beach but no-one else seems to notice. Whose memories can be relied on when everyone remembers things differently?
Feeling part of the same process as people (such as you!) with great books out was inspiring.
(aw, shucks...!)

Jo Franklin

I went to the Winchester conference to give moral support to a friend in need and ended up having a great 1:1 and winning two highly commended in the competitions. Result!
The message I got from the conference is ‘it’s tough out there, but if you work hard, don’t give up and have a thick skin, you can break through.’
Help! I’m an Alien! 8-11 Boys humour
Daniel feels such a misfit on Earth, he must be an alien. He needs to return to his home planet to find true happiness. But DIY cryogenics and joining the Russian space program go horribly wrong. When Daniel decides to 'phone home' and ask the aliens to come and get him, things get a whole lot worse. 
The Berringer Connection 11+ Teen angst in a messed up world 
Ant Berringer won’t let anyone close. No one touches her, not even Mum. But she’s going to have to trust someone if she is ever to find out who she is and the truth about the Berringer Connection.

Rebecca Colby
I wasn't in attendance at the conference but my story Fairy Godmother School won the Writing for Children competition for 4-7 year olds! 
PITCH: When Frenella magics up a basketball gown, bunny slippers and a spaceship, she discovers it doesn’t matter how a wish is granted, as long as a dream comes true.
FAVOURITE LINE: “I’ll be the only fairy there without grey hair.”
(Wow. How can you go wrong with bunny slippers AND a spaceship?)

Sally Poyton
Despite not being able to attend Winchester Writers Conference, I entered the beginnings of the YA novel, Journey to the Bone Factory, into the Writing For Children 12-plus competition. It was a lovely surprise to see it was highly commended, especially as I’ve hit the “writers low” – it’s been a great pick me up with the added advantage of not having a calorie count!
On the book: One girl’s quest to find her father takes her to the mysterious abandoned planet that is home to the Bone Factory and a convict so dangerous, that he’s been marooned on the furthermost reach of the galaxy.
Amber Hsu
Most surprised winner goes to….Amber Hsu, multi-talented SCBWI writer AND illustrator, and if that isn’t enough, also now out in public as a crime writer with a highly commended in the Writing Can Be Murder competition for her story, The Mourner.
(We won't hold this diverting your attention away from writing for children against you - I got an HC in Writing Can be Murder in 2009!)

Rachel Turner
I was there mentoring and helping to promote the MA Writing for Children. I managed to get a bit of time to join in the talks and workshops though and they were hugely helpful.
The thing that surprised me most was hearing the agents and editors giving a largely negative view of a first time author's chances in the publishing market these days. Reversely, the seminars on marketing yourself and self-publishing were very positive. I wonder if that's the way things are heading for the majority of new writers now?
Christina Vinall
For me it was a great Conference - as its quite big it was good to meet up with lovely supportive Scoobies. Had an inspiring one to one with Imogen Cooper. And learnt a lot out of the box from Lindsay Ashford's Murder mystery talk - and decided I'd be a bit too squeamish for serious crime fiction. Though it was interesting to discover Jane Austen had traces of arsenic in her hair - so may have been poisoned.

Rowena House
One simple but great exercise set by Stephanie Stansbie, editorial Director of Little Tiger Press, went as follows: Think up an opening sentence of no more than seven words (absolute max 10 if you must) with only one word longer than one syllable. Then read it out loud. Your sentence has to make the rest of the group gasp, giggle, say Yuk! etc. We got some real corkers. 
In all, the conference was a real shot in the arm. I came away with the following personal motto: 

Rejection is the mother of invention: it makes you hungry, it makes you sharp.
Jan Carr.
As always had a fabulous time at Winchester last weekend. Met loads of interesting new people and lovely people from last year and before including some scoobies, hurray! It was a treat to have a one to one with Beverley, she highlighted the importance of foreshadowing. A few people had already been kind about my WIP but said, ‘I don’t know where your story’s going.’ I didn’t completely understand what they meant until Beverley said that right at the start, there should some hint of what the story is about. When I re-read that sentence, it’s seems obvious but doing that without telling or explanation is not quite so easy.

Previous WWC success stories:
The Rescue Princesses series published by Nosy Crow in the UK won second prize in Writing for Children ages 4 - 7 in 2010.

Jeannie Waudby
I found the Winchester Writers' Conference brilliant for meeting people and recharging my writing batteries. A few years ago I had three one-to-ones on my book K Child there. I found the feedback very helpful in helping me know where to focus when I came to rewrite the book, and it also gave me a confidence boost. I have just signed K Child to Chicken House. 

Me: Teri Terry
Wow. Don't even know what to say: some combo of the WWC and SCBWI really set me on my way. I'm sure I wouldn't have got published now without both of them. I'll just put in my wonderful Orchard Books cover, and smile.

A final word:
I get what Rachel is saying about the air of negativity that can sometimes be felt in this industry, even at events like the WWC that have led to success for many. Though it would be worse, I think, if they made it sound easy to get published. It isn't, and never has been. And self-publishing ventures are going to come across as positive when they are promoted, as there are no bars to admittance. 
All I can say is that there have been SO MANY bits of great news in the SCBWI lately in traditional publishing for children, it has been a regular Success Fest
I know, sometimes, along the way it seems like you are hitting your head against a very thick brick wall: 
But put on a helmet, and keep going: you could be next to beat the odds.
Special note: 
Senior editor Imogen Cooper of Chicken House is going to be hosting the Golden Egg Academy, starting next winter - weekend writing courses for the 'nearly there'. Stay tuned for details.

News update:
The dates for the 33rd Winchester Writers Conference are 21 - 23 June, 2013

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