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?

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