Friday, 23 December 2016

Happy Holidays from Notes from the Slushpile!

2016. 'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness. It was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity' ... doesn't Charles Dickens describe this outgoing year to perfection? Rather than dwell on the worst, the foolish and the incredulous, we thought we'd celebrate the festive season by looking back on our personal highlights and reflecting on the inevitable lessons learned. May the holidays be a time of friendship, love and creativity for all our lovely readers. 

Nick Cross

HIGHLIGHT If you’ve read my recent blog post Drifting Away, you’ll know that I’ve had a tough year creatively. And let’s be honest, 2016 has been pretty crappy overall (unless you’re a celebrity-hating, far-right-wing, bring back the 1950s headcase). But fortunately, there was a late highlight for me at the SCBWI Conference, and particularly Margaret Bateson Hill’s workshop on Creative Storytelling. I went into this with some trepidation – I am not naturally self-confident and struggle when sharing my work with others, especially when I’m being required to act it out. But both Margaret and the group were so supportive that I felt my confidence rising throughout the morning session, to the extent that by the end of the afternoon, I was standing on a table and proudly showing off like a proper children’s author! In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I’m going to book myself onto an actual drama course in the new year.

LESSON Much like the drama course, I’ve been trying new things this year in an attempt to unblock myself creatively. I’m a BIG film fan, so I thought an eight-week filmmaking course would be ideal way to do something collaborative and have fun at the same time. Unfortunately, I found a lot of it really stressful due to the steep learning curve, tight timescales and difficulties with organising the rest of the group. It’s true that we did come out of it with a finished short film, but the lesson for me was mostly around control. I’m a control freak, and the only person I have complete creative control over is myself. I’m also the only person willing to work to my schedule without being paid to do it. So, instead of launching me on a completely new creative path, my filmmaking experience has actually brought me back to writing books again!

Moving On, the short film that Nick's filmmaking group created as part of their course.

Teri Terry

HIGHLIGHT Only ONE? I'm beyond excited that I've finally got a writing studio (which is like an office, but sounds way cooler). But winning the SCBWI Crystal Kite for Mind Games was exceptionally awesome, too.

Terry-eye view of her new writing studio

LESSON Whenever I vote for anything, whoever or whatever I vote for loses. Therefore, should I try reverse psychology on the universe in future? I can't decide. It sort of appeals, but I doubt the universe would be fooled.

Em Lynas

HIGHLIGHT You'd think having a 3 book deal would have been my literary highlight but there was one moment in the process of getting the deal that stands out as an emotional high. Hearing and feeling the enthusiasm of the Nosy Crow team when we met for the first time. I wasn't prepared for how overwhelming their belief in the voice and characters would be. It was amazing to hear my character voices being quoted back at me 'ac-chew-ally'!

And here we are at the Slushpile Office Christmas Party clunking Prosecco to celebrate Em's success!

LESSON Believe in your voice, and your imagination. They are the only things that truly belong to you. Don't try to emulate your heroes. Just nick all their tricks and techniques!

Kathryn Evans

HIGHLIGHT has to be my book launch, a fairy tale end to years of tears, imperfection and rejection!

Launch of Kathy's debut novel More of Me in February 2016

LESSON Your book launch is just the beginning, the fear doesn't disappear and there is no relief for your low self-belief!

Jo Wyton

HIGHLIGHT  This has been a year with no big highlight* but plenty of seemingly insignificant ones. The most important of those to me is that I started taking a different approach to writing and completely changed the way I process and fully form an idea in a way that made writing not only more fun but much, much easier. And FAST.


LESSON Advice is nothing more than someone else's opinion, and even if it's GOOD advice it's only USEFUL advice if you're ready to process it and put it to use. I've been hearing the same piece of advice from one person in particular and until two months ago it was an interesting opinion but nothing more - until I reached a point when it struck a chord. It's okay to not feel the need to take every piece of advice offered - if it's useful then you'll eventually find yourself with a problem it can help you to solve, and at that time you'll find yourself processing and applying it.

*not including the birth of my child. Just in case he reads this in the future when I'm a dead famous author and all that.

Paula Harrison

HIGHLIGHT Launching Robyn Silver: The Midnight Chimes with lots of lovely people from Scholastic and getting out and about promoting the story in schools and at festivals.

Paula launching her new series Robyn Silver

LESSON An agent who suits you well and has your best interests at heart is worth their weight in gold. (Thank you Felicity Trew!)

Candy Gourlay

HIGHLIGHT When I first started this writing journey, I wanted to write picture books. Alas the picture book route was littered with rejection, which is why I started writing novels (I was fourth novel lucky). This year was the year that I finally got a picture book deal! I will reveal all sometime in the new year!

LESSON Every time I sit down to start work I am paralysed with indecision about what to do first. And then procrastination takes hold. But, hey, there's an app for that! In the last few months I've begun to use a meditation app - it helps quiet the chaos in my brain for just ten minutes. And once I've found calm, I can get on with what needs to be done. Here's a video on how it works:

Addy Farmer

Buy the book here
The strange HIGHLIGHT for me was the launch of my friend Gill Hutchison's picture book, Littlest Magpie and the Star. It was the result of loss and a product of love - it broke my heart and mended it at the same time.

And LESSON ? That the thing that drives me is writing and not just publication. That the creative life is a wondrous and life affirming one. Yes, it is bloody hard work sometimes BUT I write stories and I talk about stories and I encourage others to create stories and I can't think of anything better.


  1. This is lovely and full of ideas to ponder & treasure. Thanks, Super Slushies.

  2. Replies
    1. I especially liked Maureen's advice to stop copying your heroes and steal their ideas instead!

  3. This is just what I needed to hear at this precise moment when I was so full of doubt. Thank you! Happy Christmas and I hope 2017 is a wonderful year for you all xx

  4. Lovely! Happy Christmas to all the Slushies. May 2017 be good to you x

  5. Happy Christmas Slushies - love your blog! x

  6. Happy Christmas and I hope 2017 is a great year for you all! :0)


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