Friday 25 December 2009

Geeked Up for Christmas: TALL STORY has a Facebook Fan Page!

At one of the London Book Fair seminars on marketing this year, one of the facts bandied about was that more people now use Facebook instead of email for online communication.

Not being totally on the ball that day, I can't provide you with the exact source/figures, but trust me, it must be true.

One of the websites I designed this year belonged to someone who didn't have time for social networking. When we reviewed the website's visitor stats however, we discovered that most visitors came from Facebook!

Indeed, Facebook has become such a distracting force in my own life that I have had to leave the house (and the internet) and work in coffee shops to avoid getting caught up in its allure.

A neat little app called 'My Year in Status' collated the best of my FB status updates - revealing how much I enjoyed hanging out on FB:

Click on the image to see it in readable size

If you've been living in the Real World, you might not know what a status update is. Facebookers post short status updates of what they're up to, what they're thinking, what they're doing. Status updates can be very entertaining and addicting especially if, like me, many of your FB friends are fabulously witty.

It's a bit like Twittering or Tweeting, except it's less ephemeral, and you can comment and have conversations with other commenters. (And please don't ask me what Twitter is.)

Last week my author friend Elizabeth Pisani sent me a link on how to build a Facebook Fan Page. To a compulsive geekoholic like me, it was a temptation not to be resisted.

SHAMELESS PROMOTION: Elizabeth's book is pictured right. Please buy it. You know you want to understand sexual health, prostitution and the politics of Aids funding.

Building an FB page for my book TALL STORY was a fascinating exercise. So was thinking through how to promote it and get people to actually become fans of the page (my KEY STRATEGY: uninhibited BEGGING).

I created this landing page for people who happen to search for TALL STORY:

You can read about how to create a landing page here. The page, that is, not the image, which I put together using Photoshop.

And once you become a fan, you get this page:

(The red heart and scrawlings are just me pointing out the fun stuff)

To make the page a bit more exciting, you've got to create an image that will tell people why the hell they would want to sign up as a fan. Graphic skills are very useful. Or a publisher's art department. Or an artistic teenager.

The word fan, of course, is a misnomer because TALL STORY will not exist in the real world until June 2010. I wish FB used the word 'follower' or 'person who thinks they might possibly like...' - but there you go. Fan it's got to be.

Now,  I love adding friends on FB (I'm a bit easy that way). At last count, I had 457 friends. Oops.

Mini digression: I was writing in the cafe the other day when I overheard two women discussing teen novels. As they were leaving, one of them turned to me and said, 'Candy, is that you?' It was the author Keren David (When I Was Joe), who I had friended on FB. With her was Gaby Halberstam (The Red Dress).

As a result of the meeting, I managed to schmooze an advance copy of When I Was Joe and  got to read The Red Dress ... and OMG lucky me,  these two titles turned out to be terrific! Definitely on my list of STAND-OUT young fiction reads of the year!

Shameless but Sincere Promotion: READ READ READ When I Was Joe and The Red Dress!

Where was I?

Back to TALL STORY's Facebook Page: I begged classmates, friends and acquaintances to help me not look like a fool and become a fan. And lo and behold, the last time I looked (today) I had 136 fans.

THANK YOU, fan people. YOU ARE AWESOME! If I could pay you for your awesomeness, I would. Instead, I promise to make the page as interesting and relevant to YOU as I can.

And to all the lovely authors hoping to build their own FB fan page, watch this space, once I've managed to digest the tonnage of Christmas junk I've consumed during these holidays, I pledge to post a How To article taking you through the Facebook Page process step by step and in simple, ungeekified English.

It would be a cool way for Notes from the Slushpile to celebrate the new year.

Many happy returns this holiday season!

Me, the husband and kids pose for our annual holiday portrait

... and have a MAGNIFICENT 2010!

Sunday 20 December 2009

Selfridges goes for fairy tales ... with grotesque retail twists.

Daughter and I were in shopping calvary on Oxford Street when we chanced upon Selfridge's fairy tale themed window displays.

A terrifying Goldilocks with petrified bears.

And Red Riding Hood is scarier than the wolf

And what a shapely Puss in Boots

And here's Cinderella's glamorous interruptus moment

And the mice flee with a golden slipper

And Captain Hook is stuck with a display of clocks!

And Snow White is good as dead (here shown with one of the seven dwarfs portrayed by clown faced child mannequins ... shudder)

All good fun with just that touch of darkness fairy tales are known for.

Tuesday 15 December 2009

Christmas Bloodbath at Borders

This made me sad today.

Thursday 10 December 2009

Christmas Advice for members of My Mum is Writing A Novel Anonymous

I was going to do a list of book gifts for children but then I thought, why should I make one for THEM when nobody ever gets it right for ME?

Kids, don't be fooled when you see Facebook or Google on the screen. Your Mum really is writing a novel.

So here, selfishly, is a wish list for all members of My Mum is Writing a Novel Anonymous (or MyMumWanna, for short). It can of course also be used by members of My Dad/Wife/Husband/Aunt/Uncle/Grandpa/Grandma/Dog is Writing a Novel.

Members of My Mum Is Writing A Novel Anonymous taking a break from complaining that there is no dinner on the table.

And it is perfectly decent to forward this list to your other parent ... or relatives with big fat wallets (like Grandpa).


1 You might have noticed your mum hovering around you whenever you're on Sims2 or World of Warcraft. That's probably because she's desperate to use the computer.

Mums Who Write Novels NEED THEIR OWN LAPTOPS. If your Mum Who's Writing a Novel is still using the family PC or using Dad's old laptop from work running Windows 95  - then you should be ASHAMED of yourself!

To help your clever little mind focus, I heartily recommend the one I got myself this year after one of the children sat on my extremely expensive super slim Sony Vaio - the Asus EeePC 1005HA Seashell..

It's crap at making coffee though.

Why do I recommend it? Geekophobics look away now.

It's 10.1 inches. Its battery lasts for TEN hours (that's what they claim - mine lasts for eight with the wi-fi off. Still not bad)- excellent for typing up chapters in Caffe Nero while waiting for school to finish, or typing in the car while waiting outside ballet. I am a speedy typist and the keys, unlike other laptops, are slightly separate from each other. It fits in my handbag. It's only £250plus quid (less than that set of golf clubs).

And it isn't one of those sexy slim ones that are prone to getting broken in two by 10-year-old bottoms.

2 So does your Mum Who is Writing That Novel have a website yet? Could it be because she didn't have the technical know-how to set it up herself? Has it OCCURRED to you to HELP HER SET IT UP using all the free websites out there Wordpress and Blogger for blogs and Jimdo, Weebly, Squarespace for websites? Think how embarrassing it must be when she meets other writers.
"Do you have a website?"
"But you've got a teenager!"

I mean, it's not like you've got better things to do, like save the world.

3 And while you're at it, register a DOMAIN for her website! Now that's a Christmas present that will make her grateful FOREVER (it costs less than a tenner too, if it's a

In the olden days, only one or two women had their own domain. Virginia Woolf wrote, "A woman must have ... a room of her own if she is going to write" ... but that was before publishing became big business and authors had to learn to promote themselves!

So maybe your Mum Who Is Writing That Book already has a laptop, already has a website and blogs as well. What do you give the Writing Mum Who's Doing It All?

Get her a mini camcorder! I got a Flip Mino last Christmas (but you should get the HD version) and it's so easy to use, it plugs into the laptop via a USB connection, and has great sound.

As long as you make sure she gets to use it once in a while.

Fantastic for quick little videos to put on the blog, keeping a child amused while you're trying to compose that last line in the chapter, or recording sound.

Aside: it's not really designed for recording sound but I use it to record sound then convert it into MP3 because I haven't got an audio interface (Or royalty free music. Just saying). Didn't include them in the list because a bit beyond geeky for this subject. Ah well. Hint. Hint.

5 BOOKS are of course the obvious gift to a Mum Who Keeps Writing. But because life has been a little bit hard this year for the book industry (and obviously your Mum WANTS to support the book industry) it would be a REALLY THOUGHTFUL THING if you actually went out and bought the books in A PLACE WITH A SHOP WINDOW!

Get your electronic goods from Amazon by all means, but books? Buy them in a shop! And get one of those free bookmarks with the shop's logo on it, stick it in the book, and scribble - "I didn't just order this online, Mum!"


Can bookshops do no Wong?
(Thanks, Kathy for the link)

Added later: It just occurred to me that readers might want to add their own items to this list. Like writing kit. Or  books you would love to see under the tree instead of that four inch thick coffee table book about Michael Palin traveling around the world again. Or three book deals.

Tuesday 8 December 2009

Christmas Blog Challenge: Love Reading? Love INDIE Bookstores!

The bad news about Borders calling in the receivers has cast a shadow over the bookselling world.

It's Christmas time and I'll bet the temptation to buy all your presents from Amazon is huge.

Well here's the thing: the culture of READING is under threat.

Libraries are closing. Amazon has become all powerful. And with only a few big players left in the bookselling market - Waterstones and the supermarkets - our reading culture which is enriched by diversity and choice is under threat.

Liz Hoggard in an Independent article called on readers to support local independents this Christmas.

In the New Year, the UK Booksellers Association will be launching an Indiebound campaign based on a successful Indiebound campaign in the United States.

I think we authors and illustrators can also help raise awareness for Indie booksellers.

So here's a blog challenge for Christmas:

I have created a website called Bookshop Love on which I hope to feature independent bookstores up and down the country.

My challenge to you is to write short features about your local indie bookseller.

Post it on your blog or website and I will cross-post it on the blog! Send me your links on mumatwork AT (don't forget to change the AT to @!

It's not difficult - here's how to do it if you don't feel like marching up there and demanding an interview

  • Google your chosen bookstore and get hold of their email address.
  • Email them with the following message: I am participating in a blog challenge designed to support local independent bookstores and I have chosen you as the bookshop I would like to feature on my blog. I would be very grateful if you would reply to these questions and perhaps send me some photographs of your shop.
  • You can ask what you want - but do cover the following bases:
    1. Please give me a brief bio of your shop
    2. Tell us about your clientele
    3.Can you recommend five children's titles (we're children's book people after all)
And don't forget to ask for pictures! Of the shop or of a window display!
  • Post it on your blog or website.
  • THEN send me a link and a short bio about YOU. I will cross post the article on Bookshop Love, ending with a short profile about the author (you ... so there's somethign in it for you too)!
Please join this challenge.

(and do forward this challenge to an author near you!)
Thank you in advance,
Candy Gourlay

Monday 7 December 2009

My First Publisher's Christmas Party

Here's what Random House children's books people do when nobody's looking. You might want to play some lively music while watching it, as it's a silent movie.
If you can't see it here, you can find it on YouTube

I was relieved when I saw that the Book Brunch Children's Column had a report on the Random House Children's Books Christmas Party. I feel honour-bound to report it (it's my first publisher's party after all!) BUT:

1 I was so busy combing my hair (a mother at my daughter's school once called me "Never Knowingly Combed") that I forgot to take my camera. Besides, I was wearing a dress. Which hurt.

2 The party was so full of famous people I spent a lot of time artfully avoiding them.

3 I can't remember the names of all the nice people I met apart from an editor who confessed that he was a certain anonymous blogging editor (I remember his name but it would be pointless revealing it here!).
Anyway, what with trying not to have to talk to Philip Pullman (he looks just like his photographs but I didn't want to get too close in case he wanted me to say something about Original Sin), and worshipping Jacqueline Wilson without catching her eye (sorry, Jackie, that was me breathing down your neck), it was tricky being the new kid on the block.

Thankfully I did meet a bunch of people who live in and around my neighbourhood (what is it about the Holloway Road that attracts all these hacks and authors?). Also, at the pub later, David Fickling bought me a pint without realising it (there were people queuing and his was the fastest wallet).

I also learned a lot about publishing from various lovely people there who make up the very valuable cogs and wheels of the Random House factory - from supplies (she's Canadian) to marketing (he plays the piano) and publicity (she's pregnant)!

I know, I know, there is a shameful lack of useful information and photographs in this post, so to make it up to you, here is a Very Important Video :

Thanks to Philip Ardagh for the link.
If you can't see it here, go directly to YouTube

Monday 30 November 2009

Eleanor Farjeon Awards 2009 - David Fickling's Big Idea

There was such a dearth of reportage about this year's Eleanor Farjeon Award which was held on the 17th of November that I thought I would make a bit of noise about it.

For those of you who have not been paying attention - this is the award generously sponsored by the estate of Eleanor Farjeon (pictured right) given for distinguished service to the world of children's books.

Authors have won it ...notably Philip Pullman, Jacquelyn Wilson, Malorie Blackman, Michael Rosen, Shirley Hughes - all individuals easily referred to as 'National Treasure'. Other winners are more obscure  - librarians, literacy campaigners, people who are passionate about reading. But national treasures, nonetheless.

Indeed, this year's winner is Moira Arthur who spent 31 years in library supply, specialising in children's books (Had to nick this photo of Moira with Jacquelyn Wilson from the Peter's website, my photos at the awards weren't good enough to put up!).

Please make sure to read about Moira and other nominees at the end of this post. These people are the heartbeat of children's literacy - and people like us, who want to write for children, should give credit where credit is due.

The guest speaker was David Fickling (my publisher!) - who had a very interesting proposition to the great and good of children's publishing assembled at the awards. Here he is, outlining the problem - that individuals and large corporations get rich on children's publishing while the institutions that create the culture that supports them suffers from a lack of funds -

David: "Non-readers form a very good anti-literacy rump, an anti-intellectual rump in our own society. If you come out of school and say 'I don't like books', you then VOTE against books. And you don't think libraries have any point whatsoever. 'We hate books' turns into 'What's the point?'"

And here is his big idea:

If you can't see the video, watch it on YouTube

Bestsellers funding Literacy? 

We can only wait and see if any publishers care to take the idea and run with it.

This year's nominees:

Moira Arthur has spent 31 years in library supply – specialising in children’s books. She has been instrumental in developing Peters into the largest children’s library supplier in the UK. Her extensive knowledge of children’s books and libraries allowed her to develop the highly successful Romread, Peters Bookselling Services’ book review and order service on CD-Rom. In 2005 Romread was superseded by PetraNet and this gave customers, worldwide, access to the full range of children’s stockholding via the web.

IBBY’s founder, Jella Lepman, believed that books could build bridges of understanding and peace between people. Because of this strongly held belief, she created IBBY as an international organization that would bring children together by means of books. Fifty-six years later IBBY has seventy-two national sections that still work towards building bridges of understanding. The wars are still raging and children are still the victims. IBBY believe that every child has the right to become a reader and see this as a fundamental right and the doorway to empowerment for every child. As an organization IBBY believe that children who are suffering from natural disaster, displacement, war and its aftermath, desperately need books and stories as well as food, shelter, clothing and medicines. IBBY's programme of workshops and children in crisis projects around the world all work towards this goal.

Anne Marley’s day job is Head of the Children’s, Youth and Schools Library Service in Hampshire. She also manages the Branford Boase Award (set up with Julia Eccleshare) for first time writers and the Henrietta Branford Writing competition for young people, now in its 10th anniversary year. In addition, she organises the Wessex Children’s Book Festival. Her love of Children’s literature has seen her act as chair of several societies and groups including the Children's Book Circle, the Youth Libraries Group and CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Awards. Her wonderful work extends overseas also. In 2002, she was involved in persuading P & O Cruises to freight out 4,000 new children’s books to St Lucia and raising £6,000 for the libraries to spend on new books. She has also visited Kazakhstan and Trinidad and Tobago, working for the British Council, trying to improve the provision of books and school libraries in those countries.

Gill and John McLay
Gill McLay works alongside her husband John as an International Literary Scout for several European Children’s Book Publishers. After studying Marketing and Publishing at Oxford Brookes University, Gill began her publishing career at a small book publisher in London. She joined independent children’s book publisher Barefoot Books in Bath in 2000. Then in 2003, she joined Egmont Books overseeing key accounts including W H Smiths, Ottakars and latterly Waterstone’s Booksellers. Gill became a director of the Bath Festival of Children’s Literature in 2007 and oversees an extensive programme of author events in Schools throughout the South West region. Gill also organises the children’s publishing
seminars for London Bookfair each Spring and runs a course at Bath Spa University sponsored by NAWE for authors on running events for children and working in schools.

John McLay is an international literary scout for children’s and young adult books, working with some of the biggest children’s publishers throughout the world advising them on the best books to acquire and translate. He began his career at the BBC in London and after several years as a bookseller for Waterstone’s, he joined Puffin Books where he edited Puffin Post magazine for the Puffin Book Club. He then became an editor at children’s book packager Working Partners and helped launch series as Animal Ark, Rainbow Magic andPuppy Patrol. He set up the non-profit making Bath Festival of Children’s Literature in 2007 with his wife, Gill. The largest independent book festival dedicated solely to children’s books, the 10-day ‘The Bath Kids Lit Fest’ has just completed a record-breaking third year and has quickly become established in the children’s publishing calendar. John is also an anthologist, reviewer and lecturer on ‘Contemporary Children’s Publishing’ at Bath Spa University on their MA in Writing For Young People.

The Unicorn Theatre is the national flagship theatre for children and young people in the UK. It is the only purpose-built theatre for young people in the capital. In addition to the theatre’s own award-winning plays, they present the best regional, national and international theatre for young audiences. Integral to their programme is a multi-layered participatory, education and youth programme. All their work emphasises the vital role that theatre and the arts play in enriching children’s learning. Opened in December 2005, the Unicorn warmly welcomes families and schools to their two theatres, education studio, rehearsal studio and cafĂ©. A permanent acting ensemble is at the heart of both their stage and audience outreach work. The oldest professional theatre for children in the UK, the Unicorn was founded in 1947 by Caryl Jenner whose unique vision inspire the building of this flagship theatre.

The Reading Agency is an independent charity with a mission to inspire more people to read more. They believe that reading changes lives, and that everyone should have an equal chance to become a reader. They specialise in spreading reading by working with public libraries, and run some big national reading programmes and partnerships. For children and young people these include the huge Summer Reading Challenge (involving 690,000 children a year); Chatterbooks reading groups, – a teenage reading website, and a new publisher/library partnership scheme called Children’s Reading Partners.

Ros Bartlett is Assistant Head at The Earls High School, Halesowen, but as a volunteer, joined The Federation of Children’s Book Groups eleven years ago. Previously she acted as chair but in her current role she supports the work of 32 Children’s Book Groups all over the country, as well as encouraging new groups to be set up. All of Ros’s efforts have been concerned with encouraging young people’s enthusiasm for reading. She recognised that getting young people to read meant that you had to read to them, no matter the age, and it is this interaction which supports children on their reading journey. In 1998, with a small group of volunteers, Ros established the Dudley Children’s Book Group which aims to bring a whole community together, from children to grandparents, writers to librarians. Ros encapsulates the wonderful contribution that can be made by an individual and represents the work of thousands of other volunteers dedicated to the promotion of getting young people reading.

Saturday 28 November 2009

SCBWI Conference 2009: How We Live Now Part One

When I first started trying to get published, a friend gave me the worst advice in the world:
"Whatever you do, don't show your work to anyone!"
The novel was buried under an avalanche of rejections of course. Two years of not showing my work to anyone! What a big waste of time! Realizing that  I had much to learn, I joined the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and attended my first conference.

That was 2003. Six years later, here I am at the conference but there's a difference. It's not just that I've finally, extraordinarily got a book deal ... but this has been a bumper year for SCBWI with so many of its loyal members finally scoring publication deals. There is joy and a whole lotta hope as you can see from these highlights:

I have to start with a video, just because author Sue Eves' (The Quiety Woman and the Noisy Dog) school visit demonstration was such a delight (and oh, god, what a hard act to follow!). Note to self: enrol in clown school to prepare for new world of School Visits ...

If you can't see the video go straight to YouTube to view it.

This was part of a lively talk about Getting Your Work Out There  - with Fiona Dunbar (who also gave a talk about writing trilogies) and Cliff McNish (who gave a talk on how there were only five plots in the world of story). Here are all three looking very demure just after their talk:

Of course we didn't see much of Winchester because we spent all our time indoors ... but SCBWI's Mister Intrepid, Paolo Romeo, got this shot the night before we retired to our classrooms:

Aww. Now we know what we were missing while we were indoors.

Nevertheless, it was all go at the conference - here are Ben and Addy selling SCBWI badges that made declarations like "Make Every Word Count" and "I heart Kids Books".

The badge extravaganza inspired me to create my own (well, it was something Ben said, actually):

I have censored it out of fear of what my Mum would say if she saw it ... but it's a fitting message to all the procrastinators (me included) out there.

This year we had a lot of mini events - artfully crafted to coincide with coffee breaks to reduce traffic! Here's author Lee Weatherly (who just sold a YA fantasy trilogy to Usborne - a first!) delivering a synopsis workshop - in 15 MINUTES!

Faster, Lee! Faaaster!

Part of the nefarious traffic control scheme (concocted by organizer Margaret Carey), included a Lucky Dip, in which our Lucky Dip was Oxford University Press commissioning editor Jasmine Richards (I am pictured schmoozing Jasmine below). Dippers got a chance to pitch to Jasmine who said yes, send it, or no thank you. I hear that some people got very Lucky indeed.

I attended Steve Hartley's talk about designing characters following a Jungian model. Apparently, you can divide personalities into four - Analyticals, Drivers, Expressives, and Amiables. It's the kind of talk improved by doing impressions - and yes, Steve, despite denying it, I think you can do a Billy Connolly impression. Here's Steve demonstrating what an Expressive looks like:

It was a fab conference and there's so much to write but I'll leave it there for now - haven't even mentioned Meg Rosoff's hilarious speech and Gillian McClure's wonderful pictures!

If you want a more sensible report of the conference, do visit Sue Hyam's blog.

But I promise I shall be back with more!

Saturday 14 November 2009

My Book Deal - thrilled to be moving from one roller coaster to another!

So. It has happened. I've got a book deal! On June 2010, TALL STORY is going to become a real book with real pages and a cover and a publisher!

And not just any publisher, David Fickling Books!

AND not just David Fickling, but something very important to me - a publisher in my native Philippines in the form of RayVi Sunico!


When I started trying to write novels NINE years ago, I thought, how hard can it be? I was a journalist writing hundreds of words a day. Surely children's fiction wouldn't be that hard. It would be great fun! I was a bit like a kid getting on a ride at a funfair.

I had no idea it was going to be like this:

And like this:

And like this:

A lot of the time, it was more painful than fun. But it was still fun enough to keep going.

And finally getting a contract is like, well, changing the ride.

Going off into another unknown!

Up and up and up!

Am I ready for what lies ahead?

Well at the moment, it's all looking good!

But there's a lot of hard work up ahead! The stakes are suddenly higher.

And I must remind myself why I write.

I must remind myself that beyond getting published, the reason I write is because I love it.

Reason enough to keep going.

Thank you to the hundreds of emails and wow, what a buzz that was on Facebook and on the SCBWI message board and in the Philippines, oh, the Philippine flag was waving!

It really, really is beyond fantastic!

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