Saturday 29 May 2010

Book signing: say it isn't so!

When I look into my crystal ball, I can see this happening to me ... oh no!

Thanks to Keren for posting this on FB!

Thursday 27 May 2010

Our Fearful Symmetry ... and how Tracy Chevalier met Audrey Niffenegger

Sarah McIntyre had a spare ticket to an event I didn't even know existed featuring two fabulous authors but focusing on two books that I had never read.

So of course, I went.
It was Tracy Chevalier (Girl with Pearl Earring) and Audrey Niffenegger (The Time Traveller's Wife) - and it was just upstairs from my home, in Highgate Cemetery. Yes, dear reader, writers for ADULTS.

Sarah and I couldn't resist pretending we were the identical twins on Audrey's cover:
Our fearful symmetry

Now for the big confession: I haven't read either author. And though I've lived in the area for over 20 years, I've never done the Highgate Cemetery tour. I'm about to make up for all these flaws in my character though because it was a brilliant talk - both authors had written books set in the cemeter - Tracy wrote Falling Angels, and of course Audrey's Her Fearful Symmetry is still very recent.

Sarah has written everything up on her blog so I don't have to give you a blow by blow. But one of the fun snippets of the evening was Tracy talking about how she met Audrey. Both women volunteer with the cemetery - and would you believe it Audrey continues to work as a volunteer tour guide!

The key nugget I came away with was something that Audrey said about readers taking over ownership of a story - after someone asked if she realized that there was fan fiction and blogs in the wild that had appropriated her characters :
I started out with the illusion that i was controlling the story. I realized that all I had done was make a code book for readers to make films in their heads.

And here are some pictures of Sarah going berserk on my trampoline just before we went to the talk:

Wednesday 26 May 2010

Sophie McKenzie: "Be convincing ... but unexpected"

I am currently reading BLOOD TIES by Sophie McKenzie.

I started reading it in the library last week to swot up for a SCBWI talk featuring  Sophie. It's a thriller about two kids who discover that they are clones - and I'm loving it!

At the talk, part of British SCBWI's popular Professional Series in Charing Cross, Sophie talked about deciding to become a writer and as she talked about her career so far, a few 'me too' bells rang in my head.

She said she was a journalist and so she thought she could write.

Me too! I had been writing for more than ten years before it occurred to me to try my hand at fiction.

She then discovered that it took more than a reporter's brain to tell a story. Me too! Me too! It wasn't easy at all ... in fact I gave up writing picture books because I thought novels might be easier.

And she realized that she loved it. "It was what I wanted to spend my life doing." Ditto!

So she enrolled in a class at City Lit.


Hearing her talk about learning the craft at City Lit, I was jealous. Why didn't anyone tell me about this way back when I started out? I could have saved some time (and probably a lot of stamps)!

Anyway, one day Malorie Blackman came to talk to the class. Malorie is one of those authors who is famous in writing circles for the number of rejections she endured before she got a contract. Sophie asked Malorie how she finally did it and Malorie answered in one word ... it wasn't CRAFT, or TALENT, or INFLUENCE, or GENIUS. It was:
So here's Sophie McKenzie's guide to DISCIPLINE:
D Decide on your story. "I used to come up with lots of story ideas. It was only later that I realized they were just situations.  Situations are not stories. Stories have three elements: character, obstacles and goals."

I Imagine your way into it.. "Daydreaming is a really good thing." Sophie spends a lot of her school visits annoying teachers by exhorting kids to daydream as much as they can.

Stakes must be high. "The stakes have to get higher as you tell the story." A bit like rejections.

C Be convincing but unexpected. "This has to do with the hardest, most technically difficult part of writing: plotting ... Everything that happens has to be unexpected at the same time convincing." A bit like getting a book deal.

I Increasing your knowledge. Sophie studied the work of other writers to see how they did it, summarizing the action of each chapter of books like the Alex Rider series.

P Point of View. Staying in it and not wandering around in everybody's brain.

L Likeability. Make sure that your characters have something that makes the reader care about them otherwise the reader might not hang around long enough to finish the book

I Indulgence? Eradicate it. "If criticism makes you defensive or you tend to take things personally, it would be a huge handicap to your ability to make your manuscript better."

N NEVER GIVE UP.."I think it was my persistence that carried me through ... but I could not give up because I found something that I loved so much."

E ENJOY! "Enjoy yourself. If you don't, what's the point?"

Tuesday 25 May 2010

... And the winner is ...

The kids were eager to help me with my prize draw to celebrate the launch of my book trailer.

They decide to put the names into a Chinese hat.

Here's Mia cutting out the slips with the names of entrants on them.

Then Jack puts the hat on and bounces on the trampoline.

Remarkably the hat doesn't fall off.

And the names are still there when he takes it off.

Mia stirs the names around a bit ...

... then picks a slip ...
... and the winner is Philippa Francis!

Congratulations, Philippa - you win a copy of Tall Story!

After our little raffle draw, padre de familia Richard joins Jack in further celebratory bouncing!

And all is very VERY good!

TALL STORY, the book trailer : how Random House unwittingly commissioned my family to do my video

Here it is!

One of the big themes of Tall Story ( is the importance of family, that geography and culture should be no barrier to family and extended family continuing to be a part of each other's lives.

Some folk say - and not in a nice way - that there are authors who write the same novel over and over again. Well judging by Tall Story (and the three yet to be published novels I've already written) I'm afraid I am one of those authors. And my recurring theme is family ... specifically: the yearning for.

In Tall Story, Bernardo and his sister Andi are separated by immigration paperwork. In Volcano Child, Mouse digs, thinking he can tunnel all the way to the other side of the world where his mum works as a maid in London. In Ugly City, there's a dystopian city state where parents must leave and children must stay.

I guess, though I am a very happy Filipina living in London, and though I adore my adopted country, the books reflect a homesickness that I have come to accept as part of my daily life. And who could help feeling homesick being so far away from a lovely family like this?

2007. The last time the Quimpo clan were all under one roof. We are six brothers and sisters plus spouses and children!

So I was lucky that the making of my book trailer involved a lot of toing and froing between me and members of my clan. My baby brother Armand Quimpo happens to be a superduper motion graphics animator. Here he is at the beginning of his career:

I started by writing up a script which only featured the voice of one character, Andi. My sister in law, Candice Lopez Quimpo, who (conveniently) is a marketing and communications consultant and edits Baby Centre Philippines, reworked the script to feature the voices of both lead characters, Andi and Bernardo (the book itself alternates between the two voices). Candice and Armand are pictured right.

I asked Candice to explain how she came up with the script development:
Tall Story, for me, is a story in counterpoint. Its setting straddles the culture clash between modern London and provincial Montalban. 

Its narrative is told by two distinct personalities from very unique perspectives (literally and figuratively), who want different things in their young lives.

And yet everything is tied together: by family, by basketball, by hope. I thought the trailer needed to show both conflict and symmetry because I felt, very much, the need to validate both sides of the story and to celebrate the differences. Writing the script, I had to work with restraint. I had to be very sure to say enough without saying too much. To excite without revealing spoilers!

Once we got the script sorted out, Armand created a storyboard - he had to carefully plan each scene, each movement because he was drawing the pictures and animating them - not easy to change your mind once it's done!
Here are some frames from Armand's treatment:

Do you suppose this is what it feels like to work for Pixar?

When I visited the Philippines early this year, my brother Randy Quimpo (who makes corporate videos) filmed my basketball player niece, Camille Ramos, one night on the roof basketball court of his flat. Armand used the film to create the basketball movements - which fly by in seconds!

In London, I recorded my daughter, Mia, doing Andi's voice.
Mia clowning around in front of the microphone and stand I got for my birthday

In Manila, Armand tried to record himself doing Bernardo's voice, and though I liked the result, he decided he had to get a real teenager. My niece Mahalya auditioned her male classmates and found Kevin So who performed Bernardo's voice very well indeed.

Meanwhile, we needed another voice for the end tagline. We decided we needed a British accent and I auditioned a couple of neighbours under the pretext of inviting them to dinner. Lucky for me, Andrew Lewis, who lives across the road, has a warm, gravelly voice like Neil Gaiman and being a barrister, had the ability to deliver the right touch of quizzical humour to the line "What you want is not always what you get ... even when your wishes come true".

And so the book trailer was born. Nepotistic? Well, yeah. But it does everything that Tall Story is about - it brought family and friends closer together from opposite ends of the Earth in the most delightful way. Which does alleviate the homesickness somewhat!

Thank you, crew! Thank you, Random House for unwittingly commissioning my friends and family to make my book trailer.

WORLD PREMIERE: so this was my big idea for the launch of the book trailer - to anyone who hasn't heard me banging on about it - I invited people to post the video on their Facebook profiles and blogs today. In gratitude, I am putting everyone's names into a prize draw - the prize being ... a freshly minted hardback of Tall Story! If you've posted the video without realizing there was a prize, email me on mumatwork AT with 'World Premiere' on the subject BEFORE NOON TODAY and your name will be included in the draw.

Friday 21 May 2010

Barely Keeping Up with Unstoppable Forces

You can tell by my economical and sparse postings that these past couple of weeks have been a bit ... erm ... busy.

How do I catch up? I have covered a lot of stuff - it's just the actual reporting that is suffering.

There have been many distractions - the other day, this arrived in the post:

tall story
I could hardly contain myself!

tall story
And there in all their shrink-wrapped glory ...

tall story
Were my mandatory author's copies of Tall Story (10 of 'em)!

tall story
I couldn't resist putting them on a shelf to see how they looked as "real books" ...they looked  mighty fine indeed.

But I digress ...

I haven't even written up this London Book Fair event from way back in April, in which Britain's current children's laureate, Anthony Browne, appeared with illustrators Martin Brown (Horrible Histories) and Marcia Williams (who's known for turning Shakespeare and Dickens into highly illustrated comicky books) to discuss why illustration was so important even to older children.

Here are some pictures -

I then took a break from my writerly duties to knock out a website for Tall Story - designed using Jimdo. I was quietly dreading all the stuff that debut authors dread, like school visits and author talks when I suddenly realized I needed a website just for the book. I'm still working on the teacher downloads.

I also attended last weekend's SCBWI writer's retreat, which featured authors Lee Weatherly and Pippa Goodhart and agent Julia Churchill. I took rather ghastly photos so I won't be putting them up here.

In my continuing quest for more ways to neglect my family, I also attended a fascinating talk by Sophie McKenzie on what it takes to become a successful author.

Sophie McKenzie
Sophie McKenzie (Blood Ties)

I thought I might try really hard to blog about that in another post so patience, dear readers. I'll try to get there at some point.

And that, dear friends, is what I've been up to. If only all this hard labour translated into losing weight.

Paradise Gardens Festival!

Yay! I've just signed up to join the Victoria Park Bookshop tent at the Paradise Gardens Festival in Victoria Park E3! The Paradise Gardens Festival website looked so fabulous I was inspired into making this picture:
But does my head look big in this?

Tuesday 18 May 2010

Tuesday 11 May 2010

It's for real! Tall Story arrives in the post

It came in the post today!

It's for real! Candy holding her freshly pressed book


Tall Story spine

It has yellow endpapers!

tallstory front flap

And a picture of me on the back cover!

tall story backflap

And here's what it looks like naked.

Tall Story naked

Dontcha just love the silver embossed text?

And look! I'm featured on Tracy's terrific Tall Tales and Short Stories blog!

I'm so happy I could give away a copy of my book!

In fact ... why not?

The Tall Story book trailer is going to be finished within the next few days and I'm trying to get a whole bunch of my blogging friends (and relatives) to post it at the same time - our very own WORLD PREMIERE!


The idea is we all post the trailer on our blogs and facebook/or other profiles at the same time! Simple!

In abject gratitude, I am offering world premiere people an advance viewing of the trailer on a password protected site - AND a chance to win a freshly minted copy of TALL STORY before it's in the shops!

If you would like to join us - and you don't have to live in England to join - please send me an email on mumatwork AT with the subject header 'World Premiere'!


Oh someone pinch me.

But not too hard.

Saturday 8 May 2010

Holden Caulfield is not Edward Cullen

Hey readers - I'm crazy busy right now and I am so overdue a post. What to do?

Let John Green do a guest post! Well ... sort of. I don't know someone as famous and cool as John so I'll just post something from his vlog (video+blog, come on guys, I told you this before).

So here's John in 2008 entertaining his YA readers with a critical analysis of Catcher in the Rye in three parts!

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