Friday 16 December 2011

Countdown to Christmas: Almost There Authors Nick Cross and Kathryn Evans

Almost there authors Nick Cross and Kathryn Evans each share five things that helped with sanity and personal happiness in their journey to publication. Nick, who writes dark and funny fiction for children, is a winner of the 2010 Undiscovered Voices. He blogs on Who Ate My Brain. Kathryn Evans, who swings between dramatic mice and Young Adult fiction, is a one-time actress, farmer's wife and belly dancer (natch) who blogs as Mrs Bung.

Nick Cross: The Five Things That Kept Me Sane in 2011

I remember sending an email to my writing friends at the end of 2010. I predicted that 2011 would be when it ALL happened.

Well, it did, but not for me. Several of my close friends got wonderful deals for wonderful books – Nick Bromley, Amy Greenfield, Paula Harrison, Bekki Hill , Teri Terry, et al.

I'm not bitter about that – disappointed, yes, but not bitter. They all deserved their success and I was able to bask in their reflected glory. But it's tough to be a "nearly there," as many others can tell you.

Here are the five things that got me through another tough writing year (I'd include my high-achieving Oxford critique group in this list, but they're getting a whole post in this series to themselves!)

1 Blogging - There were some dark periods in 2011 when writing was the last thing I wanted to do. Yet, every Friday, I managed to write something for Who Ate My Brain? Most of what I posted even made sense! I wrote silly posts (5 Hot Publishing Trends for 2012) and serious ones (On Writing and Rioting), about technology ( Apps and the Single Author ), marketing (Your Cut-Out-and-Keep SCBWI Marketing Session) and (yikes!) business theory (Developing a Thicker Skin). One week, I even wrote a blog post about how I really didn't want to write a blog post.Throughout it all, having a blog kept me writing and kept me hitting deadlines. When people shared, retweeted and commented on my posts, it made me feel that perhaps my creative efforts had value after all.

2 The Undiscovered Voices 2010 Winners - You're probably sick of me gushing on about these people. After all, I've already blogged about them at length. I'm also aware that I risk looking cliquey, talking about the exclusive club that you can't get into. But it remains to be said that these eleven people have been a wonderful safety net for me this year. For all my whys and wherefores – was it too early for me to win the competition? Would I have been happier if I'd never entered? – I wouldn't have missed being part of this fabulous group for all the world.

The UV 2010 gang

3 My Day Job - It's true that my day job sometimes kept me away from my writing in 2011. But it also gave me a whole load of things that writing struggled to provide – money, positive feedback and real, live people to talk to. Suddenly, I'd done something that people had actually heard of. When you tell someone that you're a children's writer, they rarely know about the book you've written, even if it's been published. But when I told people that I'd designed a key part of O2 Priority Moments, they would often be users of the system, or at least seen it advertised on TV, in newspapers or on the side of a bus. It's amazing what a multi-million pound marketing campaign can do for your self-esteem.

4 My Therapist - Every writer should have a therapist – it practically comes with the job description. But my results from this process have been a little variable. Certainly, my experience in 2010 prompted me to cast a therapist character in my novel and literally blow him up. There he is, in chapter ten, and... Blam!

In 2011, I have a lovely new therapist and things are much happier. Well, as happy as you can be and still need a therapist, anyway. It's probably breaking doctor-patient confidentiality to say any more, but I've put down the dynamite, hopefully for good

5 My Family - Like a day job, having a family can sometimes seem an impediment to writing. It's hard to concentrate on plot or character when someone is demonstrating a new game show they have invented called The Toast Factor, the winning of which requires the contestant to sing "I'm taking on toast!" in an escalating parade of silly voices.

The family that reads together ...

Yet, family is what makes writing worthwhile - having a loving group of people to share your successes and commiserate on your failures. My family are excellent at brainstorming, and I developed some of my best ideas around the dinner table this year. We also read, enjoyed and fought for possession of a plethora of great children's books. It was my youngest daughter who put it best, when we were trying to come up with a slogan for literacy: The family that reads together, succeeds together.

So that was 2011, a year in which the process of getting published became challenging in ways I'd never imagined. And these five key reasons were why I didn't end up gibbering in the corner, zonked out on prescription drugs. But it's ok. Because 2012 is the year when it all happens.

Kathryn Evans: Five things I’m grateful for

1 My FAMILY and other animals, They keep keep me going. They don’t feed me or provide me with tea but they do make me really stubborn and determined.

You see, one day, when my son says,‘So is this one going to be an actual book?’I am going to be able to say ‘YES! IT’S GOING TO BE AN ACTUAL BOOK.’ I am. And it’ll be true.

2 SCBWI in all its glorious forms. This amazing organisation provides endless tools to equip children’s writers and illustrators on the long journey to publication and beyond: Masterclasses in everything from plotting to pitching; Networking with other writers, agents and editors; Competitions to showcase your work; Friendship, Understanding; Cake, YES CAKE and best of all, to me at least, highly focussed critique from people you can trust which leads me to….

Lovely SCBWI moment at the Great Expectations conference

3 My YA critique group. *Happy Sigh* A critique group you can trust allows you to view the mechanics behind a good story; helps you fine tune your work; gives you fresh eyes and honest advice when something isn’t working - and when it is.

I KNOW my writing is better for these people: Nicky Schmidt, Candy Gourlay, Jeanette Towey, Jeannie Waudby, Jackie Marchant, Pat Walsh, Ellen Renner, Carmel Waldron I wouldn’t be without you - GROUP HUG :o)

YA Critique in 2010. Back row: Jeannette and Candy. Front row: Jackie, Jeannie, Nicky, Kathy and Ellen

4 Facebook, I <3 FB.

I know, it’s meant to be the curse of us all, the ultimate procrastination tool but I love it. Sat at my desk all day, with only my characters, a stinky dog and a senile cat to keep me company, Facebook is a portal to meet up with Other Writing Buddies (OWB's). Funny, understanding, provocative they enrich my day.

Status: OMG Have typed The End, think it’s complete rubbish. Might as well burn script and saw off my typing fingers.OWB: Want me to read it for you?

Status: Have hit rejection Wall of Doom. With head. Several Times.OWB: Did I tell you about the millions of rejections I had for my multi award winning book…

The kindness of OWB’s has astonished me: Keren David, Fiona Dunbar, Philip Ardagh, Anne Rooney, Mariam Vossough, Lucy Coats, Philippa Francis, Jackie Morris, Gillian Philip …just a few to whom I say thank you, just, thank you. And those of you who have defected to Twitter, come back I NEED YOU. We’ve got Cat videos….

And last, but possibly first:


Sophie Hicks has got my back. Just knowing this adds a strand of steel to my spinal column. She keeps the faith, maybe more than anyone, maybe more than me. She’s currently reading my new novel and, despite the usual gut clenching fear that I’ve somehow deluded myself I can write, I’m excited at the prospect that this might be the one, the breakthrough book, the one that gets shortlisted for the Branford Boase, the one that pays my debt to Sophie, the one that finally, finally enables me to say:


Well, it IS Christmas.


  1. I'll high five you both! Was reading this on the bus this morning, had me laughing and grinning away like a lunatic! And as a member of your high-acheiving, walking-on-water capable Oxford crit group Nick, I can say that I honestly believe 2012 will be your year, and I can add with confidence that if it isn't, you're year WILL come, so please please please keep going. And Kathryn - I hope you get everything you deserve next year. I was at the Winchester conference the other week, and everyone kept talking about you and how great you were!

  2. SOLIDARITY! you are both brilliant writers - this is going to happen! (love that Family that Reads together photo)

  3. Brilliant post! Group hugs and high fives all round!

  4. Great posts! You're both models of talent and perspiration (in a fragrant sort of way). Roll on the actual books!

  5. Smashing posts, the both of you! Nick, your blog is a necessity in my week & MrsBung - you made me cry, I feel very honoured to be an OWB.
    Keep at it - you two are going places in 2012.

  6. Loved your posts you two. You are two great, giving, talented people who deserve success. And you'll get it!
    Just imagine how lonely this long journey would have been without other authors and SCBWI. No! Don't! It's too horrible to contemplate! Aargh, I'm having palpitations! Help!

  7. Nick, you have a dining room table - the family that eats together, succeeds together!
    Kathy - I'll try to be an FBOWB - but I need to see dog videos!

    2012 - has to be the year for you both. At this rate - SCBWI will have to become a publishing company.

    Good luck to you each and everyone :D

  8. I know what you are both going through! I still have the scars, in fact they are very, very fresh. Warning - when it does happen, it might take a long time to believe it. People will think you're modest, but your really just dazed. In fact, my first reaction to this post was - why didn't they ask ME? Then I remembered . . .
    (Oh, and those hugs from other writers - a lifeline!)

  9. Brilliant posts, both of you! That time when you're *almost* is so hard, but I'm going to echo Jo and say pleasepleaseplease keep going! Here's to 2012 being your year!

  10. You lovely lot - and Jo , what a delightful thing to hear - especially as I was less than fully present this year and missed all the party antics. We need very long arms for this group hug.....

  11. Perhaps there could be a TOAST FACTOR contest at the next SCBWI-BI conference, Nick - providing that vital survival necessity - comedy!

  12. Another wonderful and uplifting post. A timely reflection on how, with the help of family, friends and colleagues, writing can make for a wonderful life... even when things don't go according to plan. Thanks, Nick and Kathryn, and I hope you both have a wonderful 2012! don'Thanks, Nick and Kathryn!

  13. High-fiving you back, Kathy! And indeed, everyone else. Thanks for your kind words.

    There are times when writing and the route to publication can seem like an all-consuming but impossible journey. So this is a year when I've had to step back, realise that being published isn't the be-all and end-all of human existence, and try to take pleasure in every part of my life.

  14. Absolutely! Well said, Nick. Sometimes the desire to be published actually hampers your creativity too. Hope you have a very enjoyable year next year.

  15. What a great post, and probably even more inspiring than everyone else's list. I'm amazed by the power of the SCBWI community, and am sure you both will find your way to publication as well. Happy holidays!

  16. A great double-barrelled post! Here's wishing for BIG THINGS in 2012

  17. Brilliant! 2012 will be the year it ALL happens to both of you. I look forward to reading your actual books!

  18. Brilliant posts the pair of you! Am sure wonderful things will happen for you both in 2012

  19. Thank you for being so honest, Nick and Kathryn
    This is my favourite post of the series.
    You're both stars!

    PS perfect family photo, Nick

  20. I really enjoyed reading this, Nick and Kathy. And it was great to catch up with you both at the conference. I hope that this time next year you'll re-read this post while celebrating book deals!

  21. What a wonderful, warm and witty post, Nick and Kathryn. It's obvious from your writing here that 'almost' will soon be a thing of the past. Good luck!

  22. Great post guys, and Kathy, you're much appreciated from this side of the crit group too!

    Let's hope 2012 will be the year for many of us!

  23. What a fantastic, honest and uplifting post. Thanks guys!


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