Tuesday 31 December 2013

Our Writing Year That Was

In which we slushpilers look back at our writing highlights for 2013.

Teri Terry

SERIOUSLY? Just five things? *plans ways to cheat*
OK here goes, in chronological order:
In January Slated won the North East Teen Book Award on a very snowy evening in Newcastle. Others followed, and they were all amazing experiences: I loved having the opportunity to meet very excited readers, hang out with authors, and travel around the UK. There were things I'll never forget, like walking on the most beautiful beach at Carnoustie the morning after the Angus Book Award and trying to process that it actually happened, and the best night out ever after the Sussex ABA. But the NE Teen book award will always be special because it was the first.

Slated was published in the US in January, and I went to NY for the very first time.
Seeing Slated on the shelf in a huge B&N in NY was a massive thrill, as was meeting my amazing US editor, Nancy Paulsen, and taking part in a panel event at Books of Wonder.

Book 2 of the Slated trilogy - Fractured - came out in UK in April, US in September. Talk about your second book wobbles....! It was scarier than the first one, no question. Writing it was more about 2012 than 2013, but suffice it to say, it was a drawn out process involving loss of sleep, many drafts, and more cake than is reasonable. But for the same reason, actually getting it out there was, in a way, more satisfying.
First Fractured event: at Heffers in Cambridge

Out 1st May 2014, US
Out 6th March 2014, UK
And hurrah! I finished writing Shattered, the third and last book of the Slated trilogy. It was both exhilarating - finally ending the story, going where I'd been heading for the last few years with my characters - and sad. Like packing up your life and moving, leaving all that is familiar behind you. 
And finally? 

As an unforgettable, amazing and yes, exhausting, year winds to a close, I'm busily writing the shiny new thing. It is both wonderful and terrifying to have a complete new cast of characters, a different world. Part of me feels disloyal, like I've found a new friend and left the old ones behind. Part of me is scared it won't work out, that after we spend more time together we won't get along. But early signs are promising. And I've got Banrock along to help.

Happy New Year, everybody!

Maureen Lynas


First highlight is my involvement with the funeverse.

 A group poetry blog of silliness and fun.

During 2013, we've written, reviewed, critiqued and refined each others work and encouraged each other to experiment with form, to let loose the poetic nonsense that lurks in our minds and to gain confidence in our work and abilities. If you would like to see our poems please click here


Highlight number two - I've written my favourite book so far - The Best Witch.  It stars Daisy Chain (not her real name) who is a witch in denial of her destiny. She would much rather be on the stage than at Toadspit Towers, school for witches. This book just fell from my fingers, no planning, no charts, no post it notes - which is all highly unusual and huge amounts of fun. I had no idea what was behind each door in the school but Daisy did so this is very much her book and not mine. I've taken the big step of illustrating this one, it's been such an enjoyable project and I can't believe how zoned out I am when I'm drawing. I forget to eat! Who knew creativity was good for the figure?


Number three is the 2013 SCBWI BI conference in Winchester - for the Alexis Deacon workshop where he used two of my (anonymous to him) illustrations to highlight good practice in the morning and then took one look at my rubbish thumbnails in the afternoon and talked about accepting your skills base and developing from there. Thanks!


A big highlight of 2013 was publishing the first Florence and the Meanies book, Cupcake Catyastrophe! Illustrated by Katherine Lynas the book is loosely based on the relationship dynamic of Cinderella: eight year old Florence must stop the Meanie sisters winning Prince Greedlebelly in a cupcake competition or she will never see her father again.

The book has been published through our family firm - Action Words Publishing. This is our first step into fiction publishing and we're very excited about it. Book two - Canine Calamity will be published in spring 2014.

In 2000, as I left teaching, I published Action Words, a scheme for teaching high frequency words through actions. I often receive feedback but a couple of weeks ago I received a fabulous email from a parent of a child who had been struggling with reading. Her daughter's teacher introduced them to Action Words and her daughter learned to read and spell 150 key words in just 4 weeks.

The email ends, 'The programme has given her a new lease of life when it comes to reading so I am eternally grateful.'

Writing books and having a book published is obviously brilliant but nothing can compare with the thrill of knowing that I've helped to create a reader. What a great way to end my year. 

Candy Gourlay
The most significant thing that happened to me last year was not the publication of my new book Shine or the book launch (all of which made it to these highlights) but the moment I pressed 'SEND' for the last time on a manuscript that took me three years to write. While my writing pals seemed to be churning out book after book I had struggled to find the story of my second novel and realising it was ready to be shown to the world filled with disbelief ... and maybe fear. 

My first sight of Shine. Photo by Matilda Johnson

But all my terrible fears vanished when Shine finally arrived at my door with its stunning cover illustrated by David Deane - which I have just discovered won a gold award at the 2012 3x3 Picture Book Show (congrats, David!). Shine the book is a beautiful object, something to be cherished. And when I re-read the story from cover to cover I discovered that yes, it was definitely a story I was proud of.
Mass Book Launch at SCBWI Conference. Photo by Lisa Tweedie

I couldn't decide which was a bigger highlight - my book launch at Archway Library in September or my book launch shared with my colleagues at the Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators at the SCBWI conference in Winchester in November, both wonderful events full of love and celebration. I feel like Winnie the Pooh when he was asked if he wanted honey or condensed milk on his bread and he answered BOTH!

Huzzah! I've started writing a new book! It's kind of strange writing something that ISN'T Shine, after all these years. This summer I visited St Louis, Missouri where part of my book is set. And yep, the writing is going well. I'd forgotten what it's like to look forward to sitting down and laying words on paper.
After Typhoon Haiyan, when the horrifying images started streaming in from the Philippines, I got a series of emails from friends asking me (I was the only Filipino they knew) what I was planning to do about it. I was wringing my hands, paralised by the enormity of it all when I received an email from Young Adult authors Keren David and Keris Stainton asking would you like to help out with Authors for the Philippines?

Keren and Keris

It was an amazing appeal that raised £55,124.73 for the Red Cross. Thank you to Keren and Keris, thank you to all the book people who donated stuff and promoted it like crazy, and thank you to all the shoppers who bid so enthusiastically! It really is the gift of hope.

Being in the booky world can be such a roller coaster and 2013 was no exception. But looking back at these highlights has lifted me up! I hope all you readers of Notes from the Slushpile can take a moment to celebrate the good things in your writing year that was. Happy new year from me!

Addy Farmer


Sometimes just putting one foot in front of the other can provide a moment of triumph; finishing the first draft of my third novel, The Empty Girl, was a shiny time. Look! I can see the sun peeking through the trees! On, on!

Talking of shiny times (see what I did there?), I had the best time at Candy's book launch for Shine. As one of a panel of children's authors, I had the privilege of reading and talking about the work of Candy's young writer guests. Wow! The future of writing is in safe hands! If that wasn't enough there followed a party where I managed to take no photos at all, so here's one I took earlier.

Having lunch with my publisher.

I make no apologies. I have waited years to say that. The lovely Janetta Otter-Barry of Frances Lincoln asked if I would come and take a look at Chris Fisher's roughs for my next picture book, Worlds Apart (January 2015) and she really did invite me for an actual meal.  An unfortunate series of time errors meant that we ended up eating somebody's fab birthday cake instead. Delicious.

Fangirl moment.

Yes, this was the fabulous beginning to the awesome SCBWI conference in Winchester. I was taxi person for Malorie Blackman.  Not only that but I found my head on the back of the Cake to end all Cakes. 

 The festive fellowship of my writing friends. Never fails to bring joy.

Thanks to Gill for the photos, the games and more than can be said!

Mother Christmas brought presents and party games

The legendary Brown's Pie Shop provided the Happy ending to 2013

Here's to 2014!

Sunday 22 December 2013

Hark! Season's Greetings from the Slushpile

Hang on, smile, keep your back straight and keep going into 2014! (left to right) Maureen Lynas, Addy Farmer, Teri Terry, Candy Gourlay and Jo Wyton

Joy, energy and hope (LOTS of hope!) this season, from all of us on the Slushpile!

Tuesday 17 December 2013

Birth Day of the Doctor!

This is a public service announcement by Notes from the Slushpile.

Monday 25 November 2013

SCBWI Conference - Malorie Blackman Was Here

by Addy Farmer 

Yes, Malorie Blackman, children's Laureate, writing superstar and all round amazing person was here, in my car. 

Nuff said.

Monday 18 November 2013

Shopping for All the Right Reasons on Authors for the Philippines. Plus a few thoughts

By Candy Gourlay


'Just give some money for god's sake,' Someone tweeted snarkily at the start of this mammoth endeavour. Sure. We did that too, thanks very much.

But moving on, there are only two days left before the Authors for the Philippines auction closes to bids.

I am touched and amazed by the numbers who stepped up to help the Authors for the Philippines Appeal. The job now is to get bids going. And I hope this shopping guide will help you find some treasure. If you know what you want, use the search bar on the top right of the website.

This is a long post so to make things easy I've put links at the top - if you're shopping click on 'SHOPPING' , if you'd like to read some thoughts on the storm click on 'MUSING'








STUFF FOR WRITERS! Books above are Lot 420 and Lot 351




I'm getting a lot of congratulations for setting up the Authors for the Philippines site. But it is totally undeserved because it was the decision to Just Do It came from young adult authors Keren David (left) and Keris Stainton.

When the horrendousness of the calamity was unveiled on the morning news, Keren immediately contacted Keris because it was Keris who led the UK book world in raising funds during the Japanese Tsunami.

In fact, on the day of Haiyan, I'd received a lot of emails from people saying, Candy, you should do something! I brainstormed with my family over dinner about what I could do - but the mountain felt so huge and I have this weird thing of not wanting to impose on anybody. I know, I know. I completely underestimated the wave of emotion that the storm raised in the UK.

I rather feebly decided to try to get a school visits for the Philippines thing going when I got an email from Keren inviting me to write a foreword for the site. I was delighted and relieved.

Keris had the website up in two days (two days!!! AND SHE HAS A YOUNG CHILD!!!). And THEN social media did its thing and suddenly there were hundreds of people wanting to get involved.

The whole thing turned into an informal bucket brigade - Keris manned the inbox - fielding emails from all over the world and handing entries to upload to an amorphous group of that included Susie Day, Keren, Diane Shipley and me. I would leave early to get a few hours of writing done at a cafe then get home to dozens of emails of donations to upload from Keris. After we uploaded the stuff, Keris indexed, numbered and catalogued the entries. Other writers like Teri Terry vociferously blogged and tweeted to promote the appeal.

After we closed the website to donations today, we turned our attention to trying to get some coverage from newspapers, which took a bit of energy since no, we couldn't seem to offer a hard enough angle.

It reminded me of the olden days when I was a journalist having to pitch stories to the foreign desks of newspapers over crackly overseas lines. ('Do you write in elegant English?' a deskman at the Independent asked me when I rang them from Pyongyang on the 40th anniversary of Kim Il Sung. Urgh - I never want to do it again.)


Friends from my days as a journalist in the Far East offered their wares.

Pulitzer winner Bob Drogin came up with a non-fiction manuscript review. Bob was there when Mount Pinatubo flipped its lid and became the second largest eruption in the 20th century. Here's a picture from his FB page fleeing from the volcano with a gang of photojournalists.

Pam Belluck, Humphrey Hawksley
And then there was a book by Pam Belluck (now a Prize winning New York Times journalist, which we enthusiastically headlined on her offer).

We got to reminiscing on Twitter about the bad old days. Pam's quite a musician and we used to hang out in Manila bars watching her jamming with bands on her sax. She told me she once sang I've Got You Under My Skin to a military officer to get him to take her a strategic island. Only in the Philippines! (Funny that, I once got railroaded into a karaoke session with a town mayor - in fact it was in Leyte - who afterwards tried to break into my hotel room - sheesh!)

The BBC's Humphrey Hawksley, who used to share an office with my hubby when he was the FT's Manila correspondent, offered  a ticket to the premiere of Carlos Acosta's new movie - including a ticket to the start-studded party afterwards. Hump continues to be a familiar face on the news - but he's been writing thrillers on the side. I don't know how he does it.


Meanwhile I've been following the news from the Philippines via my Facebook feed.

While my friends in the West are relentlessly posting appeals for donations, the feed from my Filipino friends started out the week with terrifying cries for help.

Photos of missing family members scrolled through my feed. 'If you are in Leyte and you see these people, please contact ...'

And then there were the calls for volunteers, opportunities to send help. 'we are packing goods at ...' 'There's a ship leaving in the morning ...'

But more recentlyit has turned into a political morass.

Blame, recriminations, grandstanding not to mention a gaff prone president ("But you did not die?" - this to a businessman who was held at gunpoint by looters) and who appears to be bewilderingly embarrassed by the death toll, trying to push estimates downward.

And then there are officials like our Vice President Binay, who takes the opportunity to brand donations so that the suffering masses know who to vote for in the next election. For shame!

Well that's appalling, Jejomar Binay. Yuck.

But while one is disgusted by the shenanigans of the few - the disaster zone is glowing with uplifting tales of dogged survival, kindness and generosity that knows no bounds.

I was moved by this first person account by Agence France Presse reporter Agnes Bun, who took that footage of that baby born in the aftermath that we saw repeated over and over again on the news everywhere.

During my six days there, I was impressed by the endurance, the generosity and also the pride of the Filipinos. Everywhere I went, people smiled in front of the camera, asked me where I was from, asked me if I was alright. Lessons in Life from the Hell of Haiyan by Agnes Bun, AFP

The Filipino online news site Rappler set up a base in Tacloban - and their feed is by turns harrowing and inspiring.

There are no words big enough to describe what is happening here. This is Haiti. This is Katrina. This is the Book of Revelations. Bang the drums for the four horsemen of the apocalypse. For tens of thousands of people, the world as they knew it ended in the morning of November 8, 2013, and they know the resurrection will be a long time coming. From The Long Road to Tacloban, Rappler
It's strange but the stories I've been hearing reminds me of the bad old days of the 1986 revolution that kicked the Marcos dictatorship out.

At the time there was an overwhelming sense of gratitude to the journalists who were telling the world our story. I remember how that felt in '86. I would have done anything to help a foreign correspondent get the truth out about my country.

When I made this tongue-in-cheek video chastising the BBC for mispronouncing Tacloban -

- a Filipino subscriber didn't see the humour. She chided me on Facebook for disrespecting the foreign correspondents. 'Just say Thank you,' she told me.

The fact is: journalists are just doing their job. And then they will move on.

Even though the reporters will no doubt soon be packing their parachutes to move on to other bigger stories, our story will not be going anywhere for a while.

Still: this week of abject horror has also been a week of overwhelming kindness.

So to everyone who got out of bed to do something - anything - THANK YOU.

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