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!


  1. What wonderful busy lives! Thanks for sharing highs and lows and very best of luck for 2014.

    1. Thanks, Rowena! And may you have a happy, writerly 2014!

    2. Happy New Year from me too, Rowena.


  3. Well, that looks like my granddaughter's reads sorted for the early part of 2014! Congratulations on your successes. Also a special New Year Lincoln thank you to the wonderful Addy who picks us up, wipes our eyes, puts balm upon our scrapes and bruises and sets us off in the right direction on our Writers' Journey.

    1. Aw- thanks, Gill! Here's to a wonderful writerly 2014.


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