Monday 28 March 2016

How to Write a Bio.

By Kathryn Evans and Nick Cross

Kathryn Evans
Kathryn writes:
I hate writing biographies. In my head they always sound like this:
Oh look at me, look at all this stuff I do, Aren't I great, aren't I busy?
I don't feel hugely confident in how to write them either, and now I'm being asked for them all the time, I thought I really better learn. Nick Cross, who loves writing them and is typically brilliant at it, has agreed to help.

Monday 21 March 2016

How do you become a cover designer? Art Director Thy Bui tells all

My latest: Book of Lies,
published by Orchard Books 24 March!
by Teri Terry
I'm taking a break from blogging about writing this time, and moving on to something that can strike hope, fear, joy and despair into the heart of all authors... sometimes at the same time. Yes, you guessed it: book covers. 

Covers are so critical to the success of a book. The most amazing book with the wrong cover will struggle; the most average book with the most amazing cover will do well. Them's the facts. 

When I first saw the cover for Book of Lies, I was still writing the story. It was love at first sight for me: an amazing cover! Actually possibly the most amazing cover in the history of covers! Though instead of thinking, ok, average insides will do the job, it somehow turned the pressure up a notch to get the story just right.

Considering how important they are, there is very little out there about the shadowy figures behind cover design.

Monday 14 March 2016

Doing Less, Better

By Nick Cross

A month ago, I wrote the following on the wall of our top-secret Notes from the Slushpile hideout:
In the last week, I have:
  • Attended two book launches
  • Edited a 1500 word story down to 1000 words for the next issue of Stew Magazine
  • Formatted and scheduled next week's Alphabet Soup article and started work on the week after
  • Commissioned two more Alphabet Soup articles
  • Written a Slushpile blog
  • Worked full-time for 5 days
So why do I constantly feel like I'm not doing enough?
Why indeed? The Slushpile team were supportive in their replies (apart from Candy Gourlay who I trust was joking when she called me a lazy man!). But for me, the inherent problem lay in that final question. Why wasn't I satisfied with what I'd done, and what did I need to do to make sure that I was?

That led me to take a hard look at my own beliefs. For years, I believed that the more busy I was, the more I would get done. But what if that wasn't true? What if I could get better results and more satisfaction by doing less?

Monday 7 March 2016

World Book Day: Choosing Stories

If you managed to escape from Addy Farmer's web of distraction post from last week, you might have noticed the passing of World Book Day on Thursday. If you weren't aware of it being WBD, you might have noticed a strange parade of children dressed up as recognisable (or not) book characters streaming towards the school gates.

On the assumption that if you are reading this blog then you are likely a writer, you are one of two things:

1. Not yet published, and feeling fresh-faced and youthful after devoting some of your time this week to reading, writing and looking forward to a calm career as an author.
2. Published, and absolutely exhausted after a week spent in five different schools surrounded by boundless enthusiasm and inexhaustible mischief.

Likely exhaustion level by the end of World Book Day week

Being in Camp One myself, I often respond to a call for arms from my local Indie to help out with book sales at local school events, simply because there are so many at this time of year and quite frankly I love helping out (although it should be said that I'm on leave from work at the moment and therefore I made the call for stuff-to-do rather than it being the other way around). So on Tuesday I'll be driving from one school to another, always hoping that each will be as wonderfully frantic as the last.

When we get to each school, we will set up tables and stands and decorate them hurriedly with as wide a variety of titles as possible, eager not to topple either the books or ourselves. Then we will rush around madly as children in various guises rush around even more madly, looking for their favourites, discussing the best characters and, with any luck, ready to have something new recommended to them. 

It all feels rather like playing at being an adult, because all I can generally think about is the book fairs that used to come to my school, and how I used to feel perusing the endless shelves. In all likelihood there were only a couple of bookcases on wheels with a handful of books clinging to them, but I always felt somewhat dwarfed by the whole thing. 

A typical 1980s school book fair. Probably.

I can't remember for the life of me what made me select one book over another (unless it had a picture of somebody being eaten on the front - I had a particular proclivity for books containing stories of man eaters). But I do remember clutching my pound coins in my rapidly-sweating fist and being absorbed by the opportunity to choose whatever I wanted. (God love anyone who tried to rip a book on cannibalism out of my nine-year old hands.)

This love of choosing a story wasn't restricted to book fairs, of course, it was also relentlessly exercised in libraries and at home, as well as in book shops the day before we headed on our summer holidays. 

At the time, I don't think there was anybody to help me decide on what to choose. Sometimes that worked out well and landed me with an entirely age-inappropriate love of cannibalism stories. 

But I also remember starting an awful lot of books only to discard them very quickly. (Including that time somebody tried to make me read Stephen King aged eleven. I retreated into the many worlds of Enid Blyton for a full year after that.) We certainly didn't have a school librarian, although there were smatterings of books in most classrooms.

Not at all odd to pivot between stories about teddy bears to stories about people losing limbs  to sharks. Not at all.

Luckily, at the schools I'll be heading to tomorrow, there will be book shop staff who know exactly what they're talking about, who know how to open up a child to new kinds of stories without breaking their love for their old favourites. There will be school librarians and teachers, who also know exactly what they're talking about, who know the children and what works for them and what doesn't. On top of which, they'll all have spent at least part of the day with an author. All four of those groups of adults will be there to achieve one thing: to encourage a love of stories.  
And that, for me, is the joy of World Book Day.

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