Recently a new Twitter hashtag has started called #askHAU. This is a great opportunity for children’s writers of all levels to ask editors/publishers at Hachette Australia questions about the writing trade, how to get published, what the editors are looking for, etc….
This is too good an opportunity to miss and yesterday I participated because it was Suzanne O’Sullivan’s turn to answer the questions from 3pm to 4pm. Suzanne is the Associate Publisher of children’s books at Hachette Australia and replied to a whole variety of useful questions with enthusiasm and great wisdom.
Here are my questions:
I hope this has been useful for you, it certainly was for me. 🙂
To read more questions and answers from other Twitterers go here: #askHAU
To find out who else from Hachette will be answering questions go here: Hachette.com.au
Every week I panic and think I won’t be able to come up with an illustration for the 52 week Illustration Challenge – it really does make me feel nervous. I almost feel like giving up but I don’t because the joy I feel when I do manage to create a new piece of artwork is wonderful.
I was so stuck with this theme and then I realised that the book I am reading is based in Italy. Masquerade is written by my writing buddy Kylie Fornasier, and I am thoroughly enjoying all the drama and intrigue that went with the Carnevale.
This year to keep me inspired and creative I am taking part in the following:
This competition opened recently and closes on the 30th April. last year I came first in the Aspiring Unpublished category for preschool. Such a boost to my confidence! You can read about it here: CYA Conference 2014.
Other challenges and opportunities may arise as the year goes on and I will attempt to participate or submit work to as many as I feel I am ready for. I can’t wait! 🙂
So here are the following questions to explain my processes:
What am I working on?
Everything at the moment, which feels a bit hectic. But I am working for 3 deadlines/closing dates which are happening in the following week:
I have to submit manuscripts for appraisals at this years SCBWI Conference
submit a manuscript to CYA Conference Writing Competition
submit a manuscript to KBR Unpublished Picture Book Award Competition
Actually, the first one is the only job I have to do, but the second two are what I need to do to help me develop into a more satisfying and successful writer. Entering competitions helps you work towards deadlines. Some offer feedback sheets which are invaluable and help you to spot strengths and weaknesses in your own work.
So, what am I working on?
3 chapter books/ middle grade novels
1 rhyming picture book manuscript ( I know, rumour has it that they are not easy to sell to publishers, unless the ryhme is perfect – I intend to make it perfect 😉
How does my work differ from others of it’s genre?
I learnt a new word last year – scatalogical. I submitted a manuscript to an American Literary Agency for Julie Hedlund’s 12 X 12 Writing Challenge (write 12 picture book manuscripts in 12 months). The agent replied to me with a very nice rejection letter explaing that ‘scatalogical’ humour was not her thing.
I don’t know why but many of my manuscripts seem to contain scatalogical humour in some shape or form including: cow pats, bird poo, super-glue poo. Maybe that’s how it differs.
I also have two manuscripts which have a connection to the island I was born on – Jersey, Channel Islands.
Why do I write what I do?
I have often read blogs that say don’t write to trends, write about what you know or enjoy.
Well, I know about Jersey, living on a tiny island and Jersey cows.
But I’m not an expert on a great variety of poos – although I have stood in dog poo (which isn’t lucky) and bird poo has landed on me (but that’s ok because it’s lucky.)
I love history and therefore I have two manuscripts that are historical. Both are based around real events. One is a picture book which made my daughter cry. She thought it was a horrible story as the father wasn’t going to make it back in time for his daughter’s birthday. (She threw the manuscript on the floor!)
The other one is a middle grade novel which is so exciting to write but difficult too. It is based in 50BC and as I wasn’t around then it is quite hard to make sure I am including details that would have existed then, eg: food, transport, tradition, clothes (or lack of – Gauls had been known to fight naked!), family life, rules, etc…
How does my writing process work?
In the past I have entered Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Ideas Month). Or I have seen something in the news or in the newspaper, on Facebook or something my kids have done – and Bingo! It has given me an idea.
I then go through the following quick checklist:
WHO is the main character?
WHAT is the problem/ inciting event?
WHERE is this happening?
WHEN is it happening?
I write the first draft. Spell check it. Read it out loud into my voice memo onto my iphone (this is especially useful for my rhymimg text)
I have recently come across this devise to help you hear your work: http://www.naturalreaders.com/index.php
I also get my 8 year old daughter to read out the manuscript aloud.
Then I meet up with my brilliant critique group and they give me valuable feedback on the good and the bad. And I rewrite, rewrite and rewrite until the writing feels polished and every word is needed. This can sometimes be hard to judge.
And now to introduce next week’s blogger;
Rob Harding is a voice-over artist, TV presenter and kids author. You have probably heard Rob’s voice before – perhaps on the radio or TV for Coke or Optus or perhaps one of those ads where he shouts at you about a Massive Clearance Sale. He appears on the BBC’s pre-school channel CBeebies, where he gets to dress up as a gnome and speak in a pirate accent, although usually not at the same time.
Rob has also written several critically acclaimed children’s books. At this stage, none of these books have actually been published, so the critical acclaim only comes from Rob’s kids. His wife thinks they’re OK. His dog thinks they stink. (Which actually isn’t such a bad thing because she used to eat her own poopy.)
I can’t believe it’s that time of the year already! Yes, it is time to start thinking about Christmas gifts as there are only 12 weeks left until Christmas Day. So why not plan ahead and buy the perfect gift. My little Christmas book fits in an A5 envelope which makes it a great gift to send to family, friends and loved ones abroad. It is suitable for children of all ages.
Sing or read the traditional Christmas rhyme with a Jersey twist (as in old Jersey in the Channel Islands, UK). Find out what else ‘my true love brings to me’ including: 3 ormer shells, 2 Jersey cows and a puffin in a pear tree.
Click on the following link for a printable colour-in sheet of the 1st day of Christmas:
Today is ‘World Read Aloud Day’. To fing out more about this event click here.
So tonight I am reading a new book that arrived in the postbox today –Miss Brooks Loves Books by Barbara Bottner and brilliant illustrations by Michael Emberley. Thank you Mr. Postman, such great timing!
This isn’t a book I have just chosen out of the blue, oh no, there was a perfectly good reason. Sometimes (and apparently more frequently) when you are submitting a manuscript, you can be asked to compare your story/concept to other books already out there. Mary Lindsey from QueryTracker.net also mentions this in her post: Query Letters:Constants and Not so Constants.
I have written a manuscript about a Librarian and have not read many books with this theme before, not even in my teaching years. Therefore I had to go on a hunt for books with Librarians in them. This led me to Miss Brooks Loves Books, which I found online eventually. I loved the synopsis and therefore decided to order it.
It is not always easy to find books that you can compare your own to. What happens if you can’t say my book is ? meets ?. Mary Lindsey says:
“This doesn’t work if you use little known or obscure references.”
Searching for similar themes and concepts to your own is a good lesson. Maybe there are hundreds out there already like your story idea. What then? Can you find a new angle to make it better? Give it a twist? These are challenges worth thinking about and even taking on!
And the bonus is you get to discover new authors and illustrators like I have with Miss Brook Loves Books! (and I don’t)