Thursday, 30 July 2015

Chasing an i-deer

If you have ever met a writer, been to an author event or are a writer yourself the following question will be familiar to you. The interesting thing is that it never has the same answer or gets boring. In fact at author events when the question is asked I get a little bit tingly and excited to hear the author or writers response.

"Where do you get your ideas from?'

Somebody asked me this recently and I had to take a moment to think it through, and actually in the end I rather fudged my answer as in truth I was worried it might all sound a bit wishy-washy and airy-fairy etc.

The truth is that ideas can come from anywhere and nowhere - some ideas have come from pieces of music, paintings, news articles, other books and some just seem to appear as if from nowhere (see I told you it was bit wishy-washy!)

BUT the idea is just a starting point. It's when our own imaginations kick in that the real magic starts.

A few weeks ago I was walking my dog on the field opposite my house, as I turned to walk alongside the small wood I saw what I thought was a dog standing very close to the edge of the crops (Oilseed Rape) But there was something rather un-doglike about it. It was incredibly still - no wagging tale or alert head. As my dog moved forwards the "other dog" turned, and at that moment I could tell it was a deer. It moved so fluidly and gracefully, without disturbing the oilseed rape in anyway and vanished silently into the crop.

It had been only a few meters away and as I drew level with the patch where it had disappeared I could see a narrow trampled pathway leading into the field. And for a moment I thought about following the path in the hope of seeing the deer again. Of course I knew I had no chance really of this working out, the deer would be far away, disturbed by my intruding footsteps and I'd never see it again.

And I started to think that this was what it was like to chase an idea, if you pursue it to hard you scare it away. Better to allow it to open up the myriad possibilities and paths before you and to wander freely and see what emerges than to hunt something that is faster and wilder than you are.

So where do my ideas come from? From all over, I try to allow everything to potentially inspire me but each thing, be it a song, an image, a word, name or passing fancy to be just the starter.

The way in. The shove in the right direction. The first step in the maze.

Jot it down, pin it, copy and paste, save it for later. And then let it lead me to richer and greater things.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Good News

Hello everyone, apologies for being soo long with another post. It's all been rather frantic over here. But in the best possible way. Rest assured I've not been wasting my time and I have some wonderful news to share with you all.

As you'll know I have been working on a middle grade fantasy adventure book called The Apprentice Witches' HandbookI and I'm really excited to say that it has been bought by Chicken House and will be published in the (hopefully) not too distant future!

It's so exciting, wonderful and mildly terrifying all at the same time, but is totally a dream come true!

I have always loved stories, however they present themselves, through music, film and of course through beautiful, enchanting books!! I’ve spent almost twenty years (I started very young indeed!) working in bookshops and libraries surrounded and influenced by all those stories and great storytellers. Whilst my own tales buzzed around in my head, although a few even managed to make it onto paper once or twice. 

But now they have broken free and with the help, support and encouragement of some fantastic people, most especially the fabulous Golden Egg Academy Team lead by Mother Goose, Imogen Cooper and my awesome agent Kate Shaw, something that felt like a far off dream is one step closer to coming true! 
smile emoticon

It's very exciting and an honour to now be working with the splendid team at Chicken House, especially brilliant Barry Cunningham. I can’t wait to see where Arianwyn goes next!

So here is a little bit about the book,The Apprentice Witches' Handbook:

With everything stacked against her, apprentice witch Arianwyn Gribble must overcome a shaky start to achieve her true potential...

In the Four Kingdoms, witches use a set of five magical symbols, called glyphs, to control the natural flow of magic in the world. But Arianwyn Gribble, a young apprentice witch, has seen a sixth glyph for as long as she can remember, a glyph that has always heralded trouble and darkness, like the death of her mother.

At her crucial evaluation test Arianwyn is distracted by the glyph and fails. spectacularly, much to the delight of Gimma Alverston, Arianwyn’s fellow apprentice and arch-rival. Packed off to the the obscure town of Lull with only The Apprentice Witches’ Handbook and an odd assortment of new friends to help her things get off to a very shaky start.

Meanwhile, something is very wrong in the Great Wood of Lull, rampant with spirits and wild pockets of magic and a dark uncontrollable spell that – endangers the whole town… Will Arianwyn be able to face her fears and save Lull before it's too late?
So its all real, I do keep pinching myself! I'm busy editing at the moment and I'll be sharing more news and updates here as things progress! Stay tuned! 


Saturday, 10 May 2014


Hello again. I'm afraid I had such nice comments about the last blog post and so much fun doing it, that I decided to give it another whirl...this could become a nasty habit. But don't worry, I'm not going to start moaning on about supermarkets or wind farms (hate the former, love the latter BTW!) I am going to focus on writing, perhaps with the odd diversion...maybe.

So I was musing over what my second blog post should be about and it occurred to me that as a 'new' writer , support is sooooo important, no matter what form it might take.

When I first restarted on my writing adventure I decided to take a creative writing course, at that point it had been years since I had actively spent time writing, would I remember how? And nobody had ever read anything I had written and I wasn't sure if it was all a colossal waste of time or something worth pursuing but just for my own amusement. When I found out my tutor, Julia Williams was not only a great writer but  had previously been an editor at Scholastic, I knew I was going to be in good hands and hopefully learn something along the way.

Julia was soooo encouraging and positive about the first few pieces of work I submitted that I thought I must actually be doing something right, although of course deep down something told me she was just being nice and I still didn't really know what I was doing.

It was Julia who encouraged me to consider writing my book and to think about submitting work 'that's the best way to learn about writing,' she told me, and she was right. Julia was one of my first 'encouragers' (yes I made that word up - get used to it!) and I shall forever be thankful to her for all the advice, feedback and support she has given me in the last few years and for telling me to just get on and do it! (she used slightly more colourful language than that, as it happens)

When I started to write my book, there were only a handful of the most trusted people that I told, not even close members of my family knew, why? Because I was convinced people would laugh at me, and think it was a massive joke. But bit by bit I have 'come out' as a children's writer, and people have been wonderful about it. Nobody has laughed at me (at least not to my face) and they now share each new exciting step on the journey I am taking with my story.

Getting support from people who know what they are talking about is a good idea, no matter how scary it might seem. As you will know I am very lucky and proud to be part of The Golden Egg Academy  I first made enquiries about the academy in the summer of last year, and even before I had submitted work and been accepted (one of the biggest shocks of my life!) I found the community of other 'eggs' and the editors so welcoming and encouraging that a lot of my fears were chased away by their advice, kindness and humour (Oh, and jaffa cakes!)

I am about to embark on mentoring with the amazing Bella Pearson, and I feel so very privileged to be able to work with such an experienced and talented editor, who has also been wonderfully encouraging and enthusiastic about my story, characters and the world I am creating. I have to pinch myself a few times a week just to make sure I am not in some extended edition of a dream!

I hope I have been able to offer back just a teeny-tiny portion of the support all these people have and do give to me often.

If you are embarking on a new venture, whether it's a creative one or not make sure you have a team of 'encouragers' around you, even if it's just one other person. We are all our own harshest critics, so listen to the support of people you trust whether they are old friends or new. You never know where it might take you!

Here's some inspiring and stirring music to encourage you!

Sunday, 20 April 2014

The Writing Process Blog Tour: Nobody said anything about having a process!!!

I feel very lucky and only mildly terrified to have been asked to blog about my writing process, especially as quite a few folks seem curious about it…I can’t imagine why. I didn't even really think I had one until I sat down to write this!

The baton has been passed to me / hurled like a hand grenade in my general direction, by the wonderfully lovely Kay Vallely, or as I like to think of her, ‘Mrs Post-it Note’ And if anyone else had asked I’d have said no way, but I couldn't say no to Kay…just look at that face!

Kay Vallely is writing her first YA novel and it is heavily influenced by where she lives. When she’s writing in her summerhouse (jealous!)  she looks onto the Welsh and Shropshire hills, both steeped in myths and legend. She’s only a short walk from her childhood home, the source of many adventures and ghost stories. Her love for stories and writing only increased further when she became a primary school teacher and fell in love with reading to a captive audience! Fast forward to being mentored by Imogen Cooper, on the Golden Egg Academy, and she is now on the road to completing her YA ‘magical realism’ novel. You can read Kay’s AMAZING blog entry at

     What am I working on?

I am currently working on a middle grade novel full of magic and adventure with a dash of humour (apparently!) 

Its working title is ‘The Apprentice Witches Handbook’ and it’s about a young witch who fails an important evaluation test and is sent off to the back of beyond to be the town witch.

She is determined to prove her skills and abilities and gets into all manner of scrapes and bother and stumbles across a very real and terrible threat to the town in the shape of a long buried demon god! Add in oodles of spells, a host of suitably scary monsters and a collection of friends and foes to help her or hinder her and we're there! Sort of!

The idea came very clearly to me with an image of my main character, Arianwyn, standing in a garden, by the light of a full moon drawing magical symbols into the night air. That scene doesn't actually exist in the current draft though, but I’ll always remember it was where we first bumped into each other!

     2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Whilst the world its set in is 100% a fantasy world it’s also incredibly real and dangerous. The characters are the heart of the story and my heroine is unique and doesn't conform to the average fantasy mould (fingers crossed)  

         3. Why do I write what I do?

Because of the utter pleasure and sheer joy of creating a whole new world and new people to live in it and to indulge in the adventures I have always wanted to have. But most importantly to give other readers the comfort, escape and understanding books offered to me as a child…and still do.

In fantasy books like The Chronicles of Narnia, no matter what is happening in our own lives – in the ‘real world’, we can just escape and be free from it, for just a few lines, a chapter or a whole book. And that helps us to cope with whatever is happening in our lives, gives us confidence that others are battling as well and are winning and triumphing and we might just triumph with them and in our own lives.

Imagination is such an important thing in our childhoods and I firmly believe we build and train our imagination through reading, especially as children.

        4. How does my writing process work?

Well as I said, I wasn't really sure I had one. The idea for my current book totally popped into my head with the image I described above so I wrote that all down and I took it from there really. I knew how the story might start and that was my next point of call, but gosh aren't beginnings hard! 

Soooo, I spent quite a bit of time working on that and then a few key scenes that had emerged from my daydreaming and from the first few chapters and scenes I had written, but everything was fairly nebulous and random.

I made heaps of notes in a little orange notebook (I LOVE notebooks!) and started to gather images of things, places, people etc. that I wanted to use in my story on Pinterest ( I love Pinterest only slightly less than I love notebooks!)

But I was still flip-flopping all over the place with scenes and characters. Every time a new thought or idea, scene, character, setting, magical creature of thing popped into my head I would scribble it down before it ran away. Somewhere in that tangle of spells, monsters and witches I found a sort of ending (hurrah!) But I was still troubling over how everyone was going to get there without it being a really short book!

And then I stumbled upon a blog post by Jim Butcher which was all about the Big Swampy Middle (BSM, the less attractive cousin of the BFG?) And to be fair I didn’t have a big swampy middle…I had barren tundra (think tumble weeds!) The blog post was great, I now knew I needed something mahoosive to happen in the ‘middle’…well duh! Yes, I know but I was so caught up I couldn’t see the creepy woods (full of terrible, magical, monstrous creatures) for the trees.

So I mapped out a mash up story board /time-line/ story arc/ brain map thing-a-mi-jig and plotted the scenes I had thought up already – hurrah…I had a plan-thingy! Sort of.
Now I look back on it all my ‘wandering’ was quite helpful in terms of developing my characters and just being creative and imaginative, I just went for it with little attention to anything really as I went along. But actually what I had was a LOT of notes a beautiful Pinterest board, some more notebooks and a few typed up chapters. I found I was struggling to actually sit down at the laptop and write. I’m relatively focused when working on something but I found being at the laptop boring and I just couldn’t bring myself to type anything onto the blank pristine white screen and I would perhaps eventually type a couple of hundred words, having first looked at Pinterest  or stroked my notebook collection! Then doubt myself and delete it all.

Somewhere in the midst of all this I was on holiday with some friends, I’d packed a notebook and all my collected scribbling’s thinking I might get a bit of time to sketch out a scene or two. The house we stayed in had a lovely terrace at the end of the garden that looked over the town of Rye and the East Sussex coast and it was beautiful. I found myself out there most mornings whilst everyone else was showering or having a lay in or out jogging (imagine that…on holiday!) and I got loads of writing done, in the old fashioned way with a mechanical pencil and my Martha Stewart notebook (highly recommended!) and I actually physically wrote.

I found the ideas poured out of me like the proverbial! and I realised the problem before had been because I wasn't writing…I was typing!
There was something in the connection of the physical process of writing each and every word in my notebook…and then several others, that I loved. Ideas seemed to keep up with the flow of my writing and the blank pages were an empty stage ready for my characters to walk onto and not the sterile white screen of the laptop. It was a revelation. Bliss!

I promised myself I would type up all my chapters from my week away as soon as I got home editing as I typed and this worked a treat.

I’m now a member of The Golden Egg Academy – look them up, it’s a truly remarkable community and I am honoured to be part of it and among such talented, lovely and giving writers, editors and experts.

I’ve worked on the legendary BookMap tool devised by the wonderful Imogen Cooper which has helped highlight weak points in my plot and will help with my editing  and I recently attended a Golden Egg residential workshop with Beverley Birch and Bella Pearson!!! (I Know!)  It was an amazing weekend and challenged me to look at the story in a whole new way.

At the end of this month I will begin working with Bella at editorial 1:1s which I am so looking forward to and I'm sure through her expertise and skill I will continue to refine and learn more about the 'crafting' of my writing and now editing….but that’s another blog!

I am now passing the baton in this marathon to the super Jacqueline Jay (a fellow Golden Egg Academy member) 

Teacher by day and urban fantasy writer by night.  Jacqueline writes for teens; the age group she spends so much time with.  She lives with her husband and teenage son, if they disturb her while she’s writing; they do so at their own peril.  Her writing room is a restored VW camper; she taps on her keyboard while her husband tears up the waves kitesurfing.  She loves; coincidences, anything sparkly and leaving random messages on the beach for people to find. 

Her current novel: Instar is set in the City of Bath and follows 17 year old, Maia James.  She's plagued by cold shivers and each time they happen, a memory vanishes.   A winged shadow appears and the only link is her dad’s disappearance.  To find him, she’ll have to steal memories, but to get that power, she'll have to join those he warned her to stay away from.  Instar: whose memories would you steal to get the truth?

You’ll be able to read Jacqueline's blog from Monday 28th April at Jacqueline Jay Blog

And because I promised Kay I would end with a dance routine......

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Hello readers. The blog will be launching on Monday 21st April with my 'Writing Process Blog' so do check back then!