Friday, 4 March 2022

World Book Day Blues and Dreams

Yesterday was the 25th World Book Day. I love WBD but this year for me it was tainted with sadness and sweetened with dreams. You see I woke up to a Facebook memory reminding me that the last time one of my children dressed up for WBD was on it’s 20th anniversary five years ago.

WBD was a really event in our house, the children, bookworms, who love dressing up would plan weeks ahead, and we’d beg, borrow, steal and fashion their costumes See my post about it here. Also having worked in bookshops, it’d be big for me too, as I attended in shop author events and assisted school visits across the week. Some years, when I had a contract - I actually did school visits as an author, promoting the love of stories, reading and running writing workshops. When I worked at the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre we do celebration too.


But this year, like the past few years, my children are too old and it’s not celebrated at their school, and I am no longer a bookseller or working at the museum, plus I am still pre-published so no author visits for me. So it feels like WBD is a party I’m not invited to. I found myself avoiding social media, as seeing all the posts of children dressed up, and friends preparing for this school visits was making me down.

BUT THEN I STARTED TO DREAM. (Dangerous I know!)

What if, my current WIP was published, what would my WBD look like?

I would like to think I’d be doing some school visits, to KS2 & KS3, so I started to imagine what my author visit would look like.


Firstly - I’d have to look smart – as I work from home in a building site - I dress like a bag lady. This won’t do at all. So either I’d go for my mammoth 50’s skirt with a twin set. Or smart trousers and blazer, with the t-shirts a friend made me featuring the mammoth characters from my book. Either way I’d accessorise with the lovely pin badge my Son’s friend made me of another of my mammoth characters based on my illustrations.

What would I take with me?

  • Obviously my PowerPoint on a USB.
  • Some markers to draw. 
  • For KS2 a mammoth plush (I have many to choose from!)
  • Some elephant poo paper.
  • I’d probably get some inexpensive (black ink on coloured card) bookmarks printed with the book name blurb and my name on, and sign for each child. This way every child gets something even if they don’t buy the book, and if they want to buy it later they have all the details. This is a tip I learnt from Jane Clarke on one of the SCBW Professional Series (now industry insiders) session years ago.
  • Time line tape measure. 
  • Maybe a small fragment of mammoth fossil.

What would my talk be like?

Obviously I’d read an extract from the book. Then I’d do my interactive PowerPoint presentation. Now my current WIP is a STEM Cli-Fi adventure. With an own-vice neuro-diverse element with the main protagonist having dyslexia and dyscalculia. Here’s the Pitch…

Ash and her friend’s, Ruby an escapologist, and Jack a technical whiz, must save the herd of mammoths that have been cloned to help slow global warming, from an evil big game hunting obsessed billionaire with unlimited resources. The children must work together and use their talents and their secret weapon – Ash’s ability to talk to the mammoths - to save the herd, themselves and the world.

The talk would cover, mammoths facts, cloning, how cloning mammoths could help slow global warming. How STEM solutions can help with climate change and to save endangered species. Also about Pliocene Park, in Siberia, where they have reintroduced animals that were native to the tundra to help stop global warming. I’d also cover a little bit about dyslexia and dyspraxia.


I would as I go along, draw illustrations to explain points and use a combination of my own illustrations and other images for the PowerPoint. To end would be Q&A. this is where the elephant poo paper comes in because guaranteed there’ll be a question about Mammoths not being good for the environment due to the amount of farts they do, and I shall say, but with farts comes poo, and look what we can make from it!

Anyways, this is just my little dream of how potential a future WBD may look like or me, and also how a school visit may be! Although I am a long way off, it was nice to spend a bit of time dreaming which made me feel a tad more connected with World Book Day.


Friday, 21 January 2022

Resolutions Déjà vu!

So another year - be it three weeks in! Another list of resolutions. But this year I’ve shaken mine up.

A few years ago we started a new family tradition. We go out for brunch between Christmas and New Year (pandemic permitting) and we all write our ‘aims’ for the New Year. We than create a family list of New Year resolutions, along with our individual ones.

My individual list is always the same. A rehash of every previous year. There are some differences, depending on what’s going on, like this year which is a BIG EXAM year for both kids, so I have ‘support kids through exams. And ‘Help them tradition to their next step’. But my person stuff is always the same. ‘Eat better’. ‘Look after myself’.

My writer’s resolutions could be copy and pasted from any year. In fact whilst brunching we found my New Year’s Resolutions form 2017, they included…

  • Finishing editing book.
  • Enter more competitions. – (get long-listed!)
  • Submit to agents - (sign with agent!)
  • Submit to publishers – (sign a contract!)
  • Read more
  • Blog more.
  • Attend more writer events.
  • Social media.

In fact these were EXACTLY the same as I had written down for 2022 –well apart from the book I’m editing is different – but other than that identical. Actually it is pretty much a carbon-copy of every New Year’s resolutions list I’ve done since 2011.

This is actually rather depressing. It means that for over a decade I haven’t actually achieved any of my resolutions. So for 2022 I have decided to simplify. Obviously I still have my list of aims and dreams, but I only have one resolution, which is simply…

Be move creative!

Why? Creativity is good for the imaginations - it feeds it, which is great for a writer and it’s good for mental health.


Well in September I succumbed to Covid. It was horrible. So was the isolation. One of the things that got me through it with my sanity in fact was drawing. This is a return to my roots, as I studied Art and originally came to the world of kids lit by a desire to illustrate. Re-embracing this part of me really made me happier.

So my resolution for 2022 sis be more creative. Simple. Achievable. Of course I am still writing and pursuing publication, but hopefully when 2023 rolls around I will have at least one resolution that I’ve nailed!

Happy New Year too you all. Good luck with you resolutions, dreams and aims for 2022! We can do it together!

Wednesday, 17 November 2021

Pitch Perfect

Tweet ready for a physical pitching competition

I love a good pitch. I am actually pretty good at pitching too. To clarify - I’m obviously talking about pitching books NOT singing acapella. Believe me- no one wants to hear me sing, my husband (who is a trained musician and used to be a professional singing teacher) has told me; I quote … [I] ‘can’t carry a tune in a bag!’

My badge for winning the  short pitch comp at the 2013 SCBWI Winchester Conference


I can pitch a novel though. I tend to write high concept, commercial stories with a literary edge which I’m passionate about – and this luckily tends to makes it easy to talk about and make sound exciting.

I also am in the habit of starting my new projects with a pitch. Usually an elevator pitch which is the essence of the book. In addition I write the synopsis (hole ridden though it may be) of where I see the story going and including key elements. I use this as a rough map whilst penning the first draft. Of course writing and creativity often take you to unexpected places (this is one of my favourite parts of a new project) so when I’m writing I tweak the pitch and synopsis. So all three, the manuscript, synopsis and pitch are constantly evolving.


I often enter pitching competitions, especially twitter ones, not because I expect anyone to request to see my work, (as I always think my tweets get lost in a sea of pitches) but to force me to work and improve my pitch. With Twitter pitching events you have to keep your pitch tight, distilled down to bare essence of the story, PLUS leave room for hashtags that communicate the genre, sub-genres and age group of your novel. Also many twitter pitching events allow you to pitch the same novel multiple times as long as the pitch is different. This is great for forcing me to be creative and experiment until I have an array of pitches for each project. Also the feedback of comments and re-tweets (and if I’m lucky a ‘like’ from an industry professional) help me gauge which of these pitches works the best. This can also help to reassure me which pitch to use on submissions letters.

Pitching at the 2019 Golden Egg Academy Big Honk Competition 


So I tend to do a lot of pitching events and I have more often than not had at least one ‘like’ from an industry professional, opening up an opportunity which after I’ve researched them, and I am ready, can be seized.

I have also had some luck with other pitching competitions, at SCBWI and Gold Egg Academy events, some of which have resulted in requests to see manuscript , which has been great - always a little confidence boost if nothing else!

With my prize for winning ten word pitching comp at the 2019 SCBWI Winchester conference.


Here some of my tips for penning pitches…

  • Think of what the TAG LINE would be if your book was adapted into a movie.
  • Write it longer and edit if down. It doesn’t matter if it’s a paragraph, or even a full page. Get everything written down and then keep halving it until it is only a sentence. This will make you really think of what you can delate but still communicate what the main elements and ISP (Individual Selling Point) of your story.
  • If you are gifted at grammar, grammatize the hell out of it, so it can be longer but still a sentence. For an example of a master of this read ‘Mrs Frisby and the Rats of Nimh’ by Robert C. O'Brien – this is actually taught in universities to illustrate this exact point!
  • If you can add a good comparison quote do. Compare your project to things people know, don’t go for obscure compassions. Also don’t be afraid to use movies or popular TV shows if it fits better, for example…

for my mammoth book…

Ice Age vs Doctor Dolittle with a dash of Jurassic Park

  • Keep a Pitch Document with all your pitches ready to copy and paste. In here you can have multiple versions of twitter pitches, elevator pitches, compassion pitches, or longer blurb type pitches.
  • Lastly, take your time. Do it over a week. Do some then leave it and come the next day with a fresh set of eyes and do some more edits.

Happy pitching everyone!
And Good Luck!