Thursday 27 February 2014

An Slightly Late Celebration of Tell A Fairy Tale Day (which was yesterday)…

Usually I’d be shouting from the roof tops on Tell A Fairy Tale Day, last year I posted a video blog of me telling a self-penned fairy tale [press here to view] but yesterday I was somewhat pre-occupied. However today is a bright sunny new day, and I shall mark the great Tell A Fairy Tale Day, a tad late with this small post of  how, on the Tell a Fairy Tale day, 26th of February 2014, Fairy tales are featuring in my family.

My small people got Kindle’s for Christmas and were reading Grimm’s Fairy tales, the original darker less edited versions and when I spotted them stumbling into some of the grimmest tales, I thought I should possibly encourage them toward more age suited tales. Enter Michael Buckley’s Sisters Grimm series, the middle grade adventures of Daphne and Sabrina, the fairy tale detectives who discover their descendants of the famous Wilhelm and Jacob, and must save their parents from a fairy-tale villain in the town of Ferryport Landing, which is populated entirely by fairy tale characters called Everafters. I ordered the first book for my daughter (aged nine), who read it in hours, and then continued on to book two, and is now nagging for me to purchase book three. Then my son (aged seven) a more reluctant reader liked the sound of the books so much he’s how reading the first book too.

I’m currently reading Jasper Fforde's fantastic first Nursery Rhymes Division book, The Big Over Easy, which is a hilarious detective yarn, following DI Jack Spratt (who has a nasty reputation for killing giants) as he and DS Mary Mary, try to crack the murder of Humpty Stuyvesant Van Dumpty’. I’m immensely enjoying watching the detectives as they try and work out who done it, with an escalating pile of corpses, and growing list of suspects, from Humpty’s lover Rapunzel, small time crook Thom Thumb, to crime king-pin Giorgio Porgia. It’s a cleaver, witty and  quirky read, that takes fairy-tales to a genre which is unique to Jasper Fforde.

My husband, and me and well everyone who comes around to visit are dipping into the remarkable and humorous, ‘Tigger on The Couch’ by Laura James. This coffee table book was published back in 2007, and is incredibly hard to come by, but is worth the search. Tigger on The Couch, diagnoses the ‘Neuroses, psychoses, disorders and maladies of favourite childhood characters’. Of course Fairy Tale characters feature heavily, for example; Snow White’s Stepmother who has ‘ Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) which manifests with her experiencing severe problems with personal relationships and in controlling her obsessive impulse. It’s an entertaining read from Cinderella’s trouble with Approval Addiction, to the more serious Bluebeards Psychopathy which results in callous disregard for others and serial murder.

Finally, my son is practicing every waking moment for his upcoming concert, which is a musical adaptation of Roald Dahl’s version of Jack and the Beanstalk. So as you can see on Tell A Fairy Tale day 2014, my family is indeed focused on fairy tales!

If that wasn't enough, I'm off to the fantastic book launch this evening of fellow SCBWI member and Undiscovered Voice 2012 Honorary Mention Liz De Jager's fairytale YA Novel Banished! 

Wednesday 26 February 2014

Always the Bridesmaid?!

Today, The Times/ Chicken House Children’s Fiction shortlist is announced both in the paper and on the Chicken House site [Press Here], and I'm not on it.

So here is a little blog about NOT making the shortlist.

Back in 2011 I submitted my first ever piece of writing to my first ever –ANYTHING – the SCBWI Undiscovered Voice Anthology. To my absolute shock and joy, my entry (an extract from my first novel a YA fantasy Fairy Tale yarn ‘Through Mortal Eyes), was longlisted. Then after an agonising wait I found, not unsurprisingly, that I didn't make the anthology, however I did receive an Honorary Mention, which was great. The Honorary Mention really helped my confidence giving me the assurance I needed to persevere, but also gave me something to put in covering letters having a positive impact in various slush piles.

In 2012 after several re-writes with the input of both my great writer buddies and professionals (you know who you are and a BIG thank you to you if you’re reading this) I submitted the same story to The Times/ Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition, and to my amazement and jubilation it was long-listed for the 2013 competition. Sadly, Through Mortal Eyes, didn't make the shortlist. This got me worrying that maybe I was a 'not quite' one book wonder. A One Horned Unicorn!

However, having fabulous friends and a supportive family, I started writing again, and produced in ten months another YA manuscript, this time a SCI-FI adventure called 'Journey to the Bone Factory', which I sent it off for the 2014 The Times/ Chicken House Children’s Fiction competition.  As the book was written so much quicker than my first book, I wasn't expecting it to do well. Then I received the an unexpected and gleeful news that Journey to the Bone Factory, had made it on to the longlist. Overjoyed, and much relieved, I saw this as a sign that I can stop worrying about being a one horned unicorn, and promptly gave myself that second horn.

So this brings us around to today, and The Times/ Chicken House Children’s Fiction 2014 shortlist announcement, which I’m not in. What does this mean? Well this obviously is disappointing, (anyone who has had a rejection will know just how much of an understatement that is) but it's more than that! Three long-listings; UV 2012, Chicken House 2013 and Chicken House 2014. No improvement?! No escalation?! Stagnation?!

So, what does that make me? A Two horned unicorn, that’s destined to always be the bridesmaid, never the bride? How do I take my craft from the bridesmaid level, to being the bride?

So after sometime licking my wounds, it’ll be back to writing, planning and plotting with a new goal; how I make the jump from bridesmaid to bride? Fortunately I've been accepted into the much praised Golden Egg Academy, so here’s hoping that out of a golden egg, a phoenix-multi-horned-unicorn-bride will be born.

Oh, and one last thing, to everyone who made it on to the shortlist; 

Congratulations and Good Luck!

Friday 14 February 2014

Writing is a SMALL WORLD - Interview with Bea Longworth Author of 'In Too Deep' Hot Key Unlocked Valentines YA Novella

Writing is a SMALL WORLD. Writing for children (and teens) is even smaller. When I came out of the writing closet in 2011 I entered this micro world by starting this blog and reluctantly embracing social media, only to find two of my closest university friends were writing and a school friend was a jobbing illustrator with the Bright Agency. 

A few years later and I'm still surprised how many of my non-writer friends and associates are secretly pursing the same goals, and one of those revelations came earlier this week when Hot Key Unlocked announced their Valentines special novellas. There was a name I recognised, Bea Longworth author of ‘In Too Deep.’

Now after being scooting the periphery of the writing micro world for a few years now, I feel very strongly that collectively we should and shout from the roof top to celebrate every success, so as it’s too wet and windy to stand on the roof top, I’ve got an interview with Bea instead!

A bit about Bea…

After studying English at Oxford University, Bea intended to pursue a career in publishing but got sidetracked into technology PR instead (as you do). That gave her a chance to indulge her love of gaming and all things gadget-related, as well as develop an appreciation for travel. In early 2013 she and her fiancĂ© Bill packed in the day jobs to start their own company called Freed Fiction making interactive digital novels for young adults. Bea lives in Oxfordshire and spends as much time as possible rowing on the River Thames because it’s a good excuse for tea and cake afterwards.

The Interview….

Did you always want to be writer?

I’ve always enjoyed writing but I find it a bit surreal to think of myself as ‘a writer.’ When you’re growing up there’s lots of pressure to know what you want to do with your life, which I never have (although apparently when I was five I was determined to be a waitress!) As well as reading I love gaming, particularly games that have a strong narrative element, and for a long time my dream was to work in the games industry. People tend to see books and computer games as complete opposites but in fact they’re very complimentary.

What’s you favourite three books?

Aaargh, the unanswerable question! It changes depending what mood I’m in. In terms of seminal books, I remember clearly the first time I read Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. I must have been about twelve and it blew my tiny mind! I’ve stayed a Pratchett and Gaiman fan ever since. I also love William Gibson’s writing – he’s most famous for his cyberpunk novels like Neuromancer, but for me Pattern Recognition is his best by a whisker. I tend to gravitate towards sci-fi and fantasy novels but I also find myself coming back to My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell again and again. His descriptions of Corfu are absolutely spellbinding. Honourable mention for the Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson, which is sort of about the colonisation of Mars but really about EVERYTHING!

What’s your favourite Novella?

I’m not sure if it’s technically a short novel or a novella, but I just really enjoyed After Dark by a Japanese author called Haruki Murakami. It takes place in real time over the course of one night in a town in present-day Japan. Murakami’s writing is really interesting because he mixes up descriptions of very realistic, everyday situations with totally surreal, off-the-wall stuff. I’m not always sure what it means but I love going along for the ride.

Do you prefer traditional books or e-books?

Cop out alert – I like both! With my favourite books, I’ll tend to own both a physical and an electronic copy. I’m into re-reading, although really you can never read the same book twice. It’s true! With a great book, every time I read it again I get some new meaning out of it that wasn’t there before, maybe because I’m reading it at a different time or place. I love books as objects but, particularly when I was travelling a lot for my previous job, e-books were super convenient and they mean you never have to worry about running out of something to read. One thing traditional books will aways win on though – their battery life is amazing J

What’s your day job?

About a year ago I started a digital publishing company called Freed Fiction with my partner making interactive digital novels for children and young adults. The business is still in its early stages so things are very nerve wracking sometimes! I’m lucky that writing is part of my job too. Before that I worked as a PR manager for a big American technology company.

Can you please tell us a bit about your writing Journey?

My mum is BRILLIANT at reading aloud so when I was very little bedtime stories used to absolutely captivate me. That’s probably what got me into books and reading but it took a long time for me to actually start writing my own fiction. ‘In Too Deep’ is the first thing I’ve ever had published and the first story I’ve actually finished! What you might call functional writing has been a big part of all the day jobs I’ve had – press releases, text for web sites, brochures and that kind of thing. Even though that sort of writing is very different from writing a book, I think doing any kind of writing regularly really helps give you confidence to just sit down and do it. My family have been relentless in their encouragement and support. Without them I wouldn’t have got up the nerve to have a go at getting published by Hotkey Unlocked. What’s your favourite and least favourite aspect of writing?
It’s possibly the same thing – I both love and am absolutely tortured by watching someone else read what I’ve written! It’s brilliant when they react as you hoped they would, whether that’s laughing at a funny part or their knuckled tightening with excitement at a cliff-hanger. Of course it’s disappointing when you don’t get the reaction you wanted but you have to take it constructively. My fiancĂ© Bill has the dubious pleasure of being the first person to read my writing and he’s really good at telling me when something’s working and when I need to go back to the drawing board.

How did you get to be published by Hot Key Unlocked?

Unexpectedly! Hotkey Unlocked ran a competition in late 2013 to win the chance to have a Christmas romance novella published. Bill and I are friends with the lovely ladies who run our local bookshop and we came up with the idea that, for a giggle, we should all enter the competition. The plan was to have a Christmas party where we’d read out our entries and then vote for our favourite but I was incredibly surprised to get a message from Hotkey saying they liked my story enough to publish it! The twist was that the competition had produced a couple of outstanding Christmas stories so they asked if I could reset mine around Valentine’s Day, which is exactly what I did.

What was the experience of writing In Too Deep like?

It involved a bit of soul searching, a certain amount of hair-tearing and a lot of cups of tea! The story was originally conceived as a competition entry, for which Hotkey Unlocked had provided a very specific brief. Initially I found it challenging to come up with a story that felt satisfying and fitted the plot outline they wanted. In the end I used rowing, a sport I’m very familiar with, to customise the setting. Rowing isn’t a very sexy sport (all those blisters and freezing early mornings don’t really put you in the mood!) so I knew it would be a challenge to combine realism with romance elements. I also wanted to sneak a pinch of realism into the romance itself – the heroine is suffering from performance anxiety in her sex life as well as her sport!

Finally can you please tell us a little about In Too Deep?

It’s about a student called Daisy who’s struggling through her first single Valentine’s Day since she was old enough to care about boys. If seeing her (sort of) ex-boyfriend all over Facebook snogging anything with boobs and a pulse wasn’t bad enough, she’s so broke she can’t pay her uni fees for next term. Her only hope is to win a rowing scholarship but she isn’t feeling confident.

Getting knocked into the river by an arrogant Blue Boat wannabe feels like the last thing she needs, but things aren’t always what they seem. It just so happens that, as well as being the most annoying man alive, the guy who ran her over is drop dead gorgeous… It’s time for Daisy to take control of her life for a Valentine’s Day she’ll never forget.

When I wrote In Too Deep I was thinking about how people tend to fall into habits of perception – not just how they see other people, but how they see themselves, and how damaging that can be. The events of the story help Daisy to rethink her self-image and realise her own potential. I really hope everyone who reads it will let me know what they think by leaving a review on the Kindle or iBooks store, or by tweeting me @bealongworth.

 So on this cold and wet Valentines Day, why not treat yourself,
 wrap up warm with a cuppa and In Too Deep!