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!

Monday 8 November 2021


It’s November, which means National Novel Writing Month, or #NaNoWriMo. The annual staple of every writer’s calendar, where you write a first draft in a month, by setting a target daily word count and tracking your progress on the website. It’s also full of peer run events to help support each other on the month long writing sprint.

Usually #NaNoWriMo is a fruitful time for me. In past years I have successfully started and completed first drafts. Or written a new project to the 3/4 stage, and finished it in the following months. On more than one occasion I used it to revisit a partially penned project that’s been stuffed in a draw but has been yelling in my brain for attention.

#NaNoWriMo is a great tool for focusing my mind and sharpening my discipline – USUALLY.

However this year for me it has been much more of a #NaNoNoGO!


Firstly November snuck upon me. Despite having spent the day before celebrating Halloween and knowing it’s always followed my All Saints Day also known as November the first, the official start of #NaNoWriMo, I forgot! With both my teens being still home on half-term, and using every inch of available space to revise and do course work, I neglected to get prepared or write anything.

Day 2 - I told myself was the day. I would use #NaNoWriMo to help me concentrate on finishing my current edit on my WIP. So with the offspring back at school. And all my stuff ready, and crucially my head in the right place; I embarked on my #NaNoWriMo journey. Life had other plans. A big disaster concerning my eldest school and her UCAS Application arose and demanded my immediate undivided attention. This took ALL DAY and drained me of energy.

Day3 – brought drama with regards to the house renovations.

Day 4 - was a delight with the lovely lingering effects of Covid19 – making my POTS worse and bringing on a dose of cotton-wool brain. PLUS a drama with my business that I had to rectify.


By Day 5 I was despondent and felt like a failure. I so I didn’t log on to the NaNoWriMo peer support group on Facebook that I belong to, due to embracement – stupid I know - as they are all so lovely and empathetic. So instead I decided I needed to do something to get out of my funk. Walking – my usual remedy – is out THANKS AGAIN COVID. So I took myself off out of the house of many distractions to be creative in a cafĂ©, where I drew and doodled.

This helped BUT is wasn’t words. I got 0 words written. 0 words edited. I still felt like a failure. But this I realised was me NOT looking at the wider picture.

The wider picture looks like this…

I am living with my family in a building site, which brings daily challenges, - no heating. Limited hot water – if any. Dust. Mess. Noise. Then there’s the drama of actually building.

Both teens are gearing up to do there exams next summer, GCSE and A-Levels, so are stressed and revising. Plus my eldest is in the midst of UCAS Applications and entrance exams. So I am working extra hard to support them especially considering the chaos the house is in.

My partners work has gone bonkers and he has to travel more now that life is returning to a pre-pandemic status quo.

I’m suffering from the ever generous lingering gifts of COVID, which has made my existing health struggles worse and added new ones.

I had forgotten that I am in fact NOT A SUPERHERO. It took the weekend to get myself out of the rut and for me to say, it’s ok to start again, and actually start #NaNoWriMo a week late.

#NaNoWriMo is there to help not add stress. So I started my #NaNoWriMo today. So far I’ve edited two chapters and penned this post. Fingers crossed the rest of November will be this positive and productive!

So, for everyone who is participating in #NaNoWriMo, please remember…


Tuesday 2 November 2021

Recycling Old Manuscripts (ten years on)…


Back in 2011 I did a guest post over on Notes from The Slushpile about recycling old printed out copies of manuscripts to read press here. The post was a bit whimsical, a tad serious and whole lot of silliness. Firstly it did have some useful ideas on how to re-use manuscripts rather than just throwing away in the paper recycling bin, but also had some bonkers ideas too.

Fast forward ten years, and I am back thinking about the same issue, because I’m having building work done of my house, and had to therefore either store of get rid of all the prints out of old versions of all my books. As storage costs, disposing of it won, however I didn’t want to just put it in the green bin, so we did re-use it as much a possible.

I write mostly YA – which are big books, and due to my dyslexia, I find editing on the computer very tricky, as I need to use a ruler/finger to track my reading, and especially with developmental edits I have to LITTERAL Cut and Paste Roald Dahl style.  So this is lots of paper. Now I know some of you will be saying it is bad for the environment (I know) but I do use rainforest managed paper. So ten years and nine book later, each with multiple edits, and that is a lot of paper.

You may ask; how this can have changed since 2011? That surely I’d be doing the same kind of re-using. You’d be right – but you’d also be wrong. In ten years, my offspring have grown and are now teens. Teens change everything.

Football boots…

Yep, my manuscript has been used on multiple occasions to help my son dry his football boots. (This will be particularly funny to anyone who actually knows my son!)


Yes, in 2011 we were using the manuscript to make pots for seedlings. We still do this, but we also use it for projecting the floor when the teen is tending to his plants and cuttings.


My youngest is doing GCSE Art, and one of the projects was sculpture. This was done in the lockdown, so sourcing materials was tricky. But there was no reason to panic when you have a box full of old manuscripts that can be used!


It is the season for bonfires, and my manuscript apparently burns well. Although as we currently have no heating, I am wondering if we should have kept some!

Any other ideas on how to re-use, re-cycle or re-propose old manuscripts, would be gratefully received.







Thursday 21 October 2021

Isolation breeds Illustration

They say necessity breeds innovation, but my recent experience of Covid19 has altered this well known saying to, ‘Isolation breeds Illustration.’


After eighteen months of manging to avoid the dreaded Corona Virus, my teen son caught it at school and brought home and very generously shared it with me, whilst my daughter was off school suffering from flu. My husband sensibly slept on the floor in the Livingroom and worked from the shed, and therefore managed to avoid succumbing to it.

Covid aside (it is horrible even if you are double vaccinated), the isolation was long, not helped my Track and Trace making an error and making me isolate for 12 days rather than 10. Usually this would have been fine, but with the children both isolating and schooling virtually we didn’t have enough devices in order for me to continue editing my WIP.


I can tell you from experience, there are only so many times you can sort out the wardrobe, or dust the house plants before you start going crazy. Of course I took the time to read, but I needed to be creative, and that’s when I picked up a pencil and returned to my roots.


For anyone who doesn’t know, I come from an art back ground. My degree is in fine art, and I have been a successful professional artist some of my work is part of the Magg Collection housed in the Ferne Gallery in Hull. I originally got into the children literary world by endeavouring to pursue a career in illustration.

The illustration I loved and I got to the point of having meetings with agents, and not quite getting taken on but having the door open to go back when I’d improved my portfolio. Many of the agents having seen a rhyming part-illustrated PB text I’d penned about catching a kangaroo, advised me to write too.


However having two small children, and living in a touring caravan while the ramshackle house was being knocked down and re-built (before it fell down on its own accord) I had no room to set up and draw/paint. Remember this was when digital art was in its infancy and before I-pads were a thing. So I took the multiple agents advice and picked up a keyboard and began to write.


The space issue and the call to the dark side – sorry writing – got me distracted and illustration took a back seat that was until I was prisoner in my own room for twelve days.


So isolation boredom got me doodling. Sketching. Developing characters, and eventually constructing compositions. This along with lots of encouragement from the lovely folks of the writing/illustration community – thank you are all my personal cheerleaders and it’s much appreciated - made me think maybe I should take the illustration thing more seriously.

So I am back writing AND illustrating and I love it. Of course I have LOTS to learn about illustration but that is a challenge I’m very happy to embark on. Be it a bit SCARY.

So that is my story, it took a global pandemic to get me doodling again, and so I can report isolation really does bred illustration.



to very one who encouraged me to illustrate - you know who you are!

Monday 20 September 2021

Pondering the Ethics of Cloning Mammoths for this new Millennia + the Wobbles of a Neuro Diverse Writer.

Any one that knows me will tell you I like mammoths. In fact they’d probably say that is a mammoth understatement. So I am very excited about the recent mammoth news. You have probably seen the headlines that a company has donated fifteen million dollars to George Church’s Mammoth Rival Project to speed up the process of cloning a mammoth by editing the genes of modern Asian elephants. This is to create a kind of elephant-mammoth hybrid, capable of enduring Siberian winters, in an effort to curb the rate of global warming; The creatures will do this by roaming tundra breaking up the blanket of snow that insulates the ground, warming up and causing the permafrost to melt, that would release locked methane gasses into the atmosphere.

I am excited as this is the inspiration behind my current middle grade WIP. I actually came on the premise of the novel by accident whilst researching for a YA Sci-Fi Thriller about Neanderthal cloning, when reading about the science of de-extinction in Beth Shaprio’s book ‘How to Clone a Mammoth’. Of course Neanderthals are great, especially as almost everyone on the planet (except for those in the African Basin) have a percentage of Neanderthal DNA, but let’s face its mammoths are cuter, they have just more appeal, so I got distracted.

The distraction was that mammoths have a potential to help with the global warming problem and also a protentional place ready to house them in the form of the Pleistocene Park in Siberia. I thought that children of today with their concern for the planet, its non-human inhabitants and an increasing love to STEM subjects would find this interesting. The fact there are scientific solutions to the massive issue of global warming, that could work in combination with other methods , like eating less meat , changing to greener power and reducing plastic.

Of course I don’t actually think we should necessarily turn to cloning extinct creatures, after all there are other non-extinct species that can do the same thing like camels and bison, which are already being re-introduced to the tundra as part of the Project at Pleistocene Park.


Also there are a great many ethical issues to consider, like the welfare of the modern Asian Elephant mothers, and should we be editing the genes of an already endangered species rather than helping the breading of that host species.

However, I would hope my story may inspire children to look into cloning, as it's methods can be utilised to help endangered species. Like, Elizabeth Ann, the black-footed ferret, who was cloned from a ferret that died more than 30 years before she was born. This kind of cloning means you can inject genetic diversity into dwindling population giving them a better chance of regaining numbers and avoiding extinction. This is work that is supported by the Revive and Restore initiative.

So of course the mammoth news, is exciting but uncomfortable, both due to the big question SHOULD WE. But also on a more selfish and personal note for me. I have been writing this novel for a while, and very few people I spoke to about it, had ever heard of the Mammoth Revival Project. But now it’s big news, and with me having issues with spelling and grammar due to Dyslexia, I can take a little longer than most to get my work submission ready. So, I’m worried someone will now see this news, and work this concept up into a submit-able manuscript and pit me to the post whilst I’m still making mine conform to the English language. It may sound like I’m being ridiculously paranoid, but this has happen many times in the past, so it is rather raw injury.

So that is me, done, and off to feverously try and get my manuscript polished ready for submission. Wish me luck!

Monday 19 July 2021

Maptastic World Building.

I love a good map. The first map I ever saw in a book, was Tolkien’s map of Middle Earth in The Hobbit, when my mother red it to us when I was a child. I loved the map, and would study it for hours. You see I couldn’t re-read the book myself due to my low-reading age due to my undiagnosed dyslexia, BUT I could stare at the map and imagine myself going on the journey and experiencing Bilbo’s adventures. It was a visual tool that allowed me entrance back into the story.

The next map I saw was when I was in my mid-teens was of One Hundred Acre Wood by E.H. Shepard. I loved it for its intricacy and pen-man ship, but it was a bit of a shock, as I already had seen it in bright Disney animation, with Poo jumping between the pages, the original is however much more intriguing and inviting, which is probably why the original fetched £430,000 at auction in 2018!

When I was at school I was good at both geography and art (both of which I went on to study at degree) so of course everyone put two and two together and thought I should pursue a career in cartography of course none one took into account my bad sense of direction, or the fact I didn’t know (and still don’t) my left from my right. However how that I’m writing and world building, I find map-making hugely helpful.

‘I wisely started with a map and made the story fit,’


J. R. R. Tolkien, 1954

Unlike the very wise Mr Tolkien, I usually start with a story, then when it all starts to get complicated, I put pen to paper and draw a map, (and characters and landscapes). But the map is probably the most helpful, and the only thing you can’t get anywhere else, unlike characters, where you can get photographs from the internet (or like Roald Dahl did, keep a stock of photos cut out from magazines and newspapers.)


I have tried my hand at cartography for a few of my books, one a sci-fi fantasy YA, it was more of a drawing of planets and more recently I have tried my hand at a more traditional map for my WIP mammoth book, of both the geographical area and the main complex. It is so helpful to actually see where everything is in realisation to each other, and for unlocking key aspects of plot. Of course some writers like Terry Pratchett can keep it all in their heads, and never make a mistake, but for me I need to see it to really write it.

One thing I have discovered is that although I’m an artist by training (one thing I can do is draw!) Sadly my maps aren’t spectacular. In comparison however my 15 year old son, is a very talented map-maker. He had previously been commissioned to draw maps for peoples Dungeons and Dragons quests, and his world building is fantastic. He starts with maps, and then works on the biomes, eco-systems, faunas, flora, cultures, histories, cuisine, fashion, languages and mythologies. All these things are rooted and inspired by the original map and type of biome he’s created. I am in no way envious of his commitment or talent honest!

My son's world building & Map making


In fact I think maps are an essential part of world building – just as much as mind-maps as an essential part of plotting. Like Tolkien’s map of Bilbo journey ‘there and back again’ in The Hobbit helped me enter Middle Earth, creating map helps me enter the world and experience it, and even envision the environment , making it easier to describe but crucially see how the biome will influence the plot .


So if you haven’t tried drawing a map yet, I totally encourage you to do so, it really doesn’t matter about how well you draw (after all Tolkien wasn’t a great artist and his maps are possibly the most famous in fiction!) If you need any more encouragement I suggest you have a look at the beautiful celebration of fictional maps, in the lovely book The Writers Map edited by Huw Lewis-Jones, that explores fictional maps, and how to create them.

Thursday 15 July 2021

The Rubber Ball of Doubt

This week I had a serious dose of the Doubts. It’s a feeling I and many writers (especially pre-published) know well, as it happens again and again. In my mind doubt is made of rubber and like the song says, ‘Rubber ball keeps on bouncing back to me.’

One day I’m full of confidence, sure that I’m a good writer, convinced that my latest WIP has commercial appeal, a unique concept and a strong voice and plot. Optimistic that if I keep honing my craft and keep submitting that one day it’ll happen, I’ll get picked up and get my book in print.


The next day I’m anxious and depressed mess as doubt crashes my positive party. Suddenly it’s, ‘My writing isn’t good enough.’ ‘My writing will never be good enough.’ ‘My extra issues that my dyslexia pose are getting worse raising the hurdles higher and unsurmountable.’ The universe and time are conspiring to make sure that my dream of becoming a published author is never happens’.

So why is it that one day I’m so optimistic and the next I’m full of pessimism? 

It only takes one thing, like a…

  • A rejection that I’ve not indigested the feedback. (Once I read the comments and understand them, usually I can throw thee rubber ball away again.)

  • A long-list missed.

  • A spelling or grammar mistakes which I have found after I have pressed send on the submission.

So why does it get me so down with doubt?

  • All the voices of all the people that have told me am not allowed to write because of my dyslexia comes flooding back into my write telling me ‘ I can’t write.’ Then all the other voices telling me what I can’t do because of my dyslexia join the party too.

  • Knowing that NO MATTER HOW HARD I TRY, my spelling isn’t getting better, and I will never be able to get my manuscript void of all dyslexia-isums. And despite being far away from the bread line that I can’t afford to get every submission copyedited.

  • The niggling worry that despite the current move of inclusivity within the industry for diverse authors, including neuro-diverse writers, that although there are other dyslexic writers that are successfully published, that my dyslexia is pretty bad and maybe I’m just too far up the spectrum to get published.

So when all these doubts pile up, I have to pull myself up. I look at things logically, and see that the facts haven’t changed. I’ve have still had competition long-listings, short-listings and wins, which seems to confirm I’m not totally bad at writing. I still get more bespoke responses from submission that standard ones. I’m still working and improving my craft. I’m still dyslexic, but the industry is make positive steps to try and make it easier for people like me to get published.


So why when I tell myself all of these things and throw that ball of doubt away, does it always come bouncing back with more velocity?

I don’t know why the rubber ball of doubt seems to hit harder each time, but I do know this; The children’s writing & illustrating community is so supportive of each other, that when I get too tried to throw that rubber ball away, someone, will say, ‘hay, take a break,’ and they throw the ball away for me instead.

So sometimes I get down, but I love writing, and I’m surrounded by wonderful supportive people, and we all help one another when that ball of doubt land in our court. So writing onwards I go…

Tuesday 6 July 2021

Clearing the Cotton Wool (in a vain hope to boost my creativity)

Lately I’ve been struggling to get my brain in gear and enable me to be productive. I can’t seem to stick to task, or achieve the momentum of creative flow, even decide on a course of action or remember anything. Many of you will know the feeling - the feeling that your brain is clogged up with cotton wool.

This is me presently – struggling with cotton wool brain and it is SOOOOOOO frustrating. The issue is made worse as my POTS (Postal Tachycardia Syndrome) making me tired, light headed, giving tummy issues and BRAIN FOG (which is another way of describing Cotton Wool Brain.) Add to this my dyslexia, causing me difficulties with my short term memory and concentration it all adds up to one thing, a bad case of cotton wool brain and reduced creativity.

This results in my confidence taking a hit which causes my mood to plunge which means I get anxious about not being creative enough. This then makes me doubt my ability to write and to navigate around the substantial extra hurdles my health issues and neuro diversity place on the path to publication. All of this of course makes my cotton wool brain to get worse.

So How to Clear the Cotton Wool from my Brain?

  • Exercise is one of the best ways to relive POTS related symptoms including brain fog. However POTS also makes me medically exercise intolerant as my heart is already strained by just keeping me upright. Add to this my dodgy hips making most exercise impossible, and hyper flexibility which mean I can and have broken bones and dislocated joints my standing still - let alone moving or exercising. This makes exercise a challenge. Despite all the challenges my health issue present on my ability to exercise, I do walk everyday - as long as it’s on flat ground and good terrain. Of course some days it my hips are bad I can’t walk at all.

  • Lists and Post-its. I have to-do lists and post-its everywhere. this is to try and focus my brain on the most important tasks and to combat my bad short term memory - to try and reduce the possibility of me forgetting anything.

  • Eating better. Eating better, can help ease my POTS symptoms including the cotton wool brain. This of course takes time to plan and prepare, but the benefits are worth it. Just look at Deliciously Ella, who had really debilitating POTS which she managed through diet.

  • Better Sleep. This is obvious, but when I have a bad case of cotton wool brain, it usually comes with a bad bout of POTS and hyper flexibility - which means more pain. Joints, Hips, and a bad tummy which makes sleeping difficult. Also due to my hyper flexibility I can’t take any sleeping aids, as these relax the muscles, and if I do, I can’t walk in the morning. So this is difficult, and any tip gratefully received.

  • Getting Out. Sometimes the best was to clear the cotton wool is to force its out. If I change the environment, by going anywhere that isn’t home, there are fewer distractions. This means if I take a note pad and pen, and put that pen to the paper, I actually write. It may be BAD writing, but l think of it like panning for gold; you have to work through a lot of dirt to get the nougat. This forces the rain to cast aside the cotton wool enough to stick to task. Even if the output isn’t the best quality, it is a start and the next time I try and write it is easier.

All in all cotton wool brain is frustrating. Sometimes it is a massive challenge to clear it all. But then I’m a dyslexic trying to make a career in writing, so challenge is something I rise too – although slightly slowly and wobbly , I do rise.