2015 is not quite over yet, and I might get one more book read if I’m lucky, but for now here are all the books I read in 2015. Looking at them all, there is quite a lot of Middle Grade, a bit of YA and one or two adult SCIFIs in there.
It’s a tough call but my favourite books of the year were probably.
In Middle Grade: PHOENIX, ROOFTOPPERS being a close second.
In YA: SABRIEL
And in Adult fiction (of which I barely read any!): THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS.
Read all four and you will not be disappointed – they are all amazing!!
And to be honest, most of the rest of the year’s read were pretty amazing too…
This was an interview I did a couple of months ago for the SCBWI newsletter. In it I talk about finding my agent Jo Williamson through the SCBWI agents’ party.
SCBWI offers loads of great chances to go to events and meet agents, editors and other authors, make friends and learn a lot about the publishing industry.
A SCBWI Agents’ Party 2014 Success Story.
Peter Bunzl signed up with agent Jo Williamson as a result of last year’s party. His first book, Cogheart, will be published by Usborne in September 2016.
Tell us about how you met Jo.
Jo was a panelist at the Agents’ Party in 2014, and she seemed very nice and friendly, but we didn’t meet on the night as it was busy and I only managed to talk to about half the agents. However, I’d met one of her writers, who I liked, so I ended up submitting to her anyway, and now, of course, I’m really glad I did. I didn’t hear back from her until January 2015, when I sent out a few reminders for outstanding submissions. Jo read the pages straight away and replied asking to see the whole manuscript. After a couple more emails, we spoke on the phone and she offered to represent me. Then we had another chat the next day – talking in a bit more detail about the book, contract etc. – and I said yes.
After you signed with Jo, how much further work did you have to do on the book before it was ready to submit to publishers?
After I signed with Jo, we met up and went through the manuscript chapter by chapter. Then I went away with her notes and worked on it some more. She wanted to send it out just before the London Book Fair, so I think I had about seven or eight weeks to do the edits.
Did you have to make any compromises about how you wanted the book to be?
Not really. Jo suggested I remove a subplot in the second half of the book that took the action away from the main characters’ goals too much. It was a sequence I knew was problematic and had been trying to fix, so cutting it turned out to be a good solution. Also it helped shorten the book, which was too long as it stood for Middle Grade.
What has surprised you about having an agent?
It’s great to have someone say with such enthusiasm they love the story and characters. Jo was confident that we could fix the problems and sell the book and it really re-energized me about the work I knew I had to do. Then she went out and generated lots of interest, and we got five offers, which was bloody surprising!
How have you found doing edits for Usborne?
I’ve only just started working on the edits for Usborne, but I think they should be fine. I’m relieved I did the big structural stuff before it got to this stage because it means their editorial notes are more about the story details and deepening character.
What’s your advice for people attending this year’s SCBWI Agents’ Party?
Go along and talk to everyone. The agents are all very nice and approachable. And even if you don’t manage to speak to some of them, or you’re nervous, or you feel like you flubbed your pitch, if the book’s ready, send it anyway because you never know. Also speak to the other Scoobies. It was my first SCBWI event and I met loads of friendly people and ended up going to a lot more events after that.
I had a fun time at the Never Evers book launch last night, catching up with Lucy Ivison who I used to be in The Runcible Spoons writing group with, and finally meeting her writing partner Tom Ellen and their editor Barry Cunningham of Chickenhouse. I LOVED Lobsters by Lucy and Tom it was totally hilarious, and I’m really looking forward to reading Never Evers…
It’s a brilliant event, with loads going on for both published and pre-published authors. This was my second year attending and, whereas last year I was a newbie, now I’m nearly a published author with my book Cogheart coming out with Usborne in 2016.
The conference weekend is a chance to catch a wealth of great speakers like David Fickling, Philip Reeve and Sarah Mcintyre, and Jonny Duddle, plus attend round-table sessions chaired by various lovely Scooby authors. You can also get a crit from fellow writers, or from agents and editors, but mainly the conference is a chance to meet friends old and new and discuss all things children’s-writing.
Jonny Duddle Keynote
Candy Gourlay on Structure
Reeves&Mcintyre singing the Seamonkey Song
This year there were so many opportunities to do that, including the brilliant Pirate Party on the Saturday night – an excuse to dress up in the latest skull & crossbones fashion and pull pirate faces, if that’s your kind of thing. But coming away from the conference two events stood out for me:
The first was the Author Keynote byPhilip Reeve and Sarah Mcintyre who, as you can see, are both masters of disguise. During their speech they demonstrated the many games, songs, drawing and stories they pack into school visits, and gave tips on how to create exciting events. There was a great game of Snakes and Ladders with both halves of the auditorium trying to win success and the legendary book shaped swimming pool.
But for me, the biggest take away from their lively and hilarious presentation was about the importance of moving around the stage, and making things colourful, energetic and fun.
Philip even advised authors to stand to read at panel events because it surprises the audience and makes you a memorable panelists. (Unless, that is, all the other panellists copy your move and do the same!)
The second stand-out session was the School Visits Demo with Mo O’Hara, Sarah Grant, and Steve Hartley. All three authors talked about issues you might encounter setting up school visits, as well as the fun of presenting your book to an enthusiastic audience of kids. All three performed a part of their school presentation – big, inspiring performances that featured, among other things: giant alien underpants, superhero capes, zombie goldfish, a staring contest, and interactive storytelling exercises. Again the take away was: own the stage, make things fun, interactive, energetic and varied.
The image that sticks in my mind, and seems to perfectly illustrate this ethos, was Steve, arms folded and chest thrust out, posing as Superman in his child-sized super-cape.
A few days after the conference I told a friend about these two great sessions. Her job involves speaking at a lot of corporate events, and she agreed that being confident and energetic is just as important, if not more so than what you have say. Then she mentioned this awesome TED talk by Amy Cuddy:Your Body Language Shapes Who you are. It’s all about Power Posing for confidence, and essentially a different take on all those presentation ideas.
With all this, and the many other amazing weekend sessions, I am beginning to feel much more prepared for the public side of being a published author, and I will definitely be back at #Scbwicon next year, and hopefully be part of their big author launch for 2016.