I am delighted to announce that Cogheart has been shortlisted for the SCBWI Crystal Kite Award!
Voting ended yesterday (30.4.17). It’s an honour to be on such a strong and varied shortlist with so many fabulous books – a Carnegie Nominee, a Waterstones Prize Winner, an Edinburgh First Book Award Winner, and a Zoella Book Club pick, are amongst the awards they’ve been nominated for or won. Plus five other lovely authors. I am particularly proud of this nomination since it is voted for by my peers, and because it is an award associated with SCBWI. SCBWI – The Society of Children’s Book Writers and illustrators – is an organization that has helped me greatly on my journey to become a published children’s writer. Thanks to SCBWI I have made oodles of great new writer friends and through them, and the events and conference they organise, learnt tons about children’s publishing. All of which has helped me become a little less green about that world I have moved into as a published author. So here’s to SCBWI, long may it continue. And fingers crossed for Cogheart winning the Crystal Kite!
November has been a little quieter in terms of Cogheart events, as I have got a massive pile of editing on Book 2 – Moonlocket – to get through. In fact I should be doing those edits right NOW, but instead I am writing this blogpost. So anyway, I shall make it a quick one! Although there weren’t many Cogheart specific events, there were quite a few other thing going on in November…
On Saturday the Fifth of November, I joined some awesome authors, librarians and teachers organised by Lucy Ivision, who were taking part in the March to Save Libraries and Culture. The austerity cuts in this country have seen the closure of hundreds of libraries and the axing of funding for many public arts bodies, which is a travesty. Art is a necessity not a luxury, libraries especially are a gateway to imagination, learning and creativity. To have a public space that’s free to visit, where you can browse books, do you homework, use the internet, join groups, get reading recommendations. It’s an essential public service for the future of education and creativity, and worth fighting for.
In fact, John Bird, who spoke at the rally, expertly sums up the value of libraries to our society in his letter to the Guardian the same week…
The following Saturday I was at a very different event: Steampunks in Space, at the National Space Museum in Leicster. In the morning I did a children’s zoetrope animation workshop and after that there was a Q and A and reading from Cogheart and in the afternoon we did a signing and sold a few books. It was the first steampunk festival I have been to, and a fantastic day out. A great opportunity to meet Steampunk aficionados, all in amazing home-made outfits, and each with a story about the outfit and character that they’d created. They were such an amazing creative bunch, so I am hoping to do a couple more Steampunk events next year. Here are a few of my favourite pictures from the day…
Then, near the end of the month, there was the SCBWI conference weekend. SCBWI, is the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and every year they put on a conference weekend filled with amazing workshops and keynote speakers. This year I got to hear talks by David Almond, Leigh Hodgkinson – an old friend – and Sarah Davies from the Greenhouse agency. I also went to a workshop on Writing Series Fiction, How to put together content around your book for schools.
The stand out event of the weekend for me a fantabulously fun hands-on picture book workshop with Viv Schwarz, where we created characters and picture books using a method similar to a big group version of consequences. I wish I had a bit more time to write about the conference, the keynotes and Viv’s talk in particular, but that’s a whole other post!
On the Saturday evening there’s the mass book launch where everyone dresses up as a book character, and if you have a book published you get to go onstage with the rest of the published SCBWI authors, This year – my third in attendance – I went as Harry Potter, and got to do this with Cogheart. It even appeared with all the other SCBWI authors on the mass book launch cake, which looked amazing and tasted rather sugary. Anyway here are some Potter pictures from the party…
I didn’t make it to what looked like a fabulous 20th anniversary party for SCBWI UK. But I got sent this lovely picture by Sue Wallman of my book Cogheart as a cupcake. In the good company of Sue’s book and those of many other fab SCWBI writers. The cupcake were organised by lovely London Scbwi volunteer Tanya Tay and I hope whoever nabbed the Cogheart one enjoyed eating it!!
On Monday night I went to a great event for soon to be published authors organised by Non Pratt, author of Trouble and Remix, and Robin Stevens, Author of the Murder Most Unladylike MysterySeries (AKA Batnon and Robin – which are their secret superhero identities).
This is the second of their events I’ve been to. The first, last year, was all about what to expect as a debut author, which was a fantastic overview of the publishing process, especially for someone like me, who up until very recently knew nothing about the world of publishing!
This new session, however, was the HOW TO OF AUTHOR EVENTS, and Non and Robin cover a lot of topics, including:
What you might include in setting up your author events info.
Who and where your bookings might come from.
How to pitch your event to schools, festivals and librarians.
Varying the format of your talk for different sessions and audiences.
Chunking your talk so that it’s easy to get through and scalable in length.
Planning workshop events that teach writing, rather than just selling your book.
They also discussed how to set out your costs and rates with event organisers, what events you should charge for, how to plan and think about your expenses, and what, if any, events you might consider doing as freebies.
Finally they both demo-d short extracts of their own events for us, and stressed how you needed A LOT of audience participation to make your talk interesting to kids. Altogether it was a fun evening with plenty of laughs and knowledge along the way.
Both Non and Robin have new books coming out this year. And if you want to find out more about their author events for those, or any upcoming #BatnonandRobin events, you can find them on twitter here:
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.
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.