Perspective

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The perspective you adopt when writing a book is very important, as it colours everything that the reader finds out – the perspective (or viewpoint), of the character you’ve chosen, gives the reader all their information about what is happening, as the reader sees and learns usually only from the point of view of that one character. It might be the protagonist or the antagonist (or it might change throughout the book) but, in most cases, whether you’re writing in the first or the third person, you have a reasonably fixed perspective.

However, perspective has more than one meaning. The Oxford Learners Dictionaries defines it as either ‘a particular attitude towards something’ (as in the perspective you adopt when writing), or, alternatively, ‘the art of creating an effect of depth and distance in a picture by representing people and things that are far away as being smaller than those that are nearer the front’. I now know that this is the type of perspective to keep in mind, when buying things online!

I always look very carefully when buying things, to make sure that I know what I’m getting, and to be sure that whatever I’m buying sending away for will arrive in the right size. This is pretty straight forward with clothes – it’s either the right dress size or it’s not. With other items, though, it can be trickier, and it’s far too easy to get things wrong when you’re looking at a screen rather than standing in a shop. I learnt this the hard way, when I self-published my first children’s book and started doing school visits.

As the book was called ‘The Secret of the Wooden Chest’, I thought that it would be a nice touch to carry all my pens, bookmarks, etc., into the classroom, not in a boring old bag, but in a wooden chest similar to the one in the book. I had a look around some local shops with no luck, and so, being a modern girl, I looked online.

I soon came across something that looked ideal – certainly wooden, and not too fancy but not too rustic either. There was some small print underneath the picture, but I skipped over that bit and clicked ‘Buy’.

From my seat in the kitchen, a few days later, I heard a thump – the postman was pushing a parcel through the letter box. I was mystified. I hadn’t ordered any books or DVDs lately, had I? There was the wooden chest of course, but there was no way that would go through the letter box. Whatever could it be?

I trotted into the hall and picked up a tiny package, carrying it back to the kitchen where the dog’s eager nose waited, keen to suck in all the available information about the person who had wrapped up this mysterious item. I found the scissors, and, with the dog’s whiskers quivering dangerously close, I started to cut the tape and unwrap it. It would have been a tricky job, even without the dog’s help. The person who had wrapped it (who the dog had now identified as a fifty year old male, brought up as an only child in Basingstoke, but now living with his girlfriend in a two-bedroomed flat in Bristol), had done a thorough job, and it was several minutes before the final piece of paper fell away. The dog snatched the wrapping up and carried it away in triumph to his blanket, for further examination. I was left with the parcel’s contents.

To call it a wooden chest would have been overly generous – it was everything I needed a wooden chest to be – but in miniature! If I placed it next to a doll from my children’s doll’s house, it looked about the right size for storing blankets, or possibly for actually hiding in. If I put it next to a medium-sized teddy bear, it looked about the right size for carrying books and papers to school, but if I looked at it from my own perspective (that of an average-sized human being), it was fine to hold a paperclip – or maybe even two paperclips – but that was about it. It was about an inch high and clearly designed to be used as some kind of presentation box for jewellery. If I’d wanted to put a ring into it, it would have been fine; a necklace – maybe; but a pen, a pencil, a pack of bookmarks, a paperback book and a page of densely written notes – definitely not! I went back to the laptop and checked the details of the item I’d ordered. There were the measurements in black and white – I just hadn’t read them.

After more searching (and careful reading of the small print), I finally found a wooden chest that I thought would do the job I intended it for, and before long the postman was driving the dog into a frenzy by ringing the front door bell, thankfully unable to force this new delivery through the letterbox. But the whole experience did make me think – whether you’re writing or ordering things online, get your perspective right, or, at the very least – double check the measurements!

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Party Time!

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Last Friday afternoon, I said goodbye to the dog and travelled down to London feeling slightly nervous – I was setting off for an event held every year by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) – the annual agent party. It was the second year I’d been, so I already knew a little bit about what to expect; the first half would be an opportunity to hear lots of different literary agents discussing what they’d like to see in a submission from a children’s writer, and the second half – the scary bit – would be a chance for me, and all the other writers attending, to pitch our new books to the agents. Who knew – if we were lucky, some of them might be impressed and ask us to submit our new manuscripts to them when they were ready!

This year’s party was at a new venue – the lovely, chandelier-encrusted Bush Hall in West London’s Shepherd’s Bush. Soon after I arrived and sat down, the evening’s host, Sarah Grant, introduced the first panel members; Amber Caraveo (Skylark Literary), Alice Williams (Alice Williams Literary), Nancy Miles (Miles Stott Agency) and Gemma Cooper (The Bent Agency). Sarah kicked things off by asking the agents what information they would like to see included in a submission package. Gemma said that she wanted to be told which other books the submission was similar to (‘X meets Y’), and also liked to see ‘a character that jumped out of the page’. Nancy was looking for a succinct elevator pitch, and ‘a strong voice that says something in an original way’. Alice thought a professional approach was crucial, and for picture book writers, two or three texts. Amber said that she wanted to know a bit about the writer, while also pointing out that really – it’s all about the writing! For illustrators, a spread of pdfs was important, giving a good range of ideas.

Sarah also wanted to know if the agents had a wish list – or indeed a hate list! Amber was pretty clear that she didn’t want to see any animal stories. However, all was not lost for the animal story writers amongst us, as Alice said that she loved pony books. Nancy wanted to see books in any genre that were fun to read, and Gemma said that her dream book would be something similar to ‘Wimpy Kid’.

Next, Sarah introduced the second panel of agents – Lydia Silver (Darley Anderson), Lauren Gardner (Bell Lomax Moreton), Becky Bagnell (Lindsay Literary Agency), Therese Cohen (Hardman and Swainson Literary Agency) and Max Edwards (MMB Creative). When asked what they liked best in a pitch, the second panel thought that ‘X meets Y’ was useful, but Sylvia also thought that knowing what made a particular story ‘a bit different’ was important. Becky said that the key to successful pitching, was practice, Max wanted to see what the overall theme and motivation in the story was, and Lauren advised us to ‘keep three things in your minds, that you want me to take away’.

Sarah then asked what the agents looked at first, when they read submissions. For Lauren, the cover letter was the first thing to look at, while Becky went straight to the manuscript. Max said that we should keep it professional and be sure to get the spelling and punctuation right, as he would be looking for ‘reasons to reject’, and would stop reading if we hadn’t followed the guidelines. Becky, however, gave some hope to the mistake-prone amongst us, saying, ‘I don’t care if you get it wrong, so long as the writing is good’!

When asked what they looked for in a client, Therese thought that it was important that she could ‘get on with, and be honest with’ a client, and Becky was hoping for ‘someone who was open to editing’.

As Sarah kept the questions coming, we learnt that it’s important to think ahead to the next book, and that agents work with international colleagues to sell foreign rights. The agents also thought that there were a lot of benefits to taking a client who had previously self-published, as this helps understanding of marketing and promotion.

When the second panel had finished, we all stood up while the chairs were cleared away and then we gathered around the agents’ tables, queuing up for the opportunity to pitch our books. I got some good feedback from several agents, and, from more than one, heard the wonderful words, ‘yes, send it to me’!

Travelling home later that evening, I kept coming back to what the agents had said at the end of their panel discussion; ‘keep writing’, ‘keep reading’, and, most importantly – ‘have fun’! Certainly the dog knows all about that – he’s always first in the queue for any party!

National Dog Day – what about a day for writers?!

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Last month there was yet another day of celebration for the dog – on 27th August it was National Dog Day, and just like on Christmas Day, Little Christmas Day (see blog post https://catherinerosevear.wordpress.com/2018/07/06/another-little-christmas/ ) and his birthday, there were presents, treats and cards galore – this time, all especially for him.

He absolutely loves opening presents. He was delighted to discover that we’d got him a new blanket, which he immediately lay down on. There were also home-made dog biscuits, and a game of ‘pass the parcel’ in which – surprisingly – the music always stopped when the parcel was in front of him. I think it’s safe to say that he really enjoyed himself, as, in fact, did the rest of us, but it got me thinking about all these special days we have, for this and that.

I found a list on Wikipedia of all the various special days that are celebrated around the world, and it was fascinating reading. There’s a huge list of them, including, of course, all the famous ones like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. In reading down the list, I found it difficult to choose my favourite – I suggested to the dog that maybe it would have to be either World Chocolate Day, or possibly, Ice Cream for Breakfast Day! He immediately objected strongly to this, and suggested that if I was looking for something other than National Dog Day to celebrate, then it should be National Puppy Day. I had to explain to him that as far as Wikipedia could tell me, this was only celebrated in the USA. He huffed petulantly, and pointed out that I hadn’t even mentioned Take Your Dog to Work Day. I realised that on 24th June, when this day is apparently celebrated, I hadn’t even known about it. Quickly passing him a dog treat to ease my guilt, I decided to move on to looking into which days are related to writers and writing.

Wikipedia informed me that in various countries around the western world, there are several days that are linked to writing or literature. These are –

  • National Science Fiction Day (2nd January) – celebrated in the USA.
  • Family Literacy Day (27th January) – a day celebrating literacy in Canada.
  • Dr Seuss Day (2nd March).
  • World Writers’ Day (3rd March) – established in 1986, and founded in London by the International PEN club, to promote support among writers, internationally, and to bring together respected international writers for discussion.
  • World Poetry Day (21st March) – established by the UN.
  • Tolkien Reading Day (25th March).
  • International Children’s Book Day (2nd April).
  • World Book and Copyright Day (23rd April).
  • National Writing Day (27th June) – an annual day to inspire writing, across the UK.
  • Author’s Day (1st November) – established in Illinois, USA, in 1928 to celebrate American Authors.
  • International African Writers’ Day (7th November).
  • Day of the Imprisoned Writer (15th November) – an international day established in 1981, to recognise writers who stand up for freedom of expression.

All these days connected with writing and literature looked great, but what struck me was that none of them were just about generally celebrating writers, in the way that Mother’s Day and Father’s Day just generally celebrate mothers and fathers. And this in a world where the vast majority of writers (both self-published and traditionally published), earn very little money from their writing, with only the rare, famous few making a good living from it. In fact, the vast majority of unpublished and self-published writers slave away with no financial reward at all.

Surely, I suggested to the dog, it was time for a National (or even International) Writers’ Day, when all book-lovers would show their appreciation to any writers they happened to know, feting them with cards, flowers and gifts? He yawned – for some reason he seemed to be getting a bit tired of listening to me – and, settling down on his new blanket for a well-earned snooze, he pointed out that there were only six months to go until World Sleep Day came around again on 17th March, and maybe we should start celebrating that now, instead.

Oh well – it was only a suggestion!

 

With many thanks to Wikipedia and their wonderful (and very informative), ‘List of minor secular observances’.

Writers’ Rejection Letters!

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Recently the dog hurt his foot – poor chap. It didn’t look too serious but we popped him into the car and drove him to the vets, where he nervously crept into the surgery and sat down, wide eyed, by the reception desk. He sniffed the air – hmm, that smell was suspicious, and reminded him for some unknown reason of sharp needles. He sought shelter underneath a chair, licking his foot apprehensively while we waited.

Soon enough it was our turn to be called in to the vet’s lair. Fortunately she was confident that his foot would soon heal and be all back to normal, but after issuing us with a tube of cream and an eye-watering bill, she decreed that for five days he must wear the ‘cone of shame’ around his neck, to stop him from licking and chewing at his foot.

We drove home, and once there, the cone was put on. I thought it made him look even cuter than usual, but the dog was far from convinced. Whatever could that mad doctor be thinking – making him look so ridiculous? And at a time when he already had a sore foot to contend with, as well! But the cone was on, and on it stayed for the prescribed duration.

Not only did the cone make it impossible for the dog to chew his foot, which was, after all, the plan, but it also clearly embarrassed him. Oh, the shame of being seen in public with something so ludicrous tied round his neck. It was almost as though we wanted all the other dogs to laugh at him!

Seeing him suffer emotionally was hard, but it was all worth it in the end. Just as the vet had said, at the end of five days the foot had healed and the cone could come off – and very pleased to see the back of it, he was too! But it made me think about what makes us feel ashamed, embarrassed or down-hearted, especially as a writer.

I’ve been writing for children for a few years now, and alongside self-publishing my children’s chapter books, I’ve also submitted manuscripts to a multitude of agents, hoping to persuade one of them to take on one of my books, and fight my corner with the big guys – the mainstream traditional publishers. So far I’ve had words of encouragement, requests to see more and suggestions for improvements, but have I had an agent offer me representation? No, I have not!

When I speak to my writer friends, I’m very aware that many of them already have agents and that I don’t. I know that there are a lot of us in the same boat – many more, in fact, than there are in the ‘agented’ boat. Come to think of it, it would probably take a supersized luxury cruise liner to accommodate all of us ‘unagented’ children’s writers, whereas it’s quite possible that the ‘agented’ amongst us, might well find some empty seats on a vessel the size of a Thames River Cruiser. Nevertheless, ‘do you have an agent?’ is a common question to be asked at writers’ events, and I always feel slightly embarrassed when I answer, ‘No, not yet’, feeling my eyes drawn down to the ground – a bit like the dog when he’s out for a walk in his cone, and another dog comes into view. But should I feel like that?

Recently I read Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ (A brilliant book, by the way, filled with great tips for writers!), and I particularly liked the bit where he talked about his early years of writing. He says, ‘By the time I was fourteen the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and went on writing.’ He didn’t throw the rejections into the bin, embarrassed by them, and so, I decided that I wouldn’t either. Since then I’ve been keeping my rejections, printing out the emails and keeping them all together in a file. You never know – maybe when I’m famous people will clamour to see them, amazed at the ineptitude (or just sheer bad luck), of the agents who’d rejected me (I wish!). I’m also shifting my viewpoint, and trying to see the rejections as completely necessary steps on the way; letters to learn from, rather than knock-backs. After all, I’m yet to hear of an author who has never been rejected. And I hope that, if the dog ever needs a cone again in the future, he will try to see it the same way – holding his head up proudly as he marches on, his eye on the prize (or in his case, the bag of treats!).

 

How much is that doggy charging?

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When I self-published my first children’s book in 2017, I found it really difficult to decide what price I should put on the book’s cover. I was keen to keep it low, so that if children were buying it with their own pocket money it wouldn’t be out of their reach. The publisher suggested £7.99, but I was concerned that if I priced it that high, no one would buy it. I thought £5.99 sounded more reasonable, but I was quickly told that this was too low, and I’d make a huge loss on every copy that was sold. Apparently, even at £6.99 I’d make a loss of 3 pence on every copy sold through Amazon, and would only make 32 pence profit on each sale via wholesalers.

Wow! This was news to me! Until that moment, I hadn’t realised how little money authors made on each book sold. Of course, traditionally published authors can hope to receive an advance from their publishers, but the chances of getting anything on top of that is still, for most, remote – and of course, for self-published authors, advances simply don’t exist.

I had a think about it, and decided to go with £6.99 as a middle ground – if most copies sold through Amazon there would be a small loss, but so long as I sold some books at events like school visits, I’d probably break even, overall.

I’d never worked in retail or sales, so having to puzzle over this pricing business was completely new to me, but fortunately I did have an experienced salesman to call on for advice – my writing buddy, the dog. He has long believed firmly in everything having a value and – unfortunately for me – a price.

One of his favourite activities is stealing things that he knows I want – socks from the laundry basket being a preferred item, but everything in the house is pretty much ‘up for grabs’, if you’ll excuse the pun. He thinks that it is hilarious to race around the kitchen table, a sock dangling from his mouth, me chasing after him and never quite able to get within grabbing distance. Every now and then he’ll stop and give a snorty laugh, wait until I’m nearly there, and then bound away again.

Once I get sick of chasing him, the negotiations begin. I walk to the treat cupboard and take down a box of dog biscuits. ‘Come on,’ I say, in a wheedling tone of voice. ‘Would you like a dog biscuit?’ He stops bounding around, puts the sock down at his feet and looks at me with his head on one side.

I take a biscuit out of the box and throw it onto the floor. I might not have his sock, but I have got his interest. There’s a moment’s silence while we both look down at the biscuit, and then the dog raises his eyebrows and gives a snort, stamping on the sock in irritation. ‘One biscuit? For this fantastic sock? No thank you!’

Out comes another biscuit, which quickly joins the first one in the ‘no man’s land’, on the floor between us. He looks at me disparagingly, and then snorts in the direction of the two biscuits.

I throw down a third biscuit, and he immediately trots over and collects all three, leaving me to go and pick up my purchase from the other side of the room. Most socks, it seems, cost three biscuits. Some things are more expensive, of course – pens for example, often cost four biscuits. And then there are those rare and valuable items – pies spring to mind – which are simply not for sale.

Sometimes he’ll come trotting over, hoping to persuade me to buy a piece of newspaper he’s snatched off the worktop, only to find that, sadly for him, either I don’t want to buy it, or I’m only prepared to offer one biscuit. When this happens he disappears under the table and chews it up – just to make sure that I don’t manage to pick it up for free, later.

What I’ve learnt from the dog through these experiences is that most things – although certainly not all things – have a price. The trick, as far as self-published authors are concerned, is to choose a price that will work for both the author and the reader – hopefully a fair, middle-ground – and ideally one that won’t cost too many biscuits!

The Water Cooler

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Writing can be a lonely task. Sometimes I look at our dog and wonder if he occasionally finds his work lonely, as well. He is an only dog – he does get to meet lots of dogs when he goes out for walks, of course, but it’s not the same as having other dogs around all the time. Most of his ‘dog work’ – helping me to edit my writing, clearing up any crumbs on the floor, and making sure that all the food is stored safely in one place (his stomach), takes place without the aid of any furry friends to help him. With this in mind, a few weeks ago we took him to a Tibetan Terrier festival in Leicestershire, to give him a chance to meet loads of other dogs – all at once, and all roughly the same size as him. He had a wonderful time with all the other Tibetan Terriers who came along – playing, sniffing, and presumably working out which of the other dogs were his cousins, aunts and uncles. It was great fun to see so many of them having fun together in one place, but then we went back home and he returned to life as an ‘only dog’.

Writers often find themselves in a very similar situation. The majority of writers are ‘only writers’ – most households can’t afford to keep more than one at a time. Writers, after all, are expensive to feed, and notorious for polishing off the coffee supplies at lightning speed. With a dog, you can usually find a high cupboard where expensive food and beverages can be placed out of reach, but it’s not often so with writers.

It’s true that most writers love spending time alone – and we probably need to like doing that at least a little bit, in order to get any writing done at all. But there comes a time, at least once a day, when you stare at the laptop and think, ‘Is this right? I need someone else’s opinion’. If I was still working in an office, I’d just poke my head through my colleague’s door, or maybe wander along to the kitchen or the water cooler, to see who was taking a break and might be prepared to listen to whatever I’m stuck on. But when you’re the only person in the house it’s not that easy, and this was something that I struggled with when I first started writing – where to find colleagues who I could consult for advice, and who would understand what I was trying to do?

Then I discovered SCBWI (The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). I can’t remember how I first came across it, but when I did, I joined straight away. It’s an amazing organisation, operating across the globe, but with regional chapters as well. Through their workshops, Facebook groups and critique groups, I was immediately put in touch with hundreds of other writers – some with years of experience as published authors behind them, and some, like me, just starting out, and many of them have become friends. All of a sudden I had a water cooler to go to, whenever I needed to, and it’s completely changed the speed at which I learn as a writer. There are just so many people to learn from!

So if you’re a writer, and you haven’t already joined a writer’s group, club or society, consider doing it – you might find yourself wondering how you ever managed to lift a pen, or switch on a laptop without it!

 

Looking to the Future

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Sometimes, when I’m having a bit of a ‘down-day’ on the writing front, I think about the possibility that I may never get a children’s book traditionally published. When this happens the dog always jumps in (literally, usually!), and with a few kind licks, assures me that I’ll get there in the end. Then he settles down next to me, rests his chin on his paws, and gives me a look of reassuring confidence. However, despite his earnest assurances, it remains a possibility that traditional publishing may permanently elude me.

In my experience, writers all have wobbles – days when that we’re writing seems rubbish; when we might have had one too many rejections come bouncing into our inboxes, or maybe a less-than-perfect review. On these days, it seems that traditional publication will never happen. We’re all aware that for some of us this will be true, but it’s impossible to say whether that unfortunate group will include us or not.

When a day like this comes along, I try to think about why I’m really writing in the first place – is my main aim to be traditionally published? Well, it would be wonderful, but surprisingly, no, it isn’t the main reason I write! Do I want children to read the books I’ve written and self-published, enjoy them and find themselves drawn into another world as they read? Well, yes, I do! And what about the books I’ve written but not self-published, and not yet found a traditional publisher for? Well, I think it would be nice to think that in the future – maybe a few generations into the future, even – my descendants might dig them out of a dusty, old box in the loft, read them and enjoy them.

I can imagine the scene – my great-great-grandchildren, sat around in their futuristic living room, holographic screens hovering magically before their eyes. Suddenly another great-great-grandson shimmers into the room, silver future-suit all agleam, and makes an announcement. ‘Hey, guys, look at this!’

The rest of them raise their eyebrows quizzically, and then look with distaste at the dusty bundle being held aloft. ‘Ew! What’s that? It looks all dirty!’

‘No, this is really interesting – I’ve found some stories written by great-great-grandma Rosevear, up in the loft. Look, they’re printed on paper and everything!’

They lean forwards. ‘Paper? You mean what they used even before ebooks came along? Not a hollo-book?’

He brandishes the bundle and dust showers onto the floor, before being rapidly sucked up by an eager housework-bot. ‘Yes. People could print stuff off onto paper whenever they wanted, in those days. Paper wasn’t rare like it is today… I think in those days there were still trees growing in some areas, even – waiting to be made into paper.’

They nod sagely. ‘Oh, yes! Of course that was before World President Trump cut them all down to build the Space Fence… So, what are these stories about?’

He passes the pages round, and they all marvel at the feel of the sheets between their fingers, before squinting their eyes up to read them. ‘Hey,’ someone says in a moody tone. ‘The back-light isn’t working on this page!’ He bends lower in an effort to read it.

After a few minutes one of them puts their paper carefully down on the floating coffee table, next to the cup recylcator. ‘I like this stuff – her stories are quite good!’

‘Yes,’ chimes in someone else. ‘I wonder why she didn’t let a publisher make it into a paper book – you know those fiddly ones they had with lots of bits of paper stuck together?’

‘Oh, yes’, says another. ‘She really should have thought of doing that. I guess she didn’t want to. But maybe, if she could write stories like this in the olden days, we can do it now! Someone pass me my hollopad and thought-transcriber – I’m going to make a start right now!’

A buzz of excitement goes round the room as they all consider the possibility of writing their own stories…

Hmm… If I can give a good reading experience to some children right now, with my self-published books, that’s great – but if I can also leave a legacy of stories for future generations of my family to enjoy, then that will be even better!

Have some patience!

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The other day someone asked me a question that stuck in my mind – they asked, ‘how long did it take you to write your book?’ I found it really difficult to answer, as it all really depends on what you mean by ‘write your book’, and it made me realise that writing a book does need quite a lot of patience.

I’m not always the most patient person, but the dog is even less so, although he does have a ten minute rule. I’ll explain. Sometimes, as a treat, we go to the pub for a meal and take the dog with us. He is always terribly excited about this, as the pub is his very most favourite place in the whole world (when he first went there, someone gave him a roast potato, and he has never forgotten it). We go in, the dog pulling frantically on the lead to get in faster, chose a table, sit down and order some food. The dog licks his lips. ‘Right’, he says to himself, as he nods and smiles at the regulars, ‘they’ll need to cook that now.’ He sets his invisible stopwatch and settles down to wait… As soon as ten minutes have passed, he leaps to his feet, looks at the door to the pub kitchen and lets loose a volley of barks. ‘Oi!’, he shouts at the top of his voice. ‘You’ve had long enough – where’s my food!’ We try to drag the dog back under the table while smiling in an embarrassed way at the waitress, and crossing our fingers that the food will come soon. It’s the same anywhere that serves food – or at least, anywhere that is thick-skinned enough to let the dog in.

But I’ve come to realise that you do need to be patient for longer than ten minutes to write a children’s book, and for me, at least, it’s been a long process.

I think it started about eighteen years ago, when I first decided that I’d like to write a children’s book that was set in a nursing home, and which would be about a mysterious, magical lady who would become friends with the child who was the book’s main character. I remember having a go at writing the first chapter at this stage, but it was awful, and I don’t think I ever made it past the end of page one. Then, about eighteen months ago, I decided that there was no excuse for not giving it another go.

Actually sitting down to write the first draft of the book, which was well over a year ago now, took me about three weeks. After that, I spent another three weeks going through it, re-drafting it, changing it about, taking bits out, adding bits in and polishing it all up. Then I went back and spent another two weeks editing it for spelling and grammar. At this point I looked at the amount of words that spell-check was still underlining for me, and realised that using a professional editor might be a good idea. It took me a week or so to find one, and then about six weeks went by while they worked on the manuscript, before I got their edited version back.

After this, I decided that I should have a front cover illustration. I looked into all the options and finally chose an illustrator. I then needed to send him some segments from the book, so that he knew what the picture should be about, and then again, I needed to wait a few weeks, while he worked on the picture.

I then started the process of looking into publication. This took a while as there are so many options, but when I’d finally chosen to go with Matador, I went through the whole manuscript again, just to be on the safe side. Then it all needed to be proof-set. After this stage, it was time for proof-reading. As well as having it proof-read professionally, I also went through it yet again, as this was my final chance to spot any mistakes.

Finally – it was ready to go to the printers!

So, how long did it take me to write my book? I’m not sure, but it might be somewhere between three weeks and eighteen years. Now, I need to go and give the dog his tea – I promised him I’d get it ready eight minutes ago, so I’ve only got two minutes left!

What If…

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So, my book is now out! There are quite a few pre-orders on Amazon, I’ve spoken to all the book shops that are within a few miles of where I live, and I’ve contacted local libraries. What’s more, I’ve got a box of books waiting in my cupboard, ready to take to primary schools in September. The publisher has contacted long lists of people and organisations as well, so as far as the marketing goes, it’s all good! Will they all sell? Who knows, we’ll just have to wait and see.

But the next thing coming up will be the stage where people who have bought the book, start to give me feedback. What will they think? Will they like it? And if they don’t, will they tell me the truth? And if they tell me the truth, will I like what they’ve got to say?! Hmm!

Worrying about what people will or won’t say about the book when they’ve read it (assuming they buy it in the first place!), makes me think how much many of us worry about things, over which we have no control. I like to think of myself as an optimist, but I still spend a good amount of time worrying, probably like most other people. A lot of us are constantly thinking about what could go wrong in the future, rather than focusing on what could go right, or even trying to relax and not think about the future at all.

As I mentioned in my last post, the dog always looks on the bright side, and it would never occur to him to think that something might not go well. But, more than that, not only does he not think about bad things happening in the future, he doesn’t really think about the future at all – he lives entirely in the moment, enjoying what he’s doing at the time, with complete concentration and with no thought to tomorrow. If he’s enjoying chewing a bone, that is enough for him, and he will just get on with enjoying it. When he’s had enough of it, he’ll move on to something else and put all his concentration into the new activity – even if the new activity involves stealing clothes out of the laundry basket, and tearing them into tiny pieces in a quiet corner of the kitchen.

I know that being human beings with complex lives, we do need to think about and plan for the future. However, as far as I can, I will certainly try to be more like the dog – at the moment, my book is published and much of the marketing work has been done – I’ll just enjoy the moment!

Roll up, roll up…

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Well, it has to be said that we all, including the dog of course, really enjoyed ‘Little Christmas’, and I would definitely recommend it! If you haven’t read my last blog post you will doubtless now be feeling confused, but have a look at the ‘Little Christmas’ post, and all will become clear.

Now that Little Christmas is over everything has gone back to normal, and the very exciting news is that my book is now actually published! This being the case, I’m thinking more and more about how to go about selling it. I’ve never been a very good saleswoman, despite spending some time in the marketing department of the organisation I worked for in America, years ago. Still, promoting other people’s products and services is one thing, but the idea of having to promote something I’ve made myself, goes against all my better feelings. Surely that’s just showing off?

The publishers are doing a lot of the marketing for me, but I need to get involved as well, and I’m now at the stage of working with them to promote and market the book. This involves a lot of online work, but also, horror of horrors, taking paper copies of my Advance Information sheet into bookshops, and talking to real people in buying departments about why they should order copies of my book!

If someone asks me if my book is any good, my natural response is, ‘Well, I think so, so hopefully you might like it too.’ However, in the wonderful world of marketing, apparently the right response is actually, ‘Yes, it’s brilliant, so order twenty copies at once and give them to all your friends for Christmas!’ The appropriate follow-up is then, ‘You should order them today as well, otherwise they’ll probably all be sold out, and you’ll kick yourself for missing out on the chance to get a first edition!’

I’m sat next to the dog as I write this, and I’m struck by the fact that he has no such problems with shameless self-promotion. For example, if a visitor tickles the dog’s ear and remarks that he’s a lovely boy, he does not respond by saying, ‘Oh, am I? I’m sure I’m not, but how very kind of you to say so!’ In fact, he leaps on the opportunity to chat to someone who agrees with his own high opinion of himself, and immediately congratulates the visitor on their good taste and their keen observational skills. He’ll then go on to suggest that they might like to expand on which aspects of him they think are the most outstanding.

It’s also interesting to see how he responds when a visitor arrives who is less fond of dogs. Does he sit quietly in the corner, wondering why they haven’t come over to admire him, and worrying about whether he isn’t actually a very good dog, after all? No – he assumes that, by some oversight, they haven’t yet noticed him. How awful it would be, he thinks, if this person missed the opportunity to stroke his soft ears, and view his beautiful fur from closer range. Then he launches himself across the kitchen, tail wagging wildly and paw confidently extended.

Once again I’m finding myself learning from the dog – instead of hoping people might like my book, and worrying about whether they won’t, clearly I should be assuming that they’ll love it, and worrying instead about the fact that some people might miss out on the opportunity to read it, if I don’t push it right under their noses.

So here we go – my book is now available to buy, earlier than expected (I think the printers must have worked through their tea breaks!), so don’t forget to order a copy of this brilliant new children’s book, ‘The Secret of the Wooden Chest’, either from Amazon (where it’ll be available as soon as they receive their stock) , your local book shop or direct from the publishers at http://www.troubador.co.uk/book_info.asp?bookid=4532

Happy reading, and please consider leaving reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, both of which will accept reviews regardless of where your copy was bought!

In my next post, I’ll talk a bit more about the process of marketing the book…