Archive for April, 2011

What makes you happy?

lari and heron

lari and heron

I’ve spent most of my kids’ Easter holidays doing events to promote How to Make a Heron Happy. But it wasn’t all bad – we went to some really fun places, like Pollok Park (see photo of me with stuffed, and therefore not too happy, heron), and Lochwinnoch Nature Reserve (where they have excellent pond-dipping – I found a caddis fly in its little house) and this past weekend, Kelvingrove Museum, where I worked with the RSPB’s fabulous staff and volunteers.

At the end of these events, once I’ve read the book and told some silly animal and bird stories, I always hang around to sign books for anyone who wants to take a book home (after buying it, of course!) On Saturday, I was signing a book for a very chatty 5 year old girl, and I wrote in it, “I hope this book makes you happy” (notice the clever link to the title – I try to come up with new stuff to write in each book…) and when I read that out to her, she grinned and said “THE WHOLE UNIVERSE MAKES ME HAPPY.” Then she trotted off to look round the Kelvingrove, which contains pretty much the whole universe.

But wasn’t that a wonderful thing to say. A fabulous thing to believe. And a brilliant way to look at life.

Archive for April, 2011

Whose job is it to defeat the baddie?

Yesterday I went to the ballet in Glasgow.  And I spent a lot of time thinking about defeating baddies.  It was Scottish Ballet’s Alice, which was weird and wonderful and daft and complete nonsense (entirely in keeping with the books).  But they added something new – they had the writer on stage, dancing with the characters, being part of the (almost) story.  Sometimes he would come and rescue Alice from the other characters, and I kept thinking, “There’s no point looking surprised and upset, mate, you created them, you can’t complain about how they act!”  But there was also a baddie, the Jabberwock, fabulous in silver and blood.  And it was the WRITER who fought with the baddie and persuaded him to mend his ways.  Which I suppose the writer always does in a story, though he doesn’t usually take personal credit for it.  And I spent most of the second half thinking about whose job it is to defeat the baddie.  Isn’t it the writer’s job to create CHARACTERS who defeat the baddie, rather then doing it him or herself?  But maybe that’s in books, not in dance… and that’s what I love about ballet, that you can enjoy the dance, and think about lots of other things at the same time, because there aren’t any words to miss.  What do you think?  Whose job is it to defeat the baddie?

Archive for April, 2011

When does a story become a book?

When does a story become a book? Anyone who has come to my author events and seen one of my manuscripts will know just how MESSY they are, because I tend to write the story all in a rush of enthusiasm and excitement, and then I have to do a lot of work tidying it up. Turning the story, slowly, painstakingly, into a book. But when does the story actually become a book? For me, I think it’s when I’ve stopped being able to fiddle with it.

With Storm Singing, the third Fabled Beast book, that moment has just arrived. Right now I’m printing out the page layouts from the publisher. These aren’t pages of text covering whole sheets of A4 paper, but blocks of text the size of novel pages, with lots of white space round them. And they do look like real pages! Page numbers at the bottom, proper chapter breaks. It looks like a book! And I can’t fiddle with it any more. I can point out spelling mistakes or missing apostrophes (I can get quite passionate about apostrophes) but I can’t suddenly change the outcome of a fight, or introduce an entirely new character, or even decide that a line of dialogue doesn’t work. I can’t fiddle with it, it’s printing out looking like real pages from a real book, and I think it’s nearly ready!

But you can’t read it for another – let me count – nine and a bit weeks. Because it’s still got to go to the printers, then come back and get put on the bookshop or library shelves. But you can look at the cover on Floris’s website. I love the cover! (But don’t read the blurb under it – it gives away a LOT of the plot. Better wait til the story, which is now a book, comes out!)

Now I’m off to hunt down stray apostrophes …

Archive for April, 2011

Launching a book in my wellies

It’s the official launch day for How to Make a Heron Happy! And it’s raining … Which isn’t usually a problem, but I’d been hoping to launch the book, which was inspired by my local park, IN THE PARK. With 50 Primary Ones from my local school, Hermitage Park Primary in Leith.

But to read a book to lots of infants in a park, you need a bit of luck with the weather.  And I kept waking up last night, hearing the wind howling round the house, thinking “Oh no! The books will blow away! The children will blow away!”

But I’m a natural optimist (you have to be, to write books when you’ve no idea whether anyone will ever publish them, or read them!)  So I got up this morning and put on thick jeans, fluffy wellies, lots of layers, and the raincoat I usually use for researching mountains and caves, and I went out.

In the pouring rain and driving wind.

Luckily the school staff have more sense than me, and cancelled the event.  So I ended up in the lovely school library, reading the book (and telling a monkey story) to all the P1s, some bonus nursery kids, as well as photographers, journalists and park rangers.

In my wellies, and my old jeans, and my lots of layers to keep me warm.

So if you do see any pictures of this launch in the Evening News, or on STV local, or anywhere else, that’s why I look such a mess!

But the kids were great, they seemed to enjoy the book, and guess what … I’ve just got home, just typed up this post, and the SUN HAS COME OUT. I bet the park is lovely now….