Archive for May, 2011

My award-winning bottom

After all my stress (see previous post) about being nominated for two awards on the same day, it all worked out fine.  I didn’t need to summon up an evil twin, I didn’t need to time travel or manage an out of body experience.  However I did win one!  The Big Bottom Hunt won the Heart of Hawick Picture Book Award, which was voted for by Primaries 1, 2 and 3 pupils in lots of schools in and around Hawick.  And the prize, oddly, is a beautiful carving of a heron, which leads wonderfully into my next picture book!

So, that was a good week (win one, lose one seems fair enough – and congratulations to Tommy Donbavand, who won the Hackney Short Novel competition), and now I want to turn my thoughts to writing the next book.  It’s amazing how a pat on the back from real readers can help you overcome a lot of very early mornings and a lot of rattly Borders buses to say – Chapter One, here I come…

Archive for May, 2011

You wait ages for a nomination, then two come along at once…

I’m having one of those problems that football managers are criticised for moaning about – when they say they have too many players fit, so they don’t know who to play, and the folk in the studio with stripy shirts and unlikely hair say, “that’s the kind of problem everyone would like to have!”

So here’s my problem:

The Big Bottom Hunt has been nominated for the Heart of Hawick Book Award

The Mountain’s Blood has been nominated for the Hackney Short Novel Award.

That’s good, so far, isn’t it?

It’s just that both award ceremonies are on the same day.

So don’t moan, you say.  That’s good.  A bit of an odd coincidence, but good.  Yes?  But I’m attending the Hawick ceremony (sitting on stage in front of all their voters) and the Hackney organisers have asked me to be available for a live phone interview into their award.  And now I’ve just discovered that they both need me at exactly the same time.  Not nearly, or roughly, or almost the same time.  But EXACTLY the same time.

1.15.    Tomorrow.

How likely is that?  I’ve never really felt the need of an evil twin before, but she’d be handy this week.

Don’t worry.  I’ll cope.  With incredibly helpful people in both places, someone answering my mobile backstage, a bit of fancy footwork (and a time machine?) – I’ll be fine.  Probably.

And will I win? Either of them?  Not likely… The Hackney award has Sophie Mackenzie and Alan Gibbons on the short list, for goodness sake.  And the Hawick one has a very eclectic mix of birds, bunnies and bottoms.  But both are voted for by real readers, so whoever wins, I’m sure it will be the right result!

Archive for May, 2011

Digital dragon

I’ve just opened my new Floris Books catalogue, and the page promoting Storm Singing looks lovely, but it also has a little circle beside the details of my very first book saying “Now available as an eBook”.  I shouldn’t be surprised, because it’s the sort of thing my agent does tell me about, but it did make me step back a bit.  Because I suddenly realised that my books, my characters, are now more technologically advanced than I am.  I’ve never read an e-book.  When I leave the house I still stuff my rucksack full of secondhand collections of Scottish myths and dog-eared novels.  I’m sure the extra weight keeps me fit.  So now I’m trying to imagine Yann the centaur and Sapphire the dragon not on pages of paper but on gently glowing screens.  Are they happy there?  Do they feel a bit out of place?  Or are they, like me, mainly interested in what happens next, not in the details of how and where the story is read?  Anyway – if anyone does get First Aid for Fairies and Other Fabled Beasts on eBook, and wants to let me know what it’s like reading about Greek mythological monsters and Neolithic stone circles on 21st century technology, then do get in touch!

Archive for May, 2011

Squashed and squirming in a small embarrassing space

AAAAARGH! I’m normally a fairly confident person, but for 10 minutes yesterday I felt like a spotty teenager with everyone staring at a ladder in my tights.  Really embarrassed and self conscious and wishing I was invisible.  I was on my way back from a book festival in Hexham and I was sitting on the train beside Philip Ardagh, who had also been talking to local kids about his books.  Philip Ardagh is a very well known, very well respected, very successful writer of very funny children’s books. He is also extremely tall, with an extreme beard.  The train was crowded, and we were sitting beside each other to chat about writery sort of things, which was lovely.  Then he asked if I had any of my books with me so he could have a look at them.  (I didn’t have to ask to see his books.  I see them in Waterstones all the time…) So he got my rucksack down from the luggage rack, and I pulled out the bag of my books that I show to kids, and I sat there on the train with the rucksack between us, my briefcase on my knee, crushed up against the window, while an writer I admire (who is also HUGE and scary) glanced through my books.  And commented on them.  He even read one of my picture book BACKWARDS.  Why would you do that?  I felt like making excuses for them.  I felt like hiding INSIDE the rucksack. I wanted to go for a wander up the train and not WATCH him read them.  AAAARGH!  But he was really nice about them.  About the first line of Rocking Horse War, about the dramatic description of Yann at the start of First Aid, about the pictures in The Mountain’s Blood (yes I know I can’t take credit for those, but when you’re squirming, you take anything you can), and just generally about the concept of Bottoms.  So, that’s alright. Praise from high places (and that’s just where his beard is when he stands up). But goodness me, I’ve never felt so squashed and embarrassed.

Archive for May, 2011

My wall of inspiration

I write in a very small room.  A box room with a window, really.  And most of the room is filled with bookshelves.  But the wall to the right of my desk doesn’t have shelves.  It’s just clear white wall.  And while I’ve been writing the last couple of novels, I’ve always put pictures up on the wall to inspire me, to keep my mind focussed on what I’m writing.  Pictures of mountains for Rocking Horse War.  And for Storm Singing – seals, waves, tents, a picture of a selkie drawn by a reader, various other things which I won’t mention in case they give too much away… (but if you look closely at the photo, who knows what clues you might see!)

Storm Singing wall

Storm Singing wall

But I’ve just taken all those pictures down.  It was quite a sad moment.  Bye bye Storm Singing.  And a fairly scary moment too!  What do I do next?  I’ve discovered that it’s pretty much the hardest decision you make as a writer.  What do I write next?  It takes more than a year of my life to write a novel.  So I want to pick the right idea!  So – what’s gone up on my wall now?  A line from a Foo Fighters song – ‘Done, done, onto the next one.’  A beautiful picture of a well drawn by one of my daughters.  A photo of a Mexican buzzard.  A printout of a hero and a horse from a 1000 year old Persian epic.  And a picture of Loki from the film Thor.  What on EARTH am I writing next?  No, don’t try to work it out – because those pictures are to keep at least three different projects on track at the same time.  But soon, very soon, I’ll take them all down, and start building a wall of inspiration for the next year of writing…  Scary.  But very very exciting!