Monthly Archives: May 2019

Book Review – Go to Sleep, Monty!

Title: Go to Sleep, Monty!

Written and illustrated by: Kim Geyer

Published by: Andersen Press

Go to Sleep, Monty!

Every child wants a pet – right? Wouldn’t it be great to have someone to play with, someone to share things with, and someone to care for? Max gets the dog of his dreams, but he soon realises that looking after a puppy isn’t as easy as it looks! When Max gets the dog of his dreams, he soon finds out looking after a puppy isn’t as easy as it looks! How on earth can he persuade mischievous Monty to go to sleep?

A charming and funny picture book debut about the trials and tribulations of owning a boisterous puppy!

This is a heart-warming story which anyone who has had a puppy can identify with. Max does everything he can to persuade Monty the puppy to settle down to sleep. From an educational point of view, parents will also be able to identify with the story, as parallels can be made to trying to get a restless child to sleep.

This is a good story for reading to the class at the end of the day. The children will love looking at Kim Geyer’s beautiful illustrations and spotting what Monty is up to instead of going to bed.

This book review was previously published on the online Armadillo Children’s Book Review Magazine.

An interview with… Undiscovered Voices

In my Writing 4 Children column in the national writing magazine Writers’ Forum this month #212 Jun 2019, I discover more about the unique biennial competition for children’s book writers to get their manuscripts in front of agents and publishers.

UV photo

Undiscovered Voices is run by volunteers from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and sponsored by fiction book packager Working Partners. The competition is open for submissions on the 1st June 2019. The winners will be included in the 7th anthology out in 2020. The anthology will  be sent to every agent and publishers in the world of children’s books in the UK and US. It is also available as a free download from www.undiscoveredvoices.com.

UV7_COVER

The feature contains excellent advice and tips for children’s authors who are considering entering the competition from each of the UK volunteer organisers: Catherine Coe, Jenny Glencross, Benjamin Scott, Simon James Green, Rosie Best and Sara Grant.

“Undiscovered Voices is not just a competition, but a supportive and friendly community. The UV team are aware it feels like an intimidating process, but want people to be reassured that the publishing industry is essentially just full of people who love books and who want nothing more than to discover new writers. Everyone is rooting for you to be successful.” UV team

The judges for the 2020 anthology are:

This is such an excellent opportunity for unagented and unpublished children’s authors. Don’t miss it.

Keep Going

These are my words of wisdom for today. I often feel disheartened with my writing and some days it is hard work just to keep myself sat at the computer. It’s not easy to get published but perseverance does pay off. Over the years this has become increasingly apparent and over 85 books later I am still persevering. This became dramatically evident when I was running a SCBWI-BI workshop last weekend for the Central North network on Writing for Educational Publishers.

I took a selection of books with me for the attendees to look at and analyse the different series and write their own book proposals. It dawned on me whilst I was teaching, not a lot of people could use their own books to do this as they have not written enough series for each group to go through. It was a proud moment.

Course photo

Writing for Educational Publishers workshop. Photo taken by Addy Farmer

There is a quote that springs to mind. I do not know who originally said this:

“Writing is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.”

And it is not just me. Other authors are still getting deal and books are still selling. During difficult times people turn to escapism through books and movies, so the market is out there.

Sweat-Miracle

I  know it’s difficult to keep going, especially if your aim is to write the next bestseller. Remember only a tiny majority of writers find fame and fortune but most make a slow steady income by doing what they love. So take small steps to move your self forward a centimetre at a time.

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I’m definitely not saying set your sights lower – what I am saying is don’t let your nagging doubts stop you. All writers feel like this at some point in their careers. Don’t let other distractions get in the way of you reaching your goals. Only you can write your story so…

…keep going. 

Book Review – Curse of the Nomed

Title: Curse of the Nomed

Created by: The Whizz Writers

Written by: B B Taylor

Illustrated by: Holly Bushnell

Published by: Weird ‘N’ Wonderful Publishing

Curse of the Nomed

The Curse of the Nomed, weaves the worries and insecurities children have when moving from primary to secondary school into an exciting adventure to defeat the ancient Egyptian God of Chaos, Sett.  This book was created in partnership with pupils from the Four Dwellings Academy in Birmingham. It incorporates the real-life experiences of the pupils when they first started secondary school.

Main protagonists, Jacob, Eleanora and Stefan discover that the ancient god Sett has disguised himself as Mr Siriso, the headmaster, and has put all the pupils under a spell with the school scarab beetle badge on their uniform.  Guided by Miss Ali the librarian (who they bought back to life) they have to find the Book of Life to save the students and ultimately prevent Sett from taking everyone’s soul to get revenge on his brother Osiris. The book is in the inner deepest vault of the House of Life and the journey is full of traps and curses.  

We learn about the main character’s backgrounds and personalities through a series of flashbacks triggered by events in the plot. They give their top tips for moving schools which include:

  • Talk to someone you trust about your feelings
  • Find out about the extra clubs and activities you can be involved in at lunchtime and after school
  • Be kind, ask questions and listen to others.

There is a lot going on in this short, easy to read novel. Not only does it have of theme of the transition from one school to another, it also touches on issues of loneliness, greed, jealousy, loss, unexpected kindness, friendship and courage. These issues and ideas could be a great discussion starter for a PSHE lesson before the children leave primary school in Year Six and during their first year of secondary school in Year Seven.

A contribution from the sale of this book goes to Partnership for Children a charity that runs school based programmes in Birmingham to encourage good mental health. In line with this worthy cause the end-pages contain inspiring quotes from award-winning authors Chris Callaghan, Gareth P Jones, Maz Evans, Tommy Donbavand, Jenifer Killick and Kathryn Evans.

My overall feeling is that The Curse of the Nomed is an ingenious enterprise that is pulled together by the dedication and cooperation of a great team of both adults and children. Holly Bushnell’s illustrations throughout the book help create atmosphere and tension. The book is neatly plotted with a great cliff-hanger ending that left me thinking there may be a sequel.

You can find out more about author B B Taylor’s books and writing on her website and follow her on Twitter @BB_Taylor and on Facebook @AuthorBBTaylor

You can find out about Holly Bushnell’s illustrations and other books on her website and follow her on on Facebook @hollybushnelldesigns and Instagram @hollybushnelldesigns

An interview with… Flying Eye Books

In 2013, I interviewed Sam Arthur about the then new children’s book imprint, Flying Eye Books, which creates beautiful children’s books to stand out in a digital age.

Sam Arthur photo

Flying Eye Books is the children’s imprint of award-winning visual publishing house Nobrow. Established in early 2013, Flying Eye Books sought to retain the same attention to detail in design and excellence in illustrated content as its parent publisher, but with a focus on the craft of children’s storytelling and non-fiction.

Since then, an array of stunning and innovative titles have populated the list, including the award-winning Hildafolk series by Luke Pearson, the highly acclaimed Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers of Space from Ben Newman and Dr. Dominic Walliman and exquisite picture books and enchanting illustrated biographies from breakaway young talents like Wild by Emily Hughes and Shackleton’s Journey by William Grill, New York Times Best Illustrated Book of 2014 and winner of the 2015 Kate Greenaway Medal.

“When we started Nobrow Press one of our main sources of inspiration was children’s books. Our aim was to provide an independent platform for graphic art, Illustration and art comics in the UK and abroad. After publishing a few books aimed at younger readers under our Nobrow imprint we soon realised that we weren’t necessarily reaching our key demographic, that is to say, kids! So, after lots of hard work, the idea of a dedicated children’s imprint became a reality.” Sam Arthur

Sam told me, he can tell within a couple of pages if a submission is something they’d be interested in. Badly drawn and badly written are always a turn off. Also when someone hasn’t considered what types of books they publish, or don’t really know what Flying Eye Books do and who they are: this is just a waste of everyone’s time.

Sam revealed he never really has much time to read cover letters. He says that something along the lines of, Here’s a copy of my book, I’d love you to publish it. If you’re interested here are my contact details. Thanks for your time.’ is pretty much perfect! They are always looking for more original graphic novels for Nobrow Press and Sam is always looking for children’s picture books that fit their list.

“We firmly believe paper books are an important part of people’s lives. We feel that there is still great pleasure to be taken in the tactile nature of reading a physical book. We still like to collect tangible objects too and although the digital world is replacing some things, often it is simply providing a way to celebrate our love of the real world and the objects within it.” Sam Arthur

Sam’s advice to anyone wanting to submit their work is before you send them anything, make sure you have a good blog or website, which is up to date with your work. If they like a submission the first thing they do is check you out online to see other work you have done. An online presence could just be a bunch of drawings uploaded to a Flickr page – it doesn’t have to be a fancy website. 

“Our perception of you is based on a combination of your submission and your presence online. So my best advice is to consider this before you send anything in. If you have nothing it makes it difficult for us to get a picture of what you do and the decision to work with you will be affected by that.” Sam Arthur

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You can read the full interview in the #144 issue of Writers Forum. You can find out more about Flying Eye Books from their website: www.flyingeyebooks.com.

End Each Chapter With a Cliffhanger

Cliff hangers keep your readers reading by building up the story’s tension. They literally leave your reader hanging.

cliff hanger

Cliff hangers should always involve your characters:

  • A character arrives
  • A character feels something
  • A character forgets something
  • A character is jolted into action
  • A character leaves
  • A character makes an important decision
  • A character makes an urgent demand
  • A character reacts badly
  • A character reacts internally to events
  • A character remembers something

Your reader has to turn to the next chapter to find out what happens to resolve the tense situation you have created.

Book Review – Writing From Life

Written by: Lynne Hackles

Published by: How to Books

Writing from Life

This book does exactly what it says on the cover. It is absolutely jammed packed with great ideas. So, even though `nothing much has happened to me’, just reading the book has fired my imagination.

If you are thinking about taking a writing course, I suggest you buy this book first and work though it, whether you want to write for children or adults, feature articles to gothic horror, as it will show you how your own past can make your writing come alive.

Writing from Life demonstrates how to take all those things that you thought were fairly insignificant and make good use of them. Nothing goes to waste from noticing the colour of a leaf to baking a cake for you grandson. It talks you through how you can use personal experiences to put more emotion into your writing and provide vivid settings. There are examples and anecdotes not only from the author’s life, but from a whole range of highly successful, professional writers, who talk about how they have used their personal experiences in their writing.

Each chapter contains exercises and tips that not only inspire you, but explain how YOU can make money from your writing by identifying the markets available to send your writing to.

This book is a `must have’ for every writer’s bookshelf.

I have previously published this book review on Amazon.