Category Archives: Real Life

My radio debut

On Wednesday 8th April, I was invited to talk about my new books on the 24-hour Internet radio station covering UK National & International, Chat and Spin radio station.  Their Head Office is based in Washington, Tyne And Wear. They have over 30,000 listeners each week. They have been interviewing authors from all over the world about their new books and where people can purchase them. My time slot was at 7:50 pm.

You can listen to a recording of the show I was on about 40 minutes in here:

I am talking about my new picture books, Rabbits’s Spring Gift and Frog’s Summer Journey. They are part of the A Year in Nature series of seasonal animal led picture books published by Quarto Educational (QED) and they have been illustrated by Lucy Barnard.

Spring and Summer books2

The release of the other two books in the series, Squirrels’ Autumn Puzzle and Fox’s Winter Discovery, have been postponed until September 2021.

After the show they invited me back for another interview on Saturday 18th April at 11:20 am. Here is  a recording of the show:

I am about 2 hours 20 mins in. This is now going to be a regular slot over the next few weeks during the corona virus lock down. You can tune in every Saturday at 11:20 to listen to me talking about my books.

You can listen to the show live on the Chat and Spin radio website: www.chatandspinradio.com

You can find out more about me and my books on my website: www.anitaloughrey.com

Or follow me on Twitter @amloughrey and Instgram @anitaloughrey

Rabbit’s Spring Adventure

In 2012, I wrote a series of picture books based around the seasons which were part of the Animal Seasons series. They are published by QED and illustrated by Daniel Howarth.Season collage

You can listen to a reading of Rabbit’s Spring Adventure read by Jessica Zumhingst on YouTube. Jessica is a Kindergarten Teacher at North Park Elementary.

This year I have had the first two picture books also based on the seasons released just last month. They are part of a new series called A Year in Nature that compliment the previous series. They are also published by QED but this time they are illustrated by Lucy Barnard.

 

Book birthday

Today I have not one but two new books out: Rabbits’s Spring Gift and Frog’s Summer Journey. They are part of the A Year in Nature series of seasonal animal led picture books published by Quarto Educational (QED). The other two book  in the series are released in September. The beautiful illustrations are by Lucy Barnard.

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Rabbits’s Spring Gift has a theme of sibling rivalry set around the concept of spring. Rabbit wants to give her mum a thank you gift, but her brother tries to out-do her at every turn. Take a look and discover if Rabbit can find the ideal gift. The book intertwines family relationships and the changing seasons.

Frog’s Summer Journey was inspired by the ‘grass is greener’ proverb and is set during summer. Frog is looking for somewhere new to live but none of the places he visits on the pond are just right. You can follow Frog on his journey and discover all the signs of summer on your way.

At the back of each book I have included seasonal activities, crafts and discussion points to help develop a child’s understanding of the natural world. these books could be used in schools, nurseries and at home to support topics on the seasons and animals. The gorgeous illustrations give the perfect ahhh-factor.

These books compliment my previous Animal Seasons series picture books also published by Quarto but illustrated by Daniel Howarth.

Here are the new books being modelled by my dog, Logan.

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You can find out more about me and my books on my website: www.anitaloughrey.com or follow me on Facebook: @anitaloughrey.author  Twitter @amloughrey  and Instagram: @anitaloughrey

You can find out more about Lucy Barnard on her agent’s website: www.advocate-art.com or follow her on Facebook @lucybarnardillustration Twitter @barnard_lucy and Instagram @lucybarnardillustrates

What it means to be published?

Last week I went to the SCBWI Masterclass featuring Rachel Hickman, children’s publishing director at Chicken House. She talked about What it means to be published – the good, the bad and the beautiful. Chicken House publishes 25 books a year and a small proportion of these are debut authors. It is there 20th anniversary this year. There are nine people in total working at Chicken House.

Rachel Hickman has worked with Judith Kerr, Roald Dahl and Michael Morpurgo. She grew up in Hong Kong and as a child was obsessed with pony stories. she spoke to us as both a publisher and an author.  Her novel One Silver Summer is published by Scholastic in the US and Old Barn Books in the UK.  She explained for her writing is a personal and immersive thing and sharing it can be tough.

One Silver Summer

Rachel revealed that the truth is about being a publisher is that they do not know what they are looking for. They want reinvented familiar ingredients done with distinctiveness. As a publisher she works for a worldwide market which spreads the risk. Chicken House is a bit maverick and tend to ignore the trends, weighing there acquisitions by instinct. The Chicken House list is culturally rich and selling all over the world. They think in terms of are they going to be able to sell this to oversea publishers.

She is aware that the gate keepers put there stamp on a book at each stage and at Chicken House they prefer to see the book before this happens. they want to find timeless stories that will not date in five years where lots of stuff happens with consequences, where grown-ups are absent or are unreliable or villains. The children win through and the reader is left with a sense of hope.

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Children like detail, tasting what you eat – all can taste the Turkish delight in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe She believes all stories should have an element of humour. 

“Humour is delayed fear.” (Roald Dahl)

The book trade is like a tide with new beautiful shelves washing in and a lot of books get washed out. The reality is many books are gone in a few years as there is no room on th shelves for back list. At the moment there is a slump in YA. Rachel advises all writers to write form the heart. If you are serious about being published you have to realise what you put in is disproportionate to what you get out at the end. Writing is a great way to dream but not necessarily a dream career.

There is no guarantee of being published. Publishers make simple decisions based on their list. If you are successful you have to have another book available. Chicken House are only interested in authors they can invest in rather than single books. Publication is not a reason to write you need to enjoy the process. If you write for a child or for yourself it will show through.

Authors in Common

Rachel particularly looks for voice – a distinct spirit or style that inhabits the story you write and breathes life into it. this is why she likes to see manuscripts raw, without the voice muffled. she also needs to see obvious evidence of practical writing skills such as being able to plot and edit. an ability to use words that will speak to the children and let them identify with the story is essential.

You need to have confidence in your story and believe in your characters. knowing who they are and how they behave is important. They are looking for authors with more than one story to tell. Chicken House expect there authors to write at least three books for them. they also like authors who can perform. It is not enough to sit at home. You have to be able to pat your head and rub your tummy in front of over 100 children. All these things effect their decision.

Acquisitions

A lot of things come into Chicken House through agents, scouts and oversea submissions. They try not to be drawn into auction bidding and they are careful about showing they care too soon. There are two editorial directors an editor and a reader. Barry loves looking at manuscripts that have just come in and if something catches his eye he will pass it to Rachel and Eleanor, the rights director. they generally work form home and meetings are an ad-hoc process. they have scouts and oversea submissions.

It is a holistic process. They never publish something sooner than a year. Asha and the Spirit Bird (published 2017) came through the Chicken House /Times competition that asks for completed manuscripts form unagented authors. The shortlist is always one winner but 50% of the shortlist is usually published. Asha and the Spirit Bird was shortlisted for the Waterstones prize.

Rachel’s Tips on Getting Published

  1. Take time, there is no rush. Make your manuscript as good as you can. Solicit other views and take on board the things that resonate with your story. Remember they are just opinions. You need to use your judgement.
  2. Know what you’re writing, write form the heart and personal experience, know your setting and your protagonist.
  3. You do not need an agent. Chicken House run open coops where you can submit manuscripts. it is a one day event that is totally random. Sometimes they have a theme. The agents are a filter and will help you get noticed. remember they take 20% of your earnings. You need to decide if they are giving you sound business advice. A good agent will get you the best deal but not necessarily the most lucrative.
  4. Think who is going to edit you. Are they the best fit?
  5. The smaller the publisher the smaller the list, the bigger publishers have bigger lists but less time. Love the process of publication and editing.
  6. Think what the book might look like, seeing the book on the press and a warehouse full of your book.
  7. Travel with hope.
  8. Manage your expectations and sell yourself. Self-marketing is essential remember Waterstones only advertise one author a month. So you need to get at there and publicise yourself through schools and indie bookshops.
  9. know publishing is a level playing field. so many things can come form nowhere. Wimpy Kid started life as an adult humour title in the US. Your book may be small in the UK but it could be massive in another country, like Germany.
  10. You’ve got to have fun.
  11. You’ve got to be disciplined.
  12. You need to think about your title and your pitch to show you know your book well enough.
  13. Even if it is a series your book has to stand alone. Often a series can be because you are being too ambitious in the world building.
  14. Often beginnings and writing your way in to the story and will need to be edited at the end.

Writers’ Holiday

Last weekend I went for my annual weekend away to Wales on the Writers’ Holiday to concentrate on my writing. I took my Work In Progress and (spoiler alert) got absolutely loads done. I’ve been to Writers’ Holiday for several years as the atmosphere is so brilliant and I always manage to come back with a few thousand words written.

If you have not been to Writers’ Holiday you don’t know what you’ve been missing. It was set up in 1986 by Anne Hobbs, is run by writers, for writers and receives no financial assistance from any source whatsoever, wrapped up in a totally informal and relaxed setting. It’s up to you what you choose to do but it’s all there for you just take what you want. You get to choose a wide selection of courses or you can use the time to work on your own WIP, or if you prefer just to chill and relax.

One of the great things about Writers’ Holiday it is not too much money. In fact, you get a lot for your money.  The fee includes breakfast, lunch and dinner, all weekend workshops and collection / return to Fishguard and Goodwick train stations.

The venue is The Fishguard Bay Hotel which nestles in rich woodland above Fishguard Harbour and overlooks some of the most beautiful and spectacular coastline in Wales, guests can view the lower town in the distance across the bay.

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This was setting for Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood, when stars like Glynis Johns, Richard Burton, Peter O’Toole and many others stayed here. It was also the base for the filming of Moby Dick. In 1979, this former Great Western Railway hotel was designated as a building of historic and architectural interest. Set in a commanding position overlooking Cardigan Bay, the hotel offers an atmosphere second to none with oak panelled walls, high ceilings and an air of Victorian splendour.

I set off in plenty of time, having started my packing a few days before. It was hard as my son was home that week from University but as my husband and boys planned to paint the hallway, stairs and landing walls, it was probably better I was out of it.

The course I choose to do was Get your Non-fiction Book Written and Published with Simon Whaley. I’ve done Simon’s courses before and they are always inspirational and motivational. So I did not research the course as much as I would have done a new course or venue. Even so, I decided to write down a few questions of things I wanted to know about writing non-fiction books to make my life easier. The last thing I wanted was to not ask and get home and wish I did . I’ve learnt the hard way not to be afraid of asking questions.

I also thought about what I really wanted from the course. Was I just looking for a fun weekend away or did i have a goal in mind I had a goal or two, firstly I am on a tight schedule with my latest commission so needed to get a lot of work done and the ideal time was on the train there and back. The other reason is that although I have written some non-fiction books, I have a few more non-fiction book ideas I want to write. My aim was to kick start myself into doing it. It was a small group which is often nicer as you can get more from a course this way.

It wasn’t all work there is also some fantastic meals you get a buffet breakfast and a choice from three starters, main meals and puddings for lunch and dinner.

There is also a book room where both the course leaders and delegates can bring there own published books to sell.

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You’ll be pleased to know, I managed to work on three non-fiction book ideas and developed them and also my latest commission which I had given myself a daily schedule. Now all I have to do is carry on the momentum and make an effort to write the book.

John Condon’s book launch

Last week Thursday, I went to John Condon’s book launch for his latest picture book, The Pirates are Coming written by John Condon and illustrated by Matt Hunt.

The Pirates are Coming

This is an ingenious picture book all about a little boy who keeps a look out everyday for pirates in a similar vain to the boy who called wolf but as John’s son, Eddie, explained the boy is not being naughty because he really believes it is a pirate ship he sees.

On arrival I was greeted by the staff of Queen’s Park Books, London, who offered me a drink, red wine, white wine and rum, which made it really difficult for me not to take an alcoholic drink as dark rum is one of my favourites. After much deliberation, I drank mango juice and managed to restrain myself from mixing it with rum. There were also some delicious pirate cupcakes.

The first person I met was John’s son, Eddie, who pointed out he was the boy in the cover of the book and indeed he was – right down to the red sash and the bell. Some of the guests also dressed up as pirates, including myself. This is a picture of me with author Matt Killeen and another of author, Cath Jones in her pirate costume. I interviewed Cath for the January 2020 issue #219 of Writers’ Forum see: An interview with… Cath Jones

John was also dressed up and he was the spitting image of he dad in the book. The likeness was uncanny. I was wondering if Matt did this intentionally.

During the launch we were entertained by violinist, Frank Biddulph, and John read the book with the help of his son Eddie who got the timing perfect and even managed an improvised squawk of the parrot.

I have also previously interviewed John about his writing process for the #216 Oct 2019 issue of the national writing magazine, Writers Forum. I have blogged about the interview here: An interview with… John Condon. In the interview John explained that even though The Pirates are Coming was accepted to be published first, due to the backlog of pirate based stories his other picture book The Wondrous Dinosaurium (illustrated by Steve Brown) was published first.

All in all a very successful book launch for another excellent picture book. I can’t wait for the next one.

To find out more about John take a look at his website www.johncondon.co.uk or follow him on Twitter @John_Condon_OTT

Happy New Year to you All

My goal for 2019 was to build-up my author platform by blogging regularly and hopefully creating a following. I feel I have achieved this to some degree. I have blogged regularly, I have done several Christmas fayre’s to sell my many books and have continued doing school visits many at schools I have been to before. It is always lovely when the staff and children want you back.

christmas fayre photo

This year I hope to continue growing my followers and publicising my books. If you would like to help me with this goal please follow my blog and follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can also follow my dogs Instagram account here.

New Year 2020

This year I will be celebrating the launch of my new picture books. So keep an eye out for them.

I hope 2020 brings everything you wish for.

Happy New Year

champagne

Merry Christmas Everyone

Thank you to all my followers, friends and family for the support you have all given me in doing this blog. You have all been fantastic. I have been blogging regularly for over a year now and have hardly missed a single post. I hope you have found the information I have shared with you over 2019 useful and informative.

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I started writing this blog hoping to raise my profile and let everyone know just how much writing I do. Thank you to everyone who is supporting me on this endeavour. If there is anything you would like me to write about, any books you would love to see me review, or any of my interviews you would like me to share, please let me know.

I look forward to posting many more book reviews and interviews next year.

An interview with … Anita Loughrey

In the July 2019 issue of Writing Magazine, I was interviewed by Simon Whaley about my school holiday survival tips on how to push on with writing projects when the children are home all day. As mentioned in a tweet it is really very rare for me to be interviewed. I am usually the person doing the interviews. So I get very excited when I see myself in a magazine. The feature even gets a mention on the front cover:

Writing Magazine - Schools Out

Schools Out! How to juggle your freelance business with kids holidays.

When I reread my words compared to what John Adams, founder of Dad Blog UK, I realised how much things have changed over the years as my children have got older. When my children between the ages of 5-11, I too used to rely on holiday clubs which my children loved. There was so much for them to do to keep them active and interested. Once they started secondary school they would rather do their own thing and hang out with their own friends.

One thing is for certain though I have never, ever, ever got up to write voluntarily at 5am in the morning. I am definitely not a morning person. Although, I have been known to be still at my keyboard at 3am in the morning, having not gone to bed yet.

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In the feature, I advocate timetabling as a way to find time to write. This is beneficial not only to the children who get advanced warning of when you are working and when they need to amuse themselves, but it is also a way of motivating yourself to actually sit yourself in the chair and get on with the work. Timetabling works both ways and sets the expectations of the children that I am actually going to produce something at the end of the day. If you say you are going to work there has to be words on the page as evidence of this.

I have also been guilty of turning family excursions into writing projects and like Simon mentioned himself in the feature taken family for days out on assignments and when researching areas. This in a way makes it even more fun and helps me to hone in what I actually want to find out so I use my time productively.

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I think another thing though to ensure you get a well deserved break from your writing is to actually give yourself permission to stop writing and have a holiday. to do this I recommend telling your editor, project manager, publisher, agent and who ever else is involved waiting on you to send in copy what your holiday dates are. Let them know you will be away from your desk and will not be working at the set holiday dates. Everybody needs a holiday – even writers!

Happy New Year

hny

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It is the end of the year all ready and time to take stock and think about what I want to achieve next year.

This year I have written sixteen books. That may even be a record for me.

 

Every year I give up alcohol from the 5th January to the 13th February and every year I have got really ill. My theory is I need the alcohol to kill off the germs. Liquor truffles just don’t do the trick. I have told my doctor my theory and she said if I knew I was going to get ill, I should start taking precautions beforehand. I never thought to ask her what precautions?

So, what are my targets or New Year resolutions for 2019? Well this January I want to give up alcohol without getting ill.

My goal for this year is to build-up my author platform by blogging regularly and hopefully creating a following. If you would like to help me toward this goal please follow my blog and follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can also follow my dogs Instagram account here.

I hope 2019 brings everything you wish for.

HAVE A GREAT NEW YEAR!