SCBWI Outstanding Contribution Award 2018

At the SCBWI Winchester Conference 2018 I received an Outstanding Contribution Award for the work I have done within SCBWI as a Volunteer. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the conference this year but the award arrived in the post this week. Thank you 🙂

OCA 2018

Here is the citation:

Anita Loughrey has served as our Membership Coordinator for too many years to count! She remembers times when we didn’t have the networks or even online sign-ups… when keeping on top of membership admin was not for the faint-hearted. Anita is often the first welcoming contact for new members, sending out the welcome pack and answering their queries about SCBWI. She works closely with the Networks and events organizers to provide updated monthly membership lists and follows up on renewals. As many will know, she also served for many years as the Networks Coordinator for London and the South East, forging many personal contacts with members, too. Anita is a shining example of a volunteer who is willing to tackle admin with all-important reliability and always with a smile.

OCA 2018 citation

I have been a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) since October 2002, sixteen years ago. I first started volunteering in an official capacity in April 2006, when I became Network Organiser for London. This involved planning monthly socials for members at different venues around London with a special guest each time. I also introduced the monthly London SCBWI brunches which were run by Miriam Craig and the monthly London SCBWI Write-ins. I don’t and have never lived in London but I did the job for ten years before handing the job over to the very capable hands of Tania Tay,  who has built on what I started and made the London network a strong and cohesive group.

In October 2011, I also took over the SCBWI British Isles membership coordinator role from my wonderful friend Sue Hyams. Over the seven years I have been doing this role I have streamlined the whole membership system for the British Isles and introduced our own British Isles membership pack jam-packed full of useful information on how to get the most out of your membership. I also campaigned to add a dropbox to the online joining form so people could select their network area. Before this was introduced the Network Organisers had to sort out which members were theirs themselves.

One of the highlights for me as a volunteer was going to the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in 2012 to represent the SCBWI British Isles and showcase our members published books. It was fun.

aBologna2012 British Isles stall

In 2016, I became the South East Network organiser. During the two years I did this job I visited critique groups in Oxford and Southampton and I ran a weekly write-in in Newbury every Wednesday morning. I passed on the mantle at the beginning of this year to Fiona Barker.

Over the twelve years I have been volunteering for SCBWI I have achieved and done quite a lot. I am looking forward to continuing this work. I would also like to say a big congratualtions to all the other SCBWI volunteers who received a SCBWI British Isles Outstanding Contribution Award this year. Well done 🙂

Book Review – Veronica Twitch the Fabulous Witch

Title: Veronica Twitch the Fabulous Witch

Written and Illustrated by: Erica-Jane Waters

Published by: Wacky Bee Books

veronica twitch

Veronica is Editor-in-Chief at her very own Twitch magazine that is full of exclusive interviews with the latest bands and film stars, famous writers and artists and fashion designers. Veronica also loves stationery so ranks very highly in my estimation.

Along with her friends Figgy and Pru she is always on the look out for a good story. So they are off to Raven Heights to interview the most awesome and exciting girl band in the whole of Witch City, Double-Bubble. But trouble strikes! Double-Bubble are kidnapped. Veronica suspects Belinda Bullfrog from her rival magazine Nosy Toad.

Follow Veronica into a quest of magical mystery mayhem as she attempts to uncover what has happened to the girl band and find out if  Belinda Bullfrog could really have turned them into crows and locked them away forever.

This story is a fast fun-packed adventure and I love the black and white illustrations with a hint of witchy purple. Ideal for Halloween and for girls that love mystery books. This book will take you on an emotional roller coaster cackling with delight and booing with despair at the ghastly Belinda Bullfrog.

To find out more about Erica-Jane Waters, her writing and her illustrations take a look at her website: www.ericajanewaters.com and follow her on Twitter: @Ericajanewaters 

An interview with… Cath Howe

In the November 2018 edition of Writers Forum I have interviewed Cath Howe about her book Let’s Perform! She explained how her love of drama for children was developed into the ideal educational resource for schools.

CH4

Cath Howe has written books for children for many years, which include books of plays, educational readers and commercial fiction.

Let’s Perform! is an accumulation of 10 years experience of using monologues, duologues and poems for children to perform. Each script has suggestions for performance and creative suggestions for pupil’s own writing. Learning by heart is part of the UK National Curriculum and this book meets the target whilst encouraging children to develop a keen interest in performance.

Let's Perform good version

When she first wrote the plays and others scripts she was not trying to get them published . The audience was the school full of parents and children she was working at. All the scripts have been tried and tested at schools and festivals. Cath says:

It was important that the book uses scenarios, language and humour that children can really relate to and make their own, because this helps to get them excited about the prospect of performing. I wrote each script with the idea of showing a child or two characters in a dilemma or puzzling over a problem. I chose everyday things.

In the interview, Cath advises new writers for children to get feedback on their work in an environment where they will be encouraged and not to give up doing what you love. You can read the full interview in the Nov 2018 #205 issue of Writers Forum.

Since then Cath has told me:

Ella on the Outside2When I wrote Ella on the Outside, which was published in May 2018, I was very influenced by my interest in drama and my long connection with running drama clubs and workshops. There’s something about the way children relate to one another, especially the subtle power play of groups, which really fascinates me. I like to write duologues where one character is much more powerful than another and get children up on their feet acting these out.  Ella on the Outside is a lot to do with the power play of the playground, especially between girls.

You can find out more about Cath Howe and her books here: www.cathhowe.com

Or follow her on Twitter @cath_howe

Working With Editors

I’ve worked with lots of different editors at a wide range of publishers and thought I would share with you today some of the things I have learnt.

notebook and pen

Here are my Do’s and Don’ts of what to do when working with editors. Most I have gleaned from personal experience or chatting with editors and other writers. Most of this advice has been reinforced on various courses I have attended and I must admit I’ve been a bit of a ‘writing course’ junky in my time.

DO

 smiley face

  • Be professional at all times. Your editor is not your friend, although you should be friendly. Always remember it is a working arrangement.
  • Let the writing speak for itself. At the beginning of the project send samples to check you are on the right lines even if they don’t ask for them.
  • Discover what you can do to make the editor’s job easier by finding out what the editor wants. This is easier said than done because a lot of the time the editor does not know what they want until they’ve seen what they don’t want.
  • Be willing to work with the editor on requested changes, even when they change their mind again and again and again.
  • If an editor goes to the trouble of saying something to you, take it very seriously.

DON’T

sad face

  • Don’t use a fancy font. I have never done this but I’ve heard a story about someone who did and the editor was not amused as it takes time out of a very busy schedule to change it.
  • Don’t miss the deadline. I try very hard to keep to my deadlines and prefer to submit something earlier than late. When an editor gives you a deadline, it means money is involved. If you think you are going to miss a deadline get in touch with the editor as soon as you know so they can rearrange the schedule. Remember everything has a knock on effect.
  • Don’t be afraid to call your editor to ask questions or talk about issues concerning the manuscript. That’s what they’re there for.

Book Review – An Atlas of Imaginary Places

Title: An Atlas of Imaginary Places

Written by: Mia Cassany

Illustrated by: Ana de Lima

Published by: Prestel Publishing

An Atlas of Imaginary Places

This unusual and beautifully illustrated atlas transports the reader into a fantastical world that nestles between reality and dreams. Children will discover mountains that grow upside-down, paper boats that transform into donut and cake islands, a city that floats on a whale, animals that change in appearance every time they sneeze and volcanoes that spit out bubblegum lava.

Author, Mia Cassany, has created the ideal picture book for older 5+ readers that will spark every child’s imagination. The pastel-coloured illustrations by Ana de Lima are jam-packed with interesting and thought-provoking images. The reader needs time to explore and think about each spread as they sail the wonderous journey through the Atlas of Imaginary Places.

I believe this book will make a great teaching resource, as each spread could be used as a story starter, as well as inspiring art creations and displays in the classroom. The maps on the end papers are ingenious. They encourage the children to develop not only their imagination but their observation skills. A great book for the class book corner and the ideal book for sharing with your child before bedtime.

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

An interview with… Alex Woolf

On the 25th April 2016 me and my friend Jo Franklin launched a unique blog where I interviewed authors about their love of stationery, called Paper Pens Poets. The site has been running for over two years and there has been a new author interview featured on the site almost every week.

The very first author interview was with children’s book writer Alex Woolf and went out on the 6th May 2016. Alex could not really say he had a favourite stationery item. He told me:

I hunted around my desk to see if anything there sparked a particular affection. I eyed my blue Paper Mate® ball points, which I certainly appreciate, as I do my Avery® Jam-Free Laser Address Labels – they fulfil their assigned functions perfectly, though they don’t exactly set my pulse racing or bring a lump to my throat.

Then he saw his trusty old stapler. This is an item I myself have always taken fore-granted but Alex proudly proclaims that this is his favourite stationery item. You can see the full interview here.

Alex Woolf

To find out more about Alex Woolf and his books take a look at his website: www.alexwoolf.co.uk or follow him on Twitter: @RealAlexWoolf

You can also follow Alex on the innovative Fiction Express website.

Editing

Reading through the posts on this blog, I’ve noticed I often make silly mistakes, miss out words or have extra letters in words that should not be there because I’ve hit the wrong keys whilst typing. It has highlighted to me how important editing is.

With a blog it is easy, as you can go back and correct the posts. But you can’t correct the automatically shared posts to Twitter and Facebook, which is just embarrassing. Notice how I’m talking like a seasoned blogger and I’ve only been blogging on a daily basis for a few weeks.

editing1

Good editing means making wise choices. What words should you use? What order do you put them in? There is never a single correct answer. The best sentences are sturdy and straightforward. The reader can understand them easily, without having to reread them. Sentences become difficult to read for two main reasons: the sentences are too long, or the sentences are poorly constructed.

One of the most informative talks on editing I’ve ever been to was given by John Jenkins, who was the editor of Writers’ Forum. There were three main rules to editing that he pointed out.

The first thing he suggested, is to take out all the adjectives. I found the easiest thing to achieve this was to use the ‘Find and Replace’ application in the Edit menu of Microsoft Word and search for all the -ly words and delete them. More often than not, they were not needed and if I desperately wanted to keep one I could, because I’d whittled them down to only a few.

By combining the verb and adverb into one more descriptive verb, I not only cut the word count but was being more precise. For example, if a person was walking slowly, they could be described as sauntering, meandering, or strolling. So, ‘she walked slowly toward me’ would become, ‘she sauntered toward me’, or ‘meandered toward me’. Controlling adverb/verb combinations, allows me to set the tone and communicate the emotion of a scene.

Lots of adverbs and adjectives slow the pace and jar the reader out of the action. What I did, was look at some of the children’s books I admire and enjoyed reading and found that adverbs and adjectives were used very sparsely and also got an idea of the type of strong verbs used to replace them.

Next, John Jenkins said be active not passive. If you find yourself using forms of ‘be’ such as: are, is, was, becomes, became, you are using the passive tense. I find this the most difficult but, it is important especially when writing articles. I’ve used ‘become’ in a paragraph above, but I think it needs to be there.

dictionaries1

The third rule was to remove all waste words. This included: them, that, began, started, about, all, along, and, away, before, after, down, up, out, in, even, ever, just, little, now, only, over, really, so, some, sort, such, felt, feel, back, returned, instead, to the, to be, there, was, suddenly and very. Again, I use the ‘Find and Replace’ application in Microsoft Word. Then I check to see if any of these words need to be added back in. You’ll be surprised how few do. I replace only the ones that are essential.

I hope this advice is as useful to you as it has been to me. But, remember before you start editing, put the manuscript away and do something else. This will allow you to look at it with fresh eyes and see the mistakes more easily.