My Seawig of Books! All the launching SCBWI Titles of 2015 Awesome Photo by: Candy Gourlay


Every year I think this year’s conference has been the best ever but this year, it really might have been. Was it just me or did we fill Winchester with enough warmth and creativity to power a small ship? And what about it really blew my mind?

Was it our fantastic, if bonkers, keynote speakers who set the tone for a fabulous weekend? Sarah Macintyre & Philip Reeve, Jonny Duddle and David Fickling were all inspiring and hilarious.


With Sarah Macintyre and Philip Reeve – two of our AWESOME keynotes. They sold out of books, our lovely bookseller sneaked back to one of the shops and got me one! Thanks David from  P.G.Wells in Winchester!

Was it because we had a great break out program which showed me the way to go with my school visits, fixed a HUGE plot problem I was having (Candy Gourlay you GENIUS) and answered many tricky questions under The Cone of Silence?


Candy Gourlay’s Structure Break Out was exactly the butt kick I needed.

Was it the fringe critique or the killer 1-2-1 that may have been hard to hear but was absolutely the medicine my younger fiction needed? Thanks David Maybury –  honesty was definitely the best policy. I’ve stopped crying now.  I’M KIDDING – it’s all good.


With  George Kirk (valiant organiser), Steve Hartley (school visit genius), Philippa Francis ( all round good egg)

It may have been  the awesome party, celebrating the success of all our new SCBWI books published this year. Or was it just the gathering of the clan? The cementing of of old friendships?

The sparking of new ones?


Robin Stevens, I wish I could post our pictures but what happens in the bar, stays in the bar…

It was all those things because all those things embody SCBWI.  The sharing of our craft, our knowledge, our experience, our friendship. And that true symbol of SCBWI,  giant pants.



I watched I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here with my son last night. I know a lot of people think it’s tosh, and for the most part, it is – but by god does it reveal some deeply ingrained attitudes in our society.

So we had an inkling Tony “Spandau Ballet” Hadley is one of those men who thinks he’s being chivalrous (when in fact he’s being a sexist twat), when he ejected gorgeous George over gorgeous Jorgi, after their first failed trial because:

” It wasn’t fair,”

for it to be one of the girls.

Why not? At that point in the competition, Jorgi did look like a weak link – she then went on to prove she’s far from it, but at that point, the “fair” thing would have been to eject her.

Hadley didn’t. He ejected the pretty boy and kept the pretty girl. But, you know, cut a man some slack, maybe he was just trying to be kind, however misguided.

But when he was asked to rate the camp mates from the most hard working, to the least hard working. He put ALL THE WOMEN at the bottom. ALL OF THEM. Even though two had jumped out of a helicopter, one of them winning a trial ( well done, Jorgi);   they’d all contributed to winning the first night’s food and Lady C and Jorgi had just won 10 stars, after a disgusting trial, to feed the whole camp.

Then he, and Chris Ewbank, stood back and looked at their display of tip top men and worthless women and it didn’t even occur to them to question whether that could be right?

Why is it that the work women do, not matter what it is, is so often assumed to be of less value than men’s work. Why isn’t that questioned ALL THE TIME.

Well I’m calling you out Hadley and hooray for Lady C taking a stand.

I’m with you sister.

It’s personal.

Lady c





Source: On the Violence in Paris: Stop the Grief Shaming

My heart is full of Paris. My friend Bekki says it all:

Today words fail me. I just hope and pray that one day we can learn to live together in peace.


Source: | Dartmoor Yarns on WordPress.com

I am a Yes Woman.

Sometimes I should probably say: “No, Sorry, i don’t have time.”

But then I wouldn’t get to do fun stuff like this:

More often than not, I’m glad I say “Yes.”  Watch to the end, we laughed a lot!

Life can be short, live it.

P.S. Yes I am completely over dressed. If you even half know me, that won’t be a surprise. DRESS UPS!!!!

Thanks to Gay for teaching, Cheryl for organising and being my partner (no moustaches this time), Vivi for filming, Sitara, Susan, Fiona, Annie, Teresa, Sarah, Angie and Helen for performing and all the girls who didn’t want to be in it but were laughing along with us – I’ve had so much fun with you lot over the years – lets keep saying YES!

This is just a brief post through a blur of happy tears, and it’s aimed at you, those people reading my blog who have been climbing the same mountain of drafts and redrafts and rejections and workshops and  how-to books and support groups and critique sessions and are thinking I’ll never make it.  I know how you feel. I was there for a long long time, more than fifteen years. And all i want to say is, don’t give up, it is SO worth the tears and the trials and the long, long wait.

Most of you will have seen my beautiful book cover by now. Here it is, in all it’s glory, back cover included:


It was revealed by SCBWI’s  own Vivienne De Costa on her book review blog Serendipity Reviews. Viv worked so hard to get an excited build up before the reveal and she tells me she had an amazing  200 hits in the first minute of the blog going live. Alongside this, Usborne YA Shelfies ran a really interesting piece on how Hannah Cobley, the cover designer, arrived at the final look.

Facebook and Twitter all went a bit crazy – I did absolutely no work ALL DAY. The book doesn’t come out until February 1st next year but people are already buying it on pre-order. I was skipping about and grinning like an idiot.  True, this was all about the cover, but there was also a lot of excitement about the concept of the book.

I don’t know what will happen when it finally comes out. The early reviewers have been really kind about it – did you read the quote from Teri Terry on the back cover?  That’s, Carnegie nominated, multi award winning Teri Terry who said my book was:

” Weird, wonderful and utterly fabulous”

Who knows what everyone else will make of it?!  It is weird, I know people might hate it but you know what, I love it. I probably shouldn’t say that, but it’s the truth. My editor, Sarah Stewart, has helped make More of Me a book I will always be proud of. And nothing, nothing can take away the joy of Friday. The ground swell of warmth and excitement across social media was extraordinary. I lost count of the number of tweets and shares and I know a lot of that will have come from my SCBWI friends.

Thank you, all of you. If this is your dream too,  please, please, don’t give up. If I can get this far, so can you.

PS. If you’re after more, erm, brutal motivation, look out for my Writercise Boot Camp post on Notes From the Slushpile on 9th November –  hosted in the grounds of Philip Ardagh’s Manor, Steve Cole will be putting you through your paces. there’ll be advice from guru Tanya Landman  and gentle coaxing from Agony Aunt Cathy Cassidy. It might all get a bit shouty – what can I say, Nanowrimo is coming up!

Space for where my book will one day sit!

Space for where my book will one day sit!

I’ve done it, more-or-less. More of Me is finished – there’ll be the possibility of minor tweaks when the proof copies are ready but all the tough writing stuff is done, including the final stage, COPY EDITS.

My Facebook pals, and worse, my Twitter followers (why don’t they let you edit tweets? I never see my mistakes until it’s too late!) will suspect any copy editor  of mine deserves a medal. My typos are disgraceful but I was very careful with my script. I spell checked until my fingers bled before I sent it off, but there were still things that came back needing correction. Some of which, for the first time since the edit process began, rankled.

It wasn’t the formatting things:

‘Speech marks’ should be “speech marks”.

Indentations should be


It was questions like this, “Why is Teva pretending to be dyslexic”:

She’s supposed to be good at English – offering to help Ollie and agreeing to help Tommo – not the most convincing excuse?

Now, if Sarah, my wonderful editor, had written that, it wouldn’t have bothered me at all – so why did I have a niggle of irritation?

Maybe because I’m vainer than I think? And also, more stupid? Sarah tempered her critiques with  a lot of back patting so, even if her comments meant a ton of work, I didn’t mind. We were making a better book. It was all good.  There was no back patting from the  copy editor. This was a sweep through the mansucript picking up any outstanding issues. And instead of being grateful for this last chance to get things right, this fresh pair of eyes on my work,  I was thinking:

“But you don’t know me, you don’t know my book.”

I was, to put it bluntly, being an arse. Everything the copy editor raised was valid – how could it not be, it was her professional opinion? And I needed it – if she didn’t understand what I was trying to say, I had better go back over it and work out why.  So I did, and quite often she was right – and now, of course, I’m grateful to her attention to detail.

I’m grateful, too, that it got me thinking about my own response to constructive criticism. I’ve always thought I was pretty good at it – you know, not too precious but fairly steady in my own self belief. Clearly, not so much.

This was timely in more ways than one. My beloved SCBWI critique group has been having a heart to heart – when we started out, none of us were published. We had no real deadlines and no one to please but ourselves. We could be gentle with our critiques, and rightly so – the first rule of critique is:

Do No Harm

But now many of us have, or nearly have, agents and publishers and a firm, critical, honest eye might be the difference between success and failure – or a shed load of work further down the line. We’ve moved up a level and our critiques need to follow or we aren’t being fair to each other.

There comes a point when you  need to lift your chin  and listen.You might not agree with what’s being said, and that’s fine, but do listen, then take a breath, and listen again. It’s quite likely, no matter how hard it is to take, that there’s something you should be hearing.

Critque group meeting

A rare meet up of some of my YA Critique Group



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