Making conversation

Is it global warming? Or just coincidence? Or a blip? The trees this autumn are GORGEOUS. We went down to Winchester on Thursday so I could do a talk with Barry Cunningham at the Wessex Festival and the whole journey was like something out of a documentary about New England in the Fall. Which, if you’ve never been, is GORGEOUS. Red, yellow and gold and gob-smackingly stunning. It’s impossible not to be uplifted after a journey like that.

Especially when you have Barry Cunningham waiting for you at the other end. Barry is nothing if not a crowd-pleaser. He mentioned the bit where Jo Rowling (she’s ‘Jo’ to her friends, apparently) rang him up and talked about … something. I think we were all too busy going WOW at the ‘rang me up’ part.

We then chatted – that’s me and Barry, not me and ‘Jo’, who is still JK to me – about the ins and outs of writing a book and getting it published. Barry was very accomplished and technical and informative and I was the one going Well, it was HARD, but it was AMAZING. What else can you say? I think I said a lot more stuff, actually, but I can’t remember what it was.

The best bit was afterwards. Our audience had been the good people of Winchester and thereabouts who are trying to write, or thinking about writing books for children. Winchester is a hotbed of children’s writing. I had no idea. Some of them came up to talk about where they were up to, and what they wanted to do next, and how they were dealing with the struggle of getting to the end of the story. It was a mini self-help group for writers and simply wonderful to be a part of it. I hope my story gave them the courage to keep going because you can make it happen – oh yes you can.

It helps if you have Barry on your side. Oh, here’s a tip from the talk: do not send in your manuscript with a covering letter merely saying ‘Read my book’, as some people do. It will elicit the response of ‘Make me.’ Or even ‘Shan’t.’ Barry is a busy man, with lots of other manuscripts on his desk. He needs to be persuaded that yours will be interesting, and that you are interesting too. (But you might need to wait until spring to do it. The current Times/Chicken House competition closed yesterday, I believe, and the next one will start in March sometime. If you’re entering, GOOD LUCK.)

What else? I think the plot for book 4 has finally come together. Hallelujah! Mind you, I often think that so we’ll see if I agree with myself in the morning … Meanwhile, Threads is coming out in Brazil in a couple of weeks. Yay! Stupidly excited about this. Brazil! Where the nuts come from. (And gazillions of YA readers, apparently. Go all of you!). Sequins, Stars and Spotlights is already starting to sell on Amazon despite not being out for another three months. Fascinating. Sorry to anyone who’s waiting. I’ll put an extract on the threadsthebook website soon to keep you going. And the cover of Threads in the US (where it’s Sequins, Secrets and Silver Linings) has been slightly tweaked to bring out Nonie’s fashion conscience. She’s now wearing a badge saying ‘Make Clothes Not War’. It’s brilliant! Absolutely brilliant! Why didn’t I think of that? I spent ages thinking of slogans and I never thought of that one. Art direction guys at Scholastic, I salute you. I’ll have to get my very own badge made to match it. It all comes down to accessories in the end.




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