Friday, 3 December 2010
And then one day a friend 'had to go to the library.'
"Boring," I thought but I decided to go along with him anyway.
I watched him searching through the books for something to read. I looked at the ceiling. I watched other people choosing books. Some old blokes were warming their toes in the reference reading room, looking at the newspapers. Boring.
The same thing happened the next week. And the week after that. And then...
One Saturday, as I stood there, I reached out and... picked... a... book... off... the... shelf...
I never looked back.
The library was Eastham library on the Wirral. Last year it was earmarked for closure. The people of Wirral and a whole load of other people saved it.
Not much to look at but I reckon if it weren't for this humble building, its contents and staff, I wouldn't be a writer now.
Next year 250 libraries are set to close.
Don't let them close your library down.
Wednesday, 10 November 2010
I was talking at the SCBWI Professional Series evening last Friday a lovley evening, great folks to talk to. I mentioned that the SCBWI Winchester Conference was one of the highlights of my year. It is special to me and here's why. Below is a blog post from November 2007 when I was still on the road to publication. If you're feeling a little disgruntled, down-hearted or deflated today. Take heart. Read this. It does happen. It really does!
Well! Where have I been and what have I been up to? I hear you ask!
I've been to the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators writer's day. It was brilliant. You probably guessed from my last post that I'm awaiting a decision and to be honest, it was beginning to get me down a bit. the jaundice was creeping in, bitterness and all those negative little thoughts, chipping away at me.
What a fab weekend. David Almond was the speaker and he gave some fascinating insights into his progress as a writer and about how he writes. (Very organic and brainstormy, throw all your story arcs away!) (Not sure if I can quite do that but...)
He talked a little about waiting and about the bitterness and envy that can build up and kill the fun of the game that is writing! Game? Yes...it's fun. It's meant to be fun! I'd almost forgotten that...almost...
And when he had finished talking, I realised that I was sitting next to Imogen Cooper from Chicken House. we got chatting about this and that, Victorian London and Undertakers...the usual you know...(am I glad I'd practised my 20 second pitch).
And then I met some bloggers, including Jude and Anita.
And then Candy Gourlay told everyone about the joys of using the internet. Which was ace cos I realised that I'm doing some things right!
And I chatted to someone about picture book text, which was curious.
And then David Almond did another talk, there were other workshops available but I like his work and he told us how he gets all that jumble that is in his brain into straight lines on the page. It's fun!
And then a panel of editors shared their insights into what they look for in a new writer, what makes a 'dream' novel, tips for approaching them and other publishers.
Then I drove home, four hours (long drive by UK standards...apologies to those in the New World who drive that far everyday just to get a newspaper!) and something struck me (metaphorically speaking of course, I was driving on the correct side of the road and everything)
I am going to be a writer...a published writer...
It will happen.
I'd never really thought this way before but I saw the light on the Newbury Bypass!
It may not be tomorrow or next week. Maybe not for a long while but it will happen!
And that makes me very happy!
I can't wait for this weekend and Winchester again!
Thursday, 7 October 2010
Old Adam, the Carrion Crow
Old Adam, the carrion crow,
The old crow of Cairo;
He sat in the shower, and let it flow
Under his tail and over his crest;
And through every feather
Leak'd the wet weather;
And the bough swung under his nest;
For his beak it was heavy with marrow.
Is that the wind dying? O no;
It's only two devils, that blow,
Through a murderer's bones, to and fro,
In the ghosts' moonshine.
Ho! Eve, my grey carrion wife,
When we have supped on king's marrow,
Where shall we drink and make merry our life?
Our nest it is queen Cleopatra's skull,
'Tis cloven and crack'd,
And batter'd and hack'd,
But with tears of blue eyes it is full:
Let us drink then, my raven of Cairo!
Is that the wind dying? O no;
It's only two devils, that blow
Through a murderer's bones, to and fro,
In the ghosts' moonshine.
Thomas Lovell Beddoes
Monday, 13 September 2010
The gang will be appearing in all manner of shapes and forms over the Hallowe'en period. Carve these dates into your forehead...
Alex Gordon Smith
13th October, 4.00, Thornton Heath Library, Croydon
14th October, 4.00, Coulsdon Library, Croydon
19th November, 4.00, Worksop Library
Steve Feasey will be at the Cheltenham Festival on Oct 10th.
Sarwat will be at the GobbledeBook Festival, Chester on Monday 25th, 2.30pm to 4.30pm.
I'll be unnerving people at:.
21st Oct: Crosby Civic Hall: Scarefest
26th: GobbledeBook Festival Chester: Teen Panel AM, Full Event PM
27th: Newport Big Read, Riverfront Theatre Newport
29th: Booka Bookshop Oswestry: A Hallowe'en Party
30th: Lancaster Castle (with Joe Delaney of Spook's Apprentice fame)
Crystal Palace Children's Book Festival on Sat 23rd October with myself, Alex Bell, Alex Gordon Smith, Sam Enthoven, Steve Feasey and Alex Milway and me. Book early, tickets are free but will soon go!
Norwich Millenium Library on Friday 29th October, 2.30pm with Alexander Gordon Smith, William Hussey, Sam Enthoven and Sarwat.
Foyles, Charing Cross Road. are hosting their big Halloween Angels and Demons extravaganza running Saturday and Sunday, 30-31st October. Look out for William Hussey, Sam Enthoven and Sarwat. Contact the store and book your place now.
So there's no excuse for not seeing at least one chainsaw-wielding author over the half-term break!
Sunday, 5 September 2010
Apparently it's a mermaid. I encountered it at Hartlepool Museum. In Mortlock, Scrabsnitch is not above stitching together bits of deceased animal to make 'curiosities' that will draw the punters in and here is a real life example. The mummified remains of a monkey were stitched to the body of a fish to make the mermaid.
In the 1850s, people paid good money to see things like this. Many folks didn't travel beyond the boundaries of their own parish and anything like this, rather hideous but strangely interesting would have been a real draw. Even now, although it was one exhibit in a whole cabinet full of interesting artefacts, this one sticks in my mind. Maybe I should get out more often!
Thursday, 29 July 2010
It occurred to me a few months back that my childhood playground was indeed quite different. We just called it Eastham Woods. We ran and fought and built dens there but infact, we were always mindful of the fact that it had once been a zoo.
Tuesday, 27 July 2010
You can preorder it on Amazon already!
Tuesday, 20 July 2010
Tuesday, 15 June 2010
"It'll be fun," Sam beamed down at me (he's very tall, you know).
"We can do events and all kinds of stuff," Tommy grinned, clapping his hands.
"Free beer, probably," Sam nodded.
"So...why's it called Trapped By Monsters?" I asked. Sam's knuckles were just a little bit too white as he gripped my shoulder.
"Oooh, just a name...y'know, readers love it," Tommy's smile was tight, his eyes wide, almost pleading.
"Don't ask too many questions, just follow us."
I lagged behind them, wondering at Tommy's unusual profile in the dark. Did he always have four arms? And why did Sam's cheek seem so...scaly?
"Er...hey guys...this is a wind-up, right?" I called after them.
"Nothing to worry about," hissed Sam, pushing on the huge Iron gate that shuttered the cave entrance we had arrived at.
"So what happens in here?" I croaked. The gates clanged shut behind us.
But darkness filled my eyes and hideous laughter echoed around the rocky walls. Sam and Tommy had gone, replaced by the most hideous, slime green blobs ever.
I knew what it was to be Trapped By Monsters.
But don't worry. I'm digging an escape tunnel with a sharpened stick even as we speak... I'll be out...soon... Maybe there are other authors here I can team up with...
Tuesday, 1 June 2010
In fact, the Groke does little more than stare from the shadows but everyone fears her. Ace!
What I really love about the Groke, however, is the fact that she may be misunderstood. In Moominland Midwinter, she is drawn by the midwinter bonfire and sits on it in an attempt to get warm. Everyone flees from her in terror. She is lonely, cold and isolated. In the end Moomintroll feels sorry for her.
Thursday, 20 May 2010
She really is a star. Generous and helpful with a wicked sense of humour.
So this evening I'm off to Waterstones, Liverpool 1 for the official launch party. It's exciting! I can't help thinking of the launch of her first book back in June 2007 and how much has changed since then. That's exciting too!
Even more exciting is the very clever blog tour that Caroline has embarked on. The entire book is being serialized across 32 blogs and Harper Collins have asked me to host chapter four of Bees. So I've posted it above. The first installment is on Caroline's blog here and the chapters after this one can be found at L-plate Author here! And of course you can buy it here.
Tuesday, 4 May 2010
Monday, 3 May 2010
Mortlock has an advantage in that it spans the years that cover upper Juniors and lower high school. This means I can approach primaries and high schools for possible visits. I've enjoyed all the visits so far and they've all been different. And of course, I've sold lots of books along the way.
I haven't put them all in yet, but June is filling up nicely. I've also got some valuable library links too, so hopefully, the Summer holidays won't mean a lull in the Mortlock onslaught!
Of course, the downside to all this promotion is that it eats into my writing time but I reckon I did much of my writing whilst working full time so what's the difference? In fact, having made this realisation, I've written more recently and even started a new project...
Good experiences on school visits:
1) Children enthusing over books!
2) People laughing at my jokes (a funny, nervous kind of laugh...hmmm...)
3) Some really good questions (but somebody needs to persuade the children that all writers aren't incredibly rich)
4) Selling out of books (good and not good. Note to self keep own box in back of car well stocked)
5) Some very tasty (and free) dinners... I'm a basic sort of chap really.
So it's all good so far. And the lovely Bookwitch has posted her interview with me too. I talk a little bit about my work with children with autistic spectrum conditions. I may blog about that one day.
Sunday, 18 April 2010
Thursday found me in the back room of a pub listening to Martin Carthy. Martin is one the (if not THE) most influential figures in English traditional music. He's an incredible guitar player too.
In various interviews recently, I've prattled on about the influence of traditional songs on my imagination. Sitting there listening to Martin sing Sir Patrick Spens, Jim Jones, Prince Heathen and so many others, it struck me just how important these songs are to my stories.
The video is six minutes long. Listen to the story, you won't notice them pass.
Monday, 12 April 2010
This weekend was another of those rather special ones. Having launched Mortlock in London, it only seemed right and proper to have a more Northerly event. I call it a 'Northern Launch' but there's a lot more North to the North of us...if you see what I mean!
Anyway, we kicked off with a Book signing at Waterstones in Chester. I'd decided that I'd like some traditional tunes playing whilst I sat there so my good friend Richard from the Two Left Feet barndance band duly obliged. I couldn't let him scrape away on his own so I brought my mandolin too!
I didn't get carried away and forget to sign books though! Loads of people came. some I knew and some I didn't. Fellow Greenhouse Author, the lovely Harriet Goodwin brought her tribe down from darkest Staffs and it was lovely to see her! And the ever-supportive Gary and Caroline Smailes brought a crowd too!
Then it was all back to Mayhew Mansions for some butties (sandwiches to the rest you) and some beer! I'd love to have shown you pictures of the house heaving with happy guests but my Official Photographer mainly focused on the beer fest that his mates were having on the trampoline in the garden! We did play more music though!
It was great to have such a full house and the raffle of Mortlock merchandise raised £155 for Epilepsy Action.
I awoke the following morning with something of a headache... to find that Mortlock had been reviewed in the Observer Review and had been made their Children's Book of the Month! Stunning! A perfect end to a fortnight that I will never forget!
More interviews and reviews:
And at the wonderful Caroline's
Wednesday, 7 April 2010
And then there's the Northern Launch on Saturday and a bit of a knees up afterwards at my house. Lin has got some exclusive merchandise (including a cartoon she had secretly drawn by family friend Albert Rusling, Punch cartoonist and all round good egg!). This will be raffled to raise money for Epilepsy Action (a cause dear to our hearts and close to home as many will know).
AND more great reviews keep rolling in. There's a link list at the side. The latest is at Love reading 4 kids by Julia Eccleshare of the Guardian. I'm going to lie down in a darkened room and listen to crows...
Monday, 5 April 2010
After all the fuss of the launch party and the trip down to London, it could all seem to be something of an anticlimax.
But I'm thinking of when I first wrote Mortlock, in its rawest form. Shaped it through Cornerstones, submitted it it to publishers and agents who told me it 'left them cold' or 'wasn't their cup of tea.' I'm thinking of the excitement of that first bite of interest, of the long waiting and the final validation.
So today is a day for a smile of satisfaction and maybe a trip to a bookshop somewhere to scan the shelves and introduce myself to a bookseller...
Oh, and then getting ready for a knees-up on Saturday. You've gotta have a Northern launch! I'll be signing books again at Waterstones in Chester on Saturday April 10th between 11:30 am and 3pm. Don't worry we'll have you back home in time for the Grand National!
Friday, 2 April 2010
Bloomsbury had chosen The Waterpoet pub in Shoreditch as the location. A downstairs room had been decked out with lights and candles to create a creepy atmosphere. I had been asked to write a couple of scenes for actors to perform, giving a flavour of the book and its themes. They did a fantastic job!
Sunday, 14 March 2010
But a great feeling.
Friday, 12 March 2010
Tuesday, 9 March 2010
A big box arrived today and in it were twelve copies of Mortlock looking all gruesome green, black-edged and menacing.
My mind is a right tangle.
It's taken three and a half years to get here. Not a huge amount of time by any stretch of the imagination. I don't like using the word 'journey' but a lot has happened leading up to this moment. I lost my mum and dad while writing Mortlock, tomorrow is the second anniversary of my father's funeral. We've had a family illness that has changed the way we live and run our lives.
Paradoxically, for the Mayhew family, Mortlock (a pretty dark story) has become a little beacon of light in what could otherwise be a very bleak world. So forgive us if we coo over it and carry it round for a while and show everyone we meet and smile inanely. We think its ace!
Thanks Sarah Davies. Thanks Bloomsbury! And no apologies for the gormless expression on my face in the picture below, this is a dream come true.
Wednesday, 3 March 2010
Amazingly, I also find myself with the time to think. Like many writers, I use a notebook to jot down ideas. I'm not as fastidious about carrying it with me at all times.
When I get an idea for a book, I quite like to dedicate a single notebook to that project. Nothing else must sully its pages! I also like to make my own notebooks. I try to vary the pages size, colour, texture. Something about this seems to improve my thought processes. It's a bit of a ritual. I like to find images that are relevant to the project and stick them on the cover in a collage. The rougher the notebook, the better. I even bind the pages together with garden twine.
Wednesday, 17 February 2010
In the afternoon, they threw me in Bodmin Jail! Fortunately, it was only to run the same workshop but what was this? Twenty five children? Twenty seven? Thirty? And their pet adults too! In all there were forty punters all scribing away to deadly and chilling effect! And Bodmin Jail is such a spooky setting. We were treated to a tour of the cells later: freezing cold, sinister and very atmospheric! See below for the wild children of Bodmin!
Fantastic! I've asked the children to send me their finished pieces and I'll be posting them up on Gory Stories (there's a link at the side).
I had such a great time, I just hope they invite me back! And Michelle and Andy surpassed themselves in their hospitality. Here's a shot of my room...
Okay, I confess, it's another shot of Bodmin Jail. In truth I was wined, dined, fed with clotted cream scones and generally well looked after! Thanks to all concerned and especially to the brilliant kids I met!
Thursday, 11 February 2010
Another thing that struck me, though was the power of the internet. You see, this particular booking came about because of my blog. I wouldn't have had contact with the aforementioned Mickmouse were it not for the fact that we both blog. It's a truly wonderful thing!