Friday, 26 December 2008

Post Christmas post

I meant to post a Christmas post - but guess what: Christmas got in the way! I'm replete with Lindors (love 'em, love 'em, love 'em), the man is well-nigh rubicund on claret and port and the kids are in electronic heaven. Sounds like we got away with it again for another year (at enormous cost!) I can stop bah-humbugging, veg out a bit (as long as it's not on sprouts), maybe read a book for pleasure rather than research or because I'm going to have to compose essay-questions about it. I've even started thinking about approaches to be made in the New Year to new agents. I'm actually really looking forward to the New Year. Will it be the year the log-jam breaks? Steady, old girl - you'll find yourself taking up that familiar Hopeful Author Stance again if you're not careful - and you know what ghastly cramp that gave you ...

I hope you all had wonderful Christmases and that you're all set for a great year of reading and writing - and who know, even being published? (I said, old girl, steady on!)

Monday, 15 December 2008

In the dark night that is very long ...

Sorry I'm late again posting - I'm now on my second lot of antibiotics in two weeks. Felt none too great over the weekend, and adding to the physical grief was the classic female line, running in my head: 'I can't be ill. I can't afford to be ill. It's Christmas and there's too much to do!' Christmas or not, there's always too much to do. I am a permanent tail-chaser - and not in the way a man would be ...

Sad news last week: the death of Oliver Postgate. How many of you out there went 'Aw!' - and how many of you can be dated, generationally, by which of his lovely creations most affected you when you were growing up? Are you a Bagpuss kitten? Not me: too late. Or a Clanger? Ditto. I'm a Noggin the Nog-o-Phile. 'In the lands of the north, where the black rocks stand guard against the cold sea, in the dark night that is very long, the Men of the Northlands sit by their great log fires and they tell a tale.' That lovely mellifluous all-is-safe-children voice of Postgate's would lullingly transport you to the Northlands, to where Noggin the Nog ruled with his queen Nooka. Slowly and calmly, for there was all the time in the world, he told you of Thor Nogson, Noggin's friend; of Graculus, the great green bird and best of all, of Nogbad the Bad, greatest of villains, bwah hah hah! The stilted animation, the delightful sneers of evil on Nogbad's face, the bewildered innocence writ large on Noggin's and Thor Nogson's phizzogs, the harmless ice dragon with its self-pity, the exotic flying machine - all absolute delights, all utterly utterly English and cosy. Go to sleep, little ones, for in the Northlands and in all other lands, all is well. Oliver tells us so.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Tough Cookies of the World Unite

First of all, thank you thank you to the lovely Karen at for giving me my first blogging award, which I've proudly posted on the right! I'm chuffed on two counts: getting the award, which I hope also to pass on to some of my favourite bloggers, and learning how to get the dratted image onto my blog (teenage boy came in handy for that one!)

I'm sorry I didn't blog last week - pressure of work and a bit of a cold are my excuses, plus the startling revelation from my current agent that she's about to retire: all this knocked me for six and I didn't have the heart to write about bookish things. Those of you who are regular readers will have guessed that 2008 has been a bit of a sticky year for me. You may remember back in June 2007 I took up 'Hopeful Writer Stance'. Well, I'm still there, balanced on one leg, head slightly less in the clouds than before, trying not to wobble, trying to keep the fixed grin pinned to my face. Stomach like a washboard, my dear. (Not). Writing is a continual learning curve: you learn the techniques of the actual composition, you learn the discipline of editing, you do your best to take a professional approach and maximise your chances of publication. You write promotional copy, you think of all the angles, you are careful not ever to sound like a 'difficult author' in any communication with people in the publishing world. However, ultimately you are helpless. The worst aspect for me over the past two years is that I have had to wait. And wait. And wait. For cursory responses, for gushing regrets, for news that another series similar to mine was signed by that particular publisher only a week ago, for praise for my writing but condemnation of my genre. I've been told the central features of my book are no longer in fashion, that booksellers are tired of series (N.B. Booksellers - not readers. We know where the true power lies.) Then I've seen new series signed up, or books with fantasy elements like mine win prizes because the kids out there haven't yet been told those elements are passe. Then there are the publishers who can't be bothered to reply. A ghastly literary limbo that has lasted a full eighteen months.

So what now? Maybe I'll look back on this year as The Year of Taking Stock. Do I go on writing? If so, what do I write? Do I keep on believing in my children's book, a book which a couple of years ago gave me such incredible pleasure to write? Can I recapture that joy and enthusiasm or has it been bludgeoned out of me? If I write something else, what? Will I have to go through all this again - and again - and again? Or do I become mistress of my own fate and self-publish: ruin myself financially in all probability but at least not be at the mercy of Those Who Make Us Wait.

My agent's departure is a wake-up call. It's unnerving and scary to no longer be represented by an agency I've been with for years - but it also has potential. It will make me move on: I need to find someone who will nag me and reassure me and guide me in my dithering and energetically fight my corner. Wish me luck in the search.

This is for sure: we writers have to be tough cookies. Terriers. If you're writing too, hang on in there, won't you? Let's show them.