I'm researching how best to self-publish my second children's book and came across a really helpful blog. Most online advice is written by and for US authors, which is helpful for Amazon but not for navigating your way through the UK book distribution system. So here you go:
Just a quick post to say I'm smiling today after visiting Amazon and finding a lovely new review from someone experienced in dementia care. Take a look:
It makes it all worthwhile :)
My blog posts really are very intermittent, for which I apologise, though I’m not sure who I’m actually apologising to. Myself probably.
I have just read Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg. I need to share, with anyone who might be out there, who fancies themselves as a writer, just what a brilliant book this is. I could write down my top tips, gleaned from this book, but I won’t. You need to experience it for yourselves, because if you are like me, you will lose yourself in her writing style, you will nod knowingly, probably wryly, at her sage advice, and you will pick up your pen with a renewed passion for writing.
Chastised by her criticism, “it is not an excuse to not write and sit on the couch eating bonbons,” I picked up my pen and started to do a writing exercise. I wrote on the first topic that came to my mind, and I wrote without letting my pen stop. I let my “first thoughts” out and went with it. I did the same the next day, and the day after. I then didn’t write for 2 days because I was busy (though, yes, I probably could have found 10 minutes). The next day, I had so much I had to write, I couldn’t wait to get my notepad out. Today, a couple of plots jumped up out of nowhere and hit me between the eyes. That’s why I’m writing this.
Life is busy at the moment: I’m working as a management consultant again, flying out to the US every month, working flat out for just under 2 weeks while I’m there. 12 hour days, 6 day weeks, on an average 4 hours jetlag deprived sleep each night. It’s not conducive to writing. I then fly home, I continue to work on the project at home, I do other work, I try to recover from the jetlag and the workload and I spend as much time as I can with the kids, fuelled by the guilt I feel at being away so much.
In the background, I am trying to find Mr. Nobody a publishing home, on the back of all the lovely feedback it has gathered on Amazon. I’d like it to reach a wider audience. I also have a chapter book for 7 years+, in need of surgery and soon to be put under the spotlight at the http://www.goldeneggacademy.co.uk. My first workshop as a Golden Egger is in June. It makes me grin to myself every time I think about how brilliant it will be, to nurture and to nail this book. I promised my youngest daughter that this book is for her.
So with all that going on, I stopped writing anything new. I told myself I didn’t have capacity; that I needed to wait to see what happens to Mr. Nobody and my chapter book. I told myself that I didn’t have the headspace to think about anything else, that I needed my head clear of stories and full of work. And I felt pretty miserable.
Then I started doing ‘writing practice’, inspired by Natalie Goldberg. I’ve got that writing feeling back again: that feeling of possibilities, of unknown worlds, of freedom, of experimentation, of words that I didn’t know I had, appearing on the page in front of me. And I’m excited. I’m smiling as I write this on the flight to San Francisco.
I have a couple of plots swimming around inside my head. I’m going to enjoy that experience, not rush it. I shall take Natalie’s advice and do lots of writing practice around the ideas before embarking on a novel. No deadlines, no word counts, just writing practice and I’ll know when I’m ready to let the novel start.
Since I’m a hopeless blogger, I shall tweet my writing journey. If you do happen to read this blog, please look out for my tweets. Even better, reply to them: it’s early days, and I might need some encouragement to keep on going. Thank you.
Me on twitter: https://twitter.com/NatalieGord
So, after attending the Nosy Crow masterclass, I came home with a list of recommended books for children aged 9+. This was brilliant not just for me, but also for my 10 year old daughter, who gets through books as fast as I can find them for her.
One of the books was The Secret Hen House Theatre by Helen Peters. Helen did a talk at the Nosy Crow masterclass on what inspired her to write and how the writing process works for her. I bought her book, read it, loved it, passed it on to my daughter, who declared it 'brilliant', and then I sent a message to Helen via twitter to say how much we both enjoyed it. I was particularly struck by the first chapter, which set the scene for the rest of the book through a very skilful use of action and dialogue and minimal description.
Nosy Crow then asked if I would like to write a blog post for them, with my daughter. I did and you can read it here:
I'm off to Chicago on Monday for a 2 week work trip, so writing will have to take a back seat for a while. I'm planning to keep a journal while I'm out there...
On Saturday 7th February, I attended Nosy Crow's masterclass on how to write children's fiction. I went with huge expectations on what I might learn about the children's publishing industry, the feedback I would get on my own writing, and the tips I could glean on how to improve what I write. I was also really looking forward to chatting to like-minded souls who love to write for children.
I wasn't disappointed. Well, not really. Obviously it's disappointing not to be told that your current manuscript is an amazing bestseller-in-waiting. There were a few glum faces after the 1:1 manuscript sessions…
So what did I take away from the day?
So thanks Nosy Crow, you've made me more determined than ever. The masterclass came in a week when I was interviewed about Mr. Nobody for a feature in The Times on children and Alzheimer's, that wasn't published. It felt like a roller coaster week that, at some point, I came spinning out of. I think I'm back on firm ground again now. It feels good.
What Next After Mr. Nobody?
It's been a while since I've posted, but I do have an excuse. I've just finished a 'tidy' draft of my next book. 'Tidy' rather than 'finished', because it's not finished until I've found a home for it.
It's a very different book to Mr. Nobody. For a start, it's aimed at a younger reading age, 7 years+. It's also mad. There's a reason for that. I wrote it to appeal to my youngest daughter's crazy imagination, and I surprised myself.
I thought writing for a younger age group might feel constrictive because of the language and the plotline. It was just the opposite. I let my imagination go for it, and really enjoyed writing it.
I've had some crazy conversations about the book with people, while struggling with plotlines, or trying to get the action and dialogue just right. My favourite moment was at my regular writing group meeting. We'd discussed some beautiful poetry, hard-hitting historical fiction and an intense short story, then we turned to mine. An earnest conversation followed on how exactly a worm might walk...This week, I started writing the next in the series.
It will probably be a while until it's available to buy. I'd like to have the second in the series ready to launch soon after the first. I'd also like to see if I can interest any agents before going down the self-publishing route.
Mr. Nobody is still piquing interest. This week, I had a request from a primary school to come in and read and chat to the children on World Book Day. Another copy of Mr. Nobody has been dropped off on a Cumbrian peak as part of my Extreme Reading venture (http://www.extremereading.co.uk), and my Amazon reviews are growing. I've been asked if I'm going to write a sequel to Mr. Nobody. Possibly. I definitely want to write another book aimed at a similar readership, but I'm not sure yet if that will be the start of something completely fresh, or a new adventure for Katie.
In the meantime, I know that there are at least three in the current series I'm working on.
These days, I tweet more than I blog, so if you'd like to follow my progress, please follow me on twitter:
A lovely review from Anne Cater: "Mr. Nobody is a sensitively told account of how Alzheimer's Disease can affect a whole family. The strain on relationships, on friendships are plain to see, and Natalie Gordon has taken Katie's voice and given the view of a small child who sees things as they are…Mr. Nobody is a great read, and although aimed at the children and young adult market, I really enjoyed reading it."
To read the full review, visit Anne's Blog: http://randomthingsthroughmyletterbox.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/mr-nobody-by-natalie-gordon.html
It's been a brilliant couple of weeks…last week I heard from a book critic whose partner picked up a copy of Mr. Nobody as part of the extreme reading challenge (see earlier post). She writes for the TLS, The Guardian and The Observer and wrote to tell me she loved the book and would be happy to endorse it for me. What were the chances of a book critic based in London picking up a copy of Mr. Nobody off a Cumbrian peak?!
Tonight, an independent book blogger alerted me to her fantastic review of Mr. Nobody on her blog. Bex Hughes says: I've not come across many novels which deal with Alzheimers as a subject, and I think that to do it this well and especially for children is an absolutely fantastic accomplishment.
To see the full review, take a look at her blog: http://anarmchairbythesea.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/mr-nobody-by-natalie-gordon.html
On Sunday, I ventured out (nervously, I'll admit) to Farfield Mill in Sedbergh, Cumbria for my first official author's outing. Sedbergh was celebrating Sheepfest (as befits a town surrounded by sheep) and I was invited along as a "local author" to read from my book. My kids insisted I brought along our sheep stool to make up for the lack of sheep within the book…
The session was held in Clare Clayton's studio, so we had her original version of the embroidered cover design as a back drop to the session. It was a small gathering and it was lovely to read from the book and chat about families who struggle to deal with Alzheimer's when it hits someone close to them. There was some enthusiastic recognition from the kids when we also discussed how Katie has friends who are "BFF"s one day and your worst friends the next.
I sold some books, chatted about coming into a local school, and enjoyed having the opportunity to read from my book for the first time. Here's to many more such occasions!
Yesterday I was on the road delivering books again as Bookends in Carlisle and Keswick and Shades of Green in Kirkby Lonsdale had sold out. Brilliant news!
This week I read an interesting book called Talk like TED by Carmine Gallo, recommended to me by a friend. She mentioned it because I was telling her about the storytelling work I’m doing with one of my clients. Talk like TED sets out tips gleamed from the very best TED talks on what makes those TED talks so good. It’s peppered with examples and TED talk references and is a brilliant summary of what makes a great story and storyteller. I’ve referred to it a lot this week at work.
There was one particular example, though, that stood out for me, in a discussion about what passion really is. Taking his cue from Steve Jobs’ last major public presentation, Gallo poses the question, “what makes your heart sing?”
I wasn’t having a great week: I was resentfully back at work after a month off looking after the kids over the summer holidays, and I was struggling to find the time to write. In fact when I did squeeze the time in, I wasn’t happy with what I did manage to write. Not unusual for a first draft I know, but it frustrated me anyway. So I sat back, closed my eyes and asked myself, “What makes my heart sing?” My immediate answer was, “writing”, but I didn’t feel like I meant it, so I questioned myself. Does writing really make my heart sing?
I was honest with myself: when I’m struggling to get in the flow, it frustrates me, when I procrastinate, I annoy myself, when I let others read an early draft, I feel slightly sick. Not much heart singing going on there. BUT. When I’m in the zone and the words are flying out of me faster than I can type, and the characters take it upon themselves to change the plot and surprise me, when I feel it taking shape, when I hit upon a description or a word that makes me smile (or shout out loud – when the house is empty), then I feel like I can do anything and conversely, I don’t want to anything apart from this. I feel like I’m containing so much energy that eventually when I’ve got the words on the page, I have to bounce around the house. I’m smiling now as I write this.
I attended a training course earlier this year, with a company who I was thinking of doing some associate work with. I wasn’t convinced I wanted to work for them, so I wasn’t as enthusiastic as I could have been and I’m sure it showed. One evening I got chatting to one of the other attendees and we got around to my writing (it always seems to happen!). I couldn’t stop talking and I felt amazing, full of energy, so happy and so far removed from how I’d felt just moments before. Her response was, “I love how much you love writing. It’s like you’re a different person.” She’s not the first person to tell me that. And she’s right, in that moment I was a different person. I guess my heart was singing.
Author of Mr. Nobody, a novel for 9-12 year olds. Currently working on stuff!
Copyright © Natalie Gordon, 2014.