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Alternative Press Fair

If you're looking for something to do this coming Sunday afternoon (1st Feb), do come along and say hello to myself, [info]jabberworks and others at the Alternative Press Fair being held in London's glittering Euston.

"Bringing together the worlds of alternative comics, zines, self-produced art-books, poetry and diy/punk culture for one amazing day, like a great colourful blancmange that you can’t eat. Meet the artists, see their work, buy some if you like it. THEN relax and enjoy an exciting evening of music, song and melody, starring the Singing Sensation of the Nation, Mr. Trent Miller (& The Skeleton Jive)."

I know Sarah will have prints of her lovely watercolour illustrations for sale and I'll have comics, badges, posters and a saucy smile. It sounds like it's going to be a lot of fun and it's all completely FREE!

Time: 12-6pm, with music and entertainment continuing until late.
Location: St. Aloysius Social Centre, 20 Phoenix Road, London, NW1 1TA.
More information: http://comicsandzines.wordpress.com/

My current project

Well, I've been awfully busy!

We moved to Cyprus, finished off Boy on the Hill, started a new project, with Rita Borg - the cover is shown above...

Now I'm running an art gallery in Cyprus - which is tremendous fun, but exhausting! We only just got an internet connection here; it's fair to say that the pace of life here is a little slower!

This is cross posted from my blog Notes from the Slushpile:

Welcome to the first of an occasional series in which authors who have managed to escape from the Slushpile visit our blog and give us hope! Our very first author is Sue Eves, whose book The Quiet Woman and the Noisy Dog will be out on the 5th of February.

thank you for visiting us on the slushpile even though you are on the brink of picture book fame and fortune.

Sue: ha! That’s what I thought the last time round! When my first picture book was published, I thought I’d never see the slushpile again. On the contrary, I spend most of my time here. I've spent the last several years writing and submitting and being rejected just like everybody else.
The only reason I've nipped out of it this time is because I happened to bump in to the submissions editor at a children's book event who suggested I submit my work.

Candy: Before you decided on a glittering career of rejection by children’s book agents and publishers, you had a pretty good job as a Tamba, the sweet little dragon in Tikkabilla. What was it like being a dragon?

Sue: Sometimes, a little cold! This is us on a sleigh ride to see Santa in Lapland, for a Christmas Special.

Sue freezing for her art in Lapland

Tamba had a brilliant view - I had to be hidden under a thermal mattress and a blanket.

It was physically demanding and I lost a stone in weight during filming. The whole body is involved in bringing the puppet to life. I had an upholstered trolley (a bit like a mechanic uses to wheel under a car) that I manoeuvred with my legs while lying on my back and held the puppet high over my head while singing and talking at the same time. Yes, a sweet little dragon!

At the time, I said it was my dream job and it was. Now I have to say that writing has taken over. I commissioned Neil Sterenberg, who made Tamba, to build me a dog puppet for author visits so I will still be puppeteering but I won't be hiding this time.

Sue and her dog puppet made by Neil Sterenberg

My daughter loved your surreal first book which featured a child climbing into bed with a cow. Where did you get that idea?

I wanted to write a story about food and a young child's significant times of day. We love food in our house and before my daughter started school, we were always cooking. She was the age when breakfast, lunch, tea and bedtimes were a familiar and comforting routine.

The teatime picture book text I submitted was rejected 11 times so I skipped tea and moved on to bedtime and writing about delay tactics - another story, a drink, anything to avoid having to go to sleep. Her first toy was a cow and when we lived in a flat, her bedroom overlooked a row of back gardens. We would sit in a rocking chair, my daughter and her cow, with a book and look out at the moon. The bedtime story became the one about a girl whose cow wouldn't go to bed.

Sue illustrated her first picture book, HIC!

Ailie Busby drew the lovely pictures for your new book The Quiet Woman and the Noisy Dog. She is an author in her own right. Did the process of working together involve a lot of negotiation?

Sue: We didn't really work together. I had finalised the text with the editor and agreed on AIlie Illustrating the story before signing the contract. I saw her proposed roughs for my text before I realised that she was the author/illustrator of Drat That Fat Cat! Many people will be familiar with her vibrant art. We didn't have any direct contact. We only emailed each other after the book was completed.

Candy: Can you tell those of us who are still stuck in the slush pile what it’s like working with a real editor?

Sue: The most amazing experience for me was working with the editors.

The submissions editor emailed me to start with, passing on revisions that the directorial editor had suggested. I revised extremely fast because the points the editor raised made complete sense. Funny how you can work on a text for years and years and not see a problem until someone else points it out. The editor knew exactly what she wanted out of the story and I think she pushed me until we both knew the story was finished.

Once Ailie was on board, the editor was in the hot seat passing messages between us and forwarding picture samples to me. I didn't need to give many illustration notes but the ones I had written in the margins were ones she used because they were part of telling the story. The text hardly changed at all during the illustration process, so I think the editor did a brilliant job and Ailie's illustrations are absolutely the ones I had in my head - only better!

Candy: What is the single most useful piece of advice you can give picture book writers stil struggling to get published?

Sue: Join SCBWI and participate in your regional events. If you can't get to any - network online. For UK residents - set up a profile on the SCBWI Ning thing!

Candy: And finally, the question that is burning in the hearts of all who inhabit the slushpile: is there hope?

I think of it as more of a Mosh Pit than a Slushpile.

We take it in turns to hitch a ride on someone’s shoulders to get a better view, unless we’re lucky enough to know someone in the band. I'm having a great time at the moment and anyone can get there who is really passionate about the band!

Candy: When is the official launch date?

Sue: The Quiet Woman and the Noisy Dog
is out on Thursday 5th Feb and you can pre-order it now.

Thanks for inviting me to the Slushpile, Candy.

Save the Library, Save the Book

Save the Cheerleader, Save the World was the slogan on which turned the first season of Heroes, the TV series about people with super powers.

In the real world however there is plenty that needs saving - and here's one campaign that should be dear to the hearts of all writers:

Save the Library, Save the Book.

Here's a sad fact: this year was the National Year of Reading in the United Kingdom and yet spending on books for public libraries is down for the third year running.

Libraries are in trouble. Which means books are in trouble.

Not that books haven't always been in trouble.

Technology relentlessly produces threats to the ascendancy of the book - the telephone, cinema, the radio, TV, and now, the internet have all been accused of ushering the End of the Book. But rumours of the Book's demise has always turned out to be exaggerated.

Here's why I think libraries are important to children's writers like ourselves:
  • Libraries create readers.

  • Libraries aren't Borders or Waterstone's or Tesco. However wonderful a bookstore may be, it is still a business driven by profit. If libraries were properly funded and buying enough books to keep publishers happy, publishers will have the breathing space to take risks with new authors, more "literary" books. They will have enough bottom line to nurture unripe talent.

  • Librarians love books. A librarian will recommend a book because he/she has read it and loved it. Not because of some statistic that a sales rep has produced or because a publisher has paid for its promotion.
Having said all that, I recently visited a library local to me where there was no comfortable seating in the adult section, when I asked if I could sit in the children's section, the librarian tried to discourage me from hanging around, then scolded me for keeping a pile of books on my table because they were made unavailable to others (the library was empty).

The thing is, libraries have to change too. I am not just talking about technology or serving a better latte than Borders, I am talking about becoming a place where the young people of today would want to hang out.

Books I Borrowed Last Week:

by Garth Nix

Abhorsen by Garth Nix

Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve

The Savage by David Almond

The Red Necklace by Sally Garner

The Stuff of Nightmares by Malorie Blackman

Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn
Save the Library, Save the Book ...

If you haven't yet signed up to the Campaign for the Book, do so now. Go to this Facebook page and sign up. Here is the draught charter as conceived by author Allan Gibbons (Shadow of the Minotaur). Attend the conference for the campaign on Saturday, 27 June 2009 at King Edward's School in Birmingham.

Blog about the situation (feel free to use the image I created above). Visit a school. Borrow books at your local library and post a list of the books you've borrowed on your blog (check out mine above!)

Save the Library ... who knows, the book you save might be yours.

New Fairy Tales

Hi everyone,
I run an online magazine featuring stories and illustration at www.newfairytales.co.uk

I thought I'd put up the current call for submissions in case anyone is interested. Work from a couple of members was featured in our first issue and I'd love to get more submissions from members.

Call for submissions...

New Fairy Tales is an online magazine dedicated to publishing new fairy tales.

After the success of our first issue we are now seeking submissions for our second issue. We are looking for original fairy tales in traditional short story format (max 2500 words) and in other formats such as poetry, flash fiction (max 500 words) and comic strip. We are also looking for illustrations that are inspired by fairy tales and for illustrators who are up for the challenge of working to a very tight deadline to produce some illustrations for the chosen stories.

Please note that we are not looking for retellings. New Fairy Tales is working to promote the writing of a generation of new original fairy tales.

For full details please see our website: www.newfairytales.co.uk

All submissions and enquiries should be sent to Claire Massey at editor@newfairytales.co.uk

The deadline for submissions for our second issue is 1st February 2009.

The Eleanor Farjeon Award

This reproduces a Nov 27 post from my blog Notes from the Slushpile

Yes, that is Meg Rosoff of Where I Live Now fame. No, Meg Rosoff is not praying. Actually her reverential head is bowed not over the good book but a sampling of her internet activity on a normal working day which includes Dog Drinking Water in Slow Motion and Obama Lama on YouTube.

This was just to make the point that some people do REAL work ... and that writers aren't those people. People who do real work are folks like Chris Brown, the head teacher who's made it his life's mission to get books and children together.

Chris Brown. The blurry pics from my mobile do seem to enhance the saintliness of this worthy winner.

Last night, Chris was awarded the 2008 Eleanor Farjeon Award for distinguished service to the world of children's books "given to someone whose commitment and contribution is deemed to be outstanding". The spirit of the award is "to recognise the unsung heroes who contribute so much to every aspect of children's books." In his acceptance speech, Chris read a story by Eleanor Farjeon to violin music. Achingly beautiful!

The nominees included Elizabeth Hammill and Mary Briggs (pictured right after the awards), a former bookseller and librarian respectively, who together launched the Northern Children's Festival and then proceeded to set up the Seven Stories Centre for Children's Books in Newcastle in 2005 - an incredible feat which proves that yes, it is possible for entire buildings to be built on foundations of love. Well, love and hardcore fundraising. I'm sure it's only a matter of time before Elizabeth and Mary collect their award from the Eleanor Farjeon Trust!

Other nominees were Michael Morpurgo for his work with children in the countryside, and David Wood who has written over 60 plays for children and was dubbed 'the national children's dramatist' by the Times.

And so, dripping with inspiration, let us end this blog post by revisiting one tiny corner of Meg Rosoff's work process:

If you can't see this video, here it is on YouTube

There were two winners - one was Anita Loughrey (pictured here) and the other was Jackie Marchant. The competition was judged by Anne Marie Perks, Illustrator coordinator for SCBWI British Isles, award-winning author-illustrator Chris Wormell and the art directors who attended the conference. Congratulations!