About Me

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Nosy Crow Masterclass

Twenty or so would-be authors huddle in the courtyard of Nosy Crow converted tea warehouse on Lant Street. We are led up twisty iron steps into the Nosy Crow reception area, which has very lovely tree illustration wallpaper and shelves of prizes.

Kate Wilson, Managing Director, leads the line-up with a warm and witty welcome, followed by fiction editor, Kirsty Stansfield, who talks about the importance of knowing who you're writing for and having a USP.
She tells to research the market to see what's buoyant but most importantly to realise that trends are cyclical - look at what was successful but has now gone quiet. You can feel us all racking our brains to think of The Next Big Thing. Until Kirsty gives a small smile and said, "let us know when you've found it."
On the dreaded synopsis, she urges us to think about our trailers, hook and blurb: what it is about our character that others will want to read about. Make it easy to pitch and sell. And to remember that 99% of book-buyers are Not The Child.

Next to speak is The Rescue Princesses' author Paula Harrison, who gives us wise advice on whether a story concept is strong enough for the 5-8 year old bracket.
Think Wish Fulfilment, Wish Fulfilment, Wish Fulfilment.
Keep it narrow in focus.
And each book in a series is a one-off adventure, whereas in 9-12 series the main character needs to grow up and develop - there must be a definite end-point.

Literary agent Gemma Cooper of Bent Agency shows off her bright green skull nails - promoting her client Robin Stevens' new book Arsenic For Tea before giving lively advice on submitting to agents.
Did you know that:
the subject line of your e mail acts like a mini-pitch? So get that title working for you! She recommends membership of the wonderful and supportive SCBWI as a great addition to your writer's bio in your query letter. There follows a heated debate on whether a children's book can support two protagonists. Gemma's response is yes absolutely, but take care the dual narration doesn't spoil the pace.
Gemma's detailed list of what she'd love to find in the slush pile includes:
toxic girls, glam fantasy, X Files will they - won't they relationship, the new coming of age/ the summer before Stand By Me and anything with animals as the main characters. The new Homeward Bound, anyone?

Kate Wilson laughs about "this ludicrously subjective industry" before a delicious lunch (I have chicken and avocado sandwiches followed by something yummy with feta cheese).
Lunch is also manuscript critique time with some tactful but frank feedback from the industry professionals and plenty of "ouch" moments with our own writing.

Our next guest is Helen Peters, author of The Secret  Hen House Theatre books.

Helen talks us through her writing process, showing us notes and folders and post-its. The first draft is "full of notes-to-self" she tell us, quoting Pamela Johnson: "Writing is a bit like making a film - only you're doing all the jobs." She urges us to read Cliff McNish on Five Great Story Ideas:
Overcoming the Monster
The Dream Come True
The Good Person Who Cannot Be Kept Down
The Loss of Something Important and...
The Journey
and says the more of these you can stuff into a book the better!
We all struggle to think of ways to make sure all these elements are threatened in our own books.
Great advice re: making a cast-list of characters. Are there any that could be doubled up to stream-line your plot?
Ex English teacher Helen has us all focused and on task as she gives us the best advice I've had on scenes:
"Get in late and get out early".We all scribble away feverishly on the need to drive action by the character's "want" and to have a focal point of action per chapter.

Heads full to bursting, we listen to fantasy writer Ellen Renner on the importance of world-building:
"It's totally about detail," she says, "but most of it doesn't have to go in the book!"
We are all made to think of a magic power we'd like to have and how it might affect our relationships.
Mine, flying. Problem, wings budding, a constant need to take off and occasionally waking up in a tall tree.
Great advice on including a Mirror Moment in our plot. Sinking feeling as I realise my character doesn't appear to have a midway moment of inner realisation. Yikes. Yet another plot problem to solve...

Luckily I am saved from despair by the lovely Tom's equally lovely cupcakes and all is well.

Finally, we are entertained by The Grunts author Philip Ardagh who has us all in stitches as he regales us with all things scatalogical, along with nuggets of writerly advice.

After, everyone swaps twitter handles and is treated to a glass of wine before negotiating those twisty steps again.
Now to get back to that plot...

An Interview with Rhian Ivory

We are delighted that Rhian Ivory has agreed to be interviewed by Write For Real as part of the UKYA Extravaganza Blog Tour.

What is the pitch for your current book? Can you sum it up in ten words?

Two boys live in the same village over one hundred years and suffer the same curse but will history repeat itself or can a new future be drawn?

What inspired you to write it? What gave you the ideas? 

I dreamt the ending of The boy who drew the future and had to work backwards from that point! I also had some very spooky coincidences as I researched about witchcraft, drawings and prophecies. All of these went into the novel.

Could you tell us when it is due out? 

The Boy who drew the Future will be published by Firefly Press under my married name Rhian Ivory on September 17th.

Can you give us a brief summary of  other books you have written?

I've written three Young Adult novels and one Middle Grade, all of them published by Bloomsbury. I'll now sum them up:

When Isla meets Luke meets Isla

A stroppy Scottish girl meets chilled out English boy when she is forced to move to Maidstone. A friendship follows and then disaster. The novel is told from both their perspectives and charts how they deal with a dramatic event in their lives.

Isla and Luke: Make or Break?
The sequel to Isla Meets Luke Meets Isla, it continues their story as they start sixth form college.

The Bad Girls Club

Four girls are forced to form a book club and review real YA novels. They go on their local radio station once a month and discuss books such as Anne Frank's Diary, a dystopian novel called Daz 4 Zoe and other books. The novels they read help them deal with events happening in their own lives as they are tested by all the usual trials of teenage life.
True Colours

Rosie has always wanted to see a fortune teller but until now her mum has always had something against them. When Rosie asks the fortune teller to help her see the future she is given a different kind of gift which allows Rosie to look past people's little white lies and see their true colours.

Do you find yourself returning to any common themes in your books for teenagers?
 Well, I seem to have a bit of a thing about seeing the future! This mostly comes down to being nosy and incredibly impatient. A lot of my characters are often the new girl/the new boy.
Having moved around a lot as a teen this is something I can relate to and seems to sneak into my writing. Friendship is another constant theme throughout my books, as well as feeling not alone but perhaps a little bit different to everyone else.

Which author's style is most like yours and why?
 I am a big fan of Marcus Sedgwick's writing and love the way he evokes atmosphere in his writing. This is something I strive to achieve myself.

Um, and if you were a piece of furniture, what would it be and why?
A bookcase of course!

Thank you so much for letting us interview you!
Don't forget, you can see Rhian Ivory on February 28th in Birmingham, along with thirty-four other YA authors.
You can follow Rhian here: