Ends – Bar the Shouting in the Terrace

Author Damon L Wakes

The Winchester Writers’ Festival sees visitors from all over the world drawn to its weekend of talks, workshops, and one-to-one meetings, and they pay a pretty penny to be there. But did you know that some portions of the Festival are open to the public 100% free?

Turn up on Friday 14th June, and you’ll be able to enjoy the full range of evening events on offer, including an open mic where you’ll have the chance to hear the work of local authors, as well as those from farther afield. And if you’re feeling up to it, you can even share something of your own!

The open mic runs from 21:00 to 23:00 in the Terrace Bar Lounge, and is perhaps the best opportunity to meet like-minded writers at the Festival. After all, it’s unlikely that anyone is going to spontaneously read out their work over lunch! It’s also a particularly good chance to practice reading in front of an audience: an essential skill for book launches and other author events.

These free evening events are perfect for anyone already living nearby, offering a taste of the Festival’s activities without any of the cost. If you’d like to read at the open mic, be sure to sign up as early as possible on the day as slots fill up fast. For those living in Winchester, it may be worth visiting the Stripe Building foyer to get your name down in the morning (and perhaps making use of the trip to look around the book fair while you’re there) so that you’re sure of a slot when you return. For those making a journey in, that likely wouldn’t be practical but you can still get in ahead of everyone who signs up at the start of the open mic by putting your name on the sheet before the other evening events.

The Stripe Lecture Theatre

The other free offerings on Friday 14th are a panel on writing for children and young adults (in the Stripe Lecture Theatre) and a talk by three Salt authors celebrating the publisher’s 20th anniversary (in the Stripe Auditorium). Both these events start at 19:45, so you’ll have to pick your favourite!

If you find you enjoy the Winchester Writers’ Festival open mic, you may also be interested in Poetry Platform, a similar event that runs on the first Tuesday of every month, 20:30 at The Railway Inn. Outside of Winchester, your other open mic options are Write Side of the Tracks (7pm on the third Tuesday of every month at Steam Town Brew Co in Eastleigh) and Write a Note (7pm on the last Thursday of every month at Caskaway, Southampton). These are typically billed as “poetry nights,” but they’re equally welcoming to prose writers and every bit as supportive as the Winchester Writers’ Festival.

Post by Damon L. Wakes

https://damonwakes.wordpress.com/

Damon L. Wakes is the author of Ten Little Astronauts, Face of Glass, and over 200 works of flash fiction, which can be heard at events across the UK.

 

Going Incognito, a Tuesday Night Talk by novelist, TV Writer and Producer, Neil Arksey

 

Like all of us, Neil Arksey, novelist of mid-grade, YA and now dark adult crime, TV head writer, series producer and screenwriter, is in awe of Barbara Large’s work in founding the Winchester Writers’ Festival and the Hampshire Writers’ Society.

A closet writer for years, Neil, the only Neil of his kind was successful in acting. But after falling asleep whilst leaning on a column at Shakespeare’s Globe in the guise of Brutus, the fault of heavily overpowering pain killers he assures us, only to be awoken by a prod from Cassius, he decided a ‘sitting job,’ was needed. That was when Neil turned to writing.

Short stories were his choice to start with. One such story he sent to his nephew, Tom. On Tom’s advice, Neil submitted it to Random House. Here, he gave us some advice not to take – borrowing a book from his niece’s shelf, he copied the publisher’s address onto an envelope, stuffed the ice-cream stained copy of the story in, along with a post-it note saying: “My nephew liked this, you might too,” and sent it to Random House.

The problem was that Neil had unwittingly stereotyped himself. The view of his publisher was: “We own you and you are a brand.” More stories like Brooksie, Neil’s first novel, was what they wanted. MacB, Neil’s third book which was a slight change was rejected.

At this point he was feeling a little vulnerable. Neil took the advice of a fellow author and sought out a writer’s community. It was at an event held by Penguin, where he’d gone to hear one of his favourite authors, Melvin Burgess, speak, that he networked and found a home for MacB.

‘How hard is it to be a writer?’ Neil asked not just the present members and guests of the Hampshire Writers’ Society, but of himself, when his novel writing still failed to pay the bills.

Taking on writing for TV, Neil became a head writer. After a while he found that his own personal writing had taken a back seat; this was not what he wanted for his career. Teaching came next. A smattering of hours gave him enough to live on and he got back to writing.

Reading tomes of adult crime and using their techniques, Neil produced his much-loved dark adult crime fiction. ‘It took much longer than writing middle grade,’ he admitted. It needed drastically reducing. So, he re-wrote it.

The publishers were less than supportive. After fifteen years as a children’s author they were not keen to remarket him.

‘Do I really want to throw it all away and start again?’ he asked himself. Well, thank goodness the answer was yes.

Neil bandied about and re-hashed a pseudonym, finally settling on: James Brodie. Looking on it as active research for his students, he set about submitting his novel to agents. The role of head writer had given him some much welcomed experience of sitting ‘on the other side of the desk’ where he was used to receiving up to eighty unsolicited scripts a week. Tailoring his synopsis and covering letter to fit each of a list of thirty agents, he made a start in October last year and submitted to one a week.

‘Irritate them,’ he says, ‘you’ve spent so much time working on your novel, if you get even a glimmer of interest, send your work again. Even if you don’t, send it again – what’ve you got to lose?’

The response he got was the same lack-lustre response that many writers receive. It wasn’t until he’d somewhat alarmingly reached number twenty-three that he received some genuine interest.

Determined to play the game, Neil then contacted all those agents who’d requested the full manuscript only to brush him off and told them about the interest he’d had. Suddenly they all wanted him. After a ‘feeding frenzy’ as he called it, he selected an agent.

‘I think,’ he said, ‘We’ll leave it there.’ We wait with baited-breath for the next chapter.

Report by Lisa Nightingale

Snegurochka to Winchester

Dr Judith Heneghan, Creative Writing Senior Lecturer, Programme Leader for the MA Writing for Children and award-winning children’s writer, has returned to the beginning. Her first contemporary fiction for adults, Snegurochka, has been published.

Snegurochka, an English mother’s experiences in newly independent Kiev, is to be published by Salt with a release date of 15 April. Another first for Judith was seeing it for sale on P&G Wells’ stand in the foyer at April’s Hampshire Writers’ Society meeting:’A very special moment for any writer,’ she says.

It was at the Winchester Writers’ Festival that Judith met her editor and publisher. A writer needs to be part of a community, a convergence of like-minded writers, a portal into the world of publishing. Hampshire Writers’ Society is one such community and The Winchester Writers’ festival provides another.

Recently retired as Director of the Winchester Writers’ Festival, Judith intends to concentrate on the activity of actually doing the writing.

Sara Gangai will very capably follow in her footsteps, but before she commenced her talk to us, Sara paid tribute to Barbara Large, founder of both the festival and the Hampshire Writers’ Society. ‘Barbara’s voice, with its feisty nature and inability to say the word “no”,’ Sara said, ‘is a constant in my head, reminding me to be considerate, kind and inclusive to all writers.’ A memorial service for Barbara will be held in the University chapel on the Sparkford Road Campus on the Saturday of the Festival. ‘Barbara’s spirit will be “chuffed” to be there,’ Sara laughed.

The Festival will be held on the weekend beginning 14th June. Enterprising writers will be given the chance to build up a network of writing friends and contacts; ‘People come from all over the world,’ Sara advised us.

Friday sees two panels running along-side each other on both floors of the Stripe.
Let your hair down afterwards at the open mike in the Terrace Lounge right next to the Terrace bar before the knuckle down of Saturday begins.

The day begins with the plenary speaker, award-winning children’s author, Katherine Rundell. Tickets for this event alone can be purchased. The rest of the day is filled with a variety of workshops, tea, cake and an on-tap agony aunt! Seventy or so industry specialists will be in attendance and the opportunity of a fifteen-minute, one-to-one interview with one or two of them will prove invaluable.

Sunday forms a writing workshop, ‘a chance to put into practise everything that you learned on the Saturday,’ Sara tells us.

Tickets are selling fast. The community created by the Festival will be abuzz with writers. It really is a must just to be around so many friendly faces. Please do come along – it will be wonderful to meet you.

Report by Lisa Nightingale

Edward Docx – How to Write a Novel in Forty-Five Minutes

“Remember,” says Edward Docx, journalist, playwright, writer for film, TV and Radio and of course, novelist, in fact, you name it, he’s written it, “you have a duty to the fiction.”

See writing as a spell that you cast on yourself every day, even if it is for a short time, soon it will ensnare little snippets or excerpts of “gritty realism” from the daily life that surrounds you, you can then wantonly incorporate them into your writing.

Edward took off his “Anxiety Rucksack” and “left it by the door” advising us all to do the same. Take all those ridiculous anxieties, the likes of: am I as good as “Tolstoy”? No. Stuff them in the “Anxiety Rucksack”, take it off, leave it by the door and then write. Writing is an anxious business and if we allow ourselves to be corrupted by such uncontrollable anxieties then we will not get that novel written, in 45 minutes or otherwise.

So, over the next 45 minutes we writers had honest conversations with ourselves about:

Point of View. What are the pros and cons to using 1st person, 3rd person (God) or 3rd person close?

“First person can be a prison,” be mindful of your protagonist looking over the other characters’ shoulders, reading their emails or eavesdropping on them. If you choose to play God, you must be aware of your peripheral character’s ability to sustain interest. With third person close; “tone bleed” can break the spell and the reader realises, disconsolately that this is, after all just a story and the author is just telling it.

Plot and character. This brought Edward to the 1st optical stimulus of the evening – a simple graph with character and plot sitting at either end of the axis. “Understand where your novel sits on the graph,” he tells us.

Some novels are narrow on character and wide on plot and others are vice-versa. A writer shouldn’t be afraid to scrimp on one, say character, in order to expand on plot. The wrong mix and you may end up with a lumpy novel. Look for a mix that will reach your reader.

Design your cast. Very important, especially if you’re writing for TV or film, Edward advises us; “Whenever you get stuck, just go back to “Shakespeare” because he knows what he’s doing.”

Here, Edward fell back on “Hamlet” for help. And he produced the second visual stimulus – a spidergram. Hamlet with his many emotional dimensions is the body, the supporting cast, even the grave digger sitting on each leg, pulling each different personality out.

Make your characters sufficiently different such that they pull the protagonist apart, thus creating drama. Without this, the character becomes flat, uninteresting.

Totally inhabit your characters even the uncomfortable ones. The skill is, to write characters that we are not happy with!

“Jane Austen’s” writing did not only answer the obvious question, but the deeper one – can the protagonist not only choose her own man, but ultimately, her own destiny.

Consider the MDQ. The MDQ? Edward explains: the Major Dramatic Question, at least that is what they call it in Hollywood. There is no right or wrong way to approach the three-act structure of your novel, but one way that that seems to secure success is to insert the mdq early on in the first act. Ed himself, admits to trudging through an “impressive amount of turgic nonsense,” to get to the answer.

“Try to write on the tide of your talent – when its coming out of you, commit to it,” he says. “You can improve on bad writing – you cannot improve on none.”

50 drafts is what Edward docx writes. 50! The first few are big adaptations, then there is the grammar, the repetitions, the walk through with each character, then the ‘word’ draft and so on. So, here he imparts the advice that he was given – “The only draft that matters is the last draft.”

And always be courteous to your reader, your audience. A screenwriter is always asking, where are your audience now? Think of them as guests at a party. Will they want to stay and chat to you? Try not to confuse them.

Yes, Edward plans and plots, but not to such an extent as to curtail the creative process. If a character comes along that he wants to spend more time with, then he will do that. This may get cut in a later draft, but at the time, that hadn’t been planned.

As for technical support, Ed cannot praise Final Draft enough. His sister cannot praise Scrivener enough – he just hasn’t got to grips with it yet!

“Manage your time,” he says, “you must have tense hygiene!”

Report by Lisa Nightingale

Christine Hamill

‘Time’s running out,’ was Christine Hamill’s thought when she was twenty-five, ‘better get that book written.’

In her mid-forties she was diagnosed as having breast cancer. Amid torrents of tears, she thought, ‘time really is running out.’ and “B is for Breast Cancer: From anxiety to recovery and everything in between – a beginner’s guide”, was written during treatment.

Christine wanted to convey the irony of many of the situations that arose from her diagnosis and treatment, filling the book with humour. Her retort to those who, horrified said, you can’t do that was: ‘Well, I’m the one with breast cancer.’ Still, you’d have to be a raving lunatic not to take breast cancer seriously, she says. It is funny though, the way a fully clothed doctor will expect you, while semi-naked and having your breast handled, to hold an intelligent conversation.

“B is for Breast Cancer” is an A-Z of everything you might experience whilst being treated for breast cancer. D being for diagnosis, Christine read us a very comical excerpt. C is for crying, which she admits she did so much that a nurse told her “she was taking the cancer diagnosis badly.” !!  

Book two, “The Best Medicine” is not biographical, although it does mirror the situation that Christine and her ten-year old son found themselves in. From the point of view of the boy at the heart of the story, “The Best Medicine” tells how he feels that Mum is getting too much attention when he is dealing with such ‘big’ school issues as bullying and girlfriends – or lack of them! Christine read an excerpt where, Philip conducts a bare bottom poetry appreciation.

Each book took six months to write, but both took a while to get published. Originally “B is for Breast Cancer” was published on the internet which led to its being voted Ireland’s book of the year. Christine then put it in a drawer.

The Best Medicine went the same way winning awards such as the Lollies and the Haringey Children’s Book Prize. But it was turned down by so many publishers that the agent sent it back. Undeterred, Christine knew it had to be good and took it to a small, independent publisher who took it on. “The Best Medicine” has since been published in more than six countries including the US and Canada, won further awards and rave reviews from best selling authors and comedians.

Report by Lisa Nightingale

Judy Waite Creative Curiosity

Judy Waite, award-winning writer of over fifty Children’s and Young Adult fiction titles, began her talk to the Hampshire Writers’ Society with a tribute to Barbara Large, who was our friend, founder, inspiration and a great ally within the publishing world.

It was at the Winchester Writers’ Conference that Judy, a novice, found not only access to specialist workshops, but also the confidence to take Barbara’s advice: “Keep writing.”

It was a crazy time, Judy says, as she was working as well as writing. Time, she agrees, is one of the writer’s great enemies. Once published, she enrolled on an MA in Creative Writing. A bit back to front; but she still felt unsure when talking about how to write.

Judy was not just here to talk to the Society though. She treated us, the gathered members and guests, to an interactive exercise, introducing an envelope, sheet of spare paper, pencil and candle for each of us.

“If you’re trying to get a child to write a story,” she told us, “don’t get them to tell you it first – they’ll think, job done!”

Encompassing a wide age range, Judy has written for four-year olds, “Mouse Look Out”, and fourteen-year olds, “Game Girls”. She writes trade fiction, research and rigour books which are usually aimed at older boys. Educational books, like “Jamboree Storytime Level B: I wish I Had a Monster”, are mostly for schools and are commissioned, but still publishers of these are always pleased to hear from authentic authors.

Judy also writes High Low books, like “The Street”, a collection of short books aimed at older children who have difficulty reading – perhaps English is not their first language or they are dogged by dyslexia.

‘Where do you get your ideas from?” is the most common question that Judy is asked. Ideas are all around us, she says, suggesting that we use the pen in front of us – imagine that pen full of optimism, wonder and energy to write ethical, positive works, in the wrong hands. Or the pencil on the desk – what is its one true desire; could it be, to be a crayon?

“So that’s how your mind works,” a student commented. That started Judy thinking that of course, all writers may indulge in creativity, but not in the same way. We write from the heart, she enthuses, not the head. It is neither easy nor natural to write with your head saying, I write like this, because this is what the publishers of my chosen genre require.

Judy’s teaching was a resounding success, but at the time, she felt as though she was “standing on the top of a hill on a windy day, throwing her ideas into the air”. This was when Wordtamer was born. Judy was commissioned to put all her ideas into a book.

Her teaching takes the form of: de familiarisation, character connection, free-writing (the Freudian method of helping shell-shocked soldiers to cope with what is going on in their heads), the silent zone and visualisation. These all were incorporated into the continuing interactive exercise.

The most interesting of Judy’s methods is Active Research – she once had a character who spent some time in prison “…so I decided I’d better get arrested.” she said. This, after having auditioned for a position in a boy band and visiting Cardboard City, London. Judy is not our only author who indulges in active research – remember Karen Hamilton’s Characters on the Couch, Penny Ingham’s archaeology?

“When I’m asked to write a story, my mind goes blank,” one of her reluctant writers said. Five weeks later, that same child wanted to be a writer, because thanks to Judy Waite, he was no longer “blank in the mind.”

Report by Lisa Nightingale

HWS Are Looking for Two New Committee Posts

Publicity Manager

The new member of the Organizing Committee will have the job title ‘Publicity Manager’. He or she will be required to perform the following duties.

1) To publicize the events organized by the Hampshire Writers’ Society.

2) To use, for publicity purposes, an already existing list of contacts, and to seek to add to this list of contacts.

3) To attend the Society’s monthly Tuesday-evening events, and to assist in the smooth running of these events.

4) To attend the Society’s monthly Thursday-afternoon meetings of its Organizing Committee (normally at 4.00 p.m., on the third Thursday in the month, at West Downs, University of Winchester, Romsey Road, Winchester SO22 5HT).

Hampshire Writers’ Society will undertake to provide the Publicity Manager with a designated e-mail address (if required); it will not be possible to provide desk space or a computer. The Society runs on a goodwill basis, which means that all the positions on its Organizing Committee are unpaid.

From its foundation in 2011 the Hampshire Writers’ Society has grown steadily, in terms of both its membership and its range of operations. Recently, a vacancy has arisen with regard to the position of Publicity Manager on the Society’s Organizing Committee. The Society is now looking to fill this vacancy and invites expressions of interest, ahead of the Organizing Committee’s next scheduled meeting on 12 January 2017.

Website Manager

The new member of the Organizing Committee will have the job title ‘Website Manager’. He or she will be required to perform the following duties.

1) To manage the Hampshire Writers’ Society website, see hampshirewriterssociety.co.uk.

2) To receive postings for the website from other members of the Society’s Organizing Committee and to include these materials in the website’s general management, without any other person adding postings to the website.

3) As an option, to attend the Society’s monthly Tuesday-evening events and to assist in the smooth running of these events; attendance is optional rather than a requirement.

4) As an option, to attend the Society’s monthly Thursday-afternoon meetings of its Organizing Committee; attendance is optional rather than a requirement.

Hampshire Writers’ Society will undertake to provide the Marketing Manager with a designated e-mail address (if required); it will not be possible to provide desk space or a computer. The Society runs on a goodwill basis, which means that all the positions on its Organizing Committee are unpaid.

From its foundation in 2011 the Hampshire Writers’ Society has grown steadily, in terms of both its membership and its range of operations. Recently, the Society’s Organizing Committee has decided to add a Website Manager to its membership. The Society is now looking to fill this vacancy and invites expressions of interest, ahead of the Organizing Committee’s next scheduled meeting on 12 January 2017.

 

Techniques in Comics and Graphic Novel Writing with Pat Mills

Report by Lisa Nightingale

Comics writing has its own rules and these are different to those of graphic novels, Pat Mills tells us. A graphic novel is more of a creative expression.

Pat admits getting himself into trouble over his firm beliefs that the reason for comics’ demise, especially in the girls’ aged 7 & 8 year olds market, is down to the lack of love and care from their eager-to-move-on young women creators. Snobbery settled into publishing turning it elite. The title of Editor of girls’ comics such as Jinty was seen as a blot on the writer’s CV, nobody wanted these roles and the comics folded. Added to which; sophistication took over, comic cons were held, readers defected to America and the 7/8 year olds’ market was lost. A trend of merging comics raised sales. But this was temporary; the readers had been cheated.

The storytelling formula of Robert McKee was then adopted by mainstream comics publishing. 2000AD took this formula and whittled it down to its bare bones.

  • Key to girls’ story lines is that the heroine must be proactive – a modern day MistyPatMillsCinderella. All sorts of terrible things may happen to her, some of which horrify parents but the market has proven their love for these storylines. In hundreds of years, tastes have not changed. Heroines have become harsh. Or is this how writers are showing their many layers?
  • A cruel or upstaging parent is a taboo! The heroine can be given a wicked uncle, teacher, step parent, but their own mother and father must always be good people.
  • Friendship is the all important element for girls’ storylines.mistyannual1979

Pat learned these lessons the hard way. In the 7/8 year olds market, both girls and boys are bitterly outspoken and Pat has received hate mail for the wrong storyline. A Comic’s storyline deadline may be only weeks ahead of the reader giving the editor the freedom to shout for a failing storyline to be ‘killed.’ Beware though; churning out what works can bring a writer down. Keep the readership at the forefront – the storyline must be wrapped-up properly.

Avoiding the tyranny of the mainstream publishing world; Pat and his wife, Lisa, set up their own publishing imprint. Their list of publishing professionals possess one main difference – they are friendly, helpful and on-line.

It is entirely possible for a mainstream comic to feature an anti-establishment storyline. If mainstream, e.g. Marvel, is your style then traditional routes of submission can work. The trick is to keep the Sci-Fi storyline from becoming simply escapism.

Pat’s advice to writers wanting to break into the comics’ market is to use the indie publishers – assuming of course that you are not up against the economic clock! Study your market. Use the free web comics.

Evidence of a girls’ comics market is provided by the success of Manga. ‘Finding an artist is a whole talk of its own,’ Pat points out.

reademandweepPat Mills’s latest project, Read Em and Weep is in the form of a book consisting of formal prose about Dave Maudlin a ‘Young Foggie’ suspended in the time of Gam Rock’s era of mainstream comics writing. It is not a biography, he tells us. It does, however, feature many of the ironies which have plagued Pat throughout his career.

 

Della Galton – New Novella Series The Reading Group

reading-group-bookends-2The Reading Group focuses on five women who meet monthly to drink wine, have nibbles, gossip and – oh yes – discuss the classics.

In December they are reading A Christmas Carol and Grace’s life seems to be taking a curious parallel to Dickens’ classic story! Spooky!

In January they are reading Jane Austen’s Emma – and this time it’s Anne Marie who’s the focus of the story. Like Emma, Anne Marie fancies giving Cupid a run for his money. But matchmaking isn’t really her forte!

In February they are reading Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Oh and Kate has a handsome builder in renovating her kitchen. Hold on to your hats, ladies.

In March, Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca is the book of the month. Jojo has a new man in her life. She is starting to worry that there may be certain parallels between her life and Daphne du Maurier’s heroine. Age gap romance and ancestral homes spring to mind.

December, which is a short story, is free for your kindle. You can download it HERE.

If you’d rather read the December story on paper it’s also in the January edition of the Woman’s Weekly Fiction Special, which is out now.dellagaltonsmall

Each novella in the Reading Group series is 99p. Less than the price of a mince pie and guaranteed not to make you fat. I wish I hadn’t written mince pie. Now I’m going to have to eat one.

I asked Della a couple of questions regarding the writing of a series:

Q: Did you know the characters’ endings when you started?

A: No, although I did know some elements of the plot because of the nature of the project.

Q: And how were you able to plan for that across a set of six books eg if a character’s story ends in book six were you able to sow the seeds of that ending way back in book one?

A: I’m not er hem – a planner. I don’t plan. I just head off in a direction. In this series it was no different. I sowed some seeds and then I had to resolve them. This got harder as the series progressed.

Interestingly though, I find that the limitations set by working like this are helpful to me. Because very often I have to come up with creative endings that I would never have been able to plot out in advance. My brain just doesn’t work like this. There does have to be a story arc but I also rely heavily on themes. One of the main themes in this series is Friendship. Family is there also, and so is Love.

How Ten Words Won Author Ally Sherrick a Book Contract

allysherrickTake a place at the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) conference, an entry in the Ten Word Novel Pitching competition and a well-known children’s publisher as the judge. Mix them all together and what have you got? A small but important chance for your story – the one you have slaved at for months in your writer’s garret and in which you believe so passionately – to reach the audience of bright-eyed and enthusiastic young readers you’ve written it for.

black-powder-aw-2-195x3001When I entered my ten word summary of Black Powder in the competition, I had no inkling at all that I might actually win. I had already collected a number of rejections from agents who had told me that unfortunately my story ‘wasn’t for them.’ In fact I was very close to consigning it to the ‘Bottom Drawer of Not-Likely-To-Be-Published Doom’. So I was over the moon when I discovered that Barry Cunningham, Publisher and Managing Director of Chicken House Publishing Ltd, had picked it from the pile of entries.

The prize was a review by Barry of 2,000 words of my story – an historical middle grade adventure about a boy who gets mixed up in the Gunpowder Plot. I was delighted that I was going to receive comments and perhaps some advice back from him; but I was thrilled when he contacted me after reading it and said he’d like to read the whole thing.

chickenhouselogoAfter some last minute further polishing, I sent my manuscript off to Barry in late November 2014 and spent a nail-biting few weeks waiting to hear. Imagine my delight when he contacted me to say he had really enjoyed reading it and that he’d like to take it to the next Chicken House acquisitions meeting. He warned me that they may yet decide not to take it on, but that, at any event, they would like me to come down to meet them at the Chicken House coop in Frome, Somerset. A date was duly fixed for a meeting in early March – although I was still none the wiser as to where things might be going!

But all that changed when, after an initial chat round a ginormous old table in a room which looked suspiciously like Dumbledore’s study, Barry told me they’d like to publish my story. If I’d been over the moon before, I was now heading on warp drive into another galaxy entirely – especially when the offer came through from Barry the next day for a two book deal!

18 months later and though my book is now published and sitting proudly on the bookshelves of bookshops up and down the land, I still haven’t quite beamed back down to earth.

But, two things from my travels through space I do know to be true:

  1. We writers must always keep the faith. If you love your story, never give up on it, no matter what.

And …

  1. Seize every opportunity that comes your way. Entering that SCBWI competition nearly two years ago gave me the chance to realize my dream of becoming a published author and of sharing my stories with a whole world of readers.

And the lucky ten words? ‘Boy must join Gunpowder Plot to save father from hanging.’

Black Powder is available from Waterstones, Foyle’s, WH Smith and all good bookshops, and online from Amazon.

For more information about Ally visit her website: www.allysherrick.com or follow her on Twitter: @ally_sherrick