Tag Archives: children’s stories

is writing in the genes?

Do you think the urge to write is innate – a quirk of the genes we are born with? Or is it behaviour learned from observing parents, role models or others close to us? Or could it be something else entirely, a random striking of inspiration, a bolt from the blue?

books open

My Dad is a writer and, although it was never his day-job, the image of him sitting in an armchair, pad of paper on his knee, scribbling away with a fountain pen, is one that sums him up for me in many ways. His stories and poems are woven throughout my childhood memories along with all the other books he and my mum read to us. My uncles are writers too, my grandfather is a wonderful storyteller and, in fact, everywhere you look in my family, there seems to be a passion for reading, writing, stories, books and well, just words in general.

So maybe my writing ambitions were inevitable. Certainly, I remember having ‘writer’ on my list of future careers (along with ‘vet’ and ‘air hostess’!) from a very early age. Why it took me ’till a few years ago to actually realise it was a career I wished to pursue, I have no idea.

The lovely thing is, I’m now seeing this passion for books in my sons too: my eldest (8) is a prolific reader and his younger brother (6) isn’t far behind. They both love to write too – I came down to breakfast the other morning to find them both with their heads down over pieces of paper, concentrating hard. “Good morning boys!” I chimed (oh, ok, since it was morning, I probably grunted it) only to be met with “Shhhhh, we’re writing our novels!” Oh, ok then.

Yesterday I found this on the kitchen table, written by my six-year-old:

cow story

I have no idea what a ‘wild life tiger toothed fish ocean’ is but I’m very glad the cows escaped from those nasty humans. Mind you, reading it again… three little cows who had to escape two big humans… that’s not a metaphor for him and his brothers having to escape their Dad and me is it? Hmmm, the less said about that the better!

How about you – does writing run in your family? Are there any passions of yours that you see reflected in your children?

Little Hearts, Big Love
Writing Bubble

something significant – #WhatImWriting

Northumbrian sunriseAnother Tuesday dawns… probably quite literally as this post is published (I’m scheduling it for 7am) unless, of course, the world has been swallowed up overnight by our evil alien overlords.

*Clears throat*

Aaaaaaanyway, it’s time for ‘What I’m Writing’! Chrissie is hosting this week so if you’re looking to link up please head over to Muddled Manuscript. There’s a fresh pot of tea on, and I’m pretty sure I heard something about biscuits…

So, to business! What have I been writing this week? Well, again I didn’t have much time (this last month has been manic) but I did manage a piece of flash fiction to link up to #ThePrompt last Friday. And that was on such a sad subject that I then asked the boys to set me a limerick challenge just to cheer things up! Apart from that I’ve spent a bit of time tinkering about with my picture books and that was it.

BUT NO, WAIT! I did do something significant! I submitted my first picture book manuscript to an agent! I know it’s not the world’s most amazing news but it’s one of those little things that feels quite big. I’ve put myself out there. Although I’ve submitted work to publications and competitions before I’ve never sent anything to an agent, so this is new territory. This is also the most passionate I’ve felt about any submission I’ve made. This little book matters to me. So yes. There you have it. Eeeek.

This week is set to be a quieter one so I’m looking forward to spending some time on my latest picture book. I’m also planning on doing a bit more blog-surfing for poetry and prose for my first Brit Mums post in early December. I’ve already got my eye on some (last week’s Prompt was full of fab pieces) and it should be fun to hunt out more.

I’m also going to spend some quality time with my family. I have a hunch my husband is rather sick of the sight of the back of my laptop and the sound of me tap tapping away! So we’re planning a trip to the cinema and out for a meal. We used to go to the cinema (just the two of us) a lot but since having kids it’s something that happens so rarely I tend to get very excited about it. Wheeeee!

Happy weeks, all!

Muddled Manuscript

taking the leap – #WhatImWriting

Boat quote

It’s been another busy week in the Bubble household and I haven’t had much time to write, but in all the little gaps available I’ve been… ummm… very productively ripping apart my second picture book. And putting it back together again. And then deciding it was better to begin with! Argh! Luckily a wise friend stepped in and told me it that regardless of whether I felt I’d written the ‘final draft’ all the elements were there – engaging story, appealing characters, interesting rhymes, lovely imagery – and I should just leave it alone for a while. So I’m going to do that. I have a hunch if I return to it with fresh eyes (and perhaps some wise counsel from elsewhere) I’ll be able to knock it into shape quite fast. Fingers crossed.

So I’ve now started work on book number three! I’m already quite excited about this one. Of the three of them it has the most potential for comedy and I love a chuckle while reading to my kids. I know what the overall story is, and bits of description and dialogue keep leaping into my head at random times so that’s keeping me busy too.

Meanwhile I’ve shown my first picture book to more friends (all with kids so they are very much immersed in the world of picture books at the moment) and received a resounding thumbs up. I have to say I have a particular passion for this book. It kind of ‘has my heart’ if that makes sense? So the mere idea of seeing it illustrated and published and out there is just so exciting I can’t really think too hard about it!

But I’m just at the start of a long journey with it  – and indeed all my books – and I know that along the way I’ve got to accept all manner of rejections. Just because some friends of mine love what I’ve written doesn’t mean that others will. And even if others do, there’s still a big leap from someone liking it, to liking it enough to find an illustrator for it and actually publishing it.

These doubts have been nibbling at my toes this last week and stopping me from taking the next step. After all, if I don’t submit my work anywhere then it cant get rejected can it? How clever of me to protect myself in such a way. Or not.

So, no more! I’ve been on Agent Hunter (a really helpful website that I got a free subscription to – a blog post about it, is to follow) and have scoured through the profiles of masses of agents. I’m putting together a shortlist and have found someone in particular I really want to show my work to. So this week I’m going to do it: I am going to submit my first picture book manuscript.

Eeeep.

Writing Bubble

blogging smart – #WhatImWriting

friendly pencils quoteIiiiiiiiiiit’s Tuesday! Which means it’s time for What I’m Writing! Chrissie is hosting this week so if you’re looking to link up, please head over to Muddled Manuscript.

Well – just as I promised – a whole week has gone by since my last post. But although I’d love to report a wonderful week of writing where I achieved masses, sadly it was a bit of a damp squib. Life interfered. There was too much going on, half term started and just to top it off I was laid low by a vomiting bug. Bleurgh.

But. BUT!

Actually, a week off blogging did me a world of good. As I was struggling to juggle everything else, it was definitely a relief that at least I wasn’t trying to squeeze in blog posts too. It meant that, while I didn’t get all the agent research done that I wanted, I did at least have time to glance in that direction (I’ll say more in a future blog post…)

I also managed to get to the end of my second picture book. It’s currently on the seventh draft (and there are more drafts to come, I’m sure) and I feel I’ve got to the point of wanting to refine it rather than overhaul it. At least that’s how I feel now… give me a few weeks and fresh eyes and I could decide it needs pulling to shreds.

This week has still left me pondering the time I put into blogging though. A week between posts definitely had huge plus points. In a way, now I’ve tried it out, it’s tempting to continue… but no. I can’t – blogging is such a good kick up the bum for me, creatively speaking. And I’d miss all the linkys. But I do think I need to cut myself some slack more often. Maybe I’ll have more weeks where I don’t post. As the quote above suggests: it’s not all about quantity. ‘Blogging smart’ for me I think is going to mean being more flexible and not holding myself to a timetable. I need to be more clear about my priorities in any given week.

So, having said that, this week I’m up for a bit more blogging. I’ve already written a halloween limerick and I might just have a ghost story up my sleeve. WooOOoooOOoOOOooo. (Was that a convincing ghost noise?)

How often do you blog? Do you stick to a strict schedule? Do you put pressure on yourself to post on certain days or to always do certain linkys? I’d love to know.

Muddled Manuscript

 

focus – #WhatImWriting

A clue about my picture book

A clue about the picture book I’m working on…

Last week I wrote about being in a spin with everything going on in my life: about all the things I wanted to write and the decisions I needed to make. The rest of the week I suffered a classic case of writer’s block. The words just weren’t flowing. It was incredibly frustrating, especially as I wasn’t lacking inspiration, just the ability to get the words out!

I got to the weekend and decided something needed to be done. So I wrote a list (ah, lists – love ‘em!) of all the non-writing things I needed to get done and then managed to get a lot of the little tasks ticked off. That calmed the spin-cycle in my head down a bit and I realised I desperately needed to focus more. So I thought I’d set myself just one writing task and ignore all others… and I’m now in the process of writing my second children’s book!

I made this my focus on the back of people’s advice on my post last week (you were all incredibly helpful, thank you!) I’ve decided I’m going to try and get an agent for my picture book and I think I’m going to be a much more interesting proposition for an agent if I have more than one piece of work to show them. Also, when I actually paid attention to my thoughts (rather than just being in a flap saying ‘I want to do ALL THE THINGS!’) I realised that a second book was actually what I WANTED to focus on. I had an idea and I was itching to write it – everything else could wait.

I’ve realised that as much as I love writing something every week (or most weeks) for #ThePrompt and #Prose4T - and more recently #FridayFiction and the #WonderfulWorldofWriting it’s also a huge creative commitment. It’s a fantastic thing to do in terms of pushing me on, developing my writing and being part of an online community but I feel I’ve reached a point where something’s got to give. I can’t write a novel and two picture books and a blog and poetry and flash fiction and also research literary agents (alongside three kids and work commitments) every week. I need to prioritise.

So, I’ve made a decision: no blogging between this post and next Tuesday’s post. And no writing other things either; this week is for writing and editing my picture books, and for researching agents. Full stop.

See you next week!

in a spin – #WhatImWriting

leaves2This week seems to have flown by – I can hardly believe it’s time for another #WhatImWriting. Hooray! Chrissie is hosting this week so if you’re looking to link up, please head over to Muddled Manuscript.

I’m not certain what to write about for my post this week as my brain is flitting all over the place, but I guess the main thing to update you on is my picture book. I’ve been working on it a lot and have now shown it to two more close friends of mine, both of whom are primary school teachers (and mothers), and therefore have particularly useful perspectives. The feedback has been really good: both positive and useful. I’ve now reached the ninth draft and think I’m very close to something I’ll be happy to send off somewhere. But where?

Well, quite. So while working on the book I’ve also been looking around at publishers websites, checking out what they’re looking for and how to go about submitting. I found this blog post by Lou Treleaven a really useful resource: it lists children’s book publishers who are currently accepting unsolicited manuscripts.

I did have a bit of a crisis of confidence while researching though, as all the publishers said they get masses of submissions every week. Not that I expected anything different, but there’s nothing quite like seeing that fact in black and white! They all said it would take three to six months to get a response from them, if indeed you received any response at all. And of course, as all writers know, you’ve got to expect rejection. I suddenly felt very small, like a tiny Jelly Baby person clutching a flea-sized manuscript trying to get anyone to even notice I was there!

So I started wondering about the possibility of getting an agent. I know you don’t need to have one to submit work but I assume that it’s a huge help in securing a publisher. It’s means there’s someone else backing you up rather than your little manuscript just sitting in the middle of a huge pile of other unsolicited submissions. Like having somewhere more noticeable for Jelly Baby-me to sit perhaps? Or lighting to enhance my lovely juicy colour?

But trying to find an agent is a huge task in itself and I only have one little book – would an agent even be interested? I feel I need to research more here. Any advice?

There are lots of other things whirling through my mind as well at the moment: work-related issues, some family stuff and other questions to do with my writing too. I feel I’m in a bit of a spin trying to work out what to focus on. I’m in a bit of a spin in general actually. I don’t even know how to finish this blog post. Haven’t a clue.

Like this?

Muddled Manuscript

self belief – #WhatImWriting

believe you can quoteYou know when you get ‘The Feeling‘? You know the one: you’re reading something you’ve just written and you find yourself thinking Hang on… this is… actually… rather… GOOD! And in those moments before the doubt sets in you get this rush of self-belief like maybe you can actually do this. Maybe becoming a published author isn’t such a crazy, cock-eyed distant dream after all.

Well, I had one of those moments last Tuesday. I like to join in with #ThePrompt and this week the theme Sara had given us was ‘books’. So I sat down in front of a blank screen at the start of the baby’s nap and along came the words. I wrote a story-poem (is that a thing?) about a girl who wouldn’t read. By the time the baby woke up the bulk of it was there and all the time I was writing it I could see illustrations in my head. When I read it back I found myself thinking, This would make a good children’s book.

All the next day it was in my head and I kept popping back to the computer and giving it a tweak here and there. Yes, I thought, this is worth doing something with. But then I started wondering if I was deluding myself, so I decided that – on the back of my post on feedback last week – it might be an idea to ask the lovely #WhatImWriting lot for feedback as part of my Tuesday post.

But then – another thought! Posting something on your blog makes it ‘previously published work’ doesn’t it? A quick google told me ‘yes’ and although it seemed presumptuous, I decided I couldn’t shoot myself in the foot if there was even the slightest chance of sending it to a publisher. I knew what I had written was only an early draft, but the storyline and overall structure were all there, so I didn’t want to risk it.

So instead I sent it to Chrissie and asked for her (genuine, proper, no-holds-barred) opinion on whether the piece had potential. I simultaneously placed it in front of my husband (whom I also trust to tell me the truth) before I went off to get the baby to sleep. And when I’d got him settled I came back down and asked my husband what he thought. Simultaneously, an email from Chrissie popped into my inbox. To my delight and relief both responses were: “Yes! I can see this as a book.” Woo hoo!

Since then I’ve been re-writing it constantly. I’ve read it to my kids, discussed it at length with my husband and received lots more useful feedback from Chrissie. I’ve also just sent it to my best mate who’s a primary school teacher with two young children. It’s the first time I’ve asked her for constructive criticism but I figure she’ll be a good person to give it and I’m sure I can take it… eeek. It’s currently on its fifth draft (oh, what a different world from novel writing this is) and I feel like I’m getting there with it. Yes I have my moments of doubt (and I’m sure I’ll get more of those in the future) but right now I’m riding a bit of a wave. The reality of how competitive the children’s book market is isn’t nagging me too much. (Yet.)

Next, I’ve got lots of research to do to find out who I could possibly submit it to and what I need to be keeping an eye on in terms of, well, anything really… this is all new. And all quite exciting. And quite scary too.

So that’s me at the moment. That’s very much ‘what I’m writing’!

One final thing – I’d like to say a big ‘thank you’ to Sara for the inspiration. It’s amazing where one word can take you!

Writing Bubble

a year of writing

As I said in my last post, I may not have blogged, but I have been writing quite a lot in the last eleven months. I won’t go into all the details but I’ll note a few of the main things, just for the record.

Firstly, I wrote (or rather, re-wrote) a ghost story that I first thought up as a teenager. I’ve no idea where the original copy (from back then) is, I’ve just always had – in the back of my mind – the memory of it and the idea that it was worth a second go. It took ages to write (even though it’s only about 2000 words) and I’m still not satisfied with it. I was having real difficulty with building up enough suspense; I was aiming for ‘creeping dread’ but the story kept zipping along. It also started off as a first person narrative but I changed my mind and thought it would work better in the third person… and then decided I was wrong and had to change it back. If I’m honest it’s still more a work-in-progress than an actual finished story!

I also wrote a short story for kids. Children’s literature is a genre I have always loved reading, so I was keen to approach it from a writer’s perspective too. My story has a magical/ghostly theme and I really enjoyed writing it. The story unfolds from the point-of-view of a little boy and since I’m surrounded by those (as a mother of three sociable sons!) it was something I found quite easy to do.  I’m now planning on reading it to my older sons who are aged four and six. Although I think they may be a little young, I’m quite keen to see what they think.

Another fairly big milestone (for a complete novice) was that I entered a themed short story competition in Scribble Magazine. I didn’t get anywhere in the competition but I didn’t expect to –  I was just really pleased that I’d actually followed the project through.

The process of writing these three stories taught me a lot. I realised that there’s a huge difference between having an idea in my head, and in crafting it into a story that I’m willing to show to anyone else, let alone enter into a competition. I had a clear idea of what my ghost story was, of how it would start and end – and even most of the bits in the middle – but, as I’ve said, when it came to writing it down it was so hard to get right!

And then there’s the competition story: I wrote it fairly quickly but then I spent weeks and weeks tweeking it, deciding it was all wrong, re-writing it, re-tweeking it… and then eventually, with the end-of-November-deadline fast approaching I sent it off because I had to. I probably could have fiddled with it till the end of time.

So deadlines are helpful to me. Competitions are therefore probably a useful tool and I intend to enter more. The reason I haven’t so far is… well I think I’ll write more about that next time.