I've got a new, freelance, part-time job working as the Children's and YA Events Manager for the events team at the Writers & Artists Yearbook which forms part of Bloomsbury Publishing. The yearbook is the bible for all writers and illustrators at every stage of their careers and it's a total privilege and honour to be working with such a fantastic group of people.
Not only is the team amazing but I'm working on putting together an fantastic festival that runs online over the last weekend in March. The graphic on this blog shows the incredible line-up of talent that we have taking part.
If you're reading this as a writer or illustrator for children then I highly recommend buying a ticket for this amazing weekend. Everything will be recorded, so if you can't make the weekend do still consider the weekend pass. I guarantee it will be money well spent on your career.
All the information and how to get a ticket is here: Children's Writers and Illustrators Festival 2023
When you wake up to stunning views, are surrounded by like minded people, laugh until your belly aches, play improv drama games, make clay sculptures, do writing exercises, explore the countryside, eat glorious food, breathe clean air, talk children's books, listen to readings, join in-depth discussions and share thoughts and opinions whilst feeling safe then you know you're on a writing retreat.
I've just returned, feeling refreshed, reassured, comforted, supported and ready to go. Thank you Scattered Authors Society and to the wonderful Folly Farm Centre for such an amazing and inspiring few days.
I was very touched by the comments of support I received after my last blog. Thank you to all of you who reached out on social media and privately to me. It is really encouraging to know that when I show my soft underbelly people are kind.
We're about to leave behind 2022 and what a year it's been. My highlights have been the launch of Call Me Lion, particularly the party and my Scottish Book Shop tour. I know that there is so much more for the little book with the big heart and can't wait to see what happens next for Leo and Richa.
I'm writing again, something for me and for the pure fun of it and that leads me into my NY Resolutions:
1. Write only for the joy of it
2. Limit my social media time
3. Do not compare myself to others
4. Be kind
Happy New Year to you all - I've got a strong feeling that 2023 is going to be a magical one for me.
Onwards we go!
This is different to my usual upbeat blog posts about how well things are going. This is about having to shelve not one, but two of my work-in-progress books because they are just not good enough.
In the writing world there is a phenomenon called 'second book syndrome' that is often talked about. It's when a writer's first published book (also known as a debut) feels unmatchable. It does happen and some writers find trying to do it again a near impossible task.
For me, Call Me Lion was actually my fourth complete novel, but I have to admit that I'm really struggling to produce anything close to its standard as a follow on book. It's hugely frustrating, not least because writing a book takes enormous amount of time and energy. There's a reason we say, 'blood, sweat and tears,' - writing is fuelled by our inner selves. I put so much into my storytelling and now that I have written Call Me Lion I know that's the standard of what I can achieve. I won't accept less.
Both the books I have written since have not been good enough. It's heartbreaking to have to admit that and not have anything to show for all the work. It's horrible to have to shrug when people ask, 'what's next?' and swallow down the pain. The honest answer is there is nothing else, at least not for the time being.
But writers are always working even if we aren't getting words down. There are always characters and ideas bubbling away and my brain will never totally switch off from stories. Even though I have no product from the countless hours I've spent on both books, the experience has been valuable. It's all craft/skill development and practice. It reminds me that the process can't be rushed. There comes a time for all writers when you have to put a project down in order to make room for something new to come.
I will not be defeated by this.
I will be back.
Here is the Mass Book Launch video which was played on the night. Look out for lion!
After a long three years the Society of Children's Book Writer's and Illustrators (SCBWI) British Isles Conference was finally back, but this time in a brand new venue - Manchester Metropolitan University.
It was absolutely fantastic to be back with old friends and meet new members. I had a new role this year as the 1-1 Coordinator which left me with more time to be able to attend various talks and workshops. I listened to Alex Wheatle deliver the most powerful Key Note Speech I think I've ever heard, I led my own talk with agents Katie Blagden from The Bright Agency and Becky Bagnell of Lindsay Literary and I attended a brilliant workshops on Writing in Verse with Lousia Reed.
I've been really busy writing and touring bookshops and helping organise the SCBWI Conference, but I just heard about this amazing shortlisting for my little book with a big heart and had to come here to let you all know about it. I'm absolutely thrilled.
October is Selective Mutism Awareness Month. Call Me Lion is one of the recommended reads of Selective Mutism Information and Research Association (SMiRA) and Selective Mutism Clinical Excellence Network (SMCEN) organisations.
"A great resource for SLTs, parents and staff!" SMCEN Oct 22.
You can view the book on the resources section of the SMiRA website here: SMiRA Recommended Reading.
I continue to be hugely proud of this little book with a big heart. I know it will continue to help raise understanding, awareness and compassion about this little known social anxiety condition. It has a huge future ahead. Thank you for being on the journey with me.
These two wonderful reviews of Call Me Lion come from Primary 5/6 class at Liff Primary School in Angus, Dundee.
Nobody feels upbeat and positive all the time and I was a bit flat, but then Lion picked me up again, like he always does when I received this wonderful message from their teacher:
I've just finished your book 'Call Me Lion' with my class. It has been such a wonderful journey. We have explored friendships, relationships, hidden disabilities, prejudice and so much more... It should be on every schools must read list.
I'm so grateful that Ms Ancell took the time to reach out to me and send me these messages. Liff Primary School is on holiday now for a couple of weeks (Scottish timetable works differently to England) but there's a thank you postcard on its way regardless.
Do contact authors if you've enjoyed their books, we love it and it makes out job feel really appreciated.
You don't need to be quiet any more. I'm still writing but I want you to come to me with reviews, news and requests for school visits. I'm all ears!
Welcome to my blog, a place where you can keep up to date with what I am up to.