Bean counting


January joy – I have been attempting the accounts for my writer-friendly B&B:  “Peacehaven”  You can’t blame a person for plugging her day job, can you?

It’s a slog through all the receipts and expenses to see what I have made. Amongst all the spreadsheet terrors, I’ve been thinking about the profit-and-loss of my writing.

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Gone – but not forgotten [quite]

Apologies if you were waiting to learn which character I chose for the SCBWI Agents’ Party. I went for Tolly.

Inside Tolly’s bedroom at Greeen Knowe

For those of who you have not had the pleasure, I refer to Toseland Oldknow in L.M.Boston’s truly enchanting ‘The Children of Green Knowe‘. He is a lonely boy – who makes friends with the ghosts of children long gone in his great grandmother’s ancient house.

I wanted so much to be like Tolly – and in some ways, I still do. Slipping in and out of time, finding companionship in strange places – that’s my world at its best.

Happily, you can visit Lucy Boston’s fascinating house and garden – and the 60th Anniversary of  the first of the Green Knowe books will be on the 9th November this year. There will be a celebration at Hemingford Grey. Do go if you can.


Character Actress

I’d never make a Hollywood leading lady – but I can do character.

This evening I am braving possible thunderstorms and the rumblings of my own trepidation to attend  the annual SCBWI BI Agents Party at Foyles Grand Design of a new bookshop. Choosing what to wear was tricky enough – but archfiend Nick Cook has issued us with a second badge.

We have to select one character from children’s lit we’d like to be. Crumbs. Where to start? All of them is not an acceptable answer. One close to me seems good.

Hermione? Well, I am a bit of know-it-all but she is too recent. If I included all the  children’s characters I have grown to love as an adult, it would be impossible. Also I suspect Hermione will be very popular – as will delightful bookworm Matilda.

Eowyn? I think that’s cheating. OK I read LOTR when I was still a child but she’s not really a children‘s character. So how about Alan Garner’s Susan? Could be – I was utterly convinced that a bracelet of my grandmother’s with blue tear-drop stones was a magical talisman – and I’d get two books to inhabit (three if you count ‘Boneland’).

What about the other Susan – Narnian queen and healer ? Well, putting aside The Problem of Susan for another day, she does get four books to go at – but she is a bit of a bystander. I feel like that with Jane Drew in ‘The Dark is Rising’ books – I don’t really remember her that well.

That goes for many others – and I won’t pick ones I only really know from films or TV. Princess Eilonwy from The Chronicles of Prydain is too pretty, and so too is Princess Irene. Never could  be doing with that. I will admit to fancying a few ‘baddies’ , though. Empress Jadis of Charn – who wouldn’t want to  be remembered this way?

But she was a dem fine woman, sir, a dem fine woman.

That’s grown up me speaking, I suspect. Still, I’m far more fond of Captain Hook than Tinker Bell or Wendy – though I do have soft spot for Tiger Lily. She used bow-and-arrows in my mind – and how marvellous was that?

Of course, I can gender-swap. That gives me Kay Harker and Eustace Scrubb. Yes I know – Eustace is a complete prig – but he gets to be a dragon and learns his lesson. I’ve always loved that. I can identify with the miseries and misfits – Eeyore, Puddleglum, Bard the Bowman [though he gets a bit grand].

Well, time has run out. I have made my choice. If you’re at the Agents Party, you’ll know. If not, I will reveal all tomorrow.

Seven days, seven feelings

Tracking some of this week’s emotions and their causes.


I  cannot grasp the callous disregard  for the girls abducted in Nigeria. What mentality sees educated girls as a threat – sees books as harmful – and why so little effort to rescue them.



Chika Unigwe posted a picture on Twitter of dolls which are glamorous  and not scary. I have often, like so many people, found many dolls disquieting. Not these beauties.

a slection of black and brown skinned dolls



Surprised and pleased by how much my guests enjoyed their breakfast. [One Joanne Harris – pictured -and one Margaret Atwood Special – pancakes with maple syrup and blueberries]

huevos rancheros


Still not quite sure why the baguette on The Angel of the North annoyed me so much. Interesting debate with Philip Reeve about it. For me, it was a symbol that I loved being spoiled by something I loathe.



This was tinged with a little bafflement and pride that we now have proper gay heraldry. I agree with Frances Hardinge in enjoying  ‘new law being woven properly into the nation’s archaic fabric’ . I love living traditions.


I’ve sent the first rewritten section of Stonespeaker to Nicki Marshall at The Golden Egg Academy. Optimism – and some trepidation- about what she will think of it.


 I got to show-and-tell about yWriter5 – a free piece of writing software I find very useful – to my Chi-SCBWI friends. They loved it. [Do contact me through the comments box if you want a cheat sheet]


I’m supposed to be packing for the SCBWI Retreat as I write. Iam looking forward to seeing my writing pals – including some MA bods. There is still the business of being an old lag and having to say,’ No, no agent yet nor any publishers,’ but once I’ve got over myself, it’ll be grand.

Must dash – may add more images later.


Read all about it

I spent much of today in the rather delightful Book Nook in Hove. (I can recommend the rhubarb and ginger cake). It was good to hear a proper bookseller helping both adults and children find the right books for them with tact and knowledge.

I have to say how amused and impressed I was when a rather ambitious yummy mummy was steered ever so gently towards the concept of reading for pleasure – as opposed to reading to achieve. A triumph of manoeuvring.

The babble of babies and small children was a surprisingly pleasing background to editing tasks – perhaps reminding me of why I bother. I completed a major task – and then rewarded myself with a good browse.

What a pleasure it was to see the work of people I know at least by sight (in no particular order):

  • Dave Cousins
  • Lucy Christopher
  • Malorie Blackman
  • Meg Rossoff
  • Patrick Ness
  • Teri Terry
  • Jon Mayhew
  • Chris Riddell

The astute reader will have noticed how many of these are SCBWI folk. And there were more, I am certain. It gave me an interesting feeling of companionship to see them – and maybe a sense of pride. Pride that fellow children’s writers and illustrators made such lovely things.

I also felt a sense of achievement in knowing my genres, ages and stages much better these days. This is much to do with my reading for the lovely Vivienne da Costa at Serendipity Reviews. There is nothing like reading to give you a sense of the world of children’s literature – it’s just so broad and fascinating.

In the main , it’s good to see your friends and colleagues succeed – the world of writing for young readers is big enough for all of us. I would be a liar if I didn’t admit to the odd stab of pain when someone I know gets published – when I’ve just had another rejection. BUT it is only transient.

And if it’s a brilliant book, well, all the more for me to enjoy. That goes for authors and genres I didn’t know before, too.

Something to sing about.

Yet the very best thing is realising that I do have a distinctive voice emerging. I haven’t read anything quite like my work yet. Of course it might be that it’s uniquely weird – but that’s not necessarily a problem. Uniquely bad would be – but seriously, I know it isn’t that awful.

So I feel rather buoyed up by that – though a few quid lighter!

Who would have thought I’d buy books?

How about you – what does a bookshop browse do for you?


Dead lines

On Wednesday 14th August 2013, I submitted my just-short-of-4k opening, synopsis and bio for SCBWI -BI’S Undiscovered Voices 2014 competition. When I pressed that button labelled SUBMIT – the other meaning seemed all too relevant. I felt trembly and humble – like sneaking my homework onto the Headteacher’s marking pile and running away.

It was that line about it cannot be changed. All that irrevocability.

I felt the poor thing was dead, embalmed, or pinned down like a Death’s Head moth in a Cabinet of Curiosities.

One comfort was the remaining 67k or so.{ If any agents or editors are reading, yes, it is finished!} Those words have possibilities for playing with, some life left in them. I feel there are still aspects I can nurture, prune, train up a trellis.

To an extant, a story is never finished. It’s always tinkerable. But when to let go? I had no choice with that first sample.

Is writing a story like gardening – never done?

Or is it more like painting? You get to a point where you send it out and let the viewer, or the reader, decide.

Now there’s a happy thought. I believe that the reader brings life to a writer’s words. Another person interacts with your scribbling, imagines, creates a world out of your work in their heads. How ASTONISHING is that? It emerges like a living thing in a new form.

So now I think I may be waiting till December to see if my work has pupated successfully!