Monday, 24 February 2014

Champagne 2

Yes, there has been more champagne drinking!
I say more because I can see from my list of posts that I was drinking champagne as recently as September 2012 - to celebrate the fact that I'd finished my book. Now, a mere seventeen months later, my agent has sold it.
So I took husband and boys back to the Montpellier Chapter (nearby hotel) for afternoon tea in the conservatory. This is where we went before and I'm very much hoping it'll become a tradition!

There were finger sandwiches, home-made cakes, milkshakes, chocolate ice-cream and, of course, champagne. The eleven-year-old tried a sip and pulled some very amusing faces. Which prompted his seven-year-old brother to hide under the table rather than poison himself in celebration of his mother's book deal. Humph - don't think I won't remember this, Seven-year-old!

I've also started a new online writing course, which I'm really enjoying, because I can contribute as much or as little as I like and there are lots of ideas and tips from a published writer.

There was this strange period of time at the beginning of the year when my agent emailed me to say that both the book that I'd finished - along with a 25,000 word chunk of the one I'm currently writing - were being circulated in-house at Chicken House and could they please have a little more time for everyone there to finish reading. Up until that point I'd been unable to believe that I'd get an actual publishing deal. In fact, I'd refused to believe it with all the steadfastness of a seven-year-old refusing to drink champagne - you know who you are!
But this email really didn't read as if they were on the verge of saying no. I knew it was still a possibility, but - for the first time - there seemed to be the hint of a yes too. And I felt very overwhelmed and panicky.

That was when I read about Keris Stainton's online course 'Writing for Teenagers' and the answer seemed to be obvious. I would sign up immediately and Keris Stainton would teach me to become a YA Writer - and then  I could be calm and confident and above all, knowledgeable about Teenagers (who?)

Keris claims to have snorted out loud when one of the course members described her as a 'published writer', which made me suspect that she might not be the person to help me feel like a bona fide YA author after all. At least - not in the next few weeks. Maybe I ought to have tried Paul McKenna.

Or maybe it'll dawn on me sooner or later that I'll never feel like a 'published writer' - any more than the rest of them do.

Anyway, the course has already made me think a great deal about writing - and YA specifically. And I've been enjoying all the discussions about plotting and dialogue and creating characters and what exactly makes a YA novel successful (spoiler - it's mostly luck!) There's a reading list too.

First we read Keris's book -  Della Says OMG!
Which reminded me so much of my own teenage years that as soon as I finished reading it, I downloaded Desperately Seeking Susan - the first teenage film I went to see with friends at the cinema. It was a fifteen certificate and we were only thirteen - so no one can say we weren't living on the edge.
I enjoyed it all over again. Although I was alone in that. When 'Get into the Groove' started playing, husband had to get up and leave the room. It was a fun weekend!

The next book was John Green's phenomenally successful The Fault in our Stars - which I also enjoyed. On the weekend that I finished reading it, I downloaded The Virgin Suicides which seems to be popular with wistful, slightly morbid teens. So that was a weekend with a less frivolous theme, but still enjoyable and under the guise of Solemn-and-Earnest-Studying-to-be-a-YA-Author.

I'm currently halfway through Tania Byrne's book Heart-Shaped Bruise which features angry, troubled teens - and is begging to be teamed up with Angelina Jolie in Girl Interrupted at the weekend. So far being a YA author has turned out to be as enjoyable as it is terrifying, but I shall continue my investigations. I am nothing if not thorough...

I'm going to end with the inevitable collage because husband bought me a bunch of celebratory alstroemerias...
"Alstros!" I exclaimed. "You remembered that they're our special flower! And that I wore them in my hair when we were married and you had them in your buttonhole!"
And Husband's eyes did some slightly-too-rapid blinking and he said, "Yes! I definitely remembered all those things and did not simply pick up this bunch at random."
*Happy sigh*

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Sad death of the laptop...

Blogger pretty much killed my beloved laptop. It wasn't the same after all the cache-clearing and browser-switching. It went slower...and...slower...and it got hotter and - ow! - hotter. Then I spent (wasted) some time trying to make my photos into collages and it began to freeze up entirely. ('Freeze' being quite the wrong word to use when you consider the strong smell of burning laptop that it had started to give out.)

I was very fond of it. Husband bought it for me shortly after he'd been made redundant a few years ago, as a sort of grand gesture of faith in my writing abilities. So one of the things I was particularly sad about when it began to die was that I hadn't managed to write a publishable book on it. Although that turned out not to be the case a few days later - hurrah!

I'd also frittered away a great deal of writing-time covering it with stickers, beads and sequins. I'd got so many photos and bits of writing stored on it. And I was just comfy with it, you know?

This is its little dead touchpad - which I'd used until it changed colour .  
And these are the letters almost disappearing from the keys.
I'm quite proud of how hard I worked this laptop -
you can see I've written actual books on it, can't you?
These keys are also pretty disgusting, now that I come to really look at them...
Definitely time for a new laptop...
It's been a very weird week. After last week's news, I felt as if I ought to be turning out reams of writing like a - well, a professional writer, I suppose. Instead of which, I've written about one page's worth all week. I had the new laptop open the whole time, but I just sat in front of it grinning...and daydreaming...and checking my phone and my emails for messages from my agent or my publisher. And then checking Facebook in case someone new had said 'well done!' - which would set off the whole grinning and daydreaming cycle again...

I have tulips!
 And here they are - in tribute to the dead laptop - one of the lovely
 collages that slowly tortured it to death...
Anyway, I did hear from my agent, who emailed me some of the basics from the contracts which are now being drawn up. She touched upon world volume rights, film and TV rights, US and translation rights, my advance and a possible bonus if my book reaches the Children's top ten in The Bookseller chart. All of which, freaked me right out. But in a pretty good way.
I also had a celebratory phone-call from Barry and Rachel (and - yes, I am doing the stupidly-wide-grin at my use of first names) at Chicken House. Work is scheduled to begin on my book around Easter and it'll (hopefully) be coming out around late spring/early summer next year.
All these words sound so exciting - and I'm certainly enjoying typing them...but I can't say any of it's really sunk in yet...
My writer friend who was snapped up by Penguin last year, says that takes ages. Probably because nothing's really changed. I'm still sitting here, in the same place as always, typing the same thing. Although I do have a  massively increased desire for someone to ask me what I do for a living. Or perhaps a form to fill in - I'd love that right now.

Which makes me realise I've never had a half-decent job before...not until now.

Valentine's day biscuits! Why yes, they are pictured in collage form.
Can you hear the agonised death-scream of an Acer in the background, or is that just me?

Sunday, 9 February 2014


I got The Call on Friday.
My agent said, 'Can you speak? I have news.'
She told me she'd received an offer from Chicken House and I didn't take in very much after that. She sounded pretty excited - there were words like 'contract' and 'foreign rights' and 'your editor', but I'd already gone a bit spacey on adrenaline and only heard them as a stream of words. Over the top of my agent's voice, I was thinking 'You're a actual writer...this is what you do can tell people and everything...'

I was having lunch with a group of writer friends that day, and one of them arrived to pick me up just as I was finishing the call, so there were people I could tell straight away. Which was nice...but still so weird after all this time. I felt as if I was acting and reading from a script I'd spent years working on. My friend gently reminded me to call my husband. Of course he was always the first person I told whenever I'd imagined this happening, but when the time came my head was so fuzzy it didn't immediately occur to me. And he couldn't take the call, so I texted him, 'Am on way to Amanda's. Have got book deal. Am author.' Then I sat in the passenger seat, re-reading the text message and giggling at how weird it sounded.

After that, I found I couldn't eat any lunch, so I sat there, holding my head on, and listening to one of my friends read a chunk of her new book for our approval, before complaining about how long it took for her German rights money to come through. Another friend showed us eight different (all beautiful) covers her publishers had sent for her to choose from (we all picked a different one). Then it was suggested that I was taken home...because of the way I was holding my head, I think.

I was quite poorly from then on. And I honestly thought it was in reaction to that phone call - and all the accompanying adrenaline. I felt like the biggest wuss alive!

Until the following day, when it became clear I'd picked up a bug of some sort - hurrah! Not only am I not the biggest wuss alive (although still a strong contender probably) it also explained the fuzzy head and lack of appetite.

So I spent the weekend in bed, sort of waiting for something to happen. Although it felt like someone was sticking screwdrivers into my head, I forced myself to sit up so I could update my Twitter profile to include the description 'writer' - which was a long-awaited moment. And several tweeters said nice things - which was great for distracting me from the screwdriver-pain.
But I still felt as if I was waiting for something to happen...although I'm not sure just feels as if something awesome might happen at any moment now. I keep checking my phone and my email for messages - no idea who from - or what I should be doing with myself exactly.

Trouble is, I've gone so deep into waiting mode over the past few years, I can't switch it off - even now that the waiting is finally over and I can relax.