Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Confessions of a Slut

The fetishist and the slut
I’m not really a slut. No, I’m a happily married middle-aged mum living a life of blameless domesticity (if you’re a teenage boy reader of my books, then discount that, I’m 19 and as sluttish as you care to imagine).
However, in one arena, I have declared myself a total slut. At the SCBWI conference Candy Gourlay, Sarah McIntyre and I presented a session on social media networking for writers. Planning it over coffee beforehand we got a little giggly and decided to label ourselves ‘the experimentalist’ – Candy, because she tries everything – ‘the fetishist’ – Sarah, who has a distinctly weird preference for LiveJournal, and 'the slut'. And I’m proud to be that slut. But I thought perhaps I should explain my sluttish behaviour, and how you can be a happy slut too.
I’m promiscuous. On the internet that is. I blog, I facebook, I tweet. I do it a lot and I do it with a lot of people. I’m a whole lot less fussy about whom I friend and whom I follow and whom I have (social) intercourse with on the internet than I would be otherwise. I do it with strangers. I do it with acquaintances. I do it with distant relatives and old flames.
I’ve got a bit of a reputation. I became a slut in order to get that reputation. Just under two years ago I got a book deal and I realised that it'd help my publishers' sales team if I was a little bit visible. And also that it'd help me too. Sometimes I might say or do silly things, but mostly I think my reputation's a good thing. It's better than being utterly ladylike but completely invisible.
As for the actual (social) intercourse - it’s not serious and it’s not long-term and I don’t worry about it too much. I have to admit that I don’t take a huge amount of time writing blog posts or composing witty tweets. You take me as you find me. Hopefully you find me entertaining enough to want to read more. Even better, you might want to spend money getting to know me better.
I’m too subtle (just about)  to be a total whore. I try very hard not to jump up and down shouting ‘Buy the books! Buy the books!’ I hope I know when enough is enough. I’ll repeat a compliment - a nice review, say, or a nomination – but not so often that it starts to grate. And  I’m a lot nicer on the internet than I am in person. I spend a lot of time shouting about other people’s successes, telling my internet pals how wonderful everyone else is. I’m an internet tart with a heart of gold.
I know quite a few people who find the whole concept of internet slutdom distasteful and just too revealing . I used to feel like that too. But, now I’ve got used to it, I love it. I’ve made lots and lots of new friends - real friends, people I’ve met and like a lot and care about (that goes for some of the new friends I haven’t met yet as well).  I never feel lonely. And I’m prepared to bet I’ve sold a fair number of books too.
There is a drawback with internet sluttiness. It’s time-consuming. It’s addictive. It can get in the way of serious long-term relationships, such as books to be written and children to be attended to. So at times I have to put aside my social media gladrags, and stay home with the boy(book)friend. But now – with Lia’s Guide to the Lottery written and edited, and new projects just getting started – is not that time. Let’s party!

Monday, 15 November 2010

Ten Things I learned at the SCBWI Conference

The British bit of SCBWI celebrated its tenth birthday in Winchester this weekend, and a meme has sprung up -  ten things I learned at SCBWI conference. You can read others here, here and here.
So..here are mine.

1. Those little avatars on Twitter? Those grinning boxes on Facebook? Real live three-dimensional people, I tell you. It is true. Although I was disappointed that @PoodlePowered had no poodles.
That's me...and me....

2. Such are the powers of persuasion of Candy Gourlay and Sarah McIntyre that I allowed myself to be branded an Internet Slut for our debate on Social Marketing – Curse or Blessing. So creative and prolific are they on the internet, that after we’d all introduced ourselves, we were left with three minutes for debating.

3. If you want to get published you should go to SCBWI conference. It is one of the best places for writers to meet and hear from people in the publishing industry. If you are published, or have no interest in being published -  you should still go to SCBWI conference. There's something about being with so many creative people that just feels great.

4. If you tell a room of writers to dress ‘smart casual’ 98 per cent will wear black, blue or purple.

5. If you gather together three or four writers, hand them two newspaper cuttings and give them less than ten minutes discussion time, they can weave them together into perfectly plausible plots...even when they’re looking at the wrong side of the bit of newspaper.

6. If you are lucky enough to be chairing a panel on which the fab publisher David Fickling appears, sit him at the far end of the table so he can gesture enthusiastically without danger of knocking your glasses off. His natual projection means he won’t need a microphone either. He will enliven the entire debate, which covered industry matters such as gender stereotyping, government spending cuts, discounting, digital books and trends.

7. David Blanch, editor of Carousel children’s book review magazine thinks that crime might be the Next Big Thing. Hear that, vampires and angels? Crime. Oh hang on, my next book does feature vampires and angels.  Damn.

8. ‘If you haven’t got a notebook for ideas - you’re not an author.’ Marcus Sedgewick. Hmmm. May have to visit Paperchase. Or the Ideas Shop.

9. Jon Mayhew , author of the fantastically creepy Mortlock, works four days a week, has four children, writes books and works tirelessly to promote his books at schools, shops, folk festivals. I haven’t met her, but my total respect to Mrs M.

10. SCBWI conference is an incredibly uplifting experience, full of the loveliest people.  For me, Marcus Sedgewick's presentation on writing about places was the highlight of the weekend.  You can join SCBWI here. (Don't worry if it looks all American, you'll join and then discover the British bit )

Sunday, 14 November 2010

The Icing on the Cake

You write a book and people publish it, buy it, read it. That's the cake.
You get nominated for some awards * and you think, that's the icing on the cake.
 But you're wrong. Because this is the icing on the cake. Literally.

This magnificent cake -  not so much a cake as a work of art -  was created for the tenth birthday party of  the British Isles chapter of the Society of Children's Books Writers and Illustrators in Winchester this weekend. At the party 17 books published by members in 2010 were celebrated. How did my book get to be immortalised (temporarily) in cake? The lovely organisers of the party picked two books to feature on the cake by pulling names out of a hat (the other is gorgous picture book Vern and Lettuce by Sarah McIntyre).
The party also honoured Margaret Carey, my cousin-in-law, for being a stalwart volunteer who has done so much to make SCWBI the fantastic organisation it is today. Hurray for Margaret!  I'm new to SCWBI, and I'd recommend it to anyone who writes or makes art for children.
So...thank you SCWBI for the beautiful book cake! That was the best surprise in the world. I will blog about the rest of the conference later in the week.
*I don't like to show off, so I'm writing this small. In recent weeks,When I Was Joe has been nominated for the Carnegie Medal in the UK and for the William C Morris Award in the USA. It's also been nominated to be included on the  American Library Association 2011 list of Best Fiction for Young Adults. It's shortlisted for the North East Teen Book Award and  the Coventry Inspiration Awards,   (votes and coments much appreciated) and long-listed for the Redbridge Book Awards, and the UK Literacy Association Book Award.