Wednesday, 29 May 2019

The Bride’s Farewell by Meg Rosoff

Pell Ridley does not want to marry the “boy next door”, the boy she has known all of her life and who could offer her security. So, on the day that should have been her wedding day she sneaks out of the house and runs away.  She takes her grey horse Jack with her and her mute adopted brother, Bean, decides to join her.    

Life from the outset is hard. Her father is a preacher and a drunkard. He built their house but not very well; it is crooked. Her mother is weary from years of child-bearing and hard work. Pell also works hard and knows her way around horses.     

It all becomes harder as she looks for work and mainly fails to get it. She has much bad luck and becomes almost tragic: the negative comes as a result of her own actions, such as when Bean, Jack and her money go missing.  When she does finally find a dream of a job she has give it up because she must find missing Bean.    

There is resolution of sorts when what is left of her family is reconciled and Bean is homed well elsewhere. Her choice of future living arrangements may surprise us. 

There is no explicit sex, nor romance, but we are left with the impression that she and the poacher share a bed. That and the fact that the novel portrays a hard life make it suitable for young adults as well as teens. 

It is 185 pages long, with smallish blocked print and an adult font.      

Sunday, 26 May 2019

Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick

It’s actually a little difficult to identify the target reader for this book.  There is no sex and there is no obvious love interest at first, yet the protagonist is a young adult – a journalist, commissioned in the near future, 2073, to write a feature about a mysterious island and its dragon orchids that have surprising properties.
There is much more to the island than Eric at first perceives. As we read we are taken back through history where Eric, Merle and Tor meet over and over again.
There is some romance and in one incarnation, Eric and Merle’s love is forbidden as Eric this time is actually Erica.     
The story may even appeal to adults.
Each story is between thirty and sixty words. The chapters within each section are short. At 263 pages it has a respectable spine. The text is blocked and uses an adult font, though it is double-spaced.      

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Do You Have a Submissions Strategy?

If you don’t submit, you can’t be rejected. But you can’t get published either.

Rejection is nasty – no matter how much you’re used to it and no matter how much success you’ve had elsewhere, including in being published. 

One writer I know talks about “rewrites” rather than “rejections”. This has two advantages: every piece you send out is new and you can feel better about your “rejection”. It makes sense on another level as well. Surely we all improve as writers all the time. As it often takes at least three months for publishers to decide, I frequently get work back and am not so surprised that it has been rejected. I always know I can do better. I’ve also noticed recently that my newest work is getting accepted almost at once whereas older work is taking longer. Should I be excited?   

Another writer once said “You should be like those fishermen at the end of the pier. Have about six lines cast and one of them eventually will get a bite.” Another part of his strategy is to submit to three agents and three publishers then as rejections come in he sends the script out to three more agents or three more publishers. Obviously after a while one would run out of time. However he spends a certain amount of time day on this, keeping everything on a spread sheet, the newest items at the top. He makes a living as writer from a lot of small successes. 

I too keep a spread sheet. I colour the cells red to show that submissions are out with a publisher or agent or submitted for a competition and are not available to send anywhere else. Amber means they are available and green means they’ve been accepted.  Recently I’ve been submitting to up to three competitions then to three agents and then three publishers though I don’t bother with agents for short stories. I’m still doing that for stage scripts but for my fiction I’m now publishing through my own publishing imprints. 

There is also post-publication submission. I’m now proactively submitting my own work and the works of writers I publish for awards. 

Of course you must check that your submission fits the imprint or competition. Do take advantage of the Opportunities page here to look for what would suit your work.  
And do develop your submissions strategy.           

Friday, 10 May 2019

The Children of Willesden Lane by Mona Golabek and Lee Cohen

2017, Teen, Key Stage 3, ages 10-13, lower secondary, Holocaust 

There are so many different ways in which people survived the Holocaust.   This one at first resembles my own book written for a similar audience: a young girl leave on the Kindertransport, she and her companions have to take care of a baby, someone is seasick , someone is determined to keep up with their music and the mentor is called Mrs Cohen.  It too is based on a true story.  
Then it is different. The protagonist, Lisa Jura, opts to remain amongst other Jews though she is treated well by her English employers.   

Lisa does well with her music. She is reconciled with both of her sisters but her parents are never found.   

Many stories about the Holocaust span several years so it can be difficult to identify the target reader. This one is about right; it will be readable to teens in the lower half of secondary school and this is precisely when the Holocaust comes on to the curriculum. The text would be very readable by slightly younger children but perhaps the inclusion of a love interest and the Holocaust may prevent this.

Even though the text covers a long period of time it remains engaging with plenty of dialogue and action. We do get to know Lisa quite well. 

This is published by a long established publisher, W Franklin Watts, so its ragged right formatting and rather large indents at the beginning of each paragraph may surprise us. It is double-spaced but uses an adult font.