Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Plugging My New Book's it

Apologies but I'm just going to mention my new book - Big Bill's Beltie Bairns illustrated by the extraordinary Shalla Gray. She's extraordinary because not only does she run a busy post office and village shop, organise four children (the youngest is just eight) and write and illustrate books BUT today she told me that 'in her spare time' (that is during the periods she's waiting for me to make decisions on pictures and stuff) she's created another book of her own. And not just a kind of rough sketch on some jotter paper, she's done the story and created the most amazing illustrations for it! But more of that in about four months time.

Anyway, enough about Shalla (the wonder woman) and back to me (the wondering woman). So, Big Bill's Beltie Bairns was inspired by my first children's book, The Belties of Curleywee Farm which was illustrated by the multi talented Pauline James (God aren't these woman annoying, I mean inspirational) who went on to launch her own independent publishing company (Second Sands Publications). Since then I've been working with Shalla so it made sense to link my new book to her very successful title 'Big Bill the Beltie Bull.' Hence, Big Bill's Beltie Bairns. 

We're launching on Sunday at the Whisky, Words and Wisdom Spring Festival in Wigtown, Scotland's National Booktown, with a fun event filled with readings and activities (all available for other festivals too at a very reasonable rate). The book is in an A5 format (ideal for little hands) and is a bargain at just £5. Ask your local independent bookshop to order it or you can go direct to our website or use the usual online book retailers. 

Monday, 5 May 2014

Writer or Performing Monkey!

A few years ago I was reviewing events at the Wigtown Book Festival for the local newspaper and I wrote one article commenting on how much of a writer's life was now taken up with performing at festivals. This was before I wrote my first book and at that point I had no notion I would end up in this position myself. It was painfully obvious that many writers were wonderful at their craft but hated being dragged into the spotlight. They spoke too quietly, were awkward or  trembling wrecks or just delivered lecture, their heads buried in a pile of papers, and who could blame them? They had chosen to be writers not performers and just wanted to be left alone to get on with it. 

The ability to present your work, to talk about it, and if you're a children's writer then keep a crowd of youngsters happy for an hour, is increasingly part of an author's life. I'm involved in the children's committee for a festival and the decree from the director is that anyone selected for an invitation to appear should be able to present an 'experience' not just a reading of their work. This is a tall order and pretty unreasonable. By this criteria many excellent writers would be left on the shelf. 

When I wrote my first children's book I was invited to appear at a book festival. My event attracted a large audience and luckily the illustrator agreed to appear with me. We had never done an event before, let alone before a large crowd of young children, but I thought we did pretty well. We both talked to the kids, I read the story and Pauline explained how she'd done the illustrations. We then played a game and we had some colouring sheets to do. Everyone seemed happy apart from the publisher who claimed we'd lost sales as some children had drifted away. (Friends who were at the event later told me that one child had been taken to the toilet but that was it).

I have since become more experienced at public speaking to adults and reading stories to wee ones and looking back I know that our first event was pretty good for a pair of novices. I've seen some real stinkers from authors who just want to read the book and go home. I don't blame them but there is the expectation now that children should be entertained. One popular author performs a series of spectacular magic tricks at his events (and leaves quite a mess!), another runs around so much he must lose a stone! 

At a recent workshop about becoming a children's writer, Debbie Williams, course leader at the University of Central Lancashire, said that you are far more likely to be taken on by a publisher if you've been a teacher or can show that you know children, and can engage with them. In fact you have to be able to engage with people. 

As I left the building after the talk I passed an author (the event was for writers) who had been at the same (small) event, and I smiled warmly. He looked through me as if he'd never seen me before in his puff! That's not the way to do it, I thought.