Thursday, January 31, 2013

Living in fear of little fingers.

I have decided that I need a fire guard around my desk. Maybe with an electrified fence and some barbed wire sprinkled along the top for good measure. This is because I have the irrational but persistent fear that someone with little, child-like fingers is going to destroy my work. (ie) A Child.

I know this is irrational since my children are fairly computer illiterate and to completely delete something they would have to do several commands in succession which is beyond any of their capabilities. Hey, I'm not saying they aren't smart but computer geniuses they are not. But every time one of them goes near the computer and/or keyboard I have a miniature heart attack. And maybe I start screaming and flailing my arms around like a crazed cat lady.

I think what I should do is deem the area on and around the desk as my territory and charge anyone who crosses the electrified fire guard, barb-wired barrier with trespassing. Including my husband.

Open Submissions to Penguin Publishing Australia Young Adult Division

The Books for Children and Young Adults department is changing the way we accept unsolicited manuscripts. 

Here at Penguin BCYA HQ, we’re as determined as ever to publish fresh new voices and original stories. So starting in January, we’re introducing a new way to accept your submissions. To help focus your writing and our searching, we’ll only be accepting certain types of books at certain times. Confusing? Not at all!

Plan ahead using our handy guide below, and you can have your manuscript ready and polished at the very moment we’re focusing on your particular genre or age group.
January is a free-for-all, so anything goes, but in February

It’s getting hot outside, and at Books for Children and Young Adults we’re steaming up because it’s Romance time! From 14th February until 5pm on 30th April, we invite you to Make. Us. Swoon. As long as there’s something romantic about your manuscript, we want to read it. But keep in mind – our books are for people who aren’t yet Adults (ie 18 and under, if you get our drift…)
First kiss, worst kiss, unrequited longing or total pash-a-thon – we don’t mind, as long as your story pulses with a beating heart of love. From sneaky crushes to awkward  blushes, intra-robot metal mashing to sparks-are-flying- braces-smashing – any genre, any age group, we’re up for it.
If youre looking for some inspiration, check out our Top 5 Literary Couple Crushes…
  • Ramona and Howie from the Ramona books: Sure, they were eight, but everyone knows boys and girls can never just be friends… or can they?
  • Elspeth and Rushton from the Obernewtyn series: All that mind-probing…
  • Nick and Nora from Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist: We dare you to get to the end of that night in NYC and not hope those little hipsters end up 2gether 4eva.
  • Leslie and Jesse from Bridge to Terabithia: Not a kiss between them, but as romantic and heartbreaking as they come. Cue weeping.
  • Mr Darcy and Elizabeth: Okay, it’s a cliché, but there’s a reason why chat about these two never dies off for long, and only 50% of it is to do with Colin Firth diving into That Lake in That Shirt.
For all the technical bits on how to submit, see our guidelines in January. 
January Free-For-All
From the 1st to the 31st – that’s one month only! – we’re accepting any/every length/genre of manuscript written for young people (that’s babies up to young adults). Start our year with the inevitable bang that will occur when our eyes hit your words.
February 14th – end of April
Romance for Young Adults (YA)

Will you be our Creative Valentine? From Feb 14th to the end of April, we’ll only be reading your Teen Romance submissions, and we’d be much obliged if you’d make us swoon.
Not accepting submissions.
June 1st – July 31st
Middle Readers (that’s 9 – 12 year olds)

Excitement, confusion, adventure, delusion, friendships, hardships, spaceships, sailing ships – the middle readers category is one of the most diverse and beautiful fields you can plant a story in. We can’t wait to reap what you’re sowing. Harvest season is Winter – June 1st to July 31st.
Picture Books

For the month of August only, we’ll be going on a book hunt for picture-book texts that stick in our minds and lodge in our hearts. Hopefully we’re going to catch a big one. Will it be yours?
Not accepting submissions.
October Free-For-All
Yes, that time again. No holes barred before Christmas!
Books are closed while we all take a break and prepare to be surprised and delighted by the new year’s submissions. 
And watch out for YA Week! We’re going to spring it on you like a pop quiz or a freshly inked tattoo revealed at a family reunion. Keep checking the website and be prepared...
So start counting down – we have! Happy writing,

Monday, January 28, 2013

Dora, I owe you

Dearest Dora the Explorer,

I owe you gratitude. Although your head is shaped like a football, you have horrible fashion sense (purple and orange??) and you're friends are wankers, I mean if someone's stealing from you everyday maybe you should stop helping them out of the witch's tower, I still want to thank you.

When I'm stuck in a writing warp where I definitely don't want to be disturbed you are always there with your map and your backpack. Your show is so background noise inoffensive that I can happily type away while my toddler watches you and I can pat myself on the back and tell myself that she's learning spanish. Ha!


Distracted Mother

Damn it, my son just started reading over my shoulder and asked why Benny the Bull is a wanker and what wanker means.

List of US Agents that accept YA Queries

Here is a list of agents based in the United States that accept young adult queries.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Giving In

I stripped off quickly, not even wanting to look at the bruise I knew was blossoming over the dark brown skin of my stomach. I was like an ill adorned Signing Day tree. Blue and purple blobs decorated my skin in a grotesque pattern; hashes ran across my back linking like plastic tinsel. I sighed. Was the principal right? Was I bound for a life of mopping toilets or emptying garbage cans? Had I given up? It seemed to me to give up you first had to give in to something. I had no ambitions, no idea what I wanted out of my life, only that I uncontrollably tumbled from one bad event to another.

I pulled on my nightdress and climbed into my rickety old bed, pulling the thin yellow covers up to my chin. Maybe things could be different. I could try harder at school. I could stop getting into trouble. It wasn’t too late for me. I laughed humourlessly as I realised what a ridiculous thought that was. And I gave in to it. To the fact that I was a trouble maker and tomorrow I would most likely do it all over again, in another way, in another place but it would always be the same. Nothing changes.

I haven't given in to the idea of being a writer. It seems too unreal, and so very unlikely. I'm sure most writers feel the same and have other careers, other commitments pulling at them. It's hard not to get discouraged by the millions of writers out there compared to published authors. That's why I have to take the small achievements and hang onto them. Like seriously cling to them like a life raft because otherwise I would sink. 

Writing is so much fun, I love the process, the lost sideways and upside down in another world part but I'm not going to pretend that that's enough. I want to be published. 

Friday, January 25, 2013

List of UK agents accepting YA queries

Just fixed this up. The links are working now.

This is for writers who are currently swirling around in the query whirlpool. It's a list of links to UK agents that accept YA queries from non-uk writers. I liked the look of some these particularly since some of them seem less focused on query letters and more on a synopsis and sample chapters. Good luck!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Uncomfortable Questions.

Since I spend an inordinate amount of time sitting in front of the computer, at some point I had to explain to my kids what I was doing. The conversation went a bit like this.

"What are you doing?"
"Editing my book."
"Can I read it?"
"Why are you writing a book?"
"Well...I'm hoping I can get it published."
(enter long explanation as to what being published actually means.)
"So you'll be famous."
"You'll get money?"

I love how kids can shoot straight to the heart of things in five questions or less. It left me laughing whilst swallowing massive anxiety. This could go nowhere.

But then my son started doing handstands on the couch whilst imitating a dinosaur call (seriously the most annoying, ear splitting noise in the world) and my daughter came to me crying because she had her undies on sideways (don't ask me how, I'm as baffled as you are) and couldn't extricate herself. So I quite promptly forgot what I was thinking. What was I talking about??

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The query whirlpool.

This is the query that got me a full manuscript request from Writer's House New York and another small publishing house. Don't ask me what it was about it that grabbed their attention. I have no f'ing idea! The whole query thing is an absolute nightmare and I think I've written about 20, none of which I've been happy with. I always find myself sucked into the query whirlpool. I go round and round in circles, writing the same thing over and over again until I lose my grip and get sucked down the plug hole. It always leaves me feeling like crap.

If she had known this was the day, would she have done anything different? Could she have stopped the horrible events that unfolded before her eyes?


Probably not.

Rosa is a 16-year-old smart mouth with a dangerous attitude. She makes impulsive and often poor choices. Not a good way to be when you live in the harshly controlled, concrete compounds of the Woodlands. It is her weakness and her greatest strength. It’s why Joseph fell in love with her, but it’s also why she gets kicked out of the Classes in a spectacularly violent and final way.

Rosa can’t help herself. She doesn’t really want to.

When she wakes up in an underground facility, pregnant and captive the first thing she thinks is: She’s glad she vomited on the creepy, smiling doctor’s clean pants. The second thing she thinks is: Escape.

THE WOODLANDS is my completed dystopian adventure novel of 82,500 words. Set in the Woodlands, the human settlement built in Russia by the chosen survivors of World War V.  Violent, heartbreaking and painfully romantic, the book weaves love with impossible decisions, sacrifice with bravery, and survival against the cost of conviction.

Literate children, ugh!

I'm very proud of my son's reading abilities but it has taught me to have lightening fast reflexes. The Woodlands has pockets of violence, nookie and swearing. It has sentences in it like 'an arc of blood sprayed across the crowds' faces like red rain.' So when my son read it over my shoulder I learned very quickly the fastest command to save and close since the first time my attempt to cover my big imac screen with my arms really didn't work. I don't want to have another conversation about blood spray or loose teeth mixed with blood spilling over lips.

Makes me wonder, though, what will they think about The Woodlands when they are old enough to read it?

The pitfalls of chairs on wheels.

I'm not sure what I thought when I started out writing. The ideal was far from the actual, which I'm sure everyone's heard before but writing a novel with three young children hanging off your arms (literally!) as you type is quite the challenge.

There's no Stephenie Myer moments where you're cuddled up in bed, slapping away at the keys of your laptop while your children sleep. By the time my kids were in bed I was catatonic, sitting on the couch with my arms limply at my sides while my husband asked me what I did today and I flung him the ipad with the next chapter or next 300 words or whatever I had managed to get out that day.

Don't get me wrong. I loved it, every minute of it, the writing part that is. What I didn't love was how selfish I felt for doing it and how delightfully creative my kids became in their attempts to interrupt me.

My first recommendation if you're thinking of writing with kids in the general vicinity is DO NOT get a computer chair on wheels. Get something sturdy, preferably weighing 2 tonnes and possibly nailed to the floor.

Some of my sentences looked like this: She stepped inside the entrance her insides twisting as she gdowfsnmg...=== ugfe.... As my hands were dragged then my body as well across the desk and into the wall by my three year old daughter who wanted milk, NOW!

My elder two would just stand on the wheeled legs and jiggle me back and forth as I tried to finish my thoughts, screaming "Mummy, are you listening to me?" To which I would reply, "No." Tap, tap, tap, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle.

This probably makes me sound like a terrible mother but the truth is I spend 95% of my time ferrying, cooking, cleaning (well, not very much cleaning) and taking care of my family. The other 5% is for me, it's harrying and worrying and all together crazy but great fun.