Holding Your Nerve!

A great deal of success, beyond the working your ass off, talent and smattering of luck, is also down to you ‘holding your nerve’. Recognising that moment, that opportunity which could go either way, and making sure you swing the pendulum towards the ‘YES WE WANT YOU’ direction and not the ‘THANK YOU, WE’LL PASS’.

Holding your nerve is a deep breath as you plunge through the ice and hope you don’t drown kind of a moment. It catches your breath and if you play it wrong, you’ll be self-flagellating yourself for years to come, bemoaning that one last chance, that one opportunity you had but messed up.

So, that’s the precarious limbo I find myself in now, trying to swing that pendulum my way.

Shortly after my last post about possibly getting an agent, or at least having an agent interested in me, I hit an unforeseen road block in the shape of posh celebrity funny woman, Miranda Hart!

Yes, the same Miranda Hart that used to have the TV show on BBC 1 called ‘Miranda’ and who, apart from being posh and famous, is also fabulously rich.

Well, like a slew of other celebrities, Miranda Hart has decided to go into the realms of fiction, specifically children’s fiction, after all to write a children’s book is the easiest thing isn’t it? That’s what Madonna did and David Walliams does? Sigh.

Now, normally this wouldn’t elicit much of a response from me, beyond the usual groan that once again here is a celebrity that had never written a book before they were famous and who, now they are a well known name, decide to capitalise on that fame and invade the bookshelves of our local library and bookshop (often at the expense of full time writers who depend on writing as their sole income and who don’t have the celebrity lifestyle, bling, fame, money etc., and do not have the cache of having an instantly recognisable name).

I don’t mean to sound bitter, but it does piss me off. The publishing world is tough enough for all writers, especially those like me from a small press or many of my indie author friends, so to have even well established authors squeezed off the shelves by sparkly, shiny celebrities, seems grotesquely unfair and means we have zero chance of getting there ourselves. I don’t have a problem with the endless celebrity cookbooks and autobiographies, but I do have a problem with them invading the fiction shelves with an automatic get out of jail free card – ie. an unfair advantage that no one else has. Even well established authors will not garner the massive publicity, the huge marketing budgets, the momentum, the TV interviews and media coverage that these celebs get, just for being celebs! If they always wanted to write, then why did not one of them write a book before they became famous?

Our library, like many around the country, reflects this trend. So while I’m doing my job I’m seeing Judy Finnegan, Richard Madeley, Fern Britton, Dawn French etc., etc., etc. It’s depressing tbh. Perhaps some of them are good writers, but they have used their celebrity status to get huge publishing deals most authors could only dream of, and remember, they hardly need the money!

Well, on this occasion, this latest celeb to go into fiction has made a huge and direct impact on me personally, in all the worst ways.

A few days after my last post I received a very sweet email from the interested agent giving me a head’s up. It was terrible news.

http://www.thebookseller.com/news/miranda-hart-turns-childrens-book-author-499821

The children’s book I wrote back in 2013, when after 16 years of teaching I suddenly lost my job and career through a nasty long term illness which I have for life, and when, at the same time I also left my dreadful ex-publisher and was utterly heartbroken over how they had treated me and ruined my beloved book, it was fair to say that 2013 was an awful pissing year. As such, I not only lost my way that year but I also lost my smile for a long time. It was those events that inspired me to write my children’s book, ‘The Little Girl Who Lost Her Smile’, in the hope of it helping me to find my smile again and start over.

Well, I wrote the book back then and have been slowly and meticulously designing and drawing the 24 illustrations needed for it (for a normal 32 page layout picture book). It was this same book that these agents were interested in.

What happens? Miranda bloody Hart has written a book with an almost identical title and by the sounds of it an almost identical story! So after 4 years of hard work, writing, drawing and polishing this children’s book, in one swoop it’s all gone up in smoke! Thank you Miranda millionaire Hart! To say I’m gutted and annoyed is an understatement! All that work, all those years, for nothing! 😦

I am now left in the precarious position of having to completely rework my story and illustrations for these lovely waiting agents, and yes, the pendulum has severely swung away from my direction towards the ‘Thank you but no’ side. It is up to me to now ‘hold my nerve’ and produce something amazing out of the hat to show them, something that will allay their fears about another very similar book already heading for the shelves. The only advantage I have, is that my book is aimed at a younger audience than Hart’s.

But boy oh boy, talk about bad timing, bad luck and sheer annoyance.

“Fuckity, fuckity, fuck, fuck, FUCK!”

So, here I am, holding my nerve, grasping the nettle and stepping off into the ether and hoping against hope that I’ll be able to still grab onto that fleeting opportunity.

Wish me luck folks and if you do see or know Miranda Hart, give her the middle finger for me please! 😀

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Readathon UK – My seventh interview in the company of giants!

Nobody tells you, when you embark on this journey, how mesmeric it can be.

Exhausting, yes, hard work, always, painful with little or no obvious gain, sometimes, but also truly magical and inspiring and…well…life-changing! 😀

I often find that at profound moments in my life I am quite incapable of forming words, let alone coherent sentences. Emotions take over.  That guttural chord within us that lets us know in unequivocal terms, that we are in the middle of something special, a moment to cherish, to define our lives in a certain time and place.

Isn’t that what life is, after all? A series of connected and interconnected moments, and out of that messy melee, one or two fleeting moments suddenly catch fire and flare like stars against the grey. So in moments like these, I find myself through garbled speech and stuttering syllables, uttering inferences like “awesome” “cool” “wow” “amazing” like I’m an awestruck teenager!

Well, another one of those moments happened only a few weeks ago when I was approached by the lovely Debbie Young (http://youngbyname.wordpress.com/) of Readathon UK. In simple terms, Readathon UK is a national charity and reading scheme that gets children to read for pleasure, sparking a passion that can last a lifetime, whilst helping seriously ill children in hospital. What could be a better or more noble endeavour? – books, reading, inspiring young minds and helping sick children?

I admit, to my shame, that I had never heard of Readathon UK before, a fact I find astounding not only due to the close proximity of Readathon’s UK headquarters (only a mile from the school I have taught in for the last eleven years and close to where I used to live!) but due to the long glittering line of literary giants associated with it!

Roald Dahl, Quentin Blake, Michael Morpurgo, Michael Rosen, Julia Donaldson, Anthony Horowitz etc etc…then…ahem…ME?!!!! How bizarre and wonderful?

Check out my interview on Readathon UK’s wonderful website http://www.readathon.org/blog/2012/11/author-teacher-joins-forces-with-readathon/

“When we discovered via our local high street bookseller,The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop, that a teacher at one of the schools closest to our office had just published her first book, we had to meet her!

And so it was that Sophie E Tallis, author of fantasy novel White Mountain, came to visit us during the half term break, fitting us in between a whirlwind tour of local bookshops, where she is in demand for book-signing events.

Sophie is delighted to be associated with Readathon, being an avid reader who has just installed the twelfth bookcase in her home!”

*****

“It’s great if you can read but the question is: do you read? If you do the world is yours. This is what Readathon is all about.” Michael Rosen, Children’s Laureate 2007-2009

Authors, poets and illustrators love Readathon because it encourages children to enjoy reading for pleasure which brings them many joys and advantages that last a lifetime.

Readathon’s first ever Honorary Chairman was the legendary Roald Dahl, which is one the reasons we now raise money for the charity founded in his memory: Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity.

After the sad death of Roald Dahl in 1990, this role was taken up by his long-time collaborator Quentin Blake, who the following year was named Children’s Laureate.

The current Children’s Laureate Julia Donaldson is also an ardent supporter. She says “Inspiring children to read is one of the greatest gifts you can give them. I’d recommend Readathon to any school or group.”

“Apart from developing the creative powers of the imagination, reading as a teenager helps you to come to a sense of who you are, to define your own identity.” Sir Andrew Motion, Poet Laureate 1999-2009 & Chair of Selection Panel for Children’s Laureate 2009-11

“Books open up the windows of the mind while habitual television can brick them up. The more books children read the better. Reading is like jogging for the brain. Get your feet up, kids, and get reading! Good luck to Readathon.” Spike Milligan

“I didn’t discover the joys of reading until late in life because I am dyslexic. I feel I missed so much because of this, so I’m naturally whole-heartedly behind Readathon. It is a wonderful way of encouraging children to read.” Susan Hampshire

“I wish somebody had sponsored me for the hours I spent reading when I as a lad… It is such a good idea to sponsor children reading… The point about Readathon is that it is both an enjoyable and beneficial sponsorship for those taking part – no hardship, no sore feet, no wet clothes, just lots of lovely books, knowledge gained painlessly and unconsciously and enjoyment all the way.” Frank Delaney

“At the heart of every child, new-born, is a unique genius and personality. What we should be doing is to allow the spark of that genius to catch fire, burn brightly and shine.” Michael Morpurgo, children’s author, Children’s Laureate 2003-5

Readathon proudly supports both CLIC Sargent and Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity.

CLIC Sargent: Every day 10 children and young people in the UK are told they have cancer.  CLIC Sargent is the UK’s leading cancer charity for children and young people, providing care and support for them and their families from diagnosis, during treatment and beyond. We think they’re amazing. You can find out more here.

Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity: This charity was set up by Roald Dahl’s widow in 1990. It specialises in helping children with serious neurological or blood conditions, providing children’s nurses, equipment, carers and toys, working with hospitals and care organisations or directly with patients. This charity is as marvellous as the children it helps. You can find out more here.

Please do check out Readathon Uk’s website and perhaps even get involved yourself! :  http://www.readathon.org/

A HUGE thank you to Debbie Young and Readathon UK for showing such interest in a local author and inviting me to part of the magic! 😀 xxx

UPDATE!!!

A wonderful post about the interview on Debbie Young’s other website: http://offtheshelfbookpromotions.wordpress.com/

Michael Morpurgo & Me!

Strange things have been happening…very strange things. It seems that I am stalking Michael Morpurgo!

9260_433372556719113_86475080_nSince my debut novel was published or should I say born into the world on 30th September, I’ve been lost in a wondrous maelstrom of writing, promotion, marketing, newspaper articles and my first book signings.

To date, I have just had my third author signing event, this time at the huge Waterstones branch in Cardiff. Even though each signing is akin to standing in the sports hall of your school during your final year prom, waiting for someone to pick you to dance, i.e. exhilarating and embarrassing in equal measure – talking to people has been wonderful.

I’d like to thank an especially lovely couple yesterday who bought a copy of White Mountain and were so enthusiastic and full of energy about my book and our shared love of writing, illustrations and fantasy, that I could have chatted to them all day!

But yes, life recently has been a complete whirlwind and something of a surreal dream. Surreal is a good word to describe it, though perhaps unreal is nearer the mark.

We all live, for the most part, little innocuous lives. I certainly have for the last 3o something years. Just a quiet bumbling sort of life, lurching from one mishap into another. Fumbling my way through life while I studiously and anonymously scribble away at my stories, dreaming one day that they will proudly sit upon the bookshelves of my lovely local independent bookshop, Waterstones or WHSmith’s, hopefully next to another great literary work.

We all dream, right?

Well, I know I’m never going to be the astronaut I wanted to be (…er…or space pirate!) and dreams of being a mermaid have slipped away as I’ve grown older (notice I don’t say wiser). But being a writer was always a dream I believed would happen…and eventually it has. All good things come to those that wait, eh?

Anyway, during a rare moment of lucidity, I took a camera with me and popped into some of the local bookshops which are so kindly stocking and supporting my book. What did I find? Well, apart from the indescribable feeling of ACTUALLY seeing your own book on a bookshelf, a feeling I still can’t fully express, one worrying aspect arose…

White Mountain – Book 1 of The Darkling Chronicles, may be an epic fantasy for the 21st century full of adventure, dark magic, love, loss, friendship and betrayal, but it would also appear that my beloved novel is somewhat of a stalker!

Yes, a STALKER!!!!!

Everywhere I look, White Mountain is determinedly following and sidling up to the wonderful Michael Morpurgo! Yes, my novel is stalking Michael Morpurgo – the illustrious and critically acclaimed writer I have admired for many years who, after the film of his novel ‘War Horse’, is also in great demand!

There, in every shop I visited, sat my novel sitting proudly next to one of his. I can’t tell you the thrill of that!

So…I would like to take the opportunity of not only thanking Octavia’s Bookshop in Cirencester (www.octaviasbookshop.co.uk), The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop in Nailsworth, The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop in Tetbury (www.yellow-lightedbookshop.co.uk) and Stroud Children’s Bookshop…but I would like to thank a total stranger who is also a bit of a hero for me, the multi-talented, Michael Morpurgo!

Thank you, Michael. Even though you don’t know me from Adam, Eve, or a dude called Bob, my novel and I want to thank you from the bottom of our dragon fuelled hearts!

*deep sigh*

Life can be hard as iron, but sometimes, just sometimes…it can be utterly lovely! 😀 xx