The Story So Far (blog post)

The Story So Far…

I’ve been writing picture book (PB) stories for 18 months or so now, and am learning more and more every day: about the craft of writing, about the industry, about the importance of building up a network of contacts. One thing I need to work on at the moment is finding the balance between all the different elements that I am immersing myself in, and still having time to write (not to mention spend time with the family). This is written to take stock of what has happened these past few months. There are some words, and then pictures. Pictures are good, right!

I now have about half a dozen stories that I am happy enough to send out to agents (although, of course, find more faults or tweaks with each as soon as I hit “send”…). There are at least another half a dozen that didn’t quite work, for various reasons, so will be forever (?) left in the drawer. This month, I have signed up for Picture Book Ideas Month, aka PiBoIdMo – see the big link to the right of this post – which has already sparked off some ideas that I want to immediately run with, and turn into first drafts before the “next thing” comes along, so hope to be expanding on this foundation over the coming months.

I have shared these with friends and colleagues, partly to get used to the act of sharing stories (what’s the point writing the best, most heart-wrenchingly brilliant PB if it never leaves your hard drive?). Two of these friends, in particular, have been particularly helpful in providing some “critical” feedback – so thank you, Nick and Glen, a pair of Coventry lads in differing degrees of exile!

I have also managed to find my way into an American critique group, by the act of being on the right Facebook page at the right time… a certain amount of creating your own luck goes into this. This has been really helpful, not only in testing my stories with fresh eyes, but also in making me think more critically about stories that others have posted, and applying this process on my own writing through self-reflection. I even wrote a poem about this for my crit group – https://altheauthor.wordpress.com/2014/11/09/critique-group-poem/ . There are some very talented writers, not to mention lovely and supportive people, in this group.

I signed up for SCBWI – http://www.scbwi.org/ – a few weeks back, sadly too late for the annual conference. Next year… I have made contact with a small group who meet in Nottingham to talk all things writing once a month, led by the lovely Liz Miller. I look forward to seeing them again, and being able to talk in depth about all the things about the industry that I find so captivating… but that few other people – family, friends – know anything about. No offence to them, and the support they offer, but it’s nice to be able to talk shop without fear of boring anyone! I haven’t yet been able to make contact with any crit groups through SCBWI, but will keep trying.

So… I’ve been to a PB writers’ conference – https://altheauthor.wordpress.com/2014/09/14/nosy-crow-conference-2014-everything-you-always-wanted-to-know-about-childrens-publishing-but-were-afraid-to-ask/ and https://altheauthor.wordpress.com/2014/09/15/nosy-crow-conference-cntd/ .

I’ve been engaging with the twitterverse – https://altheauthor.wordpress.com/2014/09/28/a-newby-in-the-twitterverse/ – with mixed results so far. One twitter conversation stands out to me, from someone called Wilf who was particularly taken by my poem https://altheauthor.wordpress.com/2014/10/28/a-meeting-with-wilfred-poem/ . So I guess all I need to do is write a poem about every name there is, for maximum impact!

I’ve published about 40 poems on this blog now, and even entered a Halloweensie competition, winning a prize in the “Spookiest Entry” section (surely the most important in a Halloween competition, right??) for this https://altheauthor.wordpress.com/2014/10/29/the-raven-and-the-pumpkin-poem/.

This poem has had far more “hits” than any other on this blog, undoubtedly due to the traffic generated by this competition. Some of my poems have been picked up by various “daily newspapers” of poetry from around the globe, including, bizarrely, one from Hong Kong, which seemed to mostly be in Cantonese. The popularity of some, and the indifferent reaction to others, is often a complete mystery to me. For example, I really thought this Star Wars version of the Lords Prayer would get a few hits – https://altheauthor.wordpress.com/2014/11/07/the-star-wars-prayer/ – which could demonstrate how little I actually understand about all of this! (Or the inherent randomness of web and twitter traffic. Take your pick.)

So, enough naval gazing. I mentioned pictures. So pictures you shall have. I wrote a blog piece on what to share some time back – https://altheauthor.wordpress.com/2014/09/24/what-to-share/ . I can’t share my words with you, yet. What I can now share though are some children’s pictures, based on my words. A colleague from work happens to run a monthly art project at Lowdham Library in Nottinghamshire. I discovered this when I first emailed out my stories to a large group from work. (Again, making my own luck.) He took two of my stories to his group, and took these pictures of the results. The lad who drew the bear slightly misunderstood the task, and is now under the impression that his art will definitely be used when my book is published. I just have to find a publisher for it first, and explain the situation to them!

It is hard to describe the feeling of seeing these pictures based on my words, brought to life and colour by a group of children who I’ve never met. This positive, creative, imaginative effect on children is the “pull” for me. It brought a genuine lump to my throat, and I’m not a particularly sentimental person (although ET still makes me cry every single time… we each have our Achilles heel!)

Incidentally, one of these pictures is from one of the “dads” in the group, rather than the children. Can you guess which one?

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2 thoughts on “The Story So Far (blog post)

  1. Thanks Al – it’s a pleasure & a privilege to read your early drafts and give my humble opinion on what seems to work and what doesn’t. I know what you mean about finding the time to get things written, I’m currently on the scary 4 week countdown to our next show which means 1) get the set & props built & painted, 2) design the programme & get it sent off to the printers, 3) draw up the lighting plan, 4) mark up the tech script, 5) probably do a flyer for our next show. I doubt I’ll get much writing done until the middle of December!

    I totally agree with you about engaging with the kids – when I’ve written lines and scripts for our theatre group and see them performed by talented kids, it’s brilliant. (Although, seeing your lines performed by one of the quiet, wooden kids does make you want to slap them a bit. Harsh, but my words are my babies…)

    Liked by 1 person

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