Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Festivals and Workshops: Essex Book Festival

Welcome to Elaine Roberts with another in her interesting series about literary festivals and workshops.

This month I have interviewed Rosalind Green from the Essex Book Festival. Welcome to
Sarah Perry
the RNA blog Rosalind.

Can you tell us something about your festival, how it came about and how long its been running?
Essex Book Festival has been up and running for nearly twenty years. It was originally set up and run by Essex Libraries. In recent years, however, it has evolved into a separate entity - an independent charitable organisation that hosts over 60 venues across Essex throughout March each year.
Who are your main speakers this year?
It’s still all under wraps in the Festival HQ but I’ll let you into a few of our secrets!
Essex-Born novelist Sarah Perry, who has just been short-listed for Waterstone’s Book of the Year with her fabulous novel The Essex Serpent, is going to be our Festival Writer-in-Residence.
We also have the ‘doyenne’ of Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour Jenni Murray launching our inaugural Science and Invention Day in Chelmsford. Most appropriate this Chelmsford is the birthplace of radio!
Plus we’re delighted to be welcoming crime-writer extraordinaire Sophie Hannah to take part in our Golden Age of Crime Weekend in Southend.
As our blog is for writers can you tell me how your festival would benefit our members?
We are running multiple creative writing workshops across Essex throughout March.
These extend from a ‘Crime-Writing Master-class’ as part of our Golden Age of Crime Weekend, a ‘Writing-the-Self Workshop’ led by The Guardian/Independent literary & theatre reviewer Lucy Popescu. Through to a ‘Wild Writing Workshop’ with nature writer and poet Chris McCully and a ‘Making A Start Workshop’ led by award-winning debut author Annabel Abbs.
These are just a few of our writing workshops on offer next March. More information will be popping up on our website over the next few months:
Is there anything to enter (maybe a writing competition), if so could details be provided?
We will be launching our second Crime Short Story Competition during our Golden Age Of Crime Weekend. Again, watch out for it on our website.
How about staying over for the whole event. Where can people stay?
Sophie Hannah
The Festival takes place right across Essex throughout March, and so unlike other Book Festivals there is no easy answer in terms of how and where to say. However, we thoroughly recommend that people book into the wonderful Park Inn Palace Hotel, ‘home’ of our Golden Age of Crime Weekend in Southend. The Park Inn Palace Hotel is at the end of the world’s longest pleasure pier so an amazing experience in it’s own right!
What does it cost to attend?
We do our very best to make our events as affordable as possible. The majority of our events cost £7 (£5 for Under 27s), while quite a few of our family events are free.
Do workshops/talks fill up quickly?
Our workshops fill up very quickly and likewise some of our more high profile events. For example, last year’s launch event with Grayson Perry sold out in a flash! We always advise that people book before coming...
How much time does it take to organise the festival?
We work on the Festival all year. That’s not entirely true – we try and take May off to recover from the mayhem of March.
Dates for this 2017 and possibly 2018.
The Festival always runs from 1st- 31st March.

Link to website:

Email for queries:

About Elaine:
Elaine is a member of the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme and is currently working on a family saga. She has sold short stories worldwide and enjoys attending RNA events such as the London chapter and our annual conference. Elaine is a great fan of writing retreats either week long by the sea with friends or one-day retreats with fellow writers in her home town of Dartford. Elaine runs a writing blog along with writer, Francesca Capaldi Burgess called WriteMindWritePlace.

Thank you Elaine. The Essex Book Festival looks to be an event worth visiting.

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Friday, November 25, 2016

Mary Wood: Dreams Do Come True

I’m thrilled to welcome Mary Wood to the blog today. An author I admire greatly who writes fabulous stories.

I was a wannabee author for twenty years before kindle took me to where I am today.
Like most authors, I wrote a lot as a child and had my head constantly buried in a book and dreamed
of being the one who one day would write the books

I was in my forties before I finally penned a full novel. I was nursing my mother and writing gave me a distraction. Of course, it was going to be the next best seller – film, even! I’m sure you know the feeling.

I came down to earth once the rejections plopped onto my welcome mat.
One agent told me that I was a great storyteller, but that I needed to learn the craft of writing as my characters were flat.  What did she mean?
I set out to find out. Unfortunately for me, I engaged a woman who advertised that she would appraise your manuscript, show you where changes were needed. Re-read after you had made them, and then, once up to scratch, she would help you to place your MS as she was a scout for an agent. A lot of money, and many edits later,  she finally declared me ready. Excitement built. This was it. Off my manuscript went. But shock horror, the agent slated my work. I complained, but was then told she suspected this would happen, but as I was so keen, she thought to let me submit was the only way of getting through to me that I wasn’t a writer and never would be.
Disappointed, and not a little angry, I dusted myself off and soldiered on.

It was when I bought a book called, How to Be a Damn Good Writer, by James Frey, that I had a lightbulb moment. Suddenly everything about characterisation, showing-not-telling, writing good dialogue etc. made sense. And all for just £2! By now the age of technology had crept in and I embraced everything it offered. I joined on-line writing sites where other authors critiqued my work, and I theirs. It was from there that I learned of kindle.

The first book I uploaded was the one the agent had rubbished! An Unbreakable Bond. It zoomed to the top of genre and stayed there for fifteen months. More books followed, and with the same success. I was happy. I had achieved most of my dream. But more was to come. Author, Diane Allen messaged me out of the blue. At the time Diane was manager of a large-print publishing company and was interested in my work. However, after a while, Diane rang me and paid me one of the biggest compliments I have ever had. She told me that she wasn’t going to offer for my books as she felt they deserved to be published and wouldn’t stand a chance to be if I’d sold some of the rights. How generous was that? But then Diane did something that was even more wonderful. She asked if she could send my MS to her agent.

Within days, I was so excited to receive a call from the great, Judith Murdoch offering to become my agent. But the shocks didn’t stop there. Not many days later, I found a PM on my Facebook from an editor working with Pan Macmillan. She had seen my books in the charts, become curious and had downloaded Time Passes Time, loved it, and wanted to sign me! From that, with the skill of my agent, and at the grand age of 68, came a seven-book deal! Two new books and my five backlist titles. I have since signed two further two-book deals, and am soon to see my sixth book in three years hit the shelves. I still pinch myself.

The moral is: Never give up, believe in yourself when no one else does. I am proof that dreams do come true. By-the-way, An Unbreakable Bond, (the rubbished one) made me a Sunday Times Bestseller! Ha, I think I had the last laugh.

Much love to all, thank you for reading. x

About Mary:

I am the thirteenth child of fifteen. We were poor, but rich in love. I spent most of my working life in various jobs from cleaning to catering, whilst bringing up my own four children. I ended my 9 – 5 with the Probation Service, after a 10yr stint.
My maternal great grandmother was a published author, and I am proud to follow in her footsteps. I live in Blackpool, but spend half of the year in Spain.

Book Blurb:

Two girls. One horrendous war. The chance to unite a family . . .
Edith and Ada run Jimmy's Hope House where they care for unmarried mothers, and where Edith, a doctor, offers free medical help to the poor of London's East End. Both are struggling to overcome trauma from their past. For Edith there is the constant ache and yearning for her twin girls Elka and Ania, from whom she was separated in 1918. For Ada there is the threat of her sister returning . . . As the Nazis strengthen their grip on Poland, sisters Elka and Ania are forced to make a difficult decision: travel to England to find their birth mother or stay and fight against an increasingly desperate regime?
In times of war, no choices are ever easy to make. But making the right choice could keep you alive . . .


Twitter: @Authormary

Thank you for telling your story, Mary. You are proof that dreams do come true.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Chatting with Publishers: Sam Eades

Our guest in this month’s Chatting with Publishers series is Sam Eades, Editorial Director at Orion’s new imprint, Trapeze. Welcome, Sam.

Can you tell us something about your journey to your present job?
If you want the full journey my first job was at JJB putting coathangers on clothes… After graduating  I did work experience before getting my first publishing job as a publicity assistant at Transworld. I then worked in publicity at Headline and Macmillan before joining Orion in a joint editorial/publicity job. Authors I have worked with as a publicist include Neil Gaiman, Jessie Burton, Eowyn Ivey, Emily St John Mandel, Ann Cleeves, Kate Mosse and Linwood Barclay. A little shoutout to my fellow publicists here. Publicists direct and inform the publishing of a book. We read submissions, help with pitches for new business, share thoughts on the cover/copy/publishing vision. We think about the ideal reader for the book – working out which media and retailers to target, and coming up with a campaign strategy to reach them. We are also the person at a company who has direct contact with an author’s audience. We meet them at events, interact with them on social media.  I’ve found this experience so useful whilst learning the ropes as an editor. On the editorial side, learning how a book goes from typed manuscript to finished product has been eye-opening! I now work in Trapeze, a new imprint of Orion specialising in commercial fiction and non-fiction. We are looking for books to start conversations, and are a rowdy, collegiate bunch.

What is a typical day like as a busy editor – if there is such a thing as a typical day?
It is varied – a typical day could include meeting an agent to talk about potential projects, a film scout or literary scout to flag hot books, an author meeting to talk through edits, or an editorial meeting where we share thoughts on submissions. You might be writing back cover copy, editorial notes, or metadata to feed through to online retailers. You might be negotiating, or running through a contract. On the creative side you might be briefing a cover or brainstorming titles/shoutlines or pulling together a pitch for new business. You might be chatting through pr/marketing/sales plans for a forthcoming publication or presenting a book to colleagues at a sales conference or taking a book to acquisitions. Or you might be at home, flying solo and working on an edit! My day starts with a sprawling to do list and something will come in last minute that takes me off in an unexpected direction.

Have you ever wanted to write a book?

When not surrounded by books in your job what do you like to read for leisure?
Cosy crime, psychological thrillers, police procedurals, YA novels, coming-of-age stories, and narrative non-fiction. I try and read one Non Work book a week, to refresh my palate!

What are you looking for at present?
A great sweeping love story or a book that blends magic/SF with another genre. And I’m learning to be prepared for unexpected books that might not be on my wishlist.

If you receive a submission that is not a genre you handle, do you pass it to another editor in your company?
I do! I can pass things on to several imprints at Orion.

Does your company accept un-agented submissions?
Gollancz occasionally accept un-agented submissions during specific times of the year (check their website for more details). You can also submit directly to W & N’s fantastic Hometown Tales programme: 

Do you have a crystal ball? What do you feel will be then next 'big thing’?
Our Crystal Ball is called the Consumer Insight department, a fantastic team who analyse the market and predict whether a trend might run out of steam or accelerate. I match this kind of information with my gut. I’ve looked at over 350 submissions so far and try and put myself in the mind of a reader. If I’m hungering after a certain type of fiction, might they be too? For example, I acquired a fantastic weepy called WE OWN THE SKY, as not only was it a brilliant book but I also had a feeling that readers (like me) might be ready for another FAULT IN OUR STARS.

If you have one piece of advice to give to anyone submitting a manuscript, what would it be?
Firstly finish the book. Then get an agent, don’t submit directly to a publisher unless they accept unsolicited submissions. Agents are a great thing, they protect your interests and will make sure your manuscript is seen by the relevant people. To find an agent get the Writers and Artists Yearbook and pull together a list of people who represent authors with work similar to yours. Read their submission guidelines and follow them to the letter. Keep your covering letter to a page – have a bit about you, a bit about the plot, a two line pitch and comparison titles. If you don’t know what your book is like, you might fall at the first hurdle. If an agent calls it in, feel free to chivvy other people on submission list. Be professional, honest and play by the rules.
If that doesn’t work… try creative writing courses to hone your manuscript, join writers groups, ask people you trust for feedback on your manuscript. Enter writing competitions/go to events where you can get feedback on your book such as York Festival of Writing or the Curtis Brown Discovery Day.

Or try self-publishing! If you do, you will need to put in a lot of work yourself to get the right cover, to perfect your online copy, and to publicise and market the book yourself. But that work can pay off. And publishers and agents are looking at the Kindle charts for self-published talent.

What a wealth of helpful information, Sam. Thank you so much and good luck with the new imprint.

Natalie Kleinman writes contemporary and historical romantic novels and has thrown a bit of a mystery into the mix in her current wip. She is accumulating a nice collection of Regency works to help with her research. You can follow her blog at

Thank you Natalie! 

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