Monthly Archives: February 2012

Tea and Comics

Back from Cardiff Comic Expo with a huge pile of new comics, the remnants of a hangover and a day off work to deal with both.

My recovery started with a nice cup of tea and a reading of a new anthology: Into the Woods. It’s a collection of fairy tales, reworked and retold by a variety of writers and artists, under the stewardship of Stacey Whittle. If you don’t know Stacey, you don’t know comics: she is the queen of the small press, one half of the Small Press Big Mouth podcast and a passionate advocate of all that independent comics can offer.

So it’s interesting to see her switch her reviewing shoes for editing ones. Talking to her at Cardiff Expo about launching Into The Woods, she was excited, relieved and terrified all at the same time. She didn’t need to be terrified: Into The Woods is a well-balanced anthology with a consistently high level of work throughout.

Everyone will pick their favourites: I loved the unspoken hints of nastiness at the end of Rich McAuliffe and Sara Dunkerton‘s Red Riding Hood; the oppressive atmosphere of The Madness From the Sea (by Scott Harrison, Lee Grice and Filiip Roncone); the beautiful, gentle ending of A Time For A Change by Ollie Masters and Valia Kapadai.

If I could only take one of these stories on my desert island though, it would be Black Shoes, as told by Daniel Clifford, David Wynne and Ian Sharman. Set in the early 1970s, it creates a great sense of place and time and quickly conveys the relationships between mother / daughter and schoolgirl / suitor. Our heroine finds herself in a perilous situation of her own making, and her solution is as brutal as it is inevitable. I believe that the best fairy tales carry a warning on their gossamer wings; for me, Black Shoes issues its warning cry loudest of all in this anthology.

You can buy Into The Woods for just £5 at Ayesaw Comics or read more about it at Stacey’s blog. Definitely a worthwhile investment!

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Sensible Saturday – A Conference on How to Get Published

Spent the day at the Writers and Artists “How to Get Published” conference learning, um, how to get published. I’ve boiled it down and boiled it down and finally have something approaching jam. So here are my Ten Commandments of getting published:

1. Thou shalt follow the submission guidelines – just do what they say and no-one will get hurt.

2.Thou shalt follow the submission guidelines – no, really, we don’t want any trouble here.

3.Thou shalt do thy homework – don’t send sci fi to a romance agent / publisher; whether they like it or not, they just won’t know what to do with it (paraphrasing there).

4.Thou shalt woo thy potential agent or publisher with the same care and attention that you wooed (woo’d?) your beloved – oh yes, you have to find out what makes them tick, what they like, what they hate, who else they’ve dated / published, where they live, what their PIN number is… oh no, hang on, some of those aren’t quite right….

5.Thou shalt not apologise for thy work – humility kicks in when you accept your Booker, not when you’re trying to get noticed. However:

6.Thou shalt not puff thyself up unduly – leave your ego in the wardrobe and wear your writing instead.

7.Thou shalt not waffle. Full stop.

8.Thou shalt not have a spelling mistake, a punctuation error or any kind of slip that makest thou seem like an amateruish dingbat.

9.Thou shalt not get impatient or huffy when the agent or publisher takes some time to reply – they’re busy people but they will read you and they will respond, especially if you obey number 10.

10. Thou shalt only submit books that are really, really good. The moral of the whole thing was that if the book is good enough, you can break at least some of Commandments 1-9. If the book is a pile of proverbial, then go back and start again.

Sage advice from Carole Blake (superagent), Richard Charkin (senior bod at Bloomsbury), Cressida Dowling (book adviser, editorial consultant etc) and the marvellous Barbara Trapido (seemingly accidential novelist), plus a panel of even more agents (Patrick Walsh, Madeline Buston and James Gill). A lot of wisdom in one room including some lovely fellow writers to talk to in the breaks.  Particularly lovely to meet Charlie Wilson, aka The Book Specialist, Amanda who co-produces Harold the Platypus and Ann Thomas who has written and recorded the Enchanted Empire stories. Add decent coffee and comfy chairs and it was a pretty decent day out.

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Flashy Friday

So a quiet Friday of writing was interrupted by Writers and Artists Yearbook, with a flash competition on Twitter. The challenge: tweet a story including the word “mime”. My entry:

In a quiet town, a mime gave a mute invisible roses. At their wedding, they kissed to silent applause.

Just got the tweet through to say I won <doing a little dance around the room>. Go me!

(OK. Enough with the self-absorption.)

Suffice to say I’m very pleased and it sets me up well for a whole day with Writers & Artists type folk at their Getting Published Conference tomorrow. It was a late decision to go, but I’m looking forward to a day of agents, published and other writers, plus an excuse to hang around and be curious at the Wellcome Collection.

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Boo-yaa!

A quick follow up on recent competitiveness: looks like both my submissions to Paragraph Planet were accepted. The first one – Undercover – was published on 27 January. If you follow this link, and look in the archive drop-down for that date, you can have a read.

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