Monday, 25 July 2011

Crime Cental, the SAS, Tuscany and Hamish McHaggis!


July has been a busy month, with a trip to Charney Manor  ( my room was the window above the door to the left).  It was a wonderful week spent in the company of about 30  SAS types.

No! Not that SAS  the OTHER ones the
Scattered Authors Society!

(more likely to be armed with pens than guns, although perhaps that is no less dangerous??)

'the pen is mightier than...'  etc.

 We talked about all things writing-related ( you might be surprised at how wide a topic that can be!) having no need to concern ourselves with the worry of boring the others in the company, as might happen at home!  Some interesting discussions took place about the future of the publishing business, the rise of ebooks, Kindle and the like, and what we children's authors can do to keep our careers going, our books in print and, hopefully earn a crust in the process.

There were opportunities to explore less tangible ways to unlock the creative flow and we were also free to hideaway and have peace to write, if that was what was needed.

The food was good, wholesome and plentiful and the sweets far too delicious!

I have been to Charney once before and again I found the experience creatively energising.  The writers in the SAS (Scattered Authors Society), always a welcoming and incredibly imaginative bunch, are also a lot of fun to be around.  With such a range in ages, writing styles and expertise it was a fabulous opportunity to share ideas and to discuss all the ups and downs in a writer's life.

The SAS is not about writers getting together to moan about the things that go wrong in the publishing world, although we do a little of that too, it is about getting together and making things happen, such as the ABBA  (Awfully Big Blog Adventure) Lit Fest which started out as an idea that developed into a fabulous showcase of  talent from the SAS. 
It took a lot of enthusiasm and hard work, especially for the small but dedicated litfest team, and it turned into a great success.  Due to it being an ON LINE book festival you never need to feel you have missed out because itis all still there to enjoy here on the ABBA site  at the  ABBA online lit fest

This month I am also the editor for Crime Central blog  it is always fascinating to see the variety of posts.  There is today's post by Susan Price about her fabulous Sterkarm series showing how crime can be protrayed in fantasy.

We had Jo Cotterill talking about crime in a completely different setting, in her Sweet Hearts series  book 3  Forget Me Not revolves around much gentler but no less criminal, crime. 
 There have been interviews with the four editors finding out about  
The Opposite of Amber -Gillian Philip, 
When I was Joe- Keren David, 
Heartburn- Anne Cassidy and  
my own- Dead Boy Talking. 
We have had Adele Geras, Keith Gray and The Bookette telling us about books they have read and enjoyed and also reviewing crime novels for us. A variety of guest bloggers, Malcolm Rose, Rachel Ward, Cathy MacPhail, and a host of others join us regularly.  It is quite amazing how many writers have a criminal slant!


But some of July has been hiding away in 'Tuscany'  my writing hideaway, where I love to sit and hopefully let the images of what I am writing take me away to that 'elsewhere' populated by my characters.

I am enjoying the peace after a very hectic first half of 2011, before it gets busy again.

  But I have to say that I am looking forward to the second half of August when it will be time to hotfoot it into (hopefully sunny) Edinburgh because it will be time once again for my favourite time of year,  the Edinburgh International Book Festival.  

This year I will be there for various events. If you are around come and say hello.

On Thursday 18th August 2011 - 5.30pm 
I will be reading as part of the Amnesty International Imprisoned writers series

On Friday 19th August 2011 - 5.00pm

I will be talking about the research I did for Spider and Dead Boy Talking (Chaired by Philip Ardagh)

On 25th August 2011 - 11am  

I will be running a writing workshop (THIS EVENT IS SOLD OUT)

and finally as part of the 
Edinburgh International Book Festival Schools programme 

I will be speaking to primary school children  about  Hamish McHaggis  on 30th  August 2011

Here is Hamish at a previous festival appearance, with the fabulous staff in the Author's Yurt
(I wonder -did he need an author pass to get in ???)

Friday, 8 July 2011

Kids Lit Quiz - TV News report

Quizmaster Wayne Mills and the winning UK team from Cockermouth
 The Kids Lit Quiz is fabulous fun and the authors who attend the heats are as competitive as the kids (even though our scores don't count)
It is an annual literature competition for children aged 10 to 13. It puts readers onto the stage and lets them compete for fantastic prizes.
The quiz has heats in New Zealand, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Canada and China, winning teams qualify for national and world finals.
The International World Final and 20th Birthday Celebration Quiz  will take place in Hamilton, New Zealand on 19th  July 2011.   Two teams from the UK will compete.

The winning team from Cockermouth School (UK champions) and the team from Bristol Grammar School (English champions.)

See kidslitquiz website  for details.

Wayne Mills the Quizmaster and originator of the Kids Lit Quiz was awarded the Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queen's New Year Honours list 2011.

I just saw this great New Zealand TV news report all about the new national sport READING!

NZ TV news video

This report of the recent New Zealand  KLQ national final, held in the Parliament building in Wellington, shows how much the young competitors enjoy the experience.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Video blog on ABBA online lit fest this weekend ..... and forever!


One of the best things about an on line Literary Festival is that it will be there all the time so you can dip in and out at anytime you like and it will still be there to enjoy.

This weekend 9th and 10th July is the ABBA  awfullybigblogadventure 3rd birthday and in case you have missed all the people talking about it on line there is new look website and there will be a fabulous line up of children's writers - blogging, running competitions and chatting on video, too.

It is one thing to write a blog but it is quite another to agree to appear in a video, quite a scary proposition.. but I do tend to jump in before thinking too hard about things.  I thought it would be an interesting idea so I spoke to my good friend and fellow writer Cathy MacPhail who I know is usually keen to have ago at something a bit different!!!

In the very early stages of my writing career I had the chance to be a student at Totleigh Barton in Devon, one of the Arvon Foundation Writing Centres, where they run creative writing courses for writers at all stages of their writing life - from beginners to more experienced writers.  I found it a fantastic experience so I was delighted when I was asked to tutor a course on Writing for Children at an Arvon Centre, hoping I could make it just as exciting an experience for the students, as I'd had myself in the past.
Cathy with one of our students

Cathy MacPhail and I had spent a week last summer at the Moniack Mhor Arvon writing centre in the north of Scotland.  I blogged about it at the time  in a post called  The Arvon Magic   We decided that we could make a video with us discussing our week and the lovely people we had as students on the course.

Making the video was a bit scary, but once we got started we just began chatting about how we approached the week as tutors, and some of the things that happened.  In the end it all went well, in fact we almost forgot to stop! 

So this weekend our video will be on the ABBA on line  Lit Fest at 5 pm on Sunday 10th July and soon after it will be available on YouTube, too-   Now that is really scary!

The great thing is if you can't make it at the weekend you can come back another time and check out all the weekend's blogs and videos etc.  because they will still be there.

Just remember the competitions will have a closing time or date, so do check that if you want to enter any of them and win some great books and giveaways.

So come along and join in the fun  and check out the  Online Festival Programme.