YALC: Comic Con for Book Nerds

Question:

What do you get if you put a whole load of young adult authors, agents, publishers, books, freebies, goodies, sweets, microphones and hundreds of people who like to read all in one place?

Answer: 

YALC!

So this Sunday my partner in crime (AKA: Sasha, AKA: Sashimi, AKA: Alexandra, AKA: Alejandra, AKA: Grandma) and I headed to London for the Young Adults Literature Conference (AKA: YALC, an acronym which, by the way, I love and Sasha hates. What’s that saying about everyone being entitled to their own opinion even if it’s wrong…)

After watching the new Power Rangers film the evening before we got up in the middle of the night (AKA 7:00am) to start our journey. Two and a half hours later a very nice man working at the London Comic Con and Film Festival (of which YALC is a subdivision) directed us to the right gate which turned out to be the wrong gate so then another very nice man directed us to the right gate which was, in fact, the right gate so we were only five minutes late. And what fun is a day out if you don’t start off by being late?

After getting the lay of the land (AKA: learning where everything is so I don’t get anxious and have kittens from being in a new place) we snuck in late to the Publishing 101 talk. This was a wonderful chat about how to get published run by some lovely agents, one of which I realised half way through I had sent a submission query to when I was fifteen (queue blushing cheeks from minor hero worship and a recollection of my embarrassing childhood shenanigans. Needless to say I got a gentle rejection letter. Now, I say embarrassing and I do find myself a bit embarrassed when I think about it because in hindsight I can see that the book I sent off was no where near ready to be seen by agents but embarrassment often implies regret but I feel it’s important to point out that the two don’t always come hand in hand. I don’t regret sending my work to some agents when I was fifteen because it was something I felt I needed and wanted to do at the time. Maybe it was naive but that’s okay because you can’t go on to be experienced unless you’ve been naive first. And I actually got some really good advice from a couple of the agencies (but that’s for another time, I’m getting sidetracked and I have probably just broken a cardinal law of grammar by using brackets within a brackets.)

Publishing 101 was great we followed it on with Publishing 102 which looked at the other side of the coin: how to get a job in publishing. For my fellow boat rockers out there you will be pleased to here that a job in publishing is not dependent on a University Degree. In fact, even if it was that needn’t stop you trying. Wouldn’t be rocking the boat very much if we just sat back and did that would we?

The publishing talks were followed by a peanut butter and jelly toastie which, for the sake of your stomach, tastebuds and sanity I advise you never to try. Sasha got the better deal with a ham and cheese toastie (but alas, lactose intolerance) It did, however, provide the sustenance to keep us going for the rest of the day.

We had a mosey round the book stalls (did you know Anthony Horowitz has written a new Alex Rider novel?) before heading over to the stage to watch a panel called ‘Life Advice’ chaired by Chelsey Pippin with Hannah Witton (Author of Doing It, Sara Barnard (Author of A Quiet Kind of Thunder) and Holly Bourne (Author of the Spinster club series). I hadn’t heard of any of these authors before the panel but they were great speakers who had everyone laughing whilst also giving some very sage advice, which, of course, we mustn’t take. My favourite part had to be when they introduced us to The Wormtail Test. This is a way to find out whether a relationship is healthy or not. Take the film The Notebook for example. When Ryan Gosling hangs from a ferris wheel threatening to kill himself unless you date him then it’s romantic, if Wormtail did it… not so much. I went out and bought Hannah Witton’s book Doing It today and I can’t wait to read it.

After the panel talk we attended a writing workshop lead by Katy Cannon (Author of And Then We Ran). She got us writing pitches for a works in progress and gave some really great advice on how to condense a full length novel into one sentence. Then we outlined two book ideas in ten minutes. The first went like this:

A young offender named Timothy is trying to leave the country with his dog Stewarpt (the ‘P’ is silent). They head to Blackpool to see the illuminations before they go. Whilst there, Stewarpt is dognapped by the Prime Minister who takes him back to 10 Downing Street where Stewarpt enters into a fight for his freedom with the Downing Street Cat, Larry. Timothy heads to the Houses of Parliament to rescue his dog, on his arrival the Prime Minster sees how courageous and good-hearted Timothy is for risking arrest to save his dog and excuses him of his crimes. Timothy and Stewarpt are reunited and free to go wherever they like without fear of prosecution. The End.

The workshop was followed by a panel talk with Patrick Ness, yes I said Patrick Ness! But I’ll let Sasha tell you about that one…

Ta ta for now,

Charlie (AKA: boat rocker in the making) x

Book of the Month: April 2017

The astute among you will have no doubt twigged what this post is about. Each month I am going to do a post about the book I enjoyed most from said month. Given that I go through about twenty books a month this isn’t going to be an easy task. In fact I’m going to break the rules from the off set as this April’s ‘Book of the Month’ is a series. I’m sorry, I just couldn’t choose.

Okay, ahem, drum roll please. (Exaggerated pause for dramatic effect to send you guys insane)

And… This month’s ‘Book of the Month’ is…

The Savant Series by Joss Stirling!

The series consists of six books in total which I read in ten days. That may seem like a short amount of time in which to read six books but I must admit I did little else. I have fallen in love with the Savant world. Each book, although they are all linked, is narrated by a different character. At first I wasn’t sure I’d like this as I grow so attached to the characters in my books that I just want to read more about them but Stirling does a wonderful job at linking back to the characters in previous books so you never feel like you’ve let someone behind. What you get, instead, is to meet six fiery and passionate girls. Each with their own personality so striking and imperfect that you can’t help but connect with them.

The stories all follow the same premise of seeking the main characters ‘soulfinder’ (a person who shares the other half of their savant gifts) and yet Stirling somehow makes sure it never feels repetitive. They have the perfect combination of romance and drama; kidnappings scattered with first kisses. One of the things I love about the series is that the relationships are never smooth sailing. Despite the ‘soulfinder’ connection it isn’t always love at first sight and although there are the same ups and downs across all the books the individuality of the characters and their issues break through to stop the stories being too predictable.

To top it all off Stirling’s writing is beautiful but don’t take my word for it, here’s a sentence from the first book in the series ‘Finding Sky’ :

“Mist drifted off the mountain slopes, cutting the sunlit summits off from the dark green base like an eraser rubbing out a picture.”

If you like what you’ve read then click here to find more about the Savant Series.

Enjoy your adventures with Sky, Phoenix, Crystal, Misty, Angel and Summer. (I couldn’t finish the post without sharing the characters’ names, I’m a little bit in awe of Stirling’s naming abilities.)

 

 

A script for Spring

A little while ago, I attended a script-writing workshop up here in St. Andrews, the theme of which was ‘Spring’.  For no other reason than I want to, I’ve decided to post the script I wrote up here for perusal.  It was meant to be about 10 minutes long, we gave it to a group of actors who performed it and gave us feedback (very helpful, dramatic readings are always the best).  Whilst I imagined one of my characters to be a teenage girl, both were played as male and it came off brilliantly.

I’m obsessed with citrus fruit

I was in a Film Studies lecture recently, being told about avant-garde cinema, when we were shown a 7 minute long video of a lemon.  It’s safe to say that I’m never going to get these 7 minutes back (all that happened was the light changed slowly around the lemon, not the kind of film we’re used to but I suppose that was the point).  I did send many snapchats of this film, and received many more, and so by dinner time everyone had heard about the 7 minute lemon video.  Why, you wonder?

It’s the lemons.

I understand that’s not very explanatory.  Most recently I’ve been working on a play called Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons, by a guy called Sam Steiner.  It went up last week and somehow we haven’t been able to escape the clutches of citrus servitude.  Myself and the rest of the crew have been roundly accused of not shutting up about lemons, of both the real and metaphorical variety.  It’s entirely true of course, I now point them out every time we’re in Tesco.  I laughed the other day because my friend got a lemon sorbet.  It’s possibly the oddest in-joke I’ve ever been a party to.

Especially because the play itself has no actual lemons.

It’s about a couple called Oliver and Bernadette, who live in a world which has just passed a ‘Quietude Bill’ that restricts everyone to only being able to say 140 words per day.  I love it as a play, and have a simultaneous hatred and affinity for both of the characters.  It’s quite tricky to pull off, as the scenes jump backwards and forwards from the time before the bill is passed and after.  The title is in reference to a scene where Bernadette wants to get all of her words out in one go, so says a random list that includes five mentions of a certain acidic fruit.

My role in the production was publicity, so my hard drive is now full of pictures of lemons, yellow objects, videos of people juggling lemons, people using lemons as phones, people using lemons as hats, people eating lemons in pubs and videos about lemon-stealing whores (that one’s the intro to a porno – involving lemons?  Was hilarious to a group of people who do nothing but talk about lemons).  I have a dress covered in lemons that I wore to the opening performance.  Soon, I will tear off my outer skin to reveal the lemon underneath.

However many lemons I now have that I now don’t know what to do with; and however many awful lemon puns we came up with; I genuinely enjoyed the experience so I’ve now joined a team that’s taking a production to the Edinburgh Fringe this year.  We had a publicity meeting the other day.  Guess what the ‘symbol’ of the play is going to be?

A banana.

There is no escape from yellow fruit.

Beautiful Words

Hi all, sorry I haven’t posted in a while. I’ve been rather busy as of late but I can’t for the life of me remember what I’ve been busy with…

I finished reading Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency so then I began (and promptly finished) watching the TV show. Oh yes, that might have been what I was busy doing… Well that and reading my new book of course.

I’m branching out at the moment, trying to find some adult fiction that I like and I finally managed to succeed with G.M Barlean’s Thorns of Rosewood. I enjoyed the story (a two-thorned – get it… thorned – mystery), I adored the characters (four kick-ass old ladies and a reporter desperate for answers) and I loved Barlean’s writing.

She made me laugh with Gloria’s (the protagonist) internal narration:

“Dear God, please don’t let him be a serial killer because I think I just fell in love.”

There’s a truth in that which is rather sad when you think about it but it was funny none-the-less. And don’t worry, he’s not a serial killer. Not yet at least… it is a series so who knows?

What else, ah yes, Barlean wrote a line so beautiful I oo’ed and ah’ed as I re-read it a half a dozen times.

Naomi is the book’s antagonist. She’s flat out mean and is the town of Rosewood’s resident villain. At a particularly tense part of the book Barlean describes Naomi with her hands on her hips,

“her long red nails like drops of blood against her silken white robe.”

Excuse me whilst I float off on my little cloud of happiness. I’m a little bit in awe of what Barlean’s done here. This sentence could have been cringe worthy cliché with the classic juxtaposition of red on white, evil and innocence and so forth. Yet somehow, instead of working against Barlean the cliché strengthens the words. The imagery of the ‘long’ nails against the soft ‘silken’ robe holds the threat of such violence that, when the thought of blood is added, becomes over-powering and beautiful. Feel free to come join me on my cloud…

I’m on to book two in the series now so I shall keep you updated on any more hidden gems I find but for now farewell. I’m off to read!

 

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

So Sasha is going to be very proud of me when she discovers that I am reading Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. She’s a big fan of Douglas Adams. This is a new genre for me, I don’t tend to read much fantasy and when I do it’s YA. So I wasn’t sure how far I’d get with Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency but I guess there is a reason for Adams’ success. The jury was still out on the book until I read one of those wonderful lines that made me laugh out loud. For those of you that know the book, it was the quirky professor Reg who stated, whilst at a candle lit collegiate dinner,

“It seems odd, don’t you think, that the quality of the food should vary inversely with the brightness of the lighting. Makes you wonder what culinary heights the kitchen staff could rise to if you confined them to perpetual darkness. Could be worth a try, I think.”

I have to admit that despite the fact he is two hundred years old I am falling a little bit in love with Reg. His absurdity reminds me somewhat of Sasha, a comparison I am sure she will be thrilled by. So it was Adams’ delicious combination of observant humour and exaggeration that drew me into the book. I am now about half way through and it’s really quite satisfying watching the different threads, that seemed utterly disconnected to begin with, weave together. When you’re a writer there’s a fine line between leaving your reader confused but intrigued and leaving them like a bamboozled baboon who doesn’t have the patience to read on. I’m glad to report that as of yet I am still very much a literate human and not a frustrated ape. Congratulations Mr Adams.

How to Dress Evil

For those of you who don’t know I’m currently attending art school. For the next two months I am going to be working on my final project; a satirical cartoon book entitled ‘Everything you Need to Know about Being Evil’. The book is going to tell you, yep you guessed it, everything you need to know about being evil. You lucky devils (or poor souls depending on which way you look at it) get a sneak preview of the chapter ‘How to Dress Evil’

Villains are notorious for being foul, horrific and evil but one cannot deny that they have style. I feel this is understandable; if you are going to destroy the world you’re bound to draw the attention of the infamous paparazzi.

When choosing your evil outfit don’t be afraid to enter into the territory of the madman. No one will fear a ballerina’s tutu but if you cover said tutu in sharp spikes and jagged tears then your victims will sense danger. If you want to go really crazy you can add blood smears to the spikes.

Recommend ways to create blood smears include mixing cornflour with red food colouring and water or, alternatively, killing someone and using their fresh blood.

Below I have outlined four different styles to help you choose your outfit.

The Corset Killer

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The Corset Killer is lethal. She murders with a smirk and a wink. She’s brandished with jewels like a queen. Poison is her weapon of choice but she wields the knife with a passion. She plays with your mind and aims for your heart. Her cuts and deep and her thoughts are dark.

 

 

 

 

The Business Man

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Think Stephan Moffat’s Moriarty. Refined on the outside, bat-shit crazy on the inside. If you go for The Business Man look then don’t be cheap. I’m talking designer suits here. You could even add your own style with personalised cufflinks. Ideas include: beheaded head, pistols, daggers…

 

 

 

 

The Badass Look

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Warning: Only choose this outfit if you are able to tie laces. 

 

 

 

The badass is stealthy. She’s the spy turned assassin, an expert in martial arts. She’s got a smile that makes you grin but a death stare that quite literally kills.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Suave Look
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Do you think you are the greatest person on earth? Do girls and guys fall at your feet? Were you the ‘popular’ kid in school? Are you full of shit? If yes then The Suave Look is for you.

 

 

 

 

Once you’ve chosen your style feel free to embellish. Suggested adornments include polished blades, cats, guns and pocket watches (world domination requires strict time keeping).

P.S apologies for the poor quality photos, Sasha’s living it up in Madrid so you’ll have to put up with my lesser photography skills.