Thanks, Halibut!

Hey people, are you still there? I wouldn’t be surprised if you are not as I’ve been a little slow with updates of late. I guess that’s because there is nothing to update on the main event, my book! This process is long and I’ve not heard anything back yet.

However I remembered that I said I would be sharing my musings, so here goes. In our children’s book collection we have, in my opinion, the underrated classic Halibut Jackson, by David Lucas. Seriously, this book is beautiful in every way. From the illustrations to the sentiment, we love it and I would highly recommend it. It’s about a little man that is extremely shy and likes to blend into the background, that’s all I will say. Go and borrow, beg or find to read to your children, it’ll put a smile on your face.

Reading this book again reminded me that I was painfully shy as a child and occasionally now as an adult. My mother would shout ‘what are you trying to do? Get back into the womb’ ‘Urrghhh, well yes I am actually, it’s bloody scary out here!!’. I was her shadow and could not bare ‘normal’ social interactions.  Anyway, I felt the urge to write about my experience of shyness and would like to share with you all. I’m no poet but I guess it is a form of poetry as it’s my self expression.

My shyness….

My shyness muddles my thoughts and mutes my self-assurance, it drowns my confidence in a sea of uncertainty. I feel hesitant.

My shyness has a vice like grip around extroverted me.

My shyness silences my voice, but allows the myriad of words to stumble clumsily from my lips. I feel flustered.

My shyness has a vice like grip around extroverted me.

My shyness isolates me from society, making me feel derelict within yet content with the familiarity of me. I feel safe.

My shyness has a vice like grip around extroverted me.

My shyness is the armour around my heart, the heart that yearns to be opened, to love and be loved. I feel detached.

My shyness has a vice like grip around extroverted me, like a veil over my eyes my shyness allows me to see objectively. I feel humbled.

All of my young life I have hated my shyness, it literally paralysed me at times. I could not speak up in what I believed in. I’ve been ‘doing’ adulthood for a while now, and whilst I do not do it perfectly, I have managed to work alongside my shyness (wine sometimes helps!) and I truly believe it keeps me grounded. The word humble has many negative connotations, I do not relate to any of them. I do not feel inferior to anyone but I am not arrogant and appreciate everyone and everything, no matter how small, insignificant, grand, almighty you might think you are. As Shakespeare famously said ‘All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players’ – If you know the quote you know what I’m trying to convey, we all play different parts but the reality is we are all the same.

So I’m humble (with an overlay of shyness).

Love,

Janique

I love deadlines – Not!

Some of you might be waiting on an update as I mentioned in my last blog that my deadline to submit to publishers was fast approaching. For those that don’t know, my deadline was 31st January. Yep, speaking in past tense as I have missed it. Arrrgghhhhhh, just when I thought I had this nailed, I go and fall at the first hurdle.

However not all is lost, I’ve missed it for a good reason (clearly in denial and blatantly still procrastinating) as I felt the manuscript really does need a professional’s eye to go over it. After all I’m an aspiring author with a lot to learn. Just because writing is my love does not mean I’ve got the structure correct or that the content is coherent. So  for the small fee of £35 I will have the awesome Lou Treleaven look at my work.  Lou offers a critique service for a variety of work and the main thing I am looking forward to is receiving objective feedback. Once I have her response I will know where my strengths lay (and weakness) and can further improve before finally submitting to publishers.

The critique service takes roughly two weeks so in that time I will focus on getting back to exercising….the mind i.e reading! I’ve not had much time for reading in the final push to finishing the book so I look forward to getting stuck into pages. Does anyone else want to eat a book after they’ve smelt it? Or am I just really really weird? Any-hoo I’ve nearly finished the Celestine Prophecy (really enjoying it) and the next book on the list is Blink by Malcolm Gladwell but that seems to have very mixed reviews. Then I’d like to get back to good old fashion fiction with Swing Time by one of my all time favourites, Zadie Smith.

Whilst I’m waiting for my manuscript to be returned I’ll be nicely distracted with ‘The Writer’s Retreat Weekend’ course which was kindly offered by fellow instagramer (is this even a word?) and award winning, best-selling author Jacquelyn Eubanks!! This amazing lady has (for free!) given up her valuable time to help aspiring authors, like me to refine their craft. Today is day one and I am so excited to begin. It will help keep me focused on my main goal, getting published.

To be honest, I do feel a little disappointed with myself for not sticking to my deadline but I’m trying to look at this as a learning opportunity. I did not really prepare my submission and like wise Benjamin Franklin said. ‘By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail’. In hindsight I should have been more organised and thought ahead of how I wanted to submit – I was clueless about a covering letter and this is where Lou will hopefully help. By completing little bite sizes of my main goal it should help me get to where I want to be without feeling daunted. Then running and hiding under a rock! So lesson one of my literary journey? Be more organised! This is what I should do but my mind doesn’t work this way all the time, it likes to be free flowing. How do I allow my mind to be creative and a madam matrix of lists and life in general whilst I write? Anyone with tips will be paid in kind.

Love,

Janique

Children’s Book Publishers

My deadline for submitting my manuscript is fast approaching so I thought I better update myself on the big wide world of children’s book publishers. Especially as I have no agent, and without an agent you can’t get published and you can’t get an agent without being published, how ironic! I guess this is why some writers self publish, something I will keep in mind if need be.

The children’s book market is continuously changing which inevitably means the publishers do too. Some of their submission guidelines are comparative to the labyrinth of the Crystal Maze but without the gold tokens, and the harsh reality that you might just get some tumble weeds *please don’t let that be me*. I suspect there will be grammer police locking up all and sundry and binning the dross but I’ve got my rhino skin on and I am prepared as I will ever be.

In hindsight I perhaps should have invested the money in a professional editor. There are some authors out there offering their services and depending on how this first phase of sending my manuscript goes I might take up the opportunity to have a professional critique my work. After all they have been through the process and if they are happy to share their experiences and tips then I’m there, all ears!

For those that are following me and aspiring too, please check out John Fox. This kind soul has taken the time to research and has found 30 children’s publishing houses that are currently accepting unsolicited manuscripts, he’s even included the submission guidelines. What a gem! You can find the list here:

Unsolicited manuscripts – 30 Children’s Book Publishers

Hopefully I don’t commit any literacy crimes and ruin my chances. I’ll keep you all posted.

Love,

Janique

 

 

 

The Book Exchange

Today I visited one of Lewisham’s Micro Libraries, the one just off of Wickham Road. This phone box only stocks children’s books and whilst some of the books are a bit tired, you have to admire the project which was original founded by Sebastian Handley. He selflessly bought a telephone box for £1 from the British Telecom and then spent £500 of his own money renovating it for the community to enjoy. What a legend this man is! This kind gesture has now become a trend and you may spot a book or two in the next phone box you walk passed.

 

In 2015 Sebastian was named  on The Independent Sunday Happy list, he was one of 100 people listed for making Britain a happier place to live in. An extract from The Independent is here:

‘This artist created the capital’s smallest library inside a disused red phone box in Lewisham, south London. He spent £500 of his own money on ceiling lights, carpet and seven shelves. It houses over 200 books, with a whole shelf dedicated to children’s literature, and is looked after by two librarians.’

The project is reliant on people’s honesty and generosity. If you take a book, you are expected to return it or replace it with a book you no longer want. Today I borrowed ‘A colour of his own’ By Leo Leonni. I promise I will return it!!!

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The child in me was originally drawn to the book because of its beautiful illustrations but on closer inspection, I was able to correlate the message of ‘A colour of his own’ to my book. Many of us can draw from childhood experiences of feeling alone and from my experience this stemmed from being different. The main character is a chameleon that constantly changes colour due to his environment or the seasons. For instance, he will find a green leaf and camouflage into the shade of green and feel content. Then autumn will come and he will have to change, this continuous changing makes him feel he has no one, that he does not belong, a nomad. The story eloquently educates children that we are all different and how friendship (togetherness) can eliminate this loneliness. The story is telling us that despite the chameleon continuously changing colour, he himself is the same on the inside.I felt very inspired reading the story, it is simple but the message is powerful and this is what I loved about it.

I’m looking forward to returning to replace ‘A colour of his own’ with something else at The Book Exchange.

Love,

Janique

You think you can write a children’s book?

It’s a common misconception that writing a children’s book is easy, how hard can it really be? Especially a picture book where the story is mainly being told visually! Well the difficulty is that you have to remain clear, concise and swift to the point before interest is lost. That’s pretty damn hard.

Tammy Yee sums it up in a nutshell, extract from her website here:

‘It’s been said that writing for children is more difficult than writing for adults. I suspect this is passed along by children’s authors compensating for the condescension they sometimes face, real or imagined, as the featherweights of literature. Tell someone you write for children and you’re likely to hear, “Have you thought about writing a novel?” After all, how difficult can it be to write a children’s book? We all have childhood experiences from which to draw, and this is where the misconception of children’s writing as child’s play arises.’ Tammy Yee, 2007.

To convey a message with minimal words is one of the toughest challenges I’m currently facing. I could write pages and pages to set the scene, to help create the mood before I get to the punch line, but that is not going to work for a child’s book (unless you are writing for young adults of course). The other difficulty is to captivate the parent, as it will be them buying the book! So children’s authors have to somehow engage two people of complete different age ranges which is a talent in itself. You have to admire the published children’s authors who have achieved this, they are akin to unicorns. They’ve created a children’s book with an equilibrium that both child and adult can enjoy, which brings me back to my blog on the ‘inner child’. We all have a playful side, as an aspiring author I’m working on how to bring this out in the adult reader as without this adult on board, my book is not going anywhere.

The following book was recommended to me and I would like to share:

How to Write a Children’s Picture Book and Get it Published, 2nd Edition By Andrea Shavick – A good, straight to the point and clear read.

Please drop me a line Contact if you have any other recommendations, every little bit of inspiration helps!

If like me, you are aspiring to be published there are plenty of online resources to keep us going. There is the renowned SCBWI: Society of Children’s Book Writings & Illustrators . There is an annual membership cost but I think it is worth it for the support and insight into children’s literature.

If you don’t have the money to pay for the SCBWI I have found the following website, WriteForKids really helpful – and it’s free!

I will eventually start divulging the story of my children’s book, once it’s in the bag and on the road to publication. For now, I’m musing and sharing my experiences of writing and my love of reading. Stay  and observe, hold my hand, like, share and feel inspired.

Love,

Janique

 

Inner child

The inner child, we all have one you know? You don’t believe me? Try and recall your favourite children’s book, film, toy and tell me you didn’t feel happiness. For some of us, the inner child has been hidden in the darkest corner of our being and we forget how to have fun. How to live lightly, how to be free. It’s sad when you think about it. People conforming to what society thinks is acceptable. I’m not even sure when it became unacceptable to not skip to the shops to get the penny sweets. Ah, skipping brought so much joy, I’m sure it produces serotonin and let’s not forget about the cardio benefits. Anyway, I’m digressing.

Since having my children I’ve rediscovered my inner child, and boy she is a keeper. I laugh hard and loud. I dance in the kitchen. I sing at the top of my voice in the car, even at red lights! I’ve learnt how to have fun again. I love getting down on the floor to play lego (and barbie but we don’t talk about barbie as she is not PC), but my absolute favourite is story time. I get so excited to read to my children, whether it is rhyming with clever couplet sentences or a story with a character overcoming something scary.

Reading books to my children helped me realise there is a gap in the market for my character. At first I felt disappointed that this character was not represented in children’s literacy the same way as other children are. However I now see it as a positive for me. I’m elated at the prospect of being the author that makes this character main stream.

I’ve nearly finished the book, I said that 3-4 years ago. In that time I have not pushed myself to edit the manuscript, again the fear (and then the loathing of the fear). I even have a list of publishers that I think would market the story (that’s another blog, knowing your publisher’s style/preference) but yet here I am still saying it’s nearly finished. I set myself a deadline to complete and send to publishers by the end of January 2017. That’s next week! I’m willing the inner child to help me remain playful and keep it light, instead of forever procrastinating and scrutinising everything within an inch of its life. I’m slowly realising that perfection only highlights imperfections and you know what, everyone/thing has a ying to their yang. If I embrace both I’m certain I’ll find a harmonious ending to my book.

Stay tuned.

Love,

Janique

 

 

 

Closet writer

My passion for writing started 17 years ago. GCSE English Language and Literacy, John Agard’s poem entitled ‘half cast’. The teacher read it with an West Indian lilt and that was it, love at first hearing. It may be a rudimental start for some but this is where it began for me.

This new love came as a bit of a shock as I had been diagnosed a dyslexic at the age of 9. I struggled with dyslexia until an amazing lady recognised my battle in the classroom. She gave me the additional support I needed to overcome my learning difficulty and within 6 months I grasped the art of language. She guided me to the path I am on now, and I am forever thankful.

I have never admitted my love of writing publically, for fear of failing, being misunderstood and my general shyness – I’ve been well and truly hiding in the closet, I guess I’ve come out now! To me reading and writing can reveal our emotions in an instant so expressing my deepest thoughts and ideas is a scary prospect. A sagacious author can manipulate words to trigger these emotions and this is my goal. The energy that language provokes is incredible and is completely misrepresented (text/slang) since we use it daily, all day.

Back to why I’ve finally decided to take the leap of faith. Shortly after the birth of my first child, four years ago, I came up with a concept for a children’s book. Something that has not been introduced to the main stream market, as far as I am aware. I have dithered, procrastinated, made excuses for not sending my script to publishers. If you are an aspiring writer reading this you know what I am talking about. ‘The ending is wrong’ or ‘It needs more critqueing’. It ends here, 2017 is my year to type-up!

In reality I am my own worst enemy. It’s the fear of rejection, that is all. Six months ago I gave birth to my second child, and whilst being a mother is my everything, I realised that I was losing my identity and worst – uninspired. The routine of motherhood literally zapped the life out of me. Determined not to sink into a rut I decided I needed to define myself as more than a mother, a wife and a 9 to 5’er. This blog is going to help keep my focus, give me a purpose to reach my goal. By making it public I now feel I have to achieve it, rather than simply talk about it. Watch me document my journey, grow, learn, be inspired, and finally, to achieve. I will also use the blog to share my love of reading and writing in general.

I feel vulnerable sharing my literacy journey, I might get it wrong, I might fall flat on my face but I’m determined to fulfil what I have set out to do! Support me, offer constructive criticism, inspire me, share my story but please do not kick me if I am down because I can not learn from that, but I will from a helping hand.

 

Love,

Janique