The Big Friendly Read 2O16

So, so thrilled that SIX has been picked as one of 30 titles for older read for THE BIG FRIENDLY READ 2016!

A fantastic initiative organised by The Reading Agency, The Summer Reading Challenge is the UK's biggest reading for pleasure programme in libraries for primary school aged children, with 800,000 children taking part last year. Founded in 1999, the Challenge now runs in 98% of UK library authorities. Tesco Bank has supported the Tesco Bank Summer Reading Challenge Scotland since 2011 with the additional funding providing opportunities for children to meet authors and illustrators during the summer. 

This year's Big Friendly Read Summer Reading Challenge is linking up with the global year-long Roald Dahl 100 celebrations, honouring the world's No.1 storyteller. The Big Friendly Read will feature some of Roald Dahl's best-loved characters and the amazing artwork of his principal illustrator, Sir Quentin Blake. It will encourage reading on a giant scale and each child's collector folder will feature themes such as invention, mischief and friendship as explored in Roald Dahl's books. The Big Friendly Read will encourage children to expand their own reading by exploring similar themes across the best contemporary children's writing.

Look out for SIX and all the other brilliant titles on the list in your local library.

 

To find out more, visit The Reading Agency website here

Essex Book Awards

Such an honour to have been chosen as one of the six finalists of the Essex Book Awards - and what a fantastic day! So much fun, and so lovely to meet so many readers. Special shoutout to my photographer Lois - who I picked out from the front row and asked to take a few pictures with my camera, then went well above and beyond the call of duty. Such a star! 

And congratulations to the winner Dan Smith - author of the very excellent Boy X.

World Book Day 2016

What a fantastic week of events to celebrate World Book Day 2016! Some highlights so far:

Bethnal Green Academy

Here I am with Will Dady of Alma Books at Bethnal Green Academy after a really great afternoon discussing writing with some very talented teenagers!

 

 

 

LSE Space for Thought Literary Festival 2016

Battling for Team Sci-Fi against the brilliant Philip Womack (Team Historical Fantasy) and Miriam Halahmy (Team Historical Fiction). As much as I love to win, they were too lovely to call it anything but a draw! Great questions from the audience and some really interesting topics covered. Podcast link coming soon.

LSE Literary Festival

Re-Writing the Past vs Imagining the Future

Saturday 27th February 2016, 1-2pm, LSE Sheikh Zayed Theatre, London

I'm very excited to be representing science-fiction for Young Adults at a panel discussion with authors Philip Womack and Miriam Halahmy on Saturday (27th February, 1-2pm), where we'll be discussing writing about the future vs writing about the past. 

Tickets are free and can be booked here.

7 Things I've Learned So Far.

As published on WritersDigest.com (see article here)

7 THINGS I’VE LEARNED SO FAR,BY M.M. VAUGHAN

Categories: 7 Things I've Learned So FarChuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents 

September 22, 2013|Chuck Sambuchino

This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,” where writers (this installment written by M.M. Vaughan, author of THE ABILITY) at any stage of their career can talk about writing advice and instructionas well as how they possibly got their book agent — by sharing seven things they’ve learned along their writing journey that they wish they knew at the beginning.

M.M.Vaughan (Monica Meira Vaughan) is the author of THE ABILITY
(Simon & Schuster, April 2013), a middle-grade novel described by Publishers
Weekly as “a fast-paced, superhero-tinged spy novel” and picked by TIME
for Kids as one of its ’12 Books For Summer’. Her second book, MINDSCAPE,
is on sale now. Learn more on her website or
get in touch with her on Twitter.

1) Don’t send your manuscript out to every agent at once. I learned this by mistake. I made a list of twelve agents that I wanted to send my book to and prepared a submission pack for each one. I then realized that I only had three stamps so I sent three out and decided that I might as well wait and see how they responded before sending the rest. I’m glad I did. All three turned it down and all three mentioned that they didn’t like synopsis. I rewrote the synopsis (which, in fairness, was awful) and sent out the manuscript to the remaining seven agents on my list. Five said yes! Maybe they would have been interested anyway, who knows, but it makes sense to submit in batches to take advantage of any feedback you might get.

2) No news means … absolutely nothing. As the least patient person I know, I have had somewhat of a difficult time dealing with how slowly everything in publishing happens. To help me sleep, I have now devised a formula which (just about) keeps me on the right side of sane: Time for something to happen = Maximum length of time you expect that thing to happen, add one month and multiply by two. And I’m not even kidding.

3) Use your time well. Formula or no formula, waiting for news from agents or publishers is painful. Some do’s and don’ts (which I may, or may not, have compiled from personal experience): DON’T call them, stalk them, refresh your email obsessively or pore over agents’ twitter feeds for some veiled reference to your manuscript. DO use the time to build up an online presence or, even better, start a new book. If you get the deal, you’ll need to write a second one and, if you don’t – well, you’re not going to give up, of course. Oh, and change your ringtone for the caller you want to hear from, so you only injure yourself running to answer your phone when it really matters.

4) Secrets for your readers. Another lucky accident. When writing The Ability, I gave the last name ‘Genever’ to the baddies because it’s an anagram of revenge (a central theme), and the first names Dulcia (from the Latin for ‘sweet’), Ernest (synonym of ‘heartfelt’) and Mortimer (Latin, ‘death’). So their names mean Sweet Revenge, Heartfelt Revenge and Revenge of Death. I also, for no good reason, decided that the string of numbers my protagonist Chris ‘visualizes’ during an unusual test would be 1291292025, which I’m sure you’ve already worked out spells ABILITY if A=1, B=2 etc. I was just entertaining myself really, and explained neither in the story itself.

However, when it came to promoting my book, these two ‘secrets’ turned out to be a great way to give readers at events something extra that they couldn’t have learned without hearing it from me personally. It also ensured a good ‘oooh’ moment at the end of my talks, which is always nice. Not knowing how useful this would turn out to be, I didn’t include any secrets in Mindscape, my second book, and now regret it. I’ve learned my lesson; book three is full of them!

5) Once you get a book deal, you will struggle to find time to write. I have to admit that, though I have learned this, I haven’t yet found a solution that works for me. Before my book deal, I had no idea how much an author has to do; edit, blog, tweet, facebook, answer emails, network, reply to readers who take the time to get in contact and so on. The list is endless. Oh, and then there’s the small matter of writing the next book, which, now you have a deal, also comes with a deadline. (Fun fact that haunts me with every day that passes without blogging: some book distributors have a little graphic that shows how active you are on blogs, twitter and goodreads).

If I’d known all of this before I got my deal, I would have spent some of that painful waiting time building up an online presence (see point 2) so I didn’t end up doing it all from scratch when other work started coming in. I know that not everybody agrees about the necessity of all this extra ‘stuff’ but, personally, I think my best chance of continuing on this surreal and incredible journey will be with the support of others.

I have been surprised (in a really, really good way) at the generosity and kindness of people both online and off and, even if I do often lose count of the irons in the fire, I do believe it’s worth finding the time to maintain those relationships and let people know how grateful you are. Also, it’s worth remembering that nobody can promote your book with more passion than you can – use that to your advantage.

6) You never stop worrying. I worried I’d never get my book finished. Then I finished it and immediately started to worry about whether I’d get an agent. I got an agent and then had sleepless nights over whether I’d get a publishing deal. Got the deal, worried about whether I’d be able to deliver the edit they wanted. I could go on. I don’t think there’s much to be done about this but hopefully it will be some comfort to know you’re not alone and that there’s at least one other sleep-deprived, mildly neurotic writer out there (me) sharing your pain. At some point though, you just have to find a way to turn the anxiety dial down a notch before you self-combust. Which leads neatly onto my final point…

7) Celebrate. So I finished writing my book, got an agent, secured a publishing deal and received my advance. Wow! Literally all my dreams have come true but I’ve always been too busy focusing on the next thing I have to do to stop and celebrate. One day, a friend pointed this out to me and amends were made. Now, when a project is finished or I receive good news, I make sure I take one night off to savor the moment.

At whatever stage of the writing journey you’re on, enjoy your achievements. It could be a party, dinner at a restaurant, a glass of champagne or, perhaps, a night playing online poker while watching back-to-back Mad Men episodes followed by an epic lie-in. Whatever floats your boat. This is now my one rule of writing and, in my opinion: Best. Rule. Ever. As the great philosopher Ferris Bueller once said: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

 

The Nerdicus Top 5 MG of 2013

The fantastic blog, Middle Grade Minded , has picked THE ABILITY as one of its top 5 middle grade books of 2013! I'd be thrilled about this no matter what, of course, but even more so as the two other books on the list that I've read are absolutely brilliant (Seven Wonders by Peter Lerangis ... and Cragbridge Hall: The Inventor's Secret by Chad Morris) . Seeing my book in such good company has definitely made my day! And - added bonus - I now have two new books to add to my reading list!  

The Nerdicus review:

Title : THE ABILITY
Author : M.M. Vaughan

How can a kid's life get much worse? His father is dead, his mother is the epitome of depression, and he was just expelled from his old school. But getting accepted into a British school that focuses on a person's ability to control minds changes everything for young Christopher Lane. The only problem is, someone is using powers against students and faculty at the school. It's up to Chris and his group of five friends to find out who is abusing the telekinetic abilities and threatening to destroy the school.

It may seem like just another kid's brought to a school with special abilities, but it's definitely got enough twists and turns in it to make it a fast paced thrill ride. Chris is also an incredibly likable character who you're rooting for since page one. And I can tell you this much, this book has one of the best twists I've seen in awhile.

The Ability (Die Spione Von Myers Holt) shortlisted for LovelyBooks Best Children's Book of 2013!

I just found out that the German edition of my book, 'Die Spione Von Myers Holt', has been shortlisted for the Lovely Books Best Children's Book of 2013 Award, voted for by readers! AMAZING.

Thank you to those readers who voted for it to get on the shortlist - I am so grateful!

To vote for 'Die Spione Von Myers Holt' please follow the link here. Thank you!

A Letter For My German Readers!

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Liebe Deutsche Fans,

Hallo! Ich wollte mich für Eure wunderbaren Rezensionen und all die Briefe bedanken, die ich seit letzter Woche für die Ersterscheinung von 'Die Spione Von Myers Holt' (mein erstes Buch) von Euch erhalten habe. Ich bin überglücklich und wollte Euch unbedingt mitteilen wie dankbar Ich bin. 

Ich wünschte Ich könnte Euch sagen, dass ich diesen Brief an Euch selbst geschrieben habe, aber leider ist mein Deutsch nicht sehr gut. Daher habe ich eine Freundin von mir gebeten, meinen Brief an Euch zu übersetzen. Alex ist Deutsche, und falls hier irgendwelche Fehler hier entdeckt, dann ist Sie für diese verantwortlich. In der Zwischenzeit werde ich versuchen ein wenig mehr Deutsch zu lernen. Alex hat sich auch netterweise dafür bereitgestellt mir bei weiteren Übersetzungen behilflich zu bleiben und wird Eure Briefe an mich übersetzen. Also, scheut Euch nicht mir zu schreiben! Ich würde liebend gerne von Euch hören.

Und als ein letztes, kleines Dankeschön wollte ich Euch noch auf eine Geheimnis einlassen, das Ihr im Buch nicht erklärt findet:

Der Grund, weshalb ich den Namen Genever ausgesucht habe: im Englischen, ist GENEVER ein Anagramm für REVENGE (RACHE).

Dulcia stammt aus dem Lateinischen und bedeutet Süss. Ihr Name bedeutet deshalb 'Süsse Rache'. Ernest bedeutet herzlich, und sein Name bedeutet daher 'Herzliche Rache'. Und Mortimer ist auch von dem Lateinischen Wort 'mort' abgeleitet und bedeutet tot. Und so bedeutet sein Name 'die Rache des Todes'.

Falls Ihr das Buch schon gelesen habt, dann versteht Ihr schon weshalb ich diese Namen für die jeweiligen Charakter ausgesucht habe und als angemessen hielt. 

Ich werde bald wieder schreiben, aber in der Zwischenzeit: nochmals Danke. I hoffe, dass ich bald nach Deutschland komme, so dass ich Euch das persönlich sagen kann (vielleicht sogar, wenn ich kräftig lerne, dann auch auf Deutsch!)

Liebe Grüsse,

Monica.

Never open a book with weather...

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....and 9 other rules of writing. 

The writer Elmore Leonard, who died this morning at the age of 87, left behind 45 novels (he was working on the 46th) and some very sound advice for writers. I printed out these ten rules and pinned them up next to my desk a few years ago, the idea being that prevention is better than cure. In fact, they're mostly just they're to berate me when I've messed up.

WRITERS ON WRITING; Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle

By ELMORE LEONARD
Published: July 16, 2001, NY Times

These are rules I've picked up along the way to help me remain invisible when I'm writing a book, to help me show rather than tell what's taking place in the story. If you have a facility for language and imagery and the sound of your voice pleases you, invisibility is not what you are after, and you can skip the rules. Still, you might look them over.

1. Never open a book with weather.

If it's only to create atmosphere, and not a character's reaction to the weather, you don't want to go on too long. The reader is apt to leaf ahead looking for people. There are exceptions. If you happen to be Barry Lopez, who has more ways to describe ice and snow than an Eskimo, you can do all the weather reporting you want.

2. Avoid prologues.

They can be annoying, especially a prologue following an introduction that comes after a foreword. But these are ordinarily found in nonfiction. A prologue in a novel is backstory, and you can drop it in anywhere you want.

There is a prologue in John Steinbeck's ''Sweet Thursday,'' but it's O.K. because a character in the book makes the point of what my rules are all about. He says: ''I like a lot of talk in a book and I don't like to have nobody tell me what the guy that's talking looks like. I want to figure out what he looks like from the way he talks. . . . figure out what the guy's thinking from what he says. I like some description but not too much of that. . . . Sometimes I want a book to break loose with a bunch of hooptedoodle. . . . Spin up some pretty words maybe or sing a little song with language. That's nice. But I wish it was set aside so I don't have to read it. I don't want hooptedoodle to get mixed up with the story.''

3. Never use a verb other than ''said'' to carry dialogue.

The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. But said is far less intrusive than grumbled, gasped, cautioned, lied. I once noticed Mary McCarthy ending a line of dialogue with ''she asseverated,'' and had to stop reading to get the dictionary.

4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb ''said'' . . .

. . . he admonished gravely. To use an adverb this way (or almost any way) is a mortal sin. The writer is now exposing himself in earnest, using a word that distracts and can interrupt the rhythm of the exchange. I have a character in one of my books tell how she used to write historical romances ''full of rape and adverbs.''

5. Keep your exclamation points under control.

You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. If you have the knack of playing with exclaimers the way Tom Wolfe does, you can throw them in by the handful.

6. Never use the words ''suddenly'' or ''all hell broke loose.''

This rule doesn't require an explanation. I have noticed that writers who use ''suddenly'' tend to exercise less control in the application of exclamation points.

7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.

Once you start spelling words in dialogue phonetically and loading the page with apostrophes, you won't be able to stop. Notice the way Annie Proulx captures the flavor of Wyoming voices in her book of short stories ''Close Range.''

8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.

Which Steinbeck covered. In Ernest Hemingway's ''Hills Like White Elephants'' what do the ''American and the girl with him'' look like? ''She had taken off her hat and put it on the table.'' That's the only reference to a physical description in the story, and yet we see the couple and know them by their tones of voice, with not one adverb in sight.

9. Don't go into great detail describing places and things.

Unless you're Margaret Atwood and can paint scenes with language or write landscapes in the style of Jim Harrison. But even if you're good at it, you don't want descriptions that bring the action, the flow of the story, to a standstill.

And finally:

10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

A rule that came to mind in 1983. Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them. What the writer is doing, he's writing, perpetrating hooptedoodle, perhaps taking another shot at the weather, or has gone into the character's head, and the reader either knows what the guy's thinking or doesn't care. I'll bet you don't skip dialogue.

My most important rule is one that sums up the 10.

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

Or, if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can't allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative. It's my attempt to remain invisible, not distract the reader from the story with obvious writing. (Joseph Conrad said something about words getting in the way of what you want to say.)

If I write in scenes and always from the point of view of a particular character -- the one whose view best brings the scene to life -- I'm able to concentrate on the voices of the characters telling you who they are and how they feel about what they see and what's going on, and I'm nowhere in sight.

What Steinbeck did in ''Sweet Thursday'' was title his chapters as an indication, though obscure, of what they cover. ''Whom the Gods Love They Drive Nuts'' is one, ''Lousy Wednesday'' another. The third chapter is titled ''Hooptedoodle 1'' and the 38th chapter ''Hooptedoodle 2'' as warnings to the reader, as if Steinbeck is saying: ''Here's where you'll see me taking flights of fancy with my writing, and it won't get in the way of the story. Skip them if you want.''

''Sweet Thursday'' came out in 1954, when I was just beginning to be published, and I've never forgotten that prologue.

Did I read the hooptedoodle chapters? Every word.

 

Child Genius Shrinidhi reviews THE ABILITY!

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Child Genius - Channel 4 (UK)

Congratulations to the very lovely Shrinidhi - winner of Channel 4's Child Genius! Shrinidhi was also one of the first to read The Ability and this is what she had to say about it:

The Ability is superb. I can't think of any other words to describe it. The plot is brilliantly fabricated and best of all, the characters are proper characters; each person has their own vivid personality. I particularly like Rex and Sebastian out of all the Myers Holt kids- especially Sebastian's 'dress to impress' catchphrase! Ron and John stand out too- I think it's hilarious how somebody like John can listen to country music and have a fluffy white dog and Ron's paranoid ninja nature makes me fall about laughing every time I read the book ('..man carrying suspicious package... ahem, just the postman!'). The end of the book is really quite a climax, in Darkwhisper Manor's graveyard - it really makes me want to read on.

 

My First Book Tour

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FIRST BOOK TOUR - MINUS ONE DAY

2 years and 16 days ago, I printed out my first ever fully finished manuscript and placed the whole thing in a neat block on my coffee table. I then sat on the sofa and just stared at it.

2 months and 2 days later, a very nervous me went to meet the first of three agents I had appointments with that week. I was sitting in an armchair in my now-agent’s office when we began to discuss a particular line in my book. It was so specific, such irrefutable proof that someone - an agent! - had read my book, that I did (actually) pinch myself…you know, just to make sure.

2 months and 5 days after that meeting, Simon & Schuster bought the rights to my book. This moment - where my agent called to give me the news while I was on a train pulling out of Charing Cross Station; one of the best. Ever.

And now, here I am. In 40 minutes, I’ll be boarding a flight to Texas - the first stop on a five-week US tour. It’s been an amazing journey to get here. Beautiful and surreal. So much so that part of me always feels like maybe I’m making this up, maybe it’s all too incredible to be true. I’m not and it’s not. Sometimes I get so caught up worrying about whatever is coming next that I forget that, no matter what, everything up to this moment will still have happened. I just wanted to take a moment to really appreciate that.

 

DAY ONE HIGHLIGHTS. SAN ANTONIO & AUSTIN

TODAY I LEARNED...

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* Texas is brilliant. And the people really are that friendly.

* When you’re nervous, you can sometimes, inexplicably, forget to wear any socks.

* If you’re going to pick a pen name, make sure you practice your signature before the day of your first signing.

 

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* Simon & Schuster only hire Very Lovely People 

* The experience of having your first book published is so surreal that you get the urge to hoard everything as evidence that it really happened, e.g. post-it notes with the names to dedicate books to.

* When an automatic car screeches at 5000rpm it probably means it has the option to switch from manual. Press that switch before getting on a highway.

* It doesn’t matter if you forget to put ‘Austin’ on your ipod for your drive to Austin - the radio stations play it about twice an hour.

* Austin SCBWI members have much cooler accents than London SCBWI members.

 

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* Expect the unexpected. You think you need to worry about stumbling over your words when, in fact, you just needed to worry about how to roll a chair in front of an audience without crashing into another author doing the same the other way.

 * If you’re going to do your first book event, do it with people that will make the experience incredibly easy and fun. I’d recommend Katie of Mundie Mums (I’m going with mums because that is now correct) and the incredibly talented A.G Howard (Splintered). And if you read A.G.Howard’s book out loud in an English accent, she might even give you a really lovely little key.

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* There’s nothing better than writing a book for kids and then seeing a kid buy it for the first time.

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And now, something that I already knew; you must always say thank you when somebody does something nice for you:

So, finally, a huge thank you Bookpeople for all the work that must have gone into organising tonight and for making my first bookstore event so special. Oh, and for putting my name up in lights!

SAN ANTONIO, AUSTIN, HOUSTON, DALLAS

So the first week of my first book tour is over and what a week it has been! I flew to Dallas and San Antonio, drove to Austin and Houston and enjoyed every moment of it all - thank you Texas!

THIS WEEK I LEARNED…

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What cascarones are (eggs filled with confetti), how pretty that confetti looks all over the floor, what a good read “The House on Mango Street" is and how exceptionally welcoming the staff at Twig Bookshop are - even when they’re in the middle of packing up to move to a new location! Thank you :)

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There is such a thing as a NINE lane highway. Really, try making your exit across that.

* You think you’ve seen one hot-dog shaped car, you’ve seen them all. Then 20 minutes later, a second one drives past.

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* You’ll know that all the time spent thinking, writing, submitting and editing your book has all been worth it when you see this.

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* That meeting your first fan is something you’ll never forget. Especially when that fan (Ben) turns up to see you on the day of his twelfth birthday. AND not only has he already read it twice but it turns out he knows your book as well as (maybe even better than) you do!

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* That sometimes you’ll wish you could do more to let people (specifically the kids, their parents, family members & teachers who brought them, and the wonderful staff of Blue Willow Books) know how much you appreciated all the time and effort that went into making the above photos possible. But you can’t, so instead you thank them in a blog post and hope they’ll know how much you really mean it….THANK YOU!

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* In some bookshops, graffiti is not only acceptable - it is actually encouraged. So much so that they even give you a large blue marker and hold the ladder for you while you find a piece of blank wall to write your name on.

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* There appears to be an attempt in the US to eliminate all evidence of the number 13 and yet you can’t help but think that the number after 12 is always going to be 13 - even if you try calling it 14.

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* Without exception, Barnes & Noble staff are just lovely - even when they’re not expecting you. Not only do they seem genuinely excited for you (even though they must see authors all the time), they also get you to sign your books and stick ‘autographed copy’ stickers on them. Amazing.

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* You can hear live music everywhere in the South - even at church on a Sunday morning!

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* It is possible to become a stalker unintentionally. In this case - Mo Willems. He visited my local children’s bookshop in London (the wonderful Tales on Moon Lane) the day I left for the US. Then he was at the I.R.A. book fair in San Antonio the day before me and at Blue Willow Books in Houston also the day before I was. Tomorrow I’m going to visit Little Shop of Stories in Atlanta and guess who was there just a few days ago….spooky, right? Still, I love Mo Willems almost as much as my daughter does so this is just fine by me.

(And before Mo files for a restraining order - yes, this is photoshopped…………or is it? credit: Luigi Novi

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*And finally this: That, no matter how brilliantly everything is going, there will still always be a part of you that wishes you were in a tent, in Crystal Palace Park, hiding from the Wicked Witch.

ATLANTA, NASHVILLE & MEMPHIS

HIGHLIGHTS & SOME RANDOM OBSERVATIONS

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The Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, GA. is incredible. In every way - as a teacher, parent and now author - I was blown away. I want to teach here, enrol my daughter, pick the brains of the inspirational staff and spend my days discussing books with the (without exception) lovely and engaging students. Here I am with the man himself, Ron Clark; Oprah’s first ‘Phenomenal Man’, one of Reader’s Digest’s ‘Most Trusted People in America’ and all-round excellent person. Fellow educators: Read his books, visit his school - you will be amazed.

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Arrive at school. Hug or shake hands with your teachers and fellow students. Dance. Sing. Bit of trampolining before lessons begin. This should be compulsory in all schools.  

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Here is a cosy study in the Ron Clark Academy. Roaring fire, mahogany bookshelves…wait…….huh?….WHAT IS THAT?! 

 

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…the entrance to Ron Clark’s classroom (of course).

RCA has 11 secret passages and rooms. The last one is, as yet, undiscovered. If you follow the clues hidden around the school and work out where that last secret room is, you will find something that will change your life forever. I didn’t even make it to clue 1. Humph.

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Presenting your future leaders, thinkers and trailblazers. And me.

They had read my book. They loved it. They could quote from it! I got a bit emotional.

 

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The Ron Clark Academy has excellent facilities. Or, in other words…IT HAS A SLIDE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SCHOOL! I am now slide-certified. Oh yeah.

 

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Little Shop of Stories in Atlanta is the most gorgeous children’s bookshop. And everybody who works there is lovely too! Pity it’s 4,180 miles from my front door or I’d be there every day.

 

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The Tasting Room at Coca Cola World in Atlanta has over 100 drinks from around the world (but only about 3 of them are drinkable). If some giggling kids tell you to try the Beverly drink in the Italian section, DON’T! They’re not being helpful, they just want to see you do this.

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This is Joanne, bookseller extraordinaire at ‘The Booksellers at Laurelwood’ and my new favourite person! Really - she could not have been more welcoming or generous with her time. My only gripe - she kept suggesting books that I couldn’t resist, even though I knew my luggage was already two pounds over the limit (worth it though!). If you live in the Memphis area and you don’t already know this lovely bookstore - GO! (and say hi to Joanne from me!).

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A poster with my book and name on it! Now in a cardboard tube in my luggage - how could I not?!

 

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Nashville, Tennessee - home of country music, many happy memories and my best friend! This Books-A-Million event was particularly special to me for the friends and friends of friends that turned up to support me. It meant the world, thank you :)

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ROLLER DERBY! Brilliant night in which I learned about passing stars, zebras, fishnet burns and power jams. And the names!- Lady Fury, Ann T. Histamine, Lippy Hardsocking and Maulin Monroe to name just a few. I’m still trying to come up with my own rollergirl name - suggestions welcome.

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My two favourite Tennessee girls reading my book. 

 

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And finally…Next week I see my little girl after THREE WEEKS away from her! I am now thinking about what to get her from Nashville. So far I have an empty plastic egg (a gift from the girls above) and a photograph of a waitress with a Wicked Witch tattoo. Perfect.

NEW YORK CITY, SYRACUSE, TROY & CAZENOVIA

And so it is that all good things must eventually come to an end - but what an end! Two weeks spent in the state of New York, having far too much fun to call it work. And here, for the last time on this tour, are the things that I have learned..

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In my (entirely unbiased) opinion, McNally Jackson Books is the best bookstore in New York City. Not only do they enlist the best reviewers (see 9 year old Lucas’s review of THE ABILITY here) but they also hold the best events - such as this Authors vs Editors Family Feud evening.

(pictured is Jordan Brown. Surprisingly, presenting game shows is not his full time job. HarperCollins should beware if Steve Harvey quits Family Feud - they may lose themselves a senior editor)

If you ask 100 people in the publishing industry what the most common emotional issues addressed in middle-grade books are, you will end up with the world’s most depressing list (see left). Well, the ‘romance, crush’ thing is cheerful enough but I’m guessing that’s only because they didn’t have enough space to put ‘unrequited’ at the front.  

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If you sign books after a team event, perhaps best not to sign your team name - especially when that team name is ‘The Talent’. As in Best Wishes, M.M.Vaughan (The Talent). It might not read as you intended it to! 

(presenting ‘The Talent’, from left to right: Lisa Graff (Tangle of Knots), C. Alexander London (An Accidental Adventure series), myself, Matthew Cody (The Super series) and Michael Buckley (The Sisters Grimm series). I couldn’t have asked for more brilliant teammates - which is fortunate indeed given that almost every one of the answers I gave was wrong!)

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The top answer to ‘Things that feature in Roald Dahl books’ should be ‘orphans’, right? RIGHT? But no, ‘orphans’ didn’t even make the list. The top answer was…

…a giant peach. Hmmm.

  • Bring your agent to your events. They will not only provide you with much needed moral support, but also with the the occasional winning answer. NB. Before you judge me, I was NOT cheating - I used my ask the audience. 
  • The need to win may sometimes cloud judgement. As in, perhaps it is not the wisest to beat the opposing team (by a devastatingly huge point lead) when that team is made up of the very people you rely on for work, ie. your own editor (in my case, the very lovely and talented Ruta Rimas). Of course, the editors might argue that they felt they had to let us win. Which, if true, was very nice of them. 
  • ‘I had lunch with my US agent today’ is almost certainly the most Hollywood thing I will ever say. I would like to say it every day - not just because, you know, it sounds SO COOL, but because my US agent, Tina, is wonderful and great company. Of all the fantastic things that have happened since I embarked on this writing journey, teaming up with my two agents (Stephanie Thwaites of Curtis Brown also), has got to be top of the list. I feel very lucky indeed.

 

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I paid for a New York cab ride with a book! The cab driver told me he had a ten year old daughter, so I gave him the copy I had on me and signed it to her and he wouldn’t take the fare when we arrived - isn’t that nice?! 

 

(this is what a cab looks like)

  • For 18 months, I have been working with the best team in publishing (fact, by the way) and so visiting the Simon & Schuster offices and finally getting to meet all the people who have been working on THE ABILITY was definitely one of the highlights of my trip. Nothing witty to add here - it was just really lovely and I could not be more grateful for everything they have done for me.
  • I think this would be a good time to mention Courtney Bongiolatti, my previous editor and the person who commissioned THE ABILITY. I owe so much to her and couldn’t have been more nervous when she announced that she was leaving. Turns out I had nothing to worry about. Ruta Rimas, who I have now been working with for over a year, has been the most incredibly supportive and brilliant editor I could have ever hoped to work with and getting to spend time with her both in San Antonio and New York City, albeit briefly, has been fantastic.

 

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The first three weeks of my book tour were AMAZING but there were two things missing to make it perfect. And now here they are.

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There’s no place like home! Beautiful Cazenovia, NY, my base for the final part of my book tour, is where my dad and stepmother live and my second home for the last 22 years. It’s good to be back.

 

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This is what nervous looks like.

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There is no way of knowing how you will respond to being on television until you are actually on television. I was pretty sure it would go one of two ways - either I would be fine or I would throw up live on tv. Positive: It went the first way - and, more than that, I had a GREAT time (thanks to the very lovely Caroline Gable and the putting-me-at ease jokes of Chris Brandolino)! Negative: I think ‘DEBUT AUTHOR THROWS UP ON LIVE TV’ would definitely have gone viral on youtube, and everybody knows that all publicity is good publicity. Maybe next time.

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Ray Middle School of Baldwinsville, NY really know how to make you feel welcome! In my case, by covering the school entrance and library in handmade signs and purple balloons - how brilliant is that?! (I kept the signs).

Mrs Rosenheck of Ray Middle School is THE MOST FANTASTIC PERSON. Really - she could not have put more effort into making this amazing day happen and I could not be more grateful. (disclaimer: Mrs Rosenheck is my aunt. But that doesn’t make me biased at all).

 

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I had my doubts but it turns out that it is possible to do 11 presentations in one day to over 1,000 students! And have a great time doing it! It is not possible, however, to speak another word for about 24 hours after that.

 

Solvay Middle School has the most fantastic librarian - Miss T. Her library is beautifully set up, the prize baskets for her book swap are the best idea ever and, not only did she set up a fantastic day for me with three groups of very talented students, but she also made us the best homemade lunch. I would have taken a picture of it but, by the time I thought of it, it was all gone. Also very impressed with the writing ability of the students who printed their work to give to me - Hailey & Sarah (‘Seven Years Gone’ and ‘Final Feature’) and the author of ‘Valor Team’ who didn’t sign his name (but I think it was Connor, is that right?).

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If you get heckled - get someone (my stepmother) to escort them out! In my case, it was my three year old daughter telling me to ‘shhhh’ after five minutes of talking (she told me afterwards that it would have been less boring if I’d sung). Anyway, despite this shaky start, the event at Cazenovia Library was AMAZING! I couldn’t believe how many people turned up which was all thanks to the amount of time and effort put in to publicising the event by my parents and the wonderful people who work at Cazenovia Library.

 

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One of the best things about this tour has been meeting young writers. One that particularly stood out was 11 year old Savannah, who puts most adult writers to shame by the amount she has already achieved - namely producing this wonderful newsletter, The East-Wellington Times. Big future ahead for this girl.

(me reading my copy of The East Wellington Times outside my house in London)

 

If you want to visit a beautiful city, go to Troy (how have I not been there before?!). And if you want to visit a beautiful bookstore in a beautiful city, go to Market Block Books, Troy. It is one of those perfect independent bookstores that you can lose hours of your day in just browsing. Here I am talking about THE ABILITY to the wonderful Stanley. 

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The best thing about the events (perhaps tied with seeing your own book on bookshelves!) is the people you meet. Example - a lovely woman and her parents from Mexico who I got so caught up talking to I didn’t realise there were four people waiting behind them! And, icing on the cake, the woman worked for Google Glass and went home to get her pair for me to try on. I didn’t think I’d be as impressed as I was but they are UNBELIEVABLE! It is all shrouded in secrecy at the moment so I wasn’t even allowed to take a picture of me wearing them but this

<<< is pretty much exactly what I think I looked like with them on.

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If you have a Wizard of Oz obsessed child, as I do, then you could find no better place to go to than Chittenango, the birthplace of L. Frank Baum, with its yellow brick road and the most incredible Oz-themed library! What a lovely way to spend my last weekend in the US.

So there it is - five weeks, ten cities and a trip that I will never forget. Thank you so much to everybody who made me feel so welcome -  the booksellers, librarians, school staff, television people, the many random strangers I got talking to, one cab driver, family, friends and, of course, the wonderful young people that I met along the way! Finally, an especially huge thank you to Paul Crichton and Siena Koncsol, my publicists at Simon & Schuster, who put so much into making this tour as amazing as it was. THANK YOU ALL and I can’t wait to come back for Book 2!

Now go buy my book :)