Monday, 18 November 2019

Back to the stone age - by Lu Hersey

I love research. It saves me having to write anything and yet still feels like I'm working. And research can spark all kinds of ideas - even if you don't really need the information right now, you never know when you might use it in the future.

Which explains how I ended up on a flintknapping course for a day at Berrycroft Hub, in Oxfordshire. The family were mystified, but I told them being able to make a flint knife might be useful, come the revolution. My daughter remarked that come the revolution, we'd all still have kitchen knives. Obviously I ignored her.

My last bit of practical research was going on a Bronze Age dagger making course earlier this year at the same place. What I learned that day might not be much use in a post apocalyptic world without a handy supply of copper and tin, but it was very useful background for the book I was writing, set in the bronze age. Not that anyone in the book makes a bronze dagger, but if they'd suddenly needed to, I was prepared.

My current book (okay, current book idea) is set in the Mesolithic. So of course I wanted to find out how to knap flint in case my characters need to know. Anyway, just like the day spent bronze casting, it turned out to be a very interesting experience. Those stone age people were clever. Knapping flint is much harder that it looks.

Some archaeological artefacts we got to examine before attempting to make our own

The course is run by James Dilley, an experimental archaeologist and expert in ancient technology. James specialises in recreating objects from the past, and probably knows more about making polished stone hand axes and other stone age tools than anyone else in England. He even makes them for English Heritage documentary films, using stone age methods - with no 21st century short cuts.

Our main aim for the day was to make a flint hand axe. There are lots of examples of these in museums, as we've been making them for over a million years. James brought in several original artefacts for us to study and hold (you've no idea how exciting it is to hold a stone axe made 1.2 million years ago).  The fact people were making stone tools perfectly adequately during in all that time meant it had to be easy, right?

A hand axe made by an early hominid 1.2 million years ago

Wrong. Flint is hard and brittle. It often contains fossils and faults that mean the next whack of the stone at your flint rock might chip off a flake of flint, a shower of flint dust, or (in my case) half the axe by mistake. James demonstrated the art, chipping off flakes with amazing accuracy, and made a very passable stone hand axe in twenty minutes.

I ended up with half a badly formed hand axe and a bleeding thumb (accuracy using a stone to whack flint with is very important - a valuable lesson) over an entire afternoon - and that's after a morning of learning to handle flint well enough to make myself a flint hide scraper and a simple cutter. Looking at my broken hand axe and comparing it with a tool made by an early hominid over a million years ago, I have to admit the original was a whole lot better.

James and Harry the jackdaw examine my hand axe to see if it's salvageable

However, the stone age characters in my book will know all about the tools they make and use, and I'll try my best not to include nerdy passages of pure info dump about the process they used to make them. Practical research like this is invaluable - and really fun.

And possibly addictive. I've already booked on a course making containers from tree bark, just like Otzi the ice age hunter had with him when his body thawed out of the ice. And there's making prehistoric jewellery making one coming up that looks excellent...

All of which goes to explain why it takes me much longer to write a book than someone like Enid Blyton ever did. Okay, she might have written over 100 books, but I bet she couldn't make a flint hand axe.

Though sadly it seems, neither can I...


Lu Hersey
luhersey.com
@LuWrites

Sunday, 17 November 2019

Are you sitting comfortably? Tracy Darnton


A short blog this month about the pleasure of being read to as an adult …


On a chilly Autumnal evening, I attended a fund-raiser for local charity, Read Around Bath. Their tagline is ‘Bringing people together through reading’ and they run various groups including ones in care homes, a GP-referral group, and a night shelter. They aim to encourage a love of reading for people in challenging circumstances, and along the way relationships and communities are built. You probably have similar charities in your own area.


The evening was a selection of readings ranging from ones I know well: Roald Dahl’s Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf, Keats’ ode To Autumn (season of mists and mellow fruitfulness – very apt), and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, to work I hadn’t heard before but was very glad to discover, such as a Vincent Van Gogh letter or Juliet Nicolson’s The Great Silence.



I loved hearing a mix of prose and poetry, fiction and non-fiction, reflective prose and laugh-out loud humour. And the event was blessed with a fantastic cast of readers and warm hosting by Bel Mooney, the charity’s patron. But, as I sat there, I pondered why we don’t have more evenings like this – where we’re able to enjoy a selection of readings, not as part of a promotional book tour (ahem!) but for the pure love of it. 


There’s pleasure to be had in an idle moment of how you’d curate such an evening. Which favourite authors? Themes? Which poems do you still remember from childhood?

Or do you have someone you like to read aloud to already? I like A Little Aloud compiled by The Reader Organisation which has extracts and poems grouped by theme or topic with some gentle reading notes – and timings. With a spare 14 minutes you could pick the Saki short story from the Ghastly Children section and follow it up with a Hilaire Belloc poem.





If I’ve whetted your appetite for a selection of readings, get yourself a cup of tea, turn off the phone and listen to the few episodes available of With Great Pleasure on Radio 4.


And let’s have more evenings of readings for all of us to feed our souls, to inspire us to get reading, or writing, and to enjoy the companionship of sharing a story.



Tracy Darnton is the author of The Truth About Lies, shortlisted for The Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2019. She has an MA in Writing for Young People.

 

Saturday, 16 November 2019

The Woods are Lovely, Dark and Deep by Claire Fayers



It's a good time to go walking in the woods when the trees are full of autumn.

I recently went to Bristolcon - a sci-fi and fantasy convention that happens every October in Bristol. I was particularly interested in the panel on rural fantasy, as my last book, Storm Hound, draws heavily on the magic of the Welsh Black Mountains.



With authors Paul Cornell, Peter Morwood, Diana Duane and Juliet McKenna on the panel, I knew it would be a fascinating discussion. All of them have written extensively in the genre - if it can be called a genre at all. That was the first question.

Urban fantasy is well-recognised as a genre nowadays, often dark, with its roots in classic horror fiction. The term 'rural fantasy' is less defined. It's a half-formed genre, existing around the edges of other things. It feels strangely appropriate as many of the superstitions and folklore traditions it draws on exist quietly around the edges of our lives. Almost forgotten until something happens to bring them to our attention. A stormhound falling out of the sky into a field of sheep, for example.

I researched heavily into local folklore when I was writing Storm Hound, and also its predecessor, Mirror Magic (which is set both on the literal border of Wales and England, and the metaphorical border of our world and the fairy realm.) I drew on some of the familiar stories - the Wild Hunt and the sorceress Ceridwen both make an appearance in Storm Hound. The best part, however, was going beyond the better known folklore and digging out the 'small stories' - sightings of the Welsh fairy people, the Tylwyth Teg, often by someone staggering home from the pub late at night. The many occasions when the Devil paid a surprise visit to someone who'd skipped chapel that Sunday. Why a certain mountain has a peculiar shape.

For anyone who's interested, I recommend starting with:

British Goblins; Welsh Folk-Lore, Fairy Mythology, Legends, and Traditions (1880) by Wirt Sikes

Welsh Folk-lore: a collection of the folk-tales and legends of North Wales (1887) by Elias Owen

Both are available free on Project Gutenberg and are fascinating to dip into.

Back to the discussion, and the panellists agreed that rural fantasy is a long-established tradition, right from books such as The Wind in the Willows and Peter Rabbit.



Now, with the emergence of urban fantasy, rural has become more deliberate as a genre, intentionally flipping the established tropes of the urban. Many authors are finding that the countryside is full of potential.

I have always been drawn to quest narratives where the hero sets forth on an epic journey into the unknown and for many of us who live in cities, the countryside is the great unknown on our doorsteps. We don't understand the countryside, we don't know what makes it tick. Used to the constant background noise of the city, the quiet of the country can be unsettling. There are also many tensions, and as we know the heart of drama is conflict. Newcomers versus families who have lived in the area for generations. The rich versus the poor - often exacerbated by the lack of public transport and facilities in rural areas. Environmental concerns and the effects of climate change.

One interesting idea that came up was the notion that we go to the countryside seeking an authenticity that may not be there. Many of the 'ancient' traditions are not actually that old, after all. It's another conflict worth exploring: our idealised view of something versus the reality.

Finally, the discussion turned to sub-genres. Is there any such thing as rural sci-fi, for example, and if so, why not? And what of rural fantasy for children and young adults? The panel were quick to cite old classics - Alan Garner, Susan Cooper - but they were slower to come up with newer examples. Maybe there's a gap waiting to be filled?



Claire Fayers is the author of the Accidental Pirates series, Mirror Magic and Storm Hound. Website www.clairefayers.com Twitter @clairefayers










Friday, 15 November 2019

Six questions I ask about every scene - by Rowena House



For this blog, as always when I’m blathering on about craft issues, I’m indebted to the many writing gurus I’ve read over the years. This one in particular is far more a synthesis of their ideas than the product of any original thinking of mine, so I’ll start by thanking some of the experts to whom I return again and again for inspiration: Emma Darwin, Robert McKee, John Yorke, James Scott Bell & Shaun Coyne.]

So, the six questions I ask of each scene…

1. Why is my viewpoint character in this place at this time?

The why question helps me work out the motivation of each viewpoint character at that particular time & place in the story. It is the first question because motivation is such a critical issue for the credibility of a story (and also where agents and editors often focus first when reading a new manuscript).

Thinking about motivation also helps me see the scene from a reader’s point of view: the actions, reactions and decisions of the scene protagonist will only make sense to them if they know why the character is doing what they’re doing, and accept (emotionally) that it is a realistic thing for them to be doing under the specific circumstances I have created on the page.

As a writer, drilling down ever deeper into the why question makes for deeper and truer characters, too. If at any time the answer to the question why is ‘because I need my character to be here/to do X for the plot to work’, then it’s almost certainly time to rethink that scene.  

2. What is my viewpoint character planning to do in this scene?

Establishing the intent [or scene goal] for the viewpoint character is the next question I ask, whether it’s an action scene (the character is doing what they planned to do) or a reaction scene (something unexpected happened to them in an earlier scene and they’re working out what to do about it).

Even if the main point of the scene in plot terms is the next unexpected event, I try to see if this event could also stop my scene protagonist from doing what they intended. It that way, the event is a dramatic force of antagonism for the character, rather than something purely extraneous.

To keep each scene relevant to the overall story, I also work out how this particular scene goal is a stepping stone towards the protagonist’s overall Story Goal. For example, in my WW1 novel, The Goose Road, the Story Goal was Angelique’s aim to save the family farm for her soldier brother. Each scene worked towards this in an incremental way.

3. Who or what is stopping them from achieving their scene goal?

Basically, there are four types of antagonism to chose from: 1) inner conflicts (emotional and psychological), 2) inter-personal conflicts (another character or characters); 3) societal conflicts (e.g. the character’s  social status makes it hard for them to have agency, like Lyra at the start of His Dark Materials), and 4) environmental or physical obstacles, such as flooding rivers, high walls, labyrinths etc. etc.

When building towards big climactic scenes, much fun can be had in combining forces of antagonism to make them complex, e.g. where one problem builds on another, making the scene uniquely difficult for the protagonist. For example, a hero has a debilitating phobia about dark enclosed spaces (an inner conflict) but his only escape route is a pitch black tunnel (a physical obstacle).

We can then complicate the situation still further by making it rain (an additional environmental obstacle as the tunnel floods) with the prison guards banging on the blocked cell door behind him (interpersonal conflict). 

Okay, this is a crass example (I think it’s been done to death on screen) but complicating complex forces of antagonism is a tool well worth have in one’s storytelling tool box (to borrow Stephen King’s metaphor in his brilliant On Writing).

4. What happens as a result of the conflict/s between the viewpoint character & these force/s of antagonism?

It’s pretty much a truism that conflict drives plots forward. So, when plotting, it can be helpful to think of the story as a series of ‘beats’: action-reaction, followed by re-evaluation of the situation, and then a fresh decision about the way forward. This leads naturally to rising conflict, where characters have to take ever riskier decisions leading to ever bolder actions.

While each scene may only take the protagonist one step along this road, a sequence of scenes which climax at a new, riskier strategy (from which there is no going back) is the lifeblood of drama.

The point of Question 4, therefore, is to check whether I have mined every scene for optimum drama each step along the way.

5. How do the events of the scene make the viewpoint character think & feel?

Once upon a time, it was acceptable for writers to tell readers about their characters through extensive biographies, delivered via backstory and exposition. Today (or so we’re repeatedly told) readers prefer to understand fictional characters through their emotional & psychological reactions to conflicts, tensions and pressures within the story.

At times, we may still decide to narrate some backstory, or allow our characters to debate issues or themes, but, overall, contemporary scenes need to include characters doing something significant or making a meaningful decision based on credible thoughts and feelings.

6. What is the scene protagonist going to do next?

If conflict drives stories, then change drives scenes. So my final question is a big one: what changes in the scene? What’s going to happen next as a result of that change? In both character-led and more plot-orientated stories, protagonist generally initiate action, so that’s where I focus this final question.

Firstly, I review how the next action will up the jeopardy in some way. Is the cost of failure greater than before, are the stakes higher? If not, how can I make them so?

Then, how does this next action link with other plotlines? Does the linkage need to be clearer or do I want the reader to experience an Ah-ha moment of realisation later on in the story?

Finally, what if this action never happens? Would it matter? If not, does this scene deserve a place in the manuscript at all?


Right. That’s the washing done and I’ve got to pack for a trip to France, sailing tonight to visit a writer friend, with gale force winds forecast in the Channel. Gulp. Happy writing one & all.




Website: rowenahouse.com
Twitter: @houserowena

Thursday, 14 November 2019

The Extra Chapter by Lynne Benton


In this blog I am writing as a reader rather than a writer.  Sometimes it’s interesting to sit on the other side of the fence, just to see what we think is good practice and what isn’t.

I’ve just finished reading yet another book which ended before I was expecting it to, because the publishers chose to put the first chapter of another novel after the end of the main book. It seems to happen so often these days, and maybe some people want to know what the author’s next book is and have no idea how else to find out – but not me, and not immediately after I’ve finished their last one.  If I’ve enjoyed the book I need to have a little space in which to remember and enjoy it, and to come out of the world the author has created.  (And if I haven’t enjoyed it I’d be unlikely to want to read another by the same author anyway.)  I find it really annoying when I get to what feels like a climax in a story, but I can see a whole chunk of pages left to read, so I think, “That means there will be another twist before the end!  I wonder what it is?”  Then I turn the page and – oh!  It was the end after all, which by then comes as a bit of a let-down.  Simply because the publisher made the decision to include the first chapter of the author’s next book, which is set in a different world peopled with different characters.

This happens with real books and with Kindle books too – it says I have a further 20 minutes to read, but then Wham!  The book I'm reading ends, because again they’ve decided to include the opening chapter of another book.

Not only is this really disrespectful to the author, who hopes readers will be sufficiently engaged not to want to plunge straight into another, it is also disrespectful to the next book.  If you are tempted to read the first chapter and you like it, you then have to make a decision: either a) make a special trip into town and see if the book is in your local bookshop, or b) go to the library and see if you can find it there.  In both cases if it’s not in stock you may have to order it and wait for some weeks, by which time you have forgotten what the chapter was all about.  Alternatively you can c) order it online, either as another book (with yet another opening chapter of a different book at the end) or to download on your kindle.  The latter is the easier course, but even then I don’t want to read a similar book directly after I’ve just finished one.  I like to go from, say, a crime novel to a children’s book, to a historical saga, to a biography, before going back to another book by the original author.  By which time I have completely forgotten what that chapter was all about anyway.

And sometimes I may find a book on the library shelves that looks interesting, or in a bookshop or in a Charity shop.  I flick through the first few pages to see if it’s one I might enjoy, and think, “Oh yes, this looks familiar.  I must have read it.”  And put it back on the shelf, without realising that I’d only ever read the first chapter.

I have no beef with publishers including a list of the author’s other books, either at the front or the back of the book – that is really useful, and it doesn’t take long to read through the list, or you can go back to it at some future date and make a note of any you want to read at some time in the future.  But it doesn’t spoil your pleasure in the book you’ve just read.

I suppose publishers credit us all with an extremely short attention span – they are so afraid that if we put the book down we may never pick up another.  Or maybe it's the accountants, who think it would be a good marketing ploy to make us buy another book right away.  Either way, it’s a bit like those crass idiots that insist on talking over the end credits of a television programme that we might have particularly enjoyed, to tell us about some programme that is coming up, that bears no relation to the programme we’ve just watched and is often grossly insensitive.  In spite of the many complaints they’ve had about this, they still haven’t learnt that some/most of us need to pause and relish what we’ve just watched before going straight on to something else.  Again, they seem to be terrified that if we turn the television off we may never turn it on again – or at least, not to their channel!

Imagine going to a restaurant where, as soon as you had finished a lovely satisfying meal, they then insisted you must also eat a taster of what you might choose to eat next time you go there, just when you were too full to appreciate it.

All right, grumble over.  I love reading, I really do, and I have a houseful of books to prove it – but I would rather read the whole book, please, not just the first chapter.  And not straight after the book I’ve just read.  I know it’s not the authors’ fault – I don’t imagine any of us have ever asked for it.  But it is incredibly annoying for the readers.  Please, publishers, consider us!



     Website: www.lynnebenton.com

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Getting to Try Sheena Wilkinson

Last Friday I was honoured to give a keynote address at the Literary Association of Ireland’s conference in Dublin. The theme of the conference was ‘Engaging Literacy Learners in Diverse Settings’ and the delegates were teachers, children’s literature specialists, educationalists and others. 

As someone who had been a very keen child writer, then an English teacher, and more recently a professional writer much of whose income is earned through teaching creative writing in diverse settings, I was keen to address this topic. I had planned something light-hearted, a bit of a romp through my own development as a writer. It’s a familiar enough story – bright kid, not-so-bright council estate, encouraging parents and teachers and – crucially – a great local library.  It’s a happy story, mostly. Sure, I lost confidence in my late teens and twenties, and only got back to writing in my thirties, but I don’t regret that. By the time I was ready for publication in terms of craft, I had plenty to write about. 


But my talk made me sad. Not for me – I came out of it fine. Not for the children fortunate enough to be taught by the conference delegates, who were prepared to give up a precious weekend to consider their subject with depth and creativity. But for many others. For the kids who don’t have access to a local library or even a school library. For the teachers so burdened by admin and assessment and the need to tick the right boxes that they don’t feel able to prioritise creativity in the classroom, despite creativity – using the imagination, asking ‘what if?’, dreaming -- being the bedrock of so much learning.

Some years ago, when I was a secondary school English teacher myself, I surveyed colleagues in a variety of secondary schools for an article in NAWE’s journal Writing in Education. https://www.nawe.co.uk/DB/wie-editions/articles/where-are-they-coming-from.html  The vast majority admitted to feeling underconfident when it came to teaching creative writing. Most had not themselves written creatively since GCSE days, having studied English Literature only for A level and at university. Every year I give a short creative writing workshop to PGCE English students: two hours out of a year-long course. (It used to be three.) The students seem to enjoy the chance to write, but it’s a hard sell to make them see it as important. They think it’s a bit of a jolly, not to be confused with real work. And they are always more concerned about how they can use the skills and insights in the classroom than recognising their intrinsic value for them. 


 For nine years I ran a cross-community inter-schools creative writing network in Belfast. I loved it. I worked with some great young writers, and was delighted when a partnership with Arvon allowed me to take them on six wonderful Arvon residentials as well as our monthly workshops. We produced anthologies most years. It was the sort of opportunity I would have adored as a teenage writer. But this year I gave up the network, with a little regret but quite a lot of relief. It was getting harder and harder to reach young writers. I had a few great teacher allies who did wonderful work in encouraging pupils to come along, and those who did come loved it, but every year the numbers dwindled as older pupils left school and were not replaced. 

Why? I think – it came to me as I was preparing my talk for the conference – that secondary school children are getting less and less encouragement to write creatively at school. By the time I left teaching six years ago, creative writing was something to be ‘done’ as a module and then ticked off. I remember being told to ask pupils to write about their own experience rather than letting them make up stories ‘because they’re so bad at it.’ Well, of course they are, if that’s our attitude!  Was I that wonderful inspirational teacher who broke the mould? I’d like to say I was but I know that my own creativity and courage was eroded by years of this. 

It’s not all doom and gloom of course. I do writing residencies in schools which recognise the value of creative writing, often funded by Poetry Ireland’s Writers in Schools scheme. I meet with committed, creative teachers. But increasingly these initiatives are in primary schools, not secondaries 'because we don't have time for that',  and usually when I am delivering the workshop the class teacher is marking, or on the computer. Understandable given their workload, but it reinforces the idea that creative writing isn’t really important, or something you would do as part of normal life, or continue to do as an adult. 

There will always be young people who love to write, but people can’t develop their talents in a system which doesn’t let them breathe and learn and make mistakes and experiment. When I was in second year at grammar school we wrote creatively every week or so. We had a list of twenty or so titles at the back of our English exercise books and could choose any we liked. One of the titles was ‘A Chapter of a Novel’. I wrote a new first chapter every time. Lovely Mrs Leathart, our gentle, cultured teacher, read and commented on every one. (Only now do I appreciate how much marking she must have had!) She never asked why I never went on to Chapter 2. She must have noticed that my chapters were heavily influenced by what I was reading – K.M. Peyton, Maeve Binchy, even a short-lived flirtation with science fiction (though, in retrospect that was mostly about David Bowie) – but she took everything at face value and encouraged me to keep writing. Not all the class liked writing as much as I did, of course, but the point was that they got to try. I’m not sure how much their sons and daughters are getting to try.


Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Finding your tribe by Vanessa Harbour


The pace of life can be so fast these days. Many writers have several jobs on top of writing. When we are writing we know that by its very nature is solitary. You can spend hours on your own:

Writing.

Deleting.

Staring at blank screens/pieces of paper.

Doing research – best procrastination ever – often even now that can be online so you might not see anyone.
Yes that it is my favourite Lamy pen
awaiting inspiration and given to me by a great friend/member of my tribe

Between these moments of being caught up amid the pressure of all the jobs and the writing on your own there is a risk that you might not keep in contact with your ‘tribe’. 

I use the term ‘tribe’ loosely but mean in the sense of community who share the same ‘language’, a close-knit group who get what you are trying to do and understand the problems you might be facing.  You are probably a member of several ‘tribes. They maybe are interlinked. Everyone’s tribe could and should be different. I know in my own family ‘tribe’ if I start talking about writing they get that glazed look of someone who is listening politely but really doesn’t care. They ask me polite questions but don’t get the process and wonder why things happen the way they do in publishing. It is difficult sometimes to explain. The tribe I am talking about here are fellow writers, editors, publishers and agents. People that you come across during your journey. 

Image result for social media logos
Image: https://www.trzcacak.rs/
Due to my disability and work commitments, it often means I can’t get to some of the amazing events and book launches that happen. I watch from a distance.  Relying on social media for an insight into what is going on there while offering support and congratulations. There are some people who are quick to knock social media and it does have its moments, but I have made some wonderful friends through there and keep contact with many. Social media moves fast and there are all sorts of political and ethical issues connected with some as well. I am not entering into those debates in this piece. For me, I use Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook, for the moment. When you have something to celebrate there is nothing like the social media hug you receive. People are so supportive.  I will add a caveat don’t be afraid to step back from social media at times. There are times it can be overwhelming. I regularly take a break.


Do also check out the hashtags on Twitter that @AnnalieseAvery sets up, she always has exciting things planned and is brilliant at bringing people into the tribe. I also love podcasts (@damian_barr is another one to follow - great podcasts and book info). They are wonderful things to talk about on Twitter if you are nervous about getting involved.

Image result for Literary Salon Damian Barr
In the last couple of weeks though I have been reminded of how important it is to actually physically see the people in your tribe. I know I said it is not always easy for me, which makes it really special when I do.

Inline imageThe Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) had their UK conference recently. If anything should be called a ‘big hug’ that should be. Such a supportive and enthusiastic environment. It is always full of joy. I was there to help out with my one of my close tribes: The Golden Egg Academy. Seeing them was always going to be a good start as a lot of our work is done via skype. I also got to catch up with agent friends, former students and Eggs. Writer friends were there in abundance. I saw Candy Gourlay, who I have known for a long time, mainly on social media and only occasionally IRL. Candy grabbed me and took me into the keynote in the afternoon. It was a wonderful talk by Mini Grey. Candy and I though took 15 brief minutes just to sit and catch up. It is amazing what you can cover in that time. Our children, the world and our writing. Talking to her took a great weight off my shoulders. It was a chance to be reminded of other people’s journeys. It is not always as simple as you remember.


Later in the week, I found myself in a beautiful, if wet, Sheffield, once again surrounded by awesome authors at the Sheffield Children’s Book Award. In particular, it was brilliant to meet the author Andy Sheperd IRL as we have so much in common. We spent the day catching up whenever we could. Touching base and understanding we come from the same place. We laughed so much.  

Inline image


I confess for a moment when I sat in the auditorium of The Crucible Theatre, surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of school children who have read your book I felt pretty emotional. It was another great reminder of what an awesome tribe your readers can be.  I also remembered exactly why I write. For everyone in that place. Readers, librarians and teachers are fabulous. They are a great tribe to be part of too, so enthusiastic.

Both occasions were a great reminder that sometimes you just need to stop and talk with your tribe. Importantly as previously mentioned I know it is not always about the good stuff. Don’t be afraid to reach out if you are having a tough time. Your tribe will have your back. It often helps just being able to talk about things.

If in doubt, find your tribes. I know I am lucky with all mine.


Dr Vanessa Harbour
@VanessaHarbour