Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Memories and Hopes - Karen Ball

Photo of dawn at Xepon Laos, courtesy of Chitrapa

We're at the end of an unusual year. Since those first TV clips of people queuing to withdraw their savings from branches of Northern Rock, a lot has happened to the world and to publishing. Summer parties were cancelled, staff made redundant. Some contracts were terminated and budgets cut. The recession left many of us feeling jittery and uncertain and as Christmas arrived, Borders shut its doors.
But there was more to 2009 than recession. Thanks to the Internet, authors and illustrators have been enabled to steer their own ships like never before. The Twilight phenomenon meant that the world's readers watched the publishing industry to see what would happen next. Books were still being written, long-listed and short-listed, writers organised launch parties and festivals such as the Bath Festival of Children's Literature gained momentum.
And now? There's a rumble in the distance as electronic publishing hoves into view and we all wonder - do we want to go along for the ride? Publishers are peering at the horizon and trying to decide, What should we be commissioning? The hunger for YA may peak and, if so, where will the next hot new book come from? Who knows? It's probably being written or redrafted right now by someone working alone at a desk in a bedroom or a shed. Because despite the trials and tribulations of this year, there's one constant in life: writers never stop writing. It doesn't cost money, there are no overheads - all you need are two hands and one brain. Easy, eh? I wish!
We should all give ourselves a big pat on the back. We've carried on doing what we always do, because words like 'recession' don't figure large in a child's world, but books do.
Knowing I was writing this blog very close to New Year's Eve, I decided to ask some friends in the industry: What's your favourite publishing memory of 2009 and hopes for 2010? I hope you enjoy the answers.
'My highlight of the year will be sitting in my car back in March and Sarah Davies telling me that we had a deal. So 2009 for me will always be the year that I was introduced to the publishing industry. A magical time! My hopes for 2010? I'm looking forward to holding a hardback copy of Mortlock and to selling a few too! And then there's The Demon Collectors...'
Jon Mayhew's debut novel, Mortlock, is being published by Bloomsbury April 2010.
'I've been really cheered by the stoic attitude I've seen from my colleagues this year. In months filled with redundancies, pay freezes, budget cuts and a very cautious market they've been truly committed to finding creative ways to shout about our books. In-house, everything starts with the passion from the people working on the books and permeates out from there, so I know we are going into 2010 banging the Puffin drum very loudly! We've always felt lucky to work in an industry that we are genuinely motivated by - filled with authors and illustrators who give us books to get excited about - but it has been even more obvious this year just how inspiring this is.'
Shannon Park
, Executive Editor, Puffin
'Highlights of 2009 have been getting my fabulous agent Caroline Walsh and starting my new job as senior commissioning editor for children's fiction at OUP. Both things were major achievements for me and although this year has been beyond hectic, what with writing and editing, I wouldn't have it any other way!

Things that have revolutionised my life in 2009:

My Sony e reader and Twitter. My e reader because without it I wouldn't be able to stay on top of my submissions pile. And Twitter because without it I wouldn't be able to stay on top of what is happening in the world of children's books both here and across the pond!

In 2010 I am looking forward to launching the
Witchfinder trilogy, which I acquired back in August and Gillian Cross's new novel Where I Belong which has the prettiest cover I have ever seen. Last but not least, I hope that my novel The Windrose will fare well on the torrid waters of the acquisitions process!'
Jasmine Richards, Senior Commissioning Editor, OUP
My own favourite publishing memories from 2009 have to be attending the Charney writers retreat with the Scattered Authors Society and receiving a netbook for Christmas, which has become not only a highly portable writing device but a much speedier hard drive for home. My hopes for 2010 are to enjoy more new friendships through the SAS and maybe, possibly ... a publishing contract? A girl can dream!
What are your favourite memories from 2009? And hopes?
Visit my website at www.karen-ball.com


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