Friday, 21 March 2014

My Publishing Life: Griselda Gifford

I always loved reading and once, aged eight, went missing for a couple of hours, eventually to be found reading Black Beauty in a hay 
field far away from the house.  Owing to the war, I went to about eight
Griselda Gifford
schools in all and ended up at a boarding-school in Kent where the head was reputed to have been engaged to Rupert Brooke.  She wore a short ginger tweed skirt, had shingled ginger hair and ginger eyes and kissed the whole school good-night (I managed to dodge!). She was a terrifying woman, but she did teach English Literature very well.

I wrote a novel for children mainly in the holidays, but then put it aside and trained as a secretary in London.  I hated typing but loved the journalism course run by an historical novelist. He liked my writing and even introduced me to his agent - who didn't sell anything!  After working at the Foreign Office and for a solicitor (ugh!), I went to work for Constable, a publishing house, doing donkey work for Mrs. Grace Hogarth and her assistant, Delia.  I also had an interesting time working as a secretary for AM Heath. I was paid ten shillings extra for reading a manuscript in an evening, making a synopsis and saying whether I thought it could go to one of the Elect Readers.  All good practice!

Later, when my son, aged two, was asleep (not often!) I wrote stories for the BBC Morning Story and was very excited when I got my first cheque – for £15!  This encouraged me to send the children's story off to The Bodley Head – who liked the writing but not the story and asked me to write another.  I did, and my first book was published and illustrated by Victor Ambrus. Margaret Clarke was a lovely editor of several more of my books. I also wrote for Gollancz and went to an amazing party stuffed with famous authors and presided over by Livia Gollancz, daughter of the founder of the company, Victor Gollancz.

Moving and having my daughter held things up a bit  but somehow between school runs and part-time jobs I squeezed out more books, for Macmillan, Longmans, Pearsons, ending up with five books published by Andersen Press, with another lovely editor, Audrey Adams – now, sadly, dead before her time. By then I'd divorced, remarried, moved, acquired three step-children – and always a dog!  I've had agents, the best being Laura Cecil, charming and clever.

I guess it was easier to get published in the past, and I have to admit I've found it hard lately. I have an Andersen book House of Spies on Kindle but all the others are sadly out of print except for two reading books which I wrote for Macmillan, selling the rights outright.  I gather Clarence the Crocodile is still in schools after nearly forty years!

Highlights: talking to children in many schools in the UK and abroad and having good reviews, especially one in the Independent not so long ago, and also in the TLS.  I've also enjoyed making new friends by teaching creative writing – two of my pupils are now published authors. I've been on long-lists for awards and came second in a Kelpie competition which led to my story being broadcast.  And it's good to find one of my latest books published in Thailand, even if the jacket illustration looked like a mango swamp. Quite a few of my books have also been published in Germany, Holland etc. One was sold to the States, but then the publisher went out of business!

Recently, I decided to try self-publishing – hard work but fun – and I'm visiting schools and giving talks about my historical novel The Cuckoo's Daughter , which is also on Amazon.  I've just finished a ghost story which is doing the rounds – so fingers crossed!

1 comment:

Ruth Symes said...

Oh I loved working with Audrey. She was so supportive and encouraging. I didn't know she'd passed :(