Monday, 18 April 2016

Celebrating 20 Years - Linda Strachan

I would like to celebrate and share some of my journey with you, all those who are interested in books and writing, who have helped to make this such an amazing 20 years.  

It is still a bit of a wonder to me, but it is 20 years and over 60 books, since I was first published in 1996.  Like everything else in life, there have been ups and downs and I have certainly had my fair share of rejections!  But when I started I had no idea how exciting it was going to be, how many interesting people I would meet or what opportunities being a writer would offer. 

Unlike many of the writers I know, I never had any aspirations to become a writer.  When I was a child I had never met a 'real live author', or any dead ones for that matter (in case you were wondering).  

  Photograph Brian McNeil
I enjoyed reading, not because anyone said I should, but because I loved stories. 

I read a lot of books as a child and I recall going to Stockbridge Library in Edinburgh, a wonderful old red brick building. Accompanied by my best friend, Gillian, We regularly walked down to the library and we would often stop at a little sweet shop near by, on the way home.
I never thought about who had written the books I read, what their lives were like or that they might be ordinary people. The idea that writing could be something I could do or even that it was a job, did not enter my head at all.  

People come into writing through lots of different routes and my route to publication involved another library (useful things these libraries!!). #savelibraries. I won a short story competition at our local library (in East Lothian) that I had entered just for fun. Winning that competition made me realise that perhaps writing was something I could do, to some extent, and that encouraged me to look for a correspondence course on writing. With three young children it was the only option. I checked out a few courses and the only one that seemed remotely interesting was on 'writing for children', the rest looked incredibly serious and boring.

Ginn & Company- Zoola Series

Halfway through the course I sent off a submission to an educational publisher who liked my story but rejected it with the best rejection ever,
she said she could not use my story, but her colleague would be in touch with me.  A day later I got a phone call asking if I would like to submit ideas for a series of 8 books about the same characters.  I was delighted, if a little overwhelmed.

The series was aimed at children who really struggled with their reading, and it needed to have very simple text but with exciting stories.  My ideas about the adventures of a boy who meets an alien girl, Zoola,  who is green and gooey and can turn into anything she sees, were accepted and were published in the spring of 1996.

Since then I've had the opportunity to write a wide variety of books and work with many different publishers, editors and illustrators.
My books have been translated in different languages and I've written many educational books that are used in schools all over the world.

Sally J Collins. Illustrator
In 2005 I was asked to write a series of picture books with a Scottish theme and had to opportunity to work with a good friend of mine, the talented illustrator Sally J Collins for 10 wonderful years.  This became the Hamish McHaggis Series and with 10 books in the series, teachers notes, a Hamish McHaggis  costume and a cuddly soft toy, Hamish has touched the hearts of a lot of young fans.

Never without a challenge, in 2008 I had three books published in the same year, a book about writing, Writing for Children; the 8th in the Hamish McHaggis series, Hamish McHaggis and the Lost Prince; and I had long wanted try my hand at  writing for young adults. In 2008 my first YA novel, Spider was published.
 It was a very busy year.

I have to admit that I was rather nervous about writing YA and how it would be received, but Spider went on to win the Catalyst Book Award and it was followed by two more young adult gritty crime novels, Dead Boy Talking and Don't Judge me.
Quite a change from cuddly Hamish!

It's been an incredible 20 years during which I've met some amazing people, many of them fabulously talented writers. Especially the excellent SAS (Scattered Authors Society) and my Flatcap friends, (you know who you are!)

 I soon discovered that most writers who write for children are generous people, both with their time and in sharing their experience, and I am always keen to pay that forward in encouraging new writers.

I've had the opportunity to travel widely both home and abroad sharing my books and stories.
There have been workshops and school visits, festivals, conferences and quizzes.  I've talked about writing and run workshops in prisons, out in the countryside, and in residential retreats. I've been involved in parades, on radio and TV, written articles and blogs.

I've loved working with children, teenagers, students of all ages and adult writers from all walks of life and from many different countries.  It has been a privilege and I am eternally grateful to all my readers and those who have invited me to speak or who have come to my workshops.  But most of all I have loved having the opportunity to write, and lose myself in the lives of my characters.

When I was very young I was told by a teacher that I had no imagination. She was wrong, of course, we all know everyone has imagination and it grows as we use it.

Since I started writing it seems to have been spilling out of me in all directions.  I am always ready for new challenges and if you want to know where my imagination is about to lead me next...  watch this space!


Linda Strachan is the author of over 60 books for all ages from picture books to teenage novels and the writing handbook - Writing For Children.

Linda is currently Chair of the SOAiS - Society of Authors in Scotland 

Her latest YA novel is Don't Judge Me . 
She is Patron of Reading to Liberton High School, Edinburgh.

Her best selling series Hamish McHaggis is illustrated by Sally J. Collins who also illustrated Linda's retelling of Greyfriars Bobby.

blog:  Bookwords 


Susan Price said...

No imagination!? - Strewth, some teacher can be dense at times.

Linda, if loads of opportunities have come your way, it's because you went out and made them happen. I've always admired your energy - as well as your imagination!

Here's to another twenty energetic years!

Nicola Morgan said...

Lovely, uplifting post, Linda! Well done! xx

Linda Strachan said...

Thank you, Susan. I am sure teachers are much more positive these days and I doubt (hope) no one would say that to a child ever again.

Thanks Nicola.

maryom said...

Congratulations on the first twenty years - and here's to the next!

Sue Purkiss said...

Yes - congratulations on the first 20 years!

Linda Strachan said...

Thank you, Sue and Mary.

Lynne Benton said...

Well done you! But sadly, some teachers are still saying such things to children. Only thirty years ago one told my son he had no imagination, and he really believed it! We had to work really hard to prove to him what rubbish it was. (And this was the son who invented a story about Kevin the Vampire Cornflake!!! - and is now my illustrator.) Congratulations on proving that your teacher was completely wrong! (And here's to the next 20 years...)

Linda Strachan said...

Thanks Lynne. Sorry to hear your son had a similar experience. He was lucky to have such positive parents behind him who saw what was happening. I think teachers, and other adults, often do not realise how crushing and lasting their remarks about children can be.

Penny Dolan said...

Linda, you have plenty of imagination - but you also have lots of determination, work very hard, enjoy being with people and seem able to change negatives into positives. Much admiration and many congratulations - and how good to find such a celebration here on ABBA!

Nick Green said...

I think sometimes a remark by a teacher intended as a passing comment or a good-natured gibe is interpreted very literally by children. Kids remember those comments all their lives... The teacher will have forgotten ever even thinking it, by the end of a day.

Lynne Benton said...

Sadly, Nick, this comment was written on his report!