|Quiz winners with some of the Scattered Authors Society ( SAS): the writers'group which set up ABBA.|
The Scattered Authors' Society has given me such tremendous support since I joined in 2010 just before my first Y.A. novel, HIDDEN, was published. The wealth of experience in the group has been my benchmark ever since, showing the way and providing support through the peaks and troughs of the writer's life. Writing for ABBA once a month was so important as it encouraged me to organise my thoughts and write a coherent piece on writing on a regular basis. When one is part of a group for a long time it is easy to take things for granted. So just writing this final blog has allowed me to reflect on how much I have benefited from being part of the SAS and how much I look forward to continuing the relationship in different settings.
For my final blog I thought I would reflect on what has been quite a momentous year for me.
After two years in the wilderness with no book contracts, losing a publisher and changing agents suddenly everything happened in 2015 and as a result 2016 has been a richness of publication.
The year started with HIDDEN being optioned for the stage by Theatre Director, Stuart Mullins. Over the year a script writer has been chosen, the wonderful Vickie Donoghue and funding applied for. Rebecca Hayes Laughton, Producer, and Temor Al-Kaisi, Iraqi Theatre Maker, have joined the team and our meetings have been exciting and tremendous fun. The play will tour schools, community centres and small theatres from September 2017.
HIDDEN was published in America this summer by Holiday House and was chosen by the Junior Library Guild as one of their Fall books. To cap it all, I then received two copies of the audio book in the post! I've listened to the whole book and its terrific.
HIDDEN has also been bought by Danish publisher, Turbine.
In May this year my very first historical novel and very first Middle Grade novel, The Emergency Zoo, was published by Alma Books on their brand new children's list. We had a great launch in Camden Waterstones and I was invited to speak at the Edinburgh Festival. I have had several other events around the book this year and my diary for 2017 is already bursting with festivals and author talks. The Historical Novel Society reviewed the book, "Lovely and moving book. Highly recommended."
In August my other writer group, The Edge, brought out our very first anthology of short stories, Stories from the Edge, Albury Books. My story, Next Stop, The Eiffel Tower, is set during the Paris attacks and reflects on student responses to the situation. "I guarantee that these stories will leave readers gasping for more. " Joy Court, Chair, CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals.
My final publication of 2016 is one that perhaps I'm the most proud of : Yasmin's Journey, Ransom Books. This is a story about a fifteen year old Syrian girl forced to flee the war with her six year old brother. The story is for teenage girls with low reading ages and is 5000 words long. I was a Special Needs Teacher for 25 years, heading up departments in comprehensive schools and so I know the difficulties of struggling readers. It was very exciting for me to actually write a book which will challenge the maturity of these readers but also help them to develop their reading skills.
In between a new grandchild has arrived, inspiring a poem.
Other poetry has been written and after 35 years as a member of Highgate Poets I was made an Honorary Lifetime Member, which makes me incredibly proud. I have also been asked to write song lyrics for a project in the Midlands that encourages choirs in primary schools. My song, Seven Billion Candles for Peace, will be performed in 2017.
Years come and go and sometimes we forget what a journey each year can be. This one has had many different journeys interwoven into it but as a writer it has really been a year of joy and publication, only outstripped by the new grandchild!
I know that there will be writers reading this blog who are in the trough right now and perhaps my words will feel at the very least unhelpful. All I can say is that I have been there and so I really do know how it feels to watch everyone else succeed and feel left behind and ignored. But just as things turned around for me, I hope and wish the same for anyone out there who is feeling in the doldrums. Writing, as all creative arts, is a precarious journey to embark on and I have certainly needed all the writer friends in the SAS and elsewhere who have generously continued to support me and have never let me give up.
Happy writing, happy reading and a very happy and rewarding journey in the coming New Year.