Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Questions - Sally Nicholls

I always approach the question and answer part of a school visit with some trepidation. What if no one asks anything? (This is most nerve-wracking when facing teenagers, when embarrassment and hormones have squashed any curiousity. If I'm facing a class of ten-year-olds I'm pretty sure I'll get asked something. Even if it's fairly random.)

"What primary school did you go to?" I got asked once. ("Er ... one two hundred miles away from here.") "Do you like football?" ("Er ... no, but my boyfriend supports York City.") And, my personal favourite, "When you told your mum you wanted to be an author, did she tell you to be something sensible, like a doctor or something?" (Poor kid! Fortunately, my mum thinks children's author is a perfectly sensible career. Plus it means she doesn't have to think up Christmas presents for all her extended family - she can just give them my book, hurrah!)

At the Edinburgh Festival, I told them I had a happy author dance and was duly asked to perform it live. (I got my revenge by making the kid who asked the question do his.) "Which teacher did you like best when you were here?" I was asked when I went back to my secondary school. (I didn't answer - some of my ex-teachers were in the room.) And then of course there are the questions you get when you tell people you write for children. "So, you're going to be the next JK Rowling then?" ("No, I'm going to be the next Sally Nicholls.") Or "I've had an idea for a children's book - maybe you'd like to write it?"

Anyway. It has occurred to me that this is supposed to be a blog for people interested in writing for children (whether as writers or as readers or both), so I thought I'd throw the floor open to you. What questions would you like answering? What sort of things would you like further blog posts on? What have you always wanted to know about being an author ... but never dared ask?


Jon M said...

Is writing for children all beer and skittles and if so, what proportion of beer to skittles? Is there a beer to skittles ratio that contravenes health and safety directives?

Seriously, I know there are as many ways to write as there are authors probably but I was curious about something you mention on your website about writing key scenes and then 'filling in the gaps.' Is this a particularly useful approach? I'm tempted to try it.

Dan Metcalf said...

I'm an aspiring children's writer (two as yet unpublished novels under the belt) and I've always wanted to know about the nuts and bolts of actualy getting published. Once the publisher says OK, and you do your happy author dance, what then? Do you always agree with the publisher over how the book is going to go out to readers? Or could you cheerfully throttle them some days? Oh, and do you manage your publicy (school visits, readings in shops etc) or do they?

Nick Green said...

Hi Dan -

Despite unfortunate later events, I very much appreciated the input from my editor on my first book. Several suggestions were made which led indirectly to some of the best things in it (I think!). A good Editor usually doesn't get into the position of likely strangulee. The best ones usually just bring to light the doubts you may already subconsciously have yourself.

As for your question on publicity: usually all that is down to the individual author. I don't really do school visits myself as I don't have the free time; I'd love to do them but would probably only manage five per year, maximum! Publishers do sometimes arrange other things, like radio appearances or miscellaneous events like bookshop signings.

Linda Strachan said...

Hi guys
JON - I think there are many different ways to write and the trick is to find what works for you, I like to experiment when someone suggests a different way to write, sometimes it works, others not - but at times a different approach can help when you feel stuck with something you are writing.
DAN - so much about getting published and your experience when it does happen is different for each person. It can depend on what you are writing, who is publishing it, whether it is a large or small publisher and so many other criteria. Can I humbly suggest a look at my new book WRITING FOR CHILDREN - pub A & C Black. I wrote the second half of it (Now you are published- what to expect etc) to give a general overview of the kind of things that might happen and to dispel some of the many myths out there!

Sally Nicholls said...

Definitely more skittles than beer (well, spider solitaire in my case). A regular low beer consumption, with bumps of large beer consumption at SAS conferences, or whenever I go out and my publisher is paying.

I shall go away and construct some blog posts based on your questions. Many thanks!