All aboard the bandwagon

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The Christmas tree is up, the son has posted his letter to Santa and I’m eating my way through my fourth batch of mince pies.  Something about this time of year compels me to write tales of mystery and enchantment.  The son reminds me every day how magical the world is so when the husband and I heard about the imagination revolution ’Dinovember’, we couldn’t resist joining in, particularly as the son has reached new heights in pranks at our expense.

Dinovember, started by a couple who wanted to spark the imaginations of their children, involves convincing your kids that their toy dinosaurs come to life.

We decided to use the son’s Captain America, mainly because the dinosaurs had travelled to the bottom of his toy box and neither one of us could face the minefield of jagged Lego bricks and diecast toy cars trying to find them.

First, Captain America took the son’s toothbrush

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Then he dared to challenge Non-Denominational Christmas Penguin for the top spot on the tree

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His antics progressed after the son put him on the Naughty Spot for his behaviour and he took the truck on a joy ride

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He took time out to read whilst he hatched his next plans

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Before long he was up to no good again

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He did apologise though

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We wish you all a Happy Captain Avember (our take on Dinovember) and hope you get to relive the marvels of childhood wonderment however you decide to hoodwink your kids.

Inspired

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The son is back at nursery and to fill the music-festivals-and-museum-trips-and-bike-rides-and-swimming-at-the-seaside-and-ice-cream-and-crafts-and-ice-cream-in-crafts-and-punting-and-fruit-picking void in my life, it’s time to fill it with all things writer, starting with this blog.

The summer began with award buzz.  I couldn’t believe it when I placed second in the Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Children’s Book Award.  Such a huge honour.

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I wasn’t so lucky at the SingTel Picture Book Award but I have to admit I was chuffed enough to have been shortlisted at all.

Inspired to move forward with my writing, I decided to apply to do a BA in Creative Writing.  I’ve spent the last few days flicking through the syllabus and I’m reminded how wonderful a skill it is to be able to write and to make a connection to someone else with your words.

I remember a TED Talk by Andrew Stanton, (the man behind Toy Story, need I say more).  I watched this late last year.  I was so inspired, it was probably the single biggest push I needed to enter the Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices competition.  Seeing it do the rounds again on a writer’s forum, I couldn’t resist watching it again.

Plotting with the husband

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It’s Sunday evening.  Husband polishes off last slice of fudge cake.  Laptop battery dies after a hard day toiling away on the current WIP.

Me: [inspired by the previous afternoon’s Columbo movie (the one where Dr Sloan from Diagnosis Murder has a shocking Captain Birdseye beard)] Can you help me with some plot issues?

Husband: [eyes fill with dread at the thought of another forty thousand word manuscript] Do I have to read something?

Me: No.  I just want to throw some ideas around.

Husband: [fearful] Are you going to get upset again?

Me: [eyes drift off, recalling the anguish last time I asked husband to read first chapter of WIP and he failed to laugh at the obvious hilarious comedy opening and the raging argument that followed where I suggested he may be dead on the inside] Promise.

Husband scoots over on sofa.

Me: So whilst I’ve been writing today I’ve had these two great characters in mind.  Rather than force them in to the current manuscript I thought they should have their own book.  I think they’d make a good pair in a mystery or detective plot but I’m not sure.

Husband: I know a great detective mystery book.

Me: It’s not The Da Vinci code, is it?

Husband: [smiles nostalgically, fondly remembering the only fiction book he’s read since GCSE English] It’s a brilliant book!

Me: OK, but I’m looking for an original plot idea.

Silence.  Husband and I deep in thought.

Husband: Have you thought about a plot involving code?

Me: [rolls eyes] What, like The Da Vinci Code?

Husband: Oh right. Yeah.

Me: I think I like the idea of building a friendship.  I think it should be integral to the story.

Husband: That sounds good.  Maybe an unlikely friendship?

Me: [excited] Yes!  I like that!

Husband: Like an unlikely bond between a university professor and police cryptographer?

Me: The Da Vinci Code again?  Seriously?

Husband looks defeated.

Me: [feels bad and speaks encouragingly] I do really like the idea of a mystery to solve.  I think these characters would work well in that sort of genre.

Husband: [looks excited] Wait!  This just came to me.  How about two characters find a body and there’s a cryptic message and it all links back to a conspiracy theory within an institution that’s been around for hundreds of years.

Me: Isn’t that the plot of The Da Vinci code?

Husband:  Oh yeah.

Me: Hey, thanks for your help.

Husband: [looks pleased] That was quick.  Did I really help?

Me:  Are you heading to the kitchen to put the kettle on?

Husband: [stands up] If you want.

Me: You’ve helped.

Top reasons to have a child

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A child gives you an excellent reason to queue jump whilst waiting in line for the toilet, though this is probably not so acceptable once your child is over the age of eighteen.

It’s an excellent opportunity to use all those clichés your parents used on you.  My particular favourites, with my fussy-eater, daredevil toddler, at the moment are: ‘how can you leave food on your plate when there are starving children in India?’ and  ‘if all your friends decided to jump off a cliff, would you?’ and the much beloved ‘because I said so’.

A child is the perfect excuse to go wild at the Southbank Imagine Children’s Festival and rekindle your childhood love for books:

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Resolution of the Resolutions

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At the beginning of this year I resolved to give the resolution concept a go.  I thought it was only right I share with you how I got on.

Goal-ution one: try to lose weight

Epic fail.

I developed a post-Christmas addiction to mince pies and discovered an excellent recipe to help me during the summer months.  I also won third prize in the local bake off after weeks of baking (and taste-testing) hundreds of chocolate cakes.

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I’ve written to Santa for full body, head-to-toe Spanx that will give the illusion of weight loss at the in-laws this Christmas.

Overall (thanks to investment in magic controlling sausage skin suit): success

 

Goal-ution five: spend more time with my husband and stop giving preferential treatment to my son

This year every Friday I put down the laptop, turned off my phone, resolved not to change straight in to my pyjamas at the stroke of 6pm and made an effort to have a movie night with husband.

Overall: more arguments about his taste in films and movie snacks

 

Goal-ution six: spend more time with my son and stop giving preferential treatment to my husband

I bought my son a new toy tractor

Overall: success

 

Goal-ution two, three and four: finish my manuscript; be more thick-skinned about rejection; be more positive about getting published

I didn’t manage to finish my young adult manuscript due to irreconcilable differences.  However I finished four early reader manuscripts, several picture book texts and have plans for a middle grade series.  This year I won a prize for my picture book ‘Don’t Eat That, Phoenix’ and was shortlisted for my early reader ‘I Can Fit A Whole Tin Of Baked Beans In My Mouth And Other Fibs Nana Told In Assembly’.

I feel more positive than ever about my writing and can’t wait to see what the next year brings.

Overall: success

 

Goal-ution seven: recapture my nine-year-old enthusiasm for writing, despite the tedious assignments from hungover teachers

Over the last twenty-one years I can honestly say this has never diminished.

Overall: well done 2012 me!

Diary of a Greenhouse Funny Prize Shortlisted Author

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Wednesday 8th August:  Day of shortlist announcement for the Greenhouse Funny Prize

6:15am Husband’s alarm goes off stupidly early.  No movement from said husband.

6:25am No movement from husband.

6:33am Still no movement from husband.  Consider divorce for waking me so early.

6:36am Starting to think husband might be dead and glad as this will be much more profitable for me than divorce

6:37am Poke husband as I mentally spend life insurance on a yacht off the coast of South America.  Husband alive and does angry bear growl for being poked.

6:38am Groggy husband trips over stray Lego on the way to bathroom.  More angry bear growling.

6:38am and 10 seconds Son is now awake and is playing with his fire engine siren.  Note to self: silent gifts for Christmas this year.

6:45am Pretend to sleep as son climbs up on the bed with loud fire engine siren.

6:45am and 32 seconds Still pretending to sleep as son pokes me in the eye to wake me.

6:46am Son spots rare opportunity of an open door to the kitchen and is on the hunt for lollipops and ice cream

6:50am Quickly check emails just in case Julia Churchill and Leah Thaxton have been dreaming about the manuscript I submitted to the Greenhouse Funny Prize and sent me an early morning message.  No emails from Greenhouse.  Despair that I will never make it as a children’s writer.  Tell myself negativity will jinx my chances.  Decide Julia Churchill must still be asleep like most normal people and tell myself I’m still in with a chance.

6:51am Discover son on the floor of the kitchen.  Two lollipop sticks in mouth.  Four in bin.  Diagnosis: lollipop coma.  Treatment: naughty spot where he sleeps off his lollipop hangover and I polish off remaining lollies when he’s not looking.

7:00am Breakfast.  Relatively uneventful.  Only two attempts by son to stick cheerios up husband’s nose.

8:00am Finally get a shower.  Refresh emails.  Surely Julia Churchill will be up by now and emailing me.  No emails from Greenhouse. Despair that I will never make it as a children’s writer.  Tell myself negativity will jinx my chances.  Decide Julia Churchill must still be asleep like most normal people and tell myself I’m still in with a chance.

8:13am Refresh emails.  Surely Julia Churchill should’ve emailed by now.  No emails from Greenhouse. Despair that I will never make it as a children’s writer.  Tell myself negativity will jinx my chances.  Decide Julia Churchill must be having breakfast and tell myself I’m still in with a chance.

8:46am Refresh emails.  No emails from Greenhouse. Despair that I will never make it as a children’s writer.  Tell myself negativity will jinx my chances.  Decide Julia Churchill must be getting ready for work and tell myself I’m still in with a chance.

9:00am Refresh emails. Still no emails from Greenhouse. Despair that I will never make it as a children’s writer.  Tell myself negativity will jinx my chances.  Worry that Julia Churchill’s email account may have been hijacked and her email to me has been lost in an internet blackhole but decide Julia Churchill must still be getting ready for work and tell myself I’m still in with a chance.  Also decide to leave my phone at home whilst I get ready to take son to playgroup because I have repetitive strain injury from refreshing my emails and I’m being driven mad by the tension of awaiting the results from Greenhouse.

9:34am Son makes it to playgroup in one piece despite trying to dive in to the back of the rubbish truck twice.

11:45am Playgroup has been a success today: son did not eat any playdough, he shared all the cars, successfully wee’d and pooed in potty, sang most of the words during the group sing-song and didn’t tell anyone that I’d done a fart.

12:36pm Check emails.  One new email from Julia Churchill with the following subject header: Greenhouse Funny Prize submission.  Heart pounding in my mouth.  Read email.  I’ve been shortlisted!

12:37pm I’VE BEEN SHORTLISTED FOR THE GREENHOUSE FUNNY PRIZE!

12:38pm Reread email and send reply to lovely Julia Churchill.  Reread email to triple check that I’ve definitely been shortlisted.  On cloud nine.

12:39pm Call husband to tell him good news but he’s not answering.  Must be in surgery.  Annoyed that sick patient is ruining my buzz.  Reread email from Julia Churchill.  Back on cloud nine.

12:40pm Spend the rest of the day with a big grin on my face.  Today I feel proud of myself.

Epilogue

Monday 13th August: Announcement of winner of the Greenhouse Funny Prize

8:00pm Finally get internet access again.  New email from Julia Churchill.  Heart pounding in mouth again but see the ‘sorry’ straightaway and realise I didn’t win.  Gutted.  Shed a quick tear on the phone to my sister.

Remind myself that I was shortlisted from hundreds of authors and I’m still proud to have made it this far.  Reread Julia Churchill’s email and feel incredibly encouraged by my future in writing.