Happy World Book Day 2015

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After a furious three hours of sewing we have one Roly Poly Bird (from ‘The Twits’ by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake) to celebrate World Book Day. Thanks to a brilliant template and a lot of old t-shirts.

 

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You can find some brilliant costume and fundraising ideas from Book Aid International who work hard to get books to kids and improve literacy in sub-Saharan Africa.

However you celebrate, I hope you have a wonderful and creative day with your nose in a book!

 

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Up with the lark

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I’m up early this morning and freaking myself out. A few days ago I sent off the first redraft of Dave Pigeon to my editor and it just occurred to me that a few days ago I sent off the first redraft of Dave Pigeon to my editor.

Yikes!

So what to do in the mean time as my nails are chewed down to stubs in nervousness? Aside from refreshing my email every ten minutes and then emailing myself to make sure my inbox still receives mail competently?  My agent says whilst I wait I should write. My husband says I should write. My son says write. Everyone says write. Work on the sequel, work on something else, whatever it is, just write.

 

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This is easier said than done. I find I’m incapacitated to move on to new project whilst another remains unfinished. How do you write something new when worlds from your previous projects take up every inch of your mind?

As tough as it has been, the truth is to curb the nerves of waiting to hear back from my editor, I have had to move on to new project and write. This has involved tapping into the part of my brain that is exploding with ideas and mentally shelving the project sitting on my editor’s desk.

It has helped greatly to remove myself physically from the desk where I wrote Dave and move to a warm cafe to write my next book. I think the physical movement of office has helped to make space in my brain for new characters and new worlds.

How do you manage your writing projects whilst awaiting feedback?

International Book Giving Day 2015

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Get involved and give a book this Valentine’s Day. This year I’m joining in with an international book swap.

Exciting News Klaxon: I’ve been assigned a book pal in Germany! And I’m sending them a copy of the brilliant ‘The Art of Being Normal’ by Lisa Williamson.

 

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Happy Book Giving!

The idea egg hatches

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I’m not sure if you’d heard but next year my book ‘Dave Pigeon’ will be out. That’s right! My book! Out! Next year! Every time I say that I’m filled with what I can only describe as Christmas Day excitement, followed quite soon after by a sucker punch of dread as I question whether I can really do this.

This year I hope to blog my way through the journey, including all the ups (of which I hope there are many) and the downs (for which I will learn to master baking brownies).
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Today’s post is about the idea behind Dave Pigeon.

Since the news of the Faber book deal broke, the second most asked question has been ‘where did the idea come from?’ (The first being ‘what is your book about?’ When I figure that one out I’ll let you know.)

I have never really thought about where ideas come from. They just seem to be there. Or they turn up, like surprise guests, usually at highly inopportune moments: when I’m in the bath or on a walk or at 2 in the morning and the ability to jot them down coherently is severely lacking.

I can only imagine that the manner of generating ideas is quite organic; a mélange (love that word) of experiences, influenced by people, the world, the infiniteness of it all, mystically falling in line to produce an idea. There certainly doesn’t seem to be any logic in this process; and it certainly doesn’t seem to be an efficient way to produce work. I cannot tell you how many times I have panicked that an idea would not come to me and in some indescribable way it arrives just in time.

But Dave Pigeon was different. I do know how he came to be.

Around springtime last year, two pigeons plagued the husband’s car with pooey presents, on a number of Sundays that seemed to suggest more than coincidence. It is very possible that the pigeons in question were not the same two pigeons each week and that the deposits were made on days that were not in fact Sunday but every weekend for about a month the husband would hunt around the kitchen for a bucket and sponge, troubled by the same issue.

As the husband cursed his bad luck (every Sunday morning), the son and I discussed what it was we thought the pigeons were up to and in the process we named one of them Pat.

During our conversations I was inspired to pen the tale of Pat Pigeon. It was a horrendously boring first chapter about a pigeon rescued by a young boy. So dire that I deleted those first five hundred and six words almost as soon as they were tapped out on to the screen.  Even the name was horrendous. Who names a pigeon Pat?

And so came the idea for Dave. Firstly the name was much more fitting for a pigeon. Secondly the words seemed to flow easily for an idea I loved: the story of pigeon vengeance.

I’m not sure where you find your ideas, it would be wonderful to hear what inspires you. In the meantime have a brilliant 2015 filled with creativity and inventiveness and I’ll let you know how Dave gets on over the course of this next year.

Being happy

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December is on the horizon and the husband is hunting for the camera, as we ready ourselves for the annual Christmas card photograph.  The son is trying to coax Gary, his hamster, from out under the couch so I’ve retreated to my writing den to take a moment to look back on this year.

In June I entered the Greenhouse Funny Prize competition. I was shortlisted for the very same competition a couple of years ago. It was a scary thing to enter again. In the back of my head an annoying niggling thought kept resurfacing: if I didn’t make the shortlist this year would it mean I had regressed on my writing journey?

I put on my positive hat, shook off the feeling and wrote a story about a pigeon. It was terrible. It didn’t make me laugh and writing the first chapter felt like I was trudging through treacle. So I wrote a different story about a pigeon. I don’t know what the magic formula is for writing humour but if I make myself laugh that’s good enough for me.

And then the unimaginable happened.  I won.  I actually won the Greenhouse Funny Prize.  Even now I am in total shock and amazement as I write this.

What happened next has been four months of utter whirlwindizziness. Yup, I know that’s not a word but I don’t care because I only blooming won the Greenhouse Funny Prize! Polly Nolan signed me as a result and not a week later she told me that she would be talking to Faber and Faber about my book.

Over the last few months I signed my first book deal and met my lovely editor Alice Swan at Faber Children’s. I even started work on another idea, which shall remain top secret for the moment, but this whole process has been every bit the dream I hoped it would be.

It has been a magical year for my writing and I really cannot wait to see what the next year holds. Here’s a cheesy note to end on: I’m not sure anyone could see this happening for me, least of all me. Writing has been such a long time hobby that turning it into a career seemed impossible. On my journey I have grown to understand that the children’s publishing world is competitive and tough to break. I thought about giving up several times over the last few years but writing makes me happy. And now I’m here, I glad I pushed on because I can truly say it is a real privilege to be able to wake up everyday and do what makes me happy.

This post is dedicated to my husband and my son, my lovely boys, who go along with all my madcap ideas without question.

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Happy Diwali

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The son was in charge of rangoli this year and has produced a wonderful rangoli ‘Olaf’.

Happy Diwali to you all!

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Diversity

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I remember hitting thirteen-years-old, wanting to run away from home, grow a fringe, cut my hair short and move to Paris where I would paint and write and listen to Francois Hardy.  However, I was outraged to discover that my frizzy South Indian inherited locks would not allow for a shiny straight fringe in those pre-hair straightener days. I certainly didn’t have the time to learn the skill of blow drying when there was so much teenage angst to spill into my journals.

In hindsight, I wonder if I’d dreamed up a white-faced future for myself, even though my hair didn’t fit. And was that because I’d spent my childhood reading books filled with white-faced protagonists?  Not to say that such a future is only for people of a certain cultural background; it’s just that the choice of such futures was rather narrow.

In many ways we have come a long way since my childhood reading days.  I can honestly recall only one author, Jamila Gavin, and her Kamla and Kate books that dared feature a brown-faced girl on its cover.

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The conversation about the lack of diverse characters in children’s literature is hotting up.  It’s a topic close to my heart.  For me it’s a no-brainer, the diversity of characters in children’s literature is not representative of the diversity in society.  Children’s books have, to some respect, the added responsibility of educating the reader about the world.

We need diverse books.  Not just with characters of all ethnicities, but also characters that represent all sexualities, characters of all socioeconomic backgrounds, characters of all faiths, all cultures and characters of all abilities, both physical and mental.

My question is whose responsibility is it to write these stories?

I had an interesting conversation with a fellow author a couple of weeks back.  We were talking about this very same subject and she raised the question of the ‘right to write’.  It is something that has stayed with me since our conversation.

Does a Caucasian writer have the right to tell the stories of Indians? And vice versa? And is it the responsibility of writers from minority backgrounds to write diverse books?

There was a point before the summer where it was put to me that I should actively ‘support’ my ethnic background and write books which embraced diversity, because diversity was all the rage.  As a writer, there is nothing more stifling to creativity than to be told what to write.

For me it’s simply about the character. The character comes first, and the story comes from the character.

Ultimately, we all have the right to ask questions about the world and it is the responsibility of the writer to stay true to what they discover.  It is about being empathetic to the real situations that influence the fictional stories written and not about matching the face of the author to the characters of the book.

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Dave finds a home a Faber Children’s

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I’m absolutely over the moon to announce I now have a book deal.  Faber Children’s has acquired ‘Dave Pigeon’.  Thank you Faber!  Thank you also to Polly Nolan who clearly has making-dreams-come-true superpowers – powers that belong only to two others: Santa and shooting stars.

This has been a double achievement.  For those of you who thought I was a total blabbermouth, I’ve been sitting on this most mind-blowing information since the end of August without blabbing so HA! (And to those who I already blabbed to and made swear on their pets lives to keep it secret, thank you for not blabbing.)

I met with the amazing Alice Swan, my editor at Faber Children’s, last week for some cake and strawberries and a natter with the rest of the team.  I’m so excited to work with Alice as we head toward Dave being published in 2016.

You can catch updates on Twitter by following @SwapnaHaddow.

First Days

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It seems not so long ago that I started this blog.  In those first days of being on the blogosphere, the son was eighteen months old and I was getting very lost in this world of publishing. In what I can only conclude was some sort of time-travel I wasn’t aware of, we are here today with a school-ready four-year-old and I’ve managed to land myself an agent!

In the last three years there have been a few short listings. If you’ve heard the phrase ‘always the bridesmaid never the bride’, then always the shortlist, never the prize seems apt.  That was until this August.  By some fortuitous aligning of the writing planets, I managed to win the Greenhouse Funny Prize and now have the wonderful Polly Nolan of Greenhouse Literary Agency championing my work.

I had my ‘first day’ a couple of weeks ago when I visited Greenhouse HQ.  The day involved much overthinking about outfits, a very dry mouth and a box of pigeon-shaped biscuits.  Polly was absolutely lovely and I now feel very protected as a newbie author in the publishing world.

And how was the son’s first day? Apart for a minor incident on the school playground’s mock roads where he was allowing his friend to pass on a scooter and an impatient classmate called him a ‘barbarian’… absolutely swimmingly. I have reassured the son that he is not an ‘uncultured or brutish person’ but rather that the use of the word was probably more about said classmate’s parent’s road rage issues.  Thankfully no permanent scars here.

Happy first days!

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