Saturday, January 30, 2010


It is a bit late for New Year Resolutions but I suppose I can hop on to the Chinese New Year train and make that my starting point. So. This year, I should really try and
1) send more manuscripts to the relevant people, not just my writing group (hullo guys!) who're getting sick of reading multiple versions of my cover letters and the like.
2) write one picture book (in French) that nobody has asked me to do and which I have had running in my head for a little while now. (Intrigued? Want to know more? Well, me too, really)
3) find myself an agent
4) find Mad Cap a home (I suppose that's the point of 3) and it's covered by 1) too, but we like Mad Cap so we give her a resolution all to herself)
5) spend a month reading stuff in French, kidlit and otherwise
6) read more non-fiction, it's less depressing than reading excellent children's fiction and it actually helps with the whole creative process thingy.
7) watch the entire Inspector Morse series (thanks Adela!) (and yes, Carla too!)
8) become reasonable and professional and stop saying yes to every project that comes my way
9) secretly translate into French Sandra Boynton's Hippos Go Beserk; it's quite a challenge, but you never know what may come of it (a happy Aidan is one of the things that will come of it, in fact).
10) get up early every morning, have a nice long shower, a relaxing breakfast and do an hour's work before said Aidan wakes up starving and paradoxically full of beans.
11) get real.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Driving is over-rated

It's all I have to say, really.

Different countries, different looks

Here is the cover of the French translation (by yours truly) of Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians, coming out this March. Have a look at the US paperback edition and the German cover. It's interesting to see the differences. I like what the Germans did; it's very much the fashion, that graphic approach, no characters, no scene, no decor. It makes it look like a Fantasy book (which it kind of is) and the cover should appeal to readers of Garth Nix's Sabriel series and to Cornelia Funke's fans (what with the book and all). The other two place the novel more in Sci-Fi than Fantasy, I think. The Americans went for the photo-collage, which I'm never a great fan of, but that's just me. Their Alcatraz looks quite the cool dude, it has to be said, and there's a lot of detail in the background that you wouldn't notice at first, so that the image is not too cluttered and yet ''full of surprises''. The French chose the photo option too, but their Alcatraz seems much younger, almost girly and oh no! he's wearing black shoes, which is a heresy, as I've just discovered while translating book 2. Oh well, we'll see if anybody brings it up. I like the airy, organised French library decor and the fact that the dinosaur is more immediately visible. Here too, there are plenty of details that you would only notice if you've read the novel. Finally, they did well with the font of the title: it conveys the spookiness and the humour of the book. Because, as you will have guessed, that series doesn't take itself too seriously. That's what makes it fun to translate.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Spoilt (rotten) for choice

The Irish Society for the Study of Children's Literature (that is, ISSCL) has announced the (most impressive) line-up for its next conference, to take place on the 5th-6th of March. The keynote speaker is Victor Watson (of Seven Stories fame among many, many other things) and the papers will be addressing "performance, drama, music, film and adaptation, visual culture, graphic novels and digital storytelling". There is so much material that the conference had to be organised in panels and you have to choose which ones you want to attend. I am torn already...

Monday, January 18, 2010

My birthday sorted...

We're not there yet, but one must plan ahead. I've just discovered that July will see the release of The Moomins Cookbook, an introduction to Finnish cuisine peppered with illustrations and quotes from the world-famous Moomins. (You know them: the trolls that look like hippos.) Then again, I mightn't wait that long. The French edition is out already...

Friday, January 15, 2010

And another thing

To go back briefly to the topic of beginnings, Mary Kole, associate agent at Andrea Brown Literary Agency, has launched a competition on her excellent site. She's looking for novel beginnings in the Middle Grade and Youg Adult categories. So if you have a completed manuscript with a first chapter that will sweep Mary and thousands of readers off their feet, why not have a go? The deadline is the 31st of January and the rules and details can be found here. Good luck!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A workshop with a difference

Children's Books Ireland is hosting an unusual workshop for published and aspiring writers of children's books. The event is "aimed at helping children’s authors make the most of the opportunities presented by live events and festival touring". After sessions on vocal skills, public reading and performance technique, the focus will then move to devising individual event strategies for each participant, with authors Oisín McGann and Sarah Webb. Sounds deadly to me! Places are limited, so book early!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A bit of fun

The Children's Books Ireland Table Quiz Extravaganza is upon us once again!
Thursday, January 21, 2010 At 06:30pm.
"A night of questions, queries and theories about children's books and general knowledge. Tables of four are welcome or come as an individual and we'll match you up. Expect to laugh, to cry and to curse the adjudicators and their strange ways. Tickets €10 per person. The Teacher's Club, Parnell Square, Dublin 1. To book or for more information call Jenny in CBI - 01 8727475, "
Now you know everything! Hoping to see you there...

To begin with...

Sometimes, writers can prove frightfully original. Take me, for instance, on this alarmingly blustery January night. I've decided to properly begin blogging, with my first proper post, and I've decided to write it on... well, beginnings.
The first few lines of a book, as we all know, are what makes you buy it, borrow it or hide it under your jumper and hurry out of your best friend's house saying you left something in the oven or baby in the bath or vice versa.
So here are some my fave openings at the moment:
  • Just in Case by Meg Rosoff. Within four or five pages, we've met the hero, the villain, the helper, the dog and envisaged every possible disaster that can befall humanity. Phenomenal.
  • The Death Collector by Justin Richards. "Four days after his own funeral, Albert Wilkes came home for tea". Now, if that doesn't grab your attention, what does?
  • A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas. The first sentence is as long as a midwinter night and yet easy and cosy as a fireside on said night. To me that opening describes exactly how memory (mine anyway) works: it doesn't. It's just a constant meandering between bits and pieces, where the big picture is at once lost and retained: ''... I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six."
  • The Jolly Postman by Alan and Janet Ahlberg. "Once upon a bicycle,/ So they say,/ A Jolly Postman came one day..." How can you resist? As a writer of picturebooks myself, I'm forever fighting against the easy "once upon a time" option. So far (with about 20 stories out there), I've only used it once, but that was at my editor's request.
  • The Lightning Key by Jon Berkeley. "Listen: rain is falling, and what a rain! A billion beads of cold sky slant down through the night..." That rain is music and it's movement and it has me wondering whether I left the skylight above my desk open...
  • The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. "The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don't got nothing much to say." What can I say?
  • The Seeing Stone by Kevin Crossley-Holland. A different affair altogether, but the voice is as distinctive and as convincing as that of Ness' narrator, and from the very first paragraph too.
  • The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett. Definitely one of the funniest and cleverest books I've read. "As the Amazing Maurice said, it was just a story about people and rats. And the difficult part of it was deciding who the people were and who were the rats." There's at least four interruptions on the first half page and we're introduced to no less than three characters with deliciously odd names. Tentalizing or what?
  • The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean. Another powerful voice, that of Sym who is ironically so powerless when it comes to action. Here's the first paragraph: "I have been in love with Titus Oates for quite a while now - which is ridiculous, since he's been dead for ninety years. But look at it this way. In ninety years I'll be dead, too, and then the age difference won't matter."
Just open these books on the first page and I dare you not to read more!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A New Toy for a New Year

The Christmas deco has been shoved back into the attic, the last pressies have made their way from Far and Wide, the last of the cakes and puddings have mysteriously disappeared and the snow is cleaning up any dregs of the gone-by year. In other words, welcome to 2010!
To celebrate, I am launching this here blog. It's a bit of a game and a bit of a challenge. I've never done this before, so please bear with me!
In these posts, you will discover the Inner Workings of a Children's Books All-Rounder's Mind. Or, more like, her thoughts and ideas and wishes and rants. From books I'm reading to books I'm writing, via those I wish I had penned myself, I hope to give you a tiny bit of food for thought.
So, tuck in, sure why not?