A problem shared is a problem halfed, right?

There really is nothing worse than hitting a wall. Be it on a bike, in a car, when you’re out walking or if you’re just sitting in front of a page writing. So when Carbags said Oddbally needed help I felt a twang of empathy:

Writing books. It isn’t all bonbons and disco balls, they lied. I’m in a bit of a rut at the moment, or a hole to be more precise. A scream hole. The ’scream hole’ is pit in the ground on the outskirts of my fictional town. Rumour has it that that for centuries children have been drawn to the scream hole in their sleep and have fallen away forever. The air around it carries their misery and cries for help. Is this a bit much? - Carbags, let her know what you think.

Elsewhere in the writing world - Sinéad Keogh is abandoning her own blog to finish that book.

12 Stories has an interview with poet John F Deane - who has a very hopeful outlook on short stories:

Stephen King has said the short story is gasping its last. Do you think it is in a healthy or a weak state at present?
It’s in a very weak state because, in Ireland, it was overpublished during too many years and the standard was never too high. Too many poor stories appearing in national newspapers. A good publisher is required, and will appear, inevitably, who will market great stories and present them to a rushing generation, for trains, planes and gains.

And finally - have a look at the new Penguin website. And then have a look over on the Puffin site - now complete with flying Puffin games.

Hello - it looks like this is your first time here - you might want to subscribe to the RSS feed or click here to find out more about me. Thanks for visiting!

Written by david. in: Reading, Writing, childrens books, linkage | Tags: , ,

Back to work.

The holidays may be over and the house raided of all chocolate and drinkables but lo! There is still an untapped, and forgotten, realm of confectionery solace: the office. There is an abundance of forgotten inter-office gifts that we have discovered are safe for public consumption - including two tins of Roses, a huge Quality Street, a small celebrations, a box of mince pies and some spicy nuts. Who says Christmas dies on the January 6?

If chocolate and the like don’t feature on your list of resolutions for 2009 then why not visit Sarah Webb’s January Writing Coach blog? Sarah is writing a daily ‘how-to’ blog for anyone what wants to write a book in 2009.

Go on - give it a go.

Written by david. in: Writing | Tags:

Oisín McGann - on film

Sci-Fi London has captured some rare video footage of an OisínMcGannitus in the wild. The McGannitus is surrounded by some creature comforts - including what looks like an original sketch from the cover of Strangled Silence.

Go watch the video.

Written by david. in: Uncategorized, Writing, linkage | Tags: ,

questions being answered

I bumped into Neil Gaiman in the salubrious surroundings of the Clarence Hotel in Dublin. He was incredibly nice, and though visibly tired he withstood my questioning for over half an hour before being whisked off to read in front of a very packed bookshop. Neil was blindingly honest with his answers and was brilliant to talk to.

The full interview will appear in Inis - but for now here is Mr Gaiman answering the questions you sent by email/comments:

Many thanks to Cat Mihos, Cormac Kinsella, Patricia Kennon and Children’s Books Ireland for the chance to meet Neil. (And to everyone who sent in questions!)

Written by david. in: Reading, Writing, childrens books | Tags: ,

educating the nation

Sarah Webb and Irish Pen have set out to educate the nation on the how/why and wots-its of writing for children. They are running a one night event called Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Writing for Children (and more!).

So far the confirmed speakers on the night will be children’s illustrator/writer Oisín McGann, Helen Carr, editor from O’Brien Press and the Very Hungry Caterpillar herself.

The panel will cover how to catch an editor’s attention, popular genres, what children want from their books, and how to write a killer children’s submission… amongst other things. For more head over to Sarah Webb’s blog (Sarah is one of the organisers for the night, along with Catherine Daly and Marita Conlon-McKenna)

See you there!


Times | Chicken House Competiton

Fancy the chance to land a publishing deal with one of the UK’s most notable houses? Here’s your chance - The Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition is back for another year.

Plenty of time to knock out a book (no more than 80,000 words) with the deadline not until 13 October. There are loads of tips, interviews with judges and more over on the Times UK site. Go have a read and then nip to the shop for a pen, some paper and a large envelope.


Not this time

Writers talk about submitting manuscripts and waiting for replies a lot. You hear encouraging stories of manuscripts being accepted by the first publisher who reads it. You hear ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ stories, most famously from JK Rowling, who was accepted by a publisher at the eleventh hour and has gone on to be massively successful. But less often you hear about writers who are plagued by rejection letters, who spend years trying to get off the starting block.

I got my first rejection three weeks ago. It’s taken me this long to write about it - mostly because I wanted to wait it out and see how it affected things (mostly my own outlook). Three weeks on, here is where I’m at:

A rejection comes from a subjective reading. Each publishing house has a different ethos and each reading editor is different. (Just as every potential reader is different.) If one editor, or ten, rejects a manuscript you should take on board their suggestions, maybe redraft, before trying again with a different reader. But not stop trying.

This is all easier said than done. One (now highly accredited) writer I spoke to recently said he has one wall of his office covered completely by rejection letters and prides himself on the collection he acquired when he was starting out. This was meant to encourage me - I think - to keep going.

Yvonne, looking forward to reading that book, posted last week about panicking before she sent out a synopsis. I’m panicking about getting the responses. (That said the letter I did receive was friendly, honest and encouraging.)

So, back on the horse. Anyone have Penguin’s number?

Image © (the brilliant) Andre Jordan
>> click for larger version <<

Written by david. in: Publising, Writing, books | Tags: , ,

Derek Landy writing workshop

The man behind everyone’s favourite skeleton detective, Derek Landy, is giving a creative writing workshop in the Irish Writers Centre. Open to 11 - 14 year olds interested in writing, the course will run on Tuesday 8 and Thursday 10 of July.

Places are limited to 10 and costs €100.

I know I’ve given the Irish Writers’ Centre more than their fair share of stick but kudos for whoever put this together - great to see workshops for younger writers, especially with Derek. (Am I jealous that I can’t go? Yup!)

Details on the IWC website.

Written by david. in: Writing, childrens books | Tags: ,

hourglass readings | IWC


There isn’t a lot I can ever say about the Irish Writers Centre but their new series looks really interesting.

The ‘Hourglass Readings‘ will pit Dermot Bolger and a series of guests in front of an audience to read and discuss their work. The series begins in May with Jennifer Johnston and continues with Roddy Doyle, Colm Tóibín, Joseph O’Connor, Claire Kilroy, Glenn Patterson and Anne Enright all confirmed.

Tickets will be available two weeks before each event and the details will be up on the IWC website soon.

Written by david. in: Reading, Writing, ranting | Tags: , ,

factoid | on digital publishing

Colm has two posts on downloadable books here (and here) following the post on Neil Gaiman and Harper Collins’ success .

I think books are the medium most likely to succeed with this kind of model - apart from the whole “owning the artifact” thing that applies to all media, I find that reading from a computer is much more tiring than reading from a book.

I hope that the advent of newer technology (e-Ink for instance)  will make the issue of reading from a screen obsolete. Until a product is developed with wider appeal, devices, like Kindle and Sony’s e-Reader, will appear on the horizon but continue to fall short of the mark. The iPod Touch, with it’s large, legible screen, could be the solution - or an indicator for others to build an e-reader that appeals to people.

The appointment of Bob Miller (Guardian and Telegraph) to Harper Collins is a sign of publishers willingness (despite scepticism in the industry) to diversify and develop - especially relationships with bookstores.

Written by david. in: Publising, Reading, Writing, factoid, linkage | Tags: , , ,

action for autism | write me in

Darren Shan has agreed to write the winning bidder of an ebay auction into one of his next books - either his children’s novel The Demonata or his new adult fiction Hell’s Horizon. The winner’s character will get ’several mentions’ and a death scene.

Darren has given it a plug on his site and the bidding has been fairly high. How much would you pay to star in a Darren Shan book? Nearly €1,000 according to the current bid.

A very worthwhile cause and a great way to raise money.


on writing | RTE Arts Show

So the interview with RTE went well last week. Colm and I both answered a few questions for the soundbytes and were done in half an hour. (We even had time for a celebrity hunt in the canteen. No luck finding anyone though)

No one in RTE was quite sure if our ‘bytes’ would be broadcast but we told our Mammy’s and Gran’s to listen anyway. And they did.

Click here to have a listen.

The guests on the show, Fergal Tobin and Anne Haverty, disagreed with what I had to say. It was both unexpected and unfair and I would like to respond.

Anne Haverty’s opinion that the business end of writing is of no interest to writers seems nonsensical. Publishing, as both guests agree in the interview, has changed over the last 10 years and publishers, editors and agents look upon it from a much more analytical level now. I think the business of writing is very much the business of the writer, literary fiction or otherwise. That includes the general administrative aspects of writing - how to make a submission, where to submit work, help with making contacts as much as the financial ends.

Anyone with an interest in writing/publishing is aware of the market conditions - and Fergal’s suggestion that if I knew the numbers involved with publishing fiction I would probably stop writing is daft. All new writers speak to publishers in Ireland and the UK - each with varying degrees of pessimism - and most people submit manuscripts with the full knowledge of the difficulties.

I am looking at making a career in children’s writing - an ambition that is driven by the same need as Anne Haverty’s, as ‘someone who needs to write books‘. What I mean when I say career in writing, is that I want to continue writing and develop it with audiences and readers through as many outlets, technologies and books as possible for as long as I can. To reach that goal I need as much information about writing, including the business aspects, as I can find.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — —
Relevant link: American authour John Scalzi offers business advice to writers. (more)

Relevant quote: A friend, who has been submitting fiction for more than 15 years, sent this by email:

Every publisher/agent I’ve ever met has always begun the conversation with: ‘You know you’ll never get a book of short stories published, don’t you?’

Written by david. in: Publising, Writing | Tags: , , , ,

world book day | meeting Ina and more.

I met Ina from Semantic Bits on Saturday night. I was somewhat un-sober at the time so when she asked me what I blogged about I garbled an answer and hid at the bar. I think I told her that I write about books. And writing. (Apologies Ina)

Mostly I’d like to focus the blog on children’s’ writing, a genre that isn’t lacking in bloggers. I’m currently working on a childrens’ novel but my interest goes deeper than my own book. I work closely with the Writers In Schools Scheme and their Development Education project so my day is often spent talking about children’s’ lit or with children’s writers.

One of the writers I get to talk to is Siobhan Parkinson, who has been writing for/working with children for aeons. (I think Siobhan’s first book was published in 1992?) I picked up my old copy of her book The Moon King on Sunday and have been marvelling at it ever since. I have questions about some of it - approach/setting etc. - but overall it is a unique book that conjures a realistic view of a boy with aphasia.

The Moon King is easily comparable to Siobhan Dowd’s The London Eye Mystery or Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Aphasia isn’t autism but there are similarities in writing a character with communication/social difficulties. Siobhan introduces broken paragraphs/fragments of Ricky’s silent thoughts to overcome the aphasia and give her silent character a voice. The fragments read easily and don’t interfere with the main narrative of the story - in places you’re looking forward to reading his thoughts rather than the narrative. It’s an interesting book that deals with a specific disability and eight years later The Moon King is still top of my reading pile.

Happy World Book Day.


mongrel | yes more rumours

Remember Aoife’s informant? They weren’t wrong. Just off by a month or so. The editorial in the new issue tells us Mongrel, the sassy pop-culture mag, is indeed leaving the streets. (No phonecalls this time, I’m mourning the loss of the King of Karaoke.)

So who/what is to take up it’s place? What is going to keep the masses entertained now??
Here’s a list of potential alternatives:

I found a copy in Tower last week - a slapstick comic with a message (that is a little too obvious), but comes complete with some brilliantly clever lines. The illustrations are simple enough. The highlight has to be the back cover - a detailed cityscape facing out and some hilarious classifieds on the reverse. Including the one for a new religion, going cheap.

Limerick Now
Expertly described as ‘a new version of the Limerick Post with the Republican Sinn Fein press statements taken away.‘ Read it backwards and it is an insightful, serious literary commentary on modern Irish society. No, really.

Analogue or State magazine
Two different music mags but with the same goal. Spreading the word, musically. Analogue carries Radiohead on the cover - amongst others. And State is landing in our laps on 6 March. (Timely, huh??)

Hot Press
No. I’m kidding there.

Other popular choices include: The Ticket. Cosmo Junior. Totally Dublin. DRB (not to be confused with the Dublin Review).

Written by david. in: Free Stuff, Magazine, Publising, Reading, Writing, linkage | Tags: , ,

factoid | on making money

John Scalzi has ten practical money tips for writers looking to make a career out of writing. Scalzi has written a lot about money and writing on his blog - and the points he’s making are interesting:

  1. You’re a writer. Prepare to be broke. Sad but true. And even more unfortunate is the news that even Edison died broke and he was a genius.
  2. Don’t quit your day job. Best way not to be broke (see above point). You know it makes sense.
  3. Marry (or otherwise shack up with) someone sensible with money, who has a real job. Scalzi has come under fire for this one. Personally, I couldn’t agree more. Having a partner who is smart with money has saved my ass more times than I can count.
  4. Your income is half of what you think it is. This is one of those things that should be obvious - not that I had ever thought about it. There is one nice thing about Ireland - writers don’t pay taxes on money earned from creative works.
  5. Pay off your credit cards NOW and then use them like cash later. How many have fallen for that trap?
  6. Don’t have the cash for it? You can’t have it. Reluctantly I agree. No matter how shiny it is…
  7. When you do buy something, buy the best you can afford — and then run it into the ground. This point just makes sense, whether you’re a writer or not.
  8. Unless you have a truly compelling reason to be there, get the hell out of New York/LA/San Francisco. I’d make a case on this for Dublin too - except that I live there.
  9. Know the entire writing market and place value on your own work. Charge what you’re worth, not a penny more or a penny less. If you don’t know what that is - ask the union.
  10. Writing is a business. Act like it. Wear a shirt and tie to work? No. Just take it seriously.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

Something else worth reading: Harvard papers are to go online - free.

Written by david. in: Writing, factoid | Tags: , , ,

factoid | on submitting picture books

Drawn! has a post on submitting picture books to publishers - recommending that anyone interested should read The Complete Idiots Guide to Publishing Childrens’ Books. Adam also hits on a fact that I had never heard before - DO NOT SEND A PUBLISHER ILLUSTRATIONS.

It seemed a bit strange so I did some digging around on publisher websites. Turns out that even the publishers who will read your work don’t want to see illustrations. Chicken House are quite clear about it: ‘…for a picture book, [send] the whole story. There is no need to send illustrations for picture books.’ O’Brien Press specify no original artwork and Scholastic and Hodder Headline don’t mention anything about artwork, only manuscripts…

Coming after those that will read your work are the publishers that are not accepting submissions. Amongst them: Walker Books, Harper Collins, MacMillan, Bloomsbury and Puffin. In these cases you will need to get yourself an agent or make some contacts on the inside.

If I wasn’t worried before, I am now.

Update: Interesting piece on publishing over at Pound (mucho gracias, loosetooth)

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

Statistic of the week: a children’s fiction writer told me last week that his picture book (which took a total of two hours to write) has outsold his two young adult novels (which, combined, took more than 4 years of blood, sweat and research) at 30:1.

Written by david. in: Publising, Writing | Tags: ,

Writing doesn’t pay bills

Jessica Johnston over at the Kenyon Review blog has a piece on writers’ lifestyles, including teacher-writers, parent-writers, waiter-writers, beekeeper-writers, lighthouse keeper-writers, farmer writers, construction worker-writers, librarian-writers, software engineer-writers, grocery clerk-writers and puppet wrangling-writers in her list of possibilities.

Tad Williams’ biog reads as a CV: band member, shoe salesman, financial manager, newspaper boy, military manual designer, DJ/Broadcaster, TV/Theatre producer, teacher, co-founder of a television company and a writer. David Eddings was a buyer for Boeing rocket ships and a grocery clerk. Thomas Lynch works as an undertaker. Dannie Abse is a doctor.

Alongside the weird daytime experiences out there are the ‘writerly’ jobs. Lecturing in creative writing or English literature or Poetry. (Heaney, Palahniuk and countless thousands of others). Editing journals. Sub-editing. Journalism. Ghost writing. Visiting schools/libraries/arts centres.

A few writers have recently stressed to me how important they found their day-job. The routine of getting up in the morning (or having to go to bed), coming across different places or hearing and talking to people.

I can’t see the attraction. Not working sounds ideal.

Written by david. in: Free Time, Work, Writing | Tags: , ,

Willesden Herald | Result

The Willesden Herald International Short Story competition has, after more than 800 entrants, decided that it could not find a suitable winner.

In Zadie Smith’s own words:

…in the end – we have to be honest – we could not find the greatness we’d hoped for.

I didn’t enter the competition, lucky me. But for a series of judges to come out and tell writers (of any age, race, gender or nation) that their contribution was just not great, or even good, is execrable. Have Zadie Smith and the other judges written such superior masterpieces that they are free to comment?

I’m not a hurt entrant, bemoaning my lost chance at glory. I am however very curious to know what kind of story the organisers expected to receive. Their principle mantra for entries was ‘MAKE IT GOOD’, not the most specific of entry requirements, just enough to let the judges out of choosing a winner. This was a bad decision, and not one to be celebrated.

In the words of one commenter (taken from the guardian)

As for the ‘pseudo-literary ficto-tainment that dominates our chain bookstores’ (quoting from Zadie Smith on Willesden Herald site): every Zadie Smith novel or any anthology with the Zadie Smith brand name attached will end up in pride of place in the picture windows of said chain stores. So what does that say about her (and the WH) stance? Isn’t it hypocritical as well as unrealistic?

Update: The prize (unceremoniously) will be divvied out amongst the shortlist due to pressure from the outside world.

Written by david. in: Competition, Writing | Tags: ,


Right, so.
I’m back online and carrying a near-finished manuscript under my arm. The plan is to convince a publisher that it will be worth their while taking on my little book. So far I’ve had some success - one London publisher is curious. Not bad after only showing it to two people.

I spent last week in UCD library punching out 2000 words a day. It was strange - some of the time my fingers couldn’t move fast enough and at others, the words didn’t come.


I love writing, sometimes it just doesn’t love me.

Written by david. in: Writing | Tags: , ,

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