Monday, 30 January 2012

Making Changes, Moving On...

2011 was a momentous year that will certainly go down in history: The Arab Spring, the earthquakes in New Zealand and Japan, a royal wedding, the summer riots, protests against library closures and global capitalism, the deaths of Bin Laden and Gadaffi ... and so much more.

Phew! Well, that definitely puts my personal highlights into perspective and keeps them firmly in their place!  The timing is still off though. Originally, I planned to go with convention and write this post at the end of December or the beginning of January, but Christmas and birthday celebrations – and revisions to my latest book – put paid to that.

So here it is, the belated round-up of my year:

Website:  Before last year, my online presence was limited to my my website which I set up at the end of 2010. It’s primarily aimed at children and includes a brief biography, details of my books, news and reviews and contact and booking information, but it soon became clear that it wasn’t enough.

Social Networking:  Encouraged by my sons, I signed up to Facebook and Twitter. To use a phrase I have only come across since being on these platforms, I am ‘late to the party’ – but as of today, I have 218 friends and 549 followers! I still have reservations about privacy on Facebook and I had a bit of a false start with Twitter – joining and then deciding a few days later, with only 6 followers that it wasn’t for me. I’m not the best networker in real life and I had serious doubts that I would be any better at it on the internet.  However, one of the aforementioned sons persuaded me to retrieve my account and be a bit more patient. There’s a lesson in there somewhere – and it isn’t just about hashtags and ‘likes’.

Blogging: I made my first foray in the world of blogging with a guest blog for Girls Heart Books to coincide with the publication of Skin Deep and then as part of the Scattered Authors’ group blog – An Awfully Big Blog Adventure.  I started small – and slow – but I had what was described by my publisher as ‘blog triumph’ with my second post, Black, White and Just Right where I wrote about the lack of children’s and YA books with mixed-race characters. And I got another lesson – about the need to toughen up if you put yourself ‘out there’.  An anonymous comment on my third post – since removed by the blog administrator – left me feeling wounded, but I’m learning fast and growing a thicker skin. Oh yes, and I launched my own blog – this one here, that you’re reading now – which still feels very new and experimental.

YouTube: I also set up my own YouTube channel. So far, I have uploaded three videos – a video trailer for Skin Deep, a reading from Skin Deep and a vignette from the Bookshop on the Green Christmas event.

Agent: I’ve never had an agent before now and have always dealt directly with my publishers. This has worked well apart from the difficulty of negotiating advance payments and royalty percentages with the very same people who are giving creative feedback. So in August, I was absolutely delighted to be signed up by my brand new agent, Catherine Pellegrino and to unexpectedly join a veritable sisterhood of writers.

Book Launch: In September, Elizabeth Garret Anderson School for Girls kindly hosted the launch event for Skin Deep. Here are the links to librarian, Lesley Cheetham’s review and blog about the launch.

Writing: I wrote the second book in the Sugar and Spice series which is called Dance Dreams. It will be published in September 2012 at the same time as the second Spike and Ali Enson book which is called Spike and Ali in Space. A chapter from my adult novel – a neglected, long-term work-in-progress – was accepted for inclusion in the Four Women: A Tribute to Nina Simone anthology which will be published in America any minute now. I also wrote a first chapter and an outline for a chapter book for 7 to 10 year olds and the first draft of a pre-teen thriller.

Reading: I've already blogged about the Kindle my sons gave me for Christmas. But before that, I read a lot of adult, YA, children’s fiction and picture books made of paper – not all of which were actually published in 2011. It’s never easy for me to choose my favourite books when I’ve enjoyed so many, but I’ve narrowed down my 2011 recommendations to my Top Ten – sorry, twelve:

The Book of Human Skin – Michelle Lovric (A)
Started Early, Took the Dog – Kate Atkinson (A)
Killing Honour – Bali Rai (YA)
You Against Me – Jenny Downham (YA)
Trash – Andy Mulligan (YA)
When I Was Joe – Keren David (YA)
Shadows on the Moon – Zoe Marriott (YA)
Dark Ride – Caroline Green (YA)
Clash – Colin Mulhern (YA)
15 Days Without a Head – Dave Cousins (YA)
Brave New Girl – Catherine Johnson (MG)
Ruby and Grub – Abi Burlingham (PB)

Travelling: Alongside writing, travelling is one of my passions and I love visiting friends and family in different parts of the country – and the world. Last year, I went to Switzerland, France, Hampshire – and Birmingham.  There was not enough sun.

Teaching: In September, I started my second Royal Literary Fund Fellowship – an academic writer-in-residence post – at the London College of Fashion. Since the first two or three weeks when I was so exhausted, I crawled home on my knees, I have really enjoyed it – and re-discovered my vocation, which I blog about on ABBA.

2012 Plans: That’s easy. More writing, more travelling and more time with friends and family.


  1. My goodness! What a year of lethargy and idleness I had compared to you. I look forward to following your progress in 2012!

    1. Ahem... I know that's not exactly true, Sue even if you are describing yourself as a LoL!

  2. Go you! Sounds like 2011 was a really fantastic year for you. Hope this year sees some of those brilliant plans come to fruition. And don't worry about not being a natural networker. There are tonnes of us out there. Despite being a big gob, I'm shocking at working a room myself. It's just your sensitive artistic nature coming out! Glad to be your agent sister, Ros. xx