Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Blog Tour

It's now less than a week till the publication of Dear Dylan and I'm really excited to announce that, as part of the publication publicity, I'll be going on my very first blog tour.

One of the great things about the internet is that it's given readers from all over the world a forum in which to share their love of books. And in the YA book world there is an abundance of fantastic blogs run by book-lovers for book-lovers.

When I initially self-published Dear Dylan I didn't think there was a hope of getting the book reviewed. I had previously written an article about publicising self-published books and every literary editor I interviewed said that they would never review a book that didn't come from a traditional publishing house.

But then I discovered the world of the YA book blogger and was delighted to see that such snobbery didn't exist here. Every blogger I approached agreed to review Dear Dylan - and, as their sites were aimed solely at my target reader - their reviews were worth their word count in gold!

What's lovely is that every site I'll be 'visiting' on my blog tour was massively supportive the first time round. It feels really nice to be coming full circle like this - a sort of home-coming tour...

Friday, 16 March 2012

Electric Monkey Launch Party

Last night I went to the Electric Monkey launch party. Electric Monkey is Egmont’s new YA imprint, and, I’m delighted to say, my new publishing home. It was thrilling to see Dear Dylan be a part of such a fantastic list.

With my editor Ali Dougal

After Dear Dylan won the Young Minds Award I was lucky enough for it to go to auction, which left me in the bizarre position of actually being able to choose a publisher (rather than my previous default setting of begging!) Last night underlined for me yet again that I had made the absolutely right decision. It was so nice to meet the members of the Egmont team, who have been so supportive and enthusiastic in getting the book ready for publication. (I just about managed to stop myself declaring my undying love to the person responsible for the Waterstones order!) After self-publishing Dear Dylan the first time round, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the fact that there are now other people working really hard to make sure the book gets into the shops, and that readers get to hear about it. Going it alone was exciting, and a massive learning curve, but it was also bloody hard work. Several people asked me last night whether I would recommend self-publishing over traditional publishing and I guess my answer is that I would recommend self-publishing as a way of getting a traditional publisher’s attention. And as a way of learning the nuts and bolts of the business of publishing. But ultimately as an author, you can’t beat the feeling of being part of a team, and having the support and expertise of a publishing house behind you.

Electric Monkey Goodie Bag

After drinks and canapes (I’ve now discovered that I’m able to eat an entire mini-burger in one bite) there was a panel discussion featuring three of my fellow ‘Electric Monkeys’ – authors Michael Grant (BZRK), Elizabeth Wein (Codename Verity) and Laura Jarratt (Skin Deep). Writing is obviously a very solitary process so it was great to hear the experiences and opinions of other YA authors. The points raised that really resonated with me were:

  • Michael Grant saying that his main responsibility as a YA author is to entertain; that he wants his readers to stay up all night because they cannot put his book down. This is such a good tip for any novelist and it reminded me of a book I once read by an American editor called Sol Stein. He said that every chapter should start with a hook and end with a ‘thruster’, so that it becomes impossible to put down. To me, this is one of the most crucial (and fun) parts of being a novelist. Never forget who you are writing for, and challenge yourself to keep them thoroughly entertained – and sleep-deprived!

  • Laura Jarratt talking about the importance of writing romantic novels that are empowering for female readers. Novels where the heroine learns that getting a boyfriend isn’t the be all and end all, and that if her relationship doesn’t work out she is more than capable of carrying on. She also spoke about the importance of challenging peoples’ prejudices when it comes to physical appearance and background – another issue that I think is of key importance to teens.

  • Elizabeth Wein’s novel Codename Verity is set during World War Two, and she spoke about feeling a terrific sense of responsibility when it came to recreating that world, so that today’s teens could get a real sense of what it was like.

All in all, I came away feeling proud and privileged to write for young adults. It is a job that comes with a lot of responsibility but hopefully the stories you write and the characters you write about can really make a difference – whether that be to entertain, inspire or inform.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Dear Dylan Poetry Competition

Last week I received my first copies of Dear Dylan. It was such a thrilling moment it took every ounce of willpower for me to not grab my postman in a wild embrace - this is a very good thing, as my postman is so scary even his tattoos have tattoos!

Anyway, as a way of spreading the joy I’ve decided to run a celebratory poetry competition, inspired by the themes raised in the book.

Entrants must be age 10 – 17 and the poems should be based on one of the following themes:

Friendship: Dear Dylan is the story of a friendship that begins online – in fact the whole novel is made up of emails between the two characters as their friendship grows. Perhaps you would like to write a poem about your own experience of friendship and how important your friends are to you.

Family: The main character in Dear Dylan, Georgie, hasn’t had the easiest family life. Her father died when she was little and she doesn’t get on with her step-dad at all. There is no denying that families can be very complicated. But they can also be full of love and good times. Maybe you would like to write a poem about your own experience of family life – good or bad, happy or sad…

Dreams: Georgie dreams of being an actress and the book follows her determination to pursue her dream, no matter what obstacles life – or her step-dad – throw at her. Do you have a burning dream or ambition? Would you like to write a poem about your pursuit of this dream, and the importance of never giving up?

Please send your submissions to: contact[AT]siobhancurham[DOT]co[DOT]uk by Monday 2nd April. And please give your name and age in your covering email.

The two winning entrants will each receive a signed copy of Dear Dylan and their poems will be published on this blog in April as part of the official book launch celebrations.

I can’t wait to hear from you!