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Tuesday 6th November saw the last in the 2012 London SCBWI Professional Series, with a panel of SCBWI members who all saw their debut books come out this year.


The panellists were:

- Teri Terry, whose debut novel SLATED was released in the UK on 3rd May. SLATED is a futuristic YA thriller in the dystopian mode and the first of a trilogy. The sequel, FRACTURED will be released on 4th April 2013 and is currently available for pre-order.

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- Jackie Marchant is the author of I'M DOUGAL TRUMP AND IT'S NOT MY FAULT, a humorous book for readers aged 9+ and the first in a three-book series.


- Paula Harrison released not just one but four books this year. All were part of the RESCUE PRINCESS SERIES, an adventure series aimed at girls aged 7+, beginning with RESCUE PRINCESSES: THE SECRET PROMISE. The fifth book in the series, THE RESCUE PRINCESSES: THE SNOW JEWEL will be released in the UK on 1st January 2013.

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- Helen Peters is the author of THE SECRET HEN HOUSE THEATRE, a touching novel for girls aged 9+ about a girl who sets up a secret theatre on her family farm. It was released in the UK on 1st April 2012.


- Jasmine Richards had two debut novels in 2012. THE BOOK OF WONDERS is a fantasy adventure for readers aged 9+ based on the 1001 NIGHTS, which was released in the US on 17th January 2012 and OLIVER TWISTED (which she released under the pseudonym J. D. Sharpe) is a horror mash-up of OLIVER TWIST and was released in the UK on 6th February 2012.

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The panel started with each author giving a brief summary of their journey to publication and their highs and lows.

Teri opened proceedings by saying that she'd tried every type of fiction before coming to children's/YA fiction. Her first novel had been for adults but she'd also written short stories and poetry - all of which she described as being pretty bad. Then she had a job interview where she needed to convince the interviewer that she knew about children's fiction so to prepare for the interview she went out and read a load of children's books. Doing so gave her back her enthusiasm for writing and she also got the job!

Teri said that when you've been focused on getting published for ages then to finally get it is actually a strange experience because there aren't any fireworks and the world doesn't stop turning. It takes a while to realise that getting published doesn't change who you are - it just gives you more things to worry about. She said that she's now been writing full-time for about a year and is finding that it's a difficult balance to get right between actually writing and going out and having a life outside the writing. She said that the great thing about the SCBWI is that you meet a lot of friends who share your goal and support you. She described how she had first met Paula at a SCBWI conference and their journeys to publication actually paralleled each other.

Jackie began by giving a hilarious account of her first meeting with Dougal Trump (which involved a black bin liner being thrown at her and a rather scary spider). She then gave the real story behind Dougal's genesis, which turned out to be because her son had asked a question about writing a will and it set her to thinking about what a boy would put in his will. She said that having got that idea, she entered a competition run by the Winchester Writers Conference where she wrote 500 words and a synopsis of what the book would probably be about and ended up coming second. Afterwards, one of the judges had approached her and said that Jackie should write humorous children's fiction. Up until then Jackie had never thought about writing humour as she'd always seen herself as a writer of more serious fiction for older children/teenagers. However, since the release of I'M DOUGAL TRUMP AND IT'S NOT MY FAULT, it's been shortlisted for 2 awards and she's recently received her first fan mail so she's really enjoying the publishing experience!

Paula explained that she'd started off writing a middle grade novel for readers aged 9+ soon after she had 2 small children. It took her 2 years to write and she sent it off to publishers and agents and got a series of form rejections. She then spent a year writing a second novel for readers aged 9+, which also got form rejections so she decided that she'd switch to writing shorter books because if they got rejected she'd know that she hadn't spent too long producing them. She knew that she wanted to write something lighthearted and she actually wrote 10 books before she got the idea for the RESCUE PRINCESS SERIES.

She said that she's never been one of those writers who can spend 10 years honing and polishing the same book (although she very much admires them) - she finds it easier to move on from one idea to the next so having got the idea for the RESCUE PRINCESS SERIES, she sent a sample out to some publishers and then got a full manuscript request from Nosey Crow. She duly sent out the full manuscript but had absolutely no expectations because of her previous rejections. However Nosey Crow invited her in to talk about it and the ideas underlying it, including one about princesses who rescue animals because Paula wanted to write a series about girls being adventurous or something with a "girl power" vibe to it. She duly wrote it and got a contract for an initial 4 books, which has since grown into more.

Paula said that she isn't agented and while she went to SCBWI conferences and learnt her craft, she felt that there is an element of luck to the publishing process because you have to be in the right place at the right time with the right thing.

There were a series of questions from the audience about RESCUE PRINCESS SERIES with Paula saying that the books are on average 12,000 words long (which is apparently long for younger readers, but seems to be going across well). She's contracted to do another 8 books in the series and she's conscious of the need to keep each story different. A new book is released every couple of months and it seems to be developing a good following. The rights recently sold into the US.

Paula said that the best thing about getting published is receiving new covers for her books in her post. The bad thing is that there are a lot of deadlines that you have to meet even though you've got other things going on in your life.

As if all this wasn't enough, Paula also had a middle grade novel for readers aged 9+ coming out in 2013 entitled FAERIE TRIBES, which came to a total of about 50,000 words so is a lot longer than RESCUE PRINCESS SERIES.

Helen said that THE SECRET HEN HOUSE THEATRE was originally intended to be a stand-alone novel but she's just got a contract to do two sequels to it. The idea for the novel came to her during a conversation with her husband about her childhood on a farm and it took her 12 years from starting to write it to getting a publishing contract. Although the major plot points remained unchanged, the overall story changed significantly during that time.

She wrote the first draft in isolation, sent it out to agents and got a lot of rejections. She said that she probably would never have written another word had it not been for her neighbour, who works as a TV executive who had asked her to read a novel that he'd written and who then read her novel in turn and gave her some great advice about it, including the fact that the farm in the story was her Hogwarts or unique selling point. It really enthused her but she didn't know what to do.

She then joined the SCBWI and went to the 2008 retreat where she had to do a critique of the opening to a manuscript by Candy Gourlay, which made Helen realise what she needed to do with her book's main character. She then joined a critique group through SCBWI, which taught her a lot about story structure and she recommended that you find one where the people get your work and what you're after. She entered the 2010 Undiscovered Voices Competition and also went to the 2010 SCBWI Retreat where she received invaluable feedback on her chapters from Jasmine and Non Pratt at Catnip Books. She received an Honourable Mention in Undiscovered Voices, which she was able to mention in her letters to agents and although she got more rejections, they were more personalised than the ones she'd received before. She also sent it to Nosey Crow's slushpile and got an email the next day asking her to go and meet them, which led to her getting a deal for it.

Jasmine's journey started as a kid. She'd always loved children's books and kept loving them as she got older but she wanted to edit rather than write and joined Penguin's graduate training programme after university. She enjoyed the training programme but there were no editing jobs available when it finished so she moved to work for Working Partners, a book packager. Then one day she had an idea about Scheherazde telling the tales of the 1001 NIGHTS because she'd been on those adventures herself and she realised that she didn't want anyone else to tell that story.

She'd initially thought that that writing it would be a doddle and spent about 18 months on the first draft, which she saw as being part of a trilogy. Because she works in the publishing industry, she was able to get advice on who to send it to and got personal feedback with one agent and an invitation to meet another. She thought that the meeting would lead to her getting signed but instead the agent told her that the idea was terrible, that she shouldn't give up her day job because she needed to have other things in her life to give her perspective and that she shouldn't do a trilogy. The agent concluded by telling her to write something else but Jasmine didn't because she's stubborn. So instead she sent it out to other agents but found that the trilogy element was putting them off so she changed strategy and decided to present it as part of 2 standalone but linked books, which she talked about to an agent who liked them enough to sign her. Her agent sent THE BOOK OF WONDERS out to published in the UK and US. Harper Collins bought it in the US but while she came close to getting it picked up in the UK, it didn't make it through the acquisitions process.

At the same time as all this was going on, Jasmine had realised that the Dickens bicentennial was coming up in 2012 and had the idea to do a Dickens/horror mash-up, which she wrote 3 chapters for and pitched. This time she found that the US publishers weren't interested in OLIVER TWISTED because of the Dickens element, whereas the UK publishers were interested because of it.


There followed questions from the audience, which I'm not going to summarise because that's part of the reason why you should go to the SCBWI Professional Series!

Anyway, it was another great end to another great year for the SCBWI. Roll on 2013's programme!

Edited on 7th November 2012 to make clear that Paula Harrison is conscious of the need to keep her series books different, rather than finding it difficult to keep them different. My apologies for the error.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Jackie Marchant
Nov. 7th, 2012 09:17 am (UTC)
It was a great evening, I thoroughly enjoyed myself - sorry Dougal Trump couldn't be there in person, he was locked in his room until he did his homework.
Nov. 7th, 2012 12:11 pm (UTC)
Heh! Well I'm sorry that Dougal couldn't turn up in person, but it was fascinating to learn how you met him.
Sally Poyton
Nov. 7th, 2012 09:31 am (UTC)
Great Evening - Great Write up
This is a great write up of a fabulously informative, inspiring and entertaining evening. To make it even better i love the writing above the panels head in your top photo, I didn't notice it at the time but it says 'Todays Specials!'
Nov. 7th, 2012 12:12 pm (UTC)
Re: Great Evening - Great Write up
:looks at photo more closely:

Oh gosh! Yes it does! I totally planned that ...
Paula Harrison
Nov. 7th, 2012 10:26 am (UTC)
Thanks for this Caroline! I don't actually find it that hard to make my series books different, I just meant that I am conscious of the need for them to be different - if you see what I mean!
Nov. 7th, 2012 12:12 pm (UTC)
Oops! Sorry, I'll correct that right now. Totally get what you mean.
Nov. 7th, 2012 10:27 am (UTC)
It's really great to see friends who started out with you on the other side of that table! The evening was inspiring - but there was also a lot of useful info about process and pay off in publishing. Thanks for your very quick post!
Nov. 7th, 2012 12:13 pm (UTC)
No problem - this is one of my favourite events in the Professional Series actually because it's so inspirational.
Sue Hyams
Nov. 7th, 2012 11:12 am (UTC)
Sounds like a great evening. Hurrah to all those debut authors!
Nov. 7th, 2012 12:13 pm (UTC)
Yes - hurrah to all!
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )


Caroline Hooton

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