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  1. Fancy being an author? Are you sure you’ve got what it takes? Let me tell you a bit about an author’s life so that you know what you’re in for.

    First you have to think of an idea for a story, not that I find that difficult I’m always getting ideas for stories but the trouble is they do tend to come at awkward times. Such as just when I’m about to go to sleep and then I either have to put the light on and write the idea down before I forget it which then makes me wide awake or try to keep it in my head for morning, which means I don’t sleep very well because I’m trying to remember my idea so I might as well have put the light on and written it down. Other places I get ideas are when I’m in the shops and overhear snippets of conversation then I want to whisk my notebook out and write it down quickly but it looks a bit rude and people might think I’m writing about them, which I am but I obviously don’t want them to know Or at parties. It’s amazing what people wear and get up to a parties that can all start an idea rolling. Again, not really the place to whip out a notebook.

    But getting the idea’s only the start. Then you have to write it up. And that’s not easy. It can take countless hours just to actually begin a story, punctuated by frequent coffee breaks and chocolate breaks (very important to stimulate and nourish you), quick checks on Facebook( in case anything interesting has happened in any of your friend’s lives that you might be able to tweak and use in your story),and a visit to the shops/walk around the park to give you some fresh air and help clear your head.

    Finally, when the story’s going well you have to spend hours and hours sitting at your desk writing. This is when writing completely takes over your life; washing, ironing, cooking meals, cleaning up, even getting dressed all take a back seat whilst you furiously write down all the brilliant words that are swimming around in your head. You may even forget to go to bed.

    Then, finally you finish your first draft. Yawn, stretch, come out of your room, say Hello to your family, shower and get dressed. Life is wonderful. You clean the house, cook a tasty meal, singing happily. Your work is done. Until a few days later when you check it all over and discover to your dismay that those wonderful words you scribbled down weren’t so wonderful, after all. Now you have to rewrite and rewrite and rewrite. This can be very stressful.

    Finally when you feel like you just can’t write the story any better you send it to your agent/editor. Now comes the waiting game. Will they like it or not? Will they want changes? Of course there’s some fun parts too. Like when your book finally gets published and you see it for the first time, visiting schools to talk to children about your work, getting fan mail, getting a royalty cheque and, if you’re very lucky, seeing your book on the shelf of your local bookstore.

    Still fancy being an author? Why? What do you think the best part of an author’s life is?

     

    (This post first appeared on Girls HeartBooks)

  2. A warm welcome back to Krysten Lindsay Hager who's dropped by to tell us about the second book in her True Colors series.

     

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    Best Friends…Forever? (Landry’s True Colors Series) by Krysten Lindsay Hager

    Tag line: Good friends have your back, but some go behind it.

     Blurb:   Landry Albright hopes the new year will start off in an amazing way—instead she has to deal with more frenemy issues, boy drama, and having most of her best friends make the cheerleading squad without her. Suddenly, it seems like all anyone can talk about is starting high school next year—something she finds terrifying.

    Landry gets her first boyfriend, but then gets dumped just as things come to a head with her friends, Peyton and Ashanti. She feels lost and left out, but finds good advice about dealing with frenemies from what she considers an unlikely source. Landry faces having to speak up for what’s right, tell the truth (even when it hurts), and how to get past the fear of failure as she gets another shot at competing in the American Ingénue modeling competition.

     

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    EXCERPT

    I was so nervous the night of the basketball game. At first, I didn’t even want to go into the gym, but I mustered up the courage just as the game ball went streaking past my head and I almost got knocked over by a referee. The ref blew the whistle and went to hand the ball off. Vladi was standing right there and he nodded at me. Peyton squeezed my arm as we sat down, but I didn’t think it was that big a deal because he didn’t smile at me or anything.

             “Duh, he was playing basketball, but he acknowledged your existence,” she said.

              “Kind of like how that cheerleader who keeps screaming out his name is acknowledging him?” I pointed to the girl with glossy straight brown hair who was doing back flips on the sidelines.

             “Forget her. He must like blondes anyway. He didn’t check me out after all,” she said.

              I checked around to see if Carey was there, but I didn’t see her. I did see India sitting with Doug and Cristian though. I poked Peyton, but she had already seen them.

              “Devon would kill her,” she said.

              “Um, should we tell her? They just started talking again,” I said. I didn’t want to get in the middle of another fight and I could tell that Peyton felt the same way. Besides, it wasn’t like Doug was Devon’s boyfriend. I’m sure India thought she would be safe since other than her and Devon, the rest of us hadn’t gone to the away games before. Peyton said we should try to avoid them after the game so we could pretend that we never saw them together. However, I ran into her on my way out of the bathroom at halftime.

              “Landry,” India’s aqua blue eyes widened. “Are you here to see Vladi?”

              I nodded and we both stood there. Peyton came in to see what was taking so long and almost passed out when she saw India.

              “You guys, could you not say anything to Devon about this? I came by myself and I just ran into Doug here,” India said.

              Peyton and I acted like we hadn’t even seen Doug. I knew India had to be lying because who would go to a game by herself? We agreed not to say anything. The whole time I worried about what would happen if Devon found out that I knew about Doug and India. Peyton told me to relax because we weren’t doing anything wrong. I wasn’t sure which was worse: keeping a secret from Devon or breaking up her friendship with India?

     

    Sounds a great read! If you're eager to find out more you can buy the book from:

    Amazon

    Amazon international

    Barnesandnoble.com:

    itunes

    Kobo

    Krysten had had some fab reviews of her first book in series.

     

    Teenage Book Recommendations in the UK: "This is a fantastically relatable and real book which I feel captures all of the insecurities and troubles which haunt the modern teenage girl. It is about a young model who has to go through tough times when she is torn between a life as a model and managing her friendships. You learn which friends she can most trust and which will create the drama typical of teenage life. Follow the life of Landry and try to see if you can find out which are her true friends before their true colours are revealed. This book is all about relationships, hopes and truth. I loved this book!"

     

    Books & Authors Spot: This book is such an inspiration for those who just care about their looks and are tensed about them. This thing is looks aren't everything. This book is related to every teen's problem. Hager has written a very inspiring novel.

     

    About Krysten

     

    Krysten Lindsay Hager

     

    Krysten Lindsay Hager is the author of the Landry’s True Colors Series, a 'Clean Reads' young adult series. Krysten writes about  friendship, self-esteem, fitting in, middle school and high school, frenemies, modeling, crushes, values, and self-image in both True Colors and Best Friends…Forever?

    Krysten is an Amazon international bestselling author and book addict who has never met a bookstore she didn’t like. She’s worked as a journalist and writes middle grade, YA, humor essays, and adult fiction. She is originally from Michigan and has lived in Portugal, South Dakota, and currently resides in Southern Ohio where you can find her reading and writing when she’s not catching up on her favorite shows. She received her master’s degree from the University of Michigan-Flint.

     

    Connect with Krysten:

    Website

    Instagram

    Facebook

    Twitter

    Goodreads

     

     You can read more about Krysten and the first book in the series here:

     

     

     

     

  3. As parents, we like to encourage children to help others, to give to charity and do everything we can so that they grow up to be compassionate global citizens. This can include taking them to shelters, involving them in fundraisers, and other family friendly charity events. While exposing them to charitable causes will motivate them to donate, a lot of learning and inspiration starts at home. These three great family reads will encourage your children to think of others, inform them of the world and become better global citizens.
                               
                                                                                      

         Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams


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    The story starts starts off with relief workers donating used clothing to a refugee camp in Pakistan, where 10-year-old Lina is staying. After rummaging through the clothes, she finds a sandal that perfectly fits her foot. Unfortunately, another girl finds the matching shoe, but instead of the two girls owning one sandal, Lina and Feroza decide to share the sandals. In their world of fear and uncertainty, the girls manage to come together and share “the true meaning of friendship and sacrifice.”

    Available from Amazon

     

    Beatrice’s Goat by Page McBrier

     

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    This book tells the story of Beatrice, a young African girl, who dreams of going to school, but coming from a family with six children, her parents don’t have enough money to pay for books and a uniform. A gift from a stranger turns her luck around, giving her a goat that produces milk she can sell. This remarkable act gives Beatrice hope that one day her dreams will come true.


    Though the book is based on the work by nonprofit organization Heifer Project where they donate livestock to poor communities worldwide, the generosity displayed in the stranger’s act of kindness mirrors the benevolence of those who opt to sponsor children. A small gesture of one euro a day makes a huge difference for sponsored children under Una Kids  an organization operating in war torn countries and helping orphans pursue their educational goals. Little acts like this positively influences those living in impoverished conditions.

     

     

    One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference (CitizenKid) by Katie Smith Milway




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    This book comes from the CitizenKid collection that teaches children to be global citizens. Based on a true story, the book is about a young boy from Ghana who had to give up school when his father died to help his mother maintain their livelihood. After receiving a loan from some of the villager, his mother gave her son Kojo a small portion. With the little amount, Kojo was able to buy a hen, and after a year, one turned into 25. Earnings from the farm give him the chance to go back to school.

    Three great stories that will entertain, educate and inspire your children.

     

  4.  First pic

    Normally I write at my desk, sometimes I write on trains and buses when I'm travelling, or in hotel rooms if I'm staying overnight somewhere. I write in other places too, if I get an idea that I simply must jot down,  in cafés or pubs using napkins to scribble on because I've forgotten my notebook, in a supermarket queue scribbling on the back of my hand, in the doctor's or dentist's waiting room but most of my writing is done indoors. The other week I did something completely different, I attended a workshop held in Caldmore Garden by my friend and fellow writer, David Calcutt. David is an author, playwright, poet and currently the Writer in Residence at the garden and the writing group meets up once a month. Always one to try something different I decided to attend. It was a fascinating morning. The first thing that surprised me was this tree:

    Tree

    Maybe I've lived a sheltered life but I've never seen a tree wrapped in a blanket before!   Apparently it's called 'yarn bombing' which is a form of street art. Knitting groups knit bits of colourful patchwork then meet up and decorate something. What a fab idea.

     

    the garden

    The theme for the workshop was Spring and our instructions were to look for signs of Spring in the garden, both visible and invisible. We all had a walk around, notebooks and pens in hand, to jot down our observations and thoughts. Some flowers were already in bloom and plants were shooting up through the soil. I imagined hedgehogs stirring, hidden under a pile of leaves somewhere, getting ready to wake up, buds pushing up from under the soil, dragonfly lava and frogspawn starting to form in the pond. A story sprang in my mind, about an inquisitive young mole burrowing its way through the soil to play in the garden. The other writers in the group were equally inspired.

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    As was David.

     

                                           David writing

    I was intrigued by both the project and the garden. I imagined that in Summer it must be a colourful, peaceful oasis in the middle of the bustling town where families could spend an hour or two together, children could play on the swing, look at the flowers, listen to the birds singing in the trees.

    After an hour or so we all went to the local pub where we discussed our thoughts and observations over lunch. I was impressed by the group's reflections and the depth of their writing. I definitely should have thought a bit deeper instead of concocting children's stories in my head! David pointed out that we can relate the two approaches to the garden, the exterior and interior to ourselves, the outside image we present to the world and the personal connection we have, the things inside that define us.

    A really interesting day that gave me a lot of food for thought, and inspired two story ideas. I will definitely try to spend more time writing outdoors.

  5.  

     

     

    Publishing has changed a lot since I first started making a living as a writer many years ago. Back then I worked on a typewriter and posted my manuscripts. I've had my usual share of rejections but was lucky enough to earn a reasonable income writing for children's magazines and mainly commissioned books. Mass market writing, but it kept my family fed, clothed and housed.

     

     

     

    When I wrote books that weren't commissioned there were plenty of publishers to approach and a contract and advance were usually given once the synopsis and sample chapters were accepted. I rarely wrote a book I didn't have a contract for. Of course, that's all changed now, with many large publishers merging and many small ones no longer giving advances. Digital publishing means anyone can self-publish and ebooks abound. According to the ALCS the average salary for a professional writer is now only £11,000 per year. So how do we deal with this?

     

    I think Neil Gaiman - an author I admire a lot - had the answer in his speech at The London Book Fair in 2013, by advising writers to diversify. To paraphrase he said we should be 'like dandelions and scatter our seeds everywhere, in the hope that some of them take root'. You can see the full speech here

     

     

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N6KB6-7uCrI

    He advised us not to be scared to try new things, of failing, of making mistakes. Good advice, it's what most writers do at the beginning of their career, try different markets, genres, styles until they find their niche. It's more difficult as an established writer to go back to doing that but the publishing world has changed and we have to change with it if we want to survive as writers.

    There are advatages to the digital world. The Internet enables writers to study overseas markets and submit to overseas publishers by simply adding an attachment to an email. I've worked for publishers in Australia, America and India this way, getting paid by Paypal or bank transfer. We can write for online magazines, web content, blogs, apps. We can critique manuscripts from writers both in the UK and overseas via email, run Skype tutorials, give Twitter interviews to promote our books.

    I believe that there will always be a need for writers, storytellers, dream makers - but we have to be willing to diversify and try new markets, new ways of writing. 

     

    (This blog also appears on An Awfully Big Blog Adventure)