So, after thoroughly enjoying writing the Tribe books, I’ve taken a bit of a leap and left behind the juniors to try to engage older readers. HACKED is positively unsuitable for Key Stage 2, being far too full of teenager stuff. It’s set in Bristol, using real geography as opposed to the made-up street map I drew in my mind for the Tribers, and is, I hope, a thriller. As the title suggests, there’s hacking. There’s also extradition, GCSEs, parties, drones, police, courts, love, catheters, journalists, wildlife volunteering and a lawyer that looks like Dara O’Briain. The idea grew, I suppose, from a few unrelated thoughts. That teenagers don’t always consider consequences. That teenagers are better than adults with computers. That no one knows who anyone else really is on the internet.
The book comes out in November and to celebrate I’m running a series of school events – The HACKED Launch Tour of BRISTOL.
I’m going to be chatting about how I planned, drafted and edited the book, and how the narrator dictates the vocabulary, grammar and structure.
If you’re a secondary school teacher and you’d like a visit – get in touch.
I’m currently writing the sequel, which is actually a prequel too.
I hope the end result is less confusing than that sounds.
I’ve been somewhere else – virtually. An Awfully Big Blog Adventure is a wonderful website run by children’s authors, one of whom blogs every day. I am delighted to be involved, but it means I’ve ignored my own blog.
See examples of what I’ve been saying over on ABBA:
It was lovely to go back to St. Anne’s Park Primary and see the Year 4s that I worked with last year. It was as though we were old friends. I spent a whole morning working with 25 children on openings, dialogue and endings. All of the children, even those for whom it was tricky, summoned the courage to stand at the front and read their lines aloud. Each child developed their own story using one of the Tribe characters from my books. The only given was that the Triber had to go missing, the rest was up to them. I really enjoyed the morning as there was less frantic hurrying than there is in the usual TM Alexander storymaking workshops!
The Honiton and District Writers’ Group short story competition for children has been running since 2009, the same year my first book was published. So I like to think we’re in it together. I’ve judged all three events and enjoyed both the reading of the entries and the presenting of the awards. The 2011 event was held on Monday evening at the “quintessentially English” Deer Park Country Hotel – a charming, entirely hidden away venue in Weston, near Honiton. I was told by the organiser (the awesome John Carter, farmer, writer, very nice person, wearing an Irish weave waistcoat for the ‘do’) to be there for 6.30pm to get the Tribe books and certificates signed. I was on time. Unfortunately everyone else was early so the invitees had the pleasure of watching me concentrating on getting the names right while trying to keep up some sort of banter. You really can’t stand at the front of an audience and not speak, even if they are early. I read a little from each of the winning stories and you could see the crowd were very impressed by the ideas, the excellent openings, the clever structures and the dialogue. We had an evil clock, a wicked noblewoman with mysterious attire, an unexpected dinosaur encounter, goblins, a shed with a ghost, mermen, a spooky piano teacher, a monster and a dog called Bravo Plums. The children were very excited to have won a prize and seemed rather pleased to meet me as well, so that was a bonus. After the formal prize-giving, there was a buffet with everyone’s favourite – hot sausage rolls – and much more. I hope I talked to all the children and their families. I certainly had lots of photos taken which is the worst aspect as I can’t smile naturally, unless I do it naturally, if you get me. I met a champion swimmer, a chemist, an illustrator and a runner who’d just broken a record. I left with a bunch of flowers and the memory of another great evening with nine prize-winning authors, all between the ages of 8 and 14. I’m already looking forward to next year, John.
Just had this great email from www.thevillagebookshop.co.uk
‘I read Tribe: Jonno Joins at the weekend and absolutely loved it. I will be doing all I can to get lots of my 8-11 year old customers into the series. Great characters, very believable, super fun.’ Alison
Aren’t independents great?
There’s nothing quite like the moment when you press PRINT at the end of a first draft. It means that for a while there’s nothing to be done with that particular piece, be it short or mammoth, the product of weeks or months or days (that would be nice). No changes. No quandaries to resolve. No spotting of spelling, punctuation or formatting errors. It means a leisurely cup of tea and a quiet read are the order of the day. I usually relax for an unwarranted length of time and then realise, as I go to fetch the freshly inked pages, that the printer has been flashing its low-ink warning and has refused to even try, or a paper jam happened as the first two leaves struggled to get out to experience the open air for the first time, two hours before. Who cares? Time, after a difficult task is completed, becomes an altogether less urgent issue.
And it’s a good job too, because as predicted, the paper tray wasn’t aligned correctly and only three pages made it out. I’ve sorted the problem, so there’s only one thing for it – more tea.
The deadline for Tribe book three was yesterday. I’ve been writing at odd times of day, messing with the last two chapters. In the end I used the method I’ve relied on before. I started a new file, cut and pasted the whole chunk I wasn’t happy with, and chopped and changed as I fancied, knowing I could go back. It’s obvious to anyone who saves different versions as they go along, but I don’t work like that. I overwrite, or edit, all the time so there’s only ever one document. Starting a second is only an emergency move, when I’m having doubt – something I try not to indulge. Doubt is a disease that I don’t want to catch.
So, the manuscipt travelled through the air to London – that still amazes me. Fax amazed me too, as I started work in the days of Telex. That stinted your writing style – all capitals, abbreviations and stops.
I met the sales force on Wednesday, in a beautiful building in a part of Islington that looked perfectly English in the full sun with the wisteria busy being mauve. It was great to be able to see the faces of the people tasked with promoting my book, and hopefully vica versa. They might come up with some events for me to get Tribe out of Bristol.
Bank holiday weekend means we’re in Woolacombe. A few days of no writing, little cooking and some sun . . . maybe.
Up early, on my green bike and in the radio station by 7.30am. I was there to talk about being one of the writers of the Celebration show today at the Create Centre in Bristol. It will be a fantastic day. How do I know? Because Show of Strength put on a show of monologues called ‘Waiting’ 4 years ago and it was outstanding. This time the venue is different but the format remains the same, a map, 18 short acts to watch, but the order is up to you, as are the coffee breaks.
I’ve written two pieces, ‘It’s my party’, and ‘Jessie, Giggsy and Me’. Oscar (eldest son) has written one too, ‘The Bone’. It feels like the first step towards Oscar and I being chosen to appear in the Sunday Times magazine in the relative values article. (Are you there Sunday Times?)
We are an audience of ten as I’ve drafted in London Aunt, Bucks Mum, Newbury Sister and Nieces as well our our own family. The Alexanders out in force.
The joys of a laptop. I’ve only had my MacBook since Christmas and it’s revolutionised the way I work. Before, I had to make a monumentous effort to get myself to the study to write. There were always loads of other compelling activities preventing me from making it to the swivel chair. Now, the swivel chair can be whatever I like. Today it’s a bed, as I’m full of snot. Yesterday it was the sofa, which it may well be again later. My output has gone up stratospherically. I can do emails while I eat breakfast, while I’m waiting for the tea to brew, while the soup’s heating up. And if the study seems cold and unwelcoming, the fire doesn’t, and neither does the egg chair. The barriers to opening a word document have fallen as dramatically as the Berlin Wall. Thank you Apple and thank you Rob, for buying it.