My First Draft: Bryony Pearce

Bryony Pearce is the author of several novels for children and young adults. Her most recent publication, Windrunner’s Daughter, is also the first book she ever wrote! For a free copy, seeAmazon.com this weekend. Here, she writes about the momentous occasion she first wrote The End – and how that momentous occasion was by no means  the end of the story…
It seems strange to think of it now, but when I wrote my first novel, Windrunner’s Daughter, I had no thoughts about getting it published, I just wanted to know if I could write a whole novel. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to be a writer more than anything, and I’d written short stories before, but this … this was just to see. Could I do it? If I could do it, write a whole novel, well then I’d think about the real novel I wanted to write.
I wrote Windrunner’s Daughter while I was pregnant with Maisie (she’s now ten) and winding down work (I was freelancing by then). When I wrote The End, it was the most amazing feeling – I’d done what I’d set out to do. I’d written a whole novel. I’d achieved what I needed to.
Then, and only then, did I start wondering whether it was worth doing something with this behemoth of a book (it was over 100,000 words). I had no knowledge of the industry, I didn’t know what I was doing, or what I’d done right or wrong. All I knew was that it was probably for kids, or teenagers. It had a young heroine and cool dragons. I went to the library, went through theWriters and Artists Yearbook, found a few agents who represented Children’s and YA literature and contacted them.

Windrunner
One of them asked to see the full manuscript. And that feeling perhaps overshadowed all the others. I remember sitting in bed, my huge baby bump sticking out in front of me and sobbing with joy.
Obviously there was an eventual rejection, but along with it a recommendation that I contact Cornerstones for a report.
I’ve gone into the process before, of how I got an agent, so I won’t go through it again, this post is about writing The End. So I did the redraft and wrote The End for a second time.
And again for a third. And again for a fourth.
This was the book that I could never seem to get right.
I wrote other books and those were published, but not Windunner’s Daughter. I had grown, not sick of this book, but more in love with it on each rewrite. I killed off all the dragons, got rid of characters and in the end changed the whole story to another planet. And eventually I found a publisher.
I must have written The End well over a dozen times by then!
Windrunner’s Daughter was published a couple of months ago – it is finally, finally, available to buy and read. It sits on my book shelf.
The last time I wrote The End was satisfying, especially as I thought I’d be writing The End on this book for the rest of my life, but there is nothing that compares to writing it for the first time.
After all, you always remember your first …
For a free copy of Windrunner’s Daughter, do search on Amazon.com on 18th and 19th June – my publisher has arranged for a freebie!  Enjoy.
-Bryony Pearce
http://www.bryonypearce.co.uk/

The mainstream is diverse; the literature industry isn’t.

There is so much to think about and talk over, following the recent A Place at The Table conference on diversity in children’s literature.Author  Catherine Johnson’s article about the conference is here, with a mention for Megaphone: http://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site/2016/jun/17/childrens-books-diversity-change-inclusive-minds?CMP=share_btn_fb#_=_

She certainly speaks for me when she writes:

I think a lot of people – me included – are fed up to the back teeth talking about diversity. (…) Books at present are exclusive; children need to see the world they live in reflected in their reading matter. So why isn’t it happening?

And here’s another great article, this time by Misan Sagay from the world of screenwriting: http://www.theguardian.com/women-in-leadership/2016/jun/16/diversity-black-women-screenwriters-film-misan-sagay-guerrilla .

Misan Sagay writes:

 “What am I diverse from? I think the word can be a way of establishing a norm, and me outside that norm, and that worries me.”

I applaud Christopher, from Pickled Pepper Books, who told us at A Place at the Table how he tried as  a bookseller to ‘make diversity mainstream’. Booksellers like him are much needed. I remember when our Birmingham Waterstones used to have a small dump-bin marked ‘Other cultures’ – in this section would be everything from Handa’s Surprise to Noughts and Crosses. No longer, and that is a good thing. However, most bookshops still do not come even close to reflecting the world outside their doors. And that’s exactly the issue.

The world outside the doors of the bookshop and the doors of the publishing houses IS diverse. Diversity IS mainstream. Diverse is what the world IS, naturally: differently abled people, people with all shades of skin and all kinds of backgrounds, all genders, religions and mixed, and none. The problem is that the literature industry is NOT diverse and is therefore not mainstream. It is structured and curated to reflect the interests and needs of only a very small sliver of the population: white, heterosexual, able bodied (or more accurately, the not-yet-disabled, a brilliantly accurate term though I can’t remember where I read it!), middle- to upper-middle class, London-focused.

We – by which I mean the whole literature industry – need to stop curating our lists and bookshops and manuscripts to reflect only the small sliver of the population described above. Truthfully, I think it is just easier for people to continue selling books to people like them, rather than to connect with the many potential book buyers who don’t fit the description above. But what is easy is not what is right – and I mean that not merely from an ethical standpoint but from a hard business standpoint. Every industry worth its salt develops its markets in an effort to be resilient and responsive in a tough economic climate. Why not the literature industry? The growth of, for example, Islamic children’s publishing companies such as Shade 7 Publishing, demonstrates the demand for books that reflect the mainstream.

Valuable as events such as A Place at the Table are, we have to talk to each other less and instead talk more to the parents, the children, the world outside the literature bubble, those people who have no interest in publishing and just want to buy books that acknowledge their existence and value.

We have taken down the signs saying ‘no dogs, no Irish’ but we’ve got other signs, invisible ones, and we need to take those down too, and not get defensive when those whose eyesight has been honed by lifetimes of being invisible themselves, point out that the signs exist.

Misan Sagay writes in the same article I linked to above, about efforts to bring diversity to screenwriting: “It feels like a dance people are doing somewhere over there, when the solution is over here and very simple,” she says, “hire more black people, hire more black women.”

The literature industry needs to heed her words. The solutions are simple, though that doesn’t mean they’re easy to implement. As always in literature, point of view is key. We need to turn our point of view around; we do not need to bring diversity mainstream. Diversity IS mainstream – it is the literature industry that isn’t. What is it going to do about it?

#APATT
#EverybodyIn

#APATT #EverybodyIn

Yesterday I attended A Place at the Table, a half day session of discussion, talks and networking for people interested in making British children’s literature a better, more diverse and inclusive place. It was organised by Inclusive Minds. It was great to meet like-minded people, and hear how others are trying to bring diversity mainstream. The Young Ambassadors in particular spoke powerfully. Candy Gourlay was an invigorating key note speaker. I’ll blog more about it when I have chance, but here are a few photos. For better photos head over to Inclusive Minds or Candy Gourlay’s facebook or Twitter feed! @candygourlay and @InclusiveMinds and  #APATT and #EverybodyIn

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Candy Gourlay
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Letterbox Library
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It was a packed room and a popular event

Unfortunately, today came the news that the Guardian is to  close its children’s books site. The Guardian has long been one of the few publications to value and support diversity and inclusion in children’s literature,as this retrospective shows: http://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site/2016/jun/16/celebrating-five-years-of-the-guardian-childrens-books-site?CMP=share_btn_fb .
Sad news! http://www.thebookseller.com/news/guardian-drops-children-s-books-site-335626

Third masterclass: Patrice Lawrence

Yesterday we were really happy to welcome Patrice Lawrence, whose first YA novel, Orangeboy, has just been published by Hodder. Patrice delivered the third masterclass, a wide ranging session where we discussed trusting yourself to write, finding a structure and using the wealth of our own diverse backgrounds to develop characters. We also talked about the wonderful Long Paper – get a roll of it from Homebase or similar if you’ve not tried using it for plotting and visualising your stories. Personally I think it’s the best tool in my writer’s toolkit!

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Patrice Lawrence (centre) and the Megaphone participants

We also discussed the psychological journey a writer takes when drafting a novel for the first time. This is something that I think is not much written about – there’s a lot out there on the art and craft and practice of writing, but less, perhaps, on things like the 30,000 word doldrums that typically hit any writer. It can really help to know that you’re not alone when you feel despondent about your writing, and that it’s part of a process most people go through.

Orangeboy

Thank you Patrice for taking time out of launching Orangeboy to share your experience with us!