The Rise and Rise of Shelly Unwin Part 2

Here is part two of my Just Write For Kids interview. It includes why I signed with my literary agent Alex Adsett and also how I chose Allen & Unwin as the home for my upcoming Picture Book Series.

Source: The Rise and Rise of Shelly Unwin Part 2

The Rise and Rise of Shelly Unwin Part 2

shelly unwin jwfkzoo shelly unwin

Today is Part 2 of my interview with Shelly Unwin – newly signed author. For part 1 go here

(I’ve highlighted some themes to pick up on at a later date)

So Shelly, you had an editor interested from the Sutherland Shire Writer’s Festival editor consultation, and you had sent the manuscript to an editor you had met at a SCBWI conference. What happened then?

With an interested editor the pressure was on to really polish the other four first drafts. My critique group was fantastic, agreeing to give me email feedback as I worked, as well as face to face during our meetings. The other four manuscripts were also very compliant and came together very willingly. The publisher from the Southerland festival was excited by the two manuscripts and asked for the other three.

I was also booked in to the Literary Speed Dating event through the ASA on the 15th November and I wanted to have five polished manuscripts by then. I pitched the series to two publishers at this event and both were keen to see the full series. I also pitched it to (my now) agent Alex Adsett, who could see the commercial potential of the series and after some additional dialogue agreed to represent me. In the mean time I was also doing a course at the Faber Academy for my Young Adult novel, and I was asking my tutor for advice on signing with Alex. My tutor asked me about the series I was discussing with Alex and then asked if she would be able to pass the series on to the Children’s Publisher there at Allen & Unwin – of course I said yes. So it was now in the hands of five publishers, all of whom were showing an interest.

Wow! Five interested publishers how exciting! But with five interested publishers why did you feel you needed an agent?

Having it in the hands of five publishers was a dream come true, in fact it was beyond what I’d ever let myself dream. But I was suddenly dreading the phone ringing. What did I do when one of them made an offer? If more than one house made an offer how would I manage that process without upsetting anyone? The fear of the next stage was taking the shine off what was otherwise an incredibly exciting situation. So an agent really was the answer. Alex has great industry knowledge, and specializes in contract negotiations so she was the perfect agent to provide me with unbiased, commercial guidance.  So at this point I really handed the reigns over to Alex. Once the first offer came through, which was fantastic, Alex gave the other four publishers a week to respond. By the end of the week we had two publishers who had put offers on the table, and the exciting decision process started there.

How did you decide who to go with? That couldn’t have been easy?

It wasn’t! Both offers were from incredible publishing houses. I would have been happy to sign either contract the minute it arrived on the doorstep. That’s where Alex really helped. We discussed both of the offers in great detail and really worked through what was important to me. I then had a meeting with both publishers to get an understanding of what they were hoping to achieve with the books and how they envisaged them looking and feeling. Allen & Unwin were so aligned with my thoughts, but not only my thoughts, also with my enthusiasm and ambition for the books. I also met with the CEO there, who had read my blog!! And who told me how excited he was by my work, I walked away from the meeting buzzing! And slightly apprehensive about writing my next blog piece – the pressure was on! Alex then led the contract discussions, and walked me through the complexities of world rights, film rights, discount sales percentages etc – all of which were new to me. And from there it was done. Allen & Unwin was home to the series and it feels so right. Should I point out here that although my surname is Unwin, I am no relation!

You may not be a relation, but it’s a great fit with your name! Do you have an illustrator signed?

No illustrator signed just yet, but some very exciting conversations in progress. I’ll tell you as soon as I can!

So now you just twiddle your thumbs until the books come out?

Yes, I might head off to an exotic island and relax for a year or so 🙂

No. I have another picture book that is looking very promising and I am also working on a new manuscript that I am totally buzzing about. Plus I have atonne of manuscripts that I have been working on over the last few years that I continue to tweak. I have also written a Young Adult novel that is currently going through the re-writing, re-writing, re-writing phase, and one day it might be ready to leave the nest. I will continue to take courses, network, critique and do all things writerly in the mean time – it’s all so much fun!

 

I appreciate Shelly’s willingness to be interviewed for this blog – we may still be able to squeeze another post out of her experiences next month!

By Debra Tidball September 4015

For Shelly’s website: http://shellyunwin.com

For Debra’s website: http://www.debratidball.com

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Lothian looking for Junior Fiction

It is always good to get an insiders view on the publishing industry and this morning was no exception, with the delightful Suzanne O’Sullivan from Lothian sharing her thoughts at the NSW Writers’ Centre, First Friday Club.

Suzanne confirmed that with blockbuster titles from the likes of John Green helping the market along, children’s book sales continue to be very healthy. And the area of the children’s publishing market that Lothian are keen to see more strong submissions in, is Junior Fiction. Series books for 6-9 year olds, with an approximate word count of 15,000-20,00 words. Suzanne is also always on the look out for great picture books.

However getting your work in front of Suzanne is no mean feat, as she only accepts agented submissions, or submissions following on from consultations at conferences or literary speed dating.

But if you are lucky enough to make it into her pile of submitted manuscripts, these are her tips for how to stand out:

  • Have a really clear sense of the market, “this book fits into this trend,” or “this book fills this gap,” (but be careful that the gap really is a gap in the market and not a gap in your knowledge of the market!)
  • Really hone your writing. Make sure it is fully workshopped and edited before you send it.
  • Let your writing be the star, regardless of your other successes the writing needs to speak for itself.

And what themes is she looking for?

  • Humour, she loves a story that makes her laugh, but the humour must be supported by a good story with heart.
  • Friendship, friendship themes are always very popular in junior fiction.
  • Adventure based stories.

So according to Suzanne, what can writers be doing to help them achieve publication?

  • Be active on social media.
  • Be active in writers groups and attending conferences etc
  • Show a willingness to get out there and promote yourself.

Suzanne also mentioned a preference for authors who have a body of work targeting one area of the children’s market, so that they can build a strong readership and utilise this readership for the authors other books.

And there is a small glimmer of hope if you are not lined up to attend a conference or event where Suzanne is meeting writers- Lothian are currently thinking about opening up submissions for one genre at a time, probably early next year, so make sure you follow Suzanne on Twitter @Suzanne_OS and keep your eye on the Hachette website http://www.hachettechildrens.com.au

Happy writing everyone!

 

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Signed, Sealed and so excited!

Finally I can announce my exciting news!

I have been offered and accepted a publishing contract for a five book picture book series with Allen & Unwin. It is a dream come true. I couldn’t be happier and I couldn’t have found a more passionate, consultative or engaged publisher for this series. I am beyond excited. I can’t say much about the series, other than that it is aimed at 1-5 year olds and at this stage we are hoping to release all five books at the same time. I will be able to give you more details closer to the release date.

But for now I have taken down the affirmation poster that has been on the door of my tea cupboard for the last two years!

affirmation poster

Because I have indeed just signed A Great Publishing Deal!  I’m still pinching myself.  I wanted to share my news with all of the friends, old and new, that have supported me along the way. And I wanted to say a huge thank you, particularly to my critique group, Picture This, for your invaluable help and insight, to my family for your belief and support and to my agent Alex Adsett for helping to pull everything together and coach me through a nerve wracking decision process.  Yippeee!!!

 

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The Next Generation of Authors

As I sat at my computer today reading the work of the Year Five and Year Six children that were selected for the Writing Masterclass at my local Public School last week I was blown away. Some of these kids have an astounding amount of talent. In some of the stories I read (all capped at a 600 word limit and with the guidelines of being based around a 10-12 year old protagonist who suddenly finds themselves in another country) I found myself swept away by brilliantly crafted images, strong story lines and authentic dialogue.

It is a wonderful experience to see the plot lines and characters that are oozing from our next generation of authors. In some it is possible to see influence of currently popular middle grade books, and in some the influence of current affairs and the media. Some follow the traditional spy book format and others find something that feels new and unchartered. In each case there was a glimpse of something special and it was a privilege to work with such gifted children.

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The beginning of the Christmas festivities already!?

We had a wonderful evening at the Children’s Book Council of Australia, Northern Sub Branch Christmas Dinner last night. It was great to listen to the incredibly talented Peter Carnarvas as he told us about his writing journey. He also played a couple of little songs on his ukulele and drew a quick picture of his George character from Oliver and George, which then went into the silent auction. So much talent. Peter then went on to signing books that people had bought that evening, and I wondered if he might be suffering from an acute bout  of signusitis today after signing so many? (sorry! I blame my dad for my silly sense of humour) I for one brought home six signed books! And he drew a little picture in each one – I love it when author/illustrators do that!

Peter Carnarvas

We also heard from Paul McDonald of The Children’s Bookshop, Beecroft. He talked about the age of visual literacy in which we find ourselves. He commented that Jessica’s Box by Peter Carnarvas is a great example of this. Schools are also pushing for interactive books and he recommended ‘Mix it up,’ by Herve Tullet, who also wrote ‘Press Here,’ both fantastic books for young children. For middle grade readers he recommended ‘Awful Auntie,’ by David Walliams, it’s apparently hilarious. And his suggested read for adult book clubs was ‘We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves,’ It has a major twist around page 70 and from there the book takes off and you can’t help but want to talk about it. It will be my recommendation to my book club this month!

Wendy Blaxland also launched her beautiful book, The Christmas Rose by Walker Books. She also spoke passionately about Marion Street Theatre for Young People, which has been thrown a lifeline by council, but still needs much public support to ensure it is an ongoing resource for the community. My stepson Jack participates in the weekly class for children with an intellectual disability and he absolutely loves it. We also love the opportunity to see him perform. I still smile when I think back to last years performance at the Concourse Theatre Chatswood, when Jack took about two minutes to walk to the back of the stage to hang a pretend picture, because he needed a real wall for his pretend picture – a beautiful moment J

It was a great night. It was lovely to catch up with so many warm, generous and gifted friends, and great to celebrate everyone’s successes for the year. But I still can’t believe we’re celebrating Christmas at the beginning of November!

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Bringing Characters to Life

On Saturday I attended the 8th annual Shire Writers’ Festival. It was a great event with some truly inspiring speakers.

PM Newton spoke on ‘Writing is Re-writing’. The two take aways for me from this session were:

Make sure any extra characters in the book have a ‘real’ place and know them well. They shouldn’t just be there as devices to move the plot along.

and

In scenes ‘In late and out early,’ Think about what is important in the scene, what is the turning point and keep it tight around that point.

Jaclyn Moriarty spoke on ‘Create that Character.’ She gave us a fascinating insight into Isaac newton’s character. The big take aways were:

Unmask characters gradually, piece by piece, so that the reader gets to know them gradually in the same way that we would get to know someone in real life.

and

Give characters secrets, things that the world doesn’t know about them. Aspects of the characters childhood can really bring authenticity to a character, as can describing a characters bedroom furnishings or house.

Kylie Fornasier spoke on ‘History to the Page.’ The take away from this session, was that historical fiction requires a huge amount of research, but at some point you have to stop reading and start writing. It was also interesting to learn that all libraries can do inter-library loans, so you can get your library to order a book for you from any library in Australia – Good to know, Thanks Kylie!!

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This year I have decided to participate in the PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) challenge. It starts tomorrow, and the challenge is to create 30 picture book ideas in 30 days. The ideas need only be very basic ideas, but will hopefully provide a bank of ideas to work from over the next 12 months. I have several author friends who’ve taken part in this challenge before and rave about it. Each day there is a blog from an author or picture book professional to help inspire the creation of ideas, and there is a community of support, energy and encouragement. So here we go, 30 ideas, 30 days…….