Tuesday, August 03, 2010

WHERE HAVE I GONE?

I seem to have disappeared but this is only an illusion. I just haven't been in this spot for a while. I've been blogging elsewhere, hanging out on Twitter and a bit on Facebook. I may come back here properly later but, meanwhile, do find me on twitter at @nicolamorgan or on the Wasted blog or Help! I Need a Publisher!

Occasionally, I even write books...

Friday, August 07, 2009

THE END IS NIGH

This is not how my desk is supposed to be.




This is how my desk is supposed to be.



And I hope that in a few weeks it will be. In my roundabout way, I am trying to explain (maybe even "show not tell") why this blog has become so much more occasional than it was meant to be. (Unlike my other blog, to which I devote more time than I should.)

See, I'm supposed to be a writer, sitting there with a lovely notebook and pen, accompanied by a glass of vino, and indulging my senses with the scent of sweet peas. Instead of which, for the last three years I've been chairing the Society of Authors in Scotland, which I have foolishly allowed too often to take the place of writing. (I do have an email folder called "nice emails" to show for it, however, and I should point out that it is not too late to contribute to this ...)

I'm in the final run - 11 days to go, not that I'm counting, of course. The AGM and Summer Party are on Aug 18th, during and in the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

In fact, the other day I saw them start to put the tents up for the EIBF and, good God, it WASN'T RAINING. And it's still not. This is a disaster. How will they put the pegs in the ground when it's not all glistening mud? How will they know what to do? I am very concerned. We have wet weather plans but no dry weather contingencies. This is something I must organise. Not to self: add to one of the lists.

Now, those of us involved in the book festival tend to become somewhat all-consumed by it. There's all that Yurty atmosphere and we can sense the raw, heady smell of it at a thousand paces. For those of you who don't know, the Yurt is an extraordinary structure that cannot truly be called a tent - it is more like a cross between a canvas palace and a canvas cave, with a lot of canvas in between, along with many rugs to trip over, many sofas of incredible uncomfortableness, and much free wine, food, coffee and Highland Park. Also a strange combination of huge friendliness and the constant sound of egos being battered and massaged in equal measure. It's not a place to enter without several deep breaths and any other form of calming device that you have at hand.

For me, the EIBF is the excuse for my current desk-state. I am, I have to say, overwhelmed by tasks and lists and events unprepared. (Which begs the question as to why I am writing this blog post today ...)

I am doing six different events and chairing two. Chairing can be more stressful than doing your own event: when the speaker or audience dries up, it's down to the chairperson to carry the event through to the occasionally bitter end. I am sure the wonderful people I'm chairing will give me no trouble at all - but the audience might. Please don't. Please just ask an incredibly witty and positive question. There are many other things that audiences can do or not do, but I'll keep it simple and trust you to behave. And smile. And laugh in all the right places.

My six events are all half prepared. But half is not enough. I looked at some of my notes yesterday and couldn't understand what I was on about.

I am also organising the Soc of Authors in Scotland AGM and Summer Party. (I think I may have said that already.) This is a feat of extreme difficulty, most of which no one will ever know about unless I drink a bit too much HP in the Yurt. I have 100ish members coming, each of whom has to be herded, catlike. They are all published authors but many of them can't read. I have emailed them all asking for various bits of information and many of them have not replied; many others have sent the wrong information to the wrong place; and many others have given me far too much information. Bless them. I asked for volunteers to help at the party and so many of them were wonderfully forthcoming. HOWEVER, this now means that I am boggled by a spreadsheet telling me how many people can help early but not late and have bad backs, or can help late but not early and can't stand for long, and how many have no bad back at all but have to take their mother-in-law to the station so can only arrive at 10.55, and how many really want to help by handing round food but would accept being asked to fill goody bags but only early and not late, and how many ... Yes, you're getting my drift.

I will bore you if I tell you the logistical difficulties posed by organising a party in a venue with no refridgeration or washing-up facilities; not helped by many people not having replied to the invitation. The fact that we have a fabulous line-up of about 80 guests along with our 100 members is at the same time wonderful, and yet daunting. I'm not going to name them, because that would be tacky and I'm not tacky, but I will say that if you had told me during my years of dismal failure to get published, that one day I would chair an AGM at which Margaret Drabble would be a guest, I would have said you were delusional. I am sure that the last thing she really wants to do on a sunny day in the book festival is listen to me witter on, but she is. And I'm very grateful to her.

On the subject of other events - please, someone, come to any of mine. Any. Anyone. Please don't let me be there on the stage whistling into thin air. I'll be grateful for ever. I won't list them here but you'll find them on the book festival website, and the two I'm chairing are Writing in a Recession and Monkeys + Type-writers. If for no other reason, come to see what shoes I'm wearing. This is always good for a laugh. In fact, one of my abiding festival memories is of chairing Marion Keyes, with TV cameras, and of her asking the audience to give a round of applause to my shoes. Heaven without chocolate or sparkly wine - I never thought it possible.


Meanwhile, I will leave you with one final image - my sitting-room at the moment, thanks to the generosity of many companies who have donated gifts for our goody bags. Shown here are 200 gifts from Borders, Waverley Books, the Writer's Handbook and the Society of Authors. And this picture doesn't even show the Starbucks, Highland Park, Orkney Fudge and Times / Sunday Times and Strident Publishing contributions. Thank you all, lovely people.


With all respect to my lovely colleagues in the Society of Authors in Scotland, I'm really looking forward to getting my life and my sitting-room back.

Friday, July 17, 2009

RANT: WHY I WON'T SIGN YOUR FOOLISH FORM

I once thought of writing a book called "Oh for goodness' sake!" It was going to be about all the ridiculous things that humans do. Like the guy who tried to sue his doctor because he'd gone to her about a lump and had caught a cold from her. He tried to sue her for £247.18. Gah!

And now the UK Govt is doing something that would have gone in that book: making authors (along with anyone else who might have contact with people under 18) pay for a document that is supposed to prove that they're not going to abuse them. Like a document can say this?

Now, I'd so love it if it was this simple to protect children. But the thing is, this protection is already in place. Two ways: a) authors on school visits are never left alone with a child. Why would we be? b) our public liability insurance says that we can't be, or it's invalidated.

But now, in the UK Govt's "wisdom" (yeah, yeah) we all have to pay for a doc to show we won't do bad things to kids. So, that's all right then: everyone can breathe a sigh of relief. They're safe! Course they're not safe. They are neither more nor less safe than if we hadn't had this stupid, pointless, expensive, ignorant rule. In fact, perhaps they are less safe, because if we didn't have it we could have something more sensible and practical, something that actually would help. Don't ask me to say what that night be - I'm a children's author: I write them stories and inspire them. That's all. In groups. With eagle-eyed teachers looking on. The more teachers the merrier.

Actually, on second thoughts, I DO have something that would help. Simply make it the rule that no visiting adult can ever be allowed to be alone with a child. We don't want to be. Last thing we want, actually. What we want is to be in front of LOADS of kids. Otherwise, what's the point of us being there?

Listen, silly govt official / policy maker, please go and spend your time protecting children. Don't waste your time ticking boxes and making me pay for it. I am seriously concerned for the well-being of our young people if you really think this is how to protect them.

Meanwhile, anyone who asks me for this document can have instead a document which I will write myself. It will say that I am a decent adult, fantastically committed to the well-being of young people and if that is not enough you can sing for your event. I simply will not kowtow to the government's ridiculous and pointless form-filling requirements. I have better things to do and so should they.

People have talked about why authors should be exceptions. We shouldn't be. NO visitor to a school, invited by the school, should have to have this empty bureaucratic check. Every visitor should be escorted at all times, out of courtesy and common sense. Frankly, when I'm not escorted, I get lost, which is a serious worry to me. I don't care if you're an author or a visiting astronaut: you need protection from getting lost or from accidentally finding yourselves in the school canteen. Now there's a scary thought!

It's so simple, people. Just stay with us, please, as you always do. Last thing we want is to be accused of anything. Hmm, come to think of it, I think I'm going to ask all schools from now on to sign a document saying that I won't be falsely accused of anything while I'm getting lost on the way to the toilet.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

THE DASH DONE

(Happy faces and dazed author at Fettes College, near the beginning of the Deathwatch Dash.)

The Deathwatch Dash is done and dusted and I plan never to do such a silly thing again. It was very exciting but too much excitement can be bad for a person. I did wear the famous turquoise boots, which turned out to be a bad move when I found myself running through driving rain after we (in three cars) found ourselves locked into a school playground. I then ran slip-sliding through school corridors looking for a janitor who might release us, but never found him; tottered into the school office to find a disgruntled school secretary who was oddly unmoved by my desperation to get out of her school; and ran back through the heaving rain and floods to the car, where an already soaked bookseller was sitting gently steaming.

I spoke to about 700 pupils in the six schools and was asked wonderfully perceptive questions, digging deeper into Deathwatch than I thought we could go. I discovered that they all wanted to get right into the spirit of who the stalker could be, and they came up with many reasons why it might or might not be the creepy (but sad) guy in the museum.

Loads of them bought books, and loads more ordered them because they hadn't expected to want to buy one so hadn't bought money. And a lot emailed me with lovely comments afterwards.

Thank you, as ever, to the Deathwatch team from The Mary Erskine School, Edinburgh. Diana Esland, their teacher, transported some of them around with us all day, and they were incredibly useful and nice. I hope they enjoyed the chocolate biscuits in my house, between events! (Not that there was mnuch between events, but there's always time for chocolate, I think.) Thanks to Diana for her general calmness and efficiency, not just today but throughout the whole project. I'm guessing that more than 1000 emails have passed between us, but my computer crashed when I tried to ask that question.

Highlights: the cheering at Fettes and Merchiston; the excited book-buying at St George's - and their desperation to find money from somewhere ...; the fact that the Head of the Fettes prep-school made the effort to join us; the cakes and analytical questions at Merchiston Castle; the clever questions at George Watson's (and the fact that one of the girls had already put an amazing review on their website); some great pupils at Boroughmuir and Royal High too; and the way that pupils from every school - even the huge and over-heated audience at Boroughmuir, where we all roasted in a greenhouse - listened brilliantly when I read extracts, allowing me to whisper the scariest bits.

I did think I was starting to lose it when I called it Deathmarket, though. Now there's a title for a book ...

Sunday, May 24, 2009

PROBABLY THE MOST BIZARRE INTERVIEW I'VE EVER DONE

Today, I had a long list of things to do. Instead of doing any of them, I had a load of fun being interviewed by "one of the most important interviewers in the world". And guess who won the contest? (Sorry, I mean "interview").

Enjoy!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Madness in Morningside


Morningside, in case you wondered, is where I live. It's also, by incredible coincidence, where my forthcoming book, DEATHWATCH, is set.

I am entirely mad. I have evidence: a folder on my laptop, entitled "Deathwatch Promotion" and 54 documents in it. And that's after I had a bit of a clean-out.

I don't need to do this. (No, I mean I do need to do the clean-out but I don't need to do all the mad promotion.) After all, I've got lovely publishers with a great marketing team who even have that rare thing, a BUDGET, and here I am exhausting myself with plans and wheezes and tasks which take a four page doc even to list.

Probably the maddest idea occurred to me one perfectly normal grey day back in March. Why don’t I see if I can set a world record for the greatest number of school visits by one author in one day, I thought. Why not, indeed? Now, as the time draws near (June 15th is Deathwatch Dash Day, or D3), I can think of reasons why not. But my problem is not that I have ideas, it’s that I tell people them, and then I have to ACT on them. So, after I’d tripped along to Vanessa’s Children’s Bookshop around the corner from my house in Edinburgh (my only house, I hasten to add - I’m not claiming expenses on a second home) and asked her to do the book-selling, she leapt on the idea - not literally - and that was it. Trapped by my own stupidity.

Apart from that, I am surrounded by lists that say things like:
  1. organise competition for D3
  2. organise different competition for all Scottish schools
  3. buy lots and lots of chocolate
  4. decide who I can face asking to look after the dog on 18 separate days
  5. make a list of lists
  6. sign 600 postcards which I've had designed for every D3 pupil
  7. sign 1000 other little cards for other events
  8. plan 9 entirely different talks
  9. make sure I've got enough posters for everyone
  10. make sure I know where I should be on any given day - this may not work
  11. put reviews on website
  12. make food for meal after launch party
  13. tell more people about the You-Tube video, stunning screensaver and other free downloady stuff
  14. get really really really scared
  15. check Amazon and Google. Again.
  16. the list goes on
  17. and frankly I haven't put half the important stuff on it - it looks too scary
Why do I do all this when I've got a great marketing team at Walker Books? Fear, is why. Sheer terror that my new baby will drown, that no one will see it, or people will hate it, or ...

Aghhh - radical thought alert. There's only one way to make sure no one hates it: DON'T TELL ANYONE ABOUT IT.

Why didn't I think of that?

DEATHWATCH PROJECTS

A lot of people think I'm mad. I don't blame them. After all, I've got lovely publishers with a great marketing team who even have that rare thing, a BUDGET, and here I am leaping in with totally crazy ideas, setting world records (literally), madly running round the country, making podcasts and You-tube videos and fielding hundreds of emails from schools and readers and my dog. I really did get an email from my dog. Or I thought I had, since my dog’s called Amber, and a person called Amber just emailed me to ask when she could read Deathwatch because she’d heard about it from a friend who’d heard about it from a friend who’d even been sent the lovely beetle viral for her phone.

What’s this about a world record, I hear you ask? That was probably the maddest of my mad ideas. Hey, I thought, one perfectly normal grey day back in March, why don’t I see if I can set a world record for the greatest number of school visits by one author in one day? Why not, indeed? Now, as the time draws near (June 15th is Deathwatch Dash Day, or D3), I can think of reasons why not. But my problem is not that I have ideas, it’s that I tell people them, and then I have to ACT on them. So, after I’d tripped along to Vanessa’s Children’s Bookshop around the corner from my house in Edinburgh (my only house, I hasten to add - I’m not claiming expenses on a second home) and asked her to do the book-selling, she leapt on the idea - not literally - and that was it.

Trapped by my own stupidity. I am writing this blog post now, ten scary days before publication, because if I wait until after D3 and the huge launch party at The Mary Erskine School and the big school events and my trips to Aberdeen and London and umpteen other places in between, I may not be in a fit state to write anything at all.

Before I go, I have to tell you the thing that could have been madness but wasn’t. Supposing I said: I’m going to get some teenagers to commit to a two year project involving a book, which they will have to do mostly in their own spare time. You’d think I was mad. Well, two years ago I asked 14 girls from The Mary Erskine School in Edinburgh to help write Deathwatch and be my consultants throughout all the drafts, and then handed over the youth promotion to them. Yep, I handed over responsibility for my new baby to some teenage girls with a lot of other things on their agendas, because I trusted them. And they didn’t let me down. Amazing is one word. Walker Books even thought this was a good idea too, which shows how much they respect young people - and well they might, since they publish books for them.

So, thank you to Walker, thank you to the Deathwatch Girls, and thank you to whichever chocolate manufacturer I decide to choose to fuel and support me during my mad month.

Friday, May 01, 2009

The day I climbed a mountain

I am feeling pretty pleased with myself. I went for a little walk, with husband and crippled labrador. And here's what we walked to the top of. Yes, that. No, really. That big thing in the middle of the pic. Stac Pollaidh (Stac Polly) it's called and very lovely it is too. Especially when you're looking at it from the bottom.



The dog couldn't manage the last bit (they don't make pitons and crampons and things for dogs) so we took it in turns, and when I scaled the summit, this happened:




I began to write the headlines: "Stupid city wallies cause expensive air rescue after accidentally walking up a mountain with only chocolate as emergency rations."

Or, as I prefer, "Writer has head in the clouds."

Deathwatch - the movie ....

Deathwatch the Movie? Not yet, but only time will tell. Almost certainly a rather long time; so, since you don't have a long time to wait, you could try this little taster. Two short extracts read by yours truly and with the stunning screensaver as the backdrop.


video