Friday, April 25, 2014

Storybird: the Endsister

One of the best things about being a writer is that every now and then an email lands in my inbox from an interesting person involved in an interesting project asking if I want to get involved.

Last year, I got an email from Molly O'Neill, who I knew on the Internets, and also through Greenwillow, the US publishers of Undine and Breathe. She had a new job, working with Storybird. I was familiar with Storybird, Martin had an account already and had used it with the girls. It's a site where kids can make their own picture books, using art supplied by illustrators, writing their own text. It's got a really active community and they've done an amazing job with keeping it positive and friendly, looking after their very young users security. As far as social media for young people go, the thing I like about it is that it's centred around meaningful work and creativity. It's about sharing stories, accessing a feedback loop, and creating not in a vacuum but in a community.

Storybird, Molly told me, were rolling out a longform publishing platform that they wanted to test with a few sample authors, some already published and some keen Storybird users. Would I like to be part of an experiment, writing a serialised story that would be published on Storybird week by week? I was invited because Molly knew and liked (shucks) my writing and also because they knew there was a big Australian userbase already on Storybird. And–


The next step was to sign a non-disclosure agreement. So I have been waiting MONTHS to break this news.

They asked me to pitch an idea. I had a look through my computer and remembered a story I sketched out ages agot. I wanted to write something Fred (11) and Una (8) could read. I wanted to write an old fashioned ghost story and an 'ensemble' type family story of the Noel Streatfeild oeuvre, but also with a contemporary fresh twist like Hilary McKay's Casson series. I wanted the sort of novel I could write to the background tune of family chaos.

After Molly wrote to tell me they'd accepted my pitch (hoorays!), they asked me to choose an illustrator. I pored over the images on Storybird and eventually the earthy, whimsical images by Victoria Usova seemed the perfect fit to the book I was holding in my head. It was funny getting character illustrations from her before I started writing, she helped give me a stronger sense of who they were and how they were connected to each other.

The novel is called The Endsister. (Loyal Eglantine's Cake readers might remember a poem I posted on this site with the same name. It's still there if you want to go looking, but I am not going to link to it because it is ever so slightly spoilery.)

I did quite a lot of thinking and planning before beginning in April, but I've also tried to keep it loose and open. I am writing it week by week, listening very carefully to the chapter as it tells itself in my head, then on the seventh, sitting down and writing in one go. It is the most productive and enjoyable writing I have done probably since Avery was born.

Then I read the chapter aloud to Una and Fred before posting it, which gives me a chance to notice awkward phrasing, or missed words.

Then I press publish.

The story quietly began going up four weeks ago, at the time of writing this post, I've just submitted chapter five to the moderators. There's been a steady stream of readers and commenters, it is both exciting and scary to have access to that sort of immediate feedback and, gulp, data.

They've just launched all the titles officially, here's their blog post about it. So finally I get to tell you all about it!

Please feel free to ask questions in the comments or on Twitter and I'll answer them in a future blog post.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Avery Miles Mrs Jorgensen

My name is Avery.
My name is Avery Miles.
My name is Avery Miles Mrs Jorgensen.

Avery: Servant!
Me: Yes, Master?
Avery: No, I'm your majesty
Martin: Yes, your majesty?
Avery: I'm not your majesty. I'm Mummy's majesty.