Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Hard done by

"Sometimes I feel like a slave in this place. It's not enough you want me to do everything around the house but now you treat me like a slave. I have to do all the cooking, all the cleaning - everything and it's not on."

My 4 year-old daughter on being asked to pick up her tiara from the living room floor.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Getting published: tips from the experts

Earlier this year I posted about whether or not you need an agent. Now, following the Mumsnet Blogfest, here are some other useful things to bear in mind if you want to get published.

From the publicist

1) Really research your market. What makes you different from the competition? Know your USP.

2) Make sure you can summarise your sales pitch in a few lines.

3) Blogs (per se) don't make books - you need to have a narrative arc, a beginning, middle and end and take the reader on a journey.

4) Build up your twitter/facebook following and get as much data capture as you can via your blog with sign-ups as that will really appeal to marketing departments.

Looking slightly scary on the Getting Published panel at Blogfest.
(But at least I'd remembered to brush my hair) 
From the editor

1) Putting together a decent proposal is the key to getting interest from publishers/agents. Publishers get so many of them that yours has to be as slick as possible.

2) Make sure your proposal includes information on how your platform and profile and how you will help promote your book.

3) Make sure you can explain what singles your book out from everyone else's.

4) (as per previous post) Many of the large publishers no longer really accept unsolicited manuscripts so it's best to get an agent on board as a starting point.

5) A full chapter breakdown/synopsis are also important, as is sample writing. In fiction you need to supply more sample writing than in non-fiction.

From the author (Bestselling YA writer Keren David)

1)  Develop a very thick skin about rejection. Don't take it personally and don't be too precious.

2) If you get the chance, work with an agent and an editor to make your book the best that it can be.

3) In fiction be wary of the adage 'write what you know' - it can make it harder not easier.

Image by Anna Gordon

Friday, 9 November 2012

Sun, sea...and small children

Our family holidays usually look a bit like this.

Or this.

Or this.

In fact even before the arrival of small girl the places we chose to go to were not so very different. Generally green, quiet, perhaps with the odd city break thrown in too. Usually jumpers and more often than not cagoules and wellies too.

Life in London often seems so full on. Small wonder that for precious time away together we like to find a little corner of quiet away from...well, away from pretty much everything and everyone.

And so we've never done "all inclusive": we tend to pick self-catering - not just because it's so easy with kids but also because we want to spend our time off together and not with loads of strangers. Call us anti social old gits...and you won't be far off the mark.

I haven't even done a package holiday since I was 19, those long ago days when £100 or so would get you not one but two weeks on a Greek island (albeit in a half built hotel in the middle of nowhere - ah sweet (ish) memories...)

Then there's the fact that our family is possibly the palest family on record. Baring my whiter-than-white legs in summer is not something I do lightly. Mr Cazroz is no sun worshipper, we both wilt in the heat and we've always worried about taking a littlie somewhere really warm.

Which is why we usually end up in Scotland.

But then, through work, small girl and I were invited to spend a few days in St Lucia with Virgin. I jumped at the chance (of course!) but then started to panic about how we'd cope on an all-inclusive (eek) package trip (gulp) to a very hot resort (agh) filled with hundreds and hundreds of other holiday makers (nooooo). And bare legs (weep).

And that all before I'd even started thinking about the small matter of the long haul flights.

We didn't take the girl anywhere near a plane until she was two - and then only on flights to France and Scotland (both places in my 'no-more-than-90-minutes-in-the-air' demarcation zone) We did take her to New York a year ago, to be flower girl at my brother's wedding, but I admit that most (ok, all) of the hands-on stuff during the flight fell to the Mr (loves flying) rather than me (hates every second)

So...eight and a half whole hours with just me and child. It would be fair to say I was bricking it wasn't looking forward to it in the slightest.

But *major revelation* do you know something?  It was absolutely fine. More than fine. The plane was comfortable. We ate (ice cream!) We drank (apple juice!) And we were very merry. I even got to watch two entire films - albeit pausing each one an average of 37 times to restart Madagascar/Charlie and Lola, retrieve felt tips from under the seats and furnish small child with an assortment of snacks and drawing materials.

The weather was roasting hot. But do you know - that was absolutely fine as well. After all, the rooms were air conditioned. The swimming pool was huge. And those all-inclusive cold drinks kept coming before anyone even had the chance to say "I'm a bit thirsty".

Yes - there were loads of other people, but they were getting on with their holidays just as we were getting on with ours. Yes - my pallor was a source of concern - but some strategic action with a sarong and a large straw hat meant that not too many others were blinded by the glare. Yes - there were loads of things going on - but it turns out that no one makes you do any of them. You don't have to send your kids to kids club if you don't want to. You don't have to do anything - including cooking, cleaning, shopping... It's a whole new world.

Small girl - who hadn't seen the sea since she was 15 months old and had never dipped so much as a toe in a wave - couldn't get enough of it and loved every second of our trip.

And I have realised that the world actually is our oyster (budget permitting!) - and that maybe preconceptions are not all they're cracked up to be. Now where's that brochure...

You can find more details of Virgin's flights to and holidays in St Lucia here and here.