Who? I’m Camilla Chester, a near-miss, now self-published Children’s Author of three middle grade books; Jarred Dreams, EATS and Thirteenth Wish. I am also, one month in to being mentored through the #WriteMentorSpark scheme and I can definitely see the benefits of being involved.
How Does It Work? If you’re a writer that wants support with your craft from another writer then you can sign up to the scheme. There are several different levels, depending on what you want, but all involve being matched to another writer who will offer you support and advice on your writing. You’re also welcomed into a sort of on-line club, where you can watch vlogs, read articles and take advice from Industry professionals as well as other mentees.
How Long Does It Last? I went for the special deal and signed up for a year, but it is a roll on, roll off programme so you can just join for a month if you like.
How Much Is It? It’s super cheap. I went for the middle level and paid £200 for a full year. I have never seen anything offering so much for so little money. A day’s writing workshop could easily cost you that. It’s cheap, not because it’s rubbish or unprofessional, but because it has been set up to help people NOT to make money. There’s no dream peddling going on here.
What Happens? It’s my first month and I have had a critique of the first 1,500 words of my new book, Darna’s Sky, plus, email advice and support from my mentor Emma Barton-Smith. She has been thorough, direct and very kind about my writing. Even though we don’t speak, I feel like we are getting to know one another through the email contact. We have made a plan of action for the coming months and I am looking forward to moving on through the scheme.
Would You Recommend It? Yes, definitely. I’m part of two critique groups and a face to face writing group, but this is one person, in your corner, really focussing on you and your work. It feels great to have that kind of attention! Try it, what have you got to loose?
How Do I Find Out More? Twitter: #writementor #WriteMentorSpark @stuartwhite Website: www.write-mentor.com
Camilla Chester is a Children’s Author who has just completed her first month with #WriteMentor Spark.
Below you will find the Longlist, then a list of Notable Mentions, who just missed out, and finally a list of Readers’ Favourites (those who did not make the LL).
Right, time to get serious – this was so hard to do – the list is longer than I planned because there were so many novels we couldn’t say NO to!
Missing out on this long list is not a reflection of quality, simply the old combination in any creative pursuit – LUCK, TASTE and TIMING.
There were at least 40 more novels that could have gone onto this list and not reduced the quality in any way.
That said, the novels that did make it were INCREDIBLE.
How did we decide?
Entries were read 7 times (5 adult readers, 2 kid readers) and to make the list, you needed to get 6 or 7 YES votes!!! I KNOW!!!
When you receive your personalised feedback, you’ll get the number of YES votes with it – if you had 4/5, know that you just missed out and that this is still a great achievement – most of your readers wanted to continue. That’s a win in my view.
We also averaged the scores given by the 7 readers – the top 20 average scoring entries also all made the LL, regardless of YES votes, but mostly these overlapped.
Then we had our Readers Favourites – each reader told us their favourite and we took this into account in composing the list. Ultimately a few didn’t make it – we have listed them at the bottom. 4 novels got 2 readers favourite votes. Those were also added to the list if they hadn’t made it on other criteria.
So, I think you’ll agree, we’ve been thorough, we’ve done all we can to reduce the subjectivity of a single reader or 2, so we hope this has created the strongest possible list.
Of course, we are bound to have missed a few off here which will go on and be successful. See above comment on LUCK, TASTE and TIMING. If you weren’t successful this time, it’s due to that, not a lack of ability or promise in your novel.
Thank you to everyone who entered, and we hope if you’re not on this list, you’ll find the feedback we send useful, or at least enlightening. All I ever want to know when I miss a list, is how close I was and what did the readers think, and you all now have that chance, if you chose it at entry.
If you are on here (or even if you’re not) feel free to tweet about it using #WMCNA but if you’re on the longlist, do not tweet your title. You may tweet your title if you are on the bottom two lists.
Without furthering the agony, here is the list of novels (anonymous to allow impartial judging) that made it onto our long list.
Congratulations on having your novel, Clouded by Envy, published. Tell us a little about the novel.
Clouded by Envy is told in dual POV from twin bats, which are fairy-like creatures from another world called Laith. The twins escape their world through a portal of sorts and wind up on Earth in the year 1995. Brenik is one of the main characters, and with growing up on Earth and being the only one of his kind, except for his sister, has driven his envy a bit too far. Bray is the other POV and she’s just the sweetest little peach in the world, opposite of Brenik. Think Crysta from the movie Ferngully. However, Brenik just wants to be human and he finds a way, but there is always a price, isn’t there? I seriously love these two characters so much!
Where did the idea/inspiration come from for Clouded by Envy?
So I drew inspiration from The Pictures of Dorian Gray and Dracula for Brenik’s character. I wanted a story a bit dark but also with my usual quirkiness and romance. So you’ll see all of that!
Tell us about you…
I’m a stay at home mom who really got into writing a little over two years ago after my dad passed away. I’ve known since I graduated high school that I wanted to be a writer just didn’t know how to go about it. Beside that, I love watching horror movies, looking at Bonsai trees, and eating cheese (lots of cheese!). Oh and of course 70s, 80s, and 90s music!
Where and when do you write?
Morning sessions are my jam. During the week its easy since my daughter is at school, and if its on the weekends, I try to write while she’s asleep. I need the radio silence! However, I do have my handy dandy Slinky in hand for when the times get tough!
What are you working on now?
I actually just finished the companion for Clouded by Envy. Don’t worry, both are stand alone books and can be read in reverse order if chosen! I also have a couple unpublished manuscripts I’m figuring out which route to take them in!
Desert Island books?
Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi (Warner is my boy!), Trick by Natalia Jaster (Poet is my personal jester!), and A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas (Rhysand, enough said!)
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
First draft is exhausting for me. I feel like it’s a chore because I’m one who wants to finish stuff in a day. And with a book I can’t do that, so I feel as if I have to rotate batteries in and out to keep myself going. Now second draft is something I love because I can put the pieces together or shuffle them around!
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Reread your manuscript! You can’t just write it and think it’s good to go! Also, the writing world is very, very hard, so remember to keep writing for yourself because there will be so many rejections along the way.
What is the first book that made you cry?
I feel as if movies make me cry more than books. The only book I can recall off the top of my head is The Midnight Star by Marie Lu. That was a perfect conclusion to her trilogy. Now, if we are talking movies then the scene between Artax and Atreyu in the NeverEnding Story! If you’ve seen it then you know what I’m talking about! I think I’m crying right now!
Finally, where can we get your book?
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and iBooks. But if you can, please add to Goodreads!
Candace Robinson spends her days consumed by words. When she’s not writing stories, she maintains a book review blog. Her life consists of avoiding migraines, admiring Bonsai trees, and living with her husband and daughter in Texas—where it can be forty degrees one day and eighty the next.
Jenny, what about Carolyn’s bio convinced you to sub to her?
Carolyn was a ninja, so I couldn’t sub to her. She had to pick me, and I am very pleased she did.
Carolyn, what made you fall in love with Daniel Strange and the Prime Minister’s PLOP?
Jenny’s book made me laugh. It was ridiculous and different and very hooky. I loved so much about it, that I couldn’t not choose it. Her energy, her observations, her sense of fun; all made it magical for me.
Jenny, looking back, what was your favorite part of the #WriteMentor experience?
My absolute favourite part has been getting to know Carolyn and her other mentee, the very talented Tess James-Mackey. I love our chats which usually start about the craft and descend into some properly strange places.
An also, all the super-valuable feedback Carolyn gave me alongside her unwavering support.
Carolyn, tell us what it was like working with Jenny.
Jenny was a dream to mentor. She got her edits done at high speed and was incredibly open to new ideas/ moving her work forwards. She is a primary school teacher, and her understanding of children and how they think really comes through in her work. I was so lucky to have Jenny and Tess, and to co-mentor Michal Lunsford. All such lovely, open people.
Jenny’s right- our conversations with Tess are hilarious and dark and often very sweary.
I think overall the best thing about Jenny is her honesty. She has had an incredible journey and she deserves every success that comes her way. It’s been a delight to try and support her through all that’s happened – and now I need her to mentor me!
Jenny, what was the most surprising part of the #WriteMentor experience?
How many talented writers and excellent stories are out there. I mean, I knew this was a crazily competitive industry, but when I read all the starting pages I was blown away by the talent.
Jenny, the revision process is only three months and can be intense. Tell us about your revisions and how you dealt with constructive criticism from Carolyn. What advice do you have for future mentees?
I think I work quite quickly so I didn’t find the deadline an issue. With regards to criticism, I’d say that you just have to go with it. For me, the course wasn’t about bagging an agent so much, as getting my book in the best possible shape. And to do that you have to take on board what you’re being told.
Jenny, after #WriteMentor, you signed with Sam Copeland of Rogers Coleridge & White. Give us all the details of “The Call.”
I’d sent Sam my #writementor manuscript and he’d sent me back some revision suggestions. In the meantime, I’d written another book, THE SUPER MIRACULOUS JOURNEY OF FREDDIE YATES. I emailed that over to him too and that was the book he ended up signing me for and I couldn’t be more thrilled. He is not only a magnificent agent but an author too. His book CHARLIE CHANGES INTO A CHICKEN is out now and hilarious. You should all go and buy it.
You’re on deadline! What are your go-to writing snacks?
Jenny – If I’m in a savoury kind of mood:
Ham spread with marmite and rolled up with cream cheese and capers.
Crab sticks with piccalilli and/or lime pickle.
Walkers ready salted crisps dipped into this whizzed up dip which consists of olives, mayo and grated cheese.
Broad beans in sweet chilli dipping sauce, vinegar and mayo.
Celery, Branston pickle and tabasco sauce.
And if I fancy something sweet:
Chocolate orange slices with squirty cream.
Melted Curly Whirly with squirty cream. Be careful not to put the Curly Whirly in the microwave for too long as it gets lava hot and it WILL stick to your tongue and take of a good few layers of tongue skin when you wrench it off.
Peanut butter straight out the jar. Sometimes I use a spoon.
Carolyn – I find writing makes me crave sweet things… a chocolate orange or a Toblerone would be the dream but it’s often Lidl’s own chocolate bars. Jenny and Tess sent me some designer brownies as a thank you – damn. They tasted like dreams and holidays and chocolate heaven.
Jenny’s snacking (above) is super serious. If I’m feeling savoury I’d go prawn cocktail crisps or those tubs of green olives with feta.
All of this food-talk is making me hungry.
What author has most inspired you, and why?
Jenny – Frank Cottrell-Boyce. Because the man is a genius. You can see how much he likes kids from his writing. His books are so full of heart and humour. And he seems like a genuinely decent human being.
Carolyn – Enid Blyton’s Famous Five because yes, they are worthy and old-fashioned… but they are also gripping thrillers! I also love Michael Crichton for his science-fact/fiction blurring. I’m inspired every day by the fabulous authors on Twitter- so kind and fun to interact with. I read quite a bit of adult too – so anything involving Lee Child gets my vote. I’m already so addicted I could go on Mastermind with Jack Reacher as my favourite subject.
Tell us about your favorite writing spot.
Jenny – Any place where I don’t have one of my kids swinging off me.
Carolyn – In the corner of the lounge with the canary for company.
What fictional world would you most like to live in?
Jenny – I kind of like this world.
Carolyn – I wouldn’t mind a day trip to Charlie’s Chocolate Factory. I’d swim in that river until my bits were wrinkly.
Where does your inspiration come from?
Jenny – I’m lucky in that I have been a teacher for thirteen years. That has meant I have met thousands of inspirational kids.
Carolyn – I’m inspired by all sort of things. I wrote a short story that got in my local newspaper after I watched a walking group wander past me, looking at birds. I started to think about what they’d do to a member of the group if they were annoyingly loud, scaring all of the birds away. They’d kill him, obviously.
My imagination is a very scary place.
Jenny Pearson has been awarded with six mugs, one fridge magnet, one wall plaque and numerous cards for her role as ‘Best Teacher in the World’. While she has not met the rest of the teachers in the world in contention for this title, she believes the evidence is stacking up in her favour.
When she is not busy being inspirational in the classroom, she would like nothing more than to relax with her two young boys, but she can’t as they view her as some sort of human climbing frame.
In her free time, if she isn’t writing, she can be found doing something sporty.
She has recently moved to the North East of England and while she has yet to meet Ant or Dec, she has learned how to use canny in a sentence. Which is dead canny, like.
Carolyn Ward writes MG and is represented by Chloe Seager of Northbank Talent. Living near Wolverhampton in the West Midlands, Carolyn has an English degree and works in retail.
She became a mentor in Write Mentor’s first year, working closely with three talented writers and enjoying every second. She went on to develop her editing skills and now freelances for Bamboo Editing.
Three years ago she co-founded a local writing group based in a community pub and is also on YouTube as half of the Word Witches writer support duo. Between the MG edits she writes flash fiction and can be found all over the internet and on LingoBites foreign language app.
In her spare time she runs a telephone reading group for lonely older people with the charity Independent Age.
For more look on Twitter for: @Viking_Ma, @bambooediting, @WitchesWord and @CarolynWardWriter on FB.
Search ‘Introducing Word Witches’ on YouTube.
To find out more about being a telephone volunteer with Independent Age check out their website.