Help I’m an Alien Quiz

Help! I’m a Book Award Nominee

Help I'm An Alien by Jo Franklin

Illustrated by Aaron Blecha

I’m really excited that Help I’m an Alien is nominated for the John Reckitt Library Hull Book Award. Hull is the City of Culture 2017 which makes the nomination particularly special. I am going to Hull in a few weeks to meet some school children who have been reading my book. I’ll be returning to the city on 28th June for the award ceremony itself.

This is  my first ever award nomination which is exciting and terrifying all at the same time.

  • What do I do if I lose?
  • What if I win?
  • What shall I wear?

Feel free to offer helpful advice in the comments below.

Meanwhile I’ve created a fun quiz for anyone who has already read Help! I’m an Alien. The answers can be accessed via the Help! I’m an Alien page of my website.

Help I'm an Alien Quiz

Click on me for the quiz

Federation of Children’s Book Groups Conference 2017

FCBG Banner

Last weekend I attended the Federation of Children’s Book Groups Conference (FCBG) near Reading, Berkshire.

What is the FCBG?

The FCBG is a UK charity bringing children and books together, encouraging reading for pleasure. Most members are librarians or teachers or ex-librarians or ex-teachers, but whatever their background they are all passionate about children’s books and nurturing a life long love of reading.
You can find out more about the FCBG here.

Authors United

I went with my great friends Anita Loughrey and Miriam Halahmy and we met fellow author Claire Barker along the way.

Anita and Miriam Anita and Claire Barker
Miriam and Anita Anita and Claire Barker

FCBG Conference 2017

The conference has great talks by authors and publishers. A publisher stand where publishers showcase their latest books. A bookshop selling copies of books by authors appearing at the conference. This year the bookshop was my all time favourite Tales on Moon Lane. It was also a great opportunity to hang out with people who love children’s books as much as I do.

Tales on Moon Lane

I particularly enjoyed the talk by the author Cas Lester, the seminar on techie stuff you can use to help get reluctant readers into reading by Bev Humphreys and the small publisher panel featuring Alanna Books, Tiny Owl and Book Island. It was also a great opportunity for me to meet Roy Johnson who is the Sales and Marketing Director of Troika Books, one of my publishers.

A great weekend of bookish awesomeness.

And there might have been one or two cocktails sampled while we were off duty.

Cocktails

 

My First Book Award Nomination for Help I’m an Alien

I’m thrilled to share with you news of my first book award nomination.
Help I’m an Alien has been nominated in the Key Stage 2 category for the

James Reckitt Hull Children’s Book Award 2017

Help I'm an Alien by Jo Franklin

Help I’m an Alien Hull Book Award Nominee

Other books which have been nominated in my category are :

  • The War Next Door by Phil Earle
  • Freaks United by John Hickman
  • Freedom for Bron by NS Blackman
  • The Nose that Nobody Picked by David Parkin

I look forward to reading the other nominees over Christmas and find out more about their authors in the new year.

The really awesome bonus is that Hull during is  European City of Culture in 2017 and I will have the privilege of visiting and discovering more about the city during the celebrations.

Writers’ Forum interview with Jo Franklin

by Jo Franklin

Jo Franklin in Writer's forum

I was totally thrilled when  Anita Loughrey  asked to interview me for Writers’ Forum magazine. As we chatted, I suddenly realised that a certain theme crops up in my work again and again. The gawky awkwardness of  not fitting in.

Now I am an adult, I experience that horrible feeling when I go to a party and I don’t know anyone and even worse, I don’t know what to say to them.  I get overwhelmed by thoughts of What am I doing here? I am convinced that no one will be interested in me because I don’t belong.

As a child, that feeling was amplified. It wasn’t just a party I didn’t fit into. It was the whole world.

“I didn’t feel that I belonged. I didn’t know who I was. I had lots to say but no one around me was listening so I felt very isolated.”

A working title of Help I’m an Alien was “Alien/Misfit *delete as appropriate” which pretty much sums up how I felt growing up and continue to feel as an adult. I write about misfits because I am one!

“I’m not sure I ever fully grew up, so being a children’s writer is the perfect job for me.”

You can read the full article in Writers’ Forum magazine.

 

 

NaNoWriMo2016 Day 2 – Why I’m doing this now.

By Jo Franklin

Jo Franklin NaNoWriMo Day 2

Day 2 NaNoWriMo dashboard

Once upon a time I didn’t know how to plan a novel. I’d have an idea and next thing I knew I was writing it and I felt euphoric. Then I realised that if I was ever going to be a published writer I had to grow up a bit and learn how to create a satisfactory structure for my readers. I learned to plot. You can read about the process I normally follow here  here.

These days, I spend weeks examining the structure of my novel before beginning writing in earnest. I also clear my outline with my agent to make sure I am onto a commercially viable project. I firmly believe that up front planning is a very important part of writing a good book.

NaNoWriMo isn’t like that. The ethos behind the scheme, as I see it, is to get on and write madly for a month even if you aren’t very sure where you are heading. I guess that’s why I’ve avoided it up until now. I spent years writing like that and it didn’t get me anywhere. Since I’ve been a confirmed planner I have had five books published in seven different countries. Planning works.

But this year I found myself in a funny place at the end of October. I’d had to call a halt to the project I was writing because it wasn’t going to a commercial place in its current incarnation and for once I couldn’t find a solution to the problem. My brain felt empty.

Not writing is like not smoking when you are a smoker. Writing is an addiction and not writing is torture. All writers say the same. They are relieved when they type the end and congratulate themselves while they take a break to recover but before very long they have the antsy itch to write again. Soon that itch takes over and even though they have promised their kids that they will spend the summer focused on them or have taken out a new gym memberships determined to shed the writer’s butt pounds they put on during the last manuscript, they break open a new notebook or open a new file on the computer and start again.

For various reasons I could see that I wasn’t going to be starting a new book his year and I felt bad about it. As October drew to a close, a number of writer friends started talking about doing NaNoWriMo this year. Most of them had done it before. And for the first time I was tempted to join them.

But when I looked at my diary for November, my heart sank. There were so many events lined up. Good meaty author events. The sort that take all day and leave me exhausted for the following three days. The sort of events where I will meet my readers and maybe even sell a few books. Really important events that I have been looking forward to. How could I possibly fit in writing a whole novel in this time?

Then out of the blue on October 20th my dear friend AJ, announced that she was going to do NaNoWriMo this year! AJ is a brilliant but unpublished author who finds it very difficult to make the time to write. If she could give NaNoWriMo a go then so could I. So without thinking much about it I Googled the website and created my very first NaNoWriMo profile.

And now I am committed!

Day 2 = 1650 words

Total wordcount = 4044

Nanowrimo – Day 1 Write a novel in a month? Arghh!

by Jo Franklin

November is traditionally Nanowrimo month which stands for National Novel Writing Month. All over the world people pledge to write a novel in November or at least 50,000 words of a novel.

nanowrimo shield

National Novel Writing Month Motif

Luckily as I am a children’s author, my books are never over 50,000. In fact I’ll struggle to find enough words to fill 50,000.

Normally I don’t bother with it. November is not generally a time when I am buckling down to a new book. That happens in September for me, or sometimes January or anytime when I get a contract. But as I find myself at a loose end this month and know that December is a write off for me for boring medical reasons, I decided to throw caution to the wind and sign up.

Loads of people in my writing community are also writing like mad this month. I don’t exactly know who and I don’t know how to make them my buddies on the Nanowrimo website. In fact I’m still working out how the Nanowrimo website works, but I have done my words today and managed to post them on the official website so that is an achievement.

TODAY’S TOTAL = 2394

Jo Franklin's Nanowrimo total Day 1

Day 1

In order to meet the 50,000 word target you have to write 1666 words a day, every day for the thirty days of November, so I’m ahead. Feel free to cheer now. It probably won’t last because I have a sore throat and a very busy calendar ahead this month, but 2394 is better than zero.

It’s 17.45 and I haven’t done any of the things I have to do today so I’m off now to send a few emails, cook supper and think about what I am going to write tomorrow.

Chatterbooks Are Go!

By Jo Franklin

I’ve got a number of visits to Chatterbooks groups lined up in November. I tend to spend many hours locked up in my writing cave with nothing but my characters and my mad dog for company. I can’t wait to get out there and meet young readers.

What is Chatterbooks?

The Reading Agency have been coordinating Chatterbooks – the UK’s largest network of children’s reading groups – since 2001. 10,000 children belong to groups, which are run in libraries and schools to encourage reading enjoyment. The groups are run by librarians, teachers, teaching assistants, or volunteers – anyone with a passion for reading.

 Chatterbooks reading clubs help children build a lifelong reading habit. Because everything changes when we read.

If authors are lucky, they get invited to meet their readers.

Jacqueline Wilson discussing books at a Chatterbooks session

Jacqueline Wilson discussing books

My publisher Troika Books, set up a competition in conjunction with the Reading Agency, asking readers what they would take with them to another planet. The prize was some books and a visit from me!

 

Chatterbooks Visits

This month I’m visiting the winning groups from Kingston and Worcester Park, Sutton and I’m looking forward to meeting the Gateshead  group in the new year.

In addition I have a bonus visit lined up. I’ll be visiting Petts Wood Library on 7th November.

petts-wood-library

Petts Wood Library

If you run or are a member of a Chatterbooks group then please get in touch as I would love to come along to talk to your group about being an author and reading and writing.

Help! I’m in the News Visiting Peckham Library

by Jo Franklin

I recently visited Peckham Library to talk about the importance of reading and libraries to their Chatterbooks group. Southwark News came along to take my picture and to write up the event.

Libraries are such an important resource for the community. Not only are they stuffed full of brilliant books, but they also provide much needed study space for students and authors. I wrote Help I’m an Alien in Peckham Library and I am thrilled that they now stock my book.

Here is the page from my scrap book with their report

Jo Franklin scrap book

Me at Peckham Library courtesy of Southwark News

And this is the online article of the same event.

Peckham author comes full circle as she talks to kids at library where she wrote book

Juggling Children’s Author

by Jo Franklin

Being a children’s author is really hard work. I thought it was going to be all about writing books and living the life of an eccentric recluse in a hobbit hole or writing shack. But I was so wrong. I am juggling so many things and I don’t think I am always successful.

Here are some of the things that I have to do every day :

Write my books – This is the best bit of my author life. I’d love to be doing it all day every day, but that is totally unrealistic. It takes me a year to write most of my books. That is partly because I have to do all the other things listed below, but it is also because the space between actually writing is as important as the writing itself.  I like to leave gaps in between writing my drafts so that I can look at my work with fresh eyes and come up with important improvements to the text. The non-writing spaces in my working day are also important. It’s amazing how I often find the answer to a problem in my writing in a pile of dirty laundry.

me-writing-snipped

Jo Franklin at work

Website Design – In case you didn’t realise, this website was designed by me. I hope you like it. The problem with having a website is that I need to keep it fresh so my visitors (you!) don’t get bored and keep coming back to see what I am up to.
I feel I am failing at this. I have to keep reminding myself that I do more on my website than some authors but not as much as others (Pop over to Candy Gourlay’s website if you want to see some awesome content) . And now someone has emailed me telling me that a link doesn’t work and I don’t know how to fix it. Gah!

School Visits – Not only do I have to develop great school visits, I also have to go out there and deliver them. Yes I do school visits and author appearances at libraries and festivals. Here are the details.  Meeting readers is the second best bit of being a children’s author (after writing the books in the place) but the downside is that it is very tiring and normally wipes me out for a day afterwards which stops.

Author Talks St Alphege

Jo Franklin visiting St Alphege school in Solihull

Provide Extra Content – Either on my website or to schools I have visited or will be visiting soon. This means colouring sheets, wordsearches, teacher’s resources, craft activities to go with my books. I have totally failed at this one but it is on my To Do List – honest.

Twitter – I’m on Twitter – @Jofranklin2 – but I need to be better at it. I think I should be engaging in lively conversations with the right people (authors, publishers, librarians, bookshops and teachers) without engaging with the wrong people (trolls and spammers for certain, but also an sort of time suckers that don’t lead me anywhere) while promoting myself, my book and my author appearances (children’s authors need to do many author events and school visits)  without being a promotion bore which upsets people (especially me).

Acronyms and How to Use Them – SEO, HTML, CSS and probably a hundred more that I don’t even know exist at the moment. I am having a go at this but I’m still an amateur which probably shows. Part of the problem is that SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is such a black art that it is easy to upset Google by mistake.

FYI – I never mean to upset anyone but it does happen sometimes so if that’s you – I’m sorry!

Video Artist – It’s all about YouTube these days. In fact it’s getting to the point that no one is ever going to get a contract for a children’s book ever again unless they have a YouTube channel and a gazillion subscribers. I currently have two videos on my YouTube channel (as of 10th October 2016) and I will make more but they are so time consuming to make and then I have the added responsibility of making sure that I don’t accidentally post them with obscene words in the subtitles. Don’t ask! I leaned this the hard way.

Photographer – So that I have an unlimited stream of visual publicity material. This is one of my latest efforts. In fairness, I had to enlist the help of my daughter Eleanor because taking a selfie while sitting on a grave is very difficult

jo-looking-wistful-snipped

Jo Franklin pretending to be wistful in Nunhead Cemetery

Ideas Factory – I need to be able to come up with new concepts at the drop of a hat so when my agent lets me know about a new opportunity for some commissioned work I am able to respond instantly. I did this the other week and …. yippee! Sorry it’s secret squirrels for now but it seems to have paid off this time.

Juggling all of the above – The hardest thing of all is that I have to juggle everything. Switching between tasks is very bad for my writing. I am trying to be more disciplined about ring fencing my writing time, but it is difficult because if I get an email from my agent or from a librarian trying to organise a school visit, I have to respond immediately.

So next time you ask yourself the question ‘What does an author do all day?’ think of me juggling all these tasks and more.