Friday, October 20, 2006

William Nicholson at The Space

This is a post from my other blog, but I thought it would be relevant here. Welcome to the blog, for people who attended the first workshop last night. I'll be re-emailing everyone so you can join the blog, which means you can add your own posts. But even if you don't join, you can alwasy add comments.

Here's the post (from 07/09/06):

I went to an event run by The Space on Tuesday night this week. The Space is a Brighton-based media networky event that happens monthly, and they bring different local speakers to address the creative types who seem to be drawn to this southern part of England. My husband did sound with his company Out Post Sound (little plug - for all your professional audio needs...).

William Nicholson spoke first, and he delivered an excellent, entertaining, and inspiring talk (ostensibly an interview, though he made the interviewer's job very easy by giving long, lucid answers). Nicholson is a children's book author who also has written for TV, film (screenplays for Shadowlands and Gladiator), and directed a film as well. I actually was working at Orchard Books in the US when we were sent The Wind Singer, the first Slaves of the Mastery book to consider taking as an import. The editor had several of us read the book, and all of us absolutely loved the first three chapters (who can forget - 'wiss, wiss'). Though when we asked for the rest of the book, many thought there could be additional work done (I can't remember all the details, but this speaks to what I've heard is often a difference between the US and the UK, that the US is more editor-intensive, for better or for worse). In any case, they found an eager buyer in Hyperion and the book (and the whole trilogy) were a big success. They also had wonderful covers by Peter Sis (in the US).

Nicholson spoke of his many 'failures', how he got his first novel published in his mid-30s, but it wasn't well-received. And he gave his advice to people who want to get published:
  • Write. A lot and frequently. He said he has many people who already have the jacket blurb for their novel written, or their biography. But it takes lots and lots of writing. And if you find you get stuck/overwhelmed by the critical voice telling you that everything is crap (not a direct quote), then write notes. He said that notes can be loose, you don't have to worry about grammar, and usually after you've written notes for 15 minutes you'll find that you are actually writing the book rather than just notes.
  • Rewrite. This speaks for itself, but he said it is critical. Go from beginning to end and make sure it works, edit, etc.
  • Take criticism. And listen to it. Some won't be good, but then you can figure out why you disagree with it. Here was my favorite quote of the evening: 'You don't have to be smart to give criticism. You just have to not be the writer.' OK, so there's a split infinitive, but you get the idea.
  • Finish a piece of work.
  • Keep sending it out. And do your research, make sure you know what a publisher produces, and use your covering letter to point out why your book is appropriate to that publisher. Be persistent and don't give up.
  • Use everything around you. Go to events run by your friend at the pub, write for your local newspaper, get exposure and network. Use all your contacts and pour your energy into it. And here's my second favorite quote from the evening: 'Geniuses aren't discovered by chance. They shove - they push.'
I thought that ideas could be useful for the creative writing course I'll be running starting in October, so wanted to be sure to write it all down. And I talked to William Nicholson afterwards about possibly speaking at the Brighton Children's Literature Festival which I'll hopefully be running on April 21st, 2007. I need to go to him again and check the date, but he said in principle he'd be open to it. It's clear he could speak about anything, and has a wealth of experience behind him. A wonderful speaker, and nice to find a children's literature person speaking at a media-type event.

The other speaker, Tim Pope, was also very good (just a bit less related to my area of interests). He's a director of music videos and ads, having worked extensively with The Cure, Neil Young, Iggy Pop, and more recently with The Kaiser Chiefs and KT Tunstall. He was charming, self-effacing, and quite critical of the big move towards commercialism in the music video world, where record companies have much more power and influence now than they did when he was making videos back in the 80's.

You can find short biographical information about both speakers here.


At 3:20 AM, Blogger fredrik said...

I am looking forward to the second workshop evening tonight, and just wanted to check that ican participate on this blog, although this might not be the way to do it.

At 3:30 AM, Anonymous Laura Atkins said...

Hi Fredrik,

It's fine to post in comments, though these don't show up as individual/separate entries. If you fully respond to the invitation, you should be listed as a member of the blog. From there, you can post using blogger, after you log-in... We can talk about this a bit more tonight...


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