Monday, December 3, 2012

Winners of the Ask Amy Green Young Editor Competition

I am delighted to announce the winners of the 2012 Ask Amy Green Young Editors Competition.

The winners are:

Iseult from Galway
Sophie from Tipperary
Ellen from Waterford
and Niamh from England

Well done to all of you! And thank you to everyone who entered. There was such a high standard this year that I decided to have 4 Young Editors instead of 2.

They will help me edit Wedding Belles in 2013.

Sarah XXX

What It Takes To Be A Writer - For Bláthnaid

(Originally posted on the Girls Heart Books Blog)

I got a lovely letter in the post week from a girl called Bláthnaid, age 11. Unfortunately she didn’t give me her address so I couldn’t write back. She asked me a very good question:
What does it take to be a writer?
So here goes. This is for you, Bláthnaid, if you’re reading!

This is what it takes to be a writer:

1/ Imagination
You have to see story ideas in everything – the building site down the road, the old woman who feeds the birds in the park, the librarian with the sad eyes. You need to ask yourself ‘Who are they? Where do they live? Do they have family? What’s their story?’
bird lady
2/ Curiosity and Empathy
You must be fascinated by the world around you and especially by how people tick. You must try to understand how people feel – this is vital. It’s called empathy. And you must use this to create characters so real that they leap off the page. The more you understand and care about your characters, the more your readers will also care.

3/ Courage
Being a writer isn’t easy. You have to explore things that scare or upset you and write about them. You have to use all your experiences - even the unpleasant ones – to inform your work. And don’t be afraid of making your readers cry – strong emotions are good. But make them laugh too!
girl laughing
4/ Tenacity or Sticking Power
If you want your story or book to get published, you may have to wait a long time. You may have to write a lot of stories or books before you get published. But if you stick at it and put passion, enthusiasm and heart into your writing, you’ll get there.

5/ Hope
You have to believe that you WILL get published one day and that readers WILL like your story or book. You have to have faith in your writing and write no matter what, as often as you can.

Hope this helps, Bláthnaid!

Yours in writing,
Sarah XXX

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Strange Questions About Cheese and Tractors

I was at a book event last weekend where the lovely Irish author, Eoin Colfer was talking about his Artemis Fowl books. At the end of his brilliant, highly amusing session (and if he’s ever at a festival near you, go, go, go!) he asked for questions from the audience.

Eoin Colfer

One young lad put up his hand and asked ‘Mr Colfer, do you have a girlfriend?’ Everyone rolled around the place laughing. ‘I have something even better,’ Eoin said. ‘I have a lovely wife.’ Then Eoin said it was one of the funniest questions he’d ever been asked.

It got me thinking about questions and what was the funniest question I’d ever been asked at a book event. There are a few that stand out.

1/ What’s your favourite type of cheese?

This was asked by a boy (always the boys!) at a school event in Cork.

And my answer was: Emmenthal

2/ What’s your favourite kind of tractor? Yes, a boy again – this time from Carlow.

And my answer was: A John Deere – he liked this answer as his dad had one!

But the question I am most often asked is this:

3/ Where do you get your ideas?

It’s a very hard question to answer. Ideas come from all over the place – memories, old diaries, travelling, things that have happened to me, good or bad, books, movies, songs, sunsets . . . I could go on. When I turn the tables and ask the audience the very same question they mostly say ‘My head’, which is also a good answer!

So a question to all the writers out there – what’s the funniest or strangest question that YOU have ever been asked at a book event?

And readers – if you could ask a writer ANY question at all, what would it be?

Yours in books,

Sarah XXX

PS The YOUNG EDITOR Competition has just opened - if you’d like to get involved in working on my next Ask Amy Green book with me, Wedding Belles do enter!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

What's In a Name? Why Book Titles Matter

Book titles matter. They must be memorable, intriguing and above all, they must say something about your book or story.
Think of Wuthering Heights, Bleak House, Pride and Prejudice, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, War Horse . . .
Name titles are also good – when the name is perfectly chosen of course - Matilda, Skulduggery Pleasant, Charlotte’s Web, Judy Moody, Artemis Fowl, Huckleberry Finn . . .
But how do you find the right title for your book or story? And how do you know that it is the right title?
Coming up with a good title isn’t easy, especially with deadlines looming. Ask Amy Green – I love this as a series title. It’s simple and it has a nice ring to it. Amy is my Everygirl, an average 13 year old girl that readers can identify with I hope, so I gave her a name that I love (my daughter is called Amy) and a surname that lots of girls have – Green. She’s an agony aunt and likes to solve problems, so I though that ‘Ask’ was appropriate – as in you can ask her anything and she will try to help.
I also like the individual book titles very much – especially Boy Trouble, Summer Secrets, Bridesmaid Blitz and Dancing Daze (out in September) – which each give a good flavour of what the book is about. I like the title Love and Other Drama-ramas, but it's not my favourite – and boy did we have trouble with that title!
It was originally to be called Party Drama-ramas but as the book changed, the title had to change too. I would have liked to get more of Bailey’s story into the title (the book is largely about his struggle to find his place in the world), but it was really difficult. I quite liked Mystery Male as a title, but it wasn’t quite right.
Other titles we tried were Dates and Other Drama-Ramas (too like Cathy Hopkins great Mates, Dates series), Double Drama-rama (too vague), Dublin Drama-rama (again a bit vague). So we decided on Love and Other Drama-ramas which we were all happy with (my editors, Annalie and Gill help me with titles if I’m stuck). And the book is about love – family and romantic - and the problems it can cause, so it does fit nicely.
I love the title DANCING DAZE - the new Amy book, out in September. And if you read the book you'll find out why! ;)
So, in short, make your title simple, memorable and make it say something about your book. When I’ve cracked it 100% myself, I’ll let you know! What’s YOUR favourite book title and why? I’d be most interested to know.
Yours in books,
Sarah XXX
(A version of this post first appeared on the Girls Heart Books blog)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Summer Holiday Reading 2012

I’m off on my summer holidays in July and I can’t wait. To me, holidays are all about three things: reading, sailing and kayaking, and eating. OK, four things! Five if you count hanging out with the kids – building sandcastles, paddling, rock pooling (I can happily spend hours poking around rock pools with my 9 and 6 year old), camping, messing around in boats. I feel lighter just thinking about it.
For me, reading plays a huge part of any holiday. Usually life is pretty busy and I don’t have all that much time to read. So for the few months leading up to my summer holiday I put aside books that I’d really like to read. All kinds of books.
Here is a photo of my book pile for summer 2012!Novels, reference books, short story collections, books about writing, YA books, books by friends . . . it’s all in there. Every year I re-read two old favourites, Are You There, God, It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume and Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. Both books mean a lot to me, and I read them every year, along with Harriet the Spy.
Do you have a favourite book that you read over and over again?
And what’s in YOUR summer holiday reading pile?
Yours in books,
Sarah XXX

Monday, April 23, 2012

Book Festivals and Why I Love Them

Me and Some Amy Green Readers at the West Cork Literary Festival
Every year I’m lucky to be invited to lots of book festivals. This year I’ll be at Listowel Writers’ Week in Kerry in June; Dalkey Book Festival in June; Kilkenny Arts Festival in August; and Mountains to Sea Book Festival in Dun Laoghaire in September (all in Ireland). There may be one or two more on the cards also, including some UK events.
Why I love festivals so much:
1/ I get to meet YOU – readers! There’s nothing like meeting readers in person, it’s such a thrill.
2/ I get to hang out with my writer friends like Judi Curtin, Oisin McGann (lovely Irish fantasy writer), Don Conroy (nature writer and novelist from Ireland), Cathy Cassidy and loads of other cool wordsmiths. Plus I love hearing other writers talk about their work, it’s fascinating.
3/ I always learn something new - fantastic books to read, how other writers organise their writing lives - are they morning writers or evening writers; do they have any lucky writing charms; paper or laptop etc.
4/ My mind fizzes with new book ideas after book festivals. There’s nothing more inspirational than being surrounded by world class writers. So far my favourite festival talk ever was one given by Patrick Ness about writing with joy – it was spoken from the heart and very moving. If he’s ever at a festival near you, go! You won’t regret it. He is a truly gifted speaker.
5/ Book people are MY people and it’s lovely to be with my tribe, especially children’s book people, who truly rock!
Have you ever been to a book festival? Was it fun? Who did you see?
Yours in writing,
Sarah XXX
PS Check out the original version of this post at the Girls Heart Books blog -

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

New American Bridesmaid Blitz Cover

Look what just arrived this morning - a big box of Ask Amy Green books all the way from America. It's the American editions of Summer Secrets and Bridesmaid Blitz.
I love seeing foreign editions of my books - they look so different. And I'm very lucky to have readers in America, New Zealand, Poland, Italy and lots of different countries around the world, as well as in Ireland and the UK. And I love getting emails and letters from them too!
Books really are magic. I write a story, and then you read it and create images in your head from the words on the page. Maybe the images you imagine are a little different from the images that I imagined when I was writing the book, but that's what makes reading such an interesting experience.
I couldn't live without books! How about you?
All the best, Sarah XXX

Thursday, February 2, 2012

What's In a Name - Naming Your Characters

Hi There,
If you like writing or are interested in how writers name their characters, read on! And check out the cover of my new book, Dancing Daze, out in September - pretty cute, isn't it? I love the tiny ballet shoes!
Names are VERY important and I always put lots of thought into choosing them. Here are some of the names I’ve chosen for various characters in my books and why I picked that particular name:
Amy Green – My daughter’s name is Amy (Amy-Rose to be precise) and she loves the fact that Amy Green shares her name – big mummy points here. It’s one of my favourite girl’s names and it’s a name lots of girls can identify with – most people know an Amy. I added Green as I wanted a surname that again, is well known, as Amy in the books is my ‘every girl’ character, a girl that readers can hopefully relate to. Being ‘green’ also means helping the environment and Amy Green loves helping people.Her nicknames are: Ames, Green Bean, Beanie, Greenster and Bean Machine.
Remember to give your own main characters nicknames – most of us have them in real life!
Amy Green’s best friend is called Amelia Starr or ‘Mills’. She’s just that, a star, and most Amelias I know are shortened to Milly, so I thought Mills was a little bit different.
Clover Wildgust – Clover is a little bit crazy and she powers around the place like a tornado. I chose the name Clover as it’s a bit unusual but not too whacky to be unrealistic, and Wildgust is a name I found in a graveyard in Ireland. I thought it suited her perfectly as she’s just that, a wild gust of wind! Clover is always just Clover, she doesn’t have a nickname.
Graveyards are excellent places to find unusual names, or names that are particular to that region. If you are setting your book in West Cork for example, the names would be different to a book set in Dublin city, especially the surnames. I’m sure it’s the same in London and Devon for example.
Other names I’ve used (in Ask Amy Green) are Seth Stone (Amy Green’s solid as a rock boyfriend), Bailey Otis (Mills’s surfer/musician boyfriend – there’s a famous old song called Miss Otis Regrets), Nina Pickering (who never stops picking on people), and Sophie Piggott (who is a total pig!).
Funny, clever names are more memorable than ‘ordinary’ names – like Mary Smith for example, unless you are using the name to make a point eg ‘Mary Smith was a very ordinary girl, with an extraordinary secret . . .’
Some writers are brilliant at naming their characters:Derek Landy is a naming master in the horror genre – Skulduggery Pleasant, Melancholia, Ghastly Bespoke. Darren Shan also creates brilliant names – Lord Loss and Larten Crepsley.
I love Cathy Cassidy’s names too – Dizzy, Ginger, Scarlett.And Jacqueline Wilson’s – Lottie, Floss, Hetty Feather. And what about J K Rowling’s names, genius! Hagrid, Sirius Black, Albus Dumbledore. And Roald Dahl – Matilda, The BFG, Charlie Bucket. What are your favourite character names?
Happy writing and reading,
Sarah XXX