Showing posts with label Eve Ainsworth. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Eve Ainsworth. Show all posts

Sunday, 10 July 2016

A Sense of Belonging - Eve Ainsworth



I went to a funeral this week for a well loved and respected neighbour. He’d lived in my small close for 40 years and in all that time had built a reputation as a kind, caring gentleman, a man who had time for his neighbours, who would stop you at his garden gate and ask how your day was. He’d always have time for a smile and a wave. In essence, he always made you feel better.

During the wake I got to meet the many people that had come to pay their respects. The majority spoke of years gone by, when the entire street was an open house and everyone felt like part of a community. As one lady said “you could never feel lonely. Or unsafe. We looked after each other.”

During the day I got chatting to current neighbours that I’d only nodded to briefly in the past. I was still relatively new to the street, as most of these people had lived in their houses for many years. It was lovely to have the opportunity to really talk to them, without rushing past and find out people’s backgrounds and histories. By the end of the day, not only did I have new friends, but a street party had been organised to raise money for charity and to reunite our small community further.

I went home glowing, feeling part of something which, considering how bleak the country had felt lately, was a great thing.

Later this week I found I was struggling with various other things. My writing wasn’t going as I’d hoped and the self-doubt monster was biting my neck again, forcing me to believe those deeply negative thoughts – those ones that take over and consume you if you let them.

I spoke to a writer friend, who was immediately on hand with reassuring words and a helpful kick in the butt. And it helped, it really did – because, as we know, writing can be a lonely, isolating activity.

In the past I have turned to others in the industry, to friends in writing communities who are there to dispense advice, wisdom and jokes as required.

It’s made me realise just how important these communities are. Just like my neighbours, writing communities can be there to reassure, give you a sense of belonging and also remind you of the important things – like laughter, love and wine.

So today, against a backdrop of political difficulties ahead of us, I will be raising a glass. And I will be loudly thanking those that make our lives that little brighter.

Let’s keep the light shining.





Eve Ainsworth is the author of Crush and 7 Days (Scholastic)  7 Days was nominated for the 2015/16 Carnegie Medal and was winner of the Dudley Teen Prize and FAB Books Prize 2016

Friday, 10 June 2016

Polish up my skills - Eve Ainsworth



In January I got a very exciting but scary email from my editor. My Publisher in Poland wanted me to visit for their book fairs in May – they were really keen to have me over. My first reaction was total shock – ‘what me? Seriously?’, ‘Have you got the right person here?’ My second reaction was a tiny drip feed of panic that always passes through me when anything new or exciting happens.

People who know me, know about my anxiety. It doesn’t take over my life as such – but it is enough to keep me in a fairly static and safe routine. I’ve never travelled very far, let alone flown by myself, and I’m a hopeless over-thinker – worrying about every possible outcome or awful eventuality that could happen to me - including getting lost in the airport, losing my luggage, getting lost in Poland or accidently packing liquids/drugs/TNT in my hand luggage and being arrested at Heathrow (yes, this was a real concern!)
So although I was really excited by my invitation, the tiny trickles of dread were starting to filter through me. Those horrible questions:  Could I cope? Would it all go wrong? Would I end up letting people down? Would I ruin it all?  Would it be easier just to say no and continue with my normal plans and let them invite someone a little less, well, kooky?
Thankfully, I ignored my negative, annoying thoughts. Thankfully I said yes.
Last month, I packed up and flew out to Warsaw. I was bloody anxious, I had lists for most eventualities and a million books packed to help me through. I nearly broke my back carrying my case as a result, but needs must!
And I can honestly say it was one of the most special times in my life.
There were hiccoughs. My son fell ill while I was away and I ended up having a painful conversation on the phone as he sobbed  through his snot about how much he missed me. I managed to sprain my ankle, not looking where I was going, and spent a few days nursing an attractive swelling. And on the very first day I discovered I’d only packed one shoe – so spent most of the trip wearing my heavy, clunky boots - much to the amusement of my hosts.
But, the upsides were amazing.
For one thing. Warsaw is such a beautiful place. It is truly breath-taking. Spacious, clean and green and so much history still to be found despite the total devastation caused by World War Two. Three days weren’t enough. I want to go back and explore some more.

For another I was made to feel so welcome by the wonderful hosts and the lovely, friendly people of Warsaw. I was well looked after, nothing was too much trouble.

The food. OMG the food! The picture says it all. I wanted to take the dumplings home with me. In fact I nearly did, but I feared arrest at Heathrow again (is a dumpling counted as a liquid?)

And the readers! How lovely was it to meet international readers of my book! That really was a dream come true.
So the moral of my brief international trip is that fears can be conquered. Yes, I’m still just as neurotic. I have a trip to Birmingham this week and I’m still making lists, thinking through every possible outcome. But I now know I can do these things. And with every new achievement, I feel a sense of pride, relief and a knowledge that I don't have to be held hostage by anxiety,
And that is one of the best feelings of all.


Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Year of the Cat - Eve Ainsworh



 
A few months ago I posted about my back problems. Oh the fun I was having then! Writing a few pages and then limping off my chair in agony, grumbling at the cat and eating biscuits to cheer myself up.

Quite quickly it dawned on me that my previous fantasies about the wonder of being able to sit and freely write at a computer was complete and utter rubbish. My daydreams had LIED to me. This was not an easy process. Writing was painful both mentally and physically and I was fed up. I moaned at the cat again, but he just looked at me – smug expression on his face - and pranced gracefully away.

Then, thankfully, after a few months of physio, lots of walking and a change of mattress – my back problems seemed to improve. I was happy. I finished book three with fewer problems. I was still eating biscuits.

But now I’m here and I have an entirely different issue.

It started with pain in my arm. Not triggered by typing, I hasten to add, but by kneading dough to make hot cross buns for 48 people. This is not something I recommend unless you have the arms of Popeye. Within weeks, the pain had spread to my neck and suddenly it felt as if I had a metal fist gripping the top of my spine. A metal fist that was plugged into mains electricity.

This is not nice at all.

It is especially not nice when all ‘looking down’ activity becomes so uncomfortable. So this includes writing, reading and completing my ‘which cat are you’ quizzes on Facebook. This is practically my entire day. I started grumbling at the cat again. I ate more biscuits.

The doctor was sympathetic, but realistic. “It’s your posture. It’s because you write.” She said with a sad smile. “Try shifting position. Move around. Get a massage.”

I shifted positions and I moved regularly, but my head was still as stiff as the piece of hot cross bun I found discarded down the back of my sofa. I liked the idea of a massage, but this cost money. Of course, like most writers I’m not exactly rolling in spare cash so this wasn’t a viable option. Not unless my kids wanted to eat stale hot cross buns that day…

My husband tried, bless him. Well, he put his hands around my neck.

I think it was an attempt at a massage…

I started to grumble at the cat again. And then I watched as the cat uncurled itself carefully from his coiled position. I watched him stretch gently front paws and back. Then he tipped his head, licking the back of his neck – each movement fluid and with care. The cat does this several times a day. As did my dog. They get themselves into the tightest, weirdest positions and then they stretch out of it.

A lightbulb went off. Ok the lightbulb blew, but I wasn’t changing that – not with my neck.

I started to watch some Youtube videos, some basic Yoga moves and followed some of the simpler ones. Now, every morning and evening I stretch and after a typing session, I work on my shoulders and neck. And it’s helping. The cat even looks at me with a kind ‘I told you so’ expression on his face. Either that or he needs worming again.
 
 

I might even treat myself to a Yoga class soon.

I can use the money I saved in biscuit consumption….
 
Eve Ainsworth is the author of Crush and 7 Days (Scholastic)  7 Days was nominated for the 2015/16 Carnegie Medal and was winner of the Dudley Teen Prize and FAB Books Prize 2016

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Driving Myself MAD - by Eve Ainsworth



 


I’m currently learning to drive. God help the human race.

I’m doing this for a number of reasons:
 
  • I need to be more independent and able to get to places in the middle of nowhere without relying on the goodwill of others.
  • I want to be able to take my kids to places that I can’t at the moment.
  • I want to be able to do some school visits without having to rely on three trains, a tram and a taxi ride.
  • I hate buses.

The fourth point was reinforced when a bus driver kindly pulled in to the bus stop, and then immediately pulled out again, despite the fact I was standing RIGHT IN FRONT OF HIM, leaving me and two kids stranded into torrential rain. I decided at that moment enough was enough and I needed to get my act together and learn to drive.

To be honest, I’m not very good at it. I’m obviously not a natural born diver. But going through the motions has made me realise that there are some similarities between driving and trying to write a new book:
  • At first everything is overwhelming. You look around your new car/blank page and you haven’t got a clue where to begin. It’s scary. You wonder why the hell you’re doing this.
  • You start. You stutter. The gears stall/your keys clunk. You keep messing up. You feel rubbish. You stall at a major roundabout or freeze during a manoeuvre in a busy street. Meanwhile as a writer you are stalling at chapter three, looking grimly at your work – you can’t remember how to write a sentence. You hate it all. You delete six pages.
  • You see everyone else driving much faster and better than you, you feel inferior and inexperienced and stuck in the slow lane. Other ‘not so nice’ drivers flash and overtake you. You wonder why you are doing this at all. As a writer, you see others get their books published/win awards/ get new deals – they all seem to be doing better than you, and you worry that you’re not good enough.
  • Other people will start to tell you how you should drive your car better, how you should ‘do your test now’ and ‘just get on with it’. Other people will question why it is taking you so long to learn in the first place. They will ask why they haven’t seen you out on the road yet and make you feel cross.  As a writer, the other people will also question you – they will ask you why you ‘only write children’s books’ and tell you of ways that you can make more money. They will ask why they haven’t seen your book in their bookshop and make you feel cross.
  • As you drive a bit more, your confidence lifts a little, but then you make a big mistake - you pull out in front of another driver and it shakes and you want to give up. As a writer your confidence grows a little whilst writing and then you hit a block. You can’t find your way round it and it shakes you. You want to give up.
  • You finally put in for a test. You fail. You finally submit your novel. You’re rejected.
  • After lots of tears, sleepless nights and biscuit consumption – you pass your test. You feel happy, overwhelmed and shocked. You suffer imposter syndrome. After lots of tears, sleepless nights and biscuit consumption your book is accepted. You feel happy overwhelmed and shocked. You suffer imposter syndrome.
  • You continue writing/driving with mixture of excitement and anticipation. Glad you did it, but well aware to avoid any pot holes that might be awaiting you.

Can I just add that I haven’t actually passed my test yet, I’m just imagining what it feels like!

Does anyone else agree with this analogy?

 

 
Eve Ainsworth is the author of Crush and 7 Days (Scholastic)  7 Days was nominated for the 2015/16 Carnegie Medal and was winner of the Dudley Teen Prize and FAB Books Prize 2016

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Crushing Those Feelings....Eve Ainsworth



Last week my second book, Crush, was published.

This was important for me for a few reasons:

1) It was my second book. I wanted to prove I could write something else; that my writing was still valid.

2) It was a difficult book. I had to write it during a period of grief and I went through a difficult period of not being able to write at all.

3) The theme of crush - toxic love - was something I wanted to write about for a very long time.






I guess we all have it in us, a story that we've always wanted to tell. The one that has bugged and bothered us for such a long time and for me it was this. Destructive and toxic love. Love gone wrong. A love that can crush you.

As a teen I saw two of my closest friends change overnight due to bad relationships. As an adult I've seen a male relation go through hell in a same sex relationship that controlled and isolated him. As an employee I saw my students swept up in bad kinds of love that they accepted as 'ok'.

Now I can tell Anna's story. A vulnerable, young girl who meets a charismatic older boy. At first things seem perfect. But then we see Will's true character emerge, his controlling and destructive ways. And through Will's short narrative, perhaps we can understand why these traits have developed.

Crush is important to me because it is telling a story that I've seen repeated so many times. It is showing how easy it is to fall under a toxic spell and then become trapped. I hope, through this novel, we can open up more discussions about what a healthy relationship actually is.

And more importantly, why the first person you need to love is yourself.


 


 

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Libraries Matter - Eve Ainsworth


I had a favourite place to go as a kid. I’m thinking a lot of you would be the same. This place was large and exciting. It was full of my favourite things and it was totally free. What would I have done without my library?

I’d spend hours, sitting cross legged on a tiny window seat reading through my latest collection. Then I fill up my rucksack with my new choices and walk home, bubbling with excitement. I used to love the feel of the books pines pressing against my back. I spend weeks enjoying my reads, before taking them back and starting all over again.

The library fed my addiction. And thank goodness it did. I wasn’t from a well-off family, we couldn’t afford to buy books on a whim – so libraries were vital for me. I can honestly say I wouldn’t have become the author I am now without access to one.

Working in schools, I spoke to young people where the situation was the same – they relied heavily on the library service. Not only to borrow books, but also to access services such as creative writing groups in the area. Where else would they go? I worked in a deprived area - for these students a fully functioning library was vital.

So it breaks my heart when I hear of these services being cut across the country. Ok so, I’m lucky where I am in West Sussex, we’re not too badly affected. But I’m constantly seeing on my Twitter and email timeline a different picture being painted across other authorities.

So by the time you read this, I will have ended my first rally – Speak up for Libraries in London – where authors such as Alan Gibbons, Philip Adargh, Cathy Cassidy and I will be speaking alongside other speakers to help fight back against these cuts.

I’m not the type who usually gets involved in demonstrations such as these. I’m usually the type of person that moans quietly in the privacy or my living room, or posts a grumbling comment on Facebook. But this is different. This ignites the spark of the younger me. A child who needed the access of the library service in order to develop and flourish – and there’s so many of these children still out there.

As I will be saying in my speech. Bevan once said of the National Health Service “it will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it”

The same goes for libraries.

 

 

Thursday, 10 December 2015

What's in your head? by Eve Ainsworth




I had the pleasure of attending The Hampstead and Highgate Literary Festival 2015 recently, where I met fellow authors Lisa Heathfield (SEED) and Jon Walter (Close to the Wind & My Name’s not Friday).
 
 
 
 
 
 
(Me with the lovely Lisa Heathfield)
 
 
 
After our events finished, we had an opportunity chat in the green room and consume a few lovely pastries (well, I certainly did – oops!). Whilst talking about the usual authory things, the subject of school visits came up - and what was the best question we had been asked by the students .

On this occasion Jon won hands down.

For Jon was once asked, by some young bright spark – “What does the inside of your head look like when you’re writing?”

What a wonderful question! And it really got us thinking.

Jon said that after careful consideration, he felt his was like a cinema reel, playing a film version of his book on continuous loop.  Lisa joked that hers was probably totally blank initially, and then a swirl of colours. And as for me, I couldn't answer straight away.

But the question stayed with me.

What did the inside of my head look like when I was writing?

To be frank, mine is probably not a place you’d like to go! It starts off quite bleak and confused, full of jumbled images and words. I picture it a bit like a snow globe that has just been shaken: there is a central idea somewhere between the snowflakes, but it is disguised at first.

Once the snow begins to settle I can see a little clearer. Depending on the book, it might be the character or the setting I can see. For my current book it is the character; she is there, waiting for me, sitting in my mind waiting to be written. But if I get distracted or despondent it is like the snowglobe has been shaken again - the view becomes blurry and I might lose my way. And once the snow has settled I often see a new scene, or a better way of doing things.

So I guess the inside of my head while writing is a changeable, exciting but very frustrating place. I’m not sure I’d like to exist within it - but I’m thankful for it.

So I guess the question is - what does the inside of your head look like when writing?



 
(My daughter's snow globe is more sparkle than snow but you get the idea....)

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Thank you Jayne Fisher - by Eve Ainsworth




I owe Jayne Fisher a lot. I really do.

 Funny enough, we had a Twitter chat with other authors about this very same lady a few months back, and I started bashing the keys in passion as soon as I saw her name come up. Jayne Fisher. The Jayne Fisher? The girl that had led me to write? The author of the Garden Gang? Did I remember her? Of course I did!! She sent me green with envy throughout my childhood.

 


Jayne Fisher – a young, pretty and happy face at the back of her bright, colourful books. A clever YOUNG author. I remember reading her biog in envy. I could beat her, I thought, as I chewed on my coco pops. I could be an author younger than her. I would be the next Jayne Fisher.

I was two years younger than her. I would beat her and become the next big ‘young author’.

I knew I couldn’t draw, so my books had to be good. I sat for ages scrawling my ideas down on the reams of printing paper that my mum smuggled home from work. Then finally, my older brother came home with a typewriter. He said he got it from a mate down the pub. To be honest, I think he found it down the tip. It had major problems – two being that the E and the A didn’t work very well. I had to thump the keys so hard it made a dreadful ‘clank’ noise. One time, no lie, this caused the dog to bark and my Dad to spill his tea all over his favourite Times cross word. From then on I was consigned to type in kitchen – alone and festering and with extremely bruised fingers.

Finally, I produced my first masterpiece. My first novel. Muddles the Mouse. I sent it to Penguin. Although I was rejected, the publishing house sent me a lovely personal letter and some books encouraging me to continue.

And I did.

So in some warped way I thank Jayne Fisher and her quirky garden character books. Whatever became of her, because even though it took me another 20 odd years to get published, at least she lit the spark for me.

Even sweeter, as I write this, my 7 year old daughter is upstairs scribbling her own masterpieces. She has already told me she will be an author and her own personal mission is to write more books than Jacqueline Wilson. She's already made a good start!
 

You go girl.

Am I alone here? Are there any other authors that were inspired to start writing by another?

 

Monday, 10 August 2015

Summer Days and Writing Ways by Eve Ainsworth





If I told you that this post nearly didn’t get written, would you be surprised? Those of you that know me wouldn’t. The fact was, I was lying on the beach, having my feet buried in a ton of wet sand when suddenly my brain clicked into gear.

“What date is it?” I asked my husband.

“The 9th. Why?”

“The 9th!” I jumped up spraying sand everywhere (most notably in my poor husband’s eyes) “It can’t be! I’m sure it’s only the 2nd or 3rd? Oh my god, I’ve got an ABBA post to write!”

“Abba?” He looked genuinely confused. “But you hate that group?”

(NB: I don’t hate the group but don’t I certainly don't love them enough to blog about them!)

“Oh god! Where have the days gone?”

Because that’s the truth of it. Summer comes, my kids are mine again full-time and my brain turns to putty. I no longer have routine. I barely know what day of the week it is, let alone the date - and my diet consists of ice cream and squashed picnic sandwiches. My poor work diary is buried under a pile of kids’ drawings and my Twitter feed is full of amusing kids’ quips rather than interesting writing facts. I’m no longer on writing forums. Instead I’m pleading for help on Facebook, asking where to take two high-energy bickering kids in the rain.

And writing. Huh? What’s that? I managed to squeeze some editing in while they bounced like deranged Tiggers on the trampoline, and I scrawl down ideas where I can. But in the main my mummy-autopilot is on. All I’m capable of saying is “don’t touch that!”, “please don’t hit” and “that doesn’t belong up your nose.”

Just last week I was standing at the cashpoint, one child tugging at my coat screaming “why can’t we put the paddling pool up?” the other child was circling on her bike whining “I’m bored” in a manner that drills insistently into your brain. A woman walked past me and gave me a wry look, “school holidays, eh?” She’d been there. She wore the scars. A day later the same child managed to get himself lost in a shop. After minutes of frantic calling, I found him posing as a shop dummy. I think my blood pressure had gone up a huge amount. I collapsed at home exhausted. I couldn’t bring myself to write Twitter update, let alone part of my novel.

 
 

                                                             (Spot the real kid!)
 

 
But Summer Holidays aren't all bad. I mean, yes the kids do frustrate me with their constant fighting and I do miss the freedom to write at 10am with no Tom and Jerry in the background. But when I do write it's good. And it's kind of more satisfying.  I just have to be more disciplined, like I was when I worked full time. I have to write in the small windows of time when they are eating their tea or are tucked up in bed. It’s smaller time slots, but it helps to keep me focused. I also plan to write a lot when we go to Devon. Long evenings with no TV should encourage me. It’s either that or endless games of Monopoly.
I've also enjoyed weekly trips to the library as my seven year old daughter tackles her first Summer Reading Challenge. Watching her curl up on the grass with another new book is wonderful. Actually it's one of the best things ever. Another reason why our library service is so vital.  
Soon the summer will be over and my writing routine will restart and I’ll miss the time with my kids. Which I guess, goes to show, it’s all about striking that balance.

 And ensuring you make the best of whatever time you have.
 
Eve Ainsworth is the author of 7 Days (Scholastic) a novel about bullying from two perspectives. Crush will be out March 2016.
 

Friday, 10 July 2015

What Influences Me? Eve Ainsworth






Someone asked me recently what influences my writing, and though this seems a straightforward question, the answer is not so simple.

When I was younger, a child and teen – this would’ve been much easier to answer. I was influenced by everything I read. I absorbed my books like a giant, eager sponge and tried so hard to replicate the voice of Judy Blume and later Christopher Pike. Of course I failed, because it wasn’t until much later that I realised that you can never be someone else (whether that be in writing or in life!) However, practicing had started a love for writing and a strong desire to improve.

Later still, I attempted adult thrillers and much of my influences came from the gritty dramas and British films. I loved (and still do love) bleak and dark environments - places where you know something is going on beneath the surface. I remember visiting seasides out of season and Dungeness in the depths of winter. These settings helped to shape and improve my writing.

I’ve blogged about it before, but my most recent influence has been working in a school. Both 7 days and Crush (out next year) were developed whilst working directly with teens. Hearing their problems and having their voices circulating within me on a daily basis helped to shape my characters and plot. It also inspired me to write in a particular way. I knew that I wanted to write powerful and gritty books that could relate to young people.

Most recently I have been playing around with new ideas, something perhaps for younger readers. The idea came purely from listening to my young daughter chat relentlessly about her obsession – she is likely autistic, and her obsessions are very much part of her character. Being influenced by your child is a wonderful thing because you can share the experience with them. Even if nothing comes of this project, we will still have something we can enjoy together.

However, in conclusion to this piece, and the answer that I give when asked, is that in the main teenagers inspired and continue to inspire me the most of anyone or anything I’ve encountered. I’ve met teens that are young carers, that battle mental illness, that have experienced bullying or victimisation. I’ve met teens who struggle under the daily pressures of modern life, yet still find time to be the most funny and care-free bunch of characters I’ve ever met.

I’m blessed to write for teenagers because they truly are an inspiration and long may this continue!

 

 
Eve Ainsworth is the author of 7 Days (Scholastic) a novel about bullying from two perspectives. Crush will be out early 2016.
 

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Finding the Words - Eve Ainsworth


I think we all have them. We’ve all experienced a terrible year, where a life event can shake you to the core and leave you totally disorientated. I was always worried about it happening. I never quite expected the outcome when it did.

2014 began with such promise. I’d secured my first book deal the year before. I was to be a published author. I spent most of the early months, editing and fine tuning my new book. I felt so happy. So relieved. Finally, things were going as I hoped they would. I would be an author, everything would be good.

And then suddenly, tragically, in May the same year – my father died.

There are no words to describe the feelings or the deep loss that I immediately felt. This was the man that I announced all my news and gossip to. This was a man I laughed and moaned with on a regular basis. This was a man who understood me at times better than I understood myself. And now he was gone, leaving my whole family bereft. And I was left with a great, gaping wound, without a clue how it would ever heal.

The weeks that passed are lost to me now. I wrote a eulogy. I sat listening to his music. I sank into a lonely and unforgiving place. Staring at my computer, I’d look at words that I’d once written and they now looked lost to me, foreign. I no longer wanted to write. I didn’t think I’d be able to again.

Then one day I remember being curled on a chair, quite childlike – watching my children play, finding some peace in their normal behaviour. My mind began to wander and words began to form. I guess it was my imagination kicking in again. It was like the slow glimmers of heat returning.

Thankfully we went on holiday a few months later, to a place so remote and peaceful – I could finally find myself begin to unwind and relax. Perhaps it helped that there were no memories there, that I could just focus on the moment. I made myself no promises. I wasn’t expecting to be creative, I still felt so raw inside – but somehow the words started to flow on my notebook. Back home I began to type, fast and ruthless.

Book two began to swamp and surround me like a great, warm security blanket. In my characters I could focus on other matters, on other concerns. My brain was rested from my grief, albeit briefly. I played my Dad’s classical music again – but this time it swept me up and comforted me. I wrote Crush with a sense of relief and purpose. I wouldn’t stop writing. In fact I couldn’t stop. This was natural and cathartic. It helped me to heal.

And thank goodness I didn’t stop – because it was the best therapy I could’ve ever had. And as a result, my next book is extremely special to me. I think it always will.

Meanwhile, my new tradition of writing to classical, restful music continues – that way I feel a little bit of my Dad is with me, nodding his approval and tapping along gently with the beat.

 


Sunday, 10 May 2015

What I Know Now - Eve Ainsworth



It seems like such a long time ago when Seven Days was a finished manuscript sitting in front of an editor in a major publishing house. Surely it was a lifetime ago when I was offered my two book deal, accepting it in a state of shock whilst walking the kids back from school? I remember feeling so weird, so shocked that my dream was going to come true. A dream I'd had since I was five years old.

And now I'm here. 7 Days has been published and it's cover still shines at me from my bookcase. I'm so proud, I'm dazed and I still feel so shocked that my dream has come true. But there are some other things I've realised about being published, things that I'd never realised pre-deal.

These are things I wish I'd known in advance.

1) Checking the Amazon ranking is not good for you. The numbers go up and down and all over the place, hence it sends your brain in a whirl. It's best to avoid.

2) The same goes with Goodreads. Great site, but possibly not ideal when you're feeling fragile.

3) Realising that the big book stores may not stock you, or only some might. You might face the disappointment of walking in a local bookshop and uttering the words "have you got....?" The dream of having your book EVERYWHERE is quickly dashed.

4) Comparing yourself to other authors is bad, bad, bad. Float in your own safe bubble and try not to fret about who is going where or doing what.

5) Putting up with to people asking you how well your book is doing and not really having a clue.

6) Having to get used to various addictions as you keep yourself busy on social networks. I currently munch Jelly Beans whilst trailing through Twitter - my waistband is expanding so quickly, three people have asked me 'when's it due?'

7) Having to get used to fluctuating mood swings - euphoria, calm, worry and panic (ok, this might just be me...)

8) Having a bad back, arms and neck (see my last ABBA post)

But what I've also realised is that the writing community is wonderfully supportive. People appreciate what you are going through and will help you through any difficult period, even if it's just a jelly bean shortage.

I've also realised that I need to remind myself constantly how bloody lucky I am to be here. I wish for it to continue.





Friday, 10 April 2015

A Pain in the neck - Eve Ainsworth



I’m writing this particular post in a grumpy state of mind. I’m not happy at all. The reason? Typing is causing me a great deal of pain at the moment.



This is a writer’s nightmare and unfortunately it is happening to me. Shooting pains in my arm, elbow and a throbbing aching neck. I was at the doctors for another matter and mentioned my painful arm. After some prodding and pulling, she concluded that this was some kind of wear and tear from writing. Bad posture, wrong seating position – all the things that could make the wires inside my body scream out in protest.

In between swallowing pills and applying heat to my sore parts, I‘ve been reading up on RSI and neck conditions. It’s alarming just how many suffer. Even more concerning is the fact that so many writers are affected, the scribblers at home, who have no-one at work to ensure we are sitting correctly or have an adequate workstation.

I’m researching a lot now and trying to be kind to myself as I don’t want years of discomfort. I know that this is not as advanced as some people’s RSI – which causes numbness in fingers, loss of grip and long-term pain. My problems probably aren’t even proper RSI – more likely it’s the fact that I sit at my desk at stupid angles. That I cross my legs. That I can’t touch type, so my neck is always bent forward, looking at the keys.

But this whole situation has made me realise how carefully we must treat our bodies. How we must be kind to ourselves and respect our own limitations.



I don’t ever want writing to be a pain again.




Tuesday, 10 February 2015

It's the most wonderful MONTH of the year - Eve Ainsworth



Usually I hate February. It’s a dark, bleak little month. Rain dances through the days and frost greets every morning. You have no money and little motivation. Additional weight gained at Christmas still hangs from your waist like a guilty secret and the resolution to take regular jogs feels like a long forgotten joke.

Yep, it’s usually a month I enter with fear and loathing. It’s usually the month I put a big black cross through, before rushing back to bed and reading myself through it.
 Except this year! This year was different.
February 2015 would be significant for me in many ways.
1    
      1.  I would leave my job
      2.   I would run my first Author visit
      3.  7 Days would finally be published.

Leaving my job was the first positive more. It was a tiring and stressful job that was no good for me in the long term. A job where I would go home and feel mentally and physically exhausted, barely able to think, let alone type. Resigning was like a strange release and I already know it’s the best thing I could’ve done. Yeah ok, we’re poorer. But I’m calmer and that has to be a good thing, right?
Next was a thing that filled me with fear. What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger right? That’s exactly how I felt about stepping out of my comfort zone and entering a brand new school as an author.

I’d done events at my own schools, but this was new and alien. I walked into the building, clutching my bag and trying to ignore the gnawing feeling in the pit of my tummy. BUT it ended up being the best. The students I met were so lovely and engaged and so interested in both 7 Days and my work as an author. I left feeling both inspired and accepted. I realised the buzz I’d gained was a totally new and refreshing experience. This was good for me.

And finally, February was when 7 Days was let out into the big bad world.

And it was a lovely day. I had cake mid-morning (why not). I treated myself to a dress. I received lots of wonderful tweets from supportive followers everywhere. I chatted on-line to other fabulous authors who were being published on the same day. We were all doing different things, but we all felt the same mixture of excitement and anticipation.


Then in the afternoon, I received a wonderful bouquet of flowers from my publisher that so far I have managed not to kill (a new record I feel). 



Later, I went for a meal with my husband. I had a lovely cocktail and a delicious Caribbean curry and toasted the start of an amazing year.

Because it will be an amazing year. This will be the first year I can actually admit to myself that I have ‘done it’, I have accomplished a dream. And whatever life throws at me, whatever the new ups and downs – I need to remind myself of this one moment.

The moment when I became a published author.


The moment when I finally felt like me.


Saturday, 10 January 2015

Judging a Book....Eve Ainsworth



I have always been a bit fussy when it comes to books. It goes without saying that I have to love the concept and in a lot of cases I'm swayed by recommendations. But what can often make me decide to pick up a book in the first place is the cover. If it is striking, if it grabs my attention - I very often want it, or at least want to know more about it.


So it goes without saying that I was delighted when Scholastic sent me the design for Seven Days. I immediately loved its bright, bold statement and the fact that words, spiteful words from my text, were plastered across it. It represents bullying so well for me. It's a big, bold statement. I was confident that this cover could have impact.
I guess I'd worried a lot about the cover. I really wanted to love it, so it was such a relief to see it. I just wanted to hug the designer behind it (in fact I did at the Scholastic party...!)

It got me thinking just how important cover design can be, and how authors could be blessed or cursed with a cover that they do not like, or do not feel reflects their story.

With this in mind, I spoke to a few authors about their favourite covers and asked what it was about them that made them stand out.

What were their cover stories?




Helen Grant - Urban Legends (Random House)


" I was very pleased this cover because it shows a female (dead?) body but in such a way that it appears almost abstract; you can only see one eye and the line of the face runs diagonally across the cover. I thought that was quite stylish."








    Keren David selected Salvage (Atom Books)

  " I love both the published versions of Salvage. They are very different, but still have lots of impact."












Hilary Freeman selected The Camden Town Tales (Piccadilly Press)

"I love all my Camden Town Tales covers. I think that they appeal to the readership because they are pretty and perfectly targeted."  










Emma Haughton  selected Now You See Me (Usbourne)



'I love this cover because it's so simple, and yet so striking, And that gorgeous zingy green!'









Sheena Wilkinson selected Still Falling (Little Island)


"What I loved was the feel of the cover. I couldn't in a million years have said what I wanted but when I saw what the designer had done I just thought, yeah, that's it. I wanted the book to have a sexy grown up feel which I think it does. My last books all featured horses and I really wanted this one to feel like a departure which it does. "








Caroline Green  selected Hold Your Breath (Piccadilly Press)



"I loved the metallic look that gave it an underwater feel. And the colours are gorgeous."










It's fascinating looking at different front covers and wondering what the author felt about each one. I guess when an area such as design is taken out of their hands, it's even more important that it works, that they connect to it.


What front covers do you especially like? Have you ever picked up a book initially because of the design?


I know I have...

Eve x

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

The Tale of Two Labours - Eve Ainsworth


It dawned on me the other day that writing is very similar to raising children. Bear with me on this, it may sound crazy, but there are parallels.
I guess it goes without saying that I'm a mother - a bit obvious I guess and a bloody tired one at that. I'm not your 'Earth-woman' type. I hated NCT classes and physically recoiled if anyone pushed a childcare manual my way, but somehow, god knows how, I managed to raise two, slightly quirky but still very beautiful-to-me children.






One of my bundles of joy...













I guess my writing is quite similar. I wasn't particularly academic (never had the concentration), I hated reading any 'how-to' manuals, but somehow, god knows how, I managed to produce a book.

And the coincidences do not end there. I noted the following:

  • I fell pregnant the first time and it was a bright and exciting moment (this was long before the morning sickness and other uglies kicked in). You are full of hope and wonder. The world seems a bright and exciting place. You start writing an idea down, it's the same - bright and exciting. You can't stop thinking about it. It's alive and growing.  Everything is good.
  • In pregnancy you think of names. You toil with the absurd and the traditional. Something might grab you and stick. In the early stages of writing, you might gift your book with a title. For me It has to have one. I can't physically write without it. And it has to be right. This has caused me serious neurosis.
  • In both pregnancy and writing you grow. Pregnancy is pretty obvious, especially with my cravings for deep fried chicken and waffles. In writing, if you're like me, you'll eat constantly - grazing like a demented sheep. Crumbs will litter your keyboard like scabby snow. I know this because my bum has slowly expanded to the size of a cow.
  • Then birth, the agonising labour. Sweating and cursing to get that baby free from you.Not so dissimilar to the sweating and cursing at the last stages of the first draft. You start shouting at people (my husband in both cases) and you wonder why the hell you bothered in the first place.
  • Then relief. Love. A feeling of satisfaction - achievement perhaps?
  • That's until the sleepless nights kick in. After childbirth, the baby whines and moans. After drafts, it's me whining and moaning as I wait for feedback. I rethink sentences at night, torturing myself, wondering if I did enough.
  • A slow sense of worry claws at you. You wonder if you're actually any good at this, as you plaster the nappy on backwards (yes, I did do that...). Or re-read your book and hate EVERY SINGLE WORD.
  • You look at other writers/mothers. Why do they seem so 'together'. Why are their babies perfect and behave like they should. How do they manage to write so beautifully. Why can't your writing be like that?  
  • The baby is growing, the baby smiles and you feel good again. As you edit, your book is becoming stronger. You re-read a bit you love and feel good again.
  • Someone tells you how beautiful/well behaved your baby is and you glow. A blogger/reader tells you how wonderful your book is and you glow.
  • You look at the finished product with a sense of pride. You want to tell the world about it.This is what you wanted. This is what you must always remind yourself.


I guess the most important thing of all is that either in writing, or in children - or perhaps both, we have left some kind of legacy. Some sort of stick in the ground.
Although as I watch my little boy trying to walk backwards with a cat basket on his head....this could be a very wobbly stick indeed.







Monday, 10 November 2014

World's End - Eve Ainsworth





When I was thirteen, something quite amazing happened.

Prior to this, I had been scribbling ideas at home. I had even sent a children's story - Muddles the Mouse - to Penguin, typed on a second hand rusty typewriter, to which I'd received a glowing letter and several paperback books. But my inspiration was drying up. I was young and no longer felt inspired by either books or my writing.

But then I found a bookshop - World's End. This was an age when I was first allowed to trek to town by myself or with friends and it was during this time that we discovered the shop, tucked away in the back streets. It was an unassuming building, hardly the most exciting thing to see - but when we wandered in, we found the thrill of books overpowering.

To be honest, it was pretty intimidating. The back of shop was full of comics and graphic novels. Teenage boys filled the aisles, leafing through the boxes and glaring at us skinny, nervous girls as we slipped in.

I remember rows of new shiny books, stacks of crime journals which pricked my curiosity. And then - on a bottom shelf, in the far corner - was a shelf marked TEEN.

We crouched down and pulled out some battered second-hand gems - the majority of them American. My eyes darted across the text. Christopher Pike, Lois Duncan, Lois Lowry.

My first purchase was Christopher Pike -  Gimme a Kiss. This book kept me up at night. It was pacy, thrilling, daring.  I never looked back.

Every week I would be in that shop, ignoring the boys at the back - just leafing through my new inspiration. Some days I could afford to buy, others I would just plan my next purchase. I particularly grew to love Pan Horizon books and gained an impressive collection.
The owners got used to seeing me, as I took away another book encased in a crisp paper bag. Inside my head was buzzing with ideas. I knew now that I wanted to write just like these authors.

It was a sad day when the shop finally closed in the late 90's, but of course by then the teen market was expanding rapidly. Things were changing. But I missed my backstreet shop, the smell of old books, the rough carpet against my legs as I sat reading, the gentle bell as the door was opened.

And I'll never forget it.

Perhaps even stranger - I ended up marrying one of those intimating teens that lurked at the back - so at least we can reminisce together.