Like most writers I have many roles:
Creative Writing Teacher
Book Events Programmer
(As well as mother, partner, sister, friend of course.)
My working life (and a good chunk of my social life) revolves around books, and most especially children’s books. Every year I read as many new children’s books as I can for all ages – from babies and toddlers to teens. I read fact books, picturebooks, fiction, poetry collections – anything I can get my hands on.
I’m very lucky – because I review books for The Irish Independent and also run a popular website and blog (and programme a lot of children’s events) publishers send me lots of books. I especially love receiving proof copies of books that are coming out later in the year. There is something exciting about ‘discovering’ a new writer months before a book hits the bookshops and talking to my fellow reviewers, booksellers and librarians about these finds.
I read hundreds of books a year and this is how I approach a new book:
First I look at the title and the blurb (the short piece on the back of a book designed to draw a reader in) and see if it’s the kind of story that catches my attention. Proofs don’t generally have the finished cover on them – they are often plain yellow or black or white – which is good as you come to the story blind. Covers are important when it comes to selling, marketing and publicising a book but not at this early reading stage.
Then I open the book up and read a page. If that page doesn’t grab me, I read a few more. If the writing, the story or the characters still don’t grab me, I read a little further – two or three chapters and then if I still don’t connect with the book I put it down and start another one.
However I can generally tell within a few lines if it’s the kind of book I’ll fall in love with. Why? It’s written with a strong, compelling voice and is written with heart – with love and passion and guts.
So if you’re going to write a book, throw your heart and soul into. Make it the kind of book that readers will fall in love with. I’m now off to try and write that kind of book – wish me luck!
And all the very best to Jo and the Girls Heart Books team in the future – proud to have been a part of such a supportive, informative website.
Yours in writing,
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