The CAP Awards 2016: Winners!

cap-trophiesThe inaugural CAP Awards

A very important event in Irish independent publishing took place on Tuesday last, 25 October 2016. That was the evening bestselling author, Hazel Gaynor, cut the ribbon for the inaugural CAP Awards (Carousel Aware Prize for Independent Authors) at a gala evening in the Teachers’ Club, Parnell Square in Dublin.

Best Junior Book Award: Aisli Madden with Carolann Copland

Best Junior Book Award: Aislí Madden with Carolann Copland

The brainchild of indie author and owner of Carousel Creates Writers’ Centre, Carolann Copland, the CAP Awards were founded to acknowledge the achievement of indie authors in Ireland and to showcase the cream of Irish independently-published books across a wide range of categories: short stories, children’s books, Young Adult books, novels and non-fiction.

Kevin Doyle: Winner, Best Short Story Anthology with Hazel Gaynor and Gerry O'Brien

Best Short Story Anthology Award: Kevin Doyle, with Hazel Gaynor and Gerry O’Brien of Aware

The standard of the shortlisted authors alone indicates how far Irish indie publishing has come in the past few years and I don’t think any of us present envied the judges – including award-winning authors  Jax Miller, Louise Phillips and Claire Hennessy, and Books Ireland editor, Tony Canavan – their task of choosing a winner from amongst the worthy contenders in each category.

2016 Winners

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CAP Award Winners 2016, Aislí Madden, Kevin Doyle and Lorna Sixsmith, with Carolann Copland of Carousel Creates Writers’ Centre and Gerry O’Brien of Aware

But choices were made and congratulations to the five winners of the CAP Awards for 2016:

Best Short Story Anthology:  Do You Like Oranges? by Kevin Doyle
Best Junior Book: Zenji & the Muzzy Bug by Aislí Madden
Best Young Adult Book: Death’s New Lease On Life by Brendan O’Connell
Best Novel:  Her Secret Rose by Orna Ross
Best Non-Fiction: How to be a Perfect Farm Wife by Lorna Sixsmith

Why the CAP Awards are winners for Irish indie publishing

The importance of the CAP Awards to the Irish writing and publishing industry was emphasised by Young Adult judge, Claire Hennessy:

CAP Award for Best YA Book, Anne O'Leary (for author Brendan O'Connell) with Claire Hennessy and Gerry O'Brien

CAP Award for Best YA Book, Anne O’Leary, Books Ireland, (for author Brendan O’Connell) with Claire Hennessy and Gerry O’Brien

“… I do think it’s vital that we have the opportunity to recognise quality work that doesn’t fit into neat boxes; that doesn’t seem like a viable large-scale ‘business’ decision, but that nevertheless, through the vision and hard work and investment of an individual author, is engaging and brilliant and worthy of wider attention. The difficulty for readers of self-published work is the lack of curation, not just from publishers, but also in terms of how tricky it is to get reviews, etc. Awards like this are a way of curating and identifying the brilliant self-published books out there …”

Promoting Indie excellence

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Best Novel Award, Lorna Sixsmith (for author Orna Ross) with Jax Miller and Gerry O’Brien

The calibre of all the books on the CAP Awards shortlists make it clear that many Irish indie authors have taken on board and successfully addressed the issue of quality in their work. To paraphrase Laurence O’Bryan, founder of The Dublin Writers’ Conference, the days of so-called ‘vanity publishing’ are over and the era of independent authors who offer readers a high-quality, diverse and exciting range of individual voices and experiences has arrived.

And, if you’ll pardon the pun, the CAP Awards has one more feather in its … ahem … CAP for winning authors. Thanks to fantastic sponsorship of the Awards by Dubray Books and Easons, the CAP Awards winners will see their books on sale in two of Ireland’s leading bookstores. Who knows, maybe there’ll be an Indie Author section in every bookstore in Ireland soon?

Lorna Sixsmith: Winner Best Non-Fiction with Tony Canvan of Books Ireland

Best Non-Fiction Award: Lorna Sixsmith, with Tony Canavan of Books Ireland

In the meantime, the Carousel Aware Prize for Independent Authors will continue to acknowledge and promote excellence in Irish independent publishing and the Committee is already gearing up for 2017. Details of next year’s Awards will be published on the CAP Awards website.

And don’t forget: all proceeds from the Awards go to mental health charity, Aware, which provides vital support and assistance to individuals and their families coping with mental health issues in today’s complicated and complex world. It’s a win-win for all involved!

Thanks to Adrian Taheny and the CAP Awards for the photographs.

The CAP Awards 2016: full Shortlists and Winners

Congratulations to all those shortlisted and to the five winners! 🙂 🙂 🙂

BEST JUNIOR BOOK

Fiona Buckley –  Better than Gold
Dolores Keaveney  – The Scary Spider
Aislí Madden – Zenji & the Muzzy Bug (Winner)
SP McArdle –  The Red-Letter Day
Caroline Twomey  – The Dream Catcher

BEST YOUNG ADULT BOOK

Siobhán Davis – Saven: Deception
Drew Darkwood – Link
Brian Kirk  – The Rising Son
Alan Murphy – Prometheus Unplugged!
Brendan O’Connell – Death’s New Lease On Life (Winner)

BEST SHORT STORY ANTHOLOGY

Kathryn Crowley  – Sweaters and Small Stuff
Kevin Doyle – Do You Like Oranges? (Winner)
Annmarie Miles – The Long & The Short of it

BEST NOVEL

Thomas Paul Burgess – White Church, Black Mountain
James Lawless – American Doll
Pam Lecky – The Bowes Inheritance
Neil Rochford – The Blue Ridge Project
Orna Ross – Her Secret Rose (Winner)

BEST NON-FICTION

Corina Duyn – Into The Light
Sharyn Hayden – I Forgot to Take My Pill
Lorna Sixsmith – How to be a Perfect Farm Wife (Winner)
Michael Thurlow – The Marley Man
Fiona Van Dokkum – From the Inside: Raising, teaching and loving an autistic child

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Resources for Writers: where to find them

‘Self-publishing can be both an exhilarating and lonely experience for an author, so anyone considering it should surround themselves with as much support as possible …’

That was Book Nanny speaking about the role of editing and editors with author Anne O’Leary for her article ‘Self-publishing: say goodbye to vanity and come in from the cold’ which was published in the January 2016 edition of Books Ireland.

The big question for many writers is: where do I find that support?

Professional Editors  

Finding a good editor is a great start. A professional editor can provide a practical source of support and assistance to a writer during the publishing process, not only in terms of helping you to make your finished novel the best it can be, but also as someone to bounce ideas off or answer any queries you might have.

Writers’ Groups

It’s impossible to overstate the benefits of being a member of a writers’ group and the tremendous practical and emotional (don’t underestimate the need for this!) support it provides during the writing and publishing process, helping you to stay positive, energised and focussed during the dark days and lonely hours when all is not progressing as smoothly or as quickly as you would like.

Writers’ Centres

Writing courses, seminars and workshops can be a vital source of networking for writers. They allow you not only to improve your craft, but also to meet other like-minded authors. Many writing groups originate as a group of writers who meet at a course and who share a desire to keep the support going, so check out your local arts or writers’ centre for courses, workshops and networking events – it’s worth making full use of the resources they offer.

The Irish Writers’ Centre in Dublin is the national resource centre for Irish literature and runs courses and events covering all aspects of Irish writing.

Online Resources

One of my favourite online writing resources is Writing.ie, an online magazine packed full of articles, news, events and resource information for all areas of writing and publishing.

Professional Organisations

The writing community is a generous one, with writers willing to share their knowledge with other writers. Listening to and talking with other independently-published authors can give you first-hand experience of the pitfalls of self-publishing as well as many practical tips for success. If you are interested in self-publishing, you should consider joining a professional organisation which gives you access to all that experience on an international level.

ALLI (Alliance of Independent Authors) is a non-profit professional organisation promoting publishing excellence and support for independent authors.

Literary Festivals/ Writers’ Conferences

Speaking from personal experience, there is nothing quite like the positive energy and excitement a writer can get from attending a literary festival or writers’ conference. It’s a wonderful way to meet other writers and industry professionals and we are lucky here in Ireland to have so many great festivals and events to choose from. Here’s a selection of the festival/conference highlights over the next few months from all over the country:

Cuirt International Festival of Literature, Galway

International Literature Festival (ILF), Dublin

Wexford Literary Festival,  Wexford

Dalkey Book Festival, Dalkey, Dublin

Listowel Writers’ Week, Listowel, Kerry

Dublin Writers’ Conference, Dublin

West Cork Literary Festival, Cork

Bray Literary Festival, Bray, Wicklow

Red Line Book Festival, Tallaght, Dublin

Something Wicked Crime Writing Festival, Malahide, Dublin – 28/10/2017

 

Let’s Get Physical 2: Sense Memory – Character First Impressions

First Impressions

We all know that first impressions count. And the same is true for our characters.

MH900252595Finding that balance between too much physical detail (which prevents a reader from using their own imagination) and too little detail (height, hair and eye colour may be too generic and not individual enough) can be tricky.

It’s also important to realise that it is not just about a character’s physical appearance. To give those first reader/character moments real impact, a writer also needs to establish a character’s physical presence.

Which is where sense memory comes in.

Using sense memory allows an author to go beyond a character’s superficial physical appearance and to delve deeper into the essence of their character – to tap into their emotional core.

What is ‘sense memory’?

‘Sense memory’ is the effect of a character’s emotional and life experiences captured or expressed in their physicality.

How does sense memory work?

Just as our bodies reflect our physical lifestyles, so too they also mirror our emotional experiences and general outlook on life. Therefore, the main question is ‘Why is the character’s body memory the way it is?’

Take the following example:

Let’s start with the barest amount of character information:

‘The elderly man walked down the road.’

This sets up the basic image for the reader, but it gives us no clue whatsoever as to the old man’s character, or, indeed, tells us anything about who he is.

Next step, let’s look at physical appearance only:

‘The elderly man walked down the road. Of average height, he was of slim build with a shock of white hair.’

This tells us more: we now know what he looks like, but the question remains, does the character description tell us who this man is? No? Well, let’s push it even further and introduce a smidgen of sense memory into our description:

‘The elderly man walked down the road. Of average height and slim build with a shock of white hair, he moved slowly, hunching his shoulders forward with each laboured step.’

The man’s forward-hunching shoulders is a small detail, which piques a reader’s interest because, as well as describing his outward appearance, it gives us some idea of the kind of man we are dealing with: what sort of character he might be.

Physical and emotional impact

MH900157951Suddenly this elderly man becomes more noticeable. He’s no longer just one old man walking down the road; he’s an old man with a history, and a life; an old man who over time has learned to brace himself against adversity and somehow still keep pushing forward down the road. And, as readers, we now want to know more.

What has happened to that man in his lifetime? What has he experienced emotionally over the years to shape him in such a physical way?  

Sense memory can act as a useful emotional shortcut to your character for your readers, creating maximum emotional impact and allowing your character to hook reader interest in a few short sentences. In other words, sense memory makes it possible for all your characters, main or otherwise, to make an immediate and lasting first impression.

Creating and exploring new characters

It’s also a great way of creating and exploring new characters. For example, why not follow the elderly man’s sense memory story and see where it takes you? You may well find yourself in some very interesting places.

The Glitch in the Matrix 2: Heads will roll…

Yes, it’s true: sometimes words can be – as Gollum would put it – ‘tricksy’, and very often it’s those little physical quirks which can cause the most problems.

MB900192427Consider this conundrum which I heard on TV one evening:

‘My reflection in the mirror looked back at me like a bad smell.’

Huh?? There is a definite aroma of mixed metaphor with that one. Or rather, mixed simile (for the difference check out my earlier post ‘Shall I compare thee?‘) To start with, what exactly does a bad smell look like? Even if we manage to sort that one out, what’s the story with it looking back at you? Scary!

So please do take care that your hero is not accidentally foraying into the realm of physical impossibilities as he or she goes about their narrative business. In other words, keep an eye on what your protagonist’s eyes are doing. Are they following people across the street, rolling down mountains, sweeping across rooms or dropping to floors?

The human body is indeed a thing of wonder and it’s amazing what eyes actually can do, but, generally speaking, they tend to do it from the comfort of a person’s eye sockets rather than indulging in some perambulation of their own quite distinct from the rest of the body. Besides all that running, dropping and rolling sounds rather painful and damaging to the anatomical part in question.

Happily, a protagonist’s gaze or stare, on the other hand, can quite easily follow, roll, run or sweep across anything you wish.

The same rules apply to protagonists’ heads and other generally fixed parts of the body, by the way.

Of course if your hero is an animated cartoon character where anything goes, the above may not apply!

For other glitches in the prose matrix, see my earlier post ‘The Glitch in the Matrix 1: Dealing with Danglers‘.

For Dickens’ sake, please don’t tell!

‘I am a mortal,” Scrooge remonstrated, “and liable to fall.’
‘Bear but a touch of my hand there,’ said the Spirit, laying it upon his heart, ‘and you shall be upheld in more than this!

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens 

It’s almost Christmas and, in the—ahem—spirit of the season, we are back with A Christmas Carol’s Ghost of Christmas Present, who is about to tell that old miser Scrooge what’s what.

‘Ho, ho, ho, Ebenezer Scrooge, sit yourself down there, and let’s talk about you. 05 Ghost of CPA lonely child, left behind at school when all the other boys went home for Christmas; one sister, Fanny, frail body, big heart; she died young; one child, your nephew. You were devastated. All that resentment and bitterness, dude—not good for the soul. Then you were in love with Belle, and she loved you. Oh, yes she did. But it didn’t last. You were too ambitious, too greedy; it became all about the money: you and Jacob Marley grubbing and scheming, until there was nothing left to you but each other and your false idol. And now look at you: wizened and miserable. Do you know what you need, Ebenezer? A change of heart! You need to start caring about other people again. People like Bob Cratchit and his poorly son, Tiny Tim, who’ll surely die if you don’t start caring. And then you’ll end up dead yourself and unmourned. Nobody will even miss you; well, not for longer than a moment (your nephew really is a decent sort, you know). In fact, there’ll be some doing happy dances at the thought. Doesn’t really bear thinking about, does it? So here’s the deal: repent and redeem yourself, or die and suffer like Jacob Marley, with a long chain trailing behind you for eternity. A bit of a no-brainer, don’t you think? Right, got that? So, we’re good? Pleasure doing redemption with you. Must dash, other places to go and people to see, and next door has mince pies! Ho, ho, ho…’

Not quite Dickens, is it? But it does raise a number of interesting questions. As a reader, the Ghost of Christmas Present’s charm, joie de vivre and his illuminating banter notwithstanding, would you expect the embittered, miserable, petty Ebenezer Scrooge as depicted in the first chapter of the book to repent, as the late, great Tommy Cooper would say, ‘just like that’? Would you believe Dickens if he tried to make you believe Scrooge would change so easily? I don’t think so. In fact, in those circumstances, I’d be inclined to believe Scrooge was correct when he surmised that the whole ghostly experience was likely the result of indigestion. No, all in all, I’d want a little more emotional and psychological incentive over and above the jolly warnings of a fat old ghost dressed like a Victorian Christmas tree.

01 Jacob MarleyWhich is exactly what Dickens gives his readers: he doesn’t tell us about Scrooge, he shows us using images, events and relationships to which both the reader and the character can relate. He carries us, just as the three ghosts carry Scrooge, on an emotional journey towards redemption, through the memories of his character’s past: the sad childhood, his devotion to his sister, his friends and first love—all possibilities in Scrooge’s youth for a different outcome—into the bitter-sweet present of the Cratchits and Tiny Tim, and the bleak future promised by a refusal to change.

A Christmas Carol demonstrates very clearly the difference between showing and telling. You get the same facts by telling, but you don’t get the emotional connection that showing can give you.

If you still don’t believe me, cast your eye over the Ghost of Christmas Present’s story once again. Who or what are we really focussing on when we read it: the Ghost of Christmas Present or the story he is telling us? Which of them is engaging us emotionally? Are we so busy being entertained by the ghost’s character and anachronistic style, that the story he is telling fails to move us enough to shed tears at the thought of Tiny Tim’s imminent demise?

The moral of this Christmas tale: watch out for those telltale signs of telling: chunks of back story, exposition and information dumps, and replace them instead with scintillating dialogue, thrilling action and warm fuzzy feelings.

And so to Dickens for the last word:

He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!’

Quotations and illustrations are from the 1843 first edition of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, illustrated by John Leech.

Full copy available to download on http://www.gutenberg.org/files/46/46-h/46-h.htm

Love at First Draft xxx

Congratulations to all those who took part in NaNoWriMo last month. I hope you are all basking in the delight of having the bones of your next first draft safely stored away!

MH900410653Ah, first drafts—the writing equivalent of love at first sight! A whirlwind romance, a lovers’ tiff and break-up, followed by a hot, sexy weekend together in Paris all rolled into one! In other words: ecstatic, chaotic, wonderful, infuriating,  heart-breaking and inspirational.

So to ease the process along, here are a few first draft ground rules:

  • Firstly, there are no rules! And even if there were rules, they were made to be broken. It’s your first draft, for goodness’ sake! All yours, just for you, for your eyes only! Enjoy it! Just get it down on paper or computer screen—you can sort it out later!
  • Accept and rejoice in the fact that it is in the nature of first drafts to contain some or all of the following:
    • Clichés
    • Typos
    • Coincidences
    • POV shifts
    • Unbelievable leaps out of character and back in again.
    • Extraneous characters you didn’t even know existed until you started writing.
    • Lots of other good and bad stuff.
  • Don’t be afraid to play around with your novel. Write scenes you know from the outset will never make it—write five versions of the same scene—even if you know all five are ‘wrong’. Ask yourself a lot of questions about the book: ‘what if’, ‘why’, then write down all the answers regardless of what they are. There is no right and wrong in writing—only what works and what doesn’t—but deciding which is which comes at a much later stage in process – that’s what editing is for.
  • Take active steps to shut off the editor in your head: if typing on the computer is encouraging you to edit, try writing with a pen and notebook for while. Try free writing – jotting down the first thing that comes into your head – just to get the creative juices flowing. Experiment a little, and find out what works best for you.

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  • Remember that you are unique: what works for someone else will not necessarily work for you—find your own process and inspiration. Equally, each book you write is unique: the process you used for your first book, may not work for your second. Don’t forget, you’ve progressed as a writer, and learned from the experience of book 1; book 2 will be different, so don’t give yourself a hard time when it is.
  • How to’ books, blogs and other people’s advice are not ‘rules’ you have to follow: they are possible ways which might work for you when you need to troubleshoot a particular issue that’s causing you problems when you come to review or edit your work. You’re not at that stage yet, so forget them for the moment.
  • Don’t show your work too early; make sure you and your first draft are strong enough together before you start showing it off.
  • And remember, it’s a first draft, so ignore all of the above and just write!

The Ins and Outs of Writing Character

‘Bob trembled, and got a little nearer to the ruler. He had a momentary idea of knocking Scrooge down with it, holding him, and calling to the people in the court for help and a strait-waistcoat.’

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

I raised the issue of being ‘in’ or ‘out’ of character in my earlier post ‘A Conspiracy of Coincidences’.  But what exactly does this mean?

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In everyday speech, we would usually describe somebody as being ‘out of character’ if they do something we don’t expect. But, I hear you say, the whole point of my novel is that my character doesn’t do what everyone expects. And what about character nuance and complexity? Surely, my hero is allowed to be contradictory, or change his mind without being considered ‘out of character’?

In fiction, as in real life, the key to being ‘in’ or ‘out’ of character depends on other people’s expectations. So the key to keeping your character ‘in character’ is to manage your reader’s expectations. Your character can change his mind and be as contradictory as often as he likes to all the other characters in the story, as long as it is clear to the reader that this unpredictability and contradiction are part of his essential nature, and not something tacked on by the author to get him out of a rather too deep and awkwardly constrictive plot hole.

If your story turns on the fact that your character is going to face his demons and do something he has never done before, you need to prepare your readers in advance.

 Take Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, for example. His employer’s post-Ghost behaviour is so out of character for him that poor Bob Cratchit assumes the man has lost his wits entirely. So why are readers so willing to accept the curmudgeonly miser’s complete change of heart and personality?

MH900020689Because Dickens has set up the hope of redemption at a plot and character level from the start of the book: Jacob Marley’s ghost is a last chance warning to change before it is too late, and the Ghost of Christmas Past shows us a kinder, more innocent Ebenezer Scrooge just waiting to surface underneath all that miserly cynicism. Bob may not expect Scrooge’s redemption, but we readers do, and all is well.

So don’t wait until your hero has his back firmly against the inescapable wall of whatever jeopardy you have in store for him before he discovers his hidden depths of character and abilities. Your readers won’t thank you for pulling convenient and hitherto unknown character traits from nowhere like rabbits appearing from a magician’s hat, but they will appreciate a carefully structured pay-off for all their emotional investment in a character.

Book Nanny is running a workshop on writing character, ‘Write them for real’, Saturday, 6 December 2014 at 9.45 am, Carousel Creates Writers’ Centre, Rathfarnham, Dublin 14. Full details here

Book Nanny’s back – with a website!

Yes, Book Nanny is back! OK, I said that a few months ago and then disappeared again, but I’ll do better this time. Honest.

And my excuse for all this tardiness? Apart from the joy of working with some hugely talented writers, I’ve been busy, busy, busy setting up a new website.

And here it is: Book Nanny’s website.

 Ta dah!

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The Book Nanny website is packed with information about my editing and copy-writing services, and for answers to some of the most frequently asked editing questions, check out the site’s FAQs. I will also be posting details of upcoming Book Nanny workshops and events on the ‘Workshops’ page. Something for everyone, I hope.

You can subscribe to the website by email, but I will continue to blog on this site for the present also.

I hope you enjoy the Book Nanny website and please do let me know what you think!

Book Nanny Writing and Editing Services: nursing and nurturing for all your creative writing needs.

A Question of Craft

 

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I hope you enjoyed the two articles in the last post.

It’s good to see Sinead Gleeson’s article advocating the ‘shove it in the drawer’ approach to resting manuscripts before editing or re-drafting, but you heard it from Book Nanny first – check out ‘Are we there yet? Knowing when to edit’ here.

Of course, it’s all part of the craft of writing, which, incidentally, was the main topic of discussion recently at a talk given by my colleague, Carolann Copland, author and facilitator at Carousel Creates Writers Retreat, at the Hays Festival Kells last month.

MH900280567Carolann was discussing the old ‘nature versus nurture’ argument when applied to writers and their writing. Is writing a gift or a skill? Can we be taught to write well or does it come naturally? And what part does skill or craft play in the process of writing? Fortunately for those of us who couldn’t get to Kells, we can read Carolann’s blog post on the subject here, and, as you will see, your own Book Nanny gets to put her tuppence worth into the mix.

Editing can help your manuscript shine, so before you send your book or story out into the world, it is well worth learning a few self-editing skills and hiring a professional editor to help you turn your rough diamond into a sparkling gem.

Editing matters

MB900441386Yes, Book Nanny is back after a brief sabbatical. And what better way to get back into the swing of things than with two great articles about editing:

  • Sinead Gleeson’s recent article ‘Kill your darlings: the importance of editing’ in the Irish Times which you can read here; and
  • C.S. Lakin’s blog post ‘The Editorial Burden That Weighs on the Author’ on her wonderful editing website, Live Write Thrive, which is here.

Enjoy!