… And just like that, they’re back at school!

Apologies for the lack of updates over the last few months – with the children at home over the summer, the husband working from home and lots of things going on, it has been impossible to find the time to update you all on news from here.

Jackie and Maria: A Novel of Jackie Kennedy & Maria Callas by Gill Paul

It has been a very busy summer. I have celebrated the publication of Gill Paul’s latest novel Jackie and Maria, which was published in August in the US and Canada and is going to be published this week in the UK, NZ and Australia! So far, it has received some incredible feedback, including praise from Dinah Jeffries and Hazel Gaynor. It was a pleasure working with Gill on this novel and it is wonderful to see people devouring it. As well as working on this book with Gill, I’ve also been helping her on her NEXT book, which will be published next year. This one has a very magical feel to it as it tells the story of Lady Evelyn as she goes with Howard Carter to be the first person to step into Tutankhamen’s tomb, but overall, this book – even at early manuscript stage – totally moved me; it’s packed full of emotion and will be a real tear-jerker.

Let's Be the Best of Friends

I have also been busy working with award-winning illustrator Lucy Smith on several publications – one being a debut children’s story by Emma Alexander, and another being the follow-up book in the Autism with Lola series by Jodie Isitt. Emma’s book, Let’s Be the Best of Friends, helps to teach children the importance of respecting dogs, not being overly friendly or overly cautious, how to approach them, what to do, what not to do… all told in rhyme and beautifully illustrated by Lucy. Jodie’s second book – Lola’s Wobbly Lunchtime – shows the reader how Lola struggles with sensory overload at lunchtime and how her teacher and friends help her to cope with it. This book isn’t published yet, but it will be very soon and I’m looking forward to getting to share it with you.

The Adventures of Captain Lantus by Gary Rapson — Kickstarter

Bear with us Productions have several manuscripts with me at the moment and it is a pleasure to work on them – they work with a wide variety of authors and help them through their publishing journey. They provide illustrations, formatting, advice and… I take care of the editing. I have worked on a manuscript by Gary Rapson and his little boy Max who has diabetes and wanted to write a story about a superhero with diabetes. This story is super-cute and exciting and I really enjoyed working on it. The book will be available later this year, but here is a sneak-peak at the illustrations.

I was overjoyed to give a developmental critique of Kath McGurl’s latest novel, which will be published later in the year. I love working on historical fiction and this manuscript was a joy to read – lots of research, atmosphere and emotions – and, because part of the story has a health-related issue, I was able to provide insight and advice to help strengthen that part of the plot. I am really excited about this book and think it will fly up the charts once it has been published.

There are lots of other books which we have been working on and sharing on our Facebook and Instagram pages, including Stacy Bauer’s festive novel, Amanda Wilson’s young adult book, Miro Tartan’s outdoor activity book and much more…

Here are some books we have been working on and enjoying over the summer:

Green With Envy
Children's Books: Pigs Can Fly! By Joshua McManus: A humorous children's picture book (giggletastic stories 6) by [Joshua McManus]
Best in Me
Save the Bees (Save the Earth Book 3) by [Bethany Stahl]

June update

I must admit I am feeling very guilty about not updating my blog enough recently. I think a lot of us have been feeling guilt since we’ve been in lockdown – guilt that we’re not able to give the children enough attention, guilt that everyone else seems to be coping better than we are, guilt that we can’t help others as much as we’d like to… so apologies from me for being so poor at updating the blog. I have been very busy…

I have been homeschooling an 11 year-old and 8 year-old, which has been very interesting! We have been studying some interesting topics such as Amelia Earhart, the local area, what it means to be a good friend and great inventors… we have also been reading a lot and it’s been enjoyable seeing what kinds of books my children like best.

One of the best books I have read with my 11 year-old is Wonder by R. J Palacio, my daughter found it so interesting and we are going to watch the film together soon.

Work-wise I have been very busy too, it seems that a lot of authors have been using lockdown as a perfect chance to focus on their writing and it has been a pleasure to welcome lots of new authors to the Calico Editing team.

Judging has also began for the Romantic Novelist Association awards, of which I am a judge for. It has meant that I have been enjoying reading lots of different books and judging them. It is always very insightful being a judge and seeing the huge difference in novels despite it being in one specific genre. Judging these awards also means I get to read books I may not otherwise have come across.

In June, we have had the pleasure of seeing some of the books we have edited come to publication. Three of these books include:

Best In Me by Natalie McDonald-Perkins best in me
This is a wonderful story which gives children from all different backgrounds and abilities the confidence to be themselves and to be happy in their skin. The take-home message from this book is that everyone is special no matter who they are. It was a pleasure working with Natalie and seeing her unique take on giving children confidence. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Best-Me-Natalie-McDonald-Perkins-ebook/dp/B089S91K18

Yogi Superhero Adventures in Nature by Anna Smithers.
This is a gentle introduction to yoga and mindfulness for children all based in a nature setting. It provides children with some easy-to-follow techniques to help them to relax and be calm as well as some simple yoga poses. The illustrations help to show children the poses as well as introduce them to nature. This is a follow-up book from her first book. We have also been working on another nature-inspired book by Anna and always enjoy working with her, it’s inspiring to see how authors care so much about the wellbeing of children. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Yogi-Superhero-Adventures-Nature-mindfulness/dp/B08BTZ2GPY

Let's Be the Best of FriendsLet’s be the Best of Friends by Emma Alexander
I first began working on this book last year and I loved it from the first time I saw it. The whole concept of the book is helping children to be safe around dogs – whether they are over-confident or anxious. It uses simple rhyme to explain how children should interact with dogs in a variety of scenarios – whilst they’re eating, if they’re in the park, if they’re sleeping etc. It is such an important book, educating children in a very gentle, age-appropriate manner and it was a joy working on. The illustrations, by award-winning Lucy Smith, are a beautiful addition to the book. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lets-Best-Friends-Emma-Alexander-ebook/dp/B08BNQ78LF

We are enjoying seeing the reviews coming in for these books, it is always such a rewarding feeling knowing that children are enjoying the books which we have worked on and knowing that an author’s dreams are coming true.

There are also quite a few books which we have worked on that will be being published over the next couple of months, these include books from both traditionally published authors and self-published authors – we will be sharing these as much as possible over our social media.

In July, we will be working with several new authors, working on a ghostwriting project and also proofreading the final stage of a young adult book. We are almost fully booked for July already and are very grateful for all of our authors, illustrators and publishers who are keeping us so busy.

If you wish to contact us to enquire about our services or to tell us about a book you have written and would like us to review, feel free to contact via email calicoeditingservices@gmail.com


Being Creative During a Pandemic

Over the course of the last few months, our lives have changed hugely. We have gone from taking the freedom we had for granted and now are appreciating the smaller things in life.

When I first took my children out of school (a week before the government here in the UK closed schools), I wondered how having children at home would impact me and my creativity. I am an editor, I am a ghostwriter. Both of these jobs require creativity – if I can’t be imaginative, think ‘outside of the box’ and visualise what the author is hoping to achieve, then I simply cannot be a good editor or ghostwriter. However, I have found that I have settled into a good routine with my children and, now that I have stopped reading ALL news articles and almost obsessing with the virus, I have found myself able to be working as normal, or maybe even more efficiently than normal as I now no longer have to dash around taking the children to various clubs!

However, I am not the norm at all. There are many authors who I am working with who vary in how creative they are feeling. Some authors are thriving, they now no longer have a ‘day job’ to worry about or no longer have a hefty commute, they are finding they have more time and they are more creative, more inspired than ever to reach their word count goals, to bring their books to life. Other authors are struggling, they may have more time on their hands, but they are struggling to write. They sit at their laptops and no words come, or they may write a few lines then not think it is good enough. There are other authors who don’t physically have the time to write at all; juggling children, their jobs, their mental health… there is no time to fit in writing.

What I would like to reassure all the authors who work with us is that it is OK. It’s OK if you have to cancel an editing slot you had with us because you can’t complete your revisions in time. It’s OK if you can’t look at the feedback I’ve sent because you don’t think you can face another ‘to do’ item being added to your list. It’s OK if you’re unable to put pen to paper as no words are coming. It is also OK if you’re writing more than you’ve ever written before and you are creating manuscript after manuscript that you’d like me to look over.

I have spoken to several authors who are very established – one of which has their name in the New York Times Bestsellers list and another who’s in the Sunday Times Bestsellers list… one of them is feeling more creative than ever, the other has had to take a break from writing as they are just unable to get into the headspace they need to write.

Everyone is different at the best of times and, during a pandemic, an experience we haven’t lived through before, it is clear that we will all react to it in a different way.

What’s important to remember is this; when this is over, or when you’ve settled into a new normal, I will still be here to help guide you through the writing process. Illustrators will still be here to bring your story to life. Readers will still be here excited to read your words and lose themselves in your book. If you have to put your publication dreams back by a few weeks, a few months, a few years, it’s OK. We will all be here to support you along the way.

Likewise, if you are now way ahead of your publishing goals and are likely to be publishing during the pandemic, don’t worry. We are all still here; I’m editing away and have been able to provide more editing slots than previously thanks to not having to taxi the kids around to various events. Illustrators are still working away remotely. Readers are downloading books more than ever before and are appreciating the joy of stories.

We may be in the midst of a pandemic, but we are in it together and we are supporting you.

Don’t push yourself, if you’re struggling to be creative, it will come back to you eventually. Read as much as you can, even if it doesn’t help you to get your creativity back, it will help you when you do. Relax when you can. Look at the small things around you which mean a lot – these can creep into your mind, help you when you do write again. Use the time to look after yourself and don’t pressure yourself to write if you are unable to. It will be OK.

Best-selling authors, ghostwriting and kick-starters

It’s already half way through February and we have realised we haven’t given you an update on the work we’ve been doing this year. I always think it’s a good idea to keep our clients and followers in the loop with the projects we have been working on, so I am taking some time to reflect on the last 6 weeks and let you know about the exciting work we’ve been busy with.

As the new year began, we had the very exciting opportunity to interview best-selling author Rosamund Lupton. We were incredibly lucky that Rosamund allowed us to see her new novel prior to its release – and what a fabulous book it is too! We could hardly wait to interview her to gain some insight into what it was like to write such a tense and current book and also how it feels for her to be publishing a novel again after several years. Rosamund was lovely and brought home the realities of what it takes to write a novel – the research, the writing process, the anxiety around publication day.

In January, we also began work with a new client who has hired us to work on a ghostwriting project for them. I adore ghostwriting and love helping authors to have their inspiration and ideas come to life. When I am choosing who to ghostwrite for, I am very particular, I like to ensure that I only take on a few ghostwriting projects each year. When ghostwriting, I gather as much information as possible from the client, find out what their aims are, their character briefs, their outlook for the story. Some authors provide me with very detailed briefs whilst others are more vague and allow me to embellish their ideas more. When writing, I immerse myself fully in the manuscript and commit a lot of time to it – not just writing but the actual headspace that a book needs to take. Because ghostwriting is very personal and immersive, I only take on 3-4 ghostwriting projects each year so that I can give the work the very best of me. This new ghostwriting job is very interesting, in an area I believe passionately about and with a very important message at its heart.

We have also been delighted to see some of the authors we have worked with towards the end of last year, become all geared up ready for the publication of books that we have edited. Two of these authors, Stacy Bauer and Jodie Issit, have created Kick-Starter campaigns to help fund the publishing of these books. This involves securing funding from readers who invest in their book and in return they receive various offers or special deals and then, once the author has reached their target, they are able to go ahead and publish the book. Stacy Bauer is already storming away with plenty of backers supporting her campaign and Jodie Issit is in the preparation stages, ready to launch the campaign in a few days’ time. It’s very insightful to see this side of the publishing process and reminds us how costly it can be to self-publish a book. Self-publishing is not for the light-hearted, it is for the hardworking, passionate creatives.

Throughout February, we will be working on our ghostwriting project and also working on a manuscript from one of our traditionally published authors who has a contract with Hachette. It will be another busy couple of weeks, but we will keep you updated on our progress and hopefully not leave it as long next time between updates!

Why reviews REALLY matter to authors.

reviewphotoI don’t know about you, but more days than not I see posts being shared by authors and bloggers emphasising the importance of leaving a review after reading a book. “How to really make an author happy? Review their book!” or authors offering books for free with the hope of having some reviews left afterwards.

It can be easy to think that this is all for monetary reasons; buy my book and then review it telling everyone else to read it so I can make more sales and be laughing all the way to the bank (which will probably be closed anyway…) but actually, there are many more important reasons why reviews mean so much to authors and readers alike.

Author Nerves 
I have worked with several authors now, some of which are traditionally published, some of which are self-published. Some have topped the New York Times Bestsellers lists, some have only made a handful of sales to close friends and family. They vary in their content, their background and their successes but, every author I have worked with shares one thing in common; they care. They have moments where they doubt themselves, their talent, their story. It doesn’t matter if a top 5 publisher has snapped up their book, it doesn’t matter if their best friend who is their toughest critic says it’s their best yet – they still question “Is it good enough? Will people like it? Will a reader ‘get’ what I was hoping?”

When publication day comes around, authors have told me they feel anxious and nervous. They almost dread the first reviews coming in. They’re filled with self-doubt but it’s too late to make a change now. So, when the reviews pop up on Amazon, Goodreads, Netgalley etc and are shared on social media, and they’re positive, the reader has ‘got’ it! They liked it! They were ‘moved’, ‘immersed’ and ‘lost’, the author lets out a sigh of relief. They are reassured, their sensitive souls eased for a while and they feel inspired and encouraged to continue with the next book.

Whether you write reviews or you write novels, it can be a lonely place. You can spend a lot of your time in your own company writing away. By reading reviews, you are part of a community – you’re sharing your opinion with people, you’re interacting as you forward details to others, you’re part of something. Friendships can flourish through reaching others with your love of books. With the likes of Instagram hashtags, Facebook book lover groups and Twitter author take-over accounts, there is no better time to feel a part of something. Reading has become fashionable, gone are the days where you’d be smirked at if you said you preferred snuggling up with a brew and a book to partying the weekend away, now you’re accepted, part of something and on-trend! By reviewing, you’re not only helping market that book for the author, but you’re helping yourself become a part of something, to meet others, to enjoy sharing your opinion.

Reaching a wider audience
How do you find out about books? Through tube posters? Reviews in magazines? Whatever is on the shelves in the supermarket or being promoted on Amazon? Sometimes, the very best books I have read, have been because a review has popped up on my timeline and I’ve liked the sound of it and instantly gone to purchase it. I wouldn’t have come across these books otherwise and I know I’m not the only one. There are only a certain amount of books which can be highly promoted and appear on billboards and the sides of busses, by reviewing and sharing your thoughts you’re helping more books be seen, be in front of people who would enjoy them but not necessarily have come across them if it wasn’t for your review. Your review is putting the book ‘out there’ and providing it with a whole host of possibilities that it may not otherwise have had. There are a whole host of amazing books that have been written and deserve to be devoured by others but don’t have a huge publicity team behind them, reviewers can help widen the audience for these books.

Sometimes, we may see a book and something may put us off – perhaps the cover isn’t one which would normally appeal or a book in the same genre was one you didn’t enjoy very much or perhaps the publisher’s description isn’t intriguing enough. Sometimes, it is the reviews which really reach out to us, that are believable and realistic and enable us to relate to the reviewer. The review may relate to us – the person who wrote it also has a limited amount of time to read but still made lots of time for this novel (wow it must be good then!) or they didn’t like the previous novel by this author but this one is a million times better… something within the review may capture you, may make you trust the opinion of the reviewer more than that of the publisher or the quotes which are on the cover. Of course, the publisher will tell you this is a ‘gripping, out of this world thriller with a shocking twist’ or ‘the best book you’ll read this year’, but a reviewer? They don’t have to use such language, they don’t have to tell the audience to go and buy it. Instead, they feel more real and it almost makes us trust the words of the reviewer more. If a reviewer has taken the time to review the book and share their thoughts with others, then what they have to say is valuable. Reviewers, therefore, can be a lot more influential than the marketing gurus behind a book. You, the reviewer, has the power to make a big difference.

Encourage others
Ultimately, the main hope from authors is that when people review their books, that it will encourage others to read them. Your review can do just that but it doesn’t only benefit the author; it may help the reader too. There are many different reasons why someone may choose to read the book; escapism, to learn from, to gain comfort from… they may feel depressed and lacking the motivation to pick up a book, they may not even know where to start in terms of which book to read next… your review could be the little nudge they need to pick up that book. It could help give them the escapism, the lesson, the comfort that they need. Yes, an author will be smiling and happy that your review has reached more people and encouraged them to buy their book too, but the reader may be influenced even more by your decision to review.

Writing a review of a book can feel like you’re providing feedback to the author, that it is the author and the publisher who are benefiting from it and it’s all about sales and money and stats… but actually there are humans behind the scenes and these humans – whether it be the anxious author, the demotivated reader, the isolated booklover – can benefit hugely from someone who has taken the time to review a book.

Authors, readers, bloggers, people who don’t normally choose to pick up a book, can all appreciate the review for a variety of reasons.

So, next time you read a book and you’re wondering whether to review it, think about the number of lives your words could touch.