A day in the life of… author & writing school founder Chantelle Atkins

 

Today I welcome Chantelle Atkins to my blog who as well as writing books runs a writing school. It’s heartwarming to share Chantelle’s passion for life – she really is living her dreams. Over to you, Chantelle.

Like many writers, I can’t rely on my writing income to pay the bills, but I am fortunate, because my other jobs are just as much fun as writing. I’m a self-employed dog walker and pet sitter, and I also run my own writing based business; Chasing Driftwood Writing Group, which provides creative writing clubs and workshops to adults and children in my local area of Christchurch, Dorset. If you include writing, I technically run three self-employed businesses, and although I don’t think any of them will ever make me rich, I do feel immensely lucky to be doing so many things I enjoy and am passionate about. My dreams when I was a child were to work with animals and be a writer, so to be as busy as I am right now, feels like a dream come true. However, with four children to juggle aged between 3 and 14, I do struggle at times to get it all right! I’d like to tell you about a typical day in my life, which is today, Monday.

Morning. I’m up at 6.45 which is a bit of a lay in, as it’s the summer holidays so there is no school run. I’m actually up before the children, so enjoy breakfast and a cup of tea in peace! I feed my dogs and let the chickens and ducks out, and then I have to grab my 3-year-old son and get him dressed as we have some pet sitting duties to see to. Leaving the other kids asleep, we leave the house at 7.45 to drive down the lane to feed a neighbours guinea pigs. From there we drive further down the lane to pick up a dog for dog walking. After that, we also feed her and the resident cat and drive back home. My almost 15-year-old is up by now so she looks after my son while I take our own dogs out for a walk. There is just enough time for a coffee before my mum turns up to look after everyone, while me and my eldest child go to my writing club at a local hall. I normally do kids workshops every school holiday, but this time I am trying something new with a weekly, pay as you go writing club. So far, we have covered comic books, and using local maps to inspire stories! The next few weeks will also involve FanFiction and poetry and song! I absolutely love working with young people like this. I used to be a childminder, so starting Chasing Driftwood was an amazing way to combine working with kids with my passion for writing. An hour later, we are back home, but I only have time to let my daughter out of the car, while I drive off to another dog walking job.

Afternoon. After a gorgeous walk down by the river, I’m back home for lunch and a well deserved cup of tea with my mum and the kids, and my sister who has dropped by with her bunch. We haven’t seen each other much lately, so enjoy a really good catch up and gossip! They leave around 4pm, and I drag three of the kids out for a walk with our dogs down to the little river at the end of our lane. Bliss. At the moment, I am preparing for the release of my 6th novel (YA dystopian adventure called The Tree Of Rebels) whilst also putting the final touches to another novel. However, every time I leave my house and explore my local area of Hurn, I have another story in my mind. I have a four book YA post-apocalyptic story planned and I am just bursting with it. I can’t write it yet, but it’s just getting louder and louder, and every time I walk around this area, I come up with scenes and bits of dialogue. I am forever tapping into my phone as I walk!

Evening. I don’t usually get to do any real writing until my youngest is in bed. If I am lucky I might get the chance to look at my emails throughout the day, but that will be it. Once he is asleep though, the evening is mine, and I grab it hungrily. Writing is in my head all day, so much so that I am often extremely distracted and prone to making silly mistakes, like turning up on the wrong day for something. I’ve always been like this. My mum used to say I lived in my own world, and my nick-name was ‘cloth-ears’ because I rarely paid attention to anything anyone said to me. Now, I find it a struggle sometimes, to keep the house running and the animals sorted and the kids happy, find a way to earn money AND fit my writing in. I manage to do it all, just! The evening is lovely because I make a nice cup of tea, sit up in my room and let rip. At the moment, I am editing what will hopefully be the last draft of a novel called Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature. I am doing bits and bobs to prepare for the release of The Tree Of Rebels, and I am always planning my weekly blog posts. As a self-published author, I am doing everything myself, so need to dedicate a certain amount of time to building my author platform and networking with people. I have to say, I love every moment of it all! Currently, I am also going through the process of turning Chasing Driftwood Writing Group into a Community Interest Company, so that I can better access funding for all the writing based ideas I have! There is always planning in process for my workshops, which I run for kids and adults at various times, and my clubs. I am strict about actual writing though. Although it is editing right now, I commit myself to four chapters a night, no matter what. I do two chapters before I even look at emails or social media, then have a bit of a break to do other things, and then do the next two chapters. Being strict like this is the only way I get things done. I can’t wait to get these next two books out! They’ve taken two years of working on them simultaneously to get them right. After that, I will go back to another YA novel I have at third draft stage, and once that one is done, it will be time for the four book series I mentioned.

I love everything I do, and although there are a lot of ups and downs and uncertainties, I can’t see myself ever doing anything else. I have a lot of plans for the future, and just hope I can hold it all together well enough to succeed!

 

I’m exhausted just reading all that! Thanks so much for sharing, Chantelle.

Chantelle’s latest release, The Tree Rebels will be published on 11th August, you can find it here

Chantelle Atkins was born and raised in Dorset, England and still resides there now with her husband, four children and multiple pets. She is addicted to both reading and music, and is on a mission to become as self-sufficient as possible. She writes for both the young adult and adult genres. Her fiction is described as gritty, edgy and compelling. Her debut Young Adult novel The Mess Of Me deals with eating disorders, self-harm, fractured families and first love. Her second novel, The Boy With The Thorn In His Side follows the musical journey of a young boy attempting to escape his brutal home life. She is also the author of This Is Nowhere, This Is The Day and has recently released a collection of short stories related to her novels called Bird People and Other Stories. Chantelle has had mulitiple articles about writing published by Author’s Publish magazine, and is also a reviewer with Underground Book Reviews. Her next novel, a YA dystopian is due for release August 2017.

Website/blog  Facebook  Twitter

A day in the life of……author Steven Kedie

Writing full time is a luxury many of us dream about and although I fitted writing The Sister around a family and working part-time I’m always in awe of those who hold down a full-time job too.

Today, Steven Kedie, author of Suburb, shares with us how he juggles a career and two children under five  with the burning desire to write.

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Like many people just starting out in this game called Writing, I am not full time. I have a job, a 9-5, that pays the mortgage and nursery fees. Most of my writing is done in short bursts: 500 words before work, editing at lunchtime, plot problems thought through and sorted out on runs I do after the kids are in bed. Every once in a while I get a full day where writing can be the priority, where my focus can be absolute. It’s one of those days I’d like to tell you about.

Wednesday

 I wake up tired. As always. Two kids under five will do that to you. It’s not just the kids today though. Yes, it’s not six o’clock yet and the youngest is crying, so that’s not helping. But they are not the full reason. There’s last week’s family holiday to Centre Parcs that none of us seem to have recovered from, the Stag Do in Leeds on Saturday night – that definitely hasn’t helped, the unexpected (unwelcome), hour long, night feed on Monday. But the main reason it took me ages to get to sleep last night was The Reader feedback.

Every writer has their Reader. That one you go to first with new work and say, What do you think? The one you know will be critical, insightful, brutal. The reader who helps makes you a better writer. Mine is my wife. Last night I gave her a draft of Ben, a short story I’ve been working on. I went out in Manchester to watch an open mic night and she stayed in and read my work. When I got home, feedback was waiting. Not your usual style, too much detail about things that don’t matter, boring. She’d only read four pages. There were some positive bits, but writer brains don’t tend to focus on the positive do they? So, instead of sleeping, I spent some time lay in bed running through every little bit of Ben’s opening.

Which brings me to this morning. I’ve got a full day of writing/ editing planned in. And, following last night’s conversation, more work to do than I thought. So as I get our two boys ready for nursery: encouraging breakfast down them, making sure swimming stuff is ready, putting shoes on, my mind is on Ben. How to fix it, what to change? And somewhere in all the early morning chaos, something clicks.

            What if… I say to my wife.

            Could work better, she says.

And the day ahead becomes less daunting. There’s a plan. Something to work towards.

I drop my wife at the tram station, the kids at nursery. Then home. Kettle on, empty the dishwasher. I eat breakfast in front of the computer. My draft is in front of me, my red pen ready. And I work. Cutting, moving sections, drawing lines through massive chunks of work I thought were important. The feedback from last night has convinced me it’s not. How right she was. I see it all with clear eyes on this read through. Something begins to take shape in these early hours of the working day. Ben no longer seems boring. The early drama of the story has been pushed further towards the start. Two characters’ stories were sitting in different chapters. They now sit side by side in the opening section. I’ve been at it for an hour and a half and I have progress.

Our cleaner arrives (I know, how middle class). I don’t like being in the house when she works. It’s awkward for both of us. So I print off the morning’s work and drive to my favourite local café. There’s something cliché about writing in a coffee shop but, as I don’t get these opportunities for full days of writing very often, I embrace it. The place is very quiet, which is unusual as normally there are kids (including mine) running madly round it. It’s an art café, aimed at families, so it’s to be expected but today it’s nice to enjoy their coffee (which is excellent) and read in peace. I study my work and then begin editing the rest of the story again. I’m more brutal now, killing those darlings with a swift flick of my red pen. Boring sticks in my mind so anything I think hints at that goes.

I go home for lunch. The house is empty and clean. I set up at the dining table again and eat as I work. I know if I stop to watch something on Netflix for half an hour I’m going to lose half an afternoon watching Californication for the third time and feel annoyed at myself later. I work until three: editing, editing, editing. I get up to change the CD every 45 minutes or so but other than that I stare at my words and try to improve them.

At three I put my running kit on and go running down the canal. No music, just the low engine noises of canal barges and the odd tram passing on the other side to soundtrack me. It’s nice, again a luxury, as ordinarily at this time I’m at my normal desk, doing my normal job.

Back at it after showering and hydrating, I work against the clock. Nursery pick up time approaches and I want to finish an edit of the whole story before I go. My leaving time gets put back by ten minutes three times.

And then it’s done. Another round of editing over. Ben and his world are saved, printed, ready for The Reader to cast her eye over and give more feedback. Feedback which again I know will improve it. Feedback I think you have to learn to take.

The whole family returns and the house fills with noise. The table that was my work station becomes a place to eat again, with the boys filling up with a post nursery snack to see them through until bedtime. Toy aeroplanes sit where the computer was, a child’s guitar rests where my notebook has been all day. There’s no sign to point to any of the work I’ve spent the day doing apart from a neat pile of A4 paper, waiting to be read, the top sheet reading: Ben. A Carl Stone Story. Steven Kedie.

 

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Wednesday was fuelled by tea and one massive Latte. It was soundtracked by The Shadow Puppets, Bruce Springsteen and Brian Fallon.

Ben, is the second story from the world of Carl Stone. The first story, Carl Stone’s Girl, is available on Amazon, along with my other work, including my novel: Suburb.

Thanks for reading.  Steven

20501882Thanks so much Steven for sharing. You can find out more and buy Steven’s books here. 

 

Behind the scenes with Bookouture Publicity Manager – Kim Nash

 

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Kim Nash is Publicity and Social Media Manager for fast-growing publishers, Bookouture. An impressive title, but what does it actually mean? As I writer I’m eager for a glimpse behind the scenes and super busy Kim was happy to answer my questions.

 

Kim, when Bookouture takes on a new author at what stage of the process do you get involved?

An interesting question and lots of answers! Some authors that we have taken on have come to Bookouture because I have introduced them. I’ve read their work and loved it and passed it on to the editorial team for them to make a decision. Some we’ve taken on and some we haven’t.

That must be fabulous to play an active part in making someone’s dream come true.

It is and sometimes the editorial team get a book that they ask us all to read for our feedback. This is really exciting!

So an author signs a book deal. What happens next?

When we decide to take an author on, I introduce myself and we ask them to fill in a questionnaire so that we can learn more about them and look at potential PR opportunities. I try as well to have a skype call with the authors quite early on, so that they understand the process of how I work and when some of the things that I do happen.

Running up to pre-release, how do you get the book out there?

I share the cover reveals on social media which I love doing. It’s so exciting listening to everyone’s reactions and seeing how much they want to read the book, just from seeing the cover. And when the book goes onto NetGalley, I announce that on social media too.

And readers can request a copy of the digital book via Net Galley?

On NetGalley we are really looking for committed bloggers and reviewers to feature our books on their blogs. Reviews are so important to an author.

Do you read all the books that come through Bookouture? 

I’ve always tried to read every single one of our books before they go out to reviewers but with the amount we have out all at the same time right now, sometimes the reviewers get them at the same time as me. I would find it very difficult to promote a book that I hadn’t read and always find it easier if it’s a book that fits into the genres that I like reading. As I’m a blogger too, I hope I understand the pressures that bloggers are under and publishers have to understand that blogging is a hobby not a job!

How do you structure your time, particularly as social media posts are sometimes done in the evenings?

I’m a social media addict so I’ve always got my computer, my iPad or my iPhone close to me at all times. I have had many times when I’ve been out at the park with my son, or playing football in the cul-de-sac where we live, while doing a cover reveal. As long as I have wi-fi nothing stops me.   A lot of our work happens in the evening though, that’s the nature of our business and when readers/bloggers are at home and working on their blogs.

Do you instinctively know when a book’s going to do well.

It’s another great question. I know what I like to read and I know what a lot of bloggers like to read. As a HQ team, we watch chart positions constantly and send messages to each other from 6am to 11pm and are chatting all the time about books on the move. We normally get a sense through pre-orders and how many people are talking about our books and what they are saying about them, to see how they’re going to perform. And sometimes you just read a book that you KNOW is going to be a massive hit!

Exciting times! Thank you so much Kim.

Bookouture are currently open for submissions. 

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A day in the life of…author Elaine Spires

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I’m really happy to welcome Elaine Spires onto my blog today. Elaine is a novelist, playwright and actress and she splits her time between her homes in Essex and Five Islands, Antigua (W.I.). Being super busy, I’m really keen to find out how Elaine spends a typing writing day in her gorgeous Caribbean surroundings.

 

Although I’m really someone who likes to sleep, I find that I wake up quite early here. By ‘here’ I’m referring to Avocado Cottage, my humble little house in the Village of Five Islands, Antigua, West Indies, where I spend part of my year. Just before sunrise, animals are on the move; we have herds of cows and goats and some horses which come up and down our lane and they tend to start the neighbours’ dogs off. And once I’m awake, I find difficulty in turning over and going back to sleep again. This must be down to all the fresh, Caribbean air, because when I’m in UK, I have to have the duvet surgically removed some days.
So, I start off, always, by checking to see what my Kindle sales have been like in the last twenty-four hours – sometimes they’re a bit disappointing, other times I go and put the kettle on with a big grin on my face. I’m a self-published author and I have to admit that I find promoting myself really hard, certainly much harder than writing the books! I have a bash at social media and usually have coffee and breakfast out on the veranda whilst perusing Facebook and Twitter and then I set down to writing.

I usually sit on the veranda to write as I’m in the shade for much of the morning. Although I say write, sometimes I start off doing research as I’m a stickler for getting something absolutely right. My biggest bugbear when I read other author’s work is when the research has been sloppy and events, details, information etc don’t ring true. It can be strange sometimes, too, writing in such beautiful surroundings. I wrote most of Single All The Way here in Antigua – so strange to be writing a story set in a snowbound hotel deep in the Essex countryside, while I was sweltering in 90F+ in the Caribbean. Similarly, I’ve just published The Banjo (Book One), which is a saga set in Dagenham in 50s and 60s. I get so involved in what I’m writing that I look up and it takes me a moment to remember where I am!

I’ve got Filmon.TV on my iPad and so I tend to watch UK evening TV programmes for a while, which, with the time difference, of course, means that I take a break from writing between 2.30-5pm some afternoons. Then, after a glass of something chilled to watch the sunset, I have dinner and then edit what I wrote earlier that day before going to bed.

I don’t write every day, of course, but there is no fixed pattern to my working week. If I have plans to go out, then I will, be it a Sunday or a Thursday, and if I have no plans, then that day becomes a writing day.

I’ve just finished the research on my latest book in the Singles’ Series, which has the working title, Singles, Ahoy! From that you can probably guess it’s set on a cruise-ship.

If you’d like to find out more about me, my books or follow my blog, then please go to my website: http://www.elainespires.co.uk

 

Thanks so much Elaine for sharing. You can buy Elaine’s books here and find out more about her and follow her blog here

A day in the life of….Author Rebecca Stonehill

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The minute I started reading The Poet’s Wife I fell in love with Rebecca’s writing, she has a way of drawing you into each scene with her beautifully crafted sentences. I can’t wait for the gorgeously titled The Girl and The Sunbird to be released on 17th June. After learning a bit more about Rebecca I confess to being a little bit in love with her life. She’s super busy so I really appreciate the time she spent sharing a typical day.

 

I live in Nairobi which many people are surprised to hear rests at an elevation of almost 6,000 feet above sea level, so the mornings are almost always cold and fresh. I tend to start my day with a little yoga before a rushed breakfast, feeding our animals (three chickens, a cat and a dog) and frantic getting-ready to take my three children to school, aged 10, 8 and 5. For the first 3 years of living in Nairobi we had to drive there, but we recently moved house, so now we are able to walk to school which feels like a real luxury. Whether we are traipsing through mud in the rainy season, or just marveling at the odd chameleon or chongololo crossing the road (millipede – our first word in Swahili!) or a mousebird flying overhead, we love being able to stretch our legs in the morning.

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When I get back, I make myself a strong coffee (I’m not a great morning person and need quite a lot of help waking up!) and check my emails. My five year old son finishes school at lunchtime so I have the mornings to myself. I go for a run or do a yoga class (yes, I love yoga!) and then get down to writing, editing or researching, depending on what stage I’m at with my work in progress.

Power cuts are frequent here in Nairobi and can last for anything between five minutes and – the worst we’ve ever had – three days! As you can imagine, we get through a lot of candles…If my laptop runs out of power, I head to the nearest café where I have to fight for space at a table where many others in my area are also charging phones or computers. There is often a water issue as well. We have a big tank at the side of the house and it is filled with rainwater, but if it hasn’t rained for some time, it gets used up quickly and we need to contact somebody to tank the water in for us. If we don’t…well, there’s no water for cooking, cleaning or washing! These challenges used to drive me to distraction in the early days but now I’m used to them – this is Nairobi life!

I also run an after-school creative writing club for children, a story time session for pre-schoolers and volunteer at a girls’ vocational centre where we do creative, life and motivational writing activities. So as well as working on my novel or blog, I am often involved in preparing for these sessions.

The afternoons I spend with my little boy doing library duty at my kids’ school (I set up the library there last year), going to the market, playing games or trying to get him interested enough in an activity so I can continue with my work! My girls finish school at 3.15, and then it’s the normal after-school round of driving them to various activities. The traffic in Nairobi is horrendous so we do everything as locally as possible.

As we’re close to the equator, it gets dark at the same time year round here, at about 6.30pm. Like the mornings, the evenings are chilly so it’s all hot dinners, hot baths etc and sometimes sitting outside at night at the weekends round the fire wrapped in blankets, also to protect us from the blood-guzzling mosquitos (non-malarial here, thankfully.) My husband Andy (whose job in the water and sanitation sector brought us here from London three years ago) gets back before darkness falls. He mostly cycles to and from work because it takes him either half an hour to cycle or – wait for it – up to two hours to drive because of the delightful traffic here (People moan about the traffic here in the exact same way that my fellow Brits moan about the weather!).

By the time we have fed the children, scraped the infamous deep red Nairobi mud off them, helped with homework and music practice, read stories and coaxed them into bed, it’s not exactly rock n roll round at our place. But I always finish my day with searching the cupboard for the dwindling supply of chocolate we always bring back from the UK and then settling down with some books before conking out!

It’s been an amazing, inspirational experience living here in Nairobi. It won’t last forever, so I am always reminding myself to make the most of each and every day of it. Yes, even during a three-day power cut! After all, it’s the perfect excuse to have candlelit meals, get out the under-used guitar and really talk

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Thanks so much Rebecca for sharing.

You can buy The Poet’s Wife here, preorder The Girl and the Sunbird here and find out more about Rebecca here. 

A day in the life of…Book Publicist Kim Nash

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Kim Nash – aka Kim the Bookworm – is Publicity and Social Media Manager for fast growing publishers, Bookouture, a fairy godmother to the authors she represents, book blogger and all round Wonder Woman. On top of her daily commitments, Kim has just completed her annual charity walk for The Hibbs Lupus trust, with her son Ollie. So what does a book publicist do all day? Let’s find out…

 

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I get up early, to try and squeeze in some work and social media activity before my 8 year old (Ollie) wakes up. We’re all early birds at Bookouture so from around 6am we’re checking Amazon rankings and sharing the news on our internal system.  Then I do the school run and get back to my desk.

Each day is different and I love that. Some days I have skype calls with my authors, some days I have to contact loads of press, some days I’ll be parceling books up to send out to press contacts, some days I’ll be contacting reviewers etc, organizing blog tours, organizing features and question and answer sessions.  There are days when we have cover reveals and NetGalley uploads to do and publicise so I have to prepare for those and then get chatting about in on social media so people know what to expect and when.

If I remember to eat during the day, I grab something quick and work through till it’s time to pick Ollie up from school or after school club. He normally sits at my desk with me and does his homework while I carry on and do a bit more work or if the weather is nice he makes me go outside and play football (he’s football mad!) He’s golden though and puts up with his mom working and constantly on the phone and only tells me off occasionally!

Then we cook tea together and settle down for the evening, me normally with my phone in my hand tweeting or facebooking one handed while watching a film before we settle down for bed with a story. Then I either get back to work after he’s in bed, or that’s my reading time.  I’m not a big TV watcher so am not one for sitting watching the soaps.  I find them a total waste of time and I have the attention span of Dory anyway!

I’m also an independent consultant for a skincare, make-up and health and well-being business too so I normally squeeze in a bit of contacting people about that, or watching podcasts or soundcloud audios and training for that, when Ollie is in bed.

I run a book club locally, so make sure that everyone knows about that and organise our guest authors. And I organise author and blogger meet ups in both London and Birmingham, so am busy with sorting stuff out for those too! All great fun though and keeps me busy and out of mischief.

 

Thanks so much for sharing Kim. You can listen to Kim speak more about her day on her Thankbookfor podcast and hear her unique way for teaching her son his left and right here, and find Kim’s blog here.

 

 

A day in the life of…Author Louise Walters

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If you haven’t read Louise Walter’s heartbreakingly beautiful debut, Mrs Sinclair’s Suitcase, where have you been?

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The story of Dorothea and Roberta stayed with my long after I’d finished reading. I can’t wait until Louise publishes the gorgeously titled A Life Between Us in February 2017. 

Despite being one of the busiest women I know Louise spared some time to share how she spends her days. I was exhausted just reading it!

 

My days begin either with my 6.30 alarm, or my seven year old coming into my room for his early morning hug – whichever comes first! I get myself and the children ready for the day, and then I drive my eleven year old to school. Home around 9.15 and time to start the day’s work which for me means home educating my seven and six year olds. Some days we go off out for the day, or we go to a home education event, or we meet friends for a play. On those days I get no writing or editing done. If we are having an at home day, we tend to do the “school” work in the mornings, for an hour or two. After that the boys choose their activities and I can sometimes sneak in some writing or editing, or composing blog posts, or catching up with Twitter… whatever I can fit in! It’s back to school in time for 3.15, home around 3.45 then it’s making tomorrow’s packed lunch(es), sorting out the evening meal, getting the laundry in…

If I am on any kind of deadline, or just keen to get some work done, I will start my writing or editing straight after tea, so usually between 6 and 7pm, and my husband takes over with the boys and gets them bathed and to bed. I manage a couple of hours before my concentration wanes. Then I have to stop. I work at weekends too sometimes, usually on Sundays.

It can be hard to find the writing time, which is one of the reasons I decided to give myself a year to bring out my second novel. Writing is time consuming and my time is in short supply. But I know how quickly children grow and my time will come back to me, bit by bit. I actually worry that having too many hours on my hands will be counter-productive, as I am so used to making the most of any time I have and not procrastinating! Even a ten minute stint is useful and can result in maybe 200-300 words. The truth is I will always write, and always find the time to write, no matter what else goes on in life.

 

Thanks so much Louise.

You can follow Louise on Twitter here.

Or read her fabulous blog here.