Saturday, 19 November 2016

Instructions for a Second-hand Heart

This week I ventured into London for the evening, for the book launch of Instructions for a Second-Hand Heart by the lovely and powerhouse of a writer, Tamsyn Murray.

Just getting to Piccadilly Waterstones was an adventure, nearly going Northbound on the tube when I wanted Southbound. On the way, with fellow writer, Kate Wiseman, we discovered it was the premiere of Fantastic Beasts that night at Leicester Square. We didn’t actually spot any stars, unless you count a YouTube star who walked right past us, but we did hear lots of screaming each time an actor or JK Rowling must have been arriving, exciting to think we were so close to the stars!

Piccadilly Waterstones is a dream for any writer, with floor after floor full of books. So it was a perfect venur for Tamsyn's book launch. The event was packed full of lovely people of the writing community, from writers, editors to agents, bloggers and reviewers amongst others. The room was full of people with lots of love and respect for a brilliant writer.

The launch was for Instructions for a Second-hand Heart, a story about Jonny and Niamh, one with a broken heart from losing a family member, and the other, a medically broken heart and in need of a new one. Their two stories are beautifully intertwined as their paths cross.

The book has mainly short, snappy chapters which I loved. The writing is simply beautiful and heart-breaking, but in a good way, with well-drawn and empathetic teenage characters.

Both main characters take us on a journey to deal with loss and learning to live. The book deals with sensitive issues, such as death and long term illness, but it is handled in a delicate manner, and with a story that kept me up until the early hours, desperate to know the fate of the characters. 

It’s been a week now since I finished the book, and I’m still thinking of Niamh and Jonny, and wishing I could still read what’s happening with them.

You will need tissues whilst reading this book, but the end is uplifting and full of hope. Instructions for a Second-hand Heart is definitely a story that will move you and stay with you for a long time after you’ve put it down.

Tamsyn treated everyone at the book launch to a reading from chapter two of the book. If you ever have the opportunity to hear Tamsyn read then I can thoroughly recommend it. She has a wonderful flair and gift for public readings!

Thursday, 29 September 2016


I have an article on SCBWI's Words & Pictures magazine about a writing festival called NAWGFest16 which is part of the National Association of Writers' Groups. You can find the original article at this link:

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Kate Foster Editorial

I recently joined Kate Foster's team as the Digital Communications Assistant. You can see me and the rest of the team at...

It's worth signing up for Kate's monthly newsletter to get some great writing and editing tips, and offers for free or reduced editorials. Keep an eye out on Twitter for #EditFoster too, where Kate shares some great tips and motivation for writers :)

Here's my piece of choosing an editor for my MG book, featured in the current newsletter...

Choosing an Editor
As with any relationship, it’s important to make sure you’re not rushing into something you may later regret. You don’t want to end up with the ‘wrong one’ and have your trust broken.

Trust is an important thing when choosing an agent. You may have spent months or years getting your story to the point it’s at now. It’s precious, and your editor might be the first person other than you to read it. So choosing that right editor is vital.
For me, I spent time looking at various options, including the big relatively faceless companies that offer a wide range of services at top end prices. Often these are inflexible on certain matters; in particular, they often don’t enter into further correspondence after the edit.
Of course, this is worst case scenario and not all were like that, but I knew, for me, the personal touch was important, and I wanted someone who I found friendly and approachable. So I asked around for personal recommendations. Along with those, people wanted to share their horror stories: the editors who didn’t actually do a whole lot of editing, but did charge a lot; editorials littered with spelling and grammatical errors, never a reassuring sign; and editors who were downright rude and refused to enter into any discussion about the editorial.
Fortunately, the doom and gloom weren’t the only stories that I heard. I had some genuine and positive ones too.
I came across Kate’s services via a blog piece by a writer I already followed on Twitter, who had worked with Kate and it had led to her landing an agent. This was precisely what I hoped for. Kate was also recommended by another writer who I spoke with online, and had also received an editorial from Kate, and I was already following Kate on Twitter.
 I’d come to a point with my book that I felt I’d done as much as I could by myself. I now needed the guidance of someone with a professional eye, but friendly and approachable attitude. I was nervous and a bit scared to share my book. But I needn’t have been.
Kate was so helpful and friendly, and even offered to read and edit the first chapter before I committed to anything so we could both see if we would be happy together, and I could get a feel for her approach. Kate also offers payment plans, unlike a lot of places, so you can pay in instalments. She also gave me plenty of options to ‘opt-out’ if I didn’t feel comfortable to commit. But getting an editorial from Kate has been one of the best choices I’ve ever made!
She has been so helpful, thorough, engaging, friendly, answering my inane questions and allowing me to ask about new plot ideas. The next stage for me now is for Kate to re-read my book post-edits, also a service a lot don’t offer.
Kate has really put me at ease and has helped shape my book. The shaping continues as I am editing the final chapter right now, but the end is in sight, and Kate has helped me achieve that.
So, that’s how I chose my editor!
Sign up for the newsletter here...

Friday, 19 August 2016

Book Bound retreat 2016

It's been a very busy time since my last post, and this article I did for SCBWI's Words & Pictures is one of the reasons why...

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Book Bound 2016 – Turning the Pages to Success...

Oxon Hoath manor house – home for the weekend!
 ‘You want your children’s book to be accepted by a publisher. We want to help you achieve that.’ – The Book Bound Team

Book Bound writing retreat 17-19 th June was the second of its kind at the stunning location of Oxon Hoath manor house in Kent. Report by Emma Finlayson-Palmer

 It promised to be invaluable to writers’, and it certainly was! So much fantastic insider knowledge of publishing and agent life and practical help for writers crammed into just one weekend. It took me over a week to fully come back down to earth and re-join the land of non-writers in my day to day life. 
Arrival at Book Bound, L-R Larisa Villar Hauser, Tizzie Frankish and Dale Hannah​ 
There were 30 writers from across the globe at varying stages of their careers. Some were agented, others not, some writers were winners or finalists in prestigious competitions such as Undiscovered Voices and Chicken House. But we all had one thing in common, we had a children’s book we were working on that would be the focus of the weekend for each of us and the Book Bound team.
 Library at Oxon Hoath
 The weekend kicked off with introductions to the lovely Book Bound team, Sara Grant, Sara O’Connor and Karen Ball. Sadly Jasmine Richards was unable to attend, though for good reason as she’s just welcomed her second baby into the world. Between them, they have collaborated on more than 1000 books, which have won awards and sold millions of copies around the world, have written more than 40 children’s books, they have more than 30 years’ combined editorial experience, have extensive industry contacts and are a group of leading professionals in the children’s book industry. The perfect team to help us writers navigate the journey through unchartered territory.​ 
Later that evening I had my one-to-one with Sara Grant, author of hugely successful series such as Magic Trix and Chasing Danger, who provided brilliant feedback on my book, with lots of ideas on how to get it ready for submission.
 Editing my book under Sara Grant’s guidance
Keynote speaker on Saturday morning was Sarah Odedina of Pushkin Press. She gave us some great advice and insight into her daily work life and books she has published, with a strong focus on historical fiction for children.​ 
Me enjoying Sarah Odedina’s talk, photo by Melissa Valente.
Book Bound helps to provide writers with the tools and advice to rework their manuscripts and hopefully be successfully placed with an agent and publisher. The weekend comprised of intensive writing workshops giving fantastic and practical tips on editing and getting your writing into a cohesive structure. 

There was a craft related collage table for writers to get some ideas for their books. Great for getting creative and generating ideas and visuals for stories, and another area where writers could chat and get to know one another.
Collaging my book
We had the opportunity to learn how to pitch our books, and were lucky enough to put these into practice after a multi-agent panel with Penny Holroyde of Holroyde Cartey, Jenny Savill of Andrew Nurnberg Associates, Amber Caraveo of Skylark Literary Agency and Sallyanne Sweeney of Mulcahy Associates. The agents discussed a wide range of topics including some of their favourite books and what they’d like to see more of in their inbox, and some great tips for writers hoping to submit their work. 

I must mention the food at Oxon Hoath, it was exquisite! Grown and prepared on site, freshly sourced and mainly from the manor’s garden. There was also a well-stocked bar to keep writers refreshed whilst overlooking the stunning grounds of the manor. 
You can always find writers in the kitchen! L-R Dale Hannah, Sally Poyton, Elaine Cline and Nicki Thornton.
I’ve made some lovely and supportive new friends, who I will be keeping in touch with. The sort of support network offered to Book Bounders is invaluable. I can’t finish without a special mention for Sara Grant and her Oscar worthy performance of an author behaving badly! A hugely entertaining way to start out last day of the retreat, and one that will leave me with many happy memories.​ 
Oxon Hoath grounds
Book Bound was an amazing and life changing experience for me, and I can thoroughly recommend any event organised by the lovely Book Bound team. 
Bound Bounders 2016, photo courtesy of Melissa Valente​ 


Emma Finlayson-Palmer has won numerous short story competitions, has had stories published in magazines such as Anorak magazine for children, written two MG novels, started many more and is mother to a multitude. She is also the host of #ukteenchat on Twitter, a chat for writers of children’s fiction. A SCBWI member since 2014, based in the West Midlands and currently working on a book for 5-8 year olds and being mentored by Tamsyn Murray.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Audio April

I haven’t been reading as much as I wanted to, so I decided at the start of April to change this and made sure I set aside more time to read. I do find when I’m writing a lot I read less, so I need to find a balance between the two. There’s nothing that can help your writing more than reading other great books.

Discovering audio books has been great for me, and added lots of extra hours to the week for books. So between audio, real copies and kindle I managed to read loads, here’s some mini reviews of some of my favourites (an eclectic mix!)…

The Walking Dead: Days Gone Bye Volume 1 by Robert Kirkman and Tom Moore
I’m a huge fan of the TV programme, and have dipped into the comic books over the years online, but this is the first time I’ve actually read an actual printed version. I brought them for my teenage son who is dyslexic and struggles with reading, in the hope that it might capture his imagination. Whilst the TV series followed the comic book quite well, it’s interesting to see the changes that have been made from page to screen, and which characters are different. I must say I prefer the on screen Carol to the book! Well worth a read if you’re a fan of the show.

Wigglesbottom Primary – The Shark in the Pool by Pamela Butchart and illustrated by Becka Moor
A fun little book following the overactive imaginations of the children of Wigglesbottom Primary, where it seems just about anything might happen, from a shark in the school pool to dinosaur bones in the playground. Fun storytelling with lovely illustrations, I enjoyed this, and so did my youngest two who are 5 and 9.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Get your tissues at the ready if you’re going to read this. A beautiful love story between two teenage cancer patients. It’s not quite as depressing as it sounds, though there is plenty of sad parts, and I did cry an awful lot. It’s a poignant look at relationships and flawed people with the fragility of life told from the viewpoint of a very strong and determined 17 year old Hazel.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
I must confess I came to this book after discovering that Tim Burton was making a film of it, and I am a huge Tim Burton fan, and generally love anything a bit different and quirky and this doesn’t disappoint. A bit of a slow start giving us the main character’s background but once it gets going it’s brilliantly dark and gently macabre, with enough mystery to keep you wondering what’s coming next and why these things are happening. It’s a strange book with haunting photographs throughout which add to its unusual quality. I found it a refreshing book and relieved that there’s more books in the series and can’t wait to read these too.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
A very different viewpoint to the usual stance in YA of the unusual or ‘different’ teenager discovering they have a special power or some other deus ex machine. It’s a powerful story of what if you weren’t the chosen one? Mikey just wants to go to prom and on to college and have an uneventful life but strange things in the town keep happening. It’s a book full of hope and empathy, but focusing on the everyday struggles of a teenage boy.

Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison
I couldn’t help but re-read this as my daughter is enjoying the Georgia Nicholson series at the moment. It is such a joy to read, such a fun and playful book following the day to day disasters of Georgia and her quest to get a boyfriend whilst trying not to make a complete idiot out of herself. Georgia has the usual problems of a teenager, spots, are her parents getting divorced, will she get to a have a birthday party and most importantly the full frontal snogging! I love this book and I dare say I’ll be re-reading it again at some point.

The Secret by Rhonda Byrne
I don’t really read self-help books, but this was recommended by another writer so I gave it a whirl. I do find that it has helped me a lot, and I have changed the way I think after reading it. I shall endeavour not to dwell on bad things and focus on all the positives and follow my dreams!

Earwig and the Witch by Diana Wynne Jones
Diana Wynne Jones is one of my all-time favourite writers. I have devoured her books since childhood and luckily for me, I still haven’t read them all as there are so many. This is a fun little story of a witch called Earwig and is classic Wynne Jones, quirky, funny, bright and full of magic!

Mog the Forgetful Cat by Judith Kerr
I had to get Mog in here, as Mog is read on a weekly basis in our house. All of my children have loved Mog and I dare say even the older ones still do really as they still listen in when I read the books aloud to my younger children. I know I love Mog!

The Islands of Chaldea by Diana Wynne Jones and Ursula Jones
This was to be Diana’s last book, and at the time of her death it hadn’t been completed, so it was finished by her sister Ursula. The writing is seamless, at no point could I tell that the writer had switched. Again, it is Diana’s classic style at its best, adventure and magic and strong characters on life changing journeys, and the all-important witches! I do love a story with witches in.

Della says: OMG by Keris Stainton
I read this after joining Keris’ online YA course and I’m so glad I did. The characters are wonderful, I loved Della from the word go and wanted her to get the boy and find out who the diary thief was. It’s a lovely, teen book which covers many aspects that teenagers might be experiencing, I especially like the gentle way Keris handled the sex in the book, it wasn’t warts and all but did deal with the awkwardness. I’m looking forward to reading more books by Keris.

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge
There’s been a lot of hype about this book, particularly as it has won the Costa Book Awards, and really helped gain more coverage for children’s books. I love the style, the writing is beautiful and has an almost poetic quality to its descriptions. I do think the start is quite slow and could probably lose some of it, but it’s well worth sticking at it as the story picks up to a murder mystery and the unusual and quite unique story surrounding the Lie or Mendacity tree. A strange, dark and typical Hardinge quirky book.

Fly by Night by Frances Hardinge
After enjoying the Lie Tree so much I thought it was finally time to get round to reading a book that has been in my to be read pile for years. My husband has already read it at least three times, which speaks volumes for yet another fantastically written book. It’s the first in a series too, so more adventures with Mosca Mye a feisty young girl with her goose who live in The Fractured Realm, which resembles for the most part, eighteenth century England. It’s fast paced, full of witty dialogue and Hardinge’s quirky but lyrical voice.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald
I’ve not actually seen the film of this book, but it was form seeing adverts of the film that brought me to the book. It seemed such a strange concept I wanted to see how it was actually possible and played out. Strange is definitely the word to describe it, odd, very odd, but interesting. It was a quick read as it was a short book, so I would have liked more character development or background on some of the situations or characters, but otherwise it’s a book I’m very glad to have now read, and might watch the film too!

The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod
As I write this it is just past 6.30am, and thanks to this book I have been getting up at 6am to write each day as part of ‘the miracle morning’. I am only in my first week of it but it’s working so far. It follow the same sort of approach as The Secret which I’d read earlier in the month. Positive thinking and approaching everything in your life expecting it to work out well seems to really help.

The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr
Another bedtime (or any time of day) favourite that my children select to read on a regular basis. It’s a fun story, and I like the fact that it’s dated now but can still be enjoyed. My children never question why on earth a tiger would come to tea, more who or what else might just turn up on the doorstep!

The Brilliant World of Tom Gates by Liz Pichon
This is the first book I’ve read (or listened to I should say) by Liz Pichon and I’m so glad there are many more! Really enjoyed it, and will share this one with my five year old, in fact, I think, 9 and 11 year olds would probably quite like it too. I thought Rupert Grint was a fantastic narrator for the audio version of this book. I enjoyed it so much I had to get a paperback too!

That’s all for April, and a lot more than I’d normally get through in a month. I am going to try and maintain a good balance between my writing and reading from now on, as I think reading such a varied range of books has really helped my own writing to stay fresh.