There are days, I confess, when I wish I lived anywhere but London. I’ve never been a city girl at heart – I find the fumes of petrol & the bustle of busy roads less to my liking than the smell of good, clean dirt on a damp forest floor & the cacophony of birdcalls.
But this weekend, I had reason to feel the full weight of how blessed I am to live in this city & have access to its many hidden treasures. The occasion for my gratitude? The Beanstalk Bookfest. On Saturday, I ventured down to Sloane Square to hear 3 big name authors in the Middle Grade literature scene talk about their books & how they came to be writers.
Honestly, I think their stories were just what I needed to hear before setting my sails for Novel in November. Hence, of course, it’s only right that I share the inspiration I gleaned from these story-spinning super stars with you! Allow me to introduce the lineup: Today I’ll highlight Abi Elphistone (The Dreamsnatcher series), & follow up in the coming days with Piers Torday (The Last Wild series) & Polly Faber (Mango & Bambang the not-a-pig stories).
The morning kicked off with Abi Elphinstone’s talk (which I entered late, nearly running smack into her right as she was being introduced… she was very gracious about it afterwards!). Having been a frequenter of Abi’s blog Moontrug for yonks & a big fan of her books (see my review of The Dreamsnatcher), I was pretty excited about meeting her…ok, verging on star struck. But seconds into her talk, I realised Abi was a true kindred spirit – the adventurer/bookworm kind of gal Bri & I would have been friends with as kids. And she’s the kind of writer who doesn’t just wait for story ideas to float into her brain. She goes chasing after them, treasure hunt style! Definitely kindred spirit!
Abi graced the audience with many nuggets of hard-earned writer’s wisdom, like “If you want to write and adventure story, get your main character to break a rule in chapter 1.” And “If you can’t think of a story idea…doodle a map, find an adventure & turn it into a story!” (might have to use that one for a Wednesday writing prompt…). But not only did Abi’s words inspire, she brought along such trinkets of wonder as a fox tail Mongolian eagle hunter’s hat, a wolf’s tooth, a model yurt, not to mention many a magnificent anecdote from her own story-chasing adventures.
But I must say, what inspired me most from Abi’s talk was her raw honesty about the long, hard road to finally becoming a published author. With perfect candour, Abi told us that the magical moment of bagging her first book deal with Simon & Schuster was no lucky break. Rather, it was the fruit of 7 years, three manuscripts & 96 rejections!!! No wonder she went hang-gliding to celebrate her breakthrough!
I must say, hearing about all Abi’s “failures” & how she rallied & persevered onward toward her goal gave me a needed kick in the pants. How many times have I felt like throwing in the towel & stomping because a first draft didn’t turn out as I hoped it would? How many times have I thought, “I’m not published yet. I must not be cut out for this writing business after all.” And here was a writer who faced an utter onslaught of rejection letters & managed to take away something positive from each one. Rather than wallowing in negativity, Abi took every positive bit of feedback & constructed a bridge that led to her eventual success.
Wow, I say. Give me some of that attitude!
Abi shared a piece of wisdom from her mother that helped her in her doubtful moments. I think it’s worthy of pinning up on the wall beside my desk for the coming month:
If you don’t fail in life, you’re not trying hard enough.
Abi Elphinstone is a true testament to the pay off of trying hard & not quitting. We’ve said it before: writing is not for the faint of heart… Maybe an adventurer’s spirit is just what a good writer needs!