From rejection to bestseller – the magical story of The Secret Lake…

They say the best things come to those who wait: it’s seven years this month since I published my time travel adventure The Secret Lake and I couldn’t be more thrilled that it has become an Amazon UK children’s bestseller both in print and as an eBook over the last four months. (The print book is ranked at just over 300 in the whole of the Amazon UK Store as I write – though this changes by the hour and the bestseller badge comes and goes as a result.) Now feels a good time for any new followers to tell you how I came to write it, how it was rejected, and what happened next…

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images of two front covers of the secret lake by karen inglis

The Secret Lake – old and new

It’s almost 20 years since I wrote the first draft of my time travel adventure The Secret Lake in which Stella (age 11) and Tom (age 8), while trying to find their elderly neighbour’s missing dog, discover a time tunnel and secret lake that take them to their home and the children living there 100 years earlier. And it’s seven years to the day since I self-published it. (Amazon shows the print publication date as 4th August but that is wrong – that’s the date I registered the ISBN, but I clearly did something wrong!)

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Notting Hill communal gardens

 

The story was inspired when some friends moved to an apartment backing onto communal gardens not far from Notting Hill in London. When I walked out and saw the children playing there I couldn’t help wondering what might happen if they could meet the children who had lived and played there in Edwardian times.

The lake in the story was inspired by a pond in a magical woodland in Richmond Park, close to where we live. We used to take our boys there to play when they were younger and it reminded me of the sense of freedom I had had as a child growing up in the Hertfordshire countryside. Even before we’d left Notting Hill that day of our first visit, this magical woodland setting had become connected with the story that was already forming in my mind…

Three children's book illustrations from Ferdinand Fox and the Hedgehog: Ferdinand Fox trotting along the street; Hatty Hedgehog putting her baby son Ed to sleep and mum and son hedgehog nose to nose

Still Pond in the magical Isabella Plantation in Richmond Park

There were many drafts in the early days (I didn’t plot, and things got very muddled!), and it was many months before I felt ready to show the story around.

My first step was to submit it for comment to an independent manuscript appraisal service, The Writers’ Advice Centre for Children’s Books. Thereafter – and several rewrites later – I  sent it off by post to a half a dozen publishers only to be told that the story was “too traditional”, “not what children are looking for these days” or “not for our lists”. After the six- to eight-week wait to hear back, I was despondent – and many reading here will know that awful feeling of rejection!

I had better luck with my next story Eeek! The Runaway Alien (a humorous chapter book about a young alien who comes to Earth for the Word Cup), with Bloomsbury asking for more material, and an agent asking for a further version. However, when this eventually came to nothing I decided the odds of getting published were stacked against me in a very large, slow-motion lottery — so I packed everything away and went back to my day job as a business writing consultant where I knew I would at least earn from my writing.

After that The Secret Lake, Eeek! and various other stories lay in a wooden box under my office window for over 10 years. I used to glance at that box from time to time and think what a shame it was that no one would ever know the magical story of The Secret Lake. I also recall fleetingly wondering if one day my great-great grandchildren might discover it and bring it back to life.

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The Secret Lake sat in this wooden box for 10 years…

Discovering self-publishing and gaining control

In fact, it wasn’t the future grandchildren who would breathe new life into The Secret Lake. I took a yearlong sabbatical from my consulting work in late 2010 and pulled my stories out again. Around that time self-publishing via Amazon’s CreateSpace was being talked about online and, once I delved deeper, I knew it was for me: it would put me in control and allow me to get my story in front of children instead of sitting unloved in someone’s slush pile.

Early days…

It was a lonely business back then – no Facebook Groups or self-publishing organisations to join to swap expertise and frustrations! And book formatting tools were few and far between — and extremely clunky compared with what’s on offer today. I had lots of setbacks but The Secret Lake was finally born in print and for Kindle in September 2011.

The long road to discovery – and how children know best!

Once The Secret Lake was out, I set up a website, contacted and visited local bookshops and sent press releases to local magazines, newspapers and community newsletters, taking care to point to where it was stocked locally. My first event was a reading in our local library. I was terrified that no one would turn up – or that I’d have hordes – and I burst into tears from nerves the day before. In fact, there were seven children, seven adults and the library staff. It was perfect. The librarian even served tea and cakes!

Thereafter I began connecting with local schools, which entailed a lot of research and persistence. Gradually (very gradually) it began to pay off and my local author brand started to grow.

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One of many school visits with children listening eagerly to The Secret Lake

Then and now – children still know best…

My instinct that children still hanker after a good adventure story had proven itself long before its recent rise through the Amazon ranks. By the end of 2017 I had sold over 7,000 copies through a combination of school visits, local independent bookshop sales and signings in six branches of Waterstones (a major UK book chain) around southwest London – plus a steady trickle of online store sales in print and for Kindle in both the UK and USA. During this time the then Head of Independent Commissioning for children’s CBBC also read and enjoyed it, and recommended I pitch it to the BBC and/or to independent production companies. It didn’t get chosen by the CBBC in the end, and life and other writing got in the way after that. However, pursuing the second option is now high on my task list and I’ve even had an enquiry from Hollywood recently. (I am sure this will be case of ‘watch this space for a VERY long time’, so I’m not get excited just yet…).

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Waterstones in Notting Hill was the first bookshop to stock The Secret Lake. Several more branches in southwest London took it and I had many successful signings 🙂

What changed in 2018?

The Secret Lake has always been my bestseller at school visits but raising its profile beyond face-to-face events and my local bookshops has, until this year, been by far the hardest part of being an independent children’s author. And if people farther afield don’t know your book then they don’t know to look for it – be that online or in high street bookshops. This in turns means that children won’t know about it in sufficient numbers around the UK to spread the word and so fuel further demand.

I have Amazon UK to thank for the breakthrough. When they opened up sponsored product advertising to independent authors alongside traditionally published titles in early 2018 I was finally able to make The Secret Lake visible online where parents are looking for similar children’s books. The effect was almost immediate and the book began to climb slowly and steadily through the ranks. (This was before I updated the cover in May, though the new design has undoubtedly worked extra magic since and I couldn’t be happier with it.)

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By the time I started promoting it, The Secret Lake had 45 reviews, gradually built up over the years. These undoubtedly helped encourage sales once the book became visible, and the review numbers are now slowly growing. I’m so grateful to those parents and grandparents who have taken the time give their feedback, or help their child give their feedback. As any author will tell you, it means so much after all the hard work – and particularly in the case of children’s authors where our readers don’t have access to the online reviews platforms. So, thank you if you have left a review recently or in the past!

Not just Amazon…

I’m especially delighted to report that word-of-mouth customer requests have also led to independent and high street bookshops outside of my locality placing orders for The Secret Lake through wholesalers, with around 70 recent UK sales and similar in the US this way when I last checked. This is great news for bookshops and readers alike. For once, Amazon seems to be helping high-street bookshops make more sales.

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Local bookshops that have supported The Secret Lake. It’s now travelling farther afield…

Reflecting on my adventure

As The Secret Lake continues to land on hundreds of doormats in the UK, US and Europe (notably Germany) each week, I can’t help thinking back to those early rejections. I truly felt there was a gap in the market for more classic adventure stories – the sort I’d enjoyed as a child, but with a modern twist. I’m so glad that children, parents, librarians and teachers have confirmed my suspicions and given this story the chance to breathe.

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A typical book order pile ahead of a school visit… (old cover)

In short, without Amazon and self-publishing, this story would still be in its box — how  very sad would that be? (Oh, except, of course, for those curious future great-great-grandchildren! 🙂  Hmm, and therein might lie another magical time travel story…)

Have a book-loving 8-11 year-old at home?

You’ll find copies of The Secret Lake on Amazon in your country here. It’s also available in print in all online stores worldwide. Alternatively use the link top right of this page to find your closest independent bookshop to place an order.

Please leave a review of The Secret Lake

If your child has read and enjoyed it, it would mean a lot to me if you could help them leave a review online. Thank you!

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Eeek’s 2018 World Cup Crossword Puzzle

Another FIFA World Cup Tournament…
Another Alien World Cup Crossword for the Kids!

Hello soccer fans and soccer mums and dads!

Eeek! the soccer-mad alien who ran away to Earth for the World Cup is over the moon (!) to share another World Cup Crossword Puzzle with young readers. It’s been a long four-year wait since the last one! Simply click here or on the thumbnail image to download a copy from Dropbox to print off for the kids. You’ll find the answers too, should you need them. 🙂 Before you do that – don’t miss his animated front cover below!

Eeek! The Runaway Alien crossword puzzle thumbnail image with spaceship

Have a 7-10 year-old at home who loves soccer?

If you have a 7-10 year-old soccer fan in the house do visit Eeek’s Amazon page to find out what others are saying about this laugh-out-loud page turner about an alien who turns up on young Charlie’s doorstep during the World Cup. Eeek! is still a firm favourite at my school visits, with boys and girls alike.

I hope you enjoy this fun cover my illustrator put together in celebration of the 2018 World Cup kick-off. Watch the blue smoke come out of Eeek’s ears – just like it does in the story!

Eeek the alien with smoking ears

A summer read to escape the World Cup!

Of course football isn’t for everyone. If you an have 8-11 year-old who wants to escape from the World Cup they may want to take a look at my time travel mystery The Secret Lake which is currently hitting the children’s bestseller lists on Amazon UK. It really is an extra special story and I’m thrilled that over 10,000 young readers have now discovered it… 🙂

School visits in person or via Skype

I really love meeting my young readers. If your child’s school would like an author visit in person or on Skype please ask them to visit my school visits page and get in touch.

I’m now taking bookings for the autumn term and for World Book Day week in 2019.

If you’re in London I may be able to squeeze in a visit later this term if you’d like me to introduce Eeek! during the World Cup.

Happy World Cup! Otherwise happy reading – or shopping!

Karen
14 June 2018

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Foxes & Hedgehogs, The Secret Lake & the World Cup

Hello from London

We’ve all been enjoying the sunshine today – I hope it’s shining where you are!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here – life is always so busy, what with new books to get out, school visits and all of the marketing tasks I have to keep up with. However, I promised to keep you up to date with what I’m doing and wanted to share two pieces of children’s books news – and to remind you about the World Cup!

Ferdinand Fox and the Hedgehog: a rhyming picture book for ages 3-6

Firstly, I have a new rhyming picture book out for ages 3-5+ Ferdinand Fox and the Hedgehog which introduces Hatty the hedgehog and her baby son Ed.

Front cover of Ferdinand Fox and the hedgehog by Karen Inglis

It’s already proving extremely popular with children, parents and grandparents and the rhyming story comes with eight pages of hedgehog and fox photos and facts to share with little ones – including how we can all help hedgehogs survive. If you have children or grandchildren in this age range, do take a look at the online reviews on Amazon UK . It’s also available in the Amazon.com store and all other stores worldwide. You can also order it at your local bookshop.

Inside the book you’ll find a link to free colour posters to download and print off…

Images of Hatty the hedgehog and her baby son ed, and of Ferdinand Fox trotting along at night

I took the story along to the Barnes Children’s Literature Festival the weekend before last where it was a huge hit with little ones!

A magical new cover for The Secret Lake

The beautiful Isabella Plantation woodland in Richmond Park near London (where Henry VIII used to ride out) is in full bloom right now – see my images below from a visit last week – it’s where we used to take our boys to play when they were small.

To coincide with the season, I’ve recently updated the cover of my best selling time travel adventure The Secret Lakewhich was partly inspired by a magical pond at Isabella, called ‘Still Pond’.

The Secret Lake by Karen Inglis

I asked for children’s votes on the cover at eight schools during my World Book Day visits in March this year and they overwhelmingly went for this one over a couple of other options – I hope you like it! I wanted to bring it up to date but also retain the classic feel that the story has, and I think my illustrator, Damir, has achieved this.

The Secret Lake has now sold over 9,000 copies and continues to be a firm favourite with girls and boys aged 8-11 – oh, and with grown-ups! It’s even been hitting best seller lists on Amazon UK in recent weeks which I’m especially proud about 🙂

You can read its many reviews on Amazon UK here. And more reviews on Amazon.com here.

The Secret Lake up at Isabella Plantation last week for a little tour

Three images from Isabella Plantation in Richmond Park -- with vibrant pink azaleas in a magical woodland

Still Pond, seen at the top, provided the inspiration for the lake in ‘The Secret Lake’

While here – just a quick reminder: with the World Cup coming around in June, if you have any soccer-mad boys or girls aged 7-10 at home do check out Eeek! The Runaway Alien – about an alien who comes to Earth for the World Cup 🙂 It has a huge surprise at the end (but don’t tell the kids!) and has been praised for getting both keen and reluctant readers turning the pages. LoveReading4kidsUK describes it as “Laugh-out-loud funny!” and it has been used in the Get London Reading campaign.  I shall be posting a new crossword puzzle to go with it on my site in the next couple of weeks, so look out for that — I just need to consult with my husband on a few minor details…

Front cover of Eeek! The Runaway Alien - a green alien with blue smoke wafting from his ears and wearing a red and white England scarf and holding soccer boots

A match made in heaven for soccer fans 7-10 yrs!

Other news – helping local causes

Finally, one thing I love about being an author is getting involved with community projects, or doing what I can to help with fundraising relating to literacy. Below you can see me at Brandlehow Primary School in Putney a couple of weeks ago, close to where I live in London. The PTA is raising funds for a new library and asked a few local authors if we’d come and run some free workshops that both children and parents could attend. The money they raised through donations is going towards the library, and stood at over £700 when I last heard! The children also got to buy signed books, so everyone went home happy.

Image of author Karen Inglis speaking to children at a school author event

Author workshop with Years 3 & 4 at Brandlehow Primary – part of their library fundraiser

My next task for today is to drop off a signed copy of each of my books for prizes in a fundraising quiz being held this week at Greenmead Primary,  a special needs primary school in south-west London for children aged 2-11.

I’m also extremely excited to have sponsored a bookshelf for a new literacy library being built in London by the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education – a charity that works to improve literacy in primary schools.

That’s it for now – I’ll be in touch again, but not too often. In the meantime I hope you have a great rest of week – and let’s hope the sun stays shining in the UK for our upcoming bank holiday!

Karen

PS If you think your school would like a school visit – in person or via Skype – please ask them to get in touch and/or to look at my school visits page

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The Secret Lake – live video from Isabella

Hello from London – I hope you all had a great Easter break.  Our one-off heatwave in early April seems a distant memory now, but the sun is trying to break through again today, and the magical woodland that inspired the setting for my top selling children’s time travel adventure The Secret Lake is already in bloom and I wanted to share a couple of images. (You’ll also find a link to a free sample of the story later on if you don’t yet have it.)

The woodland that inspired The Secret Lake is called Isabella Plantation, and is hidden away within London’s Richmond Park (one of the places Henry VIII used to ride out to from Hampton Court). Here’s a photo I took after cycling up there on Sunday. Our children loved exploring there when they were younger!

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But the best is yet to come: I also took a 12-second video of the stunning ‘Still Pond’ with all of the azaleas reflecting in the water. This was the inspiration for the book’s cover and the lake in The Secret Lake. It’s also the first thing Tom and Stella see after climbing down the time tunnel. (You can see this scene in the book cover image below.)

Click here to view a live sweep across Still Pond (opens in YouTube)

Image of a woodland pond with pink azaleas reflecting in the water

Click to view – the inspiration for the front cover of The Secret Lake 🙂

These shots were so stunning, I couldn’t resist sharing them. I hope you enjoy!

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Could you take a moment to review The Secret Lake?

If you or your child has read and enjoyed The Secret Lake it would mean a lot to me if you could take a moment to leave a rating and short review on Amazon or help your child to do so. Reviews really do help spread the word and every little helps – especially for we children’s authors! Our readers aren’t on Amazon and so garnering reviews is a slow process. Hopefully the links below will help save you time!

Read 45 reviews of The Secret Lake on Amazon UK and add your own

Read 15 reviews of The Secret Lake on Amazon.com and add your own

Download a free preview copy of The Secret Lake

If you don’t already have The Secret Lake and would like to ‘try before you buy’ – whether for yourself or on behalf of a child –  simply click on the link below to download the first four chapters for free. The instructions are really easy to follow and you can download to phone, Kindle, desktop or any other device. The full book is available in print or as an eBook.

Sign up for a free preview of The Secret Lake (opens in new tab)

What’s the reading age for The Secret Lake?

The Secret Lake is aimed at a reading age of 8-11 years, but is also highly suitable to read aloud to younger children, thanks to its page-turning plot and short chapters. It’s also loved by grown-ups – especially fans of Enid Blyton and Tom’s Midnight Garden!  I hope you or children will enjoy. It continues to be my bestseller both online and at school events – I hope your children will also get to know this magical tale.

That’s it for now. I hope the sun is shining where you are – or will be soon 🙂

 

 

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To read or not to read – four recommendations for adult reluctant readers

Last Thursday I was at a book launch chatting with a friend who told me that her husband NEVER reads. She’s tried everything. Her husband was there, and happily joined in the conversation – he’s a highly qualified accountant in his mid fifties and they have two bookworm sons.  🙂

He went on to say that he simply has never found the ‘staying power’ with fiction (or indeed much non-fiction) and loses interest very quickly.

Bookshelves filled with books

One of our many bookshelves at home

As my children’s books are very much aimed at reluctant readers I quickly found myself recommending him a short(ish) book that I discovered at an airport back in the summer of 2003 en route to a a family holiday.

The book had gripped me from the start, and was a very easy and quick read. I made this discovery before it became better known and turned into a (relatively unknown) a film.

The book is called ‘I’m Not Scared’ by Niccolo Ammaniti and is translated from Italian. (The cover below is of a later edition than the one I have…)

On that holiday my then nine-year-old son insisted on taking I’m Not Scared from me and reading it whenever I put it down! It’s not really a children’s book – even though a child is the main character – but this probably tells you why it sprang to mind as a potential game changer for my friend’s husband. (I bet it was the title that grabbed my son’s attention…)

Back to the book launch. After I had left, I carried on thinking about books that I might recommend to reluctant ‘older readers’ and, with the holiday season upon us, thought I’d share four quality yet easy reads below if you’re stuck for a gift for an adult family member or friend who isn’t keen on reading but would be open to trying something new. All apart from the Anne Tyler are aimed at late ‘tween’ or YA audiences, but all are equally engrossing and suitable for adults.

I won’t pad out this post with book summaries – you’ll find them on each title’s Amazon page (click the book cover to open in a new tab). What I will say is that I’d be surprised if these books don’t engross the recipients…

              screen-shot-2016-11-27-at-14-26-54                       Holes by Louise Sachar

             screen-shot-2016-11-27-at-14-35-25                        screen-shot-2016-11-27-at-14-36-57

As for my friend’s husband, I’ll no doubt have to report back what he thought!

Happy reading and happy holidays! 🎄

PS Don’t forget that you can quickly preview all of my children’s books for ages 6-11 for FREE with the fun interactive widgets below  – just click then choose which book to read  🙂

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What’s the best thing about being a children’s author?

I’m often asked at school visits what I enjoy most about being a children’s author. Last week when I visited the delightful St Osmund’s Primary School in my local village,  Barnes, the question came up again in several sessions and I thought I’d say a little bit more about it here.

St Osmund's Primary School - exterior image

St Osmund’s Primary School – Barnes village

Before I carry on, I should say that the second best thing about being a children’s author is going out and meeting young readers at school visits and other events  🙂 We writers spend a lot of time alone – or perhaps I should say “alone” given all the characters that fill our heads! Getting to meet the audience you’ve been writing for and watching as they fall silent –  absorbed in the world you have created as you share your story – is truly magical. And the children never cease to amaze me with their thoughtful and intelligent observations and questions – not just about my stories and being an author, but also about the joy they get from reading for pleasure and writing their own stories.

Children sitting and listening to author Karen Inglis reading from The Secret Lake

Capturing children’s imagination with a reading from The Secret Lake followed by Q&A

So what’s the best thing about being a children’s author?

Most of all, I love the freedom I have to ‘make believe’ absolutely anything, from laugh-out-loud funny tales, to adventure, mystery or magic in this world – to discovering and visiting ‘other worlds’ (and their inhabitants) that lie hidden behind secret doors, down forgotten passages, in tumbledown buildings or deep in the forest.

As I write, I love getting lost in these make-believe worlds as they come alive with noisy, bossy, funny, crafty, happy, sad, timid, bold, kind and clever characters (humans, animals, wizards, aliens…) who breeze in and out of scenes, or plod, run, hop, skip, jump or even fly across my virtual page. A casual passer by looking through my window would have no idea just how much my head is buzzing as I sit in silence tapping at my keyboard, watching and listening as my story unfolds!

And what’s most exciting – just as in a really good book or a great movie – is that new characters often appear without warning or behave unexpectedly, stubbornly refusing to follow the plan I had for them. It’s as if they’re saying “Not that way, Karen – it’s this way we need to go! And, yes, I know that may cause problems for you, but I’m afraid we’re going there whether you like it or not!” Or “Well I’m here and I’m staying whether you like it or not, so you’ll just have to get used to it and get on with the story!”

I’m thankful that my characters don’t always co-operate, because that’s what’s usually makes a great story – all the tension and problems and sorting out that has to be done to fix the new direction they insist on taking!

During the writing of The Secret Lake, both Jack (seen in the boat below) and Lucy (who we meet later on in the story) appeared unexpectedly after Tom and Stella climbed down the time tunnel that led them to their home in past time. I hadn’t seen them coming, yet each of these characters took the story off in new directions, leading me around twists and turns that I couldn’t have made up without their help.

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Stella and Tom after arriving in the grounds of their home 100 years in the past…

In Eeek! The Runaway Alien, sci-fi mad Sid Spiker who spots Eeek! through his telescope came as another surprise. He popped up in my planning stage unexpectedly and caused all sorts of trouble when he planned to kidnap Eeek! at posh Sophie Marr’s fancy dress birthday party. But he also helped drive the plot and make it a great story!

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Charlie and Eeek! arriving  dressed as “aliens”.  Sid Spiker is hiding in the crowd behind 🙂

The joy of getting lost in a story

Back to my school visits. As I said earlier, the children often talk about their love of reading and getting lost in stories. What I always tell them is that, as a writer, you get to enjoy that very same experience – but, as well as watching what’s happening (just as a reader does) you’re also in charge, and responsible for shaping what’s happening into a tale that will engage and absorb your readers from start to finish. It is great fun, and very challenging – and it requires lots and lots of rewriting. But once you’re done the feeling is fantastic. Whether you’re the writer or the reader, there really is nothing like getting lost in a great children’s story!

Stories to share and get lost in….

For my new followers, if you don’t know my stories or would like to introduce them to your children, simply click on the fun interactive book ‘widgets’ (called ‘biblets’) below to read free samples directly on your phone, tablet or desktop. As well as early chapters they include  video and (for Henry Haynes) audio. I hope you and the children will enjoy  🙂

eeek-biblet-widget-image              henry-haynes-widget-image              svfodcrlj2_recent_lookinside          walter-brown-widget-image

Quick Question Survey on book biblets

I’d love to know what you or your children think of book biblets as a way to share information about children’s books. If you have 60 seconds to spare after you’ve tried one or more biblet it would be really helpful if you could come back at some stage and complete the 5-question survey below. (The data is collected anonymously.)

>> Take the 60-Second Survey Here 🙂 5 Questions. 60 Seconds. Anonymous 🙂

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Werewolves, Book Widgets, YouTube & more – Autumn Update :)

I hope you and your children have had an enjoyable half term and are now ready to embrace the darker evenings – what perfect timing for Halloween tonight with the UK clock changes!

In fact, this post isn’t about witches – or werewolves  🙂 – rather to update you on what I’ve been up to, and to ask for your and your children’s feedback on a fun new interactive book ‘widget’ that I’m trying out.

My new YouTube Channel

First things first, I’m excited to announce that I’ve recently set up a new YouTube channel where children can watch videos about my books including mini trailerschats from my desk (yes, they get to see my office ‘live’!) videos showing my illustrator at work and (coming soon) video diary and readings. It’s early days but I’ll be adding something new each week so please do let them know. The videos have no advertising or ‘buy’ links and so should be searchable under my name on YouTube Kids if your children are on there.

Click the link or image to see the channel on the main YouTube site and please do give a thumbs up to any videos you enjoy.

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Kids can search for Karen Inglis Children’s Author on the safe YouTube kids site

New interactive Online Book ‘widgets’ – I’d love your feedback

I’m currently experimenting with a new book widget supplied by Nielsen and called a ‘Book2Look biblet’. It’s pretty cool and combines flip-page book extracts with embedded audio and video clips. I’ve now set up two of my books using the widget and would love to know what you and your children think. If you click on either image below the biblet will open up on your screen or mobile device. Inside you will find:

  • early chapter extracts
  • embedded videos about the book
  • embedded audio book extract (Henry Haynes and the Great Escape), read by American narrator Timothy Strong
  • ‘click to share’ feature – share the whole book (as I have below) or your favourite clip
  • links to reviews and where to buy

                                       eeek-biblet-widget-image                         henry-haynes-widget-image

Click each widget to open up.

Please feel free to share the biblets with friends and family, either by forwarding them the link to this blog post or using the ‘share’ button inside the books in the menu.

I’ll  post a short survey in a couple of weeks asking what you / the kids thought . However if you wanted to let me know sooner (good or bad – or if something’s not working) please leave a comment below. I’ll be passing on all feedback anonymously to Nielsen.

Would your child’s school like an author visit?

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Latymer Prep Feb 2016

I’ve been busy in the last few weeks setting up school visits, the first few of which will be in a couple of weeks.

World Book Day week in 2017 is almost fully booked but there’s plenty of availability in the spring and summer terms, so please do ask your child’s school to get in touch if they’d like a visit.

As well as giving readings and talking to the children about how I came to write my books I take along fun slides showing how I work online with my Bosnian illustrator – these always go down very well!  Schools can read full details here

Personalised signed book orders for Christmas or birthday

Last, but by no means least, if you’d like an extra special surprise gift for a child for Christmas, you can order personalised signed copies of my books for UK delivery from my website.  Follow this link to find out more Children love receiving books signed by the author – and it really does help inspire a love of reading! And of course I can also dedicate for birthdays or other occasions. Drop me a line if you have any questions or live nearby and would prefer to collect.

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That’s it for now. Enjoy the autumn colours if you have them – they certainly look spectacular in London this week!

With best wishes

Karen Inglis

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Second to none – the 2016 Barnes Children’s Literature Festival

It’s almost three weeks since the second Barnes Children’s Literature Festival, after which I dashed off to Verona. Now that I’m back I wanted to share a few photos  (of the festival – not Verona!) and a weekend date for your next year’s diary – Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 May 2017 when the third festival will take place. Sign up here to be added to their mailing list (scroll down once you land on the page).

A children’s festival with big ambitions

On the evening that marked the end of last year’s inaugural one-day festival I marvelled at the energy of local mum, book publicist and festival organiser, Amanda Brettargh, as she enthused about making the following year’s event twice the size and spread over two days instead of one. Anyone else in her shoes at that time would have been sinking back in a chair with a well-deserved gin and tonic and worrying about next year another time…!

Amanda certainly doesn’t do things by halves and this year those ambitions were well and truly fulfilled. With over 50 author events held across nine venues over the two-day period, and over 5,000 tickets and £15,000 of children’s / YA books sold, the festival is now firmly on the literary map and not to be missed if you live within reach.

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Barnes Children’s Literature Festival website

Not only are you guaranteed a mix of bestselling authors across all age ranges (this year included Judith Kerr, Alex Scheffler, Michael Morpurgo, Lauren Child, Jacqueline Wilson, Philip Reeve, Cornelia Funke and Frances Hardinge – to name but a very few), but children can also enjoy free storytelling and other creative workshops around the pond throughout the weekend. What better excuse do you need to spend time with your children in one of the prettiest villages in southwest London?

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I couldn’t be everywhere by any means. Below I let I’ll let the pictures and captions tell the story that I saw…

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Friday afternoon – on its way up –  the wonderful ‘Booktop Marquee’ which hosted Jacqueline Wilson, Philip Reeve, Morris Gleitzman, Cathy Cassidy, Frances Hardinge, Lauren Child and David Mackintosh over the two days. Just one of nine festival venues dotted around the village – but by far one of the most striking…

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Saturday afternoon – a packed Booktop Marquee with Carnegie Medal Winner Philip Reeve (Mortal Engines) reading from his new book Rail Head – along with a great audio visual soundtrack 🙂

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Around the pond – the bookshop tent with red flags in the foreground (also hosted free author readings on the hour). Behind it, the free arts & crafts wigwam and then the ‘Booktop’ Marquee  beyond… There was a fabulous all-day BBQ at the Old Sorting Office arts centre, seen at the end of the path where the white umbrella is visible. As the day went on, the whole green became a picnic area for children and families – some even set up a badminton game…

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St Mary’s Church filling up to hear bestselling fantasy author Cornelia Funke. Of her schooldays she said “I wrote essays, but not what the teachers wanted!” Of her characters she says she feels they are always travelling with her. Funke Facts: The planning stage for her books can last years – she puts together extensive notebooks with pasted-in research images and her own illustrations and handwritten notes – they looked beautiful! These help the story grow. She has 14 notebooks for The Griffin’s Yarn… On writer’s block she said: “There’s no such thing – you just run into a hedge and wonder how your characters have tricked you and what will happen next…” Funke only started writing at age 27 – before that she was a social worker and then an illustrator for children’s books. It was when illustrating children’s books that she realised she could write better stories. It was 17 years before she came up with the sequel to Dragon Rider. Until then she couldn’t think how to make the follow-on story original…

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The phone box outside Olympic Cinema was turned into a free Children’s Bookswap for the weekend 🙂

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Little ones waiting for the start of Ferdinand Fox’s Big Sleep reading – part of the free author events programme on Sunday afternoon … Ferdinand Fox himself was a big hit. By this time he had been passed around by all the children and was losing his jacket 🙂

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The bookshop tent buzzed all weekend long! Also the venue for free author readings…

 

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In the space of an hour we had two sittings for the Ferdinand Fox reading on Sunday afternoon – this was the first. Top right you can see one of the 90 (yes, 90!) volunteers who came from Barnes local community organisations, local primary schools, friends and family and Roehampton University .

 

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A signed copy of Rail Head from Philip Reeve – he can draw too 🙂  With thanks to my husband for the surprise present! I’m a big fan of the Mortal Engines books….

 

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Along with the authors, Barnes’ resident swans with their new signets drew lots of attention…! A pity that the sun had briefly gone in for this shot…

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Saturday morning calm before the storm 🙂 Bookseller extraordinaire, Isla Dawes (right), owner of The Barnes Bookshop, and a bookseller friend and volunteer Venetia Vyvyan (left) – little did they know that £15,000 of books would be sold over the weekend! (I love the aprons!)

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The swans and signets now across the pond….they do get around… we even have a road sign in the village to stop the traffic when they cross 🙂

 

 

As part of my launch of Walter Brown and the Magican’s Hat at the festival I took along props for my reading and a young audience member enacted the scene where Walter opens the battered box and finds the hat left to him by his Great-grandpa. (Sadly I didn’t manage to get a photo of this!)

I also had a free prize draw that children entered over the weekend. Top left shows the top hat the moment before the draw on Sunday night. The lucky winner was nine-year-old Ben Nicholson from Putney whose mother kindly sent me the photo below!

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A moment of magic for Ben Nicholson 🙂

 

A few shots of Barnes village – not a bad place to spend the weekend!

 

 

Screen Your Story event – still to come

In July there will be a screening at the Barnes Olympic Cinema of the winner of the children’s Screen Your Story Competition Find out more about Screen Your Story here

Below is an earlier tweet showing the cinema. You can follow me @kareninglis btw

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A few great links

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With Cornelia Funke after her talk at the Barnes Children’s Literature Festival – read my in-depth interview with her above

That’s it…

This is just my story – and doesn’t do justice to all the venues and many readings and talks that went on – nor to the wonderful atmosphere of the weekend. Still, I hope it has inspired you to make a note in your diaries to come along next year. Remember – you can sign up for news about next year’s Barnes Children’s Literature Festival here.

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Wild flowers around Barnes Pond…

Oh, ok – since you insist, here’s one shot from Verona 🙂

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View to Verona from the hill before lunch…that sunshine is a distant memory!

Hmm – I see below that my last blog post was a year ago! I really must find a bit more time to post in between my writing and school visits! However, remember you can also find me on twitter and facebook

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The story behind the Barnes Children’s Literature Festival

Following on from last week’s blog post about the inaugural Barnes Children’s Literature Festival – which takes place on Saturday 25 April – I’ve finally managed to catch up with its organiser, the delightful Amanda Brettargh.  It’s all systems go at Festival HQ so I’m grateful to Amanda for finding time in her hectic schedule to talk to me.

Image of Amanda Brettargh

Amanda Brettargh

poster of Barnes Children's Literature Festival

Click to see what’s on and book tickets!

I believe that Barnes will become both a destination and an inspiration for book lovers everywhere.”

Karen:

We’re all hugely excited about the upcoming kidslitfest in Barnes!  I’m sure that my readers – children, parents, teachers and librarians, not to mention children’s authors – would love to know the story behind the festival, so here are a few questions.

What gave you the idea for the Barnes Children’s Literature Festival?

Amanda:

“In my day to day life I am a freelance book publicist and I have a media consultancy that specialises in publishing. All of my clients are small to medium sized independent publishers and part of my job is to organise the appearance of their authors and illustrators at festivals everywhere. From this I have had first hand experience of the importance of these events on book sales. So when I used to push my buggy around beautiful Barnes Pond every day, every day I would think: they should have a literature festival here! Of course, we also have one of London’s best independent bookshops in Barnes (The Barnes Bookshop) and I believe that any community that supports its own bookshop deserves to have its own festival.”

Here’s Barnes Pond, just in case you didn’t see the last blog post 🙂

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Barnes Pond

This is a ticketed event  – £5 per performance –  in aid of local children’s charities. Have you chosen which will be benefiting?

“The Barnes Children’s Literature Festival is a community event and thanks to Barnes Bookshop a percentage of all books sold on the day, together with the profit from ticket sales will be donated to Barnes children’s charities, which include local primary school libraries, Barnes Brownies and Guides and St Mary Barnes Cubs and Scouts.”

You’ve managed to pull together an amazing line up of authors and illustrators – how easy was that to do? You seem to have some excellent connections!

“It’s true that through my own work I already had some contacts among the agents and in the various publishing houses and, in general, I think they were very positive when I approached them. The head of publicity for one of the largest children’s presses even said to me: ‘Barnes! The perfect place for it!'”

What are your hopes for the festival in the future? Can we expect this to be an annual event?

“I am planning for this to be an annual event in the same way that Bath has its children’s literature festival every year. With our magnificent location, our strong literary heritage and sense of community we are going to strive to present a literary experience like no other.

“I have said that when you come to Barnes you will find some of children’s literature’s best known names as well as a few special treats that you will be unlikely to see at festivals anywhere else.

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Barnes Kidslitfest will host the UK premiere of the stage production this award-winning picture book

“This year we are opening our festival with the UK premiere of the stage production of Chris Haughton’s beautiful picture book, ‘A Bit Lost’ by the Boulevard Theatre from Stockholm .

“I believe that Barnes will become both a destination and an inspiration for book lovers everywhere.”

Do you have your own children? Did they have in say in helping you decide who to include in the line-up?

“I have ten year old twin girls who are at Barnes Primary School. This Festival has been a real family affair and we’ve had plenty of sorting and stuffing and stickering and folding and leafletting – you name it! They also had great pleasure in putting together a list of authors that they would love to see come to Barnes. At the top of it was Jeff Kinney, closely followed by David Walliams, and I’ve said to them: ‘Next year!'”

What do you do when you’re not organising children’s literature festivals?

“I very much regret that the demands of my media consultancy, as well as becoming a launching festival organiser – not to mention my ten year old twins –  leave me little time for my favourite occupations, reading and sleeping!”

Finally, I can’t help noticing your warm southern hemisphere accent – are you from Australia by any chance?  (If so, how do you cope with the weather over here?!)

“Yes, I’m Australian. We have been here for twelve years and my children were born here. When I walk around Richmond Park, even when it’s tipping it down, I think, ‘I could never leave!'”

My thanks to Amanda for sharing her story with us. And how wonderful that someone from so far afield has helped bring the first ever Children’s Literature Festival to Barnes!

Click here to see what’s on and buy tickets

Barnes Children's Litfest Home page

Barnes Children’s Literature Festival – click to check what’s on

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See you at the Barnes Children’s Literature Festival!

I’m thrilled to be appearing at the inaugural Barnes Children’s Literature Festival, which takes place on Saturday 25 April in southwest London. If you have children and live in London or within reach of Barnes don’t miss what promises to be a fantastic event – read on to find out more!

Barnes Children’s Literature Festival

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Barnes Children’s Literature Festival – click to visit the website

As you may be able to see from above, the Barnes Children’s Literature festival – organised by book publicist and local mum of two girls, Amanda Brettargh – includes a fantastic line-up of award-winning authors for children of all ages.

Barnes village lies a mile or so south of Hammersmith Bridge. It’s a lovely place to spend the day – we have our very own duck pond and village green, plenty of cafes, delis, family-friendly pubs and restaurants, the river Thames at the top of the high street and one of the coolest cinemas in London – on which more below!

Barnes pond, Barnes, London SW13

Barnes Pond – Barnes village is a five-minute bus ride south of Hammersmith Bridge

 So who will be there …?

Well, here are just a few tasters… (you’ll find a link to the full programme below)

  • Multi-award-winning picture-book author, Chris Haughton – not only will he be bringing his fabulous picture books to life at his own session, there’s also the UK  premiere of the stage production of his award-winning picture book  ‘A Bit Lost’
  • Picture book illustrator Alex Scheffler – of Gruffalo fame – say no more!
  • Abbie Longstaff – author of The Fairytale Hairdresser series
  • Sally Gardner –award winning author of ‘Maggot Moon’ – at the festival she’ll be talking about what makes a good detective and her fairy detective series ‘Wings & Co’
  • Author-illustrator David Mackintosh – who’ll be drawing as well as reading from his latest book ‘Lucky’
  • Marcia Williams – author of the acclaimed  ‘Archie’s War’ – a child’s scrapbook of the First World War
  • Jim Smith – author of ‘I am not a loser’ series
  • Piers Torday – introducing his new novel ‘The Wild Beyond’ – the final in his trilogy
  • Horrible Histories® illustrator Martin Brown
  • Britain’s favourite poet and local resident Roger McGough who has even penned a poem for the festival!

There will also be book-to-film cinema events curated by Guardian film critic, Danny Leigh, at the ultra cool Olympic Studios. And Julia Eccleshare, children’s books editor of The Guardian, will be interviewing teenage author Helena Coggan.

For my own part, I’ll be introducing 7-10 year-olds to my popular graphic novel Eeek! The Runaway Alien – you can find out more about my session here

The above really is just a samplesee the full programme and book tickets here. (All ticket sale proceeds go to charity.)

Front cover of Eeek! The Runaway Alien

Voted favourite book club read three years in a row by boys & girls locally!

Charlie opens his door to an alien

Charlie opens his door to an alien

With thanks to my local bookshops and schools

Needless to say I’m both proud and honoured to be part of the festival. Those of you who follow my writers’ blog will know that I regularly take my books into schools in southwest London and have hosted many signing events in local bookshops and Waterstones – all of whom have been incredibly receptive and have stocked my books from the outset, often placing them face-out with shelf-talkers that I supply.

So I’d like to say thank you to the Barnes Children’s Literature Festival – and to southwest London yet again – for giving me this next opportunity to raise my profile. And thank you to my local bookshops, notably The Barnes Bookshop (through which my festival sales will pass), Sheen Books, Wimbledon Books and seven branches of Waterstones in southwest London. Also thanks to so many local schools for having me in and to the local press for so often sharing my stories. But most of all, thank you to my young readers, both near and far for buying and enjoying my stories!

Barnes Bookshop

The Barnes Bookshop – with Eeek! poster in the window during the World Cup 🙂

More inaugural book festivals during April

Can’t get enough of books? Here are two more new literature festivals for your diary if you live or work around London or in Gloucestershire!

  • The unstoppable author, speaker and PR consultant Debbie Young is hosting the inaugural Hawkesbury Upton Literary Festival on World Book Night 23 April – don’t miss this wonderful village event which has an impressive roll-call of authors and speakers and will centre around the village pub! If you live in or around the Gloucestershire area it promises to be extremely special!

This year in particular certainly seems to have sprung a new breed of literature festival – so here’s to bookshops, litfest organisers and authors themselves for helping reshape the future of book selling in this fast-changing world. I’m sure we all agree that these changes are for everyone’s benefit – author, reader and bookseller alike.

Getting to Barnes

If you’re on public transport it’s a five-minute bus ride or 20-minute walk from Hammersmith Tube, or a five-minute walk from Barnes or Barnes Bridge over-ground stations. If you’re driving you’ll find parking in the streets a few minutes walk away from the immediate central village area.

Click here to view the full programme and book tickets to the
Barnes Children’s Literature Festival

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