Friday, January 22, 2010

Introducing UK Children's writer Carole Anne Carr.

I'm still a sickie, but my friend Carole Anne Carr has agreed to guest blog today. Please give her a big welcome. Thanks.


Hot Chocolate and Brandy Anyone?

Who am I?

An elderly English woman who has lived through more lives than the proverbial cat and is delighted to be invited to Joylene’s blog.

I live in Ludlow, a medieval market town in the county of Shropshire, which is quite suitable as I am an historian and write historical fiction for older children. I also write silly humorous stuff that I illustrate for the younger ones. I am author, editor, publisher, illustrator when necessary, distributor, and my own publicity agent.

After working in a bank in Zimbabwe, I spent many years as a deputy head in a Shropshire primary school and took early retirement due to my husband’s illness. Then I set up my own art and craft business, making papier-mâché sculptures, became an actress, and after training for three years took up the Office of Reader with the Church of England. However, these various careers kept me away from my husband, and so in 2007 I began to write children’s stories. This came about quite naturally, for when teaching I had written plays for children, had short stories and poetry published, and had worked for a short time as a creative writing tutor.

Self-Publishing
Unable to find a publisher for my children’s novels, I took a course in Creative Writing and Children’s Literature with the Open University and with renewed faith in my writing abilities, decided to publish my own work.

I had studied medieval history, and in 2008 I wrote three historical novels and some shorter humorous stories for younger children. After the first novel had been printed in 2009, a story about the first Viking invasion of Lindisfarne, I managed to have a few copies accepted by several independent bookshops in Shropshire and surrounding counties, and negotiated a discount price. Selling my books at local fairs, my husband was able to enjoy accompanying me to book signings.

It took about six months to learn how to be a publisher, reading articles on the web, learning how to make print ready files, how to make an ISBN number in the accepted form for the book cover, and where to obtain a number. I studied how to use Photoshop and discovered photographs I needed for the cover and paid for the copyright. Then finding a good digital printer whose prices were reasonable, I spent a long time visiting bookshops, looking for books for the same age group as mine, comparing numbers of pages, whether illustrated or otherwise. Discovering that paperbacks with a similar number of pages were selling for £5.99, and that the price of printing would allow me to make a little profit when selling directly to parents, I added that price to the back of my book.

I set up a virtual bookshop, http://thecakeandcustardbookshop.co.uk, so that children and their parents could buy my books if they were unable to find them elsewhere, although once the book signing was over, I had frequent visits to my website but few purchases as PayPal is not generally used by people in England.

With much difficulty I managed to have my books accepted in some branches of W. H. Smith, the equivalent of Borders. I then realised that the story of a little Anglo-Saxon hero who rescues the Lindisfarne Gospels would be more readily accepted in the county of Northumbria where the events took place, and wished I had begun with my Shropshire stories first, for that would have involved less travelling.

After a visit to Northumbria with my husband - and managing to sell over seventy copies during a three hour book signing on the island of Lindisfarne - I was able to interest English Heritage, the custodian of historic sites in England, and Bamburgh Castle, in my work. My books were also accepted by Shropshire Libraries. In order to become known, I joined the Society of Authors, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and Women in Rural Business. Becoming active on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, I created a blog, http://childrensbooksatthecakeandcustard.blogspot.com and invited other friends to contribute, gradually building up a small online community.

I have had my books reviewed in newspapers and in county magazines, and I have created an online network that I can use to advertise each future book I publish. This network led to my first book being studied by the education department in Willamette University, Oregon, and I have sold 600 copies of the book in 2009 with orders coming in for 2010.

After publishing my Anglo-Saxon adventure, First Wolf, in early 2009, I then published an original African folk tale for the young in September of that year. I read the story to local school children and asked them to provide the illustrations. I worked on their drawings in Photoshop, inserted them into the text with much difficulty, and added drawings of my own where necessary and tried to make my drawings match those the children had given me.

Gradually realising that I was producing books that had a ready market, if only I could achieve wider recognition, I decided to concentrate upon these adventure stories based upon my environmental study visits with school children in Shropshire.

It is such a joy, writing and hearing children’s comments about my work, and I hope to write these adventure stories for as many years as I am able.

13 comments :

  1. What a great post! I love Carole's no nonsense approach to the publishing industry, and her attitude of 'no mountain is too high to climb'. I feel quite ashamed that I looked at Photoshop and decided it was too difficult to decipher. Must do better! Thanks, Carole, and to Joylene for hosting.

    Linda

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  2. Hot chocolate and brandy sounds wonderful! What an impressive job you done, Carole Anne! I'm in awe of your marketing sense and your drive. You are an inspiration.

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  3. It's great to hear of your writing/publishing/marketing journey. Thanks for sharing! It's inspiring to hear what ambition and determination can accomplish for the not-so-young (and I'm including myself in that age bracket, too.)

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  4. Thank you, Linda, it is amazing what you can do when you have no one to help you. :0) I'd started this, was stuck in a tight place and just didn't give up. I had a school waiting for me to produce the book I'd promised them.
    And yes, Photoshop was a nightmare but I had such a need to complete the task and didn't want to disappoint! Hugs...

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  5. Thanks V.L.Smith, forgive me but I don't know your first name.
    If I've helped others to keep trying, then, as an old teacher of many years, I'm really pleased.
    Hugs...

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  6. Thanks for the kind words, Carol. At my age, 73, (and I'm sure you are nowhere near that age), you either crumble or become a great deal tougher, and I've never been one to give in easily...:0) Hugs...

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  7. What a terrific story! Thanks for sharing it (& Joylene, for posting it).

    I'm inspired. Not only have you managed to push through the many obstacles to write, edit, pub, market & distribute - you're also able to drink 2 cups of coffee (or tea or hot chocolate w/ brandy?) at one time! Amazing.

    Seriously - enjoyed this post. Now I'm going to go ... get coffee & maybe write.

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  8. Thanks JaxPop, glad you enjoyed it :0) Hugs...

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  9. Carole Anne, this was a great post! I'm amazed that you sold 70 books in a 3 hour period, and would love to know more about how you did that!

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  10. It's always great to have praise, Katie, especially on a frosty morning in England with another day's hard slog of editing before me.
    My book is selling well on Lindisfarne Island, also known as Holy Island, and in Bamburgh Castle, because the events in the story take place in both places. Of course I had a mention in the local newspaper and made posters to be placed on the island.
    Being an 'unknown' author, I was fortunate to write my books based upon my personal interest in historic sites, and the many visits I made with school children in Shropshire, and this proved to be popular.
    I didn't realise this at the time, that the many tourists visiting these places would automatically be interested in my novels. But there is very little fiction of this kind available for children, just non-fiction, and mostly for adults.
    So purely by chance I'd found a market, although to begin with I was just indulging in my favourite thoughts, memories of school visits, and doing research into different historical periods. Though I never make the mistake of describing historical events in my novels, I just let the young characters live through them and the readers absorb a feeling for the period and an interest without realising it. :0)

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  11. Hi Carole and Joylene,
    It is wonderful to see Carole guest blog on this site.
    As someone who has been encouraged and supported by Carole; I would like to take this opportunity to mention how grateful I am to her positive interaction.
    Joylene, I hope you are better, very soon.
    Kindness and respect, to you both, Gary

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  12. Hi Gary, I love your support, you are always there when I'm feeling down...hugs...

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  13. Thanks so much for the visit, Carole. It was wonderful having you here.

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Thank you for visiting my blog. Please come in and sit for while. We will talk about writing. We will share our dreams. Then I will serve tea and cookies. Home made and Gluten Free.