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Dead Scared

Halloween at Grammar Primary

When I went to Dylan's school at two o' clock today I was faced by a horde of ghouls, vampires, ghosts and other creatures I didn't even know the names of. So what did I do? I told them a story. It worked. I escaped with my life and got back home just in time to get out of the car be drenched by a downpour.
  Last year I read Halloween Stories. This year I gave the class a choice between Wheelybins (a slightly spooky but mainly funny story), and The House At The End Of Witch Street, which is undeniably scary. You can guess which one they chose. Oh well, Wheelybins, maybe next year.
  I think everyone enjoyed the story, especially the bits where nobody listened to the headteacher, and where Jonathon James was wondering if the monster in the story would eat up teachers. I certainly enjoyed reading it aloud, particularly as this story contains one of my favourite lines from all the As They Grow Older stories: "Do you know, child, that Mr Fuller hasn't been eating his breakfasts?" 
add comment | read comments (0) | 2014-10-31

Mind your words

While we were walking up the High Street the other day, my other half told me she was cracked. I felt I could scarcely comment, but I summoned up my courage and asked: 'Oh yes? In what way?'
  'Not enough sleep,' she told me. 'I'm shattered.'
  Ah - cracked as in shattered. Nice one. I shouldn't have been surprised. A little while ago she came back from London with Dylan and her Chinese family and I unwisely asked how they had got around London - not by taxi, I hoped (taxi fares in China are much lower than in the UK). 'Oh no,' she told me. 'We all got lobster cards.' Well, at least I didn't have to work that one out.
  Dylan is not immune to unexpected interpretations. We were watching Federer play Murray and the commentators all considered that Federer was favourite to win the match. There ensued a complex conversation in which Dylan asked me why Federer was favourite, and I said he was probably the better player, and he said yes, but he wanted Murray to win, and I said sure, but he's not favourite to, and he said well, he's my favourite. And at last I understood. He'd interpreted 'favourite' as in 'we all want Federer to win' not as in 'Federer is most likely to win'. Lesson learned.
  All this brought to mind something that happened more than twenty years ago. It was the run up to Halloween, and my sisters-in-law had decided to make a costume for my oldest son, so they arranged to come over to take his measurements. Cue floods of tears from oldest son, who must then have been about six or seven. When we got him calmed down, he told us, still hiccoughing and on the verge of more tears, that he didn't want anyone to take his measurements - he wanted to keep them.
add comment | read comments (0) | 2014-10-30

Guest post - Louise Harnby

As I noted further down the page, Louise Harnby runs a very successful website dealing with all things proofreadery, and she has kindly written a post for my blog. Here it is.

Misfiring and Mis-hiring – Getting the Right Help

More and more of us are choosing the self-publishing route to bring our stories and advice to a broader audience. Deciding on the most suitable level of editorial intervention can be tricky for the first-timer. Inexperienced writers, even those who believe their language skills are top-notch, can fall victim to the misfire or the mis-hire.
   The misfire occurs when a writer assumes they don’t need a fresh set of eyes to assess their work professionally.
   I’m an experienced proofreader and yet when I published my own editorial freelancing guide I hired a colleague to work on my book. It’s not that I don’t have confidence in my ability to pick up mistakes in the written word; it’s that I don’t have confidence in my ability to pick up mistakes in MY written words. When the writing’s your own you see the ideas in your head rather than the text on the page. 
   The nub of it is that poor spelling, grammar and punctuation can irritate readers; poor structure can confuse them. Successful self-publishing requires that both problems have been attended to.
   The mis-hire occurs when the writer picks the wrong person for the job. For example, they commission a proofreader when they need a copy editor; or they hire a copy editor when they need a substantive editor. 
   Commissioning the wrong person for the job is time and money wasted – it’s as simple as that – and unless the writer has an unlimited supply of both, it makes sense to make sure the person hired is the best fit for the job.
   If, on the one hand, you’re thinking about whether you should bother hiring a professional to work with you on your written material, ask yourself the following questions: (a) Do you judge a writer negatively when you come across errors in their written work? (b) Have those mistakes affected the message being communicated in a way that either annoys or confuses you? If you answered ‘yes’ to the above, do you think you can risk a misfire of your own?
   If, on the other, you’re wondering what kind of professional you should be working with, take a look at these free  Guidelines for new authors that I created with this issue in mind. They’re available either as a downloadable pdf or as an ebooklet. They’re designed to help you avoid the mis-hire.
   The ability to self-publish with such ease is possibly the single most democratizing event to have taken place within the publishing industry in the past decade. And with democracy comes choice – and lots of it. Choosing well is part of the secret to self-publishing success.
add comment | read comments (0) | 2013-09-27