Category Archives: Authors

Writing Advice from Dawn O’Porter

How do you start writing fiction when you’ve been writing short non-fiction your whole career? Dawn O’Porter had to wrestle with this when she sat down to write her first novel, PAPER AEROPLANES. For all you writers out there (and especially those who are working on their Young Writers Prize submissions right now), here’s her advice for breaking through the writing barriers and getting your ideas out:

Paper Aeroplanes

Do you have a writing routine? Share yours below!

Writing Advice from Julie Mayhew

Today’s writing advice comes from RED INK author Julie Mayhew. Below, she talks about the importance of setting deadlines.

Fortunately, if you’re hoping to enter the Hot Key Books Young Writers Prize competition, we’ve set the deadline for you! Your first 4000 words plus 1-page synopsis is due to us on July 22nd. Get writing!


Do you set your own deadlines? How do you keep track of your work? Leave your advice in the comments below!

Writing advice from Nigel McDowell

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received? We posed this question to a few of our authors, and we’ll be posting their video responses this week to help all the Young Writers Prize entrants get their writing in top shape!

Today’s advice is from Nigel McDowell, author of TALL TALES FROM PITCH END. Click on the book cover below to learn more about Nigel and his amazing work!


PAPER AEROPLANES: The book tour!

Last month, we had another huge milestone – our first book tour! The months of planning and organising (and packing) for Dawn O’Porter’s PAPER AEROPLANES tour all came together in a crazy week at the end of May. Check out what we got up below!

For more about the book and Dawn’s future event dates, check out her web site here.

Paper Aeroplanes

Litter Vigilantes, Part 2

Dann, ElonToday’s post is by Elon Dann, the author of CLOCKWISE TO TITAN. It’s part 2 of his blog series about his adventures…with rubbish. Read on…

Sunday. Litter picking. The Lane, a shady, tree-fringed road, a vestigial remnant of the pre-1980s countryside as it was before tracked arthropods rumbled and the housing estate I live on was thrown up. A small piece of the city’s noncoding DNA, and a very nice piece it is too. Birds. Squirrels.

A man, standing next to a red estate car.

(The leafy Lane is where I found my hat. A woollen ‘Nike’ cap filled with sick that I uncovered one winter. What’s your problem? I scrubbed it out with handfuls of snow and it came up a treat in the washing machine.  That’s a £15 hat for nowt. If a litter picker can’t benefit from urban recycling, who can?)

‘There’s two types of people,’ says the man. I nod, mentally thumbing my storehouse of ‘there’s X types of people’ gags: two types, the type that splits people into two types and the type that doesn’t; 10 types, those who understand binary and those who don’t, etc., etc. Jokes and hats, all game for reuse and recycling.

‘Yes,’ I reply. Together we contemplate the extinct fridge, the smashed up kitchen units, the lumpy sacks of rubble fly-tipped on the grassy verge. I devote what I calculate to be a millionth of one percent of an average UK male life expectancy to sucking in air and tutting. The trash is ugly, broken, dirty, as unutterably useless as one Nectar point, the quantum of worthlessness.

‘Those that care,’ huffs the man. ‘And those that don’t.’

‘True,’ I agree. Heady stuff, this dialectic. But then, I find litter picking and litter itself conducive to thinking. I’m not alone. Lise Meitner developed her theories of radioactive decay by studying how discarded doner kebabs fell apart when she speared them with the tip of her umbrella in 1920s Berlin, and they say Keats’ poem was originally titled Ode on a Bottle of Yazoo Milkshake Some Git Threw Into My Carriage before his editor unwisely changed the receptacle under discussion to a boring old Grecian Urn. (It’s always Yazoo milkshake. I swear, when they land people on Pluto, there will be a bottle of that lactic muck awaiting them, festering in a crater under a crust of frozen ammonia.)

Litter 02

The man puts his hands on his hips and sighs. His car is large, I’m hoping he’s about to offer to transport the dumped junk to the tip for me. ‘People, eh? Tells you something about people.’

You can over-philosophize. Litter doesn’t teach you much about people, apart from how perverse they can be. Why take the trouble to bag up your dog’s waste, then sling the bag into an inaccessibly high tree branch?

Litter 01

My favourite example of this twisted thinking is when I pick up, say, a curry sauce stained polystyrene takeaway carton from the front lawn of a house. Not a scruffy house like mine, a nice house with block paving and UPVC soffits and hanging baskets. Billions of Nectar points’ worth of love and care.

‘Ooh, thank you,’ the owner will say, breaking off from giving the Mitsubishi a shiatsu massage with a Dyson. ‘I’ve been wondering for weeks when someone might do that.’

‘Did you ever think of picking it up yourself?’ I might ask. (I used to ask. Not nowadays. Never ask, never criticize, never comment.)

The answer: ‘Oh, no. Well, I didn’t put it there, did I?’

AllisterDann01I’ve even seen people mow around the litter on their lawns, looking away, not seeing it. I should form an enterprise to exploit this prevalent attitude. Blue asbestos? Secret documents? Rival crime gang body parts? No problem. Just stuff a little of each into Pringles tubes and have someone drop one tube under every pyracantha and privet hedge they see. Guaranteed not to be touched for thirty years. Just don’t employ the people nominally paid to deliver pizza flyers and free newspapers. Not unless you want it to all end up being burned underneath the swings in the kiddie park.

Zoom back. The present.

‘I mean,’ says the man, ‘It must be more effort to drive here and dump stuff than to go to the tip. And the tip is free, as long as you’re not commercial.’

‘Guess so.’

The conversation has  run its course.  The man gets into his car, starts rummaging in the glove compartment, ‘I’ll find my mobile, ring the council,’ he says, before signing off with,  ‘You’re doing a grand job there, pal.’

I continue with my picking, working my way along an adjoining cycle path. People defy classification, but there are definitely two types of litter.

AllisterDann04Some rubbish writes its own stories, most not worth telling. Today’s fly-tipped mess: a kitchen-sink drama, DIY on the cheap. More finds: a school report, the place for a parent’s signature left blank; a blister pack of antidepressants, a cheap bracelet inscribed ‘Charlene’ and a screwed-up photo of a young soldier in dress uniform, all these together. Heartache, perhaps, but no more mystery lies behind their arrival on the pavement than behind that can of Tennents Super, now serving as a lethal drop-in hostel for slugs, a Bates Motel for molluscs.

Other litter challenges you to discover the story behind it.  Half a table-football table. Half? A pile of French pornographic magazines mixed with a judo instruction manual in Bengali – multiculturalism in action; a whole stilton, big as a bus wheel; trays of furry minced meat and sausages; a carrier bag containing a dozen 400g jars of Dolmio pasta sauce.  I hear theories that the food is shoplifted by drug addicts, that sausages are a favourite. I buy this (or steal it) only to some degree. What drug, I ask myself, induces a craving that can only be satisfied by eating almost eleven pounds in weight of bolognese sauce, gives you sufficient gall and alertness to smuggle a heavy bag laden with clonking glass jars out past security guards, yet causes you at the final moment to decide you can’t be bothered to lug them home and dump them on top of a bus shelter? Whatever it is, I don’t want any.

I return to the Lane. A red estate car rips past at speed, the driver ducking low behind the dashboard. He exits the junction without waiting or indicting, anxious to spare himself the embarrassment of flashing me a shrug and a sheepish grin.

A fridge, smashed up kitchen units, lumpy bags of rubble, now joined by a jigsaw of splintered worktop fragments.

Two kinds of people…

(Just in case: Of course I made up the bit about Lisa Meitner. What were you thinking?)


Julie Mayhew challenges you…To get writing!

There are lots of things that keep people from writing — self-doubt, perceived lack of time, the size of the task… the list goes on and on. In fact, it’s amazing that books get written as frequently as they do.

Mayhew, Julie cropFortunately for young aspiring writers everywhere, RED INK author Julie Mayhew has designed a two-part Skype in the Classroom lesson to help break through those barriers and get the stories flowing. Sometimes, it takes a little structure to help get the ideas out of our brains and onto the page. Today, we’re challenging you to write, using part one of Julie’s lesson. Here’s the challenge, direct from Julie:

The spiral exercise (which led to the changing room scene in RED INK when I was set it as a task in a workshop), involves writing the first word that comes into your head in the centre of the page. Now, that is the first word of your sentence. And just write, whatever comes out, no editing, but in a spiral not in a straight line. Your mind will be too preoccupied with the shape of your writing to pass comment on what you’re actually saying. A great way to free up your subconscious – and all the great ideas locked inside.


Tweet us your spirals or post them to our Facebook page! We can’t wait to see what you come up with. Oh and don’t forget to check out RED INK! The paperback is out this week at your local bookstore.


Take a journey to Pitch End…

Last week, Nigel McDowell‘s brilliant debut novel, TALL TALES FROM PITCH END hit bookshelves and reading devices all over the world. This book was a long labor of love — you can read all about Nigel’s process here, and here is a little intro to the book from Nigel:

There are few things more delightful than listening to an author read their own work. This happens to be particularly true with Nigel’s book, because there is a particular way people from Pitch End speak. So, for a Monday treat, here is Nigel reading a few pages from the book:

For more about TALL TALES FROM PITCH END, click here! And if you’ve read it already, let us know what you thought in the comments below.