The Writing Process by Cecelia Ahern

This week's guest blog is from bestselling Irish writer, Cecelia Ahern. Her new book, Perfect has just been published. Take it away, Cecelia! 

I’m a big reader and fan of YA novels but I never had a specific plan to write a YA series. I knew that I had younger readers but I never plan what kind of stories I’m going to write, I just write whichever story comes to me in the strongest way, the story that keeps growing and growing and won’t leave my mind. Flawed arrived in my mind, kicking and screaming, demanding to be heard and written.

When I came up with the idea for Flawed and Perfect, I knew I wanted to tell the story from the perspective of a 17 year old. Although we’re constantly learning about ourselves throughout our life, teenage years are the years when you first really start to question authority and society, and start figuring out how you really feel about things, instead of what you’re being told to feel. I wanted to take Celestine from being that logical, obedient girl who thinks in black and white, and transform her into somebody who questions, who doubts, and who finds her own voice. She suddenly realizes she has to follow her own instincts, and her heart. We do this at different stages of our lives when life throws us dilemmas but I wanted this to be the first big lesson in my character’s life, and also a surprising voice and character that could teach society a thing or two.

I always encourage finding and using your own voice. Celestine is not an obvious leader, she doesn’t realize her own strengths, she is not a leader because she wants to be but because she naturally makes the right choices. She brings compassion and logic to a society that has lost its humanity and I don’t think that shouting the loudest is necessarily what causes people to be heard, it’s the strength of the character with quiet confidence that can truly gain a following. It’s not about shouting, it’s about leading by example, it’s about action, your own behaviour, who you can influence in a positive way.

I didn’t have to alter my style of writing for the YA audience, I just told the story through the eyes of a seventeen year old Celestine. But there is one enormous difference between this series and my other novels, which is that this has a thriller feel. I wrote Flawed in 6 weeks, the fastest I’ve ever written a novel and while it took me a long time to edit, the first draft flowed out so effortlessly. My heart was pounding, my body was trembling, I felt I had so much to say about society, about how history keeps repeating itself. We have tortured each other for race, sex and religious reasons in the past and still today, I wanted to examine what it would be like to punish and segregate people for their behavior, their personal life decisions. We already label each other, public shaming is almost a sport in society, and so I took that idea of labeling literal. To mention just a few examples: The flawed rules mimic the anti-jewish decrees of World war 2, Celestine’s decision on the bus mirrors Rosa Parks defiance during the civil rights movement in the US. Flawed children who are removed from their parents mirrors what happened to children in Ireland born to unmarried mothers, and aboriginal children in Australia who were taken from their parents to dilute the gene pool. Everything in Flawed and Perfect mirrors what has happened and happens in reality.  

I got completely lost in Celestine’s world. At first I thought the books would be a trilogy, mainly because it felt like the natural familiar decision, but when I was developing the story, I felt that the best way for me to tell the stories was in two novels. When I sent the outline of Perfect to my editor, he wondered if it would all fit into one book and questioned whether there should be a third, but I knew that I wanted a meaty, jam-packed novel filled with surprises and twists and turns, with plenty of content, and a conclusion to Celestine’s journey.

I’m so proud of Flawed and Perfect and hope they entertain, and inspire readers of all ages.

A Girl Made of Books by Sarah Webb

I’m a big fan of Oliver Jeffers who is a Northern Irish designer, artist, writer and illustrator who is best known for his picture books. My favourite is an early book called Lost and Found about a boy and a lost penguin who become friends. His new book is called A Child of Books and it’s out in September. Written and illustrated by both Sam Winston and Oliver, it’s an ode to childhood books.

A Child Made of Books
A Child Made of Books

A Child of Books

Here’s the trailer, do check it out:

 Inspired by this book, I thought I’d list some of the books that made ME:

busy busy world
busy busy world

1/ Richard Scarry’s Busy Busy World

I loved this book and used to pour over the details in the pictures. It’s full of funny stories set all over the world, from Italy to Ireland, and I loved it so much I used to sleep with it under my pillow.

2/ Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild

Image from the Ballet Shoes Television Movie Starring Emma Watson
Image from the Ballet Shoes Television Movie Starring Emma Watson

Image from the Ballet Shoes Television Movie Starring Emma Watson

I took ballet classes for years and always dreamed of one day being a ballerina. It was not to be, but reading about ballet and watching ballet is the next best thing. I even wrote about ballet in Ask Amy Green: Dancing Daze.


3/ Heidi by Johanna Spyri

How I wanted to live in the Swiss Alps with a kind grandfather after this story was read to me. It’s such a wonderful tale, of friendship, overcoming hardship and being yourself.

4/ Anne of Green Gables by L M Montgomery

Anne from Anne of Green Gables
Anne from Anne of Green Gables

Anne from Anne of Green Gables

I’ve always admired Anne ‘with an e’ – she’s one of my favourite characters of all time. I like to think we’d be kindred spirits if we ever met. She has such a fun, feisty and true nature. This book left a lasting impression on me as a young reader.

5/ Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret
Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret

Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret

I re-read this every year to remind myself what it feels like to be thirteen. It’s over 40 years old now but is still as fresh and funny as the day it was published. I first read it as a teenager, adored her honesty and humour, and Judy has been one of my favourite writers ever since.

6/ The O’Sullivan Twins by Enid Blyton

And pretty much all Enid Blyton’s books! I read my through them and adored their ‘Englishness’.

7/ New Patches for Old by Christobel Mattingley

New Patches for Old
New Patches for Old

New Patches for Old

This book was a real eye opener and I’ve never forgotten it. Patricia or ‘Patches’ is an English girl who has moved to Australia with her family. She has to deal with making new friends, adapting to a new life and growing up. Her new life isn’t always easy, but she deals with everything that is thrown at her with good humour and honesty. I was about twelve when I read this book and it was the first time I’d come across a girl getting her period for the first time in any book – and I was so grateful that someone had written about this (I was anxious about the whole thing, as many teens were in those days as it wasn’t talked about much – things are a lot more open now, thank goodness), a subject that is also dealt with in Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret.

Both these books inspired me to write Ask Amy Green: Summer Secrets. Amy gets her period during her summer holidays and rings her aunt, Clover (who is 17 and also her great friend) to ask for advice.

Often people say there were no teenage books in the 1970s but there were - including this one. I’m so glad I read it, it really did make a difference to my life.

These are some of the books that made me. What books made YOU? I’d love to know!

Yours in books,

Sarah XXX

This blog first appeared on Girls Hearts Books website.

#YAieDay - Timetable of the Day - Sat Oct 3rd

Having the Chats with Judi Curtin - It's Good to Talk!
Having the Chats with Judi Curtin - It's Good to Talk!

Well done to Shelly for putting it all together - Ireland's 1st YA Day on Twitter - tune in and chat!

When: Oct 3rd

Oisin McGann
Oisin McGann

Where: #YAieDay will be an online festival taking place on the hashtag #YAieDay on Twitter.

The authors, bloggers, and publishing peeps will be chatting about topics and having the LOLs throughout the day. Anyone can join in and chat to their favourite author.

Also, lots of very cool publishers will be holding competitions where you could win books.


Remember to use the hashtag #YAieDay on Twitter

10:10  –  10:50am  Lack  of  parents in  YA  –  thoughts?

Sheena  Wilkinson and Helen Falconer

11:10  –  11:50am  Food  in  literature  –  how  do you  write  it and  is it important to have lashings of  ginger  beer?  

Lucy  Coats and Oisin McGann

11:50  –  12:10  Readers please  tweet your  thoughts to #YAieDay   on  your towering TBR pile.

12:10pm  –  1:00pm  –  Please  tell  us about your next book  –  inspiration, drafting,  editing, marketing.

Lauren James, Sarah Crossan, Sarah Webb and Brian Conaghan

Sarah Crossan
Sarah Crossan

1:10  –  1:50pm  Bad  language  in  books  with young protagonists  –  thoughts? 

Sally  Nicholls, Kim Hood and R. F. Long

2:00  –  2:40pm  All  YA  need  is love  –  thoughts? 

Jennifer Niven and Catherynne  M. Valente and Sarah Rees Brennan

Readers, tweet your shelfies.

2:50  –  3:30 pm  –  Debut  authors. Please tell  us  about your  new  world  of  being  a  published author.

Simon P. Clark, Martin Stewart, Dave  Rudden

3:40  –  4:20pm  The  publishing  world- tweet your questions to these publishing peeps.

Vanessa O  Loughlin and Gráinne Clear

4.30  –  4:55 Children’s Books  Ireland  –  Book  Doctor Clinic  –  ask  the book doctor, Claire Hennessy for book recommendations.

5:00  –  5:40pm  Hosted  by book  blogger  –  Christopher  Moore,  Co-founder of  @YAfictionados  –  He  will be  asking the  authors about writing  in  the  age  of  the internet. 

Brenna  Yovanoff and Samantha Shannon

5:45  –  6:15pm Hosted  by book  blogger  –   Jenny Duffy  of  The  Books, the Art, and  Me.  Let’s talk writing practises  –  how  to ‘get it  down.’ 

Tatum  Flynn, Judi  Curtin, Nigel Quinlan, Elizabeth R. Murray and Deirdre Sullivan

The End

Brilliant PR Tips - Help Promote Your Children's Book

Mary Byrne
Mary Byrne

Have you written a children's book?

Do you want to promote it but have no idea where to start?

Never fear - Mary Byrne, pr guru from HarperCollins Children's Books gave a cracking workshop on PR for children's writers.

Here are some notes from that day. The workshop was very detailed and comprehensive, thanks to Mary for giving such great advice. Any mistakes are my own.

PR is all about communicating and managing reputation - managing what people (and the media) say about you.

When it comes to PR, planning is everything but don't worry about changing your plan as you go along.

First - decide your pr objectives pre publication - these could be:

1/ Social media - To have 500 followers on Twitter; to have 500 likes on Facebook.

2/ To have 3 pre-publication reviews - get early endorsements - you can use child reviewers. (The reviews are to use as content for social media etc when the book comes out.)

3/ To reach the gatekeepers - influential reviewers, teachers, librarians, bloggers.

4/ To talk to your local bookshop and library - and ask what you can do for them - a workshop/ fun event - something original.

5/ To create good, original content to use online. Content is vital - before your book comes out, write and produce lots of content for your website, blog and social media pages.

6/ To bank tweetable and Facebookable photos to use online.

7/ To set up 3 events where you can talk about your book.

With social media, decide your own boundaries - make your message relevant. Don't share personal information on your pets, children etc.

Make a good impression. Watch out for # (hashtags) on different subjects that you are interested in on Twitter and join the conversation.

Work out your PR strategy well in advance. Ask for a meeting with the PR person in your publishing house and talk through your and their plans. See how you can work together to get your book out there.

Who is your target audience? Decide. Parents/teachers/librarians or children themselves?

Work out how to reach them. What tools to use. What your PR message is.

Every writer must have online visibility. But think of yourself as a brand - and decide how you want to engage with your audience.

Don't react to online critics. Don't say anything that you wouldn't say in front of a guard/policeman.

Twitter competitions work very well - use these to drum up interest in your book once it's out.

Sign up for Good Reads and create your own writer's page. Write a blog and generate a band of followers on Good Reads. Mary showed us Steve 'Polarbear' Camden's Good Reads page - Steve is one of Mary's authors.

Netgalley - for industry professionals - ask your publisher to put your book up here.

Bloggers - make contact with them and offer them reading copies of your book.

How much time should you spend on social media? Mary suggested that writers should tweet at least 3/4 times a day and use Facebook a couple of times a week.

Events and Workshops: Create an original workshop for schools and approach schools with your idea.

Podcasts/You Tube clips: You could do a Q and A with your target audience - age 12+ for eg.

Print Material: give the readers something to bring home after events.

Blog: Set up a blog and blog about things that mean something to you. Again, content is king. You can then tweet/Facebook your blog posts.

Local media: Local newspapers often cover new books by local writers - ditto local radio stations.

But be disciplined, don't waste time you could be writing on social media.

And finally remember to tell your publisher/pr person about all your plans.

So there you go, words of wisdom from one of the best in the business. Hope it's helpful.

Yours in writing,


What's in a Name? Titles and Why Writers Pick Them

A West Cork Island
A West Cork Island

I'm writing a new series for readers of age 9+ at the moment. It's about a group of girls - Mollie, Sunny, Min, Rory and Alanna - who live on a small island off the coast of West Cork. I came up with a title for the series - The Wishing Girls. 'Too young' my publishers said. 'Sounds like a Rainbow Fairy book'. So I had to start again.

I produced a list of over twenty different titles. My editor added some, as did my agent. My editor narrowed it down to about a dozen and then I picked my favourite three:

The Songbird Café Girls

The Butterfly Island Girls

The Firefly Bay Girls


I asked some bookseller + writer friends and they liked both Butterfly Island and Songbird Café. Apart from the boy, who liked Firefly Bay. But they thought Songbird Café was the most original so that's the one I went for in the end. Which suits the book perfectly as the island is full of songbirds.

It took eighteen months to come up with a series title and the process got me thinking about other writers and how they picked titles. I asked them about their title process for this blog. As I got so many responses, I will use some of their wonderful words of wisdom in my next blog also.

Judi Curtin

For me, choosing titles is like pulling teeth. It’s the last thing I do, and I have to be honest, I’m not entirely happy with all of my choices. My editor often helps, and has come up with some great ideas. Occasionally, a title chooses itself, like Bonjour, Alice and Alice in the Middle.

eva and the hidden diary
eva and the hidden diary

My most recent book is Eva and the Hidden Diary. At first it was to be called ‘Eva and the Secret Diary’, but I changed it at the last minute, due to great advice from a writer friend, who suggested that it was wasteful to use two precious words like ‘diary’ and ‘secret’ in the same book. (That would have been me - Sarah).

Paula Leyden

Titles ... Sometimes hard, sometimes easy ...

The Sleeping Baobab Tree ended up as this because much of the story revolved round a wondrous ancient baobab that at some stage in its history fell on its side but carried on growing. In local folklore it is known as 'ngombe ilede' (the sleeping cow - as this is what it resembles ) and this was the book's first title, but over time it became The Sleeping Baobab Tree. I am very happy with it.

covers blog 1
covers blog 1

I love titles and I love the process of arriving at one but think that even though it can be discussed ad infinitum with agent, editor, friends and family at the end of it all it has to be yours.

Alan Nolan

My next book is called 'Fintan's Fifteen' and I chose the title myself.

When I pitched it to my publisher it was a story about the worst U12s soccer team in Ireland, but we took a decision quite early on to change the sport to hurling. It made very little difference to the story (a falling-apart team gets better by recruiting players from different sporting backgrounds and foils a robbery along the way to winning the cup) but it made a huge difference to the title – the original title was 'Oisín's Eleven' (obviously a play on 'Ocean's Eleven'...), but as there are fifteen players on a hurling team it necessitated a title change to 'Fintan's Fifteen' and a corresponding change to the main character.

I have a notebook full of prospective book titles and character names, most of which are still in search of stories to go with them!

Deirdre Sullivan

prim cover
prim cover

Prim Improper popped into my head when I was writing book one. I blogged with a friend whose online name was improper miss and another friend had written a book called Mary Modern, endearing two word titles featuring names to me. Improper Order popped into my head two thirds of the way through book two. I was fiddling with other titles "Prime Impropriety" and "Properly Prim" being two other possibilities but once I came up with Improper Order I kind of liked the way it fit the themes and also how it sounded like a crappy straight to video action movie featuring Dolph Lundgren. Or Steven Segal, I'm not sure which.

Oisin McGann

Oisin McGann
Oisin McGann

Oisin McGann

The title of my most recent novel is 'Rat Runners'. I chose it, but it wasn't my original title, as Random asked me to change it. I might still use the original one for another book, so I won't tell you what it is! Random saw a pitch for this book before I'd got very far into the writing, so it was the title almost from the start.

I like to have a title before I start writing a book, partly to help me give it an identity to keep my sights set on, but also as practical means of keeping notes when I'm working on more than one book.

I have some ground rules for any title: It must be compelling, it should reflect the theme or feel of the book and I'll always try and pick a combination of words that don't already score a direct hit on Google. I don't want a title that someone has used before . . . for anything.

Sometimes I get the title right straight off, other times I have to write out lists of combinations of words. It's a process I enjoy, so even when it's challenging, I don't find it difficult. This was the case with 'Rat Runners', but once I had it, I was very happy with it. I liked the suggestion of urban action (having thought of it, I then found out a rat-run is route along small roads to avoid traffic on main routes) and the real underground air it gave the story.

Wendy Meddour

covers wendy quill
covers wendy quill

The original title of 'Wendy Quill is a Crocodile's Bottom' was 'Wendy Quill gets a little bit Famous'. But Oxford University Press thought title of my first chapter was funnier. And I agreed.

But it's a bit embarrassing when I have to go and stage at Award Ceremonies and they say: 'Wendy Quill is a Crocodile's Bottom.' I feel like shrugging my shoulders and saying: 'Yes, I am.'

And my little boy said: 'I'm only giving you 4 stars our of 5 because you've used a rude word on the cover.' So there you go. That told me :)

More tales of book titles in February - stay tuned! And a huge thanks to all the writers who helped me with this blog post. You are superstars!

Yours in books,

Sarah XXX

This blog post first appeared on the Girls Heart Books website -

5 Tips - How to Write a Winning Book Blurb

Books are nothing without readers. There are many ways that readers are encouraged to pick up a book in a bookshop or library, or to purchase a book on-line. Catchy or memorable titles are vital. Book covers are also very important. If a book looks attractive and interesting, a customer will pick it up. What do they do then? They turn it over and read the jacket copy or blurb. The blurb is the short description on the back of the book. Sometimes there is also a tag line or shout line on the front or back cover, plus some quotes from reviewers or from other writers.

Here is an example of a shout line, taken from one of my own books: Ask Amy Green: Dancing Daze. The book is for readers of age 10+.

Ask Amy Green: Any problem solved!

And here is the blurb:

Dancing dilemmas . . .

Mills’s ballerina sister has just landed the role of a lifetime – but something is very wrong with the young star.

A worried Mills begs best friend Amy for help. How can Amy refuse, even though she has big problems of her own to solve? Luckily, Clover is happy to lend a hand.

And saving dancing divas is all in a day’s work for the intrepid twosome.


There’s also a quote from Cathy Cassidy: ‘A fab and funny read.’

Here’s the blurb of another one of my books, an adult novel this time called The Memory Box (out in September in paperback):

Pandora Schuster is about to turn thirty but that’s the least of her worries. She’s just been tested for a hereditary cancer gene and, expecting the worst, is desperate for her ex-boyfriend and father of nine-year-old Iris to be a part of her daughter’s life.

However there are two major problems: Olivier Huppert lives in Paris and he has no idea that Iris even exists. Pandora tries to find Olivier during her Parisian birthday weekend but it all ends in disaster.

Pandora is determined for Iris to know the truth about her handsome, charismatic father. So she creates a memory box filled with photos, letters and mementoes of the magical time she spent in Paris with Olivier.

But when the past and the present start to collide, Pandora finds herself having to choose between her head and her heart . . .

And the shout line:

Can you ever really forget your first love?

My Latest Book
My Latest Book

Hopefully both my blurbs (and shout lines) tell the potential reader something about the book and make them want to find out more.

So how do you write a really great blurb? Here are some tips:

1/ Read the blurbs of lots of other books that are similar (in genre/age group) to yours. Look at their length and style. Note any that are particularly good and study how they are written.

2/ Keep it short and sweet. You need to draw the reader in quickly and hold their attention. Use key words like ‘secret’, ‘mystery’, ‘betrayal’, ‘revenge’, ‘magic’ to whet a reader’s appetite.

3/ You don’t need to describe the whole plot in the blurb, just give the reader an idea of what the book is about and the main character or characters. Keep your blurb simple yet interesting.

4/ The blurb should be written in a similar voice to the book. If it’s a comedy, the blurb needs to reflect this.

5/ If the book has a strong theme, bring this out in the blurb. Is your book about first love, the enduring bonds of friendship, or betrayal? Is it ‘a deeply moving story of family and friendship’ (from the blurb of A Thousand Splendid Suns), or ‘a deeply affecting coming-of-age story’ (from the blurb of The Perks of Being a Wallflower)?

5/ Remember to edit the blurb carefully. There’s nothing as off-putting as spelling mistakes in a blurb.

Sarah Kettle, Creative Copywriter with Puffin explains how to write a blurb – "read a manuscript, note down words and quotes with instant appeal, atmosphere, an air of mystery, a sense of character, a sense of place and put the all together in a coherent and exciting way. So that whoever picks up the book reads the blurb and thinks ‘I must read this book. I must have this book in my life. To the till we shall go. Immediately.’"

Best of luck writing your blurb!

Yours in writing,

Sarah XXX

Social Media for Writers - What You Need to Know

Social media can be a minefield for writers. Seen by publishers as a cheap, convenient and effective way for writers to communicate with their readers, it makes many writers new to the medium very nervous. Which is better - Facebook or Twitter?

How often should I post or tweet?

What exactly should I be posting or tweeting about?

I spoke to Cormac Kinsella, publicity director of Repforce Ireland for his opinion. (And thanks to Cormac for his time and expertise!)

He said:

Enjoy social media for it's own sake.

Don't just tweet and post when you have a book out.

Engage with other people on social media.

Offer something - share information, links and observations.

Post/tweet about things that you are interested in.

(Books, writing, movies, music . . . whatever you are passionate about and would like to share with others.)

Don't use use it for self-promotion.

He recommended following @nadineoregan @eithneshortall @sineadgleeson and @guardianbooks to see how it's done.

And you can follow Cormac himself here - @cormackinsella

I find a lot of children's book writers and picture book makers use Facebook more than Twitter. Teen readers love Facebook and are not so interested in Twitter. Adults who are interested in children's books are generally on both. Some people post hourly, others post daily or even weekly. As long as you don't bore people, it's completely up to you. Do try to avoid the 'Had eggs for breakfast' type of posts/tweets, unless you are eating them in Paris or they are ostrich eggs!

I have two Facebook pages - one for my Ask Amy Green readers - and one for my adult readers. I also use Twitter - @sarahwebbishere. I dip and out of both daily and find it's a great way to chat to readers, find out book news, and share information and ideas with the wider book community.

Maybe you will enjoy it too. Try it and see. You can always delete your account if it's not for you.

Yours in writing,

Sarah XXX

A Map of My Writing Day

I've been writing this 'Yours in Writing' blog for many years now, and I would like to thank all of you for the fantastic feedback and regular comments both here and on Facebook and Twitter. It means a lot to me. To say thank you, I'd like to address some topics that YOU have asked me to cover. The first - and yes, probably the easiest - is my writing routine. When do I write? How many words? Computer or long hand?

Over the next few weeks I will tackle the other questions I've recently been asked - on planning books, getting published for teenagers, what editors are looking for right now and other subjects. If there is something that you would like me to cover, you only have to ask.

So - my writing routine. And thanks to Claire Hennessy for the question, a very experienced writer herself.


Here's a map of my writing day:

7am  Rise (groggily) and get the kids to school.

8.30am  Get home and start thinking about what I have to do today.

Potter around the house avoiding work, 'tidying', opening mail, checking emails, Twitter and Facebook (terrible I know but best to get it over with early I find so I can get on with my morning! Twitter and Facebook are big distractions but also great fun and I dip in and out during the afternoon when I'm doing my emails and admin etc).

9.30  Walk - think about my current book while doing so (or that's the idea - it doesn't always work out that way - somametimes I end up chatting to my mum or a friend while walking - which is also nice!).

10.30am  Switch off my mobile and take the phone off the hook - my writing computer does not have the internet - which is a Godsend! Sit down at my desk.

Stare into space for a while.

Stare into space some more.

10.45am  Start writing.

I write straight onto my computer (I'm a fairly fast and accurate touch typist) but I do also write a lot of early plot notes/character notes in yellow notebooks. Yes, always yellow!

1.00pm  Collect my son or if he's in after school, stay writing until 2pm.

I aim to write about 2,000 words a day - that's my natural limit. Anything more than that is a bonus but if I don't reach my target I don't beat myself up about it. I write as often as I can, every day if possible - that way it's easier to jump straight back into the story. Otherwise I have to re-read what I've been writing and it slows the process down. Sometimes I stop writing in the middle of a sentence or a thought - I find it easier to pick up the thread of the story that way. It's probaby a bit nuts, but whatever gets you through, right?

In 15 years of writing (10 of those full time) I have always written something when I've sat down at my desk. Even if I'm not feeling great or am having a horrible day/week/month I still manage to write a page or two. I have NEVER left my desk without getting something down.

In the afternoon I deal with my emails (I hate email but it's a necessary evil), answer phone calls, write my blogs (I have two, this one and one on my Amy Green website and also blog for Girls Heart Books), do my event programming and check in with my Facebook and Twitter friends. I also update my website and write any reviews, articles or other bits of writing I've been asked to do.

I also used to work three or four evenings a week, but recently I have stopped this. I'm not as productive as I used to be but it gives me more time to spend with my family.

And that, my friends, is my writing day! I am very blessed to be able to write full time and I would like to thank my readers for making it possible.

Yours in writing,

Sarah XXX

It's Not Enough to Write a Brilliant Book - You Also Need This

What Do Readers Want From Their Writers These Days? The answer is – as well as a brilliant book - connection!

Once upon a time you could write a book, then sit back and relax. You might get a few letters in the post from readers and you’d answer them in your own good time.

But things have changed - it’s not enough to write a brilliant book anymore, readers want more. They have high expectations. They expect at the very least a website, complete with some way of contacting the writer directly through a message board, forum or email address. If you are also active on Facebook and Twitter this is a bonus. They want to connect with writers, talk to them about their books, and ask questions; sometimes they just want to say ‘hi’.

But how do writers cope with all this extra ‘work’ on top of their writing commitment? At the Patrick Hardy Lecture recently bestselling teen and tween author, Cathy Cassidy spoke about this issue. She gets over 150 emails a day from her readers and responds to them all. That’s a huge time and energy commitment.

‘I get more e-mails now than when I was an agony aunt,’ she said. ‘They don’t all need to be answered immediately but it’s a lot and it’s growing all the time.’

‘I appreciate the input from children and their feedback,’ she added. ‘They share their life with you and ask for your feedback and there may not be other processes available for them to do that.’

Like Cathy, I get emails from children every day, in much smaller quantities however (I have no idea how she deals with 150 a day!). And like Cathy I try to answer one of them honestly and thoughtfully. Yes, it takes time, but if someone has made the effort to write to me, they deserve an answer. And as Cathy says, there may not be another outlet for them. And it’s not hard for people to find me.

Each of my Ask Amy Green books (for age 10+) has details of my Amy Green website –, plus my direct email address – and Amy Green Facebook page. As I also write for adults (plus younger children) I also have my own website for my other books – the website hosting this blog - and an adult Facebook page and Twitter account @sarahwebbishere. I have two blogs, one on the Ask Amy Green website and this one. I also blog on the Girls Heart Books collective website once a month. If you google Sarah Webb, you’ll find me!

Luckily I like social networking, I’m a chatty, open kind of person and I’m happy to share some of my thoughts on-line. And I genuinely enjoy meeting readers, in real life, or via email or Facebook messages. It makes me feel more connected to the ‘real’ world, whatever that is! After hours sitting at my desk, I like reading what people have been up to via Facebook or Twitter.

Social networking is also great for running competitions and for letting readers know about book events and festivals. It’s revolutionised the reader/writer relationship. Yes, writers have to work hard to answer all the messages, deal with all the requests, but it’s a small price to pay for all the benefits.

I limit the time I spend on Facebook and Twitter to first thing in the morning, and late afternoon, when I have my writing done, which I think is important. Otherwise large chunks of time could be chewed up and writing is my number one priority.

If you’re a writer, how accessible are you to your readers? If they google you, can they find you? Or does the very thought give you the heebie jeebies? If so, you may want to think again!

Here is an older post for writers about Facebook, Twitter, blogs and websites. And there's a useful piece on setting up a blog here by Michelle Maloney-King.

Yours in writing,

Sarah XXX