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One Year On

A year ago my life changed. That sounds a bit dramatic, so let me explain: last January, the 9th, to be exact, my debut novel Tree Magic was published by the lovely team at Impress Books.

I instantly became a best-selling author and am now rich, famous and respected, with my work translated into 35 languages.

OK, I may be exaggerating (slightly – you know me). But my life did change in many unexpected ways, most of which were positive, so I thought I’d brighten up this dull January day with a post to remind myself what a wonderful year 2017 was for the writer in me.

I won’t dwell on how it felt to become published: you can read about this in my post here, if you’re interested. Suffice to say I was overjoyed. What I am going to tell you about are all the unexpected spin-offs that came from being a published author.

The scariest part of 2017 was turning from a writing hermit into a public figure. I was invited to speak on the local radio, where I ended up doing 3 shows because the interviewer was interested in short stories as well as in Tree Magic. I was horribly nervous beforehand, but doing it made me realise that I could overcome my fear of not knowing what to say.

It also gave me more confidence for my talks at Le Kairn bookshop in the Pyrenees, the Angers English library, the Charroux bilingual literary festival and the Segora competition presentation day.

OK, I was just as nervous beforehand, but I discovered that once I was standing in front of the audience, everything was fine. People are so friendly and ready to laugh! Each talk I gave was a little different, but the theme – the lessons I learnt along my route to publication – remained the same.

More enjoyable than the talks was the workshop I gave on writing for Young Adults (YA). Despite my threats of nasty punishments, the participants seemed to enjoy it.

In July, I was invited to speak on a panel at the Young Adult Literature Convention (YALC) at the Olympia in London. With a microphone. This was the most difficult public event for me, the only one I was paid for, and the one at which I learnt the most.

It was at the Olympia that I learnt what a Green Room was. The email from the organisers told me to go to there on arrival, but when I looked around the exhibition floor the Green Room was nowhere to be found. I ended up at the information desk, where the girls explained that it’s a code name for the private room where the authors can relax away from the crushing crowds of fans (not that anyone actually had this particular problem). How silly did I feel?

The highlight from YALC, apart from meeting lots of interesting authors, bloggers, agents and publicists, was helping out at the Waterstones cash desk. I received some strange looks at first, when I had to peer at the unfamiliar British coins people gave me. I was so chuffed when I actually sold my own book to a stranger.

I could say that YALC disillusioned me too. It was here that I realised that getting published was not the height of success. It was simply the opening of a door into the professional side of the book world. Publishing is a business. Like in any business, the focus is on the commercial aspect of the product rather than on the artistic love of playing with words and structure.

Tree Magic received some amazing reviews. It was a real boost to read these and know that someone had ‘got’ your message.

But my favourites were the emails, photos and private messages I received from readers to whom Tree Magic meant something special. I also loved hearing people’s stories about trees when they came to get their books signed. I could write a book from all those anecdotes!

The highlight of my year was an invitation to do a writing residency in the Pyrenees, the place where my current novel is set. I found the perfect balance between writing, researching, blogging about the residency and being introduced to interesting people. I was so sad to leave, and my return to everyday life was difficult.

It was from reading those writing residency posts that an editor from the Writers & Artists Yearbook contacted me and asked me to write a piece for their 35 000 newsletter readers. I was so flattered! You can read my piece here.

2017 was my first foray into video too. Popular Facebook vlogger / teacher, Doreen Doily, featured Tree Magic on one of her video posts, and I even attempted a vlog myself.

Perhaps it was my publisher’s pity at seeing me play with pretend-books that led them to announce soon after the publication of the ebook that they had decided to print a paperback version too. That was a champagne moment.

It led to publicity campaigns, such as Books on the Underground, and invitations for guest blogs. I started to take part in Twitter chat shows, such as the convivial #SundayYA, which is fun and informative. My publicist also told me it made my book eligible for prizes.

Prizes: my naïve eyes were opened here too. Prizes are a marketing tool, and I was shocked to see how much publishers have to pay to take part. I soon learnt that to be eligible for many prizes, you have to live in the UK (and have your book distributed to Waterstones). Which I don’t. It’s a real disadvantage for an author to live outside the UK because you can’t take part in panels and book launches so easily either. I now understand why literary agents have rejected me for this very reason.

The proudest moment of the year had to be the shortlisting of my story Big Bones in the coveted Bath Short Story Award and its inclusion in their anthology. I had great fun at the launch evening, where I discovered the amazing Mr B’s bookshop in Bath. It’s like a dream home, with floor to ceiling bookshelves in every room. Talking of short story publications, my Segora prizewinning short story from 2016, Quark Soup, was also published in the French Literary Review.

I’m sure there were missed opportunities during the year. I met my dream agent, one who loves nature and wildlife, only to hear him tell me that he wished I’d sent him the manuscript for Tree Magic before it was published, as it was exactly the kind of book he liked. I also met the CEO of The Woodland Trust at a book talk, just as I had to leave the event.

Of course there were negative sides to the year, not least of which was that I was exhausted by November. In addition, I struggled with Twitter. No matter how happy you are, when you see other people’s successes you can feel inadequate and even dissatisfied. Success is ethereal, and your life-changing news is forgotten within hours of it being announced. This has been a lesson to me, one I often remind myself about.

People tell you not to give up your day job when you’re an author. I would second this. In fact, I may have to find an extra job to pay for all the travel and accommodation expenses I’ve run up through taking part in events!

My first year as a published author may be over, but the spin-offs are continuing into 2018. For example, a French high school has decided to study Tree Magic, so I will be working with a class of 36 teenagers. I have been invited to judge a short story competition and lead a tree-themed writing workshop in France; and I may be participating at some literary and tree events in the UK this summer.

Most importantly, I am back at my desk, hiding in the safety of my house and writing my next novel. Writing may be less dazzling than publicity, but it’s the part I love, the part that makes me laugh and cry on a daily basis. If 2018 brings nothing but a year of writing, I will still count myself lucky.

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Competition for National Tree Week

It’s National Tree Week in the UK from 25th November to 3rd December. This initiative is run by The Tree Council, who are organising lots of tree events all over the UK.

My publisher, Impress Books, has added its support and is holding a Tree Magic competition via the Love Books Group blog. There will be prizes!

Check out Love Books Twitter account here to find out more tomorrow, 25th November. The competition will run until Sunday 3rd December 2017.

Good luck!

 

Love Books Group review of Tree Magic

Goodness! I’m blown away by this amazing review of Tree Magic by the award-winning book blogging website ‘Love Books Group’. Thanks so much to Kimberly Livingston, who obviously enjoyed the read. Receiving feedback like this makes the hard work worthwhile.

Love Books Group

Today, Kimberly is here with her guest book review of Tree Magic by Harriet Springbett.
We received a copy of Tree Magic from Impress Books in exchange for a free and honest opinion.

pasted image 0 (1).pngBook Synopsis

Thirteen-year-old Rainbow discovers she can communicate with trees. But that’s just the beginning. Her magic hands can shape trees at her will, but her gift is dangerous and has fatal consequences. An accident that leaves Rainbow unconscious leads her mother to make a confession that will change Rainbow’s life forever. Are her abilities a gift or a curse? Can Rainbow really trust her mother? From England to France, through secrets, fears and parallel worlds, Rainbow’s journey to understand her powers takes her beyond everything she’s ever known. To find the truth, she must also find herself

The Review 

There are good debut novels and then there are incredible debut novels, and Tree Magic by Harriet…

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Location, Locution author interview

The Displaced Nation is a website that explores how it feels to live away from your country of birth – and I’d almost forgotten that I was interviewed by one of its columnists earlier this year.
The interview, which focuses on the importance of setting, has just been published.
Many thanks to Tracey Warr for the beautiful page design.

The Displaced Nation

Tracey Warr is back with her latest interview guest, Harriet Springbett, an Englishwoman who is now rooted in south-western France and has seen her creative life blossom as a result.

Greetings, Displaced Nationers. My guest this month is Harriet Springbett, an English writer who lives in the Poitou-Charentes region of France with her French husband and their dual-nationality teenage daughters.

Harriet grew up in West Dorset. She qualified as a manufacturing engineer before discovering she preferred people to machines and words to numbers. It was the mid-1990s, and she thought about applying for an MA in creative writing, a degree that was rare at the time, but her boyfriend was French and she ended up moving to France to study French for a year at the Université de Pau. As she writes in one of her blog posts: “I finally opted for love in an exotic setting.”…

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Twilight in the Pyrenees

Writing Residency Day 7:

What have Transylvania and the Pyrenees got in common?

It’s easy to find an answer, but can you find my answer? Admit it, you’re struggling, aren’t you?

The answer is Dracula: vampires (hence this post title), although unfortunately not of the Robert Pattinson variety.

Of course, Dracula is no more indigenous to the Pyrenees than marmots and granite, but this summer, from 25th July to 6th August, you will find the Prince of Shadows at Gavarnie.

The theatre company Fébus have been producing outdoor plays with the Gavarnie cirque as a backdrop for 10 years, including Le Cid and Beauty & the Beast.

This year, they’re preparing their own version of Bram Stoker’s novel with their 12 actors, and I was lucky enough to be party to one of their preparation meetings. This involved the costumes, which Véronique Strub has been in charge of for the last 5 years.

If you’ve followed my writing residency posts, you’ll know that Véronique and her assistant Caroline are on a residency here at the Maison des Arts with me. This means that instead of writing in my room in the company of my mountain, I can be distracted and learn all about costume making instead. For a future story, of course. Everything counts as work when you’re a writer.

I was astonished by the rail of clothes already installed, particularly by the flowery frock. I expressed my surprise to Caroline.

“That’s Dracula’s summer dress,” she said.

And I knew we would get on well together. (I was later told that the dresses had just been stocked there in transit for some sale).

Today’s meeting was with Fébus production & admin boss, Anne-Lise. On the table were the sketches Véronique and Caroline had produced so far, and they proceeded to explain their ideas to Anne-Lise.

Caroline has costume-making qualifications, and told me, as she modified her sketches in line with the discussion, that drawing was an important part of her course.

Véronique has done a huge amount of research, including collecting Balkan costumes on Pinterest and visiting the scene of the play so she knows how close the audience will be. This is vital for dimension decisions.

She has, of course, read Bram Stoker’s novel, concentrating on descriptions of the characters and their clothing. She even pulled out a Dracula picture book at one point during the meeting.

I was surprised to see to what extent the costumes were designed according to the physical build and the personalities of the actors. One character is new, added by scriptwriter and director Bruno Spiesser, and it was obvious that this made it more difficult to create a costume for her.

Bruno’s script was to hand, as was a summary of each act, showing who was on stage for each scene. As I listened, I realised that not only the physique but also the physical actions of each actor must be taken into consideration for the design.

For example, the vampires, who have to crawl on the ground at one point, have knee protections incorporated in their leggings. And the material covering their arms must be solid enough to take the weight of the wing supports.

Even the colour of Dracula’s climbing rope posed a problem, as its fluorescent colours didn’t match the décor.

Other parameters to be taken into account include the lighting, since a spotlight on a distinctive part of a costume can help the audience understand what’s happening.

Most surprising of all – yet completely logical, having heard the discussion – was how the style of costume has to correspond to the style of any music the actors play.

All in all, I realised how important it is for the costume makers to be involved with all parts of a play, from music to décor to the stage movements. With a fabric budget of 3000€ and three experienced costume makers working from now until 25th July, the visual side of the show, at least, looks promising.

If you fancy seeing the show, contact www.festival-gavarnie.com. There’s even a shuttle bus from Pau laid on for those who reserve in advance.

 

 

 

 

 

It was all very well sitting indoors with sewing machines and mannequins, but outside it was 30°C and the air smelt of newly-cut hay. I left the seamstresses and went to walk and think of writerly things in the shade of the forest above the little village of Sireix.

Since Eole and his sheep weren’t around, I took the opportunity to admire some beautiful trees, some curious insects, an interesting man-made feature – and some rare flowers, thanks to a botanical group I bumped into.

 

See you tomorrow for the final day of my writing residency.

 

 

Storgy review of Tree Magic

I feel honoured to see a review of Tree Magic featured in the literary journal ‘Storgy’ today – especially such a well written, thoughtful and positive review. Many thanks to the reviewer, Alice Kouzmenko, to Storgy and to my wonderful publicist at Impress Books, Sarah Sleath (and of course to my producer, the sound engineers and… ha ha!)

Think of Tree Magic as a tree. A great big oak, or a fir, or the beech at the end of your garden that gave you the scar on your knee. Look at its leaves and branches, and you will find a story about a young girl, Rainbow, who discovers she can communicate with trees. Dig deeper and you’ll find the roots of the story. For Harriet Springbett’s first novel is about more than a girl with magic powers. It is about a young girl struggling to reinvent herself. It follows Rainbow’s journey between England and France, her dramatic changes in appearances, her attempt to piece together a broken family, and all the people she meets along the way.

I am not one for fantasy novels. So, when I read the blurb for this book, I was initially sceptical about the prospect of reading about a girl with magic hands…

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P is for Paul

You may remember that my short story ‘Three Goddesses’ was published in a competition anthology called ‘Cat Tales’. Here’s a taster of the story, posted on Curtis Bausse’s blog as part of his A-Z Blogging challenge. All proceeds from Cat Tales go to charity.

curtisbaussebooks

harriet1

Well, yesterday was a mix of outside and inside, but this one’s very much inside. In fact it stays on the sofa all the time, where Paul is in the company of two cats and Caroline, divine creatures all. And Three Goddesses is the title of Harriet Springbett’s story in Cat Tales, the anthology drawn from last year’s Book a Break short story competition.

But believe me, a lot can happen on a sofa. Why, I’ve seen Sam and Sam get up to all sorts of mischief, but I’d better not go into that here. Paul and Caroline have only just met, so the sofa activity goes no further than coffee, cigarettes and cats.

Paul perched on the edge of Catharine’s leather sofa. A ball of striped fur with two heads reclined on the armchair opposite him. He stared at it, puzzling where one cat ended and the…

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