02 Apr Waiting For Callback by Perdita Cargill
It all kicked off when I stood on a stage, dressed as a spider, and impersonated a carrot and (against the odds) was noticed by an agent for child actors. So, next step decide what to wear to the Oscars? Well no. Think more a succession of mildly humiliating (and largely unsuccessful) auditions in draughty church halls, occasional moments in weird, unpaid student films and my chance to ‘star’ in a real feature film being ruined by an unfortunate and improbable case of mistaken identity. Mostly though, I just developed an unhealthy obsession with the phone (which didn’t ring)…
So we’ve finally had an announcement on our two-book deal with Simon & Schuster, and we wanted to run over to The Nest to cheep and chirp about it, because we’re thrilled. (It was too early to talk about it at The Big Honk, which probably made for the dullest, but at least shortest, speech of the evening).
We (my sixteen year old daughter, Honor, and I) wrote the books together and it was a really happy collaboration. And collaboration is seen as a good thing at Golden Egg, after all a lot of work and heart goes into making sure that authors don’t feel all on their own and unsupported in getting their book finished and out there.
So how did we work together? When we were meeting with different publishers, we got asked a lot about our ‘process’, at which point we’d blush and mumble a bit, because frankly it was all a bit more random than that word implies (lots of scribbling on napkins on holiday and on the back of unread letters from the school sports department).
I started the book ages ago pretty much on my own with Hon providing inspiration – because her brush with the sometimes wonderful, but always weird, world of the drama-kid provided little seeds of truth for some of the cringiest moments – and honesty (she was never one to hold back). Something wasn’t really working though, my tone wasn’t quite there and it wasn’t funny enough, so Honor got more and more involved – not least because she found that working with me on the book stopped me being over involved in the rest of her life. Her teenage voice brought the story to life, we gossiped our way through plot hurdles and wrote and rewrote and rewrote and… well, rewrote (mostly in separate rooms because there are limits to mother/daughter literary bonding). But even with two of us we still needed outside help, lots of it, and there’s a special place in our acknowledgments page for lovely Nicki Marshall. I know she’s taking on more eggs and they’re very lucky. Also she’s very patient – I’m not going to lie, we were really poor at BookMapping…
Then we had more luck because our awesome agent, Hannah Sheppard (DHH Literary Agency, @YA_Books) just happened to be an ex-editor (most recently as Commissioning Editor for YA at Headline). She gave us more help, critique and encouragement, and earlier this year she sent the manuscript out into the wild (we really understand that phrase now – we were terrified!). All of a sudden we had meetings with some brilliant publishers. I’m not sure what we’d expected publishers to be like, I don’t think we’d dared to think that far ahead – intimidating perhaps? But to a man (actually mostly to a woman) they were warm and enthusiastic. It was just very cool and a bit surreal meeting people who’d read and enjoyed our book. We were completely unswayed by the fact that the lovely team at Simon & Schuster also sent us themed cakes…
Okay we were swayed by cake. Basically this whole project was built on fun and carbs. And now Elektra has found her spiritual home there will be more collaboration, more editing, more work, more conversations about how to get Waiting for Callback as good we can possibly get it. We’re very excited about that.
It’s early days for us to give out advice to other writers, but what we would say is enjoy getting help, enjoy that other people are involved with and care about your books, whether they’re experts (lucky eggs) or fellow writers or friends/family around the kitchen table (and then there’s writer/illustrator combinations – masters of collaboration, at least the good ones). Obviously, you don’t have to agree with every single thing that’s being suggested, you know what the heart of your book is better than anyone else – but there’s no question that the advice/help/encouragement/hand-holding we’ve had along the way made our book heaps better, and we’re simply very grateful for it *does a little thank you dance and hands out slices of cake all round*.
Perdita Cargill (@perditact)