Magic Feathers

by henandinkblots

I was hugely honoured to be the very first writer to join Erzsi’s coop here at Hen&ink, and the story of how it happened is a magical one indeed.

Actually, the first part of the story is the stuff that Misery Lit is made of. A three-book deal with a major UK publisher went sour after my editor left and my books received no marketing support. If this part of my life had a title it would be something like, ‘Please Publisher, No!’ or ‘A Writer Called It.’ But I went away and licked my wounds and continued to write. And run writing workshops for young people. Which led to me writing my first novel for young people; a novel made up entirely of emails, called Dear Dylan.

As my previous agent only represented writers for adults I sent Dear Dylan off to a handful of children’s agents. They all sent it back, most of them expressing concerns that the email format was ‘too risky’. I then sent it directly to a publisher and was offered a two-book deal within a fortnight. The commissioning editor commented on how refreshing it was to receive something so different and if another agent sent her a book about a wizard she was going to scream! Aha, I hear you cry, this is the part where my story turns from Misery Lit to Hollywood happy ever after. Not quite – after all, I hadn’t met Erzsi yet…

As soon as I was sent a contract from the publisher it became blatantly obvious that they were taking advantage of the fact that I was acting sans agent. Thankfully I had contracts from my four previous books to compare it with but the whole thing left a very bad taste in my mouth. I was so disillusioned with publishers by this point that I withdrew my book and decided to self-publish. Dear Dylan came out in April 2010 and, thanks to the wonderful network of YA bloggers, it was soon causing a bit of an online buzz. Emboldened by the lovely reviews it was receiving, I decided to enter Dear Dylan into a national book award. I knew that most awards didn’t accept self-published books but I thought, what the hell, it’s worth a try.

A couple of weeks later I received an email telling me that Dear Dylan had been accepted into the competition. A couple of months later, I received an email telling me that it had been long-listed. I was so excited I had to go and have a little jig around the toilet at work! In September last year I learnt that Dear Dylan had made it to the shortlist of six books. The other five were by writers I hugely respect and all from major publishing houses. That, to me, was as good as winning. This time I didn’t just jig around the toilet – I whooped and hollered too!

The night of the award ceremony arrived. I was so sure I hadn’t won I didn’t even bring anyone with me. When the host called my name I assumed I’d come sixth. It was only when she presented me with a beautiful award that it finally hit home. My self-published book had won a national award!

The next day it was as if the whole world had gone crazy. Literary agents were actually contacting me – including some of those who had turned down Dear Dylan in the first place. I had great fun returning the favour! And then I received an email from Erzsi. She explained that she was just about to set up her own literary agency (having dreamt of doing so for years) and would I be interested in being her very first writer. It was as if the paths of our dreams had crossed with her email and I loved the idea of helping each other make those dreams come true.

Since signing up with Erzsi at Hen&ink I haven’t looked back. She took Dear Dylan to auction in the UK and I ended up with a two book deal with Egmont. French and German rights have also been sold and she has several film companies considering my work. Being a Hen&ink author is a wonderful experience. As Erzsi’s coop has grown she has encouraged a real feeling of camaraderie amongst her ‘chicks’ – as well as a wealth of hen puns. It really has been clucking marvellous!

— Siobhan Curham

Siobhan Curham is an experienced writer and respected writing coach. As a freelance writer she has contributed to SHE, Daily Express, Bella, That’s Life, Pregnancy and Birth, Mother & Baby, Cosmopolitan, Chat, Daily  Mirror, The Mail on Sunday, with self-help articles being her specialty.  Siobhan currently works as a story deviser and commissioning editor for Hothouse Fiction. Her first novel for young adults Dear Dylan was winner of the YoungMinds Book Award 2010 and she has just finished a second novel for young adults. Visit her at: www.siobhancurham.co.uk