I can’t remember a time when I didn’t dream of being a writer. Childhood diaries declared the intention from a very young age, and even then, I was certain that grown up books would never hold the same appeal as the ones as I was reading at the time. I would be a children’s author.
As I reached adulthood, I still clung to the stories of my youth, but I had acquired some sense, and realised that this wasn’t the most practical career path. Following my degree in English and History, I completed a postgraduate degree in Library and Information Science and began work in that field. But still the stories came. Tales of magic and adventure continued to swirl around my head. I would try to put some of them to paper, but after bold starts they would fade away.
Morgana Mage felt different though. This witch girl who would happily swap what little power she had for a robot. Her story didn’t fade away so easily, and I became determined to get her to the end of it. I decided to apply some of the practicality I had learnt over the years to get her there. I made a plan. She now had a clear path to follow and she got there eventually, through short bursts of writing in the evenings after work and on weekends.
I had reached this stage once before, where I had something like a complete story arc, but it had been left at that. This time I knew this was only where the work began. Now I needed to rewrite it, and rewrite it, and rewrite it again. I was lucky to be in a position to pay for a critique on the first few chapters from the Big Smoke Writing Factory and that set off further redrafts.
Eventually I got to the stage where I felt it was ready to be submitted to agents, though I’m not sure the agents agreed. I had used the Children’s Artists and Writers Yearbook to put together my list of who I wanted to submit to and set out on a rather dispiriting round of rejections. There were a few full manuscript requests that assured me I wasn’t being completely delusional, and some of the rejections from these came with some really useful advice that helped me further develop my work.
There was also another opportunity I had my eye on, the Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition. This is an annual competition open to unpublished and un-agented children’s writers. The prize is a publishing contract from Chicken House. It seemed almost too good to be true, that you could simply send your manuscript in and it might be launched by the publisher of some the best children’s books around. But I had been following the competition from a couple of years, and had watched it happen to others, had seen their books appearing on the shelves. Why not me?
Even I clearly thought it was very improbable for me, given my shock at making the longlist. There was then further disbelief for the shortlist announcement, and then I made my way to London for the reveal of the winner…which was not me. However, while I may not have come away with the prize, getting to that stage had been such an incredible confidence boost, and shortly after I received feedback from the amazing panel of judges, which set out clear ways to improve my book. I got back to work again.
The team in Chicken House had kindly said I could send on a reworked manuscript, so when I felt it was suitably improved I did. I didn’t have any clear expectations doing so, I thought I might be lucky to get some further feedback, so when I heard they were interested in publishing it I was astounded. When the news finally sunk in, I was overjoyed.
If I thought I had been rigorous in my editing and rewrites before, I was soon to learn that had been nothing as I started work with my brilliant editor, Kesia. It was an intense process, but it was easy to stay motivated when I saw how much the book was progressing after each round of edits. Eventually it was something fit to take its place in book shops.
Unfortunately, I’m not sure at this stage when I will get to physically see it in shops, but I have had the thrilling experience of getting to hold my first copy of my book. I know it is real and making its way out into the world. I have started to hear back from early readers, and it is so exciting to have others engaging with the work you have poured you heart into. The dream now is for even one child, somewhere, to feel about this book the way I felt for the books that set me off on this journey.
(c) Amy Bond
About Morgana Mage in the Robotic Age:
Young witch Morgana loves robots and longs to attend robotics school in the city. But as a witch living in a magical woodland community, the closest she comes to technology is petting her ancient mechanical familiar, Kitty. She simply doesn’t belong. But when she finally finds a way to the City, she learns of a troubling secret hiding beneath its gleaming surface: a secret that threatens the balance of civilisation. Caught between two worlds, only Morgana has the power to find a solution …
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