Sarah Webb was born and lives in Dublin with her partner and young family. She was a children’s bookseller for many years before becoming a full-time writer. Sarah has edited a collection of real-life travel adventures, Travelling Light, in aid of the Kisiizi Hospital in Uganda. In 2007 she·edited and compiled·Mum’s the Word: The Truth About Motherhood, in aid of Cystic Fibrosis research at The National Children’s Hospital, Tallaght. She is a proud contributor to the Open Door series with Behind Closed Doors.
Sarah has written a number of best-selling novels, including Always the Bridesmaid, It Had to Be You and Take a Chance. Sarah still writes women’s fiction but had had phemomenal success with her new Amy Green series for Young Adults (Walker Books).
Here we get privilaged access to the original covering letter that took Amy Green from an idea to a huge hit!
Book Proposal – Amy Green, Teen Agony Queen by Sarah Webb
(This is the actual proposal that was sent out to editors in 2007 – with huge thanks to Sarah Webb for letting us reproduce it.)
Hi, I’m Amy Green and let me explain how I first got into the whole teenage agony aunt business. My crazy aunt, Clover who’s 17, has just landed a job as Agony Aunt on The Goss, Ireland’s best teen mag. But Clover’s not that good with other people’s problems, she has enough of her own, she says. And that’s where I come in . . .
Amy Green is a shy, mild mannered thirteen-year-old by day, but a smart, world-wise agony aunt by night. But when she and her dangerously crazy aunt, Clover, get involved with the real people behind the letters – trying to right all kinds of teenage wrongs – they find themselves in a whole heap of trouble. Amy’s quiet life will never be the same again.
Background to the Amy Green Series
I give a lot of talks to classes of pre-teen and teenage girls about writing and they are always asking me to write something for them. They want to read books that are smart and fun but which deal with real problems like families and boys. They want to laugh, but they also want to cry. They like Jackie Wilson and Meg Cabot but they also want to read about Irish girls. They say their sisters and mums read my adult books, so why can’t I write for their age group? Good question.
I decided to give it a go. The phrase ‘Amy Green, Teen Agony Queen’ literally popped into my head one morning while I was out walking, followed swiftly by the plot of the first book. And then it all just slotted into place, Amy, Clover, Amy’s frazzled mum, Sylvie, her wet but kind stepdad, Dave, the Oh My Goddesses – posh Dublin girls who iron their hair and wear Uggs, the ‘Crombie’ rugger boys – they only wear designer gear, the Emos and the Moshers (like Emos but less gloomy) . . . like a row of dominos falling: click, click, click.
So I’d like to introduce my new friends: Amy Green, and her side kick, Clover, who’s dripping with confidence; the girl we all secretly want to be (mums and teens alike). I hope you’ll grow to like them as much as I do.
I’m prepared to work hard to make the books successful. I enjoy doing school visits and meeting young readers. I love the internet and I’m itching to do an Amy Green website, Bebo page and an agony aunt blog for teens. Just like Amy and Clover Green in fact! Sarah Webb
Before I get too carried away I’d better tell you a bit about the characters and the plot:
Character Notes: Amy Green
Amy Green, 13, is on the small side for her age, with mousey blonde hair that her mum won’t let her highlight, and occasionally spotty skin that begs to be squeezed (although she tries not to)
Clover calls her ‘Beanie’, short for Green Bean
Her parents are separated, both have new partners – Amy finds this difficult to deal with and isn’t all that fond of the new partners on either side
She is highly intelligent, but socially a bit of a disaster
She loves art (especially Georgia O’Keeffe who had a complicated life, just like Amy) and is a little bit in love with her art teacher
She’s prone to introspection and feels hideously out of place most of the time
On a good day she likes to dress a little ‘arty’, on a bad day she just likes to fit in
She hates the ‘Oh My Goddesses’ and their muffin tops and Ugg boots
She also hates the rugger buggers, or ‘Crombies’ as she calls them as they all wear Abercrombie hoodies
She finds it hard to make friends but does have two friends, Sophie and Mills, who leave her out a lot of the time
She likes a boy in her art class, Seth, but he’s obsessed with Rothko, taking photographs of trees and his pet Iguana.
She’s mad about the internet and loves her Bebo page
Amy’s Mum, Sylvie, has just had another baby, Evie, with her new partner, Dave, and doesn’t have much time for Amy
Amy doesn’t like Dave much. She’s not sure exactly why, but he watches far too much Top Gear on You Tube when she wants to use the computer and wears horrible cheap white runners. He’s a nurse in St Vincent’s Hospital which she also finds cringe inducing.
Amy feels left out so she spends a lot of time with her aunt Clover in the shed at the back garden of her Grandparents’ house – this is Clover’s ‘office’ – it was her Mum’s flower arranging shed but she has purloined it for her secret shoe collection and her pink laptop
Amy’s Mum and new partner, Dave, (Amy refuses to call him her stepdad as she says it’s too Cinderella) are a constant embarrassment to Amy – they hold hands in the supermarket, dance around the kitchen and call each other pet names like Lovey-Loo, Pet and Sweetie-Pie
Her real dad, Art, isn’t around much as he’s very tied up with his new wife, Shelly, which Amy finds upsetting, although she never shows it or tells him
Only last week they went to chose a new dog without her, and Amy felt like there was concrete in her stomach when she heard – her dad had promised she could help chose the new dog after their last one died – Amy has never had a dog of her own and now Dave is allergic
Art and Shelly have just got married on the sly and are having a honeymoon baby – Amy is upset and angry about this
Amy’s mum thinks she’s very responsible for her age so she has to babysit baby Evie and her toddler brother, Alex, a lot and she doesn’t even get paid for it!
Unlike Amy, Clover is fearless, reckless and a bit dangerous when she gets going. Sylvie, Amy’s mum and Clover’s sister, says Clover is far too knowing for her age – 17
Like Amy, she’s small, with long white blonde hair (dyed), and an amazing wardrobe
At 17 Clover can do the kinds of things teenage girls can only dream about! Like dress up as a teenager and terrorise the rugger buggers
When she gets into trouble, and this happens a lot, Amy has to bail her out – sometimes literally!
Clover thinks Amy takes life far too seriously and is forever telling her to ‘lighten up, Beanie’ – but she secretly adores Amy and would fight lions for her
Throughout the books Amy gradually finds Clover’s confidence and feistiness rubbing off on her – they forge an extraordinary and touchingly close friendship
I have other ideas for stand alone teenage books – but would also be happy to make Amy Green into a series.
Book 2: Amy Green and the Au Pair Affair
Amy and Clover rescue a Polish au pair from her horrible family
Book 3: Amy Green and the Bridesmaid Blitz
Amy and Clover have to be bridesmaids at Amy’s Mum, Sylvie’s wedding – and are not impressed with Sylvie’s plans so they take matters into their own hands
The first book has 24 chapters and is 45k long. The full manuscript is finished and available to read. Here is the first chapter:
Amy Green, Teen Agony Queen: Boy Trouble
‘Boys!’ Clover taps her pink plastic gel pen against her top teeth, making a hollow rattling noise. ‘They never change. What idiots.’
‘What are we going to tell her?’ I ask, at a total loss. ‘The poor girl.’ I re-read the emails:
To Clover, Agony Aunt, The Goss Magazine
Please help! It’s boy trouble (what else?). I met this guy two weeks ago at a Sinister FM Party Night. Think an Irish Justin Timberlake; swoon. The year ahead of me in school. But I have no idea where I stand. We’ve been to the cinema a couple of times and he texts me a lot. But I’m confused, one minute he’s all over me, the next he’s completely ignoring me. What should I do? Play it cool or play along?
I’m seeing him tonight, please advise.
Anxious in Artane, otherwise know as Wendy. I’m 14 by the way.
I wrote to you yesterday about a boy. Well, today I found out that he’s been spreading all these nasty rumours about me in school. Saying I kiss like a washing machine. I think it’s because I told him to go easy last night. We were in the back row of the cinema and I wanted to see at least a bit of the film.
All the boys in my class are calling me Wendy Whirlpool. I don’t know what to do. It’s making my life a misery. I’m going to fake a sickie tomorrow, but I’ll have to go back into school on Monday.
Please help me, I’m in bits.
Clover stares at the notice board in front of her desk for a moment. I follow her eyes. It’s chocka with all kinds of invitations, to book launches, beauty evenings, fashion shows and parties. My eyes flit past them and rest on the luminous green Sinister FM invitation. You couldn’t miss it. New Band Night, it says. Sounds interesting.
‘Grab that green invitation for me,’ she says.
I pass it to her and she turns it over in her hands. ‘Hey, Beanie, would I pass for a fourteen-year-old?’
I look at her carefully. What’s she up to?
‘Well?’ she asks again.
I bite my inner lip, considering. Clover is on the small side, with the kind of hair you usually find on a Bratz doll. It’s so long she can almost sit on it and when it blows in the wind it sticks to her lip gloss. Clover’s actual hair is real; the colour’s most certainly not. Gramps always says it’ll fall out if she keeps bleaching it, but she just ignores him.
Today she’s wearing a mouse grey Juicy tracksuit teamed with a white sequined vest. Her flip flopped feet are now resting on the large wooden desk; her petal-like toe nails a warm peachy colour. She looks a little too knowing for a fourteen-year-old, too comfortable in her skin. Plus she refuses to wear Ugg boots, says they give her sweaty feet. I think she just wants to show off her neat little toes. I don’t blame her, unlike me and Mum’s, her first two toes aren’t webbed.
I shrug. ‘Maybe. On a dark night.’
‘Oh, it’ll be dark all right.’ She smiles and her china blue eyes twinkle dangerously. ‘I have an idea. We’re not going to let boys get away with behaving like ERs anymore. Let’s get revenge. For Wendy.’ She waves her arms around excitedly. ‘For all teenage girls. But I’m gonna need your help. And your sweaty Yeti boots.’