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Meet Twister.

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It is a big deal when you first get to hold your book in your hands. It is a product of sheer, bloody hard work and determination. It symbolises some of the happiest moments I’ve ever had and some of the darkest ones too. It is sitting in front of me because along the way, people and organisations – such as the amazing Scottish Book Trust, took the time to help, train, support and cheer me on. And, of course, I was lucky enough to find my creative champion, Polly Nolan – without her, this book would still be a stack of loose pages I’d be jotting shopping lists down on.

Thanks to Scholastic and the fabulous Lauren Fortune, the editing process was an enjoyable one where I learned so much. (If I’d known how much work was involved I might have given up at the first hurdle.) Writing books is not for the faint hearted.

I can’t believe something that has rattled around my head for years has been illustrated in such a beautiful and vibrant way. Ever the art director, I LOVE the typeface! A huge thanks to the designer, Sean Williams, and to the artist and printmaker, Alexis Snell.

Twister launches on 1st February. Here is a link to a terrific review that made my heart sing and me ready to start the whole process all over again for my next novel.

http://www.thebookbag.co.uk/reviews/index.php?title=Twister_by_Juliette_Forrest

 

Homegrown authors are the hottest properties in print.

A huge thank you to The Scottish Book Trust and the Daily Mail for this fantastic article. I can’t tell you how chuffed I am to be in it, but also to be alongside such an amazing bunch of writers. I know I wouldn’t be in this position had it not been for the support of the Book Trust who are a lifeline for writers in Scotland. Twister launches on 1st February, so I’ll be posting all the latest news here. I think 2018 is going to be an extraordinary year.

The beginner’s guide to copywriting

It was my absolute pleasure to talk to Ladies, Design and Wine about copywriting in September. Ladies, Design and Wine is a fabulous opportunity for women to meet up, network, support each other and share valuable skills in Glasgow. I only wish there had been a group like this when I was starting out – females working in creative departments in the early nineties were extremely rare creatures.

We crammed a heck of a lot into one evening: brand values, tone of voice, standing out from the crowd, engaging with your audience and converting readers into customers. Plus my top tips, which come from nearly 30 years working in advertising. (Trust me, they’re simple yet guaranteed to work.)

I felt so fired up after the talk, it got me thinking – perhaps I could help others out there? Are you self-employed and struggling with what you should be saying about your company, product or service? Could a few of you in the office do with brushing up on your copywriting skills? Even if it’s just for a morning, I’m available for hire, so please do get in touch for a chat.

Never work with children or animals.

 

Having spent my career toiling away in advertising this well-known saying was always muttered on TV shoots that involved children or animals or both. I’ve had the pleasure of working with unnaturally gregarious children who chose to turn into statues on the big day and dogs that decided to exit stage centre after watering the set. Don’t even ask about the donkey. It quickly became apparent in the land of TV commercials that no matter how prepared you were, something reassuringly always went wrong. Which is the clear message I’m getting from The Working In Schools Industry Lab I’m attending at the moment: expect the unexpected and you’ll do just fine.

I’ve gone back to school. Well, sort of. I’m fortunate enough to have been chosen by The Scottish Book Trust to do this amazing – if slightly terrifying course. At some point in the future, I’d love to run workshops for kids and I’m so glad to have been able to hear all about it straight from the mouths of teachers, authors, librarians and staff at the Book Trust. The sharing of knowledge has been extremely generous, the tips vital and the pitfalls highly entertaining. But as children’s writer, Lari Don said: it’s not about you, it’s all about the kids. And if you’ve managed to fire up their imaginations then the rewards know no bounds.

 

 

The wonderful world of Brahma beer and Fram oil filters.

I’m clearly not the only one beginning to find GIFs annoying. Now it’s hard to get through the day without seeing permanently twitching cats or a horrendous car smash replaying over and over again. Thank goodness I’m such a technophobe, I wouldn’t have a clue how to attach one here, so for now this will be a GIF-free zone. Except for the ad below. It’s excellent. Excellent. Excellent. OK, I’ll stop right there.

How I love Jonathan Banks – I think he’s got to be one of my favourite actors. You’ll recognise him from Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. He’s now starring in Fran oil filter ads as ‘Frampa’ and teaching a new generation of DIY enthusiasts to do right by their car. And just when I was thinking I’ve not seen a decent TV ad in ages. Watch out for their strapline, it’s catchy.

Catching Barbara Cartland on top of Salman Rushdie.

 

It’s not always possible to do the work you want to do with your existing clients. The copywriter I used to work with (the wonderful Ali Taylor) had the inspired idea of creating some ads for Eddie’s in Argyle Market. It was less of a store and more piles of books. We approached Eddie to ask him if we could run the ads in the local paper. When we mentioned it wouldn’t cost him a thing, he enquired as to what the catch was. There was none. We wanted to do some good ads and our account handler (the lovely Amanda Anderson) managed to blag some free media space. When we went back to see Eddie a few weeks later, we received a warm welcome from him and some free books. His phone hadn’t stopped ringing since the ads were published. A very happy ending indeed.

 

The Next Chapter Award.

I’d circled the release date of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine in my calendar. Gail Honeyman won The Next Chapter Award from The Scottish Book Trust in 2014. She received a bursary, mentorship and time away at a writing retreat. Her manuscript was snapped up after a bid at the Frankfurt Book Fair and Reese Witherspoon recently bought the film rights. Eleanor Oliphant is off to Hollywood.

I was dubious about Eleanor’s character at first, she’s awkward and unable to connect with the people around her. This is where Gail’s genius lies because by the end of the novel you care so deeply about Eleanor, you miss not having her in your life anymore. Eleanor Oliphant is one of those books that will make me a better writer for reading it.

The Next Chapter award is open to those who are forty or over. It supports emerging poets, novelists and children’s authors who find the time and space to work challenging. To find out when The Next Chapter Award 2018 is open for entry go to www.scottishbooktrust.com

 

The Guardian Readers’ Travel Writing Competition.

I was runner-up in this competition a few years back with a piece I wrote about a holiday in Cheval Blanc. From what I can remember I had a brilliant time despite being with my family.

 

Holiday with your parents when you are in your forties and you run the risk of upsetting the owner of your French gîtes.

On arrival, my brother and I stepped out of the car to hear Madame exclaim, “les enfants?” with extreme disappointment. It was only later when we discovered a myriad of toys, dolls and chocolate animals that we realised pauvre Madame had expected us to be thirty years younger than we actually were.

Our home for the next two weeks was nestled on the edge of Luberon National Park, near the tranquil village of Cheval Blanc in Vaucluse.

The garden was vast and bursting with wildlife. Red Kites soared majestically on thermals, exquisitely-patterned lizards decorated stone walls like object d’art, red squirrels clattered through the trees scattering pine cones in their wake and giant electric blue dragonflies hunted wood wasps with military-like precision.

Being intrepid explorers my Dad and I undertook several of the well mapped out trails through the park. We searched for wild herbs up impossibly steep slopes which quite literally took our breath away. Whilst we stopped to wheeze under trees, local octogenarians would casually cycle past us and wave, completely sweat free.

Our holiday became a quest to find the finest of foods and like pigs on the hunt for truffles we unearthed many a delicacy from the bustling local market in historically-rich Cavaillon. Runny cheeses, fit to burst cherries, celeriac rémoulade, religieuses, lavender cordial, delicate poppy macaroons, obese olives, hearty wild boar sausages, soft pork rillettes, garlic bulbs which looked like they would fail a steroid test, still twitching seafood, buttery madeleines and ripe musky melons were all gleefully stuffed into our bags.

The search for great wines took us up to the dizzying heights of Bonnieux where we discovered Cave de Bonnieux and its award-winning selections. We also popped into Château Val Joanis in Pertuis for a rousing ramble round its scent-laden gardens before sampling some of the château’s very own treasure trove of wines.

An outing to Fontaine-de-Vaucluse swept us past several tacky stalls to a 230 metre-high cliff which was the towering source of the beautiful emerald green River Sorgue.

We became horribly lost in Lourmarin looking for the grave of Albert Camus which meant we had to drive past a sombre funeral procession four times, each time sinking lower and lower into our seats until just our hats were visible to the mourners.

All of us delighted in the coquettishness of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, which was full of art galleries, designer clothes shops and a thriving café culture for the chic. It was here amongst the fashionistas, I noticed Mum and Dad wearing socks with their sandals.

Saying goodbye to our holiday home was a very unhappy occasion, almost as sad as my parents having their lavender honey confiscated at Marseille airport. Not to worry, I suspect we’ll be heading back en famille for another indulgent holiday soon.

 

 

 

 

Reykjavik. UNESCO City of Literature.

 

I’m just back from a visit to Iceland. And just to be clear, the country not the supermarket.

Reykjavik is a UNESCO City of Literature; the first non-native English speaking city to receive this. Get chatting to the locals and it’s clear that literary heritage is at the core of the nation’s identity. As well as being home to some of the world’s most important medieval literature there’s a buzzing contemporary scene.

On a trip to the Golden Circle, Jonas Hallgrimsson’s home was pointed out to me, tucked away in the almost lunar landscape. He wrote Independent People which won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1955. Outsiders view it as a grim tale of Icelandic life, however I was assured Icelanders find it darkly humorous.

There are so many events that take place, I can’t possibly mention them all. You can download free apps for different genres of guided literary walks around the city. There is also a writing retreat which attracts people in from all over the world. The prices in Iceland are purse-pillaging, so it’s handy to know they do a bursary. You can find out more details about the retreat at www.icelandwritersretreat.com

And keep your eyes peeled for the Harpa Concert Hall. Although it caused outrage being built during the financial collapse in 2008 (Iceland is still trying to recover from this) it is an astonishing piece of architecture.

Harpa