#MusicTherapyThursday & Narberth Book Fair

To celebrate Narberth Book Fair this Saturday, 23rd September, today’s Music Therapy Thursday song has a Pembrokeshire theme – it’s by Cerys Matthews, who’s originally from that beautiful part of Wales.

‘Orenau i Florida’

Sara’s debut novel ‘Not Thomas’ – a story of child neglect, love and hope, shown through the eyes of five-year-old Tomos – is published by Honno Press in paperback and as an e-book, and is available to buy direct from the publisher, from Amazon and from all good bookshops – and this Saturday is available from Narberth Book Fair too.

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Publication Day for Carol Lovekin’s Snow Sisters

Today is publication day for Carol Lovekin’s second novel, Snow Sisters.

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I loved Carol’s first novel, Ghostbird, and so I’m really looking forward to reading her new offering. It’s received a fabulous review on Being Anne today – read it here. And follow Carol Lovekin’s own blog, Making it Up as I Go Along, to read about her unique take on writing.

Alongside a whole host of other local authors, Carol will be at Narberth Book Fair on Saturday, 23rd September, and she’ll have copies of Snow Sisters for sale, as well as her first novel, Ghostbird.

It’s going to be a great day – hope to see you there! 

Sara x

Sara’s debut novel ‘Not Thomas’ – a story of child neglect, love and hope, shown through the eyes of five-year-old Tomos – is published by Honno Press in paperback and as an e-book, and is available to buy direct from the publisher, from Amazon and from all good bookshops – and this Saturday, from Narberth Book Fair too.cropped-not-thomas-header.jpg

 

 

#WelshWordWednesday & Narberth Book Fair

For ‘Not Thomas’ readers who aren’t familiar with the Welsh language, today’s Welsh words for Wednesday come from page 81 and they’re spoken by Saint, or Dewi, as Ree prefers to calls him.

First is cariad which means ‘love’ and is a general term of endearment. Dewi says to Ree: “Nip to Spar, cariad.” Ree doesn’t like Dewi, so she’s not exactly won over by his use of cariad, but the £20 note he’s waving does get her attention.

Later on Dewi, or Saint, says to Tomos, who’s hiding behind the big black chair: “Dere ‘ma, bach.” 

Dere means ‘come’; ‘ma is short for yma, which means ‘here’; And bach means ‘small’ but in this phrase it’s a term of endearment and could be translated as ‘little one’.

So “Dere ‘ma, bach” translates as “Come here, little one.

Sounds a bit sinister maybe, but Tomos eventually realises that Saint means well – he’s the friendly face of Welsh drug dealing.

Thanks for reading!

Sara x

P.S. Don’t forget Narberth Book Fair this weekend, Saturday 23rd September at the Queen’s Hall, Narberth in beautiful Pembrokeshire. Lots of local authors, plus free entry, free talks, free children’s entertainment and free workshops (but please book for workshops in advance). All details of the day are on the Narberth Book Fair website.

Hope to see you there!

Sara’s debut novel ‘Not Thomas’ – a story of child neglect, love and hope, shown through the eyes of five-year-old Tomos – is published by Honno Press in paperback and as an e-book, and is available to buy direct from the publisher, from Amazon and from all good bookshops – and on Saturday from Narberth Book Fair!

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Ruth Rowland on Creating the Cover for Not Thomas

Lettering artist, Ruth Rowland, explains the thinking behind her emotive design for the cover of Not Thomas on her website today.

As well as designing book covers, Ruth creates logos and designs lettering for TV & film. She also creates lettering for album covers too, and she’s worked with musicians such as – to name just a handful – Bill Wyman, Simple Minds, James Blunt and most thrilling of all for me, Kate Bush.

I absolutely love the cover Ruth has created for ‘Not Thomas’, and the feedback Honno Press and I have had about it has been wonderful.

I’m very grateful to Ruth for capturing the feeling of the book so perfectly. And that connection to Kate Bush –  a singer I listened to on a loop for all those years as I wrote about little Tomos – that’s just the icing on the cake!

Ruth’s website: Ruth Rowland Lettering Artist

Sara’s debut novel ‘Not Thomas’ – a story of child neglect, love and hope, shown through the eyes of a five-year-old boy – is published by Honno Press in paperback and as an e-book, and is available to buy direct from the publisher, from Amazon and from all good bookshops.

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#WelshWordWednesday – Calennig

#WelshWordWednesday

For readers of ‘Not Thomas’ that aren’t familiar with Welsh, the word for today is calennig as found on page 75.

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The lady next door gives Tomos a coin through the gap in the hedge, making him wait while he desperately wants to go and see what’s inside his Santa Sack.

The lady calls the coin ‘calennig‘ and it turns out to be an old fifty pence piece. But no, calennig doesn’t mean a thoroughly useless object, it means a ‘New Year gift’ – its literal meaning is ‘the first day of the month’ – and calennig is supposed to be lucky.

It’s an old Welsh custom which has stood the test of time, and these days some people in Wales still give lucky calennig to children on New Year’s Day – but I’m not sure if Tomos’s calennig brings him too much luck.

Sara’s debut novel Not Thomas – a story of child neglect, love and hope, shown through the eyes of a five-year-old – is published by Honno Press in paperback and as an e-book, and is available to buy direct from the publisher, from Amazon and from all good bookshops.

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Not the Booker at the Halfway Point

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Well, here we are – mid way through the Guardian’s Not the Booker prize process.

Half of the novels on the shortlist have been reviewed by the Guardian’s Sam Jordison so far. ‘Dark Chapter’ by Winnie M Li, ‘The Ludlow Ladies’ Society’ by Ann O’Loughlin and my own, ‘Not Thomas’ have all felt the sting of Sam’s not overly-friendly reviewing skills. They’ve had their turn for comments from members of the reading public too.

As I type, Sam is uploading his review of the fourth novel, ‘The Threat Level Remains Severe’ by Rowena Macdonald, and then that too will be ready for all the comments – positive, negative or indifferent – that readers want to throw at it.

It’s been a fun and odd five weeks for my novel ‘Not Thomas’ since the Guardian’s shortlist was announced.

Although being reviewed first wasn’t the easiest of positions, it has meant that ‘Not Thomas’ has ended up being mentioned in relation to the other books too. And the more it’s mentioned, the more its title gets ‘out there’.

In his review, Sam denounced Tomos as too young to think the way I’ve portrayed him. That’s fair enough – after all, I expect everyone has their own view of what a typical five-year-old is like, and even if we don’t know any right now, we’ve all been one in the past.

Fortunately for me, a few teachers and some other people who work with children came to Tomos’s defence in the comment thread of the ‘Not Thomas’ review, pointing out that at age five children fit into a broad spectrum of abilities.

And even Sam defended ‘Not Thomas’ the other day –  in a very mild way, of course. When someone who hadn’t even read it suggested it was a ‘clunker’, Sam said it wasn’t a clunker and that “Not Tomas (sic) had some good points”. That’s about as much praise as I expect from him. (But note the misspelt title – what little he gives with one hand he takes away with the other!)

There are five more weeks to go before this year’s winner of the Not the Booker prize will be announced.

The live announcement will be made on Monday 16th October. But before that, there’ll be a week of public voting to endure, and along with some of the other finalists, I’ll be attending an event in London where there’ll be debates, readings and Q&A sessions. All good fun – nerve-wracking, nail-biting, good fun.

I’ll be over-dosing on the flower remedy again!

Thanks for reading.

Love,

Sara x

P.S. Have you read any of the books on the shortlist? Let me know what you think of the competition so far.

Sara’s debut novel Not Thomas is published by Honno Press in paperback and as an e-book, and is available to buy direct from the publisher and from Amazon.

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#WelshWordWednesday

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Especially for those readers of Not Thomas who aren’t familiar with Welsh…

Today’s Welsh word (or rather, phrase) is a bit of a weird one because half of it is in English – well, sort of.

On page 74, the lady next door is a little shocked when Tomos pops his head through the hole in the hedge and shouts ‘Hello’ at her. In her surprise, she yells: ‘Yessee mawr!’

‘Mawr’ is the Welsh word for ‘big’ – although here its meaning is more ‘great’.

‘Yessee’ isn’t a Welsh word, at least it’s not written in Welsh in Not Thomas, but many people from Wales, Welsh-speaker or not, will recognise its sound as ‘Iesu’ which is the Welsh name for Jesus.

The lady next door doesn’t like to ‘take the Lord’s name in vain’, and so, like the gran of a friend of mine, insists she’s simply adding some ‘ees’ onto the end of yes. That’s better for the soul, apparently. 

And much easier to read if you’ve never come across the name ‘Iesu’ before.

Thanks for reading – diolch yn fawr!

Sara x

P.S. This is the first Not Thomas #WelshWordWednesday that I’ve put on my blog, but there are others on my Sara Gethin Writer Facebook page. I’ll do a round up of them all here too soon.

Sara’s debut novel Not Thomas is published by Honno Press in paperback and as an e-book, and is available to buy direct from the publisher and from Amazon.

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Ann’s Take on Not the Booker

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I was so delighted to read Ann O’Loughlin’s post ‘Women Write Great Books’ on the wonderful Irish book blog ‘Swirl & Thread‘ today, that I thought I’d share it on my own blog too.

Ann, like me, has a novel shortlisted for the Guardian’s Not the Booker prize 2017. Her novel is set just outside Dublin and is called ‘The Ludlow Ladies’ Society’. I’m reading it at the moment, appropriately enough while on holiday in Ireland, and it’s a good job I am on holiday as I’m finding it hard to put down. I thoroughly recommend it.

So here’s the start of Mairead’s introduction to Ann’s post, with a link to the rest. I hope you enjoy it as much a I did:

“As most of you are now aware The Guardian plays host to the wonderful Not The Booker Prize, since it’s inception in 2009 by journalist Sam Jordison. This is a literary award decided by the reader and it gives opportunity to many authors to access the type of coverage and notoriety…”

Read more on Swirl & Thread

Sara’s debut novel Not Thomas is published by Honno Press in paperback and as an e-book, and is available to buy direct from the publisher or from Amazon.

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Not the Booker Part 2 & Sam’s Scathing Review

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What a week and a bit it’s been!

A lot has happened since I last wrote about my experiences of being on The Guardian’s Not the Booker shortlist. The main new event is that my novel, ‘Not Thomas’, has been reviewed by Sam Jordison, The Guardian’s book club reviewer.

And the review is pretty scathing – which is exactly how I expected it to be

In fact, I’ve spent the whole time between being shortlisted and his review warning my supporters, and especially my family, that Sam’s review would rip my novel to shreds. ‘Surely not?’ they all countered. ‘Believe me,’ I would reply, ‘I’ve been following Not the Booker for a few years now, and it’s not a friendly place to be.’

‘Why then,’ a good friend asked me, ‘did you want anything to do with it in the first place?’

Good question.

‘It’s a brilliant platform,’ I told her. ‘Let a reviewer tear my lovingly crafted novel to pieces – if it means Not Thomas reaches an audience it would never otherwise have had, I’ll gladly let them do it.’

She didn’t quite get it

And I guess it does sound pretty weird. I suppose it’s not the path all writers would choose to go down. I’m sure there are plenty of authors who would rather cut off their fastest typing hand than launch themselves into a less than flattering spotlight.

But when I was nominated for the Not the Booker, I saw it as a huge opportunity I simply couldn’t waste. I knew my novel would attract negative attention. I knew it would receive a harsh review from Sam. I knew many of the comments from the Guardian’s book clubbers would be damning and brutal, but yet…

I also knew that very many people who had read Not Thomas had praised it.

I knew those readers had recommended it to other people, and they’d liked it too. Word-of-mouth was working well for Not T, but word-of-mouth is a slow process. I needed to hurry things up. I’m over fifty and I may never write another book. This was my one, and possibly, only chance at getting my novel out into the big wide world.

What would you do if you were me?

Well, this is what I did as Sara…

Once I knew I was definitely on the Not the Booker longlist, I set about asking those people who’d already read Not Thomas and liked it, to think about giving it one of their votes.

There were very many worthy titles on the list – some of them from writers I knew personally, some from Welsh writers like me, and some from world-famous authors. I felt uncomfortable asking people specifically to vote for my novel, but I wanted to draw their attention to the fact that this particular prize is voted for by the public. And they had two votes, so if they had a spare, they might consider giving it to Not Thomas.

I sent out that message on Facebook and Twitter, and I waited to see what happened

Thankfully, messages of support started coming in. People who’d read Not Thomas wanted to vote for it, but The Guardian’s Not the Booker voting page was proving a nightmare. At the top of the page it promised a ballot paper below, but at the bottom of the page there was no ballot paper to be seen. Nowhere did it say ‘Vote Here’. You had to click on ‘Join the Discussion’ to place your vote. Even then it wasn’t straight forward.

People who typed their review straight into the comment box often found the review disappeared once they clicked ‘submit’

So I wrote a step-by-step guide and pinned it to my Facebook page. I wasn’t directing people to vote for Not Thomas, of course, but setting out guidance generally about how to navigate the voting page. Despite this, a lot of people contacted me to say sadly they’d had to give up.

But thankfully, so many more actually managed to vote. I had wonderful support from a whole range of readers. Two book clubs in my town had read Not T and they voted for it, and they encouraged other people to read it and vote if they liked it too. A fantastic group of on-line book bloggers, who had hosted a Not Thomas blog tour the week before, did the same.

A group of teachers who’d all read Not Thomas voted and shared the news about my Not the Booker nomination on Facebook. They encouraged more teachers to read it too, and to vote for it if they liked it. Family and friends got on board, of course, and very touchingly, people from my home town who’d read Not Thomas contacted me to ask how to vote too.

There are accusations every year in the Not the Booker comments thread about how publishers get their staff to vote for books on the longlist. This sort of mass voting results in reviews that are a rehashing of the book’s blurb

Well, I’ll just say that Not Thomas is published by a tiny, tiny publisher – Honno Welsh Women’s Press based in Aberystwyth. Four people work there, all part time. I had their total support, of course, and five authors who are also published by Honno did a fantastic job of sharing my posts, and reminding people which box took you through to vote on the Guardian page. But mass voting and rehashing book blurb it most certainly was not.

All week long, I sat at my computer replying to the wonderful, and sometimes heartbreaking, comments that Not Thomas readers sent me via Facebook and Twitter. Teachers, foster carers and social workers contacted me, all pleased that the issue of child neglect had been raised by Not Thomas. One message particularly stands out, from a person who said she had been a neglected child, just like Tomos. She thanked me for giving a voice to neglected children everywhere. Through my tears, I wrote and thanked her for her kind comments.

It was a very long and extremely emotional week

As it drew to a close at midnight on Monday, 7th August, the last vote and review for Not Thomas came in at 11.58. It was from my lovely 21-year-old niece. I crawled off to bed, exhausted by the whole process, but hopeful that the wonderful efforts of all the fantastic Not T readers had got the novel through to the next stage.

At lunchtime the next day, my neighbour rang to congratulate me. I was still in bed, totally exhausted by the week’s efforts. I hadn’t yet discovered what he was about to tell me – Not Thomas was not only on the shortlist but had the most votes. It was absolutely amazing.

And I’m so grateful to every single person who took the time and had the perseverance to vote for my novel. It was a massive team effort, and I’m so glad Tomos supporters are part of ‘the journey’. I know it’s a horrible term, but I think it’s the right one here.

There’ll be more updates soon about this Not the Booker experience, but for now the comments are coming in on The Guardian’s page in reply to Sam’s scathing review. You can read them here and comment too, if you wish. There’s no guarantee your comment won’t be ripped to shreds by the Guardian’s book clubbers – just as they’re shredding Not Thomas – but that’s all part of the fun.

That’s the result of stepping into the spotlight – and this month, I wouldn’t want little Tomos to be anywhere else

Thanks for reading my (very long!) post. Please leave a comment if you were part of the huge team effort to get Not Thomas onto the shortlist, or even if you weren’t.

Love,
Sara x

Sara’s debut novel Not Thomas is published by Honno Press in paperback and as an e-book, and is available to buy directly from the publisher or from Amazon.

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