January wrap-up: A month in the life of a kidlit editor

1024 576 Writer and the Wolf Editorial

Life and work

It’s been so nice to get back into the swing of things this month and it feels like business might be slowly starting to return to some sort of normal after a strange 2021. I’ve had a pretty constant influx of enquires and manuscripts and next month is looking super busy with editing, coaching and speaking engagements. I finished my year-long fiction writing programme with Golden Egg Academy in December and it’s been nice getting my evenings back but now the terrifying query process starts with my middle grade contemporary novel. See, authors, I really do know what you’re going through!

Currently reading

  • Perfect Sound Whatever by James Acaster
  • The Ghost of Gosswater by Lucy Strange

MG and YA novels I read this month

1) Rules for Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall

It’s almost a year since Becca went missing. Everyone else has given up searching for her, but her sister, Sara, knows she disappeared while looking for Lucy Gallows. Determined to find her, Sara and her closest friends enter the woods. But something more sinister than ghosts lurks on the road, and not everyone will survive.

2) Wilder Girls by Rory Power (on Kindle)

It’s been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put in quarantine. The Tox turned the students strange and savage, the teachers died off one by one. Cut off from the mainland, the girls don’t dare wander past the school’s fence where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure as the Tox takes; their bodies becoming sick and foreign, things bursting out of them, bits missing.

But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her best friend, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie in the wilderness past the fence. As she digs deeper, she learns disturbing truths about her school and what else is living on Raxter Island. And that the cure might not be a cure at all.

3) Wildspark by Vashti Hardy

A year after the death of her older brother, Prue Haywood’s family is still shattered by grief. But everything changes when a stranger arrives at the farm. A new, incredible technology has been discovered in the city of Medlock, where a secretive guild of inventors have developed a way to capture spirits of the dead in animal-like machines, bringing them back to life. Prue knows that the “Ghost Guild” might hold the key to bringing her brother back, so she seizes the stranger’s offer to join as an apprentice. But to find her brother, she needs to find a wayto get the ghost machines to remember the people they used to be. Yet if Prue succeeds, all of society could come apart.

4) The Collector by K.R. Alexander

‘Never, ever go by the house in the woods…’ Josie recently moved in with her grandmother, who has some strange rules: 1. Never leave your windows open after dark. 2. No dolls in the house. 3. Never, ever go by the house in the woods. When new friend Vanessa invites Josie to hang out, Josie doesn’t question it. Not even when Vanessa takes her into the woods towards the very house that her grandmother had warned her about.

5) In the Key of Code by Aimee Lucido

When twelve-year-old Emmy’s musical family moves to California so her dad can take a job with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, Emmy has never felt more out of tune. But when she ends up in a computer science club, she finds that she can understand code through a language she is familiar with: music. Slowly, Emmy makes friends with Abigail and the two girls start to discover their voices through the programming language of Java. Extraordinarily crafted, the novel begins to incorporate Java’s syntax and concepts as Emmy, and ultimately the reader, learns to think in code. By the end, Emmy doesn’t feel like a wrong note, but like a musician in the world’s most beautiful symphony.

6) Five Things About Ava Andrews by Margaret Dilloway (on Kindle)

Eleven-year-old Ava Andrews has a Technicolor interior with a gray shell. On the inside, she bubbles with ideas and plans. On the outside, everyone except her best friend, Zelia, thinks she doesn’t talk or, worse, is stuck-up. What nobody knows is that Ava has invisible disabilities: anxiety and a heart condition. Ava hopes middle school will be a fresh start, but when Zelia moves across the country and Ava’s Nana Linda pushes her to speak up about social issues, she withdraws further. So Ava is shocked when her writing abilities impress her classmates and they invite her to join their improv group, making up stories onstage. Determined to prove she can control her anxiety, she joins-and discovers a whole new side of herself, and what it means to be on a team.

Craft books I read this month

I didn’t finish any craft books in January but here are the titles I either started or dipped back into (not including books I refer to on a regular basis like The Emotion Thesaurus and Save the Cat!, which the author of this article refers to as ‘wise guides’):

  • Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose
  • Rock Your Revisions by Cathy Yardley

Added to my TBR

  • Good Enough: A Cookbook Embracing the Joys of Imperfection in and out of the Kitchen by Leanne Brown
  • Garlic And Sapphires by Ruth Reichl
  • Dear Reader: The Comfort and Joy of Books by Cathy Rentzenbrink

Books I bought or received

  • The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pop Williams
  • Rock Your Plot by Cathy Yardley
  • Quintessence by Jess Redman
  • The Wild Path by Sarah Baughman
  • Structuring Your Novel by K.M. Weiland

Library loans

(Visits to the library this month = 3)

  • The Cooking Club Detectives by Ewa Jozefkowicz
  • The Shark Caller by Zillah Bethell
  • Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

Films I watched

  • Scream (2022)
  • Red Notice

Articles I liked that you might like too

A reading list for aspiring writers | Spooky Middle Grade

Florida Polk County Schools Pull Raina Telgemeier’s Drama From Shelves | Bleeding Cool

Mystery Writers of America Announces 2022 Edgar Allan Poe Award Nominations | MWA

Amy Lucavics: Setting, Atmosphere, and Creating a Creepy Tone in Horror Fiction | WHSmith

What’s a B-Story? And Why That Love Triangle Doesn’t Cut It | Write On Sisters

Five Tips for Fairy Tale Retellings | Publishing Crawl

Three Reasons to Keep Your Children Away From Spec Fic | Mythcreants

Your turn!

What did you read this month? Please give me your recommendations so I can add to my toppling TBR pile.

The image in this blog are from the gorgeous The Beauty of Horror: A GOREgeous Coloring Book by Alan Robert, coloured in by my fair hand. 

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Siobhan O'Brien Holmes

Siobhan O'Brien Holmes is a developmental editor working with middle grade and YA authors. She specialises in speculative and genre fiction, particularly horror, fantasy, mystery, sci-fi and anything with a dash of magic or macabre. She is a member of the SfEP, EFA, ACES, British Fantasy Society, Horror Writers Association and SCBWI. She has an MA in Novel Writing and an MA in Children's Literature.

All stories by: Siobhan O'Brien Holmes