May Wrap-up: A month in the life of a kidlit editor

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Life and work

I just got back from a long bank holiday weekend in Devon and it was totally lovely. Not relaxing, obviously, since I have a five year old but it was super fun and just nice to be somewhere different – especially after having Covid earlier this month and not being able to leave the house. We stayed in a little cottage near the sea and spent lots of time walking, making sandcastles, doing treasure hunts, going on rollercoasters (Caeden and Steve, not me) and eating scones in the scorching sun.

I came home to a bursting inbox including a lovely email from a favourite author I’d just completed a Monster Critique for (💙) and a few new enquiries. I’ve got a busy couple of months coming up edit-wise and then it’s the school summer holidays, so I’ll be packing Caeden off to a few summer clubs and swimming lessons so I can get some work done! Then he’ll be going into year one at school in September which I can’t cope with 😭

I was really sad to miss ChillerCon this year but life got in the way. I did, however, make it there in spirit with a ‘starter guide to kidlit’ brochure in the goody bags and a shiny new advert in the souvenir programmes! While everybody was having fun rubbing shoulders with scary book industry folk, I popped over to MCM Comic Con in London with Caeden and Steve and had a blast. It was my first time there in years and I had so much fun checking out authors’ and artists’ incredible comics and choosing my favourite costumes. Caeden spent most of his time playing Sonic on the Mega Drive but I managed to listen to a couple of talks including one on being neurodiverse in the world of online content creation.

Currently working on

  • I *just* delivered a Cub Report this morning on a gorgeous, warm and funny middle grade about music and finding your voice and have already had a super nice email back from the author. I just love working with lovely, talented people every day! 🤩
  • I’m working on a Monster Critique of a fascinating animal-filled middle grade fantasy

Currently reading

  • Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand | YA horror / dark fantasy (it’s so good and creepy!)

MG and YA novels I read

As awful as Covid was, it did help me get into audiobooks which I’ve struggled with in the past. I was too sick and had too much of a headache to read a physical book but was spending a lot of time in bed and getting, frankly, bored out of my mind. So I gave audiobooks a go and all of a sudden they just clicked for me. I’ve discovered that I need the audio speed at around 1.2x and the narrator has to be really good.

The Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglass | YA horror (I loved this so much, and the two audiobook narrators were fabulous)

Clown in a Cornfield by Adam Cesare | YA horror (this too!)

Clown in a Cornfield book coverQuinn Maybrook and her father have moved to tiny, boring Kettle Springs, to find a fresh start. But what they don’t know is that ever since the Baypen Corn Syrup Factory shut down, Kettle Springs has cracked in half.

On one side are the adults, who are desperate to make Kettle Springs great again, and on the other are the kids, who want to have fun, make prank videos, and get out of Kettle Springs as quick as they can.

Kettle Springs is caught in a battle between old and new, tradition and progress. It’s a fight that looks like it will destroy the town. Until Frendo, the Baypen mascot, a creepy clown in a pork-pie hat, goes homicidal and decides that the only way for Kettle Springs to grow back is to cull the rotten crop of kids who live there now.

Craft books I read this month

I’ve been dipping into The Heroine’s Journey: For Writers, Readers, and Fans of Pop Culture by Gail Carriger which is a fascinating look at story structure and literary tropes. 

Added to my TBR

  • Calling the Spirits: A History of Seances by Lisa Morton
  • Never Say You Can’t Survive by Charlie Jane Anders
  • Hell Followed With Us by Andrew Joseph White

Books I bought or received

Just the complete set of Billy and the Mini Monsters books by Zanna Davidson for my son as a prize for getting 100 stickers on his reward chart!

Films and TV I watched

  • Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrrls (so fabulous and inspiring)
  • James Acaster’s Repertoire (again!)
  • Dead Pixels (hilarious!)
  • Workin’ Moms
  • The Great British Sewing Bee
  • The Midwich Cuckoos 
  • One of Us is Lying 

One of Us is Lying promo shot

Blog posts I published

Articles and newsletters I liked that you might like too

Margot’s Room: an interactive horror story | Emily Carroll (thanks for mentioning this on Twitter, Tanya!)

Andrew Joseph White: On Finding Hope Through Horror | Writer’s Digest

The Difference Between Relatable and Mediocre Heroes | Mythcreants

Every Day is Halloween newsletter | Lisa Morton

    • Lisa talks about one of her early short stories, ‘Sparks Fly Upward’ – a zombie story about a woman’s right to choose – and how it’s been more profitable for her than any of her novels. She’s made the story free to read online because, given its subject matter, it’s sadly more relevant than ever.
    • She gives tips for authors doing live readings, including ‘If there are important plot points that listeners need to know before hearing your excerpt, write a small synopsis to be read before the excerpt.’

The Hot Sheet newsletter | Jane Friedman

    • In the UK in 2021, ebook sales fell to their lowest point in 9 years
    • By the end of May, BookTok authors made up four of the top 10 bestseller spots in the US print book chart
    • Middle grade graphic novels are big in the US right now

Your turn!

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

Thanks so much for reading, lovely writer! Want empowering, feel-good writing chat and fairy dust in your inbox? Plus receive a PDF of my recommended writing craft books for children’s and YA writers (including go-to genre guides and Children’s Lit MA reading list) AND £20 Wolf Credit to spend with me! Sign up today!

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