AUTHOR ALLSORTS

A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.

Mo O’Hara: I wanted to be Snoopy

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I wanted to be Snoopy.

I thought that’s what writing was like and that’s what I thought I wanted to be- a lone novelist with an important story to tell.

I would be sat alone on the roof of my doghouse (substitute kitchen table) with my trusty Remington (substitute laptop of course), and my fingers would type, “One dark and stormy night…” My literary masterpiece would pour forth and somehow, somewhere a publisher would find me and ask to share my work with the world.

But… things were not going to plan.

It was hard doing this alone. I looked at my Snoopy master plan and realised what I was missing.

I was missing my Woodstock! My chirpy, supportive companion who kept me going no matter what.

At the time I was a single mom with two small kids and was working from home. Not much in the way of adult interaction and definitely not much potential for a Woodstock in my life.

I had two choices.

1. Get the kids to be my Woodstock. ( They offered to dress up as a Dalmatian or Bob the Builder but the Woodstock thing was not happening)

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(Sorry- gratuitous cute picture of my daughter as a Dalmatian)

2. Get out and meet some fellow writers who might be my Woodstocks.

When I worked in theatre and comedy I loved working with teams of writers and with casts of actors and directors. I had a comedy writing partner for lots of the work I did and flourished in the environment of bouncing ideas around and trying things out in a team. I knew that writing books wasn’t going to be as collaborative in that same way but I needed that bouncing around of creativity in my working life to thrive.

So, my first agent suggested that I join SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators).   I called up Sue, the new member person at SCBWI at the time, and she immediately talked me into going on a SCBWI retreat. It’s the best decision I ever made and I thank Janice (the agent) and Sue to this day for starting me on my journey to find my writing tribe.

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For me, SCBWI gave me the creative forum to bounce ideas around. There were workshops and talks ( that always ended up with drinks in the pub and me rushing home to catch the babysitter in time). There were conferences and socials and most importantly – there were ‘Crit Groups.’

I fell into a fantastic Crit Group of four talented writers. It was the most supportive environment in which to write!   We met monthly so it gave me a much much needed deadline and sometimes we just met up to write next to each other in a library or on the South Bank. They kept me writing when I would have otherwise given up. When I got rejections, was dropped by my agent, or just had a terrible week- they kept me going. They kept me writing.

They were my Woodstocks, but I was also their Woodstock! That was the big reveal on the page turn. It was just as important to be someone else’s Woodstock to their Snoopy, to support them and keep them going. To keep them writing.  It just worked best in a team.

So that’s what I discovered. I needed my people ( or my little yellow non species specific birdlike companions) in order to be a writer that actually wrote anything.

As my career has gone on I have sought out my people in other groups. I am very active in CWISL ( Children’s Writers and Illustrators in South London), I’m still very involved in SCBWI, my agent’s client list are very close and we write together sometimes and of course I’m a member of Author Allsorts!

My whole writing career has been about finding my people I think. And I have found some keepers.

Good luck finding your own group of Woodstocks.

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186Mo O’Hara
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Originally from America, Mo now lives in London with her husband, kids and two mischievous cats. Mo now has six books out in ‘My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish’ series for 7+, published by Macmillan in the UK and Feiwel and Friends in the US. The latest in the series is ‘Jurassic Carp’ which came out in July 2015. Her new picture book with Macmillan comes out in August 2016! It’s a funny, warm take on melded families called ‘More People To Love Me.’ She also wrote six books in the Ladybird series “Puddle the Naughtiest Puppy.” Mo worked as an actress and as a storyteller, touring theatres and schools all across the UK and Ireland. As well as her stories for children Mo has also written for radio and theatre and has performed her own comedy material in London and Edinburgh.

 

 

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This entry was posted on March 21, 2016 by .

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