Newsletter #June

Getting to know: Mandy Collins

Mandy Collins is a journalist, author and editor based in Johannesburg. She is the author of Partners for Possibility, the story about the organisation by the same name doing groundbreaking work in South African education, two children’s books (one of which was longlisted for the Baobab Prize in 2015), and Dinner time! fast, fuss-free, family-friendly food, a brilliant tool to take away the stress of feeding your family. Dinner time! is published by Clockwork Books. Mandy has also ghost-written a business book and a health and wellness book.

I asked her about being a writer and getting published…

Clockwork: You’re a busy, self-employed mother of two teenagers. How do you find the time and discipline to write for yourself?

Mandy: Quite honestly, most of the time at the moment, I don’t. At one point I was managing a few hours on a Friday morning, but at the moment my own writing has kind of fallen away as I’m working so hard on my day job in order to keep my family fed. Writing books has to remain a hobby for me, unfortunately, so I have to squeeze it in on the side. So I have been known to write at the side of a pool while my kids were having swimming lessons, or in the car park at school, or while waiting for a plane to somewhere. I just kinda snatch the odd 20 minutes when I can. Luckily I write pretty fast.

Clockwork: How does it feel when your hard work is finally in your hands as a physical book?

Mandy: Oh my word – it is the best thing in the world! There’s something about a book that really feels like a body of work. As a working journalist for the last… (well, I’m not going to tell you, because I like to think I’m young) you very soon realise that what you write today will be lining the hamster cage tomorrow. But a book isn’t like that. It’s proper. And you can put it on your bookshelf and look at it every day, and sometimes take it out to sniff the pages… Maybe I should stop talking now.

Clockwork: And finally, for a bit of fun, if I had the authority to give you the day off tomorrow, what would you spend the day doing?

Mandy: Do you have the authority? Could you find out who would give it to you? Because heaven knows I need a day off. If I had that luxury, I would sleep until I woke up. Then I would go out for breakfast, because breakfast is the very best meal of the day. And then I would spend the rest of my day writing and playing music with other people, because that is the most energising thing in the world for me. I might go for a walk. And I’d probably bake something and give it away. I like to practise random acts of baking.

Clockwork Books Recommends:

The Girl with All the Gifts
By M.R. Carey

Not every gift is a blessing and no one knows this better than Melanie. Every morning she waits in her cell until the men come to strap her into her wheelchair and wheel her to class under gun point. She jokes when she tells them she won’t bite, but they don’t laugh. They don’t even crack a smile…

Sarah says: I feel it’s only fair to warn you upfront that this is a zombie book. I don’t usually do zombie books, they’re just not my thing. But this book! It is just the most amazing read – beautifully written, full of surprises, and ultimately a really philosophical take on the nature of humanity. It should carry a warning that you won’t want to put it down once you’ve started. Not many books are unanimously recommended by my book club – we’re a dozen different women with different tastes and very strong opinions on books – but The Girl With All The Gifts was one that every single member loved.

4 formatting tips for submitting your manuscript

  1. Check the publisher’s website for font, font size, line spacing, page size and other layout requirements. At Clockwork Books, we’re not terribly fussy, but we find a straightforward, readily-available font, like Arial or Times New Roman, in about a 12 point size is best. Remember, even if you submit your manuscript digitally, there’s a good chance the publisher will print the manuscript for ease-of-reading.
  2. Number your pages. This is very important! We like to be able to quickly tell how long the manuscript is and where we are at any given time. It also helps us to pinpoint important plot points, transitions and other key milestones.
  3. Include the book title and author name in a header across the whole document.
  4. Be sure to have a lot of white space around your text for note-taking.

When I open a well-formatted manuscript, I approach the text with an already positive mindset. I’m convinced this improves your chances with your chosen publisher!

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