Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Henley Literary Festival - running on empty!

Why does the petrol light always go on when you are in a bit of a rush? And why is it that I’m always in a bit of a rush anyway? Well it did, and so it was that I drove in a mild state of panic to Bix Manor – a rather lovely llama-inhabited (seriously, this is my serious face) 17th century brick and flint barn – for the Henley Literary Festival's ‘From Blog to Book’ event. Two celebrated bloggers Maggy Woodley and Helen McGinn were there to talk the audience through how their enormously popular blogs jumped off the screen and into the covers of real-world books.

From Blog to Book

Maggy Woodley is the author of Red Ted Art - Cute and Easy Crafts for Kids. And boy, she knows how to ‘upcycle’. The book gives the reader inspiration and practical tips on how to get down and dirty with kids as they craft everything from lavender wands to salt dough beads. Sections cover Halloween and Christmas, paper crafts, edible goodies, sewing and everything in between. Many of the crafts are environmentally friendly and fall into the ‘thrifty’ category too.

Helen McGinn meanwhile made it quite clear her talents lie closer to the wine cellar than the sewing box. A former supermarket wine buyer her unpretentious blog has now become The Knackered Mother’s Wine Club: Everything you need to know about wine and much, much more. The book gives golden-rules and tips on wine buying bypassing sniffy snobbery and industry jargon. Helen also writes a column in the Daily Mail and appears on Alan Titchmarsh Show giving advice on how to choose that perfect bottle.

So how exactly did these passions end up published?

The two lovely bloggers turned authors

The easy way
Helen’s blog started after a ‘light bulb moment’ while googling breastfeeding advice. She happened upon a blog that helped her in an entirely new way and she didn’t feel intimidated or overwhelmed – unlike official sources of advice she had previously struggled with. And that’s when it hit her – choosing wine could be just as scary for the uninitiated. So instead of just passing her knowledge onto friends and family in a weekly email, she started to blog about which bottles she was buying. Pretty soon the Knackered Mother’s Wine Club had attracted a legion of fans – and even had one fan give up a less-than-fulfilling day job and open up a wine bar! It wasn’t long before her blog caught the eye of a publisher. Six months later her book was written (using comments on her blog as a guide to what readers wanted to know).

And what if you are hoping to follow in her footsteps? Helen advises that you write on a topic you feel passionately about (for her they’ll always be more wine to try…) and find a good online community to support you (she recommends Britmums). And then, just maybe, a book might be born!

The not-so-easy way
For Maggy Woodley, Her Red Ted Art blog began as a way to relive her happy childhood memories of crafting with her own children. She found being creative also gave her the extra outlet many Stay At Home Mums need to recharge their batteries. As her blog grew in popularity she found she was often asked to review craft books – and it wasn’t long before she knew she wanted to pen one herself. After building up her ‘blogging CV’ with pieces in the national press and creating a dedicated social media presence on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook, her perseverance paid off and a publisher said yes it had been considering her as a potential author. From there she nabbed herself an agent, used the blog to see which crafts were most popular and those that people were generally more apprehensive about and set about putting her passion into publication.

Looking back, Maggie realises she had tremendous support from her family and feels she’s found the perfect way to integrate what is now her job with her family. Her children are included in her crafting – and appear throughout the pages of her book. For her, the personal connection and identity a blog makes is the all important factor for getting the book deal – because it’s that sparkle that will make the title shine out from the bookshelf.

Do you have a book inside you that’s fighting to get out? And what kind of blog do you think would make a best seller? Comments below please!


  1. Great upsum! Good to see you there. What a lovely day we had at Bix! Both Maggy and Helen were very inspirational. We might not all be as successful as them, but it is nice to see where all this blogging could lead.

    1. Yes, I enjoyed the fact us local bloggers were there alongside these tremendously successful ones. I do feel inspired!!

  2. I love reading about women who have done great things - so inspiring just like your bloggers. It would be great to read interviews with successful women who've set up their own businesses. There must be thousands out there that we could all learn something from - what mistakes did they make along the way and how did they overcome them?
    Or how to look ten years younger, yes I admit I am a little vain and the years (and previous lifestyle!) are catching me up but I'd love someone to guinea pig a load of treatments from the obscure to commercial and give an honest verdict.
    I'd also like to know how to get rich quick (suspect most of those schemes don't work but maybe one does!).....I'd read all of those blogs! Diana

    1. Oooo, great ideas - I will think about how to incorporate some of those into the blog...
      Thanks for commenting.