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Children's book author Alice loves the simplicity of Shooglebox

Children's author Alice Harman is a big fan of Shooglebox, using it to "chuck in" all sorts of information, ideas and research material for the multiple projects she works on at once.


Alice has written 45 published non-fiction books for children, on everything from art to outer space, and has recently started writing fiction. She loves the simplicity and flexibility of Shooglebox: "The thing that I really like about Shooglebox is how you can mix it all in together, so you don't have to think is it a picture or text or a link? You can throw it all in there. Just chuck it in and keep going!"


Alice says in the early stage of a project, when you're coming up with new ideas, it's much better to keep things a bit messy in Shooglebox, instead of sorting things in a spreadsheet or more structured document. And the visual card layout – with the ability to edit the front and backs of cards – makes it easier to explore the material she's saved than the bookmarks she used in the past.


We caught up with Alice to find out how she uses Shooglebox for different aspects of her work...



"I write nonfiction for five to eight-year-olds and eight to 12 plus. When I see something that sparks an idea for a non-fiction book, I'd usually write it up in just a couple of sentences, and maybe a few bullet points, and send it to my agent and say, "What do you think of this?"


"I'll usually send her a few ideas at once, so she'll say "Go with these ones" and then I'll do a bit more research to get to the stage of putting a proposal together. Depending on what it is, I'll do a contents list, then I'd do enough research to actually fill it, and sometimes a couple of sample spreads.


"I am always working on multiple things at once. I've been using Shooglebox for a book proposal. With this book there's quite a lot of big thinking involved - even just in what it covers - because it's looking at big questions and big topics. So I had a bit of research to do just to get my head around what I was going to put in there.


"At the stage when you're coming up with new ideas it sort of has to be a bit messy"

"When I'm putting a new book proposal together I often get little random ideas, or when I'm noodling about on the internet I'll find something that might come in useful. At that stage, when you're just kind of throwing ideas about, you don't want to put it in a spreadsheet. I don't even know what the headings are; I just want a place to keep it. It doesn't really work trying to make it neat yet because you might spend a lot of time putting something neatly in a spreadsheet row and then find you don't use it.


"I think at the stage when you're coming up with new ideas it sort of has to be a bit messy. The thing that I really like about Shooglebox is how you can mix it all in together, so you don't have to think is it a picture or a text or a link? You can throw it all in there! Just chuck it in and keep going.


"I love how you can drop things into boxes so you can have a lot of info but it’s not overwhelming when you look across everything at a glance. I love how you can drop links or files etc into the same box, that it takes different formats.


"Historically I've used bookmarks for this kind of thing but it's not ideal because it's quite tricky to see what they actually are. With the cards and Shooglebox, you can see more what it is and think, "Oh yeah, I remember that...". Sometimes the title is not very helpful and the links in the bookmarks. Shooglebox is more visual.


"I find the colour-coding in Shooglebox super-helpful. I use it for everything. I use it for personal stuff as well. I have different colours so that when I'm looking at all my boxes, I can just hone in on one colour. So I'm only looking through maybe five or 10 boxes rather than 40 or whatever. I have one colour for things related to children's books and another one related to techy stuff like my website and SEOs, stuff like that I'm trying to learn. And then if it's a live project, I've got another color code for that, so I can find it quickly.


"I also use Shooglebox for writing fiction. Just having random thoughts and having somewhere to put them. Obviously I have a main document that I write in, but if I chuck a load of notes in there it gets very messy and it's quite hard to find stuff again. So sometimes if a little phrase pops into my head or a scene or a picture or anything like that I can just pop it in a card. I used to use my notes app which got completely out of control! I had so many notes and it's just quite hard to find them again. If I had one note with it all in that could be quite a lot of text to read through, or if it's all in different notes it's just a bit scattered. So I like having them on individual cards, but in the one box, so I know where it all is in Shooglebox. That's what I find really helpful.


"There are so many different dimensions to being an author. In Shooglebox I've got everything from picture book advice and Instagram advice to articles about writing residency applications and how to run an author visit. There are so many different facets.



"I like its simplicity and I like that it's flexible, but it's also not overwhelming. I've tried using Notion before - the productivity app - and I just find it so overwhelming because I just don't know where to start, whereas I like that Shooglebox has this structure and it's very simple. With Notion you can create tables, you create lists, you could create many databases and there's a part of me that really likes the idea of that. But in reality I have ADHD so sometimes I find things overwhelming if there are a million thoughts coming at me at once because my brain's quite hyperactive anyway. I just need things to be quick and simple because if there are too many stages, I'll probably just give up and scribble it down in a notebook and never find it again!


"The other thing that I also use Shooglebox for is my newsletter. It's mostly about children's books and recommending different children's books with a focus on more inclusive books just because they're quite hard to find when parents are looking for them. I'm always on the lookout for great children's books to read and review. They can come from anywhere - sometimes, someone recommends something or I see it in a bookshop and think I must buy that later, or I'll get an email or see an Instagram post. Again, it's really helpful to have a system with Shooglebox where I can put them without having to manually input data like I would in a Word doc or Excel doc. Like The Guardian's Best Books of the Year - I can just create a card from their list. And I like being able to add notes, such as "There are two really nice books about adoptive families in here", just as a note to myself. When I'm putting a newsletter together, I remember I wanted to read that one. Just having that little space just to be able to kind of write a little note to yourself is really handy."


To find out more about Alice's work visit aliceharman.com




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