Monday 30 November 2009

Eleanor Farjeon Awards 2009 - David Fickling's Big Idea

There was such a dearth of reportage about this year's Eleanor Farjeon Award which was held on the 17th of November that I thought I would make a bit of noise about it.

For those of you who have not been paying attention - this is the award generously sponsored by the estate of Eleanor Farjeon (pictured right) given for distinguished service to the world of children's books.

Authors have won it ...notably Philip Pullman, Jacquelyn Wilson, Malorie Blackman, Michael Rosen, Shirley Hughes - all individuals easily referred to as 'National Treasure'. Other winners are more obscure  - librarians, literacy campaigners, people who are passionate about reading. But national treasures, nonetheless.

Indeed, this year's winner is Moira Arthur who spent 31 years in library supply, specialising in children's books (Had to nick this photo of Moira with Jacquelyn Wilson from the Peter's website, my photos at the awards weren't good enough to put up!).

Please make sure to read about Moira and other nominees at the end of this post. These people are the heartbeat of children's literacy - and people like us, who want to write for children, should give credit where credit is due.

The guest speaker was David Fickling (my publisher!) - who had a very interesting proposition to the great and good of children's publishing assembled at the awards. Here he is, outlining the problem - that individuals and large corporations get rich on children's publishing while the institutions that create the culture that supports them suffers from a lack of funds -

David: "Non-readers form a very good anti-literacy rump, an anti-intellectual rump in our own society. If you come out of school and say 'I don't like books', you then VOTE against books. And you don't think libraries have any point whatsoever. 'We hate books' turns into 'What's the point?'"

And here is his big idea:

If you can't see the video, watch it on YouTube

Bestsellers funding Literacy? 

We can only wait and see if any publishers care to take the idea and run with it.

This year's nominees:

Moira Arthur has spent 31 years in library supply – specialising in children’s books. She has been instrumental in developing Peters into the largest children’s library supplier in the UK. Her extensive knowledge of children’s books and libraries allowed her to develop the highly successful Romread, Peters Bookselling Services’ book review and order service on CD-Rom. In 2005 Romread was superseded by PetraNet and this gave customers, worldwide, access to the full range of children’s stockholding via the web.

IBBY’s founder, Jella Lepman, believed that books could build bridges of understanding and peace between people. Because of this strongly held belief, she created IBBY as an international organization that would bring children together by means of books. Fifty-six years later IBBY has seventy-two national sections that still work towards building bridges of understanding. The wars are still raging and children are still the victims. IBBY believe that every child has the right to become a reader and see this as a fundamental right and the doorway to empowerment for every child. As an organization IBBY believe that children who are suffering from natural disaster, displacement, war and its aftermath, desperately need books and stories as well as food, shelter, clothing and medicines. IBBY's programme of workshops and children in crisis projects around the world all work towards this goal.

Anne Marley’s day job is Head of the Children’s, Youth and Schools Library Service in Hampshire. She also manages the Branford Boase Award (set up with Julia Eccleshare) for first time writers and the Henrietta Branford Writing competition for young people, now in its 10th anniversary year. In addition, she organises the Wessex Children’s Book Festival. Her love of Children’s literature has seen her act as chair of several societies and groups including the Children's Book Circle, the Youth Libraries Group and CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Awards. Her wonderful work extends overseas also. In 2002, she was involved in persuading P & O Cruises to freight out 4,000 new children’s books to St Lucia and raising £6,000 for the libraries to spend on new books. She has also visited Kazakhstan and Trinidad and Tobago, working for the British Council, trying to improve the provision of books and school libraries in those countries.

Gill and John McLay
Gill McLay works alongside her husband John as an International Literary Scout for several European Children’s Book Publishers. After studying Marketing and Publishing at Oxford Brookes University, Gill began her publishing career at a small book publisher in London. She joined independent children’s book publisher Barefoot Books in Bath in 2000. Then in 2003, she joined Egmont Books overseeing key accounts including W H Smiths, Ottakars and latterly Waterstone’s Booksellers. Gill became a director of the Bath Festival of Children’s Literature in 2007 and oversees an extensive programme of author events in Schools throughout the South West region. Gill also organises the children’s publishing
seminars for London Bookfair each Spring and runs a course at Bath Spa University sponsored by NAWE for authors on running events for children and working in schools.

John McLay is an international literary scout for children’s and young adult books, working with some of the biggest children’s publishers throughout the world advising them on the best books to acquire and translate. He began his career at the BBC in London and after several years as a bookseller for Waterstone’s, he joined Puffin Books where he edited Puffin Post magazine for the Puffin Book Club. He then became an editor at children’s book packager Working Partners and helped launch series as Animal Ark, Rainbow Magic andPuppy Patrol. He set up the non-profit making Bath Festival of Children’s Literature in 2007 with his wife, Gill. The largest independent book festival dedicated solely to children’s books, the 10-day ‘The Bath Kids Lit Fest’ has just completed a record-breaking third year and has quickly become established in the children’s publishing calendar. John is also an anthologist, reviewer and lecturer on ‘Contemporary Children’s Publishing’ at Bath Spa University on their MA in Writing For Young People.

The Unicorn Theatre is the national flagship theatre for children and young people in the UK. It is the only purpose-built theatre for young people in the capital. In addition to the theatre’s own award-winning plays, they present the best regional, national and international theatre for young audiences. Integral to their programme is a multi-layered participatory, education and youth programme. All their work emphasises the vital role that theatre and the arts play in enriching children’s learning. Opened in December 2005, the Unicorn warmly welcomes families and schools to their two theatres, education studio, rehearsal studio and cafĂ©. A permanent acting ensemble is at the heart of both their stage and audience outreach work. The oldest professional theatre for children in the UK, the Unicorn was founded in 1947 by Caryl Jenner whose unique vision inspire the building of this flagship theatre.

The Reading Agency is an independent charity with a mission to inspire more people to read more. They believe that reading changes lives, and that everyone should have an equal chance to become a reader. They specialise in spreading reading by working with public libraries, and run some big national reading programmes and partnerships. For children and young people these include the huge Summer Reading Challenge (involving 690,000 children a year); Chatterbooks reading groups, – a teenage reading website, and a new publisher/library partnership scheme called Children’s Reading Partners.

Ros Bartlett is Assistant Head at The Earls High School, Halesowen, but as a volunteer, joined The Federation of Children’s Book Groups eleven years ago. Previously she acted as chair but in her current role she supports the work of 32 Children’s Book Groups all over the country, as well as encouraging new groups to be set up. All of Ros’s efforts have been concerned with encouraging young people’s enthusiasm for reading. She recognised that getting young people to read meant that you had to read to them, no matter the age, and it is this interaction which supports children on their reading journey. In 1998, with a small group of volunteers, Ros established the Dudley Children’s Book Group which aims to bring a whole community together, from children to grandparents, writers to librarians. Ros encapsulates the wonderful contribution that can be made by an individual and represents the work of thousands of other volunteers dedicated to the promotion of getting young people reading.

Saturday 28 November 2009

SCBWI Conference 2009: How We Live Now Part One

When I first started trying to get published, a friend gave me the worst advice in the world:
"Whatever you do, don't show your work to anyone!"
The novel was buried under an avalanche of rejections of course. Two years of not showing my work to anyone! What a big waste of time! Realizing that  I had much to learn, I joined the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and attended my first conference.

That was 2003. Six years later, here I am at the conference but there's a difference. It's not just that I've finally, extraordinarily got a book deal ... but this has been a bumper year for SCBWI with so many of its loyal members finally scoring publication deals. There is joy and a whole lotta hope as you can see from these highlights:

I have to start with a video, just because author Sue Eves' (The Quiety Woman and the Noisy Dog) school visit demonstration was such a delight (and oh, god, what a hard act to follow!). Note to self: enrol in clown school to prepare for new world of School Visits ...

If you can't see the video go straight to YouTube to view it.

This was part of a lively talk about Getting Your Work Out There  - with Fiona Dunbar (who also gave a talk about writing trilogies) and Cliff McNish (who gave a talk on how there were only five plots in the world of story). Here are all three looking very demure just after their talk:

Of course we didn't see much of Winchester because we spent all our time indoors ... but SCBWI's Mister Intrepid, Paolo Romeo, got this shot the night before we retired to our classrooms:

Aww. Now we know what we were missing while we were indoors.

Nevertheless, it was all go at the conference - here are Ben and Addy selling SCBWI badges that made declarations like "Make Every Word Count" and "I heart Kids Books".

The badge extravaganza inspired me to create my own (well, it was something Ben said, actually):

I have censored it out of fear of what my Mum would say if she saw it ... but it's a fitting message to all the procrastinators (me included) out there.

This year we had a lot of mini events - artfully crafted to coincide with coffee breaks to reduce traffic! Here's author Lee Weatherly (who just sold a YA fantasy trilogy to Usborne - a first!) delivering a synopsis workshop - in 15 MINUTES!

Faster, Lee! Faaaster!

Part of the nefarious traffic control scheme (concocted by organizer Margaret Carey), included a Lucky Dip, in which our Lucky Dip was Oxford University Press commissioning editor Jasmine Richards (I am pictured schmoozing Jasmine below). Dippers got a chance to pitch to Jasmine who said yes, send it, or no thank you. I hear that some people got very Lucky indeed.

I attended Steve Hartley's talk about designing characters following a Jungian model. Apparently, you can divide personalities into four - Analyticals, Drivers, Expressives, and Amiables. It's the kind of talk improved by doing impressions - and yes, Steve, despite denying it, I think you can do a Billy Connolly impression. Here's Steve demonstrating what an Expressive looks like:

It was a fab conference and there's so much to write but I'll leave it there for now - haven't even mentioned Meg Rosoff's hilarious speech and Gillian McClure's wonderful pictures!

If you want a more sensible report of the conference, do visit Sue Hyam's blog.

But I promise I shall be back with more!

Saturday 14 November 2009

My Book Deal - thrilled to be moving from one roller coaster to another!

So. It has happened. I've got a book deal! On June 2010, TALL STORY is going to become a real book with real pages and a cover and a publisher!

And not just any publisher, David Fickling Books!

AND not just David Fickling, but something very important to me - a publisher in my native Philippines in the form of RayVi Sunico!


When I started trying to write novels NINE years ago, I thought, how hard can it be? I was a journalist writing hundreds of words a day. Surely children's fiction wouldn't be that hard. It would be great fun! I was a bit like a kid getting on a ride at a funfair.

I had no idea it was going to be like this:

And like this:

And like this:

A lot of the time, it was more painful than fun. But it was still fun enough to keep going.

And finally getting a contract is like, well, changing the ride.

Going off into another unknown!

Up and up and up!

Am I ready for what lies ahead?

Well at the moment, it's all looking good!

But there's a lot of hard work up ahead! The stakes are suddenly higher.

And I must remind myself why I write.

I must remind myself that beyond getting published, the reason I write is because I love it.

Reason enough to keep going.

Thank you to the hundreds of emails and wow, what a buzz that was on Facebook and on the SCBWI message board and in the Philippines, oh, the Philippine flag was waving!

It really, really is beyond fantastic!

Monday 9 November 2009

The X Factor, Rejections and Other Visitations

Another shock exit on the X-Factor.

I have a morbid fascination for the programme. The process is not dissimilar to the whole submission-rejection mangle that writers must suffer.
Simon Cowell: "They're going to lose anyway."

Rejecting editor: "They're not going to sell anyway."
Oh the pain.

Meanwhile, one of my regulars, Hugo (10) has produced this image of me working at my desk:

Me working at my desk by Hugo. Click on the image to view a bigger version.

I've added in arrows to draw your attention to Hugo's eye for detail and sense of humour. The poster above my desk reads 'Keep Calm and Carry On'. His version reads: 'Keep scared and Freak Out'. He draws himself pointing an accusing finger at me and saying, "YOU TWITTER." Wow. I feel guilty already. He notices that I am not wearing any shoes and I appear to be humming with pleasure as I pound at the keyboard.

Thank you, Hugs. Very well observed.

What my desk actually looks like.

Meanwhile another of my young friends has been busy.

Naissa (10), whose parents happen to be acrobats, has just written and illustrated a novel! She spent the summer in Brazil (where the parents were busy wowing Brazilians) and wrote YUKIM. The hero (from whom the book gets its title) sets off on a magical journey with his companion, a doormouse named Domonic. Naissa's mum tells me she was much inspired by the Christopher Paolini book, Bresinger.

Well done, Naissa! (And well done, Christopher Paolini!)

Friday 6 November 2009

John Green is Doing NanoWriMo!

... and John says:
"Nanowrimo forces the writer to be disciplined and gives the writer permission to SUCK!"

If you can't see the video go to YouTube

Monday 2 November 2009

A Return to Shamelessly Promoting my Writing Friends

Time for one of those apologies.

Yeah. I've been neglecting the blog. I've kind of been busy looking at this:

And this:

Yes, it was sunny in Cornwall. Yes, this was taken in October. Climate change, wouldn't you know? And that climate change anthology Under the Weather featuring my story is now available on Amazon! But that's another blog post ...

As a result, I've neglected an opportunity to shamelessly promote the successes of my friends (what else is a blog for but to shout on behalf of your cohorts?).

Anyway, my friend Steve Hartley recently treated me to a proof copy of his first Danny Baker Record Breaker book (out in January) - with this brilliant dedication:

I don't think I am the world's best web designer, but hey, I'm a dab hand at Photoshop ... check out Steve all decked out in Leonardo di Caprio's body:

and posing with his hero, Gromit:

Check out Steve's website to see him in the bodies of John Cleese, William Tell and Russell Crowe

And then of course I should have been shamelessly promoting the launch of a TV series based on my friend Fiona Dunbar's wonderful Lulu Baker trilogy. Conveniently, an advance screening was held just up the road from my house and so I took my gang along to watch. Here's a picture of Fiona with my girls:

And here's Fiona with the lovely cast (note, the lady on the floor is Chizzi Akudolu who plays the fairy godmother - someone to watch: such a funny woman!)

My gang, by the way, are hardened followers of Fiona's books. They enjoyed the screening massively but were dismayed to discover that Fiona's carefully crafted baddy Varaminta (gold-digger and author of the deliciously titled bestseller Thin Like Me), had been converted from wicked-stepmother-to-end-all-stepmothers to a loveable wrongheaded marshmallow with a different hairdo per episode.

So much so they cornered the actress (she's the one at far right in the pic of Fiona with the cast) and demanded to know WHY VARAMINTA WASN'T BAD ANYMORE? The actress (I foolishly forgot to write down her name, for which, sorry!) was very accommodating and kindly explained that Fiona's trilogy had a beginning, middle and an end whereas the TV series would have to carry on and the character had to be reimagined for that purpose (as an author I was secretly chuffed to see they were so attached to the book!)

After the show, Fiona was mobbed, mobbed! for autographs! Wow!

I suppose one could call it, Fiona's Madonna moment ..

Glory! Fame!

And now they've reissued the books with new covers based on the series! OMG.

Way to go!

(Well, I've got a way to go ... but you guys are definitely on the right track!)

Jinx's first episode aired on CBBC on 31st October, Halloween at 10.30am. If you're based in the UK, you can view it again on the BBC iplayer - episode 1 Baker House Blend and episode 2 Dead and Butter Pudding  (the Halloween episode is great!)

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