Adventures in Writing

I haven’t posted here recently as I’ve been busy finishing a book and delivering it to my editor. And then recovering from finishing a book. And then doing all those tasks that I’d put off until after I’d finished the book. Including anything to do with Christmas.

But I did manage to fit in a few adventures.

Oldham Central Library Oldham Brilliant Books 2014

A warm welcome at Oldham Central Library

In November I went to Oldham for the Brilliant Books Awards. Thanks to Beverley Martin and her wonderful hard-working team at Oldham Council, we had a great day. The event took place in the spacious and inspiring Central Library, which is a fabulous place for any book-lover. Children and young people, teachers and parents, turned out in force. There were workshops and readings for each different age-group, followed by an award ceremony and book signings. Members of the Oldham Coliseum Theatre Young Rep Company performed mini-plays based on each shortlisted book, and then the awards were presented by keen volunteers from the audience who each got to keep a copy of the winning book.

What was so delightful was that lots of the shortlisted authors attended and I think all almost all the winners were there to accept their prize in person. This makes a lasting impression on the children who voted for their favourite books: they’d already met the author in one of the earlier sessions and could chat to them and get their autograph afterwards.

Book signing at Oldham Brilliant Books 2014

Although, sadly, The Mysterious Misadventures of Clemency Wrigglesworth did not win the 9-11 category, it was exciting to find out that the joint winners were Liz Kessler and Rebecca Lisle, who I’d got to know over dinner the night before and had just shared a workshop with. I met all the other fab authors, too, and renewed acquaintance with Helen Docherty. I first ran into her at the 2014 Booktrust Best Books Awards, and this time her brilliant picture book The Snatchabook was a winner!

 

Rebecca Lisle, Liz Kessler, winners Oldham Brilliant Books 2014

Rebecca and Liz with their prizes & prize-winning books

The coldest day of the year so far found me signing book in a pavilion outside(!) Wigwam, a wonderful independent toyshop in Brighton. I was dressed in so many layers I could hardly move, with red berries and a robin on my hat, and with a giant inflatable reindeer for company. I even had a Christmas tree signing pen with irritating/jolly jingle bells attached. Or should that be jolly irritating…?

Julia Lee signing books at Wigwam Toy Shop, Brighton

Last but not least, just before the Christmas holidays really kicked in I was off to the first day of the exciting 21st Century Author Training run by The National Literacy Trust and Author ProfileI tried not to get too distracted by the panoramic views of central London from the 14th floor of a glitzy office block. About 20 children’s authors from far and wide were prised out of our writing garrets/sheds/corners to brush up on our presentation skills and learn how to really engage with young audiences. It’s always good to meet other writers and share ideas, because we all spend far too long on our own with our keyboards and our imaginary friends.

More of this in the New Year.

And more about that new book, too…

 

Reindeer

‘Happy Christmas!’

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The brilliant Best Books Bash

Booktrust Best Book Awards Best Books Bash2014

 

A week ago I was in a very sunny London at The Booktrust Best Books Bash to celebrate this new prize and – da-da-dah! – hear the winners announced. (And, no – sob – it was not me.*)

shortlisted books at the Booktrust Best Book Awards 2014

The 2014 shortlisted books

But it was a fantastic event, hosted by Mel Giedroyc, who was one of the judges for my section, and with lots of starry guests from the world of children’s books.

Michael Morpurgo at the 2014 Booktrust Best Book Awards

Michael Morpurgo at the podium

Yes, I chatted to Michael Morpurgo and stood right next to children’s laureate Malorie Blackman for a whole two minutes. I saw the actual beard of Philip Ardagh live and watched Chris Riddell draw wonders on the art wall.

Liz Pichon at the 2014 Booktrust Best Book Awards drawing wall

Liz Pichon at the drawing wall. Get that sleeve!

Chris Riddell at the Booktrust Best Book Awards 2014 drawing wall

Chris Riddell and others busy with the felt tips

 

 

 

The  Snatchabook drops in!

The Snatchabook drops in!

I also met a number of the other shortlisted authors and illustrators, including Kate Cain and Jonathan Stroud, my UK rivals in the age 9-11 category.

And an amazing total of 307 children and teenagers came to the bash, from a range of participating schools all over the country, while others watched the ceremony live-streamed into their schools.

Drawing wall at Booktrust Best Book Awards 2014 - Julia Lee's Whitby Marvel

My contribution – that’s Whitby Marvel with knitting needles in her hair!

 

 

It was all very thrilling. The children roamed freely, hunting down favourite authors and gathering autographs. As Mel said from the podium of a particularly excited group, ‘I wouldn’t want to be their coach driver on the way home!’

 

Mel Giedroyc at Booktrust Best Book Awards 2014

Mel Giedroyc, our MC.

 

 

Shortlisted author Julia Lee at 2014 Booktrust Best Book Awards 2014

And me!

 

*If you must know, Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck won Best Story Book for 9-11s on the readers’ vote.  

 

The Stockport Children’s Book Award 2014

The Mysterious Misadventures of Clemency Wrigglesworth has been shortlisted for another children’s book award, in Stockport this time. The lovely people who organise the awards sent out questions to all the authors on the list so that they could post the answers on their website.

I don’t know about other authors, but I always enjoy being interviewed about books and writing (especially if I’ve got time to work on the answers!) and the questions asked of children’s writers are generally much more fun than those asked about writing for grown-ups.

Here is what they asked, and what I replied:

What was your inspiration for this book?

The names Gully Potchard and Clemency Wrigglesworth popped into my head from nowhere and I had to explore who they were. They sounded like characters from a children’s book (I was writing for adults at the time) and old fashioned and slightly comical, so that gave me the tone and setting. After that it was fun all the way!

What was your favourite book as a child?

So many but I will opt for the Just William books by Richmal Crompton, because they still make me laugh, and Anna Sewell’s classic Black Beauty, which I read over and over, although it still makes me cry!

What were you like at school?

Very well-behaved and responsible at junior school (a prefect, always in choir and orchestra, dance clubs etc) but this tailed off soon after I went up to ‘big’ school and I was more of a rebel and class comedian.

What advice would you offer to budding writers?

You’re only a writer if you write – having great ideas is the easy bit! Getting them down, shaping them, and finishing is much harder. Daydreaming is good, and so is being bored – believe it or not – it makes you use your imagination. Look at the world around you like an anthropologist, or an alien, and see what you see. Read lots, including books outside your usual comfort zone. I would say that, wouldn’t I?

Can you tell us about any new projects you are working on?

My next book, The Dangerous Discoveries of Gully Potchard, is complete and will be out this August. Now I’m writing a detective story with an unlikely comic heroine, set in the 1920’s, and a historical novel that isn’t funny at all.

What has been your favourite children’s book this year?

Again, so hard to choose. Um…Frost Hollow Hall by Emma Carroll, and Small Change for Stuart by Lissa Evans, although the last one is not brand-new.

 

The Stockport Children’s Book Award was launched in 1995. The aims of the project are:

  • to raise the profile of reading for pleasure
  • to offer children access to some of the best new fiction
  • to increase parents’, teachers’ and school librarians’ awareness of new fiction
  • to create a community of readers in Stockport by:
  • providing opportunities for children to meet authors
  • providing a forum for reading and an opportunity to share books

Readers and Writers of the Future

Girls Heart Books blog image

Last week was pretty exciting – and busy.

First of all, I learned that The Mysterious Misadventures of Clemency Wrigglesworth has been selected for the shortlists of two further book prizes, Oldham Brilliant Books 2014 (you can see the whole list here) and now Stockport Children’s Book Award 2014.

As Clemency has already been shortlisted for the 2014 Rotherham Children’s Book Awards – winners announced on 10th June! – I am feeling very warmly towards this part of the world.

And I’m so pleased that councils, schools and library services still put funding plus loads of enthusiasm and hard work into making these fantastic Reading For Pleasure initiatives happen. Encouraging a love of reading in children and young people is crucial: these are the readers – and writers – of the future. We need them!

Next, I began a season of regular posts on the lovely Girls Heart Books blog, starting with that essential writing tool: coffee.

And finally, in the run up to the culmination – and final voting – at the very thrilling Booktrust Best Book Awards, I’ve posted something about my writing process on their blog, too, along with pictures of my scribbly writer’s notebooks. A true reflection of my scribbly mind, no doubt.

 

drawing of Miss Clawe from The Mysterious Misadventures of Clemency Wrigglesworth by Julia Lee, author's sketchbook

Miss Clawe and her nasty net glove

The Booktrust Best Book Awards 2014

Since Thursday’s announcement, I’ve spent several days thinking what to write for this particular post, and I still haven’t come up with anything other than…

…variations on holding my head and shouting ‘Eeekk!!!’

So I’ll just post a picture of a certain book in certain very famous company.

Shortlist

Best Story Book

The Jade Boy
The Jade Boy

Cate Cain

 

 

 

 

Lockwood & Co: The Screaming Staircase
Lockwood & Co: The Screaming Staircase

Jonathan Stroud

 

 

 

 

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck

Jeff Kinney

 

Maybe later I can post something more sensible.

 

 

Promoting a love of reading – Rotherham Children’s Book Awards

Rotherham Children's Book Awards 2014

Rotherham Children’s Book Awards 2014 were launched in February and I was delighted to learn that The Mysterious Misadventures of Clemency Wrigglesworth is on the shortlist of four books in the Middle category, that is, books for years 4-5 (8-10 year olds).

The Rotherham Children’s Book Awards are the culmination of a year-long process for schools to promote a love of reading, using the best books – from jolly picture books to edgy teen reads – from the thousands released that year. The great thing about it is that the shortlist is chosen by a group of students and people working in Rotherham’s schools and libraries.

This is the 14th year of the award and it ends in a day’s celebration in June attended by hundreds of children and teenagers from Rotherham schools. There are loads of book-related activities and displays of work created by the children, based on the books they have most enjoyed during the year. Authors who attended in previous years have blogged about it: you can read Jonathan Emmett and Teri Terry’s accounts of the day.

Find details of all the books up for the 2014 Awards here. It’s not just the usual suspects, either.

Encouraging young writers

I was writing a reply to a comment on my post about The Branford Boase Award, and then realised it deserved a space all of its own. So here it is.

The ‘other half’ of the award is The Henrietta Branford Writing Competition, which encourages children and young people in their writing. It is open to anyone under the age of 19. You can read all about it here, although the 2014 competition is not yet underway.

I started writing stories as soon as I learned to use a pen – (I blogged about it here) – but had no idea what to do with them or who to send them to, or even that anyone in the big wide world might be interested in them. So I am all for events and publications and awards which show youngsters that their writing is exciting and valued. And which can inspire them and help them to be even better writers. Because writing is such a brilliant thing to do.

Only one teacher in my entire school life encouraged me – when I was 6 – and no one hinted that trying to be A Writer was possible, or even (crazy idea!) a career option. Perhaps I shouldn’t blame them. As the years went by I became more quiet and secretive about what I’d written, but then it’s a vicious circle: no validation, no confidence.

I know that there is much more information available to would-be writers now, and more opportunities for learning and sharing, whether or not your teachers or parents are clued up about it. The internet has really opened up the world for writers of all ages.

writer's notebook and pen Paperchase hardback notebook, writing in the garden

Branford Boase Award

Yay! The Mysterious Misadventures of Clemency Wrigglesworth has wriggled its way onto the long-list for the 2014 Branford Boase Award.

Branford Boase Award logo

This is an award given annually for an outstanding first novel to a first-time writer of a book for young people. It’s unusual in that it also marks the important contribution of the editor in identifying and nurturing new talent.

This means that my lovely editors at OUP, Liz Cross and Helen Bray, get a well-deserved mention. Liz has not one but two books on the list!

The 2014 long-list contains amazing writers and wonderful books – it is very good company to be in and I am so thrilled to have landed there. If you want to find some excellent and very varied reads for children and young people, do take a look at the long-list here.