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!’

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.  

 

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.

 

 

Make every week a children’s book week with 100 Best Books For Children

This was really last week’s news, but why not extend Children’s Book Week a little longer? Make every week a children’s book week?

Booktrust published its list of 100 Best Books for Children. The books had to be published in the last 100 years and the selection panel chose to concentrate on fiction. There are certainly many familiar books and many of my own family favourites here, particularly in the youngest section.

eachpeach

In the 0-5 age range, special mention to Each Peach Pear Plum, which I think I could still recite – at a pinch. We loved looking for the witty details in the pictures, and I really do admire the way all those fairytale characters managed to appear most naturally together. Hairy Maclary From Donaldson’s Dairy has a similar zingy rhythm to it and an inventiveness that makes it such fun to read aloud. And then John Burningham’s Would You Rather? which mixes cringy, scary and funny and gives lots to talk about. There are just one or two in this section which are new to me. Only the other week – coincidentally just before this list came out – I came across I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen for the first time and enjoyed its poignant deadpan humour.

stanley

Fewer real favourites in the 6-8 age group, though I loved being reminded of Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown. Mister Magnolia and Winnie The Pooh are in there too, but I think my kids enjoyed these at a much younger age – probably because I enjoyed them so much. This section seems to show that around now individual reading tastes begin to develop and diverge.

But 9-11s has a really strong field and so many beloved books in it. I’m so pleased to see The Wolves of Willoughby Chase made it, alongside Skellig, Ballet Shoes and Journey to The River Sea.

Interesting that in the 12-14s there are several books I only read as an adult and bought as adult books: Watership Down, I Capture The Castle, The Curious Incident of the Dog In castle The Night-time. Some wonderful reads here, new and old. At this age I didn’t know where to look for interesting and challenging books and, outgrowing the children’s section of the local public library, I launched on a random assault of the adult shelves. (The word ‘adult’ as an adjective always sounds rather dodgy these days!) I waded through some very strange stuff before settling into science fiction and rather macho thrillers. I couldn’t seem to manage the classics then and nothing I read at school – except Lord of the Flies – engaged me at all. If only today’s range and quality of reading for teens had been available when I was that age.