Branford Boase Awards Night

The handsome Jason Wallace and his editor Charlie Sheppard won the Branford Boase 2011 last night for their book Out of the Shadows (Andersen Press).

At the photoshoot - Charlie (left) and Damian pose with the prize's sponsor
Jacqueline Wilson
Yeah, I know, I didn't win - but please don't send commiserations - I'm just so proud to be on that strong, strong shortlist! The only reason I'm a little bit sad is that my editor, Bella Pearson, was ill and couldn't be there ... get well soon, Bella! Here's a picture of David Tennant to cheer you up:

And here are the shortlistees of the Branford Boase on the night!

Hubby took this shot of us posing for the group photo - from left: Pat Walsh, Imogen Cooper (slightly behind), Charlie Sheppard, Maurice Lyon (behind), Jacqueline Wilson, Keren David (totally obscured), Jason Wallace, Damian Kelleher, me, Simon Mason (partially hidden), Beverley Birch (trying to be hidden) and JP Buxton. 

I was pleased to meet my new editor Simon Mason, who is covering for Bella and will be editing my new novel. I just read Simon's brilliant new novel Moon Pie - loved it so much, I reviewed it on Amazon!

The other truly big winners of the night were the children who won the Henrietta Branford writing prize. Here's Peter Wollweber whose entry was based on the Culloden Massacre. Well done, Peter!

I thought these two girls were best of friends but it turns out they only met on the night.  Lucy Parkinson (left) and Anna Wren - who came from Edinburgh on the 5.10am bus and was planning to get back on the red-eye 11pm to 8am bus so that she could watch a movie with her sister the following morning.

Someday, I imagine these young people will themselves be on the Branford Boase shortlist and I will totter up to them with my walking stick and say, "I signed a book for you once! Now you've got to do it for me!"

After the event, Simon and Philippa Dickinson, MD of Random House Children's Books, took me and my husband out to dinner and lots of conversation about flying (Philippa flies planes!!! I suppose if you could run a massive publishing company, flying planes is easy).

What was Sarah McIntyre of Verne and Lettuce fame doing there? Where does that woman get the energy to gatecrash these things? On the left is John McLay who runs the Bath Children's Festival

I'm sneaking in this blog when I'm supposed to be hard at work finishing my second novel (deadline next week) - because this is a shortlist I really wanted to be on - you can only be a debut author once and therefore on the Branford Boase list once.

... and who should be there but Book Witch Ann Giles and her trusty
photographer Helen Witch! (this photo is my revenge for all the ones
they keep posting of me on the Book Witch blog!
Writing friends Keren David (left) and Pat Walsh (right) with Pat's editor Imogen Cooper, who won the prize last year. 

I took a few pictures, as usual, but I thought the story of the evening would be best told in the words of judge Lucy Christopher, last year's winner.

Nicked this photo of Lucy from her website - resisted using the one  of her with llamas which appears on the Google search.

Lucy was in transit to the Prime Minister's Literary Awards in Australia for which her second novel Flyaway is shortlisted but she sent this speech, read by Damian Kelleher (who said he was tempted to do it in Lucy's Aussie accent - but could only manage Irish or Johnny Vegas - personally I think it would have added that special something to the evening if he read it in Johnny Vegas' voice).

I am grateful to Damian for very kindly allowing me to steal Lucy's speech from him for this blog post.

Me schmoozing Damian into giving me Lucy's speech
Lucy said winning the BB last year for Stolen was 'one of the most thrilling , exciting and rewarding moments of my life'.  She pointed out how the award 'celebrates new talent and catapults it onto the world stage to celebrate with the big guys ... it helps create big guys too.'

What's also really special about this award is its recognition of the author-editor relationship. Writing a novel is a collaborative process. Authors may be able to think about and create all sorts of vivivd and chaotic worlds and characters but they need editors to help organise, trim and perfect them. Authors need editors in the same way crazy people need therapists. Imagine if Margaret Mitchell's editor hadn't talked her into changing Pansy O'Hara's name to Scarlett? Imagine if I still had a talking swan in my second novel, Flyaway?

A display of the longlisted titles. Where's Tall Story?
A display of the shortlist. At the end of the evening, Anne Marley hilariously named and shamed bearded author Philip Ardagh for trying to steal last year's display.
Is this a face you can trust?

Lucy quoted E.L.Doctorow - "writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights. but you can make the whole trip that way." - a good editor is the person brave enough to be in that car with you, the one holding the road map.

The judging process was fun but highly rigorous, Lucy said:

The longlist was of high quality in itself but I think no one in this room will disagree when I say that the quality of this year's shortlist was truly exceptional. Not only the entire judging committee has remarked on this, but indeed the wider writing community - this year's shortlist could well be the strongest shortlist in Branford Boase history. At our final judging meeting, I even heard Julia Eccleshare remark that 'any of these books could be a worth winner!'

Here's what she said about each title:

By JP Buxton. Edited by Beverley Birch

We adored the evocative and skilfully created world with JP Buxton's I Am The Blade. Tog is a loveable and vividly realized character and the plotting and twists in his narrative were strong, surprising and entirely believable. It was refreshing and encouraging to see a new take on this important archetypal story.

By Keren David, Edited by Maurice Lyon

When I Was Joe by Keren David jumped up and hit us in the face, keeping us grabbed from the first moment, also keeping many of the judging committee up all hours until they finished it. Joe is a hugely realistic and identifiable teenage boy and it is easy to imagine how much teenage boys in particular would enjoy and respond to this important book.

Tall Story by Candy Gourlay. Edited by Bella Pearson
Tall Story by Candy Gourlay made us laugh and cry, often both at the same time. Its taut and emotive writing revealed so much about the importance of family and connection. This irresistible book is unique, charming and hugely enjoyable.

By Gregory Hughes. Edited by Roisin Heycock
Unhooking the Moon by Gregory Hughes is a masterpiece in gutsy, original writing. This is brave and unique YA fiction at its best, with an important message about the value of siblings, and with a flavour of Huckleberry Finn thrown in for good measure.

By Jason Wallace. Edited by Charlie Sheppard

Jason Wallace's Out of Shadows takes us to the scary, vivid and emotional world of a 1980s Zimbabwean boarding school. The setting of this novel is extraordinary, realised in sense and sound and smell with terrifying emotional accuracy. It's an important and mind-changing book.

By Pat Walsh. Edited by Imogen Cooper

Pat Walsh's The Crowfield Curse also takes us to a vividly and emotionally realised world, and introduces us to one of the best new characters in modern young people's fiction: Brother Walter, the hob. The Crowfield Curse is beautifully written, with an extraordinary attention to detail that never feels flawed or forced.

The key sponsor of the Branford Boase is every children's writer's idol Dame Jacqueline Wilson - and here's my trophy photo with our national treasure!

Now I've got to go to work and try to stop musing on my lovely evening.

Leaving you with this slideshow of the shots I managed - I'm sure Helen over at Book Witch will have better ones (her camera was so cool).

Anne Marley
Added later:

Book Witch's report mentions the most hilarious Freudian slip of the night - Anne Marley, Branford Boase adminstrator, recalled that the WIFE of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness was shortlisted for the Branford Boase before it made the Carnegie! She also noticed Dame Jackie's nebula outfit ... such an observant woman.

I also should mention that bookselling was achieved that night by the good people from the Newham Bookshop

Photos by me and he who likes Rugby a lot