Pressing SEND. Winning while not winning. Illusions at the Pop Up Festival.


I pressed SEND today. The manuscript of my second novel is now officially in the hands of my publisher. In the nick of time because Amazon's already got it listed! Even my lovely cover illustrator David Dean - who'd only just shown me draughts of the cover - was surprised!

David Dean actually paints the cover by hand. Cool or what?

I've been offline for most of last week, labouring over the manuscript, neglecting ironing, blog and family (not necessarily in that order). So this is a bit of a catch up - but what an exciting catch up!

Last Sunday the 10th

The week began with an appearance at the amazing Pop Up Festival, organized by the indefatigable Dylan Calder. (Yes, it's another appearance - the first one was a session with kids from the City of London Academy at the Foundling Museum - read my account here.)

This was the Pop Up Festival Finale after weeks of bringing authors and children together in sessions with authors in diverse locations like the Foundling Museum, the British Museum, the Sir John Sloane Museum, the British Library ...  and many more.

The festival culminated in a two day extravaganza at Coram Fields where big name authors curated various tents filled with surprises for story loving children ...

On the day I went, there was a giant igloo for nursery rhyme singing children curated by author illustrator Karin Littlewood ...

These children painted a massive mural at the tent of former children's laureate Michael Rosen ...

Painting at Michael Rosen's tent

My favourite author Geraldine McCaughrean had a story building tent full of actors (see pictures on Geraldine's blog) ...

Geraldine associating with the enemy, bearded Mr Ardagh who curated the next door tent

 And I was one of the authors featured in the House of Illusions curated by hilarious bearded author Philip Ardagh ...

Philip is very, very tall as you can see in this photo with me (left) and Catherine Johnson (right) who curated a tent the day before themed after her Victorian novel, A Nest of Vipers 
Or is he?
Things were not quite what they seemed at Philip Ardagh's House of Illusions!
The Human Topiary was another story entirely!

Here are more photos of the Pop Up Festival!

Friday the 15th

A few days later I found myself up north in Chester, as one of the shortlisted authors for the UKLA Children's Book Awards.

Random House put me up at the Queen Hotel in Chester. At the gardens of the hotel, I thought I'd stumbled upon the White Witch's garden in Narnia, with all the fairy folk turned into statues ...

But I couldn't find Mr Tumnus ...

The UKLA awards are relatively young compared to other national book prizes - but folks, this is the one chosen by TEACHERS and other people passionate about reading.

UKLA Audience! The well stocked bookshop was run by Marilyn Borcklehurst of the Norfolk Children's Book Centre (I had no idea bookshops could travel so far afield). I bought far too many books.
Lynda Graham, convenor of the Awards committee

What was incredibly moving and fabulous about the prize evening was that each shortlisted book was honoured with a touching presentation by teachers who participated in the awards process.

Screenshot of Award criteria which made me feel very unworthy indeed.

As I was listening to teachers and librarians warmly celebrating each book in the shortlist, I found myself thinking back to every teacher and librarian who inspired me to become a reader.

Anyone who was mentored by a teacher or librarian into a love of reading would have been touched - here's my own story of being a librarian's pet 

I recently found out that there are such things as Librarian Action Figures (with powerful shushing action). Woo hoo!

(I tried to take notes on my mobile phone but stopped when I realized that it looked like I was sending text messages! I hope someone managed to take notes - the presentations were eloquent, heart-felt and so inspiring. )

But wait! Who should turn out to be on the shortlist as well but Jason Wallace - whose book Out of the Shadows won the Branford Boase (see my report) and various other prizes. And sure enough, Jason (heretofore known as Darn Jason) won the UKLA for my category, the 12-16 shortlist. Congratulations, darn it!
Ellie Sandal won the 3-11 category for her book, Birdsong. Later, teachers performed the picture book text for the audience. I took a video of the performance but decided not to post it after being threatened with detention by one of the performers. 

Here is my fellow shortlistee Keren David with literacy luminaries (alliteration!)  Joy Court and Jaki Moody, who is holding Keren's book When I Was Joe
I really wanted a pic of the literacy luminaries holding my book but I didn't get the shot. So I thought I'd save time by photoshopping Tall Story into Jaki's hand

After winners were announced, a group of Year 10 students stepped forward to praise the winning novel.

The six authors who attended the awards pose with the young people who helped with the UKLA presentation. At far left is Ellie, I'm in the middle (because the middle is the best place to look thinnest in a photo), just behind me is Darn Jason and next to him, lovely Chris Wormell whose brilliant book One Smart Fish was on  the younger shortlist. Then there's Keren David holding up her book. And the person trying not to be in the picture at far right is Theresa Breslin who wrote Prisoner of the Inquisition which was shortlisted for the Carnegie.

After the event, I had dinner with Keren, Theresa and Keren's editor at Frances Lincoln, Emily Sharratt. Emily actually went on holiday to the Philippines after reading my short story How to Build the Perfect Sand Castle, for the anthology Under the Weather, published by Frances Lincoln.

(Filipino readers of this blog will be pleased to know that Emily thought it was the best holiday she'd ever had! See, I'm doing my part for Philippine tourism!)

I was thrilled to find out that Theresa's Prisoner of the Inquisition won the Shadow Carnegie - voted for by schools (the Carnegie itself is chosen by librarians).

Teresa Breslin's brilliant book
I was just so tickled - it just goes to show how amazing young readers are - who says historical fiction is beyond the grasp of today's young people? Well done, guys! (I'm reading it at the moment - and it's fantastic - if you want to read historical fiction that fizzes, this is it!)

And THAT, dear readers was my week.

I appeared in a festival with a human topiary and a bearded man, felt like a winner at the UKLA prize even if Darn Jason won, and finished writing my second novel, SHINE.

The UKLA Children's Book Award

Shortlist 12-16

Theresa Breslin: Prisoner of the Inquisition (Random House: Doubleday)
Gillian Cross: Where I Belong (Oxford)
Keren David: When I was Joe (Frances Lincoln)
Candy Gourlay: Tall Story (Random House: David Fickling)
Alan Temperley: Scar Hill (Luath)
Jason Wallace: Out of Shadows (Andersen) winner

Shortlist 3-11

Libby Gleeson, illustrator Freya Blackwood: Clancy &; Milly and the Very fine House (Little Hare)
Ally Kennen: Sparks (Marion Lloyd Books)
Philip Reeve: No Such Thing as Dragons (Scholastic)
Ellie Sandall: Birdsong (Egmont) winner
Eleanor Updale: Johnny Swanson (Random House: David Fickling)
Chris Wormell: One Smart Fish (Random House: Jonathan Cape)