Salford Children's Book Award

Last week, I was one of the shortlisted authors who attended the wonderful prize giving ceremony for the Salford Children's Book Award 2011.

It was my first time in Northern parts as an author, so I asked the organizers if I could swing a school visit or two. They obliged and as a result I had a fun session with children from St Peter's CE School and Clifton Primary School  in Swinton Library.

Pamela Manley (Children and Young People's Library Service Manager for Salford) acted as my driver, bodyguard and shopping director (we stopped at a very exciting pound shop for urgent sundries) and Lynne Ashworth of Swinton Library rounded up the children. Thank you, oh lovely librarians!

Me and Pam, post pound-shop - I later found out it was her birthday! Happy birthday, Pam!
Photo courtesy of Pam Manley
 They put me up at a hotel with a terrific view of the famous Salford Quays ...
The view from my hotel which was a short walk along water to the Lowry where the awards were taking place. These photos are in black and white because I had my camera on the wrong setting so the colours were all wrong. I forgot to take a photo of Manchester United's stadium across the water ...
To get to the Lowry, we walked down this beautiful avenue of trees along the water. That's author Pat Walsh, shortlisted for The Crowfield Curse, sporting superstar sunglasses in the bright sunshine.
Pat took this photo of me with the Imperial War Museum in the background. I totally forgot to take a photo of the Lowry from outside, but I found this picture on the web to show you what it looks like in technicolour:

I was excited to meet author Alan Gibbons who anyone with a pulse in the book industry would know as a tireless campaigner to save our libraries. He's been my friend on Facebook for years.

On FB this is what he looks like:

But I was astonished to discover that in real life he looks like this:

He sings, he roars, he does animal impressions and Elvis impressions ... OMG!

He tried to comfort all the nervous shortlisted authors present by talking about the gazillion times he'd been shortlisted for the SCBA prize ... and lost.

The first time in 2003, his book The Edge lost to Molly Moon by Georgia Byng. 

In 2004, shortlisted for Caught in the Crossfire, he lost to Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo.

In 2005 his book The Defender lost to The Recruit by Robert Muchamore.

In 2006 his book Hold On lost to Magyk by Angie Sage ... (it might interest children's book enthusiasts to know that Skellig by David Almond was also on the shortlist).

Okay. So maybe it wasn't that comforting. But it was MASSIVELY entertaining - the man burst into song and rocked and rolled all over the stage. And don't worry, he may have lost those shortlistings but he has won the Blue Peter (for Shadow of the Minotaur) as well as a gazillion other awards.

I think I would have melted into a puddle of tears if I'd had to sit up on the stage with these Salford luminaries. On the left is librarian Emily Stock who  looks incredibly composed considering how hard she'd been working to make the event happen. I was excited to see the golden chains on the other guests, thinking that a rap act was going to perform. But no, it was the mayor and mayoress.

We were in stitches!

Then they got the authors to go up on stage, one by one, to say a few words, take a few questions.

Unfortunately, they sent us up in alphabetical order, so I had to speak first. I remember nothing.

Each author was escorted up the stage and introduced by children who participated in judging the prize. Sam  introduced Tall Story - you can see by my expression that I'm wondering how I'm going to top his brilliant presentation! Photo: Nick Harrison

Ally Kennen explained why her  book about burning corpses was a good idea. Sparks is about children wanting to give their grandpa a Viking funeral. 
Richard Platt, who has written many books but in non-fiction, talked about the inspiration behind Double Crossing, his book about immigrants arriving in America.  

Pat Walsh talked about digging up old things and rubbish and wondering how they got there. No, she's not a gardener, she's an archaeologist.

And then along came Jon Mayhew, author of Mortlock and The Demon Collector

The boy introducing Jon read out loud his favourite excerpt from Mortlock, which involved dead bodies rising out of the ground or something disguisting like that ... Jon promptly began to act it out.
... do not feed this man ...

... blood, gore, guts, etc etc ...
Chris Priestly was moving house and so couldn't be there to hear how wonderful  his book The Dead of Winter was. Just as well because after Jon Mayhew, could the audience bear to meet another horror author?
Chris Priestly (stolen from his Facebook page)

The other missing author was no other than Michael Morpurgo, national treasure and children's book superstar ... all Allan Gibbons' tales of finding  himself on the same shortlists as David Almond, Michael Morpurgo, Jacquelyn Wilson and JK Rowling began to ring hollowly in our brains ... 



Wait, Michael Morpurgo sure looks a lot smoother and more feminine than  he normally does.  Okay, that's not Michael Morpurgo - apparently he was  somewhere over the ocean in an aeroplane ... so he sent his friend Mary Byrne 
... and no, Jon wasn't disappointed at all.

(lest you think Jon really did burst into tears - this shot came from the moment earlier when  Jon described his sorry life as a browbeaten, younger brother )

And honestly, I didn't mind losing to Michael Morpurgo ... in fact I enjoyed telling my kids,  'I lost to Michael Morpurgo' - they were sufficiently impressed that I was on the same shortlist.

And here's my trophy picture with Michael at last year's Hay Festival (I snuck up behind him to get my picture taken and he caught me)

Photo: Sarah McIntyre
Great souvenir shot of the SCBA crew by Nick Harrison
Afterwards there was almost an hour of book and what have you signing - I got to test drive my new stamp ... if ever I'm in your part of the world, make sure I get that stamp out, it's so cool ... but I absolutely refuse to stamp anyone on the forehead no matter how much they beg. Photo: Nick Harrison

Thank you to the children and librarians of Salford for an unforgettable day (and Waterstones of Deansgate who sold the books)!