Quickbits: Shortlistings, How to Write, and Yay for New Books on the Block

By Candy Gourlay


Last week at the We Read Book Award, a teenager asked me how one was supposed to write without any life experience. Sometimes, it's hard to express something through a keyboard, so I thought I'd answer the question with this video.


Selfie with the Calderdale librarians and fellow shortlistee Catherine Bruton (right)
The last couple of weeks have seen SHINE shortlisted for two awards. One was the Calderdale Book of the Year, for which I had to go to Halifax.

I'd heard lots of good things about the Calderdale prize from author friends who'd been shortlisted - such a well organised event, great kids, great librarians! Let me just say: it's all true!

The awards day looked like so much hard labour and yet it ran like clockwork! There must have been a lot of advance work for teachers, librarians and children, with schools reading and reviewing months ahead. The vote was done on the day but before the children met the authors (which meant there was no chance of bribery or threat).

Left to right: Kevin Brooks, Catherine Bruton, Frances Hardinge and William Sutcliffe

William wins the trophy
The teen shortlist included: I Predict a Riot by Catherine Bruton, Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge, The Wall by William Sutcliffe, The Ultimate Truth by Kevin Brooks (Kevin Brooks!!!) and Shine by me. William won the prize (congratulations, you annoying man).

Many thanks to the librarians and teachers who make this event happen every year. And well done to the children who wrote reviews, read the books and cast their votes.

Signing autographs

And after the ceremonies, we retired into the staff offices to eat some more!


The We Read Book Awards was set up in 2008 by the Brookwood Partnership and University College School. We Read invites young readers from schools all over North London to nominate a shortlist and then vote for a winner - check out the fantastic website.

Another famous selfie! That's me and Lisa Williamson (The Art of Being Normal) in the front, and in the back are Tereze Brikmane and Tamara Macfarlane of the bookshop Tales on Moon Lane, and C S Flood (Infinite Sky). 
I was chuffed that Shine was part of a shortlist that included: Apple and Rain by Sarah Crossan, Infinite Sky by Chelsea Flood, Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys, The Poison Boy by Fletcher Moss, and Valentine Joe by Rebecca Stevens. Today was Meet the Author day, which included Lisa Williamson, author of the well received The Art of Being Normal and Sarwat Chadda, author of the Ash Mistry trilogy.

Tamara Macfarlane of that eponimous children's bookshop Tales on Moon Lane 

Sorry guys, I didn't win that one either. It was won by Ruta Sepetys. Congratulations, Ruta (she said with no trace of sour grapes in her typing).

Sarwat Chadda signing autographs

Left to right: C J Flood, author of Infinite Sky, Martin Hitchcock, organiser of We Read, and Lisa Williamson (The Art of Being Normal) 

So fantastic to meet the readers and answer very good questions about books and writing. A wonderful day.


June is a month for book launches and I have to give a shout out to friends who have just released their new titles:

My lovely critique buddy, Joe Friedman, launched The Secret Dog, his sweet and heartwarming tale about a boy who keeps his dog a secret.

My other crit buddy, Cliff McNish, has just launched My Friend Twigs - about a girl's friendship with a cockatoo

I didn't manage to make it to the launch of The Crowham Martyrs the other day. But here's a picture of author Jane McLoughlin looking glamorous at the event. I loved her first novel At Yellow Lake and I'm so looking forward to reading this new one!

There are more book launches coming up ... including one that involves Cleopatra ... but I'll save that one for another blog post!