Monday, 9 November 2009

A bit of a gap in blogging. Nothing in the summer because nothing was happening. then too much happening and no time to blog. That's if blogging is worthwhile anyway. From the number of responses, one does wonder. A lot of my writer friends blog and twitter all the time, but are we all talking to no-one about nothing? I'll go by the comments.

I've been busy editing (or trying to edit) my new book, now called The Fool's Girl. It's got a cover, and everything, just the writing isn't finished yet. It landed on my desk just as I had go on school visits and to festivals, here and in Germany. It's all done now and I've just sent it off, so I feel I have a right to blog.

I hope I get the edits back before I head off for Yorkshire. I'm tutoring a course with Melvin Burgess at the Arvon Centre in Lumb Bank, Yorkhire, Writing for Young People, 23 -28th November, 2009. It's a bit short notice, but if you fancy it, there are a few places left. Anyone interested book through Arvon

Book sent off and blog done. How virtuous am I?

Friday, 14 August 2009

I'm really happy that Scholastic are re-issuing my vampire novel, Blood Sinister, this month. I wrote it a while ago now, and it has had various incarnations with various different covers, but I like the look they have given it and it is good to see it out now.

I've always loved vampires, I'm glad the rest of the world is catching up with me. My interest goes way back to the days of the old Hammer Horror films and Christopher Lee as Count Dracula. I read Bram Stoker's Dracula when I was a teenager and it is still one of my favourite books in the horror genre. More recently, I was an avid watcher of Buffy and really liked Anne Rice's Interview with a Vampire and her vampire Lestat. I'm not sure about this new generation, I like my vampires to have a bit of bite, but if they direct new readers to some of the classics in the genre, that has to be a good thing.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

July is a busy time for school visits, and I was out and about quite a lot at the beginning of the month. I did a mini tour in Worcestershire, visiting Stourport High School, where the students were joined by pupils from King Charles 1 High School and Wolverley High School. I also visited Christopher Whitehead Language College, and talked to students from Chantry High School, Tenbury High School and Hanley Castle High School. The next day I was in Redditch, at Arrowvale Community High School, and in Birmingham at Woodrush Community High School. Then I was off to Nottingham High School for Girls. I don't go out to schools as often as I used to but it is always good to meet and talk to readers. I hope that everyone I spoke to enjoyed my talks and that a few, at least, went on to read one of my books.

July is also the time when I go to Charney Manor in Oxfordshire (see pic above) on a kind of writers' retreat. A bunch of us get together to talk, discuss, write or just hang out in the lovely grounds. I've been going for about eight years now and always have a wonderful time. It is a great way to unwind (even if my team was trounced in the quiz this year).
I'm off to Greece for a couple of weeks (a different kind of unwinding). I'm being strict about books to take because of weight restrictions, and am not taking a laptop. I might do some writing, but in longhand, which will be odd, because I always use a computer, but sometimes it's good to work in a different way.

Monday, 29 June 2009

Campaign for the Book

I had the honour of opening the Campaign for the Book Conference in Birmingham on Saturday. Some 200 delegates: public and school librarians, School Library Service staff, authors, publishers, library campaigners, academics, teachers, book bloggers and book lovers, assembled in King Edward’s School to hear inspirational speeches, evidence-based research and to join in through workshops and debate. The conference was a great success and we all came away inspired and elated.

Author, Alan Gibbons, started the Campaign a year ago now, as a personal response to the outrage he felt at how both the schools and public library services were being attacked and eroded. Sometimes one story, one incident, can act as a catalyst, pushing the individual over from concern to action. For Alan, it was the sacking of a young school librarian in Chesterfield, and the closing of her library, for no other reason than the school's desire to save money. She told her story at the Conference and received a standing ovation from delegates. Another catalyst was the news from the Wirral that the council were planning to axe over half their branch libraries, a number of them in some of the poorest, most deprived areas in the country. If this council succeeds, their lead will be followed by any council wanting to save money. It is something that should concern us all. To find out more about the Campaign for the Book and find out how you can help, go to . It is up to all of us who value books and libraries to act now.

In the words of Joni Mitchell, 'Don't it always seem to go, you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone.' So join the campaign, support your local library service, your school library, and your school library service, before it is too late.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

I've had a busy couple of days in London. On Tuesday, I went to the reception for the new Children's Laureate. It was all a very well kept secret, but if I'd spotted the gent in question, I would have known it was him. I could not have been more pleased when we finally got to the 'without further ado' moment and the new laureate was announced. Anthony Browne. He is an immensely talented and distinguished illustrator, astonishingly creative, genuinely inspirational and a really nice guy. His picture books are extraordinarily clever, but instantly accessible; full of detail that re-pays looking and re-looking. Part of his success lies in the fact that adults and children both quickly become absorbed by his work, stepping into the immensely rich world he creates in his books. He has an enormous reputation abroad, and I hope that he can get the British to finally appreciate the great wealth of artists and illustrators that we have in this country. I also hope that he gets everybody to play the Shape Game!

Yesterday, I was helping to chair a quite extraordinary  meeting of all sorts of people: authors, illustrators, publishers, agents, librarians, teachers, teacher trainers, journalists, critics, representatives from organisations involved in promoting reading and literacy, booksellers, and others involved in the world of children's books. We were all there to hear Michael Rosen talk about how we can get reading for pleasure, for fun, for enjoyment back into our schools. All those terms don't really work. Independent reading is all those things, but much more. It is the way to independent thought and full intellectual maturity. There was much discussion and a lot of points raised. I'm not sure what will happen next, but something will. With Arnold Shwarzenegger wanting to rid schools of books altogether, something has to happen. Watch this space.

Sunday, 31 May 2009

Hay Festival

I haven't blogged for a while. Not because I've had nothing to blog about, more because blogging is a bit like keeping New Year's Resolutions - I'll start tomorrow. Also, this is my third attempt (and counting) at getting this up on the website. Anyway, this is a pic of me holding forth at Hay. I was on a panel with Sally Gardner, chaired by Julia Eccleshare, Children's Fiction Editor for The Guardian, discussing the French Revolution (note the tricolor rosette I bought in a costume shop near the Opera in Paris). We were talking about my novel, Sovay, and Sally's novel The Silver Blade, the sequel to The Red Necklace. It always interests me that two writers can choose the same time and the same place almost exactly, two of our characters would have been in the same prison on the same day, but will end up writing something completely different. Sally's novel is on this year's Guardian Children's Fiction Prize Longlist. I was one of the judges and it deserves its place. One never knows how many people will turn up, so it was a relief to see that the tent so full (maybe some of your were there, if so, let me know!). Afterwards, we signed lots of books and were all very happy that it went so well.

I'm always thrilled to be invited to go to Hay. It is such a great festival, full of people who love books and reading. I first went in 1990, as a wannerbe writer, never dreaming (OK dreaming) that one day I'd be there on the platform. If I'm at Hay, I always try to go and see other writers. Just like all the other readers there, I'm interested in what they have to say about their books, and I'm a big believer that writers can learn from each other. This year I went to see Patrick Ness, one of my fellow Guardian Judges, talking about his books, The Knife of Never Letting Go, and the new one, The Ask and The Answer. I'm not a big fan of dystopian novels, unless they are very good, and his are very good. He's an exciting writer, not afraid to do something very different. I thoroughly enjoyed his session, and meeting him on the judging panel. It is easy to get complacent about one's own writing and he's a reminder not to do that. I went back to Hay on Saturday, especially to see Sarah Waters. I am a huge fan of her historical novels and had to go and see her speaking. I also bought her new book, The Little Stranger, and she was gracious enough to sign it for me in the Green Room before she went on stage.

The Festival is over now, soon the site will be just a muddy field. Time to get back to my current book (more about that in the next blog). The book is not even finished yet, but if I'm there next year that is the one I'll be talking about, so I'd better get on with it!

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Happy New Year!

I've got quite a bit of writing done since New Year (didn't get much done before - best intentions and all that). Sovay is being published in Germany, so on Monday I'm going there for a week's tour and a Festival in Berlin. From there, I'm going to Athens for a British Council Fair. Foreign visits are like buses - nothing then two at once. There will be lots of other writers going, like Catherine Johnson, Keith Gray and Theresa Breslin, so it will be good to catch up with them. After that, I don't have much on, so I'll be back at my desk. If Claire is reading this, I could be tempted to go for a coffee...