Kids’ Lit Quiz

I was recently a guest author at the Kids’ Lit Quiz, run with manic energy on his time off from university teaching by the irrepressable New Zealander, Wayne Mills.

With 41 teams in the room, competition was fierce. But my team (Keren David, Pat Walsh, Anthony McGowan and me) only cared about one thing: beating the other authors’ team. Oh yeah, and having fun. That too. We did lots of that. But beating the other authors’ team was way out there as our major goal.

There were ten rounds, with ten questions each. Topics ranged from mice (we were rubbish) to monsters (not bad) and poetry lines (fantastic: perfect score). Wayne is nothing if not eclectic. He covered AA Milne, Bob the Builder, Eoin Colfer and steampunk.

The kids were amazing. They came from all over South East England and concentrated hard to achieve some impressive scores. They knew some truly amazing stuff. Children are reading out there! In frightening amounts!

Thank goodness for Pat, who I think suggested the most answers on our team, although the others were great too. In the end, we scored a respectable 91. However … we were beaten by the other authors, with 94. Drat and double drat! Personally, I blame Pat.

Candy Gourlay, one of the winners, blogs about it here, with photos.

Did I mention the fun bit? If you love children’s books, and you’re at school, or you know someone who is, make up a team and enter. The winners get book tokens and ultimately a trip to somewhere exotic for the World Final. Last year it was in Edinburgh (OK, not so exotic for us, but exotic if you’re in New Zealand …). Next year it’s New Zealand (what I just said but vice versa), then South Africa, then … I can’t remember. It was possibly my rubbish memory that let us down in the mice round.

Or possibly not. I still blame Pat.

When characters come to life

The lovely Meghan from Forever Young Adult (fabtastic review – thanks Meghan) thinks Nonie should look like this:

I hadn’t come across Kathryn Prescott before, but I totally see where Meghan’s coming from. That smile is perfect. I’d imagined Nonie with short, curly hair, but this is working for me. She could be describing the cherry tomato moment. Those eyes!

There’s also an interesting discussion about covers. They matter soooooo much. If you have an opinion, tell me! I’d love to know.


Glitter, gifts and dressing up

It has been – as it often is – a busy week.

First of all, I was on babysitting duty, meaning I had to write for all I was worth in the morning and do fun stuff (or what a four year-old thinks of as fun stuff, which isn’t Mummy on her laptop) in the afternoons.

We made cakes. It’s my standard fallback solution. But these were no ordinary cakes. We’d been to lunch at Yo Sushi in Harvey Nichols on Sunday (I LOVE LIVING IN LONDON) and in their food hall they had little pots of glitter to put on icing. The four-year old insisted on green icing, naturally. The results looked like this:

I’m not sure the full glamour made it through to the web, but you’ll have to imagine them sparkling all over, like little magical edibles, worthy of Honeydukes. They were magnificent! I ate about 6.

Then I wrote some more, including finishing MY FAVOURITE SCENE in the new book. It was exciting to do and I just can’t wait to finish the book now. I want to show people and see what they think of my main character, and whether they love her as much as I do.

Meanwhile, I was having an online conversation with some of my writing friends about Christmas presents. I know it’s early, but some people like to plan. Luisa Plaja suggested that maybe we could offer to sign and dedicate copies of our books for people. She’s explained it brilliantly on the Chicklish website. If you’d like me to sign and dedicate Threads or Beads, Boys and Bangles to you or a friend, let me know via the email form on my website, or the threadsthebook website, and I can post them off to you. I’ll be offering each book at £5, instead of the usual £6.99, plus an additional £1 postage per book. But check out Chicklish to see the full range.

And finally, I was off to Benenden School last night to talk about Threads to about 80 girls. It was a beautiful drive through the (slightly windy) autumn countryside. I went to school near there myself, so it was very familiar. And much more fun to be going back as an author, rather than a boarder. If I’d known this was how things were going to turn out when I was a teenager, I’d have saved myself a lot of stress.

I was very lucky to have supper first with 11 very keen readers and their lovely English teacher, Miss Brown. We talked about our favourite books, what we did and didn’t like about them, the writing process and all sorts of things. But the conversation was most lively when we talked about book covers. Wow! Covers are a really emotive subject. We all agreed that the latest cover for Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver, is really good.

If you’d like to see pictures of the event, check out my Facebook page. It’s the one with the picture of me in big hoop earrings. You’ll know it when you see it.

Next week, I’m off to Hatfield and Milton Keynes. More talking. A creative writing workshop. Lots and lots of boys and girls to meet and chat to. And, I hope, a few more chapters of book 4 to be written in between. Phew!

Like I said. Busy. But I can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing. Is it still the best job in the world? Why, yes it is.

Meg’s wood

As anyone who knows me even vaguely will know, I’m busy writing book 4. Not as easy as it seemed when I first started out, but now the story is clear in my head and I can’t wait to race to the climactic chapters. How does it feel to be writing a book? Well, it feels a lot like this: Meg Rosoff: Here’s How I Write.

She’s so right in every detail. I’m not sure if I’m still lost in the wood or reaching the wide, smooth road at the end. I think I’m in the middle, but I can see where the road is if I can just hack my way through to it …

Meg Rosoff is an amazing writer. How I Live Now is one of those books you’ll never forget. (She is also, by the way, a very nice person. One of the very best things about being a writer is meeting other writers. Someone in funky glasses comes up to you and says ‘Hi, I’m Meg. Have you got a glass of wine?’ and you go, ‘Yes, thanks, I’m fine’ and you look beyond the funky glasses and think ‘Meg‘? As in Rosoff? Oh my God.’ These are some of my favourite moments.)

Meg started a great discussion on her blog a while ago about ‘pink books’ – or rather, it tuned into that. Meg’s point was that it does books for girls no favours when their authors are asked ‘Shoes or handbags?’ As opposed to perhaps ‘First person present or traditional narrative voice?’ The discussion made a lot of people very cross, and made other people, like me, think a bit more about what we read, and what we write.

My conclusion was that books don’t have to have a strong moral point. Books are there to entertain and transport you and sometimes, that’s more than enough. But I want my books to do more. I want them to get my readers thinking. Because I’m writing for girls (and some boys) at one of the most important and exciting times in their lives – when they’re forming opinions that will shape them and their decisions for decades to come. It’s so exciting. Such an honour to be a part of their world. Ted, in my latest book, has to confront some difficult moral choices. I’m so proud of her and I hope that one day she’ll help girls her age to be as brave, and true to themselves, as she is.

I’m grateful to Meg for kicking off the debate that got me thinking about what I do.

And by the way, it’s probably shoes.