Today I have mostly been celebrating the Branford Boase award. I was chuffed to be nominated with such a strong field of superb debut authors, and very surprised to win! The evening itself was lovely, though I was struggling to breathe in a dress that I hurriedly bought in London after packing, for some reason, a pair of jeans and a multi-coloured silk shirt.
Honestly have no idea WHAT I was thinking when I stuffed those clothes in my bag, and can only blame severe lack of time and panic about getting my train for my poor outfit choice. After tweets from my friend and fellow nominee, Ali Lewis, about the little black dress she was wearing that evening, I decided to abandon my garish top, and found myself sprinting around London half an hour before my taxi to the event, hurriedly buying the first thing I saw without trying it on, hence nearly suffocating on the stage during my acceptance speech.
Squeezed lungs aside, it was a lovely evening, made even more special by the presence of some talented young writers, winners of the Henrietta Branford writing competition. Big shout out to Miriam, Issy, Jamila, Rhiannon, Callum and Rebecca – names to look out for in the future. It is exciting to think that the authors of tomorrow are at school right now, daydreaming their way through lessons and getting inspired by stories in English, and I wish these young writers all the very best.
It has been a busy few weeks for me, doing the rounds at various local book awards. Thanks to the Newcastle Book Award (didn’t win), the Rotherham Book Award (didn’t win), the Leeds Book Award (didn’t win) and the Hull Book Award (WON!) for such lovely days. Authors know how much work goes into organising these events, particularly when a lot of schools are involved, and it is always a privilege to be shortlisted and invited along to meet enthusiastic young readers.
One of the most INFURIATING things about telling people you work with or write for teenagers is the close-minded response that young people today are difficult to work with. On the contrary, I have spent the happiest days of my adult life with teenagers in schools and libraries. Yes, there are challenging teenagers, just as there are challenging toddlers and challenging adults, but being a teenager does not automatically make someone ‘difficult’. I am sick and tired of people saying, ‘Rather you than me!’ when talking about my job as a teacher or a writer who visits schools. Patrick Ness attacked this lazy attitude in his winner’s speech at the Carnegie award, and I wholeheartedly agree. Those people who seem to think teenagers are surly, challenging, churlish or culturally shallow would do well to meet the teen readers at the festivals, awards and schools I visit.
School visits are certainly the most rewarding part of being an author, particularly because I get to meet teachers and librarians who are doing a fantastic job of encouraging a love of reading in their students. I had a lovely evening in Somerset at Stanchester and Kings Bruton, and was very well looked after by Jonathan Guy and his wife, who kindly put me up and took me to the beach:
Thanks to all those who have made my school visits possible, notably Jonathan, Bridget March, Kirsty McDermott, Lizzie Ryder and Eleanor Parker.
Right, going to sign off now and watch the end of the Murray-Tsonga match in the busy pub where I am sheltering in the corner, typing away, trying to ignore the drunk French guys celebrating every point that Murray misses. My love of Murray is well documented on Twitter, and I want to cheer my boy on and enjoy the match. I have been a fan of his for years, despite the fact his mum looks like a peperami.
Love is blind, as they say! It’s two sets to one at the moment, so going to put on my kilt and get cheering.
If you want to read any more articles about the Branford Boase award, check them out here:
Thanks so much to all those at the award and everyone at Orion for making last night one to treasure.