Summer Story Makers at the Story Museum

30 Jul

I’ve just got back from a full day’s creative writing workshop at the fabulous Story Museum in Oxford, with thirteen 8-12-year-olds – and it was BRILLIANT. We did story starters (trying to identify which are real book titles and which are made up is HARD!), asking the endless questions that start WHAT IF…? (…buildings had brains? Air and water swapped over? Humans lived forever?), drama games to create character, plotting and story arcs – and front cover design, if there was time. Whew! Here’s the day, in pictures…

The Long Room - a haven for creative thinking!

The Long Room – a haven for creative thinking!

I had the strangest feeling I was being watched...

I had the strangest feeling I was being watched…

Storytelling throne. Beautiful!

Storytelling throne. Beautiful!

I was a LITTLE alarmed by what was written on the flipchart when I arrived...an omen, perhaps?!

I was a LITTLE alarmed by what was written on the flipchart when I arrived…an omen, perhaps?!

At the end of the day, the table was a little more cluttered...

At the end of the day, the table was a little more cluttered…

A story about a boy who accidentally finds himself in Girl Land...The girls, rather taken aback by his appearance and worried he will be slain, make him drink a magic potion that turns him into a girl...but he's deeply unhappy about this!

A story about a boy who accidentally finds himself in Girl Land…The girls, rather taken aback by his appearance and worried he will be slain, make him drink a magic potion that turns him into a girl…but he’s deeply unhappy about this!

Mellisa is on a boring shopping trip with her mother, when the lift she's in takes her on a terrifying plunge into the depths of Hell...

Mellisa is on a boring shopping trip with her mother, when the lift she’s in takes her on a terrifying plunge into the depths of Hell…

Escape from Bone Castle, typed onto computer by me on behalf of a boy who finds handwriting difficult because his brain is going too fast for his fingers!

Escape from Bone Castle, typed onto computer by me on behalf of a boy who finds handwriting difficult because his brain is going too fast for his fingers!

A Life of Running - a cracking title - with character description and story arc plan

A Life of Running – a cracking title – with character description and story arc plan

A terrifyingly gory story about a man who returns home to find his brother's remains spread across a willow tree...

A terrifyingly gory story about a man who returns home to find his brother’s remains spread across a willow tree…

...though the plotting of the story proved easier than the actual writing, as many writers have found!

…though the plotting of the story proved easier than the actual writing, as many writers have found!

BB falls down a well. First, she is nearly rescued by bucket (but it breaks), then by a man on a rope - but he falls in too! How will they escape?! Great demonstration of rising tension!

BB falls down a well. First, she is nearly rescued by bucket (but it breaks), then by a man on a rope – but he falls in too! How will they escape?! Great demonstration of rising tension!

Disaster Day. Poor Tom Jones. He thought he was just going to go to the cinema...

Disaster Day. Poor Tom Jones. He thought he was just going to go to the cinema…

We were occasionally joined by a helpful mascot

We were occasionally joined by a helpful mascot

...or a wooden puppet

…or a wooden puppet

Many thanks to the Story Museum staff for inviting me in to be part of the Summer Story Makers week – and most importantly, thank you to the KIDS who tried everything with enthusiasm and some fantastic results! Maybe some writers of the future there, who knows…?

If YOUR child is keen on writing, there may still be spaces left for next week’s Story Makers course – and I’ll be doing my thing again next Thursday. You can sign them up for a full five days (they get to do illustration and animation and printing and all KINDS of awesomeness!) or pick and choose which days. Just go to the Story Museum website to find out more!

I’m A Girl – review

28 Jul

im a girlSomeone at Bloomsbury has really got the measure of me. I can’t otherwise explain the fact that they sent me a picture book (which I don’t normally review) all about challenging gender stereotypes.

I’M A GIRL! by Yasmeen Ismail is probably the most outwardly feminist picture book I’ve ever read – and I love it. The blue donkey* (I initially thought it was a rabbit, but someone on Twitter pointed out my mistake – not Yasmeen, she was far too polite to say! Apologies. I am clearly terrible at identifying animals. Not that it really matters what she is) in the book is a girl – but she likes to win, she likes to race, she likes to be loud, she likes to splash – and she’s constantly mistaken for a boy. Because, gosh, girls don’t do all those things, do they? And she’s blue, and wears shorts and a string of beads, so that’s confusing for anyone, right? To use a popular acronym, FFS. Which is what this girl would say, if it weren’t a picture book.

I particularly love the section where she is about to win a race, and an onlooker says, ‘Mummy, look. He’s going to win.’ She stops dead before the finish line in order to shout…

DSC_0163-2Thus, naturally, losing the race – but MAKING HER POINT.

And that’s what this book is about, making the point that girls are loud, like to ride scooters really fast, like to jump into swimming pools, like to read facts…

DSC_0164-2

and like to play with dolls. GIRL does not equal a set of conditions, and shouldn’t. At the end of the book, the female donkey meets a male lion, who wears a grass skirt and shakes maracas and proudly proclaims ‘I’m a BOY!’ just to prove that actually, boys are just as at risk of this stupid stereotyping as girls.

I’m making the book sound all worthy and morally important, which of course it is, but it’s also a beautiful, fun story, with stunningly bright and cheerful (and anarchic) illustrations. It reminded me of finger-painting (I mean, it’s way more sophisticated than that) and there’s lots of white space so that the illustrations really zing off the page.

Teachers, get this for your KS1 and Reception classes. Parents, get this for your kids (girls AND boys). Anyone who cares about equality and moving forward and helping to make our society better for everyone, spread the word. I’M A GIRL! can help to change the world. Whilst brightening it with stunning colours and fab pictures at the same time.

I’M A GIRL! will be published by Bloomsbury on 13th August

*edited to add: Yasmeen has told me, quite definitively, that the blue animal is an AARDVARK. Though she much enjoys people guessing and getting it wrong ;-) So there! :-)

In Another Life – review

28 Jul

In Another LifeI am being thoroughly spoilt by books at the moment. I love a good contemporary YA, with issues galore and preferably some kind of impending doom that’s resolved in some way at the end. That possibly says a lot about me! But IN ANOTHER LIFE by Laura Jarratt ticks all the boxes for me, and here’s why:

  • The book opens with the best ever inciting incident (I’m planning a story-writing workshop at the moment, so this is a phrase I’m very familiar with!): a text from a missing sister. “I need you. Please come. And of course, the sister does, getting on a plane to England with her father, leaving behind her mother and chronically sick brother.
  • The voice is very strong. Hannah, the protagonist, talks directly to her missing sister Jenny in second person. “The hotel room. You’re still missing. There it is: that sudden sick feeling in my stomach every time I think of you now. It’s always there beneath everything.” Second person can be a tricky thing to pull off, but Laura sensibly uses it sparingly and thus to great effect. Hannah’s voice throughout is great – not too ‘teenage’ and mainly in present tense (apart from flashbacks)
  • The plot. Damn, I really, REALLY wanted to know what happened to Jenny. Where is she? Why is she sending cryptic texts to her sister instead of just coming home? Is she trapped? Is she mixed up in something she can’t handle? The texts suggest she’s investigating something – some dark secret – to do with their family. But what on earth could it be? And should we mistrust Hannah and Jenny’s parents? Is Hannah in danger too? And then ANOTHER girl goes missing too – a friend of Jenny’s. WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON? I was honestly gripped. Sophie McKenzie does this too. Dammit, these authors can plot and they know how to keep the tension sky-high
  • Romance. But a decent one, a realistic one. Hannah falls for Harry, the boy who flies hawks and eagles as a job. Jenny has been working as an au pair on an English estate, and Harry is a young member of staff. He’s not good at the small talk, but then neither is Hannah. “Some girls like the quiet ones who don’t have to fill every second with how great they are. And those girls might not even know they like that until they meet someone like Harry.” Hannah is awkward around boys, but Harry is awkward around girls too, so once they figure out they don’t have to follow convention, everything becomes easier. And all the time, Hannah knows that when Jenny is found, she’ll be going home to the States, and will have to leave Harry behind. But like any strong attraction, that’s not enough to stop her falling head over heels for him
  • A good ending. By which I mean everything is properly tied up, and you’re not left feeling it’s a cop-out. It’s hard to do this well and still make everything feel realistic, but let me tell you this – it’s pretty chilling. There are Big Secrets, and Hidden Insanity, and Heartbreak, and Hope, and that’s ALL I’ll say on the matter

It’s not quite perfect for me. For one, we don’t get to meet the kids Jenny was looking after, and I feel this is a missed opportunity. I can see they’d add more characters into the cast, but equally, Jenny’s job was to look after them, and Hannah and her father stay on the estate – so how come they don’t feature in the scenes? My second issue concerns something Hannah does towards the end of the book. I can’t say what it is, but it’s monumentally stupid, and in that moment I didn’t believe it. At that stage of the book, when we know Hannah so well – I just didn’t believe it. I know why it’s there, and as a plot device it’s absolutely necessary, but…I still don’t think she’d do it!

Minor quibbles aside, this is a really gripping, heart-thumping read that challenges the reader to attempt to stay one step ahead of the characters (unlikely!) and contains a couple of really wonderful teenage characters. And now I want my own hawk.

IN ANOTHER LIFE  is published by Electric Monkey and is out now.

Still Falling – review

26 Jul

Sometimes you come across an author who writes such fantastic stuff that you really wonder why on earth they’re not on all the awards lists ever, or being interviewed by the Guardian, or appearing on Top YA lists everywhere. EDEN by Joanna Nadin made me feel like this – and Sheena Wilkinson’s STILL FALLING has done it to me again.

I’ve read one of Sheena’s other books – the wonderful GROUNDED – and I absolutely begged her for a copy of her latest when we met up at the Scattered Authors’ retreat recently. I have a huge pile of To Read books at the moment, but Sheena’s went straight to the top because I knew I’d like it. And I did.

still fallingSTILL FALLING is the story of Luke and Esther. He’s epileptic and in a new foster home. She’s unhappy with her body (what teenage girl isn’t?) and thinks she’s unattractive, trying to come to terms with the fact that she’s lost her Christian faith (curiously, in much the same way I did at the same age) whilst her parents are still quite devout.

They meet. There are fireworks. It’s that teenage intensity, with everything that comes with it. And that’s it, basically – except that that is everything to a really well-written book about teenagers. I love good characterisation. Characterisation – and naturally developing events – carry a book through, for me. And Luke and Esther are just perfect creations. I particularly liked Esther, a kind, sensible girl, with her head screwed on right, as we’d say, and a good heart. But being a teenager is crazy in so many ways, and even someone with a decent background and some brains can get messed up easily.

The story is told in alternating perspectives: Luke and Esther have their own voices. And when we see inside Luke’s head, we see some very dark places indeed. There’s a voice that speaks to him from the darkness – a voice that refers to things that Luke doesn’t want to think about. Things that if other people knew, Luke fears his life would come crashing down for good. And that makes him mistrust not just other people, but himself as well. Because if you’re trying to lie to yourself, how can you be sure you’re not lying to everyone about everything?

STILL FALLING is – I was going to say ‘gritty’ but what does that even mean, anyway? – real. It is the sort of book that grabs you and drags you along, and makes you care horribly about the people involved and wish so very hard that things will turn out OK, because Sheena is such a good writer that you know as a reader that real life isn’t about happy endings. And so you have to keep reading, because you can’t be sure that Luke and Esther are going to come through this.

Sheena – just so you know – I thought the ending was exactly right!

STILL FALLING is out now, published by little Island, and if you like your books full of the best and worst of humanity but with a real warmth running through them, you should love this.

Video interviews from YALC: in which I prat about and pull a lot of faces

24 Jul

As promised, here are the two videos taken by Michelle from Fluttering Butterflies. In the first, I am interviewed about my favourite recent book and my greatest fear – and in the second, I videobomb Liz Kessler’s interview (completely unplanned, of course…!) Thanks to Michelle and to Liz for being such good sports about the whole thing!

Lots of Stuff: Charney retreat, UKLA awards and YALC!

24 Jul

AAARGH school holidays have started and my time is DISAPPEARING and loads of brilliant Stuff has been happening, and there is NO TIME to blog about any of it!! And I have DEADLINES!

So, here’s my quick round-up of the past three weeks:

Charney retreat with the Scattered Authors’ Society

I love Charney. I think this is my fourth time on retreat there with the SAS, and each time I come home feeling uplifted and re-energised.

There was music in the evenings

There was music in the evenings

There was a fiendish quiz (my team came second by HALF A POINT!!)

There was a fiendish quiz (my team came second by HALF A POINT!!)

John Dougherty sang my Editing Song to an appreciative group of listeners

John Dougherty and I sang my Editing Song to an understanding and appreciative group of listeners

Me and one of my bestest author buddies, John Dougherty

Me and one of my bestest author buddies, John Dougherty

There were sessions on how a book is financed (truly fascinating, and yet terrifying), creating characters, short story writing, desert island books and troubleshooting your book. For the third year running, I made everyone look ridiculous at my improvised comedy session. And I also took some author photos for others again this year – will put them in a separate post! Thanks so much to Sheena Wilkinson and Lee Weatherly for organising – roll on next year!

UKLA Book Awards

To my great pride, Looking at the Stars was shortlisted for this fantastic award in the 11-16 category. The UKLA awards are selected by teachers up and down the country, and they deliberately look for books they can use in the class room as class readers; those books that cover issues and styles of writing that can be discussed and explored with experienced staff. I didn’t win (Every Day by David Levithan did), but it was an immense honour just to be there, and my great thanks to the UKLA team for making me so very welcome.

I got all glammed up to go

I got all glammed up to go

It was fab to meet GR Gemin and Clare Furniss!

It was fab to meet GR Gemin and Clare Furniss!

And I was UBER happy to meet the hugely talented and thoroughly nice John Hegley, who was entertaining the teachers, students and authors in the evening after the ceremony!

And I was UBER happy to meet the hugely talented and thoroughly nice John Hegley, who was entertaining the teachers, students and authors in the evening after the ceremony!

YALC

The Young Adult Literature Convention is in its second year, and you can read my report of last year’s here. This year was SO much better – not so stiflingly hot, more space, more publishing stalls, more STUFF than you could shake a stick at – and loads and loads of really passionate people, from bloggers to authors and everyone in between. I had an absolute whale of a time.

I was dressed in my ELECTRIGIRL t shirt and new mixtape skirt - dress for comfort is my advice!

I was dressed in my ELECTRIGIRL t shirt and new mixtape skirt – dress for comfort is my advice!

Look, it's Cleopatra! Otherwise known as Lucy Coats, bigging up her brand new book CLEO

Look, it’s Cleopatra! Otherwise known as Lucy Coats, bigging up her brand new book CLEO

There was a very nice seating area where you could just relax and read a book

There was a very nice seating area where you could just relax and read a book

and there were loads of bloggers - with me, Keris Stainton and Liz Kessler in the middle of the blogger sandwich

and there were loads of bloggers – with me, Keris Stainton and Liz Kessler in the middle of the blogger sandwich

Five Disney Princesses and Flynn Rider turned up too

Five Disney Princesses and Flynn Rider turned up too

Me with my fab new editor at Piccadilly, Tilda Johnson

Me with my fab new editor at Piccadilly, Tilda Johnson

Charlie Higson explains how his Young Bond books would have been even more violent if his son had had his way!

Charlie Higson explains how his Young Bond books would have been even more violent if his son had had his way!

Ex-Children's Laureate and all-round superwoman Malorie Blackman

Ex-Children’s Laureate and all-round superwoman Malorie Blackman

Lucy, Keris, Liz and Lee Weatherly in the audience for the Feminism in YA panel

Lucy, Keris, Liz and Lee Weatherly in the audience for the Feminism in YA panel

Lee and Liz

Lee and Liz

Liz is interviewed by Fluttering Butterflies blogger Michelle - more later!

Liz is interviewed by Fluttering Butterflies blogger Michelle – more later!

Down the pub with Chitra Soundar and Carnegie Medal winner Tanya Landman

Down the pub with Chitra Soundar and Carnegie Medal winner Tanya Landman

Natasha Farrant, me and Clare Furniss

Natasha Farrant, me and Clare Furniss

The moment Liz Kessler is told that two girls in her signing queue have just met and asked each other out - directly after the LGBT in YA panel. ALL THE SMILES.

The moment Liz Kessler is told that two girls in her signing queue have just met and asked each other out – directly after the LGBT in YA panel. ALL THE SMILES.

And the lovely Michelle from Fluttering Butterflies blog took video footage, not just of Liz but of me too – and they’re VERY funny. I’ll post those separately because they are worth their own blog posts!

Today I am trying to cram three days’ worth of work (and emails!) into one day, and am thrilled (and relieved) to report that I have just hit ‘SEND’ on the first draft of ELECTRIGIRL 2, which is due to be published in August of next year – yes!! OUP has commissioned a second ELECTRIGIRL book, and I COULDN’T be happier about it!

But NOW I have to get on with some Very Important Planning because I’m due to run some creative writing workshops for 8-12s at the Story Museum and I am FIZZING with ideas that I need to trap on paper!

Wheeeee!!

Only We Know – review

17 Jul

only we knowI was keen to read ONLY WE KNOW by Simon Packham because a) he used to blog for Girls Heart Books and I never got around to reading anything of his (and I really do try to read stuff by bloggers who help me run the site!) and b) it’s published by Piccadilly Press, who are publishing my book A LIBRARY OF LEMONS next May.

I like the cover, first off. Not entirely sure about the background colour (which is brighter in real life than on-screen), but the caterpillar/butterfly images are very apt, and it’s nice and simple and in-keeping with current cover trends. The central character is Lauren. She and her family have just moved house, and it seems that Lauren was the reason for the move, but we don’t know why. Her younger sister Tilda won’t talk to her, and again we don’t know why. Her parents are over-protective and say things like, ‘We don’t want THAT happening again’ – but we don’t know why.

There’s a lot we don’t know, and it’s to Simon’s credit that I kept reading because it takes a VERY long time to get any answers (do not fear! This is a book where everything is explained, thank goodness!) which means that you spend about 90% of the book trying to guess what’s happened before. And boy, did I guess wrong. Persistently. Which is also to Simon’s credit. Looking back, there were just about enough clues, but I think I might have questioned one or two reactions as unrealistic. I can’t say which, because I can’t spoiler the book! But by the time you find out Lauren’s secret, a number of things have happened – some good, some bad – and you really DO want her to succeed and have nice relationships and find love and all that.

The tricky thing about reviewing this book is that I can’t actually mention The Secret. Which is a bit of a pain, really, because The Secret puts this book into a certain really important category of books. If any school librarians would like to know just WHY I think they should have this book in their school library, please leave your email address below and I shall explain in a private message!

But trust me, it’s good to see a book like this, and we do need more of them. Kudos to Simon for writing a wholly enjoyable story with a great concept.

Introvert At A Party

14 Jul

Last night I went to a party. A big publishing party, hosted by Penguin Random House. At some point, I asked my editor how many people they were expecting. ‘Five hundred,’ she said.

Here’s the thing. Parties frighten me. I’m uncomfortable facing big noisy groups of people I don’t know. I like it even less when those people are high-up, clever, powerful, talented LEGENDS (Shirley Hughes was there! Julia Donaldson was there! Jacqueline Wilson wasn’t, but she was on the guest list) and I know I need to be interesting! witty! memorable! not too drunk!

It doesn’t help that I have a terrible memory for faces. I had to ask my Random publicist her name AGAIN, and I think I did the same thing at the last two parties. I only see her once a year, and I tend to remember things like dresses or hair, which change each time, so I’m constantly embarrassed about names. I’ve trained myself to be more upfront about it, asking straight out early on, ‘Name? I’m so sorry, I’m dreadful with names…’ But I still wish I were better at it. Sorry, Jasmine. I’ll probably do the same thing at the next party! :-(

I got there early. It was held at the Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park, and I had a very pleasant walk there across the park, even if I did get a bit lost. But when I arrived, they were still setting up, and so I grabbed my name badge and went and sat under a tree. I knew some of my author friends were due to arrive, so I thought I’d wait until I saw someone I knew and then go in with them.

The 2015 Serpentine Pavilion. CGI version (spot the people!) but the real thing does look exactly like this

The 2015 Serpentine Pavilion. CGI version (spot the people!) but the real thing does look exactly like this

As I sat under my tree, people watching, I realised that I was procrastinating. This was a great opportunity to go and meet new people; network; make new connections. Who knew what might have come out of them? But I couldn’t. The inner core of me shrank from it. I texted two friends, ‘Here early. You here yet?’ but they weren’t. So I sat and watched a bit longer. And when I reckoned there were about 150 people there already, I made myself get up and go in. And the nice (very cute!) doorman, who had seen me arrive and seen me sit under a tree for twenty-five minutes, smiled at me, and I guessed he knew exactly what I was doing and why, and I felt a bit better.

And the party was lots of fun. I met up with author pals Susie Day, Catherine Johnson, Robin Stevens, Steve Cole, Anthony McGowan, Candy Gourlay – I’m sure I’ve missed someone out! (I did! The lovely Abie Longstaff! And Sarah Benwell! anyone else?!) – and I also talked to five agents, which was very good of me because I AM looking for an agent at the moment, so it’s important to Meet People. They were all lovely too – and one of them even gave me her business card and asked me to get in touch. I might just do that!

And I saw some lovely Random people too: editors Ruth and Mainga, and Harriet (sorry Harriet, I barely said hello and goodbye!), Jasmine and Melissa. And I met Beth and Kirsty from Scottish Booktrust who were fab. And the canapes were delicious (especially the chicken tandoori thingy) and there was wine (though not red, which was a shame, because there was a worry it might damage the art installation we were using).

The Pavilion at night. Cool!

The Pavilion at night. Cool!

So I did have a very nice time. But I also knew when I’d had enough. The indoor area was very noisy, and outdoors it wasn’t all that much better. I did have several conversations where I literally had to shout, and it took a lot of effort to hear what people were saying back to me.

It’s really important for people like me to get out to occasions like this. I do find that the more I put in, the more I get out, and it really is SO nice to meet and chat with people who work in the same business, since writing is such a solitary part of it. So if you meet me at a party in the future, I will be really, really happy to talk to you, and I will be enjoying myself very much.

Just don’t worry if you see me sitting under a tree beforehand, trying to work up the courage to join you.

Stinkbomb and Ketchup-Face and the Bees of Stupidity – review

3 Jul

stinkbomb 4I can’t believe I haven’t reviewed one of these books on my site before. Maybe it’s because I’ve spent all my time telling people I meet to buy them! The Stinkbomb and Ketchup-Face series has caused more bedtime merriment in this house than any other. My seven-year-old literally squeals in delight, and I have been forced to stop reading on many occasions because I’m laughing so hard. John Dougherty – a good friend (so I am naturally biased) is a comic genius. It’s SO hard to do a funny book for kids that the parents are equally keen on.

Stinkbomb and Ketchup-Face are brother and sister, and they live in a house high on a hilltop above the village of Loose Chippings on the island of Great Kerfuffle. The island is ruled over by the benevolent King Toothbrush Weasel, who lives in a cottage palace, and it’s guarded by the army of Great Kerfuffle, a cat called Malcolm the Cat. The villains of the piece are the badgers, who are keen to do Evil and Wicked Things, though they’re a bit incompetent (apart from Harry the Badger, who’s the brains of the outfit), and are easily caught in each book and thrown in jail. The increasingly ingenious (and hilarious) ways to find ways to escape are one of the attractions of each new book; and I particularly liked the escape method in the Bees of Stupidity, involving a hard biscuit and some patient nibbling…

DSC_0047My daughter adores the anarchic characters (which also include an extremely rude blackbird and a sweet and helpful shopping trolley that Ketchup-Face has adopted as her pet ‘horse’ Starlight) and I and my husband appreciate the cleverness of the writing. John frequently reminds the reader that they are in fact reading a book (in an earlier book, an elephant objected to being pressed into a job, ‘because I’m needed in Chapter 28′), a stylistic device that could be annoying but somehow isn’t. We also loved the new characters, dachsunds Ziggy and Wiggo, who claim to be badger ‘experts’ but simply jump on anyone (or anything) they meet, barking ‘Badger Badger Badger!’

In this book, the fourth in the series, a series of break-ins have resulted in the theft of stripy jumpers, fairy wings and the badgers themselves. You can see where this might be heading…and so could my daughter, which made it all the more delicious for her. Stupidity, in case you’re wondering, is the name of another village on the island (you can go there by bus in Book 2: The Quest for the Magic Porcupine, though the journey does take you via the Mountains of Doom and the Valley of Despair). Stinkbomb and Ketchup-Face, once they’ve been reassured that they are in fact the heroes of the story again and haven’t been relegated to minor characters, set off to thwart any Evil and Wicked plans that might be afoot.

DSC_0048David Tazzyman’s illustrations perfectly capture the surreal, anarchic style, and I wonder how he feels when being asked to draw some of the things that John comes up with…I won’t spoiler it, but this picture was particularly brilliant, and so was the one that followed immediately afterwards!

If you’ve got kids aged anywhere between six and twelve, I reckon they’ll love this. The younger ones can be read to and will just laugh at the crazy plot, hilarious characters and brilliant pictures. The older ones will appreciate the zany authorial interruptions and the cleverness of having your characters clearly aware that they’re in a story.

Be warned though, if reading aloud, your full range of voices and accents will be tested. In book 1, there’s a song called Blueberry Jam that you WILL be required to attempt (no song in this one, John, what’s THAT about?!) and in this one, there’s almost a page of quacking required…

DSC_0044

It’s quite hard to quack in a conversational way…

...which is why I did THIS when I saw the page

…which is why I did THIS when I saw the page

I’m absolutely delighted that there’s more to come from Stinkbomb and Ketchup-Face, and, judging from the way my daughter’s eyes lit up when she saw the latest, she’ll be eagerly awaiting the next one too.

The previous books, The Badness of Badgers, The Quest for the Magic Porcupine, and The Evilness of Pizza, are all available now, and The Bees of Stupidity was published just yesterday. Congratulations to John, David and the team at OUP for another brilliant book!

Introducing Electrigirl!

2 Jul

Yesterday Cathy Brett and I met up in Oxford for the OUP sales conference. Authors don’t usually get to go to these; it’s where all the books due to be published in the next however-many-months are presented to the sales reps. I assumed that the reps were divided up geographically – so one person would handle the South West, one for Scotland etc. But in fact, each rep has their own area of expertise and handles a different ‘channel’ of sales: Amazon, High Street shops (eg WHSmith), schools, libraries, book clubs, Waterstones etc. All of them need to know about the new books OUP is putting out, so that they can talk to their ‘channels’ and persuade them to place pre-orders.

Every now and then an author is invited along to a sales conference to talk about their own book. It’s a really nice way for the reps to feel that they’ve made a personal connection, and I’m sure it helps them to enthuse about the book when they get back to their desk. Cathy and I were invited in as a double act, and we dressed for the occasion!

My leggings ALMOST glow in the dark...

My leggings ALMOST glow in the dark…

Check out my truly amazing customised shoes! Cathy did them for me, and I LURVE them. In fact, several of the reps wanted them too!

Our editor Kathy introduced us to the room, and then Elaine, head of marketing, talked about the plans to promote and publicise the book (which all sound very exciting), and then I got up and talked about the inspiration behind the book and how much fun the whole process was being – and then Cathy got everyone to draw their own superheroes, with their own personal super power!

It was a lot of fun, even though the room was very hot and the poor reps were almost melting in the heat. The biggest cheer of the day was for the arrival of ice cream! And I felt for Gill, assistant editor, who gamely donned a unicorn outfit to big up one of the other books!

We were glad when our bit was over and we could relax:

Cathy looks slightly crazy, possibly from the heat...

Cathy looks slightly crazy, possibly from the heat…

We went out for drinks and dinner afterwards and it was really great to be able to get to know some of the reps a bit more. What lovely dedicated people – and a shout-out to Camille, who was a VERY bad influence on me! ;-)

But almost better than the sales conference was the arrival of THIS!!

PROOF COPY!

PROOF COPY!

It’s an actual BOOK! I am SO excited. Look at the awesomeness!

Inside pages

Inside pages

You can see where the comic strip sections are from the black edges of the pages

You can see where the comic strip sections are from the black edges of the pages

There’s something really brilliant about bound proofs (which are what you call it when the publisher orders a special print run of the book in advance, not to be sold, but for reviews and to ‘build a buzz’). They don’t usually use the ‘real’ cover because it mustn’t be confused with the real thing when it’s finally published. But everything on the insides is pretty much as it’ll be in the final version, and I couldn’t be happier. It looks totally amazing.

Cathy and I had a great day meeting and talking to the reps and staff of OUP. It was All Good :-)

sales3

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 804 other followers