Last week I was at Norwood School in Lambeth for the Phoenix Book Awards 2017. The awards have been running for 10 years, with winners including Frank Cottrell-Boyce and David Walliams, so I was honoured to be included in the shortlist which was put together by young readers.
When I write a book, I write it for myself. After all, how boring would my profession be if I wrote stories that I didn’t enjoy? But I also write for a younger version of myself – I think back to the kind of thing I would have wanted to read when I was twelve/thirteen years old and I write something that would have entertained and inspired young Dan. And I write for someone else . . . for the young readers who are out there right now. So these kinds of awards are particularly special, because those young readers are the ones who choose the books, write the reviews, and vote for their favourite.
Katherine Woodfine (also shortlisted for the award) and I were made to feel very welcome at Norwood School and we enjoyed a fantastic morning during which several students took to the stage (some of them on their own) to tell the audience why they would vote for a particular book. It’s no small thing to do that in front of a large group of people you don’t know, and every one of them did an amazing job! There was also an interactive quiz, drama, films, and even the mayor of Lambeth came along to inspire the students and hand out prizes.
Sometimes being an author can be a lonely profession. There are occasions when I feel like I’m shouting into a deep dark hole, my own voice swallowed by all the other voices shouting into it, so I was thrilled when Boy X was announced as the winner. As a writer, I can think of nothing better than to know that young readers have been picking up my book and enjoying the adventure within its pages.
Thank you to everyone who organised the fantastic day, to all the students who took part, and to everyone who voted for BOY X!!