Boy X wins Essex Book Award 2017!

So. It looks like I’m going to have to stop saying I never win anything. Y’know . . . until recently it was true. But first there was the Coventry Inspiration Book Award and now BOY X has won the Essex Book Awards 2017!

Yay!

Yesterday was a long and brilliant day in Chelmsford, at King Edward VI Grammar School, where students from 18 schools came along to listen to the shortlisted authors say something (brief) about their books. There must have been over 250 students, all of them awesome readers (of course!), and over the past few months they, along with other students from schools across Essex, they have been reading the shortlisted books, reviewing them, and voting for their favourite.

It was great to meet the other authors – Helen Dennis, Monica Vaughan, Robin Jarvis, and Hayley Long – but most of all it was fantastic to meet all the students who have been reading the books, and I even had the chance to give Olivia her award for the best review of BOY X.

The organisation was excellent, the staff were amazing, and the students were awesome!

Thank you so much to everyone who reviewed BOY X and voted for Ash’s jungle adventure. And to the student who apologised for not giving it a good review . . . well, that’s okay. If we all liked the same things, the world would be a very dull place.

That’s all.

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Awesome Readers!

IMG_8810 2.JPGOver the past few years, World Book Day has grown to become World Book Week. And that’s no bad thing – anything that encourages the celebration of books and reading for pleasure is worth while. For many young people, their only main contact with books is in the classroom and, even with the best intentions, studying a book can kill it stone dead. I understand the benefits of studying literature, but I also know that writers (me included) want their readers to feel excitement, fear, sadness, elation, and wonder when they settle down and open a book. Studying a text, dissecting it in a classroom, reading a couple of sentences and then discussing them, removes the wonder.

IMG_8791.JPGSo World Book Week is a time to celebrate. It’s a time for us to revel in the joys of reading and story-telling (although, shouldn’t every week be a book week?), and it’s a time time when a school’s focus can turn on their library (if they have one) and their librarian (if they have one). It’s also a busy time for authors as we are invited into schools to meet and hopefully inspire future generations of readers.

 
FullSizeRender 6.jpgOver the course of World Book Week this year I was in schools every day, and so would like to give a big shout out to Bollin Primary, Hockerill School, Lord Lawson of Beamish Academy, Jarrow School, Hepburn Comprehensive, Wirral Grammar School for Boys, and GSMS in West Virginia USA (who asked some great questions via Skype). Thank you to all the awesome young readers who listened to me, joined in, and asked questions, and to the fantastic librarians, teachers, and staff who looked after me so well. And there was even time for a quick dab.

 

And . . . in other news . . .

BOY X was voted by young readers as winner in the ‘Hooked on Books’ category at the Coventry Inspiration Book Awards 2017. All of my books for younger readers have been shortlisted for multiple awards (including the Coventry Inspiration Book Award in the past), so it’s very exciting to finally win – especially when the winner is voted for by the readers themselves.

Hooray for Boy X.Screen Shot 2017-03-11 at 08.58.04.png

That’s all.

 

 

 

Chickens in Manchester!

Chicken House came north yesterday. Well, I say ‘north’, but Manchester’s not north really, is it? For those of us who live in Newcastle, anything on the wrong south side of the river is  . . . well, south. And anyone who watches Game of Thrones knows that north = honest, tough and honourable, while south = well, if you watch it, you’ll know what south means.

Anyway, the event was a huge success – as Chicken House events always are. The room was filled with librarians and booksellers and bloggers, as well as an excellent collection of authors including Melvin Burgess, David Massey, Sam Hepburn, Fletcher Moss and Stuart Hill. Oh, and I also had the chance to meet fellow ‘Allsorts-er’ the lovely Kate Ormand, who had bravely come along and thrown herself into a room full of people she didn’t know – which must have been terribly daunting. Annie Everall from Authors Aloud was there too, and even the Book Witch came along (there are more details and photos of the event on her blog). Cat and hat were left at home though, and the witch came by train rather than broomstick, so I’m not convinced she was really a witch at all.

Oh, and making our way from one venue to another, I was lucky enough to have Melvin Burgess on hand to lug a box of My Friend The Enemy proofs for me. It was a warm day and saved me from developing an unsightly glow.

 

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Over there, Burgess, put them over there!

 

That’s all.

 

 

Awkward Teenagers

When I was invited to visit The Duchess’s High School in Alnwick on World Book Day, I thought, what better day to visit a school?

But, you know what? To my shame, I didn’t know much about World Book Day. That’s not to say I wasn’t aware of it. In fact, I was VERY aware of it. You see, I have two children. And for parents of young children, World Book Day is all about finding a letter in your child’s bookbag telling you that they have to dress up as a favourite character from a book. Next week.

If it wasn’t for my wife, my children would probably be the ones who turn up at school on World Book Day dressed in their uniform . . . but you have to make an effort, right? Of course you do. So we spend the week before the big day wondering what on earth we’re going to dress them in. We rummage through the old dressing up stuff (theirs, not ours, natch), save cereal packets to make masks, dig out the face paint, persuade them that The Fantastic Mr Fox is going to be much easier than The Gruffalo – that kind of thing.

Anyway, I thought that if I was going to visit a school, I should know a bit more than that. There had to be more to it than being a character from a book. So I did a little bit of research and found out about the core ideas of World Book Day – to promote books for the enrichment and enjoyment of all, and to encourage young readers to explore the pleasure of reading. But y’know, I was asked if I’d talk to teenagers, so I didn’t think The Fantastic Mr Fox was going to cut it. Nuh-uh.

Oh, and teenagers are supposed to be awkward.DAN SMITH WBD 3 All mopey and angst-riddled. Monosyllabic and difficult.

Not so, as it turns out . . .

I spoke to two groups, deciding to show them a few photos of the places that inspired the books I’ve written. I told them about some of the more colourful characters I’ve met  – who might have made it into my books in one way or another – and then tried to show the difference between writing stories that draw from personal experience, and those that are borne out of research and pure imagination. Both groups were made up of welcoming and enthusiastic teenagers (who’d have thought, eh?) who listened and then asked some great questions about planning, voice, generating ideas and how you move from being a writer to being a published writer. A number of them expressed an interest in writing – from short stories and novels, to film scripts and journalism – and it was a pleasure to have spent time with them. They really were a great bunch.

So thanks to everyone at the High School who came along to listen to me, and particularly to Liz for organising it all, and here’s wishing you all the best of luck for the future.

 

 

That’s all.