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Now for WoW

I’m looking forward to a trip to Liverpool next month to take part in the 2017 Writing on the Wall Festival, where I’ll be helping to launch a new anthology of short fiction about political dissent and resistance. The anthology – Protest! : stories of resistance, published by the Manchester-based independent Comma Press – includes my latest story, Withen, which centres on the Battle of Orgreave during the 1984-85 miners’ strike.

For the book, Comma Press commissioned twenty writers – including Frank Cottrell Boyce, Kit de Waal, Alexei Sayle, Maggie Gee, Sara Maitland and Courttia Newland – to bring to life crucial moments of protest in British history through the medium of fiction. The stories range across topics as diverse as the Suffragettes, the Peasants’ Revolt, the Brixton riots and the civil rights movements of the 1960s.


Each story has been written in consultation with a specialist historian or, in the case of more recent protests, in partnership with activists who helped organise them. The resulting fictions are accompanied by short essays by the historians and activists, contextualising the events and offering insights into the political climates that produced them. For my story, I worked closely with Prof. David Waddington, a social historian from Sheffield Hallam University, who was an academic observer at Orgreave.

At the festival, I’ll be sharing a stage with Stuart Evers and Jacob Ross, whose stories also appear in the book. The event is at 7.30pm on Thursday May 25th, at Blackburne House, Blackburne Place, Liverpool, L8 7PE. Tickets (£6/£3) can be obtained via these links to Comma Press and the Wowfest site.

Join the Q (and A)

One of my Creative Writing MA students has conducted a Q&A style interview with me about my writing for a blog post on the Leeds Trinity University website.

It’s the latest in a series of blogs by Esther Dreher, a poet and short-story writer in her first year of the MA; her previous posts have covered visits to the programme by guest speakers as part of the Writing as a Profession module, including Ian Duhig (poet), Linda Green (novelist), Rachel Conway (literary agent), and Ra Page (editor, Comma Press).

To whet your appetite, here’s an extract from my Q&A:

Q: Certain novels I have read and loved leave me feeling a little deflated, as I feel I could never write anything as good as that. Haruki Murakami’s ‘The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle’, in its originality and imaginativeness, would be a key example for me. Are there any books that have left you feeling like that, and what is your approach to coming up with original ideas?

A: How curious, because if I were to list books which have made me feel I could never write anything as good, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle would be among the top three. Depending what mood I’m in, novels as brilliant as this can make me think ‘why bother?’ or they can remind me why I loved writing in the first place and send me back to my keyboard inspired (even in the knowledge that I am no Murakami, nor ever will be). As for coming up with original ideas, I don’t have ‘an approach’. Can one approach originality? For me, it comes (from somewhere), or it doesn’t. All I can do is hope that I recognise an original idea when I have one . . . and figure out what to do with it.

To read the interview in full, and to check out Esther’s previous posts on the Leeds Trinity website, please click on this link.

Face flipped!

Until this week, I hadn’t heard of Bookface – a craze among book lovers which, so I’m told, has been sweeping Instagram in the past couple of years. It’s a simple idea: you find a book with a face, or some other body part (the mind boggles), on the cover and pose behind it for a selfie, in such a way that the two images merge into one. Here’s one of me with my first YA novel, Flip, which was taken during a visit to a local school. I’ll leave you to judge whether it’s me or the book that’s upside down and back to front.

I’m grateful to Angela Palmer, Assistant Communities Librarian with Leeds Library & Information Service, for sharing the image with me.

Prize for Gloria!

I’m delighted to announce that Twenty Questions for Gloria has won the 13+ ‘Simply the Book’ category in the 2017 Coventry Inspiration Book Awards.
My heartfelt thanks to Coventry Schools Library Service for organising the awards, to the librarians and teachers who supported them, and, of course, to the hundreds of students in participating schools across the city who voted for my novel. I’m really looking forward to attending the prize-giving celebration event in the summer and to meeting everyone involved.

To find out the winners in the categories for other age groups please click on this link to the awards website.

Gloria in the final!

Hot off the press (well, the internet) . . . Twenty Questions for Gloria is in the final of the 2017 Coventry Inspiration Book Awards. The shortlist of eight contenders in the Simply the Book category for readers aged 13+ has been whittled down to the last three over several weeks of voting. Now, hundreds of students from participating schools across Coventry will be casting their final vote to choose a winner – due to be announced on March 1st, the eve of World Book Day.

My commiserations to the five fellow YA writers whose novels have already been eliminated and congratulations to the two who have made it to the final: Nick Lake, for Whisper to Me, and Eve Ainsworth, for Crush. I’m especially pleased to see Eve in with a shout for the prize as we have the same literary agent, Stephanie Thwaites, at Curtis Brown, and have worked together at a couple of events in the past year, including sharing a stage at the Hay festival. She’s lovely and Crush is a terrific book.

Gloria by the sea

The new year has got off to a smashing start with the news that Twenty Questions for Gloria has been longlisted for the ABA South Coast Book Awards 2017. Also known as the “Amazing Book Awards”, the prize was established in 2011 by school librarians in Sussex and, this year, has more than thirty participating schools along the south coast. Students from Years 9 and 10 in these schools are in charge of choosing the nominated titles and casting the votes, which makes it all the more pleasing to have been selected by my target readership.

There are twenty books on the 2017 longlist, including some of the best-known YA authors in the UK: David Almond, Holly Bourne, Sally Gardner, Patrick Ness, Teri Terry and Jenny Valentine. Voting takes place in January to whittle the contenders down to a shortlist of five, with the winner being announced at a special awards event in June following another round of voting. Gold, Silver and Bronze awards are made to the top three books.

To view the longlist please follow this link to ABA 2017’s Twitter feed.

Pick of the Welsh

GLORIA UK final cover 1Lovely to hear that Twenty Questions for Gloria has been shortlisted for a prize at a school in South Wales. It’s up against Tom Anderson’s Luca, Son of the Morning and Sofi Croft’s Eidolon in the 14+ category of the book awards at Ysgol Bae Baglan, in Port Talbot – a brand new school which opened in September and has around 1100 secondary-age students. I have fond memories of that part of the world, having been a journalist on the South Wales Echo in the mid-1980s and winning the Neath-Port Talbot Bay Book Award, for Flip, in 2011.

The Italian job

I’ve taught creative writing in a fair few places over the years – from the Scottish Highlands to Melbourne, Australia, and most corners of England – but I’m especially excited to have been invited to tutor a residential course in Tuscany next year.

art-of-writing-gazeboThe week-long course is hosted by The Art of Writing, founded by Lisa Clifford, an Australian ex-pat writer who has lived in Italy for many years. Lisa runs two “retreats” a year at a small hotel in Casentino, in the beautiful upper Arno Valley, less than an hour’s drive from Florence. I’ll be the guest tutor for the autumn retreat in 2017 – from September 10 to 16 – when a group of ten writers from around the English-speaking world will converge on the Tuscan mountains for six days of creative indulgence.

The mornings will be taken up with workshops in the hotel’s garden gazebo – covering a range of topics such as characterization, plot, setting and voice – with writing time and individual tutorials in the afternoons, followed by early evening sessions with literary agents, editors and other publishing professionals. The week will also include a trip to a medieval castle and a chance to make cheese. (I WON’T be leading that class!) There’ll be plenty of wining and dining, too. What’s not to like?

art-of-writing-sceneryTo visit the Art of Writing website and find out more please click here.

And here’s a link to a Q&A I’ve done for their blog.

Made in Leeds

I made a rare appearance on television this week when one of the local stations sent along a reporter to Leeds Trinity University to interview me and my PhD student, Liz Flanagan. Liz and I have both been nominated for the prestigious Carnegie Medal – me for Twenty Questions for Gloria; Liz for her YA debut, Eden Summer, which she has been writing for her PhD in Creative Writing. It’s believed to be the first time that a student and supervisor have been in contention for the same literary prize.

carnegie-pic-me-and-lizSo, after Leeds Trinity’s marketing department released the news, Made in Leeds TV came along to chat to us in the university library to record an item which was broadcast on the station’s main evening news magazine programme, On the Aire. It was strange to be speaking in front of a TV camera again – the last time was about twenty years ago, when my first novel was published, and I appeared on BBC Look North and Sky’s books programme in the same week.

To see the Made in Leeds TV piece please click on this link. It begins 9 mins 40 secs into part 1 of the programme on 24/11.

London calls for Gloria

A smashing end to the week with the news that Twenty Questions for Gloria has been longlisted for the Redbridge Teenage Book Award 2017, one of the bigger regional prizes in children’s and YA fiction.

GLORIA UK final cover 1My novel is one of 15 selected for the award, run by the north-east London council’s Schools’ Library Service, and which will be read over the coming months – and voted for – by hundreds of students at 16 participating schools across the borough. The shortlist will be revealed at the end of May, followed by the announcement of the winner at a special event in July. I’ve read six of the other titles in contention and am flattered and, frankly, daunted to find myself in their company. The quality of teenage fiction just seems to grow stronger every year.

The award, which includes a children’s category, aims to promote the reading, appreciation and discussion of literature among young people in schools. Since it began in 2004, the winners of the teenage category have included some of the big-hitters in young-adult fiction (Malorie Blackman, Suzanne Collins, Darren Shan) and, in the last three years, the prize has gone to two Carnegie Medal-winning titles – One, by Sarah Crossan, and The Bunker Diary, by Kevin Brooks – and the international bestselling We Were Liars, by E. Lockhart.

Here’s the longlist for the 2017 award:

redbridge-longlist-booksCecilia Ahern Flawed
Tara Altebrando The Leaving
Sara Barnard Beautiful Broken Things
Martyn Bedford Twenty Questions for Gloria
Anne Cassidy Moth Girls
Nicci Cloke Follow Me Back
Helen Dennis River of Ink: Genesis
Kathryn Evans More of Me
Zana Fraillon The Bone Sparrow
Alan Gibbons The Trap
M.A. Griffin Lifers
Richard Kurti Maladapted
Simon Mayo Blame
Ransom Riggs Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Teri Terry Book of Lies

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