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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

Gloria goes Dutch

gloria-dutch-coverTwenty Questions for Gloria was published in translation in the Netherlands this week, so I thought I’d share this striking cover image of the Dutch edition.

It’s published by Querido Kinderboeken, the specialist children’s and young-adult imprint of Querido, a prominent Amsterdam-based publisher which celebrated its centenary last year.

I’m especially grateful to the translator, Tjalling Bos, for bringing my novel to a Dutch readership.

Good day for YA

It was a long but enjoyable trip down to London on Saturday for YA Shot 2016, one of the highlights of the teenage-books festivals calendar. I left home at 8.30am and arrived back at 8.30pm, in the midst of which was a 55-minute panel session on young-adult crime fiction: There Will Be Blood.

ya-shot-logoI arrived at the Civic Centre, in Uxbridge, to discover that one of the panellists – Tanya Byrne – had suffered an accident en route and wouldn’t be able to make it (nothing too serious, I hope, although I’m still waiting to hear how she is.) It was a real shame because I’d read and enjoyed her three YA novels – Heart-Shaped Bruise, Follow Me Down and For Holly – and was looking forward to meeting and working with her.

Thankfully, the other panel member was there – Simon Mason, a successful author of fiction for adults and younger children who has recently turned his hand to YA, with the first two novels in the Garvie Smith detective series: Running Girl and Kid Got Shot. Simon is also managing director of the excellent independent press, David Fickling Books, publishers of some of the best teen fiction in recent years.

He was great to work with, and a knowledgeable and eloquent speaker, making my job as chair very easy. Between the two of us, we managed to compensate for Tanya’s absence by doing enough talking for three people and an appreciative audience chipped in with some interesting questions at the end. Our event was one of more than 30 sessions during the day – from talks, readings and book signings, to panel discussions, workshops and on-stage interviews.

ya-shot-logoThere were 70 authors taking part, including some leading names from the world of YA: Sara Barnard, Holly Bourne, Keren David, Jenny Downham, Kathryn Evans, Natasha Farrant, Clare Furniss, Lisa Heathfiled, Rhian Ivory, Lauren James, Catherine Johnson, Tanya Landman, Patrice Lawrence, Hayley Long, Zoe Marriott, Andy Robb, S.F. Said and Holly Smale.

YA Shot 2016, brilliantly organised and run by Alexia Casale and her team, was part of Culture Bite, Hillingdon Borough Council’s month-long arts, theatre, music and literature festival , which runs to the end of October. The day culminated in the annual YA Bloggers Awards.

Carnegie hat-trick

carnegie-greenaway-logoI’m delighted to announce that Twenty Questions for Gloria has been nominated for 2017 Carnegie Medal – the third time I’ve been in contention for this most prestigious of awards in the UK for children’s and teenage fiction. The list of titles was revealed today by CILIP, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, which organises the award – now in its 80th year – and whose membership makes the nominations.

I’m honoured to be rubbing shoulders with some of the leading YA and children’s authors: Malorie Blackman, Frank Cottrell Boyce, John Boyne, Anne Cassidy, Cressida Cowell, Jenny Downham, Matt Haig, Tanya Landman, Hayley Long, Simon Mayo, Louise O’Neill, Mal Peet, Meg Rosoff, Annabel Pitcher, Chris Priestley, Philip Reeve, Francesca Simon, Rebecca Stead and Nicola Yoon.

GLORIA UK final cover 1It’s especially pleasing to see my Creative Writing PhD student Liz Flanagan among the nominations for her debut YA novel, Eden Summer, which I’ve been supervising at Leeds Trinity University, and Crush, by Eve Ainsworth, with whom I share an agent – Stephanie Thwaites, at Curtis Brown – and with whom I shared a stage at the Hay Festival earlier this year. In fact, all four of the authors from that Hay panel are nominated, as Patrice Lawrence (Orangeboy) and Juno Dawson (All of the Above) are also on the Carnegie list. Great to see that my publishers, Walker Books, have five titles in contention.

The 114 nominated books will be whittled down to a longlist, published in February, then a shortlist, in March, with the winner being announced in June. The longlisted and shortlisted titles for the Carnegie Medal and its sister prize for books aimed at younger readers, the Kate Greenaway, are shadowed by 100,000 students in 5,000 reading groups at participating schools across the country. Previous Carnegie winners include Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Philip Pullman, Patrick Ness and C.S. Lewis.

To see the full lists of nominations for both awards please click on this link to the Carnegie/Greenaway website.

Let the voting begin!

BA logo 2017The 2017 Coventry Inspiration Book Awards were officially launched today by the children’s author and screenwriter Andy Briggs at a special event at the city’s Ricoh Arena. A total of 40 books for children and teenagers are competing for prizes in five categories aimed at different ages and reading levels – my latest YA novel, Twenty Questions for Gloria, has been shortlisted in the ‘Simply the Book’ category, for readers aged 13 and over. It’s the second time I’ve been in contention for this award, following Flip‘s shortlisting in 2012.

This is the 11th year of the awards, which are run by Coventry City Council’s Schools Libraries Service. Hundreds of children aged from 4 to 18 at participating schools across the Coventry area will be able to read, comment on, review and vote for their favourite books over the coming months. The title from each category with the fewest votes will be evicted on January 23 and the books will continue to be whittled down every week after this until February 20, when each category will be down to the final three.

After a final week’s voting, the winning books will be announced on March 1, to coincide with reading events being held in schools to celebrate World Book Day (March 2). All of the competing books were shortlisted by a panel of specialist children’s librarians and teachers and reflect a wide range of genres and styles.

GLORIA UK final cover 1In the ‘Simply the Book’ category, Twenty Questions for Gloria will be up against seven terrific novels by some of the leading names in YA fiction. Here’s the list in full:

Eve Ainsworth Crush
Martyn Bedford Twenty Questions for Gloria
Moira Fowley-Doyle The Accident Season
Nick Lake Whisper to Me
Philip Reeve Railhead
Dave Shelton Thirteen Chairs
Jon Walter My Name’s Not Friday
Matt Whyman Bad Apple

For full details of this year’s Coventry Inspiration Book Awards and to find out the shortlisted titles in the other categories, please click on this link to the awards website.

YA Shot blog

I’m grateful to Nazy at The Enchanted Bookcase for hosting my visit to her excellent website as part of the YA Shot 2016 blog tour.

YA Shot is an annual all-day festival for young-adult and middle-grade readers, bloggers, vloggers and aspiring writers, which is being held this year in Uxbridge, West London, on Saturday October 22nd, with more than 70 authors taking part in panel and in-conversation events, workshops and book signings. For my part, I’ll be chairing a panel discussion – “There Will Be Blood: murder and other crimes in YA” – with fellow YA writers Tanya Byrne (Heart-Shaped Bruise; Follow Me Down; For Holly) and Simon Mason (Running Girl).

ya-shot-tour-logoThe build-up to this year’s festival includes a blog tour by participating authors. My stopping-off point on the tour was The Enchanted Bookcase, a YA book reviews site, which invited me to post a blog on my switch from adult fiction to writing for teenagers. To whet your appetite, here’s the opening of the piece:

I have a former editor to thank for my first novel for teenagers – I wrote it because he advised me not to. After more than 12 years writing fiction for adults I had an idea for a story more suited to a younger audience. When I mentioned it over a pizza one day, the editor shook his head.
“You don’t want to write one of those.”
“Why not?” I asked.
He didn’t really give a reason, just shook his head again. With the teen market so buoyant, perhaps he thought I was jumping on the bandwagon, or that I wouldn’t be able to write well for that readership. Maybe he foresaw a “re-branding” problem. Whatever, I came away from that lunch feeling cross. Like any author, I resented being told what to write – or what not to write (he hadn’t even asked what the story was about!) I decided to go ahead with my YA novel and to hell with him, even if he had just paid for my pizza
.

To read the full post, and to visit the rest of The Enchanted Bookcase site, please click on this link.

And follow this link for full details of the YA Shot 2016 programme.

Festival gig

Deershed flyerNorth Yorkshire beckons this weekend with a trip to the wonderfully named Deer Shed Festival, where I’ll be rubbing shoulders with a whole host of musicians, singers, actors, comedians, storytellers, artists and other writers.

The family-focused festival, now in its seventh year, is expected to draw a crowd of up to ten thousand over three days of events in the lovely setting of Baldersby Park, between Thirsk and Ripon – 90 acres of parkland whose features include a lake, an obelisk . . . and a historic deer shed. I’ll be giving a talk and reading at 11.30am on Saturday on the Obelisk Stage, which has a capacity of 500 (eek!), followed by a book-signing.

For full details of the festival click to visit the Deer Shed website.

Coventry (again!)

GLORIA UK final cover 1I’m delighted to announce that Twenty Questions for Gloria has been shortlisted for the 2017 Coventry Inspiration Book Awards. It’s the second time I’ve been in contention for this award – one of the bigger regional children’s and YA prizes – following Flip‘s shortlisting in 2012.

Gloria is competing in the “Simply the Book” category for novels aimed at readers aged 13 and upwards. Voting begins in the autumn, with hundreds of students at schools throughout the Coventry area taking part. I’m up against some excellent YA authors and some terrific books. Here’s the shortlist in full:

Eve Ainsworth Crush
Martyn Bedford Twenty Questions for Gloria
Moira Fowley-Doyle The Accident Season
Nick Lake Whisper to Me
Philip Reeve Railhead
Dave Shelton Thirteen Chairs
Jon Walter My Name’s Not Friday
Matt Whyman Bad Apple

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