I’m looking forward to spending a couple of busy days in London this week. On Monday I’ll be calling in at my publishers, Walker Books, in Vauxhall, for a lunchtime meeting with my brilliant editor Mara Bergman, equally brilliant agent Stephanie Thwaites, of the Curtis Brown agency, and some other lovely Walker folk to discuss plans for the publication of my new YA novel, Twenty Questions for Gloria.
The book comes out in February, so we’ll be talking about all the promotion, publicity and marketing malarkey as well as plans to arrange for me to visit schools to give talks and readings around the time of publication. Hopefully, Walker will have a cover design to show me – they’ve been working on different ideas and have run various drafts past me, so I’m very excited to see what they’ve come up with. I had similar meetings at Walker ahead of the publication of Flip and Never Ending and am always made to feel very welcome . . . they lay on a very nice lunch, too!
Then, on Tuesday, I’ll be heading off to a swanky hotel on Park Lane for the meeting of the judging panel for the children’s category of the 2015 Costa Book Awards, with my fellow judges – Melissa Cox, Head of Children’s Buying at Waterstones, and Andrea Reece, a children’s books reviewer and Managing Editor of Books for Keeps. We’ve spent the last few months reading more than 140 novels for children and teenagers and have whittled them down to an unofficial longlist of twelve titles.
Our task at the meeting this week is to agree on a shortlist of four, which will be publicly announced on November 17th, once all of the other category panels have met. The winner of the children’s section will go on to compete with the winners of the other four – novel, first novel, biography and poetry – for the overall Costa Book Award. The category winners are announced on January 4th and the overall winner on January 26th.
Having been shortlisted for the children’s prize with Flip in 2011, it has been fascinating to be on the inside of the judging process. I’ve been particularly struck by just how many excellent books are being written for young people – narrowing all of the entries down to the longlist was difficult enough but choosing a shortlist and winner will be tougher still. There’s a lot at stake, too, for the writers – each category winner receives £5,000 and is in with a chance of the £30,000 overall prize. And I know from experience what a boost it can give to a book, and to its author, just to be on the shortlist. No pressure on the judges, then!