Friday, 27 March 2015

On the Edge with Herts Lit Fest at Rickmansworth Library!

Me and my shadow getting edgy down at the library …

Earlier this week I joined fellow Edge author Sara Grant for a Herts Lit Fest event at Rickmansworth Library with year 7 pupils from nearby St. Joan of Arc School. Here are a few photos from the day …

Karen Stephens introduces the students to all the
amazing FREE services on offer at the library.
Sara reading from her brilliant dystopian thriller HALF LIVES.
Thanks to Judi for this great graffiti wall.
After Sara and I had given the students a brief introduction to our books and a couple of readings, we reconvened for the Edge Graffiti Wall Panel. We were joined by librarians Judi and Melanie, and St Joan of Arc students Ella and Arfred to answer questions from the wall and the audience. 

We started by asking each panelist for a book recommendation. It was such an interesting and varied list, I thought I'd share it here:

Arfred: Russian Roulette (Alex Rider) by Anthony Horowitz 
Dave: Riot by Sara Mussi
Ella: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Sara: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Melanie: Jane, the Fox and Me by Fanny Britt
Judi: Trash by Andy Mulligan

The panel was a lot of fun, with some tricky questions and unexpected answers. Huge thanks to everyone involved, especially Ella and Arfred—it's always great (and valuable to us as writers) to hear young readers' opinions, especially their thoughts on books. 

Thanks also to Miss Turner and Miss Ryan for bringing the students to the library for the event; Karen Stephens for making it all happen; librarians Diane, Judi and Melanie, and Rickmansworth Library for being such welcoming hosts.

Finally, a special thank you to Melanie and the TRG (Teenage Reading Group) at the library who have been reading my novel Waiting for Gonzo and made these fantastic bookmarks. 

For more information, or to book The Edge for an event, please visit the Edge blog.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Look Hoo's Talking … About Books!

The Marquee at Luton Hoo Walled Garden, the venue for the event.

Author Jon Mayhew and I had a great time at the Hoo's Kids Book Fest "Look Hoo's Talking … about Books" Award event on Friday. 

Students from eight local schools spent the day discussing (and arguing!) the merits of each book on the shortlist, before settling down for a workshop by Jon, and a talk from me.

Congratulations to Phil Earle whose excellent book The Bubble Wrap Boy was chosen by the students as the winner. It was a real privilege to be in a room full of young people so passionate about books, and to hear their presentations for each of the shortlisted titles. 

Thanks to all the staff and students from Parmiter's School, Icknield High, Stopsley High, Hemel Hempstead School, Francis Combe Academy, Sacred Heart Primary and Tennyson Road Primary

Huge thanks also to Charlotte Cassella, Jayne Truran, Charmian Allwright, Liz Stratton, Bela Brown, Ellen Krajewski and Chorleywood Bookshop for making it all happen!

Thursday, 19 March 2015

UKYA Easter Egg Hunt!

Welcome to the UKYA Easter Egg Hunt—your chance to win a great bundle of signed books by over thirty Young Adult authors who write and live in the UK. 

All you have to do is read this post, count up the UKYA branded Easter eggs like this one (yes, this counts as number one!), and follow the link at the end to the next author. Keep going until you get back to the blog where you started, and add up how many eggs you’ve seen along the way. 

Email your answer to: A winner will be chosen at random from all correct entries, and contacted by email. The competition closes at noon (UK time) on Sunday, 5th April, and is open internationally. 

My contribution to the prize bundle will be a signed copy of my debut YA novel 15 Days Without a Head, plus a very limited edition, handmade, signed CD of the Waiting for Gonzo soundtrack

Now, I’d like to make it clear from the start that I’m a big fan of some of the excellent books from the States that are currently dominating the YA market. Unfortunately though, the huge amount of attention given to these titles in the media can somewhat overshadow publications from the UK. As a result, many great books fail to receive the recognition and readership they deserve. 

In an effort to redress the balance a little, I’d like to offer a few names to drop into your egg hunting basket alongside those chocolate treats. The list below is an incomplete and very personal UKYA roll of honour—books and writers who have enriched my life; offered companionship; new perspectives and ideas; helped me navigate a path through the turbulent teenage years and well beyond. Without these books I certainly wouldn't be a published author today.

Bog Child — Siobhan Dowd

Creepers — Keith Gray

Empty World — John Christopher

Exodus — Julie Bertagna

Fat Boy Swim — Catherine Forde

Fathom Five — Robert Westall

Geekhood — Andy Robb

Grinny — Nicholas Fisk

Henry Tumour — Anthony McGowan

Heroic — Phil Earle

Keeper — Mal Peet

Kill All Enemies — Melvin Burgess

Noughts & Crosses — Malorie Blackman

Riot — Sarah Mussi

The Road of the Dead — Kevin Brooks

Rowan the Strange — Julie Hearn

Storm Catchers — Tim Bowler

Thunder and Lightnings — Jan Mark

Wasted — Nicola Morgan

Sadly, a few of these books are now out of print, and their authors no longer with us, but there are many fantastic writers continuing their legacy, many of them included in this Easter Egg Hunt blog trail. I’m honoured to be among them and hope that my stories will play their own part in continuing the great tradition of UKYA. So, please go and count those eggs, but more importantly, I’m hoping you’ll pick up a few new favourite authors on the way.

Good luck and thanks for visiting.

Dave Cousins is the author of two award winning books for young adults—15 Days without a Head and Waiting for Gonzo have both been published worldwide in over 19 different languages. Dave is currently writing his third YA novel, due for publication by Oxford University Press in May 2016.

Friday, 27 February 2015

World Book Day Teen Fest Twitter Takeover!

I'm looking forward to lots of events over the next couple of weeks, as schools up and down the country celebrate World Book Week. This year the World Book Day organisers are holding a special WBD Teen Fest on Wednesday 4th and Thursday 5th of March, with lots of special online events—have a look at the website for full details. 

Over the course of the two evenings, the @WDBTeenFest Twitter account will be taken over by eight authors (see schedule above for times). Readers will be able to tweet questions, and chat to the authors directly while they're online. 

I was delighted to be invited to take part, and will be online on Thursday, between 19:35 and 19:55 (UK/GMT)

Simply tweet @WBDTeenFest with the hashtag #askDC9000 to ask me a question. You can tweet questions in advance and I'll answer then during my takeover slot, or tweet me live on Thursday night. 

Should be fun—hope to see you there!

Monday, 9 February 2015

German Visit Photo Diary!

On Tuesday of last week, I left the slightly snowy shores of England and headed East to Frankfurt in Germany.

I had been invited to talk to students at two European Schools in Frankfurt and nearby Bad Vilbel. 
I arrived at my hotel in the dark, and was somewhat surprised to find a frozen lake outside the window next morning!

Some of the students at ES Frankfurt had been writing stories based on 15 Days Without a Head. It was fascinating to see the different directions in which they had taken the story. There were some great ideas here that I wish I'd had when I was writing the book!

In action at ES Frankfurt being watched over by my old bandmates including my younger hirsute self!

photo Bärbel McWilliams

Signing postcards and chatting to the students at ES Frankfurt.

photo Bärbel McWilliams

Next, a short trip north to Bad Vilbel, to talk to students at ES RheinMain.

photo by Ute Arias

photo by Ute Arias

photo by Ute Arias

photo by Ute Arias

Reading (and acting out!) a scene from
15 Days Without a Head.

photo by Ute Arias

Shining an imaginary torch onto my copy of
Waiting for Gonzo.

photo by Ute Arias

Signing postcards and books for students at ES RheinMain. 
(Note the special pencil case!)

photo by Ute Arias

I couldn't go home without visiting a local café for tea and cake! Thanks to Elizabeth for her time and company on a very cold but enjoyable whistle-stop tour of Frankfurt before I headed to the airport and my flight home.

Huge thanks to all the staff and students at Europäische Schule Frankfurt and Europäische Schule RheinMain for making me so welcome. Special thanks to Renate Kirmse, Bärbel McWilliams, Ute Arias, Samantha Malmberg, Elizabeth and Silke Scrivener for their company, and to Peter, Rene and Samantha for driving me to and from schools, airports and hotels!

Thanks to Bärbel McWilliams and Ute Arias for the photos. Used with permission.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Celebrating Rock Cake Day and the Great Readers in Our Lives!

In our house, January 16th is Rock Cake Day!

My nan would have been ninety-four today, and each year we mark her birthday by baking a batch of Rock Cakes, using the closely guarded secret recipe (don't even ask!) she developed and passed on to us.

At this point some of you may be thinking—“Hang on a minute! I thought this blog was about books and writing and stuff? Why’s this bloke babbling on about buns?” 
Let me explain …

Apart from her legendary baking skills, my Nan was also a great reader. (She is the only person I have ever met who managed to read the entire works of Charles Dickens—twice!) Her love of books started when she caught whooping cough as a child and had to spend long periods of time in hospital. Her dad was a big reader and, worried that his daughter might be missing out, took books in for her. When she got home, my nan still wasn’t strong enough to play outside, but found plenty of adventure and excitement in the stories she'd discovered.

Her first job, aged 16, was as a seamstress with a small firm in Birmingham in the 1930s. Keen that her workforce of young, sometimes poorly-educated, girls should find further enrichment, the owner started a tradition of reading aloud during the lunch break. My nan told me how they worked their way through the Old and New Testament of the Bible, before moving onto Dickens and Shakespeare—a bit different to Radio One blasting away in the staff canteen!

As I little kid, I remember Nan as always having a book on the go. It made me think that there might be something in this reading business—so I copied her, and started carrying A Bear Called Paddington around with me! I’ll admit that to begin with I didn’t open it that often, but after a while I gave it a go—and of course, I was hooked.

As I got older, I began recommending what I was reading to her. I’m not sure how much she actually enjoyed The Three Investigators series, but she read them, and we talked about how great they were. In turn, she lent me The Wind in the Willows and Watership Down (the first book to make me cry, sitting up in bed at 2am, sobbing by torchlight!) But the greatest passion we shared was Robert Westall. We were on a mission to collect and read his entire works. Sadly, my Nan died before we could complete the quest, but we did a pretty good job. I am now keeper of the collection—still guarded by the pig bookends she used to keep them in place.

Readers need each other—just as much as writers need readers, and readers need writers! I suspect that human beings have an innate need to share the things we like. (Have a quick look at Facebook or Twitter if you don't believe me.) We see a fantastic film, hear a great record or read a brilliant book, but it’s as though the process isn’t complete until we can tell somebody about it—and stories are meant for sharing 

So, to all the great readers I have known and talked books with—but especially my nan—Happy Rock Cake Day! And if there is one special person who first introduced you to this wonderful world of books, why not give them a call—find out what they're reading, or meet up and share stories over a brew and a rock cake! You know it makes sense.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

"Waiting for Gonzo" — The Music Videos! Part Two: Sunglasses.

When I was making up fictional bands for Oz – the narrator of Waiting for Gonzo – I was simply having fun, trying to build a fully three-dimensional character. I never imagined that one of those imaginary songs by a band that didn't exist would be released as a single …

If you like the song, you can download it here and help raise money for Bliss – the charity that provides care and support for premature babies and their families. The track costs 79p on iTunes, but you can download it from most online music sites. (Prices may vary, but all proceeds go to Bliss.)

Click here, to find out more about how and why Cyclops Dog and the rest of Oz's favourite bands were brought to life.

Waiting for Gonzo is out now in the United States and Canada, published by Flux.

A UK edition (published by Oxford University Press) and audiobook are also available.

To read the story in Italian or Polish, please click on the links for San Paolo, Italy and YA! Poland. A German edition will be coming out in November.