Sunday, 23 December 2012

Mighty Boosh Christmas Cake!

Long time visitors to this blog will know that around this time of year I dig out my copy of the Elvis Presley Christmas album (on original 'bacon and eggs' vinyl of course) to crank out some festive spirit while my youngest and I stir-up this year's Christmas Cake. It's one of those family traditions that has evolved and gathered a momentum of its own. I don't remember when, or why, we started making 'themed' cakes, but these days the question of what is going on top of the cake is almost as important as what goes into it!

In recent years we've had Monster Munch, Doctor Who and, my personal favourite, Calvin and Hobbes. This year's choice was proving difficult, until Vince Noir from The Mighty Boosh mysteriously replaced the angel on top of our Christmas tree. 

At the time of writing, nobody in the house had owned up to the switch, but it did give us an idea for what to put on the cake.

So come with us now, on our festive journey, as we wish you a very Merry Boosh …

The cake – awaiting decoration

Christmas icing – made from the tears of Noddy Holder!

Cake! Cake! A tasty … cake!

Enjoy the festivities folks, thanks for all your support this year, hope to see you in 2013.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

City of London School Literary Festival

One of the most rewarding moments for any author is when readers write to say they've enjoyed reading one of your books – that the story has connected with them in some way – made them think, or laugh or cry! 

I received such a message from a Year 10 student at City of London School earlier this year.

City of London School from the Millennium Bridge

Not only did Devang say how much he had enjoyed reading 15 Days Without a Head, but he invited me to take part in the school's Literary Festival in December. 

Which is how I came to be on the banks of the River Thames on a very wet Friday morning a few weeks ago, taking photos of the lights in the driving rain …

The school were great hosts and I had a really enjoyable day, taking part in a number of events at the festival – one in the impressive Asquith Room over looking the river, and another at nearby St Paul's Cathedral school, where I met a great bunch of Year 7s and fellow festival author Tom Palmer.

The Asquith Room

The festival was organised largely by the students themselves and boasted an impressive line-up of guests. I must thank Devang for inviting me in the first place and Jake for the extremely well researched introductions. Also thanks to David and Tim for looking after me and making me so welcome at the school.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Kenilworth School and the 2012 Kids' Lit Quiz

Last year I took part in the Kids' Lit Quiz for the first time. I was in an author team with Fiona Dunbar, Sita Bramachari and Sophia Bennet and we won! No thanks to me, I should add. If I remember correctly, my single contribution was the answer of Mulch Diggums to an Artemis Fowl question! I had a great afternoon though and was delighted to be invited back to Broxbourne School for this year's heat.

The Cat in the Hat – Quizmaster Wayne Mills
The Kids' Lit Quiz is an international competition that has been running for over twenty years. Teams from all over the world compete to take part in a World Final, which this year is being held in South Africa.

The quiz was started by Wayne Mills, after attending a prize giving at his children's school. "There were lots of prizes being given out for sport and music and science, but nothing to award achievements in reading!" he told me. Wayne now spends his time travelling across the world, writing all the questions and acting as quizmaster in every single heat of quiz – an incredible feat in itself. Not to mention the fact he has to keep up to date with all the latest book releases …

This year at Broxbourne, author SC Ransom and I were given the task of keeping score. (Luckily Sue's maths is much better than mine.) It was another great afternoon – just to be in a room full of people so enthusiastic about books and reading, is quite a buzz.

The final took place two days later, at the suitably grand Royal Court Hotel in Coventry. On the morning of the event, I was invited along to nearby Kenilworth School to talk to a group of students about 15 Days Without a Head and my life as an author.

 In the library audience that morning were the four members of the Kenilworth Kids' Lit Quiz team, who had, a few days earlier, won a place in the final.

The Kenilworth team doing their best to ignore the nutter
in the background trying to get in on their picture!
It was a real honour to be asked to lead Emily, Andrea, Fin and Charlie out into the hall to take their seats for the quiz.

The great hall ready for the quiz to start
On this occasion, Kenilworth didn't get to go home with the trophy, but it was a hard fought contest. I was amazed at the speed and knowledge of the participants and once again struggled to answer more than a handful of questions myself!

Fellow OUP author Matt Dickinson brought along his mascot
complete with lucky pants! (His team didn't with either though!)

It was a fantastic occasion and all the young people involved clearly had a great time. Huge credit must go to Wayne Mills and all the library staff, teachers and authors who give up their time to organise and support the events. The Kids' Lit Quiz is a superb way to recognise, encourage and reward the act of reading. Long may it continue.

Kids' Lit Quiz website
Kids' Lit Quiz UK
Photo Gallery from the 2012 UK Final

Thanks to the staff and students at Kenilworth School for their hospitality. Thanks also to John for the photos.

Monday, 19 November 2012

15 Days on the Redbridge Teenage Book Award 2013 Longlist

I was delighted to hear that 15 Days Without a Head has been included on the Redbridge Teenage Book Award Longlist for 2013.

Previous winners include Cat Clarke, Malorie Blackman, Suzanne Collins, Tim Bowler and Bali Rai.

Each year two awards are presented, one for a children's book and one teenage title. The aims of the award are to inspire children to read, review and debate, and thus appreciate, good quality literature as well as encouraging an ethos of independent reading within schools and across the borough of Redbridge.

The twenty teen and twenty children's titles are selected by school librarians, library staff and children and sent to participating schools and reading groups. Shortlists of eight will be voted on by these groups in March. Final voting for the two winners takes place in May.

"All the participating schools and groups get together for a celebration of reading. The shortlisted authors are invited along to meet the students who have chosen their books.  There is a quiz on the shortlisted books, a question and answer session and the opportunity for students to get signed copies of the shortlisted titles and meet the authors whose books they have voted for.
We also announce the winners of the short story and poetry competition which runs in parallel to the awards process." – from the Redbridge Award website.

Thanks to all the library staff and students who selected 15 Days Without a Head. Have a great time reading and debating all the books on the longlists. Fingers crossed I'll be joining you in May!

Friday, 9 November 2012

YLG & SLANI Wendy Drewett Ireland Book Day 2012

Earlier this week I flew to Northern Ireland to take part in the Wendy Drewett Ireland Book Day in Antrim. The event is a joint venture between the Youth Libraries Group and the School Library Association. It provides an opportunity for librarians from all over Northern Ireland to get together and share ideas and strategies, as well as the chance to meet and hear about new books from established and debut authors. Here are a few photo highlights from the trip:

A spot of Telephone Box Bingo at Luton Airport!
(double points, surely?)

A welcome sign after my first flight in twenty years!

The event started with the New Directions panel,
chaired by Joy Court.

Paul Hammond introduces us to Superfly and Midge

Katherine Roberts brandishes her Sword of Light!

Librarian Bev Humphrey gave some excellent tips for online resources.

Cake envy at break time.

Liz Pichon gives a lesson in how to draw like Tom Gates!

Professor Joan Swann shared some fascinating research on the
impact of Carnegie/Kate Greenaway shadowing in schools. Long may it continue.

The New Voices Debut Authors Panel was chaired by YLG Chair, Rachel Levy

Jane McLoughlin on the background to her
Carnegie nominated YA thriller, At Yellow Lake

"Don't worry about the book, just check out my new shirt!"
(Handmade by the talented Mrs C!)

Sarah Hammond reads from the excellent Night Sky in My Head

Lucy Forrester, specialist librarian from Peters Booksellers gave a fascinating
introduction to the world of graphic novels.

Discussions continue back at the hotel bar long into the night.

You can make up your own caption for this one …
(Suggestions in the comments box below please!) 

It was a real privilege to be invited to take part in the event and have the opportunity to meet some of the library professionals who do such important work in helping young people discover the joy of books and develop a reading culture in our schools and communities. Librarians rock!

Monday, 5 November 2012

15 Days included on the 2013 CILIP Carnegie Medal Longlist

Another piece of good news today: 15 Days Without a Head has been nominated for the 2013 CILIP Carnegie Medal

Ever since I saw the words "Carnegie Medal" on the cover of Robert Westall's The Machine-Gunners, this award has held a special place in my dreams, though I never entertained the idea that one day I might actually find myself nominated!
Awarded annually by CILIP: the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, the CILIP Carnegie Medal is awarded by children's librarians for an outstanding book for children and young people, while the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal is awarded by children's librarians for an outstanding book in terms of illustration for children and young people.
CILIP also run, in conjunction with both the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals, a hugely successful Shadowing Scheme engaging thousands of children and young people in reading the books on the shortlist every year.
Karen Robinson, Chair of the Judging Panel for 2013 and Youth Libraries Group Chair elect, said: "This fantastic longlist - the largest ever - represents the high quality of children's publishing that we have here in the UK and is a testament to the enthusiasm of children's librarians across the country. In these difficult times it is really heartening that more CILIP librarians than ever can still find the time to nominate. Judges have a hard task in front of them to read and assess all these exceptional books by our specific awards criteria but their dedication and enthusiasm is second to none and we are all looking forward to the challenge!" 
(from the Carnegie Greenaway website)

Read the full Carnegie and Kate Greenaway nominations list here. 

15 Days Shortlisted for the Grampian Children's Book Award 2013

I'm delighted that 15 Days Without a Head is one of six books on the Grampian Children's Book Award Shortlist for 2013. 

The award is run by school librarians in Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and Moray and voted for by S1 – S3 pupils. Thanks to everyone involved. It's an honour to be chosen alongside these great books:

The shortlist:
15 Days Without a Head by Dave Cousins
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher
Out of the Depths by Cathy MacPhail
Socks Are Not Enough by Mark Lowery
The 13th Horseman by Barry Hutchison

Thursday, 25 October 2012

15 Days Telephone Box Bingo!

A telephone box is featured on the front cover of 15 Days Without a Head and plays an important role in the story. As a result I've found myself taking pictures of red phone boxes I see on my travels. 

Join me in a game of Telephone Box Bingo and send me your photos* – extra points will be awarded if you're pictured inside the box! (Don't forget to include the location.) 

See if you can find any of the telephone boxes I've been to so far:

Llaneglwys, Wales

St. Peters Place, Brighton

Powys, Wales

Moor Street Station, Birmingham

Crickadarn, Wales

Pelham Square, Brighton

Westfields, Talgarth

Grand Avenue, Hove

Powys, Wales

* Email your photos to dave(AT)davecousins(DOT)net or upload to my Facebook page.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Anobii First Book Award – Last Chance to Vote!

Just a quick reminder that voting for the Anobii First Book Award closes on Friday 12th at 4:30pm. 

15 Days Without a Head is on the shortlist, along with a stack of other great books. If you haven't cast a vote yet, there's still time to nominate your favourite. Everyone who votes has the chance to win all the books on the shortlist. Cast your vote here.

Characters come to life at Lockers Park School Book Day!

On Friday evening I was invited to Lockers Park School to join in their Book Day celebrations. Students were dressed as characters from some of their favourite books, so I found myself having a conversation with Stanley Yelnats from Holes and Torak from Wolf Brother when I arrived!

I had a great evening talking with the boys about books, writing and comics. Thanks to Jeanette Harlow and all the staff and students for making me so welcome.

For a full report and pictures, visit the Lockers Park School website.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Writing with Year Eight at Icknield Community College

On Tuesday I visited Icknield Community College in Watlington to talk to Year Eight about 15 Days Without a Head and my route to becoming an author. (I also had the chance to share the cover artwork for Waiting for Gonzo for the first time!) 

The day's events included the opportunity to do some writing with three groups of students. We had some great discussions and the workshops produced a number of excellent and very funny pieces, including one about the horrors of going clubbing with your gran! (There's a great comic novel in that idea, I'm certain.) 

Here are a few pics from the day …

A fantastic display greeted me on arrival in the library!

Telling stories with Year Eight students

In the library with Beth, Seren, Luke and Sam.

Thanks to all the staff and students at Icknield Community College for making me so welcome, with special mention to Penny Didcock, Natalie Wheeler and Mr Hunter. Thanks also to The Book House in Thame for supplying copies of 15 Days Without a Head and to Beth (pictured above) for managing the sales.