Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Authors for the Philippines – Online Auction

The devastating effects of Typhoon Haiyan on the Philippines has led to worldwide appeals for much needed funds to bring urgent aid to the thousands of people affected. 

UK author Keris Stainton has put together an online auction with items donated by a wide-range of authors, illustrators and agents—from signed books and original artwork, to manuscript critique, author visits, characters named after you (you could be in Patrick Ness' next book!) and a night down the pub with Andy Stanton and Anthony McGowan. 

There are a couple of items up there by me too—a signed copy of the US edition of 15 Days Without a Head, plus a signed copy of the UK edition of Waiting for Gonzo, complete with limited edition CD copy of the Gonzo soundtrack (not available in the shops).

Please drop by and make a bid—there are some fantastic items on there, and ALL proceeds will go directly to the Red Cross Typhoon Haiyan Appeal. 

The auction is now live and ends on Wednesday 20th November. Check back often as new items are being donated all the time.


Friday, 25 October 2013

Pop Up and Sit Down with a Book! (or, How Pop Up Gets Young People Reading)

Why pick up a book? I mean, there are so many other things you could be doing: watching TV, hanging out with your mates, playing a game, tweeting, texting, sharing pictures on Instagram, surfing YouTube … Why switch off all that multicoloured, moving, bleeping, tweeting interactive fun and sit down quietly with a book? 

Tricky one that. It’s a question parents, teachers, librarians, book-sellers, writers and publishers have been wrestling with for years. 

One of the tenets of writing is “SHOW, don’t TELL” and that could also apply in this case. When I visit schools, I try to avoid telling young people that they SHOULD be reading. Sure, I’ll explain how important books have been to me, share my enthusiasm for some of my favourites, but then I read something—SHOW them what I mean—in the hope they’ll be inspired to give books another go themselves. 

The programme of literature festivals and events offered by London's Pop Up organisation takes this idea even further. Pop Up Director Dylan Calder explains: “The children read a book, meet the author of the book, then experience a workshop around that book to create creative responses.”

Earlier in the year, I took part in a number of Pop Up Booklinks events. When I arrived at the schools, the entire class had already read 15 Days Without a Head and produced work based on the story, including hot-seating, where students would take it in turns to interview each other as one of the characters. The teachers said the pupils’ enthusiasm for the project was evident in the way they had approached the tasks and the quality of work produced. The video below shows a small sample of film posters students produced having been tasked with casting and promoting a movie of the book.

The fact that pupils know they are going to be meeting the author creates an extra dimension to their reading experience and associated work. The opportunity to both question the author, and share their own responses, brings them closer to the book and makes reading a much more inclusive process. Working with the author on the students’ own creative project further breaks down barriers between reader and creator, and provides an important channel for self-expression. 

My overriding impression from the classrooms I visited was one of great enthusiasm. Dylan Calder sums it up perfectly: “Children should come away from Pop Up wanting to read more because they had such a great experience.” Maybe that answers our question.

Below are links to a couple of short films showcasing recent Pop Up events in June 2013, run in partnership with London museums and galleries. See if you can spot me!

Pop Up Primary Film

If you’d like a Pop Up Education programme in your learning community email:

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

READ IT, OR ELSE! The Coventry Inspiration Book Awards 2014

The 2014 shortlists for the Coventry Inspiration Book Awards were announced this week. I was honoured to see Waiting for Gonzo included in the brilliantly titled — Read it, or else! category.

Have a look at the full list of 12 books to see who Gonzo is up against! You can leave comments and vote for your favourite.

There are six categories for young people in the awards, plus an adult shortlist. Visit the website for full details and a list of upcoming events.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Get your SUNGLASSES on! – and help raise money for Bliss baby charity!

When I was making up playlists of tracks by fictional bands for Oz – the narrator of my second teen novel Waiting for Gonzo – I was just 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.) 

Tweet #gonzosunglasses to spread the word. Thanks! 

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Thank You Video for Bicester Community College

Last month I visited Bicester Community College with Cole's Bookstore, to talk to students from years 7, 8 and 9 about my route to becoming an author. A couple of weeks later I was delighted to receive an envelope full of letters thanking me for the visit. I recorded this video message to say "thank you" in return.

Monday, 3 June 2013

The Grampian Children's Book Award and Writing with the Students at Mearns Academy

At the beginning of May I was invited to the Grampian Children's Book Award ceremony as 15 Days Without a Head was one of the shortlisted titles. The event, at Aberdeen University, was attended by around six hundred students, teachers and librarians from schools all over Aberdeenshire, Aberdeen City and Moray. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness scooped the prize, but I had a great day and got to meet many enthusiastic readers and a few authors too!

Mark Lowery, Cathy MacPhail, Debbie Leslie,
some bald fella and Barry Hutchinson

The award was the start of a mini tour of the area for me …

taking in Ellon and Northfield, where
I met Frankie – Guardian of the Library!

Heading north up to Elgin and Speyside

Then back down to Torry.
On the final day of the tour, after sessions at Aboyne and Mackie, I found myself taking Laurence and Jay to Laurencekirk, and crossing the line …

After a quick introduction to my journey to becoming an author and the background to 15 Days, I started the group at Mearns Academy on a workshop I call "Crossing the Line." I've done this exercise with a number of groups and I'm always impressed by the ideas the students come up with – some very funny, others filled with real drama and emotion – and often find myself thinking: I wish I'd thought of that! This group were no exception and I was particularly struck by how much writing they achieved in the short time available.

Daniel, that bald bloke again, John, Connor and Scott
– in the library at Mearns.

A week or so after returning to the attic, I received an email from Mr Paterson, the librarian at Mearns, telling me that the group had finished off the workshop in their next English lesson. I was delighted when he sent me some pictures and few extracts of the students' work.

Chloe wrote a gripping piece set in the moments after her character had been forced to kill. The writing was full of vivid description with some lovely delicate touches – "His soft fur moved smoothly through my fingers".

Andrew's extract was from the point of view of soldier forced into his first kill, and the horror and shame he feels afterwards. His writing was urgent and hard, but there was some real empathy in the piece too. The soldier thinks of his victim: "He probably hadn't signed up for this either." A great piece of writing.

Some of the students' writing
on display in the library
Ryan's story had a fantastic opening line: "The eyes of the cartoon dog were burning holes in the side of my head as they watched me eat the dog food …" It was a good image, it made me smile. I was expecting a comic scenario, then found myself facing some real horror a paragraph later. Changing mood effectively like this is not an easy technique, but one Ryan handled very well. 

Millie has a good ear for authentic dialogue and her writing pulled me right into the action. The scene was set in the children's ward of a hospital and Millie managed to capture the essence of the location superbly – "most of the kids were full of energy, bouncing about and having fun with their friends. My little brother was in a room by himself. He looked helpless and lonely." A really poignant and heart-felt piece of writing.

Thanks again to all the students for their great work and to Mr Paterson and Mrs Donald for sharing the results with me. 

I had a great time at all the schools I visited in Scotland. Much appreciation to all the staff and students for making me so welcome. Special mentions to Marion, Katie, Fiona, Rosie and Neil, and my publisher Oxford University Press for their support. 

Monday, 20 May 2013

Waiting for Gonzo AUDIOBOOK – Out Now!

Hot on the heels of Waiting for Gonzo coming out in paperback in March – and the soundtrack album a few weeks later – I'm delighted to announce that the Waiting for Gonzo BBC Audiobook is now available for download on the AudioGO website. (The CD version will follow in a few months.) 

Getting into character in the studio …

Producer Lyndsey Melling, safe on the other side of the glass!

Thanks to everyone at the studio for making me so welcome,  and to Sarah Manson for setting this particular Wheel of Destiny in motion. 

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

15 Days Without a Head – Out Today in the US and Canada!

I'm delighted that my debut novel for teenagers, 15 Days Without a Head will be in bookshops across the United States and Canada from today!

This new edition is being published by Flux with a brand new cover featuring Laurence in the all important telephone box (you'll have to read the book to find out the significance of the booth!)

Having read so much fantastic young adult fiction from the states, I'm very excited at the prospect of 15 Days sharing shelf space with books by authors that have inspired me – Robert Cormier, Louis Sachar and John Green, to name just a few.

15 Days Without a Head has already received a warm reception from reviewers across the pond, for which I'm very grateful. Kirkus Reviews wrote:
"A  …  finely crafted debut that strikes a delicate balance between humor and pathos." 
Here are a few of my other favourite write-ups:
Publishers' Weekly
Rather Be Reading
Lindie Dagenhart
Crunchings & Munchings: We eat YA!

I was also delighted to learn that 15 Days Without a Head has been selected by the Junior Library Guild. This is a tremendous seal of approval and will hopefully mean that the story will find its way to many more readers in the United States.

Finally, a huge thank you to everyone at Flux, especially Brian Farrey-Latz for inviting Laurence, Jay and Mina across the water. I am hugely grateful to Brian, Sandy, Bob, Lisa, Courtney and Mallory for all their hard work in making sure my book would become better travelled than I am!

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Waiting for Gonzo: The Soundtrack – Out Now!

How did a book end up
with it's own original soundtrack?
A very good question.
Here's the answer …

Why stop at a soundtrack?
We didn't.
Here's a music video for one of the tracks …

To listen or download the album, goto
Also available on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify etc …

Happy listening …

Sunday, 24 March 2013

15 Days at Pop-Up Festival Booklinks

A few weeks ago I visited two schools in East London as part of the Pop-Up Festival Booklinks Project
Here are a few highlights from the day …

Thanks to all the staff and students at Our Lady's Convent High School and Clapton Girls' Academy.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Waiting for Gonzo – the wait is over, almost! G minus 28 and counting …

A nice surprise in the post today: a first printed copy of my new book Waiting for Gonzo. (It smells pretty good too!)
Copies will be available in the shops on March 7th, in the meantime here's a sneak preview from some strange looking fella with a moustache …

Friday, 25 January 2013

15 Days at the North East Teenage Book Awards

I was in Newcastle at the end of last week for the North East Teenage Book Awards. 15 Days Without a Head was on the shortlist alongside some fantastic books: Sufiya Ahmed's Secrets of the Henna Girl, Mister Creecher by Chris Priestley, Louisa Reid's Black Heart Blue, Slated by Teri Terry and one of my favourite books of last year, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. It was an honour to find myself in such esteemed company.

Students, librarians, teachers and parents from local schools braved a mini blizzard to attend the event. It was great having the opportunity to meet and talk with so many enthusiastic readers, all of whom had read, discussed and voted on the shortlisted titles. Each author was introduced by a student from a participating school – so I'd like to once again thank Hannah for the fantastic introduction she gave when it was my turn.

Huge congratulations to Teri Terry who was announced as the winner. Judging by the queues at Teri's signing table Slated was a very popular choice, so if you haven't read it – check it out! The second book in the series – Fractured – comes out in March.

Earlier in the day, I was invited over to Charles Thorp in Ryton to meet the school book group. Not only did they choose 15 Days Without a Head as their group favourite, they also gave me home-made chocolate cake! We had a great morning discussing books, music, cats and coming up with ideas for a story about a band of vampire musicians!

Next it was a short trip through the snow to Walbottle where I spent the rest of the day with year nine. After giving them a guided tour of my somewhat unorthodox route to becoming an author, we spent the afternoon doing some writing and (I'll admit) having the occasional chat about football!

Thanks to Beth, Gill and all the students at Charles Thorp, Leah and the staff and students at Walbottle for their welcome and hospitality. A big thumbs up also to Karmjeet from OUP who drove me round in the snow all day and to everyone at Seven Stories, especially Lorna who handled book sales, photography and cake wrangling duties. Finally, special thanks to Eileen Armstrong, Alec Williams and all the staff and students involved in the North East Teenage Book Award.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Waiting for Gonzo – The Soundtrack from the Book!

My new book Waiting for Gonzo will be in the shops in two months time and it comes complete with its own soundtrack! Watch the video below to hear how an album of imaginary songs by bands that don't exist, was brought to life …

In the weeks leading up to the publication of Waiting for Gonzo, I'll be posting some of the songs here and the entire album will be available to download in February.

In the meantime, here's a taster to start things off. 
Blast away the January blues with Sunglasses by the magnificently monocular Cyclops Dog!
Then check out the music video and free download of Cigarette UFO's eponymous slice of sci-fi pop-punk at the bottom of the page.

sleeve by Vincent A. Kierkels

I hope you enjoyed the tunes. Thanks for listening and don't forget to check back for more music next week …