Tag Archives: Salford Children’s Book Award

They came for dinner

I started leaning on them a week ago. At various points most of them could either come or not come and it kept changing until the last minute, and I moved venue two days before, but finally they were here.

Dinner table

On Thursday evening it was time for my annual tradition (three times is tradition, yes?) of asking the shortlisted authors coming to the Salford Children’s Book Award to meet for dinner on the night before the ceremony. Not all of them managed to come up with a convincing enough excuse for not joining me – and Daughter – so three authors and one very cool aunt actually made it to Carluccio’s at Piccadilly.

Gill Lewis

Sally Nicholls

Gill Lewis arrived nice and early, and we decided to string out the dining experience by having starters we strictly speaking didn’t need. Olives, crispy pasta. That sort of thing. Sally Nicholls, accompanied by her Cool Aunt, got there at the end of our main course, and Cliff McNish wasn’t too far behind.

This year the award is a Top Ten kind of arrangement, so the authors had all won their year, and this morning they have to fight it out between them (including Michael Morpurgo who even has to fight himself), to see who is the overall winner of the last ten years. (Daughter pointed out it was like The Hunger Games, except they’d had dinner, and hopefully they will all be alive at the end.)

We talked about being a vet, about big animals and small animals and disobedient dog sled dogs. There was some general writing world gossip, and just as it got really exciting I was asked to sign the official secrets act, so I’m afraid I can’t tell you anything. Deadlines. Editors. Killing the wrong character. Who’s been buried in the garden. Mmmphh… (OK, I will be quiet now.)

Cliff McNish

Cliff had questions on everything, including why I arranged the dinner. (Stupid question. I want to hang out with the cool kids. Obviously.) Sally waved her minestrone about and talked, making the table shake. Cool Aunt makes puppets (films and television), and she has a brand new grandchild, as well as the sense to bring photos of the baby. Adorable!

At some point the latecomers caught up with the menu, and Cool Aunt was seen finishing the large and rather green olives which were still around. Just before we were chucked out, we managed to work out how much money we needed to find, before going in search of taxis to Salford Quays and last trains for Cool Aunt and Daughter and me.

It was lucky no one was hoping for an early night, except MC Alan Gibbons who had flown in from Hong Kong in the small hours, and who came to the belated conclusion he actually needed some sleep. Which is why he didn’t join us.

The other hopefuls this morning are Paul Adam, Georgia Byng, Angie Sage and the sisters of Siobhan Dowd. Robert Muchamore and Michael Morpurgo won’t be there, but might still win. I’ll update this when I know.

(Michael Morpurgo won with Shadow.)

Bookwitch bites #97

Let’s start with a stolen photo, shall we? (My thieving is getting worse. Or better, depending on how you look at it.) Here is a photo, which might have been taken by Gill Lewis, winner of the Salford award last week. It was on her Twitter, anyway. And the lady between Jamie Thomson and Josh Lacey is not Gill, but Barbara Mitchelhill, who narrowly avoided that dinner.

Jamie Thomson, Barbara Mitchelhill and Josh Lacey

Another award is Sefton Super Reads. They have announced their shortlist for the summer, and it’s pretty good. The lady above is on it, for instance. And so are some of my other favourites, and some unknowns (to me).

• Ruth Eastham, Messenger Bird
• Fabio Geda, In the Sea There Are Crocodiles
• Caroline Green, Cracks
• Barbara Mitchelhill, Road to London
• J. D. Sharpe, Oliver Twisted
• David Walliams, Ratburger

In fact, there are awards absolutely everywhere. Declan Burke could be in for an Edgar for his hard work on Books To Die For, along with John Connolly. I don’t know who or what they are up against, but if ever a book and its creators deserved an Edgar, Books To Die For must be it.

While we are in an awards kind of mood, it appears Adrian McKinty is on the shortlist for The Last Laugh for The Cold Cold Ground, which will be awarded at Crimefest later this year.

Nick Green, The Storm Bottle

Finally – in more ways than one – Nick Green’s The Storm Bottle is available to buy. That’s over three years since I reviewed it, which happened by some odd fluke (me looking into the future, kind of thing). So far it’s ‘only’ on Kindle, but if you only ever buy one Kindle book in your life (although that sounds a bit unlikely, now that I stop and think) this has to be it. The Storm Bottle! Very good book! Sad. Funny. Exciting. Does not end the way you expect it to.

Dolphins can definitely talk.

Bookwitch bites #96

I’m afraid I don’t know who I am. Usually I can tell that people (children, generally, but children are also people) who contact me have been reading the Derek Landy interview or something about Jacqueline Wilson, and they are under the impression I am them.

This week I heard from a charming young man who loves my books and he is doing a profile on me for school and the school would like me to visit them. Again. It seems I’ve already been. They will pick up any travelling costs I may have, although my fan might be wrong on that.

My research tells me the school is in Nova Scotia. I’m really looking forward to it.

Someone who might be in Notting Hill – or she might not – is SH, who contacted me (see, I’m really very popular) and said she felt like applying for that job in Notting Hill. I wished her good luck.

I’ve not heard from her since.

Nor have we had any more contact with dear Clecky…

Gill Lewis, Sky Hawk

To end on a happier note, above is the winning book from the Salford Children’s Book Award, Sky Hawk by Gill Lewis.

Dung beetles in Salford Quays

When the Resident IT Consultant heard that I’d asked another man out to dinner, I had to placate him by lending him a copy of Grk and the Phoney Macaroni. That’s because the man was none other than Josh Lacey, who is also Joshua Doder,* who writes about the adorable Grk.

I then added to my dinner guests by trawling through the shortlist for the Salford Children’s Book Award, and apart from those who were ill or otherwise indisposed, or who claimed to be telling 2000 people in Derry what to do, I found Dirk Lloyd (aka the Dark Lord, aka Jamie Thomson) and Gill Lewis, who both courageously sacrificed themselves to dinner with the witch. (I suppose it beats a dry sandwich alone in a hotel.)

Dining – and wining – authors is almost better than going to awards ceremonies. (Think Disney’s Snow White and a certain witch.)

Speaking of hotels; they shouldn’t be allowed to name and build them in such a way that authors don’t know where they are staying. We almost led someone astray after the meal.

I found Josh and the Dark Lord in the bar at the Lowry last night, where I had gone to warm up, and they for a glass of something. Before long I forced them to go out and search for Gill, who had abandonend the end of a very good book to dine with us.

We talked about a lot of things. The Dark Lord talked the most, and he is very keen on games. And similar stuff. He knows about smörgåsbord, and there was a rather unfortunate conversation about eating elk.

Some people go to awards nights away to sleep, when sleep is hard to come by at home. (On that basis, maybe there should be even more events away for the sleep deprived.) Gill, who is a vet, writes about animals, and the Dark Lord got busy thinking one up for her next book (which, if it mentions too much gamesy stuff is all his fault) to top ospreys, dolphins and bears. It seems dung beetles are the answer.

There was some speculation as to who will win today’s award. Most of our money is on Frank Cottrell Boyce, but I’m sure we could be wrong. It might be one of the dinner guests. Or Barbara Mitchelhill, David Logan or Lissa Evans. Who knows?

I gather Alan Gibbons is doing the talking again this year, so I wish I could be/have been there. But as usual, I’m happy for the children of Salford who have read and voted and hopefully generally enjoyed this year’s award work.

And my fellow diners might never have the same kind of bank balance as JKR, but they are great company, and only ever so slightly slow at ordering food. At least one of us was starving, and another very sleepy. Actually, that makes two of us.

There was some speculation on the feasibility of a Jacqueline Wilson sci-fi novel, and why not? The odds are better than for me getting the hang of modern mobile phonery. I tried texting my guests. I tried answering my phone. I’m pretty useless at it all.

Maybe it’s because I’m a foreigner that I don’t distinguish between more and longer. I meant longer. I never knowingly insult children’s authors.

Thank you, Gill, Josh and Jamie.

PS Gill Lewis and her Sky Hawk won!!!

* I am sorry to have to tell you (well, not that sorry, actually) that Joshua Doder is now dead. Kaput, as Josh Lacey put it. He is taking over his alter ego, and from now on Grk will belong to him.

Bookwitch award bites #67

It’s book awards season. Well, strictly speaking I suppose it’s time for an award somewhere in this country most of the year. I have given up trying to remember or keeping track of what goes on.

Nicola Morgan

Earlier this week Nicola Morgan won the RED award for Wasted, and I’m really pleased. It doesn’t matter how good your book is when you’re up against more fantastic books. And with young readers voting, there is no telling how the vote will go. RED is a Falkirk book award, which I had not heard of before. But it’s nice to know they read good books in ‘my Linlithgow alternative.’ (I’m obviously very sorry about anything I said about Falkirk in the past.)

As for yesterday’s award in Salford, it seems Michael Morpurgo won with his most recent (?) dog book. As I’ve mentioned, he wasn’t present, while several of the other shortlisted authors were.

Salford Children's Book Award 2011

That leads me to what many people have been saying over the years, about being invited when they don’t know if they’ve won or not. I can see that you’d not want to miss the Carnegie, even if you’re ‘merely’ a runner-up, but for the many-times shortlisted authors (and some really do seem to be involved in nearly every award) for ‘smaller’ awards it’s awkward to know whether to accept an invitation.

It must be flattering, and mostly fun, while also hard work and scary, appearing in front of large audiences of keen readers. But how many days can you realistically set aside for this kind of thing? Many have a day job, not to mention families. And in these cash strapped times, travelling costs can be prohibitive. Who pays? That seems to vary, but suffice to say that some authors, some of the time, foot at least part of the bill themselves.

And then someone else wins, who’s not even there. There are many good reasons why someone can’t make it, even if there is a whisper that they are the winner. And you can’t very well take away their win and give it to the next person, who just happens to be present. Can you?

(In the photo we have Alan Gibbons as MC, and Ally Kennen, publicist Mary Byrne, Jon Mayhew, Candy Gourlay, the Mayor of Salford – I would guess – and Pat Walsh as well as two unknowns, to me.)

Werewolves and book awards

First you have weeks of no authors at all on the horizon (perhaps I just wasn’t looking?) and then there are three at once. I am just never satisfied. Although, It was quite handy being able to ‘kill’ all three with the one stone, or more specifically, in a single outing.

Curtis Jobling, Wereworld

Curtis Jobling came to Waterstones Arndale as part of a busy week of taking his Wereworld show round the schools of middle England. (That’s geographical, rather than any comment on what the fans are.) This was his only public event and with me feeling more public than school, I went along, taking my photographer with me. I think Curtis’s Bob the Builder background stood him in good stead and made him sound attractive.

Which he is, and this time Curtis was all pink and red. I pointed him out across the shop, as we’d come in early to case the joint. We take our author chasing seriously. There was a good display of all three Wereworld novels, although the tiddly table provided wasn’t ideal for a serious doodler like Curtis.

Curtis Jobling

He did well though, providing Bob the Builder style princesses on pink paper as and when required, along with wolfy doodles in the Werebooks. I have to admit that the photographer wouldn’t leave before she had a Curtis special, which in this case is a more complex wolf doodle than he normally does, and we had to steal a plastic cover to protect wolfy on the way home.

Curtis Jobling

I didn’t ask any awkward questions. At least, I don’t think I did. Curtis hinted at the developing romances among the were creatures, but I wouldn’t let him say too much in case he said the wrong thing. One young fan asked what is a good age to begin writing, and the answer is ‘early.’ Curtis’s earliest work can be found in his Mum’s loft. He thinks it might be best if it stays there.

The favourite question of the day was whether there are any subliminal messages in Bob the Builder. 12-year-olds are getting older and wiser. Not sure that the subliminalness of Bob was fully addressed, however.

Curtis Jobling

When enough doodling had been done, and there were enough photos of pink checked shirts, we took our leave, and went in search of a tram.

It’s book award time in Salford today, and Candy Gourlay and Pat Walsh checked in early and were looking for dinner companions on Thursday evening. Michael Morpurgo wasn’t there, and Jon Mayhew lives near enough to drive over this morning, and someone had to make up the numbers. So we did.

It’s beautiful in Salford Quays at night, with the lights along the canals and the lit up blocks of flats and the BBC and the Lowry and all that. At least if it doesn’t rain. It didn’t.

We dined and we gossiped. If your ears burned, that will be because we mentioned you, but only in the nicest way. We are nice people. The food was good and as you can see we didn’t leave anything. No mention here of who had three…, no she didn’t. I just remembered that none of us ate too much.

Dinner

I don’t know who has won, but some time today the Lowry will fill up with Salford school children, and the shortlisted authors will be given one child each (!), but not to take home. The children will take their author onto the stage and say nice things about them, before the winner is announced.

I hope they all win.