Tag Archives: Jason Wallace

A Kathryn Ross event

Kathryn Ross chaired an event this morning, and it set me thinking about what I’d written on the rather good event she chaired earlier in the week. Now, which one was it? Oh yes, it was the Southern hemisphere one, on my Aussie day, with Morris Gleitzman and Jason Wallace. The one Mal Peet was sad to have missed. And the reason I couldn’t recall what I’d written was that I hadn’t. At all.

Jason Wallace

I assumed Morris to be here for his umpteenth EIBF appearance, but it turned out to be his first. I’m fairly certain it was Jason’s first, as Out of Shadows is his first book. And here he was, paired with old-timer Gleitzman, whose new book Too Small to Fail is yet another laugh-and-cry story about a young child who tries to do his best in an awkward situation.

Jason Wallace, Out of Shadows

They started off by each reading a piece, with Jason in the nice boots choosing the snake story from somewhere at the beginning of Out of Shadows. He did a passable Zimbabwean accent, or so I’d like to believe, anyway.

Morris read the early chapter with Oliver standing outside the pet shop loving the doggie in the window. It quickly goes from sweet and traditional to potentially dangerous but also funny, because this is Morris Gleitzman, after all. He was probably rather tired, as he’d just arrived from Australia, but you wouldn’t have known.

Both authors like introducing difficult situations for their characters to solve, or for the readers to solve. They go for characters who do what you yourself wouldn’t do. Jason is an optimist who wanted to find out why Ivan was quite so horrible, and Kathryn suggested that perhaps we can sort of like him, simply because he is so awful.

When asked if they like their characters, Morris said it’s like with your children. There is a reason you don’t strangle them, even if you sometimes feel like it. Characters and children can be disappointing and surprising, but it’d be hard to live with the characters for the length of the book if you don’t like them.

Jason found he ‘enjoyed not liking Ivan’ very much, and that it made the writing work. And no one sees themselves as totally bad or evil. He believes in writing about what you know, whereas Morris subscribes to the idea that you should write about what you feel.

Someone asked if Morris felt bad about the end of Then, and he admitted it was the hardest thing to write, ever, and he had had to force himself. Morris then asked if they thought it was the wrong end, but was told that Then needed to end this way.

Morris Gleitzman

The eight-year-old Morris was a daydreaming wannabe dentist who wrote in secret, until the day someone in the football changing rooms found a story of his and was still reading it ten minutes later. That’s when he realised that if he could ‘keep kids in bag rooms’ his writing might be OK.

A question as to why adult characters come across as a lot weaker than child characters was explained by describing parents as ‘collateral damage’ in children’s fiction. There wouldn’t be much of a story otherwise, and the books need to be written from the point of view of the child, seeing adults as the child sees them.

Which makes a lot of sense. The same goes for the child being a smaller person, while their feelings are not smaller.

We didn’t want this event to end. Kathryn could have gone on and on, and so could most of us. Except perhaps for Morris who really might have been ready for bed.

Dame in a nebula outfit

The weirdest thing was running into Andy Mulligan at Euston. Not that he knows me, but there he was. Probably going towards ‘Up North’ like Formby (for tomorrow’s event), whereas we (trusted photographer and witch) were heading for Branford Boase, which is an award and it’s in London. (There is a point to that which you will not get.) And then there was Jodi Picoult in the tube station, but she was merely a poster, if a life size one.

Walker Books employee

I’d have got lost at Vauxhall tube station. I have been before. Once. Thankfully Daughter, who has never been, put us on the right path. So we were not lost after all.

Sarah McIntyre and Candy Gourlay, Branford Boase

So, there they all were, the shortlisted authors, apart from Gregory Hughes (I deduced he was not the winner). Candy Gourlay seemed to have brought Sarah McIntyre along, which was wise, and one of the men in the Fickling basement was present. That’s Simon Mason of Moon Pie fame. So we had met before, which the clever-clogs Daughter remembered and I didn’t. You can’t memorise all men kept in basements everywhere.

Keren David, Branford Boase

Keren David was surrounded by admirers at all times so was hard to get close to. But her shoes were marvellous. And her glasses. (Sorry, is this a book blog?)

J P Buxton, Branford Boase

Had no idea what Jason Wallace looks like, but the photographer identified him with her eagle eye. There was something about her wanting his shirt for her bedroom…

J P Buxton was someone I didn’t know at all, but he turned out to be the tall guy with the impressive hair.

Pat Walsh, Branford Boase 2011

And Pat Walsh had a crutch with her that I very nearly stole. Being kind, I only held it for her during the photocall. Pat was what you have to call the experts’ favourite, so I am very interested in her book (which is another one published by someone I’m not managing to establish a – professional – relationship with).

Clare S

Klaus Flugge

David Lloyd

John McLay

Lots of other lovely book world types, including Andersen’s Clare, Nicky with the impressive memory, Philippa Dickinson, former winner Frances Hardinge and many more. Klaus Flugge, whose chair Goldilocks sat in. Super agent Hilary Delamere, Julia Eccleshare, Walker Books’ David Lloyd. And I have finally met and been introduced properly to John McLay of the Bath Festival of Children’s Literature.

And then there was Jacqueline Wilson (Dame, OBE, etc, etc) in a starry outfit that Daughter will have when Jacky is finished with it. Please.

Jason Wallace and Charlie Sheppard, Branford Boase winners 2011

Henrietta Branford winners 2011 with Jacqueline Wilson

Jason was not the only winner last night. There was a whole bunch of talented children who had won the Henrietta Branford Writing Competition. One girl was so keen to come that she’d travelled on the coach from Scotland since five that morning and going back overnight. Maybe the future of writing is safe, after all?

Anne Marley and Jacqueline Wilson

Julia Eccleshare

In her speech, Branford Boase organiser Anne Marley slipped in a Freudian Wife of Never Letting Go for Patrick Ness, son of the Walker house, which made us laugh. David Lloyd pointed out what a fun – and easy – job editing books is. Julia Eccleshare spoke about the history of the Branford Boase Award.

And then it should have been last year’s winner Lucy Christopher, but she was off on some very important business elsewhere, so had written a lovely speech to be delivered by Damien Kelleher who was one of the judges. The Branford Boase is awarded not only to authors like Jason, but to editors like Charlie Sheppard. What Lucy had to say about editors is that authors need them ‘like crazy people need therapists’. She can talk. According to Charlie, editors occasionally spend time polishing turds. I fully expect Out of Shadows not to have been anywhere near turd status.

Although, Jason did mention ‘gutted fish at feeding time’. Andersen Press is the nicest bunch of people. (I had noticed.) Jason also muttered something incomprehensible regarding cats, empty bottles and loneliness. And most importantly, he talked about Zimbabwe, where his novel is set. Things are still not good and people are still suffering. Let’s hope books like Jason’s will make a difference.

Branford Boase winning books

Anne Marley warned us off stealing the display of former winners’ books. Apparently Philip Ardagh tried it last year. (Could be why he wasn’t there?) The good thing about neither Candy nor Keren winning was – as they said – that now they don’t have to kill each other. Competing against friends is never fun.

Branford Boase 2011, authors and editors

As usual Paul Carter was taking photographs, and he is not above sharing the task with others. Which is why I brought my own picture person. As they do in real life sometimes, the photographers ended up taking pictures of each other.

We were chatting to Jacqueline Wilson just before leaving, when Candy sneaked up, wanting to be photographed with a star. One of these days she’ll realise that no sneaking is necessary. She too, is a star.

Jacqueline Wilson and Candy Gourlay

Branford Boase 2011

Jason Wallace won the Branford Boase award last night.

Jason Wallace

And his novel Out of Shadows was very ably edited by Charlie Sheppard. I feel she looks reasonably happy about this.

Charlie Sheppard

And now I’m going to bed, having been all over the country on my travels home and you will get more from me later today. While-u-wait, don’t do anything I would do.


Bookwitch bites #53

When Daughter left the house the other evening, the oldies watched Sophie Hannah’s Case Sensitive on ITV. Why they renamed it I don’t know, but back when it was ‘just’ a crime novel it had the title Point of Rescue and was quite scary. It was still scary. We liked it. We wouldn’t mind more.

Awards are dropping onto authors left, right and centre (ouch!) and I’ve given up any hope of keeping track. Keren David was in Angus (and sometimes I don’t even know where that is) this week, picking up an award. I recall seeing the town Arbroath mentioned, so maybe that’s where it happened. I can remember buying bread rolls in Arbroath once, and that didn’t go well.

The Branford Boase shortlist arrived in my inbox this week, and it’s a bad one! By that I mean it’s so good I don’t know who to keep my fingers crossed for.

I Am The Blade by J.P. Buxton

When I Was Joe by Keren David

Tall Story by Candy Gourlay

Unhooking The Moon by Gregory Hughes

Out Of Shadows by Jason Wallace

The Crowfield Curse by Pat Walsh

I have read four of the six, and three of them were on my best for 2010. If that’s not good taste I don’t know what is.

Steve Cole with chonster

There are other kinds of prizes as well. Steve Cole has an Astrosaurs’ superhero competition, where you need to create your own, new astrosaurs character. I wouldn’t put it past Steve to ‘steal’ it for his books. If you win, he will come to your school. Which might be quite nice, if the teachers can put up with his behaviour.

Finally, who do you like best in the Harry Potter books? Here is your chance to vote. Except I don’t know what you win. Nothing perhaps. Just the knowledge that you are the only one who likes Filch best. And my favourite is…

So you want to know who wins?

Readers! Honestly. They think they can just write in and ask me to do things. And they are quite right. They can and they do and I might well. Lets’ see.

The Carnegie shortlist took me by more of a surprise than ever before. Had actually tried to predict when it would come. Got that wrong, so was taken aback on Friday when Facebook was awash with congratulations. But I’d like to point out that you might be on the shortlist, but it doesn’t exactly mean you’ll win. Does it?

Carnegie’s server seemed to collapse on Friday (it was April 1st, which is such a bad date, for anything), so I couldn’t even satisfy my curiosity until a lot later.

So, let’s have the list:

Theresa Breslin, Prisoner of the Inquisition

Geraldine McCaughrean, The Death Defying Pepper Roux

Patrick Ness, Monsters of Men

Meg Rosoff, The Bride’s Farewell

Marcus Sedgwick, White Crow

Jason Wallace, Out of Shadows

Good list. But then there is an equally good list of people and books which didn’t make it. Let’s not dwell on that. I have read five of the six, and the one I haven’t is Geraldine’s Pepper novel, which I’m sure is as worryingly perfect as her other books have been.

Well, even though you know I would like all six books to win, you also know I want Meg to win. And she stands a very good chance. But with that Patrick Ness around, the vibes tell me he will wipe the floor. Again. Preferably chez Bookwitch, because we badly need it.

OK then, Adèle? I have spoken. And you weren’t the only one. My inbox literally popped with requests.

Costa 2010

I was quite pleased to hear that the poet Jo Shapcott has won the 2010 Costa award for her collection Of Mutability. Not that I read much poetry, but I do enjoy seeing one of the least expected-to-do-well books doing just fine. And I imagine the prize money will come in handy for Jo.

With my children’s books hat on, I have to say that I would like the children’s book to win rather more often than the once it has happened so far. But great read though Out of Shadows was, I doubted that it and Jason Wallace would be able to beat all those popular adult books.

Jo Shapcott, Of Mutability

Had a quick look through the list of past winners, and I can only claim to have read three of them; The Amber Spyglass and The Curious Incident, both well before the award, and then I celebrated the start of Bookwitch by reading The Tenderness of Wolves. That was the year when I had a spy at the awards ceremony, with Adèle Geras as one of the judges, reporting back on what everyone wore and who said what, and so on.

Anyone out there who can do a full review of the ladies’ dresses? No, I didn’t think so.

Hmm, just had a thought. I had been invited to lunch with Jason Wallace for today. I had to decline, since lunching in London too often becomes both tiring and expensive. But maybe he’d have been able to do the clothes report? Or perhaps not. Maybe it was other questions his publishers had in mind. (Like what will he do with the £5000?)

Costa for Out of Shadows

I knew it! Jason Wallace has won the Costa children’s award for Out of Shadows. Not bad for a beginner, is it?

Despite me having read only two of the four shortlisted books and despite Bartimaeus being such a very good read, I still felt it was likelier that this thought provoking tale from Zimbabwe would come out on top.

Now ‘all’ that remains is to see what happens in three weeks’ time when the complete Costa has been decided on. Children’s books aren’t the likeliest of winners, and that will probably be the case here. (Not wanting to be negative, but, you know…)

The final judges are Andrew Neil as chair, with David Morrissey, Elizabeth McGovern, Natasha Kaplinsky and Anneka Rice. Famous people. Hope they know what they are doing. *

Right, that’s all on books for my ‘red day’. If you want more to read you can gaze at stars over on CultureWitch today.

* Of course they do. As long time witch favourite Tim Bowler has very very politely pointed out, he’s a judge too. And so are the other category judges. Those famous people will be carefully guided. (In my defence I will say that my information came from the Costa website.)

Bookwitch bites #37

It’s a new year. It’s the point where I used to worry about signing cheques with last year’s date, but now that we don’t do cheques, I suppose that’s one fear fewer.

So, new year. New books to look forward to. One I didn’t know about until quite recently is Adrian McKinty’s Deviant. He describes it as YA Noir. Sounds perfect to me. So with one thing and another, Adrian is bringing out two books in March, one for young adults and one for old adults.

New Costa winners, coming soon. Next week. And I feel that Jason Wallace will win the children’s award. His Out of Shadows is both excellent enough to win, and different enough. Though what it boils down to is that it feels like it will.

I received a telephone call out of the blue this week. Someone wanted advice, but I can’t actually say here what it was about. Literary advice, of sorts. I said what I felt was the right thing to say, and was told that ‘yes, that’s what Sara Paretsky said’. So pleased that we see eye to eye on things.

PS We’ll have a little post script here. There is a not very nice letter in the Observer today. Quite a few people have commented, telling the letter writer what they think of her theory that children’s authors stand to make a lot of money off the Booktrust free books to children. Hence their ‘selfish’ concerns to keep Booktrust going.

Out of Shadows

I kept worrying throughout reading this book. It’s a marvellous story and I very much enjoyed it. But it is so nerve-wracking. You sit there knowing this is going to be bad. There is not much hope of any happy ever after, or that it can all be explained somehow.

The Costa shortlisted Out of Shadows is set in Zimbabwe in the 1980s, and you can tell Jason Wallace knows what he’s writing about. He too, has been the new English boy in a hard boarding school in post-war Zimbabwe, and he has seen what Mugabe’s early rule was like. Hitler gets a mention, and the parallels are painfully clear. As a portrait of recent modern African history this is unmissable.

Robert is 13 and naïve. His father has got a job at the British Embassy and he adores Mugabe and tells his son what a great country this will be. Although Robert starts off as friends with Nelson, the other new boy, who is black, he soon learns that this is not a school where you befriend blacks. His classmates hate Mugabe, hate blacks, and want all things to go back to what they were.

Out of Shadows

Ivan is the son of a farmer, and he is a bully. But he’s a bully who wants Robert on his side, against the blacks. The question is whether Robert can stand up to Ivan and his plans, whatever they might be. What’s particularly fascinating is how this dreadful boy is also shown as quite human at times, and we can see how and why he became what he is. But that’s more explanation than excuse.

As it’s a traditional boarding school for boys, there is institutional bullying from older pupils towards younger ones. And then there is the bullying of blacks, be they pupils or staff or ‘villagers’. Or even teachers.

You can tell Ivan and his friends are going straight to hell. The question is what route they will take. We know where they must end up. Who will be dragged along? And can you try and do good, or is decent behaviour doomed?

Set over five years the book makes the reader grow more and more tense. Will they stop at nothing?

This is a fantastic book! But really scary when you have seen the developments in Zimbabwe from our supposedly civilised European corner. Hindsight. If you’d known, would you have acted differently?