Tag Archives: Sam Mills

Sam’s day

You don’t really have to worry about what to blog about after meeting an author. Something is bound to pop up, every time.

So there we were, on my hall floor, trying to cellotape Sam Mills’s suitcase handle back together again. We were on the third roll of tape by the time it almost seemed to work. And I don’t know what happened after that. I called upon the services of the Resident IT Consultant to take our visiting author away, along with her suitcase and her emergency egg sandwich. I’m guessing she went the same way all the rest of them did…

My sleuthing hasn’t gone well this year. I only found out about the winner of Key Stage 4 in the Stockport Schools Book Award, and that’s Sam with Blackout. We decided to meet up, so I went to her hotel. Only, her train ran late (what a surprise!) and we had omitted to exchange mobile numbers, but with the assistance of Lucy Coats and the hotel, we were reunited.

In fact, I took matters into my own hands and told her to stay on the train until it stopped outside my house and spirited her away for a cup of tea, before the cellotape incident. I had also omitted to hoover (for longer than you really want to know), so Sam’s careful avoidance of dropping biscuit crumbs on the floor was extremely unnecessary.

The biscuit was a meagre offering for someone who had not only won an award, but whose birthday it was. I should have baked a cake. I would have, if I’d known. But at least I foisted some surplus books onto her, into her crippled suitcase.

What did we talk about? And who? Wouldn’t you like to know? Incest, sex and swearing, mental health, book awards, school events (I’m sure Sam’s two schools today will be just fine) and a few other things. I’m very pleased for Sam, seeing as we met at the Lancashire Book of the Year in June, where she was the eternal bridesmaid, as she put it.

Sam Mills

This way I didn’t get to see Sam in her posh frock, but at least she has her Rapunzel hair for a true princess look. She claimed to have chopped a bit off, but you wouldn’t know it.

Here’s hoping the event at the Plaza was every bit as special as all the winners – and the voting children – deserve!

Stockport School Book Award

Blackout

Sam Mills, Blackout

Beware of author events in Waterstone’s! This book begins with the author being shot while doing a reading.

And it’s a worryingly topical book. The Resident IT Consultant had bagged it right when the riots began last month. Curfews for the young. ‘Overenthusiastic’ measures taken by the authorities. The one thing the book ‘got wrong’ was the Waterstone’s incident. In our real riots no one went close to bookshops, whereas in Blackout it’s books and reading that are illegal. At least reading the wrong books.

I have to disagree with the Resident IT Consultant on one point, however. I don’t think Sam Mills wrote Blackout, expecting her readers to know the classics she incorporates into the plot. I believe she wants to tease her young readers into going off and trying these books afterwards. And I imagine they will want to.

Blackout was the book I came away from the Lancashire Book of the Year award feeling I simply must read, because almost every teenager mentioned this as their second favourite after the winner, Keren David.

So, after Stefan shoots the author in the bookshop, we learn what has happened up until that moment. We’re in the future, but not all that far off. His father owns a bookshop, and Stefan gets impatient with his Dad at times, because he’s old-fashioned and keeps talking about ‘real’ books. He’s especially fond of Paradise Lost, for some reason.

At school they read books (on their e-readers), and Stefan was very taken with the happy ending of 1984. Maybe it’s only us oldies who will know that something isn’t quite right here, but Stefan slowly realises that the re-written books they read at school have been very drastically changed.

And there is Catcher in the Rye which will be there to tease him throughout the book. Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Sex is bad. So is drink. Children are shocked when they hear how rude young people were to their teachers in the olden days. The government really cares about people, which is why they protect them from all that is truly horrible.

So it’s up to the freedom fighters of the Words (or terrorists, if you like) to try and change things. Banned Books are dangerous. You could end up in the Institution, and maybe you’ll get yourself some new, better parents in the process. Or at the very least, a bottle of Good Behaviour Pills.

Public executions are a regular and popular public entertainment. All for the greater good, of course.

What makes Blackout so scary is that it feels as if society has barely moved from what we know today. I can visualise the caring government. And what could be worse than books? This is an exciting read, and until the last five pages or so, I couldn’t even begin to guess how it would end.

The second day

Here we are again. How did you get on yesterday? Did you have to queue for the toilets? No, I didn’t, either. Nor did I wear Lucy Coats’s pyjamas all day. (Not even part of the day, I’ll have you know.)

What did I do? I watched Mary Hoffman and Anne Rooney drink coffee. (It’s the personal touch that makes festivals such fun.) I watched Lucy Coats reading to three dogs.

And Sam Mills was interviewed by Tyger Drew (whoever he might be), and then she interviewed him back. I’m unsure of what Sam said to make Tyger want to poke his eye out, but there you are.

Tyger Drew and Sam Mills, ABBA festival

I entered competitions to win things. I never do, but then I seem to own most of the books on offer, so I’m best to let others, more needy than myself, win.

And here’s today’s programme for the ABBA online blog festival.

ABBA festival Sunday

I’ve got all my books ready to be signed today. It has to work!

And at least they aren’t starting too frightfully early. I might make it down to the kitchen for 10.30.

ABBA festival!

First they steal my idea, and then they put it into action on a day when I can’t even enjoy it. Pah.

It’s ABBA. No, not the pickled fish and not even those people who used to sing. I’m talking about the Awfully Big Blog Adventure and the festival they are running this weekend.

Yes, I know. It’s ridiculous. How can you possibly have an online book festival? Can I take pictures of my authors? Can I have my books signed? Are there even any tickets left to all these events, and how do they expect me to get around from one event to the next without a break in-between?

PhotobucketI’m busy today. Very busy. I can’t just sit there and commune with my beloved authors through a computer screen all day long. But I want to. I’ll have to make a timetable of sorts, to see if I can fit in my bestest people that way. Maybe eat with them? (Hey, do you object to crumbs and slurps?)

Just look at that programme!

ABBA festival Saturday

It sort of makes a witch want to skive off for the day. How are they going to pull it off, technically? (My idea was for a normal live kind of in person sort of festival…)

Oh well, see you tomorrow.

Always share your banana

If you don’t, you can’t be sure of where literary history will lead. In this case it always comes back to Preston and Lancashire.

Lancashire Book of the Year 2011

As you well know, Keren David won the Lancashire Book of the Year award, and yesterday we travelled to Preston to see her receive her prize and to hear her speech. It was a good one, and it features UMIST and non-iron fabric for the Royal family and several generations’ worth of romance in her family. And the banana.

Keren David

With space at a premium I can’t tell you the whole story, but rest assured that coincidence is not dead and it really is a small world. And had Keren’s mother not been the type to share bananas, we might not have had When I Was Joe to read and enjoy and to reward with huge cheques (physical size, mostly) and art.

Chris Higgins

Joseph Delaney

This was a good year, with nine out of ten shortlistees  present; C J Skuse, Chris Higgins, Hilary Freeman, Jane Eagland, Jim Carrington, Joseph Delaney, Keris Stainton, Sam Mills and Keren. And as ever, Adèle Geras, overseeing the young members of the jury. Unfortunately, I have only read Keren’s and Keris’ books. Fortunately, those excellent child readers have read every single book on the longlist, and some of them have read and re-read their favourites on the shortlist several times.

Hilary Freeman

Jim Carrington

When the witch and her photographer arrived, Adèle was busy drinking coffee but took us round to meet everyone. To my horror some people had heard of me, which makes you wonder what they had heard. It was lovely to meet super-publicist Nicky for the first time, and now she will be not simply a name at the end of my email line.

County Councillor Geoff Roper

The place was heaving. The place being the plush home of Preston’s councillors. It’s the kind of place that makes you feel important, and those men wandering round with fancy necklaces add to the style. Pleased to see the efficient Sue and Elaine of the SilverDell Bookshop providing books for sale, at this oldest of book awards.

Jake Hope

More than one speaker reminisced about 1987, when the award started, and whereas I can remember much further back than that, I suppose it was quite long ago. Especially if you weren’t born. Super-librarian Jake had dressed to impress, and he certainly did. It’s not just a jacket; it’s a whole suit. Note his ‘cheeky’ 25!

Jane Eagland

C J Skuse

As always, the children spoke about everything to do with the award and the reading, and I’m glad the boys realised that some books might be pink, but the reading of them ‘has to be done’.

Keris Stainton

The authors, too, had to speak, and they pointed out how important it is to have reviews by children, and not just by us boring adults. Awards like these can also save authors’ careers, for which we have to be grateful.

Adèle Geras

Adèle spoke, and she mentioned her predecessor Hazel Townson, who died this year, and who had supervised the readers for 21 years. And finally it was Keren’s turn, and as I’ve mentioned, she spoke of bananas. If I’d been her, I’d have died of nerves by that time, so it’s to her credit that she was both alive and completely lucid. She was pleased to hear the other shortlisted books praised so often, since that made her win even more valuable. It also seems that Keren had always wanted to marry someone from Lancashire. (No need to propose. She’s already married.)

Keren David

The cheque Keren received was beautiful, and so was the work of art by Hayley Welsh, which came in the shape of a defaced book. But it was beautifully done, and seeing as it even had a picture of me, I wholeheartedly approve.

Art by Hayley Welsh

Keren wasn’t the only one to receive prizes, with the children each getting a signed copy of When I Was Joe. And despite her dislike for attention, the hardworking librarian Jean, who is retiring was also on the receiving end of speeches and flowers and a hug from Keren. She admitted to always being bossy. Well, how else do you get something like this award to happen? So, thank you Jean for telling so many dignitaries how and when and where to sit, stand, do, or whatever. They need that kind of thing.

Jean with Keren David

It’s funny how after my last and only presence at these awards two years ago, how many friendly faces I recognised, and who recognised me back. It was like coming home. Julie was another hardworking ‘face’, so it must have been the power of the Js. Jake. Jean. Julie.

Jane Eagland

Joseph Delaney and Jim Carrington

And I talked quite a bit to author Jane (Eagland), so she was another J for the day. Also Joseph and Jim and C J. There was a signing afterwards, and even more afterwards there was that lovely lunch they do so well in Preston.

Then it was time for us to catch trains home in all directions. Luckily Preston offers through trains to my back garden, so there was no need for any broomsticks at all.

Sam Mills

Of all the admirable books yesterday, the one that was praised the most, besides When I Was Joe, was Blackout by Sam Mills. I might have to try and read it.

Shortlist