Friday, 29 August 2008

Reach out and touch... Scotland

This week we've been on Edinburgh Book Festival Outreach with some great authors, one of whom was kind enough to do a bit of blogging for us. So it's over to award-winning writer Sophie McKenzie to tell us more...

My first time at the Edinburgh festival and I'm a mix of excited ('i'm at a festival!!') and apprehensive ('what if no-one turns up or I screw up my talks'!!). In the end its even more fun than I hoped it would be... the talk to a group of secondary school students, bussed in to the festival itself, goes really well. I'm on stage with Graham Marks, a friend and fellow teen writer. We're doing a new 'show' - in which we use a load of big screen visuals to talk about where the ideas for our books come from. Graham's an old pro at great events and gets me really enthused with all his ideas.

The next day, I take a road trip with the guys from the Scottish Book Trust as part of Outreach to schools in Alloa and Alva. Standing up in front of 200 14-year-olds is something I've got used to over the past year - but this was different. For a start, the schools are set in amazing countryside with mountains out the window! For a London girl, that's special!!! On top of that, I'm doing a new talk - where I get the students to pick items out of my bag. Whatever they pick, I have to relate to my writing in some way! The pupils at Alloa and Alva are fun and make it really easy for me to relax and enjoy myself - that's me with some of them in the photo - thanks for that, if you're reading!

All in all, I have a great time - Edinburgh is a beautiful city and there's a real buzz around the festival. It's all incredibly well organised and everyone's really friendly and helpful. I love events like these - a great opportunity to hang out with other writers and meet the people who're actually reading my books!

Which reminds me... I guess I'd better go now and get on with writing the next one... !!!

Sophie McKenzie
Author of Blood Ties, Girl, Missing and the forthcoming novel The One and Only
We're Famous! Moment of the week
One of the other fantastic authors with us on outreach this week was Sam Enthoven, who gave us a shoutout in his hugely entertaining blog. Follow the link and look for the reference to 'supreme ninjas'... fame at last!

Friday, 22 August 2008

Marcus Sedgwick and the Zombie Killer Rabbits

This week we welcome a guest blogger, award-winning novelist Marcus Sedgwick. To get a sample of his work, read his exclusive short story on the Scottish Book Trust website.

I think being a writer has got to be one of the best jobs in the world. But that’s because I’ve just handed in a new manuscript and my editor has given it the seal of approval. If you asked me a month ago I might not have been so charitable. With a deadline looming and that tricky last section to get down, I was an unhappy and nervous author. Happily for me it went to plan and I finished the novel that will be published in over a year from now, towards the end of 2009, Revolver.

In the meantime, I’m left in what has to be the best moment of a writer’s lifecycle – current project done, I can set my mind free and wonder what in the whole world wide to write about next. Zombie Killer Rabbits? Telepathic Tortoises? Tooth floss murders? It’s all out there waiting for me, and the thrill of deciding what to do next is certainly easier than actually doing it. That’s not to say that my work is done on Revolver yet – I’ll need to do two or three redrafts of it at least to really get it right, and redrafting is Not Fun, but I always think that that’s the time you earn your money as a writer, when it gets hard, because otherwise, to be paid for thinking up things that aren’t real and writing them down seems really unfair on everyone else. So that’s to come in the next few weeks, but meanwhile, I have a little clear space to ponder my next move. I have absolutely no idea what it is yet, and that’s more than half the fun.

Marcus Sedgwick
Author of My Swordhand is Singing, The Book of the Dead and many more...

Disappointment of the week:
The week began with the news that the release date of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince has been shifted from this November to July 2009. Normally, if a film's release date is pushed back it means the film company are worried that it's not good enough, but surely that can't be the case with HP... can it? It certainly looks pretty cool from the trailer:

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

How do I love books? In many, many ways...

Why is it that at the beginning of the summer holidays it seems like the school year will never start again, and then towards the end you are left wondering what happened to all that time? Here we are again: in Scotland schools start again next Monday (if you’re reading this south of the border count yourself lucky! You have another 2 weeks to go!)

The school holidays for us are our quiet time: to plan our forthcoming autumn projects and events (keep an eye out for our autumn schedule … we’ve got some really fantastic authors appearing) and to think about what we’d like to do in the coming year, and how we’re going to do it!

Next week sees the re-launch of our Writer in Residence programme, in which writer Keith Gray is getting the best teen fiction writers to write short stories appearing exclusively on our website … just up is Marcus Sedgwick’s story … have a read if you haven’t come across it already. A spooky tale about a near-death experience – not to be missed! But the best thing about the project is that we want teenagers aged 12-16 to send in their own stories … and as it’s all online you don’t have to be based up here in Scotland to enter. Go to the competition information here.

It may be quiet in our office but outside Edinburgh is bustling, bursting at the seams with festival attendees and performers. I’ll be at the book festival later this week for Lari Don’s event about her First Aid for Fairies and Other Fabled Beasts, a fabulous tale including a centaur, a fairy, a Pheonix, a journey from the Borders to Orkney and back again and, best of all, a really feisty heroine.

Festival season is also party season, and I went to my first last night, the launch of Joan Lingard’s new book from Catnip, The Eleventh Orphan, a happy and chatty evening in Joan’s own house, making it a really special atmosphere. What I love about a book launch is buying your crisp, brand new copy and getting it signed – a really special thing to keep.

One of the best things about this job is that brand new, often not-yet-published books arrive on mine, Jasmine’s and Chris’s desk every day, and, although I’m not nearly as efficient as Chris and Jasmine at getting through them, the summer is a great time to catch up on some overdue reading! I’m very much enjoying Life, Interrupted by Damian Kelleher (due to be published by Piccadilly Press in January), although I know it’s going to make me weep. I’m also taken with Joe Donnelly’s original blend of thriller writing and fantasy in the second of his Jack Flint trilogy, Jack Flint and the Spellbinder’s Curse. Debi Gliori’s new picture book, The Trouble with Dragons, a timely warning about human destruction of the earth, is absolutely stunning. Finally my colleague handed me the latest Diana Wynne Jones book, The House of Many Ways, last week. I am a HUGE fan and exercising the largest degree of self restraint in saving it for a long plane journey on Friday! I cannot wait!

Children's Programme Manager

Next week: author Marcus Sedgwick drops in to the blog...

Monday, 4 August 2008

The Book Festival and beyond

Hi All – I’m Jasmine and I organise events and tours here at the Scottish Book Trust.

When we go on tour during the year with an author or illustrator, we do spend a lot of time with them. It’s great, because normally we get on really well. But imagine spending 12 hours a day with somebody you have never met before (also imagine that from the author’s point of view!), there are times when you run out of things to say. That’s where reading comes in handy. You can just read the author’s book(s) and have lots to talk about. Not that you wouldn’t read that particular book anyway, but it gives you a reason to read it NOW instead of letting it sink to the bottom of the ocean of all the books ‘I really wanted to read but did not get time to’.

I really like my job. Think of all the questions you might have about an author or their work; you would normally have to ask in front of lots and lots of people after an event. I can just ask them on the drive to the venue, over lunch or dinner, or just during the set up and sound check or waiting for the audience to sit down. You really get to know the author a little bit better.

July and August are quiet months when it comes to tours and events – the schools are on summer holidays. There is, however, the fantastic Edinburgh International Book Festival to tide-over anybody who can’t live without live literature. And because they bring such great authors to Scotland, we all thought it would be a shame not to show them some other parts of the country! That’s why Scottish Book Trust got together with Sara from the Book Festival and we came up with the Outreach Programme, taking six authors out of Edinburgh on six different days to do events in schools round the country – hopefully to a place near you!
Some of the books I have read in ‘preparation’ for the Outreach Events have already provoked lots of questions. Take Sophie McKenzie’s new book Blood Ties. It’s a fast-paced thriller about a boy trying to run away from the bodyguard he does not even know he needs (and that’s only the beginning). Why did Sophie chose a boy and a girl as main characters? How much research did she have to do for the book? Or Blood Child by the award-winning Tim Bowler – a novel about a boy who lost his memory, and is scared of what he finds out about himself. Has Tim based the plot of the story on a real event? How involved is he in the design of the covers of his books? Even TIM, Defender of the Earth by Sam Enthoven – a brilliant read that celebrates the destruction of London (to save the world, of course!). Why does Sam want to destroy a city so badly? How come the first defender of the world was a giant Kraken, but the next one is a dinosaur?

I have only mentioned a few, but if you want to know more about the authors we are taking on Outreach, have a look here. If you're curious about the answers, get in touch – I’ll let you know.

Children's Programmer

Interesting observation of the week:The biggest Christmas seller has already been found – 4 months before Christmas! JK Rowling’s Beedle the Bard is already in’s number one spot! If you are after another bestseller and can’t wait until Christmas, what about teenage author Stephanie Meyer’s new book, Breaking Dawn? It’s the fourth book in her fantastic Twilight Saga. Have a look.

Chris says howdy


I’m Chris, I am one third of the Children’s Team here at Scottish Book Trust and I’ve been here for a year and a half (this is the longest I've ever held one job, apart from being a student which really isn’t work) and I absolutely love it here. I just thought that it was about time that we (Scottish Book Trust Children’s Team) let you know who we are, what we do, the things we like and the projects that we are running for you.

I wont be the only one writing this blog, Anna and Jasmine from the children’s team, our web guru Paul, and even some top authors will be dropping in to blog their hearts out about whatever is going on in Scottish Book Trust world.

The summer holidays are fantastic aren’t they? It’s your chance to do as you please, hang out with your buddies without having to worry about getting up for school and generally cause mischief. I too love the summer holidays, I used to spend my summers jumping off cliffs, swimming in the sea, camping with mates in the fields around my town and listening to music. I’ve come to realise that I can still do all these things it’s just that I now have to cram them all in at the weekend.

Now though, the summer holidays are a chance to catch my breath from what has been a feverishly busy 2008, so far we’ve taken Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen on a
tour of Scotland’s major cities, launched an innovative Virtual Writer in Residence project with the brilliant Keith Gray (who has also promised us a blog entry at some point), announced the 2008 Royal Mail awards shortlist, completed 2 other tours, ran our first Children’s Festival and done about 20 one-off events and its only August! Phew!

The only problem about the summer holidays is the Scottish weather, so I thought that I would give you a few of my favourite books to read and some of my favourite Scottish bands for you to listen to. So if it’s raining, grey and miserable you can sit inside and read/listen or if it's gloriously warm you can sit out on the grass and lose yourself in a book or a song (but remember that although sunscreen is yucky and sticky it is good for your skin)!

Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror – Chris Priestly
Ostrich Boys – Keith Gray
The Black Tattoo – Sam Enthoven
Creature of the Night – Kate Thompson

Twilight Sad
Sons and Daughters
Frightened Rabbit

Oh, and I nearly forgot about the
fantastic new creative writing competition for you, so do look out for the flyer in all your favourite spots.

Peace out,
Children's Programme Assistant

Cool thing we've heard about this week:
Best-selling author
Janey Louise Jones will take a trip to the Balearic Island this August where children will be treated to Princess Poppy party games and book readings from the author, as part of publisher Random House's new initiative with Thomas Cook holidays. Nice! Want to know more? Read about it here

Next week: Meet Jasmine, Children's Programmer extraordinaire...