Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Christmas time is here...

Happy Christmas!

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Heather: Our brilliant week on tour with David Roberts

On Sunday 6th December, whilst I was in Manchester preparing for a brilliant night at a Yeah Yeah Yeahs gig, Chris was driving down to Carlilse to meet illustrator and author David Roberts at the train station. This was the beginning of our final tour of 2009!

I joined the guys on Monday morning in Dumfries where we spent our first day. Both sessions were brilliant, with lots of drawing and Chris trying out his storytelling skills. It set the tone for what was to be a fantastic week of events.

On Wednesday we moved on to East Renfrewshire. I was a bit sad to leave the beautiful Dumfries and Galloway scenery but the four events we did in and around Glasgow were equally as great.

I often think that when you see an illustrator doing what they do best it makes it obvious how difficult drawing is. What was so wonderful about David's events was that he showed every child, and Chris and I too, that even we could draw pictures. Everybody drew Dirty Bertie along with David, and a few people tried their hand at Troll and Tyrannasaurus Drip. Although they may not have been as perfect as David's art work, he made sure we all knew they were equally as valid. It was lovely to see so many children getting involved and feeling encouraged.

Thank you David for a fantastic week, and thank you to all of the pupils who drew pictures and shouted out enthusiastically during Dirty Bertie.

I haven't even tried to convey how much fun we had because it's just too difficult. Perhaps this wee tour video will do that for me!
Other News:
The winner of the 2009 Royal Mail Awards older readers category, Ostrich Boys by Keith Gray, has been shortlisted for another award – the Lincolnshire Young People’s Book Award. Check out the other books on the shortlist here.

The shortlist of the Angus Book Award 2010 has been announced! The winner, chosen by third year pupils throughout Angus secondary schools, will be announced in May in Kirriemuir. The shortlist is:
Crossing the Line by Gillian Philip
Black Rabbit Summer by Kevin Brooks
Guantanamo Boy by Anne Perera
Numbers by Rachel WardHappy Reading!

We would like to take this opportunity to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas. We'll be back in the new year with even more events, tours and blogs!

Friday, 4 December 2009

Cathy Forde: Virtual Writer In Residence

As you all know, Cathy Forde is currrently our Virtual Writer In Residence. Every month Cathy drops by the blog to tell us what she's been up to. Here's what she's got to say this month...

Last week I was on holiday, trying to absorb enough vitamin D from the Portuguese sun to see me through the next four months in Scotland. I loved having blue skies on tap for a few days although being away meant I missed the Royal Mail Awards for Scottish Children’s Books. Well done to all the winners, especially Keith Gray, my predecessor as Virtual Writer in Residence for the brilliant Ostrich Boys.

Going on holiday anywhere for me is about catching up on reading, and I always try and choose something that I wouldn’t normally go for. So many people have recommended Steig Larsson’s crime novel The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, that I bought it, expecting the ultimate unputdownable ( is that a word?) novel. Was I disappointed? I struggled through it. On the other hand, I knew nothing much about Sarah Waters’ The Little Stranger, but found myself completely drawn in to its spooky clutches. It is beautifully written and very readable, with a huge crumbling house as the setting for the story. It was the perfect novel to read before I deliver my fourth writer in residence podcast on SETTING, and it made me think of all the other books I have read where location is a character in itself.

I am off to Fife next week to give a creative writing talk with Scottish Book Trust and last month we went to spanking new Bishopbriggs Academy where I was asked some of the best questions ever from the audience. A great visit, and I am looking forward to going back there in March next year, especially now that I know where the new school is. Silly me drove to the old one and wondered why it looked so run down and forlorn.

By the way, this is my ‘Christmas blog’ although I haven’t had any time to think about all the shopping malarkey yet. It must be the Festive Season though because supermarket carparks are full, Glasgow city centre is heaving ( with people carry Primark bags), ‘Mistletoe and Wine’ is playing on a loop in M&S. Also, my sons have started snooping around for the Christmas presents I buy throughout the year, then hide away. When I came home from Portugal they were half way through Season One of First Blood. I had hidden it at the bottom of a box of other presents for them. Would you ever do that you your mum? Okay, so I did it too, but not when I was 20 like my elder son!!!

Happy Christmas.

Find out more about Cathy's residency on our Virtual Writer In Residence pages.

Other news:
Chris and Heather are about to head off on tour with author and illustrator David Roberts to Dumfries and Galloway and East Renfrewshire.
C.J. Skuse's Pretty Bad Things is coming out in March 2010. Take a look at this exciting trailer...

John Ward: Books - the greatest gift of all.

John Ward's novel The Comet's Child is December's Book of the Month. We asked him what it feel like to be published at Christmas and what he'll be reading over the holidays.

To have a book come out in time for Christmas is a special pleasure. Suddenly you are part of that most memorable library: books that were first received as Christmas presents.
Books: as presents go, they are rarely the most exciting, but so often give the greatest, most abiding pleasure, remembered and reread when flashier things are lost and forgotten. Their moment comes when the toys are played out and the excitement (up since the earliest hours, scarcely slept the night before) has subsided into fatigue: then it is time to curl up in a quiet corner among the cushions and discarded wrapping paper and the smell of tangerines and chocolate and read your book.

What must it have been like to be a child at Christmas 1935 (a time much like our own, with the world in a parlous state: financial ruin, unemployment, war and the threat of war) and receive a copy of John Masefield’s The Box of Delights, complete with curious illustrations and a riddling rhyme at the head of each chapter? To be drawn into the world of Kay Harker, home for the Christmas holidays, diddled out of his money by sly strangers on the train, befriended by the old Punch- and-Judy man and his dog Barney, plunged into a world of adventure with flying taxis, magic, time-travel, international gangsters, interminable snowdrifts and at the heart of it all, the wonderful Box of Delights?

I'll be reading it again this Christmas.

Take part in our Book of the Month competition and you could win a copy of The Comet's Child.

Monday, 30 November 2009

K.M. Grant: Paradise Red Launch

On 14th October K.M. Grant launched her new novel Paradise Red here at Scottish Book Trust. It was a brilliant launch, all of the pupils who attended had a fantastic time, as did the SBT staff, but what is it like for an author? We asked K.M. Grant and she told us...

The launch of a book is strange day for an author: exciting and slightly unnerving. The excitement is sending the book off into the world to see how it fares. The unnerving bit is that because the publishing process is lengthy, it’s some time since you actually wrote it. On occasion, even the author forgets things and I’m always frightened there’ll be some detail that’s escaped me, because if there is, you can bet somebody will discover, and how silly does that make you look?

But the end of a trilogy – Paradise Red is the final part of the Perfect Fire Trilogy – brings an added pang. I’ve been living with Yolada, Raimon and Brees for three years. Some days, they’ve been more real to me than absent members of my family. I don’t want to say goodbye to them. But if I don’t let go of them, how can I start my next venture? And a new heroine, Belle, awaits …

For more information on K.M.Grant take a look at her website.

Other news:

We're busy getting ready for our tour to Dumfries and Galloway and East Renfrewshire next week with the wonderful illustrator David Roberts. You can read more about David and his work on his website.

Today is your final chance to submit your entry for The Book That Changed My Life so get writing if you haven't submitted already!

The Gruffalo will be hitting our TV screens this Christmas in a half-hour animation. Robbie Coltrane will be in the starring role.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Debi Gliori: Newcastle Tour

In October Jasmine and Heather embarked upon Scottish Book Trust's very first tour to England. Joining them on this most exotic of adventures was author and illustrator Debi Gliori. Jasmine and Heather had a fantastic time, but what did Debi think of her week long tour to Newcastle?...

We parachuted in as a triad: three women, a ton of books, and in my case, enough moisturizer to rehydrate a pharoaoh. We came, we saw, we talked, we drew, we signed books , in and out of the SBT people carrier, past the security sign-in at all of the schools, across playground war-zones and into tiny classrooms.

Reading picture books is sheer delight when you're reading with and to a very small group of children. It's a rare privilege to be allowed into the imaginations of the very young and I count myself blessed to be able to do what I do for a living ; making picture books for our smallest citizens. It takes me, on average, about six months to conceive, develop, rough out, write and paint a picture book. However, with the best will in the world, it rarely takes more than ten minutes max to read a picture book. The picture book word-count is short, the children's attention spans, since the advent of PS2's and Wii's, even shorter. These facts notwithstanding, some years ago, a close relative of the Marquis de Sade decreed that it would be a Jolly Good Idea for writers to read one picture book for an hour to a group of anything up to two hundred children of various ages and abilities.

This, compadres, takes cojones of steel. Hence the need for Zen-like detachment prior to these sessions. To offer up your very best work, your newest and best baby, to a group of children who've never met you before, you have to dig deep. It's not simply a question of reading the story and pointing out salient details in the pictures ; you have to be able to capture and hold the attention of a group of small strangers, to dodge and weave around the bletherers in the front row, to make sure that the children at the back can actually understand anything you're saying, to ignore the clamour of dinner ladies banging pots and pans in the background, to talk and draw and field questions all at the same time like some multi-armed Buddhist deity, to stretch a short story out, waaaaaay out beyond the bounds of credibility, to ignore the hisses from teachers trying to control their classes, and to smile, while inside you're measuring out the hours between you and that first cup of mint tea...

Normally, I do these sessions on my lonesome; that is, after I've spoken with assorted groups of children, I return to my hotel/b&b/train unaccompanied, eat a solitary dinner, make mint tea in my room and fall into bed. This time, on tour with Jasmine and Heather, we had drinks, conversation, debriefings, gallons of mint tea and above all, we gave each other support. It didn't feel like a solitary mission into uncharted territory; it felt like teamwork. So many, many thankyous to SBT for inviting me to tour with them, to Scottish Friendly for continuing to support our endeavours and thankyou to Seven Stories for hosting a lovely family event and for organizing schools, books and directing us to the best Japanese restaurant in the Western world.

Other News:

We are really excited that Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell have a new book coming out next May called Wyrmeweald! It’s a Wild West adventure with dragon-like beasts featuring heavily – partly inspired by our Scottish Friendly Children Book Tour to the Highlands last September! Watch the tour video here: And watch out for the book next year!

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

The Royal Mail Awards Ceremony 2009

Yesterday was the award ceremony for The Royal Mail Awards for Scottish Children's Books 2009. Over 600 pupils from all over Scotland joined us at Queen's Hall in Edinburgh to see the shortlisted authors and hear the announcement of the winning books. The awards have been the biggest and best yet with almost 30,000 children taking part and over 15,000 of them voting for their favourite book.

This was the shortlist:

0-7 Category

Manfred the Baddie by John Fardell

Pink! by Lynne Rickards and Margaret Chamberlain

Stick Man by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

8-11 Category

The Eleventh Orphan by Joan Lingard

First Aid For Faeries and Other Fabled Beasts by Lari Don

Dino Egg by Charlie James

12-16 Category

The Reckoning by James Jauncey

Crash by J.A. Henderson

Ostrich Boys by Keith Gray



Manfred the Baddie by John Fardell

First Aid For Fairies and Other Fabled Beasts by Lari Don

Ostrich Boys by Keith Gray

Congratulations John, Lari and Keith!

We all had a fantastic time at the ceremony. Thank you to everyone who helped to make it such a success and especially to Cathy MacPhail for being such a wonderful host!

You can read more about the ceremony and the awards in The Scotsman, the Press and Journal and The Big Issue Scotland

Monday, 23 November 2009

Malcolm Walker: The Stone Crown

Australian author Malcolm Walker tell us about his novel The Stone Crown which is set in Scotland and was released earlier this month...

My name’s Malcolm Walker and I’m an Australian author. The UK edition of my novel, The Stone Crown, which is set in the Scottish Borders, came out November 2. What’s an Aussie writer doing depicting Scotland? Well, that’s a long story, one which starts with King Arthur, who wasn’t really a king but a Dark Ages warlord and who probably hung out just down the road from you near Kelso…

The two main characters Emlyn and Maxine, townies from London and Newcastle, find themselves stuck in the small town of Yeaveburgh. Boredom and an unsettling mystery involving his father leads Emlyn to poke his nose into some local secret business and when the two teenagers unwittingly steal a small wooden horseman from Sleeper’s Spinney they suddenly find themselves stalked by an ancient terror. Neither Emlyn nor Maxine were to know that the spinney was magically protected or that their unwitting theft would unleash the Dark Ages Arthur and his men, who’ve been kept in check by the McCrossan family, an ancient line of ‘keepers’ charged with containing the power that is trapped behind the spinney’s dry-stone wall. Caught between the ‘keepers’ and a curse that has dogged both of their lives, Emlyn and Max find themselves plunged into a parallel world of myth, magic and the supernatural, where not all is what it seems and where help comes from the most unlikely quarter.

The book has sold well in Australia, with one Australian reviewer saying, “Forget Camelot and chivalry ... this is an intriguing fantasy told with poetic intensity, and an innovative approach to the Arthur we all think we know.”

More information about Malcolm, together with excerpts from The Stone Crown, can be found on his website.

Other news:

Tomorrow is the Royal Mail Awards ceremony at Queen's Hall Edinburgh. Keep your eye on the website to find out the winners! Details of the shortlist can be found on our website.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Chris Newton: Looking Back on the Highland Tour

A mere 7 weeks ago (it seems like a lifetime now) we embarked on our longest tour, taking the duo who created the Edge Chronicles, Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell, on a two-week tour of the Highlands.

Jasmine and I headed north on the Sunday and met the talented Mr Riddell at the airport in Inverness, Paul was at this point in a field near Dorset. The tour had begun.

We stayed in Inverness, in a hotel over looking the River Ness where we all went for walks or the occasional jog. Over the next few days we did exciting and entertaining sessions in Nairn (fastest place in the north), Boat of Garten, Dingwall (Dingers), Fortrose and a huge one at Eden

Court Theatre (Inverness), where we were joined by more members of Scottish Book Trust and the boys' publicist, Georgia Lawe, came up from London too.

Setting off from there we headed down Loch Ness and the Great Glen until we hit Ben Nevis and Fort William. I like Fort William it has a great atmosphere, perhaps that comes from the satisfaction of those who have just climbed Britain’s largest mountain or maybe those who have completed the West highland Way or maybe it is the anticipation of those two things. Or just maybe, its because they too have eaten at the beautiful seafood restaurant, Crannog. Mmmmm.
After our session in Fort William, we drove off and got on the Corran Ferry and glided over to the Ardnamurchan Penisula – where we greeted by more enthusiastic children and stunning scenery.

Time for another big drive but when the chat is flowing and the scenery is as stunning as it was 4hours seemed nothing at all. One of the best things about being on tour is getting to spend time with hugely talented writers and illustrators, you get to know them quite well as you are with them all day and you also get to hear some ace stories. Particularly when you are with Chris (a shameless name-dropper) and Paul (who knows a lot about German grammar and rock music).

Another great thing about touring is that you get to see Scotland, I had never been to Skye before so it was good to see it, if only for a couple of days and I would definitely go back. In fact, I am very very lucky touring has taken me loads of cool places; Skye, Orkney, Shetland, Kilmarnock, Outer Hebrides, the Moray Firth and Oban (spot the odd-one out!)

Jasmine, Paul and Chris spent the weekend on Skye doing the exploring that I would liked to have done while I returned to Macduff (where I am from) for a friend’s wedding and then I met up with them in Ullapool. Ullapool had just staged their Loopalu Festival so the town had somewhat of a collective hangover so I fitted in perfectly! While I nursed my hangover and rued the fact that I couldn’t watch Match of the Day 2 Chris drew wonderful caricatures of Jasmine and I which he signed. They are now framed and hanging in our houses – very proud.

As we headed up to Scourie, where we did our smallest session of just 15 pupils the rain came for the first time and we showed Paul and Chris the other side of Scotland’s weather! At least the rain brings out the colours of the heather and the rocks so at least all was not lost and we did have lunch in the van over looking a wee castle.

After Scourie we headed east to Golspie where we met even more great children and some enthusiastic teenagers as well as being able to have a walk on the beach. You would have thought that after almost two weeks on the road Paul and Chris would be flagging but there were still in great form and were as chatty and friendly as one could hope.

Back on the road and this time we are heading north, until there is no more north – Dunnet Head, the most northerly point on mainland Britain. Our last events were in Wick and once again the children were ace and they left entertained and enthused about books.

To finish the tour we had a celebratory drink in a bar that was straight out of 1974 and then ate in a restaurant on the World’s Shortest Street (Ebeneezer Street, Wick, 6ft 9), only in Wick!!!
We waved the boys off at the airport in Wick with the resignation that the end of such a good tour brings and also the realisation that we would be back at the desk in a few days. This adventure was almost over. Back to Edinburgh in a 7 hours, well 5 and bit as Marion was driving.

It has been great fun creating this tour video and I really hope that you enjoy it, it hope fully brings it alive and it serves as a fantastic reminder for us. Do look out for some of the things that I mentioned in the blog. Actually, it has been fun writing this blog as the memories have come flooding back and there has been so much that I have left out.

So yes, I do have the best job in the world.

Find out more about Paul Stewart & Chris Riddell on their website:

Other News:

Random House Children's Books held a Teenage Kicks event with Keith Gray on 12th November. It was a huge success. Here's what a few attendees had to say:

‘Many thanks, the girls loved it. The authors were fab & it brings an added dimension to reading their books now.’ Karen Hans, Librarian, St Martin-in-the-Fields High School

‘It was a really great evening, the young people loved it and were on such a high on the train on the way home! The evening, and their involvement in the preparations leading up to it, gave them some great opportunities for enjoyment, creativity, and both social and personal development .' Kim Tucker - Children's Services LibrarianCrawley Library

Friday, 13 November 2009

Graham Marks: Happy Birthday Asterix!

Jasmine Fassl, our children’s events manager, and Graham Marks, children’s and young adult author, tell us all about their love, and experience with Asterix the Gaul on the occasion of his 50th birthday!

I have always been an Asterix fan. My dad is a huge comic book geek, though the only ones we were allowed to read when we were little, were Lucky Luke and Asterix. Every Saturday morning, for about an hour or two after waking up my siblings and I would lie in bed, reading comic books. I had favourites at certain times, stories I’d read over and over again, before letting my siblings ‘borrow’ that particular book. I grew up in Vienna, so read the stories in German, but by now I have gotten used to reading the new books in English. At first it was odd – some characters have different names, with the exception of Asterix and Obelix of course, and I didn’t really like it. I am ok with it now, though it took me a while. For me it adds something to the experience – and I am rather (geekily) proud that know the little differences…I am very jealous of Graham Marks who went to Paris for the 50th birthday of Asterix, here is what he says:

Crayonné original de la couverture d’Astérix et Latraviata (détail) Albert Uderzo
40 x 50 cm
Collection particulière © 2009 Les Éditions Albert René / Goscinny-Uderzo
Graham Marks:
As day trips go, this was pretty special: destination Paris, for the 50th birthday of Asterix the Gaul! The venue, the Musée de Cluny, near the Sorbonne, was completely appropriate and itself worth the trip, being a walled, gothic-fronted building attached to the remains of an actual Gallo-Roman thermal baths!
From the moment we walked in to the bath’s frigidarium (cold room), its vaulted roof some thirty feet above us, it was one marvel after another: here were the original notes Goscinny had made when the idea for the series was coming to life, right next to Uderzo’s preliminary sketches (Asterix started out much taller, Obelix a lot thinner); on a plinth inside a glass case, there’s Goscinny’s manual typewriter, on which he wrote the script you can see alongside the stunning black and white artwork Uderzo then produced from it, his delicate brushwork and his fine, detailed penmanship bursting with life. Long live Asterix, and many happy returns!

The new Asterix book – The Golden Book – isn’t a traditional Asterix story. It’s more like a short story collection, with a scrap book feel. It’s a book for fans with lots of tributes and references to older Asterix adventure as well as classic works of art like the Mona Lisa and artists like Leonardo da Vinci, though my favourite is Asterix as a Marsupilami (after a comic by Andre Franquin) – it’s inspired! It was a huge joy to read and the artwork is exquisite.
Unfortunately I don’t own the complete collection, but I still lie in bed sometimes on a Saturday morning reading Asterix comic books…

Want to find out more? Here’s the official Asterix website:

Other news:

Today is the voting deadline for the Royal Mail Awards 2009.
If you're registered to vote
make sure you do so by 5.30pm today!

Anthony Horowitz was in Edinburgh last night as part of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, to promote his latest novel Crocodile Tears.

The Gruffalo has been voted the Nation's Favourite Bedtime Story by listeners of the Jeremy Vine show on BBC Radio 2.

The winners of the Roald Dahl Funny Prize are Mr Pusskins Best in Show by Sam Lloyd and Grubtown Tales: Stinking Rich and Just Plain Stinky by Philip Ardagh, illustrated by Jim Paillot.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Katie: Young People's Mentoring Scheme

As part of his residency which ended in September, Keith Gray mentored four very talented teenage writers - Mathias, Manakan, Charlotte and Katie. They each worked with Keith, one-to-one and in groups, on their novels. The scheme ended with a trip to Scholastic Children's Publishing in London where the group got to learn more about the publishing process. Keith and the Scottish Book Trust staff had a wonderful time being involved in the scheme. We asked Katie to blog about how she found it from the mentee perspective...

For the past six months I have been fortunate enough to be involved in Scottish Book Trust’s first ever Young people’s Mentoring Scheme. It’s an opportunity that many adults would envy and it certainly taught me a lot about writing and what it will be like when I (hopefully!) have my work published.

It all started in March 2008 when I met my fellow mentees Mathias, Charlotte and Manakan for the first time and we were all introduced to Keith. I will admit that it was a bit daunting at first! Here stood a man who’d already achieved everything I dreamed of and I was about to spend the next few months giving him my work to read! Luckily, we all got along straight away and my fears vanished when Keith opened by talking about how much he hated Maths. I knew that if all else failed we had that in common.
We had our first proper group meeting on Thursday 4th June. We were all very ambitious in our plans for the scheme and immediately set about writing our first novels. It was my first experience of writing anything longer than a short story but I felt comfortable sharing my ideas with the group and Keith.

At our second group meeting we had the privilege of talking to Lucy Juckes, an agent from Jenny Brown Associates. It was my first real glimpse into the business side of writing and to say it was surprising would be an understatement. Our visions of publishing our first book and suddenly being a millionaire with a mansion and a sports car suddenly didn’t seem as likely! As Lucy talked more and more about facts and figures it was difficult to hide our shock and we must have made her feel rather guilty as she finished with,
“I really hope I haven’t put you off!”

Luckily, she hadn’t and we all continued writing. By this point, we were all back at school and perhaps the biggest challenge for me was juggling all of this with my regular life as a fifteen year old school student. Teachers weren’t quite as excited about my writing as I was and for some reason “I didn’t do the homework because I had the most genius idea for my book” didn’t count as a good reason. I really don’t understand why!

The highlight of this whole experience for me was definitely our trip to London a fortnight ago and not just because it meant two whole days off school! We had the chance to not only see inside Scholastic but we also got to talk to people from all different jobs within the publishing business. It was interesting to talk to them about what they think make makes a good book and to get their advice about what to do when we complete our work.

I have had a brilliant time with the mentoring scheme and although at times it was hard work, it was absolutely worth it! I do plan to finish my novel and have promised Keith that I will write for at least an hour a day (I doubt this will work but we don’t need to tell him that!). One day when I am bestselling author who does have a mansion and a sports car I know I will look back and remember it was all started by this and everyone who was involved. I wish the next lot of mentees luck; they are most definitely going to need it!

(pictured left to right: Charlotte, Katie, Keith Gray, Manakan, Mathias)

You can read work from Katie and the other mentees in their very own section of the Scottish Book Trust website.

Other News:

The Book Depository has launched 'My Bookmark' - a competition for customers to design ten bookmarks which will be despatched with orders from its site. You can find out more on

Monday, 2 November 2009

Catherine Forde: Virtual Writer In Residence

Catherine Forde, our Virtual Writer In Residence, takes over the blog for her monthly update. Read on to find out what she's been up to lately...

This is the high life indeed! On Tuesday I was chauffeur-driven by Jasmine and Chris of Scottish Book Trust from Edinburgh to Monifieth in Angus. I was visiting Monifieth High School to give my first ‘live’ talk in my role as Virtual Writer in Residence. It was not a promising start; the journey there had to be one of the wettest on record, and I was very glad I wasn’t behind the wheel on the motorway. But thanks to Jasmine’s unruffled driving we arrived a bit drookit, but in good time and to a lovely warm welcome from the pupils and English staff at the school. Thank you all, if any of you read this!

I gave a talk to the whole of First Year about where I find ideas for stories. There were so many hands up to ask questions that we ran out of time, which is always a good sign. Before Chris ‘chauffeured’ me back to Edinburgh, I talked to a group English teachers from Angus about some of the approaches I might use now if I was trying to encourage pupils to write creatively. It was actually quite scary talking to the teachers. The last thing I want them to feel was that that I was telling them what to do. They’ve enough on their plates with a curriculum to follow.

Over the last year I’ve been writing a play for the National Theatre of Scotland, (which I’ll talk more about in future blogs.) As I’ve never written any drama before, and wasn’t up to scratch on contemporary work, mostly anything I’ve read recently has been a playscript. (I’ve also been going to see lots of plays and loving it. I have a season ticket for the weekly plays that run in a series called PLAY, PIE AND PINT in Glasgow’s Oran Mor, although I only go for the PLAY – honest) Because I’ve been so steeped in drama it’s been ages since I’ve read contemporary Young Adult fiction. However, my Virtual Writer in Residence appointment has given me the perfect excuse to check out what’s been written recently, and I have just finished two incredible novels that I can’t stop thinking about: EXPOSURE by Mal Peet, and BOG CHILD by Sioban Dowd. They had everything I want in a novel: believable characters I cared about, and page-turning pace. Highly recommended.
You can find other recommended reads in our Teen Hit Lists. If you have any suggestions for new Hit List categories email

You can find details of Catherine's second creative writing task in the Virtual Writer In Residence section of the website.

Other news:

There are new reviews in our Your Reviews section of the website. If you'd like to have your book review featured online please take a look at the website for further details.

Nine titles have been shortlisted for the Blue Peter Book Award 2010. Three titles have been shortlisted in each category; Best Book With Facts, Book I Couldn’t Put Down and Most Fun Story with Pictures. For more information check out the Blue Peter website.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Barbara Mitchelhill: Dangerous Diamonds

We were really pleased to recently host the launch of Barbara Mitchelhill’s new book Dangerous Diamonds with the help of Murrayburn primary school. Here is what she has to say:

Arriving in Edinburgh for the Scottish Book Trust’s launch of Dangerous Diamonds was exciting but quite bizarre. Here I was in the city where, over a year ago, I had dreamed up the whole story. The setting for Dangerous Diamonds is Edinburgh and I when I arrived at Waverley Station, I jumped into a taxi and went across town to visit friends whose flat in the Grassmarket is where the story starts and where Charlotte and Harry live. On the way, I passed the Assembly Rooms in George Street where their dad goes missing and I caught a glimpse of the grand house where the villain, Edina Ross, lives. All these were real places that but the characters were all out of my imagination.
That is the good thing about being a writer, you can put whoever you want into any situation.
The two days I spent in Edinburgh were great fun and all the children I talked to had wonderful questions. Most of all, I shall remember the Quiz Game we played and how they cleaned me out of every chocolate in the box!

Dangerous Diamonds is published by Andersen Press and available in all good book shops. Visit Barbara’s website: for more information about her and her work.

Other news:

Melvin Burgess has started to write Twitterfiction. Check out his literary Twitter offerings at@MelvinBurgess

Chris's Highland Tour video diary is very nearly finished. Keep checking the blog and the website!

If you're a budding author, or simply keen to get creative and have a little fun, check out Virtual Writer in Residence Cathy Forde's creative writing tasks. They can be found in the Virtual Writer in Residence section of the website.