Thursday, 28 May 2009

Liz Rettig: Dating Disasters

To celebrate the publication of Liz Rettig's hilarious novel My Dating Disasters Diary we have an exclusive peek at the first chapter also in this bumper-blog we have a dating guide for boys and a dating guide for girls (both compiled by Liz) and real-life dating disasters from anonymous members of Scottish Book Trust staff and perhaps one author...enjoy!

To access your free downloads please click on this link which will take you back to the Scottish Book Trust website.

Our Dating Disasters

After a particularly heavy night out my boyfriend (at the time) stumbled back to my college halls and as happens when you have drunk a lot of beer he needed to pee in the middle of the night. But rather than walk into the bathroom, he walked into the cupboard and peed all over my college course-work and my shoes. He wasn’t my boyfriend for very much longer.

I had just started seeing this guy and was giving a friend of mine the low-down by text and I said that he was ‘quite cute in an ugly sort of a way’ but rather than send it to my friend, I sent it to him. Oops! Things didn’t work out between us…

I was asked out on a date by a bouncer as I was leaving a pub at the end of a very long night. Disregarding the fact that he probably used the same tactic on every girl exiting the establishment, in anticipation of an eventual acceptance based on the law of averages, I readily agreed to meet him the next week at the same pub. The day of the date dawned, and I pulled on my standard student first date outfit (unnaturally tight clothes and sky high heels.) Tottering along to the appointed place in the pouring rain, I was slightly surprised to see him muffled up in layers of clothes, wielding a single golf club and a huge umbrella. Bouyed up my new heels, quite literally, I decided to disregard the ominous signs and continued on the approach. 'We're going to The Open' he beamed at me. 'Lovely', I beamed back, disregarding the fact that the Open is known throughout the world as an international golf event, and assuming instead that it was a nice new restaurant.The peny dropped when we arrived at The Old Course, a seething mass of mud, golf umbrellas and small children wearing hats in the shape of tigers. Slightly disapppointed, but deciding to disregard the obvious practical complications arising from sky high heels and lots of mud, I went to follow him through the gate. A hand shot out in front of me, almost sending me toppling onto the 18th green. 'Hold on there lady, you'll need to pay first - that'll be £16 please.'I watched in disbelief as my date continued forward towards the champagne tent, flashing his single complimentary VIP pass at the stewards. Disregarding the fact that he would at some point presumably turn round and expect to find me wobbling along behind him, I turned on my heel and tottered home again.

It was the fashion for 'big hair' which in my case was achieved with upside down blow drying and the liberal addition of various hair products: mousse, gels, sprays - you name it I put it on my hair for my date that night. And it worked. I had BIG HAIR. I thought I looked fabulous although with my hair sticking out vertically about six inches from my scalp I probably looked as though I'd just had an awful shock. My date seemed impressed though and took me to a lovely restaurant where we dined by candlelight. So romantic. Until I leaned over the table towards him and my hair caught fire. I was unaware of it at first but he noticed immediately and was horrified. My hair didn't just singe but caught fire and kept burning fuelled by hair products probably as flammable as petrol. He lunged over to me and started slapping my head to damp the flames which infuriated me until I realised (along with other diners) that I was on fire. Oops.

I had made the effort to look smart and had turned up to the pub a few minutes early just in case she was on time. I ordered a drink and waited patiently. I waited patiently for half an hour, so I texted her to see where she was and she never got back to me. I wondered if she was ok or had I just been stood up. She never did turn up and to this day I still don’t know if she was ok.

Other News

Joan Lingard has been nominated for the West Sussex Children's Book Award.

Methphrog have been blogging about their Comic Workshops

Friday, 22 May 2009

Patrick Ness: Interesting Questions in Falkirk

This week's guest is the award-winning author of The Ask and the Answer, Patrick Ness, who was our guest for two Big Issue events in Falkirk...

My whirlwind day in Edinburgh turned out to be a whirlwind day in Falkirk, which I ended up not minding in the slightest.
First, Jasmine and Olivier from Scottish Book Trust drove me to Braes High School (well, Jasmine drove, Olivier dozed in the backseat), where Mrs Crosthawaite, the fantastic school librarian, led us in to their Learning Centre, where I spoke to the Accelerated English class and the library’s reading group, many of who had already read The Knife of Never Letting Go.

They were terrific, asking great questions and offering great ideas. Special thanks to Adele for volunteering facts about her life, and to the Big Issue Scotland for watching the event and interviewing some of the students after.

Then it was time for my own interview with the Big Issue before heading off to the equally terrific students at Larbert High School. Even at the end of the day, after PE class, in a very warm room, they were an attentive and funny group, asking all kinds of interesting questions (even one about “poo”). Kudos to Tommy for putting himself forward to tell us about his life.

A great day all around, finished off with a trip to Pizza Hut that – at last – offered a distant sight of Edinburgh’s castle. With confidence I can say that I’ll definitely be back.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Steve Cole: Tour-MOO-nator

Help! I’m turning all poetical. I write silly action packed stories about space dinosaurs and time travelling cows, I can’t start getting poetical…

It’s those islands that have done it. Orkney and Shetland. My first impression of each was that they held secrets. The flat green sweeps of Orkney and the strong bleakness of Shetland’s landscape – there was a power and beauty to the way their mood changed with the bite of a sudden wind or the brightening of the sky. (Arrrgh! Must… stop… the poetical stuff… “There was a power and moo-ty to the way their MOOOOOOOOO changed with the bite of a sudden pie…” That’s better!)

Chris and Jasmine drove me in fine style through this raw abundance of landscape, and every trip felt like an adventure. The schools we visited were a mixture of very large and really quite small, most enjoying top facilities and spectacular views from canteen and playground. I was lucky enough to enjoy the pupils’ attention as I launched into my silly adventures in storytelling. I hope they had some fun because I certainly did. My favourite event was the big one in Lerwick Library at the end when so many people came along to join in. And not one of them threw a rotten tomato at me, which was a result.

I sort of envy the children being where they are because these islands are full of spurs to the imagination – Skara Brae, the 5000 year old settlement on Orkney that died out mysteriously after 600 years… the Ring of Brodgar, huge standing stones that have weathered the elements for almost as long… the rusted hulks of sunken ships in Scapa Flow, ghosts of past wars… The mysterious brochs of Shetland, crumbling old forts… Trolls – or as they call them here, trows – weaving mischief in the shadow of giant oil refineries… You could set so many incredible tales here.

One day, I shall return. For real, or in a story? Not sure, yet. The islands really do hold secrets and, for now, that’s one of them.

But it’s no secret how lucky I am to have had the chance to meet so many clever, funny children and tireless teachers in Shetland and Orkney, to have enjoyed so much local food and drink and even to have absorbed a little of the history, culture – and above all, the local radio stations! – of the islands. It was a fabulous trip, and one I won’t forget. Big, big thanks to Scottish Friendly and Scottish Book Trust for making it possible. As poetical thanks as you like.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Amy from George Heriot's School: Judging the Royal Mail Awards

My name’s Amy, I’m from George Heriot's School and this year I was helping to pick the shortlist for the 12-16 and (with the help of my baby brother) the 0-7 categories of books in the Royal Mail Book Awards. I was very happy to do this, partly because I’ve always loved reading and given any opportunity will pick up a book …and partly because I had to write a 1000 word essay on Macbeth and was delighted to be offered a legitimate excuse to avoid starting it.

I’d taken part in the Award a couple of times and wondered how the shortlist of three books was chosen so I was really interested in what happened when a teacher at my school asked me if I’d like to help. I was given a box of twelve books and a couple of months to read them at the end of which I went to the judges' meeting. Everybody had already passed on their favourites and it was the five books that had received the most votes that we talked about. Everybody gave their views on each book and at the end there was loads of argument about which deserved to be on the shortlist! Finally the matter was decided by a vote (the last of about five) and the current shortlist was settled.

The overall quality of all the books I read for the award was excellent - there were one or two that I didn’t like quite so much but in general I was surprised by how good they were and I found choosing the ones I thought were best really hard! One of the first ones I decided on and which later at the judges meeting was passed by (I think) a unanimous vote was Keith Gray’s Ostrich Boys which I thought was fantastic. The first thing that struck me about it was how original it was; I’ve never read anything like it and I thought the central idea was brilliant. Despite dealing with serious issues; primarily death and also mourning, bullying, stress it always keeps a lovely tone; humorous and lighthearted- it’s definitely a feel-good book. It’s also quite unusual for two reasons; firstly in that all of the main characters (which are all brilliantly written; realistic and well-developed) are teenage boys, which for teen-fiction concentrating on emotions is unusual, and secondly in that, despite the main characters being boys, it still appeals to girls and girls can still - I thought - identify with them.

The second book decided on in this category was Crash. Again I found this very original - it’s definitely the first children’s book I’ve read that discusses mental illness in a way that combines it with humour, adrenaline and giant, Dundee-destroying tsunamis. The style of writing is simple yet dynamic with cliffhangers at the end of practically every chapter and the plot is satisfyingly complex without being confusing. It also has loads of twists and many separate plot-strands covering various genres that come together for a satisfying conclusion with no loose end left untied. All the characters are credible and, unusually for a teenage thriller or adventure story, it has important female characters meaning that it will appeal equally to boys and girls (despite the boyish front cover that will probably put some girls off).

The third book to be confirmed on the shortlist was The Reckoning. Out of all these books it probably had the best opening - an immediate hook grabbing the reader and setting the tone for the fast-paced thriller that follows. Like Crash it is exciting with lots of twists but also focuses on deeper social issues and questions – while I have to admit I preferred The Witness I think that these elements of The Reckoning are more credible and will strike a chord within many of its readers. Centrally though, The Reckoning is a mystery story with a gripping plot, an interesting and well-developed main character and a shocking ending.

I really enjoyed helping judge the Royal Mail Book Awards and would like to say a huge thank you to all those involved in setting it up and who invited me to take part – thank you very, very much!

(Pictures: top-right, Amy speaks at the Royal Mail Awards Shortlist press launch; above, Amy, centre, with shortlisted authors and Alana, also from George Heriot's, who helped judged the Younger Readers category)

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Sara Grady's sneaky reading list

Sara Grady, Director of the Children's Programme at Edinburgh International Book Festival, drops in to stir things up...

Spring seems to come and go in Edinburgh. One day it’s gloriously sunny, perfect for picnics and frisbee, the next I’m digging for my gloves and hat in a freezing torrential downpour. But one thing in my May diary is consistent: I finally have time to read a lot.

This time of year, the Book Festival programme is finished (with 350 events, I don’t think I can handle anymore!). Brilliant authors are coming and no one in the whole world knows the line-up except me. Until I have the big reveal at our launch in June, it’s my little (well, big) secret.

So in May, while I avoid spilling the beans, I spend a lot of time reading. It takes my mind off of things. And there is a hidden bonus: lots of people assume my current reading list equates to the Festival guest list. So, I switch things up with decoys. I read a huge variety of books to throw everyone off the trail. Sneaky eh?

So, here is my reading list so far. Try and guess which ones will be in Edinburgh this summer, I dare you.

Lately, I’ve Read:
How to Drink From a Frog by Michael Cox. A truly awesome collection of food facts. I have been telling everyone about how when Paris was besieged and starving in wartime, the zoo auctioned off its animals to the highest bidder for exotic feats!

Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce (pictured top right) – Absolutely brilliant and great fun. No wonder it’s up for the Carnegie.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. I love all Gaiman’s work, and here the simplicity of the storytelling perfectly suits his quirky, otherworldly narrative of a boy raised by ghosts (and check out the awesome illustration by Chris Riddell, left).

What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell. This book just won some major prizes in America. It’s a compelling story about growing up just after WWII, well worth a read though probably my girliest pick of the month.

The Wizard the Ugly and the Book of Shame by Pablo Bernasconi. It’s not everyday a picture book comes all the way from Patagonia, and this oddball fairy tale lives up to its exotic origins.

Next Up is:
Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2 by Jeff Kinney. This comic/diary series is a massive blockbuster in the states and soon to be a film. You’ll laugh until milk comes out your nose, promise.

The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness (pictured right). I’ve been dying to read the sequel to the amazing The Knife of Never Letting Go (don’t let the weird title put you off, this shocking thriller is a page turner like no other). The first book ended on such a wild cliff hanger, I’m on the edge of my seat already.

What is the Point of School by Guy Claxton. I don’t only read children’s books (mostly, but not only). Sometimes I read books about childhood and education and things to programme events for parents and teachers. If the title is anything to go by, this one should be cracking.

The Thornthwaite Inheritance by Gareth P. Jones. A Lemony Snicket-like gothic tale of intrigue, this story sees twins in a duel of endlessly complicated murder attempts. Dark, odd and totally fun.

And then we’ll see. Possibly the new (and last) Confession of Georgia Nicholson. But who knows? Before I know it summer will be here and Festival preparations will envelope me again, so I’m reading all I can in the next couple of weeks. In fact, do you have anything I absolutely must read? I’m always on the hunt for something new…

Thanks again to Sara!

Plus, if you don't have enough reading suggestions from Sara's list, we just got news in today of the shortlist for the Branford Boase Award 2009:

The Traitor Game by B R Collins, edited by Emma Matthewson (Bloomsbury)
The Toymaker by Jeremy De Quidt, edited by Bella Pearson (David Fickling Books)
Flood Child by Emily Diamand, edited by Imogen Cooper (published originally as Reavers Ransom by Chicken House)
Between Two Seas by Marie-Louise Jensen, edited by Liz Cross (OUP)
Bloodline by Katy Moran, edited by Denise Johnstone-Burt, (Walker Books)
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, edited by Denise Johnstone-Burt (Walker Books)Ways to Live Forever by Sally Nicholls, edited by Marian Lloyd (Marian Lloyd Books)