Monday, 29 June 2009

Joan Lennon: Wag and the King

Back in March, in the days when the sun shone in the SBT garden, Joan Lennon came to launch her book Wag and The King. Here's what she thought about the event...

You could not have asked for a more beautiful spring day than Wednesday 18 March at the Scottish Book Trust – the kids got a good run in the garden before and after the event, and they looked like a great happy busyness of brightly coloured ferrets! Amelia (my suitcase full of props) and I were excited too, but didn’t run around so much. Once inside, I told them about having probably the best job in the world, about the old dog who gave me the idea for Wag and the King, and the painting that made me want to write The Ferret Princess (ah, so that’s why she said the kids looked like ferrets!) – and there was even a sneak preview of the cover art for A Mucker’s Tale (the third book in the Tales from the Keep series, due out at the end of the summer). I really enjoyed myself, so many thanks to Flora Stevenson Primary, Craigentinney Primary and Burdiehouse Primary for making it such a fun day!

Other news:

Steve Cole's latest book in the Astrosaurs Academy series, Deadly Drama!, is dedicated to our very own Chris Newton and Jasmine Fassl. They took Steve on a tour of Orkney and Shetland in April. Check out Chris's brilliant interview with Steve and hear them discuss writing, touring and Doctor Who! Listen now.

Patrick Ness has released a brand new, exclusive, FREE short story from the world of Chaos Walking written for his Writer In Residency at Booktrust. It might, just possibly contain hints of things to come in book three...

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Gill Arbuthnott: The hectic life of a writer

Gill Arbuthnott has just launched her latest novel The Keepers' Daughter. She takes a moment out of her very busy schedule to give us an insight into just how hectic her life has been lately...

Goodness me, what a week! I feel as if I’ve been living about three people’s lives simultaneously recently, and unfortunately, what’s left of my brain seems to cope by keeping me awake so that I can go over and over where and when I need to be. Of course, this leaves me sleep deprived and slightly hysterical, so if what you’re reading doesn’t make sense, that’s probably why.

I’m about to launch my first novel for four years (four years – how did that happen?), and I’ve been a bit nervous about talking about it; I feel as if I’ve forgotten how to just talk about a book, rather that having an interactive show, which is what I do for my non-fiction. So, it is with an empty stomach (much too nervous to eat lunch), and an over-filled brain (see previous paragraph), that I approach the schools’ launch of The Keepers’ Daughter… I wish I was as brave as my characters.

Two Hours Later

Hooray! I’m feeling completely elated, because things have gone so well. Scottish Book Trust put together a fantastic event (thanks everyone, especially Jasmine, Chris and Heather) with pupils from a number of schools in Edinburgh and Glasgow. I managed to find some readings that didn’t give away any of the surprises in the plot, and once I got going, I loved talking about the book. The real revelation was the questions I was asked: so many, and so perceptive! There were a good number I’d never heard before, and I’m still thinking about the answers to some of them. In particular:
Which other author would I like to collaborate with? I think the final answer is Terry Pratchett. (I should be so lucky.)
Which character would I like to play in a film of any of my books? On reflection, I think one of the modern day witches in Winterbringers, and not just because they’re the only characters who are old enough for me to play them…

I’ve also done an interview for Teen Titles with a completely bonkers (and I mean that in a totally positive way) group of pupils from Holy Rood High School. We got talking about the fact that I use music to get me in the right frame of mind for writing, and Kimberley (I think) suggested I put a playlist on my website. I certainly will, once I work out how to do it. I must thank them too for their amazingly generous present of a Smart Car. It will be very, very easy to park, as it is only about 4cm long… It is now sitting on the desk where I do a lot of my writing, ready to inspire me.

And now, I have to change writing gear completely, and get ready to go to Melrose for Borders Book Festival to talk about a completely different book, and next week I’m in Dundee, and then it’s London… and it would be nice to think I might fit in some writing as well.
I need to find out how to clone myself. But that’s another book.
Other news:

Harris Finds His Feet by Catherine Rayner wins the CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Medal 2009.

Nicola Morgan's Deathwatch Dash sets a new record for the greatest number of separate school talks by one author in one day!

Ayr Academy Library's brilliant blog - Juist bletherin’ an’ guid craic! - is definitely worth a read! Check out what they have to say about SBT's events with Sophie McKenzie and Anthony Horowitz.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Theresa Breslin: A Serpent. Two Circles. AZ-rod. A Mirror.

Theresa Breslin is a Carnegie medal winning author whose work has been filmed for television and broadcast on radio and is read world-wide. Her latest book is The Nostradamus Prophecy (paperback Corgi ISBN 9780552557214)

Here she tells how she drew inspiration from the Standing Stones of Scotland and elsewhere to write her latest book for young adults - The Nostradamus Prophecy

A serpent.
Two circles.
A Z-rod.
A mirror.

On my window sill sits a replica of a Standing Stone given to me when Divided City was shortlisted for the Angus Book Award. The original at Aberlemno is one of the most famous of these carved ancient stones, with markings indicating that it was a prehistoric monolith reused later by the Picts. Examples of similar mysterious designs can be found across Europe with the snake symbol universally associated with magic and with death.

Standing Stones fascinate me and I’ve travelled widely to study them. Are they merely monuments, or do they have a deeper, more mystical, history, and exist to give guidance on events to come? Can the future be foretold? And are some people empowered to do this? People such as Cassandra, Doctor John Dee, the Braham Seer, and, arguably the most famous of all, Nostradamus, the Seer of Salon.

‘Three to make fifteen in the circle of one.’
So speaks Nostradamus to Mélisande, daughter of the minstrel at the court of the ruthless Catherine de’ Medici in sixteenth century France. This scene from The Nostradamus Prophecy was inspired by the Stone Circle at Callanish on the Isle of Lewis – (photo credit to Chris of Scottish Book Trust!) As well as telling Mélisande that her fate is linked to the Kings of France Nostradamus voices his concerns for the welfare of mankind. He fears that we will destroy the bounty of the earth and squander the harvest of the seas – bringing about the so called ‘Sixth Extinction’.

Mélisande’s ponders on his prediction, thinking that she should take heed, for: ‘Words do not disappear. They sear the mind like a comet coursing across the night sky.’
But does anything happen to Mélisande that cannot be explained as a result of vivid imagination? Did Nostradamus really see what others could not?
You are invited to consider the question.

Other news:

To mark the fifth anniversary of their Fabulous Fiction list, Usborne are launching The Usborne Young Writers' Award.

On Thursday 11th June we held a meeting for Scottish children's writers here at Sandeman House. Poets Amanda Lichtenstein and Elspeth Murray spoke to them about their experiences of bringing poetry to pupils in Scotland and Chicago.

On Thursday evening Elspeth and Amanda treated us to an evening of poetry reading at the Scottish Poetry Library to celebrate the Chicago Exchange. A lovely evening was had by all.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Sophie McKenzie: What a great visit!

Sophie McKenzie was our guest for The Scottish Friendly Children's Book Tour last week - read on to hear how she got on...

Coming from a small flat in a big city, the first thing that struck me was the space! Most of the schools Jasmine, Chris and I went to were set against an amazing backdrop of lush green hills and rolling fields. I’m sure it’s easy to take the view for granted if you go there every day – just like I take for granted having a supermarket down the road from where I live – but to me, like many other visiting authors, the scenery was jaw-droppingly stunning!

Getting on board the Scottish Book Trust bus was a big thrill. I love going on tour – the chance to explore new places and meet new people and this visit round beautiful Ayrshire was no exception. We were given such a warm welcome wherever we went and I got to meet lots of readers too. Standing up in front of people and talking about my books and writing is always more fun when the audience asks questions and gets involved – so thanks to everyone at all the schools who put up their hands (pictured below) and made me think… here’s a list of the answers to the top three questions I got asked on tour. See if you can work out what the questions were!!!

1. Yes, there will be a sequel to Blood Ties – its coming out next year.

2. No, I’ve never met Stephenie Meyer, but I love her books!

3. The Set-Up is the first book in my new series about a group of teenagers with psychic powers.

Big congratulations to Sophie who was last weekend named the overall winner of the Red House Children's Book Award for her book Blood Ties! Well done Sophie!

Friday, 5 June 2009

Heather Collins: Ch-ch-ch-changes!

There’s lots of commotion in the office today. Everyone is moving desks because there’s been an addition to Scottish Book Trust's staff, and will be even more new SBT-ers before the year is out! Our new Children's Programme Assistant, Heather, has written this week's blog to tell us about her first week at work...

Two weeks ago I sat my final university exam. As I watched the last minute of exam time tick by I was filled with a strange mixture of sadness at having finished university and excitement for what was to come in the future. Unlike many of the people sitting in the exam room with me I was lucky enough to be able to relax in the confidence I had an exciting new job waiting for me – right after a week of pure self-indulgence and celebration that is!

I’m Scottish Book Trust’s new Children’s Programme Assistant and have just had my first full week at work. In my interview I was asked why I wanted the job and I told them it was because few people have the pleasure of being able to say they love what they do, as well as knowing that it makes a positive difference to other people. Working with the children’s team is going to let me continue working with books, which are my passion, and also try to get children across Scotland to love reading as much as I do – is there really a better job than this?

It has been a busy week, especially with Chris and Jasmine being on tour to Ayrshire with Sophie McKenzie, leaving the children’s team two members down. Between preparations for our Highland Tour in September, checking RSVPs to other events next week and arranging an author visit to Barvas School on the Isle of Lewis, I’ve had little time to do much else. Each day has flown by but I can honestly say I have enjoyed every minute – even the photocopying. Well okay, maybe not the photocopying, but getting up bright and early and spending the day doing lots of interesting things certainly beats being flat-bound and surrounded by Victorian literature – the scene which has formed the main part of the past two months of my life!

One of the most interesting tasks I was able to tackle this week was looking into ways we can improve our website so that it becomes an excellent place for children and young people to share their creative work, book reviews and get more involved with Scottish Book Trust more generally. I’m really looking forward to seeing the improvements take shape so we can work more closely with the people who really matter to us – the young readers of Scotland!

When I’m not at work I’ll be spending lots of time reading things I want to read which after four years of English Literature essays, seminars and exams, is a real treat! At the moment I’m reading Don DeLillo’s Americana – a wry look into the superficiality of America and consumer society. I have a large pile of other novels ready and waiting which include writers such as Cormac McCarthy, Hanif Kureishi and Paul Auster. A book I’m particularly excited to read is my new 1945 edition of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited. Waugh edited the book in 1952 and this is the only version still in print. I found the 1945 one in Barter Books in Alnwick during the aforementioned week of self-indulgence – it’s a visit every book lover must make! An entire train station packed with incredible second-hand books.

I absolutely have to share with you my favourite Brideshead fact – in chapter one my name appears; one sentence ends with ‘Heather’, the next begins with ‘Collins’, I bet few people can say that of their favourite novel!

Of course on top of all that I’ll also be reading lots of brilliant children’s books, starting with the Royal Mail Awards shortlist. The books I read as a child still stand out as some of my all-time favourites. I believe the reading you do when you’re young stays with you forever. I can’t wait to discover the magic of contemporary children’s fiction.

Knowing that there are so many people who hope to find employment in the arts, particularly with books, I feel very privileged to be getting this amazing opportunity and hope to share some more of my experiences with you another time!

Other news

Nicola Morgan's Deathwatch Dash.

Scottish Book Trust's creative writing competition receives press coverage in One Magazine and East Kilbride News.