Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Carmen Reid: Teenage Kicks

Carmen Reid looks back on her teenage years spent at boarding school in Edinburgh - the inspiration for her Secrets at St Jude's books.

The idea of writing for teenagers scared me, to be honest. I know nothing about what music they like, what gadgets and internet sites they use and now that we are in an 80s revival, I feel so sorry for them having to wear all those totally unflattering flouro colours, harem trousers and shoulder pads. I was there the first time round and I look back at the photos in horror!
But I realised the one thing I have in common with teenagers is that… I used to be one. Surely that must help?
I do remember feeling so torn between being a child and wanting desperately to be an adult. There’s such an inner conflict. Sometimes you make a big leap, like falling in love for the first time… sometimes, you fall backwards again and only your Mum and Dad will do.
Between the ages of 13 and 17 I was at boarding school in Edinburgh. The first year I was so homesick, I think I was clinically depressed. I was miserable, I was so far away from the people who loved me and living with strangers who didn’t really care. There were several strict and old-fashioned teachers who made the school day very cold and dreary and it took a long time to make new friends.
But by sixth form, I had teachers I really liked, I had a fantastic circle of friends and the centre of Edinburgh was a great place to hang out at the weekend.

Secrets at St Jude’s is a boarding school series, inspired by my Edinburgh years. It’s about four firm friends from different backgrounds, but because they share a dorm they become as close as sisters. It’s about school, friendship, first boyfriends, jealousy, awkwardness, pranks, making mistakes… all the things that matter to teenage girls.
I can’t tell you how much fun I have writing about the girls, I am desperate to know what happens next… I hope my readers are too.
The second Secrets at St Jude’s: Jealous Girl is out now.
Other news:

After the success of this years inaugural Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Children's Book Award it has been announced that the award will be running again in 2010. The award will go to a manuscript that celebrates cultural diversity in the widest possible sense, either in terms of its story or the ethnic and cultural origins of its author. Find out more information about the award on the Seven Stories website.

In March 2009, Orion Children's Books, the Born Free Foundation and Waterstone's announched the launch of a nationwide competition to raise awareness of animal conservation and encourage children to this about the importance of wildlife buy making models of endangered animals from recycled material (judge Virginia McKenna OBE and author Lauren St John pictured left with the winning entries). The winners of the Animals Are Not Rubbish competition have now been announced. To see a compete list of winners check out the Born Free Foundation's website.


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