Tag Archives: YA

YALC Round-up!

18 Jul

Last weekend saw the inaugural Young Adult Literature Convention, held as part of the London Film and Comic-Con at Earl’s Court. I ended up attending both days – and I had the *best* time.

Saturday was a little overwhelming. I arrived at Earl’s Court at 11am clutching my pre-paid Standard Entry ticket, only to find a mass of people and a host of different queues. By a stroke of luck, I managed to join a fairly fast-moving one and got into the building in about ten minutes. Inside it was a bit of a crush, but eventually I managed to make it to the Book Zone, which was a an oasis in the insanity!

Immediately, I was struck by the range of visitors. There were lots of older YA fans, like myself, but also a lot of actual teenagers (some visiting as part of the Siobhan Dowd Trust scheme). I even ran into a couple of ex-pupils in the Rainbow Rowell queue, which was so lovely.

Everyone was incredibly friendly – because I was there on my own, I decided to be brave and strike up conversations with the people around me. I made some great friends on both days, including book bloggers, authors and even a couple of dedicated mums helping their daughters collect signatures.

It took me a while on Saturday just to get my bearings, so I was a bit slow on the uptake for talk tickets, meaning I only managed to get one – for the Doctor Who panel featuring Malorie Blackman, Patrick Ness and Marcus Sedgwick amongst others. It was interesting to hear about how they approached the task of writing for such a popular show, especially their individual takes on each Doctor. I also took some time to gather a lot of book swag for my classroom display and chat to the publishers on their stands. It was also great to get some autographs and signed books from authors like Will Hill (of the Department 19 series), Natasha Ngan (The Elites) and Patrick Ness. Patrick’s queue was enormous (I think I was in it for an hour and fifteen minutes) but totally worth it – he’s so nice. In a little non-book detour, I met one of my favourite actors, Jamie Bamber from Battlestar Galactica. He was incredibly sweet and also very tanned!

Sunday was much calmer and I felt a bit more like I knew what I was doing! I went straight to the ticket table and picked up a docket for the last talk of the day, a conversation between Sally Gardner and Holly Black. It was awesome – both are very interesting ladies with a lot to say about fairy tales, mythology and the power of the oral tradition. I also signed up for the ‘Meet the Agents’ workshop and was lucky enough to get a place, meaning I got the chance to pitch my work. It may have gone pretty well…

The best thing about Sunday, however, was getting to meet Meg Rosoff, Sally Green, Sally Gardner and James Dawson. They were all lovely and wanted to know about my writing and were then very supportive. In turn, I was able to tell them how much I have enjoyed their books! I also took a quick celeb-spotting recce round the actual con, only to notice that Edward James Olmos (also from BSG) had no queue, so I nipped in to meet him and pretty much died when he blew me a kiss. I turned round to go and realised I was crying – didn’t know I was that much of a crazed fangirl, but obviously I am!

Overall, it was a fabulous weekend. It was wonderful to be sharing my love of books with so many other fans, and encouraging to see as much enthusiasm for authors as for the many film and tv stars at the con. I only hope there will be another edition next year.

Tales from Esador #1 – a fantasy one-off worldbuilding type thing

6 Jun

My latest Hunt draft is with beta readers right now, so I’m starting to crank up plotting and planning my next project. It’s another new experience for me – a secondary world fantasy that has been clamouring for me to write it for the last three months. I’m trying very hard to be disciplined and actually plot it all out properly before writing. Hoping this will be the last phase in my transition from Pantser to Plotter!

Anyway, to satisfy my itch to write it but without breaking my plotting promise, I decided to write a few scenes from the backstory in order to consolidate worldbuilding and character. It’s been brilliant so far – has helped me realise a lot about some of the secondary characters. I would recommend it!

The scene below takes place 25 years before the main story, in a city called Esador, where two castes co-exist uneasily: the ruling Pale and the oppressed People. Irida meets Amaris at the riverside:

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20 Feb

I’m having the most wonderful week writing every day. I’ve been visiting my absolute favourite cafe here in sunny (I lie, rainy, very rainy) South London and consuming a heinous amount of chai latte. My WIP is going well – on track to hit 40k by the end of the week! Sweet!

Anyway, writing this novel has brought its fair share of new challenges. Not only am I writing a boy for the very first time, and in First Person Present (which I resisted for a long time), I’m also writing something contemporary, and absolutely grounded in the real world. For someone whose ideas usually contain at least an element of the speculative, this is something a bit scary. I can’t hide behind made-up maps and invent convenient forests anymore.

On the other hand, because my novel is set in London itself, even taking a short walk becomes inspirational. I’ve had certain ‘London set pieces’ I was dying to write for ages, because I knew they would be evocative for Londoners and outsiders alike – for example, ‘The Tube Sequence’. For a long time I didn’t know which tube station(s) I wanted to use, and it has been the subject of some quite heated debate amongst my friends: which tube station would be the most exciting setting for a thrilling chase scene? There were many suggestions, including the rather futuristic Westminster, which I might have to save for another book because it’s awesome.


As for which station made it into the book, well, hopefully one day you will be able to read it and find out…Let’s just say it’s one I know very well indeed.

I’ve tried to cover a large swathe of the city, from the suburbs all the way to Piccadilly Circus. This reflects my experience as a born and raised Londoner. Writing about my home city has given me the chance to include my own most memorable spaces, making the book a patchwork of my own experiences. Although I live in fear of someone pointing out a disastrous geographical error, I love that I can draw on the London that I know and adore.

What do you prefer, creating a new world or staying in this one?

A Valentine’s Day Treat

14 Feb

Hello, lovely readers! It’s the day of lurve, lust and, most importantly, lots of chocolate. Whether you are (to borrow a phrase from one of my students, now turned minor TV star) a ‘single pringle’ or in the throes of a passionate affair, I hope you have a lovely Friday.


To keep things sweet, over on Twitter I posted a few of my favourite kisses from all my manuscripts from the last five years! As a special treat, here’s a longer kissing scene from my current WIP, The Hunt. Our hero, Robbie, is pretending to be a posh boy so he can catch a killer. He catches the eye of Annouchka, most popular girl at school. At a party, after an awkward encounter with her ex (Max), they share their first kiss. But does Annouchka have an ulterior motive?

Annouchka smiles impishly. “Max is a winner.” She leans in so her breath tickles my ear as she talks. “I want you upstairs, now.”

Oh my God. I take a big gulp of beer and follow her up the gilded staircase and into her bedroom.

It’s pink and cream and covered in flowers. Very girly. She points to the bed. “Sit down!”

I perch on the edge, My heart’s thudding so hard I think it might leap out of my chest. She pushes the door closed and walks over. Jesus. I am gonna get so lucky right now.

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28 Jan

As you have probably realised by now, I did not make it through to the Undiscovered Voices final…BUT just had a brilliant email with even more feedback on the book. I’m always happy to get feedback, especially from such an experienced group of judges. As the email suggested, sometimes it is tempting to just focus on the negatives and get obsessed with the idea that your work is not good enough.


Despite a lot of things to work on (which is exciting) I’m bowled over by the positives. Comparisons to How I Live Now and Code Name Verity?


Plus I had a ridiculously awesome SNI (Shiny New Idea) this week and hit a milestone in ‘The Hunt’. Writing life is good!



2013 in Reading

22 Dec

Equalling last year’s score of 38 even though I’ve been slacking this month..I have really enjoyed almost everything I’ve read, with the exception of a few eye-rollers, but absolute favourite reads are in bold:

1. The Twelve by Justin Cronin

2. Teeth by Hannah Moskowitz (gay mermen ahoy)

3. The Last Dance by Victoria Hislop

4. Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner (short but ultra-dark and fascinating)

5. Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens (typical Chas…long winded but ultimately good yarn)

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Undiscovered Voices Longlist

14 Dec

I had almost forgotten that I’d entered the SCBWI’s Undiscovered Voices contest earlier in the year, so it was a lovely surprise to find out I’d been longlisted (under my real name – they have a no pen-names policy). The longlist comprises 27 authors and 8 illustrators chosen from over 200 entries, chosen by a rather illustrious set of judges, which you can see on the UV website linked above. If I get through to the final, my extract will be published in the annual anthology.

This just confirms to me that The Twain‘s opening kicks ass and I can’t give up on my darling WIP of Doom ™ just yet. Five more days of my current job and then I officially Change My Life – honestly cannot wait!

Holiday Reads

8 Sep

Today has been the first really autumnal day of the year and I have had to put my jacket on for the first time in months. Brr! September is in full swing and so is school, making the holidays seem like a distant dream.

I was lucky enough to tag along on my parents’ trip to the lovely Portugese resort of Sao Martinho, on the central ‘Silver Coast’. It was a very relaxing break where we pretty much just read, swam and ate delicious food like feijoada de gambas (bean stew with prawns) and grilled snapper.

I got through:

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Overcoming Hurdles

5 Aug

It’s that wonderful time of year known as The Summer Holiday (aka the only benefit of teaching aka what will make me quit if our Lord and Master takes it away). I’ve taken some time to work on writing projects, which has been wonderful. First up: another round of edits on The Twain, my YWP manuscript. Hot Key were kind enough to send me some very useful editorial notes following the competition and I’ve just finished adding their suggestions to the book.

This hasn’t been the easiest process, I’ll honest. In fact, when I looked at their three main recommendations, I was stumped.

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Newbie Mistakes #3: Getting the Message

17 Mar

If you grew up watching kids’/teen TV in the 80s-90s, you will be familiar with the concept of the ‘very special episode’. In these one-off episodes, the young cast would get themselves into problems with drugs, alcohol or sex, and what might normally be a light-hearted show would become serious, sombre and moral-laden. For example, in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, where the relationship between Will and Carlton was a constant riff, Will’s drug use in one episode led to Carlton going to hospital after accidentally taking some ‘pills’ from his cousin’s locker. The episode ended with a penitent Will having to own up to having the drugs in the first place, and apologising to his cousin for nearly killing him. The message is clear: DRUGS ARE BAD.

Having imbibed these messages from an early age, it’s therefore not surprising to find that lots of new writers feel like their work needs to present a moral message to the teen audience.

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