Friday, 27 November 2015


Paula Rawsthorne applauds the organisers of the brilliant UKYA and UKMG Extravaganzas for bringing authors, en masse, to the cities of the U.K.

So many of the big literary events only happen in London.  But, stating the bleedin’ obvious, there’s a fantastically rich cultural landscape outside the capital too and YA authors Emma Pass (Acid)  Kerry Drewery (A Dream of Lights) know that regional cities deserve to be at the centre of exciting events just as much as London.  That’s why they organised the wonderful UKYA and UKMG Extravaganzas.

 The inaugural UKYAX was held in February this year at Birmingham H.S. Waterstones. It sold out within hours and showed that there was an eager audience who wanted to meet YA authors and learn more about their work.  UKYAX came to Nottingham Waterstones in October and the first ever UKMGX also rolled into town and was held at Nottingham Central Library.

Each of these events involved over 30 authors from all over the UK and brought together writers with readers and bloggers. The events helped to showcase the wealth of YA and MG books by UK authors and also  enthused readers, young and old.

Before the Birmingham and Nottingham events, Emma and Kerry organised blog tours featuring all the participating writers. It was a great way to hook up writers with our supportive UK bloggers and each post provided a unique insight into their books and writing world. 



I was asked By Emma and Kerry to chair both the UKYAX and UKMGX held in Nottingham on consecutive Saturdays.  It was an absolute pleasure to be in a room so full of enthusiasm for reading and stories.  Readers of all ages got to chat with authors as well as discover new books and it was clear that the events help to break down barriers between the two.  Since the Nottingham events I’ve been told by several parents that their children haven’t stopped reading!

The format of the event worked very well with panels of authors having two minutes each to speak, followed by five minutes of questions from the audience.  This kept the event flowing nicely and democratically and made authors hone their anti-waffling skills.  An essential aspect to the event was the regular breaks which allowed the audience to eat cake, mingle with the authors and get books signed


UKYA Authors at Nottingham Waterstones

The UKYA Extravaganza at Nottingham Waterstones was well attended with a mixture of teens, adults, bloggers, librarians, teachers etc.  Kerry and Emma made Waterstones’ impressive ‘Sillitoe’ events room look festive and welcoming with UKYA bunting, balloons and name badges as well as a table full of swag for the audience. 

UKMG Authors at Nottingham Central Library
The first ever UKMG Extravaganza was held at Nottingham Central Library and the librarians did a wonderful job of preparing the room and the refreshments.  The event was absolutely packed, with many people having to sit on the floor. The format was the same as for UKYAX only the MG authors used more props during their two minutes (always a good thing) and John Dougherty even whipped out his guitar which went down well! 

 Just some of the audience for UKMG at Nottingham Central Library

 Emma Pass told Sheena Wilkinson  “We wanted to bring together authors from all sorts of publishers, big and small; to have a big author event which wasn't in London and which put everyone on an equal footing -- and where the readers aren't cut off from the authors. The mingling in between panels, and the informal party afterwards, was very much part of this approach.”

The after party at Nottingham Writers’ Studio was a chance for some writers to get to know each other in the real world as opposed to on Facebook and Twitter.  It really was a great end to a wonderful day. 
After its great success I know that Kerry and Emma are all fired up and are  busy organising the next Extravaganza which will bring writers from all over the UK to the mighty city of Newcastle.  So watch this space for more details!
The fabulous Bowen presented Nick Frost with a UKYAX cake at Waterstones Nottingham (doesn’t Nick look ecstatic?)

Paula Rawsthorne is the author of the award winning YA novels ‘The Truth About Celia Frost’ and ‘Blood Tracks’. She is part of ‘The Big City Read Anthology’ and a writer in residence for ‘First Story’.







Friday, 13 November 2015


On a recent episode of The Apprentice, the task was to write, produce, and sell a children’s book. In two days.

Not – as anyone in the children’s book publishing world will tell you – an easy feat!

It was fascinating watching the teams brainstorm, create their books to a deadline, then try to sell them to retailers (one of which had a lovely shelf of books by Undiscovered Voices winners – including Edge author Sara Grant and myself!).

But in the end the emphasis was less on the creation of a good book (indeed, one team were accused of “over-intellectualising” and taking too long – 3 hours! – to come up with their story) than of meeting deadlines and the subsequent successful pitching and selling to retailers. The bottom line was all that mattered. After all, Alan Sugar is looking for a business partner, not an author.

But this emphasis on marketing got me thinking – is it really a million miles away from the real children’s book world? 

Of course, usually books take months – years, even – from concept to publication, going through a rigorous process of writing, re-drafting, and editing before hitting the bookshop shelves. Authors, editors, and readers, would undoubtedly agree that content is key – we want a great story that readers will enjoy, and hopefully that will be reflected in the sales figures.

But is content really enough?

After all, even the best book in the world won’t become a bestseller unless people know about it, whilst a book that is well-publicised, tied to a film, written by a celebrity or popular vlogger, or featured on TV will likely sell millions of copies even before a single review comes out (and here I feel the Apprentices missed their best sales pitch of all: these books are limited edition  and will have been seen by millions on TV! I predict that the canny booksellers who bought them will have sold out by Christmas – and made a hefty profit!)

That's not to say that books that do get the big marketing budgets have poor content, necessarily, but marketing budgets are finite, and not distributed evenly, leading to a domination of big titles and little, if any, marketing for most other books.

As an author and a reader, I believe that content is, and should be, the most important factor in a book. I would far rather read a book that I’ve never heard of that a friend has recommended than the current bestseller by a "celebrity" whose poster is plastered all over the underground.

So how can we help to promote good stories that don't get big-budget marketing? 


Word of mouth is a powerful thing. Tell people about the books you love. Introduce your friends to authors you’ve enjoyed, and hopefully they’ll do the same. If you’ve enjoyed a book, leave a good review – or even just a star rating – on Amazon (or other websites.) It only takes a moment, and by doing so you’ll be helping the authors you’ve enjoyed sell enough books to be able to write more books you’ll enjoy. Win-win!

With this in mind, here are five books I’d never heard of by authors I’d never heard of before that I really enjoyed. I encourage you to check them out, and please leave your own recommendations in the comments below – I can’t wait to discover new hidden gems!

THROUGH TO YOU – Emily Hainsworth
Cam has been grief-stricken since his girlfriend, Viv, died. He'd give anything for one more glimpse of her. But when Cam makes a visit to the site of Viv's deadly car accident, he sees some kind of apparition. And it isn't Viv. The apparition's name is Nina, and she's not a ghost. She's a girl from a parallel world, and in this world, Viv is still alive. Intriguing and emotive.

FORBIDDEN – Tabitha Suzuma 
She is pretty and talented - sweet sixteen and never been kissed.
He is seventeen; gorgeous and on the brink of a bright future.
And now they have fallen in love.
But . . . They are brother and sister.
Thought-provoking and emotive, this book broke my heart.

This is “Dexter” with a teen girl protagonist! 15 year old Rylee comes home from school one day to find her father dead, with a knife through his heart, and a key clutched in his hand. A message in blood is written on the floor...RUN. With her little brother in tow, Rylee begins a dark journey, one that will uncover horrific  crimes and lead her to an unexpected and gruesome discovery about herself. A fast-paced thriller that had me gripped from page 1.

MY NAME IS MEMORY – Ann Brashares 
I started reading this in a bookshop and couldn’t put it down. It is the story of Daniel, who remembers the many lives he’s been reincarnated into throughout history – and the girl he’s in love with through them all. Fascinating, romantic, and thought-provoking.

COUNTING BY 7S – Holly Goldberg Sloan
Willow Chance is a genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents, but then they’re killed in a tragic car crash. Her journey to find a fascinatingly diverse and fully believable surrogate family is a joy and a revelation to read.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Reading and Writing—Two Essentials for a Happy Writer!

This week Edge Author Dave Cousins asks how much does the ability to write, depend on your dedication as a reader.

Finding time to write alongside the demands of a family and a job—even if that job is being a writer—can be a balancing act. Before I was fortunate enough to be published and had to squeeze writing time into early starts, late nights, train journeys and lunch breaks, I sometimes found that I didn't have time to read. Free time was so scare, it seemed more important to spend it creating my own stories rather than reading somebody else's. I eventually found that logic to be somewhat flawed – in my case at least. Now I firmly agree with Stephen King, who said, “If you don’t have time to read, then you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.”

It may look like I'm taking it easy with a book.
In reality this is an intensive training workout!
Over the years I’ve noticed that when I’m not reading every day, my writing flows less freely. An obvious analogy would be the sporting one: that reading is an important part of maintaining a level of writing fitness, like an athlete training every day. When I’m reading a lot, my writing feels natural, instinctive – fitter, if you like. Or as The King puts it: “Constant reading will pull you into a place where you can write eagerly and without self-consciousness.” For me, it’s about filling my subconscious with words and stories – the rhythm of sentences and paragraphs, the pace of a well spun yarn.

“Every successful writer I know is also a great reader.” – Robert Cormier

When I started to write, I worried that my own stories, or rather my voice, would start to sound like whatever I was reading, but that didn’t happen. Instead, I find that reading somebody else's words helps to clear my head, and stops me thinking about my own for a while, so I'm fresher when I return.

But what about you? Here at the Edge we are always interested to hear other people’s experience. How does reading sit alongside your writing? Does it help? Does it interfere? Does it matter what you read? Leave a comment in the box below and let us know. Thanks.

Meanwhile, here are a couple of posts you might enjoy by fellow Edge authors on a similar theme:

Reading For My Writing by Miriam Halahmy

Writing Tips Part 6 by Sara Grant

Dave Cousins is the author (and sometimes illustrator!) of a number of award-winning books for young people. Visit for more info.