Saturday, 31 December 2011


Paula Rawsthorne Reviews A Year on The Edge

Firstly, please forgive me for a self indulgent post but, as 2011 draws to a close, I felt that it was appropriate to look back on The Edge’s first year.
If you’ve ever dipped into this blog you’ll already know that The Edge formed early in 2011.  We came together as eight writers of sharp fiction for Young Adults and teens.  Although our novels are diverse in genre and subject matter, we felt that what our work had in common was gripping, often challenging, tales that got teenagers reading and talking. 

By banding together we hoped to offer Young Adults and people working with YAs, stimulating and thought-provoking workshops, panel events, author talks and more.  In an age where there are such demands on young people’s time (and that’s just from the X- Box!) we wanted to make people excited about reading; we hoped to instigate debate and curiosity about stories with something to say.
So we sent up our website, started posting weekly blogs (which we hope have provided some food for thought), we set up ‘Edge Authors T.V.’ and began putting out feelers to see if organisations working to promote reading to YAs would be interested in what we had to offer.   I’m delighted to say, it seems that the answer is yes!

The Edge had their first official engagement at the annual SCBWI Conference in November.  Here, several ‘Edgies’ provided a panel event on ‘Hooking Teen Readers’ and the pleasures and pitfalls of writing for teens.  Overwhelmingly, feedback from people was that the event was fun, informative and stimulating. (see Bryony’s post 24th November)
Also in November some of The Edge authors took part in a heat of the Kids’ Lit Quiz in London.  A wonderful international event to get schools reading.   (see Katie’s post 2nd Dec) . 

Actually undertaking events as The Edge was an exciting milestone.  After all our meetings, emails and mutual support it felt like things were really coming together and what we discovered (much to our relief) is that we worked well together; our diversity in personalities and opinions actually help to make events more energised and stimulating.  And interest in Edge Events is gathering momentum.  The word is spreading to Youth Librarians Groups, Booksellers, Festivals and Schools.  We hope in 2012 The Edge will be playing a real part in getting Young Adults reading.

A review of The Edge’s 2011 wouldn’t be complete without touching on how our books are getting on.  Savita Kalhan’s wonderful, The Long Weekend was published in 2010.  This year Miriam Halhamy’s  Hidden, Keren David’s, Lia’s Guide to Winning The Lottery, Bryony Pearce’s Angel’s Fury and my own The Truth About Celia Frost, were all published.  I’m over the moon to report that each of our books received fantastic reviews from both critics and readers and all of them have been shortlisted/longlisted/nominated for Book Awards.  To see details of who is up for what you can go to:           

 Eagerly awaited in 2012 are the publications of the first novels of Dave Cousins’ Fifteen Days Without a Head, Sara Grant’s Dark Parties and Katie Dale’s Someone Else’s Life.  Also out in 2012, are Miriam Halahmy’s Illegal , Keren David’s Another Life and my second novel (sorry – I’m not telling you the title in case I change it!). 
It promises to be an eventful and exciting year for The Edge and we thank you for your encouragement and support during 2011.  We wish you a fun and Happy New Year and lots of great reading!  

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Action! Mystery! Terror! Miriam Halahmy

Charles Dickens was the first major novelist to make a detective a key character in a novel. In the 1840s he began a long and close friendship with Detective Inspector Charles Field. Together they walked around London at night - one of Dickens' favourite pastimes - through the main areas of vice and crime. In Bleak House Dickens gives us a murder, three main suspects and Inspector Bucket - a shrewd, amiable, thoughtful detective.
Is this where the public's thirst for thrillers and detective stories first began?

But the truly terrible murder - the murder which to my mind is one of the most terrible in fiction - came twenty years earlier than Bleak House.

The murder of Nancy by Bill Sykes in Oliver Twist.

Enraged that Nancy has betrayed him Bill goes round to her room with murder on his mind. He has a pistol but knows that if he fires he will give himself away. So in a complete fury he beats her with the barrel until blood pours from her head. But this doesn't kill her and she pulls out a white handkerchief begging for mercy. Sykes is beyond any thoughts of mercy.
"It was a ghastly figure to look upon. The murderer, staggering backwards to the wall, and shutting out the sight with his hand, seized a heavy club and struck her down."
To me, the horror of this scene lies in Sykes' own horror at what he is doing - he is incapable of looking at his own handiwork and has to cover his eyes as he deals the final blow.

Above is the text that Dickens; used for his readings of Oliver - annotated with his own hand. He heavily underlines words to show emphasis and actually writes instructions to himself.
Action  - does he actually cover his own eyes here as the final blow is dealt?
Mystery - I would imagine a change of tone, perhaps speaking more softly and more mysteriously here as he reads the passage about the sun's rays penetrating the room.
Terror to the end - as he comments on 'the ghastly sight' in the sunlit room

Dickens' readings of the killing of Nancy made grown men faint and took so much out of him that this probably contributed to his premature death at the age of 58.
Dickens took his readers to the edge week after week in the serialisation of his wonderful books. He was the master of the cliff hanger.
Sykes murder of Nancy is one of the enduring terrifying images of my childhood, heightened by the image in the black and white film of Sykes' terrorised dog scrabbling to be let out of the murdered woman's room.
Doesn't get much more edgy than that!

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Edge Authors TV Broadcasting Now!

The Edge are proud to announce that our brand new Edge Authors TV YouTube Channel is now live. 

Showing currently are nine Edge book trailers, a report from Sara Grant's tour of Germany, young readers discussing Hidden and The Long Weekend, plus the first instalment of videos from the recent Edge panel at the SCBWI Conference in November. 

The channel will be updated over the months to come with news, trailers, events videos and anything else we think might be of interest.

We hope you enjoy what's available so far. Let us know what you think and any ideas or requests for future Edge videos you may have. In the meantime, here's a taste of what's currently available. Thanks for watching!

Friday, 2 December 2011

Kids' Lit Quiz

Edge Author Katie Dale had a wonderful time at this year's Kids' Lit Quiz.
On Monday night the North London heat of the International Kids' Lit Quiz was held at Broxbourne School.
The spelling round
took ages to mark!
 This year, three-quarters of THE EDGE went  along to help out. I was delighted to join fellow  EDGE authors Savita Kalhan (THE LONG WEEKEND), Miriam Halahmy (HIDDEN), Sara Grant (DARK PARTIES) and Keren David (WHEN I WAS JOE) with TALL STORY author Candy Gourlay to take on the all-important task of marking the test papers! 

The National Kids' Lit Quiz, founded by New Zealand quizmaster Wayne Mills, is an annual book competition for kids aged 10-13. Each school can enter up to two teams of four pupils, and there are heats in the UK, New Zealand, China and South Africa, with the US and Canada soon to join. There are 16 regional heats in the UK, then the winning team from each heat competes in a National Final, held this year at Warwick University TODAY! 

The winning team will then be invited to New Zealand to compete against the winners from New Zealand, China, and South Africa for the International Title - as well as an amazing tour, including volcanoes and Hobbiton itself!
The larger than life Quizmaster himself, Wayne Mills,
with authors Savita Kalhan and Miriam Halahmy
The heat consisted of 100 questions on children's literature, divided into 10 categories, which vary each year. This year the categories included animals, trilogies, comics and cartoons, a picture round - and the dreaded spelling round!
The questions, devised by the enthusiastic larger-than-life top-hatted Wayne Mills varied enormously - from Ancient Greek mythology and biblical questions, to Tintin, Harry Potter, and even Barack Obama! Wayne reads enough books to devise several thousand questions each year - and claims to have never asked the same question twice!
The Authors United Team: Fiona Dunbar, Sophia Bennett,
Sita Brahmachari, and THE EDGE's Dave Cousins - desperately
 trying to remember the main characters from The Hunger Games
 Sara Grant and I had prepped him on in the car!
 Some of the questions were really quite tough, and I didn't envy EDGE author Dave Cousins, who was actually on one of two author teams AUTHORS UNITED with Fiona Dunbar (KITTY SLADE MYSTERIES), Sophia Bennett (THREADS) and Sita Brahmachari (ARTICHOKE HEARTS) competing furiously against AUTHORS ALLSTARS Steve Feasey (CHANGELING), Josh Lacey (ISLAND OF THIEVES), Echo Freer (MAGENTA ORANGE) and Samira Osman (QUICKSILVER).
The Authors All-Stars Team: Steve Feasey,
Josh Lacey, Echo Freer and Samira Osman 
Fancy testing your knowledge? Try some sample questions here.

Between rounds, bonus questions were asked, giving the opportunity to win copies of books donated by authors and publishers to the spectators (but not visiting authors, despite the best efforts of Candy Gourlay who was desperate to win a copy of Dave Cousins' FIFTEEN DAYS WITHOUT A HEAD!)

The tension was palpable as the best teams in North London put their heads together, racked their brains, whispered fervently, and scribbled their answers furiously...
Bishops Stortford College B team put their heads together - quite rightly ignoring
 the distraction of postcards for Someone Else's Life and 15 Days Without a Head!

The Herts and Essex B Team ended the quiz with a HUGE
stack of won books they'd won - revision for next year?
Finally teams and markers finally took a well-deserved break while scoring was undertaken by authors Mark Robson (DRAGON ORB series), Pat Walsh (THE CROWFIELD CURSE) and Pauline Francis (TRAITOR'S KISS).
Taking a break from marking -
Savita Kalhan, Sara Grant, Me, and Candy Gourlay

Sara Grant, me and Keren David.
Miriam Halahmy,
Savita Kalhan and Sara Grant

It was tight at the top, with incredibly high scores, but finally the winning team was announced as Aine, Shan, Emma and Evie, representing the City of London School For Girls. 
Arnold House came second, and third place went to Orley Farm.

The Winners!! Aine, Shan, Emma and Evie,
representing the City of London School For Girls.

AUTHORS ALL-STARS were just pipped to the post by AUTHORS UNITED, who racked up a whopping score of 92 out of 100 (just one more mark than the winning kids team!) but the real winners of the day were books themselves. What an ingenious, fun, and exciting way to promote reading. I can't wait till next year!

For details of how to enter next year's Kids' Lit Quiz, click here.

Guess those postcards won't be distracting anybody any more!

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Five Get Edgy In Winchester by Bryony Pearce

Last weekend ‘The Edge’ went to Winchester.  Our panel was appearing on Sunday morning, which allowed us a whole day and a half to see other presentations!
I arrived on Friday evening, which meant that Dave, Sara and Paula had already made a start on our graffiti wall.
Our plan was to put up a big roll of paper on which delegates could write comments, ask questions and draw pictures. We would then address those questions and comments during our event. 
I arrived just in time to watch Dave put on the finishing touches!
Then we all went out for a ‘speakers dinner’, where I met, among others, Anthony McGown, Ben Scott, Addy Farmer and Ann-Marie Perks.  And was shocked to find just how normal and … well nice everyone was.  For some reason, even though I’m a writer and am in the Edge with seven other lovely writers, I expect other authors, especially successful ones, to be on some other level.  I’m endlessly intimidated and find it wholly shocking when I’m speaking to someone normal and realise that they’ve written something I’ve loved.  Lee Weatherly, author of Angel was at the conference - I would never have known it was her without her name badge.  I’m hoping to meet her for coffee next time I venture down to London.
Someone whose name will remain undisclosed, pointed to a gorgeous man I’d been chatting to who was ultra-friendly and happy to give Paula and I advice on school visits.  “Who is that?”  They asked.  “It’s Anthony McGowan!”  I replied.  To be fair he’d been calling himself Tony all night … but I guess none of us had expected someone of his stature to be so, well, happy to talk to us.
I left the speakers dinner a lot more relaxed than I’d started (the wine might have helped) and the next day the conference opened with a speech by Frank Cottrell Boyce.
He was inspiring, funny and generous.  He reminded us that children’s literature ‘valorises small pleasures’ and talked about the joy he has in a boiled egg, thanks to Milly Molly Mandy and how special it now seems to go to a cafĂ© like the one in The Tiger Who Came to Tea. He talked to us about how children’s writing should be about taking something wonderful and passing it on, giving something of ourselves. 
He talked about circles of pleasure. 
Talking of which, after his speech none of us will ever be able to listen to ‘Chitty chitty Bang Bang we love you’ again (if you want to know why look up the reason Ian Fleming named the car as he did). 
I’m not sure how our edgy fiction quite fits into the ideal of passing on ‘wonderful things’, but I was very inspired by the end of his talk. 
I went to a talk about Point of View, with the idea that I can always learn something new and then to an industry panel chaired by Sarah Odedina, the MD / Publisher of Bonnier.  The panel included an editorial director from Orion, an editor and a senior designer from Macmillan, an editorial director from Hodder and an art director from Walker.
Their top tips included:
Read – you can never hear too many voices
Keep up with trends, but don’t follow them - make them
Don’t lose faith in your own voice, be fresh, don’t emulate others
Pitch your book correctly
Be open minded
Don’t try to market the book to the editor
Talk to librarians and booksellers.  Hang out in your local independent bookshop so they will support you.

The editorial director from Orion made the mistake of admitting to creating the Rainbow Fairies series, which meant I had to hunt her down on behalf of my six year old daughter. Once found I wasn’t sure whether to shake her hand (my daughter loves those books) or throttle her (if I ever have to read another one …).  She took my slightly schizophrenic approach with calm aplomb and what I have come to identify as the signature loveliness of one working in the children’s book market.
After lunch I attended Anthony McGowan’s lecture on plotting.  Interestingly he doesn’t like PowerPoint, but creates images with brave audience participants. 

This represents the Freitag Pyramid, which brought back long distant memories of my English degree.
Then he gave us four questions to ask when writing a plot:
  1. Who is your main character?
  2. What are they trying to achieve?
  3. Who is trying to stop them?
  4. What will happen if they fail (ought to be a death of some kind, literal or figurative)?
He talked about setting up a sympathetic main character and the two main conventions of doing so:
  • Undeserved suffering
  • Being nice to someone / something less fortunate e.g. an animal (called ‘pat the dog’)
He talked about archetypes and how the main character should go through them during the story arc: 
    •  Orpan (literal or figurative again) 
    • Wanderer
    • Warrior
    • Martyr (have to make the win by self-sacrifice)
    And I thought about how my book fits into that model surprisingly nicely. 
    We all attended the awarding of the Crystal Kite Award to the wonderful Candy Gourlay who’s speech brought a tear to every eye in the audience (read it in full here:

     There was a wonderful mass launch party of the SCBWI books that had been published this year with a truly amazing cake.

    Then, on Sunday morning, adorned with a slight hangover and feeling of exhausted dismay (Anthony McGowan had already done a talk on controversy in YA literature and anyway, how on earth would we match up to the talks I’d attended?) it was the turn of The Edge. We had a two hour event with a half hour tea break.  Worst case, we could do a two hour tea break and a half hour event … 

    Edgar the elephant represented the elephant in the room and helped us be polite (only the one holding edgar could talk).  We had the silver skull of silence, in case anyone went on too long and it was only used the once (on me, ooops).
     We introduced each other:
    … and then we talked.  We discussed ‘what the heck is edgy fiction?’  The reservations we have about writing edgy fiction and its huge rewards.  We talked about trends, hooking teen readers, swearing, sex and slang, how to hook boy readers, what attracts and repels us from YA literature, age banding on books, the emotional toll of writing edgy fiction and how we deal with it, Sara’s fabulous shoes and her love of Bon Jovi … 

    We finished up by recommending the edgy books we loved the most (there is a full list elsewhere on our website).
    A video of our talk is being edited at the moment and will be going online soon, for those who missed us and want to know more about our answers.
    Lastly I went to Lil Chase’s talk on books that sell and sell well and hopefully learned something about pitching my new books. 
    The closing speech was done by illustrator Chris Riddell and his images made us laugh our way to the organiser’s final remarks. 

    I learned so much at the SCBWI-BI conference, but most of all I learned that the children’s publishing industry, from publishers, to editors, to agents, to writers, to illustrators, the published and the aspiring is populated by lovely people, maybe slightly crazier than those in your average street, but so welcoming.  We’ll definitely be back next year!    
    If they want us there, that is …

    Monday, 21 November 2011

    The Edge at the Kid Lit Quiz

    The Edge at the Kid Lit Quiz
    On Monday 28th November, three-quarters of The Edge Writers will be in Broxbourne School to take part in the National Kid Lit Quiz. There’ll be six of us there plus ten other amazing authors. The National Kid Lit Quiz is an annual literature contest for kids aged between 10 and 13. It’s run by volunteers - mainly teachers and librarians, in the UK, New Zealand, South Africa and China. Canada and the US are two other countires soon to join. The winning teams qualify for national and world finals.
    The Kid Lit Quiz was founded by Wayne Mills , senior lecturer at the University of Aukland, who read enough books to be able to ask several thousand questions each year – without ever repeating a question.  He wanted to encourage and motivate kids to read. Statistics showed that reading was declining, so his idea of the ‘sport’ of reading idea was born.
    We all want kids to read more. Sometimes it does require a stimulus, an impetus, to motivate and excite kids. Wouldn’t it be great if every school in the UK managed to get a couple of teams together? And even if they didn’t, what if each school ran its own Lit Quiz based on books that are available in the school library, the local library?  Yes, a little more money would have to be spent stocking the libraries rather than cutting them, but books should be an essential cost rather than being thought of as luxury items.
    Would something like this not have a significant impact in encouraging kids to want to read more?
    Here’s a map of the participating countries. How great would it be to have more green on it!

    Thursday, 17 November 2011

    Five Get Edgy in Winchester

    This weekend five-eighths of The Edge will be appearing at the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Conference in Winchester. Bryony, Dave, Miriam, Paula and Sara will be on an Edge panel discussing current trends in YA and looking at the benefits and pitfalls of writing edgy fiction, as well as answering questions from the audience. The weekend will also see the first unveiling of the Edge Graffiti Wall. Delegates will be invited to write questions, comments, slogans and even draw pictures on the wall, which the panellists will then discuss during the session. Our authors are all looking forward to the event and have promised a couple of surprises, including the introduction of a new member of The Edge!
    Photos and video evidence to follow on our return.

    Friday, 11 November 2011

    The Next Big Thing

    Dark Parties author Sara Grant considers trends in teen fiction and asks ‘what’s next?’

    Tis the season for trend pieces. A look at the year behind and a prediction for the year ahead. What’s hot? What’s not?

    Unfortunately my crystal ball is busted. I thought I’d try the Magic8Ball app on my iPhone, but when I inquire about teen fiction trends, the only response I get is: ‘ask again later’. So I decided to do a little informal research. What I found was no surprise. Dystopian, supernatural and urban fiction will continue to be popular in 2012. More generically, most of my sources agreed that teens want lots of action paired with a little romance. [One of the best teen fiction trend articles I found was from Teen Librarian’sToolbox.]

    My debut novel Dark Parties is dystopian. It’s one of seven dystopian novels by debut writers published in the U.S. this year. I’d love to say that in 2007 when I started writing what would become Dark Parties, I knew that dystopian was going to be the next big thing in 2011. But nobody knew it back then. The first agent who read Dark Parties told me she didn’t think she could sell dystopian fiction. The truth is I was writing the story I felt compelled to write – and I got lucky.

    I’d suggest that writers shouldn’t be worried about what’s hot in 2012. The publication process is typically a long one. Even if your manuscript is done and dusted, it could be a few years before it appears on bookstore shelves. My next novel is scheduled for publication in 2013. The book I’ve just started – if I’m lucky enough to sell it – most likely won’t be published until 2014. That means I’m writing for readers who are in their tweens (11-13 years old) now. If you are interested in tapping into the future teen zeitgeist, consider how current tweens and the world will change over the next three years. (How’s that for an impossible and mind-blowing assignment?)

    Because mash ups were popular on Glee and in bookshops, I wondered if I could unearth a future trend by pairing some of the bestselling books of all time with current tween fads and faves. I’m not sure I’ve uncovered a blockbuster – but you never know:
    ·         A Tale of Two Biebers
    ·         Le Petit-Prince William
    ·         The Vampire, the Zombie and the Wardrobe
    ·         Anne of Twitterland

    In all seriousness and based on nothing but my gut and obsession with all things teen fiction, I have a feeling that space, westerns, and thrillers might be staging comebacks. I’m also hoping that soon we’ll see something uproariously funny storming the teen charts.

    Having said that, my next project doesn’t fall into any of the above categories. I’m writing what inspires, obsesses, and challenges me. My best advice is: don’t worry about trends. Write and read what you love. Originality and great writing will win out. Don’t follow trends. Be the next big thing!
    What are your predictions for teen fiction in 2012 and beyond? What do you hope or fear will be the next ‘hot’ read for teens?

    Dark Parties will be published by Orion in January 2012. Find out more about Sara and her book at 

    Thursday, 3 November 2011


    Paula Rawsthorne wonders whether we should be reading to our teenagers?
    I attended a Spoken Word event this week.  The theme (very appropriately) was Halloween and writers got up and read passages from their ghostly  novels, a professional story teller enthralled us with a macabre fairy tale and (as it was held in our local art house cinema) we got to watch old footage of an exquisite reading by Tom Baker of ‘The Emissary’ by Ray Bradbury.  It was just Tom, sitting in an old leather arm chair, staring down the lens of the camera with his wild eyes and hypnotic voice, telling us the story.   The room was packed, the tension mounted and mounted and you could have heard a pin drop.   I don’t think I was the only one who gave an involuntary shudder as Mr. Baker uttered the final line. 

    The whole evening made me think what a wonderful experience it can be when someone reads to you and, how being read to in a group has the added benefit of that warm glow of shared experience.   I began to think about childhood experiences of being read to and how that all seems to peter out once you get into secondary school.

    During pre school days there are opportunities to take your toddler to story time at the local library (if it hasn’t been closed down!).  It’s a great habit to get into.  As the librarian sits in front of the squawking crowd and begins to read from the oversized picture book, quiet descends and little terrors, who only minutes before had been having a tantrums in Iceland, suddenly become entranced by the soothing voice and appealing pictures.

    In primary school the importance of reading aloud to pupils is undisputed.  Many of us have happy memories of ‘carpet time’ when the whole class bunched up on a scratchy piece of industrial carpet and listened at the feet of our teachers as they read to us.  If this occurred after lunch when your stomach was weighed down with semolina and the classroom was hot and stuffy, you’d often be fighting to keep your eyes open or (to your horror) you’d find the head of the boy next to you, lolling on your shoulder.  But whether you were captivated, or sent to sleep, by the story, it didn’t matter because this was always a comforting, relaxing time in the school day.

    And what lovelier childhood memories are there, than having a bedtime story read to you by your mum or dad; and now, if you’re a parent yourself , you have the chance to read stories to your own kids.  You have the pleasure of choosing books together from the library or bookshop, spending precious time together snuggled up on the sofa or sat on the bed trying out your ‘character’ voices on an uncritical audience.

    What a shame that that experience tends to end during your secondary school years.   Of course, the chances of your teenager asking you to snuggle up to them and read is nil but (in my utopian world) what if you sit then down with some popcorn and launch into Lord of the Rings or Jane Eyre, what if, before they even realise it, they’ve listened to a couple of chapters a day and are actually quite enjoying it (and enjoying spending time with you?!!)

    And what about in secondary schools?  I’ve been lucky enough to do a number of school visits now and within my talk, I read an extract from Celia Frost and it seems to hold people’s attention.   Teachers have commented to me that watching the teenagers as they listened to the extract has reminded them that they really should read aloud more to their pupils but, it’s something that tends to get lost within the pressures of secondary education.

     Being read to, at any age, can be an enjoyable, absorbing experience and has been shown to develop and improve literacy skills.  So, what do you think?  Do most teenagers enjoy being read to?  Would ‘story-time for teens’ (I’d have to think of a cooler title) work within schools and at home?  Do you enjoy someone reading to you?  

    Friday, 28 October 2011

    Taking a risk at Stanage Edge ......... Miriam Halahmy

    One of my excuses for writing contemporary gritty teen fiction is that I convince myself it gives me the licence to revisit the risks of my youth. So in my current cycle of novels set on Hayling Island I have teenagers falling into dangerous seas, riding motorbikes and going rock climbing.

    I’m working on the edits to the third book in the cycle, Stuffed, at the moment, which is why my rock climbing days on the gritstone edges of Derbyshire such as Stanage Edge, are very much on my mind. I’ve sent my characters off to Derbyshire on a freezing cold weekend in November. Their leader is nineteen year old Max who has had a lot of experience but none of the others have ever climbed before. That means extreme, scary, risky and ultimately a mega-accident. Great fun!

    To write these chapters I had to do some serious research of course. I spent quite a bit of time at the climbing walls in North London, watching beginners and speaking to more experienced climbers.
    This is Mark 'Zippy' Pretty setting a new climb on the wall at Swiss Cottage, North West London. He's one of the UK top climbing instructors.

    I then took myself off to Derbyshire for a couple of days, taking photos, asking millions of questions about equipment and watching climbers abseil, overcome terror and sometimes, skid back down to the ground again.  It was all great fun and I came home with enough notes to write my chapters. 

    I even wrote a poem.

    Severe at Stanage Edge               

    There are three kinds of sweat;
    effort sweat as you jam upwards, hand over hand,
    inching the crack, feet skintight in rock shoes.

    A curlew calls overhead, you tip,
    feel the hallucinatory pull of gravity
    the easy fall, effort done,

    nothing coming up to meet you
    but ground. Then in reverse,
    cheek pressed to the grazing rockface,

    you breathe, damp all the way to the fingertip
    and you’re in prickly sweat;
    flowing like a river from armpit to bra,

    drenching pants, knees, socks,
    until fear sweat breaks out.
    This is the worst, when you know the rock rules

    and it’s not fear of height or the fall
    but of failing at the crux
    if you don’t go for it, have it and to hell with gravity.

    This is climbing, this is vertical, nothing comes close.

    ©  Miriam Halahmy

    What risks do you take when you write?

    Friday, 21 October 2011

    Words on the Edge by Keren David

    Ricky Gervais has made a career out of teetering on the edge of comedy -  by portraying himself and his fictional characters as cringe-making blundering idiot. He's clearly got a genuine and intelligent interest in testing the limits of acceptability. That,one assumes, is why he's decided to make a prat of himself by using the word 'mong'.
    Many, many people have pointed out how hurtful, bullying and wrong this is, how it's a step back to the time when people with Downs Syndrome were seen as less than human. I recently read the excellent Westwood by Stella Gibbons, written in the 1930s which conveys rather chillingly the distaste and disdain felt for Downs Syndrome children.
    I have a particular hatred of the word 'spaz'. In the UK, it's generally recognised as a derogatory term for people with Cerebal Palsy, people who used to be known as spastics. When I was at school, spaz and spastic were very regularly used cruel insults. As the sister of someone with cerebal palsy, I feel sick when I hear those words.
    However, in America, 'spaz', while coming from the same root, has evolved to mean -  apparently -  a geeky or clumsy person. It's explained here. And as British teens hear the American use of the word on American TV shows, it's gradually coming back. Which horrifies me.
    Part of me feels that we should be robust enough to cope with language as it is used, and not censor ourselves too much. I thought long and hard about whether to use 'gay' as an insult in When I Was Joe, and felt it was so much a part of why Ty was who he was -  and did what he did -  that it was unavoidable.
    My writing group (female, middle-aged, politically left-leaning) would sometimes complain about my male characters' sexism (so very mild compared to, say, The In-Betweeners), and I'd defend it, in the name of realism.
    The In-Betweeners is a great example of offensiveness rendered very funny by its framing. Does it still offend? Does it matter?
    So, readers and writers of YA fiction, how offensive is too offensive? What should we reflect, what should we censor? And can our decisions make a difference?

    Friday, 14 October 2011

    Music and Lyrics

    Someone Else's Life author Katie Dale asks: What's your favourite book playlist?

    Paula's blog about ebooks with soundtracks got me thinking about the relationship between words and music. They go together like, well, music and lyrics, don't they? Or is music disruptive to the reading process? Do you like to listen to music while you read or write? Does the muse like music? If so what kind of music? Is it whatever happens to randomly come onto your radio or mp3 player? Or do you have particular music you like to listen to whilst reading/writing particular books? Do you have play-lists for specific books, even? After all, film soundtracks have long proven effective, practically essential, tools in capturing and enhancing the atmosphere of a story, so why can't songs/music do the same for books?

    Some books feature music heavily in the narrative itself. Nick Hornby's High Fidelity is centred around the playlists of its protagonist, and how the songs reflect different moments in his life. And likewise, many songs are based on novels - Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush; Moon Over Bourbon Street (Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles) by Sting; Romeo and Juliet by Dire Straits, Love Story (also Romeo and Juliet) by Taylor Swift.
    But while music can enhance and inspire our books, and likewise many lyrics are inspired by novels, you'll notice that lyrics themselves rarely feature in novels. Writers beware! There is a reason for this. It's because record companies impose hefty fees for inclusion of their lyrics - a fact I was totally unaware of till my fellow Edgars gave me a heads up - thank you! I had wanted to include four words from "It's Raining Men" in my debut novel, Someone Else's Life, for which the record company were going to charge me over £600! Song titles, however, are fair game, so I'll stick to those in future!
    Stephanie Meyer says she can't write without music, and has compiled a playlist of "music I hear in my head while I read the book", consisting of:
    1. "Why Does it Always Rain on Me?" — Travis
    2. "Creep" [radio edit] — Radiohead
    3. "In My Place" — Coldplay
    4. "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)" [video edit] — My Chemical Romance
    5. "With You" [reanimation remix] — Linkin Park
    6. "By Myself" — Linkin Park
    7. "Dreaming" — OMD
    8. "Please Forgive Me" — David Gray
    9. "Here With Me" — Dido
    10. "Time is Running Out" — Muse
    11. "Tremble for My Beloved" — Collective Soul
    12. "Dreams" — The Cranberries
    13. "Lullaby (Goodnight, My Angel)" — Billy Joel

    I wonder if her readers would all agree? Or come up with any alternatives?
    What playlists would you choose for your favourite book? It would be interesting to compare what different people choose for the same book, so I'd love to hear your suggestions, either for your own favourite book or (to compare) how about Twilight? Romeo & Juliet? The Hunger Games?
    I'd love to hear what you come up with.

    Someone Else's Life will be published by Simon & Schuster in the UK and Delacorte Press in the US & Canada in February 2012.