Last week I was incredibly thrilled and honoured to be awarded the Stockport Mad About Books Award for Key Stage 4 for my novel Someone Else's Life. It's my first award, and my first novel, and the result was strictly embargoed until the night - then announced at the most glitzy Oscar-like ceremony I've ever seen. It was truly incredible, with prizes awarded to pupils whose reading had improved the most, as well as authors and illustrators.
A red carpet led up to the entrance of the gorgeous Plaza Theatre in Stockport, which was soon filled with hundreds of pupils from surrounding schools, their teachers and librarians, members of the council, and even the mayor, all dressed to the nines, so of COURSE I had to buy a new dress too (When else am I going to get to wear a dress like that?), coming together to celebrate the joy of reading.
It was breath-taking, and made all the more special by the fact that the winning books were voted for by the pupils themselves - and the prizes were a works of art created by the pupils, inspired by the winning books.
It was clear that the real champions of the evening were books and reading - and what a thrill that was, in contrast to the library closures happening in so many towns around the country. I am in awe of Stockport council, schools and librarians, for valuing books so highly, for engaging pupils with them so creatively, and for orchestrating a truly special evening - one I'll remember for the rest of my life.
I've been asked to share my acceptance speech, so here it is:
"I feel incredibly honoured just to be shortlisted alongside the amazing Caroline Green and Colin Mulhern, and this award in particular means so much to me because it was judged by you, teenagers, the people it was written for. When it comes to YA fiction, you’re the most important people of all – your opinion means everything.
|With Winners: Thomas Taylor (The Pets You Get), |
Christopher Edge (Twelve Minutes to Midnight),
the ever-glamorous legend, Jeanne Willis (Hippospotamus,
with Tony Ross not pictured) & Matt Dickinson (Mortal Chaos)
I love writing for teens, partly because I’m not sure I’ve ever grown up, and partly because it’s such an exciting time.
You’re not a child anymore, you have more control over your life, and everything’s new and exciting and scary. So many choices and opportunities and adventures lie ahead of you, and nothing is set in stone – you are the authors of your own story.
And if you want to be an author, just go for it! One of the best things about writing is that unlike most careers, there’s no age restriction, there are no required grades or qualifications, and you are already the experts in your field. You know better than anyone exactly how teens feel, think, talk, and see the world; what they go through, love, hate and are passionate about – and you know what you like to read about.
All you need is imagination and determination.
|With Rit McErlean, who announced the award, and Natasha Brierley,|
the artist who created the prize artwork for Someone Else's Life.
Writing a book is like climbing a mountain - without a map, always hoping but never sure you’ll reach the top. Often you’re not even sure where the top is – it’s hidden by dense cloud somewhere far above you, you sometimes need to try out lots of different pathways on the way up, and you’ll almost certainly get lost, hit dead ends, and have to start again – many times.
But it’s an adventure. You’ll meet weird and wonderful characters you never expected, take pathways you never intended and wind up in places you never planned as the story takes over, leading you step by step, page by page. Only you can climb the mountain, and it can feel very lonely during the journey, but the truth is, there are lots of people helping to carry your bags, and I’d like to thank my family and friends for always believing in me, encouraging me, and inspiring me every day of my life.
Finally, I’d just like to say a huge thank you to all those affected by Huntington’s disease, who generously gave me their time, patience and advice when I was researching Someone Else’s Life. Without them – some of the most inspiring and courageous people I’ve ever met – I couldn’t have written this book, and I hope that if understanding and awareness of Huntington’s Disease grows, hopefully so too will support and funding, and the search for a cure."