Friday, 25 December 2015

Season's Greetings from the Authors at The EDGE!

On behalf of everyone here at the EDGE, I'd like to say a huge thank you for your continued support this year. We've enjoyed your company and hope to see you again in 2016, when we will be announcing some exciting news! Watch this space . . .

In the meantime, have a fantastic festive break, and all the best for a happy and healthy 2016.

Friday, 18 December 2015

In defence of YA literature, by Bryony Pearce

It appears to have become fashionable recently to write blogs and articles, to make comments on Twitter and Facebook and to journalists which make fun of Young Adult literature.

These detractors, some of whom are writers themselves, tend to focus their derision by stereotyping the genre as nothing but Twilight clones, Hunger Games wannabes and sparkly pink books about love at first sight.

Demanding more protagonists who don’t solve their problems by kicking ass, learning karate or becoming more attractive suggests to your audience that most of them do. Demanding fewer books about sparkly vampires or handsome werewolves implies that this is the dominating feature of YA literature (Twilight was written ten years ago, get over it). Saying that your own book stands out because it is complex implies that other YA is not. Asking for the elimination of ‘instalove’ allows your reader to infer that no YA literature contains relationships with slow build or real depth.

How are writers of YA literature meant to bring in more readers (even to convert reluctant readers) when there are people, other writers no less, telling them not to bother reading within the genre aimed at them.

At the moment YA is the nerdy kid in the playground; the one it’s easy, even fashionable to pick on.

Perhaps this is something to do with its success. YA literature is one of the few genres that has shown market growth throughout this depressed economy, and, as we know, bullies don’t like a successful underdog.

Perhaps it is because the books that have been massively successful have not all had great literary merit (but have been cracking good stories nevertheless – and given a choice between reading literary fiction with no story and a book with an amazing story, but which won’t have passages read out in poetry appreciation I know which I’d pick). Perhaps it is because the books that Hollywood chooses to make into film are the best known, if not the best examples of the genre, enabling those who don’t read YA widely to pigeonhole all YA literature (although by this argument I could go on to judge all adult literature by Fifty Shades of Grey).

Perhaps it is because the YA community is well known to be ‘nice’. As writers, readers and bloggers were are generally accepted to be mutually supportive and friendly, does this make our genre an ‘easy target’?

Perhaps it is because our readers themselves are, or appear to be easy targets. It has always been the role of those past a certain age to criticise the choices of the young – their music, their clothes and, now that they have it, their literature.

Readers of YA literature are not easy targets, as some attackers of YA literature have recently discovered but … and here’s the big but, some of them are.

Many readers of YA are young. Not all of them of course, YA welcomes readers of all ages, but by definition, Young Adult literature is aimed at young people.
When someone attacks YA as a genre, minimalises its importance, says that it has no literary merit, no complexity, no depth, no understanding of the world, especially if they have their own platform, I wonder if they realise that they are also saying to its loyal, young readers: there’s something wrong with you. Your choices show that you aren’t clever enough to be reading books that deal with real issues, or that have true complexity, you aren’t serious enough to enjoy real literature. All you’re good enough for is fiddling around in the shallow end of the pool, if you had any real chops, you’d join us in the deep end – the adult section.

The YA literature that I have experienced most commonly deals with subjects that concern young people. It helps them to work through and understand issues such as poverty, bullying, relationships, sexuality, climate change, death of loved ones, war, politics, violence, hatred, bigotry, racism, working out who you are, where you fit into the world, who you are going to be in the future and yes, love. It teachers its readership that it can be brave, that it can bring about change in the world – and who more important to send this message out to than the young?

Yes, some YA could perhaps be described ‘fast food literature’ (and why not – who’d want to read Tolstoy, Shakespeare and Melville all the time) but not all of it not, in fact, the majority. I’m not going to provide a reading list here (although I could); instead I suggest that we start a hashtag of the things that YA does well:

  1. Engaging teenagers in debate
  2. Enabling conversations between teenagers and their guardians
  3. Letting teenagers know that they are not the only ones in the world with those concerns, those problems, those feelings
  4. Exploring the ideas of and the ethics behind scientific discoveries
  5. Engaging reluctant readers by providing books that are totally gripping
  6. Creating believable, memorable characters
  7. Creating whole worlds for readers to get lost in
  8. Using science fiction, fantasy and magical realism to deal with serious issues
  9. Widening teen vocabulary, emotional intelligence and articulation
  10. Preparing readers for adult literature …

Friday, 11 December 2015

Diverse December

#diversedecember was launched on Twitter on the 1st of December to celebrate BAME, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic, authors, and to highlight the continuing lack of diversity in publishing.
I have blogged about the lack of diversity in children's literature here many times over the past few years. I've also blogged about Malorie Blackman and Bali Rai's call for more diversity in children's literature, and about how the lack of diversity in children's literature affected me when I was growing up.
Now, Nikesh Shukla has joined Jon McGregor in an attack slamming the elitism of an industry which “work[s] to perpetuate an environment in which their own sort feel at home."
The article was published in the Guardian: 'Where are the Brown People?: Authors slam lack of diversity in UK publishing'.

On Twitter people have been sharing what they want to read this month and recommending books. It's easier to do this with contemporary fiction because there seem to be far fewer published books by BAME teen writers.

I'll be reading these two great new books published this year by BAME teen/YA authors:
The Curious Tale of the Lady Caraboo by Catherine Johnson
13 Hours by Narinder Dhami

I'll also be reading these adult fiction books:
A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James
The Private Life of Mrs Sharma by Ratika Kapur
A Restless Wind by Sharukh Husain

Nosy Crow has announced that they would like to support #diversedecember. So if there are any BAME authors out there, now is your chance to submit. Check out the submission guidelines first here - Nosy Crow
Tom from Nosy Crow said, "Today we’re announcing an open call for children’s fiction submissions from debut BAME writers. I think that it’s incredibly important that our industry represents a wide range of voices, not only so that children from every background can recognise their own lives and experiences in the books that they read, but also simply to enrich the body of children’s literature that we publish, by moving out of a monoculture and embracing a wider world of ideas."

Nikesh Shukla is also compiling an anthology of essays by BAME authors, The Good Immigrant, fifteen writers who will be exploring what it means to be Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic in the UK today. He is looking for funding - here's the link if you'd like to pledge - UNBOUND
J K Rowling has just pledged £5K.

You can follow #diversedecember on Twitter for more book recommendations and news.

Please leave your book recommendations in the comments.

Friday, 4 December 2015

No Such Thing as Normal

by EDGE Author Sara Grant

During the Q&A of a creative writing workshop for thirteen year olds, I was asked, "If given the chance, would you go back to being thirteen again?" I blurted my response, “Oh, good God, no.” I shouldn’t have said it, but my instinctual response flashed from my brain and out my mouth before I could stop it. I recovered by saying something like “I love my life and believe in looking forward, not back.” Which is true and should have been my first response really.

The young writer asked a follow up question, “What would you tell your thirteen year old self?” My answer was basically it gets better.

My young teen years were probably the most difficult of my life. Here’s a picture of what I looked
like. I was pink-cheeked and chubby, and the mock Farrah Fawcett hair style didn't do me any favours either. I know looks shouldn’t matter, but when I was a teen, it seemed to me that it was the only thing that did. I remember telling myself over and over that some people have their glory days when they are teens, but my day was coming. And I was right.  

There’s a wonderful project that I support called It Gets Better. Its mission is to communicate to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth around the world that it gets better, and to create and inspire the changes needed to make it better for them. They have some amazing and inspiring testimonials.
I wish more teens could hear and believe these messages of hope and perseverance – and not just LGBT kids, but anyone who believes they are ugly, fat, stupid, or different from that illusive thing called normal. Now I know there’s no such thing.

About Sara Grant
Sara Grant has worked on both sides of the editorial desk. She has inspired and edited nearly 100 books for children. Her two YA novels – Dark Parties (SCBWI Crystal Kite Award winner, Europe) and Half Lives – are futuristic thrillers. She also writes a funny magical series for young readers – Magic Trix. Sara is currently developing a new action-adventure series for tweens with Scholastic. She leads writing workshops in the US, UK and Europe as part of BookBound and lectures at the University of Winchester and Goldsmiths.
Website: Twitter: @authorsaragrant
Book Bound is now accepting applications for its 2016 retreat for adults who are interested in writing novels for children and teens. It’s an intensive weekend of workshops, one-to-ones, and camaraderie. Visit the Book Bound web site for more details:



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.

Friday, 16 October 2015

EDGE Author Sara Grant’s Top 10 Books for Writers

I’m sure there’s a name for this. Some sort of syndrome. I’ve been battling it for more than twenty years. It’s the overwhelming desire to read about writing. This affliction could be called something like scribo-bibliophilia?

As writers we know books hold all the answers. At first we think that there must a book somewhere that will tell us the secret to writing a genre-busting, award-winning, best-selling novel. And, gosh, if it could provide maybe ten simple steps, that would be uber helpful. 
But writing a novel is personal with no one-size-fits-all strategy to success. (I've found that my writing process changes from book to book.) The good -- and, well, bad -- news: There's not a 'right' way to write.
And though none of these books offers the 'golden ticket' to publication, they do offer some great tips, exercises and advice.
Listed below – in no particular order – are my top ten books for writers:

Plot & Structure: Techniques and exercises for crafting a plot that grips readers from start to finish by James Scott Bell – Let me start by saying, I *heart* James Scott Bell. Not in a way that might ruin my marriage, but he’s fantastic at peeling back the layers of novel writing and giving practical tips – and some groovy acronyms too. He analysed hundreds of plots and developed what he terms the LOCK system, which stands for Lead, Objective, Confrontation and Knockout.

Revision and Self-Editing for Publication by James Scott Bell – This was a recent find. It was recommended by a fellow writer when I was struggling with revising a new novel. This is a great checklist. I reviewed the key points and was able to spot  what wasn’t working in my story.

Write Your Novel From the Middle by – you guessed it – James Scott Bell – I think this is his newest. The middle is where novels get muddled. Bell offers a unique prospective on the middle. He says, “What I found was that this midpoint was not a scene at all. It was a moment within a scene…that tells us what the novel or movie is really all about.” Fascinating stuff. There’s even a diagram and everything. And thus end my lovefest with Mr J S Bell.

Vein of Gold by Julie Cameron – This one is more touchy feely. She shares Director Martin Ritt’s philosophy: “All actors have a certain territory, a certain range, they are born to play. I call that range their ‘vein of gold.’ If you cast an actor within that vein, he will always give you a brilliant performance.” She suggests that writers also have a vein of gold. The book includes a number of techniques to find and then mine your vein of gold. I also loved The Artist Way and The Right To Write by Cameron.

Novel Metamorphosis by Darcy Pattison – This book completely revolutionized how I revise my books. It’s a thin workbook, but it has a number of simple exercises that will help you dissect and diagnose what’s not working in your novel. The book was like a million light-bulb moments in a mere 108 pages.

Story by Robert McKee – This is not one I sat down and read cover to cover. I dip in and out of it as necessary. McKee is a genius at breaking down story into logical digestible parts. His focus is screenwriting, but the substance, style and principles he outlines apply to books too.

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to edit yourself into print by Renni Browne and Dave King – The title says it all. It’s difficult for writers to edit their own work. We read what we think we’ve put on the page. (That’s why we all need editors!) Each chapter has checklists and exercises. My favourite line from the book explains why writers should show and not tell: “You don’t want to give your readers information. You want to give them experiences.”

On Writing by Stephen King – I’ve never read a Stephen King novel nor even watched a movie based on his books. I’m a wimp. But the guy knows about writing. Thanks to King I rarely use an adverb.

Writing for Emotional Impact by Karl Iglesias – I haven’t finished this one yet, but I’ve already read so many gems – lines or quotes that have made me figuratively slap my forehead and say, ‘Yes, of course. That’s it. That’s it exactly.’ Every page of my copy is a rainbow of highlighting. He boils down what makes an idea appealing, “A great idea should be uniquely familiar, and it should promise conflict.”

The Plot Thickens by Noah Lukeman – Funnily enough this book on plot gave me great insight into characterization. I always think of Lukeman when I’m developing characters and apply his technique of giving each a surface and profound journey.

This list could go on and on…I loved Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. For writing exercises, Bonni Goldberg’s Room to Write. I’m sure my list will continue to grow and change.

But there must come a time in every writer’s life when we put down the book and pick up a pen or more likely switch on the laptop – and start applying what we’ve learned. I will confess that these books are always within reach when I’m writing. When I get stuck, I return to these books and look for a diagnosis to my plot problems, troublesome characters or unruly sentences. And I almost always find the answers.

Not to encourage more scribo-bibliophilia, but what’s your favourite book on writing?

Sara Grant has worked on both sides of the editorial desk. She has inspired and edited nearly 100 books for children. Her two YA novels – Dark Parties (SCBWI Crystal Kite Award winner, Europe) and Half Lives – are futuristic thrillers. She also writes a funny magical series for young readers – Magic Trix. Sara is currently developing a new action-adventure series for tweens with Scholastic. She leads writing workshops in the US, UK and Europe as part of Book Bound and guest lectures at the University of Winchester. For more information on Sara, visit her website at or follow her on Twitter @AuthorSaraGrant

Friday, 25 September 2015

The "Classical" Way to Promote Literacy?

Edge author Katie Dale questions whether cheap classic novels are really the best way to promote literacy.

This week I was thrilled and delighted to be invited to open the new library at a local primary school. At a time when many public libraries are closing, and school budgets are tightening, this was particular cause for celebration. The love of reading at the school was evident, with murals of pupils’ favourite book covers adorning the school walls, and nearly every child  raised their hand enthusiastically when asked who enjoyed reading, scrambling to tell me what their favourite book was – titles that ranged from The Hobbit to The Gruffalo.

School libraries have also been in the news this week, with Nicky Morgan, the Secretary of State for Education, declaring her determination to improve pupils’ literacy. This is an important issue, especially as “evidence shows that children who develop strong reading skills early on are more likely to succeed at school, achieve good qualifications and go on to succeed in their adult lives and the world of work.”

However, part of her strategy is that “every secondary school
should have sets of a wide range of classics so that whole classes can enjoy them together – books I loved as a teenager by authors like Jane Austen, Charles Dickens or Emily Bronte” and she’s calling on publishers to give collections of classics to schools at a reduced cost.
Whilst cheap books for schools – whose budgets are ever-tightening  – is always a great idea, I have to wonder whether this focus on the classics is really the most effective way to promote literacy? Or whether it might actually backfire?

Classic novels, whilst wonderful, aren’t the easiest or most accessible texts for reluctant or struggling readers, and even the way that they’re deemed  “good for you” – and the fact that they’re on the national curriculum – can be an instant turn-off to teenagers.  I’ve always loved reading, but remember long hours struggling to plough through dense, dry, set-text classics as a teenager – and the relief of diving into a fast-paced contemporary book at the weekends, which I devoured by the shelf-full. But many of my friends were put off reading for pleasure, and now, in the age of social media, video games, the internet, and smart phones, reading as a pastime is struggling to compete more than ever before.

Consequently, does it really matter what books kids are reading, as long as they are enjoying reading? Nicky Morgan cites the classics as the books she loved when she was young, but I’m not sure how many modern teens would really put them at the top of their list of books to read for pleasure, and surely this is the true key to improving literacy? If a book is accessible, enjoyable, funny, exciting, fast-paced and relatable, won’t teens be more likely to read all the way to the end and, more importantly, pick up another book afterwards? In which case, might a mixture of popular contemporary titles - including graphic novels - be more successful, at least in the first instance?

After all, as most teens these days have smart phones, the classics are already available free of charge – as ebooks.

Katie Dale is the award-winning author of YA titles SOMEONE ELSE'S LIFE and LITTLE WHITE LIES 
Simon & Schuster UK
Delacorte Press USA & Canada

Friday, 18 September 2015

Love Football, Loathe Reading? Premier League Reading Stars Can Help.

Edge author Dave Cousins explains how a love of ‘the beautiful game’ can inspire an interest in reading for reluctant readers.

Premier League Reading Stars is an innovative programme run by the National Literacy Trust in partnership with the Premier League. The scheme is designed for schools to use with target groups of children aged 9-13 years who “love football but lack motivation to engage with and achieve in literacy.” Building on evidence that footballers can influence the way young people view reading, PLRS offers a range of resources for schools that tap into children’s passion for football. Results show that participation in the project can have a significant impact on attainment and attitudes to reading and writing, particularly among boys and those on free school meals.

Since kicking off its inaugural season three years ago, thousands of children have enjoyed taking part in Premier League Reading Stars. A 2014 evaluation reported that three out of four children taking part made at least six months’ reading progress during the ten week scheme, with one child in three making a year’s worth of progress! 

“On average, the reading progress of participating pupils was 50% higher than peers not taking part in the programme.”

A third of participants go on to join their local library, and the number of children who develop a daily reading habit as a result of the course is more than double. Nearly two thirds of the children involved say that seeing Premier League footballers read, made them want to read more. One of the participating school’s Ofsted report stated: “Both their reading and writing scores rose considerably as a result of their involvement in this initiative.”

The new enhanced programme for 2015-16 includes a wealth of resources and benefits, including:

—1 year membership to the National Literacy Trust Network. 
—Author events with a range of venues, dates and authors.
—New season resource pack (for 20 children) including teacher’s manual, children’s activity books, certificates, stickers and posters. 
—recommended reading list for 2015-16, including the best of football-related reading online. 
—staff training sessions, held regularly across England and Wales, (September to November). 
—NEW mixed box of 20 books specially chosen to appeal to reluctant readers .
—NEW access to our updated website, with interactive challenges, competitions and quizzes, plus entry to the National PLRS Competition with the chance for pupils to win tickets to Premier League matches.

Charlie Merrick’s Misfits in Fouls, Friends and Football, written and illustrated by Dave Cousins is out now, published by Oxford University Press.

Friday, 11 September 2015

All Change by Bryony Pearce

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about change.

I’ve been going through a lot of changes in my personal life – in the last year my mother has died, my family has moved house and the children have moved school accordingly. The first book in the Phoenix series (Phoenix Rising) was published and the sequel will be going to print in December. I wrote a book that is coming out (in America) in November and sold another to Telos. I performed at the Edinburgh festival and have a number of events planned for the next couple of months. A lot of changes. I am not the same person I was a year ago.

This specific date, September 11th, has its own associations with great change. On this day, the world itself changed course.

It seems strange to me, as someone who remembers exactly where they were and what they were doing when the news came in, that when I go into schools to speak to students they see this date as history, something that happened when they were babies or in some cases before they were even born. They don’t remember the world as it was before ‘the war on terror’, they know nothing else. To my generation the World Trade Centre attack isn’t history, so much as current events, the repercussions are still ongoing, changes are still being made.

As writers our central focus is change; we launch our protagonists into unfamiliar situations, we put bombs in the centres of their lives and make drastic changes to their worlds. Even as we struggle with the changes in our own lives, we forge our characters in the crucible of change with every stroke of the pen and force them to come out of the other side as different people. We think of the thing our characters most fear and put them through it, we give them challenges with every step; we make them grow as people by forcing them to face change.

Literature is all about change: how we deal with it and what it makes of us.

Change is scary, but change makes us into the people we are. Without change there can be no growth. As teenagers who going into new classes, new schools or even new cities this month, I hope you can embrace the changes you face, knowing there’s a whole new you waiting to emerge at the end of it.

Friday, 28 August 2015

Precious Presence

EDGE Author Sara Grant Unplugged

Precious presence – It’s something my husband says. I think it’s from some self-help-ish book. I’m not sure which one, and it doesn’t really matter. It’s a pithy reminder to be in the moment, which is good advice for me and for the stories that I write.

Precious presence – Sounds simple, but I’m finding it more difficult in real life than ever before. First there’s the blessing and curse of being a writer. I can do my job anywhere. Waiting in the checkout line in the grocery story, I can ponder a sticky plot problem. While falling off to sleep, I can write the best opening to a novel in the history of the world – if only I could remember what it was when I wake up the next morning. I’m never bored. But the flip side of that is that I’m sometimes in my head and not in the world. I’m so busy telling myself stories that I forget to appreciate the wonders around me.

Secondly there’s the never-satisfied hunger of technology. I go to the theatre so excited to watch a play but I have to fight the urge to check my email and then Facebook and Twitter. I’ll check it one last time before I switch off my phone and then just a quick check at intermission. Oh, and have I taken a photo I can post later?

I went to a concert recently where the person in front of me watched the entire concert on the screen of his phone. He was so busy capturing the moment that he wasn’t immersed in it.

And then there’s the urge to plug in. I’ve always found a synergy in writing and walking. Walking gives me distance from a project and time to think. But I often I take my iPhone and listen to music or an audiobook. I realize that I may be stretching my legs but I’m still stuck in my head, letting something entertainment me. Similarly I used to plug into music while travelling. You always see lots of headphoned people on the Tube. But I’ve stopped doing this because it made me feel disconnected. (Also I’ve found some of my best story ideas by eavesdropping and people watching.)

And finally I’m a list maker. I like being busy and I like the satisfying feeling of checking things off
my list. I could check off ‘lunch with friend’ but had I really enjoyed it? Was I mentally cataloguing what I needed to do next instead of really listening and enjoying the meal and my friend? I’m also notorious among my family and friends for talking on the phone while multi-tasking: checking email, emptying the dishwasher or making dinner. I don't do this much anymore because I’ve begun to think multi-task means doing more than one thing but nothing to the best of my ability.

Okay, and here’s where I sound like an old fuddy duddy. I worry about the creativity of future generations. Growing up I spent hundreds of hours playing make-believe. I imagined epic stories for my Barbies that would continue like a soap opera for weeks. I made up games with my sister when we were stuck for eight hours a day in the back of the station wagon on family driving vacations. The neighbor kids and I would play our own version of our favorite TV shows, including Big Valley and Charlie’s Angels. But today I’m as guilty as the next guy of an iPad and iPhone addiction. Will my and future generations' imaginations suffer because we don’t have to entertain ourselves anymore?

When I visit schools, I continue to meet incredibly talented storytellers so I suppose I shouldn’t be concerned. The next great writers are out there. I know it. They may create interactive ebooks or new version of entertainment that my 47-year-old brain can’t even imagine.

Precious presence is important in real life, but it’s also fundamental in fiction. To create a scene writers must evoke all five senses. They must select a few vivid details to bring the scene to life. To do this to the best of my ability, I must get out of my head, off technology and experience the real world. If I’m not absorbed in the moment and endeavouring to experience new things – if I’m not feeding my imagination – how can I ever hope to captivate a reader? 

Sara Grant has worked on both sides of the editorial desk. She has inspired and edited nearly 100 books for children. Her two YA novels – Dark Parties (SCBWI Crystal Kite Award winner, Europe) and Half Lives – are futuristic thrillers. She also writes a funny magical series for young readers – Magic Trix. Sara is currently developing a new action-adventure series for tweens with Scholastic. She leads writing workshops in the US, UK and Europe as part of Book Bound and guest lectures at the University of Winchester.