Friday, 29 January 2016

And the Costa Book of the Year is - a Children's Book! Savita Kalhan

Hooray! Frances Hardinge has not only won the Costa Children's Book award but also the Costa Book of the Year award for her novel The Lie Tree!

The last time a children's book won the Costa Book of the Year was fifteen years ago in 2001 when Philip Pullman won with his novel, The Amber Spyglass, which is part of His Dark Materials series.

Hardinge describes her novel as a "Victorian Gothic mystery with added palaeontology, blasting powder, post-mortem photography and feminism".  At its heart, The Lie Tree is a children's book, and as Frances Hardinge says - most of her books are written for herself as a 12 year old.

Her win is important for so many reasons, not least because when she was interviewed on Radio 4, she was asked by the interviewer what winning the 'proper' prize meant to her. I'm not sure whether the interviewer meant that the Children's Prize was improper in some way, or just not as important or meaningful...

So why is it an important win, apart from the fact that the book explores issues that a scientifically-minded, very intelligent 14 year old girl in a Victorian age faces at a time when girls had little or no say in the world, much less in the scientific community?

Over the years, teen and young adult fiction has been seen as unliterary and lightweight, and because it caters for children, it therefore cannot be deemed worthy of winning a 'proper' prize. Writers of teen fiction are often asked whether they think they might be the next JK Rowling, or whether they might eventually write a 'proper grown up' book, so for a book like The Lie Tree to become part of mainstream literary fiction will open hearts and minds to the fact that children's fiction is eminently readable, as enjoyable, and as good as other 'grown up' books is great.

Follow Savita on Twitter
Savita's website

Friday, 22 January 2016

Celebrating SCBWI British Isles 20th Anniversary

EDGE Author Sara Grant owes a debt of gratitude to SCBWI and its Members

I wouldn’t be published if it wasn’t for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). This year the British chapter of SCBWI turns 20. I thought I’d take this opportunity to express my gratitude to this organization and its amazing members and volunteers.

The SCBWI is a network for the exchange of knowledge among writers, illustrators, editors, publishers, agents, librarians, educators, booksellers and others involved with literature for young people. SCBWI boasts more than 22,000 members worldwide in more than seventy regions, making it the largest children’s writing organization in the world.

In 1994 I attended my first workshop on writing children’s fiction, lead by the incredible Elaine Marie Alphin. I left inspired with a notebook full of ideas. She said that if I was serious about writing for children I should join SCBWI -- which I immediately did.

From then on, I have regularly attended events and volunteered for this organization on both sides of the Atlantic.

Here are 20 reasons I’m grateful for SCBWI.

Thanks to…

1.      Natascha Biebow. She’s served the British SCBWI as its regional advisor (RA) for more than
18 years. The British Chapter started with twenty members and under her leadership has grown to nearly 1,000 members. She is the longest-tenured international RA with the fourth largest chapter worldwide.

2.      Natascha again because she handed a copy of the British SCBWI’s Undiscovered Voices 2008 anthology to literary agent Jenny Savill at the Bologna Book Fair in 2008. Jenny read the extract from Dark Parties, which was included in the anthology, and gave me a call. I signed with her a few months later.

3.      My US Writers Group. At an SCBWI event around about 1995, I met three Indiana writers who would become my critique and support group until I moved to London in 2003. They survived my early kids stories, which I hope they have long-since forgotten. A regular critique group was key to establishing a habit of writing and an ability to take feedback.

4.      My UK Writers Group. One of the first things I did when I moved to the UK was connect to the local SCBWI and join a writers group. The group members changed and the monthly meetings have dwindled to periodic one-to-ones, but those writers introduced me to the British SCBWI and were my first friends in the UK.

5.      Lin Oliver and Stephen Mooser. They are the visionaries who started SCBWI in the US in 1971 and continue to guide its progress.

Thanks for…

6.      Lifelong friends. I have many cherished friendships with the writers and illustrators I met through SCBWI.  

7.      Encouragement. Whether its face-to-face at an event, email, Facebook, Twitter, etc. SCBWI members understand the highs and lows of publishing and never fail to offer encouragement.

8.      Knowledge. I never leave an SCBWI event without a notebook full of ideas, facts and to-dos.

9.      Inspiration. I’ve met almost all of my literary heroes at SCBWI events. I have shelves full of signed books and a head full of inspirational quotes to keep me going.

10.  Community. What could be better than gathering with people who love what you love?

11.  Industry News. Through regular emails, newsletters and a yahoo group, I keep up on what’s happening in the publishing world.

The Mass Book Launch Celebration
12.  The Annual Conference. It’s one glorious weekend in November that’s action-packed with speakers, celebrations, networking and fellowship.

13.  Networking. Whether at the agent’s party or the mass book launch, you have an opportunity to meet folks from every aspect of the publishing world.

14.  Networks. No matter where you live in the UK, an SCBWI group is never far away.

15.  Worldwide Connections. And no matter where you go in the world, you can find SCBWI chapters.

16.  PULSE (SCBWI’s resources for its published members). SCBWI grows with its members, offering nuts and bolts sessions for those just starting out to PULSE events for writers and illustrators who have new challenges and opportunities once they are published.

The 2014 Undiscovered Voices writers, illustrators & planning team.
17.  Undiscovered Voices. It was my stepping stone to finding an agent, a publisher and ultimately readers.

18.  Undiscovered Voices. It’s a huge part of my life. It’s how I give back and help other writers and illustrators achieve their publishing dreams. Last week we announced the writers and illustrators who are featured in the fifth anthology. From the previous four anthologies, 32 writers and illustrators have received contracts for more than one 120 books in more than 70 countries. I couldn’t be more proud.

And finally…

19.  Volunteer! Volunteer for SCBWI because it’s what makes the organization so amazing. The British chapter hosts so many events a year. It has a web site, Facebook group, newsletter and much more. Everything is run by volunteers. Volunteer because it’s a way to give back to an organization that will give you so much.

20.  Volunteer!! If not for a philanthropic reason, volunteer because it’s a great away to network. You can host an event with an author you admire or set up critiques with your dream agent.

Thanks SCBWI -- for all of the above and so much more.

   About Sara…
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. Chasing Danger will be published in April. 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: