31 August 2011

Teen writing competition

Delighted to announce that today we launch the third edition of Right Words, the writing competition for 14 to 16 year olds in the UK. It's something I started a few years ago with the Human Rights Watch London Network, and this time we're running it in association with the Readers and Writers programme at English PEN, too. The theme is 'freedom of expression'. The competition will run into January (we're running free workshops in schools throughout the period), and then the best bits of work in each of the categories (story, poem, essay, song/rap) will be chosen by our amazing panel of judges (Tim Minchin!) and we'll publish those pieces in an anthology in the spring. I'll keep you up to date with it all on this blog, of course.

You'll find all the information here - do encourage any teenagers you know to enter, teachers you know to use our resources with their classes, etc., and of course drop me a note to ask if you'd like to know any more. It's a good thing.


20 August 2011

Neil Gaiman event

Loved doing the event with Neil Gaiman on Tuesday! He arrived just in time for the event and afterwards was whisked off to a three-hour signing queue, so I didn't get a chance to have any kind of chat with him off-stage at any point, but I had him all to myself for an hour on stage (just the two of us, and five hundred other people in the tent eavesdropping) and he was just great. And The Graveyard Book is still one of my very favourites ever. Read it if you haven't already.

The festival haven't put up the audio/video of the event - tho' they might? - but in the meantime the Guardian have helpfully published some of the highlights here. Fortunately, the Milk, eh? Brilliant.


15 August 2011

Edinburgh 2011!

If it's August, it must be...

Yes, time for the Edinburgh International Book Festival again. And great programme, as usual.

I'm there for the day tomorrow, to introduce the lovely Geraldine McCaughrean, and then to chair two events - one with Tim Bowler and Mike Lancaster, and the next with the amazing amazing Neil Gaiman. I know Geraldine and Tim, and I've met Mike before, too - and tho' I've never met Mr Gaiman I think he's amazing amazing amazing (might have mentioned) so I imagine it's going to be a lovely day.

Then going up again next week, to introduce Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell, introduce Charlie Higson, and interview Ali Lewis (Saturday 27th); introduce Steve Cole, introduce Anne Fine and chair a discussion on Partition between Jamila Gavin and Irfan Master (Sunday 28th); and finally interview David Almond about his extraordinary new teen/adult novel, The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean (Monday 29th).


Come say hello if you're around.


02 August 2011

Eight Keys by Suzanne LaFleur

At the beginning of this story Elise is eleven and still a child. An orphan, she lives with her aunt and uncle in the country and plays with the best friend, Franklin, inventing epic stories where they fight evil. But Elise is about to move up to her next school, and from the day she starts there things change. Her world has always been safe and secure, without doubt or thought for anything much more than what to do today - people have always been kind and Franklin has always been the perfect companion...

The steep learning-curve that Elise runs through is painful. Suddenly she's at sea with everything from her friend, to her enemy and her home. Bullied at school, failing academically and struggling with seeing the world from a more teenage perspective, she suddenly starts to find a series of keys; keys that fit doors on the upper floor of barn behind her house - a place she has always been forbidden to go.

Elise's struggles with friendships - and with finding out who she is becoming - are very real. Even though this book is quite slight it packs a real emotional punch as the reader learns, along with Elise, about her story and the love her parents had for her.

There is nothing here that makes it a teen book, but if I was going to choose an ideal recipient I'd pick a girl, about the same age as Elise. Though this isn't a handbook for growing up, it certainly shines a light on many of the predicaments any child on the cusp of maturity will encounter.

Simply written, beautifully told, Elise's story stays with you - I loved it and dearly wanted to know more (Amanda's story next, please!).