Ramblings & More...

Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2018

On the 22nd of March, Waterstones Piccadilly transformed into even more of a bookish wonderland, filled with balloons and children’s authors, all gathered to celebrate the shortlist and announcement of the winner of the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize.

My husband Tom, with my publisher Barry Cunningham, and fellow Chicken House author and WCBP18 shortlistee, Maz Evans.

It was a wonderful night, and in some ways even funner than the year before when I attended as a very nervous shortlistee, and later a very shocked winner! I did have one nerve-wracking duty – to give my speech as last year’s winner.

But at least this time I knew it was coming and so didn’t completely embarrass myself. The winner was announced as Angie Thomas for her astonishing book, The Hate U Give, which has already been a sensation this past year ad I sure will continue to be for generations to come.

Angie Thomas and me

Haringey Children’s Book Award 2018

A couple of weeks ago I got the chance to attend the Haringey Children’s Book Awards at Heartlands School. We got to meet lovely readers and run workshops, and I worked with my group on maps that would form the basis for stories. We also gave short presentations on our books.

Awards ceremonies are always fun, because you get to meet your readers as well as other authors. Here I am talking with SF Said, author of the amazing Phoenix, and Varjak’s Paw:

The Island at the End of Everything was on an brilliant shortlist with Maz Evans’ Who Let The Gods Out? , Christopher Edge’s The Many Worlds of Albie Bright, and Sita Bramachari’s Tender Earth, so you can imagine my shock when Island… was announced the winner!

This is the first school award I’ve won and I’m overjoyed that kids liked the book enough to vote for it. It was a really wonderfully organised event and I had a lovely time catching up with author friends new and old.

With Maz and Sita

This is an award I will treasure forever, and I’m so grateful to all the kids that voted.

The Jhalak Prize and the Children’s Book Prize

I have had some more wonderful shortlisting news recently – The Island at the End of Everything has been shortlisted for the Jhalak Prize, and for the Children’s Book Award! Both are special in their different ways.

The Jhalak Prize seeks to provide a platform for writers of colour, and also is open to all genres. Island is proudly repping kids lit on an incredible shortlist that includes some of my favourite books from the past year: Meera Kandasamy’s When I Hit You, and Kayo Chingonyi’s Kumukanda, which was on the Costa Poetry Prize shortlist I helped judge last year. More here.

The Children’s Book Award is voted for entirely by children, from start to end. Children’s books are usually reviewed, lauded, or judged by adults, and so to know that kids are connecting with Ami and her story to this extent is so special. More here.

Soul Keeping Company

I just learnt of the passing of my favourite poet, Lucie Brock-Broido, who died yesterday aged 61. Her work showed me how language could be twisted, melded, forced & forged into something new & beautiful & shining. My heart is a little bit broken.

Here is an interview she gave about Emily Dickinson.

Here is one of my favourite poems, which John Burnside introduced me to, just as I started to take my writing seriously.

So long, 2017, & thanks for all the fish…

2017 – with its Weinsteins, ignorance, natural disasters compounded by human action, Brexit – hasn’t been great for the world, but it’s been extraordinarily kind to me in my personal and professional life.

My debut novel The Girl of Ink & Stars won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize in March, and the British Book Awards Children’s Book of the Year in April. My second, The Island at the End of Everything, got shortlisted for the Costa Children’s Book Award and the Blue Peter Book Award in November.

I wrote my third book: at my desk in Oxford, in a leather armchair by a storm tossed sea on the Isle of Harris, in pubs and cafes with my best friends.

I hosted the launch of my favourite author of all time’s new book in October: The Book of Dust by Philip Pullman. I finished it on Will and Lyra’s bench in the Botanical Gardens as the midday bells began to ring and rain began to fall. I cried.

I saw a wild sea otter.

I read and read and read: 111 books this year. Adventures, thrillers, love stories, horror, non-fiction, poetry. I glutted on other people’s words and worlds and it made me ache to write more, to write better, but never to write like them.

I got married three times: at a registry in Oxford in front of family, in the Bodleian Library in front of friends, by the sea in Goa. We exchanged rings, danced our first dance, threw rice and ghee into a fire. We promised across two continents in two languages, to continue growing our lives together.

We met our new niece, watched our other nieces and nephews become even more themselves. The years has ended with two engagements of two favourite people. We travelled to four tiny islands in the Indian Ocean and lived in our swimsuits, got sunburnt and tanned and freckled, swam with a sea turtle, drank coconut and rum, snorkelled away from a shark, spent £60 on dog and cat food for the strays, walked white beaches, saw no sunsets, fought once.

I made amazing new friends, and fell even more in love with my ‘old’ ones. I spent a lot of time in bed with our cat, Luna, or on the sofa with her, or taking pictures of her.

I had no panic attacks. I lost only one week to depression. I was anxious only for hours at a time. I am sure having a cat is part of the reason for this. I got my long-term health issues diagnosed. I completed Yoga with Adriene’s 30 Day Challenge.

In 2018 I will travel even more, for work and for just because: to Malaysia, Oman, UAE, Norway, Italy, France, Spain. I will continue to donate too much money to charity and send too much to Kickstarter campaigns and Unbound. I will learn to cook ramen from scratch. I will buy secondhand clothes and use my reusable water bottle, forgo straws. I will visit friends more regularly, and go dancing more.

I hope to care less about what my body looks like, and care more about my body. I hope to visit family in India. I hope to text friends back within an hour rather than a day. I hope to write two books and read a hundred.

I hope for another year of happiness and health, and I wish the same for you.

The Blue Peter Awards 2017

Thrilled to announce that The Island at the End of Everything has been shortlisted for Best Story by the Blue Peter Book Awards 2017! It’s already been an amazing week, and this is just extraordinary.

It’s an honour to see my book alongside Cressida Crowell’s Wizards of Once and Lissa Evans’ Wed Wabbit (again!) Thank you to the judges – now it’s over to the kids. More info here.

Come see me!

The next few weeks bring some really exciting events that I wanted to share with you. Click the links for more details!


26th – In conversation with Barry Cunningham at The Bookseller Kids Conference, 10:35am.

28th – In conversation with Anna James at #LushBookClub, 7pm.

30th – Adventures on Islands event at Wigtown Festival, 11am.


2nd – Online Q&A with Mslexia, 5pm.

3rd – Adventures on Islands event at Bath Festival, 10am, then in conversation with Sally Gardner, 6pm.

15th – In conversation with Jen Campbell at Cheltenham Festival, then I’ve Never Read… panel with Marcus Brigstocke, 6:30pm.

27th – Orpheus and Eurydice event with Tom de Freston at Translating Myth Conference, 2:15pm.