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.

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.

A month (& a bit) of madness

Well. If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you’ll know it’s been quite a few weeks for The Girl of Ink & Stars, all those involved with her journey, and me. The month after it won the Waterstones Children’s Book of the Year Award was full of joy, including window displays, interviews, and even re-entry into the bestseller charts.

It was wonderful to revisit the excitement I felt during my debut month. In fact, it was even better, because a year on GOI&S has had the sort of success I never even dared to dream about. The Island at the End of Everything came out early too, and there was a rather special week when my debut and second book were two of the top three bestselling middle grade books at Waterstones. Here they are, making a Robin Stevens sandwich.

But this wasn’t even the most exciting part of April, because at the end of the month, I got married to my long-time love and best friend, Tom de Freston. We had a whole weekend of happiness, with a low-key official ceremony at the local registry office with family on one day, and a huge celebration with family and friends the next. This of course meant I had to have two outfits.

They were the happiest two days of my life, and we’re still caught up in the giddiness of it all.

A short week later, the Branford Boase Award shortlist was announced, and I am delighted to say GOI&S is on there alongside some of my favourite authors and friends.

A long time ago now – three years in fact – when I’d just signed with Chicken House, I remember that year’s shortlist being announced, and saying to Tom that this was the award that I’d dearly love to win. It rewards and recognises the work of the editor, as well as the author, and GOI&S was an especial team effort owing to the eight drafts I completed with my wonderful editor, Rachel Leyshon. It was a different book when she found it, and without her and Barry’s guidance, it could not have become what it has. I found my voice thanks to her hard work. I feel very emotional and blessed to be considered for this unique award, though looking at the shortlist a win may be too much to hope for.

The evening after the Branford Boase was announced, we found ourselves at the British Book Awards, where GOI&S was shortlisted for Children’s Book of the Year. Chicken House were kind enough to host Tom as well, and we had a brilliant night.

Tom, me, Barry Cunningham on the red carpet!

When I found out it was shortlisted, I was also told it was the Oscars of the book world – and it totally was! Held in the same venue as the BAFTAs, compered by the Strictly Come Dancing voiceover guy, and replete with red carpet and photographers, it was a truly amazing evening even before this happened…

Yep. WE ONLY BLOODY WON. Which, considering the shortlist looked like this:

…is pretty remarkable, and a testament to the incredible job Chicken House did of editing, designing, and marketing the book. I had no idea we would win, and my speech was not the most eloquent, but at least we were told to keep it brief. Then we ate, drank, danced (Barry C has MOVES) and drank some more. It was one of the best nights of my life. Here’s an article Sian Cain at The Guardian wrote about it all.

If all that wasn’t enough, The Island at the End of Everything launched the next day at Waterstones Piccadilly.

It’s had some gorgeous reviews, including this in the Telegraph last week.

I’m overjoyed it’s having such a good reception. I loved writing it, and in some ways prefer it to GOI&Shere is a Q&A I did about it with The Bookseller.

So, that’s us all caught up. Now TIATEOE is out officially, school events and festivals are starting, and I have a busy time ahead. More than anything, I am looking forward to finishing my next book, and taking the next steps in a career that has been given such an amazing start.

Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2017

Last week, The Girl of Ink & Stars was awarded the Younger Fiction Prize, and was announced as the overall winner for Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2017.

I’ve sat down to write this post every day since Thursday’s awards ceremony. And every day I’ve felt overcome, though it’s all I’ve talked about in person and online. Even now, at a distance of five days, it still makes me well up. It feels too impossibly wonderful.

The ceremony itself was a beautiful evening. I’d felt very strange in the day preceding it. I had resigned myself to not winning, and while I was fine with that, especially when the shortlist was so strong, I was also not relishing it. Clutching a bag full of books, I wandered around asking other authors to sign them.

So when James Daunt announced my book as the winner of the Younger Fiction category, it did not sink in until I was actually on stage and realised I hadn’t prepared a speech. So I burst into tears and rambled instead. Luckily for you, my fiancé recorded it (listen out for the sobs, he is also crying). He equally was not expecting it, so had positioned himself behind a tall man.

Lizzy Stewart won the Illustrated Book category with There’s A Tiger In My Garden, and the searing, brilliant Orangeboy by Patrice Lawrence took home the prize for Young Adult. There was a ten minute break in which I managed to haul myself to Patrice to say congratulations, before retreating back to a corner with Tom to gawp wordlessly at each other. Needless to say, we were both too far gone when it was announced The Girl of Ink & Stars had also won the overall prize, so thankfully there is no recording of that particular embarrassment. After the initial shock wore off, there were photo calls and interviews, and the joyous surprise of my parents rushing up to London to celebrate.

The excitement was far from over – as we left Waterstones Piccadilly, the windows had been changed to look like this:

And this was my reaction (pictured with the lovely Anna James, who led me out blindfolded to maximise the surprise):

…which pretty much sums up my feelings about the whole situation. I am so grateful to everyone responsible, from my friends and family, to Chicken House, to the booksellers, to Florentyna Martin (the children’s buyer), and everyone in between.

Florentyna Martin and me.

Author and friend MG Leonard and me.

Tom and me with trophies!

What an utterly unexpected, utterly wonderful thing to have happened. Practically, it means we can make our roof structurally sound after Storm Doris made it dangerous, and we can be a bit more ambitious about our honeymoon. It also means GOI&S is Book of the Month again, and Waterstones booksellers are already doing an amazing job of windows and sales.

Waterstones have supported me in so many ways, as a reader as well as a writer, and they have given me an incredible gift in choosing me as their winner. Life-changing, really, and certainly perspective-changing. Since the win, I have felt so happy, and have written more than I have in weeks. In the immortal words of Nadiya – I’m not going to say I can’t anymore. Because I can, and I will.

FAB Book Awards

I had a lovely time yesterday at the FAB Book Awards! My friend and author of Paper Butterflies was there, and I got to meet Crongton Knights author Alex Wheatle and River of Ink: Genesis author Helen Dennis for the first time.

Alex Wheatle and me

We listened to presentations from all the schools championing each of the shortlisted books. St Cecilia’s made a beautiful case for The Girl of Ink & Stars, ably abetted by a cardboard cut out of Yote! Then each of us authors gave presentations on our books, before the countdown. The Girl of Ink & Stars came 3rd, after Nicola Yoon’s Everything Everything and worthy winner Lisa Heathfield!

l-r: me, Lisa, and Helen

British Book Awards

Something startlingly amazing happened a week ago! I discovered that The Girl of Ink & Stars has been shortlisted for Children’s Book of the Year at the British Book Awards, alongside a frankly stellar line up.

My excitement was only topped when I had a (brief but blissful) Twitter exchange with none other than Tom Fletcher, author of the lovely The Christmasaurus, and member of McFly. I claimed on Facebook that my 13-year-old self would’ve been overjoyed – my 26-year-old self wasn’t too cool about it either.

Full lists here.